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.

Just Do It

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.

Freezing Temperatures

Pacific Nortwest of the US rarely experiences freezing temperatures in low elevations making for more exciting winter photography.

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It has been my long time dream to go out to Olympic coast around winter solstice. The sun is at the lowest point of the year making shadows longer whole day. Unfortunately with all the holidays preparation I hardly could get out and photograph during this time of a year.

This year I could finally get out and photograph. I was hoping for heavy clouds, moody skies typical here this time of the year. Instead it was kind of like summer: clear blue sky; the sun shining bright. The only difference was that it was very cold and I needed layers of clothing to keep myself warm.

Such conditions made images including lots of sky quite boring. At the same time the temperature dropped below zero which made it a good time to visit some old favorite places and see them in the new way.

Fascination with Lofoten

I’ve spent 3 amazing days in Lofoten and I fell in love with it. It is a chain of islands in Norway above arctic circle connected by bridges and tunnels.

I had such a misconception from my childhood about life above arctic circle. I imagined Lofoten to be ice and snow, and rock not covered by ice and snow, devoid of life.

It turned to be something completely different. Lofoten was vibrant and lively with green grass, blue sky, sunshine, white sand beaches, emerald ocean and mild temperatures. It was not even nearly as cold as I imagined it. I found it hard to believe I was above arctic circle.

I wanted to stop and touch every tree, touch the grass, the sand and water. It was so far from what I expected that it felt surreal, science fiction. I had to touch it all to check that it was real and not a figment of my imagination.

Sitting in the car watching ripples of water run up and down while sandy beach made me feel like I’m in Hawaii. It was a bit colder than Hawaii when I was getting out of the car. 🙂

You know what was even more surreal? Having no night. It was a beginning of arctic summer, when the sun shines round the clock. It was surreal to hike at midnight and have daylight.

Driving thru the small towns at “night” felt eerie. It was bright as day but there were no people, no movement. It was like in science fiction or horror movies when you wake up one day and all the humanity is gone.

There is so much to photograph there: snow capped mountains, waterfalls, ocean, sandy beaches, rocky beaches, mountain rivers, green meadow, lakes, tiny islands. And best of all I could hike pretty much everywhere. There is very little private land. I spotted a waterfall up the mountain while driving, I just stopped where I could and went up. This was such an enjoyment to roam the land, to wonder around.

There was a payback for all that “night” travel as I was red eyed from lack of sleep but it was totally worth it. If you’ve never been above arctic circle in summer, make sure it is on your “bucket list”.

Emotional connection

How do I judge which of my photos are good? The answer dawned on me on my recent hike.

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Whenever I drive a highway with a forest all around it I always wonder what it would be like to step into it. The forest seems magical. Just one step and I would be in a place not touched by human, filled with beauty waiting to be captured in images.

Lately this urge makes me walk new hikes randomly picking one without knowing where it leads. I’m looking for a sense of exploration and discovery. And yet walking those trails had not given me as much satisfaction as I expected.

What else could I try? How about stepping off a trail? That was what I did on the last hike. I was walking contemplating the above when I realized I was beating with my boots the same path that many people before me had walked. Then I stepped off the trail.

Now in hard to walk northwest forest I really felt like an explorer. And it was magical. I heard a noise of a water stream giving life to the forest. I followed the sound of it from a tree to a tree trying to find it. When I found it I walked along trying to see where it went until I reached a cliff below which the stream disappeared.

On the way back along the stream I found this nice and cozy spot which I really liked. As I considered making a photo of it my first thought was that there would be nothing special about this image. That was the moment when it dawned on me that impressing others with my photos had become a measure of how good a photo was for me. And that was not very satisfying after some time. Feeling emotional connection to the place I photograph would be much more satisfying.

Entanglement
Entanglement

Ask Locals

To Dmitri and Marina: Thanks to you guys for pointing some beautiful places in Banff.

On my trip to Alberta I met my friends Dmitri and Marina who live in Calgary. First, we met in Banff where they were celebrating 25th Anniversary of their marriage. They suggested to me a few places to see in and around Banff.

On of those places was Johnson Canyon. It sounded interesting and I went there. It is a small canyon with a stream running at the bottom. The trail is well-setup and quite active with hikers. There is a guard rail that keeps hikers of falling into canyon. For me it was an obstruction. I did not want to look at the bottom of the canyon from a distance. I’d rather be down in the canyon, close by water, to be participant not observer, to be in the scene and be part of it.

My only photo from the first trip was a photo of frozen lower waterfall:

A few days later I visited my friends at their lovely home. Sure enough we shared some photos. It turned out they went to Johnson Canyon too the next day after me. It looked to me like they were photographing close to water, just like I wanted too. I asked how they got their and they told me that there was one spot where one could climb over guard rail and get down to the bottom of the canyon.

The next day I went to Johnson Canyon again. That time I was closely watching over the guard rail for footprints in the snow and I found the spot my friends had talked about. The walk down was very steep but manageable. At the bottom I found a throve of photo opportunities. There was a small cave covered with icicles, there was clear snow not covered in footprints, , there was a stream in the snow.

Unexpected Happens

Photographing the same place again and again is like visiting an old friend.

A couple of weekends ago I went to Olympic Coast for 3 day photographic trip. I decided to start this year with visiting my old friend: Second Beach. By far it is my favorite beach for photography. There are so many different opportunities there.

While driving there I noticed something else that caught my eye: an amazingly saturated greenery of fresh spring leaves. It was amazing. The result was that I spent most of the day time during those three days in a forest.

Now let me welcome you to Olympic Peninsular forest in spring.

Enchantment Lakes [15]

Day 4. Midday Light

Midday light was steep and harsh with clear sky. The previous day we spent midday resting. The last day before heading back I went back to the area between Leprechaun Lake and Perfection Lake. The day before I liked the stream and a line of larch needles along it but in afternoon light it was cut in half by a shadow of a mountain on the left. So, I returned there midday to avoid any shadows. 

_MG_1985

It was interesting from technical perspective as I used focus point “bracketing” to get everything sharp throughout the image.

Enchantment Lakes [10]

Day 3. Morning

Sunrise is always tricky in the mountains. From our camp Prusik Peak was blocking our view toward sunrise which made it hard to make out how close sunrise was.

Josh and I took off back toward Leprechaun Lake while John stayed to photograph near the camp. Once Josh and I got out of Prusik Peak shadow we saw the sky burning red. It meant that we took off too late. Walking turned into running, trying to get to the area between Perfection Lake and Leprechaun Lake which was the only one opened to sunrise.

We did not get there in time to photograph sunrise but we got there in time to catch the first rays of son shaving the tops of the larches.

Enchantment Lakes [2]

Day 1. Snow Lake

Fill the bottles with water. Put up backpack on. Drink as much water as possible. First step on the trail. What an exciting moment. Next step. And next. Just keep moving.

The first day of trip it was walking most of the day. We had occasional stops for water refill from a creek, sometimes for a photo opportunity (so to speak, more likely just to catch some breath). For breakfast, lunch and whenever hungry we were we only had energy bars.

Here is a creek we took water from and one of the photo opportunities we stopped for:

This way we got to Upper Snow Lake. It was not Enchantment Lakes yet. It was at the base or a steep part of the trail to Enchantment Lakes. I still had some energy to go but my friend decided to camp. Next day I learned that it was a very wise decision.

There was a lot of shrubbery turning yellow around our camp. Once the camp was settled I grabbed my camera and started working around searching for photographs. Here is one I consider most interesting out of those: