I was driving up the South Fork of Bishop Creek in the Sierra Nevada, when I noticed a grove of Aspen. across the canyon As soon as I set up my tripod and put on a longer lens, I knew I had seen these trees countless times before over decades of pouring though books, calendars, and magazines. In face, these trees may have been photographed more than nearly any other patch of fall color. As I worked every composition I could think of, I thought about how many photographers had stood at this very same pullout alongside the road, camera on tripod, shooting across the valley. Yeah, it may not be my most unique image, but there was something rewarding about putting my own stamp on this popular spot. If you find yourself in California near Bishop, take a drive up the valley and see if you can find them. If it's a sunny autumn day, I bet you can.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
You may not know the names, but most people can immediately recognize most of the iconic views of the west. Tunnel View in Yosemite, The Narrows in Zion, and Oxbow Bend in The Tetons come to mind. As a photographer, I know where most of them are but there are a few spots that you stumble across by accident.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Click here for another image from the base of the falls.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Another shot from my "Day Of Freedom." This is the South Fork Snoqualmie River along the hike to Franklin Falls in the Cascade Mountains. For much of the year, the river runs far too fast and high to ever think about getting out on the rocks to get a shot from the center. Even a few weeks earlier, when I was on this trail with my son and some friends, the river was still swollen with snow melt. When I made it back by myself last week, I could safely hop the rocks to the center and set up shop.
For you tech junkies out there, the exposure was 2 seconds at f/11 using ISO100
Saturday, September 10, 2011
I'm sure everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing on the morning of September 11, 2001. Merril and I were on a camping trip in Sequoia National Park in California. I remember waking up and hearing the noise level in the campground rise as the news spread from tent to tent. I remember leaning into the window of a park service vehicle and listening to the news on the radio set. I remember seeing the rangers with semi-automatic rifles at the entrance station as we left, and I remember seeing the first footage of the attack in a McDonalds somewhere in the Central Valley. Most memories of that day are surprisingly hazy, but I do remember the night before with crystal clarity.
We hiked up to the top of Moro Rock after dinner. If you have never been there, you really should some day. Summers on the Rock can be packed but after Labor Day, the crowds thin out and the trek up the stairs and across the granite can be downright relaxing. Throw in the scent of baking pine needles, the cool early autumn breezes off the high country, rocks radiating the heat of the daytime sun, and the short hike can be the perfect evening experience. We watched the sunset over the foothills and I ran enough rolls of film through the camera to be able to justify deducting the trip as a business expense (it really was a personal getaway for the two of us). The sunset was mediocre but it did light the granite walls across the canyon with enough color to create a few nice frames. More importantly, we held hands and watched the sun set on our little corner of the planet. We walked back to the car, drove back to the campsite, and ducked into the tent with no idea what would happen over the next morning, days, weeks, and years.
For some, their world truly changed the next morning. Many families lost loved ones, and over the next decade, many families endured hardships as loved ones fought battles overseas. My thoughts and prayers will always be with them. For most of us though, our world didn't change much that morning. We suffered minor inconveniences but in reality, only our perceptions of the world changed. It suddenly seemed a much more tumultuous and dangerous place.
The next decade seemed decidedly less smooth than the previous one. In reality, the economy had started to fall apart before 9/11. The tech bubble had popped earlier in the year and we were already sliding into a recession, but the attacks seemed to put the nail in the coffin. The easy life of the previous decade was over. During the next years, we fought multiple wars and endured seemingly endless economic and political crises. We also had successes. We developed new technologies and made major advances in science. We learned and we adapted.
After the last decade, anyone who tells you what will happen during the next ten years is a fool. Maybe we will triumph over all our differences, maybe we will be in for another decade of bubbles and bursts, or maybe our modern savior of technology will solve every problem known to mankind (sarcasm intended). As I look at this photo, I gain strength knowing one thing. No matter what happens, the earth will spin, economies will surge and sputter, people will live their lives, and the sun will still shine the last light of day on the granite walls of the Sierra Nevada. You just have to be willing to see it.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
In between my responsibilities, I carve out minutes here and there to do some shooting. When Z was young, I trained myself to type one-handed while I held him during his naps. I spent late-night hours scanning film and uploading images to stock agencies. What I didn’t get was time to immerse myself deep in the woods or high up on the mountains. I keep trying but attempts to find large amounts of time to spend on photography are always blocked by the realities of life that parenting demands.
When Z first began to walk, I began my quest to combine my nature photography and parenting. We started with walks around a small pond and, as he grew older and stronger, we graduated to longer walks in the mountains. We explored together, taking time to stop and talk about all the twigs, bugs, and leaves along the path. He was still small though, and required my constant attention. The camera gear got left at home.
Last week, we took Z camping for the first time. I chose Dungeness Spit on the Olympic Peninsula. It had flush toilets, a playground, plenty of trails, and close proximity to civilization should the youngster completely rebel at the idea of camping. It also had the longest natural sand spit in the country and maybe, just maybe, the chance to sneak away for a little photo excursion. I started to pack the car and quickly filled the back seat and cargo area. No matter how hard I tried, I could not fit everything the three of us required into the car. I knew what had to be left behind, my camera gear.
The trip was a success anyway. Z never complained or asked to go home. In fact, he desperately wanted to stay on the final morning. I had a blast watching him and was another step closer to joining my parenting and photography life into one.
I had a hard week after that. Merril went back to work, there was no camp or school to give me a break during the day. I could not seem to get a moment to myself and I guess it showed. Merril came home Monday night and told me she was staying home the next day. She also stated in no uncertain terms that I was to leave, take the day for myself, and not show my face around the house till well after dark.
I drove as fast as I could to the mountains the next morning. All day, I hiked to waterfalls and lakes. I stopped the car whenever I saw something I wanted to check out. I sat by rivers and watched the water pour over the rocks. I relished driving the rough dirt roads, throwing a plume of dust in the air, and singing with the stereo as loud as I could. There was no little voice in my head (or from the back car seat) telling what to do. For one day I was free. Free like I was before my son was born. Free to wander. Free to explore. Free to do whatever the hell I felt like. And yes, I took some photos (quite a few as a matter of fact).
I got home well after dark, kissed my wife goodnight, and crept into Z’s room. I sat in the chair and watched him sleep like so many long nights before. I watched his fingers move as he tried to complete some task during a dream. I watched his face change expressions and I could feel the connection between us; the bond that has been built up over the years. It felt great to be away for a day but it felt even better being home. I closed my eyes and just listened to him breathe.
I’m taking Z hiking again this weekend. It will be just the two of us (Merril is working again.) Maybe we will hike to a lake, to a meadow, or perhaps we will never make it anywhere and just hunt for sticks along the trail instead. Wherever we end up, we will have fun. There is only one thing that is certain. The camera gear will have to stay home and I am OK with that.