A rainy day at Addison Gallery
... looking for light and warmth, shooters visit Andover museum
from the SilverStringer photo group
The Addison -- a hidden gem. The Stringer photo team includes, from the left, Donna Campbell, Natalie Thomson, Don and Lorry Norris, Shirley Rabb and Louise Fennell.
Sometimes the SilverStringer PhotoTeam has an exceptional time while out on assignment. But then, sometimes we don't.
Take the Friday tour of the Addison Gallery of Art at Phillips Andover Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, for instance. It was a rainy, uninteresting day, that day, in which we found it hard to raise any real enthusiasm.
The Phillips campus is gorgeous. The landscaping is really first class. But on a rainy day, everything looks, um, gray. Colors are muted, contrast is off, there's no pizzazz in the light.
The Addison at Phillips Andover Academy, some 20 miles north of Melrose, has a fine collection of Edward Hopper, American Impressionist. Much of his work was done on Cape Cod here in Massachusetts, although he also favored painting cityscapes in New York.
So we went indoors, where there is light, and warmth, and no rain. If you've never been there -- to the museum -- put it on your must list, for it has some super Edward Hoppers, several Winslow Homers, and a fabuous collection of intricately modeled sailing ships, occupying the entire basement level.
The director told us we could photograph any painting that belongs to the museum, but not those in the special show -- which was American David Ireland, whose work occupied the whole of the second level. His art often came in three dimensions, employing mops, brooms, granite balls, old chairs, string and whatever to create a three-d work of art -- and even a half a room full of used lumber! Unusual, for sure, and worth every one of those thousands of dollars on the price tags, I'd guess.
How would you like to have a $100,000 Jackson Pollack hanging over your workspace? Or a lovely sculpture to keep you distracted? Or have this modern piece highlighting your home?
However, I (as a veteran art afficionado) preferred Edward Hopper's works.
We six kept bumping into each other at the Addison, and we often shot what somebody else had shot just minutes before. Here's where you get to compare skills: are those hand-held available light shots steady and in focus? Is the framing good? Is it a good picture?
The team all uses digital cameras, mostly Nikons and Olympus. And most of the time we have our cameras set on automatic, simply because they are so exacting when compared to standard film cameras. And we find ourselves shooting five or six times as many photos as we would if we were using 35mm film stuff -- because there is no development fee with digital; just dump them on the computer and watch them slide by.
Not only the paintings and sculpture, but the Addison itself is a work of art. The entire lower level is a museum of detailed models of sailing vessels.
One point was made at the Addison. It was relatively dark in the galleries, and we chose to use available light out of courtesy. But we found that our most prolific shooters -- Louise, Shirley, Natalie and Donna -- had an extremely high count of OOFs -- out of focus stuff, or had the shakes while shooting at an eighth of a second.
In the aftermath, during the great judgment of our day's work, it became obvious that these digital shooters had forgotten some of the very basics of available light photography. The number of outright failures was astounding, averaging well over 60 percent. So we have set up a set of lessons to sharpen our skills in low light.
So there you have it. We salvaged enough to show our readers what the very fine Addison Gallery looks like. We do have fun on these assignments.
July 2, 2004