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2023 Personal Favorites

Here you will find some of my photographs from the past year that are my own favorites, and a bit of discussion about some of them. I hope you enjoy this edition of my blog!

My wife and I swim regularly at our local (geothermally heated!) outdoor pool, which is about a 15 minute walk from our house. Our route to the pool takes us across a bridge over an irrigation canal that is significantly drawn down in the winter, and I noticed one day that some tumbleweeds had accumulated in the canal. I checked on them regularly when we passed by, and one day I saw that one had become isolated from the others, and that there were reflections of some trees in the water surrounding the tumbleweed. Upon returning home from my swim, I grabbed my camera and headed back down there, resulting in the photograph below. Edward Weston is quoted as saying “I see no reason for recording the obvious.” Well, I’ve recorded the obvious on many occasions, but with this photograph I feel like I really saw something I wouldn’t have taken note of several years ago, that the scene was not an obvious candidate for a photograph.

In April we headed south to visit my mother-in-law in Pahrump, Nevada. (She has since moved here to Klamath Falls.) I knew that on the way, near the small town of Bieber, California, there was an abandoned school bus in a field near the road. I also knew that there was no good place to stop near the bus, but that the road was very lightly trafficked. I stopped at a pullout before we got to the bus and prepared my camera, holding it on my lap in the driver’s seat of our van. Seeing no vehicles behind me, I stopped even with the bus, rolled down the window, and took a couple photos, a wide view and a closer one. I didn’t really look at my photos until we got home a couple a couple weeks later. I was pleased to see that photographing from the relatively high vantage point of the van seat resulted in the top of the bus being placed perfectly against a grassy field behind the bus!

While in Pahrump, we visited a place south of Death Valley called China Ranch, where I made the photograph below. I like it because it feels like a modern version of something like Timothy O’Sullivan’s images of the buttes near Green River, Wyoming. I’m fairly fond of the work by O’Sullivan and the other survey photographers of the late 1800s. Like this photo, theirs often have blank skies (in their case due primarily to the blue light sensitive emulsion used on their glass plates). I really like how the ground almost sparkles in the desert sun here.

On our way home from Pahrump we camped one night at Walker Lake, near Hawthorne, Nevada (home of the world’s largest ammunition depot). It was a cold, blustery evening. The next morning we awoke to clear skies, and saw that it had snowed overnight on the high mountains to the west of the lake. I made the next photograph when the warm morning light was bathing the foreground hills.

I enjoy traveling to exotic and spectacular locations as much as the next person, but I really like photographing places within an hour or so of where I live. And even better yet is when I find something to photograph right here in town! Here are a few favorites from this year that were made in Klamath Falls.

Frozen Klamath Lake and Buck Island

Pine Bough and Reflection, Lake Ewauna

(the background is very still water)

Four Trees, Veteran's Park

In August, my wife Vivian and I traveled north to spend a week with some close friends on a small island between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia. We were dropped on the island with some sea kayaks and a week’s worth of food and water. Our lodging was a modest cabin with views out over the water to the Coast Range of British Columbia. I forgot my tripod in the rush to get everything on the boat that was to deliver us to our island home, but was able to get some decent photos handheld – here are two favorites.

Driftwood Roots

Kent Slawson Rounding the Point

In early September we turned around and boarded a plane for our first trip to Europe, where we did two bike tours. The first was along the Danube River in Austria, the second around Lake Constance which is on the border between Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. I took a number of pretty standard “tourist” photos, but here are a few that I feel have a bit of merit, beyond being just tourist snaps.

Passau, Germany

Boat Along the Danube River, Austria

Cathedral Interior, Linz, Austria

When we returned home I made a pact with myself to spend more time out photographing, which led to jaunts to nearby Crater Lake National Park and Lava Beds National Monument, along with other nearby favorite spots. When returning from our Pahrump trip I had noted an interesting view of Mount Shasta near Newell, California. After the mountain had received some snow this fall I found the perfect location to get the image I had in mind. I like the paradoxical nature of this photograph. Initially we might see a small pile of snow at the base of an exponentially decaying dark skyline. But then we realize that the “small pile” is actually about 7000 feet of vertical feet of elevation of Mount Shasta, at the base of a cliff that is only a couple hundred feet high!

In October we went to the Oregon Coast for a few days, where I made the following two photographs. I like the lack of scale in both, and the glare of the sun on wet sand in the first, and on wet rock in the second. The first image was made a little south of Gold Beach, and the second was at Shore Acres State Park.

I really love photographing in fog, as it helps clean up backgrounds. I had seen a blue tractor sometime earlier in the year, and went out on a foggy morning to see if I could get a photograph of it that I liked. In his book Light, Gesture, Color, the photographer Jay Maisel says “‘Color’ is quite different from ‘colors.’ In an image with many colors we find that all the colors compete with each other rather than interacting with each other. The result: colors. When you are working with limited colors they have the capacity to interact. The result: color.” In an earlier blog post I discussed my prefered roles for color in a photograph, one of which we see here. The yellow of the front bumper and the blue of the tractor itself are complementary colors, and there are no other strong colors competing with those two. The colors make the photograph.

Continuing with the rural theme, another day I came upon two objects in a field. Whatever they were, the frost beautifully strengthened the details of their construction, and the chains and cables attached to them. I made one fairly boring photo of them. Before spotting them my attention had been drawn to the abandoned ranch house, and I had made a couple of lackluster images of it. Then it struck me that I could put the two together, along with a foreground fencepost, in a pleasing composition. (It turns out the objects are buckets for a dragline excavator.) Here we see another favorite of mine, subdued colors of a limited color range.

I’ve finished out the year with a couple visits to the Linkville Pioneer Cemetery here in town, where I’ve made a large number of photographs (fodder for a future post!) - here is one of my favorites.

Finally, I’m going to cheat! Well, I can make up my own rules, so this is OK. The last two photographs are from December 2022. A go-to ski tour for us on a nice day when there are no turns to be had on steeper terrain is to ski up Garfield and Applegate peaks in Crater Lake National Park. When we got to the top of Garfield Peak, a short walk to the east showed that the Phantom Ship and the tip of the ridge down to it were beautifully illuminated by the sun, with the rest of the lake’s shoreline in shadow. I made the photograph below, and we headed over to Applegate Peak for some low-angle turns.

Now I don’t often photograph people. I’m fairly slow and deliberate, and do most of my photography with my camera firmly attached to a tripod. But here I fired away as everyone skied down, and a miracle occurred – one of the photographs turned out well! This particular photograph of Vivian skiing has led to some small amount of local notoriety for both Vivian and I, as it appeared on the cover of the “Active Seniors” insert to the Herald & News, our local newspaper.

And there you have it, a selection of my personal favorites for 2023, and a bit of 2022. Hopefully, at this time next year I’ll be posting my favorites for 2024!

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