Evergreen Opulence

I have been ruminating over my state of mind for the past few days. It is one of relaxation, rejuvenation, jubilation,  and unbridled ebullience. Perhaps it has to do with an 8 day long trip to Olympic National Park. I have said this on these very pages before, that America’s greatest gift doesn’t come from anything that is man-made, rather from its chaste and vast wilderness that they protect so furiously and with fervor. Rightly so, because there are so few places in the world that haven’t been debased due to the expansion of civilizations’ needs. To stand by an ocean and watch a sunset with nary a soul, to walk for miles through plush and luxuriously overgrown sitka spruce forests by the side of rivers that gleam turquoise as they rush from their glacier fed mouths to the ocean beyond, carrying in their belly the bounty of salmon and trout, and to watch the simple motion of a wave relentlessly battering a sea stack down to size with just sheer persistence and a loud, crashing moan – is a gift that I can never repay. I cannot even find words in my vocabulary to describe the peace that settles into my being when I am surrounded by these sights and sounds with a camera in my hand. To say I love my profession and what it allows me to do and where it allows me to go, would be an understatement. This profession of being a photographer is the greatest form of meditation that fills every need gap, every want and desire that I have had. To stand behind a lens and gaze at stars, landscapes, likens alike and to see the world in a manner that is in-depth from the middle of everything without leaving any imprint but an actual foot print on these gingerly balanced eco-systems is the best part of this profession. And yet, what I capture is but a very tiny fraction of the beauty that surrounds us.

C.Joybell once famously said, “Never waste any amount of time doing anything important when there is a sunset outside that you should be sitting under!”. Sunsets are the west coasts greatest reward especially in the summer when they stretch into the night and Washington’s shoreline along the national park is littered and strewn with cliffs and sea stacks that seem to rise abruptly off the ocean floor just enough to allow the sun to play peek-a-boo as it sets. The Pacific ocean is at her most raw and roughest form here pounding along these cliff faces and rocks and dragging along driftwood onto the shore, stacking them up like dykes against man and his exploits. Every beach from First Beach on the Quillette reservation to Kalaloch is craggy and stacked with driftwood, and sometimes just getting to them is adventure enough. From a mile long to 8 mile over night hikes to Shi Shi Beach and Point of the Arches, there is something for everyone. The farther you get the better the sights, and the less explored. But keep your wits and tide charts close because I cannot even begin to explain the number of times I have been side swiped and soaked by a wave during this trip, but that does not even begin to explain the dangers of a high tide coming in on a shore where several rivers and streams meet the ocean and cut off access during high tide. These aren’t beaches that are made for soaking up the sun, but these are beaches where you sit in veneration of nature and allow that feeling of being rendered small and tiny in the scheme of things to perpetuate every thought and every cell of your being. It is a humbling experience that lends perspective in a way that no city on earth can and these aren’t available exclusively at the beaches of the park. Further inland are the microclimates created by the Olympic Mountains and her interactions with the Pacific Ocean, in the form of temperate rainforests and alpine areas.

The rain forests are a constant reminder of why Washington is known as the ‘EverGreen State’, extensive and abundant, covered in a blanket of green in every hue, dripping with droplets of rain that shine like gems in the sunlight. Strewn with a shore of moss that grows over everything and clouds that wrap themselves over the forest like a constant shroud, the Hoh river charts its course through the forest from the Hoh Glacier on Mt.Olympus down to the Pacific at Hoh Indian Reservation. Turquoise green and crystal clear and carrying chinook salmon and steel head trout, anglers and fishing enthusiasts dot the river as it meanders through the valley. These are but descriptions of what is, but what happens when the eyes perceive the myriad greens around and to be surrounded by life itself as it grows and fights to occupy every inch of the earth around you isn’t a sense of bucolic calm but one of thriving in abundance that is unprocessed and untouched. Stand under this canopy and look up, even the sun is fighting hard to get through. But in the forests of Olympic National Park, sounds are just as beautiful as sight. Walking the trail to Sol Duc Falls, the anticipation increases with every step, as the crashing sounds of water get closer and closer, tiny streams flow along the path to distract and remind that something even bigger is coming soon. As the grand finale Sol Duc greets every visitor with a welcome spray of mist as she thunders below their feet in a 37 foot drop into a narrow canyon as three – four separate channels. The sounds are akin to the arrival of a Queen – the drum beats get louder as she gets closer and as she passes by, you gaze at her with reverence and devotion, mixed ever so slightly with fear and knowing only too well that you know her but she has no idea or need to know you.

hoh Rainforest

Sol Duc Trail

HOH Rainforest

Sol Duc Stream

Ruby beach Sunset

Second Beach - Sunset

I can fill pages on every little detail that is Olympic National Park, but none of them suffice. I am sure the experience is going to be just as spiritual if I were to visit any of the other national parks in this country. For the sake of repetition and even more so for the sake of imbibing this in the mind of every outsider visiting this country, I shall say it one more time – Please spend far less times in the cities, go into their vast wilderness and explore, it is the greatest thing this country has going for it. The people you meet on these journeys, the conversations with strangers about sharing an experience and to live away from the drudgery of routine will open your mind and allow you to understand things about this country that you otherwise have NO chance to. I’ve spent 6 glorious days there and have barely scratched the surface before my induction back into civilization began slowly at Seattle. Again this is a city I have praised and said before that I would move to in a heartbeat, and every time I go back there the intent only grows stronger. If the park wasn’t enough to subdue me and inject me with humility, I got to go collect an autographed copy of my idol’s latest book – Art Wolfe’s – The New Art of Photographing Nature. To stand in his gallery, to hold a book with his images signed by him, surrounded by large size prints of his amazing body of work and to see the photograph that inspired me to become a photographer staring at me from a large wall – I now know the true meaning of the word – “pilgrimage”!

Seattle Skyline

This is the kind of shameless affluence that I would like to partake of every day , if only I could have my way.

All Images are (C) Photopportunist / Shruthi Venkatasubramanian. DO NOT print, download or reuse in ANY form without our explicit written permission. For prints and digital downloads, kindly contact me on my website – http://www.photopportunist.com. Sharing is encouraged.

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Evergreen Opulence

A Paradoxical Sunrise

4.30 am is an unearthly hour to be awake, but in the profession I choose to be in, its the time one wakes up, puts on their shoes and heads out into the cold, to catch the preternatural phenomenon called dawn and sunrise. Those minutes just after the darkest hour, when first light begins to break through, when dark clouds part to colors that explode until they calm down to a brilliant sky blue, those are the minutes I have been craving to encounter. Winter sunrises after a storm are brilliant that way, so long as one can shield themselves from dipping temperatures and whipping wind. But luck is as Seneca says, “…. is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” So I prepared, found the beach I wanted to be at to capture dawn and its kin -sunrise, dressed myself in layers; up to the point of looking like a crab with just two eyes sticking out, studied tide charts and made sure I was between tides, chose a day that was to be sunny just after a snow storm, charged my camera, cleaned out all my equipment ahead of time and even went to bed early on a saturday night.  So as my favorite author said in ‘Old Man and the Sea’ – “… It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.” 

I was ready! I had prepared and I was about 90% sure the opportunity was right and prime, and boy! was I right!! I could articulate in words that victorious feeling of being right, but pictures sometimes do say a million words, so this time – I will just let them do the talking.

Spring Lake 1

Spring lake 2

Spring Lake 3

These were shot at Spring Lake, New Jersey – a shore town that am increasingly fond of and can’t wait to go back to. Sometimes, all it takes is the magic of nature to make us feel tiny, not insignificant, but tiny. There are wondrous things happening around us all the time, and we miss it all in the pursuit of so called happiness. This is a free show that happens everywhere, everyday, why not catch one? Its paradoxical when you step out in freezing temperatures to witness something so blissfully warm.

Now on to technicalities – I used two ND Grad filters stacked, since I don’t own an ND filter as yet and I broke my polarizer. The only adjustment done in photoshop was some contrast and a tiny bit of color adjustment(not change, just saturation!). All pictures are copyright of Shruthi V/Photopportunist.  DO NOT reprint/reuse in any form, without the authors explicit written permission.  If you are interested in prints leave me a message here or on my website – http://www.photopportunist.com.

A Paradoxical Sunrise

A launch and a request

Hey everyone,

I finally bit the bullet and launched my official website today – www.photopportunist.com ably supported by a facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/Photopportunist. I appreciate everyone who takes the time out to read this blog. You come from different backgrounds and yet you understand and appreciate what I do, proving that art transcends all that. For your support and encouragement, I am eternally grateful. Do visit the website and “like” the facebook page, to keep in touch with everything I do. It might be a bit tacky to ask someone to “like” a page, but am small fish in the ocean who needs the props from all of you to be visible. Thank you so much for everything you do for me.

Much Love

Shruthi

A launch and a request

Fallen for Maine

It’s a fantastic fall day in New Jersey – sun is bright, skies are blue with long white streaks of clouds, the leaves are falling off the trees every time the wind blows.,the forest in the backyard is rife with colors and yet my heart is in Maine…..I have never seen the turn of a season look so beautiful, despite the incessant rain and a broken camera.  For weeks I had agonized over tide charts, weather reports, foliage reports, sunset timings, nautical sunset timings, moon phases and a ton of astronomy that I never knew I needed to know for photography, just so that I would know what to look forward to and be prepared. The thing that surprises me the most about myself  and most human beings is our inability to accept that expectations are far different from reality – maybe this is the key to zen living(?), I don’t know – but clearly I don’t possess the ability, in-spite of know-how. The two days that were spent in Maine, were supposed to have been sunshine and mildly cloudy, but in reality it was rain, fog, cold winds and more rains.

I had a schedule of places I needed to be and shoot and no one had warned the weather gods of my plans. The thing about Acadia National Park is that, weather is just a backdrop, nothing takes away from its real beauty. The park is like a queen, tucked away on the coast of Maine and the drive from Jersey winds its way through New York, Connecticut,Massachusetts, New Hampshire before finally entering Maine. I say queen because Acadia has a sense of arrival, Maine is beautiful no matter where you go, but as you move towards the park the fall colors keep getting bigger and better, until it finally explodes in your face at Acadia.

Save a few expensive hotels, Acadia’s main stay are BnB’s and we stayed at one this time as well. We were the last guests at the Inn for the season before they close for winter and so we had a chance to meet the owner and her wonderful little dog – Rosie. Floridian by birth, Rosie – a tiny shihtzu – was decked out in her favorite sweater and was crumpled up on her bed by the fire place, the whole time that we were there. The weather had got to her and all she wanted was a nice and warm place to rest her tiny little head.

The very first evening was the only time the sun was out, but it was bitterly cold and windy, that should have stopped me from going up Cadillac Mountain but the lure of a sunset was too much to ignore. It was by far the biggest mistake, at sunset (although pretty), every square inch of Mount Cadillac and especially the Blue Hill Overlook is covered by photographers. From those leading tours to workshops to individual enthusiasts alike. By next morning the weather took a turn for the worse and crowds quickly started dissipating out of Acadia. Perfect! But just one day in, my camera broke along with two lenses – one of them was my favorite 18-55! What I got till that point was all I had and I regretted passing by opportunities and scenes which I had promised to come back to during lesser rains and better light. Lesson learned – never let it go by, get some shots in even if you think the light maybe bad and never have an assistant who thinks he is too macho to put down the camera bag safely before attempting to cross a stream from rock to rock in rubber waders after a rain! The few shots that I did get in that time are here  and until camera and lens come back repaired or replaced – there will be a break in posting ( hopefully it won’t be too long, cross your fingers for me).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It goes without saying that all photographs and written material on this blog are my copyright and cannot be reused or printed in any manner without my explicit permission to do so. If you are interested in purchasing prints or getting in touch with me about work, please drop me a message here and I will respond by end of day.  Thank you for your interest.

Fallen for Maine

Summer Weekends

Summer is here in North America, and as I type this, schools are closing down all over the country for summer vacation. Beginning today, the drive to all points of interest on the Jersey Shore will take more than double the time, but all carnivals and summer fiestas will roll into town. The circus will come in, baseball season will reach a fever pitch ( pun absolutely not intended), the grills are out and people will picnick on every available patch of  green grass. Except the heat, everything about summer is fun and we started celebrating it a little early with a carnival at a town close by.

It is so inviting to see a Ferris Wheel tower over the landscape, as your driving along a busy highway. It’s like a tiny beacon, beckoning the kids who pass by – irrespective of their actual age. Shiny, colorfully lit, surrounded by thrilling rides and the rising smoke of an open barbecue with the heady smell of grilled sausages.  The closer one get to the grounds, the louder the screams. The louder the scream, greater the fear. There is everything, from laughter at the sheer exhilaration of completing a torturous ride to the disappointment of not being able to ride one; due to height challenges. For us personally the zinger was a ride called ‘The Tornado’, I think its more a reference to how vomit is induced rather than the motion of the ride itself.

Its candy land for a photographer, and if you have read this blog before you know I have a serious fetish for ferris wheels and any kind of lights that go around! One could go to a carnival for interesting portraits or  for some fantastic long exposure shots to capture motion, which is what I did and always do. Its hard to resist swirling lights set against the backdrop of twilight. The resulting effect is that of a decadent, giant lollipop! I can’t find better words to describe the effect more eloquently. And if I sound excited, that’s exactly what it is – that’s the effect a carnival has, no matter how mature you attempt at being. Every time I look at a Ferris wheel, the little girl wearing the polka dotted dress comes out to skip along, look at everything with wide-eyed wonderment and eat cotton candy.

All pictures and material are copyright of the Author, please DO NOT reuse in any form without explicit permission from the author of this blog. Click on the picture to view an enlarged version and Enjoy!

Summer Weekends

A Natural Beauty

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting ” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are very few places that evoke an instant emotional response from me. New York City is definitely one of those places that had me at hello. It defined my ethos as a city bred person who counts the noise and congestion as part of the charm. To solidify that statement, let me also add that, I am from India; a place where noise and congestion are part of our DNA strand. So it’s startling to me that over the Memorial Day weekend, I found myself cheating on NYC. I was instantly and irrevocably attracted to a place that is ragged around the edges, with no noise or congestion and where everything shuts down at 9pm and is a stark contrast to the city I love. The ever-present, tall, dark and gorgeous stranger.

Acadia, Maine – an absolute beauty, is just a 10 hour drive away. There is an accessibility about this region that transcends the upscale sensibility or east coast snobbery (as some like to call it) that most places in New England are tagged with. Right next to the Marina or on private coves, there aren’t sprawling mansions, but a more middle class peppering of New England style homes. The park is accessible at all times, weather permitting, and dogs are everywhere (dare I say even more than New York City).  I think it’s the Bank of America ad that proudly talks of Main Street America and coming from New Jersey – where there are very few of those that maintain their character – Bar Harbor and Bass Harbor are perfect examples of little mom & pop stores that are seasonal and more artisanal. Beer and lobster are a way of life during the warm months. That pride and that character that Non-Americans like me seek to see is available and accessible at Acadia. Even the tiny little village of southwest harbor where we chose to stay was just exactly that – a tiny little village. There aren’t Ritzes and Four Seasons’ here, just cutesy little Bed and Breakfast inns, run by families as an additional source of income. Like the one we stayed at – Kingsleigh Inn. Run by a really congenial couple, the inn is on Main Street overlooking a cove on Southwest Harbor. When they weren’t attending to their guests, they were busy canoeing to see nesting loons and hiking trails that they love.

It’s a different lifestyle, one that needs a bit of adjusting but comes with instant gratification. This is a place where one wakes up at the ungodly hour of 3.30 am, drives 15 miles to a rocky cliff, just to witness the breaking of dawn and the sun rise. It is made for photography and my passion can just be a lifestyle here. Sunrise, sunset, primeval cliffs, clear lakes, rocky shores, sandy beaches, foggy forests and gurgling streams – an endless buffet of opportunities at every corner which can by 10 pm induce a certain amount of physical exhaustion that prompts a satisfying slumber until dawn. Seasons are made for places like this and each one comes with its own set of experiences and sights. I came here in spring and yet as I stood on the shores of Eagle Lake, I was already hatching a plot and picturing my trip here in fall. As a photographer, I have very often been swept away by being in the moment. I have missed shots because I was so caught up about rendering a technique accurately that the essence of the moment was lost during the clinical dissection. But Acadia promotes a sense of salubriousness. It forced me to slow down and take a look at the whole picture, be deliberate and take care.  It forced me to capture her with just the right amount of angled light hitting her pink granite cliffs and just the right amount of masculine rocks in the foreground to offset the feminine allure of sunrise hitting the dark waters of the Atlantic.

Acadia may dupe you out of perfect sunrises at times, but even when wet and foggy, just be patient and wait for her to put on a show. There is an opportunity in every little weather shift. Just remember to pack your rain gear and carry your 10 stop neutral density filter as well, because you will encounter a moment where it will be required. It’s worth spending a good long time with Acadia, because she is a willing participant in the shoot. Wandering about is the best part of travel and that is exactly how I chanced upon the village of Seawall. There is a small stretch of rocky beach on the way to Bass Harbor Light House which is east facing and perfect for shots of sunrise, but it isn’t a place to be ignored on a rainy, cloudy morning when nature switches on its own soft box lighting. From the quiet Schoodic Peninsula to the more crowded Frenchman’s Bay or the silence of Somes Sound, there is something to be enamored about, in every curve. Just like real women!

Please DO NOT reproduce , reprint or reuse these images without the author’s explicit permission. If you are interested in a print, please do leave me a message. Enjoy.

A Natural Beauty

Change is the only constant

My life for the last 9 years has definitely been an in-depth study on Change. In retrospect, it has actually proved that everything happens for a reason and a lot of these changes have been incredibly good to me. But change, while its happening, is chaotic and draining. So after one and a half years am back living in the US, close to the city I tearfully bid adieu to on this very blog. A city, I have come to love, unabashedly. It’s like meeting a loved one after years of separation, there is an excitement combined with the fear of awkwardness. Has the separation been too long? Would she still be able to hang with me? Will she recognize me? Do we still have things in common?

So it was only fitting to go back to the very same spot where we said our goodbye’s and where I pledged to return soon. On a warm spring night with the desperate hope of trying to recreate magic, after one and a half years,we met again. She dressed up in her absolute best and glistened all over. Just like I remembered her, party boats floating down the East river decked out with little fairy lights, barges tugging out the city’s refuse, lesbians in love stealing little kisses under the twinkling lights of the Brooklyn Bridge, dog walkers and late night joggers, the sound of slow moving traffic on FDR Drive, and the city itself – all aglow! Beautiful! Some of the names on the doors have changed but the streets are the same. There is change all around and still it is extremely familiar. The giant hole where the Twin Towers once stood, is now where the tallest building in New York City is – One , World Trade Center.  The city stands – resilient and proud. Just like I left her, she returns to me looking like herself and definitely feeling like herself – exuberant, irrepressible and electric.

Arthur Schopenhauer sums its up best right now – “Change alone is eternal, perpetual, immortal.”

Meanwhile, if you are interested in reading about the city of Chennai – where I was born and is the birth place of Modern India in many ways – do pick up ‘Tamarind City’ by Bishwanath Ghosh on Flipkart or Amazon or in book stores in India. Lovely book about the city I am from and the pictures in the book are by yours truly. If you are in Delhi then do try to go for one of these meet and greets with the author – http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150962433810519.472811.654300518&type=1

Change is the only constant