Just one photograph

January 27, 2011 § Leave a comment


It snowed again. It has snowed forever, which makes it hard to get out and photograph. I was pacing around the house last night, trying to find something to take a picture of. I felt like taking hundreds of exposures!  And that, of course, is what we do with digital cameras . . . it’s no problem to take hundreds and hundreds of pictures because it doesn’t cost anything. But I began to think about photographers in the past, when–especially in tough economic times–film had to be rationed carefully.

I especially remember an article about the great French photojournalist Edouard Boubat that I read long ago. In it, he talked about how he had to be very careful with how much film he used, even on magazine assignments. I no longer have that article, but I did go on the Web and found a Frank Horvat interview with Boubat, in which he talks about pretty much the same thing. “There is a little dilemma that we all face, because we now use those 35mm cameras . . . . Our own drama, with these little 35mm cameras, is that we shoot too much. If we truly were strong, we would only make three or four exposures.”

Of course we have moved “forward” even from the 35mm film days he was talking about, and now we can shoot seemingly endless photos. But thinking about how many of the great photographers of the past were constrained to work with just one roll or a few sheets of film made me slow down, take many fewer photographs than usual, and concentrate on making at least one exposure that I really liked. After I made this image, I put the camera away for the night. I hope you enjoy it too.



January 24, 2011 § Leave a comment


I was at a memorial service for an old acquaintance on Saturday and stayed behind in the church sanctuary for a few minutes to think about things and take a few pictures.

Pearls and sunlight

January 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Warm January afternoon, melting snow dripping from the eaves, light streaming into the south room. Reading Jean Valentine’s book Break the Glass. Final stanza to the poem “Then Abraham:”

You can’t get beauty. (Still,

in its longing it flies to you.


January 16, 2011 § Leave a comment


Nikkormat FTn


This was my first “real” camera, which I bought sometime in the mid 1970s. Before that, I had an Argus C3 and a Zeiss Contaflex, both of which temporarily fed my growing hunger for photography. But finally I knew I needed to step up to something better. I was working at the University of New Hampshire at the time and asked Gary Samson, who was one of the university photographers, about which brand to buy. He said that if I could afford the Nikkormat, I should get into the Nikon system.

Opening that box with the brand-new Nikkormat was exciting! I had bought it one afternoon on my way to have dinner with friends. When I arrived at their house, I sat in the driveway for a long time, reading the instruction book and trying out all of the knobs and dials. I think someone finally had to come out and get me to come in to dinner!

For a long time, I was afraid to take the camera out of my living room. It was so expensive! My other cameras were second-hand and already had a few bumps and scratches, but the Nikkormat didn’t have a mark on it. Eventually, I could see that it was ridiculous to just keep this beautiful thing on the coffee table, and I began to take it with me wherever I went.

The Nikkormat was the first in a long line of Nikons. There were several more Nikkormats . . . the FT2 and the EL. Then there were a couple of battered, tough old Nikon Fs, several Nikon FEs, and finally a couple of F3s, which were glorious cameras. The chapter ends with a series of digital Nikons . . . D40, D70, D80.

But I never was completely happy with the 35mm format. The frame was always too long and narrow for me (in the picture above, you can see that I have cropped the image down a bit), and the quality of the images was not up to the 120 film that I liked so much. I did, however, appreciate the ability to use different lenses, so 35mm cameras stayed in my arsenal for a long time.

As it happened, when digital came along, I found myself drawn more and more to compact cameras, and actually sold off my Nikons in favor of smaller Canons, Panasonics, and Ricohs that fit easily into my pocket. Still, what a feeling it was to set off along the New Hampshire seacoast on a Saturday morning, with a pocketful of film and that shining Nikkormat slung across my shoulder!


January 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

A big storm kept us all at home today. 20 inches! I had many opportunities to take pictures from the windows of the house. I discovered that the “Copy” setting on my Ricoh CX4 makes very intense high-contrast black and whites, so I had fun with that. “Copy” is meant for taking pictures of black and white documents–I like thinking of desperate spies documenting nuclear reactor plans with it. Much more relaxing, though, to take pictures of tree trunks and grass in the snow!

Rock and water

January 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

In the arboretum at Connecticut College.

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