SAGE SOHIER: IMMERSED & SUBMERGED
“For the last 20 years, I have spent as much time as possible in a canoe on a pond in the mountains of New Hampshire. My grandfather was a naturalist, who taught me how to paddle a canoe and how to walk silently in the woods. My mother is an avid bird-watcher, and I have joined her in this enthusiasm.
I never tire of the pond, for it is never the same. The play of light on and through the water, the effects of wind, the cloud cover, the reflections, are always changing with the time of day and the seasons, and there is always something new to observe. I am impatient––restless by nature––but being in constant motion on the pond helps me achieve some kind of inner calm.
In the spring of 2017 I noticed two huge snapping turtles mating across from a beaver lodge. Perhaps the beaver had just had kits, for it was very agitated, and repeatedly swam over to the turtles, aggressively trying to drive them away. It was a strange scene, and though I had my binoculars with me as usual, it made me question why I never canoed with my camera.
I have always been most interested in photographing people. Though I love spending time in nature, and have made occasional landscape pictures, I have lacked the resolve to deal with the stillness in front of me, or to wait for the light to change. But there was something different about photographing from a canoe. I found myself immediately captivated by the challenge of capturing interesting frames when everything was in motion: my canoe was drifting, the aquatic plants were swayed by wind and wave action, and the light on and through the water was constantly changing. When I saw something interesting, I would often miss it (as happens so often in portraiture) and would have to maneuver back around to it several times until satisfied that I had done my best. I became intrigued at how the light allowed me to photograph things through the water, and at how the mixture of what’s on and below the surface, as well as what’s reflected, creates something complex and mysterious.
A northern pond’s growing season is quite short. From ice-out in late April until the ice returns in late November, the pond vegetation is constantly growing, changing color, being eaten or covered with insects and eggs. In addition, the level of the pond rises with rainfall runoff from the surrounding mountains, submerging plants on the shore, and falls during dry periods, leaving aquatic plants high and dry. I found myself drawn to trying to capture the ephemeral nature of pond life and its seasons, and at the same time trying to make pictures that show the timeless abstract beauty of these scenes. The optical properties of water are exquisite and surprising; add sunlight, wind, and ever-changing sky, and it becomes a mesmerizing cocktail of form and color.”