Sunday, December 18, 2011

last 2011 post, and the last section of the essay

post #65


         My camera manual tells me that depth of field refers to how much of the picture, from near to far, is in sharp focus.  I get it that success here has something to do with f stops, but everything else comes into play as well -- how fast the lens, the speed of the film, the amount of available light.
        More light allowed in the camera increases clarity almost to the point where the photographs can look more intense than life itself.  Also, by now in my work I am supremely conscious of the wind.  I think about the time of day--nature can be so still at dawn that a fern won't show motion when the lens is left open to show more detail, more depth of field.  Working on this book taught me to see more and to pay better attention.  
        Early on I had felt that I was mainly out of my depth in some field.  Or simply out in left field, no depth about it.  Luckily I had a deadline and a commitment, so gradually, one image by one image, I felt less stranded and less conscious of my lack of formal technical training.  I even began to have fun!
        This book has allowed me to share my love of this place with all the world.  It's the big picture that I got from so many little ones that continues to amaze me.
#   #   #  # 

new life, 2011
new life, 2011

for JOHN KELLEY and all his family and friends

      I wish the world and each one of you the faith that we human beings can learn to live with peace in our hearts and find our inner peace.  Peace in our families.  Peace within nations and between nations and with nature.  We each of bones, blood, brains and sinew can surely become better at building these ways of peace, one moment by one moment. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Photography + other parts of one's life

post #64
      Welcome to still more of the essay about illustrating Counting on the Woods -- we're up to section 5, which took place in mid-July 1997.  Next week I will post the last section.  Two weeks from now is Christmas, and I won't do a post that week.  I couldn't give it the full attention I try for, and most folks wouldn't have time to read it anyway!  I will happily return here on New Years Day.

       section 5:  I DO HAVE AN OTHER LIFE
      One picture left, three days to do it in.  Sounds easy.  Luckily by this point I am so far removed from reality that nothing seems too much.  Not even having Emily's family of four for their first visit, for 36 hours, not even getting ready for a nineteen day trip to visit family, having a potluck for 23 people the third night, or making a four hour round trip to Lexington to drop off two last rolls of slides.  (Thank goodness the book's author is able to pick them up later, sort through them, and send some off to New York.  Which ones, I wouldn't know.)  Eight trees?  What could be challenging about that?  I am surrounded by one hundred acres of trees.
      Of course there is a clear reason why this shot is the last one.  I have tried many tree views, but it feels impossible to get only eight.  Or just nine.  Or five and five.  My original innocent Dark Ages plan was to find the tree groupings and then put the kid in one of the trees.  But I was being "stumped" by such logic.  I had already tried ridge lines, cow fields, inner woods, east-facing wooded hillside as well as west-facing ones, and fortunately, field edge trees.  
      It turns out I had at some point been on the edge of some field and had made a shot of eight trees that worked pretty well, though I felt I could do better.  [Remember, the Kyle-in-the-tree photo I want to use ended up showing him in two trees, so I now needed eight in order to match the ten trees in the words.]  But where had I been to find that grouping?  I'm  surprised it's so hard to relocate the precise place.  I usually remember clearly where I've been and what I saw there.
      This is when the three days actually make a difference.  My brain had time to sift, and I had time to reenact some earlier tripod locations.  All that other stuff in my life simply went on without my full participation, and of course with no problems.  The kids and my husband did the potluck, Emily entertained her family, our neighbor, Michelle, stayed in our house while we were gone and cleaned the house at the beginning and at the end of her stay  [thanks again, dear friend] -- and broke up with her boyfriend!
      What I finally discovered was that those eight trees could be viewed only through my trusty 300 mm lens.  The image on the slide doesn't exist to the natural eye.  Luckily that field was only a short walk from the house.  And I found the place in time to film the trees in the Sunday evening light --  leaving the potluck briefly --  and again early the next morning, the last day I could film, the day I went to Lexington. 
      Someday the world will see a straightforward photo of eight tree trunks, one picture out of many, in a book, one of many, many.  But I will always count eight trees as a miracle.

a study for the trees page
a snap of the final result: two plus eight 
hard-to-count trees on this hillside!
hard-to-count trees in this summer's steamy forest

turning to the page before: nine vines, earth to sky they climb

Sunday, December 4, 2011

the story behind a single photograph in Counting on the Woods

post #64
Kyle in the sycamores

section 4 of the essay Snapshots of the work on Counting on the Woods:


      Every photograph comes with a story, but this one, the penultimate photo in the book and in the taking, Kyle in two trees, this one has a saga.  My work of hands and eyes is now to be in these words.
      Think Tuesday night -- only five days before I had to finish the book.  I realized the light would be great, but by the time I called Kyle, his mom said he was "out."  Wednesday morning, he agreed to come over to my place if I could pick him up at 7:45 that evening.  But when I drove over to his house, a mile away, no one was home!  Looking around for him did give me the chance to make note of a pair of sycamore trees growing on the downhill side of the tobacco field behind his house.
      From my journal, written the next day:  "The evening was again light lovely.  I came home, did the equipment collage photo at the pond with [my son] Eric and [his girlfriend,] Emily, then I phoned Kyle.  He was home by now, alone, but 'too tired' to come over.  [Help!]   [Because] I had seen his sycamore trees earlier.... I asked him if it would be all right if we came over there instead.  OK, he said.  I hollered at Eric, and we three raced to get there.  By now it was 8:20 p.m. [in mid-July.]  Once Kyle located his shoes and his blue jacket -- always worn for the photos -- Eric helped him get up in the tree while I set up the tripod in the tobacco field mud, [trying not to damage the young plants.]  Emily held the stuff I would usually place on the ground around me.  
     "I tried several perspectives, but didn't think to try overexposing to compensate for the bit of sky in some of the photos."  Then I added in the margin " The light was o.k., but not as wonderful as earlier [that evening.]"
      Eric and Emily went to Lexington the next day, two hours away, with that single roll of film, and they returned with the slides.  Relief and wonder.  The last shot of Kyle is just right for the book.  I love it.  It is luminous.  The light was ideal.  Kyle has a wonderful expression on his face.
      I phoned Kyle right away to tell him that we got what was needed and he didn't have to be in any more photos.  Now all that was left for the weekend was eight trees to go along with the two in the sycamore slide.  It was for the page needing exactly ten trees. Just because I had been thinking that the configuration would be one and nine, had we used our single sycamore, didn't mean I couldn't readjust.  Change happens.  Hey, one picture left, three days to do it in!

NEXT WEEK, section 5, called I Do Have an Other Life.  NOTE: I did an earlier post about Kyle, post #41

      Here are two other sycamore photos, the first a practice shot for the one that was used in the book, and the other a winter scene with our big sycamore tree in the middle; the light comes from our chicken house.

practice shot


chicken house light, with our sycamore in the middle of the photo