During this last trip to California and Oregon, most of the focus was on landscape images that contained a long view rather than the more intimate, “shorter” scenes. But successful images of the longer views are inherently a bit more difficult, because they are so dependent on the current conditions while you are there. As you may already be aware, there were hardly any clouds during the trip, so dramatic skies were few and far between. As a visitor, there is never the luxury of being able to return when conditions are exactly as you had hoped for, and it is always with sadness that you leave knowing full well that this was your single opportunity, and it was a failure. The shorter scenes are generally not dependent on dramatic skies or lighting, but rely more on the graphic structure of what is contained within the frame, or what you decide to extract from everything that is within your view. William Neill once called this type of image: “natural extractions”. They are mostly the portraits of something that has unexpectedly garnered your attention; things that are never on any list you may have compiled prior to venturing out to photograph, whether nearby or far afield. But when you happen to come across one of those scenes, they stop you in your tracks.
The circumstances whereby the photograph at the top came to be were not unusual by any means. I had done quite a bit of research to find the location of a dramatic shot of Mt. Shasta from distant Heart Lake I had previously seen. It was a broad, afternoon vista from a bench overlooking Castle Lake, of the side lit and snow-capped mountain with a dramatic sky that kept driving me to see the scene for myself (above). And even though there were no clouds in the sky that afternoon, I trudged up the 1.5-mi. trail, to the overlook at little Heart Lake. And I’m sorry to say that the drama in the sky never improved as the afternoon progressed. But it is always the unexpected, small scenes that can also move me to photograph them, because they are often overlooked when such awe-inspiring scenery overpowers everything nearby. I had passed this branch and reeds on the way to the overlook a short distance away, and after seeing the uninspiring conditions, returned to make the photograph at the top of the post. I suppose it was the gentle s-curve of the branch and the cohesiveness of the reeds that really intrigued me, and with the reflection of the cliff beyond the still waters of Heart Lake, all the graphic elements seemed to come together. For me, this little vignette was as majestic as the nearby long view.