Now where’s that photo with the, the, you know…

Even though there are many photographs to print, some are revealing themselves to be keepers right off the bat; others, ehhh, not so much. So the editing starts while I’m still printing. That should make things easier at the end, right? Not so fast, Bucko! Some become instant favorites while others are quickly relegated to orphan status. If they remain orphans at the end, I might be convinced to call in Sally Struthers for help.

If you’ve never been in a photographic darkroom, it is a place of miracle, wonderment, surprise, and frustration. Sort of like golf, but without the funny clothes. When printing an image, one doesn’t just make one print and that’s it. There is so much influence the photographer can have on the image, that the final realization of it may look entirely different from what was originally seen on the proof sheet.

The adjustments are innumerable. It can go lighter or darker all over; composition is always being fiddled with; one can make only specific areas lighter or darker; contrast is infinitely adjustable; developing techniques affect it strongly; and cropping can make it into an entirely different image altogether. With all that in mind, it doesn’t get printed once. It gets printed many times. All the generations printed of this image lead to the one that stands out; the one where you can’t see that it needs any further work. The differences between the last few generations might be miniscule and often are, but that little difference makes all the difference in the world.

It is not uncommon, rather it’s normal, to spend hours working on an image from just one negative. (The late W. Eugene Smith was known to work as long as a week on one negative!) Multiply that by 200+ images and it’ll be a wonder if I ever see daylight again. On the other hand, if I print at night, that problem is easily eliminated.

W. Eugene Smith in his darkroom. (oocities.org)

So, as preliminary editing begins, there’s always that moment (or moments), when looking through all those prints, you go, “Now where is that photo with the…”. Good times, good times.

This is what looking for that print is like, only cleaner. (the atlantic.com)

Whoa, there’s a moose, and another, and finally St. John’s!

After escaping the clutches of the bi-churchal minister, I am now on solid ground once again, figuratively speaking, and heading back to St. John’s. I heard of a short cut that will take two hours off my impending twelve+ hour drive. Should I take it? I’ve been warned that it is not a particularly well paved road, well, not very much pavement at all – gravel really, it might be muddy and isn’t well-traveled this time if year so if you get stuck which is a very real possibility, nay probability, you could be there for a day or two, but it’s your choice. Hell, that’s no choice, that’s a challenge. I’m taking the long way home!

Yeah, right! (en.wikipedia.com)

The way I figure it, if I speed, which I will, if I continue straight through, I’ll be driving in prime moose-dodge-’em time – at speed, at night, and on the TCH, (Trans Canada Highway). Not wanting to make the acquaintance of one so large, so heavy and a poor conversationalist from what I’ve heard, I decide that I’ll probably stop for the night somewhere around Gander, a good part of the trip would be now be behind me. When you’re in a hurry, and I really wasn’t, but there was no photography planned for this leg of the trip, – I just didn’t want to drive for twelve + hours, the scenery, however beautiful, becomes secondary to the task of getting there.

I’m sailing along. Yes, speeding, but I told you I would. Fueled by chocolate covered crackers and the occasional Tim Horton‘s, I’m making some serious time. I get to Gander considerably sooner than I thought, ahh, the joys of speeding and not getting caught, and make an executive decision. Moose, be damned, I going for it all. This is the big one!

Oh, yeah! (ahwooga.com)

So, I stop for refueling – both the car and me. The car gets gas and so will I later from the food at the rest stop. Should have stayed with the chocolate covered crackers. But I endure, I must, can’t stop, have to get to St. John’s – there’s a tall, cold beer with my name on it waiting patiently for me at Christian’s Pub. Actually, the beer had some friends waiting for me too and I would get to meet them as well.

Wait, what’s that up ahead? That signpost? Sorry, channeling “Twiight Zone” for a moment. Lights! and not in the rear view mirror either. It’s St. John’s! Yes! Made it and not in twelve hours! Not in eleven hours! No, just about ten and half! I did speed. A lot. That’s 902 miles worth of speeding. I didn’t hit any moose, didn’t get stopped by the RMCP, “No, officer, I didn’t realize I was going that fast.”, and made it back in time for Happy Hour, which by the way in St. John’s is anytime from opening to closing. Finally, off the road, out of the car, and back in the warm embrace of St. John’s.

Tomorrow will be laundry, packing, FedEx, and getting ready to go back to the states. It’ll be busy, but I’ll also get to visit with Randy (my photographer friend) and his wife Vicki once more before I leave. The amount of help and guidance they provided has been invaluable and much appreciated. I will also see Bren, my 84 year old wood- turning friend, again before my departure. Bren was the first Newfoundlander but not the last to invite this stranger in for tea. I will miss them and all the other new friends made while up here. I will be back.

Part 2: Kicking back at Red’s Lounge…

The afternoon was spent walking around the island taking pictures of local signage, laundry lines, wind turbines, boats (mostly in dry dock as there was no fishing here either), and coves. If it moved I photographed it. If it stood still, I photographed it. Yup, there I was again, taking pictures of nothing! But really good pictures of nothing if I say so myself. It moved, it stood still, it was a wind turbine, I photographed it.

Sidebar -There’s a woman who paints all the house numbers and signs and mailboxes on the island; a limited growth opportunity indeed, yet the local art scene is definitely defined by her! And it was sort of like being in her island-wide showroom. She was that prolific. Certainly she had her themes down: boats, flags, fish, propellers, anchors, etc.

So the light was now fading and I wasn’t far behind it. I was in need of sustenance and it was too early to go back to the B&B for a formal dinner. Since I now knew the island like the back of my hand, it was back to Red’s. I was going to check out if they had any beer left. Photographing clotheslines creates a mighty thirst.

Lucky for me they had some left. I was welcomed back by Gerard and the locals (sounds like a perfect bar band!) whom I’d met earlier and introduced to some new (to me) citizens. Someone had gone hunting and brought back some fresh moose meat. They had the aforethought to grind it up, make mooseburgers, and serve them to customers. And that’s how I came to have my first (and probably last) mooseburger. It was OK if you don’t mind eating the inspiration for a cartoon, but personally, I liked caribou better. (Please don’t tell my fiends at PETA!)

As I mentioned earlier, I stood out. I was not from there and one citizen had taken note of that and his concern was quite obvious. I couldn’t hear what he was saying to the others, but the not-so-furtive and mildly hostile glances could not be overlooked. Hmmmm – what to do? It would clear soon enough.

Enter the Wanderer with apologies to Bruce Lee…

Sounds sort of like a bad Bruce Lee film, doesn’t it? But, there are no flying fists, no crouching tigers, no leaping lizards, none of that stuff…just good old Newfoundland and its’ people.

I’m now ensconced on the small island of Ramea and have started to walk around the island, it IS small, and photograph. One of the first things I noticed on the ferry on my way in, is a collapsed fish processing plant, a fishery. It collapsed physically, but it is as good as any symbol of what has happened to the fishing industry. I could not have asked for a better opportunity to illustrate what has happened here. But Ramea is so much more than that, though its’ fate remains so tied to it.

Rendering of a fishery.

As  I mentioned earlier, one passes through a beautiful archipelago on the way in. It was so unexpected as to create a disconnect. “Hello, that number you’re calling is no longer in service.” That’s how I felt. In my modest research over the years, I believed that one found archipelagos in Japan, Indonesia, Scotland even. But Newfoundland, really? Oh, yeah. Yes, Toto, this isn’t Kansas anymore.

Ramea itself is a small, quaint even, little island if not for the oil tank graveyard I was currently photographing. I’ll tell you right now though, there are no photographs of those in this part of this journey. While I tip-toed around the tanks, respectfully trying not to wake them, I came up on a local who in true Newfoundland tradition was more than happy to talk with me. He gave me a little current history of the island and some recommendations: there was an ocean walk to take – check; don’t miss the wind turbine farm – check; Red’s Lounge – check and double check (can’t miss that!); the Anglican Church – check, but on Sunday of course; supermarket – check; and other places that were meaningless to me at the time.

I was into my wandering big time now. As I’ve written earlier, there I was taking pictures of nothing and really loving it.

Abducted by sea turtles AND the talk of the town.

With all apologies to the bard (Ramea, O’ Ramea, where art thou O’ Ramea?), Ramea is a small island off the southern coast of Newfoundland and I arrived safely on the good ship (well, ferry) Gallipoli. For those who may be history minded, Gallipoli is the name of a horrible battle in World War I in which allied soldiers were brutally massacred because of an incredibly dumb decision. It was also a movie starring the then uncontroversial and better-looking actor Mel Gibson. And Gallipoli was the boat of which I just got off! Should I have read something into that? Time enough to ponder as I’ll be getting back on it to return to the Newfoundland mainland in a few days.

Approaching Ramea, one travels though a beautiful though unexpected archipelago. It was a wonderful greeting. The only thing missing were giant sea turtles, but for all I knew they may have been laying in wait to ambush me and make mock-Bruce soup. Hey, it could happen.

This was going to be very cool. Ramea is a very small island, populated by about 600 people. At it’s peak in the early 1970’s, it had about double that, but when the fish were gone, half the populace followed. Yet, it holds on. There is a music festival, like so many other Newfoundland outports, in August. And there are a number of outdoor activities in which one can indulge. The electricity is furnished by a small wind turbine farm. OK, so much for the Chamber of Commerce business.

As I’ve come to learn and appreciate and obsessively seek out, the best activity of all in Newfoundland is talking and partying with Newfoundlanders, everywhere! And that more than anything would define this part of the journey. Oh, the photographs would be taken. And with the certainty of only those of the pure of heart and who sleep like babies, I knew they would be good. I didn’t really, I hoped they would be good. But I’m rambling. The beer would be drunk, but not I, oh, no! Moose what would be eaten. Sorry, Squirrel. More on that later,

I checked into the B&B on Ramea, unpacked, and then started out on which was to be my newest adventure. Without giving too much away, must be frugal with my words here, I was to see clothes-lines, coffins, windmills, hand-painted signs, a bar, so much more and unbeknownst to me at the time, become the talk of the island.

Look boss, the plane, the plane! No, Tattoo, that’s a boat!

Burgeo, on the southern coast. (From Sailblogs.)

Made it to Burgeo after a gruesomely long drive. The good news is that where I was off to next to photograph was a very small island, Ramea, on which I would be walking almost everywhere. The bad new is that when I got back to Newfoundland proper, I had an even longer trip back to St. John’s, but that’s for another post.

I found my B&B and checked in. Martine, my host was very friendly, showed me to my room, and offered some suggestions as to where I might find dinner. There were two options – both named after their proprietors- Joy’s Place and Sharon’s Diner. Sharon was off somewhere and was closed so it was to Joy’s Place which was closer anyway. Joy wasn’t in either (were Joy and Sharon running errands together?) so I couldn’t send my compliments to the chef, so I left a nice tip instead.

I returned to my B&B and had some wine with Martine. my host. We talked about Burgeo and what had brought me there. She told me that Burgeo was very old, about  500 years, but it was only incorporated in 1950 and was basically a fishing village until 1992 when the moratorium was put into place. Then it too went through all the difficulties the rest of the province did. It’s a sweet place with a couple of restaurants, a school, all the things one would expect to find pretty much anywhere, except they don’t have the view that Burgeo does. Take that world!

(From Wikipedia)

So, right now, it’s the perfect place to catch my breath before getting on another boat on my way to Ramea. Remind me why I’m doing this.

(Courtesy Newfoundland & Labrador)

Oh yeah, this’ll be fun.

Bartender to me – “Would you like that on the rocks?” Not funny.

Now, I’m not going to say I was feeling Like Leonardo in the movie. Nor was there, regrettably, a counterpart to Kate Winslet standing bravely by my side either. But, I was on a boat in the seas off Newfoundland and there was a lot of ice in the water. And it was in early April. Draw your own conclusions.

No, I was now leaving Fogo Island for the second part of this trip. Obviously being on this island meant I was going to have to take a boat ride back to the main and much larger island of Newfoundland proper. It was a ferry in actuality, a not very large one, and it took a couple of hours.

The ferry.

The Titanic – see any difference?

Earlier I wrote about the arctic ice pack that had come in and locked up the harbors. For a large ship as my hopefully sea- and ice-worthy ferry was, this would – should be an uneventful trip.

It’s pretty common knowledge that what you see of an iceberg above the surface of the sea is only 10% of it’s size. The remaining, evil, waiting to sink unsuspecting ships, part constitutes the other 90%. Remember, the ice pack, unlike a lot of doctors, is in!

An artists’ idea of an iceberg

So, me and a bunch of other intrepid travelers including their cars, (that’ll make the ship sink faster, won’t it?) drive on and take our places on the ferry. The driveway (?) pulls up, seals the then-open end of the ship and we shove off from shore. (Wait, I think I left my toothbrush at the B&B!)

I’m not normally apprehensive about sea travel. I’ve been on ferries before! But not through icebergs. Alright, they weren’t icebergs – more like a continuous seascape of floes, large, heavy, really white, and cold ice floes. And 90% of each one could not be seen! Yes, this was a steel hulled ship; and yes, it did this every year, but… Hey, wait, every year? How strong could this barge still be?

We plowed through the ice pack slowly; the floes grinding loudly against the hull; some so large that you could feel the ship shift from THEIR weight and mass. Oh, sweet mother… two more hours of this.

Not surprisingly, we made it safely. I got some good pictures. But throughout that whole trip, at no time did I ever want to climb up on the hull and yell “I’m king of the world!” Nor did I hear Celine Dion singing in the background. There is a God after all.

‘Scuse me, while I kiss the sky.

It’s probably a good bet Jimi Hendrix was not singing about the skies in Newfoundland and more’s the pity.

Nowhere have I seen a more dramatic skyscape than up on The Rock. Now you may be thinking, “It’s a sky. So what? Big deal!” Well, yeah, it is a big deal. It will show you textures, shapes, and tonalities like you’ve never seen and then in a moment vanish only to replaced by something completely different (and not in the Monty Python sense either).

Why is this sky different from all other skies you ask? In one sense, it’s very similar to Big Sky country in Montana. It’s high, it’s enormous, it appears to cover and touch everything you see, it goes on forever, and oftentimes it resembles a time lapse film. The Newfoundland sky is like a living motion picture – something is always going on and like a really good one, you won’t know the ending.

If it’s a sunny day, then the sea takes on an unbelievably rich and dark blue color. All the colors of the island jump out in blazing relief. And even on such a day, there can be fog which will give you a teasing glimpse of something beautiful only to obscure it moments later.

On a cloudy day then, of which there are many, the show really begins. Cloudy days in Newfoundland are not to be confused with a cloudy or overcast day anywhere else. After all, this is Newfoundland. Missing are the drab, plain-jane grey skies in the lower 48. Instead you’ll be witness to high drama. For the person who believes everything is black and white, they should be prepared for disappointment. These skies display some serious greys and a hell of a lot of variations. From light and medium greys to end-of-the-world dark greys. it’s all there. What makes it even that much more spectacular are the many textures. It’s not a flat sky by any stretch of the imagination; no, it’s a roiling, scudding, blustering, opinionated sky with its own intent.

Picture this: you’re out on the coast – the sea is a wind-whipped, nearly black surface complete with whitecaps; nearer than the horizon are brilliant white icebergs sitting in stark contrast to the dark, colorless sea and to the rich, cloud-laden thunder grey sky.This is the stuff of wonderful black & white photography and I’m really there.

So, go ahead and kiss this sky! I have.

How did I get here?

Sometime during this, my second trip to Newfoundland, I mused upon the events that led me there. Having previously written about how this whole idea came about, this is not to be a rehashing of that. I’ll probably indulge myself to do so though at some future time begging one’s patience. It’s also not how I physically got here – wrote about that as well in length. No, this is about a seminal event that did ultimately lead to this point in time.

A long time ago, (in a part of the country far, far away), I was sharing drinks with some college friends up in Boston. We were talking about careers and what we wanted to do with our lives. You know, the typical 3:00 AM college discussion. I was also trying to impress a young woman, Darla D., with what I thought was cool. I was an art major which is really, when you think of it, pretty cool, if not a non-starter on the economic scale. I wanted to paint. The underlying problem with that was I wasn’t very good. Being young and full of myself, I wasn’t about to admit it. What to do?

I blurted out, “I’m thinking of getting into photography.” Whoa! Where did that come from? Yes, I was trying to impress Darla D. and that did do it, but I had never thought of photography before. I would look at my fellow students with their cameras going around taking pictures of nothing and think, “Glad I’m not them, what dorks.” Truth is that as a teenage art major (Hmmm, that might be a good idea for a B-movie), we were all dorks already, but the photographers didn’t seem to care and were cool with that.

The more I thought about it, the more attractive the idea became. I have to believe my painting professor was relieved about the decision. So, I took some classes, worked with a photographer to learn more, and then courageously set out to wow the world. Uh huh, yeah, right. It wasn’t at all different from any other artistic discipline or business for that matter. Ya gotta pay yer dues.

So many years later, with any number of missteps and mistakes behind me and yet to come, I found myself in Newfoundland photographing this book. The big difference is that I’m that dork now, taking pictures of “nothing.”

I go, you go, Fogo!

                                                                     From a more hopeful time.

Pardon the silliness of the title, but I’ll be off to Fogo Island on the north coast of Newfoundland. It, after arriving in St. John’s, will be the first stop in my second trip up there. It is there where I hope to find and start to photograph the newly realized core of my book, “Arn? Narn.”

Just what is that core? It’s what I had already known but not realized; then realized but didn’t understand; and now it was a growing awareness of the impact of the fishing moratorium and it’s subsequent long-term effects. It was as my Fogo Island innkeeper was to tell me, “What you see now will not be here in 10-12 years.” That wasn’t prescient; it was fact: one I was still to discover first hand.

Fogo Island is so uniquely Newfoundland. (Where else could you be greeted by The Mouse?) The name was originally Y del Fogo, meaning island of fire. There is speculation as to the origin of the name: perhaps it was the native Beothuk’s (now extinct) campfires or multiple forest fires, but no one is certain.

The island supported itself solely on fishing as had the entire province. Now it was suffering the same fate as that of the larger “mainland” island. True, it had the annual Brimstone Head Folk festival each summer on Brimstone Head, (reputed by the Flat Earth Society to be one of the four corners of the earth!) but that was in early August for only a few days. A week before that is the Ethridge Point Seaside Festival in Joe Batt’s Arm. These bring some tourists in but for a short time, not enough to make much of a difference.

I was to be here for nearly a week in which I would be able to roam and photograph across the island, talk with people directly, and get a better feel for this environment. I would learn that Fogo was the main outport/town on Fogo Island – do not confuse the two. Fogo (the town) is joined by the communities of Joe Batt’s Arm, Seldom, Little Seldom, Tilting, Barr’d Islands, and Stag Harbour. In 2006 they all came together to form the Town of Fogo, while retaining their individual personalities. More to come on Fogo soon.