If opportunities share common characteristics, the top similarity may be odd timing, meaning I hadn’t expected aloneness when I took a break the other day, grabbed my camera and headed to the Rockwood Conservation Area for a bit of sun and fresh air.
Some weeks earlier, I’d begun shooting clips for a music-video project that involved a central sequence deep in the woods. With the conservation area so close, I thought a few shots there might nicely augment the fantasy aura I envisioned for my project, and the conservation area definitely offered that. With its limestone cliffs, caves and surreal cedar groves, the area was something of a slice of Middle-earth that regularly attracted film and television production companies, as it did tourists. Each season from about mid-May to fall, the trails and rivers were typically occupied by enough hikers, canoeists, spelunkers, rock climbers and kayakers that it was difficult to click the lens without someone accidentally photo-bombing a shot. So I didn’t really anticipate having the chance to capture much, especially at some of the more popular attractions like the area’s crowning jewel—the ruins.
Surrounded by neatly clipped lawns on the banks of the Eramosa River, the ruins practically glimmered when the sun struck the towering walls of clean limestone. Indeed, on some days, it was difficult to approach the ruins and not believe they were the remnants of some Arthurian castle, rather than the restored 1867 ruins of the Harris Woolen Mill. Given the gloriousness of the day, I was certain the ruins would be filled with visitors, but after I arrived, it was to the sound of naught but the far-off thrum of a ride-mower. There wasn’t a soul in sight, and though I really hadn’t come prepared to shoot long sequences for the video, something told me the chance would only come once. So I set my camera to a tripod, pressed Record and began recording random action loosely based on the sense of some finished-product story thread.
This image, culled from a long video sequence, was undoubtedly the most precarious of all the clips I took. Setting the camera far on the slope leading to the river, I climbed up and along the top of the highest wall. At an estimated 16 feet near the highest point, the wall was perhaps only 12 inches wide, with some rough footing along the way and a sheer drop. So I had to do my best to walk sure-footedly while not looking down. The image was afterward layered with effects in Photoshop, and while the final creation may not exactly represent when the completed video will be, the image nonetheless captures the overall look I’ll be going for.
While the background sky layer had some effects set through Photoshop, I employed an old-school technique to pre-effect the image in-camera by shooting through the bottom of a glass measuring cup pointed at some starkly lit objects sitting on my kitchen counter, meaning the centrally featured circular bands of color are the bottom of the glass. After that, I just blurred the image a bit before subtly layering it over with a texture of raindrops shot through the windshield while driving along the highway.
Overall, I think the image has a fantasy-art quality reminiscent of album art from the 1970s, and I kinda like that.