Friday, June 26, 2009

Tahoe Workshop with Sierra Nevada College

During the last day week of June I was at Lake Tahoe leading my second annual photography workshop for Sierra Nevada College. It was almost a cruel joke to have a landscape workshop on the summer solstice. With sunsets at 8:30 and sunrise at 5:30, and some long pre-dawn drive times, sleep was more of a dream than a reality. It was more like an exercise in caffeine ingestion. But as with every group, the energy was contageous, spirits high, and we always found the best light. Long days gave plenty of time to work with and critique the images. In addition to the normal locations like Sand Harbor and Eagle Falls, we worked in some interesting other locations. At Lake Forest there was a large field of lupines and some canada geese, and up at Barker Pass, fields of Mule Ears carpet the hillsides. Here are some images I made alongside students during the class. Enjoy, and considering joining us next year. Watch the summer arts workshops at

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Remembering "Brutus of Wyde"

"They seek those moments when time stands still.
The catalysts are as varied as the individuals who pursue this path: a meteor shower; a night sky so star-filled that it snatches your breath; another rise of the sun over distant mountains vast and untouchable; dodging a rock careening crazily down a gully; a desperate icy struggle through whiteout and ground blizzard down to the safety of camp after an unsuccessful summit attempt; standing atop a mountain with a friend, the whole world at your feet, a blinding sun blazing out of a flawless sky, taking the time to watch that sun dip below the horizon even though camp is still many miles and many thousands of feet distant; stumbling over boulders and through brush in the darkness; watching the starlight and the storm wrest for possession of the night sky, seated on a narrow ledge beside your rope-mate with only the clothes on your back for shelter, shivering the night away, knowing that, sometime in a distant place you cannot now touch, the world will once again grow bright, the sun will rise, and you will look out on the infant day with new eyes."

These words were written by Bruce Bidner, a dedicated Sierra climber, friend, and brother through bond of the rope. He was an eloquent writer, capable of touching the very heart of any experience, who inspired a generation of climbers. I had the fortune to photograph him on El Capitan a few years ago. Bruce was killed in his car last night, en-route to another fine adventure. My words utterly fail to express the sadness.

Rest in peace my friend.

Monday, June 1, 2009

New Era

It was a cold, drizzly morning in Charleston, Oregon. Across the green mud flats and dredged shipping channel, a weathered fishing troller named “New Era” was tied up alongside the dock. She wasn’t going out to sea that day, and it appeared that some time had passed since her bow sliced through the strong Pacific currents. It is indeed a new era for fishermen along the Oregon and California coast, where for the past two years the commercial salmon season has been suspended and a state of “resource disaster” and “commercial fishery failure” has been declared. For many of the boats, skippers and crew in Charleston, and ports up and down the coast, staying in harbor is a harsh new reality.

I was in Charleston with a group of photographers from the Mountain Light Photo Workshops.  We were scouring the docks for images of colorful old boats and rusty textures. Now and then a weathered sailor would walk by wondering what all the fuss was about. Two young boat hands were overheard saying “There must  be sumthin’ photographic ‘round here. They’re everywhere.” We weren’t journalists looking for a story, just creative photographers looking for material.

For several days we had been photographing lighthouses, beaches, and happy scenes of natural beauty. In contrast, photographing in Charleston was both challenging and a bit depressing. You had to really stop, look, and think. What is the story here? How can I tell that story? 

When I made an image of Basin Tackle's storefront, I just thought it was a document of a typical building, covered in advertising. The lonely dog and empty parking lot exuded a feeling that more prosperous times were in the past. On closer inspection, the story was in the details. A salmon fishing closure sign was posted on the door. A big sign read: “Please, No Wave Energy, No Marine Reserves.” It was right next to an ad for “Monster Energy.” Such paradox! Caffeine and high fructose corn syrup is good, while renewable non-polluting energy harnessed from the ocean is bad. Taking fish, crab, and natural resources from the sea for money is good. But as for stewardship of the very eco-system that provides this source of lively-hood? Not in my backyard! 

The very day after we were in Charleston, the state house of representatives voted unanimously (51-0) in favor of an historic bill to complete an evaluation and timeline for implementation of six marine reserve sites recommended by the Governor’s Ocean Policy Advisory Council. (read more at:

Meanwhile, fishermen ate breakfast at the Basin CafĂ©, dogs waited patiently in parked cars, boats sat rusting in the harbor, and we drove back to Bandon for a lunch of Alaska salmon and halibut; another irony of the new era that reminded me of a fisherman's button which read: "Shop Local." Finding a sustainable balance in our local food supplies and the ecosystem at large is going to be a challenge and will take considerable sacrifice from all of us. But the consequences of not dealing with it today will clearly have ramifications well into the future.

© 2009 Jerry Dodrill, All Rights Reserved