We will be shipping my new dvd on December 11th. 100 minutes featuring the key ideas in the Natural Eye workshop, plus ten photo adventures in the field, reflections on the photographic journey, and fundamental skills. For more information, and to learn about the special offer good through the 11th, go to: http://www.eddiesoloway.com
Open the truck door and it’s like being paddled into a pizza oven – with outlet stores. Why would anyone stop in Barstow? Vegas crossroads – a maze of eighteen wheelers refueling – cell phone talking/texting Starbucks clutching LA exiters – God, it’s 11pm and everyone’s wired – I’ve dropped into an over-heated circuit board – one night – just one night.
Sunrise – bring my duffel to the truck and bam! it’s twenty degrees cooler just high 80’s – gotta leave – Kingman never looked so good – Yes! I see clouds, monsoon miracle up ahead! – the road bends, the clouds go off to the right – please, please let me drive into the heart of that storm – any storm – I can hear the truck sigh, cool down – turn right – there they are – the arrow of my truck strikes – No! – the storm strikes – Flash! – torrential white knuckle windshield hyper wiper – can’t see for shit – slow it down – doesn’t help but I asked for it yes I did – where’s the camera? – this is good – there’s lightning – how far apart? – crank down the aperture and pray – not that way, but it’s still praying – Now! – damn, it’s processing the file and flash! – missed it – try again – and again – for miles – a semi plows past sending an ocean splash all over the windshield – where’s the road? – I’m feeling it like you feel a forest path with your feet in the dark – feeling it and doing the real praying – stay alive – think that way – but it’s time for a strike of lightning – press the shutter – hold the ship on course with my left hand – lightning Yes! hits and the semi plows through the exposure – how wild! – it’s there – I know it is – somewhere.
It’s alive time – I’m fearless – knowing about instant death out here – so strange how it relates and completely doesn’t to scrambling over, leaping over, balancing on rocks in the wilds of Maine, Iceland, anywhere – it’s the same right now – totally alert and alive and thinking about staying in my lane – shit – on the road – and getting ready for the next semi to shake my Etcha-Sketch reality away – yet! – thinking about the image – always – and the timing of the lightning – and damn that truck was a bit too close.
Years ago I used to only pull the camera out when I was in the woods. Now the whole world shows up as interesting. Case in point, recently I arrived at my hotel in Seattle late in the evening, a little out of synch with what day it was. In the morning I was heading to a workshop on the Olympic Peninsula. I took a shower to wash off the travel, and that’s when I heard and felt loud booms, like muffled explosions. Once at the window I realized what day it was, and started to make photographs of the celebration.
In recent years my mind works differently when making a photograph. Sure, I still react to the beauty in front of me, but more than before I react to what is in me, brought forward and alive by what is in front of me. A couple months ago I was along the Big Sur coast of California. My buddy, Richard Newman, and I are making a dvd. That’s another story I want to talk about, but at this particular moment we were watching fog come into and envelope the coast. It turned a day of details and clarity into a day of simple lines, gentle edges. I thought about how fog is one of several weather elements that can tug at our emotions. Depending on where you are (in life, right now!), it can surround you with different feelings, perhaps loneliness or solitude. At that moment I felt peaceful and still. The surreal bliss of being alone and feeling alive.
It is as if I now let go of the quick reaction – snap the pretty picture – and connect intuitively to what is going on inside.
I am paraphrasing Mike Mills of The Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca, Arkansas. And I am substituting photography for canoeing. One of the disasters for photography has been The Weather Channel. Without a doubt. Case 1: Buffalo River a month ago. We were set to float the Buffalo, ten of us. But someone logged on to the internet connection in the lodge, and The Doom and Gloom folks said we should start building an ark. Long story short I floated the river alone in a kayak. There was a perfect, light spritz of mist on and off throughout the day, fog settled into the river, colors glowed, and the river was mine. No doom and gloom. Case #2: Anywhere I teach. People actually check the weather from Seattle ten days before their trip to Santa Fe or Maine, and start to pre-stress about the storm, heat, wind, monsoons, tsunami from thousands of miles away. How crazy is that? They actually e-mail me with questions about what to do about this upcoming tragedy. I conducted a little study over the last two years. Pretty official actually. I showed my photographic prints at about twenty outdoor art shows across the U.S. My little booth was set up on the streets of Chicago, Fort Worth, Minneapolis, Houston. San Francisco, Ann Arbor, and elsewhere. There were times when I worried that all my work, sitting in a little booth on the streets outside, would be too vulnerable. Weather happens. Rain and high winds can destroy your booth as well as keep the public away. At night from my hotel room, nine hours to go, I would check The Doom and Gloom Channel. So here’s the truth: These folks were wrong about the forecast more than half the time. Yup. Not even 50/50. Imagine being wrong that much in your job.
I talked with Mike the day I floated the river. He says his business takes a huge hit when people believe these inaccurate forecasts. And I see people, already focused on fear, holding on to one more thing to worry about, and as a result, missing experiences. Go.
I realized I had been staring at the koi in the pond for a long time. They were swimming back and forth very slowly, almost hypnotically. Around and around in a little outdoor Hawaiian pool. And as I watched them, lulled by their gently swishes of movement, they transformed into orange paintbrushes.
A visit of a just a minute would not have revealed this. I needed to hang out and see the rhythm. I needed to lose the koi and find paintbrushes.