I TOOK THE SHOT, enjoyed the scenery for a few moments more, and then realized I have once again just taken a picture that I have taken a thousand times before.
I was on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, enjoying the evening like so many times before, walking with friends. I’d just taken a photo that will look like others in my collection, and all that will be missing is the explanation of what inspired me to do it this time.
And that’s the point: it’s not like I’ve taken this picture for the same reason every time. It’s something new, something different, that triggers the response. A different drainage, ledge, mesa, lighting, cloud cover, or season.
I realize that most people can’t say they’ve taken thousands of shots of the Grand Canyon, but I lived here for years and return on occasion for business or pleasure. (The same is also true of Yosemite and Zion.)
However, I know I’m not alone, and I’m not talking about people and the Grand Canyon. I’m talking about people who, wherever they may go, or wherever they may live, leave themselves open to being pulled in by beauty every day. Sure, the places I’ve lived make it easy to generalize about being drawn in, but I’ve lived in places as simple as the high plains and my favorite places there drew me in, in the same way. And I have many more prairie pictures for which I have no clue as to why I took them.
Ironically, none of those “thousand shot” locations have given me a favorite photo. In the Grand Canyon my favorites are of Nankoweap and other places along the Colorado River, and the reaches of Havasu Creek. In Zion, they are of slickrock, side-canyons and expansive panoramas.
At Yosemite, they are not of Yosemite Valley or Yosemite Falls, but of dogwoods in bloom, and mountain lakes I’ve seen only a time or two. The rareness is undoubtedly the reason they’re my favorites. The occasions were special, the scene not necessarily grand. They are rare and the image represents a clearer, specific memory.
I do have favorite pictures from places I’ve shot often. The cloud-filled Grand Canyon during an inversion. Bridalveil Falls in Yosemite in early morning light. Rare occasions. That Yosemite photo I shot on the morning I left to start my next adventure. I lectured myself to keep moving — I had many miles to go — but I stopped. I took a few minutes to enjoy the moment and get the shot. Blue light was settled over the rock, the falls, and the river. The picture is different, and it’s on my wall, reminding me of leaving Yosemite.
But why do I reach for the camera in locations I’ve seen so many times before? I can’t say with absolute confidence, but I don’t think it’s too complicated, or too unique. Is it thinking that this could be the best one ever? No, I think it’s mostly reaction, and appreciating and preserving a moment.
And these days, moments are cheaper with a digital camera.
[Note: Matador editors selected this Community blog post for publication at the Network.]