Why I don’t shoot Antelope.
It’s INCREDIBLY important that no one take this essay personally…this is just my own, extremely narrow view of what is art.
I don’t shoot Antelope. A lot of people do, and pretty much every one with everything from a Nikon D5 and a prime lens down to a $70 prepaid cellphone does, if they get the chance.
I won’t do it, I’ll explain why, but first I’m going to make a leap here that seems confusing, but I promise I’m working on the exact same topic.
There’s no such thing as “steel wool photography.” The other day, someone asked in a photography group “have you ever tried ‘steel wool photography'” and I very bluntly said “there is no such thing.” He was talking about the unique art where you spin burning steel wool, throwing sparks and take picture of it.
I probably won’t ever do it…no promises, but probably never…for a reason similar to why I won’t shoot Antelope.
I’m not really interested in shooting frozen bubbles either. Same reason.
Steel wool as a subject is just crazy cool. But taking the picture is really not hard. The shots you get are cool for only one reason: Someone originally thought the thing up. The VALUE in the shot, in my very narrow view, belongs to the person who thought it up because the idea is UNIQUE.
Someone figured out you can freeze soap bubbles…it’s not a naturally occurring thing……when you take a picture of a frozen soap bubble, by far, the coolest thing in that shot, is THE ORIGINAL IDEA.
You may take a great version of it, with good composition, technique, light….you may even invent a clever new version…but at the core, the VALUE of that shot still rests with someone else’s UNIQUE idea.
Steel wool….someone else’s unique idea.
We’re not talking about a TECHNIQUE for achieving a goal many people envisioned…we’re talking about a unique SUBJECT that NONE of us envisioned until someone else did it.
I personally have no interest in duplicating other people’s UNIQUE ideas.
Remember….no one should take this personally….I’m not saying anyone else is wrong to do it. I’m saying that in my own, very restrictive view of art, learning from other people is fine, copying other people’s GENERIC ideas is one thing, but copying someone else’s UNIQUE idea is wrong. That’s just me.
I can’t promise that I’ll never do it. I just try really hard not to. And it can BE really hard, because I’ve thought up very creative, new ways to use things like steel wool and frozen bubbles and just resisted the urge. I went and did other things. It’s a hard concept for some people, but I really do believe there is a line between learning general techniques that we all can envision, and copying UNIQUE ideas that none of the rest of us thought up until we saw someone else do it.
And now we come back to shooting Antelope. I won’t do it.
About ten years ago I was reading an article in a photography magazine, about the winning photographs in a competition. There were some AMAZING, ASTOUNDING pictures. One in particular, was just a brilliant use of light and composition, and to me, there was clearly a great deal of thought into angle and time of day and technique. But the subject was a snow fence on a beach. An incredible composition of a fairly pedestrian subject. The winning picture…
….was of Antelope Canyon.
Antelope Canyon is something every photographer has seen, because it gets photographed all the damned time, lol. Everyone who goes there shoots it…everyone that shoots it gets a good picture….every picture gets “oohs and ahhs” from friends for the simple reason: Antelope Canyon, all by itself, is incredible. It’s a work of natural art. A masterpiece of light and form. It’s mind bogglingly beautiful.
And whether you shoot it with a Nikon D5 and Zeiss prime lens, or you shoot it with an iphone 6s, you can get a picture that will amaze people. Whether you’re a seasoned fine art photographer or you’ve only ever taken shapshots of your own bum, you can get a shot of Antelope Canyon that impresses. It’s just plain too damned easy to shoot.
So I won’t do it. I also won’t shoot pet deer or catch fish in a Koi pond or boast about winning an auction on ebay. Why do something that’s been done a million times, is the easiest thing in all of photography, and you could just Google the darned thing and get a better shot?
Of course, when I GET THERE someday…..I may be proven a liar. I may not be able to resist the gravity of Antelope Canyon. I always have a camera, and the temptation may just overtake me…..I’m hoping not.
And there’s always the possibility that when I get there….someday…..I’ll look at Antelope Canyon and think of some BRAND NEW, UNIQUE way of photographing all that beautiful rock and light. If THAT happens, sure….I’ll take the shot.
Of course if I then share it, I’ll suffer the rest of my life watching a million people copy my unique, original idea.
(all of the images in this essay are free to use stock photos)