Last month, I found perhaps the most surreal location I have ever been able to shoot at.
And while its name, Purgatory Chasm, may sound rather ominous, my recent trip to this state park in southern Massachusetts actually proved to be anything but.
In fact, after spending the day there with my friend and fellow photographer Aleah, climbing through forests and incredible rock formations, I believe I’ve actually found a new favorite location! As we climbed over huge boulders dotted with ferns, beneath broadly rooted trees, and over bubbling streams that wound through mossy stepping stones, I felt like I was walking in some fantasy world that I had only ever read about before. It is still beyond me as to why such a magical place would have such a bleak name!
I think my favorite part about Purgatory Chasm was the secrets it had hidden everywhere you dared to explore. In the image above, this location was actually tucked unassumingly up the side of the cliff faces we hiked past. It was so well concealed, in fact, that I almost dismissed it entirely. Thankfully, while Aleah and her husband paused to scope out a nearby location, my eyes were drawn to the solitary tree trunk, standing against the tall chasm walls. Deciding to explore the area, as I ventured up the short rise and noticed the most vibrant green moss covering the trunk and a garden of ferns surrounding it below, I immediately changed my mind about the tree trunk’s unassuming nature. Remembering a simple (but elegant, of course) nightgown I had brought with me, I pulled it out of my bag and set to taking the above shot with Aleah as my model.
As much as I loved this tree trunk though, my very favorite location was much more difficult to find, but well worth the effort. Towards the end of the day, as the soft golden light of late afternoon began to filter through the trees, my ever curious mind felt compelled to cross a stream we were shooting by. I think perhaps there needs to be a saying that opposes the idea of curiosity killing the cat, because in this instance, much like with my exploration of the tree trunk, my curiosity was rewarded quite handsomely. In fact, where my curiosity led me was to one of the most magical locations I have ever photographed, and I mean every bit of that statement.
As I forded the small river and worked my way upstream through the undergrowth, I stepped around the riverbend and immediately felt as if I had stepped into another world. Peering through the low-hanging branches blocking my way, I glimpsed a small, moss-covered island with giant trees rising in the middle, surrounded by a gently flowing stream. In the afternoon light, it all seemed so incredibly magical that I half expected elves to come gliding in from behind the trees. I felt like somehow I had stumbled inside the pages of my favorite fantasy novels. If it wasn’t for the swarms of mosquitoes (and our unfortunate lack of bug repellent), I could have stayed there for hours on end!
One of the joys of working with other self-portrait photographers is how well they can model. They know, for example, what you mean when you need movement in the pose or when you ask them to give you soft hands. Working with Aleah was an absolute dream, because she just got it. Combined with the dream-worthy location we shot in, once I sat down to edit the photos from this wonderful day of shooting, the photos practically created themselves.
With a model so ethereal, and a location so wonderfully enchanting, I’m not surprised that not much editing was needed to make the images come alive. After such a wonderful day, I think it won’t be long before I return to tell more stories in Purgatory Chasm!