Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Chasing My White Whales…

“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:




16 comments:

TexWisGirl said...

*sigh* i just returned from a trip to a neighboring town, along the country highways are several gates and scenes i want to capture but can't because of curves and traffic.

and i love andrew wyeth. my rendition of 'christina's world' hangs above my computer desk. his 'master bedroom' hangs in my bedroom. :)

Debbie said...

how fun to have your daughter to join with, on those photo excursions. i have to pay people, and rarely have any takers ;)

i will google andrew wyeth, no clue....and i am sure that is shameful!!

nice bones :)

Rose said...

Boy, does this ever ring a bell with me. There is one I missed....an old dead tree...that had colorful birdhouse all over it. The limbs were cut, and birdhouses placed on the ends. It was not a huge tree, but still had plenty of limbs. I bet if there was one, there were a dozen birdhouses. Blue, red, white, and I don't know what other colors.

It was at least an hour or hour and a half from here. The first time, I did not have my camera...I may have passed it once with a camera, but was not ready for it...then last year we went back, me sitting with camera in hand...ready. It was no longer there...even the old dead tree was gone.

It was on a busy, busy two lane road...and you just come around a curve and there it was and then gone before you could hardly blink.

We had decided that day that we would do what it took, even if it meant finding a place to turn around multiple times. I still think about that birdhouse tree and regret not getting it. And will think of it the rest of my life.

Willow said...

The ones that got away . It is even sadder when they leave forever , and nevermore the shot will be. :(

Deanna said...

What a great post....I have a couple of places that a definite white whales to me and will probably always remain. One is a pond that borders the expressway where many birds of all species seem to gather, but there is absolutely nowhere for me to stop and snap. Another one is a barn just off the expressway that looks as if it is smiling...there have been others, but these 2 are always there to remind me of my white whales.

Pamela Gordon said...

I think as photographers, we all have white whales, Barbara. There are moments when driving and if hubby 's at the wheel he'll say, after we've passed an opportunity, did you want me to stop? Very frustrating. I'm glad you got a pic of the big white house. I wonder if someone is going to reconstruct it somewhere else? It was a beauty in it's day.

Barb said...

I like the thought of White Whales - that will be my new tag for the lost photo opportunities! Sometimes, though, I try not to fret too much. I get the picture with my mind's eye.

Tina Fariss Barbour said...

Such a beautifully written and insightful post! I enjoyed it so much. I, too, see things on my drives that I would love to photograph, but the traffic is usually too bad or there's no place to pull over. But you've created such wonderful pictures of your white whales in words here. Sometimes that and your memories of beauty can take the place of a photo. :-)

Anonymous said...

I've learned the hard way in missing opportunities and try and make a point of stopping or getting my hubby to stop but we all know this can't always work and my persistent W.W. is a medieval church that perches on a cliff and the only possible place to get it at a certain time of day is from the A7 freeway so this will never happen and I have touch of sadness each time we pass at a this particular time of day...great post.

Beth @ E. Lizard Breath Speaks said...

sounds like fun outing. i love the fall leaf shot.

enjoy ur day. ( :

Nicki said...

oh boy, and how! feel free to quote me on that. I know this feeling well and with every word, feel the same remorse.

Lydia Martin said...

Oh my goodness...I just thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog as much as looking at the photos. Great read.

Chatty Crone said...

That has to be a wonderful outing with your daughter a long!

Brian King said...

Love the black and white! And the last photo...beautiful! There are lots of barns and farms around here I'd like to photograph, but there's no place to stop for shots.

karen said...

such a shame they are removing the house...I would be sad too. Thanks for your comment on my daughters wedding. It was a beautiful day with a beautiful bride and a mother who cried too much...

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

This is always a lament of mine as well, Barbara, and it's why I take photos as we drive by, hoping that even a handful will be worth salvaging. And, sometimes I do get lucky. I liked your term of white whales and I have also had my share. It would be interesting to learn if that old house was going to be re-assembled or parts used for salvage, which is most likely the case with old woods.