6. Landscape Light

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The Summer of 1981 was approaching and I told my boss I was thinking of quitting my job.  He told me to wait and give it some more thought. He suggested I take a vacation instead. So I asked him for a month and a half, vacation time I had accrued, and he said yes.

A friend from Jackson Hole, WY, had invited me to visit and that seemed a good destination to aim for. The plan was to drive out with camera gear, camping gear and a 12 string guitar with two truss rods, which I got because I felt it would handle the weather changes I knew I would encounter. In Jackson Hole it could be like summer one day and snow a foot the next. I loaded up on cassette tapes, food and lots of film for my 35mm and 4×5 cameras. I took a sturdy tripod and my tent was a 2 Man Draw-tight, supposedly used on Everest. It was dependable, able to handle strong winds and I was used to it.

My route was laid out on a AAA Triptik and in short shrift I made it to Wyoming, where I took pictures around the Tetons and in Yellowstone. Somewhere on the trip I heard about a place called Great Sand Dunes National Monument, in Colorado.  I had never shot dunes before and decided I would drive to Zion Canyon in Utah first and then to the Great Sand Dunes on my way home.

The Dunes were like nothing I had ever seen before. It felt as though I was in photographic heaven. With the sun low in the sky in the morning and late afternoon, deep shadows formed behind the dunes creating beautiful patterns.  Unfortunately I  only took a few photographs, because I had been on the road for over a month and was out of film.

The Dunes made a powerful impression on me and I saw great possibilities to do some good work there if I ever got to go back. However, when I returned to New York I quit my job to become a full time photographer. There would be no opportunity to take a month off now. I had to find and equip a studio to do my work in .

I thought about the Dunes a great deal as the years passed and one day I decided to replicate similar lighting in a studio setting. It seemed to me that the shapes closest to dunes would be nudes. I had never shot nudes before and decided that they would best be done in black and white, like my dune photographs, and without showing anyone’s face. I felt that including faces was more of a Playboy Magazine approach and I wanted to avoid that. The image below is one of the photographs from the series I made.

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