Challenge of One Road

The main part of this blog post was written last September after my trip to the Palouse at the end of August. It took me a while to come back to it to finish it. The idea of challenging myself is still very important to me and the post remains very much relevant.

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Blue sky above with a streak of white clouds passing by, yellow rolling hills covered with a patchwork blanket of fields below and I’m standing a top of a butte floating between those two. Such a familiar landscape. So many times I’ve visited the Palouse, browsed its network of dirt roads raising dust clouds behind me in the air, captured its beauty in many images. And yet I visit it again and again. Its rolling hills are comforting, meditative and relaxing.

All my visits up till last would start at Steptoe Butte. It was my way to greet the Palouse, taking it all in in one sweeping 360 degree view. It was an easily most noticeable landmark in the Palouse, a popular destination for photographers, a place where images are easy to come by. The biggest challenge is to make something new.

Lately I had noticed my photos from the Palouse had become repetitive. I had my favorite spot for sunrise photography. I had my favorite spot for sunset photography. I kept visiting them every time I went to the Palouse. No risks taken. Guaranteed sunrise or sunset image. Just the way I had done many times. To do something new I had to do something different. I had to allow myself to fail. I needed to give myself an opportunity to see sunrise and sunset in different places. That might mean that I would leave without a killer shot but I can instead leave with a sense of exploration and wonder.

That is what I had on my mind during my last visit to the Palouse.

The first morning of the trip I got up early, before the first light of the day to come had started filling the starry sky. It was dark and chilly. Rather than rushing to a familiar sunrise spot in the morning – one of those I had taken pictures at during previous visits. I got into the car, drove out of the town and then turned onto some random dirt road letting the sunrise catch me somewhere unexpected, somewhere where I had not seen sunrise before.

I managed to get a few pictures during sunrise in different places. First one was a barn with a gradient of cold and warm colors of pre-dawn light in the sky. Then the light of the sun that rose just above the horizon barely skimming the tops of the hills with a lonely windmill, with a Steptoe Butte in the background.

After the early morning exploration I got back to the hotel to have a breakfast. During the breakfast another thought came to my mind: Do I have to wander about at random places? What if I explore the same place deeper? What if I challenge myself to find new images in the same place?

So I’ve decided to visit the same route I picked in the morning… Fast forward two days ahead, I drove that route six times during the trip. Each time I found new images, noticed things that had eluded my attention before. It was fascinating to observe how my attention was getting sharper. I would not notice those things without that focused exercise.

Besides seeing new things in already familiar places I had an opportunity to see the same places in different light: see them in the morning, at noon and in the evening; see how they changed. And as I was going to the same place over and over I was giving an opportunity for something special to happen. One time I got to see a man fly-fishing in a shallow creek, another time a tractor was working the field rising a column of dust in the sky. All of it by driving the same route over and over.

The take away from this story is that it does not matter how far or how close we travel, it does not matter if we visit an old place or a new, what matters for a creativity is a state of mind. Setting some specific goals for self-improvement, setting up challenges often helps to do something truly new and rediscover yourself.

Follow Your Heart

When I go on a photographic trip the hardest decision is always picking a destination.

Last week I had a knee surgery (which went quite well and I’m recovering quickly). The weekend before that I was going on a photo trip. I knew it would be a while I’d go again, so the choice was really hard.

The way I often make such decision is first decide whether I want to explore a new place or visit again a place I’ve been too. Once that is over I decide within that group which place to go based on time of the year, weather, etc.

The way I decided this time was simply by following my heart. So, I went to the Palouse. After so many years and so many visits I still love this place.

It’s rolling hills have calming, meditative influence on me. Despite its growing popularity I still have my places where I can be alone. And I keep discovering dirt roads I’ve never visited before.

When I arrived there I realized it was the right choice for me. Calm and peace filled my heart. First day I did not even get the camera out. I was just looking at the hills following their lines in their slow rhythm of a heartbeat.

Snow in the Palouse: Steptoe Butte

The whole area has frozen. My car was the only one on the roads making a new track in fresh snow. After driving around at the bottom of a fog ocean I drove to the top of Steptoe butte. As I were reaching the top I emerged from fog. The whole landscape opened up to my view: it was an  endless sea of clouds with peaks of mountains like islands seen on horizon.

I was overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. Snow sparkling in the sun. Roads disappearing in the fog. Pristine white fields in small openings of white fog.

It was just too much beauty around my senses were exhausted. I was taking photos seemingly random, on instinct. I need it a rest.

Back from the top I dove my submarine back into the ocean of fog. Bitter cold but happy.

Imaginary Worlds

I’m not sure where I picked this up but I was stuck with a thought that Photoshop is bad for photography. as a landscape photographer I should use as little of it as possible. It dawn on me that I was holding myself back from what I craved for a long time. I wanted to create landscapes from my imaginations. I always envied artists who could draw what they saw in their minds, not what they saw with their eyes. So, this summer I started working on a new project “Imaginary Worlds”. In this project I use multiple images to combine into one. I don’t limit my creativity.

The first of the series was in my post a month ago: From Real into Surreal. Though I was not yet conscious at that point about why I was attracted to it and where it was going. This image is the first one where I was consciously working on it as a new project. (click on it to see larger size)

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