Have you ever imagined what the first people who walked into a place as grand as Yosemite Valley, or a beautiful remote canyon in Utah must have thought? Unless they wrote their thoughts down, we can’t be sure, but I’d imagine it was something along the lines of “Holy Crap!”
Being the first person to see a place must give a grand sense of accomplishment. But, similarly, seeing something grand for the first time–whether you’re the discoverer or not–can also be satisfying. Perhaps you’re the first visitor of the season, knowing the canyon you’re in was left to the mountain lions, flash floods, and snowstorms for many months prior to your visit. Or, maybe you’re witnessing your favorite peak after an epic summer storm being lit up by a fantastic atmospheric light show. The sort of feelings and memories we take from experiences like this can easily leave us feeling like the most intrepid explorer.
As photographers, we try to make images of the places we visit as if we were the first to visit these locations. We criticize an image if there are footprints in the dirt; I once saw another photographer carefully sweeping footprints out of the sand underneath an oft-visited arch in Utah. Few photographers could claim theirs is the first image made at that spot (with the occasional very notable exception), but we want our image to look pristine, unvisited, wild just the same.
Alternatively, for me anyway, knowing I’m not the first person to pass through a place can be just as satisfying. I made the images below at an intersection of two slot canyons in southern Utah recently. (I think) the petroglyphs are from the Fremont period, from ~900-1300 AD (although if anyone could help me figure this out, I’d appreciate it); even if I’m wrong, these drawings have been on the wall of this canyon for many hundreds of years. To me, being able to appreciate those who passed before me is just as satisfying as the idea of actually being the first to see an area.
This image may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and I understand that. But, to me, its simple, telling, beautiful. I hope you enjoy it. Click on the image to see it big.