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.