Monday, September 15, 2008

It's Flat Out Here

I have been driving many miles in many days through the flat land of the central part of the country, sometimes by chance, to get to people I want to visit and to places I want to to be, and sometimes by choice to experience it anew as a tourist and to attempt to capture some of its essence, as a photographer.
As a child, I took it for granted, the unending flatness of it, and had an odd notion of the word 'hill'. As a teen, I resented the boringness and distance and sameness of it all and could not wait to get out, as in 'get the hell out of here'. As a young adult I hated that it was a barrier of many long boring miles of car travel to seeing family and old friends. I really only began to give it a chance as being beautiful when a professional art photographer friend sent me photographs that treated it as a place of unique beauty and made me look closer for the details and appreciate the sense of place that is wrapped up in the horizon, the perspective, the vast plain and the vast sky. I have long loved the scenic beauty of the southwest desert, the rock formations and canyons. The epic beauty of the Rocky Mountains is common knowledge. The forests of the northeast and places like Kentucky where I have traveled are taken for granted as beautiful. I have more recently loved the rambling hills of Wisconsin. But now I have come to see the flat plains as another unique form of landscape that is every bit as beautiful, and I am taking it as a self-assigned project to capture some of that in photographs. It is a magical thing to stop the car and step out into the bean field and feel the wind through your clothes and hair and hear the chirping of thousands of grasshoppers and the rustling of the leaves of the bean plants. It is interesting to leave the car to wander the ditch of the narrow roads and find shorter versions of the prairie plants that are familiar to me, remnants of what once covered this vast land. The little bluestem along the roadsides glows russet in the late afternoon light. The clouds pile up on each other and recede to the horizon in layers of light and dark. The sun lights corn tassels a glowing orange-red and lights the nearly ripe bean fields a glowing yellow and the stubble of already harvested small grain fields glows soft gold. Light plays on the land and the sky to make ever changing colors and tints and shades and I am trying to learn to capture it. It might be my greatest challenge as a photographer to capture and convey the beauty of this place, for it is a hard beauty to love in its vast endlessness and its harsh extremes. But as I learn to love it, I also want to share it in pictures and words. Go there sometime, not just passing through, but with it as a destination, and drive its smaller roads and get out and just be there. You might be as surprised as I am at the power and beauty of the place.

1 comment:

Gene Redlin said...

What I miss about FLAT is the ability to see the sun set. And to see weather patterns form 200 miles away.

We didn't need radar. We could see thunderheads over Bismarck and know that in a few hours we were going to get wet.

And, when I go home, I marvel at the colors green and tan and brown and gold in every permutaion.

Something is very beautiful about a field of wheat right after harvest.

North Dakota (and South) is full of beauty but you have to have the eye of a beholder to get it.

By the way, yesterday was the 150th or something of St Johns in Hecla.

Long time.

I'm not sure about the years, came from the in laws.

Have a great time. I wish I were there, or maybe not.