That's a Wrap

December 29, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

The hours are ticking down until we close the book on 2022.

Father Time waits for no one; the years fly by. Happily, our cameras enable us to capture some of those fleeting moments and hang onto them. As the great Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange said, "Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still."

What a gift!

We can thank Joseph Nicéphore Niépce and Louis Daguerre for giving us this amazing capability. Niépce is credited with capturing the first permanent photographic image in 1826 via camera obscura (albeit crude - and it was quite cumbersome to create). Monsieur Daguerre, an associate, continued developing the technology following the death of Niépce in 1833. He made vast improvements and ultimately introduced the first commercially viable photographic process: the daguerreotype. Until the mid-19th century, it was the most commonly used method to create photographs. You've probably seen some of these images; Matthew Brady's famous portraits of public figures like Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams were daguerreotypes. So were the early portraits of Abraham Lincoln.

Whether it's casual snapshots or fine art photographs, the moments we capture with our cameras are unique. None can be exactly replicated. No matter how similar scenes might look from one day to the next, they're ephemeral. Never are the conditions exactly the same. (That's one of the reasons working repeatedly at the same location is far from boring.)

Time races by, yet we can freeze it, returning to singular moments - over and over again - via photographs. It's magical. 

Millions upon millions of snapshots are taken each day. Landscape and nature photographers don't collect as many images. Actually, by the time you finish processing and culling your work, you might end the year with a relatively small number of "keepers." That's okay.

It's quality that counts - not quantity. 

Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.
Ansel Adams

May the new year bring you good health, happiness - and great light.


About the Photograph

This is First Night in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Originating in Boston in the mid-1970s as a finale to the Bicentennial events, First Night had become a huge deal in Beantown by the 1990s - with ice sculptures on the Common, thousands of artists and musicians participating, a parade, and tens of thousands of revelers. There were not one but TWO opportunities to see fireworks: an earlier show for families and then the midnight extravaganza at the Harbor.

The December 31, 1999 Boston shindig (First Night 2000) was especially elaborate - though there was some worry about whether the whole Y2K computer brouhaha would gum up the works. Spoiler alert: it didn't. Hotel elevators kept working at midnight (though guests weren't allowed to enter the lifts as a precaution), the lights stayed on, and the celebration continued uninterrupted.

First Night came to Portsmouth in 1986. Just like Boston, Portsmouth gets into a pyrotechnic frame of mind on New Year's Eve, though it's a single show at an earlier hour: 7:30pm. 

Part of the challenge of shooting the Portsmouth fireworks is to try to come up with a new vantage point from which to capture them from one show to the next. The year I made this photo was one of the first times I decided to take my camera into town for First Night so I went for the wide angle. To be accurate I guess I should say my camera and I were in Maine for First Night: here you see the Portsmouth waterfront along with the landmark North Church as viewed from across the Piscataqua River in Kittery, Maine. Because it was bitterly cold, I was appreciating the fact that they didn't wait for midnight to light up the sky. Didn't really matter, though. I love fireworks.

Here's to First Night 2023!


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