Monday, January 31, 2011

New England White & Red


Beyond the homestead 
the dizzy abyss of the forest 
and the falling snow.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


PIERRE BONNARD: The precision of naming takes away from the uniqueness of seeing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL - My eye was grabbed by the layered, early morning light caught in the windows of the farm truck. As I set up the shot I also enjoyed the rectilinear design elements and the way they could divide the rectangle of the picture space. Later, I experimented with different renderings of the initial image and emerged with two very different finalists.

The one above emphasizes the world out of sight as we stand in the shadow, about to or not quite ready to take on the new day. Is it a tiny bit of theater? Is it of any significance that this is Karl Koerner's barn that Andrew Wyeth loved; the light is like light he saw.

The version below puts the emphasis a little differently. It is more two dimensional, more evenly toned, more textured, all to put emphasis on abstract form. It is a classical sampler nudging us to feel the scratchy twine a bit, or the cool, worn steel of the shovel, the heft of the door handle.

For best effect the images should be viewed as close to full screen as possible.

I'm hoping someone will feel strongly enough about one of these or the other to make a case for it, or maybe it doesn't matter much.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: This week Connecticut is riding the cusp of winter; Arctic chill is freezing lakes and streams, and record-breaking low temperatures are imminent. Daily, the sun pushes back a few of the edges, melts the high points off of mounded snow along the road's edge and glazes it white. Then every few days it snows, restoring edge; as the temperature stings, the river grows photogenic. Keep back from the edge. Sometimes edge divides what is safe from what is suspect; at other times, edge gives contour to challenges.

It's probably a good idea for photographers to watch edges, the spots where mountains suddenly become valleys, where water meets air or where a storm or a smile breaks. These are the places where magic happens. Keep special watch where day meets night, or motion stops. The image stopped on my computer monitor waits while I tune edges and tones making them silky or making them husk. Where is the edge between me and my photo? I stay by the computer while impatient to open new edges with my lens.

Saturday, January 22, 2011



Peepers and grippers, 
creepers and crawlers, 
overtakers and undertakers. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pond Prelude & Fugue

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL "Adagio": I've come this way often and never failed to admire the skeleton of this old giant, stretched out from the foot of the ice pond. It's leafless arms suggest a rib cage of Mesozoic heft. It is a rigid brace against galling winds. I've carefully walked the plank of its supine trunk as far out into the pond as I dared and clutched its broken limbs to stay my balance. I've jumped tenuously and found it will not dance or bob. I've even listened to the wind and tried to imagine the sound of those leaves that once blew so hard the branches nearly broke before the great tree fell. And afterward I wondered which was more fantastic, the fury of that rage and fall or the long quiet after?

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Like a forgotten continent its still cliffs slip into the surrounding pond. Off shore periscopic frogs keep watch to snatch a hapless midge or bluebottle with their whiplash tongues, and where the trunk rises highest, three turtles sunbathe, alert and ready, despite their long climb, to take a turtle-leap to the bottom of the pond. In a large bay scooped out by skeletal forearms, water bugs dart. They are the last of the season. In a shadowed harbor lurking perch have already begun to feel the water change.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bog Hollow Farm Prelude, Allegro, & Fugue

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: The old farm road descends from high fields which still through spring and summer yield a bit of seedy hay. Below, in incomplete exhaustion Loughlin Farm waits. At intervals I pause, and my camera reaches unsuccessfully for the fury of the still un-distilled reflection in the un-stilled pond and the ragged remnants of the barns.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Old Barn at Mill Brook Farm


Scents of the Past

Three photographs 
tacked to piquant chestnut
recall a party 
long since over. 

In an apple crate,
hand-lettered decorations 
name the forgotten event 
and the date. 

Then It smelled 
of loud music, 
hot casserole, 
sweet sweat dabbed discreetly. 

Before, for two hundred years
no party could dislodge 
the perfume of ripe apples 
and ripe sweat.

And earlier still, a prehistory 
of forgotten tales 
and tails 
and their particular aromas.  

Edgily hollow,
restively quiet, 
great space eager 
to move beyond apples. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Timeline at Meadow Brook Farm

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL - This timeline of barns parallels the street but hides its Victorian jewelry and tries to avoid being photographed. I struggled to try to guess initial purposes and ages. When I'm led to photograph a barnstead like this it's hard not to be captivated by the thing, but then I will make nothing but photographic documents. The photograph to be made at Meadow Brook Farm in mid August was a composition of pleasing textures and colors, nothing more and nothing less.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Convocation at Meadow Brook Farm

JENS JENSEN: "Trees are much like human beings and enjoy each other's company. Only a few love to be alone.."

Friday, January 7, 2011

Waltzing Autumn

BILL VAUGHN: "Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the street after them."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: I made a point of getting back to Red Hook to catch Meadow Brook Farm as the season changed.

A Place to Swing

They resign themselves to slopes beneath and 
slowly embrace the earth. 

They rotate the sky above their heads and 
mark each year with a ring. 

They bend with the wind, change garments with the seasons, and 
strive to reach the sun. 

Beneath their canopies are places to dally,  but 
trees are time's watchmen. 

How many lifetimes have these ancient maples and these old barns been 
dancing here?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Barn and Welkin

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: The footsteps of the past resonate a bit more loudly at Meadow Brook Farm, though the barns are empty. The Teeter family acquired this land in 1754 and farmed it for nearly 200 years. Even before I learned anything about its history the building felt venerable. The massive timbers that span the central bay come from trees that may have been 200 years old in the 18th century when they were felled to build this. They are big bones, and I felt a business-like sense of purpose about the place. It had been storage for the farm's orchard, and I could imagine that wagons and a crew of men might arrive at any moment and begin unloading crates of apples, the first of the season.

Here is a bit of history that was sent to me by the current owner:

In 2004, internationally-renowned timberman, Jim Kricker and Peter Sinclair, Editor of the Hudson Vernacular Architecture Newsletter visited the farm, identifying and dating the historic structures on the property.   The oldest barn on the farm was originally of Dutch design, (constructed in the early 1700s), one of ten Dutch barns registered in Red Hook. Roman numeral markings, used in pre-revolutionary times, show where structural beams were married.  This barn had bays for housing horses and cows, and a center section for storing a carriage.  At some point the barn was added on to, the roof was raised and it was moved over a full basement to handle the later orchard.

An English side-entrance barn with a two-story carriage house also graces the property along with a stone summer kitchen with a bees-hive oven, (dating back to the 1700s), and an ice house that was later converted into a stable and a workshop.

Up on the hill behind the barns most of the old orchards are gone, and the old workers quarters are in ruins, and further off some of the land has become subdivisions.

The current owner is looking to sell the property to someone who will respect and maintain its historic integrity.  Many thanks to my former college roommate who led me to this ancient farmstead.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tobacco Road

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Even if one can't identify tobacco plants as they are growing, the long, low, louvered sheds used for drying the leaves are distinctive. The technology used to make Connecticut's fine cigar binders and wrappers has been much the same for 200 years. It is labor intensive, and as we photographed here, crews of laborers showed off the hatchets with which they cut the tobacco stalks. In order to make the best wrappers, for much of the season the plants must be covered by cloth tents which are removed for harvesting.

Native Americans were smoking tobacco when the first settlers arrived from Europe. By the 1630s the settlers were already making a profit exporting tobacco back to Europe. The soil and climate of the Connecticut River Valley proved to be perfect for growing the high quality leaves needed for the binders and wrappers. Tobacco has always been an engine of the river valley economy, and it has served as an entry point for waves of immigrants.

Even though the popularity of cigar smoking has fallen, Connecticut's tobacco industry remains a significant part of the state economy.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Tobacco Curing

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL - In the early 1970s I began driving across Connecticut regularly along Interstate 84. Shortly after crossing the Connecticut River heading east, I-84 passed through a vast territory of open flat fields planted with green rows of tobacco beside rows of wooden tobacco sheds where the leaves were cured. My great grandfather was a cigar maker in Hartford at the end of the 19th century, and Connecticut was famous for its tobacco leaves which were used primarily as wrappers for cigars. Back then tobacco was even farmed, though on a smaller scale, in the Northwest Hills where I now live, and you can spot the old tobacco barns by the louvered flap vents that betray their tobacco curing history.

The tobacco fields along I-84 were already disappearing by the mid 1970s, and today the region is filled with strip malls and warehouses for big box stores, and it's probably been almost 100 years since tobacco was farmed in the northwest hills. One can still find tobacco farming, however, along the Connecticut River as one reaches the northern part of the state and passes into Massachusetts. That's where this photograph was taken in late August as the new crop was being harvested and cured.

NOTE: With the previous posting, "Today's Photo" entered its fifth year. This is the 686th photograph to be added to this blog.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Hay Palace

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL - Slowly the old dairy farms fall silent. Many of them then simply fall. Every dairy farmer talks about how hard it is to turn a profit, but as the dairy farms disappear, many find new life as horse farms. From the outside this hay barn looks like the old dairy barns on steroids. Nearby the owner is restoring the old barns, but this new barn dwarfs them.

Cows are always grazing, always processing food in their four stomachs. Horses thrive on a more finely tuned feed, they are choosier, and the horses that will be raised on this new farm have the finest building on the property as their pantry.

Sometimes the things that balance a shot and make it work are deceptively simple. I returned when the hay wagon was moved and more hay had been added on the left, and there was no shot at all.