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Category: Ruby


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.

Executive function

Ruby Bluffs, February 2009

A bit frustrated with the road closure hindering my other project, I went back out to the west end yesterday for this first time this winter. Something about seeing the ocean is recharging, especially after seeing the yellow creep back in my eyes in the bathroom mirror and standing on the scale and seeing it up another 10 pounds, 15 pounds- most of that muffling my decision making processes,judgment and higher functions… I was surprised at how different everything looked, just climbing out of the car at Ruby, and equally surprised at the instant boost in my energy level and level of focus; even the dim sun and mist seemed to burn through the cottony convalescent haze and backbedroom winter headaches. I felt like I’ve had a thumb in my eye for six weeks.

So Kalaloch seems new again, and within the margins of inspiration and reaction, instead of stagnating project quota.

There’s a man going around taking names

Ruby, September 2008

I’m finally back to work and listening to Johnny Cash again. I don’t know, the two seem inseparable, a kindred toil and * you for asking.  Whiskey will be along directly. I need a tee shirt with the image of Cash giving the bird, just letting it fly,  like he started uncoiling the gesture at birth. Oddly, the gesture has always seemed more confiding than confrontational, more welcoming than exclusionary.

It is really, really kicking my ass this time around. Work that is, not the Man in Black. There are two of us, both 40+, framing a 3000 sq ft house. I’ve lost 20  lbs in 2 weeks and I wasn’t fat to begin with. But it is truly a relief to be back to work. Sleep comes under a new gospel, a weightless deep grave that tips the elements and upends the cosmos. Life is simpler when you’re exhausted, and it’s all too easy to see salvation in the rafters.

Whoever is filthy, let him be filthy still.

It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks
In measured hundred weight and penny pound
When the Man comes around.

The coast of winter

Ruby Beach, April 2008

“And God prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah…

If you get the chance, see Orson Welles deliver Mapple’s sermon in Moby Dick. I don’t know why this slightly dazed picture reminds me of the parable, except of course for a dazed Jonah ‘vomited out on dry land, ears like two seashells, still multitudinously murmuring of the ocean‘. The eyes of the rock almost like a vicarious warning before falling back to the sea. It has a hum of a rung bell, a periphery of destination where familiar icons do not reign.

I guess I am here to see the ocean at it’s most ceaseless, the sum of all apportioned time amid such perdurable fantasy of symbol and motif, and the actual leviathan of the cosmos in weight and liquid and light, and to see the infinite reach exactly this far now, if never beyond.

‘Oh Father, mortal or immortal, here I die. I have driven to be thine, more than to be this world’s or mine own, yet this is nothing I leave eternity to Thee. For what is man that he should live out the lifetime of his God?

-Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Time to make the donuts

Ruby Beach, February 2007

Getting up really early, well it never gets really easy. But it does get tolerable. When I was younger and first moved to Seattle and worked in restaurants I used to get up to catch the bus at around 4 am. Of course I drank somewhat more in those days. Nothing quite like a whiskey hangover and the dim fluorescents of a metro bus at four-thirty on a winter morning in a strange new city. The desolation and futility of such an existence seems comically melodramatic now, but I’m still tethered to those days by slender threads of muscle memory, free association, and a knack for packing as much headache as possible behind one bloodshot left eye…

You can never truly forget such things, so sometimes when I flick on the kitchen fluorescents at 4 am I get an associative migraine. But the thought that I’m doing this for just for me is plenty to snap me out of it.

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 thinning 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.

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.

Flare, drama and a watery grave

Ruby Beach, February 2007

One of the most interesting things to me about B&W photography is the effective failure of flare. Contrast- and detail-wrecking casts, Dark Flare, Light Flare, tonal weakness at one end or the other. It’s necessary. It’s the weakness that seems to represent light the best but that doesn’t mean it was there. Ranging beyond a sliding tonal scale suggests backlash, a basic mechanical failure of the eye, a just-woken-up logic of impression and haze.

Perfection is polymorphically insensitive. Indeed, nothing is interesting without a touch of failure. And failure suggests perpetuity like success never can. There’s music in struggle, hollow brag with a treble of sadness, lingering in impressions if not body. You can’t kill the fool, only the sweet innocent dies.

On that note, probably the most interesting part of the image is a visual non-starter: tucked away in the salal behind the biggest of the driftlogs is a grave marker that reads Krystal, taken by the Sea 10/13/2003. God have mercy on the girl.

Mindless sentinel?

Ruby Beach, March 2008

So a family puts a red cooler down in this shot. A bulky man strolls through my field (er, it feels like mine at the moment) and oh yes he’s watching me too. Lenscap off, the darkslide pulled and extended to shade the sun like a half-caution in semaphore. It would’ve likely been a surreal scene if a third party had been there to observe it; antique photographer, modern family unit, and a desolate and blustery March sunset.

The great thing about long exposures is that there is compositional relief from the average white family with a big red cooler. Their vapors mingle with the blasted light here, nothing solid or insurmountable, and I don’t think the composition suffers for it but still my sympathies are with the rock. It seems turned away from the sea, concerned perhaps with more modest demarcations of time.