Category Archives: Spring

Vermont Farmer’s Market: Flower Decisions

Vermont Farmer's Market, Clematis,Peony,Columbine

As a bit of a counterpoint to last week’s image, which is bright and luminous, this is a similar subject but darker and denser: completely different feel. This was made with the same lens at the same aperture, an ancient Zeiss Contax G 90 Sonnar, wide open.

These days I would have tended to bring a different lens in my bag. In my current style for something like a farmer’s market, I would choose one of my less aggressively sharp and contrasty lenses. However, encouraged by the alternate character revealed in that fuschia greenhouse photo, I brought this as my only long lens and used it wide open.

A farmer’s market is funny, like life: there is a lot going on and it’s hard to sort it out. I always feel like it might be a ripe situation for photography, and it often is, but it really requires some careful looking. One slice of it might be a good photo, but then there is a lot of chaos and potential for everything to change quite quickly. Of course, like life, that change works in our favor. Without it, we would be stuck.

Famous Purple Raincoat; Fuchsias in Spring Greenhouse

Pink Fuchsias, Purple Raincoat, Greenhouse

As much as I try to know my gear and what it will do, this image was a delightful surprise.

I think of my lenses — almost all prime (not zoom) and manual focus, often vintage — in two broad categories: Zeissy or Anti-Zeiss. As I may have mentioned before the Zeissy lenses are aggressively sharp and contrasty, often generally at the expense of smooth rendering. I’ve been surprised before, as in the success of this image of lights in a botanic garden at night. But generally the Zeissy lenses are not what I think of when I want something smooth and dreamy.

I was out on errands, and my bag had only these sharp and aggressively contrasty lenses in it. On this rainy dreamy day, I found myself in the soft light of a greenhouse and wanted a rather dreamier rendering. I tried a lens I’ve had for about four months, and I thought I knew it. It’s an old Zeiss Contax G film-era lens, which, in my experience, is one of the sharpest and most aggressively contrasty lenses I own. I decided to try it at wide aperture and hope for the best. The viewfinder looked good.

When I looked at the file, I was surprised at the smooth dreamy rendering. In fact, I liked the image so much I decided to go back to this and other greenhouses with some of my “bokeh” smooth lenses to get an even better image. I may have managed that; maybe not. I think for what I wanted of this image, this old lens pulled through surprisingly well!

Exactly one year ago: newly plowed corn field, dappled light and low clouds

Newly Plowed Cornfield Vermont Black and White

I had been thinking about this image for a couple of weeks. I actually wake up sometimes with them in my mind. Sometimes I can’t sleep in the night because I get such strong flashes in my mind, like I’m making the exposures. Sometimes I have dreams that are like slideshows, streams of my photos. Anyway, I thought about this photo very vividly and then realized it was made just this week, last year.

There are so many things about it I like, but better to let you come to your own relationship with it.

This is an example of my work being informed by my past — my work in silver images with large format film. But I have to say that this panorama with a modern Zeiss lens, stitched from high resolution images from a very good modern sensor, is better than anything I could have made before. I will print it pretty big, and it will shine that way, but there is enough resolution that I could print it really big. If you like it and have a large wall, let me know.

This print is available for sale here.

New Corn and Fresh Pneumonia

Spring Cornfield and Echo Curve Cloud, Vermont 2016

The morning of June 4 was a beautiful one, fresh late spring growth, the corn in the field still showing nice clear geometry, and cirrus clouds echoing the curves and curls in the sky. My wife kicked me out of the house to go down the hill to photograph, with the idea there might be some low mist on these fields along the Connecticut River. There was not, but the clouds were great and I enjoyed making some I think well-seen and well-made exposures, with this, with clouds echoing the curve of the corn rows, maybe the best of them.

The rest of the day was busy, as a weekend day can be in early June in the country. A lot of gardening.

As the evening fell and the air cooled, I caught a chill and shivered. Fever all night, and the next night, and then diagnosed with pneumonia. Knocked me flat and got me behind schedule. But nevertheless I have made a lot of good exposures since then. I’m getting toward full tilt again.

This photo is for sale as a print in a few sizes on the site.

Light Through Leaves (x3)

Apple Orchard and Maple

I was walking past this little orchard one day, my wife walking fast and getting ahead of me on account of my photography. “Wait! Just one more!” This panorama. Worth exposing…

Oak Tree and Vermont Hills

Another recent one, above. I went out that morning because there was a heavy frost/light snow with fall leaves still up. I was looking for a certain kind of image, with the potential everywhere I looked — but I don’t think I managed to realize it in a good composition. This was near a little stream, not particularly the drama I was looking for in the open spaces. The field in the background is indeed covered with frost, and these leaves were indeed red with light shining through. Somehow this black and white version is the best photo though. Also the images I exposed just after this were also good, along the stream. You just never know. You look for one thing, but you find another.

Stone Wall, Light through trees, Maine

And this one above, also of light coming through trees, I’ve been meaning to put up on the site for a few months now, since exposing it last spring. I was driving past this wall and just glimpsed the wall and the light coming through the trees, late light, and I turned around and circled back to it.

Dandelions and Stone Wall, Hartland VT 2015

dandelions and stone wall

I may have mentioned in the past that the original intent of this blog was to post brand new work. As I’ve also often mentioned, I think: I’m often too chicken, or too smart, to do that. It seems like a really good idea to let an image settle with time, to become a thing itself and detach itself from the remembered experience of being in the situation.

On the other hand, it is good to be excited about new work, and I’m doing a bunch of new work that I find exciting these days, of course most of it not posted yet.

I’ve often attempted to get the silhouette of a stone wall with the woods or meadow as a sort of figure/ground subject switch. I think this is a successful attempt at this, with dandelions to continue from last week.

This photograph can be viewed in higher resolution and purchased here.

Dandilions on Hill, Hartland VT 2014

In some places, people apply broadleaf herbicides, and the result is a uniform lawn, perfect in its way. But, environmental considerations aside, I think it’s a poorer world for that. The conformed, uniform lawn may be pretty in its way, but as I say, it’s less rich.

Sometimes as a gardener, I don’t always appreciate the weeds. But each and every weed is in its way a beautiful plant, or at least worthy of some respect. It’s an energetic presence clinging to life quite tenaciously. And if we catch it before it goes to seed, it can go on the compost — future riches for the soil.

Sometimes as a man who works with his mind, who works on his mind, I don’t always appreciate the mind-weeds. Or all the thoughts, about to go to seed in the wind like dandelions. They land in every corner and create more mind-weeds. But, catch them early, right onto the compost pile, and it’s a richer mind, full of more energy and possibility. Each mind-weed is a stout specimen in its own right, with its own beauty and strength and a part of the whole landscape. We can accept the whole, and it’s a beautiful thing.

No, we don’t just mow them down or poison them. We respect them and work with them. They flower and go to seed; the seeds blow away, and there are so many places they can land.

This photo can be viewed larger here.

Spring Cornfield, Hay Field, Clouds Hartland Vermont

This is a spot where I’ve made a lot of exposures, in infrared as well as with visible light, especially this last spring. It’s a long walk, or a short trip on the electric bicycle. Though I’ve always been drawn to the spot, it’s hard to say what it is this spring that pulled me there so much. This is about a quarter mile and a few weeks separated from this image of Mt Ascutney. This one is looking north-ish, while the other one is across the road, a south view. It’s a good spot.

There were some times when the clouds were more dramatic, some panoramas that worked out well and included those clouds. I don’t know. For now, this is the one. Something about the light and the quality of the space. Yes.

This looks much better bigger on the web page.

Gone-by Dandelion, Pink Azalea, 2014

gone by dandilion macro, pink azelea

It’s been hard to put up a photo of the week lately, because I’ve been making so many exposures. It’s a funny paradox, but it comes down to the most precious resource: time.

I spend a lot of time working on photography, and even with that wealth of time spent, I have to allocate resources, of course. Camera time, looking through, sorting, evaluating, and then going down various rabbit holes. The time to push a photo through, and the clarity to pick just one — that’s a challenge in a rich time like this.

I always rave about this Olympus 60mm macro lens; sorry to do it more, but it is just really quite extraordinary. I’ve been actually throwing away some unpublished images made with some good old Nikon lenses, because so much of the work I’m doing now is just plain better. I’ve been making so many images that are so good, it’s hard to choose between them.

So many things make a photo worthy, and I hope that there are more than one of them working here. But the thing is, have you ever really seen the dome of the dandelion where the seeds have gone? A lifetime of looking closely at dandelions, and I’ve never seen that they really look this way as the seeds go.

A New Thin Place: Single Maple Tree in Birch Grove, Vermont

birch grove panorama vermont

Sometimes these posts come because I have a photo (or several) pressing to be published, and sometimes it’s because I have something to write about. Sometimes it’s neither, and I do this out of discipline. I think it usually works out about the same.

I’ve been listening to The Moth podcasts while gardening lately. These are true stories told by the people who experienced them. The one that triggered this thinking and writing was by Krista Tippett, who broadcasts interviews with a broad range of what might be called “spiritual” people. The striking thing for me in the story she told was a mention of her time in Ireland, and an ancient Celtic idea of “Thin Places.” I had never heard of this as such, by that name and tradition. As she put it, a Thin Place is “a place where the gap between the temporal and transcendent is very thin.” Well. Yes.

I have experienced many such places throughout my lifetime, and arguably the discovery and exploration of such places is what got me to squander so much time with a camera, and then in the darkroom and then on the computer with photos. I could elaborate endlessly, and I think I should do it in a book, and in bits over various posts.

I have found as a photographer that sometimes these places are just dripping with good photographs. Other times, these places make it actually harder to photograph well. Sometimes a good photograph is made of essentially tricks — ways that compositions move the eye, textures, tones, and colors. All the normal ingredients of art applied to create a piece in the same way paint is applied to a canvas. The thing is, you still have to work as a photographer and exert the right skills, whether in a Thin Place or next to a Burger King.

I have also found that the application of effort, skill, and one’s own spiritual energy to a piece of art can create a “Thin Place” right there in the art, from scratch. I realized this over 30 years ago in MOMA, Museum of Modern Art, standing in front of van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Each dab of paint radiated some energy and was a portal to Vincent’s mind — he made that happen.

So in my experience, the relationship between a Thin Place and art is very tricky. 35 years of exploration have not unlocked all the secrets, or very many of them.

Back to this particular spot: A few miles from my house there’s a grove of birch trees right by the road. If I’m walking or riding a bike, I stop there, almost always, and I look and feel. The other week I was stopped on my bike, when a man on a walk I had passed caught up to me and stopped: A neighbor I hadn’t met. We hit it off, had a lot in common, and chatted for probably over an hour, more time than I should have taken as I had client work promises to keep. One thing that came from that conversation was the news that the owner of the land of that birch grove allows walkers.

I have been photographing a lot in recent weeks, which is another set of stories. I am in love with two new-ish cameras and some very nice lenses. I was in the emerging spring, just right in it, watching the buds swell and the leaves break out of them as if in time-lapse. I scrutinized and photographed and savored the bud-bursting leaf popping time, and I felt attached, not wanting it to pass. I wanted the leaves to stay so small and bright with light passing through them and dappling the ground and the other small bright lit-up leaves. But also enjoying the transformation, let it evolve, as everything will.

So a handful of walks in this newly found trail through birch groves and pastures was part of it. It is in some ways such an old time quintessential Vermont paradise of a sort that gets harder and harder to find as there are fewer farms and less mowing, and the fields grow up to brush. But this is very unusual as such an extensive stand of beautiful birch trees. The effect of this place on me is quite profound. But I’ve found it to be very hard to photograph there; I think I go over the gap into the other side of the Thin Spot, into the transcendent. I don’t keep my wits about me as well in terms of what works, what makes a photograph, how to (as a photographer) dab the brush into the paint and onto the canvas. Somehow I want to smear the canvas right on the scene and have it transfer. But it doesn’t work that way, does it? Not in painting or always in photography — you need the intermediary of the brush and paint — or some technology — to move the energy from around you and through you and to create some kind of thing that is related to it but separate.

This print is for sale and can be viewed larger here.