Ask any photographer about their favorite photographs, and you'll usually find that the reason they are favorites is 50% about the image itself and 50% about the story behind it. It may be a story about how the photograph was taken, what it took to get there or the patience to wait for just the right moment. Or maybe about the luck of being at the right place at the right time, although I now truly believe that lucky shots are rarely that - they're usually the result of scouting locations with tools like the Photographer's Ephemeris, recognizing specific animal behavior, studying the skies and everything else that goes into being prepared. Once I've gotten my butt out of bed at 4:30am to drive to a place before the sun rises, it's amazing how luck seems to occur with greater frequency.
With some of these images, I knew I "had it" the moment I shot it. With others, it's the magic that happens when you press the shutter and later discover in post-processing what had been captured. This gallery contains those images that have been my favorites - some for a very long time. Each time I see these images in particular, I can't help but recall their story or the exact feeling I had standing there. Therefore, many of these are not my greatest technical accomplishments but have profound or deep personal meaning in some way. Some have shaped my vision, others have brought out the environmentalist or ever-struggling artist deep within me. I'm thankful for having the opportunity to be where I was at the time each was created. Many of these photographs have never been presented before on my site.
Inspired by Ansel Adams' Examples, The Making of 40 Photographs (Little, Brown & Co., 1983), the process of writing down the stories behind these photographs feeds my desire to share those experiences and serves to record some pertinent details about the when, where, how and why. As a result, this gallery took a year to create. It contains many of my favorite photographic experiences and many of my life's most memorable moments. These are like my children - impossible to pick a favorite. Collectively, they make me happy when I look at them and flood my mind with so many recollections.
People occasionally ask, "did it really look like that?" My answer is always "to me it did..." I know they're asking how much manipulation is done to the image. I am more interested in experiencing new places and photographing than I am in sitting at a computer. Time to photograph is always precious and far too infrequent. I try to remember when I'm on vacation with my wife that it's not all about taking pictures (although right now she may roll her eyes). Most often nature provides the opportunities, the lighting, and the mood. It's up to me to compose the scene, find the gems and and bring out the best in the scene. Would I occasionally remove a leaf or a twig? Absolutely, but rarely. To me, it's no different than changing where to place my tripod. If an otherwise great composition is marred by a small detail, I'm happy to remove it. It reminds me of a sunrise shoot at the Snake River Overlook in the Grand Tetons before the proliferation of digital cameras. There I was, along with a dozen other photographers. Right around the peak of the sunrise, a jet liner went overhead, creating a long and very unwelcome contrail in all of our viewfinders. Everyone packed up their cameras (swearing a bit) and moved on. The only way to remove a contrail at that time was to pay someone hundreds of dollars to retouch your large format transparency. It was rarely worth it. Now, with the swipe of a mouse, that same contrail would never have happened.
Putting this collection together, I couldn't help but notice themes of subject matter. I'm a big fan of trees - how can you not be? And of mountains, and of birds and of skies and of old, delapidated structures with great architectural detail. You'll also see many images from the American Southwest. It's the place to where I am constantly drawn. Each time we return, new places are mixed in with old favorites. Both Sheryl and I feel at home in the deserts, in the canyons and especially in the mountains. Some day...
I hope you enjoy these images and the stories behind them.
All images © Dan Pollack Photography. All rights reserved.