On our way to the Quiraing mountains, Mary Liz and I detoured to check out an old stone sheep pen that was set off, away from the road. About the time we walked in and started to look for photos who shows up but the crofter himself, Calum MacDonald with his trusty dog Pip! His purpose that day was to round up a couple dozen sheep for their annual sheep-dip plunge but he was willing to chat for a while, discussing the crofter’s waning lifestyle; those skills learned from his father and now being continued with his herd of sheep but more as a tradition than that of a business.
The afternoon highlight for us both was watching Pip herd the sheep while Calum strolled along offering minimal commands and hand signals. Once the sheep were at the stone pens, Calum managed the gates while Pip penned the herd with a firm stance and stare. It was a beautiful performance to watch, and made us both wonder how many generations of crofters and dogs have worked sheep into those stone pens over the years, and how they will continue.
Yippee!!! This calendar arrived and it’s my image on the cover of the National Geographic Calendar 2019! The editor let me know they were going to use it last year but I never quite let myself believe it until I have it in my hands!
This image was taken on a backpack trip into Eagle Cap Wilderness in Northeastern Oregon. I was using my 4X5 camera on this trip. I was ridiculously loaded down and even took a spill on some switchbacks and ended up like a beetle on its back. An important lesson in backpacking: unbuckle yourself from your pack if you can’t get up. It only took me 5 minutes of trying to roll on my side to figure that out!
Terry and I had fabulous conditions while we were up at Eagle Cap for 5 days. After we finished our backpack we sent off our film to our lab in Boulder, CO and continued photographing in the area. A few days later we stopped at a desolate crossroads with one gas station surrounded in a sea of sage. I called our processor, John Botkin to see how the film looked. He asked me if I was sure I sent him the right box as only 7 of the 50 sheets of film were exposed and the others that he processed were black; meaning unexposed. I was stunned as I knew I had sent him the film from Eagle Cap. I returned to the truck and checked the film holder that I used. By testing a sheet of film, I saw how it was jammed and wasn’t separating the film from its protective sleeve. I had not realized it while I was up at Eagle Cap. After explaining to Terry what happened we started to drive again. He looked over at me and said “you’re taking this rather well”. I looked at him blankly and then the reality hit me. I had him pull over so I could take a walk out into the sage and shed some crocodile tears.
When I have lost images due to my mistakes or equipment failure or however it happens, there’s a part of me that conjures up the belief that I’ve lost the best work I’ve ever done. That the conditions I photographed were filled with rainbows and unicorns and my compositions were exquisite. A genius in the making. I have to resist not being too hard on myself with the shoulda, coulda, woulda Monday morning quarterbacking especially with this trip and the effort it took to backpack in.
This image is one of three images that I captured from the trip. In fact, this image is when the film holder died. I have one sheet of film from this scene. But it only takes one…right?
A Series from the Orchard at Froggsong
Circumstances dictated that Mary Liz and I stick closer to home than usual this season. No grand expeditions or road trips seeking fall colors. While missing the opportunity to visit new and familiar photographic hot spots, I’ve had time to mark the season’s progress closer to home.
Of the two or three nearby locations I’ve been revisiting these past weeks, one is this small, mature orchard with maybe two dozen fruit trees which I’m told is about 45 years old. It is adjacent to our friends’ Froggsong Gardens.
Specifically there are two trees in this orchard I find engaging for various reasons; reasons like the evolving colors, the shape or gesture of the branches and the relationship of these trees to their surroundings. The ultimate force inspiring me to photograph them however, is the quality of light and the moods it creates filtering through these trees.
Typical of the soft Pacific Northwest light, conditions here are laden with atmosphere, often foggy. With these photographs, I worked to capture variations in color and intensity of that light, and the magic it creates among the trees; the way it penetrates, sometimes glowing on the branches, then dense and seeping down to the ground beneath the canopies.
For a number of years I’ve been working in this orchard with my mind set on a collection of the four seasons. I think I’ll remember 2018 as the year I watched it in autumn.