Friday, April 6, 2012

The Calendar Explained: January

Towards the end of 2011, I put together a calendar for a small number of friends and family. One of them hangs above my desk at work, and recently I flipped the page to April and decided to write about each photograph and the story behind it. This is the first of those stories.

Taken January 4th, 2011. Camera: Canon PowerShot A480
f/3, exposure 1/160 sec., ISO 125, focal length 7 mm, aperture 3.15625
Timing is everything with winter hiking, and I’ve been fairly successful at getting out in January to see the Columbia River Gorge’s frozen waterfalls. It takes a set of cold, dry weather and some traction devices for your feet, but it’s worth it to drive along the old highway and stop at ice-coated falls such as Horsetail and Ponytail, Oneonta and Latourelle. Other falls may be more impressive, but the lower tier of Multnomah Falls under the Benson Bridge has an understated quality. Partly this is because the main drop on Multnomah is so huge, falling hundreds of feet down basalt cliffs spackled with patterns of frozen water. Partly it’s because the main splash pool just above the lower falls is coated with ice inches thick, and freezing spray turns the Benson Bridge into a skating rink. When I took this photo, there was so much ice on the bridge it was closed, and the upper pool was a monochrome definition of winter: black stone, white ice, and bitterly cold wind and spray. The lower pool, however, wore a more delicate, less severe mood, with bright green moss and winter fern adding warmth and contrast to the cool ice and blue water. The patterns of ice were accents, not the main theme, like a piano solo in the middle of a brassy jam: less abstract and elemental, they invited contemplation. Water still poured over the falls and winter still held the water in its grip, but there was melody in the rocky foliage and a note of passage. This photo scarcely captures that, but of all the falls and all the photos I took, this is the one that stands out to me emotionally, although I’m certain that quality is only evident if you’d been there.

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