[ the camera is] an instrument of love and revelation.
- a great photograph is “the full expression what one feels about what is being photographed and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.” - Ansel Adams
It has rained heavily overnight and by morning's light the landscape around Nanoose, on Vancouver Island is shedding excess water as fast as possible; the ditches along the roadside as we drive towards Englishman River Falls are full to overflowing - little rivers in themselves. With this much water, what can we expect at the falls? The answer comes to us from some distance away: the muffled roar of white water foaming and leaping as it rushes down a narrow tree-lined canyon.
I am using my regular moderate zoom lens today so this will be a different 'take' from my telephoto trip to nearby Little Qualicum Falls a month ago. Really, I am more comfortable with a wider perspective, and the question in my mind is whether I can produce photographs that can 'speak' and not simply allow the drama that lies ahead to overpower me.
Down, down the green moss-covered slope we hike and there at last flashes the white streaked river through the trees. Yes, conditions are truly spectacular this morning and we have a brief slot of sunshine between rain clouds to experience it in. What can I do to both record the moment and yet give the viewer a deeper sense of this place? What angles, what camera settings, what mental state of readiness - of being prepared for the expressive and the unexpected?
I feel compelled to first record the standard views, the lower falls, the swirl of the current seen through trees, and then I am free to play with proportions, with relationships, with the contrasts of of colour and light and dark, all the while edging towards the clincher if it exists today where everything comes together.
The main upper falls when we reach them is more than simply impressive. A mighty mountain river dives into a crack and disappears. A roar, much spray and mist and then out it shoots again into the narrow rock walled canyon far below. I snap away, I cannot avoid this drama, but then repeat an approach I have been playing with earlier, placing the mass of white water within the context of the forested banks: the particular which frames the spectacular. Here is the image I have been working towards, a composition that enhances the particular details of living things within the rush and roar. Here is something we can at some level relate to within our own lives; ultimately we are the canyon, the vegetation, and we are the river itself foaming to the sea.
I know why you stare at the mountain's beauty,
for she reminds you of something vital in yourself.
And natural desires to explore her heights are just
there to help you reach your own summits.
'A Year with Hafiz' Danial Ladinsky