Big Sur and the California Coast by Chip Hooper
When it comes to advice given to photographers, volumes have been written — of which I suppose I am guilty of adding more than my fair share. It's so easy to hand out advice, so difficult to follow it. We've all heard on numerous occasions the espoused wisdom of taking our cameras with us wherever we go, whenever we go, and keeping them handy so when the moment strikes were ready to make the stunning photograph. It's wonderful advice, wisdom that is universally ignored by every photographer I know — save one. Chip Hooper is that exception.
For years, Chip traveled the Big Sur coastline commuting to and from his office. As part of his routine, he carried his large-format camera with him every day. Every single day. It's no wonder he was able to make such a stunning portfolio of the Big Sur coastline. Probably nowhere else are the variables so multiplied — clouds, wind, tides, waves, light — and this is nothing of the infinite possibilities about where one places the tripod. In the face of such variables, only patience and preparedness lead to success.
Let's re-examine the advice of having a camera with us always. We can admire Hooper's dedication and discipline with his large-format cameras. But, can we excuse ourselves for not heeding this advice in this age of the compact digital camera? Sure, a Panasonic LX3 won't render the same results as a piece of 4x5 sheet film, but that doesn't make its digital image useless. (See Chris Rauschenberg's work in LensWork Extended #101.) Yes, an iPhone is a different beast than a Wista 8x10, but that doesn't mean it's valueless as an image maker. (See LensWork alumni Dan Burkholder's website for some fascinating iPhonography.) It's easy to extol the virtues of the larger format cameras and denigrate the limitations of these smaller, newer tools. But then again, I'm not sure I would choose the 8x10 for street photography. Every camera has its virtues while simultaneously being restricted through its limitations. Here again, that doesn't mean we shouldn't carry one with us always.
There's another lesson in this image by Chip Hooper. The timing of his shutter release is so perfect, catching that wave crashing on the rocks that becomes the focal point of the image. From a slightly larger perspective however, this business about carrying a camera with us at all times is also a function of timing. I suspect that by simply carrying the camera in the car, it was easier for Hooper to think photographically. Rather than segment his life into work days and art days, the simple act of carrying the camera in the car integrated his work life and his art life into everyday life. Our days are numbered, our artmaking moments are incredibly finite. If we can expand our art life by even just a moment captured here, a half-hour captured there, isn't that reason enough for carrying a camera with us whenever we can? How can we complain about the inconvenience of lugging around such a small device that opens up such a large aperture for artmaking? We could be pianists, painters, sculptors, or cellists. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to pop my GF1 into the glove box.
The portfolio can be seen in its entirety in our back issues — print (while still available) and our PDFs for computer, iPad, Android, and other devices. Plus, bonus audio commentary about this image is available to full-access members of LensWork Online.
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