Poucha Pond

Poucha Pond runs to the right of the infamous Dike Bridge on the small island of Chappaquiddick off of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. The bridge was  where Senator Ted Kennedy's Oldsmobile 88 flipped over on its roof into the water at night in July 1969. Kennedy was driving and survived the accident, Mary Jo Kopechne did not.

I put my kayak in the water at the bridge and paddled out on a very warm and gray late September afternoon with a camera around my neck and a towel to dry my hands before bringing the camera to my eye.  Paddle, position the boat, dry hands, take picture, paddle some more and repeat again and again.

To emphasize the horizon, practically all there was, I made these long and thin.  Not true panoramics, they are cropped from the full frame. The prints are 28 inches wide and about 11 inches high.

This is a lifelong obsession; some sky, a band of land with water in the foreground.  The theme has prevailed on and off, from early days as a spray painter of large canvases, to work done in Italy shooting along the coast in the Adriatic with the 8 x 10, to more recent times in northern Iceland. Frequently breaking the rule that says not to place the horizon in the center, the work seems essential, residing at some core value in my aesthetic.

I don't know. Does the terrible history of the place load the pictures somehow? Is it important to carry this with you as you view my photographs of this bucolic place, devoid of people but resonating with an accidental death so long ago? Just as  it is important to know what we don't know, I believe it is important to know what we can't see.

Risky that, kayaking with a good camera hung over your neck. Picked an almost calm day with little wind. A calculated risk, I suppose. Seemed worth it as I really wanted to get at this from the water, not the opposing shore.

Maybe a little tough to realize these compressed and small on your iPhone screen. If you are on a computer try double clicking on an image. They'll get bigger.

There are 10 total. I will put them up on the gallery page on the site soon.  Want to see the real things? Worth your while. Email me: nrantoul@comcast.net

Topics: Aerials,Tom's Neck

Permalink | Posted October 13, 2017

Gail Hill

My very good friends, the artist Gail Hill (Website) and her husband Hal Kay from Toronto couldn't make it this fall for a visit to Martha's Vineyard. Via emails and text messages Gail's been bugging me to at least share some pictures with her, since she couldn't be here.

So, here we go:

Oak Bluffs, taken two days after the mass shootings in Las Vegas

I photograph most days while here, usually centering on a specific place, and go back over and over. This time it is Oak Bluffs and it is difficult because it is so very familiar. I have been trying to see it with new eyes, as if for the first time.

Gail Hill is a very special person, with an active art career that spans photography and painting as well as playing a large role as a career advisor and mentor  (Creative Self) to many many in Toronto. She also is a wonderful cook.


I occasionally photograph from my kayak, as above. This falls into the "high risk" category but I try to pick calm water and slight wind. This from Poucha Pond above the famous Dike Bridge on Chappaquiddick where May Jo Kopechne lost her life in the car Ted Kennedy was driving one night after a party.

I hope you like these, Gail. Wish you were here.

Topics: Martha's Vineyard,Color,New Work,Northeast

Permalink | Posted October 4, 2017

Mark Rothko

Eleven paintings by the American artist Mark Rothko just opened at the Boston Museum of Art. I went just before I headed to Martha's Vineyard for a few weeks. This small but intense show looks at Rothko's work both before and after the discovery of his main device of his signature rectangle in about 1948. Talk about epiphany! Imagine Rothko discovering this major vehicle, his presentational form.  He stayed with it the rest of his life. Mark Rothko committed suicide in 1971.

I've always gone back to Rothko's work for stability, a kind of foundation or grounding of creative expression for me when feeling lost in my own thoughts,  or looking for motivation. His paintings exude such power and cut through so much to arrive at something very fundamental.

You ask, how can just 11 paintings constitute an exhbition worth going to? The answer: if they are eleven paintings by this amazing 20th century master.

If you do go, give yourself a little time. These are not to be rushed through. Slow your clock, if you can.

There are three of the very late-in-his-career "black" paintings in the show. They are simliar to the ones in the Rothko Chapel in Houston (Chapel). I've been to see these several times. The ones at the MFA are smaller and precede the ones in Houston, which were commissioned. The paintings in the current show are exquisite, enveloping and will have a deep impact on you if you can let everything else go. Accessible, no, not very, but worth the effort if you are able to just be. Takes a while.

Mark Rothko at the MFA Boston, through July 1, 2018.

I referenced another Rothko in this blog from last spring: I Love Art

Highly Recommended

Topics: paintings,art

Permalink | Posted September 29, 2017


While I readily admit that photography has expanded and progressed technically, I am not so sure about its sophistication, nuance and subtlety. I believe that with more photographs being made, and more photographs being made as art, there may be less to see, less to hold your attention and more pictures made for their shock value than for their true worth.

Hershey PA

Case in point: look at contest winners, the photographs that win in photography competitions. Besides often being judged by people that seem to this observer unqualified, the top pictures are inevitably ones that judges haven't seen before. Substance? Intricacy? Commentary? Usually not so much. 

Thompson Springs Utah

Let's face it, with more photographs being seen on screens rather than in print form and the attention span of someone looking at work online being seconds instead of minutes, a shocking image has got a far better chance of increased exposure than one that is a finely crafted and made to be a lasting experience. So here's the big problem. For if we switch from screen to a print on display a shocking image won't last, won't hold yours or anyone else's attention. Which one would you rather have on your wall as part of your art collection? Which one would you respect more over time, which one would you come back to again and again, marveling at its ability to keep on giving? Not the one that slapped you in the face, not the one that surprised you but that only that made that one point.

Yountville, CA

Raise the bar, go for depth in your work. Say something with it. The hell with the shock value photograph. Would you rather trade in Stravinskys, Rothkos and Picassos or McDonalds, Bob's Big Boy and Chinese sourced plastic goods at Walmart?

At my age I want to make pictures that convey my intention in intense, sublime, intricate and contemplative ways. I want to extend the range of things like landscape photography to new levels and unique approaches. Or to draw attention to the masks we make in our own image. After all, part of art is about looking at the world differently. I want to look at things that are both beautiful and abhorrent and seek to display both with subtlety, compassion and perhaps  humor.


Many would say that my Mutter Museum work , or the pictures from Reggio Emilia are shocking. They may be, but I would counter that there is great value in understanding the commonality of the human and animal condition and to understand just how fortunate we may be. I would hope that is evident in the pictures. "Shocking " with those pictures is not front tier for me.

Reggio Emilia, Italy

Do not seek to impress, do not make the pictures because of a calculation of perceived effect. Do not aspire to something: a place, a show, an award, a book. Do not spend time wishing for, or hoping you can, or thinking that if this person just sees it, everything will change. Just make the work. The result will be truer to you and the work itself will ring true. Your confidence in the work you have made (no small point) that you carry under your arm as prints to show someone in a key position will be self evident and flow easily from you because the work is, yes, terrific.

So, shock ....or substance?

Topics: Commentary

Permalink | Posted September 26, 2017


Let me tell you about this past Thursday. 

Note: There will be a few posts on this one topic. This is a project that combines aerial photographs with ground-based imagery.

While Texas was bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Harvey and Donald Trump was about to pardon former sheriff Joe Arpaio I was in Vermont photographing the Connecticut River. Far less newsworthy I admit but nevertheless big in my world. It was quite a day with two distinct parts to it.

Warning: the pictures shown here simply aren't going to do anything for you by seeing them on your phone. I make pictures that are way up there in terms of resolution, sharpness, tonal range and color rendition. When you do get to see them on a good color display you can click on an image and it will expand to a larger rendering.

Part 1

Photographing The River is a project that has crept up on me. There was no thunderbolt of inspiration, no big epiphany here, just the quiet realization that every time I drove over it, or kayaked down it I was fascinated with what it showed me on its banks and what went on behind them.

This harkens back to my project called Tom's Neck from a few years ago. Very often on a shore or embankment on a river, stands a row of trees, acting as a wall or a barrier to what is behind them.

So this summer I've been photographing the river, usually from one shore pointing across at the opposite one, although sometimes from a bridge. Thursday I went up in a plane to get at it from above, starting at RT 2 in Turner's Falls, MA and flying up to Bellows Falls, VT and back. 

My day started here:

at the little airstrip at Turner's Falls.

The day was perfect.

Right away the river opened up to reveal its secrets. Of course, it was magnificent:The Connecticut River is an "old" river along southern Vermont and northern Massachusetts. No rapids or fast water and usually quite wide, with a few islands along the way. The river valley through here is heavy-duty farming country, with large crops of hay and corn but also squash, tomatoes, melons and even hops for beer:

In late August it all comes to fruition. The corn is high and they're practically giving tomatoes away.

As the pilot and I skimmed along at about 800 feet above the water in a high winged Cessna it was easy to follow the river as it meandered north. Since I was in the right seat, I pointed out the open window with my camera at the eastern bank on the way up and the western bank on the way down.

As we approached Brattleboro the river widened out into marshes:

Next up? More aerial photographs of the river and then on to part two of my day. My trip in the excursion boat the Lady Bea with a group from a nursing home.

Turf Farm near Greenfield, MA

Topics: Tom's Neck,Spring,Digital,Northeast,New Work,Color

Permalink | Posted August 27, 2017