On September 15, 2013 in Irasburg Vermont, I completed my journey through Vermont’s 251 towns in 351 days. While I’ve attained my initial quest, I consider it only a beginning as already I’ve begun thinking about the next leg of my journey.
With five remaining towns, I planned an overnight trip in Barton on September 14 intending to visit Barton, Brownington, Westmore, Irasburg and Coventry. Which town would be my last town? I've wondered since about halfway though. Since the beginning of my journey, there has been no real rhyme or reason as to which towns I would visit when. In the final weeks I chipped away at my remaining towns, two at a time, until I was left with the cluster of five towns in the Northeast kingdom.
I arrived in Barton mid afternoon, checked into my room and headed out to explore. I scouted the area to see where the light would be best that afternoon and the following morning. I traversed the region several times covering all of the towns except for Irasburg, and while I photographed Barton, Coventry, Brownington and Westmore on both Saturday and Sunday, Irasburg was the only remaining town I had not visited until Sunday September 15. So it was there that I completed my journey, and what a beautiful place to end up.
There were still two towns I had visited but hadn't really photographed, or at least that I felt confident that I had done justice. I had spent a couple of hours driving around Walden early on, misguided as I've since learned, by my ill informed navigation system. It seems that it really doesn't know that part of the state, since only yesterday while out shooting autumn foliage, as I reached my target destination of Craftsbury Common, it still had me some two and a half miles out. I suppose one thing I have learned over the past year is that my DeLorme Gazetteer is more reliable navigation tool than my on board navigation system, at least in parts of Vermont. It turns out that there are a lot of wonderful scenes to photograph in Walden. One just needs to be on the right road to Walden.
Then there was Cavendish. I had landed in Cavendish back on February 28. There had been a heavy wet show the night before, and by the time I arrived in Proctorsville, the sun had turned the snow to heavy wet slush and it seemed that everything was covered in mud. While I've tried to be true to what Vermont really looks like throughout this project, I just couldn't bring myself to click the shutter that day, so I returned on September 18, officially completing my quest.
Throughout the year, as much as I've tried to suppress thoughts of what would come next and focus on the task at hand, I often found myself thinking about the next phase. What will I do with the images? One of my goals was to build a portfolio of fine art quality images. Having shot thousands of frames, spending countless hours critiquing and editing my images, I am pleased with the results. Though what constitutes a fine art quality image has evolved over the year; I find myself removing images which six months ago would have made it through that final cut. I suppose that means my work has evolved, at least in my view, which I believe is a good thing.
The idea of producing a 2014 wall calendar became obvious to me fairly early on; it just made sense since it was a year long project. All along, I suppose In the back of my mind I've been thinking that the body of work would be better served in book form than as a group of images for exhibition, so I have that in my sights as well. But a bigger question nagging at me has been what will I do photographically after photographing all of the towns in Vermont?
Since completing the project I've ventured out several times. It's high foliage season after all, and while I have to admit I'm feeling more than a little burned out, this year I'm more determined than ever to capture Vermont's annual "tail fanning". Though not having a specific assignment, I find myself driving in circles at times in much the same way I did last year at this time which was what drove me to this self assignment. Digging deeper is what it was all about. There were many times during the year that I approached a place and found nothing inspiring. Often I turned the car around promising to return on a better day, or in a different season. But more often I forced myself out of the car and started shooting things that maybe didn't inspire me, but certainly forced me to delve deeper. As determined as I was to produce an image not just for the sake of producing an image, the process made me reach beyond my comfort zone and I believe has made me a better photographer. The single most important reason for starting this journey was bring photography back to the center of my life, and by that measure, this project has been an overwhelming success.
So now I'm ready to embark on the next leg of this journey. After the final leaves have dropped, and I'm satisfied that I've done this year's foliage season proper justice, I will begin working on a new theme. I've not yet fully formulated a concept; I would like to dust off my large format cameras and start working in black and white again. Also, having logged more miles than I care to think about, whatever I focus on photographing in the foreseeable future, I will be exploring in my back yard; close to home.