They Rise and Fall

On a chilly, gray day last week, I ventured out to Cranberry Lake, a community forest preserve on Fidalgo Island. My favorite path there combines pieces of two trails – one hugs a curve of the lake and then ascends a steep hill through a fire-scarred forest; the other traces the long eastern edge of the namesake lake.

The trail that ascends the hill winds through Douglas fir and Western redcedars before meandering through forest openings where Madrone trees and Ocean Spray shrubs flourish, at its highest point. It descends through more Douglas fir and Salal thickets to the south end of the lake, where I like to turn and head back along the water’s edge. The lake is shallow there, and tall, thin tree skeletons standing in the water show that it was once forest. In the 1930’s a dam built at the other end grew the lake back into the woods, killing the trees. Later, beavers moved in and did their work; now a “garden” of stumps and trees draws wavering reflections in the calm water. It’s a fine spot for the visually preoccupied!

Just when I was farthest from the car that day, high on the hilltop, it began to snow. Sparse flakes drifted down through the trees to settle silently on the lake far below me. I’d left my gloves in the car but I continued on anyway, compelled by the poetry of unexpected weather. When I reached the shallow end of the lake, I was surprised to find it covered with ice, like a pale field spread out before me. The dead trees stood mute, locked in the ice, like ancient Greek columns witnessing the history of the seasons.

I carefully picked my way along the narrow, rocky path as the snow thickened. The weather-resistant camera would be OK, but there would be no changing lenses now.  I kept on shooting as one mesmerizing scene unfolded after another. A few steps, a choice, a click. A few more steps, another choice, a turn of a dial, a click. Trees standing, trees scarred from fire, trees fallen across the trail and into the water. Reflections blurring, then clearing, as the air carried more or fewer flakes. Cormorants watching snow sail over the lake from their stump and log perches. A lone Common merganser quietly floating towards the middle of the lake.

The prevailing hush transfixed me. I worked that little black box to frame the layered changes in the landscape, and though wildlife sightings always capture my attention, what stuck with me that day were the trees in all their guises and stages, their varied forms partially obscured by the pointillist haze of snow.

The trees rise and soar, they burn, fall over, die and slowly decompose. And they persist.

 

1. Lakefall

 

2. Sidelined

 

3. Dialogue

 

4. Snowhaze

 

5. Flake Flutter

 

6. Twig Scoops

 

7. Lean

 

8. Fade

 

9. After Fire, Green Returns

 

10. Scarred Trio

 

11. Fallen

 

12. Perched

 

13. Cut

 

14. Tumble

 

15. Honeysuckle Twist

 

16. Towards Whiteout (now my fingers are numb)

 

17. Cormorant Quartet

 

18. Light Gatherer

 

19. Stand, Reflect, Fall, Reflect

 

20. Horizon Log

 

21. Lone Merganser

***

 

 


87 comments

    • It was your kind of day, I think. Once summer comes and the sun is intense, I suppose I’ll be longing for this kind of hazy quiet again. I’m so gald you liked it, and saw the magic. Thanks for letting me know, David.

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  1. I have rarely, if ever, I seen a better capture of falling snow, I like 1,4, 8, and 21 the best. In these, the following snow gives a pointillism effect which moves it all toward Impressionism. Although there were no alleys near you at the time, those images are down mine.

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    • That is high praise coming from someone with your ability, and sensibility. It’s much appreciated. I was afraid they were too dark, but that’s the way it was, with all the towering trees. The photos you picked out are mostly the ones I felt the best about, and I have to say, the processing did take time! 😉 Thank you Michael!

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      • There is no law that says you have to process and present an image the way it was. If it so moves you, process it as YOU see it, or idealize it, whatever else you desire. You’re the artist. You’re the boss. The ones I picked are, to my sensibility, pure art. Art exists in the spiritual realm. Your bio shows you to be a spiritual person—so there you go! The others are very nice. These are special. IMHO.

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      • I absolutely agree about processing, but there’s that remnant of feeling/doubt that a photo is better if it doesn’t “need” more processing. Thanks for the firm reminder! 😉 And thank you for appreciating the spiritual side – it’s always there, but often it’s best left for people to discover on their own, rather than me talking about it.

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        • My view on processing: sometimes the scene and situation and present them selves in such a way that my job is simply to see it, record what I saw, and presented in the best possible way. Other times the scene suggests something to me in such a way that, by my initial intention and vision, the image in the camera is only a starting point to getting to what I see and want to present in my mind’s eye. You see what you see. You are impressed and inspired by what impresses and inspires you. I am inspired, among many other things, by impressionism and impressionist artists. I am also inspired by, interestingly enough, artists who were active right around the time I was born. Your mileage may, does, and forever will, vary. Your rules and standards are your own. That’s your artistic integrity. But your vision will always be evolving. That’s a big part of the fun of it. Blah blah blah. I’m going to get off my pulpit now. 😉📷

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  2. Oh, yes, Lynn. What a series! The textured finish of the snow layered in the images is gorgeous. I can sense the quiet reverence in these shots. The Cut is amazing in its 3D quality…it reaches out of the plane. Very cool. And your monochromes are stunning as always. Great tones and contrasts.

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    • I flipped over to shutter priority, which I don’t do that often, and it helped slow things down. Quiet reverence is certainly what I was feeling. As for “Cut” I have to say I was surprised by how closely it hued to my perception, with little extra processing. Sometimes what that black box does is a mystery, right? Thank you very much for taking the time to linger, Jane, i appreciate it.

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      • Yes, and for intentional camera movement, which I haven’t done in a while. We have to guard against getting locked into any one mode of shooting or processing but I think we’re both doing OK in that department. 🙂

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  3. I love these impressionistic shots, especially the final one, and the lovely narrative, both have such a great floating feeling, and the photos convey the hushed atmosphere you describe so nicely. Even the cormorants in #17 look bemused, maybe enjoying the relative novelty of the snow, or perhaps puzzled by seeing white spots and wondering if they need to get their eyes checked. But 19 and 20, with the dark lines of trees and reflections, and the look of black ink drawings, really draw me in.
    Even if the fingers stiffen up, days we get with snowflakes, fog, rain, pre-dawn haze, or the nice dim glow you get at dusk, can just be so great, the “atmospheric conditions” obscure the scenes we see – – they’re not as tack-sharp as when it’s high noon in the desert – -but they encourage everyone to slow down and really look at things, don’t they. Very nice album, always a treat! thank you, R.

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    • A floating feeling, exactly. I wonder if I was influenced not only by the mystical snow, but also by a book I was finishing – Colum McCann’s “Let the Great World Spin.” Talk about floating – that book is amazing – have you read any of his work? I digress….the cormorants were looking pensive, not their usual mode. 🙂 I agree with what you say about atmospheric weather conditions – fog and the like are poets’ weather. So glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks as always for taking the time to write a considered comment.

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  4. A wonderful day with lots of beautiful pictures!! Thank you for holding on in spite of the cold! The photos with the snowflakes are marvelous. I love nr. 1 and 4 where the contours are almost dissolving. Beautiful! And I love the photos with the reflections like nr. 14, 19, 20 and the rhythm of them. The second is brilliant and one of these photos that makes you dizzy 🙂 “lost in trees”. The honeysuckle is always a promising sign of spring, very nice. 18 is wonderful, the airiness of the lichen. So tender and poetic. And I like the photo with the Cormorants. Like little sculptures on the water, a bit magical. In picture nr 20 I can see figures out of wood that are dancing 🙂 This mixture of lines and reflections is amazing and very inspiring! You were there at the right place for the right time. It must have been stunning and lots of fun 🙂 Thank you so much!

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    • The cold was easy to forget amidst all the beauty and quiet (but getting home felt great!). Yes, I love it when contours dissolve. That’s what I saw that day and that’s what I tried to convey. Oh, you would have so much fun with the reflections in that lake! The honeysuckle actually is last year’s leaves, which are still green. But I did see one vine with a few fresh leaf buds, too. There are 3 different Lonicera species there!! I can’t wait to see the flowers. It was sheer luck to be there when it snowed – the forecast was for possible light rain – but it was just cold enough to make snow. Thank you, Almuth!!

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  5. I am in awe of your ability to follow through on this hike without your gloves. I would have lost all feeling and dropped the camera.
    Such nice snowfall shots you captured, Lynn. I really enjoyed #5, Flake Flutter. #1 is so appealing and knowing the story behind the tree lying like that adds so much.
    Thanks for taking us along.

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    • Remember, it’s not the kind of cold you have! It was just hovering at the freezing point. Click, hands in pockets for a minute, click, hands in pockets….
      I was happy with #1, so I’m glad you mentioned that one. That tree is a more recent addition to the lake. It keeps changing. Thanks for coming along!

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  6. A wonderful series and so glad you kept walking and shooting. We don’t get snow at all here and it seems to make a whole other world of the frequented area. Thank you for your beautiful images of that day.

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    • We usually only have a bit of snow, but this year’s been very different. You’re right, snow completely changes the landscape, and it’s a gift when you’re there just before it starts, so you can see the changes evolving. Some of these were taken before it started and obviously, some after the snow got heavier. It was one of those very special days outside. Thank you for your comment.

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    • It’s a quiet series, and it’s really good to hear that you appreciate it, Howard. What you describe was what was so striking that day – the way the texture of the snow obscured everything – just enough. It was sheer luck that I was there at that moment. The more often we can get out, the better chance we have at finding moments like these.

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  7. This selection provides a masterclass in the artistic exploration of conditions many might regard as uncongenial. The soft light and restricted palette combine to produce a magical atmosphere.

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    • Uncongenial – you made me chuckle, Louis. As you’d guess, the restricted palette and soft light are both courtesy mother nature. Then when it was time to process I had to maintain that restraint while giving enough definition – it’s a subtle balance. Thank you so much!

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  8. Wonderful compositions, Lynn. It was interesting to read your word memories before seeing the photos. It gave little clues of the photos that would unfold before me but each actual photo was a wonderful surprise. Oh! That’s what that looked like! The variation in light. The variation of snow. The way you chose to frame things. The compositions and titles connecting you to the place, your dialogue with your world. I smiled when I read “now my fingers are numb”… I could feel the cold and the numbness and the camera and that joy of being captivated by the world around me. I love that you captured the bright colours and crisp edges as beautifully as the blurry colours and edges. It was neat to feel the weather and landscape change in that way. Beautiful!

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    • Your comments about reading the narrative, then seeing the images, really please me. It’s interesting how words and pictures show us the world in different ways, isn’t it? I’m glad you felt the joy – it was pure! Your comments are falling on very happy ears (eyes, actually!). Thank you very much, I appreciate having such thoughtful feedback.

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    • That madrone in #7 is so incredibly graceful the way it leans out over the water. I wonder when it will go. I’m glad you singled that photo out. #18 is part of what I have to call an ongoing exploration of the amazing lichens we have here – even more up here on the island than around the Sound. I keep photographing them, and many photos don’t work because they’re such complicated little beings, but sometimes it does work. I’m very happy that you enjoy looking, Sheri! That’s what it’s all about. Now, enough snow!!

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  9. Beautiful pictures, Lynn >>> and don’t worry about gloves >>> I can never be bothered with them now. The picture here that really gets to me is 16 – wowee!!!!! And I like 17, 19 and 20 very much too. A 🙂

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    • That’s cool that you like #16 – something about the linearity of those fine twigs always draws me, and that time I liked the different textures together – so similar, but not quite the same. Glad you like the cormorants too….we have plenty of them around here, so we might as well get some mileage from them. 🙂 Thanks Adrian!

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  10. I like the availability of your look at the unexpected, the detail or what most people do not notice. Finding poetry is a gift … especially in the unexpected weather!
    You have beautiful and magical photos!

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  11. These are all incredible, but I’m totally drawn to the misty look as in 1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 16, 17 and 21! Surely it can’t get any better than that, frozen fingers be damned? 😀

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    • Wow, terrific to hear that you are taken with these! Yes, sometimes you have to just keep going despite frozen fingers (and toes!) because when is a moment like that going to happen again? Thank you Gunta!

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  12. Moody pictures, with the snow. Some almost seem like they have a texture applied, but it’s just Mother Nature doing a bit of photo editing. It seems like snow adds mood like fog, only with an edge…

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    • Yes, all the texture was in the air, and it was not a particularly heavy snow, so it made a certain kind of look, very poetic and moody, as you say. Fog, snow, rain, they can all be great to photograph, as long as you don’t ruin your equipment! Thank you Dave.

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  13. It was such a surprise for me to see the cormorants in such a setting. I’m so accustomed to thinking of them in our context, it never had occurred to me that some of their kind would see snow. “Toward Whiteout,” “Flake Flutter,” and the lone merganser are my favorites. We’re moving into such a riotous spring tumble of growth now that the simplicity and spareness of those images is appealing.

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    • I have to agree, the cormorants look rather odd to me too, sitting in the snow like that. Soon we’ll begin to see that riotous growth, but so far, it’s just the odd bud here and there, or a few crocuses. That day’s surprise snowfall was really nice, and now that our temperatures are back to normal, I don’ think there will be any more this season. Thanks Linda!

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  14. You did NOT need the photographs after your words, Lynn…but I am so very glad that you included them. They are so visually stunning, so complete in the complement and validation of the narrative…

    And I absolutely love the lone Merganser image…wow…it is heartbreakingly beautiful…to me…..oh…..

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    • How wonderful to know that you enjoyed them close up, Julie! It sounds like we are both fans of the smell of freshly cut wood – it’s one of my all-time favorites. When I was a girl I loved to be around houses being built, just for that… 🙂 Thanks for being here.

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