Saturday, July 11, 2009

Burgoyne Forest #1. The smell of fire.

Forest walk.

The first thing we notice as we walk into the woods is the unmistakable odor of quenched campfire carried on the air that filters down the mountainside. Recently this peaceful spot rocked with the sound of water bombers and helicopters fighting a stubborn forest fire on the rocky slopes high above us. Our path, notched into the lower mountain slope, tunnels into the forest. Uphill, hidden far above the trees, are the scorched cliffs of Mt. Maxwell and below us the steep hillside dives into the cool blue waters of Burgoyne Bay: all of this is clothed in a rich growth of fir, arbutus and rampant undergrowth. Now, in early summer, bushes of Ocean Spray blur the air with waving creamy blossoms and foxgloves stand tall amid white daisy clusters scattered along the sunnier edges of the path. We feel its peaceful aura seeping into us even as our jangling nerves ring bells warning that all is not right: that insidious smell still warns of danger.

All this fecundity does not make this an easy place to photograph however. Beauty is stacked three deep and it is difficult to find the bones beneath all this pleasant padding. Through the trees on the up-slope I catch glimpses of enormous boulders that tumbled down from the cliffs above sometime in the past. There I might find the sober side of this place but I will save that for another day. I focus on the elements close by, picking out the particular details - the fallen arbutus leaves still specked with last nights rain drops, the soft green sweep of horsetails under the forest shade, the brilliant reds and greens of Oregon grape and the improbable orange bark of an arbutus. The sun creates an extreme range of shadows and highlights that are difficult to capture without producing black shadows and washed out detail. My own eyes deal so much better with this light but I need to visualize as though I see through the camera`s eye.

Heather walks ahead of me and I focus on her legs and press the shutter as we walk along. I know that the photo will be a blur with the same slow shutter speed and small aperture I am using to produce a deep depth of field in the shady places, and the results will be an experiment. I need to push the limits here if I am to get beyond the conventional portrayal of beauty.

Only after I get home and process these photos will I sort them into a language of images, selecting those that tell the complex story that shimmers here among the extravagant layers of luscious forms and colours. That sour, smoky smell that dominated our walk though, how do I express that?

1 comment:

T.R. said...

"Beauty is stacked three deep and it is difficult to find the bones beneath all this pleasant padding"

Extraordinary writing. Extraordinary blog. I'm in love. I used this quote with hopefully appropriate attribution on a kayak post of mine. Let me know if its not appropriate.