Category Archives: Landscape

Annual Report

As the literary year draws to a close, I am reminded of just how much has changed since my first blog post one year ago today.

I’m glad to say that I’ve not had the time to write nearly as much as I would have liked.
It’s a strange thing to say considering how much I enjoy writing, but I tend to acknowledge the relationship between words written and miles of trail or river experienced as inversely proportional.

While this isn’t strictly true, it should serve as an indication of just how many miles I’ve traveled in the last year. But I’d prefer to qualify those miles traveled with approximate data on three vectors that may better illustrate what was witnessed and experienced in those miles. Since a year ago I was probably doing something similar with investment data, I thought it fitting to focus upon different measures of success to summarize the last four quarters of experiential growth.

Quantitative Performance Summary

This first graph will illustrate the approximate number of  nights annually spent outside throughout a duration of  past seven years and three months. I used a combination of recollection, planning documents (maps) I’d retained, and Facebook photos/videos to reconstruct my memories of various trips throughout the years. This is as scientific as it gets kids. You’ll see that literary year  (LY) 2011-2012 was the most “outside” year on record, with approximately 36 nights spent outside. So far in 2012, we’re off to a great start with 17 nights already accounted for in January and February alone. I project LY 2012-2013 to be a bullish year for “Agorasomnulence” and set new records for mosquito slappage.

Graph two shows approximate figures of photos taken annually over a duration of the last seven years and three months. Figures were determined based upon photographic archives and did not include cell phone photos or photos taken with other people’s cameras. LY 2012-2013 is on target to be the most picture takingest year on record with already 25% of 2011-2012 calendar year captures in the bag. A reliable sampling method has yet to be developed in order to establish correlation between quantity of total image captures and those that are not complete crap and/or awkward gopro images of my own befuddled face.

Using facebook photos and recorded interviews with friends, family and strangers in supermarkets, I have been able to reconstruct approximate head and facial hair values for the past six years and three months. Again, LY 2011-2012 proved to be a record breaking year for both head and facial hair length. In the final days of LY 2011-2012 we saw an emergence of a new “mustache”  category in conjunction with a slight decline in overall facial hair length. Analysts are currently developing new metrics for reporting mustache v.s cheek hair length. Forecasters are unsure if the mustache emergence will be a trend throughout LY 2012-2013 or if it’s growth will be undermined by environmental factors such as  heat and ridicule.

*High Five counts were not available at the time of this writing. Initial projections indicate a statistical increase, but causation cannot be determined due to an unusually high occurrence of people with more than two hands represented in the data set.

Qualitative Summary

The cliche simile of comparing life to a roller-coaster belies the complexity of existence. Days, and by extension lives are seldom either exclusively good or bad… up or down. Everyone knows this, yet we perpetuate the colloquialism.
One of my favorite ideas to share as a counter point is that we’re all just extracting particles of existence from waves of probability. The idea, that I’m fairly certain I stole directly from Rob Bryanton, is a freeing one.
The selections we make everyday when choosing our own pocketfull of existence particles are by definition products of compromise. We trade the ideal for a reality of consequence each time we reach into the flotsam of probability and  make a choice. And while our ideal future is rarely bobbing on the surface like a cork, the process of reaching deeper into the froth is one that forces us to get our feet wet. Because while at some time or another we’ve all been lucky enough for our ideal to wash up at our feet like so many sand dollars, most of what is worth having requires wading eye deep in order to see it, much less reach it.

The metaphor of existence and probability as ocean waves sort of got away from me; the point I’m trying to make is that I’ve traded a lot for the amazing year I’ve had. Where I’ve gained friends and fellow travelers in new experiences I’ve missed time with loved ones and being there for many major events in my friend’s lives. For every mile of beautiful river I’ve floated, or mountain landscape I’ve photographed, I’ve missed floating from bar to bar with some of my best pals and cheesing with them shoulder-to-shoulder. And for every transformational experience with wildlife that I’ve been privileged enough to see, I’ve missed the chance to share it with two of my best friends, my parents.

Yet sometimes no matter how deep we dive, the reality for which we’re searching is not a probability that exists within this universe. Becoming comfortable with this idea is what makes us comfortable with ourselves and our choices; but deciding to embrace the discomfort makes us value the things that are not quantum…it makes us value the things that we cannot incorporate into all possible places in all possible times of our lives… that which is finite, yet always immeasurable…that which we share with those who’s feet get wet alongside our own…or our mustaches…only time will tell.


Experimentation

This Photo is far, far, far from perfect.
Whatcom Pass - Milkey Way by Clinton Begley
This is a horizon-to-horizon stitch of seven photos taken in the summer of 2010 from Whatcom pass high in the North Cascades. The glow on the eastern horizon (bottom) is of the moon… soon to rise over the ridge.
It was late, and too cold for the flies that had pestered me throughout the previous day. For nearly two hours I experimented with aperture, shutter speed and ISO.
As a self taught photographer, like most in the world I’d imagine, I had to figure things out for myself. To my eyes, my inexperience with shooting astronomical features is glaringly obvbious in this photo.
With a few exceptions, almost every photo in this stitch has a different setting; this is not ideal. My eyes immediately fall to the obvious differences in ISO created grain and the slightly longer motion blur of some stars next to the sharpness of others.
Yet I’m pleased with this photo. I’m pleased that I took the time, alone under a brilliant sky, to hone a new craft while the rest of my crew slept off the vertical feet of the day. I’m pleased that I didn’t try to mess with the white balance and complicate things further.
And, unlike any other time in my life, I am pleased that I am not an astronomy expert…lest I become even more unsettled by my undoubtedly butchered shot alignment.


El Lobo Norteño

Finding a spot to pitch my tent was difficult; foot-deep holes lined with the shredded root-ends pockmarked the banks of the North Fork of the Flathead River just outside Glacier National Park’s west entrance near Polebridge.

Grizzlies had undoubtedly found this spot as beautiful as I had, and bountiful to boot.

The light was fading fast, but it wouldn’t be the first time we had set up a tent in the dark. While Matt and I continued with the assembly after a brief pause to snap this photo, I heard a strange music swelling above the rustling of coated nylon and clanging of tent stakes.

We stopped. So did the music.

After a few perplexing seconds of silence, save for the din of the river’s flow, the sound swelled again from the meadow beyond a stand of burnt trunks and spry new growth.

This time the haunting sound of a single wolf’s howl echoing down the valley was unmistakable. To call it a song would be to diminish it’s wildness. But to describe it simply as power measured in hertz would be to deny the wolf’s raw musicality.

We never heard it again on our trip.

Yet, whenever I look at this underexposed photo of an artificial management border through an otherwise continuous landscape, I remember how the sound transcended that division both physically and symbolically. Now, I also realize that it transcends space and time each time I look at this photo as the sounds continue to vibrate the hairs on my neck to attention and moments later, the corners of my mouth to a grin.


Scotoma

Southwest Texas Asphalt | Photo by Clinton BegleyAt night, all asphalt looks the same between the lines.
The differences between our paths lie in the periphery, blurred by speed, and unilluminated.


Kshanti

I’ve been sitting on this photo for nearly four years.

More accurately, I’ve only recently posessed the skill and perspective necessary to assemble the photos comprising this panoramic into something remotely reflective of my feeling for this place.

Cathedral Peak by Clinton Begley

I wish I could say that this was an exercise in patience and foresight; that I’d somehow had the wherewithal to archive these photos until a serendipitous moment struck me with the inspiration to execute the perfect crop and the ideal channel mix of red, green and blue to make the abrasive granite nearly palpable to the eye.

In truth, it took a failure four years ago to make this assemblage possible. I had all the components and resources at my fingertips, but was lacking proper perspective on the experience to compile the pieces into something meaningful.

This week, as I’ve reflected on the impact that this first solo trek and other transformational  experiences have had on my trajectory through life, I felt compelled to revisit these photos. Like myriad analogous situations through life, the value of time and reflection is difficult to measure, but easy to feel. And this one feels good.