Photo flashback: Who What Now?
A large fog bank swept over Burlington. My boss, photo editor Ryan Mercer, called me early in the morning to let me know what he could see, or rather couldn’t see, on the lake. Odd weather can make for interesting photos. Standalone opportunity. We’ve had a wild run with weather this year. Turbulent rain storms, heavy snowfall, destructive winds rarely yield dull moments. Today was a welcome change. I cruised down to the Burlington Waterfront and didn’t find much activity. Tourists and shutterbugs walked the docks snapping photos of this freak event. The air was dense and refreshing. I was walking through a mist. Focusing on bikers and other moving objects proved difficult in these conditions. Everything was soft. I searched for brightly dressed runners or vibrant umbrellas. No such luck. I knew what I was looking for, or at least an idea of what I’d like to find, but I didn’t picture this moment unfolding. It’s simple and clean and quiet. I found exactly the mood I was hoping to capture. Three colorful women slowly arching, bending and stretching into yoga poses on the Burlington Fishing Pier. Beautiful. I leaned against the railing and watched them before taking a photo, I didn’t want to interrupt. After a few frames and no response from the group I knew I was at an okay distance. I try not to become a part of the scene, it ruins the authenticity. Yoga is spiritual, personal and extremely meditative – I didn’t want to throw a wrench in that.
On most days you can see the breakwater, boats and the Adirondacks from here. Not today. Everything was quiet as if the fog swallowed the usual din of the waterfront. These ladies laughed and seemed giddy to have this spot all to themselves. Quiet privacy thanks to the fog.
An ArtsBTV story sent reporter Sally Pollack and I up to Stowe to cover a recent show by the Stowe Theater Guild. Knowing the restrictions that a live performance brings I didn’t want to rely on the actual show to carry the photos. I showed up early to pop backstage and shoot the actors as they warmed their voices, applied their make-up and shook out the final jitters. Actor David Gaboree took a quiet moment to himself with about 10 minutes to go until showtime. While his fellow cast members yawned to stretch their jaws or repeated the chorus to the opening number, David sat still. Smiling. The energy in the mens’ dressing room was a sharp contrast to the womens’ dressing room. The women feverishly curled their lashes to ready for mascara while sipping water and quickly running their lines. There was a buzz. Cinching belts, applying lip stick and adjusting bobby pins, the women were busy. The men sat. They had been dressed and ready so instead talked about their day while refreshing their lines. I loved this light but mostly the solitude of this moment as backstage scenes are rarely so calm.
Doughboy’s Bakery, a Burlington establishment for over 30 years. Owner Rod Boutin ran the solo show up until he closed the doors last week. Admitting he sleeps only three ours a night, Boutin arrives for work everyday at 10 p.m. to start the bake. He opens early (6 a.m.) to sell his sweet confections to a devout group of regulars. The man loves what he does and isn’t so sure about retirement saying he plans to continue working at his wife’s “Honey Do” list while repairing free, run-down chairs he sees dotting the end of driveways throughout town. He, too, will put those chairs out for free but not until he repairs and refurbishes them. Who does that? Rod does, and it was a refreshing morning I shared with him as his day wrapped and mine started. His enthusiasm is infectious. During my visit a local Burlington Police officer stopped by to grab his morning coffee. Donut-eating stereotypes aside, these two shared a great story. On cold, snowy nights when the roads are too dangerous to patrol, Burlington Police officers are encouraged to find a warm, safe place to pull over. That place ended up being Doughboy’s on many nights. As Boutin baked, the officers could slip in the backdoor at any hour to refill their mug and grab a donut. Boutin was hospitable and made the exception. In the 13 years that Cpl. Lance Taylor has been on the job he’s made Doughboy’s a part of his routine. Some of the younger recruits may go to competing breakfast joints in town, but the seasoned cops are Doughboy’s guys. They’re loyal to Boutin and he to them.
Swimming holes. Beautiful, tempting, secluded and dangerous? We’ve had a number of accidents including one recent, tragic death at a popular swimming spot. I’ve covered them all and leave each one with a greater appreciation for water’s power. I drove by the Huntington Gorge last week to check in on local swimmers after a recent accident. We were hoping to gauge the public reaction. Cautious? Most hadn’t heard of the rescue effort, unfortunately, but they were swimming in a calm section of the lower gorge and didn’t worry for their safety. I needed a photo of people out and about in the gorge. Carefully peering over the ledge to the gorge below, diving into the cold river water or simply sunbathing. I found a group of friends hopping off rocks and wading in the cool waters. I spent a few minutes with them until I felt like their personal paparazzi and then moved on. I jump at opportunities to photograph people when they allow or feel comfortable with me, but don’t like to push it…at least not too much. After all, this group didn’t plan on being in the Free Press today. They’re just trying to cool off. Mandy floated into this fantastic green glow out from the harsh midday sun. Snap. I loved these colors. A different photo ran, one with more action and broader scope, but I’ll use this one here. Mandy needed her moment.
This little guy popped up out of nowhere. In an instant I focused and clicked. A simple, quick assignment at the Fletcher Free Library about this year’s summer reading program was rich with color and kids. All of the moments were quiet, of course, we’re in a library. Most kids were curled up with a book or read aloud to their parents, but this little guy, being too young to read, was making his own fun. His mother ran around corralling his siblings while he darted between the shelves standing on his tip toes to keep an eye on mom. Cute. I wanted his little face framed by all of these books. His expression was perfectly curious yet confused. Which works because what do all of these books say anyway? He doesn’t know.
More breaking news. Third incident in a week. First a gorge rescue, second a body recovery from a local swimming hole and now a large barn fire requiring response from 5 towns. A silo caught fire which spread to the attached hay barn. Luckily there were no injuries and all of the animals are safe. A better ending than most. I caught the tail end of this fire as I scrambled to get to this location nearly an hour away from Burlington. I hoofed it a couple miles to the site as local police closed the only accessible roadway. My gear pack and I have had too much time together lately. Hiking through woods and bushwhacking trails for recent breaking news assignments leaves me with a sore right shoulder, tweaked elbow and lovely bruise on my back. I jogged as fast as I could manage in an effort to beat the storm clouds looming overhead. Since I was so far away from my car I kept the clouds in check and fired off as many frames as I needed until I felt comfortable leaving. The second I closed my car door to begin editing the torrential downpour began. Winds whipped through the open fields. If the fire was still smothering, it was out now. And my gear, and myself, was ready for the next assignment.
Crazy weather theme continues. Hinesburg Village is a small, quaint tiny stretch on my way home from work. The National Weather Service reported intense wind storms for the area – they were right. Crawling through town past downed trees, power lines, busted porches and sheds the whole town felt eery. I stopped at several spots to document the damage but it wasn’t until I was nearly out of the village that I spotted this scene. This little boy gave it scale and the light was beautiful. The late afternoon, post-storm glow is hard to beat. A huge willow tree at his family’s house was destroyed. We guessed at it’s age and lamented the loss. It was beautiful, and now their landscape is changed. All of the limbs were unstable or had snapped except one which supported a tire swing. The lone tire hung still from that branch. All that was left.