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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.

And it is seeing that is the heart of all images,

Countless mortals look but only few see,

and it is an odd selflessness that causes one

to abandon what one may covet,

leaves behind a vision cherished from a lifetime of looking,

to give a moment that is beyond price for one sees. Again.

My god it is so simple to let what is enter the soul and be...a new imgage of light.

I nearly cry when I hear a new melody, as I nearly cry when I see light I had not seen before and

have the sense to pause long enough, especially long enough for it to paint into the place in my mind that is open and so a new companion,

a companion of light enters. And time 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 bit 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. In Claude’s case, the subject is the landscape and that is its own 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 begins with a visceral response to something seen, and that will likely be before photography becomes a pursuit.

For a photographer, attempting to create a body of work enough for a great book is a series of challenges. Some images are gifts in that they are moving and beautiful. The composition is all made and the photographgers job is to not make mistakges and so to not miss taking the gift home, but such gifts are rere.

Most landscapes are complex, the image needs to be coaxed out which usually means various lenses, distances, angles, waiting for the light or simply framing the image properly. This part is what takes talent for the photographer must see the image in his or her imagination, although it may not be there to capture until some work is done. It is seeing the potential and then coaxing it so it looks like what was imagined. There are no hard and fast rules. But it does require an ability that is built over time.

All the variables: light, time of day, whether, and the general state of the subject can vary essentially infinitely. Which leaves three options: settle or move on and return at another time or day.

I suspect that Claude either keeps moving or returns as often as he has to.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.

Oh! Yes. One more thing. A photographer could choose to repeat a weeks long trek, but in this case there was a client or a book title. Same difference. Given that it is a book it will likely be a collecion of some (one or more images) plus enough new images to satisfy the mission of the book, and that is a challenge from one to infinity. Remembering what has been done and then finding a number of new images in excess (two, three, four times) of the number needed.

Doing this (having done a much easier version) now requires something new: a kind of documentation of the area yet with each image a work of art. So one starts off without a clue what one will find no matter how familiar the territory. Then the problem is a very common one and that is too see. Others look, but artist sees. It seems trivial, but it is the heart of the mission, to forget what is in memory, or expectation, or (this is the though one) what one hoped for. Claude being Claude will continuously see; that is, respond in heart and soul to the scene before him for that is his business as a photographer and I can attest to the fact that not seeing one can be fooled by pieces of an image and waste a great deal of film, or memory chip.

Now the rubber meets the road. After seeing, comes a demand to see all there is both good and bad what one finds on the ground glass or view finder.

The first requirement must be satisfied, a visceral reaction, an internal metaphor that begins to sing and the pieces are there to make a visual song. They may be rhythms, color palettes, textures, clouds, etc. but if the artist has done an artistic work then the image is nearly complete.

So take a look. Does your heart sing (as mine does)? because a new melody has been born and the final effort of composition is to the make the best of what is already great because the trail one has chosen is magical.

I cannot help but think this sounds like a lesson in photography and in some sense it is. But I find that is the only way to critique, to understand what comes before puts one in a position not just to smile, but that it is a knowing smile, and I think knowing in two ways: the nature of the road and its obstacles, physical and mental, and the recognition of a piece of art. For me the best I can say it that it is butterflies in the tummy. Silly? Yes to some, but magic to those in the know. One then just must recognize the species to know which chapter and page in the book it will occupy.

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