Saturday, September 10, 2011

Day one of shooting outside the prison

Pictograph State Park
A significant part of my project with the women in prison, is my finding images that they miss and long for outside. Some of the women have been very specific about where and why a certain place. It's a little strange, and hard to explain to some of them (they come in, sit, and leave with as little interaction as possible). Others "get it" and have places in mind. Others seem pretty ambivalent about it, but will still provide me a great deal of detail.
The Western Heritage Center where I finally decided to stop drinking/using (1995) in from of the transportation exhibit.
Others are a little more vague, and today I set out on a couple of those. I encouraged them to be bossy with me... tell me the time of day, what's in the picture, the time of year! But I don't think these women are used to asking for what they want, or daring to have a dream of the outside. Many will be out soon, so they aren't thinking too hard about it.
A waterfall. I love nature. Anything pretty.
I was wrestling with a couple requests for the Yellowstone River today. Since I have never been a "serious" landscape photographer, I was challenging myself to go during the good light, morning, or evening/sunset. I knew about a trail that went up on the bluffs over the river, and thought that would be a great spot. Having never walked the trail, I didn't know how far it would be and I arrived at 4PM.

My first mistake was thinking of this a photo trip and not a hike. I don't know why I didn't bring water.

My second mistake was arriving so early. Scouting is good, but I had set myself up for a three hour wait. And I am not a person who is good at sitting and waiting patiently for three hours. But in light of my assignment, to take an image for a woman in prison who has nothing but time, it seemed like an appropriate task.

Somehow, staring at that one view, I became convinced it wasn't going to get pretty. I was very thirsty and sure I was burning, and staring down several hundred feet at the meandering, cool water. It felt like torture. At 6:30, my shadow was stretching across to the next bluff, and I saw a little raft came downstream. I was becoming antsy with fears I wouldn't be able to scramble back up to the trail with all my equipment in the dusk. (I guess I should preface this with the fact I ran into the volunteer park ranger on the way in. He said "Just be very careful. Please stay back from the cliff. Watch where you step and be very careful." Then he told me the story of a woman last week falling in that very area. He said she called him before passing out; then he gave me his phone number, just in case.)

So when I say the long shadows and the raft, I decided to go ahead and take the picture, then started my hike back. As I drove out of the park, the sunlight switched from yellow to gold, the color I had been waiting for. I had been sitting on that cliff for two and a half hours, and had left 20 minutes too soon.

Yellowstone River from Sacrifice Peak with Rafter
I went to the bank of the river to try to get another shot. A nearly-full moon was rising over the bluffs in a pink sky, and the bluffs were blazing in gold over the sky-blue water. I missed the turn, u-turned, got to the fishing-area parking, pulled out my equipment, scrambled down the rocky embankment, all the while, staring at the golden hill, willing it to last just a little longer. I got to the edge of the water, got the tripod up, pulled out the 4x5 camera and discovered the lens board had come off the rails. While I fiddled to get it back on, the golden light disappeared and was replaced by a flat blue light. I took the shot any way, and cursed the boring image it produced.

Moonrise Over Yellowstone River, Ten Seconds Too Late
At least tomorrow I know the moon will be full, and I know where to be at the right time.

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