Photographers have a love of spontaneity.
An image captured with just a single click.
Just that one single click that freezes time.
But, I am a photographer who shares that love of spontaneity with a love of returning to the past, to places I have been before. A lonely beach in Polynesia. The ruins of an ancient castle in Austria. The sense memory of perfume wafting over a field of lavender in Provence. Pondering the music of the stones at an ancient Native American site.
So, it is with the thought of revisiting and reacquainting myself that I return to Oregon every Fall. I return to revisit my sensory memories and to renew them.
I load up my 4wd and head out, up to Oregon for a four day shoot. Fall seems to have come early this year. There’s a definite bite in the air and the birds are sparse. They’ve headed south weeks ago, leaving just a few hungry strays lingering.
I stop frequently to see the ocean, venturing out on the towering cliffs. The mist has a chill in it, a salty taste of the approaching winter.
I drive a narrow coastal route, remote and still. I stop for lunch and to wade the tide pools that are tucked like pockets into the bottom of the cliffs. Nestled into remote beaches and caves, they glimmer like dark jewels protected by towering walls.
I head inland, passing miles of trees. Their leaves have turned a fiery red as per the seasonal decree of Mother Nature. They stand in stark contrast to to the dark and gloomy day that surrounds us.
On the third day, I came upon an amazing tree. I had to capture it.
An ancient Japanese Maple, it was in the final days of a glorious and fiery display, a spectacular collage of deepening autumn hues. It stood like a timeless patriarch in a secret garden of scarlet and crimson, it’s beautiful branches bending like the arms of a dancer.
The challenge now was in finding the light. The day was overcast and dark like all the mornings so far. It was chilly and damp, dark and gloomy. It was nothing like the blazing tree in front of me.
I studied the best way to bring to light the magestic stature of grace and strength of this iconic tree. I juggled my camera from a hundred different angles, hoping that some sun would seep in from somewhere. There just was not enough light.
And , as I was trying to capture the image from all these angles, an amazing thing happened.
The sun broke throught with a beam of pure white light.
I felt a shudder, a sense of elation.
Something magical had just happened.
It was Brilliant, my latest release.
I awoke to find myself in a strange land, far away from my Southern Utah roots.
I was on a European shoot, planning to cover about fifteen hundred miles or so. I went to my window and gazed out to the Southern Aegean, out onto the bluest of blue seas, 120 miles south of the mainland of Greece.
Santorini is essentially what remains of an enormous volcanic eruption that occurred three or four million years ago. It is a place of great beauty and history. I grab a quick coffee and my gear and head out for a trek up to the top of the city.
And I say up because I am staying near the harbor and the rest of the city is above me. Far above me.
Actually, the whole town is really a harbor of sorts. The city clings to the top of a cliff, looking down on a lagoon. The lagoon flows through a break in the sea wall and boats sail in and out.
I start my trek up, pausing at intervals to view a calm sea below. The pace of life in Greece is slow but constant, children dart in and out of alleys, women carry their groceries on a long slow walk home. A fish monger leans out his door, enticing me with a fresh caught octopus. A few men are talking, laughing, arguing about a lamb being barbecued at a small taverna , sipping their first glass of wine of the day. I stop and chat along the way, engaging myself in their conversations. I laugh at their observations and comment on a chess move or two.
This is Greece.
Slow but energetic, it’s pace a seeming contradiction.
But, my journey is singular and I return to hiking the narrow streets , up to the top to capture the City from a perch high above. I am determined. Determined to make it to the top to catch the early evening view. To see the sea of legends in the moonlight.
It is said that the island was formed after a huge volcanic explosion several million years ago. And this Big Daddy of volcanoes caused the entire Minoan Civilization to perish. Known as Thera, her fury is thought to have been responsible for the legend of the lost city of Atlantis.
By the time I have climbed to the top, the sky is dark. The sky is as blue as velvet can be, it presides over this ancient city and frames the harbor with a matching cloak.
The domes of Santorini dance across the rooftops like little blue hats. A place as old as time but yet as lively and timely as today. I glance down at people walking and at boats bobbing on the bay…a bay with winds that seem to laugh at the land above.
I have been to Greece many times and I know the ancient stories and legends surrounding the place. And , I feel their presence up here.
Standing on top of the World.
Standing on top of Santorini.
I survey the City below, knowing immediately where I can capture my image. I find it in my lense. And then, click. There it is.
My Santorini captured in time.
I began my trek back down those cobbled steps. But in the distance, I smell the faint aroma of a familiar lamb on a spit.
I had been driving north for a few days, headed towards the Italian Alps, hoping to get some great images of the Italian countryside. I was on the “other ” side of Italy, in the high country…very different than Rome or the other ancient cities. But, ancient just the same. And, unique in its own way.
I had gotten an early early start. And, by that I mean dawn. Fueled by espresso, I was determined to find an amazing shot on one of my last days in Italy. It had been a good trip and I was happy with the images I had gotten. But I wanted to capture some of the amazing Tyrol, the Italian high country.
I looked at my watch and realized that I had driven for over three hours. I was deep in Sud Tyrol and the wine country. I stopped in Caldano, a beautiful city built by the Medici family to use as a country place as well as being a thriving vineyard culture since before the time of Christ. Time in Sud Tyrol moves at a comforting pace. Every day is a repetition of the day before. And the day before that. And the day before that. And so it goes for a thousand years. I took my time in Caldano, having my lunch in an outdoor cafe and doing a little people watching. I chatted with the owner of this small bistro and he told me his family had lived in this city for four hundred years. He gave me a couple of bottles of the local wine for the road and I was on my way.
I drove past a grove of olives and then I saw it.
Ancient dolomite peaks stood like soldiers at attention above green valleys and tiny villages.Those mighty dolomite spears, with a wide lap of snow around their base, seem to stand guard around the spring green lushness of the meadows below. Silently, stoically protecting all that lay below. The dolomites are national treasures of Italy. Literally a million years old, they draw visitors from all over the world, anxious to view their stone majesty.
My painterly eye drank in the spring, just when that spring had rolled back the winter and spread a lush carpet of green below. There was a newness, an untouched quality of pureness here this late afternoon, high in the Italian Alps.
I captured my image just before the day began to signal her shadows of day’s end. The afternoon sun was still warm, casting her golden embrace to the valley below and wrapping it in reds and golds and yellows. A wash of rusty purple signaled the end of the afternoon. I knew this image would be magical…I could feel the power off the dolomites in it.
My Bellavista complete….Now, where did I put that bottle of wine….
Peak fall color arrived in southern Utah this week above 8000 feet but there was a grim forecast, calling for oodles of heavy rain. Feeling optimistic I set out with my gear knowing that if the snow level dropped, I could get fruit loops color together with a fresh mantle of snow.
I got on the road to the Kolob Terrace and started to climb.
The road got snowier.
The fog and low clouds made pea soup.
That wasn’t gonna work so I blindly continued on until I reached 9000 ft.
A stand of aspens suddenly appeared mixed with every color of the rainbow.
There was an Aspen stacked fence, perfectly positioned, completing the composition.
These days it is oh so rare when earthly elements align themselves
and speak “ this is art”.
My plane cut down through a fluff of clouds. When it emerged, it revealed a stretch of blue water miles across. Afternoon was falling on the Cook Islands with a golden glow that reached from French Polynesia to the East and Tonga to the West. As the plane descended towards a single narrow landing strip, we could see boats crossing through small breaks in the barrier reefs.
The ocean went on forever. There are no land masses between these tropical islands and Antartica. Just water. Very blue water. And, it sparkled like diamonds and mercury glass shaken together.
We landed, grabbed our gear and headed out to capture the afternoon light. A seaplane dropped us at one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world, the legendary Aitutaki.
As a photographer, I am really just an artist who paints with light. My brush is a high definition capture system. The amazing color spectrum of the lagoon was my palette, in complete harmony with my vision.
I approached, hoping to hold the Universe in limbo for just an anxious second.
As I was shooting , a light summer rain begin to fall, chased out to sea by the summer trade winds. The sky cleared and I captured a perfectly pristine image of solitary oneness. A Castaway in Paradise.
This image became my newest release, Castaway.
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