Forest Fireworks and Neighbors

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Ponderosa Pine in Bloom, Bend, Oregon, USA

Ponderosa Pine in Bloom, Bend, Oregon, USA

Ahhh, summertime, and the livin’  is  careless.

We want to get away from our daily routine and see some new country. We need some air. We need some space.

After we make all the arrangements at home and pack up all those necessities for our trip we make the journey.

We won’t have very long to explore. We want to focus on fun and diversion.

Will we be as responsible and thoughtful at the vacation place as we are at home? Or is that contradictory to ‘having fun’? Will the people who live there grow tired of obnoxious vacationers or will they know us as temporary neighbors? Neighbors who take part in the community events and help clean up and keep things safe, as if it was our neighborhood.

It is fire season. As the inland heat builds thunderheads and spawns lightning the wildlands are under threat. These are the places where we sometimes go for diversion, for beauty, for air, for space. Will we add to the threat through careless fun-seeking? Will we enjoy the show the forest puts on, will we notice? Will we keep it safe so that it can carry on for the rest of the year when we are not there? Will our momentary diversion destroy what we came to see because of an unattended campfire or fireworks? Every year somebody does something stupid and causes destruction in these places. Will it be me this year?

Pardon me if this sounds preachy or sanctimonious. I think it is worth reminding myself and ourselves to make careful choices and to be responsible neighbors.

This photo of a blooming Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa C. Lawson) looks like a fireworks burst in the sky, to me. Maybe that takes some imagination. I had never seen these red flowers on a Ponderosa before. (The reference I consulted says they have yellow flowers. Perhaps I have mis-identified it. Yes trees have flowers!) And I spent many years working in forests with Ponderosa in them. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention in the spring. My Father-in-Law, Jim Bennett, spotted this tree  in Bend, Oregon. We were having a family reunion and only had a few days to visit that area. It was a great family time. I also spent quite a bit of time photographing at the edge of the Deschutes River. But I didn’t really get to know the area very well. It was just a brief glimpse at one time of year.

One of my frustrations with vacations and travel is that I never really get to know the place I am visiting. There just isn’t enough time. And since our travel is now focused on photographic work I want to spend more time at these places and learn the rhythm and culture. But the expenses add up and there are things to take care of and other work to do at home.

When we travel we try to rent a house for a week or so when possible. Maybe a month would be better. That would still just be a snapshot and it is so difficult to do. But renting a house and meeting the owners has been a good way for us to be introduced to a community. Even a stay of several days at a hotel as a base camp for a larger area lets you get to know some local people a little better than changing hotels more often.

Having time to walk around the area day after day and see the routines and the variety of weather gives a better picture of what the place is like. It also gives you a better chance of being there for market day! And it provides a better background for photographing an area. You find the out-of-the-way interesting spots. You meet people and see how they live and find out what is important to them. All of these experiences help you photograph the character of a place. You get a sense of the place. A sense of place is what I strive for in my photographs.

By spending at least a few days in a place you meet some local people several times. It is human nature for them to assess your character, if they aren’t too busy. They can tell very quickly if you are a careless tourist or a responsible neighbor.

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