Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cold Stone

This morning was the third time this week I have been up and out to catch the dawn. What I really wanted, however, was the dawn fog that is endemic to the valley just east of the Housatonic Valley. This morning I got it, a cool fog that tasted of the cellar steps and sent chilled damp through my nostrils.

I delayed my visit to new farms in Amenia Union to visit with spirits here. I have tried in past visits to work the fence into an image, This is the first to please me.

I had chosen a different shot to end this halloween series. I like that one quite well, but I'm sending this today if for no other reason than it really was taken today, Halloween.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

Witch's Oils

About, about, in reel and rout
The death-fires danced at night;
The water, like a witch's oils,
Burnt green, and blue, and white.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

This Ol' House

We meet them at the doorway, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Bone Garden

Eye of newt and toe of frog,
What is moving through this fog?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Silence at the Top

A few days back you saw this field from a different angle and at dusk, and I wrote about the naming of hills, but this view calls for deep silence and sometimes geese.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dry Bottom

Having missed the summer haying, I hadn't walked down through the hayfields since spring. In the Southwest drought means terrible fires; in Atlanta it means thirst. So far it has not been so serious here, but when I got down to the edge of the swamp, the ground around the ferns was too dry, and there were parts of the bog where I walked on dry, cracked mud. Could we be losing this precious swampland?

In fact, I've learned that once much of the area I've come to know as Hollow Swamp was farmland. Probably beavers started the conversion when the farmers stopped planting the fields, but the real change came when they raised the road across the bottom of the bottomlands. The land on both sides of the road is legally wetland, but downstream it is forest, upstream it is teeming bog - except now.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


This may be a lesson in patience:

The sounds of the outside world rarely penetrate to the hills above and below Straight Farm, and usually the only evident inhabitants are the birds and deer. It's joy just to be here, but for me it continues to seem an apparently endless source of new photographic ideas. In spite of this, I've found the large forms of the main barns difficult to shoot. Instead, my camera picks at the details or shoots the fields, trees, and outbuildings. Of photos published on TODAY'S, only two show anything of the silo.

On Sunday we spent part of our Colors Marathon here, and I saw that the fields were freshly mowed. I decided then that I would get back at first opportunity to walk down through the field east of the farmstead to the southern edge of the property where it meets Hollow Swamp. More on that in a subsequent post.

On my way back I climbed up along the eastern edge of the field, not crossing back to the farmstead until I could see the barns end view, and I approached it dead on. What a surprise to come on this old friend from such a new angle!

Here finally was a whole face of the barn that would yield itself up to my lens without asking for compromises. At last a true place for the vines and the one, mute window whose expressive ring had always appealed to me! And the silo's patina, not yet weather-scrubbed on the northeastern side! I'd used the bank on which the farmstead sits as a platform to get angle above the fields; I'd never seen it as a carpeted apron textured in fallen leaves to anchor the image. Even the orange tree which had turned a brilliant orange but only in isolated patches that made it more weird than photographically useful... even that tree turns in a bravura performance doing exactly what is needed.

It's not that I haven't tried. Perhaps the picture isn't ready to happen until the picture is ready to happen, and the gift is being there at the right time and place to find it. Or perhaps others would have spotted it early on and had a hundred good shots by now.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cornrows on Rabbit Hill

Walking farmlands and meadows one sees how the land lies and chooses a path freely and fully knowing the roll of the earth between here and there. Doing so I have become more convinced than ever that I'm walking the back of a vast beast. This knowledge is less evident to forest goers who follow the beaten trail or the river. From this cornfield I can see vast distances to my left and right. Once, when travel was slower and more toplands were cultivated, such long views were easier to find, and travelers and farmers who looked daily across the hills knew their names.

Those arcane names can still be found on old the maps and Nat'l Geologic Survey topos. There's a name for almost every moderate sized hump around here. Most are forgotten. It was years before I realized I lived in the valley between Mt. Tom and Mt. Rat, but a hundred years ago such names were the way one knew where one was. I know of Rabbit Hill because Rabbit Hill Road leads to this hilltop. It must be Rabbit Hill. Back when, they named the road so everyone would understand, "Go here, and you'll get to the top of that Rabbit Hill you saw from the last hillock. Trails are insidious, and I'm certain our ancestors were quickly seduced, but I wonder how their more spatial understanding of the great beast we ride affected how they felt about her?

Small steps, like the march of the corn stalks make a matrix of earth's roundness
from her sunny fullness to her boggy hollows.
In the forest one follows the old trail or the river's path.
In the meadow, one walks free and contiguous.

After my photofriends from Maine went their separate ways, Jane and I went to the goose pond above Lake Waramaug where the sun sets. On the way back the recently cut hay and corn were catching irresistable sunset light. This and several other shots were a fine conclusion to a lovely day of shooting. Other shots taken Sunday can be seen at:

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sitting Pumpkin

Sunday was billed as a marathon, fall, colors shoot . Friends who met at a summer photo workshop in Maine were to arrive through the morning. Car trouble made for a rough start and an early finish, but from 10:30 to 4 PM we explored sites in The Hollow and Spring HIll Vineyard. One member has already published a bunch of his images, and I'm impressed by his speed in and wit in seeinbg and setting up images, ...and his color. It's both inspiring and humbling to see what others find in places I've been shooting for months. Although I've shot this spot since last winter, until recently I stayed away from the front porch, mostly out of a feeling of not wanting to intrude, but now I've gone and done it.

Late-breaking news, a few of Rebecca's shots can be seen at:

Friday, October 19, 2007

Southwest Elbows

It's reassuring to know that contact sheets (and virtual contact sheets) have posed problems for the greatest of photographers. There are times, of course, when photographers know what they want, and the contact sheet provides a record of the refining of the idea. There are times also when the image is not there until a serendipitous event clinches it. For me, however, it is more often the case that at the end of a series of shots, all I have is options that seem to offer different advantages.

On August 23rd of this year I posted on my blog and sent to subscribers a different image from this series under the title, "Staying Rooted." In the note I grumbled about the difficulty of choosing. Above is the image I chose not to post. This link leads to what I did post:

As I posted the other image, I quietly filed this image in a folder titled, "Reflection," in preparation for the exhibition just completed with The Camera's Eye. Unfortunately, I followed a different path in assembling my exhibit photos, and it was only in final review of images that this one elbowed its way into the show just outside the door where the rest of my pictures hung. It is now similarly elbowing its way onto TODAY'S.

The sun rose early on July 8th. My first shot was at 5:03 AM. By my second shot, 20 seconds later the sun was peaking over the hillside. By 5:10 the bay was covered by a broad blanket of clouds and by 5:18 the sun had almost entirely disappeared behind those clouds. Even so I continued shooting until 5:29. Throughout , my decision-making was rushed by my late arrival, rapidly changing conditions and a mood just short of panic. A vision of what I wanted? All I had was a knowledge of the site from previous shoots. I exploited that knowledge as best I could and scampered around within 30 feet of my car framing what I could as best I could. The 59 shots that resulted testify to how small changes in position and zoom can create vastly different meanings. This shot, perhaps, emphasizes the security of the harbor and the lure of the open sea and the unknown. Some shots emphasize rapid change and others calm. A few suggest the precariousness of civilization hugging the shore. It only takes a small tilt of the lens to make such vast changes, and I would be lying if I said I was aware of all of these differences as I shot through the tiny viewfinder. I'd also be lying if I said many of the shots were fully committed to the meanings just identified. I've come to believe this one, at least, is. Ah, choosing!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Autumn Brew

The time of fall colors is so short that in other years I often rushed to catch as many stunning pictures as possible. This is a destructive impulse, a mad dash to snag butterflies out of the air. It has taken me this long to learn to take this season as just a swelling of the color palette, a chance to find in old landscapes new blushes and highlights. At the least, these blushes and highlights allow one to recompose the familiar. However, with the low autumn sun beaming an incendiary sunset blaze, fireworks can erupt out of nowhere.

I've long enjoyed the old silo at Kallstrom Farm , and I've included it in many photos. As the leaves behind the farm color up, work has begun to restore it. They were pouring new concrete floor supports as I took this shot. Tomorrow is supposed to be nasty, so by the time the sun returns to light these trees, the leaves will have changed and the silo may have a new roof.

This silo is unusual. Basically a silo is a big barrel made relatively airtight in which the stalks and greens of the corn are packed and in which they ferment into what must be an intoxicating gruel to keep Elsie contented through the long, winter months. Many silos made of either wood or concrete are wrapped with great steel bars like the hoops that make a barrel hold its shape. Unlike most wooden silos, this one is built more like the frame construction of a house - a structure of members covered inside and out with a wooden "skin." Brent Kallstrom pointed out the obvious defect of using stud instead of barrel construction: the cavity inside the wall provides a series of passages away from winter's cold where rodents can access any part of the silage and enjoy a long winter celebration at Elsie's expense.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Autumn Tractor

I'm told this tractor is from the 1920s or 30s. Restoring it is one future plan among many at Cold Stream Farm. Right now they are at work saving the old wooden silo, so I'm shooting there every chance I get and hoping the silo's forest backdrop is in full autumn dress before they cap the silo with a new roof.

But this shot was taken behind the silo. It was taken after most of the light was gone, and I had given up shooting.

I looked at the tractor again this afternoon when the sky was crisp and bright and dappled sunlight filtered through the leaves. After a few moments of almost shooting, I decided I preferred the flat light I'd already captured here and moved on without a click.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Amber Waves

The hills and valleys of Connecticut's northwest hill towns don't look like this. Descend into the valley east of Sharon and one is quickly in spaces more vast. Things rock and roll here to a different beat, more spread out. more expansive. As I walk the land, composing it in my mind, the hills often rearrange themselves more slowly, and I get fewer shots per gallon. After a long day of exploring the route 22 corridor between Amenia and the Massachusetts border, I had little to show.

The haze did not quite kill the strong sidelight of the late afternoon sun, and my eye was grabbed by the edgy texture of the foreground soy crop and its contrast with the tassels of the drying corn in the next field. I had gotten permission to shoot on this farm just south of Copake, NY, and the farmer told me his land stretched to the foot of the tall mountain that formed the valley's eastern wall. Soon he had sent me out along a farm road. It was on the way back that I came upon this fine filigree which one might imagine stretching endlessly in either direction, left or right, or mitered into a pretty picture frame. Can you tell we're getting closer to the mighty Hudson?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Mr. Barn

I've tried repeatedly for two months to shoot this barn on Perotti Farm. Unfortunately it sits close up against a hillside and next to busy rt. 22. It is an outbuilding across from a major dairy operation that lies awkwardly in a "flatiron" plot of land where a county road forks off into the hills. I've walked both roads in both directions looking for angles that capture the barn and make it read. It's hard to move back from it and not put unrelated and distracting stuff into the image, nor does it ever quite command the frame. I think I'd almost given up, yet the detailing on the cupola, and the pleasing proportions, and the gaping mouth kept calling.

In any case, I was shooting at a farm I thought to be 5 or 10 miles off. I'd just shot the power line photos from which the previous image was taken, and I'd decided to cross into a new area of hayfield for some new angles. My path led down to what I thought must be a stream bed and then up to a point higher than I'd been, but I thought I might be unable to cross the stream bed. As it turned out, there was none, and I began my climb. Only when I reached the half-way point up the hill was I sure the line of brush and trees at the field's perimeter was unbroken; no link to further fields! I decided to climb to the back edge anyhow, It was the high point and just maybe it was penetrable.

In fact, there was neither wall nor fence and I found a spot where the brush was less thick. Popping through to the other side, I found myself in a newly harvested corn field. The power lines continued marching across to the next hillside on my left across a deep valley, and a lovely farm lay in the valley floor off to the right. What a quiet cozy spot! But something about the farm looked familiar. ... and then two trucks sped through and I realized I was standing atop a hill over route 22 looking down on Perotti Farm that was supposed to be so many miles away.

I guess it would always have been possible to climb the corn field from the 22 side. I've climbed many others. Perhaps eventually I would have gotten permission and tried it. In fact, it's a much longer climb than it appears here. The picture has a soft fuzzy quality because I have my long zoom opened all the way out to 400mm which functions on a digital camera as if it were more than 650mm. That's a vary powerful magnifier and I'm a long way away. And remember, it was foggy, so part of the fuzziness is haze. I'm considering working it further. I want to soften it even more, perhaps by making it more grainy. I'd be interested in others' thoughts.

It is sheer luck that Mr. Tractor was parked in the exact right spot

Thursday, October 4, 2007


One of the challenges I took for myself almost two years ago was to capture the noble roll of the Northwest hills, and I'm always on the lookout for good sites or supporting characters to help tell that story. A month or so ago I got access to the Collins Farm and discovered these giants striding across the hilltops. When the sky is clear you can follow them with your eye over all the intermediate hills and right across the top of the big hill in the background. I've been trying since then to compose them into an effective image.

This morning I set out 45 minutes before dawn in hope of again finding fog again in Sharon Cemetery. In the previous post Dick called me, "a fog specialist." In truth, I'm just learning how this fall, fog thing works, and I'm even beginning to learn to adapt and roll with the billows. When I came over the hill east of Sharon and found myself rising into the fog, I suspected I would be disappointed. To shoot the cemetery I need a fog that settles into the valleys, not one that brushes over the hilltops. As I came out the west side of Sharon and passed the cemetery there was no fog, but just a mile further I quickly rose into a fog that made me strain to see the road ahead.

Adaptation: Collins Farm lies low in the hills and has broad prospects across the valley that I might be able to shoot. In fact, light fog separated the barns of the farmstead, and I spent some time shooting there. By the time I had hiked up here the fog had thinned a bit, but the hill behind me, like the hill in front, was still blanketed in. Somewhere in the fog in front of us is Sunset Ridge Farm, perhaps just two or three towers on.

After many tries, at last a shot of the striding giants that satisfies me! I'm hoping that when I print this there will be enough differentiation to suggest the intermediate hills. It's going to be close.

Monday, October 1, 2007


My initial destination at 6 AM was too smothered in fog for driving, much less shooting images. I groped my way back through the murk to this ancient cemetery. It was awhile before I noticed the house. However, after shooting a half dozen images here, the house vanished. I was looking through my viewfinder, and all of a sudden it wasn't there.

It is October 1. The stores have declared it Halloween month. At WalMart they will charge you for good fog like this and a styro tomb stone to spread it over. Happy Halloween. I'm going back to the cemetery tomorrow, but I'm bringing my plastic rat.