Solitary Oak, Robert Taylor

Solitary Oak by Robert Taylor

On a recent Bay Area trip, an unexpected car rental upgrade to a Ford Mustang inspired me to take a Sunday drive south through the vineyards of the Santa Lucia Highlands and Salinas Valley. I then traversed west along the Carmel Valley road (a.k.a. “Driving Heaven”) stopping in Carmel to visit the Weston Gallery and Photography West.

My initial desire was to view some Morley Baer photographs, a “west-coast-style” classic black and white photographer whom I keenly admire. But in Photography West, I was introduced to Robert Taylor. A traditional large-format black and white photographer, Robert’s wonderfully crafted silver gelatin prints reveal well-considered intimate compositions. I was won over, and acquired “Solitary Oak” which, to me, conveys themes of serenity, strength, and individualism.

Robert’s photographic endeavors are regional, seldom venturing more than a 4-hour drive from his home in Mendocino County — an intimate approach to photography that resonates deeply with me. In Robert’s own words:

“For me, as is surely the case for other photographers, certain photographs possess a magical quality about them. The reasons for this allure seem to be both personal and universal. On the personal level, I find myself drawn to themes that have abided in me since childhood, such as a love of nature and a nostalgic view of the passage of time. However, other photographs seem enchanting due to lyrical and emotive qualities inherent in the silver image itself. Subtle qualities of light and tonal nuance seem to charm the psyche regardless of theme or personal preference. The quest for such photographs is at the same time elusive and exhilarating.”

I’d be hard pressed to describe my own photographic pursuits any better.

Palouse Granary

Palouse Granary

My previous Oregon Granary post inspired me to cycle back through images made in 2013 when I spent a few days exploring the Palouse in and around the towns of Walla Walla, Pullman, and Colfax. The weather was frustrating, persistent showers with extended cloud cover and lots of wind. But on the last day the skies brightened and partly cloudy skies added dimension and drama.

I happened upon this old well-weathered granary that afternoon and explored it for hours, even chatting with the farmer who owned the land around it. This image, one of my favorites, was made just as the sun was setting in the warm clear light.

Oregon Granary Stack

Oregon Granary Stack

While the bulk of my efforts these days is focused on film photography and Ilfochrome printing, I’ve been, when circumstances allow, working on some new themes. The image here highlights one of my new favorite subjects — granaries.

A two-day trip to Spokane to see singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foucault in concert, afforded the opportunity to meander the backroads of northeastern Oregon on my way home. A bright sunny day had me questioning whether any subject matter would inspire but near, Ione, Oregon, a granary was fortuitously stationed, its shadowed sections illuminated by reflected sunlight from a nearby ridge. The granary stacks glowed in shades of warm blue and gray complimented by the yellow sectioning which was further illuminated by reflected light bouncing off the sunny side of the foreground stack. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation to make a photograph.

Evening Lightning along China Hat

Lightning along China Hat Road outside Bend, Oregon

My experience of summer thunderstorms here in Bend, has been that they generally dissipate around dusk. In this case, I’d chased a storm southeast of Bend out the China Hat Road near Besse Butte. The results were disappointing. Lightning was all around me but generally distant and mostly confined to the clouds. All I got was wind, mosquito bites, and sore shoulders from holding a blanket high above my head to shield the camera from a naggingly persistent spatter of rain. Dejected and hungry I packed up my gear and started to head home.

But seemingly out of nowhere, the storm began to intensify further east and I found myself scrambling down a bone-rattling dirt road in the dark trying to re-locate a vantage point I’d put to memory a couple weeks earlier. I managed to find the spot and was treated to a spectacular, even frightening, display of intense lightning that illuminated the sky all around me.

The bolt in this image here is my favorite out of 5-6 solid strikes I was able to capture.

Two Bolts over Bend

Lightning over eastern Bend, Oregon

While I’m still relatively new to Bend, Oregon, I’m told by the locals that this summer has been more monsoonal than normal with an abundance of summertime tropical moisture sliding north from the desert southwest. Which means more thunderstorms. Yay!

In the last couple of years, I’ve added lightning photography into my photographic routine acquiring a lightning trigger from AEO Photo which I consider an essential tool to the craft. And while lightning photography sits in rather stark contrast to the more contemplative film photography I primarily engage in, it’s admittedly quite a rush to chase storms. The combination of energy and beauty (and a tinge of danger) is exhilirating.

While there is indeed an element of luck to lighting photography, an understanding of the movement and formation of storms in a region, coupled with the proper tools, will greatly increase your chances of capturing something compelling. For the image here, I spent an afternoon tracking cloud development which started to get intense SE of Bend around 4pm one day last July. I quickly packed up my gear and headed towards the storm hoping to flank its northern side and capture lighting moving directly at me. Driving out, it quickly became apparent my strategy was going to be a bust — the storm was too close. Fortunately, an old cinder cone, Pilot Butte, sits in the heart of Bend and provides an exceptional 360° panoramic view. Within minutes I was atop the butte and set-up. The storm had intensified to near supercell status providing an exceptionally good ~30 minute light show (not to mention heavy winds and dust) before eventually dumping heavy rain and hail on us onlookers as we scrambled back to our vehicles.

The image here is a blend of two separate lightning strikes that occurred literally within the same second of each other.