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  Adirondack Beaver Pond
  examples and stories on the making of photographs
  It was Memorial Day Weekend 2008 and I found myself deep in the Adirondacks of New York with my wife, kids, and father. This was a family vacation but I had hoped to be able to sneak away and shoot a roll or two. It was Saturday and the light had been TERRIBLE all day with harsh contrasty light without a cloud in the sky. After dinner my wife and daughter were tired and my father had been dropped off at his sisters house in nearby Vermont. My son (who is quite the budding photographer in his own right) and I were longing to hit the woods and find something, anything to shoot.

I took the main road out of Saranac Lake and found some unnamed side road off of that around 5 miles or so out of town. I had no idea if there was anything to be found there or not.

After around a half a mile or so we found this little pond. If you have never been, the Adirondacks are full of streams, ponds, and lakes. Most of them are connected and the local beavers are constantly making more more ponds.

This pond was not much different than countless others in the area, what made is nice was that we had it all to ourselves.

As I pulled over to the side of the road I noticed some high wispy clouds were hanging in the east, and getting out of the car I quickly found out that there were lots of mosquitoes and biting flies hanging out everywhere else. By this time the sun was setting and I knew that in a few minutes the moment would be gone.

I had two Holgas with me. One was loaded with color film and the other with Infrared. I had fired off most of the IR film earlier in the day when I was in Vermont but I still had 4 shots left on that roll. I was hoping to get some color for the sunset but it never really came about. I did shoot a whole roll of color film here at the pond but not much came of it. I also shot 3 of the four shots left on my roll of IR film trying to get a shot of an old stump in the water with some lily pads floating around it. Those did not work out either.

The sun was getting very low , there was no real color in the sky, and I was now down a pint of blood thanks to the mosquitoes that were out with a vengeance. So  I turned around and started walking back to the car. The small dirt road made a bridge of sorts that separated the pond into two halves. I had been focusing on the western view and ignoring the eastern view. I was shocked at the scene that was there. What had been a dull boring scene only 15 minutes sooner was now awash in warm awesome light. I knew I only had a few seconds to a few minutes to get the shot before it would be gone forever. At once I knew just how Ansel Adams must have felt when he drove by Hernandez, New Mexico knowing he had just a few minutes to get everything right, to make what would be an fantastic image.

I quickly scanned the scene and found what I had hoped would be a good composition. I thought that the dead trees would make an interesting subject to put on the right side of the image and that would draw you into the scene, so that is what I went for. If I had had more film with me I would have bracketed 3 exposures here, but I did not have that luxury. I could have gone to the car and grabbed another Holga loaded up and ready to go, but I did not have the time.

Going on instinct and experience, I knew that the late afternoon sun shining directly on the new spring growth on the trees
would be very bright in IR. I really needed to be careful not to blow them out. I guessed that a 1 second exposure at f/13 (the standard f/stop with a Holga) would render the trees on Zone IX and would greatly under expose the water and the clear blue sky making them coal black. So with a wing and a prayer I did just that. Tripped the shutter for just under a second, packed up my tripod, and cameras, and walked back to the car.

A few days later back home in Pennsylvania I developed the film. Looking at the wet negatives in my hand I knew I had nailed this one. Once scanned it became my favorite shot of the trip and one of my all time faves. It also taught me to always look behind me during sunrise and sunsets because you never know what you might find.

  unless noted all content copyright 2006-2008 by Wallace Billingham all rights reserved