Transitory States

Light, water and movement: taken together they’re a recipe for enchantment. When light dances on water, patterns emerge as endless revelations. When the air pushes water this way and that or blows clouds across the sun, the patterns break up and reform in fleeting frames. Photographing these mesmerizing permutations of light and water, I never know what will happen, and that, of course, is a big part of the draw.

1.

During a recent road trip we stopped for provisions at the North Coast Coop in Arcata, California and got into a conversation with the check-out person. The tall, wiry man was friendly and eager to talk as he rang up our purchases. I asked about his favorite hikes in the area and without hesitation, he began proclaiming the virtues of a place I hadn’t heard of. “Go to Headwaters Forest Reserve” he said. “They built a new trail, and it’s my favorite place for walking!”

The next day we drove out to the trailhead, parked, and set out on a mostly level trail that follows the South Fork Elk River through a picturesque forest. We got caught in rain showers a few times, but there was ample shelter under the thick canopy of tall, moss-laden trees. With rain and sunshine alternating, everything sparkled. On the trail, nursery logs supported mature trees, ferns arced over the forest floor, and a big, black beetle stopped us in our tracks. It was a glorious walk. Then I saw the colorful reflections on the gently rippling river and I was spellbound.

2.

3.

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5.
6.

7.

*

I have come to expect hypnotic reflections at certain spots on the lakes closer to home and the play of light on water never gets old. Whether air currents ripple the water or allow for relative stillness, the mirrored reality is captivating and mysterious. Here’s a group of photographs of reflections in lakes, streams and ponds near home.

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9.
10.

11.

12.

13.

14.

15.

16.

**

These intimate immersions into transitory states of nature seem more vital than ever to our sanity in the face of the onslaught of bad news that presses against us every day. I don’t take the grace of being alive in such beautiful places lightly. I wouldn’t be there and the images would not have been made if activists and preservationists didn’t fight to preserve the land and waters where I walk.

In northern California, Headwaters Forest Reserve protects precious old-growth forest and watersheds that were almost lost to logging. This unique ecosystem was being actively clear-cut as recently as the 1980’s, but Earth First! stepped in and raised hell. There were boycotts, tree-sits, protests, and counter-demonstrations by truckers and loggers. During this period the Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet were listed as threatened, enhancing the public’s understanding of the need to preserve this critical habitat for them.

The 1990’s was a challenging time for loggers, mill workers and their families, as well as for activists, legislators and others, as the fight to save previously unlogged forests heated up. Gray areas – the complexities of the situation as a whole – got lost in black and white thinking as the opposing sides became polarized. But after years of struggle the 7500-acre Headwaters reserve was transferred from private ownership to the public in 1999. The region may feel calmer now but in fact, nearby forests on the Lost Coast are threatened today. Activists continue to mobilize.

To see the original old-growth trees at Headwaters Forest Reserve you have to hike 10.5-miles (about 17km) round-trip or make a request in advance for a guided five-mile hike. On this trip we hiked shorter trails that don’t penetrate the ancient old-growth forest, but we enjoyed the trails we took immensely. We hope to do the guided hike next time. Photos #1 – #7 and #17 and #16 – #19 in my previous post began life at Headwaters.

Photos #8 – 13 and #16 were made within Anacortes Community Forest Lands (ACFL). In the late 1980’s residents came together to protect land on Fidalgo Island that was being logged for revenue by the city of Anacortes. The forest was disappearing and the city wasn’t making much from logging it, so concerned citizens rallied together, educated key people and involved local teachers and children in the cause. Within a few years the logging was stopped and managing the forest lands for recreation instead of profit became a city budget item.

Photos #13 and #14 were made at local gardens. Again, people worked together to create these gardens for recreation and education. Bonhoeffer Gardens in Stanwood, Washington, preserves native plants for the enjoyment and edification of the public. The Discovery Garden in Mount Vernon, Washington, was created by a Washington State University Master Gardener class to educate and inspire the public. It features a mix of native and non-native species laid out in more than twenty separate demonstration gardens linked by paths and plantings. The Discovery Garden and Bonhoeffer Gardens each have water features – what is a garden without water? When the light is right, the reflections never disappoint.

17.

75 comments

  1. yes, these comments of mesmerizing and gorgeous are just right, what a lovely impressionist album. The scenes with raindrops, you can almost hear notes chiming. I appreciate you discussing the environmental groups — to preserve such soothing, healthy, and beautiful places, requires people to sometimes raise a clamor. A few years ago, I was admiring reflections in a stream, in northeast Pennsylvania, in what initially appeared to be a clean and bucolic scene. it finally dawned on me, that the unusual clarity of the water, was because there did not seem to be a single living thing in the water. not so much as algae. after decades and decades, the coal mine runoff was so acidic that the stream was sterilized.
    so I am very glad to hear about this preserve that you visited! Man I could happily spend an entire day just looking at those reflections!

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    • I almost scrapped that discussion Robert, so it’s good to read your positive reaction. I am very wary of being too preachy. Your story about the stream in PA is sad. Coal mining is rough stuff! Have you ever noticed the shimmering reflections that happen when light bounces off the water and up onto the undersides of leaves or the bark of trees? It’s constant, delicate movement. I’d like to have a video of that to look at all day. 😉 Thank you!

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  2. Beautiful and surprising images, Lynn. I find the black and white photos of the water ripples particularly fascinating and unexpected. Wonderful writing too – the words that take me to the forest and also the ones that explain the history of the places.

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    • The first black and white isn’t actually black and white either, it just looks that way. I think that makes it even more interesting, don’t you? It all depends on the angle of the light and other things that we’re not aware of, I suppose. I’m really pleased that you enjoyed reading as well as looking – I don’t want to weigh anyone down with too much text. I guess if you want to read it you do, and if you don’t, you don’t. 😉 Thanks so much!!

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      • Oh my! That is so weird. Neither of the images I was referring to (5 and 7) are black and white. They totally looked black and white earlier today! Maybe the daylight affected how I saw the colours on my screen (it is night now) or my eyesight was temporarily wonky. I guess, with respect to my eyesight, the black and white images were a transitory state! I’m a bit disturbed but also kind of glad that I got to see them both ways – the black and white made the ripples stand out more and now the colours bring a more natural look and beautiful, subtle colour variations.

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        • It was probably the way the light hit the screen, and #7 does really look like a black and white. It’s all transitory, right? 😉 I like the way you framed this positively, that it was an advantage, seeing the photos in two different ways. Makes sense to me!

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  3. Your water abstracts are wonderful, Lynn. The lead image is particularly striking with the bright streak dividing the composition. The monochrome droplet circles and the lily pads with branch reflection image are gorgeous. It’s heartening to read your research on the conservation efforts in this fraught world with all the depressing news. Personally, (and I’m sure you agree)I feel a commitment to sharing nature and landscape photography as a way to shine a light on conservation and environmental education. You do a terrific job in this. Thank you and wishing you a great weekend. 🙂

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    • Your comment was a delight to read, Jane, thank you. When I read about all that people do to save these places I sometimes feel guilty, but you bring up a good point – exposing people to these pictures and stories can be a very positive influence in itself. Like I said to Robert above, I’m wary of being preachy and almost edited the conservation bits out, but I’m glad I didn’t. Thanks for the vote of confidence. 🙂 I hope you thoroughly enjoy your weekend, too.

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  4. These are truly mesmerizing Lynn, your love of nature and your fervent commitment toward its preservation come shining through. Not surprisingly most of the photographers I know, present company included, feel just as strongly about it. While I agree wholeheartedly about the current environment and the discouraging amount of bad news, I also feel hope based on the growing number of people and groups focused on preserving the tangible and intangible things so long ignored.

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  5. Very beautiful set of images, Lynn – especially 2-7, which really remind me of the Impressionists – and esp 2 in this respect; I also very much like 16. And I’m very much with you re “our sanity in the face of the onslaught of bad news that presses against us every day” >>> including Trump’s latest blunder re Turkey and Syria, which is just … well, words fail me. But keep on keeping on, my friend, wonderful images! A 🙂

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    • Words fail me, too, and have since he was elected. Sigh. But we will shrug our shoulders and stride out, camera in hand, to see what’s next, right? 😉 Thank you, I’m glad you enjoy these. The funny thing about #1 – 4 – the looser ones – is that you realize you could go a million different directions with them in processing. Contrast? Color? Texture? Luminescence? Those and the others can be slid this or that way for equally interesting effects. Maybe I’ll come back in a few months and do them all differently.

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    • Les réflexions sont si amusantes pour le phtographe, n’est-ce pas? Et c’était magnifique, le matin où j’ai fait le vol n ° 1 – 7 – la pluie est tombée et s’est arrêtée, le soleil est sorti et s’est enfoncé, tout a brillé. Je suis content que vous ayez apprécié les photos et que vous ayez rappelé Monet, merci beaucoup! 🙂

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  6. I enjoyed these a lot. I would like to see the first group presented as large panels against a white wall with appropriate space and lighting rather in the manner of the Colour Field artists.

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  7. What a party of reflections 🙂 They are fantastic, all of them. The vague or blurred ones remind me of art from the 19th century, a bit like the paintings from impressionists! Very very nice! I love the graphic, ornamental forms from the following pictures. What kind of patterns, what a diversity! Did it rain or how did these circles develop? Astonishing, really, but it often happens on the surface of water that we can’t really see what is going on there right? 8 is great in its color, almost surreal. The last ones are magnificent: really like a look into a mirror. I think 13 and 14 are my favourites! They are kind of “crazy”. What did we call it? It makes you almost dizzy in your head? Captivating! I also like the mixture of reflection and real leaves in Nr. 15, like a painting on the water. I can really get addicted to those reflections Lynn 🙂

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    • With the first group, especially #1-4, I could make them even softer, or not – there are so many directions you can go when you begin to process them. It was challenging to figure out how far to go. Definitely, it was raining that morning! We had lunch under the trees. Luckily it was just passing showers. This is where we saw the woman walking barefoot with her cat on her back from the previous post (Headwaters Forest Preserve in California). Next time I’d like to vary the shutter speed more when it rains to see the effects that has on the photo (sharper or softer circles). My camera is water-resistant, which helps a lot.
      In #8, I decided not to tone down the color because it really looked like that. 🙂 #13 & 14 are confusing and I think you are up for that challenge, in fact, you like it! 😉 I almost didn’t take a picture of #13 because it was so complicated, you could not tell what was what. Even though I like that, I thought it wouldn’t work as a photo. But it did after the color was removed. For #15 it was better to keep the color – you can see why.
      It’s wonderful that you observe so carefully and enjoy what you see so much, Almuth, it brings me more enjoyment too. 🙂

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      • 8 is natural? It really looks as if you worked on it. Incredible light! I love 13 and 14 just because of this effect: the total disillusion (?), so surreal and dissolving. The brain has to do a lot of thinking there, right 🙂 It would be great to play with the shutter speed!! Water-resistant – that is great. I am often disappointed when I have to stop photographing while it is raining. I am looking forward to more circle-variations 🙂 Hm, should I wish you rain 😉

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        • The greens get very intense around here, I think because there are many evergreens so there is green everywhere, and the green colors bounce off other greens endlessly. And the late afternoon sunlight on the water multiplies the effect. Your wish has been granted – rain coming later today…. I will try to make the best of it. 😉

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        • Outstanding your greens 🙂 It is often fascinating to see how the colors of water change. Okay, go and get it 🙂 Go for the rain, yeah :-)! We had a summer day today, 24 degrees, almost too warm now, blue sky, but for the night lots of rain is forcasted. I think I won’t go for it 😉

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  8. Your opening photograph made me swoon. Love the shapes as well as the colors. I’m taken by the beauty and variety of looks—all from the same river—that you have explored in #s 1 through 7. The mingling of tree reflections and rain ripples in #7 makes a lovely pattern.These are some of my favorite photographs of yours. You have me also with the composition and tonal range in #14, not to mention the subject. Number 16 has one of my favorite things: reflection and thing itself in the same composition—to which the ripples and pale blue of the water contribute. Is #17 part of the series you explored in #s 1 through 7? The mood is similar. Your narrative is as engaging and informative as ever, Lynn. The mention of tree-sits brings me to the Pulitzer Prize-winning book I’m reading now: The Overstory, by Richard Power. What brave and principled people tree-sitters are. I’m so glad they (and others) were able to save the Headwaters Forest Reserve and grateful to you for telling us that they did. We need some good news, however often the bad news eclipses it. While I remember when the Spotted Owl was in the news, I didn’t know or have forgotten the details included in the phrases “Redwood Summer” and “the Timber Wars of the 1990s.” Thank you for the links that give me context for The Overstory. I encourage other readers of your blog to click on them and to read this important novel. May your photographs not be the only way for people to continue enjoying the places you document so beautifully. Thank you for your work: not only your photographs but also the awareness that they and your narratives engender.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I got excited when I saw the reflections happening in that river. 😉 The funny thing is, with photos like #1-4 you can go so many different directions in processing, it’s hard to decide whether to soften or sharpen, for example. Maybe I will come back to them later and do them another way. #14 needed to be black and white for it to make any sense, and I wish I’d used a smaller aperture, so the lily leaves in the foreground were clearer. But it’s still interesting, I think, and I’m glad you liked it. #17 was also at Headwaters, in the same spot as some of the first ones.
      There are still people tree-sitting, in fact, one person was up there a month or so before we were in Humboldt County, but I only learned about it when I began researching more about what’s going on with the logging and protests. I’d forgotten all the details too, and it was so interesting to realize we were in the place where all that went down.
      Your thoughts about The Overstory and wishes for increased awareness and more in-person visits to these places are appreciated. 🙂 Thank you!

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  9. What a wealth of greens and yellows are included in the first four photos! You can not take your eyes off them, as in intoxication. I imagine, as you – in processing – push the regulators for clarity and structure up and down again and again in the difficult decision: the photos shall become glittering jewelry or soft covers for the soul? Your decision not to exaggerate in any direction brings this impressionistic touch into the pictures. And these gold tones in No.9 and No.10! Very impressive.
    Wonderful, unreal I find the rain circles on the water, blessing water magic.
    And reflections are mine anyway: the play with the question, what is object, what is mirror image, if the reflections in the still water are almost sharper than the reality – in a certain sense, photographers are also magicians, illusionists, with such pictures definitely.
    Such an extraordinary series of pictures has become this, dear Lynn, and in addition the text, which again – as so often – combines poetry with information and appeal – I admire your art again and again and enjoy it without limit.

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    • The way you apply your mind to what you see is thoroughly appreciated, Ule, and I thank you for that.
      Sliding those adjustments farther in both directions would probably produce interesting results, so maybe I’ll come back to these later and play with them. This time I didn’t push very far in any direction, but #1 – 4 may get “makeovers” in the future. And then there’s cropping…
      The gold tones in #9 & 10 probably are there because of my habit of not getting outdoors until late in the day, when the sunlight is warm and low. 🙂 You observation that photographers can be magicians playing with multiple “answers” to the question of what is the object and what is the mirror image is perfect! Blurring the line between the object and a representation of it is something that has intrigued me for a long time. I like when things change places and we’re not sure what is what, or when a mirror image is weighted equally with the object itself. There is room for endless philosophical musing in all this, isn’t there?
      Your comments are being enjoyed over here without limit! 😉 Thank you.

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  10. When common sense prevails, imbalances tend to disappear. Thankfully, the joint action of the inhabitants of the region has worked and these forests remain healthy.
    About your photos…they are simply wonderful. All of them!
    I see this images as impressionist paintings painted by nature on “water canvas”…
    Thanks for sharing so much beauty!

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  11. I’m not usually a fan of abstract images, but nature has a way of making one eat their words. The reflections that include the shades of green are particularly nice. I’m also partial to #7 – I assume water droplets from overhanging trees?

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    • Thanks, Dave, I’m glad I could reel you in to join the abstract appreciation folks, if only for a few minutes. In #7 that’s rain – it was the same morning as the photos above it, a morning of sporadic rain showers and sunbreaks. I was able to stand on a small bridge on the trail and take photos of the raindrops in the water, thanks to a water-resistant camera and lens. If you’re ever near Eureka, you may want to check out Headwaters Forest Reserve.

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  12. Pingback: Mandala #76 – Transitory States – Mandala Vihara

    • Thank you! The ones from California were done in weather that alternated light rain showers and a bit of sun – great weather to be out in if you can. It’s fun to play with the shutter speed, etc. As you’d guess, I enjoy the lack of control over the outcome. And thanks for scrolling back to past posts and really looking. 🙂

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