To see the unseen …
Over the years, and through the efforts of many, a lot has been accomplished in the illustration of tracking. How-to instructions and illustrations of various aspects of tracking can be found in much of the literature, and on the web. Is there even any work yet to be done?
There is still a gap in the literature … many track formation processes remain unseen or are illustrated only as moments isolated from the flow. And that’s why 3D; the needed illustrations can only be accomplished with animated three-dimensional simulation (that includes the laws of physics).
The Gap …
“Gestalt – a perceptual pattern or structure possessing qualities as a whole that cannot be described merely as a sum of its parts.” (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/gestalt)
A lot goes on as a track is created, and after. During creation the foot is obscuring parts of this complex interaction between the foot surface and substrate. In a way, tracking is using the knowledge of how a track is formed, and knowledge about the animal, to interpret the gestalt of that entire being, or their relationship to the world, or a few moments in time, or the entire track formation process.
So, how complete is that knowledge of how a track is formed?
Ever stand close to a really big river? Standing on a bank of the Mississippi, especially if you are low down near the water, there is an immediate sense of immense and implacable presence – that massive volume of water, immense power slipping so quietly by, with few hints, if any, of the life in its depths. Can a photo or drawing from the same spot ever capture the actual experience?
Like that river, other processes have a flow. Exactly what happens as a step is taken, when sand blows in, or as someone walks across dried and cracked mud, and when a tire is powered along a dusty dirt road? Sometimes it’s helpful to witness that flow, but how can you when the sequence of gradual changes and sudden events that make it up, are hidden, happen too quickly or slowly to perceive?
So, how to teach or learn those processes of track formation and weathering? Except for words, and dirt time with another tracker, there may only be four ways:
– Make drawings or photos of the processes at significant moments
– Capture the real thing as a video: slow the fast ones down … a video with one frame every fraction of second as the bowling ball meets the watermelon, or speed the slow ones up, maybe a video with a frame every 5 minutes as the new mud dries?
– Simulate it accurately.
The first two isolate only a moment in a process.
The third has the potential to do the job, partially.
The fourth can finish the job with a useful side benefit; the important stuff can be subtly emphasized, or not.
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Here’s a simulation of a tracking concept … this clip is intended just raise a couple of questions in the mind … “How do the claws move as the foot lands, rolls forwards, and lifts up and away? Do the claws leave any hints about direction the foot was moving, or the body was being pushed as the foot lifted away?
A Tracking Concept: Claw tip in fine sand
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Is this work worth the effort?
How does the student learn the unseen?
How do you demonstrate and teach what the eye misses?
Is a skill that provides no benefit kept in use? Here’s a couple of outstanding examples of the skills still in use:
Illustrations are an essential learning tool for beginning trackers …
Reading tracks and trails is a complex skill, a fascinating journey, and a beginning tracker has much to learn. Accurate perception is crucial.
Drawings and the process of drawing can tend to cause the mind to notice details, and as a learning tool they can be created to emphasize selected details.
Videos of track formation in the real world do capture processes, and can slow things down enough to see what’s going on.
Three-dimensional animated illustrations of the entire process can include accurate simulation of the physics involved, be created, sped up, or slowed down so as to make essentials visible.
Tracker learning curve can be long. And that’s not necessarily a problem, inner growth can bring more complete perspectives, a healthier relationship with the world. As we make our way through life, we all trade time from our limited life budgets for knowledge and experience, often an expensive trade … a lot of time for a little knowledge. Each of the overlapping stages in learning to track requires a little more of that precious resource. Good thing society values its trackers so highly that it gives us all the time we need!
Learning to identify who made that track? … Doesn’t take long, mostly, though there are usually a few partial or distorted tracks that can be puzzling, and species with similar tracks, like coyote and domestic dog.
Learning to read the story in one track or trail, including the age? … Is subtler, one is evaluating many more layers, it takes time to learn. Much progress can be made quickly and one can spend a lifetime.
Prediction, the highest learning tool in any discipline, when one uses what they’ve already learned to forecast future behavior, can be used right from the start and developed forever after.
An important question must be considered …
One aspect of mankind’s history is innovation and invention, most created with good intent but many gone wrong with harmful effects. Revealing the aspects of tracking as 3-D illustrations is meant well, but will its effects on student trackers, or the tracking world, be negative in some way? The author isn’t aware of any negative effects from accurate illustrations of tracking, or speeding up the learning curve. If you are aware of any, please contact the author.
This is not a rationalization, nor an argument for or against. The answer to this question may only be found among tracking instructors, they’re the ones most likely to have seen what happens if tracking ability develops faster than maturity, or perspective on man’s relationship with the natural world.
What about “Coyote Mentoring”?
The intent here …
Comes from looking back at the limitations encountered in the author’s process of learning to track and wondering if there might be ways to trim time off that learning curve.
“Final” version? Yeah, that’s likely! There’s always a better way … isn’t that what we humans do? Which is to say who knows how far this can be nudged?
Sometimes things take on a life of their own. The author hopes others will see the value this work offers and will explore ways to illustrate the concepts as clearly and fully as possible, the goal being clear and accurate illustrations provided free to student and instructor, maybe even coming together as a group to develop them?
Please, please explore! How many current or future trackers might be glad you did?
If you are a tracker, you already have knowledge and experience to share.
If you’re not an illustrator, and want to share your tracking insights … Would working with an illustrator be a useful way to accomplish that?
I encourage you to explore doing this work. The more people involved the better! This work is worthy: it will help many others, including future generations, and like tracking with a flashlight at night, it’s sure and certain you’ll notice things from new and useful perspectives.
The learning process for trackers is as long as it takes, and different for each. For the author it began around 1985, with a book, “The Tracker”, written by Tom Brown Jr.. Now it’s 2018, a lot about tracking has been learned, and there’s no end in sight.
Easing the difficult parts of a long learning process by developing illustrations tuned for the mind is the focus of this website.
The illustration of various concepts in tracking is unfinished … at present many of the processes are revealed only by using photographs or hand-drawings of the end result, or instants during. This leaves the illustration of tracking concepts incomplete because neither of these media can carry all the meaningful information, nor successfully reveal the flow of subtle changes that gradually transform a track. More can, and needs to be done to reveal these processes.
See for yourself!
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