Brian Killigrew
Inner Light

Journals Part One -- California

6/1/88 Bishop

Naughty boy! I stayed in bed until 11am today. It was bound to catch up with me--at last, some sleep. I have a lot of hiking to do today. It is beautiful out, 80 degrees with great clouds. This area is so picturesque, it's hard to do anything that doesn't look like a postcard photo.

I'm now up at Patriarch Grove, in the White Mountains. Eleven thousand feet up by a dirt road, the drive is definitely not for the weak-hearted. When I got to the last part of the drive, the road was blocked by four feet of snow. I could hike the last mile but I'm out of breath just sitting in the car at this elevation. It was 80 degrees at Big Pine, up here it must be below 40 degrees. These Bristlecone pines are the strangest things I have ever seen. They look like creatures of some sort, all twisted and grotesque.

Now, after all the effort that went into this trip, I was not about to let a little snow stop me. I hiked up the last mile, to one of the most beautiful spots I have ever seen. The light was magical, I stayed until sunset--beautiful light. These trees have character, a definite presence. When I first stopped where the snow blocked the road, I met two photographers. We spoke for a couple of minutes and they made sure they told me they had "big 4x5 cameras, Sinars, very expensive." I don't see why people try to impress others with things that don't matter. Who cares if they had Sinars? It's the photographer, not the camera, that makes a work of art.

The funny thing is, they had no intention of hiking through the snow--they didn't want to get wet! Who cares what equipment they had? They didn't go the extra mile to make the photograph.

A great day!

6/10/88 Yosemite

When we photograph trees or rocks, we try to capture their secrets--the mystery of the ages. The secrets of time are locked inside trees, inside rocks; the human race has little understanding of this. We are looking for the lock when we first need the key. We must become one with all life forms to share their secrets.

One cannot photograph nature until one has become a tree.


Up at 5:30 am to get a jump on the day. Made four exposures already. It was overcast until a few minutes ago--nice soft light. Made a nice exposure of a stream with trees reflecting in it.

I was attacked by a bird! I was checking out a meadow for a photo of Half-Dome across from Yosemite falls. All of a sudden--whamo!--something hit me on the top of the head and made a quick get-away. There must have been nests in the field. The birds were in a frenzy, quite upset by my presence. I went to the car and got the camera and made the photograph anyway--flowers in the foreground with Half-Dome behind. The birds made occasional close passes at me to scare me off. I'm glad the birds weren't bigger, I think they would have eaten me alive!

At this moment, I am being sprayed by Yosemite falls--baptized by nature. This is awesome; Yosemite has let me in! I hiked up the side of the falls, I'm about 50 feet from it's base--is it powerful! I think I have good negs of this. The whole world should see this, no, they should feel it--feel the water, touch the rock, smell the air.

Today was magic. Last night I sat by the car and looked at the stars--there were about 100 trillion stars--inspiring! I spoke to the trees and mountains, asking why they wouldn't let me in. That's when I wrote about trying to capture their secrets. We must speak their language, they must let us in, or we fail to capture their magic.

I saw a side of Yosemite today that had alluded me. After walking down from Yosemite falls, I didn't walk on the paved path--I went through the forest. I walked on the rocks, crossed the streams--I was happy. I was telling the river not to let the crossing be too easy--that wouldn't be fun. I crossed at parts where the water was a foot deep and ten feet across--with the pack on I couldn't chance falling in. I came upon a bush with the most wonderful-smelling flowers. The scent was so strong, its beauty so real. The flowers gladly give their scent to anyone who cares to pass by. It gives freely, wanting nothing in return. I care for the forest , the mountains, the rivers--I care for all life. Yosemite has opened up to me, has made me see a little clearer.

I feel closer to Yosemite now, I respect it more. It lives as I do. It must overcome obstacles all the time. Think of the heat of summer, the heavy snows of winter, the rains, the toll of the years--the tourists! All the abuse it has to put up with. It has no choice, but it adapts. It is living, breathing, alive. Yosemite radiates life. It is a positive affirmation of life. It is our teacher.


Yosemite's waters have cleansed me again. This time it was Vernal Fall, what a magical sight! The bottom of the fall is truly awesome. After watching it for a while, I could detect colors in the water. Not a rainbow, but actual colors in the falls. A beautiful blue-green strip of color going from mid-point straight down to the rocks. Also, a slight magenta cast to keep the other company! What beautiful delights the waters of Yosemite have for us. In addition to the color spectacle, it also has music for us. A full symphony of sound it gives out for all who care to listen. At times it is so powerful it sounds like a jet right above one's head. Then there is the ever-present low rumble of the sheer weight of the water--the bass note of nature! Then the high-pitched sound of the spray after hitting the rock and spraying all over the water underneath--the cymbals of the universe! What a show--colors, music, and all for free. A bargain at any price.

Other writings:
My Icelandic Adventure,
Journal from Iceland and London

Copyright(c) Brian Killigrew 2002. All Rights Reserved.