We were just a few hours into spring last Friday morning, and yet had snowflakes. Crazy winter on Long Island. Snowstorms. Cold.
I’ve been working these past months, piloting a couple of film cameras to work with in Shetland this May. I don’t think I would otherwise have tortured myself, photographing in the frigid air, and the snow is sometimes so uninspiring. So I stayed near home and ended up photographing, again and again at Meadow Croft, John E.Roosevelt’s one-time summer home in Sayville.
I’ve passed this spot many times-less than a mile from my home-and never really walked in, but one Sunday, my friend Carol asked me to meet her there, to stop in at the wood shack at the far end of the estate where Barney offers tastes of the Loughlin wines grown there. I left sooner than Carol, to walk around and try out my Olympus XA and LOMO 35mm cameras. I bought the 1979 Olympus for just $75 at an online auction and the LOMO new and am trying to decide which effects I want. They both have good lenses and work quickly, although the XA has a coupled rangefinder for precision focus, whereas the LOMO is a scale focus and I have to estimate the distance in feet and set the lens, a bit wacky, but maybe I want this. (For more on these cameras, see thefigitalrevolution.com.)
Before Carol showed up, I walked around the open fields in front of the Dutch Revival house and then back toward the two-story garage. I was photographing the garage from a predictable distance-more than 20 feet-easy, infinity on both cameras. But then I noticed that one of the windows on the otherwise locked garage was open, less than an inch. I pushed the window up a bit, just enough to prop the XA and LOMO on the ledge and shoot into a room where the light fell obliquely onto a back wall. I guessed at the distance and shot a few frames, but, by the time Carol came up beside me, my fingers were burning from the cold, even with gloves on, and I could no longer advance the film levers.
We walked to Barney’s shack which is warmed by a wood-burning stove and then took our wine in plastic cups back up to the house to sit in the rockers on the porch…feet up on the rail…no one in view. I went back to Meadow Croft all winter; even though it was so often cold, because it was eerie and mysterious and silent. And last week I borrowed an Olympus XA-4–a later XA model that like the LOMO is scale focused but it has a 28mm lens–more in the frame and more depth of field.
Further test shots to follow.