When You Can’t Find 1,000 Words

When You Can’t Find 1,000 Words

As a young teenager, before I rode motorcycles, it wasn’t uncommon for me to carry a camera around taking snapshots of life. I fondly recall having a pink Le Clic disc-film camera, which I thought was so cool. When friends would come over and hang out in my room, we’d listen to music, talk and they’d flip through pages of photos in my tattered, sticker-covered album.

When I started riding motorcycles that snapshot tradition carried on – first with a 35mm point and shoot, then digital cameras in various forms, and as the years went on with just my iPhone. Taking pics during my rides became as ubiquitous as putting gas in the bike.

Fuzzygalore at Bombay Beach on the Salton Sea

I don’t profess to be particularly skilled at taking photographs. I have no training or special knowledge. I simply snap what I like and hope that other people think it looks as nice in the little square as I do when I saw it. That’s good enough for me. And there is pleasure in this simple process. It isn’t work which I make for myself and I don’t get bogged down in the details. It’s: see, snap, go.

See, snap, go is the most simplified version of reality. When we take photos with the slightest consideration that someone else might see them, there is a little some’m extra that makes its way into the process. Because when we take photos and share them we’re doing more than just seeing for ourselves, aren’t we? It is more than just a simple time marking.

Since I started blogging about my motorcycle experiences, photos have been an integral part of the storytelling process. And if the old adage is true that a picture is worth a thousand words, perhaps the photos do a better job of presenting the story than the words.

Why do people connect with certain bloggers? Maybe it’s because the people who write stories hold up a mirror for us. We see ourselves in their words. They articulate the truth we struggle with. They breathe life into nebulous thoughts that have been but wisps of smoke.

With a photograph, a bridge to nostalgia might be built, transporting us to a place we recall. But there is also the awakening of wonder about things we’ve never seen. The photo’s story isn’t necessarily fixed. With no words to guide us, the narrative is our own. There are also times when a photograph becomes a punctuation mark or 1,000 more words that finish telling a story.

At any given time, there may be hundreds of unpublished drafts in my blog post folder. Some entries are just a sentence or a single photograph. Other entries are fully-formed posts doomed to languish because they were written for me only as a way of clearing my mind. And then there are periods of time in which I don’t commit ideas to “paper” at all.

This same process is true of the camera roll on my phone. There are nearly 6,000 photos there right now. Some you’ve seen, some you haven’t. Some you will, some you won’t. But, it is unusual for me to go long stretches without snapping a photo, even one that is solely for my own enjoyment. I’m in that no-photo place now and it feels a little unfamiliar. Have I forgotten how to see?

Blogging dry spells are puzzling to me. They highlight the fact that I do not understand myself or my own motivations. Here I am with this abundant bank of past experiences, photographs, and thought fragments from which to pull – but more often than not, I don’t.

Why? I’ve been a million places, seen a shit-ton of interesting things and I’m trapped in my own head all day. What keeps me from sharing? There is always a story to tell. Always. Even when the story is: I don’t have a story to tell. The why of that is its own story.

7 Replies to “When You Can’t Find 1,000 Words”

  1. See, snap, go? I drove to a sunflower field at 5am this morning and took about 400 images. All of them ended up in my recycle bin but only after viewing each one at 100%. Maybe I do not understand myself or my own motivations. You really are a very good writer.

  2. The images you make are exquisite portrayals of the landscapes in which your life unfolds. And while you may not have any special training in photography, the value you ascribe to images and the years of practice have made you an excellent photographer. Added to the mix is likely an eye sensitive to light, balance, and story.

    It may seem as simple as snapping what you like but I suspect much more is going on than you realize. “See, snap, go” is how I’ve long operated as well. I recently had to replace my point and shoot workhorse camera which has shaken the ease of “see, snap, go.” Hopefully, I’ll get used to the new camera and get back to where photography is once again a ubiquitous and transparent part of a ride.

    Like you, photography has been a part of my blog for the past 15 years. The images serve many purposes, mainly to fill the story gaps that I am either too lazy or not skilled enough to fill with text. And in most cases, I start with the photographs and write with them as reminders of the ride — of what I saw, felt, or thought.

    I’m not sure why people connect with bloggers. I recognize the connection. The best I can express is I return to a blog because generally some chord will be struck that causes me to think or reconsider what I believe. That is why I return to your blog.

    Blogging dry spells. A terrible place to be. Friends wonder why I care since I don’t make a nickel from my blog. It’s difficult to explain the emotional and psychological value I derive from sharing. From transforming experience into a tangible story. So when I seem to have nothing it has an effect on me. It is, in part, why I began to create short videos. While I have no idea what I’m doing, I am doing something. And that has its own rewards.

    Thank you for sharing your insights on photography, storytelling, and the mental hurdles you face. An enlightening post.

  3. Photography, the recording of visual imagery, is essential to travel-reporting which seems to be what both you and I do. So emphasizing it, as you do here, is smart.

    Why we blog or pause blogging is a deeper subject that varies from person to person. I blog only when motivated to do so and have periods of frenzy (more than one post a day) and dormancy (nothing for weeks). That’s a reflection of me and my situation. You? Probably the same. When you feel motivated to share, you do; when you don’t, you don’t. Certainly, as you say, you have ample raw material for posts but it’s motivation that’s elusive and uncontrollable. Facing that question probably answers your question.

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