Each month a prize-winning photograph from the archives of the Crozet Calendar will be published together with a story from the photographer of how the image was made and commentary by Sam Abell about the merits of the photograph.
I know photographs.
After a lifetime of making, editing, publishing and writing about them, photographs are not strangers to me. When I see a new one, I confidently construct a credible story about its creation. I did that with Lynn Rutherford-Snow’s striking photograph of the Thomas Jefferson statue and the Rotunda partially covered in snow.
Here’s my knowledgeable narrative: This is a seriously made image. The photographer endured the cold, snowy conditions and made her way to a precise vantage point and waited for the lighting and atmospherics to peak. After gathering all the pictorial elements into one deeply realized composition, she then pressed the shutter on a “serious” camera.
Wrong. Wrong. And wrong.
Here’s the real story, as told by Lynn: “This photo was pure luck! It was taken on my Apple iPhone as I was stopped by the traffic light at Carr’s Hill. I took it from my car window!”
So much for my expert analysis. But was it “pure luck” that Lynn made this photograph? I think not.
“This isn’t a first. I’ve taken pictures of this scene before. I always love looking at the Rotunda and mentally saying hello to Mr. Jefferson! LOL! But then I get home and some of the pictures are blurred, or a car has come by, or someone is honking their horn at me (Hello! The light is now GREEN!). I felt this was the perfect time to take the picture as the light was RED!”
“I have taken a lot of photos of the Rotunda from my car window over the years. If there’s a wedding or U.Va. graduation, you MUST have a picture of the Rotunda and Mr. J!! Autumn is especially beautiful with the fall foliage. Sometimes I have missed golden opportunities as that light was GREEN and there was too much traffic to catch that special picture!”
So, not luck. Lynn’s striking photograph is the result of a concerted effort over many years to render an image worthy of a scene she loves. That’s my definition of dedicated photography.
I asked Lynn to elaborate on her picture taking technique, “I have been taking pictures for decades. But these days I use my Apple iPhone. I have a nice Minolta camera that takes better photos, but I don’t carry it with me. I always have my iPhone. Plus, it’s easier to post the photos I have taken directly to Facebook.”
In this regard Lynn is like many other avid photographers who have switched from conventional cameras to smart phones in the last 20 years. In acknowledgement of this, both Nikon and Canon recently announced plans to discontinue development of DSLR cameras—for decades the worldwide standard of “serious” 35mm camera design. Why? Advances in smartphone operation and picture quality have stolen the market. The always handy smartphones produce photographs that are good enough—and getting better all the time.
But what about Lynn taking pictures from inside her car? Isn’t that to be discouraged? Not to Lynn. “I love riding around taking pictures with my iPhone. I actually have to pull off the road on occasions to take certain photos and hope and pray a tractor trailer does not wipe me out!”
That’s risky, yes. And not recommended. But it is a fact of life for dedicated photographers who might as well have a bumper sticker that reads, “This car stops for photographs.” And it’s true for professional photographers as well as committed amateurs like Lynn. It’s just not acknowledged.
That’s why it was unusual that the subject came up in a light hearted, in-house conversation among several veteran National Geographic photographers some years ago. Each of the photographers admitted taking photographs from inside their vehicles. The amusing confessions were topped off by the esteemed Jodi Cobb who laughingly said, “Yes, and I always know when the picture is really worth it. I turn off the motor.”
But you don’t have to be a pro to know what it’s like to see potential for a promising picture from inside your car. Even amateurs know when the picture is “really worth it.” And it’s then that they will do almost anything to come away with the photograph.
As Lynn said, “I am definitely not a professional! And I must admit some of the pictures people submit for the Crozet Gazette Calendar are spectacular. Seeing them I feel those photographers simply enjoy capturing life—just like me, a little old amateur. I love submitting for the Gazette Calendar.”
The latest edition of the calendar Lynn refers to is on sale now at locations in Crozet and western Albemarle. It is a special issue of the annual calendar, one that features some of the best photographs from the last six years.
Please note: The Crozet Gazette did not hold its annual calendar photo contest this year. Thank you to all who have participated over the last twelve years! The 2023 calendar is a final “best of” edition of the project, curated by Sam Abell. Available for purchase at the Crozet Artisan Depot, Parkway Pharmacy and other local shops, as well as online at crozetgazette.com/shop/.