history

Picture Concord, as Autumn arrives

 ... at The Bridge over the Concord, where the revolution began

From the Stringer photo team


One by one, Stringers Louise Fennell, Don Norris and Shirley Rabb, found their way to a small wharf along the Concord River, 200 feet upstream from The Bridge. Singly, perhaps 15 minutes apart, they saw this dawning picture, and each arranged it just so. The results are amazing; we couldn't decide whose to use, so we are running all three. Each, by the way, is linked to a larger view; just click a photo above. Copy from Don Norris.


The photo team determined that "color" should be the subject for the weekly outing, and what better locale than the Concord Bridge, where our country's roots are planted. This historic place is only 15 miles west of Melrose, and we took the back roads through the gathering dawn, to get the feel of Fall.

The group, now six of us seniors at the Milano Senior Center, is only six months old, although the Mirror has been in production for almost eight years. But we are enthralled with digital cameras, the facility of them, their low cost of getting high quality photos, and the immediacy of digital photography.


Number 1: Elizabeth; 2: Shirley; 3: Don.

The Media Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology provided the Stringers with a first-generation digital camera, along with three fully equipped computers, back in 1996. It is a Kodak, which is primitive compared to the giant steps taken recently in digital production. But it whetted our interest, so that now about a dozen digital cameras are floating around our membership -- but only six members are adventurous enough to head out for a dawn or late evening shoot.


Numbers 1 and 2, Shirley; number 3, Elizabeth.

We seem to be getting ahead of production, for we go out once weekly, as a group, and the Mirror is published as a monthly. So we have a backlog already. Among the places we have photographed -- and not published yet -- are the 100-year-old Topsfield Fair, a nearby state park called Breakheart, Maudslay State Park near Newburyport, the beach at Revere (quite a famous place in the mid 1900s), and the hurricane of 2003 that never quite got as far as Melrose.


Numbers 1 and 2, Shirley; 3: Elizabeth.

There seems to be two levels of digital accumen right now, which are closing rapidly. There are the experienced shooters -- Louise (head of the group), Shirley, and Don -- and we have three Sunday shooters who are learning while working. They are Elizabeth Sunkees, Natalie Thomson and Lorry Norris -- we are all from Melrose now, but there is only one native, Natalie. It is not a difficult medium to use, but you do have to know how to use a computer in order to view or print one's photographs.


Number 1: Don: 2: Elizabeth; 3: Don.

Lorry and Don grew up in New Jersey, Elizabeth is from California, Shirley is from Maine, Louise grew up in Revere, and Natalie was born here (she insists we add that she grew up in neighboring Malden). We are talking of 70 years ago, more or less. At our stage in life, we walk a little slower, but we still climb the rocks, follow the hilly trails, and spend up to seven hours covering a scene.

I have to admit, it took two days to recover from the Maudslay State Park adventure, for we began at 7 a.m. and didn't get back to Melrose until 5:00.


Number 1: Elizabeth; 2 and 3: Shirley.

Three of us are writers for the Mirror, supplying a steady flow of material for our monthly issues. That would include Natalie, who is a charter member; Shirley, who loves to write and has a specially inviting way in her short essays; and Don, a retired journalist. Louise also supplies an occasional story, and was, in an earlier life, a stringer for the Beverly Times.


Numbers 1 and 2: Shirley; 3: Don.

The Concord shoot was typical of our outings: Meet at the Milano at 7 a.m., and arrive on location while the autumn sun is still low. It's the best time for light, where shadows are long and the mist is rising. One lady photographer had beat us to the scene at Concord Bridge, and was finishing up her early session; she was using standard 35mm cameras, with a tripod.


Numbers 1 and 3, Elizabeth; 2: Don.

Somehow we split up on arrival, each looking for some special light or special scene. And we move around, and find that we frequently walk right through someone else's scene -- we use patience, and give a holler: Get the hell out of my picture! It is all good natured work, and we help each other.


Numbers 1 and 2: Don; 3: Elizabeth.

The training we offer is, more or less, watch and see what I do. There are no lectures and no classes. Instruction with the "company's" new Olympus digital is casual and as needed. We are laid back -- what else would one expect from seventy year olds?


Numbers 1 and 3, Don; 2: Elizabeth.

By 9:30 or 10 a.m., we are ready for a break. The light is gone, and most of the good stuff is now stored in our cameras. It's time for bacon and eggs, in downtown Concord. Now that's an interesting, neat village. And afterwards, we decided that we would visit the nearby Buttrick Mansion, 200 yards west of The Bridge, where the patriots assembled 228 years ago.


Number 1: Shirley; 2 and 3, Louise.

We shot their overgrown gardens, their magnificent staircase, made some long pictures of the river below, and the color on the Buttrick grounds. Somehow it seems too early to go home.


Numbers 1 and 3, Shirley; 2: Don.

From the Buttrick place, we head back past numerous historical sites, making notes to come back. We finally stopped at a roadside garden place, loaded with halloween pumpkins and Chinese scarecrows -- which is right next to a magnificent swamp, and the upper reaches of the Concord River. We spend another 50 exposures, trying to make something happen; the place is not as photographic as Concord Bridge.


Number 1: Shirley; 2: Louise; 3: Don.

We get home by 1:30, and face reality. It is fun doing our hobby, and it is even more so when we are able to publish our work on the internet, for the world to see. There is no money involved, but there is much satisfaction.  

November 7, 2003


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