•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Silo View


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: This photograph was shot from the tallest silo in the previous TODAY'S posting. I first saw a photograph similar to this in a book about Hudson Valley farms. When the owner of the farm invited me to climb the silo I knew I'd have to do it even though the thought was a bit frightening. I didn't make my first climb to the top until late August of 2009, without a camera just to see what it was like.

It was hard work. I went cautiously and rested every ten or fifteen feet. I focused closely on each wrung and, as I grasped the next, ignored that it was coated in dried dung from the boots of those who had climbed before me. I could feel my adrenaline pumping as I stepped onto the wire platform at the top. The railing looked flimsy, the wind was blowing, and I was on top of the tallest silo on Winchell Mountain.

The trip down was no easier. On the way up one looks forward, but each step down is taken into faith. The ladder is attached to the side of the silo inside a metal guard rail. Ladder and rail stop ten or fifteen feet above the ground. The remaining gap is crossed by an old, bent, iron ladder that hooks precariously from the bottom of the guard rail and is not anchored at the bottom; with each step it moves. When I reached the ground I took a deep breath and rested.

Half an hour later I made a second climb, this time with camera. I took a series of pictures from the top, but as is often the case, they were preliminary shots.

I returned again this spring. I had learned that the light was best in long shadows of early morning, and in early spring the pattern of corn rows would be crisp. I also knew that twice a day the cows filed from the feeding area to the milking barn and back. A shot might be most interesting if the cows were shuffling one way or the other. I asked what time the morning milkings occurred.