The lake is talking to us every day.
Are you listening?
One of the great fortunes of my life is living and working on the shoresof Lake Washington — “the lake” — in Seattle, Washington.This 22-mile-long body of water touches nearly every community in the greater metro area. A daily spectacle of breathtaking beauty, the lake is the center of life here in many ways. It is a residential paradise with unparalleled views; a nurturing natural habitat filled with wildlife; a recreational playground for walkers, dogs, runners and bicyclists.
Many of us live on its shores — or close enough, anyway, to see it every day. Tens of thousands more see it up close twice a day as they commute over the longest — and the second-longest — floating bridges in the world.
Many Seattleites spend their days on the lake — literally. Glassy morning waters are silently cut by gliding kayaks, paddleboards and community rowers. As the day heats up, so does the sound, withroaring fleets of motorboats, jet skis and wakeboards.Sunsets become a technicolor backdrop for scores of sailboats in our long summer evenings.
The lake shimmers with life and asks us to slow down and see it, hear it and feel it. It is a special place that fills all of our senses, that excites, revives and calms our souls.
We see all that nature has to offer in and around the lake: foggy mornings, diving birds, migrating salmon, squealing kids, screaming eagles, icy water and warm, welcome sunshine reflecting in the water.
I’ve been photographing Lake Washington since 2008. Every day, as I’ve looked out my window or walked my two dogs, I have seen something new, heard something different. By staying alert and by looking and listening, I’ve learned a great deal about the place where I live and about the lives it shelters.
I’ve learned that the lake is talking to us every day.
I’ve learned that when you hear an angry cackling of crows, there’s a good chance a menacing eagle is hovering nearby.
I’ve learned all the different sounds that birds make. When geese make a certain sound, and perform a particular gesture with their necks, they are about to take off. (I call the geese and ducks my models.)
I’ve learned that when it’s foggy, droplets of water illuminate spider webs that you wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.
I’ve learned there is beach glass along the shores (which was a total surprise — I have a great collection now).
I’ve learned that crows fly north along the lake in the morning and head south in the late afternoon. I see this every day when I look out my window and joke that they are on their daily commute to or from work.
I’ve learned that the water is constantly changing. The slate-gray tabletop I see in the morning can become a glittering jewel in the afternoon sun. A blustery wind, a skittering rainshoweror a ray of sun peeking through the clouds can completely change the character of the lake. A boat chugging by, a duck taking off or a leaping fish can ripple the water in ways that create intricate patterns, dazzling colors and shapes on the water’s surface.
Thephotographs in this book represent days, weeks and years of successes and failures; many early mornings and late afternoons (in all kinds of weather); moments of frustration, experimentation and risk — and moments of pure joy and elation.
Over the years, I’veshot hundreds of thousandsof photographs for this personalproject. Decisions about which ones to use and which to discard became more and more difficult as I neared completion. And, in the end, every photo needed to takemybreath awayto make it into this book. To be included, a photograph had to show something truly special — something that I had never seen before.
Or, something that I had seen many times but successfully captured in a unique and artistic way.I had more than a few sad moments saying farewell to one of my babies — a photo I loved.
When I work (and in my life), I’m always asking myself, “How can I make it better? How can I shoot this in a more interesting way?” Experimentation is a huge part of the process and not all experiments succeed. Many times I returned to a subject to look for a new angle, a better light, a different technique or adifferent approach entirely. Some days were utterly frustrating, but on other, better days you might hear a cheer from my office — when I knew I had a “keeper” for the book.
To create this work, I took photos on the water, in the water, over the water and underwater. I shot from a boat, from the shore, from my own back deck. Nature photography takes a lot of patience (which I’m admittedly not that great at) and a lot of perseverance(which is a quality I am very well-known for). There were many mornings when I looked out my window at some pretty iffy weather and had to make a decision: “Is it really worth putting on layers of warm clothes, securing my dogs and hauling all my gear down to the lake?”
Many times, shooting for hours turned out to be fruitless. And yet, other times, something magical happened right in front of me and I was able to capture it forever. Even the unproductive days were worth it as I got to spend time in nature and experience the many facets of the lake!
It’s been fun for me to see my work change and progress over the years. My photographic style is ever-changing, but one thing I hope never changes is the emotional response that people feel when they look at my photos. When I can touch something in a viewer’s heart, then we have made a connection that gives all of my hard work meaning.
As for this unique project, I wanted to photograph and share a beautiful vision of the world I am blessed to see every day on Lake Washington. I wanted to create and carefully curate a collection of photographs full of art and soul — and, most of all, life.
I am proud of these photographs. I believe they capture the ever-changing life, energyand vitality of the people and nature surrounding the lake.
My hope is that when people see this book, they will forever look at Lake Washington differently, and see with fresh eyes all the things that make our lake so special.
The lake is talking to us every day. Are you listening?
– Robin Layton