Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gereg Farm in Summer

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Neither hip nor gambrel, the unusual, many-hued roofs of Gereg Farm are wonderfully sculptural. Although I photographed here early in 2008, I photographed from the road. As I've expanded my territory northward this summer, I made an effort to meet the owner who was happy to give me a tour of the barns and permission to shoot from the pasture and yards.

If Misty Morning Farm (1), (2) is among the most difficult to photograph, Gereg Farm may be the easiest. At Misty Morning the hillside and large trees block the sun on all sides but the north, so light is almost always wrong. Morning light is best at Misty Morning, but often it is too misty and the metal roof is silver and glares blindingly under morning sun. Then there's the hill descending to the east; it is so steep that the barns almost disappear behind the crest until one is a long way off.

In contrast, sun washes the Gereg barn throughout the day, and out in the flat pasture there are clear views from east, south and west. At the perimeter of the field on the south is a rusted. rustic fence that gets tangled with weeds and wildflowers in summer, a delicious foreground screen to shoot through. Three Belted Galloway, "Oreo," cows pasture here. though in the summer they hide from the sun in a shaded alcove. I've caught them grazing in front of the barns in late afternoon, but I don't yet have the picture I'm after. In fact, everything is so photogenic here, that I'm having difficulty casting antique gloom across the barnscape. Everything comes out completely sane. Perhaps in fog I can make them loom.

While the view from the north is just as interesting, there has been a dumpster blocking it through most of the summer. Even from the north, once the dumpster is gone, I expect no problems shooting the intimate spaces there. The barns have some interesting features not visible in this image including the sheltered exterior passage tunneled under the barn where the cows like to huddle. It should be interesting to shoot there in the first half of the day. The barns are being sensitively restored, and as soon as some new wood weathers, they will be as good as old.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Misty Morning

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Misty Morning Farm has been an ongoing photo project throughout the last year. Few sites offer so much potential and pose such difficult dilemmas. Mist and fog are the least of the difficulties. On this morning 8 days ago I woke at 5:15 in order to catch some mix of sunrise light and pond mist.

Misty Morning Farm sits on the north side of a hill and does its best to face east. Down the hill from the farmstead and its fields and before the hillside disappears into woodland there is a broad pond. If mist will form anywhere, it will form here. Sometimes it is just a small plume that drifts with the prevailing breeze. Sometimes it is a rising mist that draws a delicate veil up the pasture and over the bushes and barns. On the particular morning it was a fog like a head cold that blotted out everything. I waited at the bottom of the pasture to see what the fog would do, but nothing moved.

I finally decided to drive a 4 mile circuit of the hilltop to see what things were like elsewhere. As I completed my loop, coming down the hill toward Misty Morning from the other side, the sun was just penetrating and dissolving the head of pond brew, and as I quickly parked and rushed around the yard, the sun through the fog sent rays through the trees and magnified the landscape. One can never plan such shots and must take gratefully whatever is given.

I'm developing Misty Morning Farm as a seasonal portrait. Preparing presentation images of Misty Morning from the last year has been keeping me from TODAY'S for at least a week. This was not the shot I had intended to follow next, but I'm happy for the excuse to process this image as a stand-in so as not to divert my concentration from Misty Morning Farm.

This one needs to be seen large. Be sure to click the image.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Great Hollow Rhymes

EDWARD WESTON: "Clouds, torsos, shells, peppers, trees, rocks, smoke stacks, are but interdependent, interrelated parts of a whole, which is life."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: I wonder what viewers will make of this image. I'm not even quite sure what to make of it myself, but I'm drawn to its abstract simplicity and the suggestion that all things are in dialogue.

I set out to post photographs from the past summer and have been momentarily distracted by a commissioned project that requires my attention. While working on that project I came on this overlooked photograph taken at Waller Farm in late winter, 2008. The rhyme of its forms seem a natural sequel to "Bolland Farm and Hills," and so it becomes part of this new sequence on farms and farmland.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bolland Farm and Hills - May 1, 2009

HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON: "There is no closed figure in nature. Every shape participates with another. No one thing is independent of another, and one thing rhymes with another, and light gives them shape."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: There are few farms I find as aesthetically pleasing as this one, the way the barns ride the hills, flowing with their contours, digging in to the earth. I've been driving by here for two years seeking to get permission to shoot. Although there are usually cars outside and clothes on the line, I've never seen a person here, and I have not yet been moved to knock on the door of the nearby house.

On this lazy spring afternoon, under a soft, sprinkling rain and swept by a bit of spring mist, I stopped the car on the side of the road and composed this image. I struggled to keep raindrops off my lens. Greening had just begun.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dairy Barn & Cow Stalls, Elliott Farm

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: There's always been farming on this hill. I took this a week ago after a morning of photographing the barns from the fields below. The farmer who dug this barn deep into the hillside and near its top, knew that on chilly mornings he'd have the early sun on his back and on the backs of his cows, and that he'd catch the sun again in the afternoon as he loaded hay directly into the hay loft from the street side.

The 1853 map shows no barns, but the house is there, right where the road from town turns just as it does today as if it were to lead from town right up the front steps onto porch, only turning sharply left at the last moment to climb the hill rather than the stairs. Was it the Elliotts, who lived in the house in 1853, who built this barn?

The porch is gone from the vacant house. When did they stop farming here? Was it in 1928 when the creamery closed or in 1930 when the railroad stopped running, or were there dairy cows in the fields when I first passed by? Last year some of the barn boards were stripped away and the cupola tipped a bit more this year, and the roof won't survive another winter. One day I will come by and find the cupola fallen through the roof and smashed on the floor, the weather vane and it's four miniature gables shattered.

But it's impossible to know when. Perhaps it is miraculous that farming continues on this hill at all, more miraculous that some of the original families are farming here still.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Spring on Skarf Mountain

VERLYN KLINKENBORG (from "Goldenrod Time," NY Times):
"Somehow my internal timekeeper failed this summer - broken down, perhaps during the utterly sodden month of June. Time passed, and all the natural events that happen on this farm happened in order. But when the goldenrod began to bloom a few weeks ago, I failed to make the connection between the two.

"The Goldenrod ripens with nearly the same power as the leaves turning. It's one of the strongest temporal cues I know, and I usually respond to it the way I respond to most signs of shifting season: with an inward emotional tug.

"This year I seem to be absent, or perhaps I'm just resting in the lull of late summer. Or perhaps I've become just another of the creatures on this farm."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: This has not been like other summers. For some time now I've been feeling what Verlyn Klinkenborg describes, a sense of having somehow come loose from the constant unwinding of the season, and now as the trees are suddenly starting to turn I feel unexpectedly reengaged with the ever-turning wheel. What happened to summer? Wrenched into autumn, can I find my stride before nature's pace quickens?

I exposed this image on May 18th, in the time between skunk cabbage and flox, exactly four months ago today. The fragile spring leaves had recently darkened. Six days later I would be driving in Nova Scotia and delighted to find a second spring just unfurling there. What timing! It was after that I became uncoupled.

Jane feels it too. She says it is not only the endless rain which extended well beyond June but also that the thermometer barely sweltered. That may be true, but it strikes me that before I began my photo and hiking regimen the gears of my life were not so tightly engaged to nature's clock, and a disjointed season like the one suddenly completed would not leave me feeling a bit unhinged.

Was there summer? I hiked almost every day back to favorite farms and into to much new territory, to Massachusetts and the Hudson, but I wonder if this year I didn't lean a little too comfortably on the feeling that summer was a lazy time, that its pleasures would last, that shots missed today would be much the same tomorrow. Would I have dug more deeply if summer had the urgency of spring or fall? Tomorrow begins today.

And yet I'm reassured when I look at the summer's farm images that I shot while processing and posting lilies. It seems I didn't miss it all. The next photo series explores some of the farms visited this summer.

I've been on top of Skarf Mountain before, but on the afternoon of May 18th the clouds put on a remarkable show. Because the fields surrounding these barns are open and vast, and because the sky that afternoon was dancing everywhere, I kept moving, taking in new angles. I didn't want to miss anything, but I didn't rush, and the clouds kept on dancing as I made a complete, great circuit around the fields around the farmstead.

Friday, September 11, 2009


IMOGEN CUNNINGHAM: "If you don't like it, that's your problem, not mine."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Life is fluid. Even before the bee has probed the water lily's nectar, the transformers are at work on the grand, procreative, digestive economy of things.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lotus Wind

ZHOU DUNYI: "I love the lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: This is the Sacred Lotus or Bean of India, worshipped among Hindus as a thing of purity. It does indeed strike the eye as something divine. Most people would know it immediately by the iconic, flat-topped seed cup, like a watering can, that is left after the petals fall away. Lotus roots in the pond bottom and spreads broad, round pads on the surface of the water while sending a stem 3 to 5 feet into the air where it produces a large bud that blossoms hugely and gets tossed by the wind in shades of pink and white.

The Sacred Bean of India Lotus is not to be confused with the Egyptian Sacred Blue Lily which is sometimes called the Blue Lotus.

From Wiki I learn that the Sacred Lotus of India can regulate the temperature of the flower as warm-blooded animals do. That distinction places it in the rare plant company of Philodendron and Skunk Cabbage. Certainly no water lily can do that. It is not yet known if it can read minds, but all parts of the plant are entirely edible.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: There are 8 genera in the family of plants we commonly refer to as water lilies. The yellow lily, which has lost all but one of its petals, is of the genus Nuphar. The petals of these lilies are stubby and stay so tightly curled that they look like perpetual buds. In fact, the petals hinge back only slightly. Once they are open the flowers are as popular as a good Irish pub; it isn't long before many bugs are clamoring at once for a seat inside at the bar.

The pink lily is of a different but closely related genus, Nymphaea, goddesses of the woodland spring. The species of Nymphaea are much more numerous. They blossom in the air and sleep below water. The bugs visit here too, but are much more polite and refined.

Nuphar water lilies are sometimes referred to popularly by the term lotus, but the sacred Indian lotus for which the term is more commonly used is of an entirely different genus and family from Nuphar and the other genera of the family we call water lilies.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pink and Blue

RALPH WALDO EMERSON: "Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience."