I lie on my stomach in the yard, trying to catch the sun’s rays and the way they stream through the trees. Blades of grass tickle my chin and arms, but I force myself to stay still. I’ve been trying to get this shot for over an hour, and the light is finally where I want it.
I hold down the shutter release and smile at the whirs and clicks the camera emits into the otherwise silent air. Mom sent me out here to mow the lawn, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a few pictures. If I tell her I got a lot of work done, she’ll never know the difference.
“Mom, I’m going to Oregon for the weekend,” I say at dinner.
“Noah, can’t you take pictures any closer to home? You know, my friend Lisa’s still looking for someone to photograph her wedding on Saturday. She pays well.”
This is not a new argument. I eat a few bites of my lasagna before giving her my standard answer.
“I’m a landscape photographer, Ma. I don’t do portraits.”
“I just don’t understand why you have to go so far away.”
“You know how beautiful Oregon is. Don’t worry, I’ll be home Sunday evening.”
I win the argument, but she gets the last word by heaping more lasagna on my plate.
I love flying, but I need a window seat. Today I have to trade with someone to be able to take pictures during the flight.
I’ve always wanted to live in the country, where there’s open land and clear blue skies, but my mom’s condition requires me to live in the city with her. Weekend trips are my escape back to nature, and even a short outing rejuvenates me.
The patchwork pattern of the land catches my eye and I snap a few shots, playing with the framing of the window and the position of the plane’s wing.
“What are you taking pictures of?” the woman beside me asks.
I turn on my camera’s LCD to show her the shots I took.
“They’re nice,” the woman says, “but aren’t there a thousand pictures just like that?”
I shrug. “Sure, but those aren’t mine.”
I’ve tried to explain before how much I learn about the land from taking pictures of it, but even my photographer friends don’t really understand what I mean. They nod while I talk about understanding the landscape, but roll their eyes when I sat in the same spot for hours on end, snapping pictures until my fingers cramp and my eyes are bloodshot.
To me, taking pictures isn’t about framing a nice image or making memories; it’s about capturing the essence of the landscape.
I crouch in the trees, taking pictures of people on guided tours. I’ve wanted to do this for a while, but it took a few months for me to convince the Columbia River Gorge Commission to allow it. I have to let them to use whatever pictures they want on their website, but that’s fine with me.
A woman with a baby over her shoulder is watching the tour guide while he educates them on the different kinds of trees in the area. Her back is to me, and the baby’s chubby face lights up when he notices me in the trees. I wave and snap a few pictures of his smiling face. The Commission will choose those for the website, I’m sure.
This tour group has more kids than most, and I can tell the guide is starting to get annoyed. I can’t count how many times he has to tell someone to stop playing in the dirt or climbing trees, but I wish that he would just let them be. They seem to understand their surroundings even better than I do, and for once I don’t mind that people are as much the subject of my pictures as the land.