•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

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.