“Nature is full of pictures, and they are to be found in what appears to the uninitiated the most unlikely places.” P.H. Emerson

Like landscape photographer P.H. Emerson, I am one to avoid crowds while photographing and I enjoy the hunt for the image almost as much as taking the photograph. When there was a crowd in one area, Emerson traveled far away from that merriment, probably photographing a pond or a haystack instead. The time I spend outdoors exploring and visualizing is devoted to thought, contemplation, and the enjoyment of nature. If I find something that’s fine, and if I don’t that’s also fine. I’m not one to seek out the icons or the hot spots, but instead I enjoy those areas less traveled. This year, I was on a quest to find a Mountain Lady’s Slipper because I wanted to see one in the wild and I thought the search would be fun. After a lot of reading about possible habitats, I went looking. The first two areas I searched for were complete failures, but I kept looking. In the third area I hit paydirt, and even though the day was quite sunny and breezy I attempted to photograph these wildflowers. I didn’t like most of what I shot, so I returned a few days later during a cloudier morning with less wind. On this second visit I came away with what I was looking for in an image. Work for sure, but in the end it was rewarding work and much more fulfilling.

Now that we’re slowly being released from our Governmental-directed torpor, I’m ready to explore again. I photographed around my yard during the lockdown, but I was just going through the motions. Lately, I’ve begun some off-trail waterfall explorations with my fellow Photo Cascadia friend Adrian Klein in search of those lesser-viewed scenes. My creative juices have returned as has my excitement for just being outside again exploring. Sometimes those waterfalls are the goal, but on this day we walked through a beautiful forest filled with old growth, vine maple, blankets of moss, a dizzying array of ferns, and an occasional Oregon Anemone poking through the green vastness. We found many stops along the way and on our return.

I like the chase, that feeling of the unknown. How are the conditions, the landscape, what will I find? There is value in exploration, and that’s kind of the journey we have as photographers, discovering places on our own, and that’s also part of the magic of landscape photography. As you travel again, tread lightly and enjoy the solitude of nature and your search for that photograph in those most unlikely of places.

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