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№ 75 Posts

Gnawer of the moon

Salt Creek, December 2007

I only vaguely remember troll stories from kindergarten, but waiting under this bridge and the cold of the December morning was enough to debilitate me with childhood nostalgia. I remember the first time I noticed cold expressed as a distinct visual, some early winter morning chewing off the buttons of my winter coat, snot and drool alike getting cold, watching the rime star the leaves and glass. Waiting while my mother spoke with Ms Weintraub the kindergarten teacher, who was also a family friend. Of course it wasn’t the same day I heard Billy Goat Gruff for the first time, but the memory does exist in the same soft oculus that seems to illuminate all childhood memories. Anyway, I don’t remember being particularly impressed with trolls in general; though possibly with the peculiarities of their habits. Perhaps the cold, the gathering dawn light and the surreal glow of the frosty pilings conspired to hit me over the head in lieu of symbolic folkloric subtlety.

They call me Troll;
Gnawer of the Moon,
Giant of the Gale-blasts,
Curse of the rain-hall,
Companion of the Sibyl,
Nightroaming hag,
Swallower of the loaf of heaven.
What is a Troll but that?
-Bragi Boddason the Old


Spring fever

Ruby Beach, April 2008

I’m a little feverish today so I won’t dare risk rambling on, but still I wanted to post a weekly image. I think this needs to be a little moodier, but I’m already feeling plenty dark today.

Ping the depths

Ruby Beach, April 2008

The treeline at Ruby Beach is a recurring subject in my work. I must have 4 or 5 images posted so far. If I go to the coast and don’t at least stop by to have a look at current conditions it nags at me the entire drive home. I’ve gotten as far as the Upper Hoh road and turned back, so now I stop whether I think I need to or not.

It’s the one perfect subject I’ve come across; or at least recognized. The diminishing line is an ideal foil for all peripheral concerns- weather, tide, rock formations, or simple geometric study. A tree occasionally breaks rank and succumbs to the elements. There is such wonderful secondary design in the tining branches and lacework of the sitka bark. It all conspires to transform even rudimentary camera skills and haphazard composition.

I’d like to fill a volume with Ruby pictures. Even risking cliche, escapism and lipid sentiment… though if I even really want anything deeper it is increasingly difficult to say.

The remaining clouds

Crescent Bay, March 2007

I’m usually pretty exhausted when I come home from work, but I like to stop by Crescent Bay as often as possible. It’s only a few miles out of the way, and it’s a very short walk out, tide permitting of course.

There aren’t often such dramatic clouds to the northwest of us- much of the towering atmosphere seems to snag on the Olympic Mountains and the balance deflates and settles over Vancouver Island. But this was startling and quickly evolving as if in time elapse and I used a fast aperture to stop the movement, pushed the film recklessly and made four exposures to make sure I got something usable. A gamble, considering the cost of film and considering how b&w sunset shots of mine generally fare, ahem.

As such I don’t usually go for sunsets, but I like this because it had more structure than hue and doesn’t seem to suffer for lack of color. And the sea stack aimed like a schooner at the small sunburst along the horizon doesn’t hurt.

Hey, over here

Rialto Beach, January 2008

I’ve been sitting on this one, mainly because I have wildly disparate views of it- almost by the hour. Today it’s mostly unloved. I’m posting it in an effort to move on.*Alot of my work is more abandoned that finished, but this feels just a little more strained.

The day I took this I had been in a sort of ‘macro’ mood with tides and sand patterns and wasn’t really seeing anything more than 12 feet away. The irony is I spent several hours stooped over and semi-squatting trying to get the angle, selective focus and shutter timing right with tidal pictures and was rewarded with shite, fairly. Not to mention sore legs and back spasms. For this one I essentially stood up, yelped, and pointed the camera at it. Ack.

Retirement plans

Ruby Beach, April 2008

The stones lend a little illusion to distance at Ruby Beach. Gravel fans mount into dunelike mounds of cobbles nearing the woods, choking and entombing the snags there, while smaller rock and coarse sand seem to escape the tide’s notice altogether. The fine siftings frame the scree, as if meticulously arranged by size, and gives a haphazard sense of depth. It seems to suit the ‘awkward silence’ between the spalted snags and the distant rock forms.

I seldom wish that I had color film with me, but this would qualify. Maybe on some rainy Sunday I’ll have a go at hand coloring in all the foreground stones on a print of this. Heh, maybe some distant puff of senility will have me coloring in all of the work of my youth with somber-toned crayolas. I was half-thinking this as I was framing the shot when an older couple came crashing out of the woods behind me, slightly alarmed and winded, and asked where the trailhead was.

Her eyes are a blue million miles

Highway 101, Kalaloch, April 2008

I’m a big Captain Beefheart fan. His music tends to frighten some, but it has a rare disordinate beauty that works well in the spaces here, especially on crappy days like this. Almost insulting and confrontational at first (like any harsh weather here) it’s hard not to take some of the songs personally when you’re first accosted. But after a little acclimatization it’s easy to yield to things bigger than yourself.

At first I tried to compose the road out of this shot. My best intentions- postcard tendencies as I think of it- often work against me and I need to be a little more skeptical. I actually said ‘Leave the road in the picture, twit’ aloud and startled myself a little. Leaving the road in the picture is certainly a baby step as far as artistic expansion goes, but hey. Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles is certainly one of Don Van Vliet’s most accessible songs, but you really should start somewhere…

Then again, there’s always Big Eyed Beans from Venus. :- ]

Plant a flag

Beach 1, Kalaloch, April 2009

I made it a little further south down the coast this past week. A goal was to make Elephant Rock eventually this year, but I haven’t gotten half that far. I keep telling myself these aren’t proper goals, these trips aren’t consumables, nor is there anything to claim even if there is an end. I’m not Shackleton. Being a typical white male I sometimes feel as if I have been bioengineered to invade, sack and reclaim. Photography has these tendencies, if in relatively benign ways. Still, A little sign I’ve managed to miss completely these many trips reads Beach 1 along a turnout and the feeling of greedy urgency is undeniable.

The forest is dense from the road so it’s easy to miss it, but the reward is immediate. First a burl forest. Giant growths nest in the prime of sitka spruces like an unearthly egg in the throat of a python. There’s a short path that meanders around select deformities; boils, cysts and tumors often split open in a rictus of arboreal torment. Yet, as fascinating as the forest was –is– the sounds of the Pacific and the light streaming around the grotesque shapes were irresistibly compelling and I had to make for the bluffs.

The view for me touches off associations with classic empire building, manifest destiny, westward expansion. As if to emphasize the metaphor, a road of bone-white driftlogs at the foot of the bluff stretch north and south for miles like progress’s collateral damage. This is quite a ways north of the Columbia River and the Lewis and Clark route, but the differences seem academic. How they must have felt hearing and smelling the waters and crashing though, so close, your heart almost running ahead of you like a pathfinder. Yet once the awe settles, who could actually claim it?

The cure of ruin

Lake Crescent, South Shore, March 2008

Alder is not held in high esteem here, but I think it’s lovely. Often a sign of new growth and renewal, the trees flag the sites of old logging roads, obliterated homesteads or just the nursed-out remains of fallen giants. A half-remedy of mostly forgotten or unknown ruin. A folk-remedy does say that you can place the leaves in your boots to ease weary feet, but I’ve not yet tried it.

Robert Frost comes to mind, but that’s little surprise:

“A winter garden in an alder swamp,
Where cronies now come out to sun and romp,
As near a paradise as it can be,
And not melt snow or start a dormant tree.”

A Winter Eden

Vivat Rex

Lake Crescent, North Shore, October, 2007

Lake Crescent is sometimes called an inland fjord. The depths almost equal the heights around it, rather like a dark, taciturn twin- so deep that the seasons hardly register in the coldness of the water. The lake margins shimmer in a kaleidoscopic emerald hue that’s hard to resist on a hot summer day, but the overall trend is to purpley-blues as the cold and deep compound. In the winter, storms slough off vegetation, talus and clay-slick land alike as the volume of snow melt and rain destabilizes the slopes and undermines the shoreline, toppling alder, maple, fir, cedar and madrone indiscriminately. It’s little wonder the highest surrounding peak is called Storm King.

Such a victim from winters passed, it amazes me that this tree is still alive. I checked this week and it’s budding out. Unceremonious, casual, as if it could be no other way.