Thursday, October 29, 2009

In Search of Edvard Munch

TERRY FENTON: "Modern painters have inclined to an art that appeals directly to feeling apart from representation with its inevitable overtones, distractions, and prejudice. Of course, representation couldn't be abandoned overnight and much of value stood to be lost in the process. It was abandoned in stages and often with reluctance and regret. Artists didn't pursue abstraction for the sake of the abstruse. Far from it. They were driven to it as a kind of last resort. It was a kind of necessary purging for the sake of a deep and fundamental universality, one that was part and parcel of painting itself."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: The primary aim of the photojournalist or the portrait photographer or the naturalist is usually representation, often artfully done, but getting the representation right is the essential thing. Art, however, lies in the realm of expression. Without wanting to get any further into the question of what is art, the photographer who chooses expression as his or her primary aim is immediately confronted by a medium that clings to representation and in which representation often comes to dominate. The spectator who asks, "What's that?" of an abstract painting fears he's being tricked. The one who asks it of an abstract photo feels cheated.

I'm recently back from the Kuerner Farm in Chadds Ford, PA, the farm Andrew Wyeth made famous. Wyeth was interested in this issue, and I can never follow his footsteps without thinking about it. Seeing the way he treated real nature is instructive, but there is an essential difference between photographer and painter. Whether the painter is Wyeth, Vermeer or Fragonard seeking to represent some physical reality in the external world, or Turner or Kandinsky or Pollock working in a realm where representation is obscured, they all begin with distinctive ways of laying color onto a surface. A painter with any degree of facility begins expression the moment s/he applies paint to the art surface or draws a line. It's right there in the medium. A finely controlled physical act driven by the coordinated effort of mind and muscle is a primary element of the painter's expression. There need not even be a real scene. Similarly the manner in which a violinist touches bow to string asserts the violinist's expression. It is highly relevant to the art of both that muscles and emotions are so deeply linked. To whatever degree artist or violinist is facile, expression emerges naturally from the physical act of creation.

In contrast, a photographer begins with the things that lie in front of his lens. Where is the point of combustion between the expressive photographer and the lines and forms photographed? Where does physical engagement take place? Is it in the dance I do to juxtapose elements and set boundaries? Is it in that corner of my eye where sometimes something clicks? Or is there nothing analogous to brush and bow to connect my expression to the forms I use?

Furthermore, without the painter's brush the canvas is blank. If there is no violin there is no music, but the landscape I photograph often makes its own music without me, expressive in itself; a swooping heron, a bank of lilies, a rock formation in the desert, a Grecian urn all sing their own songs. While the thing I photograph must be central to what I express, how is its expression related to mine?

And what alteration is it that transforms a postcard image into expressive statement? On the back of the postcard one often writes, "Wish you were here." The postcard is a second-hand and second-best experience. To be expressive, a photograph must become a thing in itself apart from what it represents, independent though reliant on the moment that triggered it. It must catch something specific yet universal, maybe just a quiver of sensation or perhaps a deep resonant chord, and it must isolate it. Is this the goal that the photographer seeking expression should strive for?

This image was photographed late on Monday. The sun was slipping below the hill, and the filtered light and lonely shadows added a note of disquiet to the quickly changing scene. That note is caught also in the rock jetty that juts violently across this finger at the end of the lake.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Autumn Detonation

RALPH WALDO EMERSON: "Do not be caught by the sensational in nature, as a coarse red-faced sunset, a garrulous waterfall, or a fifteen thousand foot mountain... avoid prettiness - the word looks much like pettiness - and there is but little difference between them."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: It is not just that large, still lakes are hard to find, but that their seductive prettiness poses photographic challenges. As one correspondent wrote recently, "...usually the bilateral mirroring effect is corny...." The problems: Opportunities for cliché are everywhere. How does one avoid it? Composition is also difficult. Where does one put the edges of the image, especially with a long, recumbent shoreline that defies punctuation? Finally, there is that prettiness itself that expresses omnipresent stillness with visceral clarity. Motionless air, air at its most impalpable, is made palpable. It is a phenomenon so expressive that any photograph must be a runner-up to the real event. The photographer trembles at the responsibility of somehow giving that stillness a point of view, an angle, a barb - to find in the scene, not Emersonian profundity, but something of moment.

In this photograph I've zoomed my longest lens to 400mm (600mm full-frame equiv.) and pointed it at a stretch of shore visible also in the previous image. Alas, I fear this image fails the criteria described in the paragraph above. (this is a far greater fault than the imperfection of the reflection which I secretly prefer to clarity.) ...but how could I resist it?

This week autumn climaxed. The colors are richer than any fall in memory, like a fireworks finale but silent; no booms, and extended over days. Sunday and Monday were a serendipity; a 48-hour window of clear, dry air has lit the hillsides just at the most magic moment. Prettiness has run rampant. The situation begs the aesthetic question I've posed more narrowly above and is the subject of a future journal entry.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Smooth Sailing

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Mirror calm on a large lake is an elusive event unless one lives on the lake. For at least four years my photo explorations have regularly taken me by Lake Waramaug, and from time to time a portion of the lake has been nearly still. Complete stillness is most often found at dawn and occasionally at dusk. One stops and waits for a large lake to calm to mirror stillness at the risk of wasting an entire shoot, and so as I've passed the nearly calm lake I have usually driven on.

It was therefore a complete surprise to find the lake like this twice in the past week, and a special bonus that this gift has come at the peak of fall colors and on this occasion with a clouds like feathers.

I had returned from a three-day shoot in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania just the night before. I had slept in and let sunrise pass, and I had small hopes for a midday shoot except for a particular image that might still work before fall colors dimmed. I was headed for Kent Hollow, but as I passed this spot I knew I had to stop. Stopping is nearly impossible on the road around the lake, but I found a place to turn around, drove back to the only spot where I could safely park, and began shooting. I photographed for just 15 minutes before I decided I'd gotten all I could from the location and decided to return to my car and drive to the state park at the end of the lake, where parking was easy. However, by the time I was back in my car the calm had ended.

Photographers seize the moment or lose it. I continued with my initial plan and continued on to Kent Hollow and the photograph posted previously.

Click the image to view it large.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Waller Woods, Winds of Change

GALEN ROWELL: "One of the biggest mistakes a photographer can make is to look at the real world and cling to the vain hope that next time his film will somehow bear a closer resemblance to it...If we limit our vision to the real world, we will forever be fighting on the minus side of things, working only too make our photographs equal to what we see out there, but no better."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: The previous photos were from March of 2008. Here is the same hillside a week ago in the very late afternoon. The hilltop above was still green. By this week autumn color had reached the hilltop and the tree behind the house was nearly bare. The clouds roll on.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Waller Wood, Passing Clouds Two


In stealth the shadow moves upon the meadow,
becomes a stain on the hillside
before spilling into the next hollow.
A ceaseless, silent trespass no hand can alter;
No will but the wind to usher its motion.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Waller Wood, Passing Clouds One

GALEN ROWELL: "At the heart of all photography is an urge to express our deepest personal feelings - to reveal our inner, hidden selves, to unlock the artist. Those of us who become photographers are never satisfied with just looking at someone else's expression of something that is dear to us. We must produce our own images, instead of buying postcards and photo books. We seek to make our own statements of individuality."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: This is another of the overlooked Waller photographs from Winter, 2008. (See also Great Hollow Rhymes).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cloudy Afternoon at Peakéd Mountain Farm, No. 3

SUSAN SONTAG: "photograph is both a pseudo-presence and a token of absence. Like a wood fire in a room, photographs - especially those of people, of distant landscapes and faraway cities, of the vanished past - are incitements to reverie."

Larger than the Clouds

And so in one afternoon
the clouds moved
through many moods,
and I danced to
the southwest corner of the field.

As the sun neared the horizon
the spaces between the clouds became
larger than the clouds,
bales tumbling in the layered troposphere
on over Washington Depot and into darkness.

Earlier photographs of Peakéd Mountain Farm:
Cartwheeling Rumble
Making Hay
Above the Bog before the Storm
In Fog at Sunrise
Etude in Diagonals

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cloudy Afternoon at Peakéd Mountain Farm, No. 2

AARON SISKIND: "We look at the world and see what we have learned to believe is there. We have been conditioned to expect.... But as photographers we must learn to relax our beliefs. Move on objects with your eye straight on, to the left, around on the right. Watch them grow large as you approach, group and regroup as you shift your position. Relationships gradually emerge and sometimes assert themselves with finality. And that's your picture."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Continuing my shoot it became clear that the cloudscape I'd been photographing was made of two cloud layers. The bottom layer, the evaporating remains of the morning cloud blanket, seemed to hover barely higher than the hills until it became thin enough to reveal the great white monster in the background.

A big sky shot taken shortly after yesterday's image shows both cloud layers clearly. It's one of those "not quite," images. The diagonal of the cloudscape is not quite defined enough to make the image move. The dominant effect is linear and static. This image is even more linear than the one rejected. There's nothing wrong with a linear image if it's integral to the meaning of the shot.

What might Church or Cole have done here? Of course a painting is a fantasy, and a photograph is reality. Is it possible to photograph this landscape long and not find their ghosts lingering in spite of all that has changed?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cloudy Afternoon at Peakéd Mountain Farm, No. 1

• What do I learn from returning to the same sites that makes results improve over time?
• How do I approach familiar sites differently than sites which are new?
• How familiar is familiar?
PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: The next series of images were captured on a single afternoon in early July from the field to the west of Peakéd Mountain Farm. Even though this is the most interesting side of the farmstead; even though as one moves around the field the forms of the buildings seem almost contrapuntal; and even though on clear afternoons everything is bathed in light almost until sunset, in spite of all that, until now I have never captured an image from this field worth sharing.

Timing is everything. When the weather changes skies are often most interesting. So it was natural that when the clouds began to break apart on the afternoon of July 2nd, I hoped that music would be playing over Peakéd Mountain. Clouds are fickle things (so Joni Mitchell tells us), and as I passed through Bog Hollow I worried that what I'd seen developing back in Tanner Valley was already evaporating here. There's always a tension - take the clouds where you are and make the most of them, or go somewhere special and hope that they're as good there & then as they are here & now.

Coming out of Bog Hollow I discovered that, if nothing else, fate had arranged a hay rake, a hay wagon and a dozen hay bales tastefully about the field. In this region farmers generally do two hayings a season. This year June rains that continued into July hampered farmers' efforts to cut and store hay from the first haying. They worried that the hay would rot before they could deal with it, while I was glad the bales and the equipment were still in the field when the clouds blew through. Timing is everything.

Since I knew the patterns in which the buildings danced I suppose I was more comfortable moving with them than I might otherwise have been, but finding where to stand in the counterpoint takes full and spontaneous engagement as the whole dance unfolds. Once the image is found I work quickly to correct so that the top of the pine has separation from the edge of the hill and so that telephone poles and other details do not get cluttered up together - work quickly before the light or the cloud moves on.

Timing is everything. I entered the field at the southeast corner because the sky. though constantly moving, is unmovable, and it told me to. The clouds felt tentative, quickly shifting. Would a few rays of sun break through? I watched the shifting cloud shapes watching for openings, and grabbed the few brief moments provided. In this exposure a bit of sun has just reached the first building, with the dark roof. Moments later the light reached the gable of the main barn and brightened slightly, enhancing the shadow under the roof line and causing the front walls to glow softly. It was a calm moment except that the clouds were no longer right. No matter; the tentative light of this first exposure also characterizes the moment. I call that, "catching the falling leaf," or at least whatever piece of it you can get hold of. When shooting landscapes I find the farther back one pulls the camera's eye, the harder it is to capture that falling leaf, but sometimes my pleasure comes in standing back.

I'm glad to have this shot as the small building with the light gray roof is precarious. It may not last the next winter. The loss of the building means little to the owner of the property, but to me it is an important dancer gone. Timing is everything.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sun Spots

HARRY CALLAHAN: "I feel a little bit like a painter. A painter applies brush stroke after brush stroke, working toward something. It's just a matter of knowing when to quit. You know it's in there somewhere."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Back at Beardsley Farmstead this September I saw this late summer whirl, and I remembered images I made right here in 2008 (1), (2), (3), in the middle of winter in a snow storm. The painter, "applies brush stroke after brush stroke." The photographer shoots image after image, experimenting and refining, reaching after the potential that made him stop and shoot in the first place.

The recent series of blog entries was an attempt to sample some of the new farmsteads visited and photographed this summer. Reviewing those shoots and looking closely at some for the first time was overdue. As expected there are many photos I hoped for that proved to be, "not quite," even after I tugged at them in Photoshop in every way I could think of. As always, there were also days that yielded several images worth "developing." However, it was the old sites, farmsteads I'd shot last year and some the year before, that produced the majority of the best shots. New farm sites like Blueberry Hill, Smithfield Guernsey, Salmon Kill Hollow, Hammertown Road, Cream Hill, Sedgwick Hollow and others have potential not yet realized.
•What do I learn from returning to the same sites that makes results improve with time?
•How do I approach familiar sites differently than sites which are new?
•How familiar is familiar?

I came here because I knew the field would be "ripe," and the afternoon sun would make it glisten. I knew that even with my ladder the angles from the top of the field, between the rowed trees, would be tough. When I failed, I knew to check the garden. I noted one of the outbuildings had fallen down. I would have stayed longer, but I wanted to get to one of the new sites.

This is one of those images that needs to be seen large. Click the image above to enlarge.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Quonset Barn & Swamp Foliage

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: "The Road from Sedgewick Hollow," Part 2

I knew I was heading toward a dead end. Not finding an outlet ahead and forbidden to make a u-turn, Gidget was near to having a nervous breakdown. She kept plotting the course over and over again, continually repeating, "Recalculating!" Moments later the road ended in a farmyard and I found my car surrounded by howling hounds. This was not the way I had hoped to introduce myself to Aunt Josephine. As they often do, the public road had turned private without warning, and I struggled to turn my car without squashing any of the pooch pack. Then Aunt Josephine appeared, running from the house and waving her arms. No. running is the wrong word. She moved as if her hips were frozen across, and the waving arms might have been unsteadiness, but she was moving fast, and I was surprised at how quickly she was beside the car. She was shouting something, and as I was backing to leave I simultaneously did my best to lower the window and the radio so I could hear what she was saying.

"Stop, he'll run right under the wheels." She was already bent over and snatching a long and low brown dust mop of a dog from the ground and restraining him forcibly in her arms as he tried to sniff at me. The barking continued through my introduction and apology. The commotion had not kept me from noticing that, "the mother farm," was even more photogenic than the buildings across from the quonset barn.

She was a trim octogenarian. Her hair was long and straight, her cheeks hollow and pale. Her eyes were straight slits. If there were any curves on her they had long ago been lost in the baggy overalls she wore, but she finally smiled and seemed happy to chat. My repeated apologies eventually put her at ease, and half the dogs had stopped barking so I could almost hear what Aunt Josephine was saying. I got a bit of farm history before I put my question to her, "May I photograph these barns?"

There was a long pause and a breath, and she looked right at me and the pupils of her eyes narrowed. It was as if she was trying to look inside me and a century suddenly had flown between us. "No." It was a strange "no," - full of forced determination. Then she added, "but if you talk to my niece she can give you permission. She's away now but she'll be back tomorrow.

She seemed quite unaware that I might not know who her niece was or where to find her. I had to ask repeatedly until she finally said, "Well, she's just over the hill," and she pointed vaguely somewhere behind the barns. There was no road that way, nothing but woods. I think she quite expected me to set off into the woods on foot, but I finally made clear to her that I needed directions my car could follow. As it turns out, the niece lived back where I started, at the house across from quonset farm.

I puzzled over the meaning of her, "No," and the subsequent half retraction. I took a few days before I went to see the niece. I wanted to be sure aunt and niece had time to deliberate. When I drove into the niece's yard, there were no dogs, but immediately the niece came running from the barns in overalls looking like a slightly younger version of Aunt Josephine. Before I could fully get my question out she interrupted me, "No." Clearly the two had met and the issue had been decided. "No photographs," she repeated. I tried to make conversation and barely got out that I'd photographed the swamp, but she was already heading into the house. Her voice trailed as she went inside, "You can photograph the swamp all you want."

All the photos I've made of Great Hill Farm have been from the public road.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Farm Fence & Quonset Barn

"The Road from Sedgewick Hollow," Part I

The road back from Sedgewick Hollow leads through another century. When I point my GPS toward home it plots a course from the Hollow, not always the same course, through a warren of old country roads. Some are crumbling pavement, some have never been paved. The way is always sparsely settled and with more than its share of 18th century buildings and a few ruins. Without the soothing voice of Gidget, my GPS, I'd quickly be lost in time. After leaving Sedgewick Hollow she doesn't reach a road with a route number until I'm a few minutes from home.

I've been photographing in Sedgewick Hollow frequently over the past three weeks. Along one of the common routes, half way to the hollow the road forks. Both roads lead to Sedgewick Hollow, but I hadn't noticed that along this route Gidget took the left fork through the valley on the way out, but she brought me home over Great Hill and through the right fork. As a result, when I returned home from Sedgewick Hollow two weeks ago, I didn't know quite where I was when I stopped. I stopped in the futile hope of photographing a scene which had ended moments earlier. I'd have to find my way back here, wherever here is, at the next sunset when the sky was clear, and it would have to be soon.

At the top of Great Hill is a level area which may have been pasture once but which had become swamp. Leaves turn earlier around swamps, and here they had recently burst into color. As I reached the top of the hill, and came out of the woodland into the open swamp, the last few minutes of sunlight were being filtered by low haze. There was just enough light to make me realize the spectacle the sun's clear backlighting had made moments earlier.

It wasn't until I returned a day or two later and began photographing that I realized the cleared area was part of a farm or what's left of a farm. Warped boards and rotting roofs, rusted machinery, and across from this structure a farmhouse and a ragged collection of wooden out buildings. Nobody was around, but the house was inhabited, and I didn't want to trespass. I learned later that there had originally been many more buildings, but the farm was badly damaged in the tornado that blew through a decade ago.

As I was shooting beside the road, a guy in a pickup stopped to chat, and I asked him if he knew who might give me permission to shoot the farmstead here. He had the whole family story. Uncle Frank and Uncle Martin had died recently. Frank kept "the mother farm" going to the end, and Stephen ran this place and Martin had another place.... His explanations included names of roads I didn't know and, when I pressed him, directions I couldn't follow. I learned of marriages and divorces and who had done what and how they had or hadn't cared for each other as ends neared. He spoke to me as if everyone knew these people and where they lived. Clearly, this was an intimate community where everyone knew everyone. Still, I wanted permission to photograph here. Before he drove off I learned that the only one left was Aunt Josephine, and she was living on the "mother farm," to which I made sure I had good directions. She would certainly give me permission.

I would find Josephine before returning home.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: The yellow farmhouse on Route 202 was in disrepair even in 1974 when we first moved to Connecticut, but the yellow stood out and the various signs that directed non-existent traffic. We lived a few miles away and shopped at the old general store a bit further up the road. Back then one could still read the sign, and when I needed props for an "Old West" play I stopped here and bought an "antique," wooden box. The old guy who sold it to me emerged from somewhere deep within the house, said little, and happily took my five dollars. We keep kindling in it now.

When we moved in 1979 they were beginning to pave some of the old dirt roads from which spurs sprouted leading to cul-de-sacs lined with pastel dream houses. A new school was just opening. Nobody lives here anymore, and the roof is failing. A few weeks after I photographed here a sign appeared on the roadside, "Lot for Sale."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In Blazing Soy

ANSEL ADAMS: "You don't take a photograph, you make it."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: In the landscape the first decision is always where to stand. Yesterday's image of this ruin was taken seventeen minutes and forty seconds after this one. The light was similar yet they are almost opposite in their effect. The making of these two images seems typical of the way I approach shooting. Compare the two and you may be tempted to ask, "Who moved the mountain?" My mantra is always, "You don't know what it looks like until you get there."Standing by the silo, you might not guess that by walking further down the soy hill, away from the farmstead, the tops of all three silos would be below the top of the background hillside.

When I shot this near the top of the hill I hoped that might happen. A slightly different grade and it would not have, but I'd already previsualized at the top the two shots I thought I'd get on this shoot, one with sky and one without; one in which the farm curled up at the base of the hill like a cat snuggling into an old blanket and one in which the crumbling silos raged against their demise. Move left, right, backward, forward, and relationships change; things are lost and things gained. I spent time studying how the top of the background silo might best intersect with the hilltop, and ways of strategically cutting the tops of the two silos, and the effects of compressing/expanding the cluster of buildings by moving laterally. I watched the balance of tonalities and how they met the margins and corners of the image. Sometimes I lost my light, and when it came back I considered how to utilize creeping shadows.

I moved slowly through the soy field trying to find the most committed version of each idea, but since I could only guess what things might look like from untried positions, I carefully composed both possibilities each time I stopped. I did this even though I suspected I'd already passed the most committed angle for this shot early on. I never want to have to go back and re-find a position.

In the end I had many exposures to look through. In this image I was up close with my lens zoomed wide and tipped steeply downward. In yesterday's I am standing back with my lens zoomed in tight. While I may have a good idea what I want the image to look like when it's done and that the essentials have been captured in terms of focus and exposure, it's not until I see it large that I know what I have and if it will work. When I finished that afternoon, a third of the "making" of the image was done. If there is a quicker way, I wish someone would tell me.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Forsaken Acres

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: It will be harder to unseal the time capsule on this old ruin. It has no name nor clear signs of what went on here or when. It is further north on route 22, not far from Boston Corners, NY, a town with a lot of history. Jane and I spotted the tall silo from the road, glowing bone white in the afternoon sun. We had been exploring and were on our way home, but I made a note to return and investigate. Was it here when Boston Corners was the meeting place of three railroad lines?

When I got back a week or two later it was also late afternoon. From the roadside I could see all three silos on what appeared to be an island rising out of a sea of soy. I made some images of the silos and the soy rows and learned from a neighbor that nobody cared who went here. He'd explored himself, but he had been afraid to go into the house.

House? By the time I said goodbye photo light was gone. Before heading for home I explored enough to see the house. It was in the grip of a jungle, and getting to it would not be easy. Photographing may be impossible.

When I got back the third time it was the end of September, and the soy had just turned yellow. Where there are silos there were usually dairy barns once. Silos came in to common use between 1880 and 1900 (The tall, cylindrical form was invented in 1891). They made it possible to store enough feed to sustain milk production through the winter and capture the high prices paid for winter milk. Alas, it's common to find old masonry and metal silos standing beside a concrete slab or stone foundation. These silos were in terrible condition, and I never expected anything was left of the barns. Life is fluid. They were in the final stages of being swallowed.

I spent nearly an hour making images of the barn ruins from different points in this field before exploring the rest of the site. A newer, metal work shed, also abandoned, is to the left. Beyond the field the ground drops off steeply, and from below I could look up and see the house. From directly below the second story barely reached over the goldenrod that covered the embankment.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Grand Cowshed

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL - The Harlem Valley in New York State is an important corridor running north-south from Brewster to the start of the Taconic Mountains near the Connecticut-Massachusetts border. Through it run the The Harlem Valley Railroad and New York Route 22. What's left of the train remains one of the principal commuter lines to New York City, and the road is New York State's longest and oldest north-south route, stretching from the Bronx through Albany to Canada.

The Harlem Valley is not only long but also relatively broad, a series of gently rolling hills between, on the east, the steep ridge that divides Connecticut from New York, and on the west, the Hudson Hills that roll toward the Hudson River. In the Harlem Valley dairy farmers had easy access to transportation and flat open land for growing corn and grazing large herds of cattle. The farms that once were thriving here have left vast and hollow behemoths with giant silos that loom over the pastures. This is a small portion of one of these ruins.

I've been trying unsuccessfully to capture the hulking immensity of this farmstead for three years. The main shed is actually three times as long as the part shown in the back of this image. It has four more dormers like the two in the image, and throughout the sheds length it sprouts other buildings of various sizes. The patchwork nature of the whole suggests success-fueled expansion. Imagine the amount of hay that was stored over the dairy stalls on the first level! Four large silos stand at the back of the main shed. The metal roof gone on one and on another, rusted to a smokey bronze. The old farm house is in ruins as are many of the outbuildings.

No trespassing is strictly enforced, and most of my pictures have been shot from neighboring property. It is a matter of considerable frustration to me that I've been unable to make full use of this palette of forms and textures and insinuations. In any case, for me windows are always eyes, and I couldn't resist this grouping.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Road through Fox Hollow

FREDERICK CHURCH: "Imagine this fairy like Temple blazing like sunlight among those savage black rocks.”

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: North of Pleasant View Farm my explorations took me through Fox Hollow, and several Fox Hollow farms are now regular photo stops.

What if Jane and I could follow the old road right through Fox Hollow and into the past. Somewhere beyond Ancramdale the road would turn to dirt, and then the power lines would stop, and we'd be in an open carriage, rattling behind a horse at a pretty good clip. If we were lucky, we'd have an invitation for dinner at Olana, Frederick Church's Persian, fantasy house on the Hudson. I shot this photo on August 31 at 5:45 PM in my own century. With another 45 minutes and 130 years to sunset, our carriage will still only be half way to Olana, but If we hurry we can get there just as twilight gives way to a nearly full moon.

When we get to Olana torches will be blazing on the terrace high above the Hudson River, and there might be a tiny glow from behind the shadowy Catskills. Church will show us his studio and his latest work which will look like our journey turned to a romantic adventure. We'll talk about his travels in Europe, the Middle East and South America, and he'll complain about his rheumatism and pass on a few wise words from Thomas Cole. Then we'll look at some of the rare plants in his conservatory and sit down with his family to an elegant meal, and plan a long walk for the first of September.

Fox Hollow didn't look much different then, fewer trees and more fields under cultivation or given to pasture. Some of the same families are still farming here. When we get back to the twenty-first century I will send copies of my images over the "new" power lines to their grandchildren's computers.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Pleasant View

GALEN ROWELL: "You only get one sunrise and one sunset a day, and you only get so many days on the planet. A good photographer does the math and doesn't waste either."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: To call the view from Pleasant View Farm, atop Winchell Mountain, "pleasant," is to commit a felonious litotes. Much of this summer's explorations have taken me north, up the area known as, "The Oblong," on the border of New York and Connecticut. With the rising sun shining across Connecticut at my back, the view on this morning extends at least 40 miles. The most distant mountain in this image are in the southern Catskills on the far side of the Hudson River. Had I walked a few hundred feet south I could have looked east almost as far into Connecticut, but that's not where the view was on this morning.

As a breed, landscape photographers tend to be scavengers, combing the hills to rescue moments of sunlight, fog or cloud from the dissipations of time. Planned shots rarely are what one anticipates, but at Pleasant View I can count on finding rising valley fog on most mornings. I will return here often.

This panorama was made from three distinct images stitched in Photoshop. The original file has enough resolution to produce an image at least eight feet long.