Bodies of water provide a variety of opportunities for layering.
I could have chosen any of my favorite locations in Oregon as my happy place, or a footpath in England, or the wondrous rock landscapes of the American Southwest, or…
But I selected these pictures from Yellowstone, which is the oldest of these many places I’m fortunate to have, and also the dearest, as it was the first long trip I made with my wife (she’d also claim it as a happy place). It’s a landscape like no other, where nature and imagination create memories and images side-by-side.
Of course, given only one place, that would be home, where everything begins.
What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner. —Colette
A pine forest on a foggy morning in Yellowstone, taken a few years after the wildfires of 1988 changed the landscape.
Summer isn’t usually prime time for poring over stacks of transparencies on a lightbox, feeding the survivors one-by-one through a Nikon Coolscan, and then painstakingly developing the resulting digital files before archiving them onto a hard disk, all-the-while wondering why am I doing this? Listening to Pandora® doesn’t help this effort very much, nor does the warm sunshine teasing behind the window shade. “Why are you sitting at a desk? Why don’t you come out and play?”
But that’s exactly the project I’ve started this week. Four deep drawers, crammed with plastic slide pages, the thumb drives of their day. Except for a road trip in late September, I’m happily planted at home this summer. And I enjoy revisiting the places and moments I collected on film between 1971 and 2004. Surprises are an inherent part of that.
I can tell you, though, nothing tops dusty, scratched slides for reminding you how fragile things are (never mind film emulsions). How quickly days and years disappear. Have disappeared.
Today’s picture came to me during a short hike in a forest east of town, where the Cascade foothills begin to take their elevation seriously. The day was bright, except for pockets of drifting fog. And there were remnants of that morning’s frost lingering in shadows the sunshine hadn’t touched. At the end of a short dotted line on my BLM map I got out of my truck, grabbed my gear, and wandered into the scene. Ferns drooped everywhere, heavy with moisture. The sun seemed very close, just out of reach behind a bright gauzy curtain. I had the impression of peering from a balcony onto a broad stage as the hillside dropped steeply away, invisible in the fog. In the short hushed moments I walked there I also sensed that this was a private rehearsal, for an audience of one.
I’ve stood near my neighbor’s Ponderosa pine tens of thousands of times—it’s close to our mailbox, on the other side of his fence. Over the years I’ve taken photos of this mature tree in a variety of weather, but never—until the other day—been satisfied with my effort.
For one, the background is a clutter of falling-down fence, outbuildings, and (in another neighbor’s yard) a number of vehicles. And the pine itself is somewhat awkward, its fat limbs spaced irregularly and draped with moss in varying lengths. But on this day, to my eye, everything lined up—morning’s shadows hid any background flaws, the moss came alive in the first light of the day, and sun rays slanted through a thin fog hanging precariously in the distant fir trees. Whether that last aspect was my missing element or not, I’ve finally made my photographic peace with the Ponderosa.
“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity…and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.” —William Blake