Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Just in Case of Owls

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  It was our friend who spotted it there on the branch of the hemlock just outside our bedroom window and called us.  Living in the woods we hear them sometimes at night, and occasionally they swoop across the road as we drive up the valley, and it's hard to be sure who is more startled. Even then, daytime sightings are a sign of turmoil and are brief. I've never seen one stopped, waiting. An owl here? ...perched on a branch three feet from where we slept? We were spellbound, whispering. It was more than impossible; it was portentous, worthy of Poe. Then I remembered the pair of cardinals that had been pestering the glass at our bathroom window and nesting there a dozen feet away, easy prey. 

Regardless of any deeper meaning, this was a two-gallon owl and a clear photo op, but to catch the image I had to shoot obliquely through a thermal window.  Light was low and exposure settings were extreme.  The owl seemed to feel safe even from photography on the other side of the murky glass, though once or twice it looked our way.  After shooting as best I could through the window, I decided to go outside and walk around the house to where the owl was perched, but before I could get within fifty feet, I saw the great pointy wings turn slantwise and launch between branches into the deeper woods and then vanish like smoke as if the bird had been a sorcerer all along.

Shot, as it was, through thermopane, I didn't expect much from the image, nor is it a technique I'll look to repeat, but I wouldn't mind having a thermo-optic filter in the kit just in case of owls.

Sunday, December 23, 2012



Saturday, December 22, 2012

Blacksmith's Shop in Winter

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: The solstice brought snow reminding us that the holiday season is suddenly here whether we feel ready for it or not. My day began when Jane nudged me to consciousness and said, "Look, how pretty!" as she looked out our window at the snow-trimmed hemlock and our felled oak, coated in snow. 

I shot this image of the old blacksmith shop in January of 2010, after another light snowfall.  I wonder what marks three more winters have left. Photographs track me like footprints along a path that has so far led from cow tracks to train tracks in a search to photograph secrets and beauties where I live.

Brass billets have been piling up in Waterbury while the extruder has been out of commission, but the outlook in the factory is good for the new year. That's good for those who work there and good for making photographs.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Viridescence 2


The Sea Turtle

Color, light and melody glide
beside oblique arpeggiation.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Preparing the Charge, No.2

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  Photographing fire has always seemed to me a tricky thing to do and rarely fully satisfactory. Photographing it here, where soot-coated walls suck up all ambient light, gave me special difficulty. I'm at ISO 1600, f/1.8 and a shutter speed of 1/60. Without further processing in Photoshop the fire is blown out, and everywhere else details are buried in shadow. Willy was mostly in motion, so I set my focus point to the scrap, copper tubes. This is another of the images taken the first time I witnessed the charging of the furnace. Here he is heating the initial charge to a precise temperature. The second time I saw the charge, I arrived too late to catch this part.

Today I went back, hoping to catch the ritual blaze again, but the best guess now is that the initial charge of the furnace will be tomorrow or Saturday when I can't be there. No matter.  I spent  three hours in the powerhouse. 

I believe I have now done serious shoots in every important interior space of photographic interest that I've been able to find at both the Waterbury and Ansonia campuses. How many buildings is that? Most of these spaces are unused. Some are abandoned, but I've posted few photos from them.  I'm not sure why I reached the powerhouse last. It is rich with potential still. Shooting there makes me think that I have arrived at a milestone where I can begin to assess the scope of what I'm about and plan a bit on how to continue and what the end production might be.  Each of the abandoned spaces will be a photographic adventure in light.  

Today, just as I was leaving the powerhouse, the low, winter sun came around to the front of the building and shines through the tall front windows, and how it shines across a wall of gauges and knobs and across large engines that cast monster shadows in one of the two three-story spaces in the building.  I know I also need a dark, overcast day to shoot the adjacent, three-story machine room beside where steam boilers used to hiss and roar.  I need to think about each space in relation to seasons and sunlight.  I need to focus on exteriors. I need to talk to Wally who knows some of the history and how everything works. It's time to plan.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Charge

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  This week they are again rebuilding the furnace inside the foundry. I hope to be back then to catch a repeat of the ritual shown here.

The first time the furnace is restarted after any repair is a photo event.  The first time I saw it, I didn't know what to expect.  When the big shower of sparks began I was too close, the wave of sparks flew by too quickly, and the exposures I had guessed at were overwhelmed. I shot with the bucket in profile, but the light of the pour was huge, and the dark bucket form was uninteresting.  I readjusted as best I could, but there was no time to move to a new angle.

In a blog entry of that event on March 18, 2012 (http://rothphotos.blogspot.com/2012_03_18_archive.html) I described the charging process, but I had missed my "money shot." I shot good images of Willy and Lucio preparing the metal for the charge, but none of this dramatic moment.

This image is from October 4th when I got my second chance.  With my camera set to ISO 500, f/1.8, and a shutter speed of 1/125th, I chose to shoot from behind the crucible as it poured. It had been the least likely choice. From this angle the crucible blocked the pour but also blocked the glaring shower of sparks that erupts, and reveals the striking silhouette.  What I had not counted on was added light from windows behind me that helped illuminate foreground forms and which let me relax exposure settings beyond what is possible further inside the gloom.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ansonia Waterfront

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  There is no more iconic sight in Ansonia than these filters, ducts and chimneys - high order industrial sculpture. If these buildings were gone, what would we know of the years when the river ran in colors, and downwind was bad wind? Inside this shed is the soot-caked cathedral where I've photographed Mike and Willy pouring hot copper into giant billets for the extruder upstream. Once 41 furnaces rumbled there. Now there is one.

The flood waters of 1955 washed over the sewage of a dead river, a balm for its agonies and everywhere else devastation. The days of Brass Valley were waning.  Today, the river has been brought back to life, but here it is a dead zone out of reach.  There is hardly a place anywhere around where one can reach the banks. Safely protected behind the flood-walls, filters and ducts, pipes and tanks, stacks and chimneys cling to the old foundry like barnicles. They are a rare surviving vestige of our smokestack past and a monument to its genius.

There is a constant tension in a photo project such as this between photographing to document, which is not this blog's aim, and photographing to express. Of course documentary photography must often be very expressive, but on this blog the expression precedes the subject. The difference is between trying to portray the "decaying factory," or alternately, trying to portray "factory decay," or even to make the viewer feel in the factory decay, his own cold mortality

Put this entry under the heading, "Document," while I consider how to scale the chimneys.