Orange Juice, ETC

The blog of Elias & Theresa Carlson

Saying Goodbye

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A week ago today we loaded up the last of our belongings into our car, and said goodbye to our home of six and a half years. The sun was just rising as we stood in the empty space, had one last kiss, and closed the door on these walls that hold so many memories of our life together.

When we first started looking for an apartment together, we found a beautiful place on Queen Anne hill. We went together to view the space and put in our application. A few days later, the landlord called to say that she had selected someone else but she may have another apartment that would better fit our lifestyle.

It was love at first sight. The old brick building, hardwood floors, metal kitchen cabinets, and a beautiful set of windows that looked out from the third floor onto a happy intersection with a glimpse of Greenlake. We created a space for ourselves that was a haven after a long day at work. We filled the space with music, friends, food, and coffee. We imagined how hard it would be to someday leave this place that had become so much of who we were and how we lived.

Its hard to place your key in the refrigerator and make the long walk to the door for the last time. The lights are off and your footsteps sound twice their size as they creak and echo across the floor. In reality you feel quite small stepping through the door, never to return again as you point your sights towards the unknown.

A week later, here we are in California. The sun is shining and we have shed our wool coats in favor of tshirts and sunglasses. We have traded brick for orange stucco. The floors are still wood, the walls are still white. The beautiful window at the front of our space lacks the view we had in Seattle, but we will settle for walks to the beach. We have traded the lake for the ocean, evergreens for palm trees. It feels like we are living on vacation but I know the afternoon will arrive when I look out the window at the golden light and wish for the gray cloud cover, a bowl of warm soup, and the familiar pale faces of those dear Seattle friends we left in winter.

Come see us soon.

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Los Angeles Bound

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“Never say never”. That’s what they say.

If you’d have asked me one year, six months, and twelve days ago – seated comfortably in my Eames chair, the freshest of organic coffees in hand, reflection glinting in the glossy corner of my 27″ iMac, the morning sun just beginning to peer through the gaps in the buildings lining Stone Way – if I’d like to live in LA someday, I’d have laughed in your face, choked on my coffee, probably both. After 5 years as a senior designer at a small firm in the city of my dreams (Seattle), confident in my role as a key member in a crack squad of savvy Powerpoint wizards, and thinking seriously about a house in Wallingford, Los Angeles seemed like the last place in the world I’d want to be.

“LA you made me think, too much gold and you sink. I don’t want to live there, buy there, or die there. Just give me miles of tall evergreens, the smell of the ocean, and the cool mountain breeze, won’t you please.”

That was my motto. I’ll NEVER live in LA.

By 11am on that fateful July day, I was out of a job. Cast adrift like a twig on the shoulders of a mighty stream.

But that’s a story for another day. One to be told with the warm glow of a Manhattan in the belly, accompanied by laughter and regret, nostalgia and sighs of relief. To make a long story short, I was set free, and my life has been a non-stop adventure ever since. And it has led me, strangely enough, to LA.

Well, not just me. Theresa too. You see it’s all because of her that my life is so wonderful. She’s the one who held down a steady, if unfulfilling job while I took the time to pursue my crazy dream job as a freelance hybrid designer-photographer-videographer. It was she who patiently encouraged me each and every time I felt like giving up and looking for a “real” job. And now I’m hoping to return the favor. Because this last year and a half has been the greatest gift I’ve ever received. And it wouldn’t exist without Theresa.

We don’t have any adult reasons for the move. No once-in-a-lifetime job offers we just couldn’t turn down. Just a fuzzy feeling deep in our guts that it’s where we’re supposed to be right now. It helps that both our best friends live there. My brother Joseph in Pasadena. And Andrea, Theresa’s amazing sister, and our future roommate in Long Beach. We may look back on this move in 5 years and realize we were out of our minds. More likely we will look back and see a chain of blessings, and it will all start to make sense. Either way it’s going to be an adventure.

I guess “they” know a thing or two after all.

Top 25 Songs of 2013

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It’s that time of year again! Welcome to the annual Orange Juice ETC, Top 25 songs list. As usual Theresa and I spent the better part of our six hour journey to Idaho scouring our playlists for the songs we enjoyed most in 2013. It was an excellent year. Several artists on our “All-Time Favorites” list released new albums, and as usual a flood of new artists found their ways into our ears and hearts. As it turns out, the most difficult part was keeping the list at 25. We ended up with 34 songs that we just couldn’t imagine leaving out, so this year we are including a 9 song Honorable Mention section.

The only big change this year is that we are ditching the MP3 downloads that we’ve done in the past. Theresa and I have really gotten hooked on rdio a streaming music service that we think is superior to Spotify. So this year you’ll need to subscribe to the playlist on rdio, or listen to it below. We apologize for the inconvenience, but we really think everyone should sign up for an rdio account, it’s the best. And for those of you who are already invested in Spotify, never fear, rdio has a playlist transfer feature that will pull your existing catalog over from Spotify. No excuses!

If you already have an rdio account you can keep tabs on what Theresa and I are listening to by adding us to your contacts:
TheresaElias

Enjoy!

Top 25 (in no particular order)

1. Vance Joy – Riptide

2. The National – Hard to Find

3. Foy Vance – Feel for Me

4. Lucius – Two of Us on the Run

5. Phosphorescent – Song for Zula

6. Junip – Your Life Your Call

7. Vampire Weekend – Obvious Bicycle

8. Sing Fang – Young Boys

9. Papa – I Am the Lion King

10. Andrew Belle – Sister

11. Tyson Motsenbocker – Blink Behind the Leaves

12. Emma Louise – Pontoon

13. Dan Croll – From Nowhere

14. Valerie June – Wanna Be On Your Mind

15. Arcade Fire – Porno

16. Salt Cathedral – Move Along

17. Lorde – Bravado

18. The Shouting Matches – I Need A Change

19. Gregory Alan Isakov – Amsterdam

20. Matt Corby – Resolution

21. Andrew Bird – Pulaski at Night

22. Rayland Baxter – Bad Things

23. Caveman – In The City

24. Cayucas – A Summer Thing

25. Sydney Wayser – Alright

Honorable Mention:

26. Mikky Ekko – Pull Me Down

27. Kisses – Huddle

28. Washed Out – It Feels All Right

29. Minor Alps – Lonely Low

30. Volcano Choir – Tiderays

31. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – We the Common (for Valerie Bolden)

32. Phoenix – Bourgeois

33. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – War Zone

34. The Boxer Rebellion – New York

Upland Bird Hunting in Eastern Washington for Filson

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A few weeks ago Seattle based clothing company Filson commissioned me to do an editorial photo essay on upland bird hunting. Filson is pretty high on my list of favorite brands. They make the kind of clothing that lasts a lifetime. And that’s not hyperbole. To say I was thrilled would be an understatement.

I accompanied my brother-in-law Josh and his dad Tom, who are avid bird hunters for a day in the field. I’ve shared a few of my favorite photos here, but I’d recommend checking out the full post on the Filson Life blog.

For you photo nerds: all photos were shot on Kodak Portra 400 medium format film using a Bronica GS-1 6×7 camera.

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A Rooftop Wedding in Portland

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I used to hate weddings. Well, hate is a strong word. I used to be indifferent about weddings. But time has a funny way of changing tastes. I’ve come to find that weddings are pretty great when conditions are right. Summer? Portland? Rooftop? All of our Seattle friends in attendance? Yes please.

Theresa and I were honored to shoot Jon & Annie Fox’s wedding this August. We usually turn down weddings. They’re stressful, long, and stylistically quite a bit different from the type of film photography we prefer to do in our free time. But when Annie reached out to us Theresa and I were both immediately excited. Jon and Annie were a part of a circle of friends we’d developed here in Seattle, and while we weren’t close, we knew them well enough to understand that their wedding would be exactly the kind we’d enjoy shooting. We weren’t wrong.

Annie is a bundle of infectious energy. I couldn’t help but pre-visualize her beaming face, which you’ll surely see within five minutes of meeting her, and is impossible to forget. Jon provides a perfect contrast to Annie. A little shy, soft-spoken, and crazy smart. You’ll like him immediately and keep discovering new reasons why as you get to know him. They are a great couple.

I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever enjoyed a wedding more, either as a guest or photographer. It was beautiful. It was heartfelt. It was joyous. And we danced all night. Well, not me, I was too busy snapping photos. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the party. I was even able to sneak in a few 6×6 film photos. Annie and Jon were extremely laid back about our approach, and basically gave us free reign to shoot the wedding as we saw fit. What a privilege. I’m extremely proud of the results, and I hope you enjoy them.

Maybe this wedding photography thing isn’t so bad after all…

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Sad Songs & Birthdays

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Every morning when the coffee’s on,
I rediscover that color in your eyes, in its gold and its bronze

That quote is from a song on Foy Vance’s recent album, The Joy of Nothing. It’s a beautiful album that chronicles the various stages of the disintegration of his marriage. This may be odd, but I often enjoy listening to sad songs about divorce and the loss of love. Sometimes I like to imagine what life would be like without Theresa, and it makes me very sad. Since Theresa and I are happily married you might think this a little morbid. You may be right, but let me explain:

The other day I was watching a clip of Louis C.K. being interviewed by Conan O’Brien discussing his hatred of cell phones. He justifies this hatred by describing an experience he had while driving in which he became very sad for no particular reason. His immediate instinct was to reach for his phone, to create some kind of distraction. But instead, he embraced the sadness, pulled his car over and started crying. What he realized in that moment is that technology has a way of minimizing both our sadness and our happiness. You can’t fully experience one without the other.

Odd as it may seem, this is why I enjoy sad songs. The sadness they allow me to experience only serves to enhance the joy I feel whenever I’m with Theresa. Her presence in my life has made me so overwhelmingly happy, that at times it’s almost numbing. A little pinch of sadness allows me to appreciate her more fully. It helps me to once again marvel at the beautiful color in her eyes.

And since today is Theresa’s 29th birthday, it’s only appropriate that I list some of my favorite things about her. Our new favorite tradition.

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1. She is a voracious snuggler.
2. She wants to move to LA, or New York, or anywhere with me. Just because it’d be fun.
3. She could care less about sports.
4. But she loves hiking.
5. She likes to make fun of babies, but she loves our nephews with all her heart.
6. She is wise.
7. Milstead.
8. When she stands on the edge of the bathtub to get a better look at her outfits.
9. She folds a mean tshirt.
10. How she has made our little apartment into a home.
11. She always – Always – Wants Mexican food for dinner.
12. Popcorn Sundays.
13. She’s not afraid to call you out if you’re being dumb.
14. She’s always offers to help my mom in the kitchen when we visit.
15. She’s content with less.
16. She can appreciate a good Manhattan.
17. She’s never smoked ever.
18. She doesn’t mind if I smoke my pipe from time to time.
19. Her fit attitude.
20. Bright Pink Nikes.
21. Her love of excellent jackets.
22. She has never stopped encouraging me as I try to make it as a freelance designer.
23. She thinks I’m amazing. I think she’s amazing. It’s a vicious cycle of awesome.
24. She is generous and hospitable.
25. She accepts people of all kinds.
26. She gets really angry when slow people don’t move aside on the trail.
27. She loves to run back down the mountain.
28. She is endlessly creative.
29. The gold and bronze flecks in her blue eyes. 6 years and I still love finding them.

Happy birthday Theresa. I love you more than the moon and stars.

2,190 Days

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I was cruising the annals of Tumblr the other day and came across this quote:

Some people are good at being in love. Some people are good at love. Two very different things, I think. Being in love is the romantic part—sex all the time, midday naps in the sheets, the jokes, the laughs, the fun, long conversations with no pauses, overwhelming separation anxiety … Just the best sides of both people, you know? But love begins when the excitement of being in love starts to fade: the stress of life sets in, the butterflies disappear, the sex becomes a chore, the tears, the sadness, the arguments, the cattiness … The worst parts of both people. But if you still want that person by your side through all of those things … that’s when you know—that’s when you know you’re good at love.

I’m not sure who said it, but it struck a chord. I immediately thought of Theresa and I. As of August 25th, we’ve officially been married for six years. Or 2,190 days. That’s both a huge number and a very small number. In the grand scheme of things it’s a drop in the bucket, if that. But it’s also represents (at a minimum) the 2,190 chances I’ve had to put Theresa’s needs, wants, and priorities ahead of mine. I like to think I’m doing an OK job at that, but I’m sure if it was possible to tally up each instance I’d be a little ashamed at how selfish I actually am. And yet. I married an incredible woman. She never holds it against me. She loves me endlessly and completely, in a way that humbles me. I know that I love her more than I’ll ever love anyone else. But sometimes I feel that her love makes mine pale in comparison. The good news is, I know she feels exactly the same way about me.

And after six years, now that we’ve had ample time with “the worst parts of each other”, I still can’t wait to wake up next to her, to adventure with her, and to continue building a life with her. It feels good to think that maybe we’re getting pretty good at love.

Plus, just look at that face.

Kings Canyon in Three Parts (3/3)

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Part 3 by Joseph Carlson

“Good poetry has layers that take time to perceive and enjoy. So a person who reads a lot of good poetry has often learned patience and comes to take joy in growing slowly.”
–Tommy Givens

The forever-maddening part is being able to see them, the trout that is. The crystalline waters of the Kings River are particularly unforgiving in this respect. The aquamarine depths of even the largest pools yield themselves easily to an eager and educated eye. Similarly the clear, quick currents of the shallower runs were hosts to the shimmering’s of smaller trout. Beyond that, Kings Canyon just feels fishy. Like you should be getting into trout right and left. Tucked between Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks, the LA Times once called it the “forgotten National Park”. To be perfectly honest, I’ll be more than happy if it stays that way; more trout for me and mine.

Anyway, back towards the trout. Long ago, I recall reading in a book, “If you can see the fish, they can see you.” Maybe, that was the reason Kings humbled us. Those clear mountain waters are surely a two-way window. Or, maybe it was the heat, or that last glass of whiskey the night before, or the extra sleep. Abandoning deep runs as dusk descends and choosing instead the evening hunt for prime spots to take photographs certainly doesn’t get one any closer to a full creel. Magic hour applies for photography just as much for fishing. Regardless, we saw plenty and caught few, and I’ve been haunted by the place ever since.

The Brown Trout I caught was the biggest I had ever hooked, nothing to brag about, but a healthy 17 inches. The one I lost after him was the biggest trout I’d hooked on a fly rod. He laughed at me after a bated-breath, ecstatic, and tremulous-1-minute stroll he took up the pool I hooked him in. I thought I was doing an exemplary job ‘playing’ a trout that was clearly out of my league when, with a flick of a palm-sized tail-fin he snapped my 6x tippet like it was gossamer and left me weakkneed and love-stricken. His nonchalance was the hardest part to swallow. Grieving that loss as I was for the rest of the trip did nothing to diminish my gratitude for each decidedly smaller fish I gently cradled, thanked, and relinquished back unto the river.

Granted, I never truly got into “fish-mode”, where one is fully baptized into the present moment, abandoning human cognition to adopt trout-like perspective. But, I doubt it would have made a difference; to catch fish on the Kings in those conditions you have to slow waaay down, and this trip was about brotherhood more than it was about fishing. It meant just as much to sit on the bank untangling knots for Jeremy, or rigging up two and three fly set-ups for Elias, or smiling to myself after they let me “coach” them on how to effectively nymph. Such are the layers of slow poetry. I’d be lying if I said that I’m a patient man when it comes to flyfishing, and so many other things, when measured against those who have dedicated themselves to the art. Yet, the prospect of being able to take joy in growing slowly when it comes to trout, mountains, rivers, and my brothers (either by blood or time), is a joy I’ll gladly sacrifice for.

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For the photography nerds: All photos taken with a Pentax Spotmatic on 35mm film.

Joseph is a man of many talents: singer-songwriter, fly-fisherman, writer, and deep-thinker. When he isn’t writing clever, thought-provoking blog articles he can be found over on tumblr waxing theological, sharing the latest great music, or spreading some form of truth, beauty, or justice. If he’s not there, you’d best check the nearest river.

Kings Canyon in Three Parts (2/3)

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Fishing the Run Well by Jeremy Spyridon

Let me tell you what happens when you fly-fish for the first time in your life. You will fall. You will hook more rocks than fish. You will catch your rod on branches. You will tangle your line into knots you never knew existed. Your skin will burn beneath a merciless sun. Your body will be beaten, your skin will be scraped, scratched and scarred. You will curse the name of God on a whim. And then you will have the audacity to look up as a hundred swallows ride currents rising from the canyon floor into the golden beams of a setting sun and wonder if it all was worth it. And not just this day, but each day that had come before it.

Such was my state of mind as I limped pitifully back up the canyon walls. In the end, it was not my smashed knee that slowed my pace. It was not the gear that clung to the sweat on my back. It wasn’t even my wounded pride. It was my will, my worth, my identity. For the first half of our journey back to the car, I was able to keep up with my companions. But as our ascent continued, my spirit dove deeper and deeper into shadow. Thankfully, Elias and Joseph did not wait for me and continued at their own determined pace. As they rounded the next switchback, I stopped and accepted my fate. I chose to be left behind.

As I looked down into the canyon, watching the swallows dance in the diminishing sunlight, I reflected on the day. It had worn on me in ways I could not have imagined. After 6 hours of fishing and not even a single bite, I decided to lay down my rod and rest beside the river. With my hand in the current, I recalled bass fishing with my Dad. I remembered the excitement of rising before the sun. I remembered the joy of being on the water. But then I remembered something else. I remembered enjoying casting, but always hoping I wouldn’t catch a fish. I remembered taking long breaks just to enjoy basking in the sunlight. I looked forward to the next can of Diet Coke, but rarely the next cove. And above all, I looked forward to the long drive home that included a stop at Pizza Hut and hours spent listening to The Blues Brothers. But I never wanted to catch a fish.

I wondered what that meant about me. Was it true that I didn’t want to catch a fish? All these years, was I truly not competitive? Or had this always been a way to protect myself from defeat? Am I weak? Is this why I fear intimacy? Am I going to die alone? Fuck. 28 and single. My gaze rested on the golden peaks surrounding me. How like life, to survive so much pain and suffering and loneliness and, in the end, all you get to take with you is a few faded memories of some nice views that will someday pass away with the rest of you. Deeper and deeper I dove. Here I was, in one of the most breathtaking places I had ever beheld, questioning my next breath. I suddenly resented Joseph’s passion for fishing. I coveted Elias’s obsession with film photography. I hated what I had become. And so I looked at my feet on the cliff’s edge and thought, “it’s just one step.”

It had all begun with a simple question. Somehow, asking myself if I wanted to catch a fish had led me to question living another day. Of course the thought was no more than a selfish, self-indulgent pity party, but it happened. And it wasn’t out of nowhere. There was a chain reaction of thoughts that led to that moment, and I ignited the fuse each step along the way. Like a game of telephone, lies become evidence for more lies, and in the end, you’re left with something that makes no sense at all. You see, the mind is a powerful thing and yet it can be so stupid. Did you know that your body cannot tell the difference between reality and imagination? It’s true. Your body reacts the same way to a real tragedy as it does when you speculate worst-case scenarios. You experience the same stress when you lose your job as when you worry about that unsettling look your boss gave you yesterday. Finding out a loved one has been in an accident leaves the same scar as when you wonder why they didn’t answer your phone call. The difference is, you can imagine the worst over and over and over again. And when you do, you’re literally traumatizing yourself. Over and over and over.

The next morning I awoke bruised and beaten, but with a miraculous hope for a fresh start. We would give the river one final go before beginning our journey out of the canyon. We followed the river and found the run we were looking for. This was it. I was going to catch a fish. I even prayed for it. And then, to the amusement of God and all His angels, my very first cast, I hooked the tree above me and broke the line. I began to curse… and then took a breath. I felt my thoughts getting away from me again, so I stopped. Like the rudder of a ship, the slightest degree can have you end up in Iceland or Africa.

I took my rod and broken line to an isolated area and sat for awhile. I remembered something Joseph had said the day before as we descended into the canyon. He spoke of “fishing the run well.” You only get one, maybe two, chances to get a fly in front of a fish before he knows you’re full of shit. You study the environment. You observe the insects nearby. The formation of the river. The structure beneath its surface. Each bend, each shadow, each ripple. You consider the life of the fish and where they might rest. You take this all in, make your judgement, and then commit. You comb the river, bit by bit. You lose yourself in being present. And you watch your line with all your might. Then you move to the next spot and do it all over again. You fish the run well. The context was fly-fishing, of course, but we all knew there was something greater at stake.

Sitting alone with my pitiful situation of a rod, I decided to take a moment to start over. I remembered the knots I had learned the day before and went to work. After some grueling moments of patience, my rod and my spirit were ready. I spent the rest of the morning fishing the river on my own, reading the current, choosing my strategy, and then deliberately executing it to the best of my ability. I fished that river well. Up and down, near and far. I began to understand my rod. I felt the fluidity of my movements. My fly began to land exactly where I’d intended. And I loved every second of it. I loved it so much, in fact, that I over-fished the same runs simply out of the sheer joy of being able to cast without catching every single branch, log and rock I came across. And I thanked God for it. I never did catch a trout, but I learned that fishing a run well has absolutely nothing to do with what you catch. At least it didn’t for me.

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For the photography nerds: All photos taken with an iPhone 4 and edited using VSCO.

Jeremy is a talented graphic designer by day. You should really check out his portfolio. He recently made a playlist called River Teeth inspired by our trip, which you can listen to over on his music blog, Icarus & Occident.

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Kings Canyon in Three Parts (1/3)

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In June my friend Jeremy and I decided to fly to California to pay my brother Joseph a visit and engage in some kind of fly-fishing based adventure. We found ourselves in Kings Canyon, somewhere between Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks, deep in the Sierras. We have each undertaken to write about the trip from a more creative standpoint vs. the typical documentary style you might expect. Accompanying each of our writings are photographs taken by the author of that section, with a variety of cameras. Jeremy is a crack shot with an iPhone, Joseph’s battered old Pentax Spotmatic 35mm rarely leaves his side, and I insist on lugging around heavy medium format cameras on even the steepest hikes (seriously though, it’s so worth it).

We hope you enjoy our efforts.

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Part 1 by Elias Carlson

The light in Southern California is qualitatively different than the light in the Pacific Northwest. A warm, dry light, it pervades every corner of the landscape. Even the shadows can’t escape its influence. I’m convinced “The Golden State” moniker refers, not to the fabled gold rush, but to the gilded Californian light.

Before I continue, let me set a few things straight. As a Northwestern son, born and raised, evergreen sap and rain pumps through my veins. Cut me deeply and you may discover North Cascade granite where you might expect bone. The air I breathe is silver and cold, it is wet with fresh rain. I’ve been fortunate to travel far and wide, but I only begin to feel at home when my latitude nears 47 degrees.

Despite my dyed-in-the-wool Northwestern ways, California, and the Sierras in particular, have begun to carve out a warm golden niche in the corner of my heart. The language of glaciers and granite is my native tongue and the Sierras speak a familiar dialect. We’ve only just begun the conversation, but it’s clear we’re going to be fast friends.

Blame John Muir. The wily old prophet of the mountains first piqued my interest with his legendary memoir My First Summer in the Sierras. With a brother in Pasadena, it was only a matter of time before “The Range of Light” and I became acquainted. My first glimpse came last September on a five day fly-fishing road trip from Seattle to LA. As Joseph, Tuck, and I wound down the 395 at the foot of the Eastern Sierras I began to fall prey to the same spell that enchanted Muir. Even from a distance the siren song of the mountain range beckons.

My enchantment with the Sierras has only increased after three days in Kings Canyon. It is a photographer’s wonderland. Golden light ricochets between towering clefts of granite, each peak and crag daring you to capture its brazen majesty. These types of conditions are what I live for. They are my drug. Yet even in the midst of such staggering natural beauty lies conflict.

Perfect light, majestic scenery, and adventure aplenty combine to bring out the best and worst in me as a photographer. I find myself struggling to balance competing desires: How can I ever hope to create a truly meaningful picture when the grandeur before me is overwhelming to the point of numbness? How do I actually experience a place, or a person, when I’m constantly viewing life through a lens?

I fear I’ll always be chasing a cliche. I fear I’ll miss a truly great photograph because I’m only paying attention to the obviously good ones. I worry that I’m not being present with the people I love because I’m distracted by the light. I haven’t yet found a solution to these problems. Maybe that means I’ll never be a great photographer, doomed to dabble forever in the shallow end of the pool. Or perhaps struggling through these conflicts time and time again is the path to greatness. I don’t know. I suppose only time will tell. In the meantime, I’m sure enjoying the view.

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For the photography nerds: All photos taken with a 6×6 Minolta Autocord or 6×7 Bronica GS-1 on Kodak Portra 400, Kodak Ektar 100, or Fuji Pro 400H medium format (120) film.