It is the middle of December, Fall is way back there somewhere, and snow is still waiting in the wings. I am walking beside the Englishman River, midway up the east coast of Vancouver island, and using my camera as a tool to understand what is happening here on this cool winter's day. It is not my camera, but my nose that picks up the first clue: carcases of spawning salmon lie among the boulders and in the shallows. In one deep pond, chum salmon leap to show some are still arriving to spawn. My foot-on-land perspective is really only a partial understanding and others here see things differently. Those salmon circling in the ponds are waiting for heavy rain to supply more water so they can move further upstream through the shallows to the spawning beds. They are more aware of the consequences to them of a dry Fall than I am. The eagles flying heavily along the river are focused on their next meal of dead salmon drifting on the river's current. I may see this river as picturesque, a good collection of 'photographic opportunities', but for these others on different planes of existence this environment has different faces, different values.
Among the occasional human visitors today we would find shared human perspectives: the fisherman, the young couple with their cell phone camera, the man and his dog; if asked they might share some general ideas about nature and the need to protect this river, but as individuals, once beyond the usual off-the-shelf beliefs, I would guess there has been little thought given to a reality beyond their own. It is after all an unsettling thought that a human perspective is not the only one available.
While taking my photographs in colour, I am thinking them in monochrome as well. Partly colour blind as I am, I make up for it with a heightened sense of tonal values. The vivid green mosses, the patches of blue sky seem too cheerful once I feel the cold light, the scent of death and see the life running parallel to my own along this river.
Perhaps it is the river itself that is such a powerful teacher, flowing on and on down through the ages, creating the boulder strewn bars and water-worn cliffs, looping from side to side of its valley and arriving finally at the sea. I can experience it as something that has a beginning in the mountains on the horizon and an end in its estuary or know it as I do today as nothing but flow, the constant sound of rapids, the never-ending-ness of it all. I have a choice how I experience the world, as discreet events, as objects, or as flow or change. My choice of perspective influences how I experience the river, how I then understand my place among the many and what I see through the viewfinder of my camera today.