I took up landscape photography because I figured it was easier than shooting with live models. Unlike studio nudes, landscape photography requires no model releases, no federal record keeping requirements, no boyfriends of models sending nasty emails, and no special studio lighting equipment. To take a landscape photograph, A) Load your camera with film B) Step outside C) Depress the shutter. Develop and print as normal.
Engineers have a saying, "In the real world everything is brown and fuzzy." That is to say, no matter what it looks like on paper, when theory goes into practice there will be some unpredictable factors which tend to add flavour to the endeavor.
I lay exhausted on my bed Monday evening after four days and four nights of constant rain. My monopod remains on the livingroom floor where I dumped it, water soaked, cracked, broken, and smeared with my own blood - all of which happened while I was scaling cliffs and climbing an fence surrounding the Portland Head Lighthouse. My fingers gripped the chain-link fence for dear life and as the soggy landscape began to sag under the weight of me and my equipment. A couple walked by and told their younger child to "look away" since they feared I would loose my footing and impale myself onto the rocks 60 feet below causing permanent mental scars to anyone who witnessed my death, Thankfully that did not happen; but, I did need a BandAid which was retrieved by an older lady in our group of photographers who found a condom in my First-Aid kit and gasped in shock and horror, illuminating everyone else in the car as the last time she got laid - which was apparently some time ago.
I had left all my rain gear at home and pondered the reason why. For the past three years, I brought my trusty raincoat on every photographic safari. It's small, lightweight, stretchable, folds into a tight ball, and is very waterproof... unless it's draped over the back of a kitchen chair hundreds of miles away. Then, it's pretty much useless. Also missing from my equipment list was the technically advanced rain cover which fits over my camera, which was now in a drawer in the studio and has not seen a drop of rain since I bought it. I had remembered to bring suntan lotion and bug repellent, neither of which was needed during the constant, pouring rain. I pondered why all my gear remained at home and blame this crazy co-ed who insisted on coming over the night before for a quickie, which resulted in me having only minutes to pack for the trip. It wasn't that I did not have time to pack, but rather I didn't have enough time to think about what to pack. I was cold and wet for most of the trip, which was totally unnecessary.
I have to replace a few pieces of equipment, like my broken and blood smeared monopod. The replacement model can be opened and closed with one hand - handy for those times when I'm dangling over a 60 foot cliff just to get another angle. Well, I was just so pissed off that I had visited the lighthouse twice before and was forced back because of the rain that I wanted to teach Mother Nature a lesson - I was going to take a shot which few others have tried. The path less traveled is often rewarding for photography, but occasionally scary.
Cloudy, rainy days can be an advantage for those of us still shooting film. With the fantastic color saturation and ISO 50 clarity, I have gotten spectacular results in the past. We traveled through the backwoods of Northern Maine to Snow Falls and Screw Auger Falls. The Snow Falls are so close to the road that you can spit into the water from the car. The even lighting was perfect for balancing the exposure latitude between the glistening white water and dark green foliage. A bright, sunny day could ruin a waterfall shot because film just cannot do the scene justice.
On the way back from Screw Auger Falls, we were headed down a dirt road in the mountains of Newry and beheld a most bewildering scene. A small hutch was on the roadside with a painted sign, "Pies for Sale." Back home on Long Island, NY there are many such roadside stands, selling corn, pumpkin, and flowers. The hutch belonged to the Puzzle Mountain Bakery - don't bother looking 'cause I don't think they have a website.
Inside the hutch were half a dozen fresh pies, large and small selling for $10.75 and $6.50 respectively. Each one had a printed index card describing the all natural ingredients, covered with a piece of plastic wrap. Below the hutch was a small icebox, empty but usually contained beverages. The instructions presented to us travelers was to place the money in the hole in the tree. If you needed change or further assistance, there was a house down the road where someone could attend to you, if they were home.
All of us being from New York, our minds tried to grasp the situation presented to us. One photographer in our group said there must be surveillance equipment and high-tech anti-theft technology protecting the pies. We dismissed the thought. For those of you who have never been to the "Big City" - such a pie stand would last about twenty minutes in New York. In fact, there are places in The Bronx where an automobile can be reduced to bare metal in less time. It's not that people are "evil" - it's just that Big City society is a tad different. There's the scam, those who collect on the scam, and those who loose. Everyone has a scam. Maybe it's fake brand-name watches and handbags. Maybe it's counterfeit DVD's selling for five bucks. One thing is for sure. There is no place in New York City for a sign which says, "Please put the money into the hole in the tree."
I took a photo of the pie stand (to be posted shortly). We bought a large Strawberry-rhubarb and a small Wild Blueberry pie and left money in the tree plus a little extra. They were excellent - thank-you. Such innocence and benevolence on a dirt road in the Mountains restores my faith in humanity.
My cell phone signal often faded on those mountain roads. It seemed that Verizon had a few offices here and there, but most towns consisted of working farmers and fishermen who have not much need for the high tech toys. On my lap in the front seat of our van sat a GPS on my right leg with my Internet enabled PDA on my left. I was able to surf the net while someone else drove, answered a couple of emails, and had a real-time chat with a model in Vegas while I was on a beach in Northern Maine. But, North of Portland my Internet connection faded. Google has some progressive SMS functions, so I was still able to query for Yellow Page listings and other brief questions - one of which was directions to the closest Dairy Queen Blizzard. They aren't big on Long Island, so we often pull off the road every time we find one.
As I repair and replace the equipment I lost on this trip, I find myself amused by the irony. Such peaceful and serene images are created by landscape photographers who climb cliffs, wade through rivers, fight off insects, and travel hundreds or thousands of miles to capture that perfect moment forever on film. But, now do my own experiences forever jade my perception of landscape photography? When I look at sunrise photo, I ask the photographer how early he or she had to wake up to capture it? When I see a mountain photo, I think about swarms of blood sucking insects descending on an unprotected photographer. However, when I see the New England Coast I think of a sign which says, "Pies for sale - put the money in the hole in tree." Such wonderful people in New England. Thank-you again.