The Triple Play of Motivation

01I arrived before the doors opened at The Mystic Harbor Seaport Museum & saw bird activity in a rain garden. I noticed a frequent landing area & snapped off some decent images. Watching them fly on the breeze was a prelude for seeing some old sailboats.

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The signature exhibit is the Charles W. Morgan. Like most boats large or small they don’t make pretty pictures sitting at the dock. Built in 1841 she is the last wooden whaling ship. Voyages lasted from 9 months to 5 years during her 80 years of hunting whales. The Seaport took 3 years to make her seaworthy & she sailed on her 38th voyage to New England seaports in 2013. If I hear the Morgan is going to be setting sail, a repeat of my last road trip may be in order.

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Last Summer I made an unsuccessful attempt at getting images of the replica Norwegian Longship the Draken Harald sailing on the Great Lakes. With a symmetrical bow & stern powered by a single square sail, she is a style of a boat not seen on the water for hundreds of years. After taking the Erie Canal across New York last fall she ended up at Mystic for the winter. Images of her at the dock without a sail are blah. However, the detail of the craftsmanship put into the ornamented patterns is very impressive.

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Who doesn’t enjoy the sounds of a good sea shanty? The rhythm of the songs was used onboard ships to coordinate the hauling of the many lines for the sails. They were work songs where lyrics & tempo were customized for the task. I didn’t learn if the position of shanty-man was assigned or earned by a member of the crew. If I could go back in time I think that is a job for me.

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Using nothing but hand tools, barrel makers during the 1800’s are a testament to the ability of human craftsmanship. When these barrels were full of the oil processed from the blubber of whales the ship would return home. For some ships that would be 80,000 gallons. The discovery of less expensive petroleum in Titusville, PA replaced the markets for whale oil. Trying to comprehend how close we came to the extinction of whales just because we had to fill these barrels with oil makes me question the judgment & motivation of the industry surrounding this short-sighted business.

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I would occasionally get a call from a friend about producing a video that I would make enough money to buy “that wooden sailboat I had dreamed of.” He didn’t understand that the purchase price is only a small part of the equation. My respect & thanks go to all of those that routinely do the maintenance on these gorgeous yachts. During WWII the schooner Brilliant was a submarine patrol boat. Now she is an offshore classroom for teaching seamanship.

07The Seaport Museum is really a port village with shops, working craftsmen & displays of nautical history. I was anticipating seeing their collection of figureheads. I was less than thrilled with the lighting & the room but surprised at the diversity.

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I knew Mystic was a working shipyard but taken back when I saw the current project of rehabbing the Mayflower II. This 60-year-old replica of the boat that brought pilgrims to Plymouth almost 400 years ago is big. It is 106 feet long with a displacement of 236 tons. It is a unique opportunity for the 30 plus workers who are involved in making this vessel seaworthy. Sailboat, wood & history…yea this place is a three-fer for my inspiration. Maybe I will plan a return trip in 2019 when the Mayflower sails for Plymouth to get sunrise images of her on the water.

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Accurate time is something we take for granted. Long before GPS satellites, the only way to navigate at sea was by taking settings of the sun or stars with a sextant & plugging that info into an equation. Part of that equation requires using the precise time. Making accurate clocks that could work on land like this one were easy compared to the challenge of making a chronometer that would work aboard a ship sailing long distances. An Englishman, John Harrison was a self-educated watchmaker & carpenter who solved the problem of east/west navigation in the 1770’s by making a clock accurate to within a minute over 50 days. The cost of these devices was 30% of the cost of a boat. My time wandering through sailing history by was priceless.

 

Inspired by a Road Trip

02 copy I’m a photographer motivated by subjects & stories. I’m not the type to have my camera over my shoulder always ready to capture something that catches my eye. So I planned a road trip with 4 primary photography destinations as my focus.

03 copyAs a low-no-budget project, I really didn’t want or need anything more than a place to sleep. I like the idea of supporting local businesses over chains so I stayed mostly in motels. None were absolutely terrible; all were under $100 a night. Since this was a solo trip I didn’t need to worry about Lori’s objections.

04 copyAs I took off along the Southern Tier of NY I didn’t have a tight schedule but hadn’t planned on side stops. Then, from the highway, I spotted people fly-fishing. There was a convenient exit & I pulled off. The light was good & the background was great but the deep pools with fish were near the opposite bank so I never saw faces. I was close to the Catskill Fly Fishing Museum so I made a note for possible future subject locations.

05 copyMy 1st destination was Mystic Seaport & Museum, the largest maritime museum in the US. The shipyard where Mayflower II was undergoing restoration for the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims arrival was busy. Seeing workers using hand tools to shape the lumber precisely was inspiring to this wanna-be wood-worker. I strolled & explored the place for an entire day thoroughly enjoying myself.

06 copyFrom Mystic I spent a day with a talented, creative & inspiring friend I made during my career. I have known & respected Dave Taylor for well over 2 decades. He has a very media centered collection of antique electric toys as well as cutting-edge technology in his Mission Style influenced home.

07Although it wasn’t my main motivation for going to New England, Newport,  RI was the photography highlight of my Road-Trip. The Volvo Round the World Sailboat Race had a stopover in this historically significant sailing center of the US. The 2 days of sailing by the Volvo boats had very poor weather for photography. However, anytime I can snap a shot of a 12 Meter it is a very good day. Currently owned by Ted Turner American Eagle is for sale.

08Gatsby & ostentatious wealth are synonymous with Newport of a century ago. Touring the Vandergrift Mansion, I learned the term Gilded Age came from the title of a novel co-authored by Mark Twain. The themes of corruption & greed in the book came to represent a lifestyle & period of time that was unsustainable. By the 1930’s owners of this mansion couldn’t afford the upkeep. They stand as empty homes representing a brief period of history.  I believe that Andy Carnegie’s gift of libraries has had a more long-lasting impact demonstrating the value of philanthropy.

09The weather during the In-Harbor Race was rainy. Fortunately, I was prepared with an inexpensive but good rain cover for my camera. I had made a connection with John Lincourt a Sailboat Photographer & he said my 100-400 lens was the right tool. I purchased a seat onboard a ferry giving me an elevated position that worked out well. During this 9 month race, each of the 7 boats has an on-board photo journalist seen in yellow. Some of their work is absolutely spectacular. It is what inspired me to travel to Newport.

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The day after the Volvo boats took off across the Atlantic to Whales I did an afternoon cruise on Narragansett Bay under a clear blue sky. I realized that I would have preferred the good weather when I was shooting the race over my enjoyment on the beautiful schooner Adirondack II.

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The real motivation in New England was my daughter’s graduation. I arrived a few days before & went to her work-out to try & grab a few shots as she trained for the first USATF sanctioned Women’s Decathlon. I found a position where the background wasn’t too bad but there was very little light. ISO 5000 at 2.8 just isn’t going to give nice clear images.
12The moment of the trip was when we made eye contact just before she received her diploma. Her smile is as genuine as any face I’ve ever photographed. I just stood in the balcony waiting for her to notice me. No texting was necessary for us to connect.

13Her 4 years as a freshman proctor are over & we packed some of her stuff to bring back to Pittsburgh. She got a pass allowing me to “Pawk my Caw in Hawvawd Yawd.”

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I’m a photog that looks for subjects & stories. However, having a camera handy when you see something unique does have value. Maybe this will become part of a story on foiling sailboats. Upcoming blogs will go into more detail about my road-trip. Look for new postings on the 1st & 15th of each month.