of swans, of salmon leaping where the silver water plummets,
of glaciers swelling broad and bare above earth’s ﬁery sinews—
the Lord pour out his largess there as long as earth continues!"
- Jónas Hallgrímsson (1807 - 1845)
A kind note about the waterfall I featured in my last post (from a photography friend, Paul Cotter, whose exquisite portfolio and blog should be on the short list of anyone reading this - check out my links page to see what I think of Paul's work!), enticed me to ponder how differently I view my own images, depending on whether they were "easy" or "hard" to get — sometimes very hard, as when I tried capturing a view of the Selvallafoss waterfall. While it is easily accessible from a parking lot on the northern part of route 56 (on the eastern/inland part of Iceland's Snaefellsnes peninsula), I suspect that many tourists just take a quick look around (the parking area provides a gorgeous view of the volcanic lake, Selvallavatn), and get right back into their cars, oblivious to the beautiful falls that are hidden from view.
I found it "difficult" to get this particular shot not because I needed to do any strenuous hiking (while there is a short walk involved along a mud-strewn and partly inclined path, the falls are almost within a stone's throw from the parking lot), but because my son (Josh, the next generation photographer/artist in our family) and I struggled with the ambient elements: (1) bitingly hard pelting rain, and - as if that wasn't enough - (2) unrelenting fierce mini-hurricane-strength "sentient" wind (that mysteriously swirled around us, seemingly without direction, trying to find a way to keep us an unbalanced as possible). In short, this was a beastly hard shot to get! - certainly by comparison to the image in my last post.
So, what does this have to do with the kind note from Paul Cotter? My kneejerk reaction was, "Many thanks, but now I'm embarrassed!" - where my "embarrassment comes not from being unable to take a compliment, but from the fact that I know that the earlier photograph was ridiculously easy to get: park car, walk 1000 feet to a bridge overlooking falls, set up tripod with a wide angle lens, screw on a 3-stop neutral density filter, and click. That's it! How can I possibly take any real credit (or be "rewarded" with a compliment) beyond simply asserting, "Well, I was there, saw an incredible scene in front of me, and went click"?
Objectively, I know (or ought to know) that "how good an image is" - regardless of what measure of "goodness" one uses - is not correlated with, or defined by, how hard (the photographer remembers) it was to capture. One can just as easily stumble across a timelessly "good" image as work furiously for days, even weeks, to capture a meh-level photograph. Yet, instinctively, my knee-jerk reaction is still always the same; I feel "embarrassed" when complimented on (what I know was) an easy-to-get image 😳 ... which the image above was assuredly not!