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.
Wonderful Beds, Astoria, Oregon, 2009
I thought the quaint sign heralding the benefits of staying in this old hotel was amusing in itself, but then noticed that the weather did not seem amused. A rainstorm was moving in on us from above, making those beds seem even more wonderful. I stress the brute force that Nature brings to bear on man here, yet at the same time offer a cozy alternative as context.
Conversation, Thunderbird Park, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, 2009
Man has always made gods out of nature. Indians who once lived in British Columbia carved this totem pole – a religious symbol – out of what once was a living tree. It stands in a park full of totem poles, and full of living trees as well. I used my frame to pair one of them with this pole. It is almost as if they are having a conversation.
Pilings, Astoria, Oregon, 2009
These pilings stand in Astoria’s harbor. It is as if nature herself has incongruously crowned the work of man herek with grasses. The early morning sun paints a striped shadow on each of them, and illuminates the grasses as well. Nature is also a colorist – she matches the color of the grass with the green moss on the side of the pilings.
Evening visitor, Fort Bragg, California, 2009
A huge sea lion makes itself right at home on a pier in the middle of Fort Bragg’s harbor.
Sea lions often sleep on coastal city piers – they must feel relatively secure, and there may often be easy snacks left by the fishing boats that dock here. We returned the following morning to see if there were more seals here, and found none. They had all gone to sea.
Stunned, Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park, Washington, 2009
Black tailed deer roam at will around the Hurricane Ridge overlook, feeding on the lush grasses that line its parking lots. I photographed this man on a cell phone, standing only a few feet away from a mother and its fawn. Wild deer are usually quite shy, and keep a good distance from people. But at Hurricane Ridge, they seem feel no threat. For man, however, such behavior comes as a surprise. This fellow seems rather stunned. I can almost hear him describing the animal activity playing out before him – a rare scene in a world where wild animals and man are often at odds.
The imprint of man, Port Angeles, Washington, 2009
I made this image from the ferry bringing us back to the United States from Victoria, British, Columbia. I was struck by the imprint man makes on nature – as we approached the US coast, the rolling hills of Washington became visible, standing green in the summer sun. The waters below us were blue, as was the sky overhead. Yet as we moved closer, the green hills around Port Angeles sprouted a matrix of industrial chimneys some of them belching smoke into the afternoon air. I made this image with a long telephoto lens from several miles out to sea.
Risk, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, 2009
These tourists have left the safety of the canyon’s rim walk, and climbed out on to the rocky precipice hanging over the gorge for a better view. On one hand, it is always frightening to see visitors take such risks. Every year, I read about people who fall hundreds of feet to their deaths from such rocks as these. On the other hand, I found considerable meaning in this scene. The figures are so small, dwarfed by the immensity of the buttes and cliffs in the background. I used a medium telephoto focal length telephoto lens (250mm) to compress the scene and bring the opposing cliffs closer to the onlookers. However, I did not want to push my zoom too far, and lose the tremendous sense of scale incongruity here. This scene puts man into play with nature itself. The figures here are small and nature is immense. They are young, and nature here is old – very old. They seem utterly relaxed, yet they unknowingly risk all for the sake of an evening commune with the natural world.
Fishing at Burney Falls, Burney, California, 2008
The fisherman is small, the falls large, the contrast expressive. He is dwarfed in scale, yet our eyes go right to him because he wears a bright yellow jacket. That spot of color in an otherwise monochromatic scene is essential to meaning. If he were wearing a less vivid color, he would blend into the background and no longer pull his own weight in this image. As it stands, this photograph contrasts the power of nature to the pleasures of man.
Risk, Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California, 2008
A man struggles to gain a foothold on a wet rock just below the curtain of water that explodes before him. Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America, sending water plunging nearly 2,500 feet into the pool at his feet. He seems incongruously puny in scale, bowing to the pulverizing force of the falling curtain of water only a small slip away from disaster. I open the gallery with this image because it symbolizes man’s epic struggle against the overwhelming forces of nature. Man continually risks nature’s fury at every turn. We must come to respect its power if we are to survive.
Gold Rush remnant, Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, California, 2008
In 1848, James Marshall discovered gold in the American River, and within a year, thousands of miners came to California from all over the world to find their fortunes.
Some of their rusting equipment still remains visible. I photographed a piece of 160-year-old mining machinery in the glow of a late afternoon sun along a dry creek bed leading to the American River. Gold is a natural product, historically valued by man for its beauty and scarcity. I thought the pool of golden grass evoked the natural beauty of gold. The rusting piece of metal machinery offers an incongruous presence – symbolizing the heavy hand of man upon the environment. It lies forlorn in the weeds, now as useless as the greedy dreams of those who once lived and worked and died here during the Gold Rush.