Category Archives: Intimate Landscapes

Mt. Rainier in the Rain

Most of the year I had moments during which I told myself it was time to go to Mt. Rainier.  I’d get excited but then something would take that spark away and I wouldn’t go.  Spring went by, the wildflowers of summer, and the brief brilliance of autumn.  Mind you I’m no stranger to the park.  I used to go there 10-15 times per year for a good 15 years.  Then I stopped.  A lot changed for me, around me and in me.

And so for three years I didn’t make a single visit.  At times I missed being there and at times I felt helplessly indifferent.  But that desire to travel came back and I actually grabbed my camera, some extra clothing, got into my vehicle and drove south to the park.  It wasn’t particularly a nice day; heavy overcast with passing rain storms.  It looked worse at my destination.  But I was ready to go.  The closer I was getting the higher my excitement grew.  And yeah, I was excited about my excitement!

Ancient forest in the rain, Mt. Rainier NP | Washington

Ancient forest in the rain, Mt. Rainier NP | Washington

At the entrance gate I knew I messed up for not coming here for so long.  I got the annual pass.  As I entered the park the drizzle was still coming down, but it was really trying to stop…or so I told myself.  I have passed by the above scene a 100 times or more.  I looked but didn’t see.  This time it took my breath away.  It was wet, lush, gorgeous, so much so I had a few tears of absolute joy.  I looked for a while before setting up my camera, simply absorbing the scene, while big drips of rain from the branches above fell on me and all around…just perfect.

As I continued through the park, via Longmire, climbing in elevation, the landscape looked so new yet I had witnessed it on so many occasions over the years that it was recognizable.  I guess it is like aromas that are familiar to us from childhood, forgotten for years, and once inhaled again feel as new as yesterday.

Edge of Stevens Canyon, drenched in mysterious fog, Mt. Rainier | Washington

Edge of Stevens Canyon, drenched in mysterious fog, Mt. Rainier | Washington

With the climbing elevation the rain increased to downpour strength.  I wasn’t going to see the mountain up close today but that’s just fine, I love the forests for all the various trees, the shrubs, the lakes, the valleys.  Heavy rain and fog in Paradise.  I was bummed that the park closed the Paradise Valley Road even though the snow had not come and some remnants of autumn still adorned the landscape.  I was overjoyed to see some remaining color despite the fact I was here nearly a month past the usual peak.

I stopped at Reflection Lake and set up a couple compositions in a sideways downpour.  Maybe not the most romantic thing to be setting up a large camera with one hand and holding an umbrella with the other.  But when you love the craft, such things don’t really matter.

Arriving at the western edge of Stevens Canyon the fog thickened and the rain really did stop.  In the above photo I loved the shrubby vine maples (among my favorite “trees”) with autumn color and the layers of silent conifers.  I filled my lungs with deep and sweet breaths of wet mountain air….

Stevens Canyon with lifting fog, autumn, Mt. Rainier NP | Washington

Stevens Canyon with lifting fog, autumn, Mt. Rainier NP | Washington

The fog began to lift and break up revealing secrets of the gorgeous Stevens Canyon.  I was thrilled to make another composition.  I was able to take in the sight for a few more minutes before the vail of fog returned thicker than ever hiding the glorious landscape…rain began pelting the landscape once again.

The rest of my journey was in the rain.  I was filled with peace, however, knowing I had been blessed by God.  There was much to be thankful for and much to contemplate.

 

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A Walk in the Woods

I had a little time to get out this afternoon and felt a pull toward a local park I haven’t visited in a good 10 or 12 years.  And the time I did step into it long ago, with a good friend, perhaps didn’t leave a very strong impression…or maybe it was simply too brief a time spent there or it wasn’t wild enough.  One thing is for sure, I’m not the same person I was back then.

Not really knowing what I’d find and bringing Stan the dog to enjoy a new place to sniff and mark,  I just grabbed my little cam, the Sony RX100.

Sword Ferns among decaying leaves | Washington

Sword ferns among decaying leaves | Washington

I’m glad I had at least this little capable cam.  I was overwhelmed with inspiration from the time we stepped onto the trail.  I needed that after waking today somewhat down.

So we rambled down the trail, stopping a while to compose for me or for Stan to admire the aromas at his level.  Neither one of us had any complaints!

Winter trees in a ravine | Washington

Winter trees in a ravine | Washington

It’s not everyone’s pint of delicious ale, but I love snaggy trees.  When they are bare and wet and mossy, wow, I can get lost in the patterns, imagining God bending each of the branches just perfectly.

I believe I found a little treasure trove of compositional goodness here.

Rays of sword fern among decaying leaves | Washington

Rays of a sword fern among decaying leaves | Washington

We kept walking, peeking here and there, around this corner and that, up this trail and down that one.  The air was invigorating, cool, damp, fragrant.

Fern and bare winter trees | Washington

Fern and bare winter trees | Washington

Just as we were returning from glimpsing this little city gem the rain began falling again.  We both left with good memories and some much needed inspiration for a return….

Mossy snags and sword ferns | Washington

Mossy snags and sword ferns | Washington

This was definitely a good reminder that one doesn’t necessarily need to go to the ends of the world to find beauty and quietness.  It can be had in the woods at the edge of the hustle and bustle of a city that seems to never sleep.

Working on New Images

It has been a while since I posted new work on my main website.  I guess it was about a year ago now.  Not that I didn’t want to, and not that I wasn’t creating new work, because I have been, but simply other obligations took priority.  In the last few days I have enjoyed working on bringing to life a handful of photos.  Fifteen landscapes to be exact.

Maybe it is something about winter.  Playing around in the snow hasn’t been my thing since I was a kid growing up in Poland.  No lowland snow yet, but autumn has come to a close and places of nature are taking on the sad look of winter.  That’s a good opportunity to reflect on past journeys.

Mossy bigleaf maple at the end of autumn in the Cascade foothills | Washington

Mossy bigleaf maple at the end of autumn in the Cascade foothills | Washington

The images selected are not all made in the last few weeks or months but about half of them are from the last several months.  A couple from the last two years and a couple from longer ago.

Sometimes it takes me a while to revisit certain trips, other times I get very excited right away.  I enjoy having a sizable library spanning about 20 years.  I always find gems in there, some images even mostly forgotten until I have a look and really think about the events.

River stones along the Stillaguamish River in dusky blue light | Washington

River stones along the Stillaguamish River in dusky blue light | Washington

It’s just so awesome to get excited about past adventures, the memories of not just making the images themselves but recollecting the events of the journey.  And there are many wonderful memories that come to new life.

That makes me think of also working on a book, a retrospective volume.

Please do have a look at the new images here.  And I shall continue to work on more….

 

Search for Simplicity

Last night we watched A River Runs Through It, based on Norman Maclean’s book of the same title.  It wasn’t the first time of course, but each time I’m reminded what a beautiful and human story it is.  There is quite a wonderful feel to it and of course the filming is superb; it fully absorbs me and touches my heart.  By no means are the characters simple, yet there is a certain simplicity and quietness to the complexity.

Grasses in the field | Washington

Grasses in the field | Washington

As Norman and his brother Paul fished the river so I love to spend time along the river, photographing.  The troubles and complexities of life are left behind as soon as I step out there and God’s beauty surrounds and fills me.

Grasses and flower after the rain | Washington

Grasses and flowers after the rain | Washington

The story makes me think about relationships, about how people interacted.  Sure seems very different than today.  But even a few years ago it was indeed more personal.  Imagine writing a letter on paper, with a pen.  Or have a good conversation on the telephone, or better yet, how about in person, face to face.

Grasses and reeds grace the edge of a wetland | Washington

Grasses and reeds grace the edge of a wetland | Washington

We’re so connected now, perhaps fully overwhelmed by technology, with our iPhones and texts and emails, etc., that the human interaction has nearly vanished.  Are we hiding behind this technology, afraid of each other?  Eventually the signals fade and so do friendships.

An old fence post, fading into the field | Washington

An old fence post, fading into the field | Washington

As I walk down the paths along the grassy fields, their delicate simplicity and beauty allows me to reflect on the days past.  On the friends lost to distance and time.  But also to imagine and reflect on the days to come.  The rays of the sun eventually break through even the gloomiest of days….

Afternoon sunshine illuminating summer grasses | Washington

Afternoon sunshine illuminating summer grasses | Washington

I found perfect joy on many occasions among these grassy fields.  All I carried was a little Sony RX100 point-and-shoot camera.  Often in the company of my awesome wife and our sweet dog Stan.  Simple and beautiful and glorious.

As I get older I search more for this elusive simplicity.  I still think of the days I traveled a lot chasing landscapes but now see that I’m greatly enjoying the little things so much more.  There is more excitement in walking down to the river I know than to go chasing some far off lands.  It is like getting a letter from an old and true friend.  There is history there, memory, personal experience, connection.

Frosted grasses and reeds | Washington

Frosted grasses and reeds | Washington

In the end then, I love the way Norman put it:

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.  I am haunted by waters.”

Early Autumn Pond & Reeds

An artist doesn’t always need to look far for inspiration.  No denying, sometimes, being somewhere new and exotic really gets the juices flowing, the heart racing, all the senses throbbing with new life and excitement.  For most of us it just isn’t realistic to be traveling freely whenever the heart desires…so what’s there to do?  Well, breathe, pick up the camera, open eyes wide and see!

On this particular warm and sunny day my wife and I and our dog Stan went for a walk through our neighborhood.  There were lovely cumulus clouds floating in the sky so I thought, why not, bring the cam and one lens and see what happens.

As we got to this pond, I found inspiration in these reeds and reflections of the sky and clouds.  I put my Fuji X-Pro1 with 35mm lens to my eye and made the composition.  Ducks were eyeing me cautiously, just in case I had other intentions….

Pond with reeds and reflections of the heavens above | Washington

Pond with reeds and reflections of the heavens above | Washington

 

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

 

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