Sunday, September 30, 2012

Seven Summit Climbs

Let the title speak for itself. Seven mountains. Seven weeks. An experiment in natural endurance and dedication. A work in progress. With comparative images from by gone hikes.

Or an intense need to punish one's own calf muscles. Whichever you prefer.

Dragon's Tooth 2011
Dragon's Tooth 2012

Sharp Top 2011

Top Three Above: Sharp Top 2012

Tinker Cliffs 2012

Apple Orchard Falls 2012

Apple Orchard Falls 2012

Buzzard's Rock 2012

Falling into Autumn

I  hardly need share my inherent love of autumn, or of fall and fired foliage; yet,  I leave it to a poet more refined to herald the artful entry of the season.



By Robert Frost
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Painting with light

Via Andy Goldsworthy Online


I find it difficult to remember any period of my life which was not, in some small way, punctuated by a romantic attachment to nature.

My grandfather, or "Pa", is most likely the cause of that temperament. Any morning that I woke up on my grandparent's land in Appalachia, was a morning that started with a treasure hunt. Sisterita and I went on a daily mission to find a missing person. Our task was very simple: we had to rescue Pa. Looking back, I can appreciate Granny's genius design to kick us out of the house as she finished cooking. But through the lens of a young girl a summer vagabond I relished those early morning hours on the "trails."  Usually, I sported an over-sized No Show George Jones t-shirt, with a walking stick in one hand, and Sisterita riding on the shadow that I cut through the trees. Through brush and bramble, we made our way around the 60 acre plot, secure in our ability to rescue the hero. It never failed we would (noisily) discover him burning brush or talking to his "damn moles."

In adulthood, the attachment to the mountains brought me back from the palm tree kingdom. It has driven a deep appreciation for hiking into my recently exhausted muscles. But in adolescence...well, it made for one broody, flighty person. There was that time I tried to develop a mythology of my own around the saw palm tree. It is NOT a very interesting tree. There was that other time when I tried to force my poetry into the mold of Georgian ideals. Um, no. Lamentable decision making at its finest. Right there.

I reminisce with a purpose: the attachment that has punctuated my life to this point has resurfaced in a variation of that old treasure hunt. Recently, I played the lucky student in a brief photography lesson. My teacher was patient and, as all good teachers are, determined to take a hands on approach. 

Our outing seemed quite elementary more fun and whimsy than anything else. In the tradition of Andy Goldsworthy, we were trying to find natural objects with which to create a sculpture, and then photograph it. Make some stones look nifty? Yes, I can do that!

But it became more than I expected. Two reasons: first, I learned a healthier respect for a camera than I have ever entertained; and second, I have been keenly aware of my natural surroundings in the days since. During this odd little assignment arranging leaves, some acorns, a rock I became fully engrossed in composing the semi-natural scene.

To begin with, my teacher was no slouch. I learned quickly that he understood the task at hand in ways I could not imagine. The tell tale sign wasn't his effective instruction on aperture, shutter speeds, white balance, and so on; it was the unshaded confidence. It was mesmerizing to watch him. I thought the instruction session had peaked with the setting sun, so as the passer bys made their way off the mountain, I was prepared to do the same.

But then he taught me to paint with light.

Credit to Scott P Yates Photography (click for online access)

It will make you believe in magic. He called it a happy accident for him, it was probably a pretty run-of-the-mill project. But, as dusk came and went, a tiny pocket flashlight took the "accident" to a rather divine place. I will not embarrass myself by poorly explaining the process (I think we were widening the depth of field by using a slow shutter speed and small aperture?), but it was painting. Or perhaps the slow, deliberate dance of sword strokes? Strokes cast over the desired area in a uniform, but continuously moving, pattern.  He adapted his expectations to fit the changing light conditions. And the shot above was the striking result.

Some treasure hunts simply lead you to unexpected places.