A Personal Take on the Big Apple

160616-NYC#5-003-2-EditHaving lived all of my adult life in the South, New York City fascinates me.  So many people, such frenetic energy.

And yet, in spite of all that beloved bustle, my only photographic record of a full week spent in the heart of mid-town, cheek by jowl with a pulsing cross-section of humanity writ large, is this set of five building abstracts captured while looking up, over the darting heads, the taxis, the bicycles and the food carts, the stoplights and the orange-vested construction workers. Up past the arching cranes and even the ceaseless urban noise, where I could frame a simple slice of this amazing city.

160614-NYC#3-090-2

160614-NYC#3-066

160612-NYC#1-001-Edit

160612-NYC#1-021

Advertisements

June 2016 – From the Shore

I have been there only once and for just a week. It had always been on a someday list for me – not a bucket list task necessarily, but a frayed string tied around a finger, reminding me that a visit there was important, and likely to resonate.

2011_Gill_Maine_2

Like many, I have always been drawn to the coast, although I don’t care much for letting go of the shore to venture out on a boat. That experience is disconcerting, like riding the liquid ground of an earthquake. Nothing to grab onto; no emergency brake. The coast, however, is altogether something else. Raw and changing, while at the same time steadfast, it sings a siren’s refrain.

2011_Gill_Maine_1

Maine was like that for me. Heavy skies pressing down, bleeding darkly; boats bobbing, throbbing with color, slave to the tides. Rocks framing everything, creating a distinct and forbidding boundary between the heaving tides and the shore. Jutting, diving, emerging wet and colorful.

I have not removed the string.

2011_Gill_Maine_4

2011_Gill_Maine_6

110925_MDI_1004

*All images shot in Tremont, Mt. Desert Island, Maine.

February 2016 – After The Gale

I have a history of making dead-of-winter treks to spots best known for their popularity with summer crowds.  Years ago, Peter and I visited Martha’s Vineyard in January, and were treated to a full-on blizzard; I was hooked.  And so my recent visit to the Outer Banks with a small group of photographer friends was not out of character. Hibernating coastal resorts just fascinate me.

The hordes of tourists are somewhere else, enjoying their comfort,  their securely buttoned-up winter.  Restaurants that in summer boast long lines of sunburned tourists waiting for tables now nap forgotten in empty parking lots with billboards announcing “See You in April”.

160205-Hatteras-243 color
Cape Hatteras National Seashore

160205-Hatteras-268-Pano

There is a rawness to the Atlantic coast when no one is there.  The sea remains, of course, but it is fierce – no longer on its best behavior.  Packaged tightly into winter gales the wind and rain have their way, moving sand around like so much dust, scouring, shifting, blowing the tops off dunes and rows of perfectly formed waves, exploding them into tiny pin drops of salt water, suspended in whipped cream arches above the surf.  There is yet a beauty even in the heart of the violence that is the gale.  It leaves its mark at the land’s edge, a shrill whistling whiteboard compulsively drawn and redrawn.

And once it is spent, spun out to sea, an exhausted peace remains behind.  It is wrapped in the brilliant clarity of a bone-chilling cold, a serenity unlike any other, the wind but an unconscious echo.

160205-Hatteras-219
Oregon Inlet Life Saving Station – Restored

 

160206-Corolla-084

160206-Corolla-049
Wild Ponies – Corolla

These images were made in such a space – the two days following a February Outer Banks nor’easter.  The clouds evaporated, the wind died and the sun – the blinding winter sun – fought bravely, and unsuccessfully, to warm the frigid air left in the wake of the gale.

160206-Hatteras-493
Outer Banks Fishing Pier
160206-Hatteras-511
Cape Hatteras National Park
160206-Corolla-161-1
Currituck Heritage Park
160205-Bodie-036-1
Tundra Swans
160205-Bodie-075-1
Bodie Island Lighthouse

JANUARY 2016 – ILLOGICAL ATTACHMENTS

121124-Plantation-037

We all have them, I suppose. My grown niece is attached to a one-eared stuffed rabbit by the name of Bunny, hers since she was a toddler. My husband is attached to a potted ficus tree given to us as a wedding gift 36 years ago. He calls it the marriage tree and is petrified that it will die.  I am attached to a place – a scruffy 230-acre spread in Crystal River, Florida, officially named The Plantation Inn and Golf Resort; it has been known locally for over fifty years as “the plantation”.  This land plays host to all manner of semitropical vegetation and wild things while functioning, almost as an afterthought, as an 18-hole golf course.  And its innate beauty is easily overlooked due to the aforementioned scruffiness.

The resort has been through several owners, none of whom have taken any particular interest in the golf course.  They all prefer to invest in the adjacent inn and its unique tourist business that peddles up-close-and-personal encounters with manatees. To me, though, the owners’ lack of attention to the course is a fortuitous thing because the land has been allowed to drift quietly toward its natural state.

120413_Plantation_0008_palms

I first encountered the plantation many decades ago. The details of that visit aren’t all that important now except that it was a sort of foreshadowing event. I had never been to this part of the state before then, and I’m sure I assumed that would be my last visit here.  As fate would have it, I now live only a short distance away and it has become my go-to place, my refuge. I visit often, usually at dawn when I have the place mostly and amazingly to myself.  Trees are often painted with a soft morning glow and the wildlife seems oblivious to my presence at that early hour.  Sometimes there is a moody fog, sometimes the cypress trees are turning orange, sometimes storks march en masse across fairways, and sometimes the water lilies bloom. Some years, the holly trees produce their stunningly-red fruit just in time for the holidays.  I always bring my camera gear with me and I’ve generated quite a collection of plantation portraits over the years. Perhaps they will one day make it into a book.

Birds are everywhere. Ospreys nest in sporadic tall pines and coots dart in circles in the many ponds and small lakes. There are anhingas with their wings stretched out to dry, snowy egrets, many types of heron, wood storks at times, and my personal favorite, the belted kingfisher. Bald eagles are not uncommon.  In the flightless category, there are alligators, of course, and turtles of all sizes sunning on fallen palms.

Over time, greens-keepers have tried to enhance the place by planting trees. Hence, in addition to the native palms, pines and oaks, there are sycamores, holly trees and magnolias, as well as several varieties of cedar and cypress, with their shredding bark and knobby knees. There are cabbage palms growing in, around and through gnarly coastal oak trees.

131206-Plantation-022

When I visit the plantation, stepping through dewy grass and along winding cart paths, I try to be unobtrusive.  But workers busily mowing fairways and placing pins make eye contact with me and nod, as if my presence there is an important and natural part of things.

I am fortunate to have this unique refuge and am justifiably attached to it.  I just don’t want it to get too much attention.

141205-plantation-025

WEEK FIFTY-TWO: BLOOD MOON REFLECTIONS

150929-Outerbanks-052

I am most definitely late with this post. The muse departed promptly on my birthday, the official end of my 52-week project, catching me flat–footed before I had a chance to post #52. However, the two images that have been combined here were both shot in that final month, so I should be forgiven my tardiness. As for the muse, well, I just needed to leave the door ajar and the light on.

I photographed the “blood moon” from the dimly-lit parking lot of our hotel on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I knew that photos of this eclipse would be posted all over the internet and that it would be difficult to do anything unique with it, but I shot it anyway. It was just something I had to do, like kissing the Blarney Stone. The evening was clear, warm for late September, with a light sea breeze.  I was not thinking about the pull of the full moon – especially a “super-moon” – on ocean tides, but others were already preparing for what was coming to these southern shores.

There were clues over the next couple days as we finished up on the Eastern Shore and made our way south toward the Outer Banks of NC, the weather still balmy. There were little things, like inconveniently-flooded parking lots along the waterfront, earth-movers shoving sand away from road shoulders and piling it high on the beach side of the road. And there were reports of closed roads on Hatteras and Ocracoke. For the most part, though, all seemed as it should on the tail end of tourist season.

It wasn’t until a couple nights later that my head cleared and I realized what was about to happen, given the still-full super-moon and the remains of Hurricane Joaquin chugging slowly north from the Bahamas. As soon as darkness fell, we headed to Jennette’s Pier in Nag’s Head – partly out of curiosity, partly out of the need to experience something different on this last night of our holiday, but mostly due to my thirst for more photos. Admittedly, a fishing pier perched in the fitful wet wind of a coming storm, at night, is not the best place to go looking for photos. But I was bent on capturing this story, this feeling of being overwhelmed by the elements, of being insignificant in the face of nature unleashed. We made our way to the mid-point of the pier, stepping over the bait pails of dedicated fishermen. I made a valiant effort with the tripod, futilely fighting wind gusts, angry salt spray and intermittent light rain; I obsessively wiped spray from the camera and the face of my lens.

Finally, I gave in, put the camera back in my two hands and started moving with the crashing waves, trying to capture their dark energy in a more abstract way. They came at me and the pier like the troops invading Normandy, singularly focused on their military objective, stepping undeterred over fallen comrades who had preceded them. I felt their rhythm and began to anticipate their moves, focusing on the next wave as it thundered toward me, following its progress as it moved past my position on the pier and hurried away from me toward the shore. Soon the elements were forgotten and creative bliss rediscovered, muse momentarily parked on my shoulder.

WEEK FIFTY-ONE: BEING PREPARED

150909-BigCanoe-029

I was walking up a steep road along the side of a lush green mountain. There was light fog and the road glistened from a sporadic drizzle.  The mountain dropped steeply to my left.  Peter was walking with me, but he had moved far ahead.  This was unusual because I have longer legs (as he often reminds me) and I generally have to adjust my stride to his.  But I had been distracted along the way by small bits of nature and had fallen behind.

A man came whizzing by on a riding lawnmower.  It was one of those you stand on, like a captain at the bow of a ship.  Too fast, I thought.  And too loud.  What was he doing up here anyway.  I turned and watched the man and mower fly down the wet road, then deftly turn the mower back around and begin to mow.  That should have been my first clue, I guess.  What was he mowing up here on this mountain?

I started to turn back around, suddenly needing to catch up to Peter.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a raccoon come over the edge of the road, from below, and I slowly backed away.  I’ve been afraid of raccoons since reading To Kill a Mockingbird when I was twelve.  Raccoons in the daytime are not normal.  There’s generally something wrong – specifically the possibility of rabies.

But that thought took only a split second as I realized the more significant danger to the immediate left of the raccoon.  A bear.  Not just any bear, though.  This bear was at last twelve feet tall, standing erect and still, and making eye contact with me.  I stopped backing away, remembering everything I’ve been told.  Make yourself big, make lots of noise, and don’t run.

So…there was a man on a mower below me and my husband walking away from me unawares, above, and neither of them could hear my yelling over the din of the mower.  Nor could the bear.  And when it came to making myself big, well, seriously?  A twelve-foot tall bear?

This was a dream, of course. But it stayed with me all morning.  Somewhere deep in my brain, a voice was telling me that it is pointless to prepare, because there is always something you could not have anticipated.

WEEK FIFTY: AN AGING PEACH

150829-velvet56-037

Its scent is magical, and elegant, and its flavor unique in all the world.  And I can think of no color in nature that rivals that of the peach, which has been at its picking peak over the past month here in The Peach State.

I selected just one peach from its display in our local grocery, and placed it carefully in my shopping cart.  It was firm, unblemished, glowing.  I brought it home and made a portrait of this specimen, to preserve its vitality.  Then it took up residence on my kitchen countertop where I admired it, at first, and then lost track of the time it had been there, as if it had some sort of permanence in my life.

And suddenly – seemingly overnight – it was changed, still lovely to look at, but having lost both its peachy glow and that fleeting vitality.  There would be no going back now.  The process would accelerate.   Soon all I would have is the memory, and the image.