Thursday, October 31, 2013

Oxblood Cogitations


On Machines

The essence of silk manufacturing 
is continuity, the continuity of 
the single thread 
wound first by the silk worm and 
finessed by seasoned fingers 
touching and following 
the fiber, unwinding 
and washing without breaking 
conscious attention, 
wound and unwound and 
wound again and 
on to where jiggered spinners jitter and 
silken thread flows
from swift to swift 
and bobbin to bobbin, 
and the most common task described
by the women managing twenty machines at a shift: 

Catch the broken thread, and tie it properly, 
and be sure the dye lot matches. 
Continuity is everything,
hum of continuousness.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Holding On

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  In the middle of October I returned to  Lonaconing, Maryland, and the silk mill where the past clings like dust.  I was joined by two friends from the first trip and three friends from Connecticut, and we photographed one afternoon and the next morning, four hours each shoot.

Holding on: The mill is holding on, but not quite.  Though it has been under six months since we photographed the silk mill last, the building was in noticeably worse condition. Where armies of buckets caught drips, the roof has begun to fail and temporary posts have been inserted to support what's left of the roof.  There must have been a mess to clean, but you can't clean antiques. The spinning machines are still in place but missing beneath them is the clutter and the patina of age. It is as if someone had just dragged a damp sponge across a picture, wiped away decades, smudged dusty memories. More importantly, the fix is short term. The factory is letting go, though we could still almost hear the gossip and  footstaps in the old stair. and try to turn whispers to photographs.

Winding & Twisting

But for the bobbin boy
and the machinist,
on the third floor
the winders were all women.
That's just the way it was.

For fifty years
river of steps
up and down
and fifty more
when the stairs creaked

though no one passed,
- shoes and umbrellas
on the third floor,
and the lift stuck in the middle.

no reeling or coning there,
by the steamers,
nor the men downstairs 
through the night,

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Scroll, part 3 "Quenching"


Spiraling Consequences

So much depends on things we can't see. 
Will dips the tip and the scroll is hard like 
spring that resists and resists until it breaks. 
Because he knows the metal's  touch and color 
he sets orbits in the molecules in the spiral of the scroll
and aligns the universes that spread between.

And I wonder:
Might casual violence 
fall in every footstep
ever taken?

And then I squeeze the shutter.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Scroll, part 2


Will's left hand rocks in a smooth arc against the anvil's hard steel. "Anvil!" It is a sturdy Old English word adapted to name stuff as delicate as a singing ossicle and as ferocious as a cyclone-spawning cumulonimbus.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Scroll, part 1

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  It's been a few years since I last photographed Will Trowbridge in his shop, and my visit last Wednesday coincided with work he was doing on a commission for a window grate.  It was an ideal task to photograph as it required making a number of identical pieces which allowed me to familiarize myself with the process and then explore all the likely angles and compositions.  

Work begins at the tip where the metal is most delicate and where Will delicately forms a bit of a hook.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Return to Cold Stream Farm

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  Real blood running from the lambs throat that a moment before had been led from the pen, eyes and ears alert, tongue moist, tossing a bit against the rope that led it, and unaware that in a moment all running would be done. The blood zeros and ones, of my cyber-universe are never so red and profuse nor the moments so profound.

NOTE:  On March 17, 2007, I posted my first image of this farm here.  Enter "Kallstrom," in the search box and find nine other images photographed at this farm.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: The same site, a few days later, how different the compositional problem! 

Yesterday I made another trip to Forsaken Acres under uncertain skies. In spite of promising clouds in the south, I headed north, hoping for another chance to play in the soy rows' shadows. In totally clear skies, I could at least explore compositional possibilities as the shadows lengthened. However, Forsaken Acres turned out to be the one place in the valley under clouds; it was all shadows. Wisdom would have urged, move on, but the fun is sometimes in meeting the challenge.

How different these clouds from the puffs that were drifting roughly west to east across the valley when I was last here. They reinforced the frontal, planar orientation imposed on most landscape compositions from this field. Before the eastern silo fell it was too balanced, too frontal, too static, and I never shot from here. 

These clouds ran in great banks north-south and apparently disappeared or emerged from a point behind Forsaken Acres and somewhere up near Copake. On the right the cloud bank above the high Taconic Ridge was strikingly abrupt, a sudden, white wall following the ridge line south. I had noticed it as soon as I was north of Millerton. On another day I might have found a spot to shoot from in the sunny center of the valley, but I chose to continue to Forsaken Acres to shoot there again before the silo falls.

Once there, the bean rows looked like nothing without defining shadows, but without direct light it was easy to get down in the rows that had been visual chaos, and get personal with the beans. As I lowered my tripod, and the tops of the bean rows collapsed, the window of sky opened, and there were the great banked clouds doing just what I needed them to do. Down between the soy rows you can see the corn stalks from corn that had grown here the previous summer and contemplate the relentless mulching of eternity even as the banked clouds seemed to stand still above the changeless mountains.  

Today I passed Forsaken Acres again on my way home, and a large harvester was working two fields north of Forsaken Acres. It was a big, shiney machine that harvested many rows at a gulp. Tomorrow morning if I wake before dawn, will there be soy rows left to photograph? Once the soy is harvested, the rows will have little visual impact, I think, and I'm not optimistic the silos will last to the next planting.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Rendezvous at Bash Bish Falls

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  The falls appear as if from heaven or some region so remote that it must always be hidden in mist. I'm sure there's a trail to the top, and if I were to get there to see how the water flows over the lip, I'm certain I would be disappointed. For now I'm content with the illusion and the magnificence of the cataracts' continuing descent as water cuts the deep ravine down to where men once mined and processed iron ore in the hamlet of Copake Falls. This is the western fringe of America's first great iron industry that flourished in the Taconic and Berkshire Mountains of Connecticut and Massachusetts, and into the Green Mountains of Vermont.

For something less than most of its life since colonial times up to today, this region around Copake, New York, has existed as, at best, a remote outpost of the nations fabric. Most outsiders know of it from having driven through it on Route 22. Even after the Revolution, it was run on a kind of medieval manorial system, and farmers were kept in constant poverty delivering service and crops to the descendants of Dutch landowners in order to continue farming the land their parents and grandparents had farmed. It was one of the compromises the founding fathers had made to Livingstons and Van Rensselaers to reward their loyalty during the Revolution. 

Then, for a brief moment, mostly in the last half of the 19th century, lead and iron mining brought three rail lines through the region, and they crossed just south at Boston Corners.  All at once it was a busy center where produce from local farms was loaded onto boxcars so city folk could eat, and trains loaded with iron and lead passed beside stockyards where cattle waited, and trains passed in all directions on their way to the centers of production. Soon railroads and plentiful water to power mills attracted other industries as well. 

Because until 1857 Boston Corner was legally in Massachusetts, the authority of the law was on the other side of the Taconic Mountains, unable to enforce its jurisdiction, and Boston Corner became famous as a lawless area where the illegal practice of boxing contests drew crowds. On October 12, 1853, when John Morrissey defeated Yankee Sullivan after thirty-seven rounds in a bare-knuckles, championship match, it drew a crowd of 10,000, they say, and ended in a brawl of seconds, but the local hotels were packed and people camped and boarded with local residents.

Because the railroads made them accessible, Bash Bish Falls and the remote mountain lakes and streams brought adventurous tourists, fishermen and honeymooners from the city. They came and stayed at one of several inns in the valley below and climbed or rode beyond the local industry and into the mountains to the falls and to mountain lakes and streams. Today it takes a bit of research to figure out where most of the railroad beds were; one is now a bike trail, but the mountains have well-maintained trails and remain largely as they were.

Even today, if you want to go anywhere east, you are met with the same Taconic wall that has always made this region remote.  Driving south you'll barely notice Boston Corners long before you reach Millerton where you can cross east into Connecticut. Going north you'll want to get up to Hillsdale before crossing east into Massachusetts, or you can continue up the dirt road past Bash Bish Falls and sniff your way through winding forest roads that might as well climb over the rainbow, and you may not meet another car until as much as an hour or two later when you descend from mountain mists into the valley on the other side.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Autumn Candy

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  I can't recall an autumn to match this one. It exploded early along the perimeter of wetlands in gold, orange and red and along stone walls where the poison ivy blazed. October 5th has been my marker since we moved to northwestern Connecticut thirty-nine years ago; That was the start of fall display that year. We lived on a hilltop in New Milford and watched it blaze on all sides.

It turned out that year, 1974, was one of the earliest years. This year on October 5th, Saturday, all the hillsides were coloring , and it was hard to drive down most roads without wanting to stop and photograph the riot. I took this on September 30th on my way to Waterbury. I could not proceed without stopping, walking the perimeter of the pond and making pictures. To the charge that I am making eye candy, I plead guilty.

Sunday the rain began and now we have winds, and I expect there will be less of the season left when weekenders return. It's been a good autumn, and some of it will outlast the storm.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

As Clouds Digress

NOTE:  My thanks to Christine Reichman in Alaska who has successfully convinced me that the two spots in the trees on the far, right shore of River's Edge just might be two eagles. If I knew that when I took the picture, I quickly forgot.  Thank you, Chris.

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  I suppose it's hard to deny the photographic urge to look for "pictures."  That may describe what newspaper photographers do for a living, and I mean that with deep respect for their art, but it is an un-useful way to describe what I and many other photographers do. While the pictorial focal point of the silos is essential to the "picture," much of the joy in photographing that afternoon came from exploring the many ways of playing the evolving shadows cast by the setting sun, the patterns of the soy rows and the bold features of the land&skyscape against each other and against the rectangular canvas of the camera while the day drew to a close.

If I didn't truly enjoy walking, I would be a very different photographer or maybe not a photographer at all. I bagan the afternoon at a point in the background on the left, behind the distant soy field and the distant row of trees in this image. It was a good high point from which to look down on the soy rows. If I can use shadow to give the field texture and direction it will be useful to any finished composition. I walk to find the places that might let me do that best.

Unfortunately, from my starting point the silos were too small and the soy row delineation too dim to lead the eye, at least under current light. I walked down a soy row, sometimes shifting lanes. As I walked I was especially mindful of other elevated places and of the direction of the soy rows in relation to the silos. I also looked for any anomalies of interest around me, but I didn't shoot again until I had crossed the soy field and stood due west of the silos, off the left edge of this image.

From there, shadow covered the foreground soy rows. I often find it effective to shoot from shadow into light, and I composed images where the shadow's edge added a strong diagonal to activate a composition. I sought bold shapes and colors that might reach through the shadowed soy rows to enhance the immediate foreground, but the rows ran the wrong way, and where the soy was bright, it was also flat.  I turned and looked down two or three rows to a large shed, formed and exposed several more compositions that ran with the soy rows and then continued walking even as the earth kept turning and shadows were lengthening.  I had timed my walk because I knew the next section held the most promise.

It took a bit more than five minutes to move from the point where I took this picture to the point where I shot "Dairy Farm, 2013."  I made nine exposures from three locations. It was a small part of the 30 minutes spent crossing the soy field where it paralleled the barns, a relatively short distance in which I made 214 exposures until my final choice came down to these two images that risk redundancy - perhaps much ado about nothing, but "film" is free, and and you never know what's there until you get there and sometimes not even then.

After that I moved in close and photographed, whatever it means, until the sun set.  Two of those images were just posted. I never had time to get back out and rephotograph the soy rows with longer shadows. Perhaps I will get another chance. 

I suppose this is a long way to try and clarify why it's not quite adequate to think of landscape photography as, "shooting pictures," though I may be the only one who cares. 

Friday, October 4, 2013


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Anyone of a certain age sees this logo with a bit of reverence, while those of another age walk blankly by. Does my generation, born just after WWII, lie at the divide? 

What I remember best, was Flying A gas stations whose logo was an upside-down version of this Veedol logo, and whatever the "A" stood for (Initially it stood for "Associated Oil Company), Veedol and Flying A had become the same company. In the front of the Flying A gas stations and beside the pumps one saw racks of Veedol motor oil. The company was Tidewater, founded, according to some accounts, in New York City in 1887. If my grandfather had bought a Model T, Mr. Ford would have recommended Veedol motor oil to him, and he might have visited a Flying A service station.

I don't know when Flying A gasoline stations disappeared, but I couldn't have been more than 9 or 10 years old, city bred where gas stations are scarce, without the farm boy's familiarity with working motors and car parts. However, the logo's glow of reverence was sufficient that I remember it almost 60 years later, one more relic in the attic of our cultural inheritance.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Shadows Cast

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Everything riots for its spot in the sun, though the spot be a filtered, shadowed reflection. I recognize the plants that are armed against me with surreptitious schemes to make my skin bristle and itch. In the past, they have kept me out. Now, with a bit of care I can avoid them, though I watch for snakes and for spiders in what's left of my hair, and enter the place where a man spent long days building his farm, first adding a small silo until he could build up his herd. He had chickens too, and horses.  He saved his pennies, lived modestly in the small farmhouse where he burned wood through the winter to keep his family warm.  Whether saint or scoundrel, inside the barn he has left not a trace of who he was or of his daily routine except for the double line of rusting, milking stalls where the roof is collapsing under the weight of vines. Behind them, in a field now planted with drying soy, his cows grazed until milking time, and when he was done with his chores he went home to rest.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Dairy Farm, 2013

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: It has fallen. It took me awhile to notice, though I should have spotted it immediately. They were the three watchtowers of earlier photographs. Now one was missing, the sentry at the eastern end of the old dairy barn - the barn sinking into the earth under the weight of vines and the toll of the seasons - roof so low I had to stoop inside - like the other buildings: large chicken houses and sheds that seemed made of dry sticks and disappeared into the brush. There's a farmhouse too, though it is surrounded by a thicket such as a fairy godmother or witch might conjure to shield a sleeping princess. The first time I visited I named this farm, "Forsaken Acres."  Sunday I walked on the broken shards that were the silo, and I was surprised how little rubble the great tower left when it fell, only a few cart loads of broken, orange tile.

How do I feel about the tower's demise? I try to imagine the sounds of steam locomotives hooting through this valley from all directions when there were cows milked here twice daily - Sealtest days. The silo was an awfully good prop that caught the light well, and there were more good shots to be made with it. The railroad track is long gone; even many of the rights of way have disappeared. The missing silo opens new compositional possibilities as long as the western silos hold. One looks tenuous. When it goes there will be little reason to come back to photograph here.  I'll miss that; one can see a great distance from here.