Last fall we spent a weekend in Steamboat and another in Crested Butte. It was the first time in two or three years that we’d made it anywhere with yellow-leafed aspens and though both trips were centered on mountain biking, I did experience a strange sensation in my right index finger. A tingling, maybe. I hadn’t looked at a scene in nature and thought, “Man, that’d sure be a pretty photograph” in a long time, and yet, here we were, with my shutter finger getting all weird on me. I took a few photos in mid-day light, which seemed to satiate the craving, and I was content to move on. Winter came and went, followed by a spring wildflower super bloom that failed to stoke my creative fires, and then it was summer. Had that twitch last autumn just been a fluke?
We departed for a trip to the Pacific Northwest in early July. As has become our new M.O. when traveling, we planned to ride bikes and hike and camp and eat and drink good microbrews and do touristy things. We would not be getting up to shoot sunrise, staying up late for sunset and planning the entire trip around chasing light at all the cool landscape photography destinations. Those days are over, for good, forever. Our travels would take us through the North Cascades, to Bellingham (holy shit are those trails steep and rowdy!), to Mount Rainier and St. Helens, then down the Oregon Coast with pit stops inland to Hood River and Mount Hood, where we rode trails lined with huckleberry bushes so thick they brushed your elbows on every turn. If you’re wondering, yes, we did stop often and finished the ride with fingertips stained purple and bellies filled with wild berries.
Anyway, I digress. We spent a good chunk of our 24 day trip on the Oregon Coast, one of our favorite places to just…be. While there, we got lost looking for some mountain bike trails and stumbled onto what I can only describe as the most perfect beach I’ve ever seen. It was remote and lonely, with a creek spreading out across the sand, its fresh water mingling with the salty waves of the Pacific Ocean. A couple picnic tables, a restroom, some interpretive signs and a small parking lot were the only visible signs of civilization. We arrived late in the afternoon and aside from a single dog walker, who left shortly after our arrival, we had the entire beach to ourselves.
We took camp chairs to the beach where I, nursing an injured ankle, spent the evening being chased further inland by an incoming tide. Melissa and Jackson wandered up and down the beach, dodging jellyfish stuck in the sand and the occasional cranky crab. I limped a short distance to the creek and was struck by interesting patterns that had developed in the sand. The setting sun streaked the beach with golden light through slits in the clouds. The low angled, warm light made the patterns come alive. I took out my iPhone and snapped a couple photos, but it didn’t satisfy me. Slung around the back of my camp chair just a few feet away, my Sony a6000 seemed to be tugging at me.
I couldn’t resist the opportunity. I snatched the camera, turned it on, set the aperture, checked the ISO and started dialing in a composition. I shot this, I shot that, portrait, landscape, wider, tighter. The light only lasted a few minutes before clouds and fog snuffed out the sun for the remainder of the evening. I sat down in my camp chair and scrolled through the images on the camera’s LCD screen. It had been a long time since I’d been excited about making a photograph, but here I was…excited! Who would have thought that a small expanse of wet sand on a quiet Oregon beach would ignite the creativity that must have been gently flickering inside my soul? Typing this now, that spark is still burning, even growing in size. So much so, that I’m planning to purchase a new camera and a couple lenses later this year so I can slowly, carefully, start making images again. I’ll never return to life as it was. Life will not revolve around making photographs. Rather, making photographs will revolve around life. We’ll continue to travel, to ride bikes, to hike, to backpack, to explore farther and farther away from the national parks we used to love so much, and we’ll continue to play mini golf, watch movies, visit cheese factories and do all the other touristy things we so enjoy, but every once in a while, I’ll pull out the camera and make an image.