If I ever had an iconic image, it would be “meadow of loosestrife”. This location was discovered just passing by in the family car while driving my daughter to summer camp and had we driven by a week earlier, the flowers would not have been in bloom. Or I might have been looking in the rear view mirror or something related to driving and not even noticed the scene. But I did happen to catch a glimpse of the line of flowers and the solitary tree and immediately knew I had to return there to somehow record what I saw for just those few seconds.
It was midday when we passed, but I figured the sun would rise on the right and early morning would have the light raking across the meadow, side lighting the grasses and flowers while the row of trees behind the solitary tree would fall in shadow creating a dark background against which the grasses and flowers would really stand out…almost as if it were a portrait with a dark background behind the subject. I drove there a day or two later and had to park the car nearby the nearest exit ramp and walk back along the highway of speeding cars in the predawn rush hour. I brought a small step stool to help set up high enough to eliminate some tall reeds that would have encroached on the bottom of the image and as it was, I still needed to extend the tripod and center column to it’s maximum to get above them, but still had to stretch myself on my toes just to look into the finder. What was most fortunate was that the cool August air had created a ground fog just within the meadow itself and it constantly swirled around thereby changing the mood with every passing moment. One other thing in my favor that day was there was almost no wind which allowed me to use 4 second and longer shutter speeds while keeping the 210mm lens at f/32 to keep everything in focus, although
in order to do so, I had to use the markings on the barrel of the lens to set the hyperfocal distance. By using the hyperfocal distance scale, you can actually see what distances will be in sharp focus simply by looking on the barrel, setting infinity to the f/stop chosen and looking at the corresponding f/stop and distance on the opposite side of the barrel, you will see the near distance at which everything will be in focus. It is unfortunate that todays autofocus lenses generally do not have f/stop markings on them in order to use this great tool that was so important to me all the years I used a medium format Mamiya 645. And today, with the general use of zoom lenses, it is very difficult to determine what will be in focus at a given f/stop at any particular focal length. That is why, when I recently came over to the dark (digital) side, I bought an old Nikon 70-200 f/4 A-is because it actually comes with a scale on the barrel that will indicate what distances are in focus throughout the zoom range!!!! It becomes vitally important as you zoom out but also even at the lower end of 70mm.
With all the variables of slight breezes and ever changing fog, balancing on this small step stool on an incline just a few feet from speeding traffic, I managed one image where all the elements seemed to come together in the harmonious way I envisioned as I passed by a few days earlier. The loosestrife seemed to naturally grow in a line that led directly to the solitary tree rising above the fog at its feet. I came to learn later that loosestrife is a non-native plant whose seeds are thought to have originally arrived in North America in the bilges of colonial ships from Europe. These plants crowd out the natural native plants which supply food and habitat for birds, while the woody stems of the loosestrife do not. It is a beautiful plant to photograph when it blooms in meadows, and I have sought out the plant in many locations in the northeast and been fortunate to come away with several images that truly reflect the spirit of the place and the experience. But one problem I have been having is getting the correct color of the flowers in prints. One image in particular (loosestrife and young beech above) that I have always wished to include in some of my exhibits, has not been able to be properly reproduced and have yet to create an acceptable print of it. However, throughout the internet, meadow of loosestrife has been probably my most popular having over seven thousand views on Flickr. Yet printing it has also proved difficult. The print just doesn’t do justice to the image on the screen.
I returned the following year to find that the line leading to the lone tree had enlarged and became a much larger field of the flowers rather than a line, and the green grasses seemed to be fewer yet more of the yellow grasses were present which gave a totally different feel and color palette to the scene (loosestrife and fog). I returned once again two years after the initial images were taken only to be saddened to find that the stand of trees that so dutifully and unceremoniously anchored the images of previous years, were gone…victims of progress’ bulldozer!!! It was the second time that something similar had occurred to me, where I returned several times to a particular spot, only to be crushed at the advance of man’s construction; but that would be the subject of another post someday.