As I mentioned last week, the point of my Oregon trip was to visit my friend Ben Coffman, who moved from my neck of the woods to Beaverton last year with his wife, Lori, and their two kids, Leo and Lily. Ben was gracious enough to act as equal parts host, guide, chauffeur, and fellow photographer for my seven days in the Pacific Northwest, and I take this opportunity to thank him again for his hospitality.
Taking a photography trip with Ben was, of course, a completely different experience from taking one with Teri, my normal travel companion. Ben and I had collaborated on the overall bones of the trip, but he had pieced together most of the logistic details long before I arrived, and he then spent the entire week in the driver’s seat (literally), which is the role I usually play.
Sitting in the passenger seat freed my eyes to wander through Oregon’s dense old-growth forests, study the roadside streams for waterfalls, and to turn around to see the view that oncoming traffic got to see. It was a refreshing shift of focus and responsibility.
It was also great to bounce ideas off each other, to see the contrasting angles that Ben was laboring to get, and to take note of the accessories he was using. In general, it was interesting to see the world through another outdoor photographer’s eyes.
As I’ve learned over the past three or so years since I’ve really become interested in photography, praise for one’s work offers a short-lived thrill, but it can easily lead to complacency. Your most valuable critics are those whose opinion and honesty you can trust. With that said, yesterday, I received an email message from my grandpa, Tom Majeski, a career artist and former art professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Concerning my prior post, he did not mince words:
“While impressive nature photography, it is not nearly as impressive for me as your Yellowstone pictures. Lot of love and luck, nearly ggpa.”
I cannot disagree. As I said to Ben at one of the many turnouts lining Crater Lake on our first morning there, although the place was undeniably beautiful, I was not yet feeling any “magic” yet in my photographs. He felt the same way.
The only way I can describe “magic” is a quality that carries an otherwise good photograph beyond the sum of its parts—when life is breathed into it. I do not feel it often, and I’m always disappointed when I don’t. Many landscape photographers would argue that magic (or their version of magic, anyway) can happen only when the light is spectacular, typically just around sunrise and sunset. I disagree, but it can take more effort to find at, say, noon on a cloudless day. The magic is always there; I just have to keep looking until I find it, and it had eluded me to that point.
Although I’m not sure I ever found that “magic” at Crater Lake, when we returned later that evening after spending some time around Diamond Lake, we were treated to one of the most impressive post-storm cloud and light displays I’ve ever seen. Beforehand, the storm had looked so ominous that we debated leaving the area for safety, but we pressed on anyway, determined to get to a spot along the southeast part of the lake to watch the sun go down.
The storm was at full power over the lake and along the opposite ridge when I got out of the car. As the sun dropped and the oranges deepened, we noticed that mammatus clouds had appeared overhead. It had become a full panorama of amazing sky, and I froze trying to take it all in. I guess it would have been a perfect time for a fisheye lens, but I do not have one, so I just tried to capture bits here and there, mostly to give Teri an idea of what we had seen.
The show was over before long, so we headed back to the campsite, had a few beers, and piled into our soggy tents.
Ben and I woke up early the next morning and headed back to Crater Lake for sunrise. When we arrived there, it was still mostly dark, with just a predawn glow in the east. We were hoping for more clouds in the sky, but it was mostly clear. Nonetheless, it was fun hiking around a point at the northwest part of the lake, near Wizard Island, watching as the caldera slowly filled with light.
Next post: Waterfalls.