The Photographer · Terence Lee
Upper Butte Creek Falls · Butte Creek · Scotts Mills · Oregon · USA
Not familiar with Terence Lee's work? You should be. In my eyes he's one of the most gifted yet underrecognized photographers out there today. One whose affable nature and propensity for one-word text messages completely belie his insane talent, particularly his eye for compositions and scenes-within-scenes that would elude the senses of everybody else. One who's the embodiment of the word 'globetrotter,' making mad weekend dashes to the nether regions of the earth and coming home with amazing image after amazing image seemingly without fail nor great expenditure of effort (unlike the rest of us mere mortals). And one whose accent every once in a while can throw you for a loop.
On one occasion, walking a trail skirting Interstate 84 back to the Eagle Creek fish hatchery in the Columbia River Gorge after a hike, I bemoaned my limited travel experience and asked him about some of the many (and I mean many) places he's been to and shot. We were talking about The Subway in Zion National Park when I asked him how tall the opening of the oft-photographed geologic formation was. "I don't really have any sense of scale, but it looks to me to be about, what, 18, 20 feet tall?" I said out loud.
"It's like tree of my height," he answered.
Tree of his height? Huh?
"Tree of your height?" I asked in genuine bewilderment. Not only because I assumed it to be much larger than his roughly 5-foot-6-inch stature, but because the reference--a tree of his height--perplexed me.
"Yes, tree of my height."
Tree of my height. I mulled the odd comparison in my ever-fatiguing brain the rest of the way back. Why not just say "my height" and be done with it? And why, if you absolutely had to pick an object to compare with your height, would you pick a tree of all things? Why not a cactus? Or an alpaca? Or a manure pile? Or a mannequin?
I felt a little bad and perhaps a bit too embarrassed to ask him to clarify what exactly he meant. Perhaps, too, I feared the answer would entail yet another odd comparison, leading us down a syntactical rabbit hole from which we might not ever reemerge. It was only later in the car, driving westbound on I-84 with the late afternoon sun in our eyes and Terence scooting himself up unnaturally high in the passenger seat in order to shield his eyes from the sun (rather than, say, use the sun visor not more than a foot from his face for the purpose for which it was invented), did I realize he was trying to relay that The Subway was indeed of the scale I'd conjectured it to be. He wasn't saying it was the height of a tree of his height...he was saying it was three times his height.
The epiphany simultaneously relieved me of my mental anguish yet saddled me with two additional burdens: how to stifle the guffaw welling up from the deepest pit of my bowels, and how to resist broadcasting this little anecdote to a broader audience. I was only successful on one of those counts--can you guess which one??
Obviously I couldn't resist telling the story--not to make fun of him, of course, but only to share with you just how fun and entertaining it is to have him riding shotgun with you on a photographic excursion. He's far too quick to dismiss his own immense talent and the stunning visual work that's resulted from it (I swear, many of his iPhone shots are better than a lot of my DSLR shots!), so I'll do the plugging for him:
Follow his work, and prepare to open your eyes to a beautiful window on all four corners of the globe.