Bear River and Clay Slough

I've gone out several times over the past weeks, around Benson, and the Cutler Marsh, and I'm feeling like I'm really getting to know the Bear River and Cache Valley on a deeper level, though there's still so much more to discover.

I also bought a 6x9 medium format rangefinder recently, and it's been fun getting back into film photography, even though I haven't gotten any of the film developed yet. It's been nice to have to slow down and not take the "shotgun approach" that digital can allow you to take. I've noticed I approach the photographed scene just slightly differently with film. I'm sure the focal length of the lens and the fact that it's a rangefinder with no light meter has something to do with this change.

Here are some photos from the last few outings. 

Tree Blown by the Breeze, Bear River, Benson, Utah, 2016

Tree Blown by the Breeze, Bear River, Benson, Utah, 2016

Bear River, Benson, Utah, 2016

Bear River, Benson, Utah, 2016

Irrigation Pump House, Clay Slough, Utah, 2016

Irrigation Pump House, Clay Slough, Utah, 2016

Clay Slough, Utah, 2016

Clay Slough, Utah, 2016

Culvert, Clay Slough, Utah, 2016

Culvert, Clay Slough, Utah, 2016

Parking Lot and Sign Post, Clay Slough, Utah, 2016

Parking Lot and Sign Post, Clay Slough, Utah, 2016

Benson

On Saturday evening we drove out to Benson again so I could photograph. Here are a some of the evening's fruits:

Cottonwoods, Ditch, Benson, Utah, 2016

Cottonwoods, Ditch, Benson, Utah, 2016

Cottowoods, Bear River, Benson, Utah, 2016

Cottowoods, Bear River, Benson, Utah, 2016

Cottonwoods, Benson, Utah, 2016

Cottonwoods, Benson, Utah, 2016

Cattails,  Benson, Utah, 2016

Cattails,  Benson, Utah, 2016

Live and Fallen Cottonwood Trees, Benson, Utah, 2016

Live and Fallen Cottonwood Trees, Benson, Utah, 2016

Cottonwood Trees on the Banks of Bear River, Benson, Utah, 2016

Cottonwood Trees on the Banks of Bear River, Benson, Utah, 2016

Grace, Idaho

The day after I went out to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, which was also Easter Sunday, Gina and I headed up to Grace, Idaho to photograph. It's only an hour and fifteen minutes away, and in all my 8 years of living here in Logan, I'd never made the drive to visit the place—it was my first time there since 2007 when my friend Jon Long and I made a trip down there. But a little while before this most recent trip, I knew I needed to return again, and Gina and I made plans to do so.

Aqueduct and Highway 34, Bear River, Grace, Idaho, 2016

Aqueduct and Highway 34, Bear River, Grace, Idaho, 2016

Grace Dam, Idaho, 2016

Grace Dam, Idaho, 2016

Grace Dam, Idaho, 2016

Grace Dam, Idaho, 2016

Grace Dam, Idaho, 2016

Grace Dam, Idaho, 2016

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge—One Year Later

A couple weeks ago, I went out to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, accompanied by my father-in-law while Gina watched the LDS General Women's Conference broadcast.

As I mentioned in my last post, Gina and I went out there on our third date. It was my first time ever going there, and I knew that the place had a lot of potential for some really great photographs. The way the land has been altered, and the way the Bear River has been diverted and channelled really draws me in. Since around my time in college, I've been intrigued as to how we humans interact and change the land around us, for better or worse. And as I've been out photographing periodically over the last three or four weeks, I've ended up along the Bear River. Most of the time it's been intentional; I love to photograph water—I always have, ever since I first started learning how to really operate a camera and control exposure. There is a part of me that is concerned that that subject matter is low hanging fruit for me, creatively. It's pretty easy to make a good photograph of water. The land around Cache Valley still remains a challenge to me. Back in 2013, I discussed some of the challenges I faced in dealing with the landscape of Cache Valley, and I think I still struggle with it a little. At least when it comes to subjects of photographs that aren't rivers or streams or other bodies of water. One side of me says to not worry about it and to just stick with what I'm good at. And there's nothing really bad about that. I think it's a valid argument. But there's also part of me—a large part—that realizes that there's no growth in doing only what you're comfortable with.

But, I'll stop rambling for now, and get on with the photographs:

Bear River, East Pass, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Utah, 2016

Bear River, East Pass, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Utah, 2016

Old River Channel, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Utah, 2016

Old River Channel, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Utah, 2016

Bear River, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Utah, 2016

Bear River, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Utah, 2016

Bear River Diverted Into Four Channels, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Utah, 2016

Bear River Diverted Into Four Channels, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Utah, 2016

Amalga and Bear River Bottoms WMA

Sunday, I was in the mood to go out and photograph after church, so Gina and I loaded the car and headed out. I had in mind to end up in the Preston area, but in a roundabout way. We headed out to Benson, and then turned the car north towards Idaho. We went through Amalga, and Trenton, and through the Bear River Bottoms Wildlife Management Area, and on through Cornish and then Preston. I'm starting to get a few more ideas for a project bouncing around in my head, and I feel like I'm getting a good amount of images to use as a foundation to whatever I decide to do.

Bear River, Amalga, Utah, 2016

Bear River, Amalga, Utah, 2016

Bear River Bottoms Wildlife Management Area, Utah, 2016

Bear River Bottoms Wildlife Management Area, Utah, 2016

Latest Efforts

In my last post, I lamented how I felt I'd turned my back on my photographic education and friends and mentors I made and gained along the way, and I said I wanted to change that. I also mentioned that I went out last Saturday with the sole purpose of making photographs. Here are my two favorites from that evening:

Boat Launch, Bear River, Benson, Utah, 2016

Boat Launch, Bear River, Benson, Utah, 2016

Cutler Marsh Near Benson Marina, Cache Valley, Utah, 2016

Cutler Marsh Near Benson Marina, Cache Valley, Utah, 2016

Last night Gina and I loaded up the car and headed back out to Benson, which is only about 10 minutes away. Instead of taking the tactic from last Saturday and drive from one spot to another, I decided to just go to one spot and stay there the entire evening. I think the exercise was fruitful. And even after about an hour of photographing there, I know there are many more hours of photographing to do just at that one location. Edward Weston spent much of his life photographing Point Lobos; he made 29 other photographs of peppers until he finally made Pepper No. 30 (part of me wonders if he finally thought "Eureka!" or if he continued with Peppers No. 31, 32, 33, etc...). Ansel Adams did the same with Yosemite. After years and years in those same places, they still continued to find new photographs to express the way they felt about those places. Back in college when I was living in Rexburg, Idaho, I returned time after time to Texas Slough. Something about that little body of water spoke to my soul. This is my favorite photograph from 2004:

Texas Slough, Idaho, 2004

Texas Slough, Idaho, 2004

It was so cold, and my fingers fumbled around trying to work my new 5x7 camera, and I stood shivering as I focused, took a light meter reading, and then waited the couple minutes while the film was exposed.

Like I said, I felt pretty successful last night. I took some of the lessons learned from Saturday's outing, and came away with stronger images. At least, I feel more confident in them.

Marsh, Benson, Utah, 2016

Marsh, Benson, Utah, 2016

Marsh, Benson, Utah, 2016

Marsh, Benson, Utah, 2016

Pallet Pathway, Benson, Utah, 2016

Pallet Pathway, Benson, Utah, 2016

I think I've found my "pepper" in this next photograph. That huge limb that's lying just above the water really drew me in, but this photograph (while I like it quite a lot) doesn't really emphasize that limb the way I'd hoped. I guess I'll have to go back and keep trying however many times it takes to get it right.

Bear River, Benson, Utah, 2016

Bear River, Benson, Utah, 2016

Setting Crescent Moon, Marsh, Benson, Utah, 2016

Setting Crescent Moon, Marsh, Benson, Utah, 2016

#challengeonnaturephotography

Last week, my friend and former photography professor, Darren Clark, nominated me to participate in a Facebook hashtag "campaign," #challengeonnaturephotography, where, for seven days, you post a nature or landscape photograph with that hashtag, and then nominate someone else to participate. As I've done so, I've had the opportunity to think back on my college education, and what I've been doing with myself photographically since then. Here are some lessons learned and thoughts I've had, in no particular order, over the past seven days (all the images I shared on Facebook are included at the end of this post):

  • I've lost the ability to really speak about photography as art. Not completely, but I've lost a lot of that ability. I want it back.
  • I need to come up with a new photographic project. Or two. Or five. No matter the quantity, I just need something to to keep me motivated. I guess setting some deadlines might help too.
  • When I decided not to pursue an M.F.A. after all, I lost focus (no pun intended) and motivation to just create art. I still photographed when I went on trips and went backpacking (sometimes), but I devolved into making photographs that were little more than just "pretty pictures of pretty places." They were, to me, a little empty. Not completely, because I never really photographed anything at any point in my photographic education or life afterwards that I didn't feel some emotional connection to, and felt a desire to express that connection through the photograph. But that's where any profundity in my photographs made in the last four or five years stops. Without an overarching purpose (see the previous point) behind my photographs, I feel there isn't lasting impact.
  • Since I did lose focus and motivation to create, I've felt like I'd turned my back on my education, and the friends that I made along the way. I felt like I betrayed them in some way. Within the last three or four weeks, I've felt the need to fix all of that. Participating in this hashtag thing has helped to light the fire of motivation.
  • I went out with Gina Saturday evening west of Logan specifically to photograph. In the long run, I'm not sure how successful the photographs all are, but getting out helped get the creative juices flowing again. And the outing revealed how out of practice I am with working a camera: I forgot to focus the lens on the first photograph I made!
  • Along with the loss of the ability to talk about my work, my eyes have lost some refinement in composing, and attention to areas of the photograph that need work (dodging, or burning, or overall color balance, or contrast). I also want that back. Probably more than the ability to talk.
  • I need to work on consistency—consistency in color balance, contrast in both black and white and color photographs—which I think has always been a problem for me.
  • I've always echoed the sentiment of Elliott Erwitt who said "The whole point of taking pictures is so you don't have to explain things in words." Early in my photographic education I felt in agreement with the statement that the more one felt they had to say about their art, the least successful it was. Now, I don't agree. I believe there is always some room to talk about the art one creates. Maybe a better way of thinking is that the image should be strong enough to stand on its own, and not require an explanation. Maybe that has been Erwitt's point all along, and I've just missed it...

Anyway, on with the images.

Day 1:

Swift Slough, Cache Valley, Utah, 2009

Swift Slough, Cache Valley, Utah, 2009

Day 2:

Dam, Blacksmith Fork River, Utah, 2010

Dam, Blacksmith Fork River, Utah, 2010

Day 3:

Boat Launch, Bear River, Benson, Utah, 2016

Boat Launch, Bear River, Benson, Utah, 2016

Day 4:

Goblin Valley, Utah, 2009

Goblin Valley, Utah, 2009

Day 5:

Rye Crisp, Elephant Rock, City of Rocks, Idaho, 2010

Rye Crisp, Elephant Rock, City of Rocks, Idaho, 2010

Day 6:

Scott and Jon Photographing Thousand Springs, Idaho, 2004

Scott and Jon Photographing Thousand Springs, Idaho, 2004

Day 7:

Pond, Footpath, Memorial Park, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2007

Pond, Footpath, Memorial Park, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2007