Big Sur ala Gerhard Richter

I took a road trip a couple weeks ago down to Big Sur. It was my first weekend off in a long time and I needed to see something other than a computer monitor. My original plan was to visit Monterey, my birth place. But the day was young and off I went south to the mystical Big Sur area.

I’m not an emotional person and I rarely get frightened. But I do have one phobia: tall bridges. Whoa, mary, mother of god what did I get myself into. The 101 is filled with the most terrifying bridges this side of that insane one in France. My hands were actually getting sweaty as I crossed one after another. And then it happened… The bridge to end all bridges.

I had a student that traveled around the state inspecting and working on bridges. His photographs were amazing and almost made me want to see the bridges in person. Heck, there was even this really tall, art-deco inspired bridge that hovered over the beach. You’ll never catch me on that bridge, I naively thought.

There it was in front of me and I had no choice but continue. I had the top down on the car and I could hear the sirens on the beach calling my name. Your gonna crash and fall over! they kept whispering… Finally, I crossed the bridge… relief. Then I realized I had to return. I had to drive over that damn thing again!

After a couple hours of driving over merely scary bridges, I finally made the u-turn and came back. I was ready for it this time. I turned up the volume on the stereo and gave the sirens the bird as I passed over the beast. Naturally, I pulled over and grabbed the cameras. Millions of photographs have been taken of this majestic span.

Majestic wasn’t the emotion I was feeling. This beast scared the poop out of me. So I grabbed the 4X5 and Polaroid film and begin composing what I hoped was the jittery shot of a disturbed maniac that had just cheated death.

abstract photo of Big Sur bridge by Ted Drake

Of the images I shot that day, this one is probably my favorite. It reminds me of a Gerhard Richter painting and it represents my shattered spirit and confusion; while still being rather beautiful. It was photographed on Polaroid 55 black and white negative film and scanned with an Epson 4990 scanner. There are no photoshop manipulations other than some very minor color corrections.

I’ve now got it as my trophy. It’s like the poor dead head that someone would mount as a sign of their pseudo-courage with a gun. Only I survived with merely an Audi and a camera.