Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Expecting Guests

Our dining room tends to be my “staging area” for my many gear-oriented activities, and, because we had guests coming over for dinner last weekend,  I decided that I should clear my multiple cameras and bags off the dining room table and get my backpack and related outdoor equipment off the dining room floor.

I’d done a professional shoot one day last week, come home from that job late that night, then left on a hike early the next morning. When the day came that Leah and I would be entertaining our friends, gear from both trips was strewn about the dining room. Had you seen the chaos of clutter I had amassed in that room, you’d understand that my cleanup project was going to take some time.

The clock was ticking on me.

Very early in my work, however,  I got distracted.  I glanced out the dining room window and saw that our witch hazel plant was blooming just outside in the blue-toned,  early morning light.  I noticed too that the dining room lights were reflected in the window glass, and those lights were very warm in color.  The “PHOTO OPPORTUNITY” light glowed brightly in my brain.  There were visual elements here that I could work with.

“How convenient,”  I thought. “All the gear I might need to make this image is right here -- somewhere -- on the dining room table.”  I felt like a surgeon in an operating room must feel, the various tools of his craft spread out before him. I put up my tripod, hunted around for and found the right lens, and had my image made, all before the chef for that night’s meal caught me goofing off.

And yes, the dining room was House-Beautiful-perfect by the time the guests arrived.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Being There

A friend and I went on a snowshoe trip in the North Cascades one day last week, and we walked through such an amazing landscape -- I'm remembering now the newly-fallen snow we traveled through; and the way there was a bit of mist and fog that came and went throughout the day; and the quality of light that I saw -- that I spent much of that hike talking to my photographer self, out-loud: “Oh my. Oh my.”

I made hundreds of images that day, but often, in spite my best photographic efforts, I felt like what I shot was am unworthy representation of what I was seeing and experiencing. 

You just kind of had to be there.  And -- though it feels silly to “rank” such things -- last Wednesday might have been one of the top five or 10 days, visually, that I have spent in the mountains in the  nearly 40 years I have lived in Washington state.

Oh my, oh my, oh my.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Think Snow!

Most of the friends I hike with these days were colleagues during the years I worked as a photographer at the morning newspaper in Seattle.  My hiking partners were reporters and editors who not only know a lot about the politics,  economy, and culture of Washington and the Pacific Northwest, my friends care about these things as well.

My friends are aware, for example, that the agricultural lifeblood of farmers and ranchers in Central and Eastern Washington is WATER. You can’t grow apples or grapes or hops in the summer in that sunny and dry region without irrigation. And irrigation in summer is largely dependent on one thing: Snow in our mountains in winter.

As we hike, my friends and I are not seeing nearly the amount of snow we should be at this time of year, and this worries us.  Even our most enjoyable days out hiking and peak-viewing are tempered by the concern we have that, at this point at least, there isn’t enough snow to melt during the spring to fill reservoirs that provide water for agricultural irrigation.

We had good snow in our mountains in late fall, but we've had very little since then. The ski areas opened, then closed. Ice and snow along creeks is already melting. The trees in the mountains are not wearing their coats of winter white. On one recent hike,  I made a number of pictures that might look nice: Snowmelt, rushing in Eightmile Creek; a full moon rising in a cloudless sky. Unfortunately, melting snow and ice,  bare trees, and clear, not-stormy skies are not what we need here.

While folks in the eastern half of the country are suffering this week with too much cold and snow, we here in the Pacific Northwest would love to have more of the white stuff.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Brain Drain

We rented a big pile of movies on DVD during the holidays (“Moonrise Kingdom” was voted Best Picture by the Motion Picture Academy, Kurt Division)  and the one-photograph, one-and-a-half paragraph post I’m doing today shows pretty succinctly what Christmas and New Years looked like at our house: Humans in jammies (dog, not so much,) camped out on the couch near the warm wood stove for the better part of two weeks, eyes and minds melded into TV screen.

Truth be told, this week, post-holidays, it's kind of hard to un-veg, get back to Reality,  and move forward with life off-the-couch.