The Challenge of Originality

February 18, 2020. In a world without the corona virus, today would be the day I return from a trip to China. Sadly, such is not the case. But don’t feel bad for me, my trip cancellation was trivial compared to the impact of the tragedy on others. The highlight of my trip was to be the sand dunes of the Gobi Desert. I love sand dunes. There is something about the curves, the textures, and the light and shadows. They change constantly. It’s almost as if they’re alive. So when the dunes of the Gobi fell through, I opted for a quick trip to Death Valley just to get a sand fix.

It was well worth it. I encountered some great conditions. For example, for two days in a row, high winds cleared the Mesquite dunes of footprints. That’s huge. I also experienced a sandstorm up close and personal, I saw some great clouds, and I experienced the park relatively empty of people because of power outages. I could go on. I was just thrilled to be there. The only downside is that someone stole my tent. That’s right, someone stole my staked out tent one a public campsite!

Now I’m home and yet now I face the biggest challenge of my trip. What to do with the images? And what I mean by that is, what am I going to do to bring a photograph to life on the display you now hold in your hand? How am I going to attract your eye, dear viewer, with something that will make you stay a fraction of a second before your eyes dart to the next piece of eye candy on your display? Perhaps I can present you with something that will spark a brief wonder? Or maybe a momentary escape from your surroundings at this moment? And how am going to do that with something that is original to me? Something unique to me?

That’s a tall order. Death Valley gets photographed by 1000s of photographers a year. And there really is some great work out there. You name it: monochrome, color, abstracts, grand scenics, intimate scenes, night photography. I could go on. And for every genre there is amazing work out there. Work I only dream of creating. Scroll up or down your feed and you will probably soon see a photograph from Death Valley that makes my point. I’ll give you a second now while you prove me right.

And therein lies the challenge. The challenge of being original. There was a time when I was happy to just competently copy a photographer’s work. Now, that doesn’t work for me as much anymore and originality has become my quest. And a curse. You see, consistent originality just isn’t possible for most people. Sure, there are people out there who are exceptions, but for us mere mortals, originality comes in starts and stops if it comes at all. But when it happens, there is nothing better. It’s amazing. So I’ll keep trying, seeking those treasured moments when originality reveals itself.

While I do that, here are three interpretations of dunes from my trip. I call the series the Platinum Dune Series. Are they original? I don’t know. You tell me. I’ll soon share more attempts at originality from Death Valley. Wish me luck!

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