Photographing Something Before It’s Long gone

When I shoot large format movie, one of the great challenges has been picky with the photos I actually ultimately expose. Certainly you will find benefits to shooting by doing this, namely that the rate of “keepers” is higher with this particular format. But there are also disadvantages. One of the biggest is  being incapable – or perhaps a better phrase is reluctant – to photograph a scene when I’m unsure if it will work.

In my pictures, this has led to some skipped opportunities over the years. For example ,   I have come across beautiful forest scenes that I intended to picture, only for them to vanish due to a freak storm before I could dedicate a sheet associated with film to their capture.

It’s impossible within an article to highlight all of the missed opportunities I’ve experienced as a photographer. Partly, it’s because there have been so many through the years. Partly, too, it’s an absence of evidence (photographs) on my part, since most of these topics disappeared before I took pictures of them at all!

In lieu of that, I have chosen to highlight a few photographs I have taken which could have been skipped opportunities, had I not followed my gut sense and captured a photo prior to they were gone. Two from the photograph in this article involve trees and shrubs which were felled (one normally and the other by man), which ultimately destroyed the particular composition. The others involve transitory subjects – one a paint brush, one the deer skull – that were gone shortly after I took their respective photographs.


Back in the glorious year associated with 2020, my girlfriend and am decided to drive up to our family’s cabin in north Pennsylvania rather than our typical trip to Acadia (for apparent reasons). It was while strolling along the road leading to the property, looking for ferns or other intimate subjects in order to photograph, when I came across two trees, each leaning quite heavily to opposing edges. The scene was fascinating and I felt as though the composition would make for an excellent photograph, though I asked yourself if something was missing. Knowing I had a limited amount of film and no way to restock it at the cottage, I decided against making the photograph.

I don’t recall how many days I allowed to lapse before changing my mind. Even though I remembered, it wouldn’t matter, would it? All that I remember is how terribly I wished for fog to roll in with each passing day. Fog in Pennsylvania is a rarity, it seems, and though it occurs more frequently at the vacation cabin thanks to the lake, this fog has a tendency not to spread quite far. Even had this come along, there was no way it could reach these trees, therefore i had to deal with the scene at hand.

Divide, June 9 2020

At the time, my greatest problem was not whether the composition might exist a year later, but rather whether there would be ample splitting up between the primary trees as well as the utter chaos going on in the background. I had only used a large format camera for the year at that time, and I has been very leery of acquiring risks.

Regardless, something told me to try utilizing a wide aperture to aid in separating the subject. Instead of preventing down to my usual f/32 with large format, I decided on an aperture of about f/8. Worst case, I drop a few bucks on a linen of film; best situation, it provides some of the effect that fog would have done. Fortunate for me, it worked out instead nicely, allowing for the background trees to gently fade toward a blur. Fog still would have been my choice, but at least I had taken a photo that I like.

Less than a year experienced passed when I noticed the leftward-leaning tree had dropped its grip and fallen, forever altering the composition, killing off the connection We initially felt to the scene.

“2. 5 Inch Shipmate”

Just over a month later, I discovered myself at the cabin once again.   For one reason or another, while walking around behind the cabin, searching as always to get interesting intimacies in the woodlands, I came across a paintbrush delicately lying upon the stump of a long-gone tree. Precisely why was it still generally there? What was even being colored in the first place? I believe my grandma had been using it and hadn’t put it away, although intended for what purpose, I could not know.

Yet despite this, there was something in regards to the brush which intrigued me and pulled me in. It’s not often I come across man-made objects in the forest, nor is it often – especially at that time – which i would photograph them. But we constantly change while photographers, just like the world around us, and this paintbrush hit me as worth recording.

With this unusual gut feeling, I proceeded to go inside, grabbed my camera, and set it up. Then the first problem with the composition came: my camera had to be regarding six inches taller than myself, which meant there was clearly no way for me to look down upon the ground glass in order to compose and focus the scene.

Knowing the paintbrush was not about to proceed anywhere – though seeing it disappear at random might make for an interesting story – I walked to the garage and grabbed a ladder. It wasn’t the most steady ladder, and I may have caused my family some concern whenever standing on top of it at an awkward angle to create through the ground glass, but compose I did.   As soon as set, I clambered over the ladder, glad it hadn’t collapsed beneath my fat.

2.5 Inch Shipmate, Aug 12 2020

Unlike the first photograph discussed, the scene which makes up 2 . 5 Inches Shipmate was not dismembered by Mother Nature. Rather, my grandmother simply chose to bring the paintbrush back inside to wherever it belonged. Still, this is another of these scenes which is gone forever, never to be completely replicated. Even if I were discovered this same paintbrush plus placed it upon the same tree stump, the bacteria and other intricacies of the scene would be different.


Allow us to head back to October thirteenth of 2019. That was just a couple months before my view on photography changed drastically thanks to the reading of Guy Tal’s More Than A Rock , and a solid five months before the planet itself changed.

Again, I found myself at the family cabin – maybe you have noticed a theme yet? – with my father and grandparents. We were visiting with the objective of dragging logs straight down from the mountain (those from the western states would likely call it up a small hill) to cut on with my grandparents to use during the incoming winter season.

So long as you wake up early sufficient during the summer and start from the fall season, there is a reasonable probability of fog forming over the lake and drifting a hundred yards or so into the woods just off-shore. Knowing this, every time I am right up at the cabin, I try out my best to wake up early, checking for fog prior to either heading out with my camera or disappointingly crawling back into bed.

On this morning in particular, waking up early rewarded me with a thick layer of haze making its way off the lake plus into the woods surrounding the house. I grabbed my digital camera bag with joy and walked onto the porch, facing the lake. Gradually – everything is stop with large format – I actually pulled out my Intrepid 4×5 Mk. 4 and started setting it up. Thankfully no one otherwise was awake yet, every movement on the porch and even in the cabin could protein shake the tripod, ruining the particular sharpness of the negative. It had been nice, though, being able to sit at the table and watch the fog roll through after exposing this sheet associated with film, not worrying about building any other photograph. The result is really a favorite of mine.

Forbidden, October 26 2019

My isolation was broken a short while afterwards, however , by the opening of the door as my father arrived outside, the cup of coffee in the hand steaming like the river in front of us both.

In a way, this isolation was further broken whenever, in July of 2021, my grandfather made the executive decision to cut down the trees in the foreground from the composition. Though I cannot point out I agree with the decision – his reasoning made little sense to me – it does make this photograph, which I titled Forbidden , just a bit more special in my eyes.

“Memento Mori”

Just like the photograph of the paintbrush on the stump, Memento Mori is another composition which I most likely would not have photographed only a few years prior. The thought of photographing the remains of creatures was not something which intrigued me personally. In a way, it felt incorrect, as if I was disgracing the dog by photographing it in this manner. Though I knew the practice of shooting dead things – whether or not remains such as this or the fresh carcass itself – have been done by a number of photographers in the past, it was not something which I felt the need to lead to. Further, who in their perfect mind would ever hang a print of a dead animal upon their walls?

It was not until stumbling across the function of Chuck Kimmerle and his In Memorium gallery that my mindset toward the subject began to modify. The manner in which he photos the remains of deceased animals – the little that he does – can easily be viewed as beautiful, as if he is remembering their existence, both previous and present. In his have words, he writes, “I mean these photographs because tributes rather than mourning. I often talk with these subjects. It makes me feel much less like I am using them simply for a photograph, and more like I am saying a final goodbye. ”

Seeing exactly how he has managed to find attractiveness in such stereotypically “grotesque” material, I began to wonder regardless of whether I could manage to do these types of creatures justice in a comparable fashion. Yet finding animal remains is not the easiest thing in the world, oddly enough. Despite the number of deer found on the property surrounding the particular cabin, it is rare that any carcasses or bone tissues are seen scattered about. Actually, that has to be a good thing; I can not imagine walking around or riding the four-wheelers around the property and coming across a lot death. It would be unnerving.

In April associated with 2021, however , my sis made mention of having discovered a deer skull at the property, not far from the home. At that point in time, I was even now unsure how I felt regarding photographing of such things, primarily due to the societal reputation around death and remains. Still, I decided to make our way to where she found it, if only to see it. Per usual, my digital camera was strapped to my back again, just in case something else caught our eye or my attitude altered.

Memento Mori, April 22 2021

Upon seeing the head lying in the thick originate grass, I could not assist but begin seeing the beauty Chuck sees in such subjects. There was something so intriguing about the deer skull as it lie there, so far taken off whatever had initially sought after it down. For me, and many others I am sure, the beauty is not instant in the photograph (at minimum, not in the same manner as photo of a colorful sunrise on the lake).

Essential to me than the beauty, however , is the story of the head and the questions it begged. How old was the deer when it met its end? Who was the final decider from the fate? For how long acquired the skull been seated there, and for how much lengthier will it continue to be there? And, when it is gone, what will have taken it?

The sunshine faded as I pondered these types of questions, and I had to come to a decision. Was it worth taking out the camera and helping to make an exposure, despite even now being unsure of how in order to feel about such a subject? Or would I leave this be, risking it evaporating and this opportunity not arising again?

Thoughts still circling, I found the camera setting itself upward upon the tripod since the light dimmed. I did my best to meter the picture so as to protect the dark areas, though I knew they would be darker than normal in the dying light. Using a single sheet exposed, the sunshine now all but gone, I made my way back towards the cabin.

The next morning, I awoke earlier and made my way back to the skull, figuring an additional sheet would not hurt. Luck have it, nothing had transferred the skull overnight, and I was able to expose an additional sheet of film. Which of the two you now see, I cannot recall. Yet I can state for certain I am glad to get come across the work of Chuck Kimmerle and been shown the beauty in what others may find unpleasant.


There is some thing to be said about the disappearance of things and the originality it brings to the world. The concept nothing lasts forever is not really something which should be feared but , rather, embraced. Try as we may, we likely will not find the cure to demise. And in the blink of an eye – at least, the blink in the grandest size of things – it will be as if everything we know, everything we have created, will be wiped away, gone forever.

This should not be viewed as scary, however. As photographers, especially, we have the special privilege of being able to immortalize fleeting moments – times which few others may even notice, let alone remember. Instead of worry whether someone can hang a photograph of yours upon their wall, it really is much more important, in the long run, to use your skills to photograph whichever it is you find intriguing. So , the next time you come across a subject which pulls at you, instead of deny it, allow it a bit of time. Allow it to be graced by the presence of your self and your lens. Photograph this as honestly as you can, due to the fact at the end of the day, you never know when it will be gone forever.

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