26 May 2014
Let me know which you prefer and why.
During my youth travel meant short excursions throughout the East Coast and Canada. In my thirties the unexplored pierced through my veins. The unseen, the unknown, the ancient, the renewed, the vast became raw material for my thoughts.
When I finally acted upon my wanderlust, the Southwest and West Coast became my destinations. Seriously, they became my new frontier and spiritual awakening.
I also journeyed to other parts of this country and Europe. But the Western region of the United States remains a vital force and influence upon me. While my adoration for nature was embedded in my young adult years, each trip re-enforced how essential Mother Nature is to the health of the planet and to me.
Visions cemented from those earlier decades focus on Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and the coast of California. My initial sighting of the Grand Canyon’s geological feats became somewhat anti-climatic. I had seen so much that was visually consuming and overwhelming that it was another vast wondrous landscape exemplary of the ecosystem’s epic proportions. These experiences swiftly became part of my inner core.
Each venture spikes desire for more. No matter how satiating the experience, another longs to be pondered, prodded and sought.
I’ve been to the West so many times that I’ve stopped counting. It matters not. When I see a place that I’ve visited, I see it with new eyes. When I visit a new place, I see it with new eyes. Each adds layers to who I am and what I will become.
Every trip becomes a jackpot with surprises that range from emotional to intellectual to physical to spiritual. Each brings an intensity that is often profound and jars my senses.
While the East has its treasures—both natural wonders and human-made, the Southwest and West are boldly omniscient and all-encompassing in ways that the East Coast cannot (in my opinion) equal. But it’s not a competition. It’s preference and lifestyle choice.
On this recent trip to Northern California the trio of destinations (Nevada City, Berkeley, and San Francisco) unleashed a cadre of other places to add to my travelogues. At the apex was the two-and-a-half days roaming through Yosemite National Park within the Sierra Nevada Mountains’ deciduous forests. The entrance to the park was like a long eloquent thoroughfare that leads to the regal and stately, gentle and violent, delicate and bold.
Serendipitously, we were there on Earth Day. We also were there for the park’s 150-year anniversary. Yosemite was established as the first state park by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864 and twenty-six-years later (with the efforts of the conservationist John Muir) became a national park. Click here to read further about Yosemite, which hosts a spectacular 1,170 square miles of California’s High Sierra.
In the park I felt embedded in living history: the soul of our country’s efforts to protect and preserve our natural heritage. My friend and I navigated trails, savored gushing waterfalls, pondered massive granite boulders and cliffs, spied on sweeping forests, stared at snow-capped mountains, and were astounded by vistas such as Glacier Point, the John Muir Trail and the Tunnel View. The Sierra Nevada Mountains region beckons, seduces, exhausts, energizes, and tranquilizes.
The weather was pristine with the light creating perfect settings for its subjects. The combination created a vortex of calm, quiet and solitude. But it also induced deep thought.
Memories are a collective; they are born and join a multitude of other life experiences that track us consciously and unconsciously. Travel is part of the human condition. We must explore–in our neighborhoods or 3,000 miles across a continent.
On this trip Northern California unsurprisingly continued to entice. Again I succumbed to the marvels of Mother Nature’s abundance.
Mostly, I became immersed in what was before me, surrounding me. I felt compelled to capture it all: the scale, light, expanse, and textures. But also I had a profound need to just be, which allowed for sightings of smaller gems.
Spring poppies and other wildflowers added flavors and layers to scenes that were caught in switchbacks, roaming hills and mountains, and other wild shifting landscapes. Small animals flitted (saw my first Stellar Jay on the road to the park) here and there, and my cup runneth over. No bear sightings, but we did spy a sizable pile of shat.
Our national and state parks provide opportunity for place and time. They preserve the untamed and untouched, and give the public permission to enjoy it. I did not observe any signs of litter or vandalism. The park service is quite good at public education. Last year they completed a campaign to raise awareness about the Boulder Garden. This restoration project aimed to reduce eco-graffiti, and from my observations has succeeded.
Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada are synonymous with the black-and-white photographs of Ansel Adams. This work is his legacy to our country’s wilderness history. You cannot separate the back story of the national park system without a reference to his tireless effort to record the West’s landscape.
Through Adams’ vision Yosemite became an archetype of the confluence between nature and human nature as well as the tame and the wild (with emphasis on the wild). This post honors his triumphs as an artist and environmentalist.
The Lens section is my ode to Adams’ devotion to this pristine region. I converted my shots to black-and-white, finding the process drew me even closer to his vision. I fully understand why he continued to use monochrome to interpret that part of our universe.
With Adams’ portfolio and the government’s protection this wild cosmos has become a haven for the world to admire and embrace. It’s a place to disconnect from a world bent on constant connection. It’s a place longing to survive the newness of life and the history of glacier intervention. I felt privileged to bask in the monoliths that hail from the past and live in the present.
For me there is a riveting sense that accompanies the notion that I stood gazing at an expanse that Ansel Adams and John Muir coveted. That I saw what they saw. Truly, I could sense a modicum of their emotions and reactions to the bounty of a place that defies what is real to our mind’s eye.
Tip of the Week: Since this post is a tribute to Ansel Adams’ (1902-1984) glorious oeuvre of Yosemite National Park and the West, I also wanted to introduce you to his publications. I own one of his early series, and it has much to offer the amateur and seasoned photographer. Mostly, it provides insights into the man and his philosophy of photography. He dedicated the five-book set, which was printed from 1940s-1970s, to “everyone who is interested in the development of straight forward photography and who believes in the simple statement of the lens.” The titles are: Camera and Lens, The Negative, The Print, Natural Light Photography, and Artificial Light Photography. Amazon has used copies, click here for the first. Then scroll up and down the page for the others. My library also has them. If yours does not, you can always get them through InterLibrary Loan. But don’t stop there. Adams was the author of many other books. He also is the subject of various printed materials. Most important, each of his photographs are studies in the monochrome. They undoubtedly will inspire you to experiment with black and white, or at least learn to appreciate his ability to bring to you a different way to appreciate our technicolor natural world as you travel in your backyard or to another destination.
View other entries for this week’s challenge:
Note: As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of my blog. For other posts about my Northern California trip, view these links.
If you’d like to join the fun, please click here for details. If you have any questions about the Photo Challenge, please contact me. Click here.
Below is a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Photo Challenges:
1st Monday: Nature
2nd Monday: Macro
3rd Monday: Black and White
4th Monday Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Animals, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Objects, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).
5th Monday: Editing and Processing with Various Apps Using Themes from the Fourth Week.