January 13, 2004

Parking Lot

Eager Snowboards - Hoodoo Parking Lot

The most difficult thing about moving from Minnesota to Oregon was when my camera broke. It didn’t really break per se, but the landscapes around me changed so drastically that I couldn’t frame shots, anymore. Oregon is huge, and I don’t think anyone understands quite how huge this state is until they’ve driven across it. In a few hours you can go from the sand dunes of the Oregon coast, to the hills of the Coastal Range, to the wet and oppressive lushness of the Willamette Valley, to the deep snow and thick forests of the Cascades, to the tumbleweed barrens of Central Oregon.

Oregon is all about vistas, and vistas are all about postcard shots. And postcard shots are extremely lame unless they come to you stamped from the South Pole with a picture from the Wisconsin Dells. In Minnesota I understood my subject matter well enough, having lived and breathed it for 22 years, to photograph it. I was able to capture those nuances of texture and color in a way that still eludes me in Oregon. So far, at least. Oregon is different in that its views are so huge, so incredible, that you immediately feel that nothing short of a 360 degree, fifteen meter lens could possibly do it justice.

As I dart around Bend on clear days, my eyes are always drawn to that horizon. I want, need, to see those mountains, and I feel affronted when they’re blocked by clouds or buildings or darkness. Thus whenever I grab my camera I instinctively snap photos of the snowcaps, the vapor trails, the cloud veils. Like any serious relationship, mountains do really weird things once you move in with them and they feel comfortable around you. Their behavior dominates the conversation and drowns out the subtle words you loved in their absence.

But the pictures never turn out the way I hope because my scope is all wrong. Instead of compartmentalizing existence and focusing on the small details, I am trying to capture that One True Picture. Through my lens I scan darkness for the answer. I probe for the eye of the divine. It would be dishonest to claim that I never made such aspirations back in Minnesota, however. I would be wrong if I said that there was nothing at home, nothing so grand and powerful as the Cascades, that welled such a strong desire to channel clairvoyance. I lived on the shores of Lake Superior for four years, and even then it took me three years before I could see it.

Really see it.

The mountains where I live are just torn down buildings and parking structures. If I want to see real mountains and snow, I have to go to Big Bear, which is not as breathtaking as Oregon, sadly enough.

in the same vein as attempting to capture the majesty of mountains, try finding a way to capture and endless flat horizon. there is a subtle beauty in unending white, and an amazing variety in how the polar environment portrays its moods.
as usual, dane, great writing.