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The View Finder: Photography around Mount Hood and beyond posted on 06/30/2023
Outdoors

By Gary Randall
For The Mountain Times

I feel so at peace while sitting on the shore of a lake at night. The darkness surrounds you like a blanket, which directs your attention to what is visible to you, usually the stars in the sky, while the senses of sound and smell become more acute. The sounds of the insects that awaken when the sun sets blend with the sound of the breeze that filters through the bows of the trees and an occasional splash from a fish coming to the surface for an insect to eat. The smell of the forest mixed with a slight hint of aromas created by the presence of the lake’s water — the moist earth and the vegetation that line its shore.

The combination of it all creates an experience that evokes a sense of peace, as well as a feeling of connection to what is basic and real in life on Earth. It’s easy for me to throw aside the hectic world created by humanity, or even by myself. All that’s unnatural to the creatures in the forest is unnatural to humans. Sitting on the edge of a lake at night brings you into their world and even the world of our ancestors of the past who lived with nature.

This isn’t a feeling that I often experience during the daylight. I think that at night time what we sense is simplified and we become more aware of what immediately surrounds us, making us feel more a part of it. It’s difficult for me to try to describe how I feel when I’m there but it’s something that I try to experience as much as possible. The whole of humanity could crumble and all that is within my awareness would be unaffected. The stars wouldn’t care. The wind wouldn’t care. The forest wouldn’t care. The mountain and the lake wouldn’t care. The chirping insects wouldn’t care. And while I sit there on the edge of the water, I wouldn’t care.

Last evening I met up with a friend of mine and we drove up to Lost Lake to photograph Mount Hood at night. As I sat there in the darkness I thought about our presence, as most everyone else was asleep. Taking a photograph was the reason why we decided to sit on the lakeshore in the darkness. It was natural that we took time to visit or talk about camera settings when we got there, but in time we sat in silence observing our surroundings. As I sat there in silence, I thought about being there.

Being a landscape photographer puts me in those situations. It’s easy to concentrate solely on creating a photo, or even spending the whole time chatting. I’ve always said that a landscape photograph will always benefit from the photographer taking time to observe the surroundings. Being observant of the place and the conditions translates the scene more accurately in the photos that we create.
Landscape photography should always be about being there first and creating the photo second. In my past, photography wasn’t a part of the hikes or camping trips that I made. It wasn’t until I decided that I wanted to be able to take a photo of the places where I was spending time that I decided to bring a camera along. Since then, the camera has been the catalyst for many of my travels, but I never will stop observing, experiencing and remembering to be a part of the places that I visit.

As I sat in the dark at Lost Lake the other evening, it reminded me that being at and experiencing such a beautiful place was indeed my purpose for being there. As a consequence, I returned with a beautiful photograph.
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