Landscapes and Riverscapes

of the Delaware River Valley

Portfolio One


Walpack Bend is a remote section of the river, in feeling and in fact. After a long section of slow moving water, the river races through the broadening shallow bend. The air is fresh with pine, with a western feel because of the expansive and wilder nature of the location. The far bank has sections which have been scraped clean by high water through the turn. Wavelets surf back upstream, against the current.


Leaving the fence slightly open, the residents left one afternoon. The fence bears the memory of openings and closings. Rusted and overgrown, the last opening suspended in time, ghosts pass freely. The trees keep company, arms outstretched. The house is nearby, the barns, chicken coop, silo all entwined, the fenced-in garden, and the long descending field bordered by magnificent pines. Ghosts are but the invisible energy of things that once were.


An elf sized forest, rimed by relative giants, centurion elders, behind which a scrim of morning dew is penetrated by sunlight, the deeper forest’s edge, and if you’ve been there an old winding path into the woods past a rock escarpment, a tree filled pond where few tarry. Mayapple has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes, originally by indigenous inhabitants and later by other settlers. The more we look carefully at nature the more magical and miraculous it is.


The large waterfall was cavernous, but just above it was a scene of variegated textures, different pieces that suggested a composition for the medium format square aspect ratio might be possible, and with study and positioning a balanced scene revealed itself: the root structure’s static expression of the stream’s similar path as it reaches down along the rocks, the giant pill-shaped stone with moss and lichens, the textured grey of the tree, the semi-cave, the distant woods with commenting trees.


Assuredly, the beaver finished his work and felled this tree, dragging it off across the pond to add to his house. Without this tree, there is no primary subject to this photograph. This moment when the tree is still standing but its imminent demise presumed, speaks of photography capturing a single moment in time. A photograph is a kind of time machine, and film a tangible object in which one can hold that moment in one’s hand.


Renaissance paintings often portray a heavenly light, and the peaceful morning river here is illuminated just so.


The island in Walpack Bend is under water in flood stage, but in lower water one can walk over to it, stepping only on large stones that make up the river’s bed. Like the prow of a ship, a beautiful, relatively small tree leaning downstream, nestles in the composition into the vanishing point of the river. Walpack Bend is expansive. A friend told me that he had seen two bald eagles there locked midair in battle, both holding on to the same fish, so devoted to their struggle that they came crashing down out of the sky into the river.


On a refreshingly cold April morning, the glassy subtle shimmering surface on the pond could have been mistaken for a thin coating of ice, given the surrounding frost on last year’s grass. New green shoots are already up in the water, their stems touching the upside down reflections of the tall trees, brought into frame and contained in the pond’s eye, the earth itself staring out, patiently watching time and seasons pass.


This old rock wall probably made someone’s arms strong and their back hurt. These are not small stones, they are beautiful, covered in rioting moss and lichens. Self-contained miniature ecosystems, with some 20,000 different species, lichens are not plants, but a composite organism, cover 6% of Earth’s surface, and are some of the oldest living things. There was some path to follow, and when this wall was built, the tree at the end was a sapling. Together, now, they form a strong composite visual structure.


A tree reaching for a cloud is an unlikely story, but there it is, a tree turned towards the sky, with the aspirations of a dancer looking for a perfect pirouette, cell by cell left to practice unattended, happy in creation, watching the sky and waving at the clouds.