Storms are a hoot to shoot; easy evidence is this shot, made on a hot July night as a massive and violent electrical storm rolled through, just south of Hastings. I made about 20 exposures that night, each time waiting for the perfect bolt of lightning to split the space between the Gray Center and trees. And with shot 19, nature played along.
I have been known to brave lightning in the hopes of making a memorable image, and in July of 2005, as rains swept through central Colorado for more than a week, I braved on storm in the hopes that the sun in its evening light would illuminate the Collegiate Peaks west of the cabin. It did.
In looking back at this image, I smile as I notice how the tree fits neatly into the saddle of the foothills of Mount Antero, how the light breaks into beams only above the canyon, and how the scalene triangle of three boulders in the lower right corner of the image perfectly assumes the shape of the mountains and sunlight behind it.
Evening light, indeed.
I’ve been coming to the Alley Belle mine for many years, and every time I do, I find new facets to photograph. In fact, many times the place frustrates me as I try to simplify the place into a meaningful image; this image is one successful attempt. A print of it hangs in our house, three feet wide, reminding us of an early July morning, surrounded by the ghosts of a time long past.
My mentor has told me reviewing old images is sometimes even more fun than making them, and in the case of “Cascades Trio, Chaffee County,” that’s certainly the case. I’ve been visiting this spot since I was very small; the dust of the area permeates my soul. But the place, like all in nature, subtly changes even from moment to moment, and I knew these three granite souls would be gone the next spring, moved to newer pastures by the rushing snowmelt, one more stop on the way to becoming so much mountain dust. And so one evening, as the red light bounced from canyon wall to canyon wall, the high summer water rushing past, I set my tripod for a long exposure to still the waters and record the light.
And, for a single moment, I could record the answer to the question, “What is this place?”
This is a portrait I’m submitting to the Digital Photo Pro “The Face” contest next week, and it remains one of my favorite images. The High Plains stretch out behind Leif as he looks to the south for his father, while Claire, tolerant of Leif’s torture for the moment, looks serenely to the north. The textures in the photo, together with the muted natural tones of the landscape and the fleeting unguarded moment from the pair, combined to make an image that resonates with me every time I see it. Moreover, the image represents a culture–the Great Plains ranch culture–that may not remain in 50 years, and for that reason alone, the image has life.
As I was driving home from class in Lincoln, Nebraska, last night at 11:30 p.m., I was thinking about the conversation that our Instructional Materials class had engaged just earlier: “What makes a good design? A good photograph? How do Zen principles enlighten a design or photograph?”
And I realized I had never taken the time to look back on more than twenty years of photography and say, which ones are strong? As my good friend Sam would say, which of these have a life?
So, considering the weight of doctoral work means I have no time to wander the West looking for photos this fall (which is painful, by the way; fall in the West is my very favorite time to shoot, as I feel a palpable energy in the cool breezes and chill mornings), I realize it’s an appropriate time to post images that have life for me.
Feel free to disagree with my choices, or comment freely. After all: If nothing else, art is discourse.