Monday, December 8, 2008

Burgoyne Bay. Reflections in Reality.

                                         Reflections in Reality.

Just across Salt Spring Island from where I live is a bay that faces toward Vancouver Island. Cradled between mountains, the land slopes down to the waterline. Beaches are always exciting places, a meeting of two eco-systems, brushed by the sky. In late Fall the light is often cool and the skies overcast; not, one would think, an exciting time for photography. What it is though, without it`s summer flash, is an opportunity to look more deeply into the nature of reality in the reality of nature.

As I wander with my camera hunting for a “good” image I`m pulled toward the small streams that have gathered together the water draining off the fields and hills. There on the still or rippling surface is the even tone of the grey sky and the flickering reflections of trees, grasses and, if I lean forward with my camera seeking yet another reflection of thislandscape,myself.
Why do I take these photos anyway: is it as a form of self expression, a kind of trophy hunting, or am I a kind of intermediary acting like the streams and reflecting the reality of the world back to others of my species? If so, I must accept that I am also an integral part of the process: I too lean forward into the picture frame and select what will be seen.

I walk the shoreline, still in the shadow of the ridge to the south, note the ducks feeding in the shallows and choose to picture not the ducks alone but the dark shore and the curve of the stream as it empties into the sea. That big stump that has been stranded here for years: how can I be true to it`s place on the beach except to place it amid the lines of kelp so recently cast up on the strand? This is all such a delicate process of divination that I feel I have stepped out of my human skin and sunk deeply into the landscape itself.
Behind the beach, through the trees, up a steep muddy trail, are old farm fields carved with great labour from the forest a hundred and fifty years ago. Can I find another truth in these green meadows open to the sky? A great boulder pokes it`s boney head through the sod and I am down on my belly in the wet grass struggling to change mental gears and understand what it has to say. It`s rocky form echoes the lines of the mountain behind. The wind ruffles the taller grasses and I choose a slower shutter speed and wait for a gust to set the tall seedy tops a dancing before tripping the shutter. A line of May trees lining a farm road are stripped of leaves and display grey branches and the red fruit that will feed the birds all winter long. I step closer and fill the camera`s frame with nothing but twigs and fruit repeated a thousandfold. Won`t this repetition of form and rhythm that is the dominant feature of this landscape be boring? I hear my inner human designer, conscious of a future audience, worrying about composition and shrug: this feels true to the reality of this place and that trump all other considerations.
As I leave Burgoyne Bay I see a final image waving to catch my eye: a field of arching gone-wild blackberry vines and uncut field grasses are backed by abandoned rusty-roofed farm buildings. Even as artifacts of human settlement they are saying something I`m sure about the beauty and regenerative power of nature through the seasons and the changing but enduring relationship that I and my human species have with the land.

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