Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Monday, May 21, 2007

Freuhlingslied


You see what has happened, don't you? I returned to Straight Farmstead this evening. A week ago a shot from this very place was a throw-away, and now everything is reaching for the sunlight. In spring, especially, all things turn toward the heavens and the life-enabling energy of the sun. And the songs of the birds had changed too. Some fellow on a branch near me was whistling a fine, bold melody to the setting sun.

Before getting to Straight, I stopped at Macricostas Meadow to shoot the swallows nesting there. A week or two ago they were flying around everywhere, so I was surprised at how quiet it was at a time when I expected them to be even busier. A peek into one of the bird boxes, and I knew I was being watched. At another, a swallow head popped out, but the meadow remained quiet except for 5 circling turkey vultures. Their wings caught the light nicely, and I thought about taking aim with my lens, but I knew they were just too far. Their presence made the meadow all the more desolate, and I swore I would wait only until 5:50 and then buy myself a new set of birds.

I've concluded that what I witnessed in the meadow earlier was the nesting, and the commotion was the busy work of gathering and delivering bedding in preparation for the laying. I know that last year in June the meadow was filled with brigades of swallow arriving and leaving, feeding the young. My guess is that now is the time of waiting and feeding and getting strong for the work ahead in which every bird will have to gather food to feed himself and herself and few others beside. The meadow needs to be watched for signs of the first hatching.

I left Macricostas Meadow disappointed and made several productive stops on my way generally toward Straight Farm,. I wish I had arrived at Straight earlier to see how the turkey's dance had changed, but the light was turning sour by a haze of vapor. This shot was almost the last of the evening. It's a keeper. I'm going home to play some Schubert.

New Brunswick Storm, May 2006


For the past week weather has made shooting difficult. In fact, in some ways this spell of gray has been well timed. Preparation for our exhibition which opens this weekend would have been in conflict with my urge to catch the last of the opening leaves, just as it has kept me from adding to, "Today's." On the other hand, this storm system lying off the coast has moved in and out; it has been one of those in which expanses of slate gray periodically give way to dramatic skyscapes, the kind of skies where one quickly looks for anything that will compose them into an image. Any photographer moved by such weather must be always on alert for sudden changes, ready to quickly hop in the car and find the spot where a picture may lie waiting. Preparation for the exhibit has kept my nose down and my printer running, and such weather events have all been missed.

On the other hand, final prep for the show has sent me back through older images to find any that will fit with the other work in the show. In doing so, I came across this image taken just one year ago while I was on my way to a week-long photo workshop in New Brunswick, Canada. It illustrates, as well as any image I've taken, what one can catch when the clouds suddenly turn lively, and in the past year my skill with Photoshop has improved so that I can get much more out of the initial image than I could have when I shot it.

The signed date on the image reflects that I have worked it up fresh to try and extract every bit of contour from clouds and hillsides. In truth, it is one of those images that are almost beyond the reach of a camera; if one is to catch the shapes in the bright clouds on the right, one loses detail in the dark clouds on the left and the foreground soil turns black. I had time to snap 9 images before the clouds shifted. Three were bracketed shots (different exposures) very similar to this one. This image was made from the darkest of those. As shot, dark areas showed no detail. However, it was perfectly exposed to catch the cloud formations on the right. The latent image in the underexposed areas was enough that there was no need to take parts of the other shots and make a composite image.

Now that it is finished, however, I've decided it will not appear in the exhibit. For me, the hardest part of putting together an exhibit is cutting out shots for which there is no room and which don't quite fit with my thematic intent. Much as I like this finished image, it will not fit. I've chosen to show very few broad landscapes in favor of the farmstead abstractions that have been catching my eye for some months now.

I'm glad I will see some of you at the show this weekend or next.