Monthly Archives: August 2014

Quiet Forest Road

Wow are the days getting short around here.  Early summer can still have light in the sky at 10pm but now it is dark at just past 8pm.  Seems like the last couple weeks we’ve been losing that light way too speedily….The wetland grasses are golden, leaves are beginning to show hints of the changing season.   And the rains in the last couple days definitely are harbingers of what’s to come.

It has been a good summer and the brief autumn will hopefully bring a few great compositions.  And I’m going to try to not think about winter!

As I was returning from Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan areas in late summer I took the road less traveled by, to use Robert Frost’s famous words.  I made a few side journeys on dirt roads I haven’t been down before or simply not in a long time.  The clouds were weeping all day long and I wasn’t in much of a hurry.  Eventually in the later afternoon the rain let up and I found this pleasing curve in the road.  It was still warm, the trees were dripping, and I was surrounded by solitude.

I lingered for a while, just taking in the view, filling my lungs with the fresh moist air and enjoying making this composition.  I do wonder what this scene will be painted like in autumn….

Lonely late summer forest road inviting the explorer | Washington

Lonely late summer forest road inviting the explorer | Washington

 

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Stillaguamish River Boulder

I was making various compositions along the river on this day.  A few are keepers.  This was one of the last of the day.  Actually, the composition was the last of the day.  There are variations of course; I was playing around with the shutter speed, and water will never look the same in any two “identicals” so it was fun to see the resulting images on the LCD screen.

What makes this even more interesting for me is the reflection of the color from the sunset clouds floating above on the wet boulder.

This place provides endless inspiration for me….

Stillaguamish River boulder at sunset | Mountain Loop Highway, WA

Stillaguamish River boulder at sunset | Mountain Loop Highway, WA

 

Lone Pine & Sage

We were traveling east of Washington’s Cascade Range when we made the decision to go near the Canadian border and check out some roads we have never set foot on.  It was fantastic, felt desolate and beautiful.  The day was warm, enough so that snakes were coming out of their holes to sun themselves on the pavement.  The air was filled with intoxicating aromas of spring sage, the sky was graced with floating cumulus clouds and plenty of crisp blueness.  The whole place was just breathing with life and we had big smiles on our faces.

I really loved the gentle folds in this sage covered hillside and of course the lone ponderosa pine.  But what really was the icing on the cake was the light.  As the clouds moved across the face of the glowing sun the landscape changed by the second. I had my Sony a900 camera on the tripod with the fantastic Minolta 200mm 2.8 APO lens and made several composition as the light played on the hillside.  This one is one of the favorites.

Lone ponderosa pine thriving in a sage landscape of north-central Washington

Lone ponderosa pine thriving in a sage landscape of north-central Washington

As we slowly meandered and enjoyed the landscapes we were just filled with awe and inspiration.  So much majesty and splendor.  Yes, we would love to travel parts of the world, like Africa and Iceland and Australia and New Zealand, but it is just awesome to be moved by landscapes near home.  It doesn’t matter if they are grand or just below one’s feet.  We just need to open our eyes and breathe in the splendor.

 

Idaho’s Shadow Falls

We’ve had a few wonderful sunny and warm days.  It is actually 81F inside of our home as I write this…but that’s just fine.  The days are rapidly getting shorter and summer, even though still here, is coming to a close.  I’m looking forward to autumn, but not the long dreary winter that is quite close now.  But I’ll put that thought aside and reminisce about a more favorable time and continue to enjoy the summery warmth embracing me.

Time sure flows too quickly.  It has now been almost four years since I made this composition.  We were visiting our good friends Chris and Connie in Idaho for a few days in September when they offered to be our tour guides and show us a few spots in their new backyard.  For early September the weather was getting a bit funky: warm, cold, foggy, snow dusting at medium elevation, rain, and then a bit more sunshine.

We followed a twisty road here and turned at a bend there, stopped along the river to admire the ripples heading to a larger river.  Then continued on a bumpy dirt road to the trailhead.  Our friends brought some fantastic snacks so we greatly enjoyed them before going on this short trail to a couple attractive waterfalls.

The upper waterfall on the same creek is called Shadow Falls.  It isn’t big but is for sure charming.  I studied it from various angles and chose this particular view after scrambling up just a bit.

Shadow Falls plunging into a shallow pool. | Idaho

Shadow Falls plunging into a shallow pool. | Idaho

I liked how the mossy cliff on the left leads to the waterfall, the fact that the pool is shallow, making the multi-toned rocks visible.  The scene was overall very green and perhaps not so breathtaking as it could have been, at least from the color point of view.  But did I think about these things while there?  Not so much.  I remember admiring the beauty of this little charmer, the experience of getting there with our friends, enjoying it with my wife.  I simply then responded when I saw this vantage point.

I used my then Sony a900 digital camera and the 20mm wide angle lens to capture my vision.  The image remained hidden in my files for quite some time before I was inspired by it again…and I immediately saw its potential in black and white.  So here it is…I like it.

A big thank you to our friends!

 

Autumn Remnants

I have many fond memories from the days when I made compositions using film, and specifically from the 10 years I used my medium format (6×7 cm) Pentax 67II.  It was a time my wife and I traveled quite a bit.  It wasn’t uncommon for us to go camping three weekends each month; it was fantastic and we miss those days.  I also concentrated on publishing my work and later selling my prints at art shows.  I know that those were the peak years of my creativity.  Not to say that since then I haven’t made or won’t make meaningful images, but there is something that is gone.

I like to work slowly for the most part.  I don’t like to arrive at a place and make some compositions and move on.  I linger, look, feel and see and touch and smell and look some more.  When I first got into digital “pro” format in late 2009, I all of a sudden felt a rush.  There was no more expense in film purchase and developing so I got an illusion that I need to shoot more.  It didn’t work.

Anyways, after quite a few years, maybe three or five, I haven’t worked on any of my film files…and it bothered me since there are a lot I really love.  It was time.  I got all the needed adapters to make my Nikon scanner work on my Mac and purchased new software since Nikon has refused to support the scanner as computers evolved.  I loaded the beautiful transparency into the holder and began the process.  I was giddy, to say the least.  It was like opening a candy bar that has been long discontinued and fully remembering the taste before taking that first bite.

A new chapter has been opened for sure.

This particular image I’m calling Autumn Remnants is from the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River Valley.  We used to frequent this valley, before it became overcrowded.  The season was entering into winter as I found this grove of red alders with remnant leaves from sapling cottonwoods.  I don’t remember what year it was, but I remember standing there making the composition in early evening light.  The exposure was long and a breeze would stir things up so I had to use a shallower depth of field than I normally would to capture the scene.

I remember the anticipation of waiting to get the film back, the excitement after the first look once I picked it up and then the final analysis on the light table with a loupe…everything came into focus and I knew I captured something that moves my heart and soul.  And I am thankful for this moment….

Remnants of color in late autumn deep in the Snoqualmie River Valley | Washington

Remnants of color in late autumn deep in the Snoqualmie River Valley | Washington

 

Fractured

I have looked at this section of Paradise River at Mt. Rainier National Park a few times in the past.  Maybe even made a composition in my film days, but my memory is a bit fuzzy.

This time, a few years since last taking a gander at this spot, I just wanted to refresh my memory as to what the potential of the location was, if any.  Immediately I saw the scene in black and white and that got me excited.

I found this huge slab of rock full of character with its fractures.  Just as much, it is interesting how the side-strands of water are joining the main section of the “river”.

Paradise River flowing over fractured stone | Mt. Rainier National Park

Paradise River flowing over fractured stone | Mt. Rainier National Park

Today as I look at this image it makes me think of people being called to the river of life, to receive the gift of rest and hope from the fractures we all experience in this earthly life.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)

Beauty in the Extremes

My truck wasn’t happy driving up to 11,000 ft elevation in California’s White Mountains.  The air was thin and I guess the onboard computers weren’t programmed to add more oxygen to the fuel.  We were crawling up in third gear, which was pathetic for a V6 engine, but at least it is a funny memory and we got to enjoy the scenery.  And the reward was worth the effort.

I had heard about bristlecone pines in my high school wood shop.  The instructor had a newspaper clipping story about these amazing trees capable of surviving more than 5,000 years, twisted and gnarled, often with just one branch clinging to life.  I made a mental note to see them someday.  Some 15 years later, here we were, slowly scrambling to the top.

At the end of the road, maybe an hour before the sun would sink below the magnificent peaks of the Sierra Nevada to the west, we put on our winter coats and hats and got to admiring these absolutely gorgeous trees.  It was a humbling experience to see these twisted beings clinging to life in poor rocky soil.  And yet, they were given the strength to survive and to bring absolute joy to the admirer.

John Muir put it eloquently:  “While on the roughest ledges of crumbling limestone are lowly old giants, five or six feet in diameter that have braved the storms of more than a thousand years. But whether old or young, sheltered or exposed to the wildest gales, this tree is ever found to be irrepressibly and extravagantly picturesque, offering a richer and more varied series of forms to the artist than any other species I have yet seen.”

Once the sun disappeared for the day I noticed clouds swirling, appearing from thin air and blushing with color.  That was unexpected considering the day was graced by clear blue skies.  I immediately changed my focus and we tried to run around at the 11,000 ft elevation looking for a strong composition…huffing and puffing and feeling like we’d collapse from lack of air.

Now, 13 years later, the memory of this place is almost as clear as was the mountain air….

Reaching bristlecone pines and fiery sunset sky | White Mountains, CA

Reaching bristlecone pines and fiery sunset sky | White Mountains, CA

Another place that is dear to us is the Columbia Gorge, along the border of Washington and Oregon.  It is a place shaped by the fires of ancient volcanos, a place of amazing raw beauty.  Despite all the basalt rock, life clings seemingly with much joy.

I spotted the gorgeous color of these penstemon flowers, growing at the base of a crumbling basalt cliff, through thick oak trees and poison oak shrubs.  It took a little doing to crawl in there but it was worth the effort.

With these two images and two drastically different regions, I am humbled to know that God planted the seeds of life from the highest mountains to the lowest deserts to the most arid places and the deepest oceans…just absolutely amazing.

Penstemon surviving among crumbling basalt | Columbia Gorge, WA

Penstemon surviving among crumbling basalt | Columbia Gorge, WA