The “Infinite Monkeys” Approach to Photography

Cadillac Ranch

Early one morning, westbound on I-40 in Texas, I stopped at Cadillac Ranch to get some shots at sunrise. A young couple were also there. When I walked out into the field, the guy was lying on the ground with his camera to get his angle, so I politely waited for him to finish before walking in front of him.

He proceeded to take about 50 shots, one or two per second, without moving at all.

When he finished I went up and got my shot. He moved a bit, got back down on the ground, and shot another 50 or so pictures from that angle.

While his girlfriend patiently waited, he did this again and again: each time finding his angle, and then taking 50 or so pictures, one after the other. What is that? Was he trying every possible focal length, aperture, and shutter speed? Was the theory that, if you take a thousand pictures of something, one of them has got to be good? They were speaking German, or something that sounded German, so I couldn't even overhear conversation to see if, for example, the girlfriend considered this at all normal.

In the time I was there, he probably took about a thousand pictures, and he was still at it when I left. I shudder to even think about his editing process. I shot about a dozen frames of Kodachrome.

Is this the promise of digital photography?

Cadillac Ranch
Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch is an art installation in a field next to I-40 and old Route 66, just west of Amarillo, Texas. Visitors are encouraged to contribute to the art by spray-painting the cars any way they like.

The cars are out in a field that is otherwise used to graze cattle, so, German tourists aside, lying on the ground is not recommended. The best light is at sunrise.