The Burden of Bosque.

There’s no doubt about it, I think too much. I burden myself with ethical dilemmas and over-analyse everything; it can’t be healthy and if I’m honest, it’s exhausting! Carefree colleague and friend Danny Green tells me not to look beyond next week and even advises against this blog becoming a philosophical platform, but I’m not built that way; I ponder and muse and often conclude that I’m trying to make sense of a world that makes little sense.

As much as anything it might be to do with middle-age (the point in life when you start looking back instead of forward) and consideration of your place in the world. I don’t think I’m alone in this respect. Picking up this month’s edition of Outdoor Photography, I see Niall Benvie looking back on career highlights; I read with interest Mark Sisson‘s route into nature photography and his inevitable reliance on tours and workshops, and I read Elliot Neep‘s well-written analysis of the impact of over-eager photo tourists in Africa. These are all signs of changing times and changing perspectives. Nothing is as certain as change.

Against this backdrop, I found myself last week in Bosque del Apache in New Mexico, a major wintering ground for snow geese and sandhill cranes, and one of the most heavily-visited wildlife photography locations in the world. I knew before the trip that I was unlikely to produce anything new and I didn’t. I knew that I had little commercial use for the images and I haven’t. But I also knew that knocking on the door of 50, this was something I wanted to see (and hear and smell) and so reason, logic and commercial justification were cast aside and off I went.

I joined a small group of photographers and we took lots of images. We ate New Mexico out of house and home and we laughed and joked. We saw lots of wildlife and some of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve witnessed anywhere. I didn’t analyse things too much (I’m lying now) and although I can’t say that I ‘connected’ with Bosque in the same way that I ‘connect’ with places closer to home, it was a great week and in many ways, took me back to why I first picked up a camera – not to over-calculate my every waking minute, but to have fun.

We are allowed a bit of fun aren’t we? I’ll have to think about that.

The tour was organised by Natures Images and my thanks to them and their guests for good photography and good company.

Edit: A gallery of images from Bosque can now be viewed here.

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12 thoughts on “The Burden of Bosque.

  1. Seems to me that you still managed to produce a few images with some of your own personal style there Pete. I love the head shot in the grass and the ghostly cranes and I’m really not sure I’ve seen them done quite like that before. Sounds like you had fun, and dare I say it, surely that should always the point of what we do.

  2. “I knew before the trip that I was unlikely to produce anything new and I didn’t. I knew that I had little commercial use for the images and I haven’t. ”

    And therein lies the crux of your post, one about philosophical musing and the ‘freedom’ of maturity. There were times when you would either have thought “I CAN get something here, because I’m different from all the rest of the pack” and work yourself silly trying to do that, or perhaps say “I’m NOT going to even go there because it’s been done to death, I’ll go somewhere remote and difficult.”

    Now, where you are in your life/career, it’s an easy choice: “Bosque is amazing. I want to see amazing, don’t care if its busy with people, really touristy and ‘done to death’. It’s less about the photography and more about the experience I want to have in that place.”

    And the great thing is that that ‘freedom’ of mind you’ve arrived at HAS resulted in you actually producing images that are original and even some that are slightly unusual, even if you don’t think so.

    Duncan does (and I do too), and he says so above: “I love the head shot in the grass and the ghostly cranes and I’m really not sure I’ve seen them done quite like that before.”

    Too often I think we tie the ‘quality’ of the work we might do to the perceived ‘quality’ of the subject matter, and not consider as often as we should do, the quality of the thought processes that we might bring to bear in that place because of how we feel at the time.

  3. Pete
    It seems to me that trying to predict the commercial viability of your images defies all conventional analysis, and very often you are pleasantly surprised by those you least expect to do well. Mike Lane tells me that “arty pictures” never sell, and if we’re only looking at editorial licensing, then he has a good point. However, I prefer to think that if you try to stay true to what moves you, then that will show in your work and stands a chance of moving others too. Your images from Bosque undoubtedly have “value,” and I’m sure you will be able to use them in blogs (!), articles, lectures, and gallery prints, for example. But even if they don’t earn you a penny, better that than your soul become bankrupt.

  4. Pete

    When I saw these images I just wanted to get on a plane and go to Bosque, I guess that says it all.

    Given your entrepreneurial spirit, if the arty images do not sell, you could always diversify and open a Kindergarten for wildlife photographers. I suspect you would need at least two naughty corners if the children keep falling out.

    Best wishes


  5. Hi Pete

    The ‘cranes in motion’ image makes perfect sense . . . ! No need to analyse this comment – lovely image.


  6. Always loved your musings. They are so very diverse! From not getting your head around religion to wondering why you have taken shots that you don’t think are commercial.

    So, why did you go? Almost certainly because you love wildlife, open spaces, and even, dare I say it, the company of your fellow photographers; well some of them, anyway.

    And you have shown us enough beautiful shots to wet the appetite of many of us to go and see if we can get anything we can ‘use’.

    Looked to be a fabulous trip, and one I would love to do.

    Regards Becky

  7. I’m no expert photographer, I simply snap interesting subjects as a record, so I admire those with the ability to capture beauty. But I am fully in accord with the sentiments you express. OK, I’m older; but I do what I do (make friends with wild species) without thought of commercial gain. My prime objective being to learn — to discover the truth as compared with the (generally uncomplimentary) gratuitously donated character assessments applied by man. Ask Mark Hamblin, he’s photographed here.
    The point being that I enjoy doing what others may consider stupid and time-wasting. And, by being treated as another of the same species I learn things that are almost unbelievable — frequently contradicting purported experts. It won’t make me rich but I sleep with a smile of contentment.

  8. Sleeping with a smile of contentment Mike – that’s the nub of it. Is there somewhere that sells contentment? Next to the shop that sells bankrupt souls??

    Thanks folks for your kind and valued contributions. It’s good to talk!

  9. Pete,
    you need a good slapping. Forget about all the philosophing and just go for it. You’ll be giving all your pictures arty-farty names next (I can help you with that if you want).

    Don’t beat yourself up about it, just have fun.

    Looking forward to meeting up again in Lofoten in a few weeks for some fun (of the photographic kind!).

    Paul (age fifty nine and three quarters)
    p.s. Don’t recall seeing any sand dunes when I went to Bosque……………

  10. Afterthought. You were worried that you wouldn’t get anything new in Bosque. What you should have worried about was whether you could still rise to the challenge of trying to get something new and enjoy the consequences either way. Therein lies the contentment.

    Oh bugger I’ve joined in the philosophising now. Oh well.

    See you soon.

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