•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Falling Leaf, the Sprouting Stalk


PHOTOGRAPHER'S DIARY: First it was the leg of my "indestructible," Bogen-Manfrotto tripod that fell into pieces. Then my pedometer turned into dashes that looked like DNA, and I thought maybe I'd run out of steps. Then, Monday, my camera blitzed just as the sky filled with clouds painted by Magritte. I remain undaunted. (Yes, Eddie!) So after all that, why should my first outing lead to a cemetery, and why had so many birds, fortunately no crows, come down to perch and watch me shoot? Was I tresspassing? ...enough to make one superstitious, and I wondered: If I wasn't supposed to be here doing this, where was I supposed to be and what was I supposed to do? Perhaps the birds would be good enough to answer.

It is an old family cemetery overlooking a farmstead. Descendants of the first farmers still run the farm today, and all of those who ran it then now lie here. I was hoping to find a picture that might say something like that. I'd tried in the fall before all the leaves were off the trees, but the angles were too tight. They were only a bit better today, still no-go. At least I couldn't see them. Then a small flock of sheep, potentially ideal players for the story I wanted to tell, trotted down to graze in the farthest field. They had to be placed just so or the composition would be cluttered. As soon as I'd moved so, they'd spy a juicier bit of grass and discompose me. Following "so" kept me hopping. The sheep were merciless.

MENTAL NOTE: How can I rig the remote so it hangs where I expect it when I reach to shoot? It was so nice when Nikon built in a wireless trigger. Then I might have had sheep.

I left the cemetery intent on walk, but soon I was stopped by reddish brush I'd never noticed back in the pasture. A horse fence cast a strong shadow; fence and shadow made a good leading line into the composition where a rock outcropping caught good side light. The whole composition set up fine, but I didn't push the shutter. The shot had a great hole in the center; it was about nothing.

As always, I wondered, "Did it matter?" In this case it needed a horse or something. As I looked through the viewfinder at the perfectly framed composition, a large brown leaf dropped through my frame. No reflex would have been fast enough to catch it. The thought occurred to me that all of the images I like best have about them the immediacy of that falling leaf. Rarely is it due to stopped motion. Often it is a quality of light or a silence waiting to be broken. In yesterday's photo it was in the beckoning of an open door and the knowing eye of a watchful window. "The Falling Leaf." -an icon around which I can measure any photo? The name for an enterprise?

Just then a hawk swooped slowly across the passing swamp.  I had my long lens in place, but I knew I'd never catch him. Yes, the immediacy of the hawk's wing too, a falling leaf is only half the story, but I'm not so interested in shooting hawks.

MENTAL NOTE: How can I be more ready for lambs and hawks?

Yes, and there was a blue jay too, posing for me where he could soak in the midday sun. I wondered why the birds seemed so especially lively today. Spring began a week ago, but there beside the wall the sprouts had only just now nudged the ground aside. Of course, "hawk" rhymes with "stalk." By summer they would be stalks. Was that it, "Every photo should have about it the immediacy of a falling leaf or a sprouting stalk"?

Be sure to view this phot against a dark background and turn down the light beside you computer, and zoom in close.