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.

Backlog

Finally, finally, I caught up on the backlog of images I had not processed over the past year. I have no backlog now. Hopefully, I will keep it that way.

With that said, here are a few paths I have taken over the past year.

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:

Spring Time in Carrizo

I lost myself in the sea of flowers.
I closed my eyes
        to let other senses enjoy the scene.

The warm touch of the sun.
The gentle caressing of the breeze.
The soft singing of the birds.
The sweet scent of the spring.

I stood in the sea of flowers in silence.
I wanted to take it all in.
Until I lost myself in the sea of flowers.
Until I became a part of it.

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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.

Last Ray

I had quite an interesting dialog with my seven year old son about this photo.

Adrian: Dad how did you get to capture the last ray of the Sun on the flowers.

Me: It is not a sun ray. I used flashlight to highlight the flowers as if the Sun was lighting them up.

Adrian: Cheater. It is not a real landscape. Nobody is going to buy it. People like real landscapes.

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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New eyes

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
Marcel Proust

Have I been to Mount Rainier National Park many times? Sure, I have. It is the closest national park to my home. Have I got a lot of photos from Mount Rainier National Park that I’m proud of? Nope. After all the trips I still did not have emotional connection with that place. The photos, while technically ok, were lacking emotions, strong graphics, or something interesting happening to me. As a result I thought Mount Rainier landscape was just not for me and have not visited it for a long time. Until recently.

Recently a group of three local photographers – Andrey Cherepakhin, John Song and Protik Hossain – lured me to go to Rainier again. They had specific places in mind which I have not visited before. I went along. And I’m glad I did.

Was the trick in having new eyes or was it in visiting places off a beaten path? I don’t know. One of those or both did the trick. Finally, I got photos that are beyond high quality snapshots and capture some emotional scenes of Mount Rainier.

PS At first I stopped typing here and just added photos below. Then I thought it would be worthwhile sharing what I liked about each of them.

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Summer Light and Pattern in a Chaos. I like summer feel of this photo. It was taken “into the sun”, bringing out a lot of green in the grass and lighting up the flowers. I like the contrast between light in the meadow and darkness in the trees. I like V-shape of two slopes. I like how seemingly random while flowers see to be in inverted V shape that draws you into the picture, gives it depth and perspective.

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Light and Shapes. Obviously the reflection is nice in absolutely still water. But what I really like in this photo is the light of the sun right before sunset caught in a sheet of ice floating in the water. The other thing that I like is that the shape of the highlighted piece of ice repeats the shape of Rainier in background.

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Light, Cloud and Frame. The cloud sitting on the top of Rainier, lit up by sunrise is an obvious thing that I like about this photo. The other two are how the mountain is framed by the tree on the left and the tree on the right and how flowers lead to the mountain.

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Shape and Curve. Rock formation on the right and the mountain make up one large curve.

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Leading line. The trail is strongly visible in the right bottom corner of the image continues later closer the center of the image, leading to Tatoosh Range in the distance.

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Layers. There are many layers in this photo on different levels. First, foreground – rock and flowers, middle ground – rocks, stream and snow, mountain and sky in background. Second, half in shadow, half in light. Third, interleaving layers of light snow and dark rocks.

And of cause the cloud lit up from inside is great!

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Mood. Reflection and Clouds. I like reflection of the mountain among the rocks. The cloud around the mountain grew in size to fill up the sky while still keeping the circles around the mountain.

And I like the tough mood of the high elevation landscape. The unrest in the sky. The anticipation of cold fall ahead. A reminder that the summer was almost over.

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Mood. This photo reminds me the kind of photos I see from Iceland. Dramatic heavy skies and flat light. Tough climate creates tough landscape be it Iceland or this small oasis at Mt Rainier.

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Emotions and Light. I like this photo for the same dramatic skies combined with a tenderness of flowers and a island of light breaking thru the clouds.

Opportunity Gone

That’s interesting how sometimes we underestimate the changes that happen around us.

A while ago I took this photo near Reflection Lake at Mount Rainier. It is not as good technically as I’d like, or at least not up to my current more experienced standards of execution. But now nothing like this can be done.

This year I went to this spot again and found that the road near the lake has been widened and rocks have been places on a side of the road close to the lake and the place where this photo was taken was gone.

Suddenly not very original photo turned into the one that cannot be repeated again. Life is a curious thing.

By Reflection Lake
By Reflection Lake