Wu wei

Having posted images taken on a recent trip to Wellsboro my very small backlog of images was exhausted. After morning chores on Sunday I watched the sky in the hope that it would clear – it did not. Undeterred I pulled on my boots, gloves, hat, fleece and coverall, grabbed my tripod and camera, and walked up the mountain in search of an image. Wide angle views of the rolling hills to the south would not be possible,  it was snowing. The wood was monochromatic. Because I had recently posted images of rock cairns I was hesitant to construct and to photograph yet another. It was cold but I was well dressed and wanted to be outside. I could have gathered rocks from the hedgerow but they were covered in snow and ice and somehow felt colder in my hands than those I could pick out of the run. I knew my boots were not completely waterproof but I could stay out of the deeper riffles. Although the owner’s manual to my camera did not specifically address the issue of moisture I did not want to learn the hard way that my D600 was not water-resistant. I set the thing on its tripod removed my hat and placed it over the camera thinking it was more important that I keep that precious object warm and dry than doing the same for my balding head. Because the water was moving swiftly it was difficult to see below the surface and this made for difficult footing along the cobbled bottom. As soon as I realized that my socks were saturated and water was sloshing in my boots I decided to construct my subject on an exposed rock adjacent to a bit of shelf. Cairns are funny things in that the rocks themselves provide hints concerning correct construction. If a particular stone will not stack, that becomes clear very quickly. Once the correct rocks are selected they simply fall into place. The Taoist would observe that the stones will only stack when they may do so effortlessly. One can’t force a stone to balance on top of another, it either will or it will not. It may sound counter-intuitive and as if I am writing from a parallel universe but stones will stack for you only when you realize that it is when you endeavor to stack without effort that the construction may be achieved. This is Wu wei. Michael Grab has something to say on this issue at Gravity Glue. The seemingly improbable stack went up in just a minute or two. I first photographed it from below and from downstream, and then from above on the bank to the right, and finally from just slightly above and upstream. Post-processing concentrated on reducing the contrast and increasing the brightness of the background. Mid-tones and contrast were adjusted for the cairn itself. I felt that the lightening of the background served to intensify the feeling of cold. I hope you appreciate the final effect.


14 thoughts on “Wu wei

    • Ha! Valiant! Me? I think not … just very determined to find interesting situations which lend themselves to interesting images. I’m so glad you appreciated the picture. I’m always a bit hesitant to work at post-processing … I believe it can easily be overdone and I’m always conscious of keeping as close to the original image as possible. In some cases however a bit of ‘adjustment’ here and there is desired. I’m really glad you agree – and that you took the time to tell me so. D

  1. We need to find you a waterproof box for your camera if you keep up this penchant for slogging into streams. I’m loving all the cairn pictures. They always say to me hey, this way, something amazing right around the corner! Many long wanderings off a trail have ended with a much awaited cairn siting.

    • I’m glad you enjoy the cairns. I am always a bit hesitant to post them … the last thing that I want is for the blog to become a 365-cairn-a-day calendar. That would not be good. But I enjoy them too. Thanks for your artistic support. D

  2. Yet another image taken at the expense of dry feet! This photo has a very space-age look to it. Very cold and stark. With little signs of life. Do you ever see any animals on these jaunts?

    • No … not really … deer every now and then, and birds … but nothing dramatic and nothing I could photograph without a much longer lens. Joanna keeps trying to buy me another pair of boots but I won’t let her. These are fairly new and otherwise in good shape. I must have put a hole in them with a nail or something. Whatever. D

      • Whatever! You should be like your animals …. as long as they are DRY, they can withstand the cold. Bruce has a nice pair of LL Bean boots that go to the knee. He’s had them for over 15 years. They keep his feet nice and warm while shoveling show and they’re still like new. I think you should indulge Joanna and let her buy them for you!

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