•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Orchard Solstice


PHOTOGRAPHER'S DIARY: Strangely familiar yet incongruent, this dance in the orchard at the solstice. A little sugarplum fairy music please, but grotesque and arthritic. I have been enveloped in gray since Friday - this dance in the orchard taken Saturday morning - and today not feeling quite in sync with the storm - worries about bad roads and icy sliding.

I posted Thursday's TODAY'S and went to bed. Despite doubts I had about the weather forecast, I was back on the same, high hill overlooking Twin Elm Farm by 11:15 on Friday, but the lighting guy had put the big diffuser on everything and gone home.

It's decent exercise reaching the top, and I lost track of time shooting my way up. The weatherman said the storm would arrive at noon on Friday. I was bored and ready to give up when I checked my watch. He must have been giving the Twin Elm microcast? I looked at my watch at 12:04 and when I looked up I knew the white glow over the most distant hills was not strange fog but the front line of the snow. If there was an event to be photographed, I was in place, and it was chugging up Oblong Valley. I'm still deciding if there was an event.

The first thing I did was forget everything I learned last winter about photographing in snow. Shutter speed is critical - 1/30th to 1/50th in light to medium wind will keep the flakes from unflaking too much. Only against dark backgrounds will smaller, distant flakes make visible texture. Did I forget or just not switch on a very different mind set?

Gloves - right glove off will speed work if the digits don't go numb. If that doesn't work it's glove liner weather. Some good news: I've finally mastered working with the camera "raincoat." Essential equipment.

The new screen loupe fills with snow - keep it pocketed.

But in the end the approaching snow did look like fog - very even fog that fell like a scrim instead of swirling like a serpent. It shaded the deep hills behind Twin Elm nicely, emphasizing the narrow valley between them. I considered finishing and posting that shot, but it wasn't right - too muted and bland.

I kept shooting, but the hills were buried in white-out long before the pasture was white. On the way home the roads were icy and they were predicting a second storm to arrive Sunday. How to get in sync?

Saturday's photos were the best of the weekend, but the work was effortful, and the snow was back fiercely on Sunday morning right through, "Meet the Press."

The solid gray continued throughout the day until an hour before sunset. Then, without warning, the lighting guy was back with a bit of razzle dazzle. It would have been a sunset to shoot from some high hill or from the orchard, but the roads were slick, and I was engaged in a dusk shot in the valley. Sometimes it's tough to get in sync with a storm.