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.
I like the first very much Sally, but would finally choose the Boulder Garden photograph as favourite. It captures such an interesting contrast between the curves in the lower section and the straight edges in the split rock and the tree trunks above; imo that works very well indeed.
Lovely to hear from you. Thanks so much.
Your love of photography and for the beauty of our country shines brightly through your work. You are a great American writer, Sally, and this is a great American masterpiece!
Elisa, I’m in tears. Thanks you so much.
Fantastic Sally. Excellent shots and I love the first one. It really does remind me of an Ansel.
Edith, your comment brings a huge smile. Welcome back, and I await more of images from your trip. Thanks.
They are very interesting. I like very much the third for the rhythm of the shadows.
Lovely to hear from you. Thanks so much.
oh ansel adams…what an artist he was and has given us so much to think about in our own art. your work is wonderful…who can pick a favorite?
Laurie, lovely to hear from you. Yes, he was a master of nature photography. But not all the critics liked his work. Some thought that he was too commercial. Time has shown the strength of his vision. See you soon. Thanks so much.
Such gorgeous, striking images and lyrical prose to accompany them. I won’t chose a favourite; I like them all equally. I’m out of my natural, suburban, habitat this week – but only as far as downtown. http://zimmerbitch.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/glimpses-of-the-night-city/
I appreciate your thoughtful comment. Now I’ll go view your entry.
Beautiful tribute! I too love the western United States. I need to explore so much more there someday.
Please plan a trip to this region, which has it all. Thanks so much.
Love the theme this week Sally! Here’s mine. http://allkindsaeverything.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/phoneography-and-non-slr-challenge-travel/
Livvy, I do too. The challenge allows you to decide each fourth Monday from the topics. If you choose, you can do travel every fourth Monday. Or make it part of the fifth Monday editing and processing. Thanks so much.
My pick, only because you ask, is Boulder Garden. Love the sculptural feel of the rocks and the deep shadows. But they are all very impressive Sally.
Boulder Garden stuns ones sensibilities with the size of the formations, especially when emphasized by light and shadows. Thanks so much.
My favourite, if I have to choose, would be the first photo. Thank goodness for the foresight of John Muir and his ilk.
I agree completely. Adams and Muir and their compatriots (including presidents then and since) have helped to preserve open space that is a human legacy for nature and us. Thanks so much.
Almost impossible to choose a favorite Sally. Yosemite I suppose if I had to choose!
I feel particularly blessed to have spent time in this national park; it’s a wellspring of inspiration. Thanks so much.
You enlighten others and that is special !
I’m overwhelmed with your comment. Thank you.
Just own it my dear !
Hi Sally. Some dramatic and striking images here. I particularly like Yosemite Falls. Northern California is definitely on my Bucket List!
Here is my contribution:
Steve, Amanda and you must make the trip. It’s a destination that can be life changing. Thanks so much.
Great the source of your inspitation,dear Sally ! Each of your posts a real hymn to Nature in all its expressions ! Gorgeous your photo series in mono,loved the two last ones more as I could easily feel the power of the water .. . Have a most wonderful week , Doda 🙂
Doda, I appreciate your comments. See you soon.
“Travel is part of the human condition. We must explore–in our neighborhoods or 3,000 miles across a continent.” Your words remind me of something from 1968. I lived for half a year in a village in the mountains of Honduras called La Esperanza, which I came to after growing up in the suburbs of New York. About 8 kilometers (or miles, I forget which) down the road from La Esperanza was the smaller village of Yamaranguila, which I decided to visit to get to know more of the area I was in. I remember asking a woman in La Esperanza about Yamaranguila and being taken aback when she said she’d never been there. I couldn’t understand then, and still can’t now, how someone could have so little curiosity as never to have visited the next town.
Steve, your story is filled with strong memories. It’s true that so many of the proverbial “we” neglect the depth and breath of what is nearby. I’ve often heard people in NYC say they never been to this museum or cultural institution or that one. It astonishes me. See you soon. Thanks so much.
That applies to my mother, a New Yorker all her life who somehow never made it to the Statue of Liberty, though she did visit Paris and the Ivory Coast.
Humans are such an imperfect (that is, perfectly imperfect) animal. By the way, did your passion for Spanish blossom during your experience in Honduras? I made that connection, but not sure it’s accurate.
I studied Latin in high school, French in high school and college, and Portuguese in college. With all that Romance background, I gleaned bits of Spanish along the way, but not until I entered the Peace Corps training program for Honduras did I study Spanish in any sustained way. Having to deal with everyday events in Spanish, including teaching math in that language, soon improved my ability.
I did the same in high school and continued French in college. You must have many memorable moments about your experience in the Peace Corps, and the Spanish is a lasting legacy.
aloha Sally and all. your first photo here does it for me. as one of the first photographers i remember, this sets off bells and whistles as one of the first images of his that stunned me. the thrill of being even close to a spot where Adams understood the power of B and W when facing the color world would awe me. i’d snap the photo instantly. and then search for other spots too. you caught that understanding well in this photo. way cool.
my response for today:
After the Rain ~ Garden Boundaries
happy phoneography monday. aloha
Rick, that’s a heartfelt response to my experience. It’s a rather strange and wondrous moment of moments to know that one has shared a view with such a luminary–even with such a distance of time. Thanks so much.
Sally, there is no way I could choose which of your lens I like better. All of them are monumental, as is your subject. I too love the entrance to the park… such a wonderful prelude… It’s so awesome you were there on Earth Day AND the 150th anniversary. I was there in the winter one time and remember driving out of the park in the falling snow… so beautiful in such a different way than the spring or summer. What a great post to honor Adams and Muir, we owe them so much.
Meghan, I agree. These conservationists were monumental in spirit and in their efforts to preserve the earth’s wilderness. I have great reverence for them, as it seems you do too. I’d love to go in the other seasons. My friend who lives four hours away has been there eight times (from childhood to our trip). To see it in all seasons is a true dream. Thanks so much.
I love reading about your latest western trip, Sally and hope to make it to Yosemite myself within the next year. Your first photo is my favorite of the group but as always your selection is fabulous. 🙂
Lisa, please give yourself a huge gift and make plans to go. It’s an extraordinary experience. Thanks so much.
I want to make a road trip next summer. 🙂
We spent two and a half days. One could easily spend a week or more.
Great info for planing, thanks.
Wonderful photos. I particularly like the first one.
Thank you so much.
Love photo number1. It’s been many years since I was to Yosemite but I still remember it’s beauty, Adams is one of my all time favorite photographers , your tribute is nice. Have you ever traveled to the Pacific Northwest? We have stunning waterfalls among all the other beautiful sites to see.
Happy Memorial Day,
Joanna ( ancient foods )
Yes, I’ve been to Seattle and Portland where the coastline is dotted with glorious giant rocks. Lovely to hear from you. Thanks so much.
The First one is my favorite. a classic photo but in B&W with the sun on the falls it is a stand out.
You must have driven 6 blocks from my home if you took I80 on your venture out here. I am so glad you had the experience, We have people from all over the world staying with us and they visit the same places as you. I need to do the same one year,
Happy Photo Monday!
PS Why do you post such small images? I view them on a laptop and I can hardly make them out.
Carol, I make them medium-size. I made that decision a few months ago. It’s a way to discourage others from downloading them. By the way, we went to Yosemite on route 120. See you soon. Thanks so much.
How could I resist this challenge – two of my favourite photographic interests, Ansel Adams and travel. Here’s my contribution – http://artifactsandfictions.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/travel-and-ansel-adams/
I prefer the first and second of your photos here Sally.
Suzanne, aren’t they a marvelous duo. See you soon. Thanks.
Your photos are a wonderful tribute to Ansel Adams. Each photo speaks to the beauty of nature. We are indeed blessed here in Northern California. http://angelinem.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/phoneography-challenge-at-days-end/
Indeed, you are. Thanks so much.
Hi Sally, I’ll start taking part again properly from next month but I love the black and white week so much that I wanted to share this one with you…
Steve, I’m off to see your entry.
First, let me say that all your photos are good. Your first one of the Yosemite Falls is definitely my favorite. At first I thought it was one of Ansel Adams’ photographs! I must agree that as there is no direct competition between the U.S. East and the West sides, the Western states definitely do lend more to the natural amazing phenomena in my opinion. The grandeur that remains in the National Parks out west cannot be duplicated. It is rejuvenating and awe-inspiring. I love your descriptions.
Linda, I am touched by your kind comment. Thanks so much.
Nothing heals the soul and body like time in the natural world. I am also a transplanted east coast person now living in the PNW. I’ve wondered if I could ever live back east again. All these images are lovely – that sliced boulder is fascinating. In a photography class I took we worked with Ansel Adams Zone System. I find it a useful tool to review the grey scale present in my shots. Happy photo day.
Dawn, thanks for the link. See you soon.
Sally, I share your love and reverence for the beauty of the west and southwest. For me, the openness and vastness is part of the appeal but there’s something in those spaces that calls to something deep inside of me.
Your photos are a beautiful tribute to Ansel Adams. I like the first one best as it portrays not only somewhere my mother, who grew up in California, used to see often and a place I’ve seen, but looks very much like an Ansel Adams photo, so much so that I first thought it was.
Have a photo-filled week and happy Memorial Day.
Janet, I’m truly touched by your comment. Have a lovely weekend. Thanks.