Departures

​Once started as a blog to document my explorations and "departures" from my normal photographic stylings and wanderings, "Departures" now documents my explorations in the world I live in. No longer is "Departures" only about photographic and artistic endeavors, but about adventure, investigation, and even from time to time philosophic ramblings of a restless mind.

The Avett Brothers in Seattle

 

Last week I got to go to Seattle for the first time in eight years to see the Avett Brothers in concert. Yeah, I know, Seattle is a long way to go just to see a band, but the Avett Brothers are no ordinary band! But, I'll explain more about how I ended up going to Seattle later.

For those of you who don't know, my brother got Leukemia while in South Korea in the Army in 2004. After treatment at Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis in Tacoma, the cancer went into remission, but some months later, it relapsed, and the only chance of getting rid of it then was to do a bone marrow transplant. So, while in my very last semester of college, I went up while he went through that treatment at the VA Hospital in Seattle. At that time I was in the middle of my Parks project for my BFA, and I got to photograph a lot of the parks in and around Seattle. While I was there last week, I took the opportunity to go back to a few of those parks and rephotograph some of the original scenes from 2005.

This one is really the only "re-photograph" I made. The rest are all new images.

Magnolia Park

Magnolia Park

Puget Sound, Discovery Park

Puget Sound, Discovery Park

Along the road, I snapped a few photos with my phone (for those of you who follow my Instrgam feed, some of these will look familiar):

Somewhere in Oregon

Crossing into Washington

 

And now, some big news, and the continuation of the story of how I ended up traveling all the way to Seattle to watch the Avett Brothers:

I have a girlfriend.

Me and Teresa at Discovery Park

Yep. That incredible cold weather Hell has been having lately? That's all because of me. We met through eHarmony, and we both love the Avett Brothers. Her name is Teresa, and she talked me into going to the concert. Her family lives in Seattle, and she already had tickets to the show for herself and two of her sisters, and it didn't take a lot of convincing to get me to go. The concert, as the Avetts always are, was amazing!

The concert was Friday night, and Saturday was when Teresa and I went to the parks, and did a few other "touristy" things in Seattle. Like go to Pike's Place Fish Market.

 On Sunday, after church we drove down to Redondo, a place on Puget Sound with a nice boardwalk, which we just drove by, since we didn't really quite have the time to take a walk. It was still a nice place for a photograph.

I didn't realize how much I missed Seattle until I went back. It's such an awesome city, and it was hard for this good thing to end, as all good things must, as the saying goes.

 

Fly Fishing on the Henry's Fork

The last couple years, me and my dad and brothers have gone fishing up on the Fall River and sometimes the Henry's Fork, and this year we turned it into a full on family vacation.

We stayed at the Coffee Pot Campground on the Henry's for two gorgeous nights, though the second was rainy the whole night. 

When we arrived, the fish were rising and we rushed to line our rods and get in the water to see what the fish were feeding on. It turned out there was a small Green Drake hatch with a few caddis and PMD's, and we tied our flies on and tossed them out. I missed every strike I had, but my brother managed to hook and land a fish. 

We fished for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening, and enjoyed the lovely Island Park sunset. 

Sunset at Coffee Pot Campground, Island Park, Idaho 2013

I also couldn't resist photographing the full moon rise. 

Moonrise, Island Park, Idaho 2013

I woke up early the next morning and made a few photographs. And I should point out that I just love being able to carry a darkroom in my pocket. My camera phone and the myriad of photography apps I have come in really handy if I don't want to carry my DSLR.

Sunrise, Coffee Pot Campground, Island Park, Idaho, 2013

Fallen Tree, Henry's Fork, Island Park, Idaho 2013

We had breakfast, and sat around at camp before we decided to go to Big Springs and look at the fish, but there were only three or four, and they weren't the behemoths that have been there in the past. We heard a couple different possible reasons for their disappearance, including the sea gulls just pushing them out, and them being illegally fished.

Fallen Trees, Big Springs, Island Park, Idaho 2013

After Big Springs we picked up a few flies at the Trout Hunter Fly Shop and then headed to the Buffalo River, where we all managed to catch a few fish each. And, I'm actually proud to say I got outfished by my little sister on her first time with a fly rod.

While we were there, a pretty good sized Green Drake hatch came off. 

Green Drake With Two Legs Missing, Buffalo River, Island Park, Idaho 2013

When we were done, determined partly by grumbling stomachs and rumbling thunder not far off, we headed back to camp, where it continued to rain for a few more minutes, then cooked dinner when it finally let up.

Afterwards, we sat and sang and played our instruments and visited with a good friend of ours who is working at the scout camp this summer, before we called it a night and went to bed.

Then Tuesday, after we packed up, we stopped at Upper Mesa Falls to make a few photographs.  It'd been several years since I'd been there, so it was good to rephotograph these scenic falls.

Upper Mesa Falls, Henry's Fork, Idaho 2013

Henry's Fork Below Upper Mesa Falls, Idaho 2013

Upper Mesa Falls, Henry's Fork, Idaho 2013

Henry's Fork Below Upper Mesa Falls, Idaho 2013

Upper Mesa Falls, Henry's Fork, Idaho 2013

I always hate leaving that place, and it was no easier yesterday. It's a good thing I should be going back again in a couple weeks. 

Logan Canyon

Last night I headed up Logan Canyon hoping to find a different spot than up Right Hand Fork, but the few places I had in mind (I wanted to stay down in the lower parts of the canyon) turned out to not be as good a spot for pitching a tent as I thought, so I ended up back in Right Hand Fork Canyon.

When I first got there, I hadn't really planned on photographing, but it didn't take long before I started seeing photographs that I knew I had better make under the unique conditions that had made me see the photographs in the first place. But, for the first time, I think ever, I was not at all pleased with the photographs I made of the stream. In stead, I quite liked the couple I made of the new plants that have begun to grow and turn the place from a drabby brown into a luscious green (ironically both of those photographs I've posted are in black and white).

I've always loved the images in the backpacking and climbing magazines of tents lit up from the inside, and I've always tried, and always failed at replicating them. Last night, after so much trial and error (that you only have one chance in 24 hours to test), I finally came away with one that worked.

Today, I helped out with the Forest Service put a fence back up that keeps the grazing cattle from destroying the terrain of and around Spawn Creek (see my last post). I met up with the group of people helping out at the Temple Fork parking lot, and while I waited, I had to make this photograph (with my phone, since I was too lazy to get the big camera and tripod out) of the lingering clouds that had dumped their rain all night.

Then, on my way back down the canyon back to civilization, I stopped and made this last photograph:

Spawn Creek

I think last night was the last night I'll spend in Right Hand Fork Canyon for a little while. I need to spend some time away from it in a new place. I feel my images there are becoming homogenous. Then again, photographing there under the morning light would help bring some variety to the work. Anyway, here are some images I made last night:

I had decided on hiking up Spawn Creek today, and was on the trail bright and early. Well, it was actually kind of dark, but plenty early. Spawn Creek is a small creek in the Temple Fork watershed. It drains into Temple Fork near the trail head to the Temple Fork Sawmill. And like Temple Fork, there are plenty of beaver ponds along the creek, with schools of Bonneville Cutthroat Trout that spook easily. I'll have to take my rod up there one of these days. It'll be a perfect test of how stealthy a fly fisher I am.

Temple Fork and Spawn Creek, along with the upper Logan River in the Franklin Basin, are spawning habitat for the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout. An old road used to parallel Temple Fork, and overgrazing, and general misuse of the land lead to poor water quality in the Temple Fork watershed. In 1999, the old road was removed, along with stream-side campsites, and the area was rehabilitated. Better grazing management practices were adopted. All this has served to greatly improve the health of Temple Fork and Spawn Creek, thus improving also, the health of the Logan River.

At the confluence of the Temple Fork and the Logan, there are two rectangular frames made of 4" diameter steel pipe, and a mesh fence. Since there are efforts to rehabilitate the native cutthroat trout in Right Hand Fork and Temple Fork, I assume, since there are no natural barriers, that these act as the barrier to the brown trout in the Logan River, preventing them from creeping up Temple Fork. I need to talk to the rangers at the Ranger Station and get some better info than just assumptions.

Three of the steel rectangles are placed above the confluence of Spawn Creek and Temple Fork. I assume these are there to direct the cutthroats up Spawn Creek, though I don't know why whatever conservation group would want to block Temple Fork. Again, I need to do some investigating. 

I've always loved the scenery along the highway through Logan Canyon, but there is so much more to see in the Bear River Range and in order to see it, you have to get out of your car and walk, and only those willing to do so are blessed with the rewards of even more beautiful scenery, sounds and smells. I just can't wait for the trees and shrubs to regrow their leaves and the flowers to bloom. Rest assured, I'll be there with my camera when they do.

Temple Fork

Wanting to see a different part of the Bear River Range, I decided on hiking the trail up Temple Fork this weekend. But not before spending the night in Right Hand Fork Canyon again. I've mentioned how convenient Right Hand Fork is for just pulling off the road and pitching a tent. Skipping the tent and just sleeping in the back of the 4Runner makes it even more convenient. I know, I said I wasn't going to cheat and do that, but it allows me to hit the trail much earlier than if I'd pitched a tent, and I wanted to be on the trail as early as possible. Partly for the nice morning light for photographing, and partly because when the weather gets warm, as was forecasted for today, I like to hike in the cool morning air.

I've decided to try and incorporate Right Hand Fork to be it's own photographic project, as I mentioned I thought of doing last week.

This morning I was on the trail by about 6:30. There is a dirt road that connects Temple Fork to Right Hand Fork, Left Hand Fork, Blacksmith Fork, and if you take the right roads, you can end up at Bear Lake. Right now, those roads are gated off, and any hikers wanting to hike the trails up Temple Fork, have to start at the gate, adding about a mile to the overall trip, not that that's a bad thing.

I made it almost all the way across this bridge and then thought it just needed to be photographed.

A little further up, I turned around and saw this:

Then walked another hundred feet or so and photographed this:

At the actual trailhead to the Temple Fork Sawmill Site (more on that later), there is a beaver dam. I made this photograph:

And then this:

And this:

I continued following the stream off-trail, stopping and making photographs as I saw them, which was pretty often. Here's just one of them:

I'm not 100% satisfied with most of the others. I'll need to spend some time with them, and I'll post them later if I deem them worthy of a blog post.

After I'd made that photograph, I finally got back on the trail, and set out for the Sawmill.

The trail parallels the stream the whole way, never getting more than about 100 feet away from the water, so the hiker is constantly accompanied by the sound of the water dribbling over a shallow bed of pebbles, or crashing over feet-high drops in elevation. The chirping of birds waking up also provide more melodies and harmonies to the score of mother nature's soundtrack.

Continuing south, and then bending to a more easterly direction, the trail passes several more beaver ponds, that look to be uninhabited (I vaguely remember hearing that all the beavers up on the Temple Fork have been removed). This one, however looked a little less "unoccupied:"

I had been periodically making video with my phone (which I may or may not post to Youtube when I get it all edited and put together), and as I was walking and recording, I came upon this beaver pond. There's a pretty big grove of Cottonwood trees that the beaver has really been hard at work at cutting down. If that beaver has been removed, it wasn't removed before it felled a few dozen trees, all about twenty-plus inches in diameter, and getting half-way through several more, and even more smaller trees. It's lodge alone was around twenty feet in diameter—one of the largest lodges I've ever seen. It was all rather impressive that a rodent so small could have that kind of impact.

The Temple Fork Sawmill was built by Mormon settlers in 1877 to provide lumber for buildings in Cache Valley, including the Logan Temple, and ties for the Utah & Northern Railroad. It ceased operation in 1883 after having produced an estimated "2.5 million board feet of lumber, 21,000 railroad ties, 900,000 laths, 2,000,000 shingles, 50,000 pickets, charcoal and an uncounted number of broom handles." It burned down in 1886, and wasn't rebuilt. There is now a monument at the site with a few pieces of equipment.

Of the trails I've hiked so far, this one ranks pretty high. It was absolutely gorgeous, both in sights and sounds.

On Meaningful Photography

While hiking yesterday I had a realization.
It was always easy for me to make photographs of the landscape around Idaho Falls and Rexburg and in Island Park. I loved, and still love, those places, so meaningful photographs just came easy.
When I first moved here to Logan, it was hard for me to make meaningful photographs. The landscape seemed so foreign to me, even though I was no stranger to Cache Valley. I was no stranger to the kind of landscape in which Logan is situated, and I was no stranger to mountains. But the reason for my moving here was to pursue a Masters Degree in photography, and, being thrust into needing to produce work regularly, I found myself facing creative roadblocks at almost every turn. Nearly every square foot of land in Cache Valley has been developed in one form or another, from farm use to residential and commercial use. That said, I can deal with urbanization and Man's impact on land easily enough. My whole B.F.A. project was centered around man's alteration and recreation of Nature. But the Upper Snake River Plain has very little radical variation in elevation. Cache Valley is locked in by mountains, and they induced a sense of visual claustrophobia in me to the point of near creative break-down. I've always been drawn to photographing bodies of water, whether they be lakes, rivers, streams, etc., so I would drive up Logan Canyon to photograph the Logan River, but that induced the claustrophobia as well as being faced with entangling vegetation, and I rarely came away with a photograph I was pleased with.
So, on to the realization: maybe I've needed four years in Logan. Four years of hiking trails, fishing the rivers, and driving up and down the highways to call this place Home and finally start to make photographs of a place I have come to truly care about.

Right Hand Fork Canyon

Today I realized that with all the photographs of Right Hand Fork I've got, I have a pretty good start at a project of that canyon itself. For such a relatively small geographic area, there's quite a variety of images to be made regarding the canyon and river. Cache Anglers collaborates with the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources and USU to restore the Cutthroat Trout population in Right Hand Fork, and it serves as a launching point to many different trails in the Bear River Range, including connecting with the Great Western Trail.

Last night I drove up and made these while my dinner was cooking over the fire.

This morning I headed up the trail. It only goes up Right Hand Fork Canyon about a mile before it veers up Willow Creek. Another mile further up R. H. F. Canyon, there are some cliffs that I wanted to check out, which means I had to bushwhack a mile through dense brush, and follow the dry streambed. But not long after leaving the trail, the canyon walls narrowed to 20' to 60' wide, with ciffs on either side, ranging from only about 20 about 100 feet tall. The cliffs I had as a destination, according to the topo maps are at least 200 feet tall.

Since the sun can't reach the canyon bottom for very long during the day, there is still quite a bit of snow, and I really would have benefitted from bringing my snowshoes, but I didn't think I'd need them. Anyway, bushwhacking through dense brush and thigh-deep snow can really take it out of you, and add rain to the mix, I threw in the towel before I got too worn out to make it out safely. Once the snow is gone, I'll give it another go.

I did make some photographs along the way though.


After the hike, I decided to head up Logan Canyon and see how high up I could get on the road up to Tony Grove. On my way there, I saw this and had to stop and photograph it:

Lots of good images, and plumb tuckered out. I've had a good weekend so far.

New Project

In a previous blog post, I mentioned I had come up with some ideas for a new photographic project. Then, the working title was "10,000 Steps." It may still be. Things are still in conception. The premise of it being I walk/hike 10,000 steps, then make a photograph. But there is a lot more to it than that. At first I was thinking of going 10,000 steps one way. But then would I only make one photograph? And would it be at the very spot I made that 10,000th step? Or would I find something interesting to photograph at the 10,000th step. And why 10,000? Because I thought it sounded like a good number.

At any rate, I decided to start making photographs until I decide on more concrete details. Here's what I made today on my hike up Rick's Canyon:

Right Hand Fork

Right Hand Fork Canyon is pretty convenient for a quick overnight car campout. It's only a few miles up Logan Canyon, and there are a good handful of free campspots. And the Right Hand Fork of the Logan River makes for some real nice photographs.

Here are a few I came away with from last night and this morning.

 

Right Hand Fork, Little Cottonwood Creek

When March rolls around every year, I start suffering from cabin fever. And this year was no different. Actually it was a little different. It was different because I had it worse probably than ever before. The deep freeze of January really brought the hermit out in me, and I spent a lot of time inside. I didn't get out fishing once in November clear through until two weeks ago. I did get out snowshoeing once, but it was a short trip and did absolutely nothing fill my "need-to-get-outside" canteen.

During the past two weeks I've spent a lot of time pouring over topo maps and satellite imagery on Google Earth, planning and plotting and scheming all the different trails to hike and places to pitch a tent. I've spent a lot of time doing maintenance on any gear that's needed it. I've spent a lot of money (throughout the winter) getting new pieces of gear.

I've got a plan in mind starting in May for sure—it may have been put into action last night—to spend every Friday night outside. I know there might be one or two that I'm going to have to stay indoors. But the vast majority will be spent under the stars (and no, sleeping in the back of the 4Runner doesn't count).

So, this week I made the determination to sleep in my tent. No matter what. Rain or shine, snow or sleet. I ended up taking my default option and went up Right Hand Fork. Mostly because with all the searching of maps I've done, I knew there are several trails that either start there, or branch off of the main trail in that canyon, and I had planned to explore at least one of them today.

One of my favorite things to do is photograph my campsite wherever I've camped or backpacked in to. Sometimes I include myself in them, sometimes I don't. Last night, I did.

This morning I got up, made breakfast, and headed up the trail that follows Little Cottonwood Creek. It's a gorgeous little trail that eventually turns into an old road (I don't know the history of it, but it looks as though it hasn't been used for several years).

This little stand of aspens caught my eye, and I had to stop and make a few photographs.

One thing about hiking and backpacking I like so much, is it gives me time to think. Without any distractions, I can just let my mind either drift from random thought to random thought, or I concentrate on only one thing. Today I think I stumbled on a new photographic project. The first one I've really been excited about since my BFA project (I know, I know, it's been eight years. Don't judge me). I still haven't noodled all of the nitty gritty details out yet, but I at least have a Departure point.

Bear Lake

My family reunion (the McCann-Winterbottom Reunion, which has been held every year since 1947) was this weekend at Bear Lake. There was a lot of swimming, lounging, sun burn, food, and singing. And precious time spent with family.

I got up early each morning and came away with some photographs that I'm pretty excited about.

 

Newton Dam and Cutler Marsh

It's been a while since I went out specifically to photograph, but this afternoon a rain storm rolled through the valley and left behind some pretty dramatic clouds and I couldn't not go out and photograph them.

I'd never been out to Newton Dam before, so that's where I ended up. I've heard that there are Musky out there that I'm going to have to go try and catch once I get the necessary tackle for landing such a toothy fish. Anyway, here are some of the photographs I came away with:

 

Tree Swing, Newton Dam, Utah, 2012

Cut Bank, Newton Dam, Utah, 2012

Graffiti Angler Sign, Newton Dam, Utah, 2012

After some time at Newton Dam, I swung by Cutler Marsh and made a few more photographs:

Cutler Marsh, Utah, 2012

Reeds, Cutler Marsh, Utah, 2012

PMD Hatch

Friday after work I headed up Logan Canyon for a little fishing. The fish either weren't in that particular stretch of water I fished, or they just weren't interested in anything I was tossing to them, because I didn't see or spook any fish at all.

Afterwards, I went up Right Hand Fork (a small tributary stream to the Logan River) and found a place to pitch my tent. As the sun was setting, a PMD hatch came off, and the little mayflies were swarming all around the place I had set up camp.

Last Day of May

Well, it's over. May is done, and so is the Every Day in May challenge. I'm actually a little relieved. It was fun, but it was also a little annoying at times trying to come up with something intelligent or poetic to say. So, some days I took the easy way out and just posted videos. Other times, I was completely BS-ing, just trying to basically fill a quota just to fill a quota.
After having done the challenge, though, I've gained a bit more motivation to post more regularly. Before this month, the last time I posted was in October. Doing the challenge stirred up a bit of creativity that's been pretty dormant for a while. It'll take a while before I can start to realize the ideas I have in my head, because there's a bunch of new equipment and software I need to buy, but I'm real excited to start.

Inspiration/Aspiration

Grand vistas, good music, family—these are a few things that inspire me.
When I hear the words inspire, or inspiration, I think of things that uplift. Uplift me mentally, and spiritually. It's always been at the forefront of why I photograph. The Apostle Paul (in Phillipians 4:8) summed up my goals:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

The Thirteenth Article of Faith also expresses my aims of my photography:
We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

In an age where there's a lot of junk in the Art world, and not just the Art world, but the world in general, I got criticized a lot for being too traditional, or romanticizing the land too much. Back when I was in college, I let those criticisms get to me, and I felt insecure, and inadequate as a photographer. Since then, I've gotten over those feelings, and I no longer care that my photographs are too "romantic." All around us, we are bombarded with filth that desensitizes us. What was once considered immoral in years past is now celebrated and glorified. That is why I chose to photograph how I photograph.
I don't get out much to photograph any more. In fact, any photographs I do make coincide with my fishing outings, and the subject matter is pretty much all the same: rivers. Despite that I still endeavor to create photographs that inspire, and uplift, and to express my love and gratitude to God for the Earth He has given us.

Bucket List

Being an avid back packer, fly fisher, and climber, there are several things on my bucket list. Maybe by writing them down here, I may be held to getting a few of them crossed off.

Fly fish Patagonia
Fly fish New Zealand
Backpack the entire Continental Divide Trail (even if I have to do it in stages)
Climb El Capitan
Climb The Grand Teton (no, I've never bagged that peak)
Go after steelhead in British Columbia
Fly fish for bonefish, tarpon and redfish
I'd put down a trip up Everest, but I have to be somewhat realistic with this list

Lastly, I think the biggest thing on my list is to just be happy and enjoy life whether I'm half way through a pitch on the Nose of El Cap, double hauling to bonefish on the Florida flats, or sleeping under the stars somewhere between Canada and Mexico.

Lessons Learned

If fishing the Logan River has taught me anything, it's this: fly fishing can be inconsistent, frustrating, puzzling, but above all, satisfying and rewarding, even when I walk away without having caught a fish.
Almost every day on the Logan is different. One day there will be plenty of fish holding in exactly the spots you'd think they are. They'll take the first fly you float past them, over and over, and, if you don't lose it to a tree, fly changes are hardly needed. Then the next day, you return, with more or less the exact conditions as the day before, and the fish will be nonexistent. You'll change flies at least a dozen times, trying to hone in on what might be in or on the water. Or, those blasted trees just won't stop reaching out and sucking every fly you tie on.
Despite all the frustration of untying wind knots, or pulling a fly from a branch, or fighting swift current on slick rocks, I still drive away rested and calmed. Not always physically, but mentally, as well as spiritually. After all, I've just spent that time among God's handiwork, wading in a river He's made. Some places, I think, He made just for me. All places, I know, He made for us all.