Images from the Film Archives — 1991
Back in the early 1990’s when I had just gotten a medium format camera, I began taking one week trips in autumn to photograph some of the beautiful areas in the northeastern US; places that were within driving distance from my home. The first trip was to New York’s Adirondack Mountains, and back then, I researched a trip by reading hiking books and thumbing through books by landscape photographers; mostly Eliot Porter, Galen Rowell and David Muench. Back then, there was no internet to see photos of places you might want to photograph, or videos to watch on your television or computer. VHS tapes and computers were in their infancy. But with all the reading I did to find specific locations to visit, many times it was the unknown spots just off the road or trail that provided the inspiration to take a photograph. Don’t get me wrong, three hour hikes to the top of a mountain were certainly rewarding, but I was still a novice at this whole landscape photography thing, and didn’t even have a headlamp to hike back down a mountain in the dark. And to be perfectly honest, in those early years I was a bit nervous hiking alone to begin with, much less doing it in the dark.
This image was discovered simply driving along one of the roads around Lake Placid, sight of the 1980 Winter Olympics. I caught a glimpse of some autumn leaves backed by some colorful rock that were tucked around a corner, just barely visible from the road. I turned the car around and headed back. Walking around the rock face that kept this alcove mostly hidden, I found a single, delicate birch tree bent over far enough to touch the water that filled a depression at the base of the rock face, and one other that stood upright. The leaves perfectly framed the two birches, and all of it caressed by the rock behind that picked up some of the blue from the clear sky above. It was a special place simply by its seclusion, living in silent serenity, perfectly content in remaining anonymous.
The photography was pretty straight forward, a normal (80mm) lens with a polarizer, and just trip the shutter. Everything else in the frame had been previously prepared by someone with a much higher pay grade than mine. But that encounter was not simply a discovery; it was an epiphany. It raised the question in me that would influence my photography thereafter, of how many other unknown places of visual harmony like this existed, waiting patiently to be discovered? Probably more than we can count. We only have to find them…