One lazy fall day, on a road trip to Page, Arizona, I spied a distant sheet of curious clouds drifting my direction. I eased into a pullout, retrieved my camera gear and waited. What had caught my eye, a series of thin clouds with long streaking tails, was changing quickly, the tails swirling into each other in an almost whimsical fashion. I made and quickly rejected a number of exposures as the clouds slipped by overhead. Only after they had moved past me did I find a composition I felt conveyed their playful dancing nature.
It’s always fun to rediscover forgotten images. Especially ones you really like! I spent the first two days of 2016 tidying up a rather bloated Adobe Lightroom image library. In doing so, I rediscovered images I’d made of White River Falls in the winter of 2014.
White River Falls is an Oregon State Park which showcases the wild and scenic White River highlighted by a series of falls, one that plunges 90 feet, through a basalt lava basin. At the base of the falls, a hydropower plant that supplied the area with electricity between 1910 and 1960, lies in graffiti-rich ruins.
Since the park is only open Spring to Fall, I guess I was technically trespassing though there were no signs discouraging my entrance through an unlocked gate. It had been extremely cold that week and, having seen photos of the park, I suspected I might find an exceptionally icy landscape. I’d arrived late in the afternoon and initially explored the hydro plant ruins. Next I found some interesting ice patterns in an eddy below the falls but could not coax a composition out of the chaos. Before I knew it, evening was coming and it was getting very cold.
A smidgen disappointed, I set to climb back out of the canyon. Pausing at a makeshift viewpoint in the trail, I saw the falls had taken on a more mystical feel in winter’s evening light. A thin veil of dusk-lit clouds adding a luminous soft box effect to the scene. What I had disregarded as a mediocre, even cliché, photo a couple hours earlier, was now full of possibility. The low light required a longer exposure (~5 seconds) rendering the water a milky white, helping to both contrast and compliment the structured ice and rock textures framing the river’s path within the composition.
What a joyful little rediscovery to start the new year.
Somewhere in Zion. Eight stone concretions. Natural forms born of ancient dunes. A magic blend of iron oxide and quartz sand grains forged by water, compression, and time. Harder in composition, the stones resist weathering and are slowly revealed out of their host sandstone.
To discover a clean unobstructed grouping like these is rare. And, for me, reverential. Like experiencing a great work of art, whether painted, sculpted, written or performed, deep emotions surface. Those emotions can evoke contemplation, elevation, even transformation.
Zion, as a whole, exists on an elevated plain of experience. For people discovering the park for the first time, the canyons, the spires, even the cobalt blue skies evoke awe and inspiration. But within nature’s grand domain here, there are smaller, more nuanced nooks to experience and learn from. They require broader exploration, a slowing down, careful attention, intuition, even luck.
My evolution as a photographer has turned into a mission to celebrate these subtler subjects. I strive through composition, and ultimately, the photographic print, to convey found subject matter in a significant, meaningful way. My goal is simple yet challenging; to promote awareness and, ultimately, reverence for the less obvious in the world.
If I can inspire people to appreciate the magic of eight stone concretions, then maybe I can help cultivate a greater sense of openness and empathy in the world outside Zion.
It’s what, I believe, Art is meant to do.
The first of a wave of heavy thunderstorms that dumped .95″ of rain in Zion Canyon, the video here shows the tail end of a moderate flash flood originating in Spry Canyon and cascading down into Pine Creek. Having long familiarized myself with this lower section of Pine Creek, I was able to safely scramble along the river and up to this exhilarating vantage point.
For awhile now, I’ve been exploring photographing scenes of water, stone, and sky in subtle barely discernible moments, usually in very low light. Once the moment is captured, I attempt to give voice to the beauty in the subtlety, using both traditional and digital means. Often the result is a failure but, with each failure, I learn more about the possibility of achieving success.
This image of clouds, in the very last light of dusk, held lovely texture and subtle turquoise hues, invoking a peaceful dream-like equanimity. Printed as an inkjet pigment print, the image has a hybrid photographic/painterly feel, something I enjoy in contrast to my darkroom work. As I’m about to head back to Zion National Park for an extended visit, I look forward to continuing this direction of my work.
Hazy atmospherics, thanks to drifting smoke in and around the Clarno Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, added a lovely warm cast to this approximate 3-hour spin of our planet against the heavens.
Following the annual gathering of the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), I took advantage of my location to drive up to the little towns of Chandon and Ione to explore photographing their resident granaries.
While nearly 11 am when I arrived in Chandon, the light was subdued by a thin blanket of clouds which proved beneficial in capturing what would’ve otherwise been an impossibly contrasty scene.