The curtain, Mission Beach, San Diego, California, 2010
One of the most vivid examples of nature at work is the daily passage of the sun itself around the earth. At dawn and sunset that passage is at its most impressive stage. When weather intervenes, it can at times become even more dramatic. This is what is happening here, as a setting sun falls through a curtain of low hanging storm clouds over the Pacific Ocean, creating a band of brilliant orange sky below it. Man can only watch in wonder and awe, as this pair of surfers is doing here. The very waves they ride are also creations of nature, as well as man himself.
Organ loft, The Old First Church, Bennington, Vermont, 2010
As I spot-metered on the light illuminating the silver pipes of the church’s organ, I noticed that the huge window behind those pipes was filled with greenery. The church appears as a work of man, yet the work of nature seems to press upon us from outside, but it cannot enter. The mass of green symbolizes life, and energizes the image.
Number Hill, Arco, Idaho, 2010
Arco was the first community in the world ever illuminated by electricity generated by nuclear power. (A reactor melted down in 1961, causing the world’s first fatal reactor accident.) Yet the most striking physical feature of the town is Number Hill, a rocky hill with numbers painted all over it. Since 1920, Butte County High School has made a tradition of asking each class to paint its graduation year on the face of the hill. In this portrait of Number Hill, I was able to combine the painted numerals symbolizing the memories of man upon a work of nature at the very moment that nature itself was also painting the hill with dappled light and shadow.
Osprey nest, Palisades Reservoir, Idaho, 2010
While traveling through Idaho, we encountered a sight that was not only incongruous but also expressed the linkage between man and nature. An osprey was peeking at us from its nest atop a power line tower. Usually birds of prey build their nests in trees deep in the forest, yet this one had constructed its home at the very top of an object built and used for the energy needs of man. (I have some fears for its safety up there amidst all that voltage, yet so far, so good.) Using a long 400mm telephoto lens, I framed the image so that the power lines and the tower create a series of repeating diagonal lines that echo each other and draw the eye through the image with considerable energy. (Pun intended.) The gray sky offers a clean background, while the ominous clouds underscore the precarious setting for the osprey’s nest.
(A few months after I made this image, I learned that this nest is not far from a fish hatchery, which may well account for it's location--still another reminder of the linkage between nature and man.)
Hot springs, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 2010
I photographed this group of people enveloped in the steam pouring from the earth in Yellowstone’s Midway Geyser Basin. They stand upon wooden boardwalks that are largely invisible here. They seem to be incongruously walking on fire, and appear oblivious to the fact that they are also floating within a cloud, a cloud not so different from the ranks of clouds that float in the sky over their heads. They are linked here to the forces of nature itself, and should long remember this moment.
Log bearers, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 2010
Four National Park Service employees march in lock step, bearing a stripped and barren log to be used in a Yellowstone construction project. I photograph the chore from behind, abstracting it and giving it a sense of somber dignity amidst the flowing grasses that surround them. They remind me of pallbearers, carrying a work of nature that has been harvested and transformed by man. The grasses seem to act as mourners.
Red Rock Crossing State Park, Sedona, Arizona, 2009
A sense of awe and wonder often accompanies visitors to this site, perhaps the most popular in the Sedona area. The creek here flows over red rocks, and often divides itself into multiple streams of water. This woman has walked on to a narrow path that has water on both sides. She stood silently for several minutes, seemingly at one with the natural world. Unbeknownst to her, I was standing behind her, and noticed that the two narrow trunks of a small tree echoed the position of her legs. She is absorbed in nature, and given my vantage point, nature is absorbed in her.
Cemetery, Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey, 2009
Roses are emblematic of the natural world. Like man, they grow, bloom, and die. Here, they are juxtaposed with the graves of man, honoring the memory of those who rest here. Not far away is the tomb of Suleyman the Magnificent, who built the Ottoman Empire. A fitting image – it was Suleyman who fostered Istanbul’s golden age of artistic achievement.
Shark strike, off Gloucester, Massachusetts, 2009
Mankind has always hunted and fished for both survival and pleasure. I photographed a group of deep-sea fishermen trolling for sport several miles off the Massachusetts coast. Almost all the creatures that were hauled up out of the deep were thrown back due to size restrictions. In this image, we see the magical moment when the prey first comes into view. It is the strike of a sand shark, its jaws clamped upon a hunk of bait. The water abstracts the shark, making it seem more mysterious and menacing than it looks when seen out of the water. These small sharks are also known as Dogfish – they are very common and quite active. This image of a shark being drawn up from the dark waters of the Atlantic Ocean by a fishing line can also be seen as a metaphor for Man’s dependency on nature for food as well as symbolizing the food chain itself – a shark chews here on a chunk of fish, and man is ready and willing to chew on a shark, if it should be large enough to be taken. This shark was quickly relieved of its hook, and tossed back into the sea.
Weather, Castle Hill, Ipswich, Massachusetts, 2009
The weather – nature’s way of expressing itself – has battered the surface of this statue for nearly 100 years. It has no defenses – it must take whatever blows nature inflicts, gradually deteriorating under its punishment. . Man, on the other hand, is able to adapt to nature’s rampages. In this case, a tourist is warmly wrapped in a hood and jacket as she strides past the row of statues lining Castle Hill’s impressive Grand Allee – the half-mile long backyard of the Crane Plumbing family’s former mansion.
Bearskin, Forks, Washington, 2009
This skin is draped over a chair at the entry to a local restaurant. It is a hunter’s trophy, a reminder that man often will take from nature whatever he wants. I stress the bear’s fierce expression, mouth wide open, displaying its dangerous teeth. Yet the bear is mute and powerless here, strapped on to the back of a bench as an ornament in a restaurant. It no doubt is intended remind visiting tourists that they are at the edge of Olympic National Park, where creatures such as this are still free to roam. But for some, this shell of a bear, lashed in death upon a hard bench, will underscore the precarious state of the environment as a whole.
A child’s touch, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California, 2009
Some of the most impressive trees in the world stand in this park. Yet we see only their trunks – their soaring branches merge into a canopy overhead that is virtually impossible to photograph expressively. I was left to concentrate on that part of a redwood tree that best tells its story – the lines and textures of its ancient trunk. I was photographing such a trunk when a hand suddenly appeared from the other side. It was the hand of a young child, climbing into the crook of the tree so that her father could take her picture there. I made this shot of us her hand as it entered the crook and grasped the tree. This image incongruously matches the touch of a child’s hand to wood that was growing almost a thousand years ago. Her youth is forever linked to its age, and through it to the story of nature itself.