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Unexpected Joy

First Encounters of the Pointilist Kind

So You Want To See The Trees

So you want to see the trees my friend,
so you want to see the trees—
birds do it and bees and butterflys too,
but only artists of photography and those
in the breakdown lane will see the whole
magnificance, so cleaverly hidden from view.

This is the whole, from silver trunk to
budding flowers and not just once, for
every hour its colors change until its
flowers leaf and the season is mature.

Each spring its blossoms turn to leaves
in congregation so if we are of suitable
mind, will bring a worship of creation.

Trees do not just exalt in sunlight and rain,
they breath for us, so the sea of carbon
becomes the sire of all that grows,
and for our lungs and spirits it provides—
Oh! trees with the spirit of Van Gogh.

My god...I cannot tell you of the glow
in me to see from all places The Pike!,
and sitting on a steel rail
with Boston’s morning business roaring by
a photograph now forever in a museum.

What fortune to find hidden so nearby,
I had never before thought to look.


Discovering The Tree Canopy

The tree canopy was in my mind the true beginning of my work and I try to express my feelings in the poem above.

My first view of the canopy was from the right hand lane of Interstate 90, the longest east-west Interstate highway. Locally it is known as the Massachusetts Turnpike, or more commonly, the Mass Pike.

When the Pike was built in 1957 several valleys were filled to level the roadway leaving an extraordinary place to view the tree canopy. The image to the right was taken from the forest floor at what I call the Weston Overlook. The camera is on about a foot of level ground with the front leg of the tripod fully extended. It was just enough.

My first view was from my automobile and looked very much like the second image below. My reaction was “butterflys,” a sure sign that I must photograph. But shooting from an interstate highway seemed preposterous.

However, I found a place not far away where I could park my car off the highway with a fairly short walk to the overview, albiet either in the breakdown lane or with less than a foot of flat space to walk on, but at least I would be on the “safe” side of the guard rail.

Weston Overlook from ground level

And so I went to work as did the Turnpike Police. “What are you doing?” Taking photographs. “Of what?” The trees. A puzzled look over the valley above and he drove off without a word.

After a half-dozen chats with the troopers it was off to Boston to the offices of the Turnpike Authority. I signed a form saying I would not hold them liable if something happened to me. I made a copy and put it in my car trunk and only one time was I asked “do you have permission?” Yes. No look at the form nor even one more conversation in the forteen years I photographed trees from Interstate highways.

The idea of photographing the tree canopy had affected me permanently.

I had a second location on the Pike that I frequented, an entrance ramp in Millbury, Mass. that was exceptional because of a vernal pool on the forest floor and the vantage point looked east into the rising sun (below).

There is also a slide show below of other images in this gallery.

Spring Sunrise I

Spring Sunrise I

Interstate Highway 90, Millbury, Massachusetts. May 1983, cat. JW 0037

Both Pike overviews I visited often almost always before sunup. Spring Sunrise (JW 0037) sold out its edition and I consider it one of the finest images I have made. I had to underexpose two stops to be sure of getting the billowing mist while shooting directly into the rising sun. I shot until the sun had burned off the mist and on two sheets of film were images that captured the billowing mist perfectly. However, the transparency was otherwise so underexposed it took me about 10 years (pre-Photoshop) before I made the final version of the image by dye transfer.

In the remainder of this gallery is a sampling of canopies from Massachusetts, New York, Maine, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and Vermont.

And so my wish to see the trees was fulfilled including one unusual surprise. An ice storm at sunset near Walden Pond.

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