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The camera as note-taker

The digital age has made better photographers of almost all of us. No longer restricted by the cost of purchasing and developing film, we blast away on the shutter, secure in the knowledge that we can delete the bad stuff on a computer and never see it in print.

Even most professionals snap numerous shots of each scene, especially since they’re equipped with motor-drives that can bring almost a video effect to moving subjects captured in so many still frames. There’s bound to be a keeper in there somewhere.

I’m far from a photographic expert. When I’m shooting in the great outdoors, I take advantage of digital by shooting the same scene in different ways — y’know, automatic focus, manual override, flash/no flash. Not highly technical, but it does increase the likelihood that I get the shot I want.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with digital photography in another way. I often shoot to illustrate hikes around the scenic North Coast for the newspaper. I also carry a notebook to record such important details as whether to turn right or left when trails intersect. Lately, I’ve been leaving the paper in my backpack and letting the camera around my neck do the note-taking.

Quick shots of trailhead signs or junctions don’t make riveting images, but they do help me re-create the hike when I’m off the path and back at a keyboard. And when I click on the properties of such photos, I can see exactly when they were taken — irrefutable evidence, say, that it took me 20 minutes to get from point A to point B.

Sunday I was headed for Lake Earl. Since Del Norte County’s largest body of water is part of Tolowa Dunes, I decided I’d go whole-hog on the visual note-taking. Even though a new map of the area was released recently, plenty of trails don’t appear on it. Because the state has not adopted a general plan for the state park, the mapmakers were not allowed to note “unofficial” trails — and some of them must be travelled to get to the best spots.

Perhaps I was inspired by all the gun reports I heard in the distance. I shot everything — a grand total of about 280 images on a two-hour journey. The waterside scenery was awesome, but quite a few of the pictures represented the photographic equivalent of dropping bread crumbs so that I could retrace my steps.

The approach paid off.

I was homeward-bound on the main route, looking for an unmarked turnoff to the less-obvious path back to the trailhead. I came upon such a trail, but I wasn’t sure it was the right one. I knew I had shot the junction I was looking for on the way to the lake, so I checked my visual notes for the answer. A quick turn of the camera dial pulled up the desired image, telling me this was not the turn I wanted — the correct trail was still up ahead.

Spiffy, huh?

When my next Walk Your World installment is published Saturday, it will hopefully be graced with scenic images worthy of appearing in print. But all those visual notes I took along the way sure helped.

 

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