Rereading a favorite book at different times in your life can give the story a fresh new perspective you didn’t previously notice. I am starting to do a similar thing with photography projects—revisiting places that I photographed some years ago to see how my vision has changed.
Not far from where I live, on Nova Scotia’s south shore, is a place called the granite barrens. The granite barrens is a rocky shore exposed to the full force of North Atlantic ocean weather. The wind is ever-present here, it’s breath howling in your ear. Hurricanes and tropical storms are normal occurrences.
The constant wind and ocean salt spray do not allow any plants to take root on the barrens. What’s left is an elemental landscape of water and stone. It could be a scene from any time in Earth’s history.
My approach to photographing the granite barrens takes a difficult path. I wait for those few days, or more likely hours, even minutes, when the wind stops. Many times the wind frustrates my efforts and I leave without taking any pictures, but waiting for still air to arrive is always worth it. Removing the wind from the granite barrens has a magical effect. Tidal pools and rainwater puddles reflect partially submerged boulders and the sky above. When isolated through the camera’s viewfinder the stones appear to be floating in the sky.
I photographed the granite barrens extensively in 2007 and the work went on to win several awards. Some of the photographs were licensed by IKEA and sold all over the world…in terms of sheer numbers it is my best-selling work.
After seven years I recently returned to the granite barrens to look for new images. The original work was panoramic format, so to make a change right from the start I decided to shoot only verticals for the few days. This time I’m using a Canon 5D mark 3, with the workhorse lens being a 24-70 f2.8 zoom (the new weather-proofed one…weather-proofing is important here). Another new addition was my 7-year old daughter as a companion.
Besides the wind, another hazard in photographing the granite barrens is the terrain itself. The landscape is strewn with boulders of all sizes and dark water tidal pools of indeterminate depth. At low tide the rocks are slippery and it is easy to loose your balance. My 20-year old Manfrotto tripod spends a lot of time doing double-duty as a hiking stick and depth-tester.
When my daughter is along I sometimes have to move very quickly over the boulders to help her out of trouble. (She likes to climb up large rocks but does not like climbing down). This puts my camera gear in jeopardy, especially when I was wearing an over-the-shoulder bag that hung low. Every once in the while I slip and am thigh-high in water. I am embarrassed to admit it, but last year I lost a Canon 5D Mark 2 to salt water damage while working on a different coastal project nearby (yes, it was insured).
Lately I have switched from a standard shoulder bag to a new Kata Pro-Light sling backpack. It functions well as a shoulder bag when there’s no danger of falling into water, but, more importantly, it also functions as a very well designed backpack if you need to keep a steady centre of gravity for active-outdoor pursuits (like keeping adventurous kids out of trouble). Also, the Pro-Light’s well thought-out interior compartments always leave me thinking that it’s somehow bigger on the inside than the outside. You can configure the bag to fit your gear so it feels very safe and snug. I keep one compartment devoted to snacks and lunch for two…perhaps that is the biggest change in my return to the granite barrens.