I drive a lot of back roads. A lot. It drives my wife—and on trips, my students—nuts at times. But this habit grew from my understanding that back roads offer prime chances at images few people ever see, a chance to unite a rural sensibility with a visual aesthetic that has both meaning and appeal.
Is it odd that I find human and poetic forms in all manner of natural occurrences? I hope not. Or maybe I do.
What is the role of water in the West? That is beyond the scope of a simple blog post and image, and more the subject of innumerable books, articles and documentaries that still have failed to capture completely a vastly complex topic. But I’ve thought about water for a long time, and the Keystone XL Pipeline problem in Nebraska, as it tried to cross over one of the West’s great water reserves, spurred me to begin looking in earnest for images that expressed this conflict.
This is my favorite. It captures so many pieces of the conflict in interesting ways, and it’s an image of which I am very, very proud. Seemingly simple, it masks a complicated and faceted composition that took me more than 72 hours to create.
Movement and conflict for the eye have always been an obsession for me. How does an image allow the eye to enter, to move, to stop and contemplate? I was strongly influenced in this long ago by the work of David Plowden (click the link to see), and ever since have sought to visually examine the ways in which we exercise our vision.
I spent several early mornings in this isolated spot, only the growing light, still waters and wakening birds as companions. The shot moved me beyond words as I created it, reminding me of the deep and complex philosophical poetry the natural world creates in the lifesong it sings.
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?”