Do It Now! — Again

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Some time ago I wrote a blog post admonishing my readers not to postpone getting that picture until “later,” because you never know whether the subject you want to photograph will still be there later, and as an example I posted a photo I had taken of a vintage, no longer operative country store in Arkville, Delaware County, NY. That was the “before” image. In the “after” image, the building had been sanitized into a red-vinyl cookie-cutter adjunct to a petrol station by a company that obviously had plans to operate the business in a, well, somewhat more character-challenged incarnation. Clearly my “Do it now!” admonition doesn’t apply in every single instance — for example, Mt. Washington isn’t likely to change much or disappear if you put off shooting it for a few weeks or so. But it does have to be taken seriously when you’re shooting ruins or abandoned buildings, for example.

I just had another example of this happen last week. One year ago I visited Gloucester, Massachusetts for the first time and, in a random walk through the town, came upon the old fish processing factory you see in the above photo. This is the best of three photos I took, all fairly wide-angle shots. The sky was clouding over, the wind was picking up (the latter is nothing unusual for Gloucester), so I packed it in, figuring I could try some close-ups on another visit. (The close-ups would have required a change of lens, and with the wind there was quite a lot of dirt and sand blowing around — enough to make you consider whether it was worth risking a lens change.)

Fast forward one year, and I was in Gloucester once again, two weeks ago. Since this building wasn’t too far from the famous Fishermen’s Memorial, and I was heading that way, I figured it would be a good time to revisit the building and get some different shots.

And when I got there, here, to my dismay, is what I saw:

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The Good Harbor Fillet Co. deconstructed!

Well, I’m glad I got some images of it when I did. Do I regret not having changed the lens for close-ups on my previous visit? Given the weather conditions that day, no. But now that I have the Olympus SH-1, with its 600-mm zoom, that I carry round as a backup. I would have regretted not pulling that out and using it as an alternative.

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Gritty Gloucester — You Must See It!

OK, it’s stretching things a bit to say that Rockport, Massachusetts, about which I’ve blogged earlier, and Gloucester, its neighbor to the west, are opposites, but these two jewels of Cape Anne are quite different from each other. Rockport is much smaller – you can walk it very easily – and so its charm and character are more evident. Gloucester is larger, more bustling, and definitely – in spots – grittier. Its famous harbor is a working harbor, and the relatively recently completed Harbor Walk (explanatory map brochures are available) takes you on the most delightful tour of everything from the piers to the beaches as well as to the erstwhile home of 19th-century Luminist painter Fitz Henry Lane. Lane’s home, perched on a promontory overlooking the harbor, features a lifelike sculpture of him with a sketchbook in his hands, sketching the nearby Ten Pound Lighthouse.

Virgilio's Italian Bakery offers delicious Finnish nisu bread!

Virgilio’s Italian Bakery offers delicious Finnish nisu bread!

Gloucester (pronounced “Glosta” if you’re in the know) boasts an eventful 400-year history across whose stage have marched everyone from intrepid fishermen to artists of all kinds (the Cape Ann Museum on Pleasant Street houses the largest collection of Lane’s works in the world, but Winslow Homer and William Morris Hunt have also painted here). If you’ve ever eaten Gorton’s Seafood products, guess what? It’s here in Gloucester.  Walk up the hill from the harbor to Main Street and you’ll find signs of an Italian district, including a superb Italian bakery/deli that, somewhat puzzlingly and ironically, sells the most delicious nisu bread, a cardamom-flavored Finnish delicacy that in taste and consistency almost approaches a pastry rather than bread. This extraordinary building, which appears to be standing right in the middle of the harbor, is the historic Tarr and Wonson Paint DSC-0024 blManufactory. Dating from 1874, this factory was known for developing a special kind of paint to prevent the formation of barnacles on the bottoms of boats. As of summer 2013 the building serves as headquarters of the Ocean Alliance, a nonprofit organization that researches ocean pollution. “You can almost smell the water!” Here is a sample of Ed DSC -0048 blGloucester’s fishing fleet. At the end of June Gloucester celebrates the feast of St. Peter — who was, after all, a fisherman — with various festivities, including a contest for climbing a greased pole. The platform for this is in the harbor off Pavilion Beach. Someone told me that in order to compete, you have to be Italian and a fisherman. DSC-0037 blAnother sign of Gloucester’s connection with fishing.  I walked out onto a pier from which to photograph Ten Pound Lighthouse, one of three lighthouses in Gloucester Harbor. (Gloucester’s other and perhaps most famous lighthouse is Annisquam Light, located on Gloucester’s north shore on Ipswich Bay.) I didn’t get a particularly good shot of the lighthouse, but I did notice this nice fisherman’s shack. Here is another of Gloucester Harbor’s most prominent and most intriguing buildings, Cape Pond Ice. They bill themselves, not surprisingly, as “The Coolest GuysEd DSC -0051 bl Around.” They really do sell ice and ice-related products, and they have a “‘cool’ gift shop” and offer historic tours. Well, I hardly need say more to convince you that Gloucester is well worth a visit–oh, but just one more thing. When you’re tired from all that walking and looking and want a place to eat, you can’t do better than the Topside Grill & Pub. Great food, wonderful friendly service. It’s on Rogers Street. Some of these photos are for sale. Just click on the photo to reach the page on my website. UPCOMING EVENTS: For those of you in or traveling to the Catskills region: Saturday July 26 at 2 pm: I’m giving a talk about my book Historic Hudson Valley: A Photographic Tour at the Golden Notebook bookshop in historic Woodstock. Meanwhile, the Golden Notebook is housing an exhibit of my photography which is up now through at least the end of the month. All prints are for sale. Sunday August 3 from 2 to 4 pm: Opening reception for my photo exhibit  at the Mountain Top Historical Society Headquarters in Haines Falls. The show will run until after Labor Day. I look forward to seeing you!

Recovering My Nautical Roots

In our home town we say, “I have Long Beach sand in my shoes”—in other words, you can move many miles away from your nautical beginnings (as I did), but figuratively speaking that sand will remain in your shoes, and the salt water in your blood.

Those of you who know my work know that I photograph frequently in Rhode Island, where the lure of historic buildings and quaint towns joins the Ocean State’s beautiful, windy coast to ensure that photographic subjects are never lacking. But for a serious recovery of my nautical roots I recently chose Cape Ann, on the North Shore of Massachusetts, because a friend once gave me a collection of card-sized prints of paintings by Edward Hopper for my birthday, and I treasure these as inspirations for what can result when Art and The Nautical meet.

Rockport was my base, where I stayed at the wonderful Eagle House Motel – within easy walking distance to just about everything in this delightfully charming village.

Over the next few blog posts I’ll be presenting some of my photos of Rockport and Gloucester and telling you something about these history-drenched places. I’ll be including Portsmouth, New Hampshire because the proximity of the Granite State’s only coastal city made it irresistible. But let’s start, appropriately, with Rockport and with Motif No. 1.

In the late 17th century two things drew people to Rockport—fishing and timber. In the 18th century came the quarries—more about that in a future post. Like much of New England—again one thinks of Rhode Island’s Aquidneck Island, with its beaches in Newport and what is now Middletown—Cape Ann, including Rockport, attracted many artists beginning in the 19th century. One of the favorite subjects of the artists who flocked to Rockport was a fishing shack located on Bradley’s Wharf in the Bearskin Neck section of the village. The fishing shack was built in the 1840s, and its red color, position on the wharf, and the way the light strikes it at certain times of day made it a “must” for the painters, and later, as well, for photographers. It was likely the artist Lester Hornby who first called it “Motif No. 1,” referring to its probable identity as “the most painted building in America.

So beloved is Motif No. 1 that when it was destroyed by the Blizzard of 1978, it was promptly—very promptly rebuilt. Rockport even celebrates an annual “Motif No. 1 Day,” which this year happened, coincidentally, to be yesterday, May 17.

I arrived in Rockport knowing only that I wanted to photograph nautical subjects. Boats, beaches, reflections in water, maybe a lighthouse or two. I knew nothing of Motif No. 1. But when I ventured onto Bradley’s Wharf  and saw this red nautically themed building during my initial exploration of Rockport, I knew I had to photograph it. Here are a few of my “finished” products.

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The light was perfect and the reflections and sky worked. If you want to see a version partially processed in B&W, check this out.

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My friends in the New England Photography Guild were discussing whether it’s possible to find a new way to photograph something that’s been done 12 million times. I don’t know, but here is my attempt:

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Thank you for looking! More on other parts of beautiful Rockport later.