“THEY COME AND THEY GO” Episode 1-2
I live just up the street from the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s a beautiful structure built in the early 1900s, when virtually nothing else was on the hill upon which it stands. Overlooking the Salt Lake Valley, the strength of its solid granite speaks of longevity, a state that is here to stay. It rivals perhaps only the Salt Lake Temple in terms of prominence in this relatively modest metropolis.
The Capitol grounds are a terrific place to enjoy a picnic, take a walk, or conduct a photo shoot, and no time of the year is better than April. Surrounding the building is a large ring of 433 Yoshino cherry trees. Each year, sometime between the end of March and the middle of April, these Japanese flowering trees explode with color as their millions of bright pink and white blossoms announce the start of spring. This is when the cameras start clicking.
Brides-to-be, Instagrammers, and kids in their new Easter outfits all converge to take advantage of the natural backdrops that bring beauty and optimism to photos. Amateur and professional photographers alike appreciate how the light plays off the soft petals to create a natural diffusion, backlight, or warming filter, depending on how you shoot. Early-morning shoots are almost always better. It can get quite crowded in the evenings, when everyone competes for an unoccupied bench or a clear, stranger-free tunnel of blossoms.
This year, I spent several mornings at the Capitol. I like the contrast of the stately, symmetrical building and the random, organic nature of the trees you can use to frame it. The sunlight plays across the front of the massive columns and serves as a backlight to the trees at the same time. If you’re lucky, you can find someone willing to sit in a shot for you. One morning, I found a young lady wearing a red dress and a wide-brimmed hat. Just the previous morning in the same location, I’d been trying to determine what outfit colors would go well with the setting. When I saw the girl in the red dress, I knew this color would be perfect. Her mother, perhaps, and a family friend were taking pictures of her down the walking path from me. I set my camera up, metered, and waited for them to come my way. Thankfully, they agreed to have her sit in, and I got a shot I really liked.
Another morning, I invited my daughter to bring her dog, Anna, to take some shots with me. Tiffany and I had a great time walking among the trees and taking portraits. At one point, I used a fill flash to make sure I could get a good exposure on Tiffany’s face. I shot film (Portra 160, specifically), which I knew would give me a lot of latitude, but with all the backlighting, I wanted to make sure I didn’t end up with a silhouette. Using an 80mm, I backed up about twenty feet to get a shot of Tiffany standing on the walking path, framed by trees and blossoms. I was wide enough that I couldn’t have gotten a bounce in close enough to be effective. The flash really did the trick.
Before I knew it, I’d made some great portraits as well as some architectural images. I also photographed a guy making giant bubbles on the lawn. At one point, a sharply dressed woman stopped to chat, so I asked her to be in a shot, which she was certainly happy to do. It was a very productive three mornings, which is fortunate. Because almost as quickly as they came, the colors began to fade and the blossoms began to fall. Green became the predominant color of the cherry trees.
I thought about how temporary things in life can be. I can still remember my daughter as a young girl, hiking, playing in the water, and climbing trees. It’s a real joy to spend a morning with her as a young adult, making portraits and talking about the beautiful world we live in. She’s such a different person from the little girl I used to give piggyback rides to. How thankful I am for the many photographs I have of her in her growing-up years. It’s kind of a sad fact of life that childhoods come and go, but with the miracle of a camera, we can recall that childhood and even bring back the feelings associated with it.
The cherry blossoms last only about a week, so it’s a good motivation to keep my cameras clicking. In theory, they will return next year. But what if they don’t? Whoever thought a pandemic would take the world for such a crazy ride like it has? Things, in fact, could be very different next year. I’m grateful I took the time to make some images so I’ll be able to look back and remember this year.
All things come and go, but with the power of photography, they need not be forgotten.
Bubble Man - Hasselblad 50mm, Provia 100
Utah State Capitol - Hasselblad 50mm, Portra 160
Capitol Stairs - Hasselblad 50mm, Portra 160
Woman On a Bench - Hasselblad 80mm, Portra 160
Tiffy and Anna On a Bench - Hasselblad 80mm, Portra 160
Tiffy and Anna - Hasselblad 80mm, Portra 160