Monday, April 30, 2007

Processing an Image

The process required to bring a single image to completion is often lengthy. After a good day's shoot, often between 200 and 400 images, I look forward to reviewing the catch. That may take a full evening. Until I can see them on my computer monitor, I'm not sure what I have. Even then, my mind may not be made up, but if I'm lucky one or two images will jump out as keepers. Sometimes these need little more than tweaking, scrubbing the inevitable spots, the result of gunk that is always attracted to the ccd of my camera, a bit of sharpening, an adjustment of levels or a balancing of highlights and shadows. However, some images need time to settle in, for me to make up my mind, and often images take much work in Photoshop before they look the way I want.

This photo was taken at Kallstrom Farm during our one big blizzard this winter. At that time I was preoccupied with another image from the set. That shot has already appeared on the blog. I wasn't sure how I felt about this dark dance. When I finally went back and decided to finish it there was much to be done. Balancing tones to bring out the storm was tricky and of prime importance. The screen image was not quite the same as the printed image, and each printing gets a new letter designation. There was also a white rain gutter that glared in the gloom and had to be removed. By the time I had a print I liked, I was on version "c." Last week I gave a print to Brent Kallstrom, and he wisely wondered if the large stake in the center of the image might be removed. Rather than remove it, I have lowered it; I like the pattern of the wire fence that keeps us from entering the image, but I'd missed how distracting the stake supporting it was. It has been significantly lowered. Not counting the time spent shooting and identifying the image, there is at least 3 or 4 hours of process time in this, and the storm has long been history.

Images from new farms recently shot have been in process for several weeks. I will have to shoot more at each site and process some of those before I know which are ready for "Today's" and the blog. While I ponder those and wait for more good sky or sunshine or moody fog to make the landscape photogenic is a good time to finish up and publish images that have grown on me with time. This image is now ready.

Your comments posted here or sent via email are always welcome, whether words of encouragement or suggestions for improvement..

Saturday, April 28, 2007

First Leafing

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday the New England Regional Genealogy Conference took place in Hartford. Jane and I were supposed to be there throughout, but after seeing little of interest on Saturday's, long program except the banquet speaker for which we had already (unfortunately) paid unrefundable cash, we skipped out.

No banquet speaker could compare with the evening I spent in Kent Hollow. A post storm sky proved not quite as good as I'd hoped, but here and there tentative leafings spattered accents in the contours of hills, and I pretended to be Monet. Does the impulse to shoot, "things" make us miss such images? Quiet fireworks! Shots like this were everywhere, and it feels very good to be home. Thanks, Frances, for taking care of the imaginary cat and the very real pigs, and especially thanks to Melissa, Jane and Jonathan for their help in delivering the computer workshops at NERG. Your support meant everything.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Dance Macabre

This image didn't come in the normal hunt for compositions. Instead of my searching for it, it grabbed me after I thought I was done for the day. I'd made my way through the muck at the bottom field of Rabbit Hill; I'd stopped at the cows and snapped a few token images of cow dinner. As I left the cows and turned to climb the last hill between the farm buildings, this shot was just there. I'd passed that spot many times, but I had never seen it quite as I saw it then. I took one shot and then considered a bit. Then I adjusted the camera to level the windows, shifted position to get them less hidden, and shot again. The second shot was properly balanced, more polite, a result of my conscious judgement, but it was the unruly first child that won my love. I've learned to heed such signals, though in this case, others may be wondering why.

Back at my computer, I needed to bring this strange photo to fruition. At first, I got the processing wrong, warmed the colors, lightened the shadows. Again, my conscious mind was trying to make the shot polite, do what one is supposed to do. At first I printed the wrong shot by accident, but even after printing it is this dark, homely child that has won my love. Perhaps it's a child only a parent could love.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Three Sisters of Rabbit Hill

Yesterday evening I finally got access to the field directly below Tanner's Rabbit Hill Farm. Up until now it has been too wet and messy, and I have been peeking around bushes and between clumps of trees from one field over, looking for the best clear shots of the angles I want. It's still messy, and now the insects are just appearing, newly hatched mosquitos and the clouds of Mayflies that announce the less pleasant parts of spring. This field is below the farmstead; it is where all the runoff from the cows winter pen drains, but it is a new angle on old friends, and nothing could have kept me out on such a gorgeous evening..

Frances commented on yesterday's post, "For you it always seems to be the music of intersecting geometric forms. For me, it is always the unstated questions, the secrets: What might be going on in the fastness of those barns? Where is the access road to that courtyard in the center that will lead me to them? The focal point is on that inaccessible place, that intriguing space, and the people are stilled in time." What a terrific comment to set me thinking. In fact, an essential part of my attraction to New England farmsteads is the mystery of time and mortality. I'm not sure I've taken a photo that says it better than today's post. Sadly, the eldest sister is already stooped, twisted, and arthirtic. Still, the loft window still joins in song.

Can you find two of these barn's in yesterday's photo?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Rabbit Hill Redux

Like many children, I was fascinated by castles and fortresses and imagined, drew, and built with blocks my dreams of walls and towers surmounted by walls and towers. It is that piling on that keeps drawing me back to some of my favorite farmsteads. The Tanner Farm at the top of Rabbit Hill is one of the best. Sadly, many of these old farms are like ag├ęd grandparents whose remaining days must be treasured. The double barn in the center of this farm could fall in any moderate wind storm. Mrs. Tanner told me yesterday that they had an estimate on the cost of repair a few years back: $750,000.

After our days of storm, wind and flat gray clouds, yesterday the sun returned full force and I was glad to find all of the barns still standing. I'd been waiting for just such a moment to get back. One of my favorite shots from the winter was marred by some blurring, a result of the strong breeze that kept my tripod in slight motion. Such problems become great when shooting at 500mm. I got the shot I wanted and many others as well. This shot, actually, a composite of two, was not planned. Artie will be glad to see people (I think).

Since last year Luke Tanner has passed management of the farm to his grandson who does all the chores together with his wife. Below, they feed the cows and reflect on the day's work. I've watched them do this every evening I've been there, and was glad to catch this shot which I will give them. Working dairy farms are disappearing. In spite of the condition of some of the barns and the difficulty of the site. Luke's grandchildren have chosen to stay and make their stand here.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bunnell Geometries II

Look at the previous post. A few steps to the right produces this surprising variation. Initially, I considered this image as an alternative to yesterday's post. For a week or two both of these prints have been sitting out among my new photos. This week I added both in adjacent windows in the portfolio of copies I keep. I think they might easily be hung next to each other as a pair. However, I'd be interested in the thoughts of others.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bunnell Geometries

Try as I might, it's tough to keep the picture pasted flat to the page; it keeps wanting to jump up and dance. I must have 40 variants of this shot. Every slight movement changes the tempo; move enough and its a new picture entirely. Also, the window reflects sky at certain times of day, and it is clear that the panes are set oddly. Here it is at its most abstract, just a series of radiating triangles in shades of red and gray? I'm hoping for a vigorous spring to inspire the vine in the background. Perhaps this is only a draft of a photo yet to be taken.

Can't seem to get away from shooting windows.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Scherzo Disjunct

On the walls of the Bunnell's parlor hung several large aerial photos of the farm. The earliest of these showed the intersection in front of the property, lined with elms. That aerial photo was taken about 1950.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Windows, walls, and roof planes, everywhere intersecting in rich counterpoint - that, for me, is the fun and maybe the essence of Bunnell Farmstead.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bunnell Firewood

Yesterday's photo is more typical of the images I have been making at Bunnell Farm. However, as mentioned, I spent a portion of yesterday shooting Bud Bunnell and his neighbor turning a dead tree into firewood. Bud is the one on the tractor. He is 84 and the 5th generation of Bunnells to work the farm. It is 110 acres which Bud's GGGrandfather bought in 1860. Bud and his wife raised 10 children here. and they are happy to be retired. Evidently. the job description for retirment for Bud includes cutting trees into firewood. His son and grandson still work on the farm, though there are now horses instead of cows. While, so far, atypical of the pictures I've made, it is a great introduction to the overall richness and variety of forms throughout the farmstead.

Today Jane and i brought Bud a large framed print of another image from the tree sawing series and two other large prints. While we were there I learned all about the history of the barns and a bit about how they have changed. Bud said there were once 18 farms in the immediate vicinity of his. The good news is, Bunnell Farm is now protected acreage that will never be developed. The roof line of the large barn in the picture is the bad news. When barns develop such kinks, they are very difficult and expensive to preserve. As i mentioned yesterday, Bud's son Rick is hoping to take the barn down and rebuild it. In any case, Bud is happy to let me share his picture with you.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Bunnell Farm

No, it's not Cape Cod. I need a bit of distance before making hard decision with those. However, back in CT, I have found another farmer to welcome my camera. The boy I met at first was the seventh generation to work the farm. I have since met his father and grandfather. Today I shot pictures of his grandfather running the tractor and sawing trees. The geometries and rhythms of these barns are very complex. Best of all, lots of windows.