Category Archives: New Hampshire

In and Out of Time, Past and Present

Leaning Tree over Trout Brook

I’ve been working hard on the upcoming Post Pond show, at Matt Brown Fine Art in Lyme New Hampshire. I’m excited to share the space with Matt’s woodblock prints, other great contemporary artists, and also old woodblock prints. Matt is collecting and dealing Kunisada woodblock prints, among others — those are really something.

Matt asked me to make a show of my time in Lyme and to focus it around Post Pond and its immediate watershed. I spent a lot of camera time around Post Pond, the meadows near it, and the inlet and outlet streams: Trout Brook and Clay Brook.

Poet Jim Schley and I are going to give a talk, roughly around the notion of Time. I touched on that in my last post.

Passing through time is always interesting, and certainly no less as a photographer. All those older images represent both a period of artistic development as well as emotional experience. Also of course a record of the world passing through time, weather and light and atmosphere, as well as physical artifacts like trees that will change. One big dead tree that is prominent in many of my photos of Trout Brook no longer exists. The leaning tree above is a different story. Above, in about 2006, that tree had been leaning for a while. Below, in 2016, it was a bridge across the stream, completely fallen. I don’t know how it survived last winter or spring’s high water. No doubt it is different still. As the Buddhists say, annicca, annicca; impermanence. Everything is impermanent. Especially the state of my mind in the early 2000s when I lived near that spot.

And yet, here are some photographs. A reflection of my mind when I lived there, a record of the phenomena in front of my camera, a print that exists and resonates in this moment — and, really, nothing at all. Illusion. But illusion fun to play with. All life is a dance with illusion, so let us dance onward.
Tree Fallen over Trout Brook, Lyme, NH

Oh, and a news flash: I will be a featured artist at the rest area in Hartford on Route 5 in Vermont. Starting tomorrow, July 1, through the month. Those photos will not be Post Pond.

Back from Ireland, working on Post Pond show

Foot Bridge Over Trout Brook Lyme NH Post Pond

I have new work from Vermont I’m quite excited about, and also I’ve hardly sorted through photos from the Ireland trip, just recently over. But I’ve been focused on working a show of work made in Lyme New Hampshire, which opens on July 12 at Matt Brown’s Gallery in Lyme.

The photo above is relatively recent, made with a modern Zeiss lens and the full frame camera. Maybe more like what I would do now. I’m including a big print of this, Foot Bridge Over Trout Brook in the show as bit of new work done in Lyme.

Though the show will mostly be of work just around Post Pond, I’m also including this old one, just brought live and printed large. It was exposed on 4 x 5 film back in my view camera days, in 1983, when I was a skinny kid with a pony tail. This was exposed at a pond called Pout Pond near where I lived in ’83, schlepped my view camera up there. I haven’t been there since ’84 or so, so I don’t know if it is still wild and undeveloped.
Black Ice, Pout Pond, Lyme Center NH

Then I’m also working up several images, often reworking them. This is one I tried a different file of once, but I never quite was happy with it. Worked it up now, and it’s nice:
Post Pond, Autumn, Reeds, Yellow Curve

On July 12 at 5PM there will be a gallery talk. I will be joined by my friend, poet and writer Jim Schley, and Matt Brown will join in as well. We are going to be talking about time.

I’ve talked about time some. Anyone who knows me knows I have an unconventional sense of time. Time is interesting in photography for a few reasons. Any time I make an exposure, the subject of my attention is instantly destroyed immediately after. Sometimes the actual subject doesn’t last long, but certainly the light, the feeling, the moment will never come again. Have I “captured” that moment? No way! I create a new experience, which will perhaps live on in a series of new moments.

Time is also interesting, I think in that it is a bifurcated experience. We experience Newtonian time, a ball drops to the floor in the time we expect, a car accelerates on the highway according to its capabilities, and we experience that in accord with the real time, often enough. But also, we live in what I’m taking to calling “literary time.” In a novel time is never “real” but subject to the character or narrator’s looking back, looking ahead, paying attention to details as the moments unfold in the story. The reason we can click into this so well when we read a novel is that we experience this way anyway. Anyone who has ever meditated much knows that time shifts and warps with our mindstream. An hour can be a very long time, or fly by. Nothing to do with the clock, when we are with our experience. All very interesting.

Kandinsky Again

I don’t have a formula for composition, obviously. I like simplicity, I like abstraction. I like foggy mystery, but also piercing clarity. I’m happy enough sometimes to simply represent something interesting, but mostly I’m looking to move the eye around a space, and to move the mind with it. More and more (though I always have), I think of art as being a reflection of, or projection of, mind. Mind doesn’t really have a form or shape or color, as any meditator or neuroscientist knows. But somehow I feel like a state of mind (always transitory and fleeting) can have a graphical representation. A lot of modern art is interesting to me not purely because of color and form, but because of Mind. Kandinsky is a different state of mind — when viewing the painting you are in a different state of mind — than say in front of a Rothko.

Photographing ice on a winter stream is always an opportunity to explore a lot of mental states, a lot of chances for simplicity, tranquility, and also more kinetic and energetic situations.

I like this one, for now, because it has about as much energy, form, texture, detail, as I dare squeeze into a photo. The eye moves around the image; it’s not a simple, settled thing. Like Kandinsky paintings, the mind can be this way too. It’s worth spending time with it, whether it is a Rothko or a Kandinsky.

This is a stream in New Hampshire that I particularly like to walk along, because there is a nice trail along it, and the stream is interesting — sometimes slow, sometimes fast, sometimes even a waterfall. The stream is a mind of its own, moving through all the states and shapes and form that a real mind will, and always changing. In winter here, pretty much any day will be different from the next in terms of how a stream like this will look, and of course the light changes through the day too. It is as fleeting as a one day flower, a dandelion head in a breeze, a human mood or set of thoughts.

Lobelia, “Tomatoes” Sign, Greenhouse

Tomatoes Sign, Lobelia, Greenhouse

I’ve been posting these color flowers and shallow depth of field images, but they’re not the only thing I’ve been doing. It’s just that they’re the ones that get stuck in my head, and I get excited to print them. I had a summer a few years ago when I was looking at Ukiyo-e (“floating world,” the genre of Japanese prints that includes Hokusai and others). Those images filled my mind and influenced my compositions. In this period I seem to be finding some of my inspiration from my quirky old vintages lenses themselves, the way they draw with light, and maybe especially the way colors mingle and mix beyond the plane of focus.

Last week I talked about re-doing images, and this was in fact a re-do. As regular readers know, I’m not just photographing casually. I tend to work on ideas and places iteratively. I work crazy hard on my photography. Often I get to know a situation better by working on it, while other times I find it hard to make up for the serendipity of new discoveries. The mix of hard work and grace is somewhat mysterious, here, as in meditation, as in all of life.

But I do learn as I go, learn how situations resonate as a photograph, how they will print, how each of my quirky old lenses work at different apertures and in different light. I learn both how to work with situations, to have patience when it’s not working, and to accept the grace of what is simply given.

When I first tried to make this image I was using an ancient film lens on an adapter, and the adapter was (the only time I’ve seen this) interfering with the lens’ ability to change aperture. It was stuck wide open, at f1.4. That would have been great, if that particular lens were any good wide open like that. It wasn’t.

I had a bit of time between meetings, so I went back to this greenhouse. The light was nicer than the first time I was there, by a lot.

I happened to have a different ancient film-era lens, that does have some good qualities wide open, at f2 (though this exposure was stopped down one stop, to f2.8; I prefer the little bit more detail in the background to the f2 exposure). All these old lenses have their own quirks, and this one is sort of the opposite to that other lens, which gives an extremely impressionistic rendering at wide apertures. This one is dreamy, while still sharp, mixing colors together in a nice, soft way while keeping the structure of the image somewhat together.

So this is a case where the re-do worked out better than the first attempt.

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!

Seeing What’s Here, Letting Go of What’s There

Vermont Ice Storm Ascutney

Anyone who has spent any time at all honestly examining their mind and experience knows very well that most of the time most of our awareness and attention is not directed at the situation at hand.

So it was that I started the day of New Year’s Eve, 2015. I was looking forward to photographing at Post Pond a bit later in the morning, since I was scheduled to be in my old town of Lyme NH at 10. I figured I would leave early and give myself a generous amount of time there to photograph before 10.

Here in Hartland VT the trees and weeds were glazed with ice from freezing rain the night before. The light was soft but bright, and there was some fog and mist in spots. A good opportunity! I had to spend some time here before I headed to Lyme. I made way too many photographs right in the back yard, and heading off I was just barely going to be on time. But I still had to stop and expose the image above.

It turned out that as I approached Lyme, the ice storm was not in evidence, the light didn’t have the luminous quality that we had in Hartland. My 10am appointment was to gallery-sit at the Long River Studios gallery. After that was over I went to Post Pond, and — nothing inspiring. I could spend some time and find something, always, but it was not as it had been in my mind. There wasn’t even any ice on the water.

But in honor of my fantasy of how it was going to be, I’ll resurrect an old exposure of Post Pond — sort of how I thought it would be there. It’s kind of funny, because I’ve been wanting to go back there with my newer, higher end cameras and lenses, but that gear didn’t help with nothing interesting in front of it. The photo below (which I will not be able to print very large) was exposed with my earliest DSLR and the worst lens I ever owned in 2005. It worked out. Sometimes the situation works out if you’re fully in it.

Post Pond, Ice and Mist, Black and White

These photos are available as prints:

Ascutney Mountain Through Ice Storm Branches VT

Melting Ice and Mist, Post Pond Black and White

Back to Post Pond — black and white from November 2006

Post Pond Black and White Photo

They say you can never go back. The other week when I traveled to Lyme to drop a print at the Long River Studio gallery there, it was a real flashback, and I wrote about it some here. It was so funny, being there in a different mind, the place the same but different, even walking past my old house across from Clay Brook as I walked along the brook, the outlet to the pond.

It’s also sort of the same going back through the old exposures. The file from 2006 is the same raw data from the camera sensor. The sensor and lens I had then wasn’t as good as what I have now, and my vision and mood is different. But mostly I think my eye is a lot better, both to recognize and develop images. I guess the main point is that even if I’ve got an older file, sometimes it’s like I just went back there with the camera and found something new. May it always be so. May the past, present, and future always be seen freshly.

Revisiting Post Pond – Edge Ice and Cloud Reflections

Post Pond, Lyme New Hampshire

I made a lot of good photos of Post Pond, many more than I’ve got posted on my site (here is the Post Pond collection).

I often wish I had a time machine and could go back. I have better cameras and much better lenses, and my eye is better. Overall, I’m a better photographer than I was even a few years ago. I did manage to wake up early one late summer morning to catch the rising mist, and I did make some good exposures.

This week I went back to Lyme to show some prints at the Long River Gallery. They liked my photos, and I’m now a member of the collective.

Most of the rest of the photos I brought to show to the gallery (because they are in Lyme, and of Post Pond) are hanging in their framed version in the currently hanging show at Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital. So currently there is a nice big print of this one on Canson Rag Photographique, a very slightly textured paper:
Post Pond Pickerel Weed in Mist

This week’s Photo of the Week is available in a larger view and for sale here.

Ratcheting Epiphany

Trout Brook into Post Pond, Lyme New Hampshire, Black and White

Usually we think of en epiphany as a flash of insight that happens in, well, a flash. But I think really when it happens it’s been building, maybe for a long while. I think it’s true in meditation practice, as we build insight and capacity to experience, those sudden flashes are really just fruition that’s been on the way for a while.

In photography, from the early eighties I tended to visit and revisit certain spots. Some places, just something about them: photographs just crystalized out of the situation almost every time I was there. The light always different, my eye, my mood, the way the I Ching would toss — everything different though the same place. So, I knew that, and I did it, all my life.

On the one hand I knew that I had, over and over, something new, but on the other hand I also had the sense that there might be one definitive exposure of a certain place. Quite often I broke that, for example in the 80s I printed both this

Cavendish Gorge Vermont, Winter

(on the site here)

and the very early sheet film exposure:

Cavendish Gorge Waterfall, Vermont, Black and White

(on the site here)

And on ad infinitum.

It was only last fall hanging a show of photos at the Ledyard Gallery of the Howe Library in Hanover New Hampshire that I realized it was really cool how different images from the same vantage point were completely different. Those were all of Post Pond, in Lyme New Hampshire.

But even then I didn’t get it fully, and so I never worked on this image, because I kind of thought the definitive image of Trout Brook going into Post Pond was this one with frost flowers on the ice:

Frost Flowers on Trout Brook Ice, into Post Pond

(on the site here)

But no. There is no definitive photo, even standing in about the same spot, even at about the same time of day. And that is part of the point.

Trout Brook Into Post Pond, Summer 2006, Infrared

This summer foliage and water image strikes my fancy now, since it looks so cool and etherial. We’ve had a run of hot and muggy weather in Vermont in recent days that has been more of a feet-of-clay feeling. Moving the mind to a cooler place is an exercise that sometimes fights the body’s pull back to the too-solid experience of heavy hot air.

The exposure was so long ago that I can’t remember the specifics of that August evening. (I only know it is evening from the metadata in the file). Maybe it was hot then. And I guess in a way it is some measure of success of this image. While sometimes a photograph is successful because it is so clearly linked to a particular atmosphere and time in the so called real world, I also like it when the photo creates its own world, out of our normal experience of time. The time in the photo is not so clearly linked to any specifics except the foliage and atmosphere. That’s August, yes. August in the year forever.

This seems to be a good spot for making timeless photos, I see in retrospect, now that I don’t live so close to it anymore. Other successful images from more or less the same location:

Winter

Late Fall

The photo can be viewed on the site here.