Picture a Blob in a Field
So I have finished writing, editing and photographing A Lifetime of Vermont People. I have traveled through the pain of a book that had to be reprinted so it is over a month past its deadline.
So I wait. And wait. Time to get my psyche and body back in shape. Yesterday I went out to photograph just for the sake of it. Driving on the road to Stowe Hollow from Waterbury there is a hayfield that I believe belongs to the Lintilhac family. In middle of it is a blob of blue—a large tarp covers a pile of round hay bales that have not been wrapped. It would make a different photograph.
I thought about it overnight and decided I should take the photograph on a cloudy-bright day and I should do it in color. Yesterday, my first time out from computer deadlines in over the year, I drove up to look at the blob in the field. I took my film camera, a Pentax 6×7 with a wide angle and short telephoto mounted on the tripod, and walked into the field. I stared at that blue tarp from a distance. What am I doing, I asked myself. The tarp and haybales were on a small hill; the field dipped down in front and growing hay hid the base of the bales. So I decided to walk around it and find the right perspective.
What I was doing was photographing a green, amorphous blob in the middle of a field of green. It just doesn’t belong there. Perhaps I should photograph at dusk with black and white, make it mysterious, a UFO miscarriage.
The blue tarp ruffled in the wind. A sparrow sat on the top of the tarp, enjoying the view. It would fly off, then return, then hop to the summit.
I walked through budding milk weed, a patch of brilliant Indian Paintbrushes etched against the rich green of late spring, Buttercups were reaching to catch the meager sun we have had.
The closer I moved to the blob, the more it morphed into an amorphous shape.
I walked to within 30 feet of the blob and put on the wide angle and waited patiently for the sparrow to return, which he did. He liked the view from the top.
A couple of dozen feet to my right a Bobolink attached itself to a stalk of hay. Obviously it had a nest there and was on guard. It flew off 40 feet and settled into the grass. I was waiting for the sparrow to return when the Bobolink impatiently flew back to its perch about the nest, then fluttered to the ground. Would have been a good photo with the right lens and camera.
My sparrow returned and I made a photograph. I circled the hay bales and on the other side the hay was exposed as the tarp did not reach the ground. I made another exposure, this one with Camel’s Hump in the background. I opened up the camera aperture to have everything fuzzy except the blue tarp.
I completed the circle and walked down the hayfield and turned to look at it. I put on the semi telephoto, opened wide and again tried to blur the foreground and background. On one exposure I slowed the speed to 1/30th and knocked the tripod to create a blurred impression. Sometimes it works.
I walked back towards the car. My I am out of shape! Computers are killers. I was looking down, tripod and camera over my shoulder, and came across a lone buttercup rising out of some young ferns. So much rich green surrounded the yellow flower that displayed a flare of independence as it reached out to the sun. I took two photos and finished the roll.
I exposed two rolls, one in color negative and one Velvia 100, a transparency film. 20 frames. No, no digital on this trip. I’m tired of shooting pix and beaming them into virtuality.
I packed up and drove off. I’ll have the film processed in New York. You know, this photograph might be a bust but it was fun, I saw something that looked like it was an alien object and then I saw the birds, the new hay, the wild flowers and the beauty seen and smelled and photographed that said to me, yes, the memory of this is much more vibrant to my soul than the photograph.
Looking forward to picking this newly edited and photographed book as I have dearly treasured my dad’s copy of Vermont People! I find it only fitting for me to purchase this book when I return to Vermont this August so will have to wait til then…!
Compelled to peek into your blog today after reading and viewing the NPR piece on war photography and a new exhibit now showing in Washington, D.C. I am still reeling at the thought that perhaps photojournalism doesn’t need “real” photographers but rather anyone with an iPhone or such. How can you view these photos and think otherwise?! Reading your process of capturing an image details so much that there is much more than a great shot (or not) but it’s the “back story” or the photographer’s experience that is so much more. Whether one hears about it or reads it (as in your case with the talented writing!) it comes through in those images, that personality and that way of knowing, slowing down and seeing that can’t be done when your only thought is to whip out that iPhone along with the masses and take a photo — that’s all it is!
Thank you Mr. Miller for your continued work and your integrity and style — it’s an art that will truly not be lost on those who treasure it!
Wendy very observant of you. The I Phone is making the small point and shoot phones obsolete. Pretty son there will be more iphone photos than any other.
I still believe that there are very few photographs that are worth 10.000 words. Most photographs, if you delineate the story embedded within the photographs, you reveal
so much more. Glad you like what you have seen of my work and yes, there is very much work in each work. Thanks for the comments. peter.