PORT TOWNSEND — For a long quarter of a minute, Alisa Steck waited, watching the torrent of water roar down.
And Steck’s photo, “Woman and Waterfall,” turned out just as she hoped. The image of Marymere Falls towering above a lone woman was accepted into the “Wet: Reflections on Water” photography exhibition. Then it won her the $500 Curator’s Choice Award.
The image is one among 49 photos exploring the power of water in “Wet,” at Northwind Art’s Jeanette Best Gallery, 701 Water St.
The exhibition closes this Sunday at the gallery, which is open noon to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Many of the photos are available for purchase, and visitors are invited to cast ballots in the People Choice Award voting all weekend.
“When photographing waterfalls, I always shoot very long exposures to give the falls an ethereal feel,” said Steck, who is from Bainbridge Island.
“This image is a real-life capture of a moment in time, not a set up with a model. I was crossing my fingers that she wouldn’t leave the location during my 15-second exposure. I was amazed she stood still the entire time,” she added.
Another Steck shot, also from the North Olympic Peninsula, appears in the “Wet” show: “Waterfall and Curious Dog.” It shows Rocky Brook Falls in Brinnon dwarfing a big dog below.
Three more photographers received $300 merit awards in the “Wet” show: Kathy Fridstein of Port Townsend for her “Littoral Impressions #3,” Sharon Swanson of Seattle for her Edward Hopperesque “Upstairs” and Elisabeth Mention of Port Townsend for her “Headdress.”
“There are so many I’m so moved by,” curator Christopher Rauschenberg said of the photos in “Wet.”
“Upstairs,” which shows a woman in the foreground with a sunlit chair and a window open to the sea behind her, is “very psychologically rich,” Rauschenberg said. The cofounder of the Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts’ Blue Sky gallery in Portland added that Swanson’s picture offers its viewer several messages.
“To me, that’s the value of art,” when a piece says one thing to you on Monday and something else on Tuesday, he said.
Fridstein, who often photographs a nearby Port Townsend beach, said her walks have become contemplative moments as the country tries to navigate through turbulence.
“I find it refreshing to watch the ocean’s tides come and go, depositing sea life and stones in different places each day. When I photograph these daily variations, I do not alter or move anything; I focus on the detail and texture,” she writes in her artist statement.
Mention, for her part, said that during the past three years of the pandemic, photography has become her creative outlet.
“I see beauty in virtually all the wonders that surround us. From the shape of a pat of butter melting in an iron skillet to a vast landscape seen from the air, I want to capture it and share it,” she said.
Ocean waves, urban rivulets and sea creatures also share the walls of the Jeanette Best Gallery. Lisa Luckenbach of Port Townsend’s photo of a green anemone evokes “the eye of Gaia,” Rauschenberg said, adding it looks like it’s wearing “wonderful, over-the-top drag makeup.”
“I never thought of Mother Nature being quite that girly, but I’ll take it,” he said.
“It’s so beautiful.”
When Rauschenberg laid out the whole “Wet” show, he placed Port Townsend photographer Sarah Wright’s “float” at the beginning. It pictures her husband, Reed Aubin, lying on the smooth surface of water, eyes closed.
“I wanted to start the show off with somebody being relaxed, and held up,” the curator said.
“It’s a really important thing to say: that water supports us.”