Visual Rhetorics


Big question for the day:  How has photography impacted attitudes towards wilderness?  What can images do and how do they do it?


Writing into the day (10 minutes):  Browse the Ansel Adams gallery for 5 minutes or so.  Pick a photograph that speaks to you.  Why did you pick that image? What does it say to you?  How does it connect with your emerging definition of wilderness?

Pick photo for Full Group Visual Analysis (20 minutes) :  What can we infer (because we have bodies and live with others in society) about this image?  Where are the vectors of attention?  How is the audience involved in the photograph?  How is the image framed?  Are we, as the audience, asked to be intimately involved or distant?  How has the image been cropped to focus our attention?  How do light and color affect us?

Investigation:  Explore the PBS American Experience (25 minutes): Ansel Adams website.  Definitely check out the timeline and the sections on Ansel Adams, Photographing the American Wilderness and Closing the Wilderness.   As you read, make notes about what surprises you, what intrigues you, and what bothers you.  Break as needed during independent reading time.

Full Group Discussion (15 minutes):  How does building historical context and an understanding of photographer, his audience, and his purpose impact our interpretations of Adam’s photos and his writings–including the letter to Cedric?

Workshop (40 minutes): Return to your River Park North wilderness narrative.  What is the theme, message, or significance of your narrative?  How can you use strategies of visual rhetoric to help your image argue as effectively as your words?

Choose an image from that you shot last week at RPN.  Import it into a photo manipulator that will allow you to crop, flip, rotate, play with color and light, and experiment with filters and special effects.  Work to with the tools to make your photo a stronger part of your persuasive argument.  If you do this easily, repeat the process with additional images.  Post the original(s) and the edited photo(s) to a new blog post with a description of what you did and why.

Outdoor Letter Writing (45 minutes)

Based on Adam’s letter to Cedric, write your own letter to a friend explaining an abstract concept or idea such as love, friendship, success, grief, suffering, art, happiness etc. that likens one or more of these abstracts to something you observe on our walk or while we sit.  Try not to obsess over picking the right concept or the right metaphor in nature, just go with it and write.


Finish your photo manipulation blog post and create another post for your letter to a friend.  Feel free to add persuasive images to accompany your letter as well.

Reading:  Read “Thinking Like a Mountain” by Aldo Leopold available on course readings page.  Leave a comment on this post that responds to the question– what does it mean to “think like a mountain”?  How does this notion of being resonate with Dillard, Thoreau, Adams, and/ or your own?  Make connections and show where there might be emerging conflicts.

Also, make sure that you have a copy of and are reading your chosen book–either Becoming Odyssa or A Walk in the Woods as we will discuss those novels during the Winter Wonderland Trip.

Next week we will meet at the ECU Adventure Center to learn about wilderness safety, winter hiking, and snowshoeing.  We’ll also make plans for our trip the following week to Boone.  Start keeping a list of all your questions, concerns, or hopes for the trip!

13 responses to “Visual Rhetorics

  1. To “think like a mountain” means to know the truth behind natural occurrences, and know how important a balance is in the ecosystem. The mountain can have this knowledge and understanding because it has been alive longer than any living creature, and has gathered the knowledge over the years about the wild that surrounds it. The hunter’s thoughts after killing the wolf and realizing that he ruined the balance of the ecosystem can relate to Thoreau’s ideas. Thoreau says that being in the wild is roaming freely in an open area that is untouched by civilization. After the hunter realized that he unbalanced the ecosystem and the wild by killing the wolf, he could see how humans are disturbing the wild. He realized that the wild should be untouched by human hands, which is what Thoreau believes. Dillard would disagree with the hunter’s decision to kill the wolf because she believes being wild is doing whatever necessary to survive. The wolves were playing in the river, not harming the hunter whatsoever. There was no need for the hunter to kill the wolf because the wolf was not attacking him, it was not necessary for the hunter to kill the wolf to stay alive. According to Dillard’s idea of the wild, the hunter did not live in accordance with the wild. The fact that the hunter killed the wolf would act as support for Adam’s belief that humans are destroying what is left of the wild. The mountains are living in accordance to Thoreau, Dillard, and Adam’s ideas of wilderness because the mountains have not been destroyed by civilization and for the most part have not been harmed by society.

  2. The wolf’s howl is seen as a powerful force in the natural world- it strikes fear into the heart of its prey, reminds the hunter of his own exploits in the wilderness. But “only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf.” The mountain looks at the howl of the wolf without fear, or without thinking of its own power, because the mountain is a wise and impartial force. It understands the value of the wolf as a key component of balance in the wilderness. Without the wolf, deer run rampant and strip the mountains of its bounty. To think like a mountain is to appreciate nature without causing its harm, understanding its value to our preservation. Like the wolf to the mountain, the wilderness is the preservation of humanity. Nature is the greatest source of resources and keeps balance in the world. If we allow our own selfish human perceptions, be it a prejudice against a species we view as a threat or a hunger to dominate the landscape, we will destroy the natural balance of the world. We must be like mountains, a mighty unmoving force that does not interfere with the natural world. I think this view is alike to that of Adams and Thoreau because it looks at the wilderness on a large scale. Both support a view of the wild that is without illogical misconceptions; they embrace its importance rather than fear it. Dillard’s view is a little different; her perceptions occur on a far smaller scale. I very much like the “think like a mountain” analogy, as it goes well with my views of conserving the natural world and the idea of true wilderness as an immense, untamed expanse.

  3. Thinking about the entire puzzle rather than a single piece is similar to “thinking like a mountain” and understanding that our world is made up of intricate, interwoven parts. Like the wolves and the deer in Leopold’s piece, each section of the ecosystem is interdependent and immediately affected by the next. I believe the biggest connection I made with this piece was understanding that we are going to be taking our trips to respect and admire nature, rather than interrupt the balance of its function. I believe, as Dillard, Thoreau, and Adams believe, that part of our purpose as humans is to observe the wilderness and its splendor.
    Leopold’s writing resonated with me because of his description of the mountain as ever-present and omniscient. I think that this was very similar to Thoreau’s understanding of oneness and spirituality found within the outdoors.
    In addition, I think Leopold was very different from Dillard because he seems to value the vastness of the mountain in contrast to her small sitting spot in the suburban area of her home. I don’t think Leopold would be impressed with her small-scale version of the “wild.”
    Quite like Adams, Leopold is awestruck by the grandeur and immensity of the physical environment as well as the realization of the ecosystems’ function. When Leopold told his story about watching the wolves die, I felt as if he was a child filled with remorse after realizing that they had killed an ant with a magnifying glass.
    I believe that as Leopold, Thoreau, Dillard, and Adams all have divergent views of nature, we will all do the same as a group. However, collectively, I think we will all discover new things about ourselves along the way – just as Leopold learned about balance in nature.

  4. The mountain has been around longer than the wolf, deer, and hunter. The mountain has personified wisdom and knows not to disturb the so-called circle of life. If for any reason the wolf is removed, the deer’s become over populated and destroy the vegetation on the mountain. Likewise, if we allow Great White Sharks to become overpopulated, the otter population will diminish, the sea urchin will flourish, and kelp will gradually disappear. Every habitat has a food chain that will suffer dramatic consequences if a link is removed. Dillard will likely feel great sadness at the hunters thoughtless actions. I think, however, she would accept it for what it is and look toward solutions and progression. Thoreau probably would’ve been disgusted at the ignorant gut reaction of the hunters. He would feel that nature is at its best untouched and completely avoided by human interaction. Adams would have come to the same conclusions and realizations as Leopold. I think he would have had remorse toward the wolves and the mountain.

  5. Thinking like a mountain means to realize you don’t know everything about the world and that you aren’t always correct. It’s about understanding that nature, society, food chains, and life as a whole all works together as one big system. Like Leopold mentions, killing the wolves maybe be good for the deer population, yet some other population is missing out because of their dependence on the wolves. The overpopulation of the deer will cause depletion of other resources, such as plants. The mountain has been there longer than anything else, therefore it is the only thing that can truly see, feel, and understand the effects of every disturbance in the life cycle and food chain. Humans do things for own prosperity first. If we thought like a mountain, we would consider the consequences of our actions. Thoreau understands the idea of thinking like a mountain. He appreciates the fact that he’s inferior to nature, which drives him to “wander” and explore/uncover more of it. However, walking through nature, might disturb other plants or inspire human expansion, which would disrupt the cycle of nature. Rather than thinking like a mountain, we could say Thoreau tries to be the mountain. Dillard, on the other hand, already thinks like a mountain. She deeply considered the thoughts, reactions, and feelings of the squirrels, showing she understands that what we do affects other aspects of life as well. My definition of wild involves being creative and using your resources. This would be hard if you were thinking like a mountain because sometimes using your resources and immersing yourself in nature involves cutting down trees to make a fire or killing animals for food. Perhaps true wildness is learning to coexist with every aspect of nature. When you deplete one resource, should it be your job to replenish it? Hmm…

  6. To “think like a mountain” is to understand the balance of nature and having the experiences of living through the many disruptions that have occurred in the past and use those to not make the same mistakes again. The mountain has seen the hunter destroy the wolves, but with no wolves, the deer overtake the vegetation on the mountain leaving the natural balance to be disrupted. Everything is interconnected and society and humans are the ones disrupting the balance and circle of life. If we didn’t kill the wolves, all the events that followed would not have occurred. Why then do humans continue to act against the natural way of the world? We know that it is wrong to cut down trees right and left and put up shopping centers without concern to replant trees. We use so much plastic that we fill landfills over and over again. Everything we do disrupts the balance because we aren’t living the way Thoreau thought we should in the wild. Dillard also understood the impact of our actions and knew that we should try to appreciate nature without hurting or impacting it negatively. I think humans need to be more conscious individually of our impacts because that’s where change can start. The government can implement new laws or anything else to try to stop impacting our environment so much, but it all comes back down to us. So we need to “think like a mountain” and think about the future for nature outside our door with the knowledge from the past, just as the mountain does.

  7. The mountain in this story is the oldest part of history there. This mountain is the wisest in the land because it has been there the longest. It knows how the ecosystem is affected when humans come in because it has seen the ecosystem before the humans came. The ecosystem before was perfect, because everything that was need was self satisfied through the circle of life. When the hunter comes in and kills that wolf is when the mountains ecosystem’s balance is screwed up. This hunter realized he has unbalanced this ecosystem. It made him realize that the society has screwed up the natural wild, the wild that the mountain had known before the hunter had trekked on the land. Thoreau agrees with the wise mountains thoughts. He agrees with the idea that the wild should be left untouched. Thoreau has shown through his piece “Walking” that the wild should be explored but not tampered with. He also feels that when society steps in is when the wild no longer becomes considered wild. Anne Dillard, on the other hand, does not agree with the mountains thoughts or with Thoreau. She feels that the wild could be just a little piece of the wilderness, where as the mountain is a vastness of wilderness. Although Dillard would agree with the hunter wanting to be on the mountain, immersed with the animals. Dillard though wouldn’t agree with the killing of the wolf. Because the wolf, like the weasel, is on the top of a food chain, it would disturb the food chain by killing him and she wouldn’t want the food chain to be disturbed. Adams although, would agree with the mountain, that the ecosystem shouldn’t be messed with, because messing with them would take away the beauty. My definition of wilderness agrees with the mountain and Thoreau’s, you don’t have to disturb the ecosystem to see the beauty of the wilderness. You can explore It without messing it up.

  8. Thinking like a mountain means knowing that everything in nature is balanced and that one must take care of the land they live on to maintain that balance. For instance, when the hunters killed all of the wolves so that there was a surplus of deer, the deer ate all of the vegetation from the mountain. The entire order and balance of nature in that particularly environment was disrupted, which is why the all-knowing mountain “disagreed” with the decision to kill all of the wolves. I believe that we should all aim to think like a mountain, which means to respect the land on which you live and to make wise choices. It means to leave nature as untouched as possible, except where one must interfere in order to live and survive. Thoreau would also agree that everyone should think like a mountain because he believes that the wild is living freely in a large area of land that has not been touched by society or civilization. Although Dillard has different views on what the wild is, she would disagree with the decision to kill the woods because she believes that we must try not to make as small of an impact as possible on the wild—that wild things should be able to do and live as they want without interference. Due to the fact that Adams spent much of his life’s work enjoying and capturing nature through photography, I believe that he, too, would disagree with the decision to kill the wolves. – Erika Dietrick

  9. To think like a mountain is to think of things with the long-term in mind. The mountains have been here for, as far as we are concerned, forever. In his closing paragraph, Leopold writes how we all strive for peace IN OUR TIME. That is where we and the mountain differ. Humans are nearsighted…we see the wolf kill our deer so we kill the wolf. In an effort to reach our immediate goals we lose our understanding of how nature works. Leopold’s last statement that “wildness is the salvation of the world” sums all of this up beautifully. Being “wild” is the epitome of being one with nature, so to regain our understanding of nature (assuming we once had one) we, as a society, have to think in a more wild fashion. I believe this idea of Leopold’s would have been accepted by Thoreau, Dilliard, and Adams, but I believe they all would have a different idea of what a wild mindset is. Thoreau’s definition would have been the most extreme, with him believing that thinking wild means being wild and surrendering yourself completely to the wilderness. Dilliard’s and Leopold’s definitions would have the most parallels, I believe, seeing as how they both felt a connection with an animal and seem to think that feeling this connection is the origin of thinking wild. I honestly do not know enough about Adam’s definition of wild to tell what his opinion on a wild mindset would be, but if I had to guess I think it would be similar to Thoreau’s in that exploring the wild is necessary to thinking wild, I just think Adams would not be as extreme. I agree with Leopold that a wild mindset is the salvation of nature, and I agree with Thoreau that being a part of the wilderness is where a wild mindset originates, but I do not think that it is necessary to completely “go wild”. Instead I believe being in nature enlightens some concepts to people, and in this enlightenment is where the “salvation of the world” lies.

  10. Thinking like a mountain is being able to see the whole picture when it comes to nature, as opposed to just one small aspect. The mountain has been there longer than man or any other animal, and so it has a long term view of what’s best for the ecosystem. In my environmental science class my senior year of high school, we learned how to think like a mountain by learning about the complexity of ecosystems, such as their carrying capacity and other similar factors. In the end, the goal of environment science truly is to think like a mountain, to understand how ecosystems truly work. I think Adams, Thoreau, and Dillard would all agree with Leopold, though in different ways. Adams would agree with Leopold that nature is fragile and must be kept safe. Thoreau would identify most with Leopold’s use of the mountain as a majestic, almost god-like figure. Thoreau seems to believe that nature is a spiritual place, and this is how Leopold refers to the mountain. While Dillard seems to view the wild in a smaller scale than Leopold does, I think she would also agree with the importance of the overall ecosystem. While none of those three would support Leopold’s killing of the wolf, I do not think he is proud of the action either. At the time he was, but it seems that as the story progresses, his mindset changes and I think he sees the error of his ways.

  11. Thinking like a mountain means not making rash decisions and choices. It means to sit and watch, take in the different aspects of nature. According to the reading, I think Dillard is closest to “thinking like mountain.” In her passage about the weasel, she just sat and watched the weasel. She didn’t approach or make any decisions to move or disturb the animal. Leopold makes the mountain seem spiritual, overlooking everything, like God. Thoreau also saw nature and wilderness as a spiritual experience. He also had hope for expansion and the future. In the “Thinking Like a Mountain” passage, the cowman interferes with nature/wilderness by killing the wolf. Therefore, nature retaliates with dustbowls, blowing everything around into the rivers, leading west to the ocean…throwing away the future for the cowman. Adams came from a time that wilderness was really fragile. He would agree the atmosphere of the passage, in the sense that wilderness and nature needed to be protected.

    I agree with Leopold. I believe that nature will take its course, regardless of what people do. My family hunts and fishes. I don’t see anything wrong with hunting or fishing. We’re not doing it for sport. We actually eat our catch. People have been hunting and fishing since long before America was settled and developed, so compared to society’s industry and expansion, really it’s not impacting the fragility of nature all that much.

  12. To think like a mountain means to fit into nature accordingly, to take only what you need for survival. By doing this, humans will not damage the natural ecosystem present in wilderness areas. This is why when hunters kill wolves when they are not threatened, they are damaging the environment; the overpopulation of deer leads to overconsumption of vegetation, which then leads to permanent damage to the mountain, and then there is not enough food for all the deer so some starve to death. This reasoning is equal with those of Thoreau, Dillard, and Adams but it focuses more on the biological processes that human’s effect. This view also incorporates humans’ role in wilderness, but the other’s views focus on humans’ observing. I also agree with this view more than the others because when I hunt or camp I take what I need and leave enough so that it can repopulate. This leads to continued balance in the ecosystem and for others to come and enjoy what I have experienced.

  13. Recognizing the consequences of even the feeblest of one’s actions is similar to thinking like a mountain. Leopold eloquently conveys his sorrow for killing a wolf by relating the wolf’s death to the death of everything else that uses the mountain. He particularly exemplifies deer and the mountain as an example, but I believe he is hinting at a broader range of living things. The way he draws everything into a bigger scale (the human uses the deer, which causes the deer to die. The deer uses the mountain, which causes the mountain to die, etc…) relates to my own personal view of nature. I believe that in nature, everything (even down to the tiniest microorganism) is connected. There is a figurative web of life that is ever present and ultimately controlling. This web of life connects the actions of everything in nature; therefore, my figurative web is much like Leopold’s way of “Thinking Like a Mountain”. I believe that Thoreau, Dillard and Adams all would agree with Leopold in the sense that being at one with nature is more of a spiritual experience than most people realize.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s