•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Clouds Skimming the Hilltop


NOTE: Follow this link to an excellent article on my upcoming opening and exhibition at the Gunn Library in Washington, Connecticut.

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: This image could only be resolved through post-processing. It is made from two shots taken shortly before I abandoned Rabbit Hill for the light I thought I would find at the lake overlook nearby, While ambient light made the cornfield and barns plain to see, the bright sky meant an exposure too short to record the cornfield, hillside and barns cleanly. The sky is the result of HDR. However, the cornfield is a single exposure. I'd rather catch theater lights than resort to such processing.

3. PROPORTIONALITY: It only occurred to me this week that in choosing a location to shoot theater lights one must consider the relationship between the scale of the landscape and the scale of the potential light beams that travel across it. Of course we notice such issues when we see them, but my imagination missed this issue as I considered relocating.

I had been shooting from a location I'd never tried on Rabbit Hill (a spot down behind one of those wood piles). The location allowed me to frame two receding paths in my barn composition. To the left I wanted to lead the viewer down the small town road as it passed through the farmstead between opposing barns. The arrangement of buildings left a weak visible cleft where the road jogged oddly and disappeared, but well targeted beam of light might lead the eye and make the slot read. If it spilled softly into the foreground but left my lens in shadow, it would be perfect.

On the right side of the image one looked beyond the farmstead, across a valley at a narrow slice of ranged hills. Almost any beam that came through would give definition between the receding ridges on the other side of the valley.

When I took my position, this was not an especially unlikely alignment to occur, and almost occurred once, but the longer I waited, the more I became convinced that I had slid into one of those never-ending troughs of darkness mentioned previously, and that it might be that the good light was a minute's drive west where the road overlooked the lake. The overlook is quite dramatic and a famous spot for photos. Once there I suddenly understood the issue of proportionality. The openings through which the beams were shining were just as large as they had been earlier on the hilltop, but my panorama was so deep that when they fell on the hills on the far side of the lake they just looked like tiny, weird details, maybe stains. When choosing a location, the sky must fit the scape.