Secret Places, Country Lanes

Sky Puddles on a remote country lane on the north side of Mt. Pisgah where I had never gone before.

 

Sky Puddles: “What does it mean to photograph with passion?”

Once upon a May morning, I was photo walking along the Coast Fork of the Willamette where it flows around to create the boundary of Mt. Pisgah Arboretum here in Eugene, Oregon. I was surrounded by the lush fairyland of waist high blue larkspur and camas folded into the rich green grass starred with buttercups and wild Nootka roses.

Under the riparian trees of the Mt. Pisgah Arboretum, larkspur grows as high as your waist.
Under the riparian trees of the Mt. Pisgah Arboretum, larkspur grows as high as your waist.

I was clicking away taking standard shots I’d taken every spring for decades.

I felt a little depressed by what seemed to be impossible—to see all this with new eyes.

I sat down on a bench by the river and asked myself,

“What does it mean to photograph with passion?”

I didn’t exactly know the answer, but I let the question seep into me. Then I got up and started to really look through the viewfinder for something that satisfied some richness I’d been longing for.

I put my camera in the “pop art” setting that I’d heard others scorn. That bumped the colors of the flowers up into the stratosphere. Then I stopped down the exposure until backgrounds blurred to interlocked circles of green or blurred to paintbrush swatches of barn door red and sky blue.

A half blown Nootka Rose in an afternoon meadow by the river.
A half blown Nootka Rose in an afternoon meadow by the river.

When I could, I positioned flowers against dark shadows, so they would glow with jewel tone intensity on the velvety black backdrop.

Meadow Rue on the verge of opening to its first day in this new world.
Meadow Rue on the verge of opening to its first day in this new world.

At the pond, the lily flowers were radiant little suns about to open against maroon lily pads floating on dark water.

Lilies on the Water Meadow Pond
Lilies on the Water Meadow Pond
Orange lilies on maroon leaves floating over and sheltering a watery world below.
Orange lilies on maroon leaves floating over and sheltering a watery world below.

Suddenly, within an hour of asking the question, I had a method, an approach I could take to deepen my vision of a passionate world.

It was Laura Valenti, my photography instructor for “Light Atlas,” who told me, “Sandy, face it: at heart you’re a landscape photographer.”

So how to bring something new, that “what else” factor to the everyday landscapes of my little snow globe of a world?

I was out yesterday with that question, and as is my habit, I made a little nature video like a journal entry for the day—these grew out of the Gratitude Walks in another of Laura’s classes. This one is “Secret Places, Country Lanes.”

For today, I select this image as the one that seems most to suggest worlds within worlds.

Sky Puddles on a remote country lane on the north side of Mt. Pisgah where I had never gone before.
Sky Puddles on a remote country lane on the north side of Mt. Pisgah where I had never gone before.

Flowering

 

Charles Johnston, Peter and I went flower hunting in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, up on Vulcan Peak which got scoured by the Biscuit Burn in 2002. Started by a lightning strike, it fried 500,000 acres. The new understory in this area is the Siskiyou Azalea. From the top of the ridge the most intoxicating perfume wafts up from under the snags, which once reeked of ash and char. Cobra Lilies grow in the serpentine seeps along with the Siskiyou Indian Paintbrush as an adapted companion plant. And harebells, pipsissewa, and tiger lilies oh my!

Ten years later, and this place still looks like a bomb went off here. But its a great place to look for wildflowers!
Ten years later, and this place still looks like a bomb went off here. But its a great place to look for wildflowers!
foxglove
Foxglove are such a ubiquitously beautiful feature of the Pacific Northwest landscape that sometimes it’s hard to remember that they are immigrants from Turkey, escaped from domestic gardens.

(NOTE: In mid-June 2016, my husband Peter and I along with an artist friend, Charlie Johnston, spent a week at the Chetco River Inn. It is about twenty miles up the Chetco River outside Brookings, Oregon, which is on the border with California. As I often do, I decided to make a series of daily journal videoitos aka digital stories. This is the fourth in the series of five videos.)