Sitting in Solitude by a Mountain Lake, John Muir Wilderness, 2014
The Sierra Mountains are my home, in the deepest metaphorical sense. I don't literally live there, but it is my magic place. As Barry Lopez so eloquently addresses in his seminal book Arctic Dreams:
...to give himself up to a particular landscape in his experience; to look at it from as many angles as he can, to wonder upon it, to dwell upon it. He ought to imagine that he touches it with his hands at every season and listens to the sounds that are made upon it. He ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind. He ought to recollect the glare of the moon and the colors of the dawn and dusk.
Small trout-filled ponds dot the high Humphrey Basin plateau. Weaving through them feels like walking through a manicured garden, so perfectly are the rocks and the windblown trees positioned. It's what I imagine the ancient gardeners of Japan or Mesopotamia were seeking to imitate.
Dropping my larger backpack, I grabbed my camera gear and slowly wove my way through and around until I spotted the rocks below. I saw them from a distance and at an angle that merged them together. Not until I got close did I see them separate into two. I was in a quiet mind and thus sat down to watch awhile. The clouds moved in time with my mind, quiet and peaceful. Slowly, and in no hurry, I setup my camera and loaded it with a fresh roll of BW film.
Having watched the clouds for awhile, I saw they were moving toward me, which, when photographed with a long exposure, would help draw the eye into the scene. I positioned myself to get the clouds to flow both toward me and also over the rocks. I metered the light and put a 10-stop neutral density filter over the lens (which uniformly reduces light allowing for long shutter speeds and thus cloud movement), which gave me a ten minute exposure (the shutter would be open and the film exposing for ten minutes). It's in these moments, when my shutter is open that my mind further quiets and is equally exposed to the clouds, to the mountain air, to the art of a place and to the meaning of a life.
I wrote the following poem while photographing the above image:
Some come here, but most turn back
tired and cold
full of complaints about insane winds
it's just as well, for I am left in solitude, but not alone
the trees, wind and mountains know my name