Photographing In Vinalhaven

I first came to Vinalhaven thirty years ago for a family vacation.  Our children were young and it seemed like a great place for kids with plenty of outdoor activities such as hiking and swimming.  Little did I know at the time how much I’d find to photograph on this small Island.

Much of the beauty of this Island can be photographed within an easy walk from where you park your car. The morning I made this image was a typical Vinalhaven morning with lots of fog. When I first arrived the fog was so thick the trees weren’t visible at all from the road.  I walked around trying to find an image for over an hour. Just as I was leaving, the fog began to lift and I made this exposure.  The changing light made the photograph.

I find that wherever I go, if I can be aware of the light and the patterns created by contrast, there is an image to be made.  On a different morning I was walking along one of the many hiking trails on the Island created by The Vinalhaven Land Trust. The trails often go through old spruce forests.  I had my infrared camera with me at the time. Using my infrared camera, I can use the subject matter as my original inspiration; the photograph is then my interpretation. Green pine needles become very light and tree bark very dark. Knowing that I can pre-visualize images that only can be seen in Infrared.

After working with a large format camera for many years, about ten years ago I ventured into the world of digital photography. It was daunting to say the least. I have to admit it took me a few years to find my vision through the new technique.  Once I learned how to do everything on my computer that I once did in the darkroom, I felt far more at ease.  Now I could get back to the business of photographing and not be consumed with feelings of computer frustration. There will always be a new and improved version of a soft wear product. I question if that will make for new and improved vision.

My way of working has always been more in line with the masters of photography that originally inspired me, Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Minor White and Paul Caponigro just to name a few.  Not to diminish the need for mastering one’s craft, but the need to work on “awareness” and sensitivity to the moment I find equally as important.

As Ansel Adams once said, “happy accidents happen to those who are out there the most.”  You have to make the effort without expectations.  Being thankful for the gifts received will lead to more and more as the years roll by. I find the photographs I’m most pleased with I feel I just had to be there, nothing more!  To be ready for the moment.  Cartier Bresson called it “the decisive Moment.” Edward Weston called it I call it “The flame of recognition.” I call it “the eternal moment.” If you don’t know what you are looking for, you will never find it.  It is of the upper most importance to keep in your mind and your heart that feeling of what is most important to you.  Ask yourself as to what you want to express and what you hope others will find in your photographs. As Meister Eckhard (1260-1327) the German Theologian once said, “ Art is not just for special people but everyone is a special kind of an artist.” We have to learn to listen to our heart more.  Creating beautiful photographs is the same process as creating beautiful music. It takes many years of practice to be a concert musician. The same dedication to practice is required to produce meaningful and heartfelt photographs. 

Now that my children have all grown and have families of their own, my wife, Cathy, and I continue to return to Vinalhaven where I am writing now.  My ability to appreciate all the wonderful gifts in my life has grown as the years keep passing by. It is fitting that I will be celebrating my 70th birthday on this beautiful Island that has given me so much of its beauty to enjoy.