Henri Cartier-Bresson wrote, “Photography is not like painting. There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative.”
Walking along the frozen riverside.
There is something mysterious about the end of winter when the weather climbs to just around freezing. The snow is only just there. We can’t see the whole story, but it is letting us know that something waits beneath.
The Thompson River meanders along the valley basin not far from my woodland home and it’s on days like I just described that call me to wander the ice-covered shore. I like the solitude and although I carry my camera and I suppose I should be searching for something important to photograph, I usually don’t have much of a plan. I look for, as Cartier-Bresson said, ”a composition or an expression” that is interests me at that moment.
I would like to say it’s a quiet walk along the river side, but there is the constant din from the Trans-Canada high way that runs along one side of the river. However, this time, as I walked across the snow-covered ice and slogged through the emerging mud, an urgent alarm went up from several (actually, a lot more than several) sentinels stationed along the river’s beach up where the sand had dried. I had been so intent on looking along the ice edge that I hadn’t noticed all the resting geese, but they saw me and weren’t very happy at my intrusion and their honking was so loud that I no longer could hear the road noise.
I have friends that would have quickly moved into action and captured image after image of the geese loudly taking off and flying overhead. They also would have photographed the splashing of those heavy feathered birds coming back down in smooth backwater under the bridge. I did raise my camera to release the shutter a couple times, but I enjoyed watching them and liked the honking sound, so I turned away so as not to disturb them more. Besides, I am sure they appreciated that warm sand on the cold winter’s day and there will always be another opportunity to photograph geese.
I regularly see people prowling the river shoreline during the summer in search of treasures and I guess that is what I sort of do too, although I rarely do it in summer. Unlike them, I don’t touch the treasures. I just point my camera at something I am curious about and take the picture. I don’t move or change anything. My camera and I do the moving instead, as I choose the appropriate angle for each subject poking out of the sand and ice.
I never have seen another camera-equipped person walking that shoreline in the winter. I guess most find the place boring. The traffic keeps larger animals away, the low angles aren’t that favorable for grand landscape shots, there are no bridge lights that would encourage anyone to plant a tripod after dark, the sand and river water aren’t that inviting and this time of year the river is lined with stark, leafless trees.
For me it is perfect. I’ve walked along the frozen sand many times and I am sure many of my photographs over the many years look a lot alike. I expect someday I’ll get a really unique picture of a neat boot, a carcass of a really big fish or even some broken and discarded boat. Who knows?
As always, I really appreciate your comments. Thanks, John
My website is at www.enmanscamera.com
Nice article John ! It’s perfect for me to also, although up here in Bridge Lake we’re not quite to the “snow almost gone” stage yet. I have spent many hours walking along creek beds and lake shores at that time a year looking for those little mini landscapes. Like you say, you rarely ever see another person let alone a photographer at that time of year. They are great places to lose and immerse oneself in photography. To me, it’s more about the visual discoveries made while photographing than about the images you return home with. I always return with the feeling that I’ve had “A Grand Day Out”!
Thanks Larry. Yes, I suppose your area needs to wait a bit for the snow to expose the treasures. I am pleased to know there are at least two of us wandering the frozen shores.
Interesting thoughts and I guess what we all should do as photographers. Look for the good shots, but enjoy the moment too, without changing it.
“Take only pictures, steal only time, leave only footprints” …anon.
Thanks and I like your comment, “enjoy the moment too, without changing it.”
Very interesting pictures. What is it on the last one?
Thanks Jurgen. The last image is the jaws of a Salmon protruding out of the sand.