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Lillies in the Woods - The First Date

I plan to be back in this setting again. It was wet. Every time I knelt down on the ground I felt cold, muddy moisture seeping through my jeans. I had to hang much of my gear from branches to keep everything dry and out of the water. Wolf spiders of all sizes were everywhere. Many times crawling into my gear bags. And the light was changing very rapidly. On the high open ground, the light will change, but not nearly as fast as in a low area deep within the woods. In the woods, patches of sunlight move behind vertical blinds made up of hardwoods and softwoods. I may have the camera on the tripod in a few minutes, but by the time I get a light meter reading and load the film, the light will have shifted. This means you have to move very fast or the view you fell in love with will disappear before your eyes.

As crazy as it sounds, that is what I love about shooting large-format photography using film. The challenge of the hunt. When I shoot with a digital camera it is so much easier. So much faster. But, the look is radically different. Not in a bad way...just different. To get a large format image you have to commit to the location. Many times, returning on multiple trips until you learn enough about the spot to understand the light.

It is kind of like a date. The first date is all infatuation. Second date you start to learn about each other. Third date...etc. Usually, if I find a beautiful spot, which is often, I have to enjoy the spirit of just being there, first. Then, only after I take it all in, do I start setting things up.

Light can be unpredictable in the woods. The deeper in you go, the more mysterious it becomes. Trees creak above you. A pileated woodpecker cackles and then hammers away on a tree. I laugh at a barred owl's almost grumpy-sounding call. Peepers sing a chorus that is almost piercing to the ears. You feel alone, but yet, not alone. You sense you are being watched. By the trees. By the birds, squirrels, deer, and other creatures, big and small. You are but a guest in their house. And, like a guest you treat their home with respect.

I watch where I walk. I try my best to not only avoid snakes but also to not squash any rare plants under my feet. I look for patterns in bark, bright, textured moss, and tracks in the soft earth. I stop often. Occasionally, hearing the rapid gallop of a deer who is leaping and crashing ahead to a place where it feels safer from my presence.

The lilies won't last forever. I need another chance to get a different angle. To find that elusive light that creates magic before my eyes. A chance to see that sparkle of light in the eyes of mother nature again.


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