I. My Own Red Buds ~ II. An Unimagined Guide
III. Beyond Porter & Thoreau ~ IV . Beyond Landscapes

As I have said in my automiography, I don’t take directions well. Realizing this while working half time and Bose and photographing nearly full time, it became clear it was time to leave. Dr. Bose had said to me ”I think it is time you picked a career” (in not so many words).

Photogrphically, this had its effect also. While reading the preface to a photography class by a famous photographer I realized he would teach me to photograph like he photographed. For my 75th birthday a wonderful pianist, George Lopez, the artist-in-residence at Bowdin College in Maine was playing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. I knew it well for I had played a somewhat less technical version for my senior recital.

This great artist described a recent rotospection with his pianist professor about interprerations. Mr. Gomez, responding to the demands of his professor asserted that he would go his own way. I realized a bit of what he meant when Gerwin’s score was augmented with and extra glissando lending a formidable accent to a transition of moods.

There is a bit of temerity, an oddly some insecurity, in insisting upon finding your own hidden worlds, for I had had no luck in finding mine among the often photographed iconic areas of the western United States. This led to my wearing out two and one half automobiles and, as it often the case, many casts bring home more fish than one, I did most surely find my own red buds as you will see in clicking on the title of this section.

The photographs certainly were very different from Eliot porters, but the impact was much the same. As you will see in My Own Red Buds Gallery, they kept turning up in new and varied guises.

An Unimagined Guide was a different story altogether and appreciated fully by me only many years later.

Henry David Thoreau was as famous as you can get and long passed away, although his writings lingered and will continue forever.

Then another bit of luck when I married Susan, for she worked in the parks department of the state of Massachusetts and one of her colleagues, knowing of my photography suggested ”why doesn’t John go to Walden Pond.” Wisdom comes to me occasionally and I had learned to follow suggestions for whoever was suggesting I knew would not know (as no one could know) what I would find. In retrospect, my first fall day at Walden, October 19, 1991, was perhaps the best day of my photographic life. The exact place is called Wyman’s Meadow, a vernal pool a few feet from Thoreau’s cove. I tell the story of that afternoon along with the gallery of photographs of water-shields. The surprise for me in looking back was how often Thorow and I crossed paths, particularly in Massachusetts, Maine and, ironically, where the red buds grow.

Finding My Own Red Buds

Eliot Porter’s Redbud Tree in Bottomland on the cover of his book Intimate Landscapes awoke something in me before I started photographing in 1974. Then in 1981 I found my own redbuds on the Massachusetts Turnpike in maple trees budding where I could photograph them up close in the tree canopy. And so began a 10 year affection for what I could see from overlooks on the Pike and an awareness of my love of texture in my images. Along with Walden, this shaped how I photographed.

Finding Thoreau

One of Susan’s Colleagues in the Massachusetts parks department suggested “why doesn’t John go to Walden Pond.” Since my experience was that I never knew what I was going to find and was always looking for new places, I went for a look.

Early Buds on Maple Trees I

I had driven by what I now call the Weston Overlook likely hundreds of times. However to find what I found, the trip had to be in early May and you had to be paying closs attention to the view from the side of the Mass Pike. If Porter’s Redbud was exciting, this took me by storm. There was just one problem. The photograph would have to be made essentially in the breakdown lane of an Interstate Highway at rush hour, although there would be a guard rail between the guard rail and the traaffic. What attracted was the image below and the shooting arrangement is below that.

The first time was in April 1991 and I took a walk around the pond. It was a bit disappointing, mostly I guessed because it was too early in the season, but there weree beautiful roots in my path. (see gaallery Thoreau) and I forgot about Walden until October 19th.

It was a Saturday afternoon and I suddenly remembered Walden.

The view was the only one I ever experienced: being at the level of the tree canopy and close to it and it was only possible because the builders of the Pike chose to fill in that particular gallery.

Over 10 years I came back many times and found many wonder images, in Weston and at another location on a Pike entrance ramp in Millbury (see the gallery Pike Pics).

As spring advanced I saw more and more color in the trees until (in the seecond picture below) it began to look like fall. However, the buds lent a pointalist texture which I loved and it was the realization that texture would be something I looked for and built compositions around.

These images, plus Dreamed Brook on Interstate 495 ed to the name of my collection. That story I tell in Hidden Worlds.

I took the same path around the pond and across from Thoreau’s Cover saw the small pond below with a few glimmers of reflections from the trees but throught I would look around, since it was near the cabin site. After about two hours I came back, placedd my tripod near the edge of the water and saw something similar to the second picture below.

It was probably the most astonished feeling I had ever had in my 28 years of photographing with a view camera. Every place I pointed was something beautiful.

I blew off a meeting at my gallery (this was before cell phones and exposed every sheet of film I had.

Untitled photo
A View From Above
Untitled photo

I returned many times over the following 10 years after making friends with the Turnpike police and getting permission from the Turnpike Authority. However, after 9/11 this freedom to roam was no longer possible.

However, there were many more opportunities a few miles west at exit 11. Some of those images are in the gallery.

I returned every year for 10 years until I had all the material I needed for my book The Illuminated Walden but every year the pond was different. There were always the small leaves known as water-shields, but it never looked like this again. Too much water or too little water and less beautiful treeas to reflect which is part of the story about global warming. I took a few beautiful pictures (see the Wyman’a Meadow Gallery) but I didn’t the loss of colorful trees was due to global warming. I write about that elsewhere.

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