Photographic trip does not have to be all about art. It can also be fun.
I’ve just returned from a trip to the Death Valley where I spent several days with a photographer friend photographing at various locations around the valley. It involved a lot of driving and hiking and of course photography. We woke up before sunrise and hiked in the dark to a location to photograph at sunrise every day. We drove quite a bit to remote locations where we photographed sunset, then drove back in the dark.
It sounds very tiresome but it was not because we’d have fun playing photographic jokes on each other, taking silly pictures, sharing and laughing at them. Photographic trip does not have to be all about art. It can also be fun.
Two things inspire me. I’m inspired by great images. But I’m inspired even more by people who go out and make images: no matter the conditions, no matter the mood, no matter anything. This persistence makes me do the same: go out and photograph.
Originally I wanted to write about going back to my old friend – Second Beach in Olympic National Park. When I went there a week ago I expected winter like conditions: overcast, heavy clouds. Instead it was summer like: sunny and clear sky. I’m not very fond of clear sky. It is a lot of empty blueness – boring.
Then I told myself: just do it. Take a camera and make the best images you can from the material you’re presented.
Are you like me and take a camera equipment with you on a family vacation? And I don’t mean a small camera for family snapshots. I mean large tripod and backpack full of lenses, filters and big camera. Even if for a moment, even for a little bit I want to enjoy the new place thru a viewfinder.
I’ve just come back from a trip with my son to Hawaii. There is not mucch opportunity for photography with a 10 year old who does not like hiking. Fortunately, our hotel location in Kauai happened to be picturesque. I did not need to wonder far away for a sunrise, just sneak out of the hotel grounds.
The main destination of my recent trip to Alberta, Canada was Abraham Lake. The reason Abraham Lake is so attractive to photographer in winter is because of unique phenomenon of frozen bubbles. While the lake freezes up in winter plants at the bottom of the lake produce methane gasses that come up to the ice and stay there frozen in ice while ice keeps growing downward. This creates fantastic surreal tri-dimensional structures in the ice sheet that covers the lake. There is also a persistent strong wind running thru the valley where the lake is located keeping ice clean of any snow. And the last but not least feature of this lake is winter is that it is artificial lake as the water is slowly drained from the lake in winter the ice cracks under its own weight.
It was quite scary standing on the ice when it cracks. The sounds of it ranged from a pitch high as if a guitar string was torn to a loud boom. The ice was very clean making me feel sometimes as if I was standing on water. And while consciously I understood there is thick ice under me, the sound of cracking ice made my subconscious scream RUN. So far subconscious was on a losing side.
The end of January when I went there turned out unusually warm there with temperatures rising up to 15C making ice melt at the top and thin ice walls separating layers of bubbles were melting away the fastest. On the second day of being at Abraham Lake I witnessed one of the photographers falling thru the ice while standing one one of the spots with high concentration of frozen bubbles. Fortunately, he did not fall of the way thru and was able to get out before anyone of the people rushing to help him (including me) were able to get to him. The whole incident seemed to be forgotten rather quickly. Even the photographer who fell actually staying on the ice and continuing to take pictures even in partially wet clothes.
But it scared me enough that I decided not to go on ice anymore. So, I set off to explore areas around Abraham Lake and find some other interesting spots to photograph. It proven a hard task. The warm temperatures melted most of the snow leaving the ground bare and unappealing to me. Yet I was stopping my car at any parking spot or trailhead, walking out and looking for opportunities. One of such spots was near river bed. It had been probably quite wild river in spring and summer. In winter it was lots of crumbled ice sheets lying on the ground. I thought I might be able to find a line in the ice cracks that would lead to the mountains in the distance.
While searching for that composition I saw a moon rising above the mountains. On a whim took a picture of it. I took only one picture. It was unusual for me. Typically, I work thru composition taking lots of images until I feel like I cannot get it any better. This time I just felt the image was ok not no more than that. Only when I was editing images from the trip at home I saw that image and thought it was beautiful. There are so many elements that work together and yet there is simplicity in it which attracts me.
Moonrise over Canadian Rockies
There was something new in the way I photographed Second Beach this last time which was different fro previous times. Many photographs are very minimalistic with vast open spaces of sky and ocean. I’m wondering if that an influence of Michael Kenna’s and John Paul Caponigro’s work.
Patience is a virtue for landscape photographer. Waiting for the right weather, for the right light takes indefinite amount of time.
In Olympics when it rains it pours. But it can stop as suddenly as it starts. This is my favorite time to photograph as I get great cloudy sky. All I need is a bit of patience.
On my second day of the last trip to Olympic Peninsula I woke up to a pouring rain. Well, what could I do about that? Nothing, really nothing. What I can do is to read a book or a magazine. And that’s what I did. I was sitting in a car in a pouring rain reading thru a recent issue of Lenswork. Once I was done with it I moved onto a photography book.
By the noon the rain stopped. I got out of the car put on my backpack and headed to Second Beach. I was rewarded with great skies. Just the kind I like.
The first week of this September this year my family and friends went to Pacific Coast of Olympic Peninsula. We went to First Beach, Second Beach and Rialto Beach. We had a lot of fun. My son as always was heading numerous construction projects on the beaches or maintaining fire. And I as always used any time available to do some photography.
This time there were no breathtaking sunsets, no amazing colors but there were spectacular clouds, textures, reflections. Sounds like a good opportunity for black-and-white photography.
I’m mostly doing color photography nowadays but whenever I try converting some of my photos to black-and-white they still look great. Which leads me to thinking that color can add something to a photo but it cannot make a photo. The photo should be strong even without color. Color is just an icing on a cake.
Other times the color is weak, or unpleasant, or destructive. Like on this trip the color was boring, it was not adding anything to photographs. And sometimes it was unpleasant yellowish color on the clouds that I did not like. Thus I was completely focused on making black-and-white photography.
Day 5, Dawn
At night dunes are filled with animal sounds. By the morning there are lots of signs of creatures’ night life – all kind of tracks in the dunes.
Day 5, Dawn
In lowlands between dunes you can find solid pressed fine grained sand. I always start working with a subject from far a way, since once I get closer I won’t be able to erase my tracks in case I want to step back. So, I started by photographing one of these islands as a part of landscape, then I got closer.
First that caught my eye, as I got close to it, was little domes and shadows around them. It looks like they were pieces in large puzzle. I tried to photograph those domes but photos ended up borings with a piece straight in the middle. I tried to shift them off center in my frame. That was when I realized that the really interesting thing in that puzzle were cracks in between the pieces.
Day 4, Dusk
At night dunes are calm and quiet. But as sun rises strong winds start moving sands. Dunes become violent and unpredictable.
Today I went into dunes for sunset. There was little to no wind at first then within a few minutes wind became very strong. It was not only moving dust, it was moving sand.
Would you want your skin be polished with sand paper? That’s how it felt standing in that sand storm. I had to hide behind a bush hoping that it will be over soon but it was picking up more and more. As I was standing behind the bush I saw sand settling on camera. I needed to get out.
I was walking backwards toward a road to keep my back against the wind. The fun part in walking backwards was seeing my footsteps disappear right in front of my eyes. The wind and moving send would repair the dune texture within seconds.
Sand Storm. No Visibility