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.