File this one under: “The universe ain’t big enough for the two of us…”
Picture: Moving rock at sunrise on the Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park, California
Twice in the last few trips I’ve taken, I’ve had my personal space invaded when all around me there was nothing but empty space. I guess that some people just don’t get that personal space can be either important or valued. Many of us nature-loving photographers often seek out places of tranquil, solitary quietness with the goal of trying to convey that in our photos.
In reverse order, the latest incident happened on a November weekday evening in Lava Beds National Monument. Arriving well after dark at the campground near the visitor center, I toured both loops to discover the place was completely empty. Nobody… anywhere… ‘cept me. While cooking my dinner over a campfire, a mondo, need a step-ladder to get in pick-up truck arrived hauling a huge trailer. Out of two vacant loops save my one campsite, they picked the site two spots away from me. For the next twenty minutes, my quiet campfire was rudely interuppted by the constant shouts while they tried to level their trailer into position. Start truck engine: “OKAY… Back up. More. More. STOP! No, go forward. STOP! No, back a little more. OKAY.” Turn truck engine off. You think they’d have gotten it right, but no, this scene played itself out three more times in almost the exact same order. Then to top it off, everytime they stepped out of their trailer, their Super Mag-Lites would beam straight into my campsite. I was almost ready to pack up and move in a gesture of insult when they finally settled in for the night.
OK, that was bad. But even worse is when the person invading your space is another photographer trying to see, then shoot what you’re shooting while you’re working. When I was on the Racetrack Playa with friend and fellow photographer Jim Goldstein and his two companions, we met another photograher who I’ll call Bob. Bob actually lived local to me, so we talked for awhile, and he was genuinely a nice guy. However, once out on this huge dry playa, he would repeatedly walk right up to me or one of the other photographers to see what they were shooting, and proceed to set up and shoot nearly the same shot. In several instances, Bob literally planted his tripod within a couple feet behind me, shooting right past my leg to get as close to what I was shooting as possible. While I liked having someone to chat with, the sad part was that I felt like someone was substituting my own personal vision and experience for their own. The worst moment was at the one instant of transitional light between shade and direct sunlight, he’d walked right in front of what I was shooting, stopped 10 feet in front of me, started fiddling with his gear while his shadow stretched right across the moving rock line I was trying to shoot. All I could do was take a picture of him in my way to record the moment.
I just don’t get it. There’s a whole big universe of space out there, people. It’s one thing if your one of a half dozen photographers trying to shoot Mobius Arch at sunrise in that cramped little spot. However, in a nice big desert, certainly it shouldn’t be too tough to chase down your own little bit of space & vision instead of climbing atop someone else’s shoulder. Bob – If your’re reading this, forgive me… because I did enjoy talking with you, but sometimes, respect for other people’s space should be understood (intuitively) and respected.
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