As I wrote last month, wind can seem like an impossible concept to capture in a still image. But just a few days after posting about my experience in the wind in Pinnacles National Park, I found yet another opportunity close to home.
My latest wind image came on a day when I had set out to photograph nesting kingfishers. The birds weren’t cooperative, but because I had just written about the wind, the image at the top of this post practically jumped out at me.
For me, the image illustrates more than the wind. It also shows how assigning yourself ongoing projects can help you to break through creative logjams.
At any given moment, there are several photographic projects on my mind. Some have a beginning, middle and end. Long-term projects involving bald eagles and crows eventually turned into books. My blog series illustrating native legends may one day become a book, but it’s still a work in progress.
Others, like the wind, are just ideas that interest me and there’s no particular goal in mind. And I think these can be just as important as projects that should one day arrive at an end. That’s because continuing to work on one idea helps you to explore it and to produce something that goes beyond your first impression.
You can see this progression in people who take up photography as a hobby. The work of people who are starting out tends to look very similar. They tend to go to the same scenic viewpoints and take the same kinds of sweeping images.
But when you’ve been at it a while, you might get bored doing that. You’ve already taken that sweeping landscape shot, so you begin to look for something else to photograph. And over time, changing the subject isn’t enough to satisfy your creative needs. You start to look for ways to capture your subject in a completely different way.
Forcing yourself to create a body of work around one theme can help accelerate that process and to see potential images that others don’t see. With that in mind, I thought it might be interesting to show some of the wind images I’ve captured over the years.
The image at the top is of a heavily eroded hillside in Everett, Washington. I’ve always been attracted to abstract patterns in nature, and this hill gave me plenty of options.
My first inclination was to frame this triangular section without showing the blackberry vine. As I photographed the hill, several times the wind blew the vine completely out of the frame. But then I thought about how this was an opportunity to photograph wind. The wind blew the vine back and forth like the pendulum of a clock. Each time, the leaves would scrape the sand, making the semicircle a few grains deeper. I found that interesting.
Sand dunes are a natural subject for wind photography. Their form is the product of the wind. At the Juniper Dunes Wilderness in Washington state, I was able to photograph the wind at work. Look in the shaded part at the left of the image; you can see streaks of sand blowing off the dune.
At the coast, wind-swept trees are a captivating subject. This tree is at Ecola Point on the northern Oregon coast.
But the beach provides even more options. Here in Bandon, Oregon, the wind can be steady for extended periods. Small rocks on the beach can serve as mini windbreaks, as you can see here.
The motion of rhododendron blossoms during a breeze over the course of an extended exposure can result in an impressionistic scene.
An extended exposure can also be used to capture the motion of wind-blown clouds, such as these clouds over Devils Tower in Wyoming.
You can even split the view, showing how it’s calm at the surface but windy high in the sky.
You may not like all the images, and that’s okay. Exercises like this help open your eyes and your mind to new possibilities. The process of discovery may help you find a new approach that you really like.
(See more of Kevin Ebi's national parks photography in his newest book, Our Land, which commemorates the centennial of the National Park Service. Follow his photography on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram .)