Sunday, December 30, 2007

Time & Matter

The march of days, the spin of the earth - no matter how I may try to deny it, photographs are always about bits of stuff transfixed in intervals of time. This is true for photographs in a way that is not true for paintings. Every photograph is of a specific place over a given span of time and is unalterably connected to that moment. A painter may paint Adam and Eve and we accept it. When a photographer tries, the resulting picture is likely to look like two naked actors in the park? And this fixation in time means that history treats photographs differently than it treats paintings. What does all this suggest about how differently these two media communicate something universal?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Earth Roll

The deep roll of the earth bristles under a light blanket of snow as if restless even in sleep and silently tumbles onward. What will the new year bring?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Pighouse in Snow, 2007

I never seem to get tired of shooting this tiny building which my daughter and I know as, "The Pighouse." If you were checking or receiving TODAY'S last May 15, you saw one of my earliest shots of it. Then, the first patina of green was appearing on the hillside. At that moment in the seasonal shift I could distinguish the lower forest from that farther up by a sudden shift in color and texture where the slope changed. That line part way up the hillside becomes a compositional element in the May photo. The line disappeared a few days later when all the leaves were fully open.

In contrast,, this December 14th photo is from the first snowfall of the season. For any photographers in the group, I've got my lens out to 400mm which in digital conversion is more like 600mm. That means I'm not quite snug, but sheltered in the doorway of one of the barns, and there's a good deal of snowfall between me and Pighouse. I did a bit of experimenting with shutter speed. Here at a tenth of a second the snow is silky; at a fiftieth of a second it looks more mealy. Jane always says, "Snow like meal, snow a gret deal." but neither of us know what that means. As I recall, there was a bit of wind. Overall it was a disappointing first show as nothing ever accumulated on the branches.

I'm looking forward to the next blizzard and have picked my perch. Unfortunately, there is no barn in which to take cover, and I need to work on strategies for dodging the inevitable snow flakes that take aim at my lens.

Have a good holiday and hope the new year brings new peace.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Dry Dock

The first photo-friendly snow of the season fell on December 14th. At 2 PM I was huddled just inside one of the barns of Straight Farm shooting out into the blizzard. I took some shots that may yet appear here. There are reasons why I often resist posting from my latest shoot. Sometimes I think a good image can be bettered, and the first take should be held back. Or in the process of shooting, I'll take a good shot but think, "A half an hour earlier would have been perfect." or "If only it weren't hazy." or "Two days ago and the snow would have been fresh." So it was with this shot taken on December 18th.

A book I once read advised, "When you see a shot, always stop and take it. It won't be there when you come back." I shot nine images here even though I knew that I'd have better opportunities. Of the nine, I only shot one that included this much sky and thus caught the dance of the trees. I passed up a second opportunity on Thursday when the light was better and the snow was worse. I passed again today and a large, boat had been dry-docked right beneath the windows. I don't think it will be sailing on before spring.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


On first view one misses much of the lower pond. Turn away from the sunny embankment posted yesterday. Turn, and the pond opens to a shadowed recess where the eastern wall of the ravine had been.

A pond like this is never completely still. There's always some little thing bubbling up to the surface, a branch cracking, a wood duck gliding out of view behind tree stumps, a breeze on the water that can't be felt. Somewhere in back of this picture the pond spills into a rut beside the old road, then crosses where the road has washed away, passes a clearing where old mattresses and a broken multimedia hutch crumble and rot, tumbles over rock and broken culverts until it again finds a fit stream bed, and heads off toward Thomaston.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Beyond the Middle Pools

I'm sure that the first time I walked this way I moved quickly through the middle pools - a corridor to something bigger and sunlit beyond. In fact, what I like best about this lowest pool - really a pond - is its contradictions.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

#5 Bog Time

John Szarkowski: "There is in fact no such thing as an instantaneous photograph. All photographs are time exposures, of shorter or longer duration, and each describes a discrete parcel of time. This time is always present. Uniquely in the history of pictures, a photograph describes only that period of time in which it was made."

and a bit further on,

"There is a pleasure and a beauty in this fragmenting of time that had little to do with what was happening. It had to do rather with seeing the momentary patterning of lines and shapes that had been previously concealed within the flux of movement."

Only when the water is still are the images consistent. Then one picks the frame and shoots, but when the breeze plays on the pool's surface every shot is a new discovery. Change the shutter speed, and even more effects are possible. However, one is only certain what one has much later on when the images as "virtual contact sheets" are viewed on the computer. When the wind was quiet and the water's surface still, the shots proved crisp and bland.

I watched through my viewfinder as the breezes rippled the surface until I was no longer watching the ripples but riding the undulating forms leaping through the frame, and then shooting became easy. After review, of many shots taken, it was clear to me that this was the one to choose.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

#4 Bog Runes

A hexagonal room, five three-foot wide, white walls closing around a three-foot wide entry - the center of my portion of the fall exhibit. On each wall, one of the images taken at the inner pools - a small chamber of quiet - a destination - a place to stop and enter five distinct winks of the shutter.

Friday, December 14, 2007

#3 Bog in Double Oscillation

The main trail down to what is known as "Plunge Pool," is off the beaten path but not unknown. It descends from the ancient road alongside a creek and then runs along the eastern side of Plunge Pool across from the deepest plunge and the previously mentioned lookout. Where the pool is cinched in, like a woman's waist, our trail climbs a steep hill amid Mountain Laurel and then abruptly forks. To casual appearance the left fork, afte dropping again steeply, dead ends, so most people go right. What appears a dead end is actually the entrance to the inner sanctum. Cross the gully on the conveniently "fallen" log and we''ve reached the bottom edge of Plunge Pool and our new trail.

Most people never realize there are, in fact, five Plunge Pools here. Without quite realizing it we are crossing an earthen dam; there is water to our left and, just a few feet lower, also on our right. Whether men reinforced the work of beavers or beavers the work of men, both have practiced engineering here. Having crossed the dam the traveler needs faith. Just plunge in at the most likely spot where the brush is thinnest and the outlet from the upper pool is most rock-studded. Somewhere on the other side is our trail. Now, mostly sealed off from the upper pool, we have reached the three tiny pools that descend like a staircase through a narrow ravine. Later in the summer the outer, official pool will be a garden of water lilies, but these three inner pools will then be mostly algae. Right now they are clear. The water in this new pool moves slowly amid fallen trees and ancient boulders and then stops. There is no visible outlet, just another dam. Somewhere beneath, the water penetrates to the next pool, and so it goes.

There are shots to be taken in all 3 of these pools. Every day I went back for more, arriving around 2:30 and shooting until the last of the light fell behind the cliff around 4 PM. As I reviewed my daily images, I was eager to post some of them online. However, back then I was still building sites whole, and didn't want to devote photo time to publishing. It was a big job. Then, as I was thinking about making audio tapes of the frogs, my lens was lured somewhere new, and I stopped going to Plunge Pool.

This fall, in thinking about what to exhibit at Camera's Eye, I chose to use the series of Plunge Pool Reflections as the core of that exhibit. It was the first time I had printed any of the images.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

#2 Bog Glyphs

I photographed the Plunge Pools into the beginning of April. I liked the quiet of the place, even a faint sense of danger there. The name Plunge Pool stems from their position at the bottom of a very steep slope. At the top is a lookout along a trail that ran here long before Europeans, but from the lookout on the ancient trail it is impossible to know the narrow gorge with the small pools exists. From the bottom, as I shot, the cliff was always a looming shadow, and it felt as if the world of these pools had dropped from earth into some remote space of slimy things and ooze and a wonderful display of light in the clarified pools. The sun set early and fast in those hollows, and the trail back to civilization was through one of the least traveled areas of the White Woods.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Plunge Pool Early Spring, 2006, No. 1

In late March of 2006 I spent a good deal of time shooting pictures in the back pools, really almost bogs, behind Plunge Pool in Litchfield, CT. It is a quiet spot. Few people go there. There's a single log spanning a creek, an improvised bridge, and then a spot with some rock hopping - thick, soft mud often awaits any misstep - before you get to the trail along the western edge of the pools. A series of three pools, each notably lower than the one before, cross a narrow passage to a larger pool. There used to be a road back there along the far side, but it washed out and sections are now under water. By late march things were beginning to stir. A warm spell woke the frogs and got them singing, but the water was clear as I'd never seen it before.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hay for Sale

JOHN SZARKOWSKI: "Painting was difficult, expensive and precious, and it recorded what was known to be important. Photography was easy, cheap and ubiquitous, and it recorded anything: shop windows and sod houses and family pets and steam engines and unimportant people. And once made objective and permanent, immortalized in a picture, these trivial things took on importance."

I shot this photo in February during one of the big storms. I'd passed it hundreds of times before, but I never thought to take a picture. I posted a number of shots from that storm shoot, and this one was always in the "almost" category, but it got cycled onto my desktop periodically, and each time it came up I liked it more. In late March I even edited it for TODAY'S. At that time I experimented with removing the electric wire, but the space above the barn looked too empty. It was set and ready to go on April 1 with the wire, but again something else nudged it aside, and it fell to the back of the pack. I exhibited it with The Camera's Eye in May, but it attracted little attention, I think. I wish I fully understood my attraction to the image.

Last night an ice storm passed across Connecticut (as well as much of the rest of the country), and this morning all the branches to their outermost limbs were glazed and crusted with ice. It could have been a photogenic moment. Instead, I went to the mall and post this.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Through the Fog, a Barn

It was very September. I was also very trespassing, shooting at what I've come to call, "End of the Bog Farm." The propery was vacant, lonely, and still. Just in case, I was watching the mist. A trespassed tresspass is best answered by a quickly tendered handshake. I was watching for a person. I didn't expect another barn to appear in the mist just there. And it was red. The barns I was shooting were distinctively tan.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Sunken Forest

The weather has suddenly turned cold. Yesterday they predicted snow, but what we got was unphotogenic, so I'm looking back over photos taken earlier in the fall. The morning I took this shot near Coleman Station, NY, I was disappointed that the fog was not thicker. However, the effect it made from the top of this ridge was startling. I took the shot not believing it would make a good picture. It's been haunting my computer desktop ever since, and I've been looking for chance to post it. It looks especially nice now that the leaves are off the trees and everything has nearly lost color.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Outside Space

[A NOTE ON THE PREVIOUS TODAY'S - HELP REQUESTED: I received a number of comments both positive and negative on "Inner Space." A few people commented on its darkness. In fact, if your monitor (and my monitor) is correctly adjusted there should only be a few shapes visible other than the two bright forms. It should appear as if you have just come from sunlight to the edge of a darkened room and your eyes have not yet adjusted.

If the barely visible highlights between the two forms were not visible at all or, alternately, if you could see the interior space clearly, please let me know. One of us needs to adjust. As I've just calibrated my new monitor, I'm very curious to find out if it is in sync with most of you. Any comment regarding how the image looked on your monitor would be helpful in assessing whether my calibration has been successful.]

Saturday, December 1, 2007