Although it is Columbus Day on Cape Cod, the air is still and warm and, this late in the afternoon, the beach and dunes are giving off the heat they’ve absorbed all day. I don’t need the sweater I’m wearing, and the public area of the beach closest to the access road is surprisingly populated with late-day walkers and visitors.
At the far end of the beach, away from the “crowd,” I walk with my Nikon SLR slung from my neck. I start to work the scene surrounding me, dipping my knees, tipping my head, birdlike – playing the angles, scanning the beach, the footpaths, the dunes for light, or color, or a shape that calls to me. Taking a step forward, or right, dropping eight inches or crooking my neck at a certain tilt, the path before me takes a graceful shape through my lens. The assignment is for a shot of a beach path, and I move quickly before the shadows become too deep in the footprints against the bright highlights in the sand.
And besides, there’s another shot I want. As I’d parked my car I noticed the low light developing against a row of grasses on the edge of the marsh that sits opposite the beach. Sunset is my favorite time of day to shoot, when the light is warm and low, the colors of the environment saturated.
I walk briskly (imagine trying keep up with a friend with longer legs) back through the parking lot toward the marsh. I know this is a race. I know I’ve got something here. The stand of backlit, feather-topped marsh weed is lit up in an icy array against a line of trees in shadow in the distance. I have a weakness for backlit foliage. When armed with a camera, I am drawn to it like one might be to the edible round goodness of a cherub-eyed baby, or the scented neck of a lover.
In photography, I want to capture moments, images like this. Yes, to grab, to have, to keep, and lose myself in them. And lose myself I do. Funny thing is, I can’t tell you why or what the reason is. Yes, it would be nice to end up with a stunning image to share, that people might fawn over or be able to declare -through evidence of which – what talent I possess. But when I’m shooting, it’s not about that. It’s about something not expressible, something tangible and infinite both. It’s about the feather-duster array that might just as easily be caked with hoarfrost in the sunshine or lit up with electric power and simply look beautiful. It’s the proof – thank god – that things can be this beautiful. And can somehow be made to last.
After what must have been twenty minutes and two hundred exposures tiptoeing the edges of crusty grass and brush, viewfinder pinned to my left eye, I let my camera hang on my neck and back up onto the pavement.
Gathering back into myself, I rub my eyes, shake my face, and reabsorb the full periphery of the parking lot around me. Setting my intent on my own car, I cross the lot and get in, and choose not to take one more shot of the last of the golden light on the fence before me. The sky is graying. It is getting dark.