Saturday, Dec. 9. The day the big snow storm was going to blow in. A huge Arctic cold front was to propel fat heavy clouds into heavy snowfall. Just enough time to stock up on groceries. Maybe on dried goods and water. Yesterday was the time to winterize faucets and pipes, drag out the Coleman lantern.
Hold onto your hats. A 50 mile-per-hour wind would drive it all. Be steady. Be ready.
I was figuring on some lovely photographs. You know the adage: Opportunity missed is opportunity lost! I would be ready for this Robert Frost moment, this rare Columbia-Pacific whiteout. For the road rarely taken or seen.
I called my buddy Dwight Caswell. Dwight retains bragging rights on a piece of art history. He photographed with Ansel Adams and Brett Weston. He is good, very good. Whenever a story opportunity arises, I try to search out Dwight. Hard as I try to shoot fair to midland photography, I am humbled by his eye. I’m reminded of a quote from the French post-impressionist, Paul Cezanne, who said of his friend, Claude Monet, “Monet is only an eye, but what an eye!” So be it with Mr. Caswell.
Of course, the storm never materialized. There were a few flurries. The temperature dropped to 30 degrees. But it wasn’t anything to write Aunt Lucille in Fargo about.
Worse yet, I didn’t have a snow story.
Sunday morning I’m driving to Ilwaco; driving my lipstick-red beater pickup truck to our small B and B beside Baker’s Bay. Low and behold, the morning — the ruby sky, the sparkling water — is painted by exotic sunstrokes. I’m caught without Dwight and without much of a camera. Truth be told, all I have is my smart phone. Still, in terms of its predecessor, those huge box cameras with copper plates and two-minute exposures — or the infamous Kodak — this plastic-cased oracle of the 21st century has much to be praised.
Let me frame the Sunday morning opportunity. I opened my eyes and realized that art is simply as rich in the down days of winter as during one of those perfect blue-bird days in August. Of course, it was much colder.
I began to explore some Baker Bay vistas. The clouds parted and a pale winter sun peered through. The water was shimmering with contrasting strokes of blue and pewter and, well, innumerable hues. I delivered breakfast to our China Beach guests and bounced back to camera work.
Just north of the metropolis of Ilwaco, Black Lake twinkled with soft winter light. On the water were six trumpeter swans, two mature, and the remaining: ugly ducklings of the Hans Christian Andersen fame. Another year would pass before their feathers would metamorphize into the pure white bodice of their elders. If you’ve ever tried to sneak up on these sensitive waterfowl, be prepared for disappointment. They are among the wariest of birds.
I crept down the east side of the lake. The swans heard my soft footfall and moved offshore. I shot a few fleeting frames. The swans simply paddled to the other side of the lake. I snuck up upon them again. They moved offshore, this time into the middle of this lovely trout mecca. I shot anyway. I got a decent lake shoot, but the swans were minuscule against the still sheet of water. That was the best I could do without a telephoto lens. And where was the master photographer? Dwight was preaching in his pioneer church up on the Clatsop Plains. Praise be!
Expectations have a habit of petering out. The point is: Don’t give up. Wake up early. Slip on a warm hoodie and grab a note pad or camera. There is a poem out there, and a photograph. Do not let the moment fly away. Be resolute. You may be rewarded.