Archive for November, 2010

Let’s do the Time Warp again!

Isn’t it funny how time gets away from us when we’re in the zone?  Most of the time it’s when you think you’ve been crouched down photographing for just a few minutes, but really it’s been an hour and your companions have deserted you in search of warmth, shelter or just something more interesting than watching you.  A bit of a mind flip and you’re into the time slip!

Sometimes though, it can go the other way.  What seemed like at least 1/2 hour the other day, I realize now was barely 10 minutes.  The sounds of nearby dogs and owners playing faded away and even the sound of the ocean, just a few feet away, slipped out of my consciousness and I tried to remember what it was like to play.

To Infinity and Beyond!

While I didn’t shoot a ton of frames, I experimented with a lot of angles and compositions.  I at first didn’t like the complexity of the backgrounds, but then decided I did and included the old military fort next to this playground.

Playtime at the Apocalypse


My husband stood politely aside, exiting from shots as I moved around.  Noticing his shadow in the way even before I did.  Patiently watching me.  Even brushing me off when I got up from the sand.  I felt bad about taking so much time on what was a beautiful, but windy and cold day.  Then when I got home and looked at the time stamps I realized only 10 minutes had passed from first to last.  He got off lucky, really.  I’ve been known to really lose track of time when we’re out.  Hikes take at least 1/3 longer than estimated because I stop so much.  Vacations always include lots of time exploring weird things or areas.  He doesn’t mind though.  I think in some way he enjoys it.  Like when I go watch him run 5ks or other races.  Sure, I’m standing around doing nothing.  Sometimes freezing.  But it’s part of togetherness and I don’t mind at all.

The Beauty of Fog

So I finally got myself to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island in Newbury, Mass.  I’ve only lived an hour and ten away from it my whole life and not gone.  No idea why other than laziness.  At first I was a bit bummed that it wasn’t sunny, but then I quickly changed my mind.

November Palette

Imagination's Muse

The Brook of the Ocean

Almost all other photos I’ve seen from Plum Island are on sunny days with clouds and blue skies.  The fogginess of the shots I got tell another story and capture an entirely different mood.  It was raining when I shot the 2nd and 3rd one here, but they were worth getting out of the car for.  The mysterious shapes in the fog give the photos depth and mood.  I quite like them.

I will definitely go back though – even if it’s not foggy.  Maybe for one of the first snows.


Happy Thanksgiving

Here’s a picture of a turkey –

Momma and baby

well, two turkeys actually.  I took this in 2006 in Montana.  Probably was the OM-3 and the 65-200 zoom.  I can’t remember if it’s slide or print film though.

Anyway,  I hope you all have a good day whether you’re celebrating or not.

House of Sorrow

I can never resist an abandoned building.

This house is in the next town over and on a road I hardly ever take, so when I did and saw it I knew I’d have to go back and shoot it.  When I did I had an intense feeling of loss and sorrow.  Judging by the garden out back with all its little markers and organization, and that aqua blue paint, I imagine this was once someone’s pride and joy.  A refuge, now becoming a ruin.  The dead bird really kicked things up a notch.  What a death.

Here are a couple of sample images, but to get the full effect hit the Slideshow on SmugMug.

House of Sorrow

Honor Guard

Hopefully I remember to get back there in summer when everything is blooming…what a lovely contrast that will be.

Down on my knees again

Suffering for my art.

Snagged a branch off a wonderfully photogenic, but wickedly invasive, bittersweet plant.  They’re everywhere now, like purple loosetrife, choking the life out of native plants.

Anyway, I haven’t been shooting macro much so decided to bring out the big guns for these – the OM 90mm f2 and the OM 35mm f2 and the 25mm extension tube.  No tripod, just my bag of barley and very bright shade.


Joyful enemy

I love how the berry coverings make them look like tiny lemons before they’re shed.  The berries are just under a centimeter across.  The background of this next one is an old grill cover (the one the frogs were living in) on the deck.  It only looks good out of focus.


Truly bittersweet

The combination of the extension tube and the 35mm lens allows me some really great angles of view.  I like how it makes the berries look slightly menacing –

Keep your enemies closer


Driven to decay

When the industrial revolution came to New England it came in the form of mills.  Water-powered turbines sprang up on every river big enough to drive one and even on what now appear to be placid little brooks.  I’ve always loved the architecture of large mill buildings.  Having basically grown up in New England’s largest mill town of Manchester, NH (at one time it was the largest textile mill complex in the world) I’ve seen many of them turned into offices, apartments and other businesses.  The massive beams, the unidentifiable hardware up the walls and on the ceilings, the wide floor boards, the brick, the towers; it’s all really beautiful.  The nearby railway line always adds to the romance of these places even when they no longer have much to do with the commerce done these days.

Manchester mill yard

This is an apartment building originally constructed for the mill workers.  I love they way they look.

Amoskeag Mill worker housing

The mighty Merrimack that drove it all –

The river is unusually high

Some, however, have not been taken up and re-purposed.  I recently drove through Fitchburg, Massachusetts and took photographs of some abandoned mill structures.  A few look to have recently gone into disuse, some have obviously been idle for decades.  It makes me sad that we’ve lost basically all our manufacturing and all this infrastructure just molders away.  Sometimes it’s just because there’s nothing else to be done with the buildings, sometimes it’s because industrial clean up is too expensive.  The buildings fascinate me anyway –

Abandoned mill in Fitchburg, MA

There are miles of these old factories along the Nashua river in Fitchburg.  Here’s one that was originally a furniture factory, but now lies empty.

Unplanned obsolescence

These old buildings are easy to imagine in operation, but the ones in the woods are a bit harder.  Recently I visited the once flourishing Springdale Woolen Mill site in Holden, MA.  When the Wachusett reservoir was created, dozens of mills were bought and dismantled to preserve the quality of the drinking water.  This one operated from 1864 to 1905 and it’s a shame the buildings have been razed; only part of the dam and the flume are recognizable.  The flume is a channel that forces water from the mill pond (created by the dam) directly to the turbine house.  I knew when I saw it that I’d have to find a way down in.  It was crumbly, steep and slidey, but I like the perspective –

The Springdale flume

Upriver from the Springdale site is another ruined mill.  I couldn’t find a name for this one, but the dam is still pretty impressive even if it no longer functions.

Not all mills are quite so massive.  I’ve come across them in the woods from time to time and always wonder who built them and why.

Mystery mill at Pulpit Rock

Big or small, mills were important to New England’s prosperity and I’ll always photograph them when the opportunity presents itself.  More mill images can be found here if you want to see them – tag = mill.

The Shots I Don’t Take

The other day I met up with a couple of local photographer friends in quest of a foliage sunrise.  Unfortunately it didn’t work out.  The sky was too densely overcast and the light dull.  Bummer.  But I didn’t drive long to get there and the meet up gave me a new location to shoot in the future.  Plus I got to hang out with two good guys who also happen to be good photographers.

Anyway, a couple minutes worth of casual conversation got me to thinking about how we grow as photographers.  Basically these days, we agreed, it is almost more about the shots we don’t take than the ones we do.  I said that when I look through prints or slides from my early days I groan aloud and wonder why I even pressed the shutter button.  He laughed and said he’s done the same.

The thing is, I know why I pressed it.  Primarily it was out of sheer joy.  The joy of discovery, the joy of what I saw, the joy of making art, the joy of just doing what I liked to do.  Second was that I had to press the button.  Any endeavor requires doing.  Well duh, right?  If I didn’t shoot a lot of film, I’d never come to understand what works and what doesn’t.  I’d never come to understand what moved me as a photographer.  In short, I’d never learn.  How can you come to understand, to know, anything without studying it?  How can you get “mad skillz” without shooting a lot?  For photographers this means more doing than observing or reading.  Skills need to become second nature because if you miss the shot of the monkey riding Pegasus with a rainbow in the sky, you’ll regret it forever.

Mostly though, it’s not about the once in a lifetime shot, it’s the quotidian.  The everyday pursuit of what moves you.  Capturing your style as well as the subject.  To me it’s knowing what translates from 3D to 2D.  Some things do and some things don’t.  But I had to produce a lot of don’ts to figure this out.  I try not to think of it as having wasted film, but as learning how to take the kind of photographs I want.  At the time film was the only medium available, new photographers these days have no idea of the agony a photographer on a budget went through with film, but that’s another post.

Here’s a good example of what I mean by not translating to 2 dimensions.

Play of light doesn't work in 2D

In reality, this vignette is pretty neat and eye-catching.  It’s a rock overhang on a small brook.  The way the light was hitting made a really neat reflection on the rock above.  Swirly and sparkly – I sat mesmerized for a few minutes before deciding to try to capture it (and all the while I was contorting into a decent camera angle, I had my doubts as to whether it would be a success).  Maybe some people would post and be proud of this shot, and I might have myself if I were just starting out, but now it’s on the reject pile.  It just doesn’t translate.

Knowing this I find myself not taking photos that I would have years ago because I know they’ll end up rejects.  What is pleasing to the eye sometimes just doesn’t come through in a photo and I’d rather spend my time looking for what will.  Practice, practice, practice.  New angles or vantage points.  Juxtapositions and slices.  It has to translate.

Here’s another one I took on a 0-degree photo meet up.

The mist too far

Now I know for a fact, because I took and printed similar shots in the 80s when I was new to photography, that I’d have set this as a keeper then.  It’s on the reject pile now.  Why?  Because it’s flat, blah and not compelling.  The mist needs to be closer to us, there needs to be something prominent in the shot to draw the eye.  It shows the serenity of the moment, but so what?

It got into the reject pile, sure, but I still shot it.  I took a chance.  I experimented.  Practiced.  And it taught me something.  Taught me in two ways; first that I should have hunted around for a better way to frame this.  I should have hunted for that compelling element that would have made the shot and kept me from wasting my time.  Maybe my brain was frozen – it really was 0 degrees out and we were all shivering.  The second way it taught me was by adding to my store of info on what doesn’t work in a photograph, that way when presented with a similar scene, I might remember and do that hunting.

Here’s a less boring sunrise from a few months later.


Sunrise on Squam lake

No, this image isn’t perfect.  It won’t make my top 10 for the year, but it is an improvement over the other sunrise shot.  Remember, I’m still practicing.