Happy discoveries in the ‘what if’ of exploration. One day my wife, daughter and I were heading back up to Ruidoso from the Tularosa basin and I took a side detour. There is a prominent peak along the highway called Round Mountain. Round Mountain is the site of a battle in 1868 between US cavalry soldiers from nearby Fort Stanton and the Mescalero Apache indians of the area.
A dirt road runs past the mountain, follows the path of the Tularosa creek and ultimately ends up in Nogal canyon near Bent. I had been on that road in the past and wanted to take it again that day to see if there was anything new of interest to photograph. Not long after rounding the mountain there was a sign indicating that the road was closed ahead. I drove on undeterred, but my wife was immediately in favor of turning back. What was the purpose of continuing on if the road was closed? “Maybe it’s not really closed,” I said “maybe we can get through.” To that notion they both laughed and teased me. Sure enough, the road was under repair from damage caused by recent rains and there was a large earth mover parked in the middle of the road to discourage people like me from attempting to continue on.
I accepted defeat as it were and turned around to head back from whence we came, and just then I spotted this old yellow car sitting up the side of a hill in among the brush and cactus. So I stopped and got out with my iPhone and climbed up to work around it and see what I could come up with for a good composition. And this is what I came back to the car with.
My wife admitted that my little side trip to a dead end had resulted in a great image that would have otherwise gone unseen and my conviction that no side trip is ever a waste was reinforced once again. I am reminded of something that I read in one of Fred Picker’s newsletters from long ago when I look at this image. He was remarking how the glint of some piece of trash along the road had captured his eye enough to make him stop and investigate. In the end, it was nothing of value for a photograph, but while looking that over he turned and was presented with a composition that did indeed warrant setting up his view camera for a shot. This has happened to me more times than I can recount now, even the trivial act of finding a good place to make a u-turn to go back and investigate something that caught my eye has resulted in a stop that has produced a very satisfying image while the original attention attraction ended up not even warranting a stop.
Don’t discount little happenstances like this. Heed those urges to go back and take a second look. You will be rewarded many times over with images that will fill you with gratification.
“It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.” — Ursula K. Le Guin
(Originally published June 16, 2016)