Milling My Moments In Time
“Every particular in nature, a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment in time is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Photographing Crystal Mill is one of those places…a measure of how far I’ve come in the journey of my craft. I’m not speaking about just the evolving maturity of my artistic vision as an expression of who I am, nor even the continued nurturing intuitive trust of my heart’s designs, to guide me to find perfection as part of the whole in any given moment. Indeed, both of those were tested capturing the spirit of this iconic entity of Autumn. However, the measure of my journey I am getting at is that cheeky little thing I used to say when I first got started: “Hey, maybe nature photography will help me to overcome some of my impatience”. This is one of those places.
It’s the kind of place that shows up each year on the autumnal radar of leaf-peepers and nature photographers from all over the country. I can’t speak for all of them, but I know for myself that finally coming here to shoot this scene was less about enjoying the perfect moments in this beautiful setting, and more about checking off a self-obligatory item on my list of images to possess. I came into it grinding my teeth, knowing that this place on a Friday would be like standing on a vibrating bridge, elbow-to-tripod, at dawn or dusk in Zion, to shoot The Watchmen; or filing into Antelope Canyon with a herd of cell-phone snapping tourists and verbally combative Navajo guides muscling their groups past each other pointing at this rock or that rock; or hiking into Mesa Arch in Canyonlands pre-dawn and then trying to figure out how to cut your tripod into a full line of photographers all waiting for the same thing to happen in a moment in time in a very small space, while other non-photographers pretend you don’t exist. Point is, I knew that when I put myself into these places during the most popular times, elbowing for the same overshot limited-perspective scenes that every other photographer already seems to have, that my patience would be tested…Crystal Mill at the height of Autumn is one of those places.
Thankfully the 4-mile drive on one of the roughest dirt roads around keeps some of the riff-raff out, but just some. Indeed, it was rough enough that when I drove in mid-morning thinking I would just scout it out and come back later, I changed my mind to preserve the wear and tear on the Jeep, and just sit on location all day waiting for my time to create. I toyed with the idea of a nap to pass the time, but the constant parade of trucks, jeeps, and ORVs wouldn’t allow that. Finally at 2pm, I decided I better go look for my perfect perspective and start ‘camping’ that spot…finally my patience gets tested, as I realize I’ve already been beaten to the best spots by what must have been twice as many photographers as I saw the previous 3 hours. I moved about to capture varied perspectives and would setup to shoot, only to then patiently watch the next totally self-absorbed person to walk into my scene and setup their tripod. At one point as I imagined my eyes rolling to the back of my skull in a seemingly repetitive spin choreographed with my slow deep breaths, a kind lady who was watching me said “you are very patient person”. I chuckled back to her that I’m learning. Taking pity on me, she took it upon herself to help guide each latest gaggle of tunnel-visioned self-significants out of my way so I could finally get my shot, only to have the sun or the wind misbehave in that moment, testing my composure again and again.
After getting the secondary perspectives finally, I moved back to the prime position above, where 4 other pros had been trying to figure out how to fit them all into the space of 2 people, as the scene perspective was just that tight. I moved into the rear of them and then just patiently sat there for hours waiting my turn to fold my tripod into the tangle. The pro from PA made it clear neither his camera tripod or his video tripod were moving till he got his shots, meanwhile two other pros ego-wrestled their credentials and size of their large format cameras with each other, as if any of their significance actually made a difference. But the patience paid off and camaraderie wins the day, and recognizing that, I was eventually accepted into the fold…a series of imperfectly perfect moments to allow me to partake in perfection of the whole. Like this historic mill that use to power the tooling in the silver mines of old, I patiently milled my moments in time to produce this mill surrounded in gold. I hope you enjoy.