Taylor Thorne: Blog http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog en-us (C) Taylor Thorne taylorthornephotography@gmail.com (Taylor Thorne) Sun, 18 Sep 2016 18:23:00 GMT Sun, 18 Sep 2016 18:23:00 GMT http://taylorthornephotography.com/img/s/v-5/u246695538-o952603933-50.jpg Taylor Thorne: Blog http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog 35 120 On dogs http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/9/on-dogs Since moving to Washington, I've been financing my mountain photography addiction by working at a private dog boarding facility. This article is the first (I hope) of many to generate from my experiences there.

If you ask a dog lover why they love dogs, you'll get an astounding variety of answers. Some folks love the cute fluffy factor, or training a dog and having a working relationship, or just having a warm buddy to snuggle with. I love dogs for a different reason: Dogs do not lie. They simply cannot conceal their thoughts and emotions. In the bearing of their tails, hackles, ears, eyes, and mouths, they constantly and absolutely communicate every shade of anger, fear, desire, hope, trust, and above all, love. Dogs love with an complete abandon that humans don't feel outside of fantasy stories. They suppress nothing, they give themselves to us completely and without hesitation or shame. This is their gift to us, and even though humans have been breeding dogs to do this for hundreds of years, we owe it to them to repay their selfless love with safety, security, and our own love.

Tonight I was once again reminded of the price we pay for the gift dogs give us. Because they give so wholly, so intensely, they can't maintain forever. They burn so brightly that they flash through their fuel, and are gone from our lives like sparks. Our price is to outlive them. To watch them die, love and trust in their eyes till the very last. And we, as humans, know this from the beginning, we see the whole glowing arc of a dogs life within our own. To them, our life spans are like the universe's is to us: it existed before us, and will exist after us, and we cannot comprehend it. They don't know that we've had and loved other dogs before them, and will probably have more after them. Our price, which we pay gladly, is accepting the void they will eventually leave in our lives. The exchange is in our favor, as we can be our most flawed, our most selfish, our least respectable around our dogs. In their eyes, we are always bright, shining beacons of trust and respect. As the saying goes, “Strive to be the person your dog thinks you are”.

See more dog photos on my instagram, @taylorthornephotography, and visit Seattle Humane (where I volunteer as a photographer) to see adoptable dogs available today.

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taylorthornephotography@gmail.com (Taylor Thorne) http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/9/on-dogs Sun, 18 Sep 2016 18:22:42 GMT
Blanca Lake http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/8/blanca-lake  Besides the hideous, unrelenting switchbacks up the hill, the Blanca Lake trail manages to incorporate a bevy of sub-optimal elements that make it the least enjoyable, most rewarding hike I've taken in Washington so far.

For starters, the opportunities for photography both at the lake and on the surrounding ridges, combined with the longer than usual driving distance due to a washed out FS road, are such that I chose to carry the extra gear needed to camp on the ridge both times I've hiked here. No one else seems to do this, particularly on weekdays when I'm usually out. So, I get the unforgettable experience of being the slow, sweaty guy lumbering up the interminable stair-step trail, while fresh-faced young women with water bottles and earbuds bounce past me, passing again on the way back down to cheerfully announce, “You're almost there!”, as if they secretly fear I won't make it without encouragement. As glad as I am to see an unusually large number of hikers enjoying a wilderness area (and no complaints about the friendly young ladies), getting passed multiple times while carrying 35lbs more than everyone else has a way of getting a guy down.

Speaking of wilderness area, many of these folks don't seem to understand what that means. Even into mid June, there is glacial snow covering parts of the trail, where a map and compass is necessary to navigate to the lake. Each time I've gone up, I've seen bear sign, near the trail and in the area of the campsites. The first time I hiked it, a full grown black bear ambled across the road in front of my car on the way out from the parking area. People get lost out here all the time. There is no highway to listen for, no houses around. Wilderness.

The first night I camped on the ridge just a few hundred feet from the trail. I tend to eschew established campsites in favor of finding a super low-impact site further off the trail, but the one I found this time was still within hearing distance of other hikers normal volume voices. Sometime around 9:30 PM, I woke up because I heard something odd on the wind. By 10:00 PM I had identified the noise as people, at least two but possibly three or more, making their way up the trail, hollering “Marco!” I shortly debated popping my head over the side of the hill and yelling back, “Polo!”, but thought that since they evidently were searching for a lost dog, that might seem insensitive. I didn't say anything, mostly because I couldn't have helped them at that point, and also I wanted to go back to bed. If this seems cold, remember that while I have immense compassion for the welfare of animals, I also think that if you take your dog off-leash into a wilderness area without a rock-solid recall, maybe you don't deserve to have a dog. I don't know if they ever found him or not.

Along with questionably responsible dog owners, anyone who hikes with a cheap 12 oz water bottle seems to feel it would be helpful to leave them by the side of the trail when they're empty. It isn't helpful at all. Stop it, you nincompoops.

Pro tip: if you're drinking a chai tea out of a plastic cafe cup that has your name written on it, don't drop it in the middle of the trail right in front of me and pretend you didn't mean to or notice that it wasn't in your hand anymore.

After conquering the miserable switchback situation, the lake itself is absolutely stunning. The trail is situated such that the first view of the lake is complete, and mostly a surprise. This view pops, and I hesitantly admit that I did indeed audibly utter something appropriately impressed when I first saw it. The water is pastel green, from a high concentration of suspended silt known as rock flour. The Columbia Glacier grinds bedrock, and then as it melts into the lake it carries these particles into the water. It also smells a little odd.

The second time I went up, I tried to hike around the west side, crossing the Troublesome Creek outflow, and across the rock field under the glacier to get to the two massive waterfalls that you can see from the southern shore. I almost made it, I was less than a quarter mile from the waterfalls when the thunder started, and the clouds moving in from the south turned into CGI movie clouds, dark and forbidding. I turned back short of my goal, although the dull weather had already precluded the capture of any effectively impressive photos. I managed to make this decision about 15 minutes too late to stay dry, and ended up soaked head to toe by the time I retrieved my tent and sleeping bag where I'd stashed them (to minimize weight on the journey from ridge to glacier and back). The campsite I'd chosen this time was on the very top of the ridge, where it forms a sub-peak just south of Virgin Lake. To get there, you follow an old, faint trail through scrub and close-growing trees that seem designed to transfer as much water as possible onto your sleeves and down into your socks. I actually, for the first time ever, used all of my emergency backup clothes that I carry on every hike. Socks, underwear, my pack towel, and a stocking cap saved my chilly bacon. Right when I got to the top of the hill, the light wasn't quite right to take pictures yet, so I started setting up my tent. I was still in my soaked shorts and t-shirt, having just pushed my way up a brutal hill, and between the rain and the sweat I was literally dripping. The wind on the ridge picked up and with tent-poles in hand I stopped suddenly and thought, “what a great textbook example of how to get hypothermia”. Because I didn't want to show up on the news as the next idiot getting rescued from Henry M. Jackson Wilderness Area, I flung the tent up and put on the dry clothes before I tried taking any more pictures.

Warmly garbed in fleece and rain gear, I sat down on the north-west side of the ridge with a bag of dried fruits and my trusty Stanley flask of bourbon, ready to await sunset. After a few minutes, I looked over my shoulder to see how the sky on the south-east side of the ridge looked... and it was amazing! So, rather than a peaceful evening of sitting and shooting the sunset as I'd planned, I spent the next three hours running back and forth the few hundred yards between north-west and south-east vantage points, catching glorious light, rainbows, and awesome clouds. The trail mix and whiskey didn't last, and soon after the sun finally stopped throwing blood-red light against the distant mountain peaks, I collapsed into my soggy sleeping bag.

When I awoke, I had expected an interesting sunrise after the solar fireworks of the previous evening, but instead was greeted by the inside of a cloud. Deep, thick fog turned the the steep ridgeline into an island, surrounded by unfathomable depths. I took a few photos, although the camera has limitations when faced with environments of such subtle immensity. The hike down this trail the morning after is always odd – I've drunk all my water weight, and going down is easier than coming up, and yet the trail still seems to drag on for an inappropriate length. Then, even after reaching the van at a brisk 8:30 AM, there are already fanatical hikers preparing to tackle the uphill, trotting off fresh as a clean dog, ready to play in the mud. And I'll be back soon, to do the same.

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taylorthornephotography@gmail.com (Taylor Thorne) http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/8/blanca-lake Thu, 04 Aug 2016 01:14:04 GMT
Attack of the killer bugs: Episode 3 of the Lake Isabel trilogy. http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/6/attack-of-the-killer-bugs-episode-3-of-the-lake-isabel-trilogy So, I've written about my first (failed) and second attempts to get to Lake Isabel. If you follow my instagram (@taylorthornephotography) you know that I hiked it again and spent the night, and explored a suspected second waterfall. Since that trip, just like my first successful excursion, was made on the foggiest day ever, I've been itching to get back to Lake Isabel on a clear, sunny day when I could actually see the opposite shore instead of a horror-movie fog. I finally got my chance, and after a relaxing stroll through the rainforest, I spent a soothing evening reading on the shore of the clear mountain lake.

Ha ha, just kidding, I got eaten by bugs.

So let's start the story of this trip with me wanting a tin coffee cup with a rolled (not stainless steel) rim, which finds me wandering three stores in two different cities, including the Redmond REI (which is always a bad idea, as now I need a new backpack). I wanted to be hiking first thing, and instead didn't get on the trail until after two. On the way up (relatively uneventful since I know the various non-trails now) I met another hiker, the first other human I've seen on this particular hike. Folks from back home in the Midwest should understand something about the forests here: they aren't like your forests back home. They will swallow you whole for the minor transgression of not paying attention to them at all times. I was 10 feet away from this guy before we saw each other, and I was making normal huffing/puffing twig-cracking hiking noises. We exchanged brief pleasantries, then he remarked: “I'm lost. I can see the orange flag but I'm off the trail somehow”. The orange tag was maybe 30 ft away, and he could have gotten back to the trail by bushwhacking his way to it, but this illustrates how impenetrable some parts of these forests are. He was six feet away from the trail and couldn't tell where it was. I pointed out that I was currently standing in the trail, and he hopped over and we continued our separate ways. After about ten steps I looked back at where I knew the trail was, and couldn't see him anymore.

After getting to the lake and taking a couple pictures, I thought about trying to hike to the other end, but there isn't a trail and the hill between me and there was impenetrable. I decided to pick a camping spot and relax. About this time I'm realizing that the bugs that were bugging me right where Lake Isabel runs into May Creek (a clogged mass of logs and stagnant water) had apparently followed me up the hill and were competing to see who could crawl furthest into my face. I quickly selected a site for my tent and broke the sound barrier setting it up, and was huddled in it just 30 minutes after arriving lakeside. I mean, these things were getting stuck in my beard, didn't respond to getting shook off (or blowing, or running and screaming), they were really tenacious. I resigned myself to spending the rest of the evening looking at the sunset through a fine mesh, and reached for my book. Which wasn't there. I forgot to pack it. So I read the first aid manual that came with my ancient first aid kit. Did you know gypsies consider touching below the waist before touching above the waist to be an insult? Thanks first aid manual, if I ever have to perform a focused survey on a gypsy, I'll be prepared.

My time in Montana taught me that every noise outside my tent at night is bear. Always. Even though I've seen no sign of them in WA yet. So after a night of something vaguely like sleep, I got up with the intention of making coffee on my little Pocket Rocket stove and having some trail mix for breakfast. Instead, I was greeted by an even thicker cloud of blood-thirsty bugs than the night before, who chased me through getting the tent down, and then chased me down the hill to the western waterfall, then chased me past that until I got back to the real trail, on the east side of May Creek. I don't normally get panicky about anything except spiders, but these malicious bugs had me running and jumping through the woods like a lunatic. I couldn't even take pictures they were so bad. The only spot they left me alone was if I stood in the spray coming off the waterfall.

I eventually got beyond their territory and got my coffee and breakfast, and got home. I didn't get as many photos as usual out of this hike, partly from the bugs and partly from the nature of the trip: rather than being a discovery of a new trail, a new place, this was all about the destination. All I wanted was to see the lake on a clear day, and now I've done that. Hopefully now I can move on to other hikes, other lakes, other bugs.  

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taylorthornephotography@gmail.com (Taylor Thorne) http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/6/attack-of-the-killer-bugs-episode-3-of-the-lake-isabel-trilogy Thu, 02 Jun 2016 01:48:43 GMT
Lake Isabel hike http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/5/lake-isabel-hike Lake Isabel is a very pretty, moderately challenging hike following a combination of old roads and historic trails, with an elevation gain of approximately 2300 ft over about four miles (depending on your route). What makes this hike challenging is a combination of a final scramble up an almost vertical final pitch, and a trail that seems more like a firm suggestion than a real path. So many old roads, logging paths, and other trails branch off and intersect the main one that finding your way the first time seems impossible – I know I took two tries, and the internet confirms others have had the same problems. Unless you have a guide, study a topo map carefully before leaving, check your gps position regularly, and still be prepared to backtrack. My experience is as follows, in two parts:

My first attempt was a complete failure. I read one description of the trail, glanced at google maps, and off I went. I ended up carrying my bicycle from the powerline/gravel pit road up to the Clearcut Boulders, and back down a different trail back to the road (I had ridden from Monroe, like a chump). While the area was clearly beautiful, it was not how I'd wanted to spend my day. I vowed to return and find the true path, sans bike.

There are several options to park a vehicle for this hike. On Reiter Rd, keep an eye out for blocked service roads with Discover Pass signs posted – these used to provide access for hiker parking and OHV users, but since all off-road use is now limited to a few miles of prescribed trail further down the road, these small gravel inlets offer the only option for hikers to leave a vehicle. I chose the one that is 2.6 miles down Reiter Rd, which cuts down on road hiking distance.

Clearly I'm well known for my photoshop skills.

Clearly I've spent time perfecting my photoshop technique.

The other popular parking space is 2.0 mile down Reiter Rd, but adds 1.5 miles of hiking on service roads, which I prefer to avoid. From this parking spot to the beginning of what I consider the Lake Isabel trail is a mess of various options due to the proliferation of climbing boulders in the area, so pay attention here: the trail crosses a creek, goes under the powerlines, and quickly splits, with the left path leading to the Five Star Boulder, and the right path leading across a shallow creek and on up the hill.

Follow the pink/orange/blue ribbons and tags, but be aware that logging interests also mark this area, and not all paths are yours for hiking. When you reach an area where a wide path goes left and right, and a faint orange marked path leads forward, head left. You should immediately come out onto a service road. The path right leads to logging areas, and the path forward (I think) leads to the Clearcut Boulders. Follow the service road uphill. After a half-mile, the service road curves back to the right, and a less-traveled road continues straight. Continue on the straight for 1/10th of a mile to find where the hiking trail begins.  Up until this point, you've actually been in the Reiter Foothills State Forest.  Now you'll cross into the Mt. Baker - Snoqualmie National Forest.

From this point, don't follow any of the orange tagged trees or blue ribbons – they refer to logging or other access paths and won't get you where you want to go. Only follow the pink (or very occasionally yellow) ribbons. They outline a historic mining trail to start, then continue up to the east of May Creek, until you reach Lake Isabel. This trail, although reasonably well traveled and usually obvious, still intersects with multiple old roads, spends some time in dry creekbeds, and occasionally has multiple short detours and options. Follow the ribbons, and they'll lead you to the lake. There's plenty of information about the mines and those trails online, but only occasionally in connection with their overlap with the Lake Isabel trail. I've heard that there were mapped out routes for OHV's to get up to the lake, but I saw no evidence of that on the path I followed. I also surmise from reading other accounts on the web, that multiple Isabel hiking paths are extant, with varying degrees of ease and some differing views. I know from looking at satellite images that there's another waterfall to the west that I want to go back and try to find, as it looks larger and even more impressive that the eastern fall. Take your pick, map your own, but study the topography carefully. On a scale of 1 (gravel path, lots of signs) to 10 (bushwhack, specialized equipment needed, training/guide), I'd call this hike a 7 or 8. Far from the most physically difficult hike I've ever done, it was nonetheless a challenge, especially the last quarter mile or so, which runs damn near straight up.

I was photographing the falls, so I climbed about half that distance in the creek itself, shooting the falls from varying vantage points before it became too slick and vertical for me to climb safely, whereupon I retreated into the woods to find the trail and continue up.

I also factor in the lack of any permanent trail identification whatsoever, which could be intimidating to inexperienced hikers or folks from out of town. It had rained the night before, and was foggy and moist when I went, so everything was damp and slick. I'm already planning a multi-day trip with some camping at the top and time to explore the lakeside, hopefully in the sun!   

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taylorthornephotography@gmail.com (Taylor Thorne) http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/5/lake-isabel-hike Sun, 15 May 2016 02:49:49 GMT
Lost and Found http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/4/lost-and-found For several years I've been dissatisfied with my work as an artist. Not with the quality, or quantity, but with my own purpose and residual effects. As I wrote in a previous post, what bothered me was that much of art, my own included, offered evidence of a problem without proposing a solution. I finally distilled my own misgivings down to a single question: Am I helping?

Stevens Pass Highway westbound, between Roosevelt Rd and “Right Turn” sign.

I look at people volunteering at NGOs and non-profits, giving time and money to help others in positive, constructive ways. Although guilt isn't the right word for how I feel, it does remind me that I can always do more, and do better, than the vague effort I expend right now. But then I shouldn't just buy a plane ticket and go try to build clean water infrastructure in third-world countries or throw ice cubes at the polar bears – there's a lot of problems with those thoughts, from “white savior” complexes to the fact that my inexperience with the implementation of real solutions would make me a liability rather than helpful. I do a lot of things very well, but photography is the one talent I've honed to something approaching professional skill, and “hobbyist” isn't a prefix I would want applied to someone working in humanitarian aid or climate change science. Even as a photographer, I don't take the kinds of pictures that change minds and sway policy like Sebastião Salgado or James Nachtwey have. Am I helping?

Stevens Pass Highway westbound, between Roosevelt Rd and “Right Turn” sign.

With this in mind, I acted on an idea, taking a small step towards helping in a small way, close to home and heart. I picked a stretch of highway, one that I ride my bike down frequently, and had identified as having excessive amounts of roadside trash. I took one trash bag, and picked up trash until it was full. It took less time and distance than I'd expected: barely an eighth of a mile in about 15 minutes. I brought it all back home, sorted out some interesting pieces, and photographed them in a product advertising style. The rest is sorted into recycling and trash for proper disposal.

Stevens Pass Highway westbound, between Roosevelt Rd and “Right Turn” sign.

The photography remains mere evidence, but now the purpose, and thus the effect, are elevated. The amount of trash, the time expended, are nearly meaningless on any scale when compared to what some people do everyday. This is just one small step, one bag at a time, one little bit of highway just a little more healthy and attractive. Anyone can do this, and I think I'll try to make it a part of my weekly routine. Am I helping? One bag of trash at a time.   

Stevens Pass Highway westbound, between Roosevelt Rd and “Right Turn” sign.

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taylorthornephotography@gmail.com (Taylor Thorne) http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/4/lost-and-found Tue, 26 Apr 2016 12:50:22 GMT
Hike to Greider Lakes, Snoqualmie National Forest http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/4/hike-to-greider-lakes-snoqualmie-national-forest The dusty gravel roads twist through the trees, caving dramatically away on one side then the other, so steep the slopes aren't visible from the driver's seat of my battle-scarred minivan. Serpentine movement bring me back to the days when I was roaming the hills of western Montana, exploring the dusty Forest Service roads looking for a place to take a picture, or set up the tent and stay awhile. But now, I'm going to a dam, then hiking to a lake high up in the Cascades. The van creaks and moans, the fuel gauge waving feebly, goodbye.

The dam is boring. The lake is low, so nothing pours furiously through the black-hole overflow spout. Piles of driftwood collect on the side of the road, next to signs instructing visitors not to touch the water. Back to the car.

I move on the the South Fork Site, where there is a boat ramp and more signs advising a lack of “body-contact” with the water, straining my feeble understanding of typical boat-related activities. Here, I wander the muddy beach, admiring the dozens of half-submerged trees that wander like mutated octopuses through the emerald water. There is a picnic area here, but I'm two hours away from lunchtime, so I move on.

Spada Lake, Snohomish County, Washington.

At the Greider Lakes trailhead, I gather my meager equipment and food. The trail begins by winding expressively through the mossy lakeside old-growth, the kind of soft, sun-dappled scenery I see in my head when I read about forested alien planets. Soon, this intersects with an old road bed, cut violently at intervals to allow the creeks to run through unimpeded. This portion of the hike is bland, and not very inspiring. Press on to the Bear Creek site for the best view of the eastern half of the lake.

Sultan River, Washington

Another trailhead marks the departure of the Boulder Lake trail from the path I'll follow. I skip the side trail around the reflecting ponds, as I'm two short miles away from lunch, and hungry. However, my plans are foiled as over the next mile I'll gain over 1300 vertical feet. I can hike the Tooth of Time Stockade trail in 45 minutes, but this slog cost me over an hour. Steps of rocks and chainsawed voids in fallen trees guide me through what seems like thousands of switchbacks, with the tantalizing sound of Greider Creek bubbling just out of site. Far above me, I can hear the intermittent voices of the Washington Conservation Corps trail crew that passed me somewhere near Bear Creek, while I was failing to make a picture of rushing water. Heavily laden by cameras, tripods, and cheese, I can't envy those young men and women who cheerfully bounce up the same trail I'm on, but further encumbered by axes, pick-mattocks, and at least one chainsaw.

After a Sisyphean eternity on those switchbacks, the trail emerges at the edge of Little Greider Lake, where I encounter the trail crew eating lunch among the last remnants of cool white snow under the trees. Another half-mile of trail is all that stands between me and the lukewarm fixins in my pack. I trudge onward.

Finally, past the empty campsites and over a rickety wooden walkway, I arrive at the base of Big Greider Lake, a pool of clear mountain water backed by a towering cliff face, itself cut by dozens of tiny waterfalls. The hundreds of fallen logs washed up at the north end of the lake are sturdy, and finding a conveniently seat-shaped one, I sit and consume my eagerly anticipated lunch of ham, cheese, raisins, and apple. Although signs warned of bear, I see none.

Big Greider Lake, Washington

After dozing in the sun on the logs like a wild animal, I pack up my detritus and hike/roll back down the mountain, passing a sweaty and cursing trail crew wrestling problematic downed trees off the trail. My aching legs convince me to pause at the aforementioned Bear Creek site to scarf the rest of my food and try out my new speedlight for a forgivable self-portrait with the lake as backdrop.

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taylorthornephotography@gmail.com (Taylor Thorne) http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/4/hike-to-greider-lakes-snoqualmie-national-forest Wed, 20 Apr 2016 04:00:06 GMT
Curate your own entertainment. http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/4/curate-your-own-entertainment I hate the new Instagram algorithm. It has effected my feed, in a noticeable and negative way. I hear and read opinions about it filtering out bots or being better because consistently good content will float to the top and shit like that. I have a different solution: don't follow shit accounts. I follow just a few select accounts, mostly photographers and friends, a few woodworkers, who all churn out interesting, personally engaging images and stories every day. I follow those people because I want to see all of those images, each day. I set aside time to scroll through the whole feed to see what they've posted, and the algorithm has thrown that formerly enjoyable habit straight out the digital window. I don't follow brands that I don't actually care about and wouldn't want to see. I may not “like” each and every image, but I care about looking at every single picture that my followees have posted. The predictability of the medium was a powerful tool in the artist's arsenal, and Instagram has removed that functionality in favor of following the footsteps of its big brother Facebook. I know Gary Vee likes it and he's usually right, but I'm standing my ground on this one. Once I put content on the web I know it goes whooshing off into space and I can't do anything about it, but I want absolute control over the things I choose to see and the order I prefer to see them in. Curate your own entertainment, don't rely on a math problem to do it for you.   

If you like any of the work on this website, I post non-project work every day as @taylorthornephotography.  I can't promise personal engagement.

 

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taylorthornephotography@gmail.com (Taylor Thorne) http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/4/curate-your-own-entertainment Sun, 17 Apr 2016 03:50:08 GMT
Art as positive action. http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/4/art-as-positive-action

The work of artists like Eirik Johnston, who's images convey a tenuous, uncomfortable, and occasionally destructive relationship between humans and natural systems, attempt to elevate a nostalgic perception of that relationship to a more profound narrative about land use and the human-environmental connection. Similarly, Daniel Beltrá's galleries are packed with aerial images of large-scale ecosystem modification with human causes, which transcend the documentary mode to become beautiful abstractions, almost obscuring their rather bleak message. Sequences like these, presented without hope for the future, fall short of the inspiring message they aspire to. They offer mood and evidence, but don't venture a solution or encouragement for positive change. Contrast those works with those of artists like JR, Alexandre Orion, or Paul Curtis (“Moose”), who use art as a means of physical environmental improvement, utilizing an active process to create art and cause change simultaneously, rather than attempting to force one to generate the other. This is a difficult comparison to recognize, especially as a photographer working in the same vein as the former artists, because I gravitate to those melancholy images even while hating the implications of their contents. At the same time, I have to recognize that promoting and enabling climate change reform using the latest knowledge and technology is critical to the success of future society, and as a photographer especially, that has to happen at the expense of nostalgia. It is extremely difficult to make photographic work that truly affects change, one of the terrible failings of an immensely variable method of art-making. Most of the projects that catch my attention would be best utilized as advertising for movements or organizations, taken as documents and presented as catalysts for further action. I have a constant nagging feeling that I should be working harder as an artist to not simply observe and report, but to use my humble talents to actually present solutions. What solutions, or even what problems? I have no idea, except that I hope at this point our global society has moved past needing to be informed about the critical nature of our impact on the global ecosystem. Even typing that phrase veers too dangerously near the “man's inhumanity” cliché that plagues every freshman's first photo critique. The appropriate steps now may even lay beyond the scope of photography, like the works of the three artist above, whose projects offer tangible benefits not as an afterthought, but as core elements of the artwork. Looking at the images of them working and the effects of their work, watching videos of those passionate artists speak about the projects, all from the comfort of my climate-controlled apartment, is inspiring motivation to think of better ways to utilize the tools available to me.  

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taylorthornephotography@gmail.com (Taylor Thorne) http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/4/art-as-positive-action Sat, 16 Apr 2016 04:03:47 GMT
The digital... print? http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/4/the-digital-print Last week I came across this quote in Gerry Badger's The Pleasures of Good Photographs: “He [Robert Adams] is not a photographer of gray days and gloom, and he prints toward the higher (lighter) end of the black-and-white scale. High-key is the old-fashioned term for it. It is a particular feature of American photography, in contrast to the moody printing of much European photography.” I was struck immediately by the realization of two facts: when I read about art, I typically look it up online and have never seen it in person, and that my own art exists largely in the digital realm. This is not to say that I don't appreciate the subtleties of a good physical work of art: in fact, the beauty of a masterful photo print and the textures of graphite and paints were important catalysts in my artistic development. It simply hasn't been necessary for me to print anything in years. My concern is that when a paradigm shift in presentation occurs (and I believe it has), a parallel shift must occur in the way I think about and talk about the work, or I'll be missing crucial opportunities to innovate.

I posted a series of images to my Instagram feed a few weeks ago, a vertical “selfie” panorama chopped into five posts, each with a section of a quote about the photograph as a record of existence for ordinary people. I timed the posts so that viewed chronologically scrolling “down” in the feed (as I assume most people do), the quote read correctly. If viewed any other way, such as out of order due to the new Instagram algorithm, or one at a time on my profile, the piece loses it's impact and some of it's meaning. In the mode of performance art, that piece can be analyzed after the fact, but will never be experienced as intended again. It is no less a piece of photographic art for all that, and is just one example of a new system of presentation that begs consideration.

I've also noticed that Instagram applies a subtle color shift during the upload process, and when I link an image to Facebook, the resulting picture is noticeably more dull than the original. Which, then, is the piece of art? I consider the file I have saved in my archive to be the definitive copy, but most viewers are seeing a different version, not to mention the infinite variations in screen types and color calibrations! Without a printed edition to render all digital files mere “reproductions”, either version could be considered legitimate, or I could produce a new version later and further confuse the issue. This distinction is important because in the contemporary art world, artists, galleries, and collectors are still functioning with the mindset of the old painters and photographers who made a singe piece of art or an edition of a small number of prints, and allowed the limited supply to imbue value upon the works. With digital files, artists struggle with the potential to print a limitless supply of any image, and on dozens of substrates. Specialty reproductions used to be custom print runs at great cost per piece, and now anyone can purchase a photo printed on stretched canvas (or a coffee mug, for all that the substrate matters) from their cell phone. This availability makes the art worthless from a traditional supply/demand standpoint, and with the exception of online advertising, commercially worthless as well.

I'm aware that many artists (photographers in particular) fetishize the process, whether that involves buying and using newer, more expensive gear, or limiting themselves to cameras, film, and development procedures from a particular era, or even the modern-day digital processes, where dozens of images are transformed into a single, seamless, fantasy landscape. I think in part this is common to our media because of the vast array of equipment available to photographers, more so than painters, for example. I'm as guilty of this as anyone, excusing myself only by writing the gear choice into a project as an important element of the narrative (Highway Parks). Glorifying the equipment for it's own sake is a waste of time, and further, I think that the processes (eg: black-and-white darkroom work, or physical prints period) shouldn't be considered as requirements for the existence of a piece of visual art. The perfect proof of this is video art, most of which is designed to be watched on a screen. The piece has never, and will never exist in a physical form (causing no end of headaches for museum archivists, I'm sure).

My generation and the one immediately following, known colloquially as the Millennials, are the world's most prolific photographers and storytellers. The social media faces that we present to the world are largely fabrications of our best selves, elements of fractured and confused identities trying to find success, acceptance, and happiness. Every generation repeats this process, but those in the past have never had the opportunities to disseminate their stories like we can now. Every kid on Instagram is an artist, every student posting weekend tales on Facebook is a fantasy novelist. The temporary, malleable, and archive-able nature of these methods of presentation are new, strange, and important. When we relinquish our art into these digital realms of presentation, we are willingly sacrificing a tremendous amount of control over the viewers experience, in exchange for a larger number of total viewers.  

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taylorthornephotography@gmail.com (Taylor Thorne) http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/4/the-digital-print Tue, 12 Apr 2016 03:20:24 GMT
Lights! Camera! Action! Edit! Curate! Pt. 2: “Separation” http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/3/lights-camera-action-edit-curate-pt-2-separation In lieu of the usual bibliography, I'll be providing some links to the relevant source material and further reading here.

To understand why the information in this post is important to my process, the reader needs to know that I categorize work in a style that combines early American photographic structures such as those of the “New Topographics” movement, in particular the goal of creating a narrative built from consistent content across a series of images with varying subjects, with the stark informational typologies of Bernd and Hilla Becher. I even model my titling system after the German duo, by titling my works with a numerical date only. This is the way we all worked in the university program I attended when I got my BFA, and can be differentiated from the methodologies of an artist who works on pieces with little or no contextual narrative, such as a commercial or product photographer. Folded into that is an acknowledgment of the influence that contemporary film and digital media culture has on me as an individual and an artist. As I mentioned in the previous post, I occasionally take photos I don't intend to show, but typically when I'm shooting I have a long-term project in mind, usually based on a viewpoint or opinion I want to promote, and rarely limited by subject. An aside for any non-artist readers, when discussing photographic theory; subject is the object in the photo, content is what that object symbolizes, and the narrative is what two or more images combined mean when their content is considered in sequence. In this post, I'll be “re-curating” one of my projects in relation to new work, and deciding if I should modify it.

Since Separation has the most specific and defined criteria of all my projects, we'll start there. I've been accumulating photos for this project since around 2009, and at it's most bloated it featured over 100 images with a vast, foggy narrative. Since I decided each project in my portfolio should have an artist statement, I began thinking and writing more articulately about the images, and that process brought clarity to my curating decisions, resulting in an edit of 25. I've shot several images in the last months that I think would augment the narrative in a positive way, so I have to decide whether to add or replace a current image. Keeping the count at 25 is arbitrary, it just represents a comfortable number of images to keep in mind at once as a viewer while still allowing the artist a full range of articulation in presentation.

While working on the artist statement, I hit upon the idea of presenting this set of photographs as “artifacts”, or “evidence”, enabling me to draw upon the long history of documentation and fabrication that reaches back to the first “portrait” ever taken, in which the photographer pretended to be dead as a protest against the government ignoring his invention which was competing with Daguerre and Talbot for commercial success. This presentation also allows me to slightly offset the discomfort I feel at recognizing that this project (compared to my others) is generated by an emotional climate that I don't acknowledge in public. In order to illuminate the project through an artist statement, some expression of this emotion is crucial. Being otherwise unfulfilled by emotionally-driven photo projects both as a viewer and a practitioner, I prefer to ground the narrative in a factually satisfying way, and presenting the images as artifacts rather than immediately personal expressions allows me to do so. However they are presented, these photographs serve as a replacement for human interaction. They are intended to function like Stieglitz's Equivalent series, simultaneously a substitution for expressing emotion. Basically, I look for physical manifestations of the environmental impacts of typical human behaviors, and photograph them as if viewed from an outsider perspective. The impact can be subtle or blunt, although I tend to lean towards a subtle expression of large impacts when possible, as in the softly glowing clouds that are indicative of huge power consumption and light pollution that has irreversibly changed the way humans view the night sky, just since the 19th century.

With that and the latest artist statement (I've written four so far, each less effective than the last) in mind, lets look at the current crop of images. Of these, three in particular stand out as different. One and 17 are a little too transparent for this project – the point is made, but clumsily. Number 25 is one of my favorite images I've ever taken, but is visually too frantic for this project. There is a serenity, a calmness to being alone that is comfortably represented in the others, and that tranquility would be ruined, jarringly, by the inclusion of this last image. After consideration, I've removed number 20 for failing to adequately fulfill the “evidence” aspect of the project.

Moving on to replacing some of the void left by those four images, let's look at what I've shot since then that contains those qualifying elements. I've identified six new images, with subjects that could be considered artifacts, and retain the over-arching mood of viewer isolation. I immediately eliminate #2, for having a voyeuristic overtone that isn't my intent. While some aspects of my project Highway Parks utilize this effect to demonstrate geographic distance from active sites, one point of Separation is that there isn't life at the other end of the lens, as this photograph seems to suggest. #1 feels very New Topographics, but lacks the choice light and cinematic quality I like. Those qualities are important to this project to convince viewers to spend more than a glance with the images, like sugar coating for an otherwise gross pill. Numbers 4, 5, and 6 fulfill all my requirements of immediate interest, content as evidence, and a solid basis of strange content to reward extended viewing and consideration. #3 also fits those requirements, but doesn't match the project visually – the “artifact” is simply too hidden, and this image is more in line with the visual aesthetic of Highway Parks.

So that's the basic process. Building a project out of disparate images can be as simple as grouping visual similarities or content matter. I like the challenge of not only constructing a further narrative with the group, but fitting that narrative in with all the other things I'm interested in, from photo history to film to psychology to environmental awareness. These are the deeper connections that allow photos to speak on their own terms as meaningful objects, and reward viewers for putting in time to digest and understand what they see. Hopefully, the depth of subject matter involved in projects like this and those of artists I admire will be able to fundamentally change some small opinion or viewpoint of a viewer, and thus act as a catalyst for change.  

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taylorthornephotography@gmail.com (Taylor Thorne) http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/3/lights-camera-action-edit-curate-pt-2-separation Thu, 31 Mar 2016 19:34:52 GMT
A poop tour and the Olympic Peninsula http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/3/a-poop-tour-and-the-olympic-peninsula I took a brief and much-needed break this weekend to tour another poop factory and then go “camping” with some new friends out on the Olympic peninsula. I hadn't been out that way yet, so it was a pleasant weekend of beer, ice cream, and rain with a bunch of folks I'm super glad I've gotten to know better.   

The Brightwater Treatment Plant is Seattle's newest and most advanced wastewater treatment facility.  Most of the equipment is underground, and they promised the neighborhood they were building the facility in a zero odor environment.  

The whole setup is automated and only requires one to two personnel to monitor the equipment.

Our guide, Kristin Covey, holding (top to bottom) untreated sewage, primary effluent, and post treatment water.  The water from this facility is gravity-fed thirteen miles under Seattle to Puget Sound.  

This control room is where the single operator manipulates the facility.  

This was a good tour - the city is rightly proud of the solutions they've put in place to handle a utility that was previously an environmental disaster.  Half-treated sewage wrecked huge parts of Lake Washington years ago, and this facility is one part of a larger effort to mitigate the impact of a high-density area like Seattle.  

After a nap, I took a scenic drive through the Tacoma area and up to Port Angeles, where we chilled in a cabin right next to the Olympic National Park and got sporadically rained on.  

I learned long ago to always be friends with the cook - Sterling here makes a heck of a breakfast sandwich.

Alan and I bonded over mutually shared "quit job-left friends-drove van" experiences.  He's allowing me to use the phrase "ad-van-ture", which I like a lot better than my self-proclaimed "aimless nomadic wandering".  

Alan and I do not share his fascination with banana slugs, several of which helped themselves to some of our fine craft brews.  I don't know if slugs get hangovers, but thanks to Alan, I know everything else I'll ever need to know about their nocturnal habits.  

I didn't get any pics of the whole crew, but I did take an chance to show off my color-arranging skills with a few.  We left the cabin in t-shirts and drove to a nearby lake, where the weather required these outfits instead.

Then we got ice cream, rode the ferry home, and that was that.  I had a thoroughly enjoyable time, and had fun flexing my very weak portraiture skills a little.  We'll return to our regular scheduled art theory posts soon.   

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taylorthornephotography@gmail.com (Taylor Thorne) http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/3/a-poop-tour-and-the-olympic-peninsula Tue, 29 Mar 2016 01:46:13 GMT
Lights! Camera! Action! Edit! Curate! Pt. 1 http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/3/lights-camera-action-edit-curate-pt-1 This is the first of two posts about my content editing process, which I think will be interesting to folks trying to assemble a body of work with a content narrative rather than one based on subject. But first, some bad news for those who regularly check the website for new work: I had been treating the main page of the website as a rolling update of new work, almost like a more pretentious tumblr or something. After my fit a few weeks ago where I boiled the projects back down to reasonable sizes, I reevaluated the purposes the website in conjunction with what my Facebook and Instagram presences were accomplishing, and from this point on the main page of the website will only feature completed projects. I'll still update it if and when I add or remove images from a set, but it will no longer feature all the new work as it gets completed – check my Instagram regularly instead. I'll be featuring current work that doesn't necessarily fit into a project, along with more behind the scenes stuff. Enjoy!

 

Having said that, I wanted to show a quick example of how I shoot, edit, and choose images for projects.

I certainly don't show everything I shoot and I occasionally shoot and edit an image with no intention of ever showing it, just for myself or to keep some skill fresh.

Let's first consider these eight images, taken at four locations on three different days.

I have so many projects in my head at this point that some formal considerations are bleeding into other projects, as we'll see here. All eight of these images made the first cut – they meet or exceed my requirements for technical craftsmanship in framing, exposure, and focus.

Of these two, I prefer the first, with less distracting tree overhead, and while the large negative space of the green leaf is prominent, the focus allows me to ignore it. The image with the white flower just didn't obscure enough of the house, and was more messy in general. Cut.

With these two, I'm thinking of four projects simultaneously; “Separation”, “Structure”, “Highway Parks”, and an unpublished project in progress tentatively called “Mold”. I'm borrowing subject modifiers (the out of focus vegetation obscuring the true subject) from “Highway Parks”. I prefer the vertical, with its providential bird, and the content could potentially fulfill the narrative of “Separation” more effectively than the landscape version does. Slice.

The chain-link contained rock wall clearly belongs in “Separation”, and may replace or augment the current lineup. It makes the cut. The tree in front of a ludicrously tall overpass also speaks to that narrative, but in a more clumsy way. I felt I had to make this image, but I also took others that convey my point in a more gentle and sophisticated way. Chop.

These two make both cuts and got edited. Only the cleaner version will make it into a project though, and only either “Structure” or “Mold”. They don't advance the narrative of any other project.

On to Photoshop and glory!

Stay tuned for part two, where I decide which of my images to disappoint by replacing it with something new.

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taylorthornephotography@gmail.com (Taylor Thorne) http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/3/lights-camera-action-edit-curate-pt-1 Sun, 20 Mar 2016 03:10:04 GMT
Artist statements, mood, and explanations. http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/3/artist-statements-mood-and-explanations Since I've been regularly making work again, I've been submitting to a lot of calls for artist, which means writing a lot of new artist statements. I've always been very fastidious about my artist statements, since anything I say about an image flavors it forever in the viewers mind. The viewer's environment, state of mind, or previous viewing experience is all out of my hands, so the few elements I can control, I want to control absolutely. It follows that removing a small group of images from a larger set can drastically change the words I want associated with them. For example, I just submitted to two different shows two vastly different sets of images – one mostly from my project Separation, one mostly from Structure, but both with some overlapping content. However, the set that originated from Structure imbued a new feel that the old artist statement didn't suitably compliment. So, I borrowed some textual ideas from the Separation statement, and reworded it to be more ephemeral and lyrical, intentionally contrasting both the photos and the nature of the exhibit I was submitting to. Likewise, after viewing the website of the juror for the other show, I took the appropriate elements of the Separation statement and designed a new paragraph I feel would appeal more to their taste. This is honestly a shot in the dark, as artists present themselves “on paper” as distinct from their real personalities all the time, but writing a statement without knowing anything about the juror is even worse. You'll notice I make little effort to connect to a deeper art history narrative with these – I find it difficult to do that well with such a small sample to work from (I'm no Louis Masur, who should be read by every freshman art student), and frankly, individual shows aren't worth the time it would take to do so. In this context, I prefer to have the artist statement function as a suggestion of mood, retaining the essay-style exposition for more inclusive solo shows or published books.

The full statement for Separation is still in progress, but the micro-sets and associated words are below as examples.   

"The designs tower above me, massive and monolithic. Artifacts left by an alien presence, fighting the mountains for supremacy of the sky. They twist and writhe beneath my feet, tilled into the earth and then beamed into the heavens. The snow-capped peaks appear faint behind the frames of pillars, the bars of a cage, forming doors.

Taylor Thorne is a photographic artist living and working in the Pacific North-West. His images of urban environmental landscaping and industrial construction convey a sense of bleak acceptance, the viewpoint of a lonely wanderer, enchanted by the structures of an ancient society. His work has been shown in galleries across the Mid-West, and can be seen at www.taylorthornephotography.com."

"No matter where I go, how far I travel to disconnect myself from the noise and static of humanity, our presence has become tilled into the earth and beamed into the heavens. Our detritus lingers in paint and object, in smells and shapes in the water, glimpsed among the eternal trees. Sometimes I take pictures of these things, and present them to an audience as artifacts or evidence, like an alien archaeologist presenting theories on how humans lived. An archaeologist cannot ever know the truth of his knowledge, being separated from the lives of the people he studies by dimensions beyond mere time and space. We examine ourselves through glass."

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taylorthornephotography@gmail.com (Taylor Thorne) artist statement highways infrastructure separation structure http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/3/artist-statements-mood-and-explanations Thu, 03 Mar 2016 18:44:11 GMT
Uncle Lester's Tools. http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/2/uncle-lesters-tools

I don't remember much about my Uncle Lester. We didn't visit him often, and somehow I feel like I was very young when he died, although I know I was 18, and had the honor of being a pallbearer at his funeral. The memory I most clearly recall is his house, or more specifically, the walls of his house. They were covered with clocks - real clocks, with beautiful wood cases, hand-cut brass faces, jewel bearings and finely tuned mechanical actions. He had one specific clock to tell true time, the only silly clock he had. It was plastic and had birds on the face of it, as if to demonstrate an idea that time was irrelevant or silly – the important thing was enjoying time. And every hour, his guests were treated to a dozen reminders of that idea. All the other clocks lining his walls were set at times ranging from five minutes before the hour to five minutes after, and one by one, they would sing their unique songs. A guest could follow them through the house, as living-dining-hall-bed-and bathrooms each had an array of his favorites. A few of these clocks he had bought to repair, and after doing so, he could not or would not sell them. Light buzzing, delicate brass dings, and deep rolling gongs sounded one by one, identified by ear from his seat in the warm living room. Some of his clocks were family heirlooms, and he created some of his own designs as well, including a hand-cut brass-faced piece that hangs on my wall, rhythmically ticking my time away under a glass dome. I walked through his back yard shop once, too young to understand the complexities of his trade but fascinated by the parts and tools that hid in the myriad drawers therein. I know now that I was too much inside my own mind while he was alive to realize I should have gotten to know him better. I have a stack of cases of dubbed tapes in storage that speak to his musical interests, the clock on my wall, and photographs of tools instead. After going through those drawers and boxes for almost 24 straight hours, I think I know him better now than I ever did while he was alive. His patience, determination, clever and creative ideas, and passion for his work shine in the gleaming, polished handles of those well-used tools.

More images from this set are on my instagram, https://www.instagram.com/taylorthornephotography/.  

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taylorthornephotography@gmail.com (Taylor Thorne) http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/2/uncle-lesters-tools Sun, 28 Feb 2016 05:41:08 GMT
To occupy these spaces... http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/2/to-occupy-these-spaces What follows is the artist statement I wrote for Highway Parks back in 2012, after a frustrating few years of feeling out my place in art school, and trying to understand my photographic interests within the larger context of the history of art.  While I'm still terrible at remembering the names of the artists I'm referencing, I know I've become a better writer and a better photographer due to the teachers and colleagues I worked with, while collating my own clumsy thoughts into what I'm told was one of the best artist statements of my class.  I remain proud of the clarity of purpose instilled in this project, due wholly to the methodology suggested by Joe Johnson, a methodology I'm continuing to use today while working out new projects here in Seattle.  I've only changed a few words here and there - unlike most of the nonsense I churned out as a student, this piece remains relevant today.  In presenting this as an artist statement,I ask that the reader please view all of the images in "Highway Parks" first, then read the following essay, and then I hope you will be inspired to view those same images again, with an expanded understanding.

 

Highway Parks

Artist Statement:

As a contemporary explorer, I turn my attention and then my lens to what I believe to be the last, and ironically, the closest American frontier – the space between a highway and its diverging ramps.

The whole history of American expansion is the story of men and women who desired to see what was over the next mountain, to cross the next river, to search for the next opportunity, the American Dream. Painters like Albert Bierstadt, of the second generation of Hudson River School painters, would travel west, making sketches of the soaring mountains and roaring rivers. Upon his return to his New England home, he would transform those sketches into massive, emotive oil paintings, with such romantically expressive atmospheres that the style became known as luminism, and which were almost certainly an idealization of what the scene really looked like. During this time, American territorial expansion, powered by the belief in Manifest Destiny, was continuing at a pace that seemed unstoppable. It soon became apparent that effort would need to be made to set aside land for future use, as a resource. Appropriately, it was a painter, George Catlin, who may have named the National Parks, by writing of his vision of “a nation’s Park” in his book concerning the American Indian. This humble beginning of protected wilderness areas would eventually become the American National Parks, administrated by the National Park Service.

The current manifestation of many of these parks could only disappoint those brave explorers. They are controlled, fenced in, divided, and improved. Visitors are free to explore the myriad walkways and preordained paths paved and with handrails, dotted by signs and guides to show them where to go, then where to look. Safety is paramount, as lawsuits continue to be a concern in places where common sense can no longer keep the public safe. These packaged parks are more open-air museum than wilderness. I suggest that the last great, unexplored space in America is right under our noses – somewhere we pass by everyday, without daring to enter. To occupy these spaces is a deliberate and intentional act. These spaces are not easily accessible, often requiring potentially dangerous highway crossings.

The cliche of the panoramic photograph is an apt format within which to confine this subject. Typically presented as wide angle shots showing an encompassing view of a landmark, these images would fit right into a National Geographic magazine. To reject the commercial stigma of these images, I undermine those unwritten rules of clear focus and atmospheric distance between viewer and subject. I utilize a consistent technique within the series, so that the redundant forms will highlight the smallest details of each individual photo. These rigid structures give the viewer a comfortable visual launch pad, from which they can begin a more thorough examination of the obscured subject, and thus the content. By placing the viewpoint of the camera within the vegetation, the horizon line – a standard feature of landscape images – is disrupted or lost entirely. This denial of an expected line serves to activate the space that is being occupied, rather than allowing the mind to travel beyond the location of the photographer. Referencing the obscured landscapes of Todd Hido or Naoya Hatakeyama, the visual distraction directly in front of the lens encourages the viewer to look past the immediate and obvious, and to notice the smallest of details. As with images from Hido’s “Roaming” series, the proximity of the closest objects often renders them out of focus, resulting in a painted, expressive quality. Allowing motion within the frame enhances the soft, welcoming nature of the location. It is important to note that while the formal technique may be similar, Hido uses the object of diffusion to separate himself from a landscape, while I use the landscape itself to demonstrate my inclusion within its boundaries.

The vibrant, consistent colors are a product of careful film choices, specifically Fuji Velvia for its high saturation and excellent blue reproduction, and Fuji Superia 160S for its rich gold and green reproduction. The effect of these wide swaths of flat, vibrant color is to evoke the color field paintings of Mark Rothko, and encourage the viewer to become enveloped by their depth. These colors, presented in a romantically exaggerated way similar to that of the Hudson painters, give the images the produced aesthetic of a car commercial, calculated to catch the eye and invite further viewing. Having attracted the viewer, I am then afforded the opportunity to guide their attention to the ultimate lesson of these photos. Without the blunt documentary nature of a Louis Hine photo, these images are intended to slowly guide the viewer into a modified state of mind.

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taylorthornephotography@gmail.com (Taylor Thorne) http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/2/to-occupy-these-spaces Tue, 23 Feb 2016 01:47:07 GMT
Infrastructure as art object. http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/2/infrastructure-as-art-object Just as a fine meal is only as good as the calories, proteins, and fats contained within it's ingredients, I believe the best photography is that which is useful beyond it's visual content. I endeavor, in a humble and moderate way, to follow in the footsteps of Jacob Riis, John James Audubon, and Sebastião Salgado in compiling a body of work that causes, catalyzes, or defines a necessary mental or physical change within a society. Like the meal, a useful photo should contain fuel: content designed or chosen to ignite and propel action. That content is different for every photographer and every viewer – the fuel that keeps my engine burning is the opportunity to alter the viewer's observational skills. 

One of my regular roles as a photographer is the outside observer: since I have a personal tendency to avoid crowded spaces and commonly traveled paths, I also get to see uncommon sights. In my photography, this usually manifests in images of infrastructure as an art object. I enjoy placing purely functional structures on the same pedestal as finely designed architecture. To my mind, function is the purest design – frills and modifications for visual effect can only dilute the purpose and decrease the effectiveness of a system. The usual towering buildings and landscaped parks carefully erected to catch the eye and encourage visual interaction? These don't interest me, and I afford them only a passing glance.

City of Missoula Wastewater Treatment Plant, Missoula Montana.

My gaze lingers on bare concrete barriers, the undersides of highway overpasses, canals, storm drains, conduit, pipes, mechanical and industrial installations of all type and caliber. I see the lines, planes, and tubes that literally connect each of us to all others, all underground, underfoot, and under appreciated. By elevating these shapes and voids through the processes of photography, I hope to encourage a viewer to do the same every day, during the course of their normal perambulations. A modified worldview is the greatest reward a photographer can receive from a consumer. That goal outlines the recipe I want to use to cook my photographic meal, and the resulting dish should be as beautiful as a Hiroshi Sugimoto print and as nourishing as a Richard Mosse book.

MacDonald Pass, near Helena, Montana.

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taylorthornephotography@gmail.com (Taylor Thorne) Macdonald Pass architecture columbia infrastructure missoula parking garage seattle structure wastewater treatment plant http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/2/infrastructure-as-art-object Fri, 12 Feb 2016 04:23:53 GMT
Now with 100% more fish markets. http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/2/now-with-100-more-fish-markets Seattle is a neat place. The traffic is as bad as any other massive city, but everyone is really cool about it. No one blocks intersections, cars stop at crosswalks, and the highways seem really polite. All the people are weird and busy, and even the newspapers are hip and relevant.

It isn't without it's problems: with all the huge tech companies come young kids earning huge salaries, so all the crappy apartments are really expensive and nobody seems no know they shouldn't be paying two grand a month just to live in a Guinea pig cage right next to their job. Even the outlying areas are expensive, as the companies expand faster than the housing can keep up. Homelessness is a big deal, but the folks who want it dealt with the most aren't those who know how or want to solve the problem – they just want to deal with the single symptom they see every day.

Lots of the goings on are completely above my head, as the week before I got here I was calmly photographing aggressive adolescent bighorn sheep in the Badlands. The construction, the shipping, the tech companies, all are on a scale I have trouble comprehending. This is one reason I came here – personal growth is only possible when comfort is abandoned and the boundaries of your vision are expanded.

I'm honestly more at ease walking into the den of a black bear than I am talking to strangers on the phone. Now, here I am in a massive city full of opportunities that don't involve wild animals and all I have to do is overcome a laundry list of social ineptitudes in order to thrive in it.

Looking at the websites of other photogs who are doing what I'd like to do, I'm going to have to pay far more attention to how I'm shooting to compete. They aren't doing anything I don't know how to do, (although their equipment is probably better) but most of my great images are the result of finding things that look good, while theirs are constructs, built by average looking things lit and composed well. That matters more when more than half the days are overcast and rainy.

However, I know from past experience that there are few things I can't do if I just try it once (other than shellfish) so I'm going to dive in head first and we'll just have to wait and see where I surface.  

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taylorthornephotography@gmail.com (Taylor Thorne) http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/2/now-with-100-more-fish-markets Tue, 09 Feb 2016 03:08:10 GMT
Soggy Seattle http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/2/soggy-seattle At last, I arrive in sunny Seattle! Oh wait, not sunny, I meant soggy. Soggy Seattle. And boy, was getting here an adventure.

I got out of Missouri just fine, and found a nice little state park in Iowa to spend the night at, except that Iowa apparently makes their county roads out of brown sugar, and when the sun made a brief appearance earlier that day, enough snow melted to make the van sink and slide like a trombone glissando. I barely got out of there and ended up sleeping in the van in a hiking trail parking lot.

Day two I got across South Dakota without incident, and bought a week pass to the Badlands. I've been to El Malpais in New Mexico, which is mostly volcanic rock and quite a bit more desolate, but one sign at The Badlands claims it's “The Definitive Badlands”, so what do I know. On the drive to the campsite I saw deer, bighorn sheep, jackrabbit, prairie dog, and bison. I've camped in the cold before, but 15 degrees Fahrenheit is pushing the limits of my sleeping bag, so I just piled on layers and dealt with it. The tent was covered in ice when I woke up, and I forgot to spread it out in the van to dry while I was hiking. When I got it back out the next evening, all the water droplets refroze before I even had the poles set up. The coyote packs yipped back and forth at each other all night, and the bison were grazing just across the creek.

There is a peculiar mood I get in every time I visit a desert. When a place is so inhospitable that you feel like every plant, animal, and even the terrain wants to hurt you, I always feel more alive, or at least aware of being alive. I love the green mountains here in the northwest, but I could be just as happy in the sand of New Mexico, where I first experienced that sensation.

After surviving the Badlands, I went on to Missoula. I was going to spend the night in Lolo National Forest, but it was under several feet of snow, which I would like to thank Shane and his two dogs for helping me get the van unstuck from. Another night spent in a parking lot.

I took care of some errands in Missoula, got gas (this is important), and drove through the snowy mountain passes of Idaho. I was racing the snow at this point, and barely winning, so it was an exciting few hours of driving. I got through that and splurged on a cheap motel room in Spokane so I could sit somewhere warm to edit the Badlands photos I'd taken. In the morning, I checked all the van fluids, saw that I had ¾ of a tank of gas left, and headed out for Seattle. It finally occurred to me that Missoula to Spokane was pretty far to have only burned a quarter tank, about three minutes before the van quit, right at the top of Snoqualmie Pass. Luckily there was a snow plow right behind me, and he hauled me, my gas can, and my shame to the depot, where another driver trucked me to the only gas station on the mountain, and then back to my car. Thanks guys!

So, soggy Seattle at last. This place is bonkers. It's going to be fun shooting in the mountains here, and even though the city is huge, it doesn't feel crazy like most of the big Midwest and east coast cities do. I'm looking forward to exploring the neighboring cities and picking one to live in. Redmond looks nice.   

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taylorthornephotography@gmail.com (Taylor Thorne) Missoula Seattle Snoqualmie Pass The Badlands http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/2/soggy-seattle Fri, 05 Feb 2016 00:02:49 GMT
On frustration, passions, and a challenge to maintain motivation. http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/1/on-frustration-passions-and-a-challenge-to-maintain-motivation Over the past few weeks, I haven't had my camera out of its case more than twice. I haven't edited the pictures I've taken on those rare occasions. I haven't... cared. After photographing the dramatic vistas of Montana, my local stomping grounds in Missouri seem even more gray and boring than usual. I've been spending most of my time bumming around with family and doing some small woodworking and tool refurbishing projects. However, try as I might to fill my days with doing things, I'm still bored and frustrated, like I'm in a car with its wheels spinning on ice.

Bit box

Photography is one of my passions. I will always make images, somehow. But that passion cannot exist in a void: photography as a byproduct is not self-sustaining. I take pictures of mountains because I like being in the mountains. I take interesting pictures of inclement weather because I enjoy challenging my own physical comfort. Those photos are not the reason for the trip – they are secondary, and so they lack inherent meaning. When I build a case for hand tools, or refurbish a wood plane, the action (enjoyable in itself) doesn't need to sustain itself, because the byproduct is a useful tool. An object, just as the photographs are objects, but one that can be used to create, to build. It has, in its usefulness, an inherent reason to be. To keep making photos, and have them sustain my motivation to keep working, the photos must be useful as a tool – each should have a purpose, a design. The products of that design may take years to reveal itself, but I imagine the future of my photography doesn't involve any more pretty sunsets.   

Who knows what's next? 

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taylorthornephotography@gmail.com (Taylor Thorne) http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2016/1/on-frustration-passions-and-a-challenge-to-maintain-motivation Fri, 22 Jan 2016 19:12:24 GMT
A parade from a fire escape - why is Missoula so cool? http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2015/9/a-parade-from-a-fire-escape---why-is-missoula-so-cool Upon waking last Saturday morning, I blearily conjured coffee together and began my weekend ritual of gazing abstractly out my window, waiting for inspiration to strike. Eventually, the caffeine informed be that my eyeballs had been seeing buses full of plumed hats and trucks pulling very imaginative trailers past my window. I sprang into action, googling “missoula parade” and voila! The University of Montana's Homecoming parade was to kick off in just a few short minutes. I bombed the rest of my coffee, assembled the various lenses, and rolled away on my bike to photograph the festivities.

UM Homecoming Parade, 9/26/2015UM Homecoming Parade, 9/26/2015University of Montana Homecoming Parade, 9/26/2015, Missoula, Montana.

I located the viewpoint I wanted, which unfortunately happened to be on the roof of a building. There was a fire escape leading from ground to roof, but as I've previously mentioned, my criminal trespassing days are behind me. I needed permission.

University of Montana Homecoming Parade, 9/26/2015, Missoula, Montana.

The parade started a mile or so away at 10. A ground floor bookstore (one I had actually meant to visit) opened it's doors at 9:55. I entered, walked straight to the man behind the book-strewn desk, and spoke: “I'd like to photograph the parade from the roof - is that possible?” Usually a question like this gets a negative response ranging from confusion to downright hostility. Not so from the denizens of Missoula! Without further question, he pulled up a contact list on his computer, scribbled a name and number on a scrap of paper, and said, “Call Ken. If he's around he'll help you.” I didn't believe it – I myself would have rather been sipping hot coffee at that moment – but I stepped outside and dialed.

UM Homecoming Parade, 9/26/2015UM Homecoming Parade, 9/26/2015University of Montana Homecoming Parade, 9/26/2015, Missoula, Montana.

Ken, who turned out to be the owner of the building, saw a Missouri number on his phone, deliberated, and answered. I repeated my query. His reply: “You can't get on the roof, but I'll be there in five minutes, and we'll find you a spot to work from.” I could hardly believe it! I'd never gotten access on such short notice like that. Maybe there's something in the Clark Fork water.

UM Homecoming Parade, 9/26/2015UM Homecoming Parade, 9/26/2015University of Montana Homecoming Parade, 9/26/2015, Missoula, Montana.

A mere six minutes later (as the first flags trudged past on the street) Ken himself strode through the crowd. We chatted briefly as he key-coded me into the building and let me out onto another fire escape, with a perfect vantage point. I spent the next two hours there, photographing the parade from a most unique perspective.

UM Homecoming Parade, 9/26/2015UM Homecoming Parade, 9/26/2015University of Montana Homecoming Parade, 9/26/2015, Missoula, Montana.

I sent Ken a print and a thank you, and bought a book from the shop downstairs.

University of Montana Homecoming Parade, 9/26/2015, Missoula, Montana.

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taylorthornephotography@gmail.com (Taylor Thorne) http://taylorthornephotography.com/blog/2015/9/a-parade-from-a-fire-escape---why-is-missoula-so-cool Tue, 29 Sep 2015 02:59:56 GMT