The possession of arbitrary power has always, the world over, tended irresistibly to destroy humane sensibility, magnanimity, and truth.
—Frederick Law Olmsted
A distinctly productive and energetic early morning field trip, to Jamaica Pond and Franklin Park for a spectacular sunrise over the pond at 6:36 am. We were there by 5:45, a full 45 minutes of darkness merging into golden light. I’d set my alarm for 3:30 so I could meet Sonia and Katy in front of Starbucks at 5:15, but, as usual for my early morning rising, I awoke nearly 1 hour earlier, nervous about sleeping late. So I thrashed about for 20 minutes and then rose.
On a cold, relatively clear, breezy morning, we chose positions, set up tripods (I simply brought my super fast, 1.4 Nikon 50 mm lens), and observed and photographed as the sky gradually lightened. The cloud condition was ideal: mostly clear but some clouds along the eastern horizon. Then more clouds slowly spread a blanket over the pond after occasional vapor trails punctuated the sky, turning bright orange as the sun rose. We were there for the Blue Hour; will it show in our photos?
For some of us an even more stunning moment was post sunrise, slightly past the sun’s actual arising, when it bathed everything behind us, the trees most vividly, in a rich golden light. Debbie expressed amazement, I quickly retracted my suggestion that we move on to Franklin Park, and we remained at the Pond, perhaps awed, by the steadily increasing and cooling and bluing of light. The theme for the morning photographically was what I call meta-photography, how photography mean. We had before us a primary metaphor; metaphor itself is a key tool for expressing meaning—the sunrise. Now, as I tried to explain, how to use that sunrise? The rising sun is not automatically a metaphor. What then makes it one?
One major mishap and one nearly: Katy’s camera and tripod fell onto the frozen pond. The front element of her lens popped off. She put the lens back together but the camera no longer functioned. Luckily Debbie carried her spare camera, a Lumix, and lent it to Katy who inserted her own memory card. The other: we were missing George, our young, somewhat erratic fellow. Then as we were heading to our cars to drive to Franklin Park, giving up on George even tho he’d phoned me earlier to announce he was enroute, we spotted a lone figure in the middle of the pond. Most thought instantly: there’s George! Somehow he managed to walk across the entire pond, despite the shore showing thin or no ice.
I used my long lens not only for George, but for much of the sunrise, switching later to my normal zoom, but never in the entire 3 hr period using my wide. Whereas at the Arboretum I’d used primarily my wide angle lens.
Franklin Park was not quite as extraordinary, much more difficult to photograph, but for me equally and uniquely satisfying. A wide expanse of snow-covered land, various ice formations, foot and paw prints, some trees, making a panorama of the golf course, and finally—my highlight (my low light was the cold)—a small section off the main road we’d been walking along, near the zoo, where I discovered a few trails, a few bikers and walkers, but mostly solitude. Finally I was out of the biting wind, alone, where I could drop my pack, eat some GORP, drink some water, make a few images of passersby, and slowly walk back to meet our group.
This experience motivates me to return to Franklin Park alone, by bike, maybe this spring, and thoroughly absorb the expanse. My last trip to the park may have been in 2003. Searching my various hard drives I located a folder of photos from that year. Was that actually my last sojourn to this precious piece of Boston earth?
My photographs from 2003: