As I mentioned in my last post, I spent the day last Friday ( a full week ago now) shooting in a field off 48th street in the Allegan forest. Aside from being a great location for insects, wildflowers, and feral garden flowers (vestiges of the days when this was a farm or some other sort of dwelling) this field has some of the best and largest Oak trees in the whole forest.
That’s not really saying much – most of the Allegan forest is scrappy little lichen covered trees that seem to just barely eke out a meager existence in the sandy soil. There is something about this particular field, this particular stand of trees, that just speaks to me. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to understand the language, and so I return, time and time again, shooting the same area – sometimes from this angle, sometimes from that, sometimes early, sometimes late, sometimes in the spring, sometimes in the fall or summer. And while I’ve had some successes – Threshold Event and Tribute were both shot in this field – I have many more exposures that sit in storage – shots that don’t work, images that don’t connect.
So, I’m pretty happy with this shot. It was taken with the Pentax 6x7 medium format camera on Maco IR 820c film, using a #25 red filter. The IR effect is pretty subdued, but I think it gives the shot a little more juice than plan B&W film would have.
The shot is not perfect – it doesn’t display that well on the computer screen of course, since it draws its strength from detail most obvious in a large print. But the large print has several flat areas in the shadows of the tree foliage – areas that just since into dull gray with no pop or life. I’ve been working on very detailed localized contrast adjustments in Photoshop, and still entertain high hopes for the image.
And if it doesn’t work – I’ll order up some more IR 820 and head back....
On a more whimsical, silly, and –ok – downright crude note: another interesting shot from the next is Nature’s Call, a heavily artifacted Holga shot of a commode (well, part of an out house) in the woods. Thankfully, it did not appear to have been recently used.
I found it at the end of a two track that went back through some clear-cut, new savanna areas. As I was wandering around in the woods back there some guys opened up with some sort of automatic weapons – blasting out about 20 shots in roughly 1.5 seconds (they kept shooting so I decided to count and time.)
That just highlights the odd nature of the Allegan forest. It’s a wild area, but embodies some of the most exploitive and crude interactions between humans and nature. You can see fabulous birds, outstanding wildlife, and spend an entire day off in the woods without ever meeting a soul; but then you can also spend your time walking on animal bones, shell casings, beer bottles and commodes, while gunfire cracks off in the distance.
And somehow the place is cut off and isolated in time. There are very few clues remaining that hint at the farms that once were in this place, and virtually no hints of the old primeval forest. Instead there is the scrappy woods, trees uniformly 12 inches in diameter or less, and the artificial oak savannas that were carved out by bulldozers in recent years.
In a few months deer hunting season will open, and the large parking areas that I visit so regularly, always the only car there, will be full of pickup trucks. And the sometimes woodsmen will get their few days of hunting it – and I’ll stay far away, waiting to return in the solitude of winter, and again next spring and summer.
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