Category Archives: Landscape

Mount Fuji on a Monday

There are two views from our Yokohama apartment that I loveā€“the big cloudscaped skies and the symmetrical silhouette of the distant Mount Fuji. And sometimes, on certain evenings in certain light, the two come together and the result is spectacular.

The Trees and the Chill

Outside Krakow, Poland. December 2008.

An upcoming staff and parent art exhibit at our school has given me good occasion to have a look back through some of the older photographs I’ve taken, but not shared or printed.

I took these photographs on the morning of New Year’s Eve in 2008. We were visiting Poland for the first time and we wanted to visit Auschwitz. We didn’t want to be part of a big tour; we wanted to go more quietly, so we hired a private guide who recommended that we leave at from Krakow at dawn. It was one of those mornings where the clear blue skies and warm sunlight made me think it should feel warm, but the air was so crisp and clean and cold that it froze the inside of my nose with every breath.

And that was the contrast of the day. The road to Auschwitz was watched over by stands of trees that seemed full and sparse at the same time; the early light cut between them, warming their bark and green needles and moss, and stretched out their shadows to define them in hyper-reality. And yet there was also an emptiness about them, the space between so palpable and full of absence. That negative space pervaded the camps at Birkenau, but where the trees were draped in the daybreak’s radiance, the remains of Birkenau were chilling in every way.

There was a wreath somewhere along the way. I’m not even sure that I saw it as our car sped by, but my camera caught it, its bright flowers aflame in the interstice. I don’t know why that wreath was there, or who placed it, or when, or whether it was marked by ceremony or if it was just set down, unnoticed by all the cars racing toward their imposed importances beyond the vanishing points of the hills and roads. But it’s frozen there now in a photograph at least, a testament of someone’s loss that without specific reference, without a name or story of how and why, becomes symbolic of all the losses I can’t imagine in those woods, along those roads. And more than that, it leaves me considering that only where love survives can we really remember.

After the Typhoon, Part II

Yokohama, Japan. September 2013.

As is turns out, we slept through typhoon 26 in the safety of our well-engineered apartment tower. We woke in the morning to clear blue skies. On the right, a brilliant rainbow sprouted from the cloud-capped shoulder of Mt. Fuji. On the left, a daunting wall of grey rain and clouds hovered over the bay. I wasn’t sure if we had missed the typhoon or if it was just about to arrive.

Before long, we learned that the worst of the storm passed through a couple of hours earlier, between 5 and 6 am, leaving only the uncommonly clear skies of an atmosphere scrubbed zealously clean.

But elsewhere in Japan, Typhoon 26 caused landslides that killed at least 17 people. It is a strange and heavy thing, to sleep restfully through something others will never awake from.

These are the last photos from after Typhoon 18, the ones that I took with my regular camera. The wake of the storm, the day laid to rest.

After the Typhoon, Part I

Yokohama, Japan. September 2013.

We are expecting a typhoon tomorrow. Typhoon Wipha, number 26. A big one. A once-in-ten-years kind of blow-down throw-down. Apparently the last time a storm of this magnitude came through, they had to pick up the front gate of our school down the street from the parking lot of the gymnasium. School has been cancelled, we bought some groceries and are battened down for the night.

There was another typhoon, number 18, in September. In its wake, the particulates of industry were washed out of the air, nature’s version of high-definition clarity. The windows were covered in dried-in-place drops of salt sea-brine, and as the sun set, the colors lit up a cloud-painted sky.

Over Under

Yokohama, Japan. April 2012.

This is how we go. To move in Yokohama is to go over or under; it is a city of overpasses and underpasses, of foot bridges and elevated highways and subway trains. Much of the city is built of land reclaimed from the sea, seamed together with waterways and canals under a network of pathways held up in the air by riveted pillars and boxy beams, a strangely graceful curvature of concrete and metal woven into a future as it was imagined in the industrial age.

Over and under we go.

Shanghai To Beijing From The Sightseeing Car

Between Shanghai and Beijing. April 2013.

The truth is, there’s not that much to see. We often take trains when we can as a way of seeing a cross-section of the country we’re traveling in. We booked passage on the train from Shanghai to Beijing and when we took our places, we found them at the end of the train, in a car with only four seats and big windows. The sightseeing car.

But in five and a half hours, the sights were remarkably homogenous. There were what felt like three minutes of rocky hills, and seven minutes of coastal wetlands, and the rest of the time, we sped through a dusty brown landscape of farmland only occasionally sewn with crops. But the oddest thing to my foreign eyes, was the construction. There were highrises that looked to be apartment blocks being built amid the wash of brown dust and yellow air, near no other building town or village on the flat horizon. Something about it felt like science fiction, like a premonition of Blade Runner or the ending of Mad Max where the lost children find their way home to the desolate skeleton of a once-great city.

“Those what had gone before had the knowin’ and the doin’ of things beyond our reckonin’. Even beyond our dreamin’.” – Savannah Nix

The Offense of Sleep

Pouch Cove, Newfoundland, Canada. July 2012.

It’s that time of year in the life of a school where our sleep is filled with dreams of summer, that summer of cool drinks tickling the throat on hot days, that summer of south winds and stars and evenings with the live music of nearby bars spilling into the ears of quiet cafes with rich desserts and the company of friends it’s been too long since last seen, that summer of canola fields and strawberries and bookstores in a language you understand, that summer which remains painfully at the other end of the-pile-of-things-you-need-to-do, tasks that take longer with every hour of sleep stolen from the time it takes to just-get-it-done.
In last year’s summer dream, we lived for a moment in a red house on a high cliff where the tall grass bent like the paint-licked bristles of a green-white brush in a chase of wind that sprinted with exigent indifference.
I slipped from the house one night before bed, saying I wanted to take a couple of photographs, that I’d be back in a few minutes, knowing it would be more like half an hour. Three hours later, closer to 3am than 2, I crept back home.
There’s a stillness in the middle of the night that’s magic, an openness to the world without its lid on, a sense of big that it seems an offense to be unconscious of. I took these photographs in the vacant lot next to the little red house and the skies kept moving and morphing into ever more beautiful patterns and rhythms and the moon and the stars kept shining through on the slumber of the town. A whale I couldn’t see passed near enough for me to hear it exhale and the wind wrapped everything in its urgent whispers until the gravity of exhaustion won out and dragged me home into an entirely different begrudging kind of sleep.