Friday, June 27, 2008

Mumbles from the woods

With my coworkers Mike and Steph gone homeward for the break, I was left to adventure solo. To Bryce Canyon first. A photographers playground...one could spend an entire month taking photos there. I was so struck by the fins, hoodoos, and crumbling monuments and statues that I extended my stay to three days, hiking all the dayhikable trails. The best time for photos is early morning or late afternoon, so, each day, I would kick myself out of my warm sleeping bag at 5:30am to catch the sunrise in the canyon.

Although taking photos and hiking amidst the pinnacles and gargoyles was enthralling, it was the tourists that fascinated me the most. So many different people, from so many different places, speaking so many different languages...and all in one little place. You've got the huffers and puffers...mostly larger americans working there way, step by step, up the steep trail. You've got the stylin...the group of teenagers from an Asian source wearing the fanciest, most stylish clothing, including the tightly fitting clothing, enormous sunglasses, and outrageous shoes (if you can even call them that) that should not be worn for hiking, but are (those of this breed usually do not make it far down the trail). You have the skinny, in shape europeans, confidently striding up and down the trail, exclaiming in German, French, and Spanish all sorts of exciting things which makes me excited, but cannot understand. All, of course, are snapping photos like mad (one of the best inventions for conserving places like these...the camera: people can take all they want without having an ounce of effect on the landscape). Another thing I noticed are the families. The parents traveling with young kids. It seemed to me that the moms more than the dads were much more easily annoyed and impatient with their kids. Due to their being stay-at-home moms, always around the kids? The fathers were typically more pleasant, and more excited to show their kids the wonders of the place, even though, most of the time, the kids never seem to even notice the place they were in...they go about picking up rocks and looking at ants. I remember one mother with three children, trying to fill up her water bottles in the lobby of the lodge. Nothing the children said or did was right, but always annoying and frustrating. It saddens me, as I know that these children will grow up, most likely, the same way with their kids, and the cycle is endlessly repeated. They weren't having any fun, it was obvious. But this was not always the case...some families glowed with excitedness and fun. The children truly enjoying the trip, and the parents constantly encouraged such enjoyment.
Once I had my fill of Bryce, I drove on to Cedar Breaks national monument...basically a mini-Bryce, with the same pinnacles and hoodoos, but much less accessibility to them. The wildflowers were just beginning to bloom. At 10500 feet, Cedar Breaks is much cooler and spring is much later.
Here, I met a traveling photographer from Quebec, in the middle of a 6 month sojourn through the western states. Retired and alone, he had much to say. And I, as usual, just listened. Which made him talk more. But that was all fine to me. His english was not very good and he not only had trouble understanding english, but he had poor hearing. At one point, he asked me what I was doing here. "Well, I'm on break from my job in Zion." He then went on a 10 minute discussion of how much he loved Zion. "What are you doing in Zion?" he asks. "I'm researching spotted owls." Blank stare. "Researching owls," I say again, thinking maybe he didn't hear me. Blank stare. "Owls!" I say louder. Nothing. "Birds!" Still a blank stare. "I don't understand," he finally admits. So I say it slower and louder..."I'M RESEARCHING OWLS, you know, BIRDS." I don't think he ever understood what I was doing in Zion.

But he did tell me the four most important things, as he sees it, to taking good photos: Form, texture, framing, and color. Form, texture, and color being the object you are shooting. Color is the least important of the four. If you have something with good form and texture to photo, as long as you get the framing right, the color doesn't matter. Anyways...
That night I spent off of a dirt road somewhere in national forest land just south of Cedar Breaks. Around five in the morning, I was awakened by some humming in the forest adjacent to the meadow I was sleeping in. Not humming as in a mechanical noise, but humming as in someone singing a song to themselves. Except it definitely wasn't a human. I was wide awake at this point...and sleeping without a tent doesn't help to calm nerves. It was a hum of relaxed enjoyment. Like a perfectly content old lady knitting. I ran a list through my head of all the potential animals that would hum like this: bear, deer, elk, porcupine? I imagined a bear, sitting on his rump, peeling up fallen logs searching for bugs and roots, happily humming away. A deer or elk? Seems unlikely. A porcupine? Good ole Bill Staines speaks of a personal experience of a talking porcupine (thanks for the CD Vicky!). I agree on the porcupine for logical reasons...I want to sleep...

(Sorry for the anticlimax, but that's all there is! I never figured out what the creature was, but I was happy to wake up in one piece.)
All of my photos can be viewed on my Picasa albums (see link in header of blog)...none of them do justice to the amazingness of Bryce. I tried putting pictures in within this post but had technical difficulties...

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