Thursday, July 30, 2009
The "Whip Man" takes to the arbor floor during final ceremonies of the Tamkaliks Pow Wow and Friendship Feast of 2009. This celebration, which takes place in the historic Wallowa Valley of Eastern Oregon, is the annual homecoming pow wow hosted by descendants of Chief Joseph's family and Wallowa Band (Niimipu) members of the Nez Perce Tribe. The Tamkaliks Pow Wow, the Nez Perce Tribal Fisheries instrumental involvement in building healthy Salmon populations in Wallowa County, and local land grants and park developments involving the Nez Perce Tribe all represent a long awaited homecoming as well as the dying wish of Chief Joseph for his people to return to their homeland. Until the end of his days Joseph worked and pleaded with the U.S. Government to return his people to their beloved Wallowa (Land Of Winding Waters) beneath the mountains. Now finally, they have come home.
The sun drops as the Veteran's Dance begins on opening night of Tamkaliks, 2009. Veterans are an important and respected part of the Native community. Native Americans have the highest percentage of military enrollment per capita out of any ethnic group in The United States. This almost seems ironic, but really when you think about it who better to defend this beautiful land?
Nez Perce Eagle Chief Steve Reubens greets a friend during the Tamkaliks Pow Wow and Friendship Feast of 2009. It is a happy homecoming weekend filled with smiles, old friends, good food, and lots of traditional dancing, drumming, and singing.
A young Niimipu dancer stands with Paul Howard, great grandson of General O.O. Howard, the general tasked with evicting Chief Joseph and his people from the beautiful Wallowa Valley of Eastern Oregon. Years ago Paul showed up at the Tamkaliks Homecoming Pow Wow and Friendship Feast with long hair just like this, and asked to have it cut off in a ceremony of atonement for the tragic eviction his ancestor executed. (The cutting of hair is considered a thing of sacrifice and grief in many tribal cultures.) Paul has been returning to Tamkaliks ever since, and his hair is now fully re-grown.
Traditional Nez Perce fisherman Levi Carson uses his net pole to guide him out into the rushing Imnaha River, finding the underwater pathways traveled by Salmon returning to their spawning grounds. The Nez Perce have been fishing this river for thousands of years just like this. The knowledge of how, when, and where they run is passed down from generation to generation.
Nez Perce fisherman Levi Carson casts his net into the Imnaha River that flows out of the Wallowa Mountains and into the mighty Snake River. The Nez Perce have fished Salmon from this river for generations upon generations, and have passed down the knowledge of where exactly in the river the Salmon will swim on their way home to their mountain spawning grounds. These nets used to be made from leather as opposed to nylon, otherwise this process is the same as it was a thousand years ago. In present day, the Nez Perce Tribal Fisheries has been instrumental in restoring a healthy Salmon run to the rivers of Eastern Oregon's Wallowa County. Now once again their children are fed with fresh Wallowa Mountain Salmon.
This was on a pack load trail run up towards Echo Lake in the Eagle Cap Wilderness this Summer. There were many fallen trees across the trail from last winter, which certainly made for a challenging trail run! (Not too mention that trail is viciously steep in some spots.) The soft light pouring across this lush cascade was enough to make me pause and get lost in the forest for a moment...
The sun finally rises above Ruby Peak after a long cold night of "survival practice".
Carrying nothing but our day hiking gear, my friend Justin Sullivan and I traversed Ruby Peak in the Wallowa Mountain Range and made a shelter on its South Ridge and spent the night. This kind of camping is fun if the weather is friendly, and good practice for an unplanned or emergency stay in the wilderness.
A darkened forest falls quiet with the arrival of night...yet soon reborn with the first twinkling of the stars in the clear mountain sky. New life, found in the glimmers and shadows of rocks and limbs, will awaken, roused by the sprawling Milky Way above and the bright Moon beside it...
Justin looking off the South Ridge of Ruby Peak during our traverse over it to make a "survival camp" near the treeline at about 8,000 feet elevation.
Sometimes we will go out with only the supplies you would normally take on a short day hike and spend the night in the wilderness for fun, and practice in case the situation ever arises unplanned. Usually supplies consist of a couple bottles of water, some snacks, matches-lighters, assorted warm clothes, 1 folded pocket sized rain parka and 2 folded pocket sized heat reflective emergency "space blankets" (which can both be found anywhere camping gear is sold, and cost a couple dollars), a pack, rubber bands or duct tape, a knife, and of course my camera. These are things I never go hiking without, for any amount of time. They are also things I can make a sufficient enough camp to survive at least one night in almost any kind of conditions. I have had to test these tools unplanned on more than one occasion. (I will say that the planned "practice" exercises interestingly enough usually take place when the weather forecast is good!)
One morning last May after working all night, I decided to drive up the Alder Slope road near my home to try and get a sunrise photograph over the Wallowa Valley. Driving fast up the gravel road towards the foothills of the Wallowa Mountains, I was having a hard time finding a scene that I felt would capture the "glory" of a Wallowa Valley sunrise in the Spring. One of those typical nature photography moments where the light is changing fast, and you can feel the "shot" slipping away as you search for content and composition that captures the essence of the moment. I just wasn't finding it. Scanning my rearview mirror as I raced up the road chased by the fading color of the morning light, I was struck by the abstract beauty of the dew dripping down my window against the morning sun. Realizing that perhaps my expectation of a "glorious" mountain sunrise was limiting my vision, I stopped the car and focused my camera a little closer than I had originally planned. Another lesson learned in my ongoing journey with light and photography. I don't want to "pre-visualize" things to the point that it limits my vision and I miss the shot altogether.
I always stare at this stand of Aspens when I drive past them, drawn in by the texture, color, and depth of the trees and meadow... Finally I stopped and took a couple photographs one Spring evening as the days' light drifted off behind the Western horizon.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Sometimes just staring out my window can fill me with inspiration and passion for the outdoor world. I have felt at times like the walls of my house are blocking me in some way or another. In a metaphorical sense, having to do with perceived "failures" in life, or unhappiness with a present situation. Or just in a physical sense, in that when I am not out exploring and photographing the wild outdoors and embracing my passion for being there and a part of it, I am thinking about the next time I will be, or remembering fondly past experiences. So occasionally, (ok frequently), I'll just stare out my window and daydream of wilderness adventures and travel, and making plans for future time spent in nature or on the road...
One day I realized that I didn't need to feel trapped by those walls. My passion, and my memory and imagination, freed me. That love for all things wild and beautiful lives inside of me. I realized that the beauty of the natural world extends past the wilderness boundary and comes home with us in our hearts. So gazing out my window, it was all there. Vibrant and alive right there with me at home. I decided to challenge myself to see past those walls and find that wild beauty wherever I was. I am starting with this photo series, which will go on indefinitely I think. It may end up being a lifetime project.
This is sort of an artistic challenge to myself to see if I can create a series of unique images that are all taken through a window in my living room. I want to learn to see something mundane like the same window I look out every day, differently every time I look at it. Now that would be cool! I'm not saying that I will be able to do it, but it will be fun trying! Hopefully in working towards that I can grow as a photographer, embrace further my passion for the wild outdoors, and learn to not be hindered by the walls put before me in life.
This is sort of an artistic challenge to myself to see if I can create a series of unique images that are all taken through a window in my living room. I want to learn to see something mundane like the same window I look out every day, differently every time I look at it. Now that would be cool! I'm not saying that I will be able to do it, but it should be fun trying!
Walking along the shore of Wallowa Lake last January I was taken with the abstract shapes and lines in the pressure cracked ice. The Lake had a good freeze last year. It doesn't always freeze completely over now. In years past it was annually, and I have heard tales of log trucks driving across it back in the Seventies.