Saturday, June 27, 2015

Published 10:32 AM by with 0 comment

A State of Mind - One Month in Washington

Even though I was born and spent my entire childhood in Ireland, I identify myself equally as a Washingtonian. After living there for fourteen years, however, I might have become just a little complacent. When my wife Linda and I sold our home and began a life on the road, I couldn't wait to get away from the familiar.
We weaved our way down the west coast feasting on nature's eye candy like the giant sequoias of California and the breathtaking views of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. We spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with family in Texas. We also took a wonderful spin around the southern states and witnessed their famous hospitality. After nearly a year, we returned to Washington and, to my surprise, the familiar felt new again.
We reconnected with family and friends but that was only a part of its renewed appeal. To me, Washington represents some of the most beautiful countryside in America and maybe even the world. The diversity of its people and landscape make it an exciting place to be.
My first visit was to an old stomping ground: Snoqualmie. While living in nearby Sammamish, it was my go-to place for spiritual and visual inspiration. One of my favorite secret places is a little turnout near Snoqualmie Falls that has a halting view of Mount Si. On a calm day, you can see a perfect reflection. Luckily for me, all conditions were perfect the evening I was there.

A mirror-like reflection of Mount Si.
Snoqualmie Falls has been shot to death but I can't help shooting it some more. I wanted to convey the flow of the water over time using a long exposure. While it's still not all that original, sometimes I have to stop thinking so much and just capture the stunning beauty in front of me. If I shoot from the heart, I believe that somehow my own voice will shine through.

A long exposure of Snoqualmie Falls.
While in the city of Seattle, we went to the Ballard Farmers Market, one of the largest of its kind. My interest was not especially tweaked by the huge variety of produce there but it was positively excited at the prospect of shooting some of its people.
I love photographing musicians, in particular, because they tend to get lost in their art, oblivious to my clumsy attempts to capture their essence.

Black and White - A Timeless Medium
For me, shooting in black and white strips away everything except what's important in the frame. Gone are all the distracting colors and background details and what remains is the soul of the picture.
Here, I wanted the emphasis to be on the musician's feelings while playing and his relationship to the instrument. Had this been a color photograph, the vibrancy of the background would have competed with the subject.

A Blast from the Past
The trumpet player is also the sole focus of this shot. The choice of black and white, for me, makes it feel like this moment might have been shot fifty years ago.

Anacortes is a favorite venue while I'm in Washington. We usually stay at a campground by Fidalgo Bay overlooking a large refinery. Ordinarily that's probably not the most desirable view but this particular structure is a little different. It has a retro design to it, a kind of steam punk vibe, as Linda says. From a visual perspective, I think it plays nice with its natural backdrop (although I realize this is a controversial subject). Whether it's sunrise or sunset, the combination of steam, architecture, mountains and water makes an eye-popping cocktail.

The many moods and colors of the refinery at Fidalgo Bay.

This sunrise looked like something straight out of a science fiction film.

While in Anarcortes, I spotted a vintage car by the side of the street. I love to capture things in a state of decay and it seemed appropriate to shoot it in black and white.

An old classic slowly fades away.

San Juan Island is a great place to go for a day and we had a blast riding the ferry and renting mopeds. I shot lots of photographs, of course, but I'd class them more in the snapshot category. One exception was this strong sunlit church. The dramatic angle is reminiscent of the Bates Motel from the Hitchcock film Psycho.

I accentuated the dynamic lines with an equally dramatic angle.

Finally, we moved on to just outside Port Angeles and spent time at Salt Creek Recreation Area, which boasts spectacular views of the Strait of Juan De Fuca. As tempting as the big vistas were to shoot (I had shot them many times before), I was drawn to the moods of more intimate spaces along the shore and trails.

For me, it's a question of looking a little deeper to discover otherwise hidden worlds.

A Quiet Light
Sunlight gives voice to even the tiniest of flowers. It is a common belief that shooting at noon, when the light is at its harshest, will never produce good photographs. In my experience, it just means I have to work a little harder to find something worthwhile.

Dramatic Clouds at Crescent Beach
Sometimes a sky will make or break a photograph. I have shot this scene on other occasions during cloudless skies but the images never made the cut. This time, however, everything came together and the abundant clouds made for a much more engaging picture.

A Natural Kaleidoscope
Water ripples and the patterns they create are really all about motion. It was an interesting challenge to try to represent them in a single moment. Sometimes our eyes make up for what's missing in an image and, when I look at this one, I imagine the shifting shapes of the rocks and water.

While walking along Crescent Beach, I noticed a family all abuzz with activity. There was something about each person's place at this exact moment that made for an interesting composition. A friend said the colors and atmosphere of this candid scene reminded him of the movie Jaws.

A peaceful moment before the shark arrives?

Washington never disappoints and this time my departure was bittersweet. While we got ready to resume our epic road trip across the U.S., it felt like home more than ever before.

My Adobe Spark (formerly Slate) presentation of this post is available here

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