Monday, July 18, 2011

Story Behind The Image: Letts Lake Reeds

It had been one of those summers in the Sierra Nevada. I would like to believe my skill was what led to the great images I kept producing but I really believe a monkey with a point and shoot camera could have come home with some pretty salable shots. It was really that good. Every morning the sunrise was fantastic and every evening...well that was addictive. The colors were so intense and so frequent that I began to expect them. All I had to do was to show up. Every evening it worked. Well, every evening until now.

What was I doing standing by this boggy little pond in the middle of the Mendocino National Forest? It seemed like a good idea at the time. Try something new. Go explore something else. Use my highly honed skills in a different area. On the map, Letts Lake looked promising. It lay up on one of the higher ridges of the area, a long and bumpy drive over dirt roads. It even had a campground near it. If they put a campground there, it had to be good, right? Yet it seemed to not even live up to the term "lake" at first glance. It was a more of a pond in a raggedy meadow surrounded by a scraggly pine forest. I lowered my head and walked back to the campsite thinking the whole trip was a colossal waste of time.

I downed my canned soup for dinner and began to think I should give it one more try. I sat down by the lake, closed my eyes, took a couple of breaths and then opened my eyes. I slowly began to notice things. The sky was a pretty amazing shade of blue and the lake was like a mirror. It was at that moment I saw the reeds. They were about twenty feet out in the water and they seemed to float in a pool of blue. Now there was a subject I could work with. I spent the rest of the evening working different angles on the reeds and waiting for the light breeze to stop blowing the blasted things around.

I would like to say that moment was a turning point for the trip. I would love to tell you that my mind opened up and I began to see things in that dusty forest but I didn't. If you want to know the truth, I packed my bags the next morning and headed home with my tail between my legs.  It was later that week, when I looked at the images on the light box (yes it was back in the olden days of film) that I saw what I had and the lesson sank in. No matter where you are, no matter how crappy the light is, always take a moment to sit down, breathe and really look around at your surroundings. An instructor at school must have had this in mind as he yelled out to my class long ago, "there is no such thing as bad light, only bad photographers."

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