Photography, Stories Told

Photo essay: Getting ready for winter

The last leaves fall the first of November, just in time for cold days and freezing nights. Let the calendar disagree with me, but I say this is where winter begins, bleak and down and lonely.

Bare Branches

Through October I spend every Saturday mowing up the trees’ prodigious leavings, just me and my old tractor. I cling to this ritual, which readies me for the closed-up months to come.

Tractor and Bagging Attachment

Most years I mulch the leaves back into the lawn. Some years I bag the shreddings. This year I dumped them behind the low fence in a corner of the back yard; the years will turn them into dirt. It’s mindless work: mow for a few minutes until the buckets fill, drive around back and dump, repeat, repeat, repeat.

Leaf Dumping Grounds

But in November, after the trees are bare and the yard is clean, a ceremony of sorts: the putting away. Unclutter the garage so the car can go in, clear the deck to protect summer things from rust and decay. Into the shed go the yard tools, the bicycles, the patio furniture.

Open Shed

As I move each piece, a summer’s events project on my mind, idyllic like color slides: the new brown bicycle I couldn’t ride after foot surgery, the dirty red wheelbarrow I used to spread fresh and smelly mulch, the new green electric cultivator that leveled and mixed compost into my front yard all torn up after the new sewer connection. My whole family worked an entire Saturday with me to do that and plant new grass. What a good day.

Electric Cultivator

The patio furniture went in next. I hardly used it this year thanks to the thick, relentless mosquitoes! The citronella candles on the table didn’t help at all.

Patio Furniture

All secured, it was time to run the gas out of the mower and tractor and put them away, too.

Push Mower with Tractor in the Background

While I waited, I walked around the yard, clear of leaves and still green, especially the new grass. That color will dull and fade through November; now is the time to enjoy it.

House at the End of Autumn

I noticed the work I didn’t get done this year. The driveway’s cracks need filled, dead limbs need cut from the maple, the windows need scraped and painted. Next spring, for sure.

Bare Tree Reflected

The motors soon shut off, one and then the other, out of gas. I pushed the tractor in first, the mower in next, and then locked the shed. One more job, which I hired out: haul that brush pile away. It was gone the following Tuesday. It feels good to have all those overgrown trees and bushes cleared out back. I worked at it here and there all year, sometimes alone, sometimes with one son or the other, once with my parents newly moved to my town and eager to do normal family stuff. Good memories.

Shed and Brush Pile

Good memories indeed. It was a summer well lived. Okay, winter, I’m ready for you now.

Photographed the afternoon of November 9 with my Polaroid Big Swinger 3000 on Fujifilm FP-3000B instant film.

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14 thoughts on “Photo essay: Getting ready for winter

  1. loneprimateinto says:

    I continue to be impressed with how your black and white photography imbues every subject with an air of importance. Stop. Look. This is relevant. In a way colour just doesn’t ordinarily command. It’s a fascinating effect.

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    • It was so cool to use instant for this. I had ten little prints in my hands as the afternoon unfolded. I actually did the work I described here and took pictures as I went. The displayed order is a little different from the shot order — the last shot, of the closed shed, was actually the first one I took. But taking these photos in a time sequence gave me the framework for the words I put between them.

      Only bummer is that FP-3000B is discontinued. I have one more pack in the fridge.

      Ten-ish shots seems perfect for a photo essay. I’m thinking that I could use one of my box cameras and 120 film for this, too, although there’s no immediacy as with instant film.

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      • loneprimateinto says:

        Those are instamatic shots? I had no idea. Those are astonishing results for an instamatic. The Polaroid ones I remember from the 70s didn’t yield anything like results like those! :O

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        • Aww yiss, it’s all instant. Actually, my former Automatic 250 would have blown these shots out of the water — the Big Swinger’s lens isn’t anywhere near as good.

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    • Thanks so much Bob. Yeah, I bought two packs the minute I found out it was discontinued so I could get it at normal price. It’s a nice film, but not so nice that I wanted to stock up more than that. I don’t shoot that much instant. When I shoot the one more pack I have, I’ll wave goodbye to FP-3000B.

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  2. I’ve only shot one roll of FP3000B so far (despite being discontinued it’s still available if you’re willing to pay $20.00 a pack) and while the film looks great, my main problem was the camera I was using it with. Not a fan of the Land Camera’s focusing at all. I wasn’t able to take part in New55’s Kickstarter campaign, but I hear it went well and that now 4×5 instant film has been resurrected. I think Impossible or someone else will be able to bring back FP3000B or something similar at some point.

    On a different topic, have you seen Ansel Adams’ book Singular Images? It’s filled exclusively with black & white images he took with a Polaroid Land Camera and definitely worth checking out.

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    • The folding packfilm cameras are better cameras than the rigid-bodied cameras. My former Automatic 250 even had a rangefinder. It was awesome and let me even get that blurred-background effect in some closer shots. But getting the film out of the camera was a pain for the first two or three shots because the camera squeezed the film pack too hard.

      Rigid-bodied cameras like the Big Swinger and my Colorpack II feature more primitive controls and lesser lenses, but are just a ton easier to use and don’t pinch the film pack. So I gave the Automatic 250 away. I’ve got the Big Swinger listed on eBay right now because I don’t need two rigid-bodied packfilm cameras — the Colorpack II shoots color film, and the Big Swinger does not, so the Colorpack stays.

      I have not seen the Ansel Adams book — thanks for putting it on my radar.

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