Some of you may be surprised to learn that I have been directing choirs in the Southern California area for nearly 30 years. I have spent a good part of my life practicing on instruments, learning to read music, singing in various choirs, and eventually earning a Bachelors and a Masters in Choral Conducting. There was a time, in the not too distant past, when I was convinced that I would continue to teach until well into my seventies as many of my colleagues have done and are continuing to do. I have been very fortunate over the past three decades or so to have had a job that I love and look forward to going to each day. But in 2006, I picked up a Nikon DSLR camera for the first time and suddenly I found myself considering a second, part time career . It was the first time I held a decent camera in my hands since shooting landscapes with a Canon AE-1 after I had just graduated from high school. For the next three or four years, I shot everything. Portraits, street photography, macro…it didn’t matter. I just wanted to get out with my camera whenever I had a chance. In 2009, I took my camera to Yosemite and to Laguna Beach for the first time, and began to realize that my true passion in photography was landscapes. By that point, I had looked at thousands upon thousands of photos featuring portraits, auto shows, air shows, sports, and street scenes, et . Eventually I began to realize that they really weren’t making an impact on me, even though they were excellent and may have been taken by incredible photographers. At the same time, there were photos that I had come across that were taken of the Dolomites in Italy, Reine in Norway, Patagonia in Chile, Banff in Canada…these photos stopped me dead in my tracks. They resonated.
As I was trying to come up with a title for this blog, it struck me that there were several musical terms that carry over to describing landscapes, such as “composition”, “contour”, “dynamics”, “balance”, “dissonance”, “harmony”, just to name a few. In choral music, we use the term “resonance” to describe a certain ringing that appears in the tone of the human voice when the jaw and pharynx are positioned correctly. Additionally, the string of a violin resonates in the body of the violin, the length of a flute resonates as it is blown into, and so on. In short, if something resonates, it is moved sympathetically as a result of the sound that is initiated. In trying to come up with a term to describe what I felt as I looked out on an incredible sunrise while up in Yosemite, or the Milky Way glowing brightly above Joshua Tree, or a storm moving in while perched on a mountainside overlooking Glacier National Park, the term “resonance” seemed perfect. That scene resonated in me, and I believe the same scene, for whatever reason, resonates in many of you as well. Between the light on the mountain peaks….and the reflection in the lake….and the billowing clouds…there’s just something about that moment that resonates deeply in just about all of us as human beings.
As a choral music professor, I remember being surprised to learn that Ansel Adams was headed towards a career as a professional musician before becoming sidetracked by landscape photography. Upon learning this, it began to make sense why on more than one occasion he stated that the negative was the “score” and the print was the “performance.” I was further surprised when I came across a quote by the great landscape photographer Galen Rowell recently which stated “”Ordering a performance of light rays for the public eye is much like ordering a performance of sound waves for the public ear.” It is with these comments in mind that I, a choral music professor by trade, now embark on a part time career in landscape photography in search of more of those moments when time seems to stand still. More moments where you come around that last bend after hiking for hours and find that the entire day has been leading up to an encounter between a man and his creator. More moments when the clouds part and your heart seems like it will explode because you’ve honestly never seen anything quite so beautiful in your entire life. More moments when you encounter, either by design or quite by accident, a truly resonant landscape.