Topic: Tom's Neck (5 posts)

Poucha Pond

Poucha Pond runs to the right of the infamous Dike Bridge on the small island of Chappaquiddick off of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. The bridge was  where Senator Ted Kennedy's Oldsmobile 88 flipped over on its roof into the water at night in July 1969. Kennedy was driving and survived the accident, Mary Jo Kopechne did not.

I put my kayak in the water at the bridge and paddled out on a very warm and gray late September afternoon with a camera around my neck and a towel to dry my hands before bringing the camera to my eye.  Paddle, position the boat, dry hands, take picture, paddle some more and repeat again and again.

To emphasize the horizon, practically all there was, I made these long and thin.  Not true panoramics, they are cropped from the full frame. The prints are 28 inches wide and about 11 inches high.

This is a lifelong obsession; some sky, a band of land with water in the foreground.  The theme has prevailed on and off, from early days as a spray painter of large canvases, to work done in Italy shooting along the coast in the Adriatic with the 8 x 10, to more recent times in northern Iceland. Frequently breaking the rule that says not to place the horizon in the center, the work seems essential, residing at some core value in my aesthetic.

I don't know. Does the terrible history of the place load the pictures somehow? Is it important to carry this with you as you view my photographs of this bucolic place, devoid of people but resonating with an accidental death so long ago? Just as  it is important to know what we don't know, I believe it is important to know what we can't see.

Risky that, kayaking with a good camera hung over your neck. Picked an almost calm day with little wind. A calculated risk, I suppose. Seemed worth it as I really wanted to get at this from the water, not the opposing shore.

Maybe a little tough to realize these compressed and small on your iPhone screen. If you are on a computer try double clicking on an image. They'll get bigger.

There are 10 total. They are now on the site: Poucha Pond.  Want to see the real things? Email me:

Topics: Aerials,Tom's Neck

Permalink | Posted October 13, 2017


Let me tell you about this past Thursday. 

Note: There will be a few posts on this one topic. This is a project that combines aerial photographs with ground-based imagery.

While Texas was bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Harvey and Donald Trump was about to pardon former sheriff Joe Arpaio I was in Vermont photographing the Connecticut River. Far less newsworthy I admit but nevertheless big in my world. It was quite a day with two distinct parts to it.

Warning: the pictures shown here simply aren't going to do anything for you by seeing them on your phone. I make pictures that are way up there in terms of resolution, sharpness, tonal range and color rendition. When you do get to see them on a good color display you can click on an image and it will expand to a larger rendering.

Part 1

Photographing The River is a project that has crept up on me. There was no thunderbolt of inspiration, no big epiphany here, just the quiet realization that every time I drove over it, or kayaked down it I was fascinated with what it showed me on its banks and what went on behind them.

This harkens back to my project called Tom's Neck from a few years ago. Very often on a shore or embankment on a river, stands a row of trees, acting as a wall or a barrier to what is behind them.

So this summer I've been photographing the river, usually from one shore pointing across at the opposite one, although sometimes from a bridge. Thursday I went up in a plane to get at it from above, starting at RT 2 in Turner's Falls, MA and flying up to Bellows Falls, VT and back. 

My day started here:

at the little airstrip at Turner's Falls.

The day was perfect.

Right away the river opened up to reveal its secrets. Of course, it was magnificent:The Connecticut River is an "old" river along southern Vermont and northern Massachusetts. No rapids or fast water and usually quite wide, with a few islands along the way. The river valley through here is heavy-duty farming country, with large crops of hay and corn but also squash, tomatoes, melons and even hops for beer:

In late August it all comes to fruition. The corn is high and they're practically giving tomatoes away.

As the pilot and I skimmed along at about 800 feet above the water in a high winged Cessna it was easy to follow the river as it meandered north. Since I was in the right seat, I pointed out the open window with my camera at the eastern bank on the way up and the western bank on the way down.

As we approached Brattleboro the river widened out into marshes:

Next up? More aerial photographs of the river and then on to part two of my day. My trip in the excursion boat the Lady Bea with a group from a nursing home.

Turf Farm near Greenfield, MA

Topics: Tom's Neck,Spring,Digital,Northeast,New Work,Color

Permalink | Posted August 27, 2017

Tom's Neck 3

In Tom's Neck 1 and Tom's Neck 2 we looked at a new set of pictures I made a few weeks ago on the island of Chappaquidick, off of Martha's Vineyard, MA.

In this post, we'll finish the Tom's Neck series.

But before we conclude, I also worked to extend from some of the "facade" ideas, to lend to the depth of the project but also to allow some actual depth (foreground to background) into the pictures as well.

I did that by beaching the boat, getting out and photographing conventionally, both with the moderate wide angle lens I'd already been using, but with a longer lens as well.

I was seeking to  convey a greater immersion into the landscape, as opposed to sitting outside of it and photographing like an observer.

I also used files shot aerially that gave a broader perspective on the area from a different angle:

When photographing aerially it becomes hugely important to "get it all". This simply means to circle areas that are crucial, to photograph them with front light and back light too, as reshoots are almost always not possible.

As I headed farther down the inlet that is Tom's Neck in the kayak I was confronted with a choice. I could go down to the very end where there is a sandy beach and a point:

or contain the series within the framework I'already established. I chose the latter.

I know, if you've followed along and are invested you may be saying, "Neal, you idiot! What were you thinking?"and I will have to live with that. My reasoning was that the series was beginning to head off into something different and would therefore dilute the impact and cohesion of the other pictures. I was already doing quite a bit in a group of pictures: telling a story, representing a finite area with pictures taken weeks apart, from the air and from a boat. Let me show you what I did conclude with. After making several more like this:


I paddled across the inlet to get more distance from the Neck than before:


Then, for the last picture, paddled back across the inlet to turn the boat around 180 degrees on what I'd been photographing, putting Tom's Neck at my back, and made this picture:

For the first time we are seeing what else was out there. This isn't that unusual a thing for me to do at the end of a highly sequenced series, where I tell a story or take us on a journey. It is also structurally similar to the first in that it is three horizontal bands. 

For the sake of the blog I can show you what all this is:

(Thanks  to Google Maps)

The red X marks about where I made the last picture from. You can also clearly see where I had worked for all of these pictures, from the Dike Bridge at the bottom of the map all the way up to Tom's Neck Point.

The last photograph is the image that intends to lead the way out, or to another place or perhaps another series over the horizon, yet to come. What's on the other side of that spit of sand, beyond those bushes? 

So that is the new series of pictures I made above and in the water of Tom's Neck  on Chappaquidick Island.

I hope you like them. It is not hard to let me know what you think: Neal's Email

BTW: I leave for Paris in a couple of days. When I get there I will drive down to northern Italy to stay with friends, then drive back for Paris Photo the middle of the month. I plan on posting while away. Hope you can come along for the ride. Will I photograph? Is the sky blue?

Thanks for reading.

Topics: Tom's Neck,Digital,Color,Northeast,Martha's Vineyard

Permalink | Posted October 30, 2014

Tom's Neck 2

In the first post (here) on this new series of pictures we looked at the written introduction and the few pictures that set the stage for the subsequent photographs. Now we'll be getting into the main body of these pictures.

Before we get there, I need to make this point: I knew, before I was going to make these pictures, that I was on to something important for me. While I can't say that they will be seen as important photographs by others I can say that I knew these these pictures would move me ahead as an artist, that, if I didn't screw them up, I was about to make real "work". Not try, hope for, aspire towards, or presume but to make work that would stand as fundamental within my oeuvre. 

As I paddled down the length of Tom's Neck that day I came across several variations on a theme.

I used all these pictures and their formats throughout the series. A word about the prints: they are 21 x 14 inches printed on 22 x 17 Canson Photographique Baryta paper. 

I also made a few that referenced where I was, such as:

That little building is the entrance to the Cape Pogue National Wildlife Refuge, where you can, with a permit and a four wheel drive vehicle, drive along the beach at the end of the island.

As you work your way through the Tom's Neck series of pictures, every third or fourth print does this:

which, in effect, provides you with a map to what is is being presented in the pictures taken from the kayak.

But also notice that your perception of the area is drastically altered by the inclusion of the aerials. There are many elements seen in the aerials that are not even considered or thought of in the pictures made from the water. Such as: ponds, fields, layers of trees and a rich landscape beyond the "front" or "facade" seen from the boat. This is one of the key points of the series for me; that our understanding of an area or region is altered by our perspective on it. I know, very obvious. But not so obvious when drawn out for us in pictures that show us just how powerful those differences are. 

The analogy for me is the old American western towns with false fronts on their buildings, made to look more significant and substantial than they really were.

This from Old Trail Town, Cody, Wyoming, a set of pictures I made in 2004 (here).

You can almost look at these pictures made from the kayak as two dimensional, flat and planal:

But I didn't just stick with that one point or idea. I was trying to make a variety of pictures too, to maintain my interest and the viewers as well, but also to broaden and deepen the set. I also needed to deal with the idea of how do I end this.

In Tom's Neck 3 we will do just that.

Stay tuned.

Topics: Tom's Neck,Northeast,Color,Digital,Martha's Vineyard

Permalink | Posted October 28, 2014

Tom's Neck 1

This is going to get a little complex but bear with me. I will split this blog into three posts as it would be too long otherwise. This is about a piece of land, some pictures made a few weeks ago, an airplane and a kayak.

Let's start here:

The Day Before I left the Vineyard This Fall

The day before I left the Vineyard this fall I put the boat on the car, drove to Edgartown, put the car on the Chappy ferry, drove to the parking area next to the Dike Bridge, unloaded the boat, put a camera in the boat and paddled out to Tom’s Neck to photograph.

First Time

First time putting a good camera and lens into the boat with me. Always before, the camera would go in a Pelican case in the hatch, sealed up. I would then put in, paddle, beach the boat,get out, open the hatch, shoot whatever, then put it all back in and paddle on. This time I wanted to shoot from the boat while it was in the water where I positioned it. This was using the kayak as the platform to photograph from.


I developed a system. Paddled and looked and headed down the Neck a couple of times before committing. Came back, got the boat about right, pulled off the spray skirt, dried my hands, picked up the camera, photographed, reversed the above and paddled on. It worked.

The Following

The following pictures were made along the ocean facing side of Tom’s Neck running north from the Dike Bridge. The bridge made famous by Ted Kennedy as it’s where Mary Jo Kopechne died in 1969, jammed and trapped in an upside down car several feet deep in the water of Poucha Pond. Ted Kennedy wasn’t able to save her that night. But he and his family sure worked hard to save his political career after that night. Safe to say that evening changed the trajectory of his career and his life. And ended young Mary Jo’s life.

At Any Rate

At any rate you are looking at a two part series. This being the short stretch of land nestling up against an inlet of water photographed from the air in a plane and from my kayak in the water two weeks later. Why? Because it is exquisite. To me, it is a garden of Eden, looking like some sort of paradise. But also because one approach informs and enriches the other. Look, photography is changing, becoming ubiquitous at a phenomenal rate and used in unimaginable ways compared to just a few years ago. Remember, when Harry Callahan made a double exposure in the 1940’s with his twin lens Rollei, one frame right side up and click the second upside down, he was doing this for the very first time in the history of photography. We are very much beyond that now.

Interested In

I am interested in nudging photography forward to the best of my humble abilities. Yes, these are conventional looking pictures at first glance. But, upon closer looking, they are different. People assume that I work solely within tradition. Not true. I work within the knowledge of tradition as it serves progress. To me, progress is seeing things differently and beautifully.

Tom’s Neck

The Tom’s Neck pictures are like that: an effort to extend traditional definition and understanding into a new way of looking at the landscape. The aerials informing the other, the ones from the kayakdeepening our take away of the aerials. Even this statement, this introduction to the pictures, is an effort to extend, to deepen and to more fully explore photography’s capabilities and extraordinariness.


Still with me? Sheesh, are we going to get to pictures here? Yes, yes, yes: we will. I promise.

So, what is all that wordage up there? It is the artist statement to the full series about to unfold. It sits at the front of the set, as a kind of title page and introduction all in one. I know it is long but the Tom's Neck pictures require a little time and thought to wade through them and explanation as to methodology and philosophy. 

So, let's carry on.

Next up and the first actual photographs are these two side by side:

These set the stage in which we are about to work. They provide context and aren't arty or pretentious, they are simple statements: this is how the pictures were made, these are the platforms the photographer used to make the following pictures. I believe the logistics count here. 

Next print in the sequence? The first real substantial photograph in the series:

Pretty straightforward, yes? Let's look at it a little as it forms a precedent for subsequent images. Only water in the foreground so I must have been standing right on the shore or, shooting from the kayak. Bingo, you know I am in the boat from the way the intro set this up. In fact a lot of the pictures in the series look like this: water, content and sky; a classic three horizontal bands landscape photograph. Before we leave it, take note of the birds nest sticking right up there. This is really an osprey nest or possibly an eagle's nest, not really intended for a seagull, but that's what was up there the day I was out photographing. 

If you had to guess what was to come next it would seem to be important to show the other approach here, to  have right up front like this an aerial, and ideally, one of the same scene so simply shown here.

And there it is. Now, I can't really make these pictures all on the same day or even in the same week, unless the sun shines on me and the photo gods are fully aligned. In fact, I made the aerials a few weeks before I made the ones from the kayak. But look carefully and you can see the birds nest that references that we are in the same place from a very different perspective. But also notice that there is much more conveyed in the aerial; in effect, it maps the future efforts on the more grounded ones, the boat ones to come. Notice, in particular, the bare tree on the right side of the frame.

There it is, up close and personal, no longer looking like a placeholder on a map but fully engaged and occupying front and center in a picture that just changed our previous format to four bands of horizontals: water, grass, trees and sky from the  previous three.

So now we're set up structurally, we have a few preliminary pictures that provide us with a framework. We know we're going to see some pictures taken from the boat and some pictures taken from the air of the same stretch of shore along Tom's Neck on Chappaquidick Island in October, 2014.

Cool. In the next post we're going to get into the main body of the series.

Stay tuned.

Topics: Tom's Neck,Northeast,Digital,Color,Aerial

Permalink | Posted October 26, 2014