Wrong Turn

I usually travel to famous destinations well-known for their spectacular views and enticing subjects. Imagine my surprise, upon taking a wrong turn on my way to a locally famous photography spot, to find a hidden gem just in my backyard. When I set out that morning, I was hoping to capture a typical fall subject: leafy trees turning a glorious red lining a quiet, intimate drive. It was a place I had visited many times in the past, and had already stopped by multiple times this season, hoping that the colors would be at their peak brilliance. It’s a beautiful place, don’t get me wrong, and it deserves the many visitors that stop by every year to get a snap of it, their cars parked in a line down the street.

But what I found instead was intimate in its own way, a place without photographers jostling to get the perfect angle, a place that isn’t photographed over and over every year. It is just as stunning, and it captures the ephemeral beauty of autumn just as well as my original destination, but most importantly, it was all mine: clear blue sky touched with a light brush stroke of white clouds, trees covered in mid-autumn yellows reflecting in the still, quiet water in the pond, occasional ripples running across the water and playing with the reflection to create a dream-like view that I had only seen in pictures from far away places.

Somewhere far in the distance, through the wall of trees, I could still hear the noise of the city, the rumble of traffic speeding down freeway, but it all seemed so distant, so surreal. It did not belong in this oasis of quiet and solitude. Rather the sounds of singing birds that had not left for the winter yet, the splashing of water disturbed by the ducks landing or taking off, the quiet whispering of leaves as the easy breeze rustled through the forest belonged here.

There was incredible stillness to the whole scene as if I had walked into a painting, my presence disturbing it and putting it into motion. It had been here all along enticing passerby with its beauty, rejoicing at capturing my attention as I was looking at it and appreciating it. Awestruck for a moment, I just stood there taking it all in before the magic disappeared. Nature was patient with me. It did not disappear. It stayed. It waited. Until I was ready to capture it not only with my eyes but with my camera too.

Pictures taken, I sat on the bank of the pond in the warm autumn sun, breathing in the refreshingly crisp autumn air filled with the sour scent of dry grass and the honey-sweet scent of fallen leaves, thinking about how easy it is to get into the habit of walking the same paths, going to the same well-known locations, photographing known scenes. It offers a sense of comfort and security knowing that I’d definitely get some good images there and if not, it would only be weather conditions to blame: no spectacular light, no sunrise, no sunset. Getting off the beaten path is unpredictable, unknown, and quite frankly scary – there might be nothing worth photographing there. But visiting the same place over and over makes photographs predictable and does not challenge me to grow as a photographer.

P.S. My writing and photography lately has been influenced by my girlfriend who gives me constant support while challenging me to do things differently including this post where she challenged me to write better and gave me some invaluable lessons in language arts.

My Backyard

Life is full of experiences, exciting and mundane, surprising and routine, spending time with loved ones and grocery shopping and paying bills. It is not always that I can find time to go on a trip to some exciting location.

I dream. I dream a lot. I dream big. I dream of a life in a wilderness, photographing, painting, being creative all the time. But…

To be honest, as much as much as the dream of being in the wilderness all the time seems to be attractive it is not all that makes me happy. Having someone I love and who loves me back fulfills my life with happiness that I cannot draw from the wilderness. All the exciting and quiet moments shared together fill me with joy.

To be honest, as much as I want to photograph all the time, I have a limit to my creativity. After the first few active days on a trip I find myself exhausted and numb to everything around me.

To be honest, if I truly want to be creative, all I need is to take my camera and step out into my own backyard. Because that is all it takes to find this…

The First Mile

How often do we pass on opportunities to make photos because we are so busy with routine every day motions of our lives? Trip planning and preparation requires a lot of effort and thus does not happen often. But photography is not about trips to exciting destinations, it is about taking a camera in your hands and stepping out of the door.

For a couple evenings now I’ve visited a park that is within a couple miles from my home. There was not much there to see except grass dried out by relentless summer sun and an open view of sunset.

So, I’ve photographed the grass at sunset. And as I got a taste of it I started noticing grass details that would work nicely with the sunset. I ended up with a series of photos I’m very excited about.

New View in Familiar Place

I return to the Palouse over and over. I love it. It make me feel at peace. I like to sit at the top of Steptoe Butte and follow the lines of the hills in a rhythmic pattern. Up and down, up and down. It has meditative quality.

And each visit I find new a new scenes. Sometimes along the roads that I travelled many times. The color of fields, the light, the clouds, the patterns – all change, all the time.

And sometimes it is simply taking a look in a different direction. Like in this case. I drove this road many times but always in the opposite direction and had never seen this tranquil scene up until now.

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.

Facing the Sun, Facing the Wind

(Continueing from my previous post.)

On the way back from Columbia Gorge I stopped along the road at Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge. Something caught my eye as I was passing by. Ponds of still water reflecting clouds. I stopped by and decided to stay there till sunset.

I was standing at the edge of a pond waiting for the sunset. My camera was on a tripod next to me waiting for the sunset. Wind was blowing in my face as I looked at the sun approaching the horizon. It was as simple of an experience as possible. And it was beautifully satisfying.

I standed there for an hour, just being there, experiencing it with every sense of my body, recording it in my memory in all its rich beauty. Because that’s what my life is all about.

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.