Oregon · USA
Like many iconic locales for photography, Trillium Lake seems to inspire a mixture of equal parts love and disdain, and I suspect I'm not alone in this. In photographic terms it's pretty low-hanging fruit, and I think too often photographers tend to pick what's within arm's reach and offer it for general consumption like it was mana from heaven. Likewise, it easily can be a place where chaos reigns supreme, with canoers, anglers, campers, general revelers, and, yes, photographers virtually elbowing each other for real estate, yet it can also be a place of great peace and solace. That paradox was never more stark to me than when I found myself wandering upon its shores for two consecutive sunsets.
The first occasion almost didn't happen. Struggling for ideas of where to go to take in a sunset in solitude, I found myself mentally flipping coins between here and Sherrard Point with its 360-degree view of five volcanic peaks of the Cascade Range. At the second-to-last second I took the offramp that would lead me down the winding road to Trillium Lake, but then at the actual last second I proceeded straight through the intersection to the onramp and back onto the highway I'd just exited, destined, finally (at least I thought), for Larch Mountain and Sherrard Point. It seems fate had Trillium in mind for me all along, however, as a sign posted at the start of Larch Mountain Road indicated it was closed for the season...starting just the day before. I quickly reversed course, cursing a bit over the gasoline and half hour or so that I'd just burned up, but able to find comfort again in the music lilting across the speakers and also in having had my destination definitively and perhaps divinely ordained.
There was just a handful of people already there before I arrived, including a few anglers to my left and a giggly but cute couple having their engagement photos taken off to my right. Although the extent to which cloudless skies seem to follow me around have reached comical and perhaps even tragic proportions by now, I was actually thankful for it this time out--I think sometimes in my efforts to maximize the visual impact of dramatic skies I tend to weaken my own personal artistic vision. I lose myself in the circumstances a bit, which is fine in terms of the real-time visceral experience of it all, but from an artistic standpoint, I find myself feeling most fulfilled as a photographer when I'm able to marry my innermost thoughts with an outward visual that best represents them, and this isn't always an easy thing to do.
Almost as if in affirmation, the sky began to glow with an exquisite rosy hue, with the Belt of Venus rendering my earlier ambitions for dramatic clouds the mere dalliance of a temporarily misguided soul. Further, I was able to mate the mountain with a foreground rock whose form almost perfectly mirrored the profile of Mt. Hood in the horizontal plane, reinforcing, I think, the attraction-repulsion theme.
The next day I was back again following a peaceful hike along babbling Fret Creek to the vertiginous clifftop views atop Palisade Point, our footfalls cushioned each step of the way by soft golden-yellow western larch needles lining the delightfully woodsy trail. The scene at Trillium this time was nothing like what I'd experienced the day before, with a good two dozen people peppering its shores. Half a dozen tripods were out not counting my own, along with half a dozen more fishing poles and tens of decibels emanating from a few of the more rambunctious visitors. I instantly knew I wouldn't be able to rekindle the magic of the previous sunset even though there were clouds about to lend the sky some texture that was absent just 24 hours previously. It was only half-jokingly, then, that I texted TJ Thorne that my soul was dying from the effort of trying to 'force' an image when the tenor of the moment just wasn't conducive to it.
Don't get me wrong--it was still a lovely evening, having had the good fortune to run into talented Seattleite Vijay Chebium (who amusingly stated he recognized me as much by my camera as by my countenance) and with Mt. Hood glowing a scintillating red before the sun finally dipped below the horizon. But there was no encore appearance of Venus's belt, and ultimately it just wasn't the kind of imagery that would harmonize with my inner frequency on that particular day. And so I packed up to head home, thankful for the push--or was it a pull?--that afforded me the previous day's moment of peace.