We live in an amazing land! I have often said I live in the flattest, brownest, power-line laden region of our country. Might be true. But might also just be that the “grass is greener on the other side.” I do, however, find it very easy to appreciate travels to other, astounding parts of our country. I am sure the world has even broader opportunities. Some day . . . .
But this fall, Vermont. On Friday, I will leave for Vermont for the first week of October. While I usually research and plan my photography trips pretty thoroughly, most of them involve new places and opportunities. Where will my 2010 Travels lead me?
My mother’s sister met and married a farmer from Vermont in the early 1950’s. Her family emmigrated from Germany and England, to Michigan. My uncle’s family were New Englanders – probably originally from England. They met in Puerto Rico (on a farm run by Christian missionaries to teach the local residents modern farming techniques). Aunt Laura was a graduate of Michigan State University; Michigan’s Land Grant Agricultural school. Uncle Holden Doane attended the University of Vermont which was – likewise – Vermont’s Land Grant University and Agriculture School. Holden grew up on the family farm in Bakersfield, Vermont and has seldom been far from there (in 2006 he and I discussed the irony that I have seen much more of his home state of 80+ years than he has). Laura was a city girl. Vermont was several hundred miles from home. She moved to Vermont and became a Vermonter, serving as town clerk, church elder, and farm accountant and co-manager. That is all (perhaps) interesting background. It may have little to do with photography. But I believe that it gives my hopefully unique photographic vision some perspective.
In 1969, I spent my first summer on the dairy farm. I returned every summer after that, throughout High School, spending 6 summers on my Aunt and Uncle’s farm, and another summer on his brother’s farm, a few miles up the road. Following my first year of community college in Michigan, I returned to the brother’s farm and stayed on for a full year before returning to school at Vermont Technical College. During those years, I learned a lot about the Northwest part of the state, including climbing Mt. Mansfield several times, bicycling over Smuggler’s Notch one time (don’t know how we made it), beach visits to Lake Carmi, shopping trips to Burlington, floating on the Lamoille River, and hiking on my uncle’s 400 acres of mountain forest. But I didn’t carry a camera, and took most of those memories and views for granted. I have a couple distinct “woods on fire” memories of sunlit foliage, but none were captured as permanent images.
In 1977, while attending Vermont Technical College, I went through a contemplative time and met my first mentor – inspiration, a college professor. That began my photographic adventure. While I spent many years being clueless about the theory and mechanics of proper exposure, I did learn my most important fundamental from him, which was that you need to be critical of your own work and open to constructive criticism of it as well.
Sometime in 1980, I moved back to Michigan, which has become my permanent home again. I will not likely ever return to Vermont as anything other than a visitor, but it still feels like “coming home,” each time I do. In 2005, I decided to spend a week in October in Vermont. I had not been there in nearly 20 years!! Life has its way of surging forward. In that time, I had also had a relatively long hiatus from photography, rekindling that passion some time in the 1980’s, and for the first time learning the “behind the scenes” of exposure, latitude, etc. My memories were still strong and I yearned to take a trip to Vermont and recapture some of them.
After rather exhaustive research I did indeed return to Vermont in October, 2005 and again in October, 2006. The fall foliage was a bit disappointing both those years. But I covered about 2/3 of the state those two years, from the far Northwestern and Northeastern corners, to the mid-section, to the Southwestern quarter.
This year, I will spend three days in the part of the state I have not seen; the Southeastern portion, including many of Arnold Kaplan’s iconic scenes and quintessential Vermont towns like Newfane, Grafton, and Chester.