The Eastern Sierras

Before Yosemite, I was fortunate enough to attend a wonderful workshop in the Eastern Sierras with Jack Graham and Guy Tal.   I can’t say enough great things about these guys–regarding their talent and their personalities.  I learned so much, both technically and artistically and I had a fantastic time in the process.  I hope to stay in touch with them forever, as they had a profound impact on me.  They also don’t have overly large egos and when you communicate with them it is on a very real and personal level.  The workshop exceeded all my expectations.

When I connect with such gifted photographers as deeply as I did, it is an affirmation that I am on the right path in pursuing photography as a both a vocation and an avocation.  Jack and Guy really understand how photography makes you grateful and changes your perspective on the world.  They also understand that it is important to express your emotional response to nature in order for it to be art.  It is not enough to take a great photograph; it has to be about something and communicate that to the viewer.  Guy’s presentation on how composition and processing can enable you to communicate your artistic vision was clear and convincing and gave me more tools to work with.  Both Guy and Jack’s work is beautiful, and they were extremely helpful in the field.   I am so indebted to them for their kindness and guidance. 

Below are a few images I made while I was there.  There are many more that I am looking forward to processing when I get home.  Hope you enjoy the gifts nature gave me, which I am always so grateful to receive and embellish on…

Sunrise over Mount Whitney © Lynne Buchanan

We were told to take the obvious photograph first, the one that was right before our eyes and which we could not avoid in order to get it out of our system.  This was the second time I have been in the Eastern Sierras.  I did not isolate Mount Whitney in a photograph the first time I was there.  I didn't connect with its austere massiveness.  This time when the sun hit the mountains and turned the rock fiery shades of red, I was drawn to the colors and contrasts in textures between the rocks closer in and the jagged mountain edges far away.  There was something tactile and masculine and forceful that I identified with, which may have been a result of all the mountains I have climbed lately.  In traveling alone across the country, I have also come in contact with more inner strength and the masculine side of myself...

Bristlecone Forest Still Life © Lynne Buchanan
At the same time, I am always drawn to intimate, ordinary moments in life, moments where the apparent randomness of nature form exquisite patterns that I only notice after sitting quietly and paying attention for awhile.  Scenes like this make me realize how rewarding it is to stay in the moment and just notice.  The longer I look the more I see, at times even noting the sense of motion in stasis.  For me this heightened awareness is the real point of photography.

Moonrise in the Bristle Cone Pines
And then there is the value of simplicity; the power evoked by a few simple elements.  When I saw the moon rise and hit the intersection of the earth's shadows with the rose hues created by the setting sun juxtaposed against the bare tree trunk, I thought of the effectiveness of oriental compositions, the value of negative space.  So often there is too much detail crammed into our lives.  To take a step back and distill reality into larger shapes allows the forces of nature to operate more clearly.

Moonset Over Mono Lake © Lynne Buchanan
Mono Lake is very intriguing. The tufa towers, which are salt formations, are indescribably strange.  They can only been seen to be believed. There is something ephemeral and delicate about them, despite their weirdness, which touched a chord of vulnerability in me.  Unfortunately, the park is unsupervised and many unknowing tourists climb on the tuffs, potentially cracking pieces off of them each time they take a step.  The water was very low as well, as a result of the recent drought, again revealing the threats to the natural world and our water supply.  Standing in the presence of these unusual structures as the sun began to rise behind me and moon had not yet set while the earth's shadow came into view was an intimate experience for me, despite the throngs of photographers to my right and left.  Examining their cracks made me think of my own body's process of decay given all the toxicity in our environment.  All we can do is hope to stem the process of destruction in our remaining years.

Bodie Tattered and Torn © Lynne Buchanan
Of all the images I made during the workshop, this was the most emotionally intense for me.  It was made in Bodie, the abandoned ghost town high in the Sierras.  I had wandered off and found myself alone behind this building with peeling shards of canvas nailed on to criss-cross mismatched boards.  This small subsection of one wall encapsulated the entire feeling of abandonment for me.  Instead of experiencing the building as ruined though, I was drawn to the warm colors of the wood and the peach color of the inner side of the canvas.  It was both inviting and rejecting at the same time.  Oddly enough, I began thinking of my own body–the scars on my ankles and knees from surgery and a fll respectively, my slightly peeling nose from too much sun exposure, my no longer completely firm skin.  Yet for the first time in my life I am inhabiting my body without apology.  I have stopped worrying about my not completely flat abdomen, the scar on the bridge of my nose from falling out of bed as a child and the two small ones on my forehead from liquid nitrogen.  I am embracing my moles, my wrinkles, my aging because they are signs of the years I have lived which have increased my patience and understanding and ultimately made me more rather than less welcoming of my fellow inhabitants of the earth who are perfect the way they are though they might not grace the pages of fashion magazines.