Monday, September 28, 2009

Grand Tetons

It’s funny how French lends an air of respectability to everything. We were driving along the scenic Jackson Lake to Grand Tetons. What does ‘teton’ mean, wondered BigGeek. Now is a good time to disclose the fact that I am the family’s trip advisor, guide and booking agent in one. I am the silly donut (as Chip would mischievously say) that reads up on places and creates spreadsheets and emails a copy to everyone on the party. So, I knew what teton meant: it’s that part of the woman’s anatomy that lies above the waist and below the neck. Naah. I didn’t tell him that. I offered him a half dozen slang words to choose from, but since this is a family blog, I have chosen to employ a pithy euphemism. Really? Said the BigGeek. It doesn’t look like that at all.

Thus began our quest to debate the intentions of the explorer who saw in this mountain range, a err.. grand teton. The Grand Tetons are how I imagine Switzerland to be. Impressive peaks breaking out into the wide blue sky. The sole reason I wanted to visit Grand Tetons was Ansel Adams. No amateur photographer worth her pixel would not attempt Adam’s famous picture at the Snake River Overlook. At the magic hour. When the sun has set but its light lingers on for a little while. I was all set. Batteries, flash cards, lenses, tripod. Everything. I was going to attempt an Adams.

Once we reached the Snake River Overlook, the sun was still pretty high in the sky. I waited patiently for it to hide behind the mountains and scouted the area. The Adam’s photograph was planted firmly in my mind. I had to find right spot and get that framing. How hard could that be?


I struggled in frustration. I changed lenses, played with tripod heights, crouched, bent, twisted to get the Snake River snaking beautifully from the foreground and twisting away to the mountain peaks. I clicked a few pictures but they looked quite ordinary. Simply No mojo. It was getting late and I clicked away furiously at every exposure, every length I could think of. BigGeek was getting hungry and the only restaurant around for 40miles would close at 9:00pm. I packed the camera equipment sullenly. Adams would have foregone hunger and thirst for the perfect picture. I thought. There was no way I could be a good photographer of I have to keep track of mealtimes, could I.

The pictures I had taken were all super terrible. Not one made the cut. Not one. Ansel Adams had better equipment .. or his amazing talent had more to do with it. Where did I go wrong while framing? Was it the light? Then I realized. Adams took (made) his picture several decades ago. There were no trees there. From the overlook, you had an unobstructed view of the river and the mountains. My view was partially blocked by tall pines and I had to work around that. Perhaps if Adams came here to this exact spot today, he would not give it a second glace. Who knows? I was a fool to try and copy a picture blindly. You have to see it with your heart (cheesy, I know). For the 40 minutes, I could not see what Adams had. Literally and figuratively. The scene had evolved over the years, but like the proverbial immigrant stuck in the decade when he left his country, I had sought to find the familiarity of the picture in the landscape before me.

The only thing left to do now, was drive to the restaurant and eat.


Mahendra said...

I am fortunate I do not know Adams (I don't even claim to be an amateur at photography).

Why fortunate? Because I would be able to enjoy the beautiful landscape and "live" the real moment and the experience, rather than fidgeting around with tripod and lenses and getting desperate to click a photograph that looked like that of someone else.

Anonymous said...

Nice evocative post. The incident was truly enjoyable.
Even though, pics did not pass the muster, I would say that the efforts were worth, anyway...

Where could we learn such lessons but for on such occasions. THAT is valuable.
Like the famous song "Life is what happens to you, when you are busy making other plans........", which is normally learnt, only after a life time or so!


Sujatha said...

I totally, totally empathize with you Dottie. That's exactly what I would attempt.

I read your Big Sky post over the weekend. And this was right after we'd gone to dinner with friends who said we must visit the Big Sky state! Thought that was a nice coincidence. :)

DotThoughts said...

Mahendra: That's a way of looking at it, I suppose! I thought I get to enjoy the view twice (or thrice) once through my lens and one w/o. I guess this is a case of the grass not being greener on the other side!

Aba: Yes.. photography (like most serious hobbies) teaches you much more than just framing and exposure..

Suj: Do visit YNTP, but only after you visit Alaska!

Shilpa said...

Hey Dottie,

Those are exact two destinations that are high on my travel list. We went to Hawaii on our last long trip before our son was born, and I wish we had been to Alaska instead...

Next summer for sure. Which of the two (Alaska or GT) is better to travel with a toddler aged 2 and half, which he will be next summer? Does Alaska involve treks etc.? What can he handle better, and moreover, let us enjoy too?

Chip feels very mature, from your posts, ofcourse he is, actually he would have made an interesting companion. Our guy has to still learn to be in his seat for over 32 minutes - that is the break point.

Eagerly waiting for your pictures...


DotThoughts said...

Shilpa: Denali with a toddler will be very tough. You cannot drive in the park because the permafrost is so fragile.... you have to take one of their buses to inside the park. They are about 8-10 hours (round trip). But Denali is not the only park in Alaska.. Seward is nice.. Check out Kodiak.. you can get a Denali like experience and you can drive your own car (I think).. YNTP and GT are very toddler friendly. We went to Hawaii when Chip was 10 months old..

rayshma said...

sounds absolutely wonderful.
want good pictures...? come over now..! the views are fantastic... and even pics that i take by "pointing and shooting" are quite nice.

really... if you spend "some" time on the pics... the outcome will be worth selling! and oh, it's already snowing lightly! :D

Vinita said...

Going to the restaurant to eat was a good decision..Adhi potoba mag vithoba.. in this case Adam.

Mala nehmi watata ki mana sarkha picture ala nahi majhya kadun ki camera cha fault ani aala tar majhi talent.. hehhe

mhanje mag manaala traas hoat nahi.

Grand teton bhlatach chaavat naav nighaala/

Shilpa said...

Many thanks for your advise Dottie. Then YNTP and GT it is :-)

Where are the pictures??!? Go post them right now.

Nagesh.MVS said...

Nice evocative post. The incident was truly enjoyable.
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