Monday, November 30, 2009


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: For whatever it's worth, and I assure any enthusiast that it isn't much, the following was based on my observation that cows always show immense curiosity in my tripod. As soon as I take camera in hand and park tripod near by, it becomes a new field of exploration for cow brains to digest. Cows who previously had no thought to move, spot it standing there from across the yard. Many times while distracted photographing one cow, I've turned in time to glimpse another shy from the tripods falling heft, and in time to snatch it up before she moves in to sniff at her fallen prey.


What is it about my tripod that catches the imagination of cows?

Perhaps it's the physics of the thing,
A philosophical flight by kinekind
Into the calculus of matter
And the stability of a trinity
And the ultimate futility of it all?

Or could it be the buxom milkmaid she longs for,
Humming on her stool her cowtown blues?
Or before that the fatted calf,
So utterly contented, beside the man on the stool
And the whine of his whetstone?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Economy of Hay

ANSEL ADAMS: "The negative is the equivalent of the composer's score, and the print the performance."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: I'm suddenly aware that I'm spending more time than ever revising images in Photoshop. It's not a bad thing; I still shoot more than I fiddle. In part, I think this is a natural result of drilling more deeply into the program and finding new ways to combine procedures, but I also think it is driven, in part, by my use over the past few months of HDR. If nothing else, HDR has drawn me toward situations of "impossible" lighting, and impossible lighting has led to post-processing fixes. But it has pushed my editing skills in other ways as well.

Without HDR this shot isn't impossible, but it's very dull. There's a branch that angles down and stands in relief just where the roof shadow is darkest. It is a detail I especially like, and below it is a ripple of vines that catches a ray of sunlight. Neither of these were clear to me in the two images I had shot to use for an HDR. In the exposure that let me capture sky, no matter what I did, that branch, at best, looked like obscure texture on the background barn boards. In the brighter exposure the background shadow was so bright that the leaves, though well formed, looked relatively flat and uninteresting. HDR technology combined information on the deep shadow from the overexposed original that revealed the hay wagon properly and preserved information about the color of the bright leaves from the underexposed image that was set to capture the sky. In the HDR software I could play with this balance and see what the whole might be. It was there that I saw, perhaps remembered, the bit of drama in the contrast of leaves and shadowed barn.

Unfortunately, the wind that day was blowing hard, and the leaves in the HDR looked like a double exposure. The actual HDR was useless. I made plans to come back, but on this day I had a useful sky, and when I did get back the hay wagon was gone, the hay stacked deep inside. However, I looked at the HDR with its double-exposed leaves, and I knew how I wanted the tones pulled together. Back in Photoshop I could combine the best of both images manually and then carefully adjust brightness, contrast, and saturation in carefully localized areas until the image was toned and colored as I had seen it in the HDR. The HDR software had let me sketch it.

Efforts such as this have led me to drill yet deeper into Photoshop tools and make many sorts of small adjustments I might not have made a year ago. Now, even when I don't need to make an HDR, I have a greater facility to make changes. As to the kinds of changes I'm making digitally, they are not very unlike what Anselm Adams taught photographers to do chemically in printing. However, digital processing allows infinitely more control and a much shorter learning curve. Of course, it also opens the doors to almost anything.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Last Haying

DAVID PLOWDEN: "It seems I have made a career of being one step ahead of the wrecking ball. I have been beset with a sense of urgency to record those parts of our heritage which seem to be receding as quickly as the view from the rear of a speeding train. I fear that we are eradicating the evidence of our past accomplishments so quickly that in time we may well lose the sense of who we are."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: The hay that feeds the cattle through the winter comes from fields adjacent to where the beef cattle graze. Mike has already filled the first wagon and towed it to the lower field. Driving a loaded hay wagon down the hill, he must be careful to cut across the slope at the right angle. Too gentle a descent, and the hay wagon may tip sideways, spilling its load; too steep a descent, and the new load will propel the tractor on an uncertain ride. I've watched Mike plot a "switchback course," and bring a train of three raggéd, hay wagons down a steep hill safely behind his tractor.

On the hillside above him he's already cut the hay and raked it into furrows. Behind the tractor is a baler. As it runs along the furrows it gathers the hay and stuffs it into a metal duct which extrudes bales. Periodically the baler catapults a newly baled block of hay into the wagon at the back. On this particular day the catapult is giving him trouble, and after each bale he stops the tractor, gets down from his high seat, and resets the catapult arm. There has been too much rain, and some of the hay is not dry yet, but he won't even finish baling the dry hay this evening.

Each year there are fewer working farms in New England. When I first photographed at Twin Elm in 2007 they were growing corn here, but harvesting the corn became more work than they could handle. The equipment used to harvest corn is entirely different from that used to harvest hay. Today the corn harvesters lie abandoned in the fields over the wall where the herd grazes.

Many thanks to Mike, Ralph and their family for continuing permission to shoot at Twin Elm. Similar thanks to so many others who have given permission over the past three years for me to walk their lands and photograph. I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving filled with laughter and loved ones.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mooed Indigo*

KONRAD ADENAUER: “We all live under the same sky, but we don’t have the same horizon”

*Photo title suggested by Arthur Boehm


The Cow

She lumbers up the hill
Once spry,
Now heavy, awkward,
hirsute and laden with flies.
Culled from the herd
Her differences noted.

Sad, alone
She seeks friendship
And could adore
The human in the field
Alas, cross-specie relationships
Do not endure.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


JEANLOUP SIEFF: "All aspects of photography interest me and I feel for the female body the same curiosity and the same love as for a landscape, a face or anything else which interests me. In any case, the nude is a form of landscape. There are no reasons for my photographs, nor any rules; all depends on the mood of the moment, on the mood of the model."

*Photo title suggested by Margo Schab


Alimentary Meditation
Grazing along the sunny ridge,
On windswept plains,
Or in the shadowed grove,
Brazen fragrance of the herd,
What does the fly know of the cow's itch?
What does the cow know of the flies hunger?
What do intestinal microcultures know
Of the universes they reverberate.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Among Beef

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Everything beyond the dairy yards is running wild. He's not a bull, but there's probably no convincing him of that, nor do the other steers or the heifers seem to realize he's really just an ex-bull. There are several of these ex-bulls in the herd. I'm sure they each have a social rank, but I can only guess which one is chief ex-bull. They watch me more closely than do any of the other cattle, and I watch them back with equal attention. Beef cattle require little handling, and at Twin Elm they're left pretty much to themselves as they wander the extensive fields. As a result, they're on their guard when the strange guy with the tripod comes through.

Everything beyond the dairy yards is running wild. The fields are shrinking, being reclaimed by wild bittersweet and thistle, and other things with thorns, barbs, spikes, or spines that cows won't eat and people can't traverse. In some places fields have been abandoned entirely, though here and there they are penetrated by narrow channels through the brush, passageways kept clear by the cows and often only passable by cows. And the water that flows down the mountainside, long ago washed out much of the farm drainage system. Muddy areas trampled by the herd are often nearly impassable by human feet. I may meet parts of the beef herd almost anywhere up the mountainside. Beyond the dairy yards everything is running wild.

The ex-bulls take seriously their duty to guard the herd, and I respect that, but they are not brave, and so we do this little dance as I make my pictures. Cattle raised without regular human contact maintain a safe zone. Their eyes are on the sides of their heads giving them wide-angle vision. With their heads pointing forward they can see everything from shoulder blade to shoulder blade. Of course they turn their heads to extend this vision, but there's a blind spot at the back and a point of balance. If I enter the blind spot they will turn. If I encroach on their safe zone from behind the shoulder blades, they will move forward and away from me. In this way I can kind of herd them into positions where the light is right or the background interesting for my photographs.

Sometimes the ex-bulls will try to herd me, but I've learned not to retreat from my own safe zone. They do this slowly. They're probably not trying to herd me so much as approach on their own terms to satisfy their curiosity. However, I preserve my safe zone. When the ex-bull gets too close for comfort I never retreat. I move toward it, and it retreats.

I've read that bulls that grow up with other cattle know they are bulls. Individually raised bulls may think they are people and challenge approaching people for dominance. I have no idea how each of the animals in the Twin Elms herd was raised, and I try to watch signals closely. At the end of a shoot, as I leave the pasture, I always keep one eye behind me.

There have been times when several ex-bulls converged around me. Being surrounded by so many tons of beef surmounted by sharp horns is not comfortable. Then I'll plot my advance toward one of the converging ex-bulls. Sometimes when I look back the remaining ex-bulls are gently butting heads. Everything beyond the dairy yards is running wild.

The concept of "ex-bull" was adopted from writings of Helga Tacreiter. I found her observations on cow behavior interesting, and suggest these web sites:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How Now Brown Swiss? No.2

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: It takes two to tango with a cow. I guess it's to be expected. Yesterday I spoke of the problems I had getting the cow to turn her head the right way. This shot was taken this morning while my friend Lazlo stroked Bessie's nose and diverted her attention, all the while snapping pictures with his right hand. While he stroked I snuck in from the side. Even so, I feel lucky to have caught this, and I threw away fifty to get it.

Yeah, I know, it's a slow-moving cow, and people have been known to get some pretty good shots of tigers leaping at a lens. These Brown Swiss really are sweethearts. Unlike dogs, they're much too polite to ask to be petted, but once you start, they'll put down their heads to show you where. I wish their noses didn't constantly drip.

To give due credit, Brown Swiss are ideal models if you can overlook nose goo and sometimes a pancaked flank. Black Angus may make great steak, and they can look nice dotting a field, but dark fur obscures the features of their faces and the otherwise sinuous contours of their bodies. Dappled cows such as Holsteins and Guernseys and unlikely breeds like Belted Galloways compound these problems by camouflaging their bovine curves. Brown Swiss and Jersey cows have smooth, even, light, tan coats which darken and lighten softly across their flanks. Sunlight can reveal magenta or orange overtones. When the angle to the light is right, all the curves of the torso are visible and sometimes you can see the ripples of the rib cage. Brown Swiss are larger than Jerseys, awesomely so. Add large, furry ears, a docile nature, and high butter fat content, and I'll introduce you to a model any photographer might fall in love with.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Twin Elm Farm, October, 2009

THOMAS DE QUINCEY: "Cows are amongst the gentlest of breathing creatures; none show more passionate tenderness to their young when deprived of them; and, in short, I am not ashamed to profess a deep love for these quiet creatures."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: What is the patience of a cow? And what might a photographer do to try it? Yesterday I had a lesson in the nature of cow patience. When among the dairy ladies I move in bovine time. I want them to stay settled - maybe even forget I'm there. Too much movement, and they may come over to inspect. Move suddenly, and they spook. Yesterday one of them wanted her picture taken. She followed me down to the lower yard and stood and waited, and she'd actually found some rather nice light. The problem is, every time I started clicking the shutter, she'd turn away. When I put my lens down and looked at her, she'd turn back to where I wanted her, but as soon as I started clicking, the head would turn away. I couldn't quite get it framed as I wanted, and so we played this game over and over. She continued posing and turning and posing and turning until I exceeded her speed limit, exceeded her rpm's. All at once, she stepped back, turned around, and walked back to the first yard. Not only that, but a few moments later another cow who had been watching us followed her leaving me alone the yard. I was being snubbed by cows. I could almost feel disgust in their departing footsteps.

I followed them into the other yard, but they were by then in the far corner, and they clearly wanted nothing to do with me. For awhile I photographed other things. Three of them left the yard completely and moved into the muddy interior yard down between the buildings by the honey wagon. It was a place I was reluctant to go without my rubber boots, but finally I followed them there. I stood amid the muck just on the other side of deep puddles. The cows knew I could go no further. I watched as they began grooming each other and nuzzling. I was surprised at how affectionate the ladies were to each other. Much later in the afternoon I circled round the barns and photographed a bit from the other side of the puddles. I think at that point they forgave me, because they came over to the fence where I was standing. I wonder how they'll receive me when I go back today. It will be a test of cow memory.

Monday, November 16, 2009

How Now Brown Swiss?

GRANT WOOD: "All the really good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: I confess it. Sometimes I talk to the cows. I do it in English because I'd be ashamed to utter my treble moo in front of a cow with a basso profondo that makes my toenails curl. If only I could open my mouth and have that sound come out! Then I'd have a real conversation, and the cows would pay attention. And back in the city, think how useful the talent to moo could be in clearing a path on a crowded subway platform.

Mostly, the cows show no reaction to my chatter. Those who think cows to be sluggards who mind nothing but hay and grass are mistaken. While most of their lives are spent standing and chewing, if you get anywhere near them you will discover inquiring minds meditating on the meaning of your presence. They are not like dogs who mostly want your attention and love. Nor are they like cats who require your obeisance. Mostly, cows just want to know.

I often try to get near and snap a candid shot of the herd, but usually they spot me coming and follow every move. Then my photos look like posed family portraits, all eyes on the lens. Cheese! And after I've crossed the pasture and am moving on, they are usually still watching until I'm out of sight.

Of course, occasionally they do talk to me, and then my toenails curl.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Brown Swiss

WIKIPEDIA: Famous Brown Swiss:
Hoosier Knoll Jade Monay Set a new bench mark for udder quality when she won Supreme Champion in 1994. When she was classified, the udder was scored E-96 which is still one of the highest scores ever obtained for udder quality by a Brown Swiss. Recently Monay was awarded the distinction of being the All Time All-American 3 Year Old for the Swiss Breed.
Old Mill E Snickerdoodle is considered by many as one of the best Brown Swiss to ever walk across the show ring. She was undefeated from her first show in 2003 up until the World Dairy Expo in 2007. She currently sets a record across all breeds for most consecutively won classes at Harrisburg and the World Dairy Expo.
Jane of Vernon "Almost all Brown Swiss today trace to this magnificent cow who lived from 1929 to 1945. She garnered Grand Champion honors at national Brown Swiss shows in 1932, 1933, 1934, and 1936. Jane of Vernon was bred by the late Orbec Sherry of Viroqua, Wisconsin."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Though the title of this photograph nods toward Kuener Farm and Andrew Wyeth's painting of the same name, the scene has shifted from Chadds Ford to Twin Elm Farm in the Oblong. Beyond sharing a common title, this image has nothing in common with Wyeth's painting.

The main herd at Twin Elm are beef cattle. They roam most of the hillside above the barns and cover considerable territory. They are a mix of breeds including some Brown Swiss. When I'm in the fields with them they are a curious bunch who will watch me closely and then walk over to see who's trespassing in their pastures, and sometimes when I'm out there taking pictures, they'll sneak up on me, and I won't know they're there until I feel one breathing behind me. When I turn, however, they jump away. I take comfort in knowing they are more afraid of me than I of them... not too much comfort.

This photo, however, is of one of the dairy ladies. There's only a handful of them (What a concept! They can easily weigh a ton each.) They are all Brown Swiss, and their personalities are entirely different. They'll stand and watch me with their sad, brown eyes and their large, furry ears, and when I walk toward them, they'll let me pat their necks. They are slow, gentle giants. Brown Swiss have a reputation for their sweet disposition and docile nature. It is well earned. Even among the beef herd, the Brown Swiss steers, although the largest animals in the herd, are the least threatening.

Then again, all cows spend 6 hours a day eating and eight hours a day chewing cud, but I was warned that some of the bulls may not have been properly castrated.

For more on these cows visit: Autumn Cow in Retrospect

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pretty Lily

JOHN LOENGARD: "A Ming vase can be well-designed and well-made and is beautiful for that reason alone. I don't think this can be true for photography. Unless there is something a little incomplete and a little strange, it will simply look like a copy of something pretty. We won't take an interest in it."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: I plead, guilty as charged, but I couldn't resist. More adventurous efforts coming soon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Before leaving Chadds Ford, let's make a brief stop at Longwood Gardens as Gary and I did on both visits. It has greatly enlarged my concept of water lilies. These are not the innocent lilies of Connecticut woodland ponds that are from birth beset by lilivores of all shapes and sizes. They are invadors from another universe, armored and armed. What horny beetle or sucking slug challenges their ramparts? What evanescent visitor sips their honeyed nectar? What are his stingers like?

I wish I'd had a moment to reset my aperture to sharpen the foreground thorns, but by the time I made the adjustment, the rings had disappeared from the back. I must investigate if similar displays are at the Bronx Botanical Gardens or anywhere in my orbit.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Barncat (Sophie) with Spring House & Kuerner Hill

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL - Thoughts while watching Sophie:

I leave it to others to advise me if this photo was worth the effort it took to bring it to fruition. It is another case of light that entices the eye but defies the lens with extremes of bright and dark. One sign of the stress is the extreme graininess of some sections.

Making it, required an HDR composite of four different exposures. However, the center of the HDR lacked clarity. It is a picture within a picture and needs a level of realism beyond Sophie's grainy, barn world. In order to preserve the clarity in the center picture I inlaid a segment from one of the original exposures. If one zooms in very close one may spot some of the Frankenstein-like sutures. That's a lot of touch-up work, and I'm not sure the whole thing is worth it, but I do love it when light starts playing with windows and windows start playing with light. I should have photographed more in that corner and at the shed just across the farmyard.

I know some will object to the intrusion of Rubbermaid. Oh, and the spring house! I had passed here on my way out 40 minutes earlier when the sun fell beautifully on its end gable. I didn't shoot it then as I was heading to another possible shot. The other shot was worthless, but now I'd like to know what images might have been prompted by that other lighting. Have I missed a better moment? One never likes to admit such things. Choices!

Monday, November 9, 2009

American Gothic


Tightrope of time
Transforming idle barns.
Who is it that strung them there?
Who patrolled those wires
Before they got soiled and gray with age?
Before new lines were strung.

They age and gray
Until they grow plush
And the rafters are webbed,
And the joists cocooned.
Time's tightropes
Layer to downy forgetfulness.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Belly of the Beast, No.2

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: This was taken earlier in the morning looking down from the third floor. I had just returned from a tour with Karl, our host. He wanted to take us into a section of the barn we had not yet entered. An addition to the barn along the southern wall includes the famous room that is the subject of "Spring Fed." It is the bottom floor dug into the bank to which Karl Sr. cleverly diverted a natural spring.  It had been the first section of the barn Gary and I had entered, and both of us had tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to photograph our own "Spring Fed."  Now Karl led us to a storage space above the spring room, a shed addition leaning against the south wall of the great barn.

Even with the doors to this space open it was too dark to photograph. To make matters worse, the siding was rustic and had large gaps between the boards. The bright sun projected black stripes everywhere. The south wall was alternate shadow and glare. The light, such as it was, blinded rather than illuminated. Karl led us through the space with pride as, one by one, he pulled back covers on beautiful, old, horse-drawn sleds and explained how each had been carefully restored. Winter sleigh rides! I've always thought it must have been wonderful to glide through the snow, pulled along by a strong horse as in Welles' Magnificent Ambersons.

When I asked about sleigh rides, Karl showed us a photo of himself and Andy riding in such a sleigh.  It was an event he seemed to take in stride except for the presence of Andy. A sleigh ride with Andrew Wyeth!

Sleigh rides are gone, and hay rides aren't really hay rides as they must have been once. If both lasted longer here, that may not be bad. I recall that there was little modernization while Karl Sr. was alive. Long after tractors and balers were common everywhere producing hard, little rectangles of crushed hay, Kuerner Farm still processed hay loose from the field, forking it onto the hay wagons in a heap. It was significantly more work haying that way, but back then the hay rides must have been a lot more fun.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Oh Hayloft Where the Cobwebs Cling

ANDREW WYETH: "My aim is to escape from the medium with which I work. To leave no residue of technical mannerisms to stand between my expression and the observer. To seek freedom of so-called free and accidental brushwork . . . Not to exhibit craft but rather to submerge it; and make it rightfully the hand-maiden of beauty, power and emotional content."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Later in the afternoon I'm following the light beam from the gable window into a new quadrant of the barn where it is lighting some webs. Karl the host is working there. I watch. He is excavating bales from the back of a shaft that leads through the hay to near where my beam is falling. He has a small hand cart and is calmly loading bales and shuttling them to a new location in the shadows at the other side of the barn. He works slowly but steadily. There is no way for both of us to work in the shaftway at the same time. I watch some more. Can I get in as he leaves, make my three exposures, and get out before he's back for more bales?

I watch him leave - he has a half dozen bales precariously balanced - and then slip into the shaft where there is scant room for me and my tripod. To get my angle I'm squeezed against the hay bales, and I feel the dust and grit slipping into my shirt collar. The shaft has the feel of a catacomb, and I understand why Karl wears a face mask as he works. I set my tripod as I listen for Karl's approaching footsteps and the grumble of his cart. I must make three exposures without moving the camera. The composition is fussy and I struggle with the tripod to get the lens into position. I hurry. Haste makes waste. I do the longest exposure first, two long minutes. Two minutes of grit down my collar. Two minutes through which I keep listening and doing my best not to move. Then exposure two, thirty seconds. If I can get this one done, the last is only 8 seconds, and I'm at it, and it's done.

I'm already gathering my tripod and camera before I hear the grumbling wheels and the reply of the floor boards in the next room, and I hurry out of the shaft. In three more intervals, while Karl ferries hay, I complete two more sets, compositional variations.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


ANDREW WYETH: "I played alone, and wandered a great deal over the hills, painting watercolors that literally exploded, slapdash over my pages, and drew in pencil or pen and ink in a wild and undisciplined manner."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Karl Kuerner, known as Karl J. Kuerner III, met us Monday morning at the barn. I was glad to see him again. He is the grandson of Karl Kuerner, Sr., Andrew Wyeth's first, and arguably most important, muse.  Karl J., was there to feed animals and take care of morning chores. The barn was dark inside, and he helped us open whatever could be opened to let in light, and sometime early mid-morning was gone. He is an artist, and we'd hoped to stop by his studio to see what he was at work on, but a bad cold kept me away. 

Sometime later in the morning another man arrived and began shutting up the doors. He was somewhere in his eighties, a bit unsteady yet fit. It took awhile to explain that I was photographing the barns and needed to keep the doors open for the light. I explained we might be shooting for awhile, and tried to make clear "awhile" might be measured in multiple hours, not minutes. He was as hard of hearing as I am but had no aids; it took awhile to find the right wave length for communication, and I wasn't sure if we ever completely found it. When he left he said he'd be back later to close up; he was worried about children falling through the open hatches where hay was tossed.  So was I and also worried about me falling through a hatch or Gary, and the man's concern doubled my caution. 

He moved further into the barn and had a similar conversation with Gary, and I returned to shooting, a bit guilty that I might have rushed him on to get back to my image. It was perhaps a half hour later when he appeared with a book to show me, and I instantly realized my mistake.  The book was the book I'd bought at the Brandywine Museum on my last visit, the book of Karl J. Kuerner's paintings. This man was Karl Jr., the proud father of the artist and the proud son of the muse, here for his chores. Do I recall Karl the grandson saying his dad still ran the farm, did the haying? We were pleased to discover he would pose for us.  This was Karl Jr., our host.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Belly of the Beast

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: In mid-October I met my friend Gary in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, for a repeat visit to the Kuerner Farm, made famous in the paintings of Andrew Wyeth. This visit I was not so focused on Wyeth's example as on this great space. In the spring, when we were here last, Karl Kuerner's hay barn was nearly empty. Although far from full now, at the end of the season, this much hay changes everything. Passages that were open are now blocked with hay, and it took a while to orient myself, but it also made the spaces more interesting.

The barn is divided into thirds. The thirds on the two ends are for hay storage. The center third is a core for access to the hay. One enters the barn along the broad side at the back. Hay wagons can be pulled or pushed up the ramp and into the barn on the third floor, adjacent to the hay storage bays on either side that are clear space from bottom to top. From the center section of the third floor hay bales can be tossed to the floor of those bays below and eventually stacked to the top of the gable. That's three "flights" of hay. At the back of the barn, beneath the ramp one can enter the the second floor of the barn through a kind of loading dock. The second floor is the bottom of the hay storage. Chutes allow hay and grain to be passed down to the first floor where animals were kept in the winter. Alternately, hay can be taken to the loading dock, loaded on wagons, and delivered to field or dropped through doors at the front of the barn to the farmyard below. At one time the barn would have been full of hay in October, but now the season's hay doesn't quite fill to the top of the second floor.

At 10:20 AM, when I took this, the light coming through the gable window on the southeast side of the barn reached almost to the front of the barn. Gary and I spent a good part of the day following that beam of light as it moved east across walls, floor, and hay while the sun moved west.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Yellow Tree

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: All that glitters is not reflection. There is no beaten path through this valley which runs for about 5 miles to the Housatonic. The busiest residents are the beavers who continually re-engineer the water's flow.

The prevailing grain of hills in northwest Connecticut and nearby New York state is north-south in row after row, but here and for about ten miles around, by some freak of nature, the hills are skewed more east-west,; this valley bends along the path of the sun allowing me to catch this revealing side light.

Even so, finding places to photograph the resulting ponds and swamps is not always easy. A road passes on the south of this swamp, but even there the shrubs at the perimeter constrict shooting angles. I'd circled this area unsuccessfully several times looking for a place to shoot, but found this angle unexpectedly while walking the pastures around White Farm. It's a spot worth remembering.

The Old Lake Road

E. H. GOMBRICH: "The photographic enthusiast likes to lure us into a darkened room in order to display his slides on a silver screen. Aided by the adaptability of the eye and by the borrowed light from the intense projector bulb, he can achieve those relationships in brightness that will make us dutifully admire the wonderful autumn tints he photographed on his latest trip. As soon as we look at a print of these photographs by day, the light seems to go out of them. It is one of the miracles of art that the same does not happen there. The paintings in our galleries are seen one day in bright sunshine and another day in the dim light of a rainy afternoon, yet they remain the same paintings, ever faithful, ever convincing. To a marvelous extent they carry their own light within. For their truth is not that of a perfect replica, it is the truth of art."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: A few year's back, in the 1700s, this was Waramaug's Lake, the place where he and his Wyantenock tribe lived and hunted and fished in the summer and from which he ruled much of this part of Connecticut. When the trees were like this he was already thinking of his winter hunting grounds south of here, near a gorge and a waterfall in the Housatonic River. Here, where we find rustic beauty and the vitality of nature, he might despair at how beaten down and limp all nature seems. There, in the broad valley below the gorge, Waramaug's winter hunting grounds, where the Housatonic River once rushed, he would be surprised to find a long, deep lake with steep walls and a hydro-electric plant where eagles nest.

Waramaug sold his summer hunting grounds, including the lake in 1703. The first Yankee's built farms and their children built guest houses and inns, and today real estate developers, water conservationists and land preservationists debate the future.

In spite of that, this image asks us to linger. The fall here is at its perfect peak and under perfect light and perfect wind; a coincidence to delight a photographer's heart? In fact, not so. Again the eye is not like the camera lens and it took three images to get detail in both sky and road. Without a computer even Ansel Adams, I think, could not have coaxed clean detail from this old road.

A previous generation of photographers found their expression in the very limits of the technology they used. Today, the power of the home computer asks every photographer to decide where to set limits and may render moot Mr. Gombrich's comments. Although I needed technology to get the road to read more as my eye saw it, the color on the opposite shore needed no help from me. Yet any knowledgeable Photoshop user might wonder if I pushed the saturation. No, that's exactly as I and the camera saw it.