Today’s guest post is an image by Lee Sullivan, taken on her way home from hockey practice.
Clear, cold winter air and a road stretching north from the Connecticut-Massachusetts border makes a lovely entrance to the Berkshires. A photogenic dusting of snow doesn’t hurt, either.
This is an example of perfect timing—as much as I like to take winter pictures, quadcopter drones like neither snow nor extremely low temperatures. Early in the season, however, there are lucky days like this one where snow is immediately followed by clear skies and above-freezing temperatures that give me a tiny window in which to capture the winter.
The northeastern US has been gripped by severe and hardened cold. Consider, for a moment, how much colder 20 ºF feels than 60 ºF. Imagine that difference projected past its original low point, out the other side to -20 ºF. After past winter temperatures like these, I can attest that the return to “normal” winter really does feel 40 ºF warmer. The rivers and lakes are freezing. The snow is a dry powder, dozens of degrees below its melting point. A warm home above the frozen waters sounds pretty inviting.
I’ve taken a few pictures around Salisbury, CT in a snow storm in previous years. When the snow is drifting down and the charming New England buildings look inviting, the setting is perfect for feelings of home.
Winter arrived in the Northeast with maximum attitude: from 66ºF on Saturday morning to a full-on blizzard by Sunday. In Salisbury, CT, home of ski jumps and wood-lined hotel bars, we got to experience the odd dynamic of watching Porsche and Mercedes SUVs claw through the snow. The classic White Hart hotel was looking its best.
I tested my DJI Phantom 3 Advanced in the post-storm conditions. Almost-freezing, windy conditions didn’t have an impact on its flight performance, but the gimbal didn’t seem too thrilled. Some of its smooth elegance was lost… Or maybe it was just the wind.
In this particular corner of Connecticut in early spring, the rain and snow combined to make the perfect storybook fog. This image is so quaint and charming, I could swear I’d seen it somewhere before.
But this brings me to another idea: those particular locations in landscape photography so scenic that they are literally ubiquitous. Take the tunnel view in Yosemite, or shots of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands, or downtown Manhattan as seen from the top of Rockafeller Center as examples: is it even possible to make an original composition from such a photographically saturated place? But these places are also photographically saturated for a reason: they’re really, really pretty. Where does that trade-off between originality and beauty fall?
A year ago, I stood atop this waterfall in the corner of Connecticut, relaxing and hiking in the last few days before I traveled north to Canton to begin the faculty life. There are three things that this image captures:
- So many waterfall pictures use a long exposure to smooth the water into some blurry, surreal, Platonic ideal of flow. The effect might be pretty, but that effect is also a lie about the true experience of the crashing and splashing. Let’s get some spray in here!
- Poetically standing atop a waterfall in a wood, with a calming pool nearby, seems to me less a cliché than something that is consistently authentic across the American experience.
- Nostalgia may power a lot of my images, but it’s a force that only works retroactively. I would feel very different about the image if I’d promptly slipped and trashed my camera. Can that “dodged danger” exist within the image itself?
All of the other posts this week have been about surreal half-worlds of alienation and pensive detachment. I’d like Friday to be about something warmer, cheerier, and generally less dark: the concept of home. Without resorting to too much cliché, home can be in the shape of the windows or the parallel lines of painted floor boards, but it can also be seeing the same books in the bookcase that were there when you were a child. They were there then, and they’re still there now, and even if, “You can never go home,” you can always go back to the idea and the place and the books will be there.