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One of the best things about living in New England is the fall. When I go to a new place in the summer, I tend to look at the different types of trees and imagine how they would make the scene look in October. With this place, I had been waiting two years to get back here to photograph it when the leaves changed. When I did, I was reminded of a lesson I have been trying to get myself to learn...stop and smell the roses.
The Stony Brook Grist Mill is an iconic spot on Cape Cod in Brewster, Massachusetts. It's one of those places that local photographers like to go, so I patiently watched my Instagram feed until a photo with colorful leaves showed up. As soon as I saw it, I made my plans to come down to photograph the scene. When I arrived, however, I noticed that heavy winds from the night before knocked down several tree limbs. In short, the property was a mess. Still, I managed to walk away with some decent photos of the mill with its wheel, and some color reflections in the water. Once I finished taking the classic angles, I decided to walk around the property and see what else I could find. I followed the pathway around, looking at the water as a leading line, and was unimpressed with several compositions I found. Giving up and walking back around the backside of the mill, a branch leaning on the fence caught my eye. I moved the branch and looked at the wood of the fence. It was old, beaten up, and full of character. I followed it with my eye into this scene and saw exactly the composition I wanted to make...something different, simple, full of that fall New England color, with the gray wooden mill contrasted against it all. I set my camera onto the tripod, worked out my settings, and came up with one of my favorite photos from this year.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this story, however, this trip was a reminder for me to correct the most common mistake I tend to make with landscape photography. When I arrive at a location, I tend to suffer from narrow mindedness. I look around at a scene and see the features I may want to capture in the photo. In this case, it was the stream as I worked my way around the back of the mill. I was so hyper-focused on that stream, however, that when I came through this area the first time I failed to notice any compositions that did not include it. I forgot to stop and see what else the scene had to offer. Had it not been for the windy night knocking a tree limb down onto the fence, I would have missed this entire composition. I would have missed the leading lines of the fence and the pathway, the sun fighting through the clouds to light up the trees in the background, and that simple fall photo of a mill that is so unlike the others I see every day. For me, this lesson cannot be stressed enough...stop and smell the roses.
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