Sometimes it pays to do the obvious. Beaches, with their affinity for horizontality, are an intuitive choice for panoramic formats. As a photographer I sometimes resist the notion perhaps to avoid feeling like I’m following blueprints. In addition, I’m admittedly smitten by squares and have even written a defense of this lonely format a few months earlier. Other times, I wonder what sort of effect a vertical rectangle will have on a low-lying beach. In truth, verticals are the right thing to throw at some beaches with their beeline arched horizons. But this morning I’ll just throw in the towel. Keep in mind it’s mid January and we’re not talking about a tropical beach towel, nor was there anything sweltering about any of these pictures. On the contrary, they were collected off season much like the seashells you pick up between October and March. Depending on your point of view you could say these are pictures of beach days… but it was cold out there.
This work has been rounded up from the sandiest spots in East Hampton and Amagansett. Some, including the ones with red fences, are from Main Beach. Others are from Napeague, which is the stretch of unpopulated shoreline east of Amagansett. In the fall and winter months the beaches here and elsewhere on Long Island fall prey to uncommonly spectacular light. The sun is hunkered down low and bathes the beach with saturated pools of color. The sky hosts some of the most impressive cloud formations of the year. Most other places on the Atlantic coast one can only walk north or south, but here one hikes on the opposite axis (give or take a few degrees). All these things attest to why our beaches are uniquely situated for dramatic lighting throughout the “off” season. To some, winter is a time to comb the internet for bargain airfares. Okay, I admit to doing this myself now and then. But I’m generally content to fly three and a half miles south in my pickup truck with my carry-on stuffed with cameras. For sixteen years my truck has been making short nonstop winter flights to the beach several times a week. The return flights have gone well too except for the pilot’s frozen fingers.
If you hold your cursor over any of the pictures you’ll be rewarded with a title or a location – that is assuming I can remember where I took it in the first place. Typically I park the old truck down by the ocean and commence walking east or west. This can result in some confusion about the titles, if for example, I began my walk at Atlantic Avenue in Amagansett heading west only to pause for photographs mid-way between there and Indian Wells. Likewise, if I find myself in the no-man’s land between the Maidstone Club and Two Mile Hollow. Whatever. You can rest assured that they’re all pictures of the same ocean.
Mark Twain once stated that the best way to view a landscape is by standing on ones head. Assuming he got that mostly wrong, then there will always be room for panoramas. At my shows, I have to make plenty of room for them since some of the pieces require about four feet of wall space. On the other hand, some of the pictures in this post are only printed small. I hope that doesn’t disappoint anyone but I’ve never subscribed to the notion that the optimum size for any given photograph is the largest possible print.
At times, big photographs don’t make any sense to me at all. Some prints benefit from the intimacy of being object-sized – art to hold in ones hand, as it were. For example, I print three of these pictures a tiny triptych. It’s a true miniature which has gained much from its petite proportions. Historically, photography is full of diminutive prints. Carte de visite, tintypes and cabinet cards were cherished art objects passed lovingly from one person to another. They were collected, studied and kept in boxes. That’s why they called them cabinet cards. Visitors to a neighbor’s home would bring carte de visite – a gift for the host to be placed in a small box that hung by the door. Photographs in the early days of the medium were not about filling up wall space. In today’s seductive world of 48″ inkjet printers (machines which are fully capable of decorating the sides of barns) the venerable tradition of printing small is easy to overlook.
That being said…I want to make it clear that if my pictures are happiest when they’re blown up large then I’m willing to give it a go. Size, to an artist who cares, is an esthetic judgement. Forty inches isn’t much nowadays but it’s still a lot to me. Several of the images in this post are the largest ones I currently print. Some of the others are among the smallest. Panoramic images can work as miniatures, but just as often as large photographs.
Viewing these images on your computer monitor is acceptable – but it’s even better to see it all up close and personal. If you’re in the area feel free to set up an appointment anytime during the months of winter and spring. My studio is in East Hampton. If you’ve been out for a stroll on our chilly beaches – stop by – I can make some coffee or hot chocolate.
I can be reached by emailing:
More photographs of Eastern Long Island’s beaches may be seen here by clicking here: