Below are my blog entries for all of 2015. The most recent are on top, so reading down will take you into the recent past.
Brody is Gone...
He had been having some 'issues' for a while. Sometimes his hips would seem to weaken. Sometimes he seemed in distress. He started coughing.
In early December he coughed up a string of bright red blood. I suspected right away.
Took him to the vet and described everything. Her face fell and she said let's do a chest X-Ray to be sure.
Sure enough, lungs loaded with cancer. Prognosis bad, nothing to do short of useless, expensive unhelpful heroic measures. He could last two days or two months but probably more like two weeks. Ten and a half dammit! Thought he'd last another year at least. Shit.
Told Kim and Jenna. Make him comfortable, prepare for the end, probably very soon, hope, but not too much because there is NO hope. Crap.
Two weeks later, he couldn't get up. Back legs just splayed (lung cancer??). We lifted him near the fireplace onto his bed in the family room. Laid on his belly, uncomplaining as always, not moving, no interest in food.
There is a local Vet who will come to your house to do a respectful euthanasia. I called him at 6AM on Brody's final morning. No improvement; he said it's time.
He came. We cuddled Brody on our laps, my wife, daughter and I, on the floor of our home, where he had lived all his life. It will be OK, crazy boy, its OK.
He rallied for a minute, ate a few treats, then back down. Injection, then gone. We cried. Jenna hugged his lifeless body. The vet gave us private time to say goodbye. I helped carry him out.
A Hole in Our Lives...
December 2015, January 2016, February 2016.....
He is gone. HE IS GONE!
We all miss him. Still can't believe it.
I take some comfort in knowing that we did what we needed to do.
He was a good guy. Fine dog. Uncomplaining, unconditional loyalty and love. Always there, tail thumping, nudging for a petting, just the touch of our hands.
When he wouldn't eat, we knew this wasn't our Brody. He hadn't been able to chase his ball much lately but still loved his food and trudged painfully upstairs to sleep underfoot in the night.
We have decided though (and I hope it's not just me) that we will not get another dog. not ever, though in reality that may really mean not anytime soon.
I miss his noble chin on my leg. I miss tripping over him at night on the dark when I have to get up. I miss feeding him his breakfast and supper and letting him out after each meal to populate the yard with his leavings. I don't really miss my weekly poop patrols to keep the yard relatively poop free, but I didn't hate that, though I sometimes felt like I did.
For me, it will hit hardest when the season turns and it's time to get outdoors.
Camping, long (and more recently short) walks, chasing the ball.
He was loved by everyone.
He was a good guy.
Back at North Elba, looking south from Loj Road to the High Peaks before all this crazy warm December weather messed us all up.
That was all just a temporary distraction.
In most years, as is shortly arriving here whether we believe it or not, winter comes.
It comes with bone cold breezes, with beginnings of crusty snow, with angry clouds wreathing the mountaintops.
It marches in, settles in and grabs us by the chin and lets us know it is here.
It leaches out the color and replaces it with a cold hue of gray blue, monochromatic and breathtaking in its terrible beauty.
Sit back and shiver...
The Ice Settles In
On the shores of Lake Durant.
The shallows freeze over first. Skim ice starts at shoreline and, as the cold deepens, the ice reaches out into the calm waters, deadening and hardening it.
Movement stops and serenity takes over.
The trees and marsh grasses seem to harden also, enveloping themselves in that same cold, chilling veneer, that gray and ice blue hue.
Stark, steel, frozen intensity.
The Personality of Ice
As ice forms in shallows, its thinness takes on design and personality.
Twists and turns, lines, gullies, surface texture, fine edges, a storm of beauty.
The ice grows around and envelopes leaves, stones, soil, whatever is there.
I can wander for hours, or at least as long as my back and knees can hold out, bending and composing.
A Backwater off Sabattis Road
Often, color is so muted that BW makes the most sense. Or, if it doesn't, I like it anyway.
Blacks, whites and grays chill me. Ice sheen is accentuated. The grasses were brown anyway.
Spending Time with Leaves on my Driveway...
I am making a conscious decision to stop being a Photo Snob.
In past years, I rarely considered making images around my home and, if i did, I rarely processed or showed them.
That stops now.
So, after the leaves started to come down, and after a rain wet them on my driveway and a neighbors driveway, I wandered out with my camera to see what I could see.
I saw wet leaves scattered on the asphalt, rich in decayed color and glistening with dampness. Leaf veins, serrated edges and the texture of the pavement. Subtle colors glimmering with intensity.
I spent an odd 45 minutes bending and squatting, torturing my back, wetting my knees, totally immersed in this natural man made world, neighbors watching with alarm and frank curiosity. Now what the hell is he doing?
I am learning that art can be made any time and anywhere that the muse is available, and the muse is always just under conscious thought, ready to be freed, if only we decide to free it.
See these at: http://www.tombessette.com/Studies/Fallen-Leaves-2015/
I found wet leaves on my driveway...
Yes, goodbye to the Photo Snob...
The great thing about making images close to home is the minimal travel time investment required.
I had a free hour or so on a Sunday and grabbed the camera and jumped in the car and drove out Route 85 looking for milkweed.
I remember milkweed from the fields of weeds I spent time in as a kid. Stalks, green pods and, in late fall, the explosion that releases the seeds with their airy, silky wind sails.
Workaday life, home chores and family duties always compete with photography time, so I was about four days late to get the exploding pods. Found some, though; two locations where the pods were a bit late and protected and so I had some photo opportunity.
A mostly cloudy day, the light was even and near perfect, though there was a stiff breeze. I knew I should have gotten up and out earlier but the needs of the day held me back. Success depended on my composing and then waiting for the breeze to steady so that I could catch the sharpness and detail of the strands of silk. I made a lot of unusable images but caught about a dozen successfully, including this one, taken on Krumkill Road in Slingerlands. A tripod wouldn't have helped; I was steady, but my subjects were twittery.
Light, composition, steadiness and a spare hour. November is too blah for photography, huh?
Good to be home.
I Found a Fence
A week later, I had another free hour, this time on a Saturday morning.
I went back to the same field, hoping for morning frost on milkweed.
Of course, as I should have expected, the field was frost free, the only frost in protected spots near buildings and tree lines. Yup!
Near this field, is the iconic barn that stands, and has stood for ages, at the corner of Krumkill and Fontgrove roads. On the Fontgrove side of the barn is an old barbed wire fence, held up with relatively recent garden type posts similar to what I use each fall to fence off my rhododendrons so that the deer don't strip them bare of leaves each winter. These were sporting peeling, fading old yellow paint. The fencing itself was being bowed down by an accumulation of wild grape vines. The yellow of the posts caught my eye and I pulled the car over and got out to investigate.
The clouds were benevolent and well wrinkled but the camera exposure meter was lightening them considerably, so I knew I would have to bring them back in post processing, which I did.
The fields were uniformly brown with a strip of green along the roadside; everything settling into hibernation for the coming winter.
The seasons progress...
A Post of Color
and of Black and White
I am always fascinated by texture.
Old brick, grainy wood, stone, cement...
...and now metal.
Exquisite rust, peeling primary color, texture, edginess, mangle, wear, patina.
Such a simple implement, easy to overlook.
This was a classic case of my eye being caught, somehow, by something, and I stop and think and observe and finally see what I am looking at, what stopped me and caught me in the first place.
Get out of the car. Stop, pause, look, think. Observe. Know yourself.
Take an extra look.
Then ditch the color...
The Krumkill Barn
Bringing Out Intensity
After image making at the fence, I nearly left. But I paused and looked at the barn. The sky was brighter then a bit earlier but I could still see significant detail that I knew the camera would blow away.
At left is the straight JPEG. Not what I saw, but rather the camera's interpretation of it; the camera's vanilla representation. Nice barn, nice field, throwaway image.
At right is the image after my post processing. No detail added, just the existing detail of the sky brought out and, yes, enhanced to satisfy my personal feelings about the day. And higher contrast that I like.
A wise piece of photographic advice is to not shoot what you see, but rather to shoot what you feel.
For the Love of Black and White
From roughly 1997 through 2009, my photographic output was primarily in black and white.
I had pared down my film equipment to a single Nikon FE-2 35mm camera, then a Mamiya 7 medium format camera, shooting almost exclusively Kodak Tri-X film, reveling in the contrast, the starkness and the graininess of my results.
Now, with digital cameras, especially my new ones, I am shooting everything in color and changing an occasional image to black and white in post processing.
After working on the barn image above to bring out the sky detail and upping the contrast to my satisfaction, I then (after saving!) changed the image mode to grayscale.
Being a fan of Ansel Adams and strongly influenced by photographers like Lewis Hine, Paul Strand and Sebastio Salgado, all of whom worked in black and white and favored deep rich blacks and contrast, my black and white work is in that mode also. I believe!
Even though the color barn image above is very contrasty for color, when changed to grayscale digitally, it seems bland and even tempered.
So, I upped the contrast even further and used spot burning and dodging to bring out differences between adjacent elements. Good photographers have always done this in the darkroom.
Same image, totally different impact. Thinking I might work in black and white more often.
Trying Again in Elba
So many times I have stopped on Adirondack Loj Road south of Lake Placid, drawn in by the expansive look of the High Peaks stretching to the south and southeast.
It is one of these locations that draws everyone with any kind of photographic eye, they hoping and even expecting to make a spectacular image that somehow illustrates what they are seeing.
It is spectacularly difficult to do.
The mountains are impressive, and the huge open field is interesting, but in terms of the way lenses work, as opposed to our eyes, and all photographic composition laws that help us draw the eye in and focus what we see, it is usual that the resulting images are, well, just kind of blah...
I have made no more than three images there that I thought were decent at all.
This time, I stopped on a stormy day with brooding clouds but bright breaks. I wandered out into the field a ways, making images as I went. Found this foreground tree to help define the space.
Then, in post processing, I cropped away unneeded sky and field, changing the format to more rectangular, and darkened the clouds at the top.
To my eye, this one works as well as any I have ever taken here.
My Amazing Wife
Columbus day promised to be clear and warm for his time of year. So, Kim and I headed (leisurely!) up to Lake Abanakee to explore, paddle and, generally, get out on one of the last summery days of the year.
Neither of us had ever put on Abanakee's waters. The lake is below (north) of Indian Lake and it is the damned Indian River which empties into the Hudson a few miles northeast of it's dam at the northern point of the Hudson River Gorge. For those who have ever whitewater rafted in the upper Hudson, this dam is the one that releases the water you float on.
There are quite a few camps on the lake and so it is not a wilderness experience, but it was close, a mere hour and three quarters from our home and something we could do easily without rising before dawn. We were on the water for 5 hours and were home by supper time.
The fall colors were just a tad past peak and the lake was only slightly breezy. It is about 4 miles long. We put in about a mile up from the dam at the Indian lake town beach and paddled under two bridges up to the southern end where the lake begins at the stream that flows out of Indian lake. We turned around and made great time with a slight breeze shoving us along. lots of bays to explore, some kayakers and canoeists out exploring and only one motorboat and fisherman.
Having a wife that will do this with me is what makes it all as great as it is.
Intensity of Color
Lake Abanakee, lake of private property and many camps, does have some areas of undeveloped land where one can feel they are away from it all.
We found some nice bays and backwaters that spread foliage color and nice shoreline like paintings before us. These bays protected the water surface from the modest breeze that was riffling the surface elsewhere.
The light was intense, almost harsh, a problem for camera sensors (worse for film), but with some thought and modest post processing, I knew I would be able to produce some decent images.
The warmth hit me and I vectored in on producing richly saturated images that reflected what I felt, and felt I was experiencing.
Floating, framing, imagining, image making. I was at peace. My wife, floating not too far away, communing with the color and the sunlight and the calm water, content.
An idyllic day, calm, restoring, pressure-free.
And we saw some wishlist camps!
Cedar River Flow
On Friday September 25th, I met up with Rick Rosen and Mike Prescott of the League of Extraordinary Adirondack Gentlemen for an extraordinary paddle on Cedar River Flow.
This was my first time meeting Mike. He is a licensed Adirondack Guide, but was not working today.
Instead, we glided along the glass water of the flow, poking into bays, pooting here and there, commenting on water, nature, shoreline and, yes, park politics. We may possibly have even mentioned our wives a time or two, but I can't swear to that.
It was a warmish/coolish morning, bright thin overcast, no rain, no breeze. No bugs!
We tended to drift to a halt, floating wherever, perusing the sky and shore for wildlife, early color, whatever.
It is nice to paddle with friends who aren't in any hurry, who have no particular agenda, who are glad to just explore a beloved place yet again. Get where we may, when we may.
Me, I was at church. Worshiping my God, saying my prayers, calling down grace from the clouds, from the trees and up from the calm waters.
My boat is my pew, my paddle my prayer book, and on this day, the Flow was my bible.
My camera is my witness.
Yes, again drifting along shore, at service, immersed in prayer.
Sometimes, looking at shoreline a certain way becomes mystical and even unsettling.
I am focused as much inward as outward and my mind starts reinterpreting what I see to match the introspection I am feeling. Especially in the strong presence of God.
Suddenly, I am transformed to an experience a long time ago when my senses started playing games with me, showing me a vision that might not have been real, maybe couldn't be real, not in the sense of a standard, straightforward world view. I didn't know, couldn't tell for certain where reality ended and hallucination began. Something new was at play, controlling the synapses between senses and interpretation, sending me into an alternate state where I was controlled and not the controller.
At that early age, I often would get into discussions about what was real and what is imagined or, possibly, on another plane or in another dimension. It was sometimes philosophical, sometimes only word play and young speculation.
Look at this image, widen your eyes, stare and wait a bit. See where it takes you. I did and do.
I no longer need artificial help to get there. I just try to stay in the boat...
Missed the Moose
We were paddling up Buell Stream on the east side of the Flow a good ways down.
It was shallowing and we all needed a stretch so we stopped at a convenient sandbar in the stream.
Rick saw them first, a series of fresh moose tracks in the sand.
The moose had been wading the stream; we could see where he stepped on the wet sandbar, walked the length of it and stepped back into the water.
The tracks were roughly 5 inches wide, a good 1-2 inches deep and had yet to dry out. Either late yesterday or very early today, like around sun-up, maybe.
I know nowhere near enough about this stuff to determine anything more. Male? Female? How big?
Not running, just walking, probably foraging, getting from here to there, wherever that might be.
Still waiting to actually see and photograph a moose in the Adirondack Wild.
Keep running that play.
Reeds and the Lure of Color
So, yesterday, a student said to me: "As a photographer you must be in heaven this time of year".
An innocent statement, spoken absent malice or judgement, but it stopped me cold anyway.
I completely understand that there is a strong lure of color for many people who ever look at photographs. Whenever I post a sunset picture or one of my morning sunrise images on Facebook, I get a ton of likes. Same with anything that I post that has fall foliage colors in it.
Yep, I get it.
This said, I do not go out image making in the fall to get fall color images. This reed image at left was made because I was floating in a bay amongst reeds on Cedar River Flow a bit after sunrise, pooting around while waiting for a friend to join me, and became aware of the reeds as a strong subject, and started making images of them. Semi abstract compositions with narrow focus, playing with patterns, and color, yes, but not specifically fall foliage color.
Yes, you can see the reflected colors of a leaf-turned shoreline, and yes I was aware of those colors as I was composing, but the colors were incidental to the images. These would have satisfied me in the spring or summer just as well, perhaps more so as the pretty fall colors would not have marginalized the impact of the reeds.
People are telling me how much they like these reed images. Yep!
Playing with the Sky
I have gotten seriously into post processing my images.
I have always believed that what the camera captures, even if you are good about exposure, metering and getting the most from the camera you can, is rarely completely true to what you 'saw' when you made the image. Further, you may have seen an idealized version of what others might have seen if they were there with you. We all interpret what is in front of our eyes. I often want to 'bring out' what I saw.
So, here, I played with the sky. I added no information; that is I did not copy/paste any sky detail into this image. I made nothing up.
I brought down highlights, whites and blacks in the RAW processor, then in Photoshop I selected the sky and tweaked the levels, bringing out the sky detail that I remembered that morning. I burned it in further and upped contrast, then burned the water to match.
On my way home from Cedar River Flow, I was driving southeast on Rt. 28 below Indian Lake when I saw this critter on the northbound shoulder.
We all know that, certainly, if we do a U-Turn and come back the other side, whatever has caught our interest will skedaddle and at best our photographic evidence will be a distant hind end blending into the bush.
With that in mind, i convinced myself to do it anyway, having my camera and long lens on the passenger seat and, of all things, this critter did not scram.
This is what we would call an Eastern Coyote. Of course I was hoping it was a Timber Wolf, which I have seen but not photographed, but I am not complaining.
I rolled up to his side; he had moved off the shoulder of the road into the roadside grasses and I stopped 10 feet away and got two good (and a bunch of bad) images of him/her as he ambled along, unafraid, unconcerned, peaceful and calm.
He'd move ahead a few feet; so would I. Playing cat and mouse with a canine.
After five minutes or so, he slowly walked over to the woods edge and nonchalantly disappeared behind the underbrush.
I, happy as a clam, did another U-ey and headed back to civilization.
Steeped in History
I have fallen in love with Quebec. Again.
My wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in Quebec City, Canada over the period Saturday September 19th through Wednesday September 23rd. I fell in love with Quebec again. My love for my wife has never let up!
Image at left is of Place Royale, Lower Old Town (Vieux-Quebec), facing roughly east. My wife and I stayed at L'Hotel Le Priori, a short 5 minute walk from this site. I would get up and be in this spot by 6AM a few mornings, feeling the history of the place grabbing my mind. I strode the cobble-stoned square, imagining the lives of the people who have walked before me throughout the years.
Place Royale is the site of the original Quebec settlement of 1608 when Samuel Champlain came with 50 soldiers/settlers, hacked out a clearing, made friends with the native Canadians, Algonquins, and built a wooden barracks-style 'Habitation'.
The vast majority of this group either sickened and died or ran off and it took another twenty years before the settlement took hold, mostly due to the lure of fur and lumber to French speculators.
By the 1640's, Quebec was a growing and thriving trading port and the stone buildings were starting to appear. The buildings pictured at left, currently housing an art gallery, offices and a restaurant, have been in near continuous use since they were constructed in the years 1725 through 1750, while Quebec was still under French Control.
See over 200 images from this trip at: http://www.tombessette.com/Collections/Quebec-September-2015/
One Really Old Church
I might have especially fallen in love with Place Royale.
Another view, this time looking roughly west, pictured are buildings from the early 1700's and a really cool church.
In the mid 1680's, the British attacked a poorly garrisoned Quebec and held the city under siege for a few months or so.
The French and very Catholic residents prayed to 'Notre Dame' (Our lady) to help them to persevere and not be enslaved or slaughtered. Through some trickery and sleight of military hand, the small number of poorly armed soldiers defending the city caused the British to chicken out and withdraw, heading back down the St. Laurence River and back across the pond in 'defeat'.
In gratitude, in 1688, this church was built and named Notre Dame De Victoires. I am not normally a big of churches per se, but this one is stunningly beautiful in it's simplicity and it's history.
I believe it is the third oldest standing building in Quebec and I would find myself touching it's rough stonework, feeling the suffering and work that went into creating such a monument to faith; that, and the intelligence and affection that has kept it preserved and maintained for 327 years.
Bravo Quebec. You understand something that most of us Americans just plain don't get.
In addition to celebrating and honoring my wife, I did have a small, unimportant mission in mind for my visit to Quebec.
I had last visited Quebec, ironically, with my wife's brother Laurin. He was my roommate 28 years ago (guess how I met Kim, then!), and we traveled the Canadian maritime provinces together, a whirlwind tour, and spent the final night in a Holiday Inn in the new town of Quebec City.
That trip was before the internet, and long before I had done my family genealogy work that taught me about my roots. I only knew that Quebec was beautiful, that it was the only remaining walled 'European-like' city in North America and that we should stop by and say hello.
Since then, I have traced my ancestry and have learned that both the Bessette's and Amyot's (my mother's maiden name) had been among the early settlers of Canada, entering way back towards the beginning of Quebec's existence.
The first Canadian Bessette (Besset), according to family lore, was one of the original sets of soldiers that accompanied Champlain to Quebec. Probably not necessarily in the first group but shortly thereafter, at least. The story goes that he was a farmer who headed west to develop some land, found himself a nice Algonquin maiden, as most men had to do in the 1600's if they wanted to start a family, and set up shop around present day Chambly on the Richelieu River.
My mission was to see the plaque in Parc Montmorency in the upper town that was affixed to the monument celebrating Louis Hébert, considered to be Quebec's first permanent settler. On my mother's Amyot side, I have traced our lineage back to a man who came over from France to settle in Quebec and become a trader. The plaque lists the names of 40 or so original settlers from the1640's who were part of his group and started Quebec on it's way.
I found my ancestor's name thereon, as I had known it would be. Phillippe Amyot.
He was there, so long ago, and I am now...
Defenses: The Walls
Vieux-Quebec is the remaining walled and gated city in North America.
The defenses were originally built by the French.
In 1759, British General Wolfe put the city under siege and attacked with Cannon and superior numbers and took the city.
The British updated the defenses and made Quebec near impregnable to the weapons and armies of the time.
In 1775, American general Arnold led an attack on Quebec that the British successfully resisted. the Americans retreated down the Richelieu River and Lake Champlain, setting the stage for the battle of Saratoga when Burgoyne attacked two years later.
Yup, I study this stuff!
Tourists Clogging Narrow Streets
Cruise ships bring them in by the boatload.
So, we arrived in Quebec on a Saturday afternoon in September. Summer is over, right? Kids back in school? Vacations over? Well, yes, and the city gets very quiet this time of year, except on a nice Saturday when the cruise ship docks and spills out thousands of people into the narrow streets of the old town. Not as busy as summertime, but...
Kim and I had checked in, unpacked and wandered over to Place Royale and the cool, old style European-like cobblestone streets to see what was what.
This was approaching 5PM on Cote Sous Le Fort, at the corner of Rue Notre Dame. Place Royale was behind us about a block away.
Shops were open, tourists flooded the narrow lanes and it was all a whirlwind of activity.
In these cities of Quebec, having a little French at least is nice and trying to speak it is much appreciated, but, really, they are inundated with tourists from America and the rest of Canada, which is predominantly English speaking, so you can certainly get by.
We had dinner after dark sitting outside of a little bistro up the street (you can see the awning we sat under on the right). You can also see part of the track of the Funiculaire, the small elevator apparatus that brings you up the cliff to the upper town, saving your knees for the bargain of $2.25 per trip!
World travelers all say that if you want to get the flavor of a European experience without flying overseas, visit Quebec.
At Night with People
I just love these new digital cameras.
Back in film days I would never have been able to produce and image like this, even with a tripod, fast film, whatever!
Our first night in Quebec coincided with the 6th annual Nuit Des Galleries, or Gallery Night. Our hotel and most of the lower town is the Arts section of Old Quebec and on this night, the galleries (and all the shops and restaurants) stay open till 11PM and the streets teem with revelers.
Stupidly, I didn't think to take images that Saturday night, the one at left was from Sunday night when the crowds were much lessened, but the general look and flavor of the town is similar. This picture was made on Rue Petite Champlain, east of Place Royale. A pedestrian street lined with shops and eateries.
There were musicians everywhere, the galleries had wine and desserts available (we didn't partake because there were lines and things running out anyway) and it was all great fun. We spent a good half hour watching a swing/bebop style group under a canopy on Rue Notre Dame just outside of Place Royale. People danced and a large crowd received the songs enthusiastically.
There were still people out and about well into the wee hours.
At Night After Bedtime
I like darkness. Always have.
No one about, distant sounds, unidentifiable, stray light, left on for whatever reason.
In Place Royal, I can sense the souls around me. The quiet is so loud.
The square and the streets are illuminated. An occasional straggler wanders by, obscure purpose, heading home after the bar closed, or, like me, just out, while my wife sleeps.
I can hear them talking, whispers, feel them brush by me, these souls that rest here after long labors.
If I believed, I could think that I was here before. Lived, worked, traded and died. Long ago.
I don't believe, but I feel something. Not sure what or why, or who?
I step away, steps echoing. The voices questioning, now.
Vieux-Quebec from Le Citadel
We signed up for a nighttime tour of the Citadel, which comprises the ruins (being restored) of the fortress built by the Canadian Government in the 1700's to repel a possible attack by the United States.
It turned out to be less of a conventional tour and more of a history lesson enacted by our guide, the embodiment of an 1820's era soldier stationed there who brought us around to the original powder house, early cannon and various passageways beneath walls, telling us stories and introducing us to other ghosts along the way.
As usual, I was distracted and took this image of the old town from the top of the parapet. the tower of Chateau Frontenac is prominent on the right.
My fault, as usual, once I stopped, so did many other attendees, holding up our ancient soldier, who though he didn't understand the concept of photography, and said so, obligingly and patiently waited the 15 minutes or so it took everyone to copy what I did. What is a ghostly tour guide to do? Sigh...
The World War One Soldier
Speaks of Rosalie
We traversed a long, barely lit tunnel. Enclosed by stone, dampness and an occasional feeble light bulb. We stooped in places to avoid the arched ceiling.
Suddenly, we emerged into a narrow arched room. He was there.
He told us his name; I can't remember. No matter.
He fought at Verdun, felt the hellish gas in his lungs, lived life in the trench; the disease, the boredom. Always coughing.
Rosalie was his love. She protected him, gave him solace. His prized possession.
He carved Rosalie's name, against regulations. Hid her from officers.
When he was killed, Rosalie was lost. She turned up in a museum many years later. He is again comforted. he now rests in peace.
He can tell us her story, and his...
A Preponderance of Stone
A Basic Material
I have talked to many people who have visited Vieux-Quebec. Read many accounts on line.
The most common comment i hear is about the grayness of the old towns, both upper and lower.
Perhaps they don't realize, but they are speaking of the stone.
Stone buildings, stone streets, stone walls, fences, patios, the stores, the churches, the galleries, the restaurants.
Sandstones, limestones, gneiss and granite. Old and newer, mostly stone.
Oasis' of color are painted stone wash; deep yellow, wine and white.
Love the Wall, Love the Door
Love the Wood, Love the Latch
As Kim and I wandered the upper town, we saw more color, though it was rarely wood.
Newer Buildings, perhaps circa 1780 to 1850, often had a stone 'Wash' over them; that is, they were constructed of stone but had a veneer of stucco spread over them that was either mixed with pigment or, possibly, painted. My understanding was that pigment was most common.
Every building you see here, though lovingly preserved and maintained, is exquisitely aged.
You can see centuries of patina. Years of history and grace. The long term effects of being used and abused, gathering damage and despair that is read on the walls, the sidewalks and the streets themselves.
Doorways might be old or new, depending on restoration. Wooden, with older or modern hardware, functional, sometimes in spite of the design.
A treasure trove or artistic and historical expression. I get lost in the details and the imaginings.
My patient wife waited as I made Image after image.
Street musicians. We saw them in old Montreal and saw many more in Vieux-Quebec.
Interestingly, I believe there were about six or seven individuals. Lower Town, Upper Town, seemingly everywhere. Then, I started seeing them in new locations, that is, the harpist who I first saw on Rue Notre Dame in the lower town, appeared on Rue Les Jardins next day in the upper town. A day later, that harpist had replaced the guitarist on the Terrace below Chateau Frontenac, and the guitarist had moved down to the corner of Cote De Sous Le Fort and Rue Petite Champlain.
They seemed to have some choreography they followed, switching locations according to some intricate plan. Or, maybe not. Perhaps there are favored locations and whoever get up and out earliest gets the best spot.
They were all offering CD's for sale and also all had the hat out for donations. We they under contract somehow with the city? Working on their own? I enjoyed them either way.
The Donkey and the Churchyard
When someone asks me how to get great photographs, I often tell them to get out and walk.
Walk slowly. Look around. Kneel down, climb up, nose into nooks and crannys stop and stare. Observe and absorb. Take lots of time and forget about time. Wander, get sidetracked and distracted. Take the extra picture, see it from another angle, come back another day.
Early on in our Quebec trip, we were walking in the upper town and wandered into this church parking lot. Someone was over at the 4 foot high rock wall that separated the parking lot from a yard. I saw a nose nudging for a rub.
It was a donkey. I called it a mule at first but a buddy engineer corrected me, citing research and proper distinction. I took pictures for a few minutes and left, bothered that I didn't quite get the image I wanted.
A day or so later, we were walking by the same area and the donkey was back out in the yard and no one was around. I wandered over and saw a milk crate on the ground next to the wall. I climbed up and the donkey came over and, this time, stuck his nose far enough up towards me, resting his chin on the top of the wall, that I was able to get a satisfactory image of him with the yard and the feel of being penned in.
I had nearly walked by. Kim even commented that I had already gotten this picture before. Why do it again? In a sense, she was entirely correct.
But this one works...
On Monday of our Quebec trip, we retrieved our car out of the lot and drove to Isle D'Orleans.
The island is roughly the size of Manhattan and is situated in the St. Laurence River east northeast of the city. It is almost entirely farmland and small bucolic villages and over 50% of the food served in Quebec is grown or raised here.
We stopped at a small antique shop, a cidery, a vinaigrettery, cheese maker, chocolate maker and a few wineries. We found a cool pub and had good food and beer.
Our favorite town was St. Jean, on the south coast. There, we stopped at a gift/antique shop run by Louise and stayed an extended time to talk. We were speaking a garbled combination of my French and her English. She showed us her shoreside cottage that we could rent mere feet from the shore. Quaint and charming, yet totally modernized. Bought some earrings for the kid.
The island was also settled around the same time that the city was, so there are remaining classic old buildings: churches and old stone farmhouses.
We stopped at one winery that had an old stone house on the premises, pictured at left. I asked about it and was told it was built circa 1652 and used until recently. Yes we bought a couple of bottles.
We also stopped at a winery where everything was made from black currants and NOT grapes. Very cool, and yes we bought a couple of bottles, including a wonderful black currant vinaigrette.
Absolutely lovely day.
Tuesday September 22nd 2015
Happy Anniversary, Kim
You are my life.
You keep me sane.
You are my friend.
You are my champion.
You have my heart.
You are in my soul.
You are my companion.
You are my best friend.
You are my life mate.
You are absolutely beautiful.
You are my true love.
25 years. Wow!
The Luck of Having a Great Companion
Next week, my wife and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage.
Rarely perfect, usually pretty darn good, though, and the less than perfect parts are pretty much always my bad!
I lucked out with Kim. I lucked out in that, very early on, before we tied the knot, she took all to well to my outdoor nature worship and came into her own as a hiker, paddler, camper and all around outdoors-woman.
She came with me to Forked Lake and has kept up her own streak of attendance all these years, quite enthusiastically. She doesn't at all mind getting dirty and natural. She has been an exemplary model to our daughter so that she, too, enjoys the outdoors, certainly as much as can be expected of a teenager.
Kim encourages my involvement with nature and photography, championing my projects and accepting the time and travel they require. She never gets cranky when I decide I need to get out to make my images or just disappear on a lake or somewhere, and she can't go. She just hugs me and sends me off with a warning to be careful, lest I forget, which I might.
She has stood by me as I made mistakes, misunderstood, messed up, got cranky when things didn't go right, yelled and cursed, whined, screwed up, fouled up, and all those other ways I have of not quite being a full adult yet.
She has held my hand over the last few health issues, mothering me when absolutely necessary and being a good, solid friend when that was best, scary as those times may have been.
She is the rock that holds our family together. She is the true adult who keeps us straight and focused. She is the organizer, the planner, the clear thinker and far seer that I could never be.
Mother to a very well adjusted and quality daughter, companion and absolute best friend (and sometimes only friend!) to me, a superb and tirelessly helpful daughter to her parents, supportive sibling to her brothers, fair and mentoring boss to her staff at UAlbany, incredibly knowledgeable and professional colleague to her UAlbany work family, and slayer of what could easily have been a tough disease. Strong, quality, worthwhile woman.
We will celebrate next week in Quebec City, Canada. Happy Anniversary, Babe! I love you with all my heart and soul.
I am so lucky to have you with me!
I have a great companion...
Along the Shoreline
I spend a lot of my paddling time simply drifting along Adirondack shorelines.
Sometimes I am actively searching for potential images for my Adirondack Totems series. This image might just make one; I'll have to look at it and see.
Most often, though, I am simply drifting along the shoreline.
My solo Hornbeck canoe is small, quiet and unobtrusive. It makes very little fuss wherever it goes. Draws very little water; it could probably float in a big puddle. I have a lightweight paddle that requires very little effort on my part to propel the boat. I am quiet when paddling, always hoping to see something that might skitter or leap away.
So, I can use quick minimalist strokes to send myself gliding along, perhaps thirty feet from shore, perhaps closer than that. On calm mornings like this, the water is like fine glass, allowing sumptuous reflections and a serene border between water and land.
I skim along, leaving no wake, making no noise, slowly drifting, drifting, upsetting nothing, calling no attention to myself. Leaving no trace, taking nothing with me except a photographic record or deep color, soft light, and my God Nature's display.
Soft, peaceful, calm and fulfilled. I pray...
Hearing the Call
I am hearing the call.
This happens to me every once in a while. I hear the call, and want desperately to answer. I am hearing it now as I type this. The call is sounding loudly, insistently.
Most of the time I am able to ignore it. I can go to work, do my job, be a husband and father and get immersed in my chosen life and family and activities, and be just fine.
I tell myself that I will answer some other day, that I have things more important to do, better places to be, more focused thoughts to think, important people to be with.
My wife knows about the call. God knows what she really thinks about it, if she even thinks about it, but she certainly understands that I hear it. I don't know if she understands the power of the call.
I can often subvert the call. I can answer locally, for a few hours at a time, a tank of gas, a Sunday out wandering, home by dinner.
But sometimes, like now, the call is calling from father away. The call is telling of people and places that I should visit, experience the environment, meet the people that I could not otherwise meet, wander urban or rural settlements, looking for the obscure, the different, the poor, and even the squalor. Make images of what I find, whatever I find.
I have wandered the streets of Tijuana Mexico and the mission towns of the Mexican Sonora River Valley. I have driven through rural Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia, stopping in settlements, meeting people in places that I wouldn't normally be, places that my wife and daughter would never go. I walk around and talk with people I meet, photographing them and their environment, trying always to be as respectful as I can, forgoing the picture if they are too uncomfortable or hostile.
Sometimes I just have to answer the call.
Early Morning then on the Wall
The plan was to meet my friend, Matt, for a morning paddle on Little Tupper Lake.
He was coming from north of Saranac Lake, a ways away. I was coming up from Albany so opted to drive up the night before, have a burger and beer at the Long lake Hotel and then sleep in the car at Little Tupper.
Up at first light, squirmed out of the car, stretched the kinks out, got the boat on the water and was floating out in the reeds before sunrise. Got this image, and many like it.
Kim wanted a new image for the wall above the fireplace, and liked this one.
Ordered a print from McGreevy in Albany and they did a great job. Fifty-four bucks for a 12X30 print, not bad at all. Took the image to our local framer. Picked out a nice frame and ordered it mounted and double-matted. $400 bucks.
We have had a pretty hot, dry summer here in upstate NY.
Suddenly and unexpectedly, I found myself sitting home of a late morning, again, as last spring, watching a nurturing steady rain falling on my patio.
I could all but see the grass greening as I sat.
I felt the dampness drifting into the room. The smell of wet and the knowledge that, for today, the drought was broken. Thirsty roots were sucking it all in.
I wasn't getting drenched at a soccer game. I wasn't hunkering down in a dripping tent on a lake shore somewhere. I wasn't slipping on wet tree roots or muddy rocks, further damaging my knees.
I was sitting in my family room with the slider open, watching drops bounce off the concrete and birds dodging raindrops as they negotiated the feeder, secure in the knowledge that I had nothing to do but sit in my comfort and watch the rain.
Who needs spring?
Continuing the Tradition
Forked Lake is in my blood, in my heart, and in my soul.
I first camped on this lake in June 1970 with my father and a friend. We had come to check it out for a longer camping trip planned later that summer. We were looking for a primitive campground; not car camping, not public flush toilets, not crowds partying until the wee hours. We found it here.
The public campground is on the east end of the lake and features roughly 70 primitive sites on the waterfront, and a few others that you can get your car to near the landing. in 1970, your site rental included a small boat dock, a stone fireplace, a picnic table and an outhouse out back. Now, in 2015, your rental includes a picnic table, fire ring and a bear box. A few sites still have docks, and fewer still have at least remnants of the original fireplaces. The bear box holds two coolers or the equivalent, so you can keep your food away from bears.
We camped at various sites at the campground through 1976. In 1977, the state reclaimed sites at the west end of the lake that had been used by squatters for years. Temporary camps were dismantled and the 4 or so sites opened up to the public. Our group, which consisted of my father and various friends and family members camped at the west end through roughly 1985. I kept it up myself with whoever would go with me until I brought my fiance (now my wife) there in 1989. Daughter came when she was 6 months old in 1999. We came back to the public campground because, with a young child, we felt access was better for ice cream trips and escaping weather.
I have camped on Forked Lake somewhere at least one night each year starting in 1970. This year was my 46th, my wife's 27th and my daughter's 17th straight year.
Memories of the Lake
Blast from the past-
I unearthed this image from our annual Forked Lake camp out from August 1979. Here, we were camped at what we always called the bluff site at the west end of Forked Lake. We stayed a week, roughly Saturday through Sunday the next week. We would be around 9-10 campers, including my father, my brother-in-law Ron, his son Ron Jr., cousin Joe, my friends Bob Goot, Dave Bourgeois, and probably Johnny Kluz, and who can remember who else went that year. Maybe my brother Pete, maybe some tenderfoot.
Our rules included ones governing cooking and cleaning up. Each camper would have to make breakfast one day, then make supper one day, and have two days where you and another were on clean-up duty. We generally cooked on the open fire when steaks, chicken hot dogs or hamburgers were called for, or over a Coleman stove for stews and whatever else. This all said, my father really did most of the clean-up and supplies organization.
You got your breakfast in the order that you got up in the morning, so there were always those who ate breakfast last every day that week. Crunchy eggs and greasy bacon. If you missed one of your assignments, you might not be invited back next year, so we did have some turnover, year to year.
My father was not one to bathe unnecessarily. Many of us went swimming every day unless is was a chilling, rainy sort of day, during which we would sit under the tarp over the picnic table, playing cards, having an early beer or raging at the weather. Usually by Thursday, my father would start to be objectionable, even to me, and we would stage an intervention, during which we would goad and harass him until he grumblingly paddled over to the sandy shore in the bay that we called the public beach. There, we would all, in our swim trunks, lather up and scrub the spiders and mice out of our nether areas and emerge, snorting from the water, somewhat cleaner for the experience, soap scum still in our britches.
We would paddle, shoot horseshoes, swim, read, explore; Ron would fish, Dave B. and I would make photographs, and we'd all drink copious amounts of beer every night by the campfire.
Pictured is my cousin Joe. Like me, he doesn't look much like this anymore.
A New Era
Blast from the past...
My little girl at Forked Lake, June 2006.
We were camping at site 75, our dog Brody and some friends with us. Jenna was interested in fishing this year. Size did NOT matter!
Site 75 is extremely convenient when you have small children. Though it is one of the very closest ones to the landing, thus not as 'far out' as others, it is accessible by trail to your car; a short walk of less than 15 minutes. It is a nice big site with a good dry grassy area and a nice sandy bottom bay to swim in, including a small beach. More than once over the years we stayed at that site, we ran out of the woods at some point from a thunderstorm or just to drive into Long Lake village for an ice cream or supplies or a walk through Hoss's store.
Like site 8 that we stayed at this year and last year, the view west down the length of the lake is satisfying. Lots of room on the site itself to move around, well distanced and shielded from the other sites, tucked in a bay away from excess boat traffic, attached to a modest hiking trail, everything that one could want. The outhouse hardly smelled at all.
Jenna particularly liked to scramble along fallen shoreline logs or go rock hopping near the water. She wasn't afraid of being out unprotected in the woods. She had a natural realization that you were significantly safer in places like this than you were even in our affluent town of Bethlehem.
I am very fortunate that both my wife and my daughter, who is now 16, still want to make this annual family tradition pilgrimage to Forked Lake with me. Not every man has that in his life. I am not positive that my daughter will keep her streak alive, but she seems content to go with us every year, even without a friend to run around with.
My wife and I have said that someday our streaks might end. We came close a few years ago when life was filling our days and weeks with obligations and alternative choices but, like I did on my own for years, managed to make it up for at least one night. But it is not only about the streak. Forked lake is peace and tranquility. A time of restoration, of being close to what is best in life.
I am so very fortunate...
Venturing at First Light
I tell myself....
As soon as it is light enough to see, get yourself on the water.
It will still near dark and at best very dusky. All will be quiet except for the call of the loon.
The shoreline will be dark and monochromatic.
It will be the time to get up into the swamp and see the beavers at work.
You will be all alone. No one else gets up this early, not even the serious fishermen who know that the best catches are made early like this.
While others sleep...
Early Morning Light
I have never been a morning person.
Crawling out of a cozy bed has ALWAYS been difficult for me. Regardless of why I need to get up, I am a master at devising excuses and rationalizations for not quite getting up. I am more likely to start my day early when I have something that I want to do.
Camping at Forked Lake (or any Adirondack spot, for that matter) helps me put the excuses and rationalizations to bed.
I am lured by early morning light. And mist, and sunrise. The sounds of an awakening world. The solitude, the smells of the swamp and stream. My favorite time of day for making images.
I crawl out of my sleeping bag, pull on my shorts and a shirt and more, depending on temperature and where I am heading. This year, the Monday morning before Labor Day, was warm and I didn't even bother with my water sandals.
Camera in dry bag, set off in my solo canoe, skim past dusky shoreline, around the bend, past sleeping campsites, paddle a mile or so to the North Bay Inlet, the site of my initial initiation into the magic of the Adirondack wetland marsh.
Drifting in the silence, waterbugs, a thin mist rising from the stillness.
My worship service.
A Fascination with Lilypads
The northern tip of Forked Lake's North Bay, where the Inlet enters, is thick with lilypads.
Over the years of my involvement with the Adirondacks and image making, I have made many hundreds of images of lilypads. I have a fascination with them that borders on obsession.
So, before I am able to even get into the Inlet marsh, I am distracted, for the hundredth time, by the spread of lilypads before me in the transition between Inlet and Lake.
Maybe I should just focus ahead and crunch through them, maybe see a moose in the marsh, or a glistening spider web begging to be captured, or pink wildflowers emerging from the mist. What if I miss the sunrise while immersed in lilypads. What if a moose is feeding on an interior shoreline right now, planning to leave in minutes. What if I miss that? What if???
Instead, I float aimlessly, watching the play of light, the contrasts and colors, seeking out, yet again, lilypad compositions. No other boats, no one else around, no interruptions, only the loon I passed earlier trilling in the distance.
I have a huge collection of lilypad images, but I just plain don't care. They are here now, I am here now, we are together again in our own private world.
After all, I have a fascination...
Drifting in North Bay Inlet Forked Lake
After successfully getting past the lilypads, I was able to finally paddle into the North bay Inlet.
It was about 6:10AM on Monday August 31 2015. The sun would rise in about twenty minutes or so. I got past the initial twisty stream area and into the longer, wider reach.
Waterbugs skated the surface of the calm water and a loon trilled in the distance. I could see fish below the surface.
There was a very thin mist and there were clouds drifting around. No beaver or moose were out. Clearly the moose was there but left while I was trifling with lilypads. NOT!
This is what it is like to be here in the very early morning.
Serene, calming, inviting introspection. Civilization seems far away now.
In my attempt to document what I experience while exploring the Adirondacks, especially now that I am using digital cameras, I make a lot of photographs, including those of Adirondack shoreline as I drift by in my canoe.
With the digital camera, I am composing on the screen on the back; I haven't had a camera with a viewfinder of any type since 2008. So, I can compose my image, then I have a second of review where I can check composition and exposure to see if I captured anything close to what I wanted.
One morning, floating along shore on Round Lake in the Whitney Wilderness area, I made a shoreline image and somehow accidentally gyrated my camera so that I was looking at a horizontal image vertically. What I saw in that split second started a project that I have been pursuing with varying degrees of success for about four years now.
The rock, wood and vegetation structure of the shore, when flipped sideways, reminds me of some Native American Totem Poles that I remember seeing from my childhood. I don't really know how accurate they were or if they even really simulated anything that ever actually was constructed by any 'Native American'.
At any rate, I was smitten. I got so I could see the scene in nature and be able to imagine how it might look flipped, enhanced, manipulated, and turned into a piece of art, art that helps me feel the power of the Native American blood that flows in me.
For the technician reading this, these start out as RAW files. I open them in the RAW Image Processor in Photoshop CS6. I drop blacks, often drop highlights and whites, up the shadows and clarity and adjust color temperature to get away from looking to nature-ish. In Photoshop proper, I flip the image, sharpen edges, bring up contrast, then manually burn and dodge until I see on the screen what I saw in my imagination.
My Adirondack Totems...
When I finally sold off all my film camera equipment and downsized to a mirrorless Canon G9, I also decided to downsize even more, getting rid of my tripod.
I can usually successfully handhold my digital cameras easily at 1/8 second shutter speed and can sometimes pull it off at 1/4 second.
When you make decisions like this, they come with trade-offs. No starry sky images, for instance. I do pretty well with waterfalls, but rarely get that really lacy look to the falling water that I could get with a longer exposure of a few seconds plus.
The image at left was well after sunset on our first night at Campsite 8 on Forked Lake at the end of August this year. Hand held, wide open at 1/8 second exposure, ISO 800. Samsung NX300 mirrorless camera, 16mm lens, APS-C sensor. Not perfect, but sharp enough to print out well at 12x18 inches and more than sharp enough for any screen view it might be displayed at. Digital image stabilization is wonderful!
Hand held, no tripod, no fuss, no set-up time, no take down time, just composed the scene and got right back to my wife and daughter and the crackling fire we were enjoying.
I have been processing neglected images lately as I get a chance. These are two states of the same image from 2009, taken on Utowana Lake in the Adirondacks in October that year.
At far left is an original JPEG version from my Canon G9 Canon G9. Immediately left is a saved JPEG version that started as a RAW file and was processed in the Photoshop RAW image Processor and further worked on in Photoshop.
For years I have believed, and taught my students, that the camera you use and the standard settings it is dialed to, rarely render the image you saw in your head when you tripped the shutter. And, the human eye can discern variations in a scene that a sensor cannot render.
Back in my film days, and even often now, I would have immediately dismissed the image as having 'not come out', when in fact it merely remains at the camera's vanilla settings.
I have a darker vision and I remember clearly that in my mind's eye, I saw deep richness and an almost violent depiction of the shoreline. It was early morning, clouds were coming in and the day was becoming decidedly close and gloomy. Deep, dark, emotional...
Which image is more honest?
Many years, my wife, daughter and I venture to Avalon NJ for a week of beach vacation.
The beach we go to is on Seven Mile Island, which is the offshore island just north of Wildwood, way down near the southern tip of New Jersey, just north of Cape May. Stone Harbor is the southern community on this island and Avalon is the northern one.
Kim started going there in the '70's with her family, staying in their pop-up camper at the Avalon Campground on the mainland. As we started reliving these times as a married couple, we graduated from that same camper, to our own tent, then to a log cabin rental at the campground, then a half sized trailer with our own bathroom, again at the campground.
Last year, we made the jump (huge for us!) to rent a place right in town, on the island, a short walk or bike ride to restaurants and the beach. After two years, we no longer have any desire to return to the campground, as well as it served us over the years.
These trips restore my wife. She is in touch with her family vacation tradition, and the beach serenity permeates her being. My daughter brings her best friend and they do the teenager thing.
We have learned to avoid the hottest part of mid day and get to the beach later in the afternoon, doing our best to stay late as the crowds thin, the light softens and evening approaches.
The Folly of Ignoring Nature
Jenna's friend Maddy's mother's sister owns a place in Avalon. How is that for a mouthful.
Maddy's mother told us all about how, for many years, the northern end of Avalon beach gets mauled by waves and weather and erodes terribly. She told us how this year, the town (county, Borough, whatever) had pumped up tons of sand from a nearby pass and trucked it out onto the beach. They made the beach newly wide and higher than it used to be in the hopes that it would not be so eroded when tourist throngs descended. She said that when they were finished, the beach was huge, wide and flat, like a football field.
We arrived to the beach late Saturday afternoon August 8th, and saw, pictured at left, a 'cliff' near the high tide line. There was a bulldozer parked a ways up the beach from where we were, over near the dune fencing. The cliff sure looked like it had somehow been cut out of the breach by the bulldozer. It was near four feet tall at it's highest point. We scratched our heads. Maddy, who had been down a month before, was unable to explain.
The next day, the girls reported that at high tide the lifeguards were not letting people in the water.
Monday, we started to figure it out. At high tide, the waves came in at a strong angle and smashed away at the wall, making it unsafe for anyone to be there. I tried and was promptly knocked off my feet. The wall would be undercut, parts would cave into the surf and be washed away, and the wall moved back a few inches, getting higher as it receded.
In the morning, the bulldozer came to life and proceeded to attempt to grade the cliff into a slope, allowing easy access to the water. Later that day, I watched as the surf rebuilt the cliff. I talked to a lifeguard who assured me that the whole routine was gone through every day.
Later in the week, the surf calmed down and was more placid. The cliff was smaller. Next morning the bulldozer graded it more efficiently. By Thursday there was no cliff.
Oh, how we humans fool ourselves...
Watching the Waves Roll In...
After the lifeguards leave for the day, as the crowds dissipate and the light starts to glow, now is my favorite time at the beach.
I can sit and watch the waves. The few people still on the beach and in the water seem quieter and less obtrusive. I have to remember I spend time in the Adirondack wilderness and am happy with fewer people around. I have to remember that I am people too. No more rights than anyone else. No smarter and certainly no more worthwhile.
Still, I prefer quiet and solitude, most of the time. Late day at the beach gets me pretty close.
I sit and watch the waves, get lulled by the sounds, watch a boat move by or a gull stiff-leg in the surf, and see an occasional kid having a good time.
A sidelong glance at my life mate next to me. Still there, still content, still with me.
Sun, sand, quietude, introspection, undemanding companionship.
OK by me.
Along the Tideline
As my wife reads at the beach, as my young daughter lays in the sun or disappears with her best friend, and after I have spent long quality time watching the constant march of the waves to shore, I gather my camera and set off along the tideline, studying and photographing the constantly changing array and juxtaposition of the shells, leaves and seaweed that is deposited as the waves recede.
That was almost a Mark Twain sentence!
At any rate, for the last few years when I visit, I have engaged in this activity as a way to make images and commune, in my own poor way, with the barrier between ocean and land.
I have a rule, which is that I cannot move anything for a better composition, as in rearrange items into a more pleasing design. I know that I am unworthy to presume that any design I might imagine rivals the designs that nature spreads out for me. I am only capable of recognizing and framing what is there.
Nature supplies me with endless sculpture and arrangement. I choose the frame, sometimes necessarily very quickly, then focus in and make the exposure before the next wave rearranges or simply washes away my subject. I usually have two or three seconds at best.
I can wander up and down a fifty foot section of beach for hours, never seeing the same grouping twice.
Hours and hours...
While wandering the tideline, I see many things.
With moving water constantly interceding, footsteps left by passersby have a short shelf life.
Man, gull, and, often, crab, leave prints for a short time. Then those prints disappear as completely as if they were never there.
You can follow the steps for a while, until they either peter out in the dry sand inland from the tideline, or come to an abrupt end where the recent wave washed by.
Later in the day, as crowds thicken, prints become overlapping, unreadable, confusing.
Morning is when it is best. There are very few tracks; most people are not on the beach so early as just after sunrise.
Man nor beast; no difference.
We are all just visitors here.
Imagining the Desert
I am mesmerized by simple landscapes.
The desert causes me to focus in on peace and straightforwardness. The simple look of sweeping dunes and scattered stone artistically arrayed for my study calms my mind. The heat and dry air warm me and I wander the trackless valleys...
Well, OK, I haven't been to a desert in a few years. In my pursuit of sea detritus designs along the Avalon Tideline, using my new camera with the articulating view screen, I was able to get a different perspective of how the high tide waves re-sculpt the sand.
I walked along a drenched shoreline, got to my knees and crawled into a desert...
I got low and looked closely.
I am learning to see.
The Magic of the Mist
I first ventured out on Forked Lake into an early morning mist in 1970.
I was mesmerized and continue to be, all these years later.
The world closes in and I find myself in a different realm, floating as if in a void, visibility limited, dew accumulating on my clothes, breaths of air sidling past, water calm, the passage of my small canoe the only movement felt.
It is a time of introspection, of quiet adventure and, sometimes, a bit of fear that I could be led astray. I am never, ever completely positive that I know what I am doing.
As time passes, the mist thins, then thickens, then thins anew, undulating in intensity as I move around the lake. Now I can see the shore in the distance, now it disappears completely and I find myself drifting in a gray cylinder; only my limited confidence in my knowledge of the lake guiding me. Then I see again, partially.
Slowly, tentatively, a glow builds somewhere to the east. Oranges, pinks, purples and even sometimes greens build at the horizon. I find myself at a small passage between a point and an island, my friend floating in front of me.
The mist begins to break up and, in a clear patch, the sun, dimmed by mist and vapor and intervening atmosphere, arises. A glow permeates the lake. The world awakens.
I am warmed.
The Dilemma of Disturbing Wildlife
I have been fascinated by Loons since I heard my first eerie call in 1970, while camping for the first time on Forked Lake.
These are water birds that are mid way between the size of a duck and a goose. They raise one or two young each season, eat fish and migrate south in mid to late fall with their young. A loon can hold its breath for over five minutes and can swim underwater for more than a hundred yards without surfacing.
They generally nest in May and June, somewhere on the shore of a pristine lake, often in marshlands with deep water access or untouched islands. It is rare for most of us to find one of these nests. This was a tough year for loons because the Adirondacks had a ton of rain early in the season and many loon nests were flooded and washed away, and the fledgling broods destroyed.
Two weeks ago, shortly after sunrise on Forked lake, I was drifting in my canoe past a familiar island when I spotted this mother on shore as I passed a deadfall. She saw me and hunched over her nest, and I saw her and lusted for a photograph. This was the first time I had seen a nest since the early 80's, so it was a big deal to the photographer in me. She was clearly attempting a second brood and I hated to scare her; possibly making her abandon the nest and her eggs.
Luckily I had my longest lens on my camera and was able to snap a few shots as I drifted by her. I floated in the adjacent bay a bit and then I sent myself drifting quietly back along the shore, closer this time, and got this image. She did not spook and did not bolt. I was quiet, drifted slowly, was in a lightweight solo canoe, and my camera is not imposing.
I still am not sure how I feel about this...
At One with Stormy weather...
I climbed Coney Mountain last week with my daughter and her good friend. This is a wonderful short climb of a tad over a mile to a mostly bald summit. It is not a tall mountain but the views of the wilderness around Tupper Lake are endless.
This view is to the west. At left, you can see Little Tupper Lake in the distance and Round Lake center right.
The weather had been changeable and we were prepared with hats and rain jackets, should they be needed.
As we reached the summit, gray storm clouds were advancing from the west. There were breaks to be sure, but they were coming inexorably on.
We watched in fascination as sheaths of falling rain shimmered out of the clouds, many miles distant. We watched as these squalls aimed our way, timing the advance against the terrain.
Expecting a descent lasting roughly a half hour, we timed our leaving and got to the car a scant three minutes before the sky opened up.
Walking a Woods Road after a Soft Rain...
Many July 4th weekends, we head north to Chateaugay Lake in the very northern Adirondacks. There we stay at Snug Harbor camp, which has been in the Sprague family for generations. The camp is owned by cousins of my wife, and we are fortunate to be invited year after year for a few days.
The camp is accessed off Route 374 in Merrill by a two-rut woods road that is one of my favorite places. This year, after a storm passed and the prolonged soft rain stopped, I ventured on the road with my camera and a sense of delight.
I love these hidden Adirondack gems. The woods crowd in on either side, the lanes undulate and wind through the forest, trees drip, wild strawberries line the edges (until I pick and eat them) and I spend some time in a poetic world, at one with the path.
League of Extraordinary Adirondack Gentlemen
Two weeks ago, I had the honor of joining the League of Extraordinary Adirondack Gentlemen (LEAG) on their annual one night camping trip. I was invited by my friend Pete Hornbeck, who had been threatening me with this for two years.
We camped at Forked Lake the night of Wednesday July 15 2015. I have camped on Forked Lake at least one night each year since 1970. Total coincidence!
In the image at left are the league members that attended. L-R: Dr. Dan Way, Pete Hornbeck, Rick Davidson, Me (with the big belly!), Rick Rosen, Bill McKibben and Tom Curley.
Each of these men is renowned in their field. Dr. Dan is an Adirondack Medical Doctor who has authored two books, All in a Day's Work and Never a Dull Moment, both chronicling in text and photos his many Adirondack patients. Pete Hornbeck is the man who designs and builds Hornbeck Boats (we all paddled Hornbecks on this trip). Rick Davidson owns Davidson Brewing in Glens falls and supplied us with sufficient quality suds to boost our spirits. I supplied questionable knowledge of the lake and various great places to which we paddled. Rick Rosen is a retired criminologist and Adirondack Advocate. Bill McKibben is an internationally acclaimed author of books on the environment and the economics of our carbon footprint. Tom Hurley is the retired president of the Associated Press (AP) and a long time newsman.
We had a wonderful first day setting up camp, paddling up the Brandreth Inlet 'en flotilla' and roasting steak over the open fire. A few of us were up in the middle of the night looking at and photographing the stars. Four of us were up at first light and out on the lake photographing the sunrise through the mist.
A Posthumous shout out to the late Noel Davis, long time LEAG member, member of Adirondack Mountain Club Executive Committee and Adirondack Enthusiast. RIP.
Music in the Street
I love coming across street musicians when I am out wandering or exploring a city.
There is something about the live music they play; it all sounds good, even when it is not a genre that you normally listen to.
Of course, as I watch and listen, my mind starts careening away and I wonder how they are able to do this.
They were playing on a decidedly touristy street, Rue St. Paul, in Old Montreal. There was an international jazz festival going on this weekend throughout the city; big stages, thousands of people, all that. It was a Sunday, on a summer weekend. I know all this...
Still, looking at these people, their chosen location, their clothing, instruments, style and overall presentation, I wondered if this is how they make their living. Do they have day jobs and do this on the weekends on a lark or because they enjoy it and make a few tips? I threw a few bucks in the hat. Did that go for groceries later that evening?
They had a whole show going. Clearly rehearsed, professionally done, clearly pieces they had been performing together for years. Had they recorded? Had they once been on top of the heap? Had age and changing fortune relegated them to the sidewalk? Were they even a couple? Married? Siblings, maybe? Old buddies who bonded doing this?
We listened for a while until they decided to take a break. We moved on...
While not huge in area, old Montreal is a wonderful place to wander around. Many old buildings still exist along the narrow streets, and many are used as restaurants and shops. Stone, rough and quarried is the building material most in evidence. I saw one building with a plaque saying it was built in 1689. The have closed the middle section of Rue Saint Paul to traffic and it is a wonderful pedestrian urban paradise with throngs pf people well into the night.
As I was people watching and making image after image, my wife looked up and spotted the watcher, pictured at left, watching the tourists watch the tourists, watching the tourists...
Rain is wonderful. I love sitting in my family room with the door open, looking out on a nurturing spring rain on my patio and back yard.
A nice soft rain seeps into the ground and stays to feed the lawn and garden for longer than the duration of the shower. It is soothing to hear and see and feel. It softens the light and mists the air and gives me a feeling of serenity.
I remember days laying in the tent or lean-to while hiking and camping, where you knew you had nothing to do but sit and read or just be one with the elements.