Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Maine Lobstermen

PHOTOGRAPHER'S DIARY: Upon Returning from a Week in Maine

Thanks to those who inquired about my absence. I remain alive and well. My annual summer jaunt to the coast of Maine has proven to be more than refreshing. A workshop aboard a converted fishing boat, "The Wanderbird," with photographer, Neal Parent, is a privilege and an adventure. His maritime photography is the finest I've seen. I especially love his ability to catch the ocean's fury, but his photos have many moods. My regret is that I didn't have longer to spend with the beautiful prints in his gallery in Belfast, Maine. I'll be back.

That Neal was also my roommate might have been privilege had it been possible for both of us to be physically present in the room at the same time without one of us either bunked or in the tiny privy. However, on this tiny boat, 11 workshop participants total, there was plenty of time outside the privy to work and talk with Neal and his daughter Lee, a Photoshop pro. A computer projector is planned for the next outing, I'm told, but we managed okay passing laptops and in demos from Lee and Neal once black trash bags were taped over the coach house windows. Even the boat was an adventure, and looking back I should probably have spent more time photographing it. Lee gathered a wonderful collection of texture shots while I sat watching the horizon, but I'm a novice at sea.

As you may guess, this was not a luxury cruise though we were fed and cared for luxuriously. The Wanderbird is the project and passion of mariners Rick and Karen Miles. It is a 1963 North Sea fishing trawler converted according to Rick and Karen's specifications for its current use. Our cabins lie approximately where the fresh fish were once tossed. A twisting ladder of Karen's design (by winter she is a furniture maker) leads to the coach house where we met for workshops and meals. Rick, Karen and a crew of three sleep in a salon, aft. Details, photos, and more are on their web site. The Wanderbird also carries two aging black labs (one blind from birth), an aging and affectionate cat named Hector and, of course, a parrot. The parrot assists Captain Rick in the wheel house above the galley, while the dogs and cat patrol the deck but are trained never to enter the coach house.

We had spent the night anchored off an uninhabited island, just rock and brush, where the Audubon Society is protecting reintroduced puffins. We had sailed three hours the previous day to get there. I hadn't yet had coffee at 7AM when I came out on deck just as these lobstermen had arrived to tend their traps. The pattern of their work and the gulls' dives were observable before the lobster fisherman reached the trap beside our boat, but I had just enough time to get my settings right (f10, 1/800th, ISO 400). Well, I probably could have halved the shutter speed for a bit more depth of field or an ISO of 200, but it would have made little difference. I got off twelve shots, but in only one did everything come together so perfectly. You can almost count the scales in the tail of the lobster, and I much prefer mist to soft focus. I receive such photos as gifts of the gods. Someone recently tried to convince me that good photos must always pass the B&W test. Nonsense! Were the lobsterman's hip waders any color but orange, the photo would be that much weaker.

You've undoubtedly noted that the photo above carries a new copyrighting watermark that proudly announces a new father-daughter venture. Melissa and I have entered into a business partnership, Lenscapes, LLC. You can preview the web site and learn about Melissa's portrait work and our digital field trips at the url below. Is it a coincidence that I met Neal and his daughter Lee co-teaching just as my daughter and I begin a similar venture?

Lenscapes Photography: http://www.lenscapes-photo.com/