Friday, August 8, 2008

Bog Hollow Melody

PHOTOGRAPHER'S DIARY: The past week has taken me back to Bog Hollow (1), (2), (3), (4). Those of you nearby know that the weather has been producing daily, localized, drenching storms and the kinds of clouds that send landscape photographers scrambling for foreground. The two farms near bog hollow have lots of foreground as well as hilly pasture for the middle ground over which the storm clouds can sail the high ground like white galleons through my photographic images.

One of the farmsteads is deserted. The fields are hayed, but the buildings are silent. A circle of crumbling barns and sheds surround a farmyard of high grass and wildflowers going to seed; its a pleasant place to "settle into my viewfinder" and compose images. These last few days I've been arriving at Bog Hollow in the late afternoon and shooting until sunset. I reach here last, - this farmstead, the cloister of my sunset vigil, two mourning doves, the choir.

It is a hard heart that does not soften to the sad cooing of these creatures. Why does it touch us so? What is it in the core of human nature that makes this music powerful? Whatever the reason, it's reassuring to know such responses seem to be a part of us, built into our genetic makeup.

The other day my vigil led me to photographing one of these barns where the sunlight caught rusted wire screening and cast a shadow on a ruined, shed wall. I was composing the overlay of side-lit wire, shadow, and rotting wall. Inside me and out, the meadow was buzzing and doves were cooing, and I was absorbed in making images. When my attention turned fully on the doves, I realized one was just above my head, high up on a cupola. I'd photographed the cupola earlier with the dove as finial, but I'd been far off and instead of moving in on the dove, I'd turned to shooting wire screen and its shadows. What surprised me was that he was still there even though I was fewer than fifteen feet as the dove flies. I was just beneath him.

While the music of mourning doves is haunting, I've often thought the birds quite homely. They are utterly graceless on our patio pecking seed or flapping down to perch on the top of a silo, but in the evening light I was admiring the bluish bronze mottle of the mourning dove's coat and the brightness of his eye. Well, I had to photograph him; he demanded a portrait and posed until I complied. Then he flew off. Where in the scheme of things does the morning dove sit. I don't do birds, and I don't do portrits.

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