Sunrise over Crater Lake, taken May 2019 by a very cold but exhilarated Lori Benton

Crater Lake National Park is Oregon’s only National Park. I first set eyes on this spectacular vista in 1991. I’ve lived near enough to it since 1993 to visit it often. Since I took up landscape photography a few years ago I’ve found my way to this rim view at least a couple of times a year and photographed it in many different conditions from warm and still to 19F with a cutting wind that made exposed skin hurt within seconds. And still it took me until last summer to really see the place. To discover there’s more to this park than an island on a lake in a giant mountain crater (as awesome as that is). There are other things to see, other trails to follow. Including the one that leads to this unique rock carving:

The Lady of the Woods, taken May 2019 by Lori Benton

For decades I was oblivious to the existence of this out-of-the-way sculpture, hidden in the forest behind the visitor center I’d never bothered to visit because I was always in a hurry to drive up to the crater’s 7000ft rim, find a good vantage point to set up my tripod, and capture another spectacular sunrise or sunset over that island on the lake in the middle of the giant mountain crater.

Then, last year, I slowed down and made that turn into the visitor center parking lot, saw an intriguing sign, and soon found myself standing in the woods contemplating the above scene. The Lady of the Woods was carved in 1917 by Earl Russell Bush, a medical doctor who attended the road crews that built the earliest rim drive around Crater Lake. In his own words:

“This statue represents my offering to the forest, my interpretation of its awful stillness and repose, its beauty, fascination, and unseen life. A deep love of this virgin wilderness has fastened itself upon me and remains today. It seemed that I must leave something behind …. if it arouses thought in those who see it, I shall be amply repaid. I shall be satisfied to leave my feeble attempt at sculptural expression alone and unmarked, for those who may happen to see it and who may find food for thought along the lines it arouses in them individually. It would be sacrilege to assign a title and decorate it with a brass plate.” (Monroe, 1922).

Sorry, Dr. Bush, at least about the title. And the signs. Ah well.

Landscape photography kind of exploded upon my world and changed my personal landscape in a pretty big way, opening up the Pacific Northwest to me, an Oregonian for over half my life who, though fond of mountain hikes and visits to the coast, had barely scratched the surface of the natural wonders available in my home state of Oregon alone. But I have to confess. For the past three years I’ve been darting about the Pacific Northwest like a headless chicken with a camera, exploring every new waterfall, mountain, coastline, and high desert vista I could manage to cram into my often busy writing schedule. Now though… now I’m feeling the need for a change. Nothing huge. I’m still too passionate about landscape photography to call it quits. I’m talking about a change of pace. Or maybe of focus.

Slowing down, looking closer, spending more time getting to know a setting. That’s what I want to do. This means I will likely visit fewer places in 2020 than I did over the last couple of years. Perhaps I’ll take fewer photos. Or post fewer on Instagram (no plans to quit that either). But I want to give those places I do visit, and those I revisit, more considered attention. There’s only one way to do that. Be still in them. Resist the urge to rush in and out, or to cram too many destinations into an outing. To be prepared to explore a site more thoroughly, to wait more patiently, whether for the good light or those moments of unplanned magic (that usually means fog, best God-given filter on the planet). To let that particular setting reveal its character, and maybe find a unique perspective.

For whatever time I have to devote to landscape photography in 2020, while I finish writing my current contracted novel (due Aug 1) then celebrate the release of Mountain Laurel in September, with all that entails, I want my goal to be about the quality of experience rather than the quantity of the photos I take.

That’s all.

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