Sunday, 28 October 2018

Vancouver in the fall - an autumn leaf fest

autumn leaves © Caroline Fraser
I am visiting family in Vancouver at one of my favourite times of year; autumn ( or fall if you live over here).

The colours of the acres and poplars dotted between the tall pines fill me with wonder.

A richness of colours that I don't find back home.

In between rain showers I have crept out with my camera to collect leaves and wander the forest paths. Water dripping from green mosses; the sound of creeks running down the hillside towards the ocean.

I have been playing with fire trucks and reading toddlers' stories in a cosy home at the foot of the mountain. But outdoors is where I really wish to be.

autumn colours © Caroline Fraser

waiting for fall

autumn gold © Caroline Fraser

I started with some long exposures in the dark of the forest, but found myself drawn increasingly to individual leaves.

So many leaves. Not a single one the same.

This is the preoccupation that has been with me this week.

 I tried capturing them first against stones and wood in the landscape, but soon realised that I was looking for a more pure isolation of each leaf.

a single leaf

A portrait, set against a backdrop of some clean creamy paper felt more delicate.

Turn it over and a different beauty emerges.

 More subtle and sparse.

Each different from its neighbour.

Suddenly I am no longer interested in blurry images. I am drawn to the detail.

I keep collecting leaves of different shapes and sizes.

a leaf with no name

And will be carrying some home to work on if they survive the journey.

Finally I found a wonderful jumble of leaves amongst some hostas in Stanley Park.

They form a different scene; resembling a still life with rich dark hues.

Add caption

fall © Caroline Fraser

fall © Caroline Fraser

fall © Caroline Fraser

fall © Caroline Fraser

They remind me of currants and berries.

Organised chaos.

It will soon be all over, as we head towards winter.

All of these images different from the ones I made last year in the same places.

And that is what I love about photography; there is always a new way to find things, as our thoughts about what we see change and develop.

Here are some leaves waiting to fall.....

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

a bus ride over the Andes - in which we break down and some of us think we are going to die

Over the Andes by bus.

What could be more romantic.

A high altitude journey from one high altitude salt plain to another via the Jama pass.

Accompanied by Tom Cruise in another impossible mission on the bus TV.

As we wended our way around one hairpin bend after another, Tom was busy saving the world on a motorbike.

Taking photographs through a bus window is not to be recommended; window reflections, tinted glass and movement all make for technical challenges that I make no apologies for. 

Grainy black and white the only realistic option to cover up for all of these difficulties.

Leaving behind the cactus dotted countryside in Puemamarca, Argentina, we began our journey.

Climbing steadily the landscape changed with every turn.

mission impossible over the andes

Tom was in a tricky situation, but I was more interested in what was going on outside my window.

Abandoned dwellings appeared from time to time.

A few other buses followed us as we ascended the Andes.

Tom was busy on a motorbike elsewhere.

The road wound relentlessly.

I reminded myself of the nearest exit.

After the ascent we crossed a vast plateau covered with salt.

Dry salt harvested in vast operations.

Salt piles organised in tidy rows.

And then dry scrub. Dusty desert.

And the occasional llama.

Vegetation changed as we passed through different altitudes; scrub giving way to grassy tussocks that dot the mountainside .

The odd volcanic peak appearing in other worldly style.

As the hours passed, all we could do was gaze in wonder.

Tom was no match for this.

We completed customs declaration forms in readiness for the Jama frontier zone.

A small cluster of buildings in the middle of nowhere.

We dutifully took ourselves and our baggage for inspection, feeling the altitude as we queued in the small customs hall.

Bags searched with a laxity that made me wonder.

The air was thin.

A mild nausea and light head was palpable.

4320 metres.

And then we were in Chile, with no phone signal for 130 km.

Obviously the best place for our bus to come to a grinding halt, about 10 minutes away from the border.

We were in the middle of nowhere, very high up in the Andes.

There was no passing traffic.

The engine was inspected.

Steam and water were leaking out.

It looked old.

The driver and his mates tapped and fiddled.

They didn't seem to know what to do.

They released some steam and banged with spanners.

Meanwhile we looked at the most extraordinary scenery around us.

Quite a spectacularly beautiful place to break down.

Out of phone reception.

At very high altitude

where the nights are very cold.

Folk paced around.

Time passed.

My other half paced anxiously.

No phone. No oxygen. Not much food.

We were in trouble.

A cold night on the mountain was not a prospect to look forward to. We were in full catastrophising mode.  Death almost inevitable. A cold and breathless one.

Pullman buses were no longer our friend.

No lorries or cars passed. We had no way to call for help.

We needed Tom.

The road was deserted.

And then, by some miracle, an hour or so later, the engine cooled, water was added, and we crawled off towards our destination several hours down the mountain.

An unscheduled stop was made to collect water in buckets from a local stream, in comedic style; three men running across a field, leaving us locked on the bus.

The scenery changed again.

We hoped for the best.

Lakes of vivid blue appeared.

Snow too.

And some new volcanoes, snow topped and majestic.

A few signs of life appeared.

And a deep ravine appeared beside the road.

We descended thankfully.

As we neared our destination, and phone reception kicked back in we felt safe again.

The small town of San Pedro de Atacama was a welcome sight.

A town built for tourists, eager to see the rock formations and geysers on the Chilean side of the mountain.

The volcanoes drew back into the distance.

We had arrived.

And in all the excitement we never did find out whether Tom saved the world.

Our mission was complete.

Over the Andes by bus.

A once in a lifetime journey that many of the locals in Chile have never experienced.