Friday, April 8, 2011
Here's a photo of Topnotch Peak, one of the more identifiable peaks of the Absaroka Range that forms Yellowstone's eastern boundary. It's a fairly generic photograph, just a mountain top rising above the forest. It doesn't even give you a good view of the eponymous “notch.” In fact, I find the photograph so non-descript that I'm slightly surprised to have found it still amongst my 35-mm slides.
I recall a conversation in the Employee Dining Room at Lake once: one of my coworkers was explaining to someone how he had thrown away thousands of slides over the years. “Oh, you throw them away because you don't have room to keep them?”
“No, I throw them away because they suck!”
I've thrown away a lot of slides over the years, for both of those reason. Some were just too dreadful to ever pass muster with the editor (me). Others were not bad, but I didn't have room to save every slide I ever shot. I was traveling between Yellowstone every summer and wherever I was during the winter. I lived out of dorms for the entire 1990's, moving at least twice a year and having to pack all my belongings into a Ford Escort. You get good at packing; I recall having to empty the entire car to get at the spare tire on the side of a Nebraska highway one night, repacking to get back on the road, then repeating the process at the tire shop the next morning. One of the guys in the shop just shook his head in amazement: “I never thought that would all go back into that car.” Having my entire photo collection whittled down to three 3-ring binders was just one way of keeping the load manageable.
It means that there are some feature or places for which I have no photographic record at all, because whatever picture I took of the place didn't survive the editing process. If I didn't like it as a photograph, I didn't save it as a “record shot.”
Now that I don't need to save space, it's ironically so much easier to save space. I no longer throw away – i.e., delete – digital photographs, because I can easily archive everything onto a hard drive that's smaller than a desk phone. And those two bulky cases filled with 120 cassette tapes are gradually being replaced with MP3 downloads (the later collection of CD's having already been ripped to disc) and I can have as much music as I desire without worrying about where I'm going to fit it all.
The electronic gadgets sure makes the peripatetic life more comfortable. In fact, I read a blog entry a couple years ago about a young man who was experimenting with being homeless. He had a duffle bag with clothes and a few electronic devices that gave him all the music and reading material he needed, while still being able to carry everything he owned. He was also depending on a network of friends to provide him with couches to sleep on, so I don't expect he's made a permanent life out of it. But the idea that you could have such an array of cultural amenities without a permanent home to store it in still amazes me. How Young Me would have envied Old Me!