Minus Six by the River

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December 8, 2009

It is that special time of year when temperatures drop to single digits and mist rises from the frigid river into golden morning light. I don’t want to lose my warmth but I’m compelled to pause and admire the ice and light.

Didn’t want to but had to
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Didn’t want to but had to
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/11522710065

Picturing things seen only with difficulty — the miniscule, the remote, submerged or exotic — has always been a path to interesting photography. In the early days it could simply mean riding the rails for a week to capture images few in the world had seen. For me it means stopping and pulling the camera out when it’s minus 6°F.

Fire and ice
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Fire and ice
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/8331437144

Susan Sontag suggested “the image-surfeited are likely to find sunsets corny; they now look, alas, too much like photographs.”¹ In contrast to those early days of photography, we now face an endless barrage of exotic imagery — exotic women, places, cars. Beauty is banal.

  1. Sontag, Susan, “On Photography,” p. 85
Striking cold and color
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Striking cold and color
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/11522717245

Although I recognize the cliché, I am also moved by so grand a spectacle with me it’s only witness. My commute coincides with the sunrise and river mist only a few days each year at a time when there’s rarely anyone else on the path.

Light traffic
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Light traffic
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/11522787496
Freezing mist
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Freezing mist
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/11522724925

The colors change quickly for the few minutes I follow the river, from brilliant orange and yellow to pastel pink and blue. The bare branches of cottonwoods are coated thick with the rising mist.

Huddling geese
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Huddling geese
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/11522832283

Geese huddle in the shallow waters below the Baybrook pedestrian bridge. It doesn’t seem the best way to stay warm but I’m sure they’ve developed a strategy. Not long ago I was riding carefully through a throng of teens jockeying to jump shouting from the bridge.

Every morning
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Every morning
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/11522731725

I let my gaze rest a moment downriver from the bridge every morning. Sometimes I’ll see a heron poised mid-river, other times a man in waders casting for the same goal. Or a dog lunging into the water after a ball. Sometimes a large tree has come to rest in the river (these cottonwoods aren’t strong). I look to see which of a million possibilities exists that day.