Veritas Viridis – 10 – In the Moment

Photographer’s reflections on a morning photo shoot

It’s Sunday morning out in the country. 8:45a.m. The sun is out – I am elated. It’s Spring, so the direction and angle of the sun dictates that I head to the easternmost favourite place – the Manitou stream. I know that by the time I finish thrashing though the bush along the banks of the stream, the “milieu humide”, the wetland closer to home, will finally be in sun.

The stream is in full snowmelt runoff mode. Temperatures dropped to minus 6 during the night, so there is a lot of new ice. I am thrilled at the prospect of discovering new stuff. The banks are still buried under several feet of snow. Typically I have to schlep along on snowshoes, which makes for tricky manoeuvering through the thick growth. Today I have taken a chance and am wearing ankle high slip-on hiking shoes (they’ve got exaggerated treads for good grip) – I am guessing that with a few days melting followed by a good overnight freeze the subsequent crust will be just sufficient to support my weight as I forage for images. “Just” is the operative word – there are occasional sudden collapses under foot, causing me to plunge up to my groin in cold granular snow. I detest working with cold or wet feet. My whole body is tense with anticipation of sudden leg plunges. I spend considerable mental energy trying to relax my lower back muscles which always seem to take most of the load when I am out shooting. My attention otherwise is totally directed to the scene on the banks of the stream. I am completely in the moment. I sense the warmth of the sun, the cold of the morning air. The sound of the coursing rush of water completely fills my acoustic awareness.

Secure footing is an obvious basic starting point for concentrating on taking a shot, but with a layer of ice coating everything near the water, this is a luxury not available. At almost every step I take, low branches snag my toque, and my hands fly up to cram it back down. I squat to frame a shot, gathering the low angle sunlight behind a transparent icy scene. My feet are telling my head to not count on being still for much longer, my head is furiously telling my fingers to change ISO to a higher level, to select a slower shutter speed, to step down the f stop to bring in more depth of field, to swirl the Polaroid filter around to find just the right contrast and reflection, re-adjusting the shutter speed, the f stop, OK, dammit, the ISO again, then everything else again. I ask myself is this shot even worth it? Lactic acid is approaching a painful limit in my thighs, and my feet keep trying to interrupt my photography with the simple message that if I ignore them for 4 more seconds I might slip into the stream and drown. Ahhh, I take the shot. I cup my hands around the display screen to see if it’s any good. I am well past the 4 second warning, taking a risk that my feet and legs (which are screaming in pain) are just being sissies. The sun is glinting at such a low angle I can’t really see the image I have captured. Should I take another with slightly different settings? If the scene is pricelessly compelling, yes, I risk drowning. If not. I simply hope it worked out OK and I step back and straighten up. My uncomplaining lower back muscles send a mild rebuke to my head, like, “well, it’s about time someone noticed…” I thrash through the slippery bush to find another “keeper” image…


About Peter Clark

An international leader in sustainable development and green design, Peter Clark brings a wealth of experience in resort, institutional and commercial development, renovations, property management and operations in Canada and Mexico.

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