Drove to Marysville with my back a solid sheet of flame from hip to hip, wore out fast, grabbed some chicken and hightailed it home. But first I stopped at the laundromat to photograph the faded paint job and then wandered across the street to capture the doorway of an old clapboard house. When we pulled into the drive a skein of snow geese sailed overhead also heading south so I nailed them, too. And thusly and thereby were my Vernal Equinox Project images done for the day.
Sans actual post-processing, of course. I’m experimenting with new software that’s akin to waving a magic wand though in truth I never leave it at that and always delve deeper into the image to bend it to my will. The doorway was a case in point but opened a new concept of style versus vision, something I’ve been wrestling with for several weeks. Once I had an effect I liked Lori opted for another so I went with it instead. She always had better taste than me except when she didn’t.
I’m cautiously optimistic about my back though not out of the proverbial woods just yet. Right now I’m in the living room listening to the new Eluvium album, heating pad on, cup of coffee and my girl beside me, so all is right with the world. My new homework arrived yesterday—The Creative Digital Darkroom, by Katrin Eismann and Sean Duggan—so I’ve plenty to keep me occupied for the next, oh, six months.
My biggest problem is simply staying focused. I also downloaded a new e-book on photography but haven’t even glanced at it. It’s not that I don’t want to, only that time is passing and so breathtakingly fast. Where I’ll go for tomorrow’s images is also on my mind and as usual I’ve no idea. Temperatures are expected to reach the mid-forties so backroads should be getting greasy, leaving me the option of hardtop or gravel backroads. I now have the gate combination to Barrett School and would love to roam the grounds there, and might if I get my back unkinked which is unlikely.
Days have been sunny of late and the sun has a new warmth to it. The sky a deeper blue. This morning when I came home from work I admired the gibbous moon, a half degree above the horizon and ghostly through the interwoven branches of the thicket. In three weeks the equinox arrives and my project will be done, but more importantly spring will be official. A friend e-mailed from Dallas saying their winter was one of the worst in Texas history, lamenting that he hadn’t been able to plant his garden. He said if gardeners don’t have their plants in the ground soon it dries to the hardness of concrete and only a pickaxe or grubbing hoe can break through. The idea of gardening in February seems astonishing but then he said they average a month’s worth of 70-plus degree days so their concept of winter has little in common with the northern states. Because Kansas is midpoint between the cardinal points geographically speaking we should get the best of all worlds when it comes to climate. That it doesn’t is just one more proof that life isn’t fair.
As today progressed it went from good to bad and in between before ratcheting back toward the positive side of the ledger. The bad part came mainly from my back which spasmed and throbbed until the nerve itself went electric. At the moment of take off as I called it I was standing at the stove cooking salmon filets basted in melted butter, green chile chipotle teriyaki sauce and fresh Arizona oranges, and almost collapsed in a heap. Fortunately the counter held me up as I hung on for dear life. Our bodies are basically electrical apparatuses which sometimes go haywire. This had me jitterbugging for a few agonizing minutes until I told myself to ignore it and continue cooking, fish being one of those things that transform from cooked to cremated within seconds.
Afterward I was able to devote some time to developing today’s crop of images, all taken at the fairgrounds with the exception of one of the old gas station at the corner of 5th and Main, now a gift shop trimmed in a sickly shade of Pepto-Bismol pink. I could do little for the latter for it resisted just about everything I threw at it. After settling on a heavily-manipulated, colorized monochromatic infrared effect, I went to the others which were much easier to work with. I’d shot using the 14-24 mm and as always developed a deeper relationship to that extravagant chunk of glass, and managed a few shots of Floral Hall taken from an angle below the retaining wall with Juganine Creek flowing in the foreground.
This last was something of a surprise because I didn’t see it coming. I remembered reading about two professional photographers who leave their cameras behind when first approaching a location in order to visually absorb it. “The better to see you by” from Little Red Riding Hood comes to mind. My problem besides being hampered by a crooked back that set me off at odd angles like a crab was my impulsive nature. The stream interested me because like Norman Maclean I am haunted by waters, plus the freeflowing current made a lovely contrast against the starker bulwark of the retaining wall. After several water images fell through I moved upstream a ways searching for likely candidates. It was only when I turned back toward the distant car that the view revealed itself, the backside of the historic octagonal structure of Floral Hall looming above the stone wall and the late afternoon sun golden upon its timbers. After studying it from several angles I made a series of shots, one of which became iconic once processed in the digital darkroom. It made me think about seeing things from the reverse. My editor is developing an idea for a photographic compilation of alleys in downtown Washington, a brilliant idea because a wayward glance down any of them is enough to lose oneself in the unordinary. We’re accustomed to confronting things head-on but it’s worth remembering that if you’re not the lead dog then the view never changes. Surely the essence of photography is the portrayal of the common though the uncommon, which might be as close as we can get to Frost’s road less traveled.