In the wee hours the city lights make the only light we see. It's quiet and still, very still, and shadows lie in disarray. The traffic signals at the ends of the street dutifully turn to red, stopping cars that aren't there. In front of The Dean, as if most of a century hadn't gone by, a gleaming white Model A poses in the lights.
Monday, May 21, 2012
Saturday, May 19, 2012
In one of the galleries on First Street there was a small collection of watercolors of river district scenes. One in particular caught my attention. In the foreground was a row of small racing yachts on their trailers, their bows in a line against a background of familiar buildings. I had seen them there, those yachts, but never had tried to make the photograph. In that painting, I saw an opportunity missed.
A week later I was planning my weekend forays. I hadn't been down to the river district for quite a while. I like to photograph the downtown in the early morning, but more and more lately I had been thwarted by some event – barricades in the streets, vendors setting up their tents, trucks, generators – unpicturesque things. So I checked the River District's website to see what's going on. Bike night! Hey, that's great. They don't let anybody park in the heart of downtown, and so the next morning, after the party's over, the streets are empty and there aren’t any cars parked on the streets. Good for me! Then I decided I ought to go down there tonight and see what I can get. And so I did. There were hundreds of motorcycles parked on the street, a couple of bands, lots of people having a great time, and that big, deep, Harley sound. I had visualized rows of bikes reflecting street lights in shiny curves and chrome and bikers and their biker chicks, partying, blurred by seconds-long exposures and the plastic cups of beer in their hands. I had a fun time making pictures, but didn't manage to get anything I liked. All deletable.
As I walked back to the car, I saw them. Those yachts. Those yachts in the painting. It took a telephoto zoom to work the composition, to weave it in amongst the people sitting around in the park watching their kids play on the swings. Occasionally children ran through my frame while the shutter was open, but at the long exposures I was using, they became as diaphanous as ghosts. This is the picture I ended up with. Not my usual fare – grittier, with more urban chaos. Not nearly as nice as the painting I had admired; hardly even similar to it. But, as one of the aging rockers up on the stage tonight sang, “I know it's only rock and roll, but I like it, I like it, Yes I do.”
Days later, I went back to the gallery where I had seen the painting to learn the name of the artist. The painting I had seen was gone. I turned around and saw it on another wall. It was the same yachts in the same location but it didn't look as I remembered it. Was it the same painting or a different painting of the same scene? I don't know. But I do know the artist's name is David Belling.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
I rose early, as usual. I had checked the weather, the tides, sunrise, the moon phase. I had tentatively planned to go out to Lover's Key, to try that fallen tree again. The forecast had called for partly cloudy and there would be a highish tide. If the sun would light up cumulus in the west there could be a possibility. But in the morning I walked out to the middle of my street, as I usually do, and looked up at the sky. I could see stars. There was a slight haze but the western sky was mostly clear. Change of plan. I almost felt a twinge of guilt at feeling relieved that I wouldn't be making that long and futile walk out to the dead trees on the beach at Lover's Key. The horse knew the way to carry the sleigh to my favorite beach, my fall back position, the eastern tip of Sanibel Island, at the lighthouse.
The little bight of beach at the old fallen Australian pine near the lighthouse was isolated by the high tide lapping at the sea grapes and buttonwoods on either side. The tourists would leave us alone. It would disrupt the easy stroll of their early morning shelling too much to navigate the surf. The dead tree could commune with my camera and me in solitude. The old tree has fallen, but I think it still relishes having its toes in the sand, at the edge of the tide. We had a quiet conversation, easy and nuanced, each trying to get the other to shift his point of view. Old friends. We've done this before. More than once. I played with long exposures in the early morning dark. The hazy blue glimmer and the satin surf could make a sweet image, if only I could find it. But I didn't. The old tree chuckled at me derisively. As the sky lightened, I put on a graduated neutral density filter. As it lightened more, I changed the GND from a two-stop to a three-stop. Inexorably the light increased. I reduced the ISO and, as the sun showed itself, added a four-stop neutral density filter to keep the exposure as long as possible. Pick up the pace. The sun, impatient to start its day, reduced our conversation to nods and grunts. Finally, we said our so longs. We'd had a good visit.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Or, have you ever googled yourself?
I have a new app on my iPhone: Dragon Go. You speak and it finds whatever you're looking for. To try it out, I said my name and tapped the little camera icon and it found stuff. It found photographs of mine, mostly on my website. I expected that. It also found photos and articles of those other people who share my name, the Segway dealer Buck Ward being sued in Richmond, the Coastguard CPO Buck Ward receiving an award in Miami, the big game outfitter Buck Ward in Colorado, et al. But I was surprised to see this photograph. It's a snapshot I made of David at the Southwest Florida Fair in 2007. It's always been a favorite little gem. We call it Goatboy.
When I tapped the little thumbnail image on the iPhone, it took me to a site called File Magazine - A Collection of Unexpected Photography. File is an eclectic collection of oddball photographs. On the home page it says, “File Magazine: 2004 – 2010 It's Been Fun. After six great years, the editors of FILE have decided to call it a day. Thanks to all of the talented and generous contributors who made this an amazing experience, both to curate and to visit. The Collection and The Projects will remain for posterity.” I don't remember posting Goatboy there,or even having seen File Magazine before, but I guess I must have, maybe. Dragon Go took me to a thumbnail link of the photo in the Contributors section of File Magazine as an avatar next to the listing: "Buck Ward is a photographer from the south gulf coast of Florida. You can see more of his work on his website."
A little further googling found a copy of Goatboy on a Lebanon based blog called I Liked these Pics. At least, after taking my image without my consent, Nassim acknowledged my copyright. Oh well. It just goes to show that anything you put out there will stay out there "for posterity," as the editors of File said, and may be appropriated by others.
Email subscriber Geri suggested that I "list some contact information on them so if they get passed around, people know who to credit." I hadn't realized that there was no attribution on the email version. I've added the byline and links above.
Many thanks, Geri!