Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Making Hay


PHOTOGRAPHER'S DIARY: Sunrise is definitely more than the flip side of sunset. It is the time when earth sweats, and fog rolls through valleys, across ponds, and over hilltops. Dawn is especially productive in late August and September when the difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures produces the best fogs, and when the sun rises at a more humane time. For such graces I'm grateful.

On Saturday I stood for two hours in a recently explored field near Bog Hollow.  The grass, just mowed and baled when I explored, had grown back and was above my knees, and by the time I was high enough on the hill for the shots I wanted, my socks were waterlogged, and my boots were squishing.  As I stood and shot, I wicked dew, and it was not long before I had wet knees, but I was still there more than an hour after taking this.

Catching photos in the morning fog poses another challenge. The fog was floating by quickly and a mix of fog and low clouds was playing shadow puppets with the sun as it rose; every moment the light was different. At times I could look right at the ball of the sun without squinting, and a moment later I'd have to turn away. At other times the sun was obscured, and I'd wait and watch and try to guess where the next shot might open. Landscape photographers are used to things standing relatively still. Such rapid changes made every shot a chase. When the shooting was good I had to force myself to slow down and compose carefully. Too often, by the time I had moved to the right location and composed, the event that had moved me had moved on.

I've held this photo for a few days hoping to get back and find a more dramatic sky and fog, but I like the quiet way the eye is invited to linger over the hay bales and the farm and silo before considering the hills and the distant water tower. In a shot like this sky and landscape are welded together and it would tax my skills to "fake in" a different sky. The hay bails from midsummer cutting remain littered across the fields and provide an essential element to link foreground and background. There's a chance that I can get back this weekend to see what more can be made of them in the hour just after dawn. I hope I can find the fortitude to leave the comfort of my warm bed at 5:15; I hope the hay bales will still be there; I hope the earth will be putting out a good sweat.