Last Wednesday we decided to go to Cooperstown. So we booked a room and on Friday evening, we left. If you’ve never been, Cooperstown is one of those charming tourist towns that somehow manages to handle hoards of visitors with grace and charm. Laid out over a few blocks at the southern tip of Otsego Lake, it is a place of old mansions and trimmed hedges, of a shop-lined main street, of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
While we were there, the Fall Festival was taking place. The primary attraction? Giant pumpkins; huge, oversized, mutant pumpkins, pumpkins that are small if they only weight 800 lbs. Pumpkins so large that it takes a front-end loader to lift them onto the scale. Pumpkins that, after being weighed in and admired, are the next day hollowed out and floated across the lake in a regatta (I didn’t get to see that part, sadly). It is a quintessentially American celebration in the most quintessential of American towns – a celebration of home-grown excess coupled with bizarrity. And it was wonderful.
The weather was lovely, a blue autumn sky and puffy clouds in the morning, the sort of day where you don’t need the “vivid” setting on the camera – lift itself is vivid enough. I was using the G10 all day, carried along for convenience. This was a trip to make photos, but primarily it was a trip to get away and spend some time with Mandy, so juggling the DSLR and lenses was out. But that didn’t matter, the little Powershot was plenty: at ISO 80 and f/8, I was still getting good shutter speeds, and everything from here to Canada was in sharp focus.
In a place like this, where everything looks scenic, I tried to take shots that would show something true about it. The Fall Festival was remarkable for the pumpkins; the main street for its lovely, olden-time charm; the lake for the reflection of the sky and foliage on the water.
I ended by the lake, in a small park at the very headwaters of the Susquehanna River. It is hard to believe that such a large river, a river I grew up around, has such modest beginnings, but then I suppose that’s the way of most things. I spent some time photographing the headwaters, trying to capture the green tint. And I spent some more time photographing sailboats at their moorings, with the whole lake and autumn hills behind.
This was the most challenging set of the day; the scene was beautiful, but the light was starting to fall flat as the clouds built up. Without a tripod, true HDR was out of the question (the G10’s continuous shutter speed is far too slow to try and handhold three exposures). I settled for shooting a single RAW file at the best exposure I could get, and then processing it into a psuedo-HDR image at home. It was just enough to kick an edge back into the scene, without looking too fake.
This is the time of year when photographers should be out and about. It is a time filled with festivals, filled with celebrations of the harvest and of life, when small towns really shine and the hills are filled with color. Pretty soon we’ll all be griping about winter, dragging on in its third month of gloom. Find the time to enjoy autumn while we have it.