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№ 75 Posts

on the subject of burls..

Burl Forest, Beach 1, June 2009

Being a carpenter/woodworker, it is hard not to feel a bit of rapacity for forests like this, thinking of the fantastic woodgrain  that must lurk in these deformities.  Even the spalt on some of the decaying snags must be otherworldly. So I printed it a little dark, imagining a midnight trip in with the skewback saw. Kidding of course. Hmm, yes.

saltcured spruce

Sitka Burls, Beach 1, February 2009

Another shot I’ve been messing with for far too long. The image almost takes on the shape and movement of implosion in cartoon space, each seasonal attempt a mutation of misdirected growth, and that goes double for me too.

The river is moving, the blackbird must be flying*


Road, Sadie Creek, February 2009

Meanwhile, a brief interlude from a favorite-


Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.


I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.


It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

– Wallace Stevens, from Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird*

Tunnels of Love, part II

stairs steps

Battery Stoddard Complex, May 2009

The rest of the shots from Thursday evening, in no particular order. The vertical shot of the doorway I cropped on the bottom due to a shadow racing across the sidewalk and threatening to start up the building. I was in a hurry and was trying to collapse the tripod legs to get lower in the vertical space, which is a litle difficult with the camera mounted in vertical orientation- sort of top heavy. A tripod leg shot out and I shouted a mild Jesus! just as a jogger was passing by and she glared and muttered Perv. Perhaps thinking I still had time during my minor disaster to ogle her. Some people are so self absorbed, lol.

Tunnels of Love

Battery Underground, May 2009

I went back to Fort Worden after work on Thursday. Our crew was working in Irondale this week, just up the hill from the old steel mill site, and I drove to work myself that day to give myself a break from the regimented inmate aspects of the group commute/caravan.  Plus, it’s the only way I can take all my camera gear with me. I left work in a sort of Friday evening daze- Thursday is my Friday, we work 4/10 hr days- not entirely sure what to do with myself.

Irondale segues to Port Hadlock and then to Port Townsend in a crescendo of affluenza. It would be very funny to see it in time elapse- see someone emerge from the crawlspace under a beat-to-hell trailer and end up walking around some of the palatial Victorian mansions in PT, but instead I just reflexively ended up at Fort Worden. Something about the place on a gorgeous spring evening- the white of the clapboards and the gray slate of the rooftops and the sweeping green of the commons- like a place where parades go to die.

The Stoddard artillery battery is quite inconspicuous off the end of the grounds, low and oddly small atop the eastern bluffs over Admiralty Inlet. It gives off an bruised glow in the growing dusk, it’s the perfect time to set up and take some shots. A natural symbiosis of desertion and flagging museum budgets.

These Ft Worden shots are a minor scope creep from original project, but I’m realizing that I have to connect themes as I uncover them in awkward ways to keep myself involved in my own projects.  No doubt eveything will eventually come up crisscrossed and confused by a network of aesthetic escape routes. But I do want  to involve more history. And this theme of abandonment does keep cropping up.

Open in the event of calm

Creek, Beach 1, February 2009

This one has festered into a vicious little twitch…I took it back in February and bring it out to work on it occasionally when things are going well and I’m feeling good about myself.  No compromise of contrast or tone circumvents the dust storm of hairpulling and pacing around my tiny darkroom and muttering. Even my most sedate Mendelssohn is no buffer against it. But something about the opposable trees and folds of the creek in the bluffs keep me coming back for more punishment.


The walk home, May 2009

Went behind the house last weekend and tried a few vertical shots with the new camera. I’m always startled by the feature descent of this short walk. With it’s usual lack of warning the silence and darkness clamps shut, and it’s a little spooky under the darkcloth.
And notice that nowhere are the firs spared a thorough limbing, the work of some mad lopper determined to stymie the silver fir where ever he finds it, no matter how abandoned the trail. Now that I’m working again, photography is again pushed to the margins, but the parallels keep finding there way into compositions nicely.

A thrill in thinning

Snow, December 2008

I’m working again, this first week out of the holiday club is a little sobering. I joined a weatherization crew in a community action program, reinsulating low income housing. It is good steady work, and a great service besides. Yet, the anxiety somehow increases. It’s reliable thrill to see those less fortunate than yourself, seeing all the ways a life can go wrong. My heart races in some of these places, but I can’t tell if it’s in sympathy or general dread. Anyway, it reminded my of some of the winter scenes still festering in the print piles.

Miniaturization skills, and engineering reverses

Silver Fir detail, Joyce Quadrangle, March 2009

I’ve been working on a new camera, so I’m taking a small hiatus from hikes and snaps. It is another 5×12, thought hopefully will be considerably smaller and lighter than my current one- which was designed in haste for an impending trip and  erred on the side of… modularity.   Researching the format only compounded every possible contingency; I put a meter of bellows on the damn thing and rarely rack it out more than 200mm, to name one example. Most of these DNR roads just go on and on and up and up, so the lighter the much better.

In the interim, another silverfir image. Pushing it but I can’t help myself.


Post-Storm Daze, Ruby Beach, March 2009

Ruby Beach got fairly beat-up by a storm a few weeks ago. This weekend I went out for the first time since the storm and many of the great spruces that make up the battered yet stubborn treeline there finally succumbed.  The monumental Sitka Spruces are down everywhere, knocking one another down, across the trail, buried in the salal- even the lovely canopy of Slide Alder at the bottom of the trail along the creek was half uprooted.

I considered taking some ‘post ruby’ shots, but honestly was too stunned about the damage, and the windfall made any obvious approaches or re-shoots awkward. Looking over the negatives today, I’m relieved that I didn’t make any outright before and after shots, but I am disappointed overall in what I took away from the experience just the same.

The lack of my documenting this event in any significant way really put this project in a new light. I suppose the obvious extenuation would be to draw similarities with a portrait photographer coming upon a crime scene involving some regular sitters and trying to document it. You know these subjects and the violence to it is so evident and visceral there is no apparent need to document it.

Does that suggest a very superficial relationship with the subject? Perhaps just a sentimentality that’s in lockstep with the pretty, and the convenient, and the pigeonholed. Is nothing else useful? My first shot of the day didn’t even involve the treeline principally, except in brooding peripheral loom.  The shot of the forest proper is similarly veiled, both in intent and execution- even the one downed tree I managed to frame is relegated to the margins.  And  then, as if that wasn’t enough: the shot of the chronically misused crow, like the very zoomorphism of denial, turning its back on the brute continuity of it all.