Posts Tagged ‘harvest

14
Oct
11

Rhythm and Harvest

Autumn has always been my favorite time of year. This year for the first time I’m in California during the grape harvest. Instead of watching the maples and oaks of Eastern forests clothe themselves in ruby and gold, I’ve been watching the grapes ripen. Tasting a few dew-covered purple sugar gems has been the morning’s highlight. Watching the leaves change color and listening to the local growers discuss the intermittent rain, the sugar content of the grapes, and whether the skins are still firm, has deepened my appreciation of the tenuous nature of all farming, of living close to the earth. I know nothing about their harvesting, but I’m enjoying language and rhythms of the grapes.

Learning the language and feeling the rhythm. Hmm.  I think this may be a metaphor for living a good life. As we learn the language of our endeavor, be it photography, classical dressage, grape growing, or any other pursuit, we broaden our awareness and deepen our knowledge. It makes us fuller, more interesting humans. Now layer in the rhythm of life. We have all felt it when we are with the rhythm…..and maybe felt it a little stronger when we are out of rhythm. I’ve been practicing my ability to stop and appreciate when I am in it and stop and breathe when I am not.

Harvest (of any task or effort or sowing) has it’s own rhythm. Previously I have thought that it was an endpoint, a gathering of fruit from labor. Now I am seeing that the gathering clears the way for new effort. And that effort is most likely a result of your harvest, whether it has been a success or failure.

This fall has seen the release of my first book. It is very gratifying, but it is also a time to re-double the labor to ensure that the work that has gone into getting it this far will only be the platform for a greater bounty. So I have to immerse myself in the language and rhythm of promotion and publicity. (This is the real (read: unglamorous) life of a photographer.)

And along with this effort I am launching into the second phase of my personal project in the Czech Republic. I’ve written before on this blog about how I prepare for taking a photographic journey. My process remains the same. I read literature of the place and that place in time that I want to photograph. I listen to music and recorded books in the language of the destination. I slip into the feel and sound of my journey long before I arrive. I do not look at imagery as I want to see things new. To be successful at this I’ve learned that I must begin the process with an empty mind, an empty cup. There’s no room for expansion when your mind/cup is already full. No room to reap the sounds, smells, scenes when you have preconceived notions about your destination.

I’ll spend the next several weeks in hyper-drive to prepare for my trip and sow the seeds for greater promotion for Meditation for Two. But I’ll stop every so often and remember the dew on grapes, their luscious sweetness, the bite of the skins and crunch of the seeds, and the sounds of birdcalls in the early morning of the vineyard. Next time I see the vineyard the grapes will be gone and the vines will be pruned. The earth will rest for a time before offering new growth. This rhythm is eternal. Stepping into this rhythm and harvesting the memory of the light and softness, the delicious fullness of earth’s bounty, has expanded my world.

A note about the images: I used my favorite Fly Paper Textures to illustrate the juiciness and softness of the mornings here in the vineyard.

16
Nov
10

storing memory

I am writing from California while looking at the late afternoon sun falling over the vineyards.  It is warm and golden with the sweet sounds of birds in the olive trees. After a long summer the grass has turned green again following late October rains.  It is a peaceful place for a pause before I begin the rest of my journey to the East. It reminds me of my favorite story, Frederick The Mouse. I’m storing the memory of the warmth and light and scent. This way I can use it to sustain me over the winter and as a guidepost for my return.

After four years I have left Seattle. Work and family cares are calling me to the East Coast for a time so I am driving across the country. I’ll be taking a southerly route and making notes of all the places that I’ll want to visit and photograph on a return trip. Driving south from the Oregon/California border was torturous at times because I could not stop. The light in the olive groves on the fresh green grass was arresting.  The patterning, the color, the softness in the atmosphere….thinking of it all now brings the pain back of not being able to photograph it.  I think I will have many bittersweet moments like that on this trip. As a photographer I know well the law that demands we “photograph it now”. We can never duplicate the light we see or the emotion generated by a scene when we first discover it. It’s a life lesson isn’t it:  Carpe Diem….do not procrastinate…etc. But as it can not be helped, I will make the notes and plan to return.

Here are a few images from my trip to Florida last week. Photographing for Cindy, Simone, and Rosemary was a joy and one that I actually KNOW can be repeated. I’m looking forward to being in Florida again in February. I’ll harvest again the scent of the ocean, the call of the gulls and the chirps of the pipers while the atmosphere displays the orange, pink, purple and blue hues that announce the arrival and departure of the sun.

13
Nov
09

The landscape of memory

Thinking of Eudora Welty’s landscape triggered thoughts of my own.  Growing up on a small farm outside of Shepherdstown, WV, shaped me in particular ways.  It was a quiet place with 40 acres to roam that was bordered by larger farms on all sides.  There was a marsh and stream on the front of the property that  would flood in the winter and spring, thereby making a long walk to the end of the lane for the bus a soggy, cold task.   There were woods at the back of the farm that remained  mysterious, there was a spring on the north side that I was convinced was a haven for cottonmouth snakes (probably not, but still scary), and we had a great old barn with a hay loft and stalls beneath.  While the memory of that landscape is clear, and dear to me in many ways, what I’ve realized is that my personality was shaped by this experience of place.  By nature I was a quiet child, content to be alone.  Having the farm to roam and explore encouraged that and it also insisted that I develop the capacity for introspection and long periods of solitary pursuits.  Walking and reading became the rhythm of my life on the farm.  Book in hand, dog at my side, off I’d go to find a place to settle for a while.   My two favorite books:  Frederick the Mouse, by Leo Lionni, and Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh.   

Frederick_cover

What does all of this have to do with photography?  I think it’s central to who I am as a photographer. Harriet was insistently curious and engaged with the world outside her, but in a stealthy, analytical way.  Frederick was consumed with “storing” the rays of the sun, the colors of the poppies, and the scents of the new-mown meadows to offer to his extended mouse family when the days of winter were long and bleak.   I believe it’s essential to know your subject deeply to photograph it well, so I put the time in to educate myself about a place or place in time (The South, or Pre-War Paris, for example).  But after all that work is done, I open my heart while photographing, to absorb the feeling and gather the sensory feast in front of me.  It can be a solitary pursuit, but offering  the harvest connects me to an ever growing community. 

Rocky Marsh evening, II

late summer evening, Rocky Marsh, near Shepherdstown, West Virginia




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