WC: Helpless

It feels somewhat easy to distance myself from the devastation in Texas, and I turn only a concerned brow toward what lies in wait for Florida.  It’s tragic, and my heart aches for all who have lost their homes and livelihoods (and all this month, I am donating 25% of all proceeds from print sales to Harvey relief efforts).  But once the news is turned off, my personal life creeps back in, pushing the drenched scenes, the tears, the pleas for help – back across the miles from whence they came.

But when tragedy strikes so close to home, I can no longer shut it out – intentionally or otherwise.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

The Columbia River Gorge is one of my many playgrounds, and I’ve blogged about several hikes in the area.  In fact, I just wrote about the famous Multnomah Falls last week.  The Gorge is lush and green, spidered with tantalizing trails and breathtaking views.  It’s full of waterfalls and moss-covered trees, paths begging to be explored, and hidden nooks just waiting to be photographed.  I love it dearly, and I’ve remarked on more than one occasion how grateful I am to have it in my very own backyard.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

And as I type this, it is being destroyed.

A senseless act of recklessness sparked a massive wildfire that has consumed tens of thousands of acres of this stunning landscape.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

It has threatened homes, and it trapped hikers.  It has closed a major freeway and diverted boat traffic.

Multnomah Falls was on fire.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Visibility dwindled.  Ash sprinkled from the sky and collected on the cars.  And it has darkened the city’s skies for days, forcing residents to remain indoors to take shelter from the harmful air.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

The only meager silver lining is that it has made for some powerfully compelling photos.

But documenting this tragedy is all I can do.  The fire is still burning, and it will likely continue to burn until the autumn rains return.  Beautiful trails are being ravaged.  And all I can do is wait for it to stop.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

I hike there every summer.  I take visitors out there whenever they’re in town.  Aaron and I got married there.  That historic highway was one of the things that made me first fall in love with the Pacific Northwest.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

And it is forever changed.

I can’t ignore it when I’m surrounded by thousands who are likewise mourning this loss.  I can’t shrug it off with, “I’m glad that didn’t happen to me.”  This literally hits home.  And I am utterly heartbroken.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

But I also know that I’ll return.  New trees will sprout, and with enough time, it will be green again.  I’ll do whatever is in my power to restore the grandeur of that beautiful wilderness and ensure this playground is around for future generations.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

A news article quoted a spokesman from Portland Fire and Rescue saying, “The Gorge still looks like the Gorge; it’s not a wasteland.”  That’s heartening amidst this despair, and it’s exactly what I needed to hear.  I may feel somewhat helpless right now, but I’m not without hope that I’ll play there again.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015


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WC: Overcoming the Tourist Trap

Tourist spots are so cliche and overdone that most self-respecting photographers will steer way clear.  However, there are times when a photographer has visitors from out of town, and they want to see these famous sites.  Many begrudgingly agree but leave the camera at home – what’s the point in shooting something with more clicks than the Google homepage? (I might be exaggerating…)

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WC: My Little Distraction

I love shooting landscapes and anime conventions, but I also spend a lot of time on my computer at home editing photos.  And amidst the routine button presses and artistic tweaks, I’m inevitably distracted.  While I can usually remain rather focused, I have found our sweet (evil) Mochi has the power to draw my attention with her deceiving cuteness.

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WC: When Happy Meets Good

If you didn’t know by now, I’ll let you in on a (not-so-)little secret: I’m a bit obsessed with photography.  I experience much of my life through the lens, and I remember through pictures.

It’s difficult for me to separate photographs of good technical quality with those that have a strong sentimental tie, because I have similar reactions to both.  The former are like the good child – always doing well in school, someone who brings great pride.  The latter are also like children (they’re a piece of you), and while they may not perform as admirably, the mother loves them for all of the happy moments and experiences.

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WC: Beautiful Nostalgia

Moments are fleeting.  By the time you’ve even processed that a moment is occurring, it has faded into the past.  From there, they coalesce into a jumble of memories, with the mundane and the daily negativities vanishing to leave behind the best and most impactful times.  We play these in our heads over and over, and they age like good wine into a beautiful nostalgia.

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WC: Beauty in Decay

I’m always fascinated by seeing evidence of history long gone.  The ruins of an old building, a decommissioned road slowly being reclaimed by nature – embers of the past.

One of my highlights of our trip to Hawaii last year was the surprise discovery of a ruined restaurant.  It was even more beautiful in its dilapidation than images of the original in its heyday.  There’s just something about the process of the wilderness taking back what’s hers that I find intriguing.  There are a thousand things to photograph; every detail is mesmerizing.

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WC: A Photographer Has No Fear

I tend to put myself into some precarious situations sometimes.  But it’s all for the sake of the shot!  And fortunately, I have over-cautious Aaron to keep me out of true harm’s way, so it all balances itself out.  (Seriously, he used to fret when I’d lift myself up in the passenger seat of the car to see farther over the edge of a passing cliff.. while my seatbelt was on… and the window was closed.)

I’m not shy about scaling lookouts and squeezing into crevices.   Continue reading