Thursday, December 29, 2011

The House on Hanover Hill



Inside the puddle's stain
where the setting sun rises, 
a boy climbs the branches of the tree, 
and a bird can be heard 
as it skips from limb to limb
at a shallow edge

inside the puddle's stain
where the winds are zephyrs, 
a mother takes laundry from the line 
thinks forgotten thoughts
of the parcel on the postman's wagon
where the water is deep

inside the puddle's stain
where a light behind the window glows
the woman sits still illumined
beside her folded linens
as the boy leaps and lands
in the middle of the dark stain

Inside the puddles splash

BOOKS: PrisonFarmBest of Todays, 2008, Click for bookstore

Tuesday, December 27, 2011



Swan snow sparkling still settling frail transient 
on the old, stone Averill homestead.

BOOKS: PrisonFarmBest of Todays, 2008, Click for bookstore

Monday, December 26, 2011

Farms that Straddle

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: There are still a few places where an old road, preferably a dirt road, winds through the middle of an ancient farmstead. They are a welcome discovery, though sometimes it's hard to get a lens around them gracefully and make them into a place. It is exactly this, "placeness," that I most enjoy about them.

If my road leads through a working farm, it feels preoccupied with daily chores. I am an intruder as much as if I had crossed through the family's kitchen during meal preparation. However, photography has taught me that such places are a wonderful intersection of private and public space. They are an opportunity to meet the farmer at his labor as I seek permission to photograph on his farm. Many farmers welcome conversation and a few moments' pause, and some share stories and offer tips on the best views. Sometimes they take me on a tour to show off the new piglets or share ancient yarns and family lore.

Such places must have been more common once. Whether a road was public or private, road maintenance was once the responsibility of the landowner; it was especially hard work and totally non-productive. One didn't want too many slushy spots that needed to be restored after every spring thaw. The farmer who maintained the road wanted to make good use of it, and traffic, such as it was, was probably light.

When one passed through a farm, one might pass waiting wagons of hay, dodge ducks, chickens chucking and gabbling, and sometimes the world paused while a whole herd of slow cows headed out to pasture. Even if daily traffic was light, surely friends stopped and regulars and all weary wayfarers. Their visits seasoned the week and spread the news. As much as the front porch, these yards where farms took possession of the public road were points of interchange.

Today they are rarer than roadside tree rows and often as fragile. Such places not only battle the usual sprawl and decay that consume old farmsteads, but they are constantly harried by the automobile's need for faster, wider, straighter, and soon the port side of the roadway has forgotten the starboard for the raceway in the middle. Too often I find myself speeding by spaces where the place has vanished, catching lingering traces passing: a forlorn barn too close to the road, a house with a big, front porch facing an empty field and a ruined silo, phantom nodes along a vacant network,

This road (above) has passed through the middle of Averill Farm since 1746. The cows have turned to apples, but the farm continues with the 9th and 10th generation of Averills farming there today.

NOTE: Averill Farm is the setting and inspiration for The Magical Christmas Horse, a new children's book by Wendell Minor and Mary Higgins Clark. You can read about it here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Solstice at Straight Farm

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Straight Farm rides a gentle shoulder of arable farmland to the boggy bottom of the Great Hollow. The farm ceased operation decades ago though the barns and fields are used by neighboring Cold Stream Farm. For a long time it's been a quiet place except when hay was being cut, or the bales piled into the barn. This year the lower barn became home to a noisy household of chickens, roosters, and turkeys. They cackle and crow and cluck merrily ignorant of what the holidays mean for them.

This photo was taken on March 21, 2011. The next day it was spring. As we head into a new winter we have already had an unusual autumn blizzard that took down ancient trees and caused chaos throughout New England. However, we've had nothing since, and as the holidays approach it feels as if it ought to snow.

BOOKS: PrisonFarmBest of Todays, 2008Click for bookstore

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top Cow


Winter View

How now,
top cow 
trying to see over sunset? 

Hey diddle diddle 
a cow's in the middle, 
they'll come and correct you.

on top of your pile,
fly over the moon to tomorrow.

Friday, December 16, 2011


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: May, 2009: A calm sea, but the truth is, all hope dimmed of having a pleasant sea journey from Nova Scotia to Bar Harbor as I cased out The Cat. I had never imagined a tourist ferry would be built with no public, deck space. It was a sealed tin can moaning and rattling incessantly. We had little contact with the ocean outside. Well, after inquiring, I was directed to the very back where symmetrical doors led to about a dozen feet of deck stretched across the ferry's stern. The Cat is a ferry with room for trucks and cars and hundreds of people. Twenty would make this deck feel crowded. When I sat on the only benches provided, my view was obstructed by the rail. Build it, and they will avoid it in droves. I had nothing better to do. I sat down and observed a succession of riders step out, look around at the prospects and head inside for a movie or the slots or to sit comfortably and have some food before zoning out for the next few hours.

Occasionally people went to the rail for a moment of fresh air or explored in the hope of finding a stair to more deck space, but by the time the sun set, even most of the pausers had drifted on. We took in the last of the day. I couldn't have asked for a better alignment at the point where trajectories crossed and then went on, still strangers.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

On Moonlight Bay

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: This was an experiment I made last winter as I resumed my photography. At the moment, I can't even remember the shoot. When I viewed it unprocessed on my computer all I saw was the round globe of the moon. I'm sure I didn't expect much when I took it, and so when reviewing shots, I dismissed it without further thought.

Why experiment if you don't look at results? Today, while going through promising material from old shoots, I decided to see what was really there in my casual experiment . To my surprise, when I lifted the shadows from an image that seemed only two flecks of something and the familiar textured orb, I found a fully composed nightscape. Of course it's a bit grainy, but the exposure was spot-on; detail was already slightly blown out in much of the moon disk. I've cropped the original slightly for balance, but I'm not certain I shouldn't have used it all.

I wish I could remember shooting this and where it was taken. Clearly, I was on the way home and saw the moonrise at a miraculously handy pond. The metadata tells me it was March 24th at 7:50:18 AM EDT. The date is right; I dated the folder I saved it in. The time, clearly, is not.

It was a Thursday evening. On that date in my area the moonrise occurred 25 minutes after midnight, and the disk of the moon was 76% illuminated. This close to the horizon it would appear elongated, so 76% looks full. If anyone can identify the house, I can probably triangulate to find my precise location on the shore and maybe remember this lost moment.

SHAMELESS ADVERTISING: Until Dec.17 Blurb will give you a 25% DISCOUNT on any two BLURB printed books (even if they are mine, but, alas, not the inexpensive e-book edition).  Use the promo code REDHATPrisonFarmBest of Todays, 2008Click for bookstore.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Underbelly No.2

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: However, after the extruder has been running for awhile, the beast's belly is a bit of a greasy sauna, and when the mandrel is extended, and the die hanger (here Spike) swabs it down, the extended mandrel smokes.

PRESENTATION: Tuesday, Dec. 13, 7 PM, Noble Horizons, Salisbury, CT. Click for directions.
BOOKS: PrisonFarmBest of Todays, 2008Click for bookstore

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Underbelly No.1

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Next, the die hanger (here Jose) climbs in between the ram and the container and swabs grease where the hot block has just been extruded and rubs down the mandrel. Early in the morning when the press is cool, it's not too bad in the belly of the beast.

PRESENTATION, Dec. 13, 7 PM, Noble Horizons, Salisbury, CT. Click for directions.
BOOKS: Prison, Farm, Best of Todays, 2008Click for bookstore.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cutting Edge

 Cutting Edge

The cutting die 
provides the edge, 
the point of transformation 
beyond the mandrel 
in the maleable moment 
heat and pressure 
making metal molten
turning block to pipe 
while it leaves 
the metal's
intact &

The die sometimes burns grease even after the pipe has been sent on. To keep the dies from overheating, the die hanger (here Ken) exchanges the hot die with the one that has been cooling, as he sets up to process the next block.

Housatonic Camera Club presentation, December 13, 7 PM, Noble Horizons, Salisbury, CT.
My books on Blurb:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Tube Cutter


I will be speaking at the annual holiday meeting of the Housatonic Camera Club on December 13th at Noble Horizons in Salisbury, CT (link to map). This will be a repeat of the presentation, "A Tourist at Home," that I gave at the Kent Historical Society of photographs taken among farmsteads of the Litchfield, Taconic, and Berkshire Hills. 

The event is open to the public, and the presentation begins at 7 PM in the Community Room. Those who wish to attend the dinner as well as the presentation should make arrangements with Judy Becker ( by Tuesday, Dec. 6th.
The fee for the meal is $24 ea. Cocktails at 5, dinner at 6, 
Farm: Personal Wanderings among the Berkshire, Hudson, and Taconic Hills is a book of pictures, poetry and prose about photographing the old farms of New England. It includes many of the images that will be part of the presentation on December 13.  My bookstore at Blurb:

My most recent book, Prison - The Shape of Freedom is now available in a deluxe, 12X12 edition printed on heavy, uncoated paper. The pictures have never looked better. It's also available as a 7X7 paperback that will almost fit in your pocket. For real portability, the iBook version looks great even on a tiny iPhone. My bookstore at Blurb:

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: The Tube Cutter is last on the line. Here Randy is Tube Cutter. He runs the controls that turn the shaft that rotates the fingers that lift the tube and deposit it on his conveyor. He also runs similar fingers that get the tube from the tube puller and drop it into the water tank. Finally, his controls also run a band saw that cuts the raw end of the tube where the die has been removed. In theory, he should never have to touch the tube.

When he's finished, the work of the extruder is done, but work on the tube is often just beginning.

Friday, December 2, 2011


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Where were we? Oh yes, the extruder! As dragons go, this one's getting on in years, and she's frequently cranky. Imagine how many moving parts there are to become arthritic! Imagine how many systems and sub-systems from the heater man's station behind Bob beneath the blue pane of glass, where the copper blocks begin their trip through the extruder... this, foreground shaft that rotates fingers that lift the newly extruded tube from the murky, green water of the cooling tank, and deliver it to the extruder's final conveyor system? How many shafts and fingers, knuckles and gears strung into differentials all turned on cue by electrical systems and hydraulic systems and nervous systems? How many heating systems and cooling systems, and pipes and ducts, knuckles and hoses with their loads to channel and discharge?

The dragon simmers 24/7 and has been doing so, I understand, pretty continuously for seventy years - seventy years of tuning and oiling and tightening and patching and adapting by a succession of operators, mechanics, and engineers who told each other what to listen for, which hoses to watch to keep the beast happy and keep the work moving. Here she is, still running - quite amazing, really.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fern Hill Farm

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Fern Hill Farm is a short distance from the burned barns at Hanover Hill. It is another great, hollow shed that misses the lowing of cattle. The barns of Fern Hill are tall and dark, and they loom from a perch part way up the side of the valley. I have tried a number of times to make a photograph of them. This is the closest I've come.

While I was there hunt dogs were following scents in the wooded hillside above the barns. Their yapping and yelping echoed oddly under the long, low, metal roof where the barns had been expanded. At first it sounded like people talking, but eventually one of the hunt dogs followed the scent to the edge of a barnyard, revealed himself as the source of the noise, and would not be deterred for anything from the chase. I heard no guns.

It is clear these barns were home to a very significant herd as was Hanover Hill, and a bit further west is Hiddenhurst and there are two more a bit south whose names I don't know, all empty, all falling, a valley full of cattle turned to empty fields and pasture. Sturdy as these barns look, they are already falling and unsafe.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sunset on Hanover Hill


The House on Hanover Hill

She remembered: 

Waking early, 
the scent of fresh hay already in her dreams 
and something else she couldn't recall 
in the corner bedroom where the peeping sun first peaked.

How her fingers 
repolished the banister down the stairs! 
wet sneakers in dewy grass, 
her bicycle, propped against the great maple that defined the yard. 

Standing in the center of the center field, 
rowed corn measuring the hills' undulations, 
the amber waves, a quilter's celebration,
concentric reverberations as far as vision,

And the bicycle 
slipping on the sand as her leg
dodging ruts, coasting, freewheeling, carefree 
swung safely on to the saddle

The colors in crystal
green, golden, ruby red beside the onion braids, 
in rowed procession gleaming
and the smell of cinnamon and turpentine in the pantry closet.
Fragrance of cedar
like a premonition
when they brought in the old, wooden chests
and laid in the curtains and linens and dishes and all.

another view of the Farm on Hanover Hill:

Sunday, November 27, 2011



1.  Photographer and friend Martin Kimmeldorf has combined my photograph, "Paper Trail" ( with a photo of his own.  The combined image can be seen on his site here:

2.  My son, Emery, has been making some beautiful jewelry from some very surprising materials and has a web page showing some of his work and offering it for sale.  You can learn about it at:

3. Only 1 DAY LEFT to take 25% from orders of Blurb books at the Blurb Bookstore. Use promo code ZOOM to claim your savings. Prison - The Shape of Freedom is available in in two sizes. Small is 7"X7". Purchasing it with a hard cover gives it a bit of heft. The large is 12'X12" and comes in regular and deluxe versions. There is also an ebook version so inexpensive it's almost like stealing..

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Rimy Cell

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: One of the pleasures of this series has been the number of people who have written to describe where the images have led their thoughts. This is one of three images in the book, all new, that appear at climactic moments and without any text. I'm always interested in hearing where such images take willing imaginations and what trajectory they have followed.

TWO MORE DISCOUNT DAYS: Prison - the Shape of Freedom is at the Blurb Bookstore now. Preview it online or order a copy for the holiday. Order by Nov. 28th and use promo code ZOOM to save 25%.  

Now also available inexpensively as an ebook.  Select the small, 7X7 version ( to purchase the ebook version. As the type appears larger in the small version of the book, only that one has been released as an ebook.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Prison Cell, the Colors of Time

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  Although prisons abound, most of us know them only from the outside and at a great distance. Yet their symbols inhabit our history, our news and our dreams. Hospitals are about our frailty, death, heroism. Schools are about growing and striving. Prisons are about walls.

For each image, there came a time while working on it when my involvement with it led to words. This image appeared just as I went to conclude the analogy above.

Prison - the Shape of Freedom is at the Blurb Bookstore now. Preview it online or order a copy for the holiday. Order by Nov. 28th and use promo code ZOOM to save 25%.

The book comes in two sizes. Small is 7"X7". Getting it with a hard cover gives it a bit of heft. The large is 12'X12" and comes in regular and deluxe versions. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Reflection

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: I'm thankful for many things this November. Among them are those who read and especially those who take the time to sometimes respond to this blog post. May all find plenty of pie and whipped cream this Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011




To hold the fluid moment, 
make it strike an attitude 
as roots cling and clouds blow and 
leaves turn and fall and 
purlins crack and 
mountains shift and 

Can any photographer ask for more?

REMINDER: Prison - The Shape of Freedom is now available at the Blurb Bookstore, and I'm told orders placed before November 28th, can receive a 25% discount by entering the code word ZOOM at checkout.  You can preview the first pages of the book now at the Blurb bookstore: Don't forget to click into full-screen mode.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Prison - The Shape of Freedom (cover)

TIME OUT: I pause the usual journal for a commercial message. Just in time for holiday gift giving, I have edited, revised, and extended the prison journals into a book, Prison, the Shape of Freedom

It is available at the Blurb Bookstore, and I'm told orders placed before November 28th, can receive a 25% discount by entering the code word ZOOM at checkout.  You can preview the first pages of the book now at the Blurb bookstore: Don't forget to click into full-screen mode.

This is more than a republication.  Working on it has been a process of discovery. The distance of autumn has offered me perspective on decisions made intuitively last spring. As I added and edited pictures and text, it often felt more like I was finding the shape within rather than pasting on. I hope that those who followed the blog will agree.

The book is available in two sizes and three bindings. Deluxe versions at both sizes are printed on fine, uncoated paper. Give the gift of prison to find the shape of freedom.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Copper Tube Boogie-Woogie

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  The die hanger has controls to operate the die head and the conveyors that move the new tube. Jose is die hanger, but usually he works at the other end of the factory, trimming the end off nearly finished tubes. It takes three men to free the pipe from the extruder. While the die hanger controls the movement of the die head and conveyors, the system operator manipulates a bar that knocks the dies apart and frees the tube.  Meanwhile the tube puller, Bob, helps the tube along its conveyor, disposes of waste, and recycles the various dies.

In the background, John prepares another load of scrap to travel back to Ansonia while a bouquet of blocks flies toward us for the heater man. Somewhere beneath the bouquet of blocks must be Carlos with the controls for the crane.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Die Hanger

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: If the block was hot enough when the ram began squeezing, only a bit of rim from the block will remain at the end of the new tube; one can never squeeze out that last bit of toothpaste. If the block was not hot enough, the ram will seize up before it is done pushing all of the copper through the cutting dies. Whatever is left of the block will hang like a stump on the new pipe. Spike, the die hanger, works the controls that slide the die head assembly forward exposing the stump at the back so it can be cut off.

As the saw cuts, push dies cool on the slide tables and on the hydraulic platform on which they fall after extrusion.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dragon Master

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Those who were there recall the day the extruder exploded like a gun shooting the block and shrapnel down the factory floor. At the end of the conveyor that leads from the extruder there is an iron plate to intercept such trajectories; though it is little match for what might be fired at it. On the iron plate someone has drawn a panicked face in chalk. The combination of immense pressure and intense heat inside the dragon can make for nasty dyspepsia.

The system operator is the dragon master. Fred is the system operator. He tunes and adjusts the beast and oversees operation from the master controls. Each job requires a different configuration of dies and other interchangeable parts, and the machine is enveloped in pipes for cooling and heating and hydraulic control. Fred must watch and manage them all.

How does one learn to feed and care for an ancient dragon, the last of its species? Fred says he learned from the previous operator. Before that he worked as a tool maker. There's a back-up System Operator if Fred has to be out. Are they also the last of their species? When asked why he's the one working the extruder Fred says, "None of the other guys wanted to."

Thursday, November 10, 2011


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: When the crank is pulled the dragon tenses, clanking begins, a funnel of steam puffs from a stack, and hydraulic muscles bulge shining forearms that push the ram. The ram pushes the push-die and the block into the greased container. The extruder moves like a living thing; torso segmented, the groin pushes forward as the chest hunches back  to take in the block. As the block slides into the container the ram inserts a mandrel, like a long tongue, down through the center of the push-die and block so that the semi-molten donut of copper is totally contained within massive steel. 

And then she whines and wheezes, squeezes and wines, 2700 lbs per square inch of pressure squeezing, wheezing copper as if it were paste through the cutting die at the end of the container. From the sides of the ram come puffs of smoke and licks of flame as the grease inside the container is seared away, but at the front, the dragon's mouth roars flames, puffs sparks, breathes fire as a glowing tube of copper slowly grows.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ready to Load

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: There is a pregnant moment, after the heater man has sent the block, and the machine op takes control and loads the extruder. The elevator drops, and the die man rolls the steel push-die down the slot (in the center of the picture) and into position behind the block. The machine op hits a button, and a plunger pushes the push-die and block over a bridge to the last elevator. Another button lifts the elevator which rotates 90 degrees as it rises and leaves block and push-die ready between the ram and the container.

Finally the machine op pulls on the long, steel lever that comes out of the floor, and hydraulics the size of a large, freight truck engage for action. The dragon of the foundry was a tin dragon with a pot of gold. This dragon has the muscle and hot fury to transform this short gold block into a long, glowing tube.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Heater Man

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: The heater man is the first of five. It takes five men to run the extruder. Nobody sees the heater man. He's back, behind ovens and conveyors, behind the yellow rail, watching graphs and temperatures, maintaining his equipment, waiting in a narrow passage against the back wall where there's barely pacing space. His equipment is noticeably newer than elsewhere in the factory, but he's all alone. When a block is hot, from somewhere behind the ovens, the heater man pushes a button, and 300 lbs of hot copper moves down the track, appears and stops, a glowing, orange beacon in front of the system operator.

I have not yet captured a good photo of Miguel, the heater man, but his title has provoked the following bit of nonsense, perhaps inspiration for a future portrait.

Song of the Heater Man
(to be accompanied by steam puffs, clanking steel and the sultry whine of the straining extruder)

Heater man,
where does he stand?
watching the graphs
watching the heat

Behind the ovens,
watching, waiting,
no pacing space
for the heater man.

When he pushes the button
the hot block rolls
but nobody sees
the heater man.

Nobody sees
the heater man,
meter man,
watching the heat.