Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Place Called Home | Where The Best Photographs Come From

While in Ohio recently I was hoping to have a day or two following the October 26 - 28 Hocking Hills workshop to hit the trail alone and capture some of that beautiful light of autumn in a landscape that I've come to know and love. But it was not to be so. A painful knee and immobile leg made it practically impossible to transverse the trails through those deep gorges. However, one thing I've learned in working for myself as a professional photographer is that there is a reason for everything, good, bad or just painful inconvenience.

Immediately following the workshop weekend in Hocking Hills I traveled back to the place I call home, Dayton, for an extended, unplanned visit while I had my knee looked at and healed. Even though my current residence and place of business is Hilton Head Island (and even that is going to change soon), Dayton is where I grew up and have lived the majority of my life.

Despite my injured knee I was able to get out and do some photography. My favorite haunt near Dayton is the Sugarcreek Preserve MetroPark, south of town near Bellbrook and Centerville. There is a rolling, open meadow that never disappoints at sunset. I love working from the perspective of being down low at eye-level with the tall grasses and shooting upwards to include a dramatically lit and vibrant sky. In late autumn the grasses offer an array of texture in rich hues of tans and browns.

It was inspiring to walk the old and familiar trails again, both in Hocking Hills and at Sugarcreek. Yes, the natural beauty of the tidelands of South Carolina is alluring but home is where the creative heart resides. It's the connection to my formative years, my "proving ground' of sorts where my passion for camera and film first took root.

I think we tend to be hardest on those places - and often people as well - we love the most. A full appreciation for childhood homeland takes a while to make its presence known. In later years as we grow older we become more fond of the memories - the neighborhoods, the schools, the friends.

With artists the memories are more acute and run just a tad bit deeper. Perhaps it's because the feelings conjured through that touchstone of emotion is always echoed in and through the work they create. Maybe that's part of the reason I am always visually drawn to the fading light of a moody sky. I struggle with finding the right words but I know it when I see it. More importantly, I know it when I feel it.

The old trails through woodland and meadow. Sugarcreek, Cox, Germantown, Ft. Ancient, Little Miami, Clifton Gorge, John Bryan and of course, Hocking. Each season so distinct in light, shadow, color and scent. Familiar ground underfoot and trail side companions of Maple, Oak, Beech and Hemlock. Home. It's always there wherever life takes me.

“A human life, I think, should be well rooted in some spot of native land, where it may get the love of tender kinship for the face of the earth, for the labours of men go forth to, for the sounds and accents that haunt it, for whatever will give that early home a familiar unmistakable difference among the future widening of knowledge: a spot where the definiteness of early memories may be inwrought with affection, and kindly acquaintance with all neighbors, even to the dogs and donkeys, may spread not by sentimental effort and reflection, but as a sweet habit of the blood.” - George Eliot

The song "My Father's Father" by The Civil Wars provides the near perfect sound and lyrics to the experiences and images that come to mind when I think of my favorite Ohio trails and haunts.

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