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№ 75 Posts

Logarrhythmia


A rare shot in open sunlight for me. I tend to retreat into the darker forest when the sun is high. The sun intimidates me a little. There is no wiggle room in full noon day.

But this was worth the risk, even though I distrust lake reflection images as a rule. What’s the gig beyond the symmetry and serenity? The log breaks the surface tension of the water and stirs it’s depths at the same time, so I can be skeptical of the log instead, standing on it with all my gear, two legs of the tripod in the icy water, heart racing.

Masks, casts and little straws

Crescent Beach, February 2006

I try to resist talking about gear too much here, I know it must be a terrible bore for non-photographers. But before I built my 5×12 camera I masked off my 4×5 camera to the same ratio to see how much I would like it, and spent several months with it. It’s quite an undertaking to build a camera. Especially with an exotic format like 5×12- I would have to build the film holders as well. I wanted to make extra sure I would actually use it before I started the project. It wasn’t enough to crop from 4×5- my brain doesn’t work that way. So I made one mask for the ground glass and a matching one to insert into the film holder.

I’m a big fan of cinema, so it wasn’t hard to fall right in to a 2.4:1 format- which is essentially the same as wide screen letterbox. Something about the long and skinny of it really draws out the geometry of most compositions. Nature is…well, meandering. I like to reign in boundaries before chaos takes root. This early shot was one of the first panoramas I took and I was hooked. I love the simple lines of it, the solid ingot of rock and the puckered almost magnetic flow of the water around it; the land barely distinguished by a slender thread of shadow and highlight.

Ironically, I wasn’t able to start on the camera until I temporarily disabled myself. It was such a joy using the masked 4×5 that I probably never would have made a 5×12. I severely sprained an ankle at work and that gave me the time to get started, since I was unable to get out even on the simplest trails- even with the little cast they gave me that you inflate with a straw. But it was enough to get me hobbling around the shop and milling the pieces, provided I puff into the cast on occasion.

Landscape Paparazzi

Rialto, November 2007

I have had a troubling revelation; no matter how deeply I explore an area, my best shots seem to happen very close to the parking lot. At Rialto for example, no matter how far down the beach I go, it’s always the shots close to the car that stand out. It’s true for many areas- at Shi-Shi/ Point of the Arches it’s 10 miles there and back, 10 miles around the Cape Alava/Sand Point loop as well and I have yet to return with anything I’m happy with from either place.

It’s not that incredible opportunities don’t abound it both areas. I’m more inclined to believe that simple toil from carrying a lot of gear makes all but the most obvious shots get lost under the brute reflex of Getting There. And of course there is no ‘There’ on such excursions. Or rather, all of it is There. In any case I often discover myself on long hikes hunkered in, head down, in a treadmill sort of oblivion.

It’s troubling because limitations always are. Am I too stupid to walk and see at once? I lecture myself yet I slow down only briefly. But it’s more troubling because there are definite inroads here into personality flaws. Maybe I’m not who I like to think I am. I like to think I like hiking, being outdoors; just being, in the cosmic sense. But looking at me, well…It’s like I’m chasing someone. Heh, maybe I’m actually no different that an opportunistic paparazzo, hunting down a victim.

Chronic winter

Kalaloch, Beach 3, April 2008

Since these fretted sandstones along the western reaches often emerge out of the mist like ruins, and since the vegetation often dissembles in the fog without the slightest regard to color or form, there is a sense of perpetual winter here; especially since the snow is still flying this late April in the high stretch of 101 between the Aurora Range and Bear Creek on the way west. This morning I woke up and the ground and hot tub lid alike were covered with frozen snow and hail; the hills around our home have a fresh January coating, and did I mention it is late April?

I haven’t given much thought to what I’ll do with this blog in the off-winter months. I know I probably have enough work from this year and last to keep me busy until next fall but who’da thunk I would still be going out in the field to burn more film for this project? I suppose I never really thought of winter in Winter Coast to be literal, but really- this is much too easy.

Picea…Seussis?

Kalaloch, Beach 3, March 2008

The salt spray on the coast has a magnificent bonsai effect on the sitka spruce. They seem to depart from their own growth lines, jointed along an axis of old torment- a storm or even a specific gale. Hiking down the beach is like a gallery walk of the century’s greatest storms. Entire forests staggered, beachlogs chewed in half, and exposed agates polished in the soft sand bluffs like terrazzo.

Often the more dramatic Dr Seuss-like forms are buried in a maze of understory, alder and competing spruce, making them difficult to isolate for the singular gestures they are. But it’s probably for the best; the Isolated Contorted Tree device is such a franchise of solitude and determination that it is difficult not to lapse into brute cliche, especially in steely oceanscapes. But it is hard to resist.

If the rain were whiskey

Kalaloch, Beach 4, March 2008

This was hard to set up for because it was absolutely raining buckets, and came at the end of a very long and difficult day. I looked, chuckled weakly and kept walking, came back, left and got halfway up the trail and came back again muttering. I was convinced I didn’t have the right focal length, was sure the lens would fog up immediately because of the rain, et, etc, excuse, excuse, was genuinely pissed to be forcing myself to take the shot when a nice dry truck, towels, a change of clothes and a thermos of hot tea awaited. Not to mention the 2 hour drive home.

I’m not sure I’ve succeeded, though today I really like it. The problem with moody images, the moods don’t always align. Suffice to say the mood of the print is a good match for the wet disheveled mood of the photographer at the time. I do like the clear sharp grasses in the center of the foggy surroundings, looks like I wiped a clear spot on my lens with a dirty mitten. And regardless of how I feel about it, I’m sure it’s better than no attempt at all.

 

Bruised zoetrope

Alki, West Seattle, January 2008

I liked the idea of testing a toe in the violent bitter cold water on a sullen January morning. Just the cure for a misspent New Year’s Eve. But even more I liked the bruised light here and the bicyclespoke-animation of the tide through the railing, it reminded me of the dim flickering motion of an antique daedalum slowing down.

Basalt and basalt

Crescent Bay, February 2007

Here’s a rarity for the Washington coast (interior too for that matter), basalt.. I fear rockheads won’t find much diversion around here, it’s either flood basalt or pillow basalt or columnar basalt or…Perhaps only the Moon has more basalt than Washington state.

But still the forms can be breathtaking. If given the chance, do visit the scoured alien landscape of eastern Washington- some of the columnar basalt forms along the coulees and dry falls are altogether astounding, like the work of a prehistoric race of giant freemasons. Here on the coast the rock seems to vary only in stages of erosion, like partial meltings of grander rock, but it’s saved from monotony by interactions with water and life. I don’t like treading upon the incredible habitats some of these rockforms can become since I speared a starfish once with a tripod spike, but this rock was relatively barren, almost like a dim meteor pushing through turbulent space, and seemed a reasonable metaphor for my progress in the void.

Verticals and a lazy eye

Crescent Bay, February 2007

I very much like vertical panoramas, chore that they be. I have to turn and mount my camera on its side, which is awkward at best. And usually a little alarming, especially over such a sloggy spot as this. I’m ashamed to admit that I tend to let occasions go by to spare the hassle, but this I couldn’t resist. I made two exposures of this shot; after the first I turned and noticed that a tripod leg had sunk to its first knuckle in the sand.
Local spaces are wonderful. The more often you go the more you’re rewarded. A mile from my house, it surprises me whenever I have Crescent Beach to myself, and I do very often, early and late in the day. It’s such a close, wild place. A faint scalloped departure from the heavy maritime traffic of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, so shallow you could almost wade to the horizon. When the tide is low the beach is enormous and ever changing. High bluffs and basalt shelves and a mingling of fresh and salt water in the Salt Creek delta that are habitat to bald eagles, Canada geese, great blue heron, coots, grebes, kingfishers, oystercatchers, scoters, harlequin ducks, buffleheads and myriad other birds beyond reckoning. It’s a shame is that large format work is so slow; the lid of my fastest lens shutter feels like a lazy blinking eye always well behind their movements. So I have to settle for the more sedate pace of tides and shifting sand bars.

Blind luck

Lake Crescent, North Shore, November 2007

The notion is that a large part of successful photography has to do with dumb luck. Of course, that all depends on how you define successes.

Can something so obvious ever be successful? I used to scoff at the Dramatic landscape, or at least snort at it. Much better to be there than to just see pretty pictures of it. They can be the visual equivalent of a Robert Goulet strain. If not an outright assault upon taste and reason, then at least a thorough inconveniencing. Overblown contrast, oafish light. Thrustic (if I may coin a word) geometry.

But living here on the Olympic Peninsula, well. It changes things. How can you not take a photo of this? The sun was just rising over the mountains and chasing the fog flowing into the lake and I’m surprised I didn’t fall into the lake in my haste to get set up. The great fortune of being in this scene staggered any intellectual interpretation of it. Maybe that’s good, who knows. I have since wondered how a photographer such as Robert Adams might have interpreted this scene, or if he would have at all. Maybe the art would be in leaving it be, not recording it at all, not belaboring the obvious. Perhaps my moving here and working here uncovered a fundamental laziness in my aesthetic sensibilities; just coast and let the landscape contort me to it’s liking, without much thought other than Gee. I can shrug it off as visual doggerel, downplay that I’m affected. But whatever. Involve the senses, nudge some instinctual need for loveliness, endeavor to find symbolic parallels in the human experience. Or not. There’s honesty in any reaction, even if it can’t be readily explained, or even welcomed.

… even if it’s only the dreaded Oooh, lucky shot!