driftwood photograph When taking pictures, I prefer to work slowly. I use a large, 4 by 5 view camera, which must be set on a tripod, primarily because it encourages me to work slowly. I enjoy taking the time to think about and understand the things I am seeing. I like to think that this understanding comes through in my photographs.

I first was made aware of importance of knowing your subject at an Ansel Adams Photography Workshop, which I attended in 1975. One of the sessions was with a portraitist named Judy Dater. She paired us up and gave each pair a Polaroid camera, the only kind of instant camera in 1975. Each pair went off and took a few pictures of each other. Then she had us spend five minutes or so touching our partners, after which we took more portraits of each other. We laid out all our photos for the group to look at. I was amazed at the difference between the before and after photos. I have never forgotten how knowing your subject can impact the photographs you make.

This photograph is an example of that lesson. I was on cross country skis with my camera near Flagstaff Lake in Maine. I came out of the woods onto a beach littered with driftwood. I was tired and hungry. I also knew I needed to look around some before I took any pictures. I sat on a rock and ate a leisurely lunch, looking around while I did so. I must have seen this driftwood because it was only about five yards to my right, but I did not notice it. (It’s actually three pieces superimposed each other.) Over the next two or three hours I exposed six negatives at that beach. I was fairly satisfied, but not wildly excited by anything. As I left, I went by the same rock where I had eaten lunch. This time I saw this black ball of fire tearing through a white sky. I knew immediately that it was a photograph I would be happy to sign my name to.

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