Walks with Nellie
One of the great things about photography is that it gives us an excellent excuse to travel. Whether it is to the next town or the other side of the world, it seems we are always looking for those great images that are from someplace else. In recent years I have been concentrating my photography on New England, and more specifically, the Monadnock Region and southern Vermont. This is my home base, but I do love traveling and shooting outside of the region. Last summer it was Yellowstone, the Tetons and the Columbia River Valley. The year before we cruised down the Danube. These were unique adventures and great photographic opportunities, but I always looking forward to getting home. I am sure that I do my best work in the area I know the best and photography around my own own neighborhood is most rewarding.
Recently, I have been reminded of the advantages of shooting really close to home. A few weeks ago my wife underwent bilateral knee replacement. It is a long recovery process and both of us have been tied to home for the last several weeks. My time out of the house has been largely restricted to the roads looping around my neighborhood that I travel on the walks with our dog Nellie. It may seem a very limited range of interest, but as I reviewed my images, it became apparent that the flow of the seasons in a small New England village offers a great deal of photographic interest in a very small area. It is all a matter looking.
Spofford is a village in the New Hampshire town of Chesterfield. The main village hugs the banks of Partridge Brook which drains Spofford Lake. From its origins, settlers used the flowing water to provide power for various manufacturing. In the 19th century, it was nationally known for the production of spindles for high-speed spinning machines. The factories are now largely gone, but the brook and the remnants of mill dams remain and are attractive features in all seasons. Along our walks though the village, Nellie and I can see lovely old houses and barns which, depending on the season, may be encased in snow or framed in the brilliant autumn colors. The village has a number of pastures lined by old stone walls and stately border trees. During the spring and summer, I am often distracted by the exuberant flower gardens that decorate the village. Spofford Cemetery is a peaceful oasis sitting on a hill above the village with views to the north and to Mt. Pisterine. Nellie can rest here by the grave of her name-sake, Nellie Pierce Dunham, who lived in our house until her death in 1923. We have traditionally named our dogs after former occupants of our home. Sophie, our first dog, was named after the matriarch of the Pierce family, who died in 1887 at the age of 102.
Just down the road from us a rolling nine-hole golf course offers lovely views, especially during the winter, when it becomes accessible for snow shoeing. And, of course, Spofford Lake is just around the corner. We are on the eastern end providing opportunities for spectacular sunsets and towering storm clouds. Most importantly, Nellie loves swimming in the lake. She enjoys frog hunting in all seasons, including in the winter, anytime there is a hole in the ice.
I don’t think my village is unusual for rural New England. Whether you are in the country or the city there are special attractions available within an easy walk. The first step is to bring the camera. You never know when a change in weather or a particular angle of light will illuminate something exciting. Having the camera in hand will keep you alert for these opportunities. Susan and I both look forward to her increased mobility and independence. She can’t wait to get hiking on those sparkling titanium knees, but in the meantime I can think of much worse places to be stranded.
For more images of my village, check out this week’s edition of my Getting it Right in the Digital Camera blog.
~ Jeff Newcomer