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Photographing Lost Channel

Editor’s note:  Professional photographer Chris Murray wrote this essay for his online blog.  We, who visit the Thousand Islands can appreciate Chris’ joy of seeing the islands as they are. 

Photograph of Lost Channel by Chris Murray Photography © 2012

While growing up my grandparents lived in Rockport, and my deep affection for the Thousand Islands can be traced to my childhood and the many summer weeks spent in cottages on the Canadian side of the river. My parents are retired now and live in Clayton year round. As one would expect I spend as much time as possible up there during the summer months. Much of this time is spent with family, enjoying the river and the islands, as have generations of families over the decades. However, I do set aside time where the primary purpose is photography. As I am active in selling my work in the area there is a need for me to produce at least a few new photographs each year. The paradox, however, is that while the Thousand Islands is my favorite place, it is at the same time my least favorite place to photograph. There are several reasons for this, some simply logistical while others go deeper.

As children my best friend's family and mine rented cottages for a few weeks each summer on Hill Island. Without a doubt those were the happiest times of my life, and I'm sure my friend would agree. Sheer unadulterated joy from sunup to sundown. Days spent lying in the sun, swimming, taking the boat out, or even exploring the woods. After supper we would gather firewood for that evening’s fire, which typically followed the last swim of the day. We quickly lost track of the days as they all seemed to roll into one. It sounds corny to say but it was simply magical. Trying to recapture and experience even a fraction of that joy as an adult has proven elusive. The reasons are obvious and not unique, a consequence of age and circumstance. A classic case of you can never go home. But it's more than that.

After I developed my passion for photography I resisted for years taking pictures while in the Islands. Doing anything professionally (or aiming for that) always results in a certain loss of innocence. I no longer make pictures solely for the sake of making them. There is a business need now that at times makes it feel more like work. I'm quite certain professional golfers regard golf as work more than a game. It is their livelihood and as such requires endless practice and carries with it even more pressure. While growing up the Islands was a place of play and relaxation, I was reluctant to taint that with the pressure of having to produce beautiful photos of the region. With time my passion eventually got the better of me and I embarked down that road. After all, how could I resist capturing the beauty of this place? But while I have made many beautiful photographs of the area, it has come at a price. Some of that innocence has been lost. Much of the time I used to spend as a child immersing myself in the natural wonders of this place is now spent behind the camera lens. I see it, but I don’t necessarily experience it.

Driving around one evening this past August with camera in tow I felt that frustration of being a stranger in a once familiar land. Sure, the lack of good light and consequently no worthwhile photos was part of it. Getting great shots always makes me feel better. But what I was actually searching for was something much more elusive than a great photograph. What I really wanted was to go back to that simpler time, sitting on the granite rock warmed by the afternoon sun, the smell of the river in the air, looking out over the beautiful St. Lawrence River, feeling free.

I found it in the photograph of Lost Channel.

By Chris Murray

TI Life readers were first introduced to Chris  July 2010 and the in January 2011 he wrote “Thousand Islands Rocks” providing a unique perspective on the Islands geology.  Often over the year Chris shares his beautiful photograph with TI Life on Facebook.  His unique shots of the Canadian Rockies are outstanding.   All can be found at  Chris Murray Photography.

Posted in: Photography, People
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Herb Swingle
Comment by: Herb Swingle ( )
Left at: 7:07 PM Tuesday, October 16, 2012
As a retired teacher of History,I have always had an interest in"The Lost Channel.Tremendous photo and story!
Scott L
Comment by: Scott L ( )
Left at: 4:19 PM Thursday, October 18, 2012
Nice story and an excellent photo. Every summer I make a few trips to the river. The waters around the Canadian bridge are a magical place. I always make it a point to cruise through the lost channel, bensons rift, and the international rift at least once each year. Is it bad if I am counting the months until spring...already? Thanks for sharing your photo.
Comment by: Alina ( )
Left at: 7:09 AM Friday, November 23, 2012
The Photos were the most eye catching part that forced me to go through the story. This definitely looks like a perfect place to go for a picnic with friends.
Linda Maves
Comment by: Linda Maves ( )
Left at: 4:58 PM Monday, October 28, 2013
I love to see the beautiful pictures and read with interest the article. I am interested in this area because my great uncle Peter Mc kenzie lived in the area back in the 60's he apparently painted a picture which was titled Lost Channel in the st Lawrence, and in October /59 this painting was given to the Queen while she was visiting the area.
Chris Murray
Comment by: Chris Murray ( )
Left at: 8:22 AM Tuesday, October 29, 2013
That is so interesting, Linda, thank you for sharing that!

john grieve
Comment by: john grieve
Left at: 3:24 PM Wednesday, August 30, 2017
I just read your story, we just last year bought a home right in the lost channel beside the bridge, and spent our first summer right there, it is the most perfect place in the world, and I understand why your wrote this story, as we feel the same, and are living the dream as you did.