Cellar Envy

Saturday was a whirlwind of a day where I got up, got dressed, went to the transfer station, stopped at Farmer Kev’s stand for, among other things, red potatoes, went to Hannaford, came home, met Shannon’s new dog, Somara, made a salad with with roasted beets, roasted walnuts, feta, dried cranberries, and romaine, went to a picnic to meet darling baby (and she is a darling!), came home to thankfully discover that the three dogs—Somara, Holly, and Liam—left alone had been as good as can be, brought raspberry bars and other items to the library event at the high school, and came home to fix an anniversary meal for Shannon and Mike. Phew! I was bushed by the time it was all over.

Now, you would think Sunday would have been a day of rest for us, but it was not. Next Saturday is the Winthrop Art Fair, and Clif and I—of Hinterland Photography—will be there selling cards and framed photos. There was—and still is—much to do.

Our friends Dawna and Jim generously agreed to let us use their canopy, and yesterday afternoon we went to their house to fetch it. While we were there, Dawna showed us the little studio she has set up in her cellar. Dawna is an accomplished photographer, and she especially likes still life photography, which to my way of thinking is a difficult form. On the face of it, it seems that nothing could be easier than throwing a few things together—say, a vase with flowers and some rocks—and taking a picture of them. The objects don’t move. The light doesn’t change. But go ahead and try it and see what you get. Every bit of background clutter can find its way into a still life, and while the light doesn’t change, normal lighting in a house tends to be either too dark or too bright. I’ve tried many times to get a good still life picture on our dining room table, and most of the time I’ve failed.

In her cellar, Dawna has a big screen for a backdrop, and she has various lamps and flashes for lighting.  The secret, I think, to taking a good still life is that there has to be a lot of control in the surrounding environment. (Sometimes, of course, you can get lucky and stumble onto a situation where the light is gorgeous, and the display is pleasing. But those times are the exceptions rather than the rule.)

As Dawna showed us her little studio in her cellar, I looked around. The floor was painted and very clean. Everything was stacked neatly on shelves or tucked away in drawers. There was not a cobweb in sight. The same was true for Jim’s side of the cellar, where he keeps his big saw and tools. For Jim, too, is not only an accomplished photographer, but he is also very handy.

Readers, I am not ashamed to admit it. I had cellar envy. The cellar at the little house in the big woods is cluttered and cobwebby. The shelves are either rusted metal or sagging chipboard, and they are just begging to be  replaced. And the floor, well, let’s not talk about the floor. Alas, Clif and I are not as neat and tidy and organized as Jim and Dawna.

Ah, well! We admire it others, that’s for sure, and we do what we can to stem the tide of uncontrolled clutter and cobwebs. But at best it’s a draw.

 

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