Author Archive for Susan How

Black and white film photographer and environmental journalist


Kalispell, MT

Amid holiday fanfare, I step aside to observe how the plain can also be beautiful. A cluster of onions left in a snowy field, not even valued as foodstuff, still has integrity of form that claims the eye. With the click of the shutter, the onions are committed to film in an act of silent praise.


Tucannon River Valley, WA

Two definitions of “seasoned” come to mind: one, to flavor with spices; the other, to gain wisdom through experience. Here’s another possibility. What if seasoned means having experienced the seasons? I have passed this spot through the year — seen the soft new growth of spring, the verdant summer, the full palette of fall color, and stood with my camera against the cold to capture winter’s well-defined monochromes. We transition smoothly through the cycle, but at the peak of each, how startling the differences! From the seasons, we learn to be adaptable. We learn to celebrate diversity and welcome change. We learn to let go and embrace what comes next. Lessons not found in books, but supremely important to a life well-lived.

The size of the heart


Flathead Lake, MT
In the West, we are challenged to represent the scale of the landscape while remaining devoted to its fine points. Distance gives the heart room to expand, while dwelling on the particular – like the scattered confetti of swans adrift on the lake.
Elsewhere the scene is not so placid. Several thousand snow geese perished last week on the toxic brew that fills the abandoned Berkeley Mine Pit in Butte. It is one of Montana’s permanent reminders of past environmental ravages. A late migration forced by sudden snow onto the only open water, found death rather than shelter. Attempts to haze the birds off the water met with only limited success. Seeing how long and lethally environmental damage persists, we deeply fear the likely evisceration of environmental regulation under a Trump administration. Our boundless love for this land must guide our actions to defend its future.



First snowfall


Flathead Lake, MT

At first snowfall, a dialogue exists between the new drifts and the remaining vegetation. It is the calligraphy of change – of one season yielding to another. Each season carries out its respective tasks. To winter falls rest and deep renewal and the penetrating gift of moisture that will eventually usher in spring.



Cape Disappointment, WA

At the extreme southwest corner of Washington rests Cape Disappointment, so named by fur trader John Meares when a storm forced his ship back from a voyage that nearly led him to discover the mouth of the Columbia River. So close, yet so far, from the long-sought. Four years later, George Vancouver found the entrance to the Columbia, one of the foggiest spots in all of the United States. On all voyages there are setbacks and triumphs. Something about the human spirit causes us always to set sail again.



Rural Nebraska

Searching through family photos today, I found to my complete surprise, negatives from my first camera. At ten, I earned points for selling magazines in a school fund drive. The points could be spent on items in a catalog, and I chose a plastic Brownie camera. I had forgotten it used medium-format film and yielded square prints. Half a century later, I’m still doing the same thing. It reminds me, in more ways than we know, how close we remain to our roots. In this time of upheaval and uncertainty, I encourage you to revisit your roots and be nurtured by them.


Web of life


Point Lobos, CA

The more fractured our current political situation, the more I am reminded of the wholeness of nature. The newest biography of Alexander von Humboldt called “The Invention of Nature” traces his lifelong quest to understand the relatedness of the natural world – the web of life. May we not tear it asunder through short-sighted, misbegotten actions!

“The full and the felt”


East Sierras, CA

Walker Evans was a photographer noted for his straightforward, but touching portrayals of rural people and places. Best known is the classic “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” about sharecroppers during the Great Depression with Evans’ photos and the writing of James Agee. Evans once said: “…the matter of art in photography…is the capture and projection of the delights of seeing; it is the observation of the full and felt.”



Lee Vining, CA

Aspens do look ghostly as their white bark gleams in the forest. I welcome their mysterious presence. Because, I ask you, why is their bark white when the bark of other trees is dark? Why the smooth, and sometimes peeling bark of an aspen versus the deeply ridged and textured bark of another species? As Rilke said, “Learn to love the questions.” One of the great gifts of nature is what we don’t know, and the state of wonder such questions engender.



Bend, OR

Native Americans summons the Four Directions. Certain Eastern religions call upon the Guardians from up to nine directions. “When taking a photo,” a wise photographer told me, “Snap the picture and turn to look in the opposite direction. The better photo may be there.” Looking down, I have found the grasses glowing. Looking up, I have found the branches stirring. As you walk, be surrounded.