When I decide where to travel to create my own photography (versus shooting on assignment), I often try to mix up my time between visiting old favorites with new locations. Because of my deep connections and ongoing fascinations with my favorite places, I feel not only comfortable and relaxed in these spots, but I also find endless stories to tell about them. In these places, it feels like I’m coming home to a plateful of freshly-baked, warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies. And those who know me know very well that I am not capable of resisting freshly-baked, warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies (or any cookies for that matter…).
At the same time, though, I love the thrill of discovering and exploring all the new surprises a completely new location offers. It’s like opening presents on my birthday or at Christmas. Every time I look or pick something up, it offers me a chance to learn something new about the place or a subject - and quite often about myself. This past May during my three-week adventure in Oregon, I balanced my time between old favorites – the coast, specifically Carl Washburne and Cape Lookout state parks – and a new place – Succor Creek State Natural Area. Not only did I chose the Succor Creek area because I had never been there before, but also because it promised water in the high desert (a juxtaposition that never ceases to intrigue me) along the eastern border Oregon shares with Idaho.
After about an eight-hour drive from Portland, I arrived to the tree-lined oasis and set up camp. For four blissful days, I enjoyed hiking along the water’s edge, marveling at thunder eggs (Oregon’s official state rock), and watching the light dances on the rhyolite cliffs surrounding me in my temporary “home.” Ever corner I turned, a new sight, scene, smell awaited – oh, the joy!
From my camp, I could hear the water gurgling and tossing against the rocks all day and all night. As I listened, I wondered what it would be like to be that water – Where has it been? Where is it going? And why? I started to pen words answering these questions and internalizing the idea of an unknown journey within myself. Where had I been? Where was I going? And why? I smiled when I realized Succor Creek was living up to its name. By definition, the word “succor” means “help; relief; aid; assistance” according to dictionary.com.
As quickly as the creek streamed by me, the words formed into a new poem to help me share my experience:
Go With the Flow
Silky caramel water seduced
By a stoic stone
Without choice, innocently
Towards a riffle
That looks not to cause trouble,
But simply has nothing
Else to do.
Then plunging and drowning
In its own breath,
The wave curls over
Itself, roaring, frothing, splashing,
Madly gasping for the past
Out of reach. Overthrown
Yet unscathed save for an escorting
Crown of sage bubbles,
Whispering memories bursting
In the unruffled aftermath
Into an embrace
Of empathetic trees
Where my roots dip
Into the mirror.
United in our destination
As I polished the draft of my poem, I glanced up to notice a beautiful reflection glowing on top of the water’s surface while sitting in camp late in the afternoon on the day prior to my departure. Harsh sunlight bathed the entire scene, but I had learned enough about this location in the days prior to know if I waited an hour or so, the creek would fall into shadow (thanks to the sun dropping behind cliffs to the west of me) and create a desirable contrast to the still-illuminated cliffs to the east of my position. I headed to the creek with my camera and tripod in hand anyhow to perfect my composition so that I could be ready as soon as the light fell into place.
While watching the reflected light pour over the riffle, I decided to title my forthcoming photograph, “Drifting From Reality.” I intended to create a composition with a slow enough shutter speed to create a “silky” effect mentioned in my poem. I also wanted the water to appear as if it were melting the cliff’s reflection in the water into the “stoic stones” on the left side of my frame. I settled on ISO 100 and f/22 to slow my exposure down. I waited until the bright light receded in order to get a final shutter speed setting (1/4 second). The photo above resulted.
I spent the rest of the evening photographing and wading in the warm creek, playing until the day faded into night. With the final click of my shutter, I decided to add Succor Creek to my “old favorites” list. I certainly can’t wait to return! And next time, I’ll bring fresh-baked, warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies…