Dec 02 2009

Backcountry Photography: Reflections on Water

I’m not a big magic buff. I’d rather watch hares dancing under the pines on a moonlit winter night than see a trembling bunny pulled out of a top hat by some gent wearing tails and a starched dickey. It’s not that I’ve got anything against magic shows, of course. It’s just that there’s more than enough magic for me in the real world. And nowhere is the magic nearer to the surface — so to speak — than on (and around) water. It’s the best kind of magic, too. Not only is water’s magic impervious to the discoveries of science, but it’s actually enhanced by them. The more you know about water, in other words, the greater the enchantment. I’ve done my time at the lab bench and in the field. I’ve measured the pH of rainwater. Dropped instruments in lakes to determine the depth of the thermocline. Calculated the discharge of mountain torrents. Counted and cataloged aquatic larvae from drift nets and Surber samplers. The bottom line? My sense of wonder has grown with every notebook entry I’ve made.

Canoeists and kayakers are doubly blessed in this regard. Our sport brings us about as close to water as we can get without growing gills, but that’s not all. It also encourages a kind of healthy codependency. We can’t rely on horsepower to take us where we want to go, or to get us out of trouble if we misjudge things along the way. We have to depend on ourselves and our understanding of the liquid medium that supports our craft. In short, if we insist on seeing water as an adversary and not a partner, we’re not going anywhere. The upshot? Paddling increases our appreciation of the power and majesty of water, in all its moods and conditions. It also opens our eyes to water’s beauty. And paddling photographers have the best of both worlds here.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the play of reflected light on water. Change is the only constant where the water’s surface encounters air. Every photo of this ever‑shifting interface is unique, something never to be repeated and never to be seen again by anyone. Now that’s real magic! So let’s start our exploration of reflections right at the beginning, with the chase… Read more…


Autumn Reflected

You can reflect on more photos in “The Fall of the Leaf,” “A River Runs…,” “Reflections on Impermanence…,” and “Reflections on Water…

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