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.
Pick a leaf. Any leaf. Hanging on a tree or lying on a ground, flying in the distance or caught in a spider web.
What’s so special about it? It is unique!
There is no other leaf in the whole universe exactly like that. Just think about it. You’re holding something so remarkable, so special, so singular. It can be enjoyed only by you. No one else can enjoy it, not now, not ever before and not ever after. Isn’t it amazing?
Look at it. It is so precious, so fragile, unaware of its own importance.
What is it doing here? What’s its story? Where did it come from? Did it come from a big or a small tree? Did the other trees like it or not? How that tree changed the soil it grew in? How much sunlight did it enjoyed?… Suddenly, there is a whole story woven around that single leaf, a whole universe is built around it.
It could be that single leaf you’re holding in your hand is the reason for the universe to exist. It could be a pinnacle of creation.
It is just for you to enjoy. In all its simplicity. In all its complexity.
There are many different things demanding our attention in this modern world we live in. We have to chose many times a day what to let in and what to leave out. I’ve chosen to contemplate a leaf. A leaf I found. My unique leaf. And the universe around it.
My excuse to mostly travel by car is “to stop and photograph along the way”. I know it is only an excuse though because once I get on the road I keep going without stopping all the way to the destination.
One reason I don’t stop along the way is because I’m putting my tunnel vision goggles on. I’m imagining the photographs I’ll do at the destination and want to get there as fast as possible.
Another reason which is much deeper and scarier is that I’m afraid to fail. I mean I can stop somewhere and there would be nothing to photograph. No, that’s not the right way to say it. There is always something to photograph. But there would be nothing that I’d like to photograph, there would be nothing that connects with me, nothing that relates to me. And I would be just wasting my time.
It takes an effort – it still does and likely will always do – to overcome that and force myself to stop at random places. Sure in 99.99% of cases I don’t find anything that would meet my eye. But then in that very small percentage point I’d find something like this and my heart starts to sing.
Sometimes plans change and I’m glad about it.
My plan for the last weekend was to drive around and capture the last signs of fall. I planned to spend first day near Leavenworth. On the second day I planned to go to The Boardman Tree Farm in Oregon. I had never been there and wanted to take a look after seeing some amazing photos from there. After visiting the tree farm I going going to drive down to Columbia Gorge the same day and spend two days photographing along Columbia Gorge.
Everything had been going according to the plan up to the point I got to The Boardman Tree Farm. The place was simply amazing, magical in its fall glory. I did not want to go anywhere. Lines of trees with fall colors, scent of foliage in the air, quite and peace of a forest. I did not want to go anywhere. I was photographing and photographing and photographing. And when I was tired and could not photograph anymore I would just stand still and be part of the forest.
With better and better sensor technology and better software for HDR processing we can capture an incredible dynamic range in our images where we have an incredible details in highlights and in shadows.
Would photographers of the past be amazed with amount of details we can capture? Maybe. But I really miss silhouetted photos that have become such a rarity. They reveal very little leaving a lot of room for imagination.
The photo can be not about what is said but about what is not said, or to be more accurate about what is not shown and not about what is shown. It can be about mystery left in the shadows.
There are good images. There are bad images. And then there are images with which I feel emotional connection.
Last fall I was photographing fall foliage in Tumwater Canyon near Leavenworth. I was out for two days, photographing in rain and wind, photographing water and leaves, clouds and rocks. On the last day before going back home I went on a hike up the wall of a canyon. That’s where I found scenes with which I felt emotional connection like with no other. It was a very special feeling that brought me inexplicable joy, the feeling of revelation.
. . .
It takes me long time to process images. It helps doing it a while after making them. Over time the feeling of being there wears off and I’m able to look at images more critically. I’ve just came by the images those images that brought me so much joy back there in the woods near Leavenworth. As soon as I saw them something inside me immediately clicked again.
I look at them and hear music, music of color, tone and form. One note transitions to another like one soft color transitions to another. I’d like glide this waves of color following tender curves of leaves over and over.
There is an old joke that a human being can look indefinitely at three things: fire burning, water running and another human being working. I whole heartedly agree with each of those. Today’s post is about the second one. That’s why every spring I run around looking at waterfalls.
Especially in spring when the snow is melting in the mounting filling waterfalls with water making them more powerful. Most of all I love water running thru a forest making a new path for itself. There is something raw and uncontrollable about this.
I like photographing water because it changes its face constantly. No two image of the same place can be the same. I can take image after image and each of them is different. It keeps changing direction as a long body of an animal.
Playing with shutter speed from powerful streaks during short shutter to silky smooth during long shutter creates even more different images.
Here is a selection of images from last spring.
Good images like good wine need time to age. This images have been parked parked on my hard drive for two months. I’ve been coming back to them slowly processing and reprocessing them. They were taken along highway 2 in Washington state near small town Leavenworth.
The fall foliage is beautiful there. This is probably the most beautiful and most popular place in Washington for fall foliage.
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
Bush on Fire
Due Drops Caught in a Web
Simple Yellow on Red
Lying on the Ground Looking Into Sunny Sky
Rick Sammon likes to say “Don’t just take photos, make photos”. It is a great advice. And the photo in this post is a great example of that.
I had photographed this tree a few days before and came back to Kubota Gardens that day with a single goal to make more interesting picture of this tree. I got “inside” the tree. It was cozy and warm inside under the canopy of red and yellow leaves. I started with the same kind of photos at before. They were typical photos of branches with fall leaves.
Then I noticed a single leaf caught in the middle of a tree where many branches were coming out from the main trunk. Now, that was interesting. I took a few photos.
The single leaf did not really stand out it was blending in with the branches. There was a simple solution to that. I grabbed a bunch of leaves that were already on the ground and dropped on top of the single leaf. Now they had a party.
I took a few images again. It was nice but it was plain. The image of something mystical started brewing in my head. What if I make an image of a Heart of Autumn. The heart of autumn would be glowing. And a flash light could help with that.
Fortunately, I had a powerful spot light in my car (well, I always have several flashlight in my car). I overcame my laziness and packed my gear, went back to the car, grabbed the spotlight and went back to the tree.
Now I was shooting with a spot light. It took a few iterations to get light spot right in the middle of the pile of leaves. I still did not feel like I got it. The leaves in the background were as bright as those I was lighting up. it did not feel like leaves at the heart of the tree were glowing. The solution was to make reduce overall exposure of the image, while get more light on the leaves that I wanted to glow.
The end result:
Heart of Autumn