Zindel Park is a few miles from us and Joanna walks there often. The other day she, and her good friend Ann, planned an excursion and invited me to tag along. Within minutes of our arrival I said You two go on ahead, just be sure to find me on your way back. I have walked the grounds of this place more times than I can remember and I have had the camera with me on many of those occasions. Regardless of the weather or the time-of-day I have always felt a presence when walking among the carefully set stones and stone walls there, all nestled comfortably among a number of beautiful, aged, and fragrant Cedar trees. I have often tried, without success, to capture in an image, the feel of the place which I feel so strongly. Yesterday was dull, dark, cold, and the wind was up. After meandering a bit, I stopped and took in the view you see below. As if out of habit I set my tripod in front of the shrine. I took a single shot, the scene was shrouded in shade. I set the camera to record a series of images with shutter speeds ranging from 0.6s to 10s, I planned to sandwich these to capture the full dynamic range of what was before me. The resulting image speaks to me, in a loud voice. In 1939, Semyon and Valentina Kirlian, the first real promoters of what is called Kirlian Photography, believed that the images they created represented a conjectural energy field, an aura, thought by some to surround all living things. Kirlian and his wife were convinced that their images showed a life force that reflected the physical and emotional state of their subjects. The results of scientific experiments involving Kirlian photographs of live tissue showed that the variations in coronal discharge could be accounted for by the moisture content of the tissue itself. It is fair to say that such photographs do not record the aura, or life force, which may or may not surround living things. That being said, there’s something about the image below, which for me at least, has captured the aura, the feel, of Zindel. The photograph has rendered, to my eyes, that which the Kurlian’s thought they could see in the images they created. The scene is alive such that the placement of boulders, stones, and rocks has significance for the site which has, for lack of a better term, been not merely constructed, but orchestrated. The second image shows the approach to the shrine, it too is made of mountain stone. Both images were taken using long exposures which capture the dynamism of the place; note the blurring of the tree limbs. I was just about to say, Perhaps this is all in my mind. Well, of course it is in my mind. But consider how our minds do what they do. They accept sensory inputs of various sorts, process these with whatever neural software we happen to be in possession of and, as a result, individual impression takes form. Who knows the nature of my processing software, but it tells me that Zindel is alive and a very unusual place indeed.
People said that once the kids had fledged, and the livestock holdings had been trimmed, we would have more leisure time. Because this has not turned out to be the case, I have to believe that Pairodox must offer a classic example of the Law of Conservation of Responsibility which, by the way, states that the number of things you are responsible for increases asymptotically and then remains constant, forever. When one is relieved of a particular responsibility, another is added such that the total number of things one is responsible for never, ever, changes. [Perhaps we can consider this the Fourth Law of Thermodynamics (well, the fifth really, which means that there are four others … for there is a Zeroth Law (If two thermodynamic systems are each in thermal equilibrium with a third, then they are in thermal equilibrium with each other)]. Anyway, it’s always a delight when a bit of slack presents itself in the schedule of responsibilities which is my busy life. And this is especially so if there is sufficient time to be out with the camera. Yesterday, despite gray and overcast skies, just such an opportunity arose. I jumped into the truck, and with my Nikon 16-35 f/4G. I drove south to Ravensburg State Park. In a recent post entitled, A slightly different vantage, I spoke of the fact that Nikon’s 14-24 could not be fitted, easily, with filters. That post was illustrated with an image which was taken with a 24-70 which does accept filters, but I complained about the 84° angle of coverage (the 14-24 covers 114°). This new lens, the 16-35, does accept filters and has an expansive 107° of coverage. When I got out of the truck I fixed my polarizer to the lens. What a wonderment, to have the filter and the wide view. I had lots of fun with the combination. This pretty little park isn’t far from us and I was the only one present, it was a delight to be alone and to have the place to myself. There were plenty of ferns around and many were surrounded by delicate wraps of melting snow. Moss-covered rocks and boulders filled the landscape and added a degree of fine texture to the otherwise course stream bed. I looked at a topographic map, this evening, and determined that Gottshall and Rocky Runs merge to form Rauchtown Creek which flows through the park. Certain followers of this blog will be aghast to know that within a minute or so of entering the creek I discovered that one of my boots had a leak. There was no longer any good reason to worry that I would walk into water too deep for the tops of my boots, so why not venture into water just-below-the-knees? The bottom was quite slippery and my only real worry was that I would take a spill and get my camera wet. No worries, for I found that I could use my tripod to good advantage as a walking stick (something that I’m sure that the folks at Gitzo would never have imagined). The logic, regarding my feet, was that the neoprene construction of the boots would act like a wetsuit. The warmth of my feet and ankles would warm the fluid in the boot and provide a toasty layer of insulation. The only flaw in my logic was that, with each step, the water in the boot was exchanged with chilled creek water. After more than an hour of walking up-stream I realized that I could not feel my toes and determined that Joanna would be upset if I ended up having to call her to come and get me (I was not all that isolated, really, for I did have my cell phone … and it was in my pocket … and it was fully charged). My boots have been positioned in front of the cookstove for more than 24 hours now and they are still not dry. But it was worth it.
Other photobloggers are to be able to amass queues of great images. I’m not sure why, but if I’m out with the camera, it seems to be my habit to arrive home with a single image in mind to process and post. I ignore nearly everything else taken. Because I am without a queue, and because I struck out over the weekend, I have gone back to take a look at the images I took last week. I decided that I liked this one very much. I had stepped into Wayne’s barn to photograph a wheel rake. As I prepared to leave, I noticed this single wheel. I forgot to ask about its significance but I do not doubt its authenticity. Something about the paint suggests that it hasn’t been fixed to an axle for some time, but I could be wrong. We were in Amish country this past weekend and I had the camera along. I was thinking about this image and was keen to capture a view of one of the smaller roads leading to an Amish farm for these accommodate lots of buggy traffic. In the heat of a summer day the asphalt can soften and record the passage of buggies and steel rims can do something similar at almost any time of year. A dry road can reveal the acute, gently criss-crossed, tangle of marks but, alas, the roads were wet and hid them from view. I respect and admire Amish tradition. I have written elsewhere that … my assumption had always been that farming (or traveling the roads, in this case) without modern convenience was somehow a way of life which brought the Amish closer to God and was more strongly adherent to Scriptural practice. I was wrong. Two key concepts for understanding Amish practices are their rejection of pride and arrogance and the value they place on humility and composure which may also be understood as a reluctance to assert oneself. The willingness of the Amish to submit to the Will of Jesus, expressed through group norms, is at odds with the sense of individualism which is so central to American culture. This anti-individualist position is the motive for rejecting labor-saving technologies that might make one less dependent on community. So there you have it, motivation which is reasonable. Laudable. I do not know the history of this wheel. Because I know it is genuine, however, I know that it worked hard and I know that the folks who worked it hard, worked hard themselves. And, they did so at a time when hard work was a way of life, for everyone. It had to be. The times were different, but the people were surely the same. They worked to ensure shelter, warmth, and food for their families. So do we. But, in ways which are so very, very, different.
I believe it is fair to say that my first source of blogging inspiration was derived from the work of photographer Kathleen Connally which you may view at a A Walk Through Durham Township Pennsylvania. A quick review of my archive shows that, after something of a false start in March of 2011, posts began to accumulate here in earnest in January of 2012. I remember wondering, at the time, what exactly a blogger was supposed to do. I had just taken up photography again, after a hiatus of more than 30 years, and didn’t feel my photos were ready to stand alone. I have never fancied myself a writer and didn’t feel my words were ready to stand alone. My solution, as you have seen over the last three years, has been to do a bit of both. A Walk Through Durham Township Pennsylvania speaks, although not always in words, volumes about that place. Whether Connally’s images depict harvest, farm animals, or the simple beauty of a rural landscape, her work has an honesty that I like. It is uncluttered and tells stories of the places and people she loves best. That is what I have wanted of my own contributions. As I look back over these years of work I can see that sometimes it’s been about the picture, sometimes it’s been about the words, while all the time it’s been about this life within which I find myself. Sometimes my words are directed toward a specific object while other times they are cast broadly in the hopes of snagging some elusive thread. The last few weeks have been trying at work and the farm has found the transition to winter a bit bumpy. The combination has limited my opportunity to be out with the camera, and so I was pleased to have a couple of hours to wander as Joanna met with her sheep-to-shawl team on Sunday. The group last practiced two weeks ago and it was then that I had driven past an Amish holding. I slowed to view the steers in the front yard, an active windmill in the back, and shocks of corn in the fields behind. There was no one home. I would have loved to poke about in their absence, but resisted the temptation to do so. This time, when I drove past, I saw children playing in the front yard. I pulled in and knocked on the door. A young woman answered and I asked if it would be alright to walk out back to take a look at the corn shocks. I remarked on how she might think that an unusual request and explained that I was a photographer. She said that the shocks belonged to the neighbor and added that she was sure he wouldn’t mind if I took a look. She was very kind and in possession of a beautiful smile. So, off I went. It was windy, and the field was muddy, but I got my picture. Although many Amish use automated corn pickers, a few still produce shocks, an old tradition indeed. After removing a quantity of mud from my shoes I ventured back to Wayne’s and ducked into the barn. Shafts of light illuminated the dim interior. The wheel rake caught my eye. I liked the way it had been positioned for its long, winter, rest. Soon, it will be brought out into the warmth of June, greased and oiled, and put back to work. So in the same way that Kathleen Connally has treated me to views of her little corner of the world, I do the same for mine, and for you.
I posted an image similar to this one a few days ago; the difference being that this riparian view includes a bit more sky and less of the water in the foreground. For those interested in discussions of photographic equipment, I took this with Nikon’s 24-70, rather than with the 14-24 which I had in my pack, because the former accepts screw-on filters while the latter does not, and this very bright scene called for the use of a circular polarizer. The maximum angle of view for the 14-24 is 114º while that of the 24-70 is just 84º. Because I had the slope of a steep river bank behind me, I couldn’t back up. What was I to do … capture a wide, fairly washed out image with glare in the trees and on the water … or a more narrow view with good rendition? I opted for the latter. I have been scouring the internet for reviews of two other Nikon lenses, the 16-35 f/4G and the 17-35 f/2.8D, both of which accept screw-type filters. I almost ordered the latter yesterday but held off. Today, I am leaning toward the 16-35. The 17-35 is more heavily built and, at 2.8, is a faster lens. The 16-35 is lighter, because of a number of plastic components, and not quite as fast. Ken Rockwell likes both lenses, regards the 16-35 as quite sharp but showing some distortion at 16 mm, and reports that the 17-35 is, at times, soft in the corners. From what I can gather, the 17-35 is a lens for professionals for its speed and quality construction, while the 16-35 is a newer, sharper lens, made for less demanding conditions. Another photographer, Robert Rhead, compared these lenses and concluded, in favor of the 16-35, that he could deal with a bit of distortion at 16 mm and liked the sharpness and lower price tag of that lens. If anyone out there has an informed opinion, I’d be glad to hear it … soon!
Given the way in which blogs are presented, I am convinced that posts which reside more than a scroll or two behind the most recent are doomed to languish and to be forgotten. Because I believe there is value in looking at contributions from days, weeks, and even months ago, I present here a gallery of images presented during November of 2013. Perhaps it will be interesting to scroll through these and to compare them to those presented during this past month. Be patient, it may take several minutes for all of the images to load fully. Hovering over an image will reveal its title. Clicking one will take you to a carousel view and you can either move through the collection or click the links to read each post in its original form. Note that this is the twenty-first in my series of retrospective posts. You may find interest in taking a look at the retrospective from a year ago and if you missed any of the others, you can find them all by clicking Retrospective in the tag cloud in the sidebar. Postscript: As I look over these images I can only suppose that our Pennsylvania weather was not all that conducive to fine photographs last year. Only three of these images are mine.
We felt the need to stretch our legs so walked the rail trail, north from Waterville. The afternoon was accompanied by a few broken clouds and the waning sunlight was sufficient to illuminate a number of Sycamores which formed a promenade along a low point in the riparian slope. Water reflected a number of trunks such that they, along with their seconds, formed something of a tunnel leading toward the Pine Creek Gorge. As I look at this image I get a real sense of movement. Of circles. And, given the time of year, perhaps that is appropriate. Though the Solstice is upon us, I will not discuss the tilt of the earth, the cycles of the seasons, or cycles of birth and death. How about my old hobby-horse which argues, Life is an Oscillator? I don’t know whether the saying is unique to me but I do know that the adage is universally experienced if not universally stated using just these words. I have always observed that one would be seriously mistaken to assume that our lives should mirror those of characters depicted in the movies. Have you ever noticed that those folks never go shopping, never have the need for a plumber’s helper, and never get flat tires or splinters? Life in the movies is replete with luxury cars, paid rent, beautiful teeth, and deep pockets. The real lives of real people aren’t anything like that for real life includes, for many of us, cars in need of repair, overdue rent, root canals, and maxed-out credit cards. Real life, as it is experienced by most of us has ups and downs. The ups are wonderful, to be sure. The fact which is lost to most folks however, is that the downs are every bit as expected. And here is where one of many problems with pop culture may lie. Most think that negative oscillations are not right, abnormal, or otherwise indicative of the fact that you’ve not tried hard enough or have done something wrong. Surely, no one likes the negative oscillations of life but, I repeat, they should be every bit as expected as the much-anticipated positive ones. And, perhaps, overcoming negative oscillations is the only way to experience the good life, in its best sense. I think it is fair to hope that in the long haul, and on all time scales, our lives will be a break-even proposition or, in the best of lucky circumstances, slightly above that axis defined by Positive – Negative = 0. Maintaining or even exceeding that breakeven, over extended periods, is difficult work but those in possession of personalities which are capable of turning negatives into positives are that much more likely to reach that upper, right-hand, quadrant.