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The Hidden World of the Nearby


As Light Goes High

I once approached a Mountain called Katadin

a world of boulders I sensed with my knees

and turned 180 for this was not my sort of path,

a steep trail perhaps or a slippery hill I would not mind

but it would need to be a mountain–

of another kind.

Then a new name became part of my life a man

who writes his name Fiddler and so it was a kind of

music to my ears for I (yes it makes me chuckle)

I lived with a fiddler kind my father came to mind for I played,

and he fiddled, but yes, it was another kind but

quickly I saw music of another mind, so light so high

my Lord the light was shining from the sky for

this man I discovered was named Claude

and he faced mountains too. A trail it was for

him, my lord it pointed straight too, but straight–

up....for the sky and by his side was another...four by five.

And so I his acquaintance made, and wondered what character

would chance scale a place (well the only word is quail).

So I shuddered and marveled and wondered what he might do

in the sky, as time goes by.

And so it did, in days and then decades, I begaan to see

what one can only see if one works in the sky but labor

was a beginning for as we say when capturing light

one must have an eye extra, not ordinary to live and

please beyond measure the light the eye turned , well into

poetry that only one blessed with a genius of eye

to make a capture that lingers and lingers for

as long as paper of the best survives.

All this is a preface for he to my life added beyond measure

Life, yes definitely capitalized and measured not,

for there nothing so beyond words as ...so many words

come to mind but there is one lesson flying, climbing above

all that seeing when looking, that learning always how,

light on paper is what gives, from the right climber

JOY of a kind that those bound to earth cannot

fatham, but now know how a Claude Fiddler sees

the light that goes by.

Photography is a unique art form, at least in the way it is commonly practiced.

Painters, actors, sculptors, dancers, performance artists can do whatever they please including simply tacking a canvas to a wall or sitting in a chair for a year, or picking up buckets of paint and throwing them against a wall.

A realist or pointillist painter has it a but harder. There is a constraint in the technique that may be very difficult, but the final work can be anything, including smearing the pointillist spots.

Photography is different and by photography I mean a subject captured on film or on a digital chip. However, in Claude’s case, the subject is the landscape and that is a very different set of rules and problems.

Something must be in front of the camera and that something must be found. The finding can be as easy as the backyard, the park across the street or as difficult as the South Pole. But a landscape photographer usually beings with a visceral response to something seen, likely well before photography becomes a pursuit. And that something may (and usually will be) a big pack of problems unless one chooses to imitate, although even imitating by choosing Half-Dome or Brice Canyon (I have tried it) is not a pushover unless one is willing to accept what is there when one happens to be there.

All the variables: light, time of day, weather, and the general state of the subject can vary essentially infinitely. Which leaves three options: come often, or settle, or find something out of the way.

Claude has chosen the latter and it requires a kind of metaphor for a ladder which Claude has made more complicated by not settling for 8" x 10" prints. In the earlier part of his career this meant hauling a 4" x 5" view camera up the side of a mountain.

Now I have carried this kind of camera and I remember vividly my one and only visit to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. What confronted me was a gradually rising slope of large boulders. I am not pleased to be high up in the first place, but the boulders might just as well have been the grand canyon. I was neither an athlete nor a climber and that eliminated a large part of the world.

Claude is both. I trekked in the woods with a compact studio on my back (or just drove around) but taking even minimum gear up a steep rise or long hikes into Alaska and then composing, focusing (which is a three point business with a view camera), well, I don’t know how he did it, but of course that is not the end of it. Every challence facing the visitor to the iconic subject must be delt with here: light, wind, mist, rain, etc. with the complication that moving is a whole new challenge.

Then, of course, you must decide when to stop looking and to start composing which despite the climb or hike is still the most difficult part. That happens because of a very human trait of not seeing what we are looking at. If you practice by shooting and viewing the results often enough you may get better at it, but not necessarily. I stopped my photography twenty or so years ago and am still finding images I overlooked, because I can feel the image better now. If you are lucky, and Claude must be, the seeing is emotional as well as analytical, and something vibrates inside while the mind analyzes.

So what is the bottom line, all of the above plus dedication, the simple extra mile, except in Claude’s case, that may be straight up.

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