Living in Oregon, from October to April, you generally have to brave the dreary grays and rain that can go on for days on end. For me, raised in sunny Southern California, the gray is not something I deal with very well – although I’ve lived in Oregon now, off and on, for 14 of the last 21 years. There are native Oregonians who profess to love the cold and dreary days, although I don’t hear those same enthusiastic tones as much in January or February, and by March, even the diehards go quiet.
For a photographer, the gray days are also challenging due to the low light and low contrast. I had a friend ask me if I was using the rain (which had gone on for a week) to take black and white photographs. Not a bad idea, except for the fact that it’s more difficult to keep your equipment dry, and my energy level can be so low. On cold days, I’ve also run into problems with my lenses fogging up or condensation. However, I realize it is important to force myself to go out, even if I don’t feel like it initially. Otherwise I become lethargic and stuck in my head.
At least where I live now, near the McKenzie River, there does seem to be more clear days than up in Portland, where I lived when I first left California. When there is a day where the rain is sporadic and light, I force myself to get out, and if there’s a bit of sun lurking about, I have to go for it, full throttle. That is what I’ve been doing for the last few weeks. Getting out and walking or going somewhere outside, because even on the dreary days this helps to preserve my sanity and keeps me from committing Hara-kiri.
One sunny day I took a drive up to Carmen Reservoir – about 45 minutes east. I had never been up there and didn’t know what to expect. It is by an area where there is a lava bed and the trees start to change from Fir to Pine, so I was expecting a drier landscape. But it was heavily forested around the reservoir, which is lovely and frequented by geese. There is also a trail I want to hike later, as it looked beautiful. There was a bit a fall color left, although if I had gone a week earlier it would have been more dramatic.
The next week, after visiting Carmen Reservoir, I drove over to Sisters, to meet an old friend who now lives in La Pine. She was a roommate of mine when I lived in California and we’ve known each other for a long time. It was great to see her. To hang out with an old friend who knows your history and quirks is so wonderful and was just what I needed. On the way back, I stopped to take pictures of a stand of Aspens by the Black Butte Golf that I had seen on the way over.
I also stopped and took a walk through the Deschutes National Forest. It’s really nice seeing a different type of forest. The trees are predominantly Ponderosa Pines, compared to the Douglas Firs from my neck of the woods. I was fortunate to spot this small group of deer on my walk. What I loved about this shot, was that the one deer, having spotted me, waited as the others moved on (including a fawn) for one who was behind her to catch up, before moving away. Just seeing this type of animal behavior can make any day for me!
When I spend too much time inside my head, my thoughts are drawn to what I miss, friends back in LA or NY, the past, the lack of culture, the lack of other things. But all I have to do is get out and re-acquaint myself with the natural beauty all around, and then I am grateful, intensely so, to have had the experiences I’ve had, to be able to be conscious of this beauty, a consciousness that perhaps springs more easily because of those gray days and the dreary rain that I sometimes allow to pervade my thoughts.