Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

TODAY'S PHOTO - Lower Plunge, Early Spring, Late Afternoon


Maeve Benchy: "Life is never dull if you know where to look."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Much of the time, especially in the "off seasons" when the landscape is drab, I set out on a walk to see what images I can make. In March and early April, everything is beaten down, and often the best shots are taken close up, or I return home having found nothing worse than a good walk. Then again, I welcome any time of year when my view can stretch out to encompass the grand landscape.

Where better than Plunge Pool. Really a series of five pools divided by beaver dams, the trail down to the upper pool is relatively untraveled but not so remote as the 4 lower pools. To reach the other four pools one must balance on logs tossed across a stream and cross over the first beaver dam. The logs have decayed badly over the winter. At the far end of the first dam one must cross two additional channels to reach the trail on the other side that leads back alongside pools 2, 3, and 4 to the last pool. Last week the dam could not be crossed, so I went in from the other side.

This approach is equally remote even though Pitch Road goes directly through the lower pool. With each season more of Pitch Road is under its water, but I've never seen a car even where the road remains open. Nor is it a pleasant stroll over the road's ruins which start long before one reaches the pond. No place in the vicinity has such a feral feel. The pond is a gaping wound consuming forest as the beavers tend their dikes. The beavers, the ducks, the Canada geese took over here long ago, but it is the wreckage of forest that makes it so forbidding. Root balls tipped as the forest fell are bathed in the rains and dried in the sun until they turn brittle and white. Along the shore fallen hemlocks stripped of their needles loom like the rib cages of felled animals. Everywhere the ground oozes as the broth warms.

I've been coming to Plunge Pool for many years. It's taken this long to figure out how to order the enormous complexities of the place into an image. It's a matter of getting to know the players. There were more of them in past years. I've finally realized that the cluster of dead white pines that hug the shoreline in the center back of this picture give the place its grandeur. If grandeur is the goal then all else follows from this. The dead pines must be visible to the very top. Because I know the place well, I've discovered where the best supporting characters can be found and which ones will be most useful in deepening the picture space. Of course there are many more images to be made here, but late on a sunny afternoon, this is the place to stand if you want to watch the slow power of time. It's been raining for two days. I'm eager to get back here and see how it will look when it is full.

Here are images of the lower pool made in 2007 and previously published on the blog: 1, 2, 3.