The Pen and the Camera

November 9, 2000

Its time to write.

No longer bed ridden, I am back swimming at the club pool, walking without much pain, but doing slowly on stairs.

And I have been longing to write. I'm not sure why, but sometimes I postpone the words while I work on the pictures. There is after all, only so much time to work with.

The pen is a Waterman, the kind that uses real ink, and costs a fortune to replace a nib, should it roll off the table and hit the floor. The reality however is that most of my writing is done with a keyboard, save for scraps of paper covered with various notes.

I use the Waterman when I want to slow down the process, when I want to feel the moment, when I want to leave a distinctive mark. Perhaps I like it so because it is so antithetical to me - sometimes a blur, sometimes at full stop, seldom anything in-between. I don't think I could compose long pieces with it however, since my tendency is to change sentence after sentence, in mid stream.

My preference however, is to combine camera and pen. Sometimes words just are not enough. When I first started writing on the web I mentioned that a friend once suggested that Americans were obsessed with Kodak Moments. Maybe, maybe not.

Over the past several days I have been working with the camera, and it's images, and tonight when I set out to look for more images, I found three that made me think, and perhaps it was the thinking that made me want to write.

As with the written word, sometimes the camera is just not enough.

As I looked at these photographs I wondered to myself, just what is it that I have here, and as a matter of fact, are they in the right order?

Isn't that last photograph a bit washed out? Surely it could be "fixed."

I removed a fleck of dust or two, cropped off the borders of the slides, and then just looked at the three images.

Again I looked and I wondered if I could put the scenes to words.

I also wondered if what I had captured on film was real and accurate.

I spent some time working on the last image, trying to see if there was something that could be done to get it "right."

It took the memory of a sunset, to figure out this sunrise.

Red goes to orange then to yellow then to pink then to lavender, then to night.

The sunrise worked the same way, the first light of dawn, a sliver of orange red sky, touched with a slash of yellow at its center.

You see the flat horizon broken at the edge by what appears to be a small rise, or perhaps a modest hill?

Next the yellow core of light pushes the edges of red farther and farther into the sky as the first tinge of lavender licks at its fringes.

Can you see the light?

Has the edge of the sun risen yet?

Where is the drama now? The the inky blackness dissolves as we watch. The camera does not lie, the emerging light is washing out the drama of the night.

But what of the drama of the climb?

Do you see it? Can you hear my labored breathing, can you feel the fatigue that has washed over my body? Can you sense my disappointment?


What's wrong with you man? What's to be disappointed by here?

So you settled for this view? That was a problem?

Yes, it was kind of a problem, for I not planned to be at this particular spot to watch the sunrise, I had planned to climb and trek all night, and in glorious victory, greet the dawn from the summit of Mt. Whitney, 14,496 feet into the night sky.

Perhaps if I had trained more, or walked faster, or ....

As dawn broke over the mountains in the distance I did not care any more. I sat down, pulled out my camera, and took a long rest. I had been on this mountain before and I knew that the view from 13,600 feet was just about the same as the view from the tip top.

Still it was not the top. But sometimes in life you have to readjust and change your pace if you want to get to the end of the trail.

This was one of those times.

The full moon had set, the sun was on its way up, and I reached the summit, not at dawn but in the full light of day.

The pictures tell the story of the sunrise, another day, the pen will tell the story of the night and its climb.

(Note: Images 2 and 3 were taken with a telephoto lens - images scanned from slides.)