Newsletter No. 78: January 2012
© Chris Harris. All rights reserved.
Last week my friend Mike and I headed out on another day of photography. At 6:30 am we turned north to explore the Chilcotin River at a place called Farwell Canyon. As always we chatted about the undiscovered day ahead.
|The Chilcotin River © Chris Harris|
|Photographer’s notes: Shapes are important here. The river leads one into the image; the canyon wall on the left follows the ‘rule of thirds’ (up the left third and around to the top third) as it leads the viewer around the corner of the river and beyond. There is the sliver of sky; as small as I could make it because of its relative unimportance, and finally the land mass on the right provides a sense of balance to the entire image. All together it works very well for me. I was pleased with the result. Canon EOS-1Ds Mk.III, iso 100; f-23; 1.3 sec; 24-105mm lens; on a tripod.|
I have photographed the Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon for years, but never from the perspective above. How had I missed this, I asked myself? The magnificence of this beautifully coloured river, and the sculpted canyon it was carving out, was as powerful a vista as I had ever seen. I made the above image and then sat down to contemplate the view.
The air was fresh and clean and the water pure. It was uncontaminated and drinkable. I flashed back to a visit to India’s sacred Ganges River, where the air was polluted and the water not drinkable. I had been surrounded by thousands of people, yet here, there was not a soul in sight. I felt extremely fortunate to be where I was.
The Chilcotin flows 241 kms from its source in the Itcha mountains to where it meets the Fraser River, just a few kilometers downstream. I was sitting within the 220,000 km² (85,000 sq. mi.) watershed of the mighty Fraser, the artery that allows salmon to reach the very spot I was contemplating. I have never heard people refer to the Chilcotin River as a sacred river, but surely it is.
|This Snowpack is the very Source of the Chilcotin River © Chris Harris|
|Photographer’s notes: This is a panorama comprised of three images stitched together. My goal here was to create a sense of geological time. Thinking back to the time when these volcanoes were created, I envisioned it as being dark and ominous. To create this mood, I used a split neutral density filter to subtract light from the sky. The next time I passed by this location, it was a bright sunny day, so I could not have created the mood of this image. That is the ‘luck’ factor in photography. Canon EOS-1Ds Mk.III, panorama made on a tripod.|
My thoughts then took me upstream to places along the river where I have hiked, travelled by horse, and camped under the stars. I flashed back to the time when I sipped the water as it melted from the very snow patch from where the Chilcotin River starts its journey to the sea (above image). I had personally been sustained by this river, just like other many people, animals, and birds have been for thousands of years.
I couldn’t help but think of the future. Maybe in 30 years there would be a viewing platform right where I was sitting. Tourists would be arriving in buses, eating hamburgers from a nearby McDonalds. Maybe the river would be polluted from mines and other industry further upstream.
Fortunately, I snapped into the present moment when Mike yelled over to me, “isn’t this amazing”. ‘It’s staggeringly beautiful’ I shouted back, while returning to my original thoughts of how fortunate I was to be absorbing this Chilcotin landscape.
|The Chilcotin River, An Intimate View © Chris Harris|
|Photographer’s notes: The art of seeing is the great challenge in photography. This is a landscape within a landscape. There are millions of them, but we need to train our eye to recognize them and appreciate them. To soften the water and create a more tranquil feeling, I used a slow shutter speed. Canon EOS-1Ds Mk.III, iso 100; f-32; 1/3 sec; 24-105mm lens; on a tripod.|
While driving home, Mike and I reflected back on our photographic experiences and thoughts of the day. The Chilcotin River had become a sacred river to both of us. Without fresh water and clean air we, along with all other animal life, cannot survive on this planet. All rivers, in fact all water, should be sacred to all of us. The vast number of people in the world are urban, and never get to see or experience a river such as the Chilcotin. For many, water comes from a tap or a bottle. They have never stood beside a river such as this, and they have never sipped from its source.
The water of the Chilcotin is sacred. Let’s keep it that way. It’s important for all of us, and all who follow.
|Mike with his Canon G-12 © Chris Harris|
|Photographer’s notes: Note the three horizontal rectangular shapes. The top and bottom are the same width; a conscious decision. Mike, the main subject of interest, is placed on the far left while the subject he is photographing is on the far right. All together there is a sense of balance. Canon EOS 50D, iso 800; f-8; 1/160 sec; at 148mm; hand-held.|
Mike and I found a relatively safe route, descending to the frozen banks of the river at the bottom of the canyon.
With the river flowing under and over ice packs, and the canyon wall constantly avalanching, we were exploring in a very dynamic and exciting landscape.
|A Study in Composition © Chris Harris|
|Photographer’s notes: My thought process for the creation of this image is described below. Canon EOS-1Ds Mk.III, iso 100; f-23; 1/8 sec; 14mm lens; tripod.|
At any new location, I usually start off by making some overall big-picture landscapes. After that, the exciting challenge of looking deeper and deeper into that landscape begins. I search for details; subjects with stories to tell, shapes and textures, and areas of colour.
In the above image, the animal tracks provided a storyline of compelling interest. Not only does it remind us that all animals must descend to the river to drink, but it begs the question, what animal was this? The next step in this creative process is, ‘how do I tell that story in a way that is visually captivating?’ The answer, of course, is always the same: by creating a compelling composition.
My eyes led me to the beautiful triangular shape in the foreground, which even had a blue cast surrounding it. On either side were two other triangular shapes. Above that was the azure sweep of coloured water. On top of that were three more shapes, two of land and one of sky.
The foreground shapes provided the strength for the composition and the best lens to capture a strong foreground is a wide-angle lens. I went for my widest, a 14mm lens. On a tripod, I angled the lens down to where it almost included my toes. As the sky held little interest, I included only a sliver. Voilà. The arrangement of all those elements of composition generated one of my favourite images of the day.
|Chilcotin River Reflection © Chris Harris|
|Photographer’s notes: The reflection of the canyon wall first drew my attention. Then there was the colour contrast between the river and the reflection, and finally the strong lines in the ice. After that, it was a simple matter of balancing all those elements in a way that spoke to me. Canon EOS 50D, iso 200; f-22.6; 1/25 sec; at 90mm; tripod.|
This is another favourite image from that day, one which I would rather have made with a wide angle lens, but being a little nervous about venturing too far out on the ice, I stood back a little and used a longer lens.
All in all, it was another wonderful day of photography.
I will be making presentations in Clearwater and Abbotsford, B.C. so, if you reside anywhere close by either of these two areas, please come along and bring friends. The show will be based on my latest publication Motherstone, British Columbia’s Volcanic Plateau.
Presentation: Motherstone; British Columbia’s Volcanic Plateau
When: Friday January 20, 2012, 7:00 pm
Sponsor: Wells Gray Outdoor Club
Tickets: $5.00. Get tickets from WGOC club members or at the door.
Presentation: Motherstone; British Columbia’s Volcanic Plateau
When: Monday February 20, 2012
Sponsor: Abbotsford Photo Arts Club
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