Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Classic II

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Every snowstorm is unique, though there is usually a dramatic arc from first flakes' onset to gentle calm as the storm moves out, or perhaps it ends as rain. I make my guesses and meet this with a plan. On January 28th I wasn't convinced the storm would pan out, so I stayed close to home.

What is it that makes the terraine around Hidden Valley Farm especially fun to shoot? Certainly this farmstead, projecting out over the valley on its acropolis, is as picturesque as any. In addition, the valley is narrow and many angles are accessible. The land is open but retains many features: Buildings, trees, walls, fences are all potential actors in the drama. Of course snow transforms everything, and I wasn't sure who the characters would be with the land spread white.

I parked over the ridge beyond the farmstead so when I walked back, my first view was from above. My plan was to walk down the town road to the farmstead. If the snow stopped I'd still have good shooting close up. If it continued I'd either follow the road into the valley, or walk back up the hill, but I'd turn off the town road and follow the old farm road out along the ridge. Way out the ridge is exposed. Out there a moderate snow might make the hills very interesting, and the brush is wild, and there is a second farmstead that comes into view, and one gets to look back at this farmstead along the whole length of the walk out as various characters move between and beyond. There's nothing I like batter than wrestling with a broad landscape to extract painterly compositions, and I am a sucker for spots that preserve the look of another time.

Descending to the farmstead, potential characters were changing places frequently and I made a number of panoramas on the way down, but I stopped longer here at the switchback where the road comes off the slope and turns toward the barns. Right at this bend I am at the head of the valley. It is an ideal place to lead the eye deep, and the snow had conspired with the hills and trees to make the back field distinct. It's the first time I've been able to include the ancient farmhouse nestled in the hillside. That hillside is the backstop where the valley is finally fully played out and where the tiny spring that carved it begins. The original panorama included more area to the right where the view is framed by another tree cluster, but cropping it this way makes a stronger statement and gives importance to the cluster of trees at the first stone wall, like a family standing to admire the view.

Many of the features of this image are very much like Classic I. As a composition, it is entirely different and testimony to the power of moving a few feet. While I miss the simple statement of the horses here, they would be too indistinct to be meaningfull. In pulling back (both lens and position), the simple intimacy of the farmstead and horses, the cluster of trees set against the gray band of the hillside is exchanged for grandeur. Few locations provide a leading line as strong as this of road, retaining wall, fence, and distant hill. Hidden in the back valley, snow settles on the river. This is a view that wouldn't have looked too different 200 years ago.

I hope you can view it large because there's plenty of detail to zoom into. It is a stitched panorama of high resolution, and it is quite possible to make a sharp print that would be five feet by two feet. My computer screen is too small to show it properly.