Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Finding Gold at the Kinsoll Trestle and Bright Angel Park

The transformation of nature in art is rendering the nature phenomenon transparent to transcendence.
Joseph Campbell

 The Kinsoll trestle

Having hosted the photographers from Duncan two weeks previously, it is now the turn of Saltspring photographers to foot-passenger across from Vesuvius to Crofton and be carried off to visit a couple of photograph-able sights: the Kinsoll Trestle and Bright Angle Park. It is an opportunity to get to know fellow members in our own club and those folks from across the sea on the 'big island'. First stop, the Kinsoll trestle.

The original trestle was built many years ago when steam trains were used to log the first growth forests of Vancouver Island. A big ravine blocking the rail line’s path? The answer in those days was to build an enormous timber bridge called a trestle. Imagine this profligate use of trees simply to get at the rest of them! A few years back it was decided to make this old railway grade a part of the Trans-Canada Trail and to tear down the decrepit old bridge and replace it with a new, and somewhat modernized, walking one. Our first sight tells us that a massive amount of timber has gone into this one too. It is a solid reminder of what was built in the not so distant past, of the history of the logging industry, and we remember even as we decry the destruction of the forest, the rape of the land, that the modern province we benefit from, its infrastructure, buildings, and educated citizens, were built by the capital produced by that very destruction. We wring our hands over the desecration, but in good, solid, comfort.

It is close to noon, the sun is glaring from a clear blue sky; bright highlights, strong shade and cast shadows. As a camera cannot adjust to this range of light and dark anywhere near as well as the human eye can, there are choices to be made. With the camera adjusted for the brights the shadows are black. This high contrast can make some dramatic images, but if I expose for the shade and shoot the bright and dark combined, the highlights will blow out to white. It would seem that one has to be very careful where one points the camera today.

I scramble down a zig-zag path to the canyon’s bottom and peer up at the wooden matrix above. It is almost overpowering in its mass and repeating forms of verticals and diagonals. I slither down to the river bank, walk up beside the almost dry bed and turn back to view the trestle from here. On this shady side, the lattice of timber is almost an even blue grey, but bright light glares over the top of the trestle. I find a maple tree resplendent in its golden autumn colours and place an arching branch over the bright sky, take my exposure reading from the trestle and click. It is a great addition to the composition that the bright colours contrast so well with the cool tones of the trestle. Problem solved.

Problem solving like this is my chief delight. The Kinsol did not disappoint!

Bright Angel Park.

It is a short drive on to Bright Angel Park and down beside the river is that same glaring afternoon light. Here are broad gravel bars and shallow, wide pools which have been augmented with temporary dams to create enough depth for the returning salmon run. The locals have never seen the river so low.

Once across the suspension foot bridge I walk along the river bank and photograph against the light which is so strong that its reflection highlights the foliage and faces of passers by. It is almost too easy to shoot back-lit autumn leaves once again, but I shoot them anyway while waiting for something more challenging to turn up. Slowly I come to see that there is subtlety here beside this calm shallow river after all. It is myself that has to adjust and see deeper into nature and then find ways with camera settings and compositional techniques to portray it. How often it is knowledge itself that stands in the way of any true communication. We all experience this in our lives: we 'know' about this or that person and by 'knowing' we cannot see beyond our knowledge, we 'know' how to use our camera and how to shoot specific generic scenes and thereby are blocked from any real intuitive perception and way of expression.

I photograph the shallow river , the reflected and slanting shapes of two tree trunks and feel the communication. Perhaps the resulting image will seem flat and uninteresting to someone else compared to the potential drama in the bright light, dark shadows and strong colours that exist here but I recognize at this moment that the transcendent lies plainly all around us, all of the time,and yet usually we do not see the gold. My camera centres my mind and opens my eyes.

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