We have some impressive mountain ranges in Montana, but this isn’t one of them. Though reminiscent of the Bridgers that stretch north of Bozeman, this is, in fact, a dirt pile. I came across it while cruising through a future subdivision, killing time before an appointment and in a mood to photograph. As a handy subject for the 20-30 minutes I had, it was about perfect.


I don’t like to have such a limited time to make pictures, though it can be enough for just taking pictures. The difference is mindset: making pictures, to me, entails greater awareness, immersion, and attachment. Taking pictures is faster and more detached. I really don’t know whether one or the other leads to better images; that’s an interesting topic for, perhaps, a future post. The answer is probably different for each photographer. But in terms of the feeling of the process, I enjoy making more than taking.


These pictures bear a family resemblance to my views of Pine Creek Falls. But this set is much more about black and light, much less about shades of gray. Can we even utter that phrase without bringing to mind morality and ethics? But let’s be serious; that was not my intention. These pictures are not a statement about good and evil.


Or are they? Certainly that connection did not occur to me when I was photographing, nor when I was processing the raw images. I was concerned about the balance between dark and light, about the relative values and the boundaries and the coexistence and the interpenetrations and, at times, the larger setting. But isn’t it possible that the way I consider such things “aesthetically” has something to do with how I consider them “morally?” Do some ways of thinking cross our conventional modes?

Perhaps this is just on my mind because I read this morning a story in the New York Times entitled “Finding Hope in Knowing the Universal Capacity for Evil.” It’s all about the malleability of the human mind.


And now, I may be stuck with the association of these images with the thoughts just expressed, like that ditty Debbie Cornfield taught me I can’t help but remember when I hear the theme of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony. It will affect how I process and present the images next time (assuming there is one). Will the images be any better? Will they even be noticeably different? I don’t know! And at this point, aren’t you glad I didn’t show you the other 36?