National Park in the Backyard

Camera – check. Batteries – check. Boots, backpack, tripod… I’m ready to go.

For a while I had been obsessed with an idea of finding interesting pictures in my backyard, in my neighborhood, in the parks nearby. I thought of it as my personal challenge: finding interesting images where I live without going far away to popular photographic destinations.

One of the outcomes of it was an ongoing project “My Backyard” with a new installment published to my website every year. This time I took it one step further though. I decided to treat a patch of wilderness in the middle of my neighborhood as a National Park. I got all my gear the way I would take it on a hike in a national park. I got water and snack and I went exploring.

There was a well developed trail around the lake used by runners, joggers, and walkers. Along it there were plenty of side trails just begging to be explored. I walked to that trail briskly. Once I got on the lake trail I slowed down watching out for the side trails that would get me closer to the water.

Some were well-walked. Others were barely visible and somehow more enticing: following them I would make my way through shrubbery and brambles to eventually get close to water. A wall of trees would isolate me from civilization creating a realm of nature with its own sounds, with its own beauty.

Just like that, following one of those side trails, I found a place that would be great for taking pictures at sunset. Perched up on the log I settled down waiting for the sunset. Time flowed past quietly unnoticeably and somehow the wait was over. The warm colors of sunset was filling the sky. The tops of the trees were still holding the sun by its last rays. And the lake was reflecting it all in the upside down world…

I got home well after dark. I was tired but happy that I went on an amazing hike in the patch of wilderness in my neighborhood.

Wrong Turn

I usually travel to famous destinations well-known for their spectacular views and enticing subjects. Imagine my surprise, upon taking a wrong turn on my way to a locally famous photography spot, to find a hidden gem just in my backyard. When I set out that morning, I was hoping to capture a typical fall subject: leafy trees turning a glorious red lining a quiet, intimate drive. It was a place I had visited many times in the past, and had already stopped by multiple times this season, hoping that the colors would be at their peak brilliance. It’s a beautiful place, don’t get me wrong, and it deserves the many visitors that stop by every year to get a snap of it, their cars parked in a line down the street.

But what I found instead was intimate in its own way, a place without photographers jostling to get the perfect angle, a place that isn’t photographed over and over every year. It is just as stunning, and it captures the ephemeral beauty of autumn just as well as my original destination, but most importantly, it was all mine: clear blue sky touched with a light brush stroke of white clouds, trees covered in mid-autumn yellows reflecting in the still, quiet water in the pond, occasional ripples running across the water and playing with the reflection to create a dream-like view that I had only seen in pictures from far away places.

Somewhere far in the distance, through the wall of trees, I could still hear the noise of the city, the rumble of traffic speeding down freeway, but it all seemed so distant, so surreal. It did not belong in this oasis of quiet and solitude. Rather the sounds of singing birds that had not left for the winter yet, the splashing of water disturbed by the ducks landing or taking off, the quiet whispering of leaves as the easy breeze rustled through the forest belonged here.

There was incredible stillness to the whole scene as if I had walked into a painting, my presence disturbing it and putting it into motion. It had been here all along enticing passerby with its beauty, rejoicing at capturing my attention as I was looking at it and appreciating it. Awestruck for a moment, I just stood there taking it all in before the magic disappeared. Nature was patient with me. It did not disappear. It stayed. It waited. Until I was ready to capture it not only with my eyes but with my camera too.

Pictures taken, I sat on the bank of the pond in the warm autumn sun, breathing in the refreshingly crisp autumn air filled with the sour scent of dry grass and the honey-sweet scent of fallen leaves, thinking about how easy it is to get into the habit of walking the same paths, going to the same well-known locations, photographing known scenes. It offers a sense of comfort and security knowing that I’d definitely get some good images there and if not, it would only be weather conditions to blame: no spectacular light, no sunrise, no sunset. Getting off the beaten path is unpredictable, unknown, and quite frankly scary – there might be nothing worth photographing there. But visiting the same place over and over makes photographs predictable and does not challenge me to grow as a photographer.

P.S. My writing and photography lately has been influenced by my girlfriend who gives me constant support while challenging me to do things differently including this post where she challenged me to write better and gave me some invaluable lessons in language arts.

My Backyard

Life is full of experiences, exciting and mundane, surprising and routine, spending time with loved ones and grocery shopping and paying bills. It is not always that I can find time to go on a trip to some exciting location.

I dream. I dream a lot. I dream big. I dream of a life in a wilderness, photographing, painting, being creative all the time. But…

To be honest, as much as much as the dream of being in the wilderness all the time seems to be attractive it is not all that makes me happy. Having someone I love and who loves me back fulfills my life with happiness that I cannot draw from the wilderness. All the exciting and quiet moments shared together fill me with joy.

To be honest, as much as I want to photograph all the time, I have a limit to my creativity. After the first few active days on a trip I find myself exhausted and numb to everything around me.

To be honest, if I truly want to be creative, all I need is to take my camera and step out into my own backyard. Because that is all it takes to find this…

The Spring is Here

spring has come to Skygit Valley. Last weekend I went there to photograph daffodils but ended up photographing less daffodils and more of other scenes of Skygit Valley rediscovering it for myself. Even when there were daffodils in the frame they were taking very little part of it.

First, my attention was captivated by the snow geese taking rest in Skygit Valley during their regular migration.

Then I got fascinated by the smoke and steam coming from tall pipes and blending with the sky.

Then I noticed puddles in the fields and was looking for interesting reflections.

Then I went after complete abstract shots like this.

Then after lonely trees.

Then finally, by the end of the day I finally stood by a daffodil field. Even then I more enjoyed how the sky was painted with clouds then the flowers themselves.

Behind the Gate

This is yet another of the posts in line with the previous one where I advocate for not falling into a trap of repeating cliché image of a place but instead finding your own point of view.

There is an alley not far from my house with a trees that turn beautiful red in fall. The alley is on private property – fenced and gated. The place is quite popular in fall with local photographers. There are a few photographers there every morning taking photos thru the gate or waiting for their turn to take the photos thru the gate. I did so to. Mine look at little bit like painting because I used Orton effect.

Then I stepped back yielding the place to another photographer and realized that there is more interesting image with the gate which tells completely different story. It is not about lines of trees and foliage anymore. It is about something unachievable, out of reach, another world behind the gate. It is about reality and a dream world and the gate separating the two.

On a Foggy Night

For a week the area where I live had fog. Every day. Every night. Whole day. Whole night. It was beautiful, smooth, thick, milky white fog. I love fog. It adds mystery and depth to everything.

Unfortunately, I was busy whole week and could not get out to photograph. But one night I just dropped everything I did, picked up my camera and went out on a walk around the neighborhood. While I may have not done any greatest hits, I still enjoyed reconnecting with what I love using even smallest moments I can carve out of sometimes busy days.

Here is in some sense a good representation of my suburban neighborhood and probably many other neighborhoods across US: proudly displaying their flag on their home, keeping cars outside despite having garage because the garage is filled with things that they still cherish, things that they find it hard to part but which they will unlikely to ever use again.

IMG_2736

Strolling thru Kubota Garden

Sometimes plans don’t work out and I’m glad they don’t. One weekend another photographer and I were planning to hike up a mountain trail to photograph a lake in snow. When time came my buddy bailed out and I did not want to risk hiking in snow after dark alone. Instead I went to Kubota Gardens in Seattle and spent a day there.

Typically, when for places like parks or gardens close to home I try to find time during week or go with family during weekend for one or two hours to do photography. This was the first time I spend whole day in one relatively small garden. And it felt really good – photograph without rushing, lying under a tree, taking time, observing.

I’ve fell in love with this garden.


Early Morning Mist


Let Me Offer My Hand


Passage


Bush on Fire


Due Drops Caught in a Web


Simple Yellow on Red


Lying on the Ground Looking Into Sunny Sky


Explosion


Butterfly


Light