Posts Tagged ‘photography’

Words and Pictures

October 7, 2014


“Nearly everything we are taught is false except how to read.” So says poet Jim Harrison, who apparently has an ax to grind.

“A picture paints a thousand words.” So says Frederick R. Barnard, in Printer’s Ink, a national trade magazine for advertising.

Barnard also had an ax to grind, but then that magazine went out of business.

Ancient peoples wrote in pictures painted on rocks, a form of expression which is real and lasting. Later people learned to chisel words into rocks.

Then came paper and ink.

Now it’s bits and screens, perhaps not as enduring as rock or paper.

Temple Grandin says language gets in the way of visual thinking, that words tend to cloud some ways of thinking. What does this all mean in the age of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, which all feed into short attention span, and in a world where success is determined by “Likes?”

In journalism school we were taught to write short. The “Five  Ws and the H” first. Everything else can be cut from the bottom. An editor once told me the end of the world could be written in 10 column inches.

It’s also struck me that poetry is a form of condensing words into a picture.

As both a photographer and writer I see that pictures get way more “likes” than the words. I’ve been conducting an unscientific study, which I think is unbiased since nobody’s paying to view or to read. The photos win hands-down, 5-1 or better.

There also have been instances when I have posted something to read and someone has “liked” it so fast I know there’s no way they could have actually read it.

If you write a book, however, longer is often believed to be better. But will anyone read it? Or will they skip through it looking for the pictures, those you’ve painted with words? Or go right to the ending?

In this new age of expression it’s up to those who create to figure out how best to get their ideas out there. Perhaps there’s something to be learned from poets.

Like those who painted rock walls before us, we have no other choice. We can blame electronic media but then did the ancients blame rock walls?

Sangre photography, The Nightsider, Taxarado

March 18, 2010

Horn Peak viewed from Willow Lane southwest of Westcliffe.

It’s tough to get a really bad photo of the Sangre de Cristo range. But it might be tougher still to get a really good shot. I’ve photographed these mountains for years and have found they are terribly difficult to capture. What you see with your eyes is rarely what you record on your camera.

From a distance the mountains are so dramatic it’s tempting to overzoom trying to bring them in closer. This poses two problems, the first being that fakey telephoto look, the second being the more you zoom, the more peaks you lose out the sides of your photo. On the other hand, get too close to these mountains and they may be even more elusive.

Lighting is almost always tricky. Truly crisp days are few and far between. Clouds can be finicky though often add much to a scenic. And then there’s composition. Sure, the mountains are beautiful by themselves, but it often takes a fenceline, cows, a windmill, horses or a grove of trees in the foreground to make a snapshot into a real photograph. On the other hand, it’s amazing how many houses, powerlines, jet contrails and other noise can get in the way of some really nice frames.

I was bummed out to learn this week that my friend and former Pueblo Chieftain co-worker Stan Nelson has decided to discontinue his blog, The Nightsider. I often found value in what Stan had to say, and so his site and insight will be missed.

It’s distressing to see people putting “Taxarado” bumper stickers on their vehicles. Their point being that Colorado residents pay excessive taxes. The truth is Coloradans pay the fourth lowest per-capita taxes in the nation. If you want lower taxes maybe you belong in New Hampshire, Texas or South Dakota. The real problem is we’ve had 1.5 million new residents move into Colorado over the past two decades and we’ve not done a good job reinvesting in infrastructure or planning for education. Sooner or later the chickens come home to roost.

Meanwhile Colorado ranks dead last among the 50 states in average pay for teachers. Even the three states with lower taxes pay their teachers better. What’s wrong with this picture?