Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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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.