“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I'll go to it laughing.”
~Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Now and then, I join my daughter Carrie on a photo excursion. Sometimes when we drive by something that she would like to take a good photo of but can’t manage to do it, she will say rather wistfully, “There goes my White Whale.” I chuckle at that because I think we all channel Captain Ahab, now and then. I certainly have my White Whales…my unattainable, enigmatic shots.
Two of mine are only about 4 or 5 miles from our house. One is in an area of wetlands where the marsh grass grows in clumps very straight and even. The grass snakes through the bog and when there is no breeze, it is reflected perfectly in the still water in front of it. Some days when I pass that area and the light is hitting it just right, it looks like endless clusters of gold wires reflected in a pool of black oil and I can feel my shutter finger twitching. The problem is that it is located on a very busy stretch of Route 20 and if my car and I survived even a short layover there, I would probably be arrested for stopping in such a dangerous area to indulge what others, who don’t understand the concept of the White Whale, might consider to be just a photographic itch. Ah, sometimes I feel as misunderstood as Ahab.
My other nemesis is an old farmhouse that sits up a rise off another busy stretch of Route 20. For years now, I’ve thought of Andrew Wyeth’s great painting “Christina’s World” whenever I’ve looked at it. It seems to me that it has just been begging me to photograph it. The few times I’ve had the opportunity, though, either the sun was in the wrong place or I just couldn’t get the right angle on it without trespassing or standing in the middle of Route 20 playing chicken with a semi-truck. However, we drive past this house frequently so I think about it a lot. A few weeks ago, to my great dismay, I noticed that the house was being disassembled. Yes, it is being taken apart piece by piece. Now my possibilities with that particular White Whale are gone.
I don’t suppose I should ever imagine that the world is going to stay the same day after day just waiting for me to come along with my camera whenever it happens to suit me. Still, I am disappointed that I will never get another chance at that old farm house. And truly, I’m not intrepid enough to even attempt a shot of the marsh grass.
Thar, I've blown my White Whales.
I’m sure you have them, too…that beautiful old barn on a busy highway, that noble old tree that has just been cut down, the fleeting bird or the look of total and complete joy or awe on the face of a loved one that comes and goes in the split second before you hit the damn shutter.
I will just have to keep forming photographs in my mind when I pass my White Whales and go fishing with a cheery and open mind for some other opportunity. After all, I am not Ahab…not really. To me, the world is full of possibilities and they aren't all white. I will never know all that may be coming.
An unfortunate attempt at capturing my White Whale:
The bones of my White Whale. Here it is as it sits today:
A new impossible dream...capturing every last essence of fall: