Summer Light (at Wingaersheek Beach, Gloucester Massachusetts)
For the Summer Light workshop, 7.18.08
Harsh bright heated light
bearing down on us with thin skins
superheating exhausting sweaty bodies
We duck out of the light
into the shade, and,
since we are at the beach with
thousands of others (Wingaersheek), and
the huge gobbling greenhead flies
are coating our bodies (some of us),
We can run, into the light, into the cooling darkening wetting
waters of the Atlantic Ocean:
Solace from the heat,
relief from the summer light.
From my journal, July 13, 2008:
Dreamt that I’d met a young film animator whose film I’d just seen and loved. I nabbed him later, raved about the movie, asked if it was available to buy. He was cordial, a beginner in this field—sorry, I’ve not yet found a way to market it.
The summer light sojourn to Cape Ann and west plopped down first at Wingaersheek Beach, swarming with people. The water is considerably warmer there than at other regional beaches, one possible reason for the draw. It was a warm sunny day, with a slight wind which may have impeded the vicious green head flies. The tide was out at 2 pm, our start time, so children gathered crabs from the tide pools as the water drifted in. The sky was mottled, a grayish blob for the most part, sometimes filtering the sunlight, sometimes letting it stream down. Starting out from Cambridge I noticed the sky looked almost threatening—would it be raining, should I have brought an umbrella?
Not only was the main beach carpeted with people—all types but mostly white, all types but mostly young families, all types but mostly American, English speaking—but the Essex River side was the public docking space for myriad small boats. Here folks lounged about sipping beer and wine, cooking meat on curious little burners stuck into the sand, fueled by canned gas, maybe butane, romping in the water, sitting in lawn chairs, throwing Frisbees, playing volley ball, courting, sleeping, cavorting. I grew tired of this rapidly, made for the upper grass line.
Here I put on my telephoto lens (I’d been using the wide exclusively) and photographed beach objects close up for variety. Shells, cartridges, remnants of fireworks, grass, plastic debris. Strolling back to our starting point I used the telephoto for relatively close up photos of people. Someone yelled out, “Hey you, take my picture.” And I obliged for a grinning fivesome of chubby young people. Walking away I thought, why didn’t I exploit this invitation and ask to photograph them more?
The light wasn’t good, behind their backs. And I was so low energy by now—and sick of people—that I chose to not pursue this thought.
At the Rockport train station on our initial meeting I’d asked each to specify one thing they’d like to work on today, color, light, frame, detail, texture, patience, border between dry and wet land, etc. Which might have helped seed the initial exercises: first the 4 point awareness exercise, facing the 4 cardinal directions and gazing from low, the nadir, to high, the zenith, observing, then choosing one thing to photograph, thinking it thru using the steps I’d suggested, aware, light, position, etc, and make a series. The 2nd 2 exercises were one thing, 10 different ways, and one frame, 10 different times. I sent them off with these instructions, asking us to reassemble at the concession stand at 4:30, giving us about 1.5 hours for the photography.
My first stop was the water itself, out about 10 m because the slope is so gradual I was up only to my knees. Here I first photographed a boy lying in a small pool of water, until he seemed to notice me. Then others sitting or walking, especially families. And on to the rocks where I was stunned by the configurations of folks climbing the rocks.
Several memories from Wingaersheek beach distracted me: most recently with L3 here last summer, biking and then what, a little stroll, relaxing on the sand, I forget. And before that, with the Boston Lighters, the group comprising some of my former students, one of our last and best outings, at nightfall, brilliant photos mainly because of the light.
Arriving at the beach I noticed a sign announcing that the parking lot was closed, residents only. And so I fretted. Now what? Can’t park along the road. Might try short-term parking for quickies of the environment, hardly satisfying. Or go to an alternate location, maybe return here later in the day. Luckily, when our car driven by David, ridden in by Cheryl, Whitney, Brianna and me from Cambridge, reached the gate, we were allowed to enter. I’d anticipated the high parking fee, $25 per car, so we’d met at the West Gloucester train station and carpooled.
Next and last stop on this hot tiring day: Conomo Point a little further west and on the inlet that hosts the Essex river. Here an entirely different terrain, milieu, ambiance, and spirit. Quiet, serene, peaceful, few people, rocky shore, small houses, fishing boats, a few people in the water or on it. We met a couple picnicking on the shore, sitting on a bench, devouring fresh melon. They told us about the greenhead fly traps, consisting of boxes with screens trapping the insects who are not able to scoot out once inside. They told us about possible boat trips, a tour on the Essex River on a float boat. And about small roads that lead to green spaces, perhaps giving us access to the water. One was called the Essex Greenbelt(was this whereL3 and I had tried to access, failed?)
Later we learned from another resident, a slightly overweigh t friendly woman, that the land dispute continued. Dating from 1999 when the town of Essex, perhaps pressured by residents wishing better water access, decided to not renew leases for land at this point. Thus the uncertainty. She felt the resolution will allow residents who own their homes, mostly not year arounders, to remain, by developing some land to improve water access.
However, our job was not gathering history and lore, but making photos. For this task I suggested 2 more exercises: one shot only, as in the illustrious photographer One Shot Harris, and synecdoche, the part standing for the whole. Launching out I quickly came upon a large SUV parked on the grass between 2 small homes, looking out to the water. This somehow emblemized the situation: people and land, at times people misusing the land. I struggled with a somewhat related concept at the point, framing a large anchor against a streaked sky. Trying my polarizing filter, which I’ve had little success with, I hope to bring out the clouds dramatically.
Here also I had a memory of L3. I believe we biked here or near here, cruising by Steve Gersh’s conference and retreat center, out a narrow winding bumpy road to this general area. Some parts looked familiar, some not. Surely we did not stop to photograph.
By now the sky had cleared considerably. The air was relatively cool, the bugs absent (except for those attacking David).
—Journal of July 13, 2008