Thursday, November 19, 2020


Sunrise over Moose Pond Bridgton

Can photography be considered fine art? That depends on what one thinks art is, and I suspect there are differing opinions. Few would disagree that Michaelangelo and Da Vinci were artists, but what about Ansel Adams?

Last summer I applied as a photographer to Gallery 302, a cooperative art gallery in Bridgton, Maine and was accepted. Everyone exhibiting there is called an artist, but not all the three dozen or so “artists” agree with that designation for photographers. Everyone has to contribute in some way to the functioning of the gallery, so when the gallery president discovered I was a columnist, she asked me to write up something to answer the question that opens this column.

Autumn sunrise Eastman Hill, Lovell 

I’m comfortable calling myself a photographer, and I guess I’m a professional photographer too since people have paid me tens of thousands in exchange for hundreds of my photos, but I’m not completely comfortable calling myself an artist. Ansel Adams said once that: “Art implies control of reality, for reality itself possesses no sense of the aesthetic. Photography becomes art when certain controls are applied.”

Ansel Adams

Whoever thinks, even for a few seconds, before snapping a shutter is “applying certain controls.” 

Ansel Adams

Aesthetic” means “is concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty.” As for the controls he applied, Adams liked his images sharp with broad tonal range, and his best-known work was in black-and-white. Although that medium doesn’t grab me, I see they’re good. His less-well-known color images, however, are stunning. After viewing those, I have no trouble calling Adams an artist. When he talks about “a sense of the aesthetic” he’s talking about beauty — and that is experienced on a feeling level. 

Crystal Lake Harrison, Maine

If I should photograph a document with my iPhone, for example, there’s no feeling involved; it’s a utilitarian gesture. But when I pull over somewhere to photograph a tree, a landscape, a sunrise or a sunset with a DSLR, I’m perceiving beauty and attempting to capture some of it. I’m compelled to preserve as many aspects of it as I can, for myself and for others with whom I may share my images.

Autumn sunset Lovell, Maine

Beauty is often fleeting. Certain kinds of light render it visible, enhance it. Whatever I see when I pull over can disappear by the time I get my camera out of its bag, turn it on, set the aperture, zoom in our out, and focus. It only takes a second for the light to change. As Darylann Leonard, one of the other photographers exhibiting at Gallery 302 put it: “In my opinion a lot of work goes into a shot -- studying the light, driving around for hours scouting locations, going to a location 20 times before getting a shot that is worth processing, spending hours hiking to get different perspectives, spending hours in the cold, spending a lot of time and thought to compose an image, getting up at early hours to catch the good light etc…”

By Darylann Leonard

She’s right of course. I’ve done those things too and it is work, but not in the sense of drudgery. It’s work I love to do. There can be frustrations when the light changes just as I’m getting ready to shoot, but the payoff after getting it right is extremely satisfying. Sometimes I’m very lucky to stumble onto a beautiful scene and capture it right away with little effort. Painters, too, often use a camera and then paint from the photo — emphasizing this, leaving out that, mixing colors to either match the photo or enhance it.

My wife Roseann's garden

Today’s high-end digital cameras capture lots of details in a “file” that require sophisticated editing software to bring out. The software can also make the photo look like a watercolor, or oil painting, or nearly any other kind of rendering imaginable. As Darylann put it: “The second dimension is processing. I think photographers develop styles of [digital] processing similar to dark room days. [They] study the execution of bringing out certain dynamics [buried in] an image. So I guess my argument would be that photographers most definitely can fit into the category of fine art, but in [our] own unique way[s] — just as there are different media for painters.”

17,000-year-old cave painting Lasceaux, France

Though I had no aptitude for either, I admired fellow students in third grade who showed talent for drawing and painting. Once I tried to copy an image of a robin on a tree branch, and I still recall how good it felt when my effort crudely approximated the original. Image-making is an urge inside all of us, and always has been. Seeing the 17,000-year-old cave paintings of Lasceaux, France, I feel a connection with the artists who created them so long ago. The act of image-making is rewarding in itself, independent of any pecuniary benefit that may result.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020


The Associated Press “called” the 2020 presidential election at 11:30 am Saturday for Joe Biden. Other media followed. Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, the rest of the Democrat Party, and allied media behaved as if it were official. President Trump had not conceded. He had instead filed suit in Pennsylvania and Arizona alleging improprieties in vote counting, and is waiting for results of recounts in Georgia and Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, according to Reuters, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he will not congratulate a winner “until all the legal matters have been resolved. I can’t congratulate one candidate or the other. I want to wait until the electoral process is over.” Reuters then declared: “Democrat Joe Biden won the election on Saturday after a victory in the battleground state of Pennsylvania put him over the threshold of 270 Electoral College votes.” Reuters evidently believes our Constitution doesn’t have as much authority as media do in presidential elections. 

Others disagree. “Networks Don’t Get to Decide Elections, Courts Do,” said Trump lawyer and advisor Rudolph Giuliani.

Pennsylvania's Secretary of State hates Trump

So here we are at this writing on Tuesday, November 10th. I cannot help but wonder what will happen if recounts in Georgia and Arizona produce Trump victories, and then the Supreme Court rules that Pennsylvania must disregard ballots it got after election day, and that could give the state to Trump. That scenario looks unlikely at this point but it is still possible. If Biden loses Pennsylvania, his electoral count would be 270. Should any other state be taken out of the Biden column, he doesn’t win.

However, media called the election for Biden and will continue cementing that idea in America’s collective mind as strongly as they can. They’ll also continue depicting allegations of Democrat fraud as preposterous.

What if, after all the court cases and recounts, the Electoral College then declares that Trump has won a second term? Many expected explosions of rioting by groups like Antifa and BLM if Trump were to have won a second term last week. Imagine if those groups, assuaged at first by a perceived Biden victory, had it snatched away. It’s not unrealistic to visualize huge riots dwarfing those we saw all summer. Should that level of violence come to pass, we could justifiably blame media for inciting it.

When Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, networks thought him ridiculous, but they gave him enormous coverage because it pushed their ratings up. After he won the nomination coverage turned negative. After he was elected, coverage turned malevolent and continued at more than 90% negative for all four years of his administraton.

And then there’s this: before Trump’s inauguration mainstream media knew the Steele Dossier couldn’t be verified, but they longed to publish it anyway, so, they used a staged briefing on the dossier by since-fired FBI Director James Comey to then-President-elect Donald Trump as cover to publish the dodgy dossier. In turn, Comey’s FBI then used that very press coverage to “verify” the dossier before the FISA Court to obtain FISA warrants for spying on President Trump’s administration. Talk about circular reasoning!

As determined by the Mueller Investigation, there was never evidence of Trump collusion with Russia to win the 2016 election. Nonetheless, mainstream media pushed the story for more than two years.

Last Thursday night President Trump called a press conference to call attention to reports of election cheating last week by Democrat operative in various states. Major TV networks however, had become so arrogant in their Trump hatred they cut away from his remarks and boldly declared the president was lying! Whenever they mention Trump’s various lawsuits, they preface their remarks with phrases like: “Although they have no evidence of election tampering, Trump’s lawyers…”

There are legitimate questions about how the vote-counting was done in several states last week. Remember, after the 2000 election, Vice President Gore had conceded, but then took back his concession. Media didn’t scoff at Gore’s claims. Media didn’t presume to declare the winner. The country waited. It took weeks for courts to determine how to legally count votes. Only after 37 days, Florida, and ultimately the electoral college, determined who won. What is the rush this time?

Here, two decades later, mainstream media are solidly in control of how people perceive what happened on November 3rd, and there’s no question about who they want to win, and today they have almost everyone calling him “President-elect Biden.”

Democrats, the Deep State, and their mainstream media allies never accepted that Trump won in 2016. For four years, they spied on him, sicced a special prosecutor on him, impeached him, and conducted opinion polls predicting a blue wave to sweep him out of office that didn’t materialize. They’re not about to tolerate anybody questioning the legitimacy of last week’s purported result.

Thursday, November 05, 2020



In the left chair for this show sat John Burroughs, MD. He calls himself centrist, is politically independent, and “looks at every policy on its face.” As the show went on, I saw nothing that would contradict that self-assessment. The first cold question from our producer asked if we were concerned that, because newly-sworn Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett appeared with the president at the White House, she would be a pawn of the president. John said he wasn’t concerned. He said Barrett was certainly conservative, very much against abortion as a Catholic, and “Barrett’s primary loyalty is not to the president, but to the law.” He said nothing with which I would disagree. Interestingly he believes Barrett would not vote to overturn Roe V Wade, and suggested she might recuse herself as a Catholic because she had done that earlier as an appellate judge in a capital punishment case which the church opposes. Second question from the producer listed several right-wing groups and asked if we thought voters would be put in danger from those and some left-wing groups. I said that there are very few paramilitary right-wingers who might cause damage like the Oklahoma City bombing, but there are far more left-wing groups like BLM and Antifa who, though they would cause comparatively little damage to people with their tactics, they would cause far more overall damage to property. Right wing groups tend to be made up of former military people who have been trained to kill, and they’re more dangerous that way. BLM and Antifa will through Molotov cocktails at police cars and burn down buildings. John said both groups like creating chaos, unrest, and violence more than making political statements and that’s their commonality. They like imposing their views on the public at large because “they believe their personal values transcend the rule of law.” He says Donald Trump is dodging questions about whether he would incite violence through such groups should he lose the election. I asked him if he thought Democrats wink at violence by BLM and Antifa. He said both parties wink at extreme behavior by their respective radicals. As we discussed possible election outcomes, John mentioned the Safe Harbor Deadline, with which I was not familiar. The Electoral College sets a date by which states must report to the Electoral College the results of voting within their state. Our producer then printed some documents John read setting the date this year as December 8th. If there are challenges to the vote count they must be resolved within each state by that date. [SIDE NOTE: These procedures will now be playing out. This show was taped six days before the election, but now the results are being challenged in lawsuits by President Trump in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. Trump is demanding a recount in Wisconsin. Arizona may not have gone for Biden as reported and not all the votes are counted as of this writing the afternoon of November 5th.] Given that we didn’t disagree on topics we covered, and this wasn’t a pure Left & Right show, I decided to pick his brain about medical issues, asking why he believed masks are effective with the Covid virus. He said they inhibit spread but don’t prevent it entirely and cited examples. I then asked him about two organizations of doctors, one in the US called the “Frontline Doctors” and the other an international group who signed “The Great Barrington Declaration." Both disagree publicly with various policy recommendations by our NIH and CDC. And, both groups had been censored by Twitter and Facebook as a result. John had not heard of either, but it turns out he agreed with the Great Barrington Declaration, which states that economic and school shutdowns do far more harm than good and are unwarranted. About the Hunter Biden laptop, John believes it’s a hoax perpetrated by the Russians. I brought up Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe’s recent statement that there’s no intelligence to back that up. John, however believes more in a committee report by Senator Chuck Grassley supporting his assertion, which I had not read. At the end, he agreed to come onto future shows and explore other topics like Roe V Wade.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020


Lovell in October

There’s a familiar feeling I get in the fall when the air is cool and the wind is blowing. Fond memories are triggered from over forty-three years ago when I moved my young family to rural Lovell, Maine from Massachusetts. We got to our new old house in August, 1977 and by early October we were settled in. I had a few weeks in my new job behind me and took my shotgun into the woods after school to hunt partridge.

Western Maine in October

It was only a short walk to the overgrown farmland down the street that was promising habitat, but I only had about ninety minutes before the sun set and I would have to walk home for supper. No one freaked out to see a young man carry a shotgun down the road. In the Massachusetts I had left, some might have called police but that wouldn’t happen in Lovell. My formerly-rural town twenty-five miles outside of Boston had turned into a suburb while I was growing up. It changed and I didn’t belong there anymore. Rural Maine became my home and I’ve been here ever since.

My house in Tewksbury now

As a boy in then-rural Tewksbury, Massachusetts, I would accompany pheasant hunters in the woods near my house. I don’t remember their names; I met them while in the woods with my homemade slingshot and pockets full of smooth stones of appropriate size and shape. I was a hunter too. They knew that when noticing my armament and demeanor. Memories of one guy are still vivid. I saw him before he realized I was there. I was waiting to get a shot at a squirrel when I heard him in the dry leaves.

He asked me where I’d seen pheasants and I directed him to an area along a stone wall. I walked along behind him looking to right for squirrels and was startled by a shotgun blast I wasn’t expecting, but turned my head around to the left quickly enough to see an explosion of feathers. The shotgun fascinated me and I would have loved to have one of my own. My father wasn’t a gun owner and my mother, despite my begging, would not let me have a BB gun; hence my slingshot. Over and over, I practiced enough so I could hit what I was aiming at. After that, no squirrel was safe.

Lovell in November

November in Lovell, Maine was wonderful. By the time I got home from school — I was a teacher — there was very little time for deer hunting after Daylight Savings Time kicked in. I had to be out of the woods when the sun went down, but Saturdays and Veteran’s Day I was out there sunrise to sunset. Sundays, the family and I worked on the woodpile. When my brothers moved to Maine a few years later, we hunted together and that was nice. After a while though, I preferred going out by myself. 

I liked the solitude. Seldom did I see a deer but I explored a lot of territory. Leaves were down and, while walking for miles up and down hills, I could see a long way. After supper I would re-study USGS maps of the area and commit them to memory. Though I saw no houses or people where I went, I did see cellar holes. Those wooded hills had once been cleared of trees and covered by farms. Stone walls snaked up and down the hills. Crops grew and animals grazed. The walls were still there. Strands of rusty barbed wire seemed to grow out from the middle of tree trunks like dead branches, but the hills were all wooded again. Farm families who lived and died there were long gone.

Eventually, though, I stopped hunting. Maybe it was because my daughters refused to eat venison. They could always taste it, even in meatballs spiced and cooked in spaghetti sauce. Maybe it was because my testosterone declined with age. I don’t know, but I just lost interest. I still like to shoot in the woods, but now it’s with a camera. I still shoot squirrels which can cause a lot of damage to my property and the other properties I look after. In a way, I’ve come full circle. I can still hit things with a slingshot, but it’s a store-bought one now. I use it to dissuade Canada geese from coming ashore on the lakefront property I manage — and I prefer a .22 for squirrels.