Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Man Who Came Back

I read in the September 1955 issue of Arizona Highways magazine an interesting article by photographer Chuck Abbott. Chuck and his wife Esther were frequent contributors to Arizona Highways many decades ago, back when Ansel Adams was also a regular contributor. Here's some of what he said:

"Years ago there was a book titled 'The Man Who Came Back,' and while I never read the book or knew anything about the man or what he came back from or to, years later when I went into the photographic business, that title rang in my ears many times as I found myself personifying not only the man who came back but the one who came back again and again!

"When asked by complimenting amateur photographers--'Oh, Mr. Abbott, how do you get such good pictures? I was there and mine didn't turn out at all well'--my answer is invariably the same--'you'll have to go back and try another day, another light, another season.' Meanwhile I am mentally recalling that 'good' picture; was it really good, couldn't it have been better, and shouldn't I go back again and do it over?

"For that's the trouble with this picture business--there is so little satisfaction in it! You are always beset with the haunting thought that every picture could be improved, if not by you, then by someone, sometime; so you end up traveling in a circle, periodically returning to do a better, or at least a different, interpretation of the subject. Perfection, of course, is the goal."

The image that haunts me is the one below. I've received many compliments, and it has hung on several walls, but in all honesty it isn't that good of a photograph. It would be much different if I could do it over again. Hopefully I'll have that opportunity some day.
Cathedral Rock Reflected - Sedona, Arizona
But that got me wondering, how many times do I return? Am I the man who came back? The answer is that I seldom return, and when I do it is usually not purposely--I'm not specifically trying to improve on a specific photograph.

If I did return with a purpose, I actually might have better images. There are always ways to refine the vision and there are always decisive moments. There are many places I need to go back to.

I believe that this is something that has been lacking in my own photography. I need to go back to previously visited locations and try again. I can do better. I need to be the man who came back.

Below are some examples of images where I did go back. While I'm at the same location in each group, I'm not always creating the same or similar photograph. The top photographs are the older ones, and the bottom ones are the newer ones. There isn't always an improvement, but it is interesting to see the differences.
Wet Pier - Goodyear, Arizona
Pier Reflection - Goodyear, Arizona
Joshua Trees At Sunrise - Rosamond, California
Mojave Desert Sunrise - Rosamond, California
Oak Trees And Snowy Mountain - Tehachapi, California
Dusting Snow #1 - Tehachapi, California
Burger Spot - Tehachapi, California
Cold Spot - Tehachapi, California

Desert Ruins - Mojave, California
Abandoned Boot - Mojave, California
Union Pacific Around The Bend
Rainbow Train - Tehachapi, California
BNSF In The Mountains - Caliente, California
Orange Train, Green Hills - Caliente, California
Garage Wall - Tehachapi, California
On The Air - Tehachapi, California
Dotted Hills - Caliente, California
Bluebonnet Hill - Caliente, California
Monolith - Tehachapi, California
Monolith Cement - Tehachapi, California
Climbing Tehachapi Pass - Tehachapi, California
Moving Train - Tehachapi, California
Rail - Tehachapi, California
Rail Lines - Tehachapi, California

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