November Photo of the Month: The Unique Moment When a Season Shifts

The river rushes through the Tieton Canyon as summer turns to fall near Yakima, WA. Photo by Cameron Karsten.

Photo and writing by Cameron Karsten

Every thing, every person, every nanosecond of movement has a story. It has a place where it started, a place where it will end. Taking photographs is a way for me to tell a specific story, albeit a minute reflection in time.

From the earliest days I can remember, I was pulling archived National Geographic magazines from my grandparents’ cherry oak cabinet. I would gaze at the yellow-bordered cover and flip the pages to find its most halting images. There were a lot, especially those from far away places, foreign lands to my youthful curiosity: Faces from India and Southern Asia, stories from the African continent, colorful rituals and ceremonies under starry skies, exotic flora and fauna in the lush green jungles of South America. I was completely lost in them and had no idea how strongly those images, these photographic essays, would shape my life.

Years later, I still stare at the Nat Geo images, but now read every issue from cover to cover, taking them with me as I travel by plane, car, rail or foot around the world. And I carry a camera with me. I am a professional storyteller, mostly with images, sometimes with words and more often than not with motion. And whether it is the neighbors next door, across the state of Washington or in a different culture across the world; or simply a bend in the river, watching it as it morphs from season to season—I love finding out what is unique within the mundane, helping to tell that story of a specific moment in time and reflected in beautiful light.

I’ve traveled to the Nepalese Himalayas; the deserts of Rajasthan, India; the bustling city sidewalks of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; the wildest of Vodou ceremonies in Benin, West Africa, and the warm curling waves off Costa Rica. Closer to home I’ve witnessed the apple harvest of eastern Washington, reef netting off Lummi Island, and urban farming on the rooftops of Seattle on one of those warm glowing backlit evenings in late summer. All this is thanks to The Nature Conservancy’s Human/Nature project; a yearlong effort documenting how the residents of Washington State connect with nature on a recreational, industrial, and agricultural scale. (Stay tuned for details later this month!)

One of this project’s most mesmerizing experiences didn’t involve people or a singular object. It is more or less an event—a routine seasonal shift, but one of those moments in time that will never occur again. The air was crisp. The light glowed an autumn orange as it stretched through a small distant canyon. And the sounds of the Tieton River rushed passed, drowning out any noise but the surge of water. This was to be the first of a series of four images taken at this exact spot over the changing seasons—and it was the first assignment of our project.

This moment signaled the beginning of things, as well as the end. It signaled the middle of a journey. And it signaled nothing at all. It was the story of time itself, at the perfect moment when the convergence of all things photographically correct happened, and all things great and small in this halting natural world aligned. At the time of releasing the shutter, I felt lucky to be alive at the bend of the river, witnessing this story and having the opportunity to tell it in the way I know best.

Cameron Karsten is a professional photographer based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in commercial advertising, outdoor adventure, active lifestyle and editorial imagery. To view more of his work, follow him on Instagram and visit his website.