I do love slogging through the snow on a cold winter day, getting out in the woods to just be there while most everyone else is avoiding the challenge by retreating to their central heated houses or climate controlled vehicles. With all the leaves off the trees and the ground covered with a continuous white background you can see the terrain as never before – every hill, gully, clearing and stream. A landscape hidden away behind thick forest leaves and high prairie grasses is suddenly exposed like a topographic map. I don’t know if I love this because I know I can also retreat away from it or because of the pleasure of “suiting up” to deal with it successfully.
One particular joy is hiking across the frozen lakes in the area, seeing the shore line from new perspectives and finding interesting views to photograph. Many of the local ice fishermen haul all their gear onto the lake using sleds, leaving behind them giant snail trails that glisten in the low morning sun. The lake is covered with several inches of ice right now, securely supporting serious sportsmen and one curious photographer.
In the afternoon I went out with a photographer who is teaching me to use large format cameras: 4×5″ and 8×10″. Part of the lesson is simply how to manipulate the equipment (a completely and totally manual experience compared to the electronic marvel of my DSLR) as well as how to “see” in a broader composition. This type of photography is like looking at a scene and snipping what you see out of the air – big images with lots of detail. I look forward to becoming as confident in this format as I am with my digital equipment.
He has been working in this format for many years, from college on, and has been published in different magazines and books. He is a careful photographer who appreciates a well composed, exposed and developed image. His challenge, in addition to my endless questions, is his wheelchair and double vision and unsteady hands. These last, results of a car accident several years ago, merely get in the way of his mobility, not his talent. Winter travel for him is confined to where the sidewalks are plowed and the roads open – no frozen lake strolls for him. But what better way to learn to see what’s right in front of me than from an artist who has that as his primary source of images.