Restrictions Mean Creativity?

For almost two month now we’ve had Stay at Home order in Washington state. It ruined my travel plans and I was pretty disappointed with the loss of photographic opportunities. But I stayed at home and only walked close to it to keep myself and other people safe. As days passed and I kept walking the nature trails next to my home, I first came to terms with the restrictions, and then I started appreciate them because I was falling in love with the place I live in.

Day after day I was walking in the patch of wilderness near me. Little by little I studied it. Now I know every little stream, every little trail. I know many trees and rocks. I know how they look in sunny weather and in cloudy one. I know how they look in the morning and in the evening.

I spent hours sitting on a rock or log by a burbling stream in a cool shade of a tree while the sun was winking at me through the canopy. And I was winking back at the sun, listening to a story the stream was telling me. Or read a book myself. Every time I would make sure to leave no trace and take a good picture of the place.

The forest became my friend. I saw it waking up after winter, stretching its muscles with the cracking sound of its branches, dressing up in a green dress with flowery polka dots. Every day I had little discoveries waiting for me, brightening my day: a new flower blooming that was not there the day before, a tree having a shimmer of green where there were bare branches earlier, a deer walking among the trees.

The forest was never resting, always changing. And yet there was a sense of calm and peace in the forest. Nothing was rushed and everything got done. Slowly day-by-day it was coming to life.

By now I came to appreciate the restrictions for making me fall in love with the place I live in. I was challenged to find something interesting close to home. And I became more attuned to its beauty. And I became more creative.

I’m eager to see it living and changing through all the seasons.

Believe in it

Recently I went on a trip with my girlfriend to Rowena Crest to photograph wild flowers. As we stopped by one of many meadows filled with bright yellow flowers I asked her a question.

“Look,” I said, “there is this meadow of flowers. I bet there are good photos here but I don’t see any. What about you? Do you see any?”

Her reply made me think for a while about my motivation: “You need to believe that the place is beautiful to make beautiful photos.”

I realized that I did not think that particular meadow was very beautiful. There were random patches of flowers. None really stood out.

The reason I wanted to take pictures was that it was a rare opportunity for me: those flowers were there for a short time a year and we had to drive four hours to get there. As such I wanted to squeeze every possible photo from every meadow we came across.

I still took a few pictures there but I did not have a goal of making beautiful pictures. I was experimenting with compositions, finding patterns in a chaos and leading lines in twisted tree branches.

I did make beautiful pictures on that trip in the places I believed to be beautiful.

The Meadow

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. –Lao Tzu

Thanks to the modern medicine I’m off on the road in less than 3 weeks after the knee surgery. Just in time to catch the last of wildflowers in Columbia Gorge. That’s where I headed the last weekend.

The first day of the trip I spent stopping at random places because the sky and the light was amazing. I could not just drive by it. I  wanted to see it without rushing.

That meant that I got to Columbia Gorge late night and had no time to photograph wildflowers the first day.

The next day, I got on a hike. At first I walked just a little bit, trying to get a sense of it, if the hike was worth it. It was worth it. There was an abundance of variety of wildflowers on the trail. I got back to the car put my backpack, took tripod and went on the hike.

I completely forgot about my knee, hiking, taking photos. Until I got to a top of a hill. I was not even quite at the top yet, when the knee reminded me about itself. It was tired. So, I did something that I had not done since I was a kid. I lied down in the meadow of flowers to rest.

I was lying in the meadow of flowers and the life in the city seemed so distant and remote. All the rush, all the noise, all the chaotic motion seemed so unreal. I was lying in the meadow of flowers and thinking about how I’m trying to make as many pictures as possible on each trip and not giving enough time to take in the experience of being in the place. And just like that I fell asleep.

I woke up a couple hours later greeted by yellow flower hanging over me. I took my camera and captured that simple experience.

 

Funny Moments

Sometimes photographing in popular locations yields quite funny pictures.

I was photographing in Carrizo Plains in California. A couple ventured into the flower field as I was taking a series of timed exposures to be used for time stacking later.

I knew they will have no impact on the final image. But when they noticed me they started crouching. Not sure if it would really help were I taking a single exposure but it made for quite funny image.

I waved them that they were not creating any problems for me and yelled “Thanks”. And they happily proceeded to take pictures they wanted.

The final image I was after:

Addiction to contradiction

Is it me only or is everyone of us have addiction to contradiction? Snow in summer. Water in a desert. Line tree on otherwise bare hills. Clearing in a forest. Yellow flower in a meadow of blue flowers. It is all so fascinating.

Spring is Here

Finally, I’m done with processing my photos from my winter trip to Canadian Rockies. And all of a sudden spring arrived to Seattle. This means it is time for photographing cherry blossom. One of the most popular places for cherry blossom in Seattle is UW Quad. During weekend of nice weather the place is packed.

I typically go there early in the morning, somewhere around 6am. It is more deserted and with street lights it looks more interesting.

I noticed though that with each year more and more photographers come early too. On Saturday there were 20 photographers, on Sunday – 30. With tripods standing, bags lying on the ground and photographers walking around it becomes quite a challenge to have a clean photo. Well, it seems coming even earlier and on workday, I still can have the place to myself.

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Rhododendrons or Not?

Recently I went with a fellow photographers to photograph rhododendrons which are common on eastern hills of Olympic mountains. We were hoping for fog to have a good separation of rhododendron bushes from trees in background.

There was fog but not where we needed it. The only option left was to use shallow depth of field. My fixed 50mm lens got second life. I had not used it for a while but it was most appropriate in that case since it had the widest aperture of all my lenses.

Rhododendron
Rhododendron

The other options was to let it blend with with forest, make it part of it.

Spring Green
Spring Green

Did I mention there was fog but not where we needed it? Well, we ended up spending most of the time photographing that fog that was somewhere else:

Fog Over Lowlands
Fog Over Lowlands

Fog Over Puget Sound
Fog Over Puget Sound

Freeway Poppies

California poppies can be found in Western Washington only along roads. I’ve spotted one of such places along one of freeways while driving my son to gymnastics. The hills was burning orange covered with poppies.

The next morning I woke up a little bit earlier to get to that hill and photograph poppies before work. I parked the car at the nearest parking lot next to a store and walked to that hill. The poppies were as good as the day before – an island of the Nature beauty in the middle of a city.

So, there I was, lying on a ground photographing poppies with cars passing by at a high speed. Here are a few photos I took:

Flower Hill

As I wrote in my previous post (Good Night, Ladybug) there is a hill close to my house that has various wild flowers blooming every year. Here are a couple more photos that I took at that hill recently.

Good Night, Ladybug

I love the place where I live. There is a hillside not far from my house that surprises every year with a grand display of various wild flowers.

It changes every year. The first year I moved here it was covered with California poppies (well, I’m not in California, I’m in Washington, nevertheless we have occasional California poppies here). The next year it was covered with lupines. The year after that it was red poppies. Then chamomiles. This year it is a mix of various flowers.

I don’t know what’s the secret of this hill but I certainly appreciate the opportunity for close up and macro photography that the nature gives me.

Here is a photo I took at that hill recently just after dusk at twilight. The ladybug settled in chamomile flower for the night and the flower was slowly closing up.

Good Night, Ladybug