January Intro (Powder Magazine)
By Steve Metcalf
A figure moves swiftly through the forest, shrouded in a diaphanous cloak. He hangs, for an instant, above a cliff. Almost as quickly as he emerged from the dense pine, the skier drops out of sight. In a moment, the linear confines of time transform the scene-relegating it from reality to memory. Such are the limits of being human.
For all our intelligence and genuine stick-to-itiveness, our eyes, strangely, are a little slow. They trap motion at speeds of around 1/10 to 1/20 of a second. These boundaries, when compared to the typical 1/500 or 1/1000 shutter speeds used to capture most of the best shots in skiing, mean that the action we see-that we remember-is all a blur. This is why I’ve always looked at great photographers, and all their gadgets, in awe. To me, photographers are the superintendents of time. They possess the unique ability to help us see what we normally cannot. Even if we’re standing right there, witnessing an amazing image in the making, the recollection will fade. Our brains are designed that way-hard wired to let old memories go as we gather new experiences. The negative ones, thankfully, fade first. But eventually, the spectacular blues of that trip to Utah will dull, the yellows of that morning in the Selkirks will grey. The details of our past become scarce.
No one ever told me any of this when I was nine. I’d snap 24 pics faster than I could tear through a banana split-ensuring that the events of Todd Elsley’s birthday party or the First Baptist Easter Egg Hunt would not go undocumented. Although I’ll probably never be a professional photographer, I’m serious about memories. I’m enthralled with the idea of being 80 years old and reminiscing about the good old days with cue cards-proof that I really did go “there” and do “that.” I might not remember otherwise. That is the power of the photograph.
Although images can never replace memories, they are usually the most effective doorway to a slew of instances and emotions that our mind has either discarded or repressed. Conversely, shots like the 60 or so we’ve compiled in this year’s Photo Annual act as powerful inspiration to those of us who haven’t finished exploring, yearning, and charging through life. No matter what the photo, each can be a time machine-reminding you of the past or pushing you into the future. Either way, don’t lose focus. Have fun. Live every day in pursuit of your own perfect moment-precious seconds in the middle of a big run, filled with anticipation, excitement, and fear.