Sunday, March 25, 2012

On Sharks and Baptisms

There was a group of people on the beach. It was a cold Sunday morning in January, just after sunrise. Two men dressed in black pants, white shirts and black ties, accompanied two very large women in long white dresses to the edge of the water. After a moment's hesitation they walked out into the cold water of the Gulf of Mexico. When they were waist deep they paused. After seeming to have small conversations, each man to each woman, the men laid the women backwards in unison and dunked them. It was a baptism. I was astonished that people would go into the water in such cold weather.  When the two men and two women returned, they were met by some women who had emerged from the group to wrap the two soaked women in blankets. They all walked up the beach and rejoined the group. Two more very large women in long white dresses separated from the group, accompanied by the two preachers. As they walked towards the water, dolphins surfaced and rolled just a little beyond where the baptism had taken place. There was a big commotion amongst the people as they pointed and became agitated. The main group joined the four at the edge of the water. I could hear their voices. They were speaking with heavy accents. I think they were Haitian. They thought the dolphins were sharks. The preachers and the two very large women in the long white dresses balked and did not want to go out into the water. For me, the temperature would have been a much greater disincentive to going into the water than sharks that were really dolphins. A British couple, out for an early morning walk on the beach, was assuring the people that the fins they saw indeed belonged to dolphins and not to sharks. The group spread out along the edge of the water, pointing and exclaiming every time a fin appeared. I too assured them that the fins they saw were dolphins, but they remained unconvinced. Finally, after no fins had been seen for a while, the lure of being with Jesus overcame the fear of being dismembered by Jaws. The two preachers and the two very large women in the long white dresses nervously ventured out into the cold water of the Gulf, performed their baptisms, and hurried back to shore.

I wish I had photographed the Haitian preachers and the very large women in the long white dresses. But I hadn't. I had just stood there, with my camera and tripod, and vacuously watched the baptisms and the sharks.

Later, when the sun rose higher into the clouds, there was a nice sunburst. I hurried up the beach to get the sunburst above the pier with a flock of gulls in the foreground. The sunburst faded and the flock fled, leaving me with this serendipitous photograph. It is about 9:00 on a Sunday morning. The beach is deserted and there are no people fishing from the pier.  It is too cold to go to the beach, except for photographers and Haitians, each performing their own sacred rituals.

© 2012 Buck Ward          The Photographist

Monday, March 19, 2012


Architects may come and
Architects may go and
Never change your point of view.
When I run dry
I stop awhile and think of you 
So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright, Simon and Garfunkel

In Lakeland a couple of weeks ago I was able to steal away from my obligations for an hour or two on a couple of days to visit Florida Southern College. A number of the buildings there were designed by the notorious architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.

Though my purpose was to photograph, reverie crept in as I wandered around the campus. Think how it would be to be young again, lost in academia, cushioned from the mundane inanity of the outside world, our dreams laid out in front of us. *Sigh*

Frank;     Frank Lloyd Wright;      Mr. Wright.    I could almost see him, striding about the campus with his cane, cape, and flat brimmed hat.

I've never been able to decide how much to admire Wright's work. His designs are flamboyant, angular, detailed; and his style is definitely recognizable, and I do admire that much, but some of his creations appeal to me less than others. Occasionally, I find his design to be arrogant to the point of annoyance.

Great architecture plants the seeds of more daring or innovative architecture. Wright's buildings aren't the only ones on campus with flair and panache. Other structures there, whose architects remain unknown to me, are also certainly noteworthy.

I came to photograph the great Frank Lloyd Wright.   And so I did, and others as well.   It gave me a chance to try out my new (used) 50mm f1.4 lens. But mostly, the 24mm Tilt/Shift was the right tool for the job.

My wont is to photographically explore a subject ad infinitum, to return again and again, in differing light and changing skies, until I know it intimately.   Eventually, I make the photograph I want, or at least something that suffices. My time at Florida Southern was woefully inadequate.  I made some architectural portraits, nothing great, but I'm sure glad I got them.