Tuesday, December 8, 2015
The Power of Tenacity
It is 1998 and I have worked out enough of the bugs in the large wooden falling plate pinhole camera, and accompanying wooden tripod, that I've begun going afield, exploring what it might be capable of creating.
Every time I go afield with this bulky contraption I can't help but think of the formative years of photography, in the 19th century, when adventurous explorers, much braver than I, spent weeks or months in the wilderness capturing on photographic plates for the first time the wonders of this new continent. I'm no explorer, for certain, merely walking in the footsteps of giants.
Though the advantage I hold today is that of mechanized transport via automobile, and commercially manufactured films and papers rather than hand-coated on site, it still comes down to having to lug camera, tripod and accessories by hand, absent the portage once provided by pack mule. Today, I'm my own mule.
One drives north from Albuquerque along Interstate 25, then exit at mile marker 264, at the base of La Bajada Hill just south of Santa Fe, heading toward the town of Cochiti Pueblo. Directly adjacent to the massive earthen Cochiti Dam a left turn takes one out along what was then a rough, dirt road to the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.
I had learned how to carry the large box camera, mounted atop its tripod, over my shoulder in such a way so as to keep the film plates from becoming dislodged, but I still had to be very careful as I hiked up into the slot canyon at Tent Rocks, in search of photographic possibilities, which I soon discovered to be all around me.
I soon found the main limitation to my handmade tripod was the lack of an articulating head, which limited how far from straight horizontal I could aim the pinhole; this is a canyon, after all. Yet I was able to come away with a number of decent images, among which is this portrayal of a tree which has been partially toppled over by flood waters and whose root system has been exposed by erosion.
Interestingly, I visited Tent Rocks again just this past summer, some 17 years later, and this same tree yet remains in its same precarious position, testimony to the power of tenacity.
Because of the bulk and weight of the camera and tripod, I turned back before entering the steeper parts of the hike through Tent Rocks, but not before recording a few more images, which I will share in subsequent articles.
If there's anything this project has taught me it's reliance upon adequate preparation beforehand, and tenacity to stick with one's intention to fruition, like that tree that yet clings to life in the harsh environment of the New Mexico badlands.