Who Am I

We are all constantly making up definitions of ourselves. They sometimes arise out of an ah ha moment and there’s a sense of freedom and pride to the thought, this is who I am. But like everything else in life at some point that definition doesn’t seem to fit anymore and in fact feels confining. Then we may have a new ah ha moment and a new self definition. My photographer friend, Guy Tal, writes masterfully about this as pertaining to an artist in his blog, here.

I would find myself being transported many times when I hiked in nature so I started taking photographs there. I was particularly inspired by the work of Galen Rowell. Although Galen’s work is pretty diverse, I went around shooting mostly sunrises and sunsets with wide angle lenses always trying for a particular look. At some point I realized that I was no longer photographing the places where I liked to hike. Instead I would go to particular locations at sunrise or sunset and try to “make” photographs. I found that definition too confining, and I embarked on a project to communicate the beauty of all of nature — not just the obvious places.

My background was street shooting, but I found that the low ISOs of color film and need for sharpness made walking with a camera on my shoulder and just taking snapshots impractical for the types of images that I wanted to capture. Eventually I switched to a 4×5 view camera to capture even greater depth and detail.

What started as pure artistic experimentation and expansion became a new self-definition and prison. I was very pleased with this image of myself. No one could question my intention and sincerity when I lugged around all this equipment and painstakingly crafted these high quality images.

Bob Dylan said “He who is not busy being born is busy dying.” This goes for us as artists and as human beings.

At my age and physical condition, carrying a 4×5 camera and lenses around on a hike to perhaps casually take photographs is not practical and certainly not fun. I was able to sell a computer I had for enough money to buy a Nikon D300. A D300 with a zoom lens on my shoulder is easy, and I found there are images I’m getting that I never would have otherwise.

The above image is such a one. Though I had a tripod with me, I purposely shot it hand- held to poke holes through my arrogant large-format persona.

There’s a quote from the photographer Paul Caponigro making the rounds of posts of photographers that goes, “I want to be free enough to see, everyday, with fresh eyes.”


~ by danbaumbach on November 6, 2009.

7 Responses to “Who Am I”

  1. Excellent post, Dan. There must be something going around (ack, not another meme!), maybe the change of season, that’s bringing on so much introspection. Good stuff.

  2. Two great quotes here Dan – both so very profound for any photographer hoping to continually grow with their passion.

  3. Excellent thought provoking post and beautiful image Dan.

  4. Glad to see you achieve some level of freedom for yourself, Dan. My ideal camera would be a Leica-sized rangefinder with the quality of the 5D MKII for a reasonable price. I have the 24-70mm lens for my MKII but I really don’t enjoy shooting with it because it is so big and bulky.

  5. Although I failed to comment, I did enjoy this image and post when you posted it. This weekend I joined my dad for some photography around Point Reyes and was so excited to stumble across this beautiful image of yours in one of the galleries there in Point Reyes Station. That was too cool 🙂

  6. Thank you, Amber.

    – Dan.

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