Thursday, September 30, 2010

Low Tide

DAVID L. LUNT (from Hauling by Hand, by Dean Lawrence Lunt): "I started when I was 10 (1948) with just a few traps around the harbor. The first year I had a rowboat and the next year I had a little, aircooled Lawson outboard that I put on it. I started out with maybe 25 traps right around the harbor. We used to go around the shore and pick up traps that people didn't want to bother with and patch those up. We also had some traps that the bigger fishermen didn't want and had discarded. We would patch those up too. The traps were good enough to fish inside and for us to haul by hand, but they weren't good enough to haul in boats. They wouldn't hold up. We also picked up old buoys and stuff around the shore. We used rope people had discarded and couldn't haul with the winch heads anymore. That is just about what everyone started out with - everyone my age."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Corea with its shoreline of docks may be the most traditional looking of New England fishing towns, but few lobstermen care much about making it look authentic. It just is.

Low tide, a time one doesn't want to arrive at the dock with a truckload of fresh bait. Tides were most extreme when we were in Corea, high highs and low lows, and seeing the docks stranded like this makes clear how much lobstermen move by the tides. I had high rubber boots with me which I carry for wading into the mud, but I forgot to use them here. There are pictures to be made from under these docks.

Many of the docks have classic fishing shacks whose use, nature and contents, until this trip, have remained a mystery to me.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

September Song

DEAN LAWRENCE LUNT (from Hauling by Hand): "Yet another chore was making and mending trap 'heads' and bait pockets. Heads are the mesh netting made of twine that are stretched across the ends of traps and form the entrance to a trap on the side. Inside each trap, a mesh, funnel-shaped netting allows the lobster to move from the compartment with the bait to a second compartment called a "parlor." It is in the parlor that the lobster is trapped.... A common sight in island homes during the first 75 years of the 20th century was a man or woman sitting in the kitchen with a string attached to the kitchen doorknob, pulling wooden needles and cotton twine around a 'mesh board' --- a wooden block similar in shape to a harmonica --- to makes heads or pockets. Islanders sometimes held knitting bees at which eight or 10 people might gather at a house for ice cream and cake and to knit heads."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: This image is from mid-September. The lobsters are in retreat to deeper, warmer waters, and lobstermen are pulling back their traps; nearest to shore come in first. Each wharf is filling with them and buoys, toggles and ropes. The lobstermen have spent their summer as I've heard them say, "Trying to outthink the lobsters." The hunt is learned from early childhood, passed from father to son and now sometimes to daughters too. I see stove pipes on many of the lobster shacks, so there is a winter routine as well. If I return in the spring I know I will see rows of scrubbed traps with ropes, buoys, and toggles neatly packaged inside in readiness for the lobsters' return.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Exeunt Geese

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  Just before shooting this series of photos we chatted with a lobsterman moving traps nearby. He spoke with a gingered, Maine twang, and he let us photograph from his wharf.  When asked about the wrecked shack that had come through Hanna unmarked, he said, "That old thing? It's been like that fa fahty yeahs." 

I wondered what it might look like inside. His own wharf had clean, new deck, and he talked about working on it. The nine crusty traps he had just set on it might leave the first stains. He explained that decks wear out, but the salt preserves the pilings which go deep and can last hundreds of years.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Docking Rights


Docking Rights

Just as the right to fish in a given "precinct" is passed from parent to child,
the use of a family dock seems to be be a family inheritance,
a place to launch traps from in spring
and to set them in fall,
a place of daily common purpose,
a place that ebbs and flows with the tide.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: And so, this September 11th, after trying to catch sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, Lazlo and I drove around to the Schoodic Peninsula and to Corea. Not only had Hanna spared the shack, but the gull was still on the rock. We arrived in time to watch a gaggle of geese test his claim to back-of-the-bay turf. The geese halted just off shore. Had they come also to check us out, or was this a daily strut to put the gulls on notice as to just whose bay this was? Two winters and two summers had hardly aged the shack. The box of rock that looked ready to fall into the sea in 2008 seemed no more nor less improbable in 2010.

Be sure to click on the photo to see it large.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Corea in Fog, September, 2008

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: In September of 2008 in Corea, Maine, I first noticed lobster shacks as a species of subject matter. I photographed this one for over an hour as fog drifted in and out with the cackle of seagulls. My gull models barely moved. It occurred to me the shack might not be here after Hanna blew through.

I processed and posted two shots to TODAY'S shortly after returning home. This is another from that series. How differently I choose to process it now, two years later! The two images processed in 2008 can be viewed here: Corea Harbor Gull Watch; Lobster Shack, Corea.

After Hanna I couldn't return to Corea and haven't been back since. As Lazlo and I headed toward Corea this fall, I wondered if there'd be anything left of the shack.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Back of the Harbor, Corea, Maine

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: The Schoodic Peninsula is the next peninsula north of Mount Dessert Island. My annual trips didn't get this far Down East until September of 2008. I drove into the tiny harbor of Corea as the weather bureau was tracking Hurricane Hanna. I arrived in the early afternoon and spent most of my time on the western side of the harbor which seemed more interesting.

This image was taken at the very back of the harbor where a freshwater stream has cut a tiny inlet for the salt water to fill. I failed to process the image initially because I was busy with images from the, just completed, Olsen House workshop, and I didn't realize that the two shots that make the image could be stitched into a satisfying panorama. I spent the evening at Schoodic Point and turned toward my B&B just before sunset as the winds were building, and the surf was raging. I thought Schoodic Point would be a good place to shoot from the next morning with Hanna in retreat.

The tiny harbor of Corea probably looks much as it did a century ago, though I suspect more open then; less wooded. Originally called Indian Harbor, the first settlers didn't arrive in Corea until 1812, and they have been supporting themselves on fishing ever since. There are two lobster pounds, but what's most evident are the dozens of private docks, many with shaky fishing shacks, that circle the harbor. Even today Corea lies just beyond the range of most tourists. Those who make it this far are more likely to spend their time at Schoodic Point.

The next morning the road to my B&B was under water. I packed, paced, lingered over breakfast and imagined Schoodic Point. Then all at once the new lake in front of the B&B emptied as if a drain had been unplugged somewhere. I was on my way, but the road to the Point was also washed out. In fact the end of the peninsula was split in half by a gully where the main road should have passed. I wasn't even sure I could get back to Corea. I decided the best plan was to find my way off the peninsula, as it turned out, through a labyrinth of still passable roads; it was a strategic retreat, and I wasn't really sure I had made it until I reached Route 1. This trip with Lazlo was the first time I've been back.

NOTE: Once again I hope to be shooting at New York's Halloween Parade with friends. It is arguably the best parade outside New Orleans. It only costs a moment of time to support the parade with your vote. For info:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Morris Yachts

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: There's been a lighthouse at Bass Harbor head since September of 1858 when John Thurston and his family took up residence there. The lens installed in the lighthouse in 1902 is still in use today. The bay outside Bass Harbor is sheltered by five small islands: Great Gott Island, Little Gott Island, Black Island, Placentia Island and Swanns Island. It has long been known among sailors and captains as a safe refuge from the ravages of winter weather and from foul winds whenever they blow. Since the 18th century large, transatlantic, sailing vessels often made use of its shelter on their way into and out of ports farther west, Portland; Portsmouth, Boston, Providence, New Haven, New York, and Philadelphia. In the shelter of these island, Bass Harbor thrived as a nearly mainland outpost of Maine fishing.

Most of the boats that sail out of Bass Harbor today are lobster boats. There are two active lobster pounds there which buy the daily catch, but some lobsterman prefer the town dock on the Bernard side. These independent lobstermen sell to middlemen who drive there trucks out on the dock and weigh and buy from the incoming boats. Fishermen always preferred good harbors on the outer reaches of Maine's peninsulas and on its islands. Being that far out gave them a head-start on getting to the catch. Lack of modern conveniences and the advantages of motorized fishing boats mean fewer commercial fishermen fish from the islands these days, but Bass harbor offers all the advantages of being near the outer edge and none of the inconveniences of island life, and it remains a center of lobstering.

The old Underwood Sardine Factory in Bass Harbor has been closed as long as I remember, and the only catch now is lobster. Continue past the brick Underwood Building and the ferry terminal and you'll reach Morris Yachts. They continue New England's traditions of fine, custom, boat building and design. I'm told they recently completed a yacht for Martha Stewart painted in a color they promise will remain unique. Bass Harbor is a commercial harbor. They build the yachts here, but the yachts find home port elsewhere.

I took this picture on my trip with Jane in early spring.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Young Lobsterman

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Is coastal fishing the last great industry serving an extended market that is owned and run by local small businessmen? I usually don't post a picture to illustrate a story, but on my visit to Maine last June I spotted a young lobsterman loading traps onto the smallest lobster boat I had ever seen. It was then I realized how special the lobster industry in Maine really is.

The boats in this harbor are all lobster boats. As the picture shows, some are three, some are four windows wide. The boat in the foreground is wide enough for just a single person. I've watched lobstermen at work. Captain and mate are a coordinated team. When they fail boats wind up on the rocks, and lines get hopelessly tangled. Finding, hauling, emptying, baiting, and dropping 250 traps is an exhausting day's labor for two men. I wanted to know what the young lobsterman loading the boat alone was up to.

I quickly learned how serious he was. Lobster permits and territory are managed by the lobstermen themselves. Each harbor has its lobstering territory and the right to set traps there is granted by the lobstermen of that harbor. Lobstermen from Bass Harbor don't set traps in the waters that belong to the lobstermen of nearby Swann's Island on one side or the lobstermen of Frenchman's Cove on the other. Only the lobstermen know the arcane rules governing the extents of each territory, the information passed down from generation to generation, honored and respected. In this way the entire coast of Maine is divided into lobstering precincts, and those who drop traps in waters where they are not licensed will quickly find their lines cut and their traps lost. The number of lobstermen fishing any precinct is strictly limited by the lobstermen as is the number of traps each may drop. A master lobsterman might be permitted as many as 800 traps in the precinct. The only way to gain a permit to set traps in a given precinct is to be a resident of that precinct and the child of a lobsterman. Thus lobstering has been passed from father to son for generations.

The young lobsterman told me he had just gotten a permit increasing the number of traps he could set to 500. The boat was his and the income was helping him put himself through college. Since meeting him I've noted more than one tiny lobster boat dropping traps, and I'm feeling optimistic about lobstering in Maine.

Once fish were so plentiful along the coast of New England that they were used as fertilizer. Lobsters could be pulled by hand along the shore without use of a trap. One by one Maine fishermen fished out all of the other catches of the area. When lobster was the only thing left, it was the fishermen who organized to create rules to prevent depletion of their last refuge. If the lobsters were fished out, there would be no more fishing industry in Maine, no work for their children. Although federal regulations cover broad issues of lobstering, it is the fishermen themselves who have implemented the most important conservation measures. The story of Maine lobstering is a model and an example.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tranquil Sea

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: It has been over a week since I've posted to this blog in which time I've been traveling in Maine and sharing with photographer friends some of my favorite places. This was my seventh photographic visit to Mt. Dessert Isle. While I was gone Jane filled some walls which, due to my current exhibit, have been temporarily blank. She used whatever framed images she found, and I came home to find this image from my first photo visit hanging in the hall. I took it with my first DSLR on May 30, 2006, and have never posted it, had completely forgotten it. For whatever it's worth I've reedited it and am posting it belatedly.

As I review the photos from my most recent trip I will try to post a few photos from previous trips. This will give me time to prepare new ones to follow these. Meanwhile, other photos from this summer in Connecticut are ready to appear, but they must wait. How do I keep a balance between photographing, processing and posting so that I'm not constantly behind in all three? When will TODAY'S really be TODAY'S? How do I find time amid these tasks to reach for words that go beyond my daily photo processes?

These are questions best not answered. I must take things patiently, follow inner cues. In any case, with my camera out for repair, I will not be creating new exposures this week.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Bounty No. 2

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: It is often my goal to try to catch the roll of the New England hills. Out West the landscape itself provides numerous features, but in New England I usually must rely on man-made objects to help organize and provide focus to a composition.

The fields behind Smithfield Guernsey Farm offer one of the best spots from which to appreciate these hills and the labyrinth of creases that divide them and through which many of the roads are threaded. The old farm road reaches an elevation of almost 1100 feet, but the slope is gentle in every direction and once at the top I'm always surprised at how far I can see. Connecticut's hills are no higher but more tightly packed.

Smithfield Guernsey is one of the few, large dairy farms remaining in the area, and as their web site points out, they thrive by innovating. No other farm in the area has such a castle of aluminum bins, hoppers, and sheds for equipment and feed. In addition to grazing land, they have over 2000 acres under cultivation. Once one is up top behind Smithfield Guernsey the view is cropland in every direction.

Special thanks to Arlene Petterson for introducing me to this place.