Saturday, August 10, 2013

Adventures in Photography: The Return of an American Icon (Mayflower II)

            Mayflower II had been away from its home port, historic Plymouth Harbor, for a very long time.   Many locals, tourists and business owners had lamented her absence.   After a nearly 9 month hiatus for significant hull repairs, the grand lady made a glorious return to Plymouth.   She was greeted by hundreds of people loudly cheering as she arrived at her pier.

Mayflower II was first sailed to America from England in 1957.   After 56 years of service at sea, the ship is in need of repairs.   The first major repairs were begun in December of 2012 and were significantly delayed when the exact type of wood for the hull could not be readily found.     After many months, the repairs were made and the Mayflower II made her voyage home.   She was accompanied by the tugboat Jaguar, of New Bedford.

Captain Tim Brady of Plymouth graciously guided a press corps aboard his deep sea fishing boat, the Mary Elizabeth.   As we headed out of Plymouth Harbor to meet Mayflower II, Captain Brady shared his extensive knowledge and love for the history of Plymouth with his passengers.    Soon, he had us expertly positioned alongside one of the most famous sailing ships in America. 

History is one of my favorite subjects.   Photographing reenactments of famous events is truly a joy.   Seeing these events as they may have looked hundreds of years ago is a fantastic way to bring history to life.  

As a photographer, I strive to make images that include only elements that look authentic to the time period being reenacted.    This allows the viewer the chance to “see” history as it may have looked.     In this case, my goal was to have the image appear as if it were 1620.   Keeping the background free of modern elements was a challenge.   Cottages on the shore, other boats, especially the tug and the passengers of the Mayflower dressed in modern clothes all distract from the “authentic” scene.

As Mayflower II made its way into the harbor, it was greeted by numerous sailboats that formed an impromptu parade.   Upon seeing this, I was immediately struck with a pre-visualization of a black and white image including Mayflower II with the sailboats trailing behind.   I momentarily abandoned my goal of making an “authentic” image and concentrated on the modern day beauty of the scene.    A few moments later, Mayflower II and the sailboats came together in a very pleasing composition.

Turning the corner into Plymouth Harbor, Mayflower II had Long Beach behind it, providing a very pleasing backdrop of sand dunes.   It was time to make “authentic” images.    Fortunately, Captain Brady slowed down his boat and allowed Mayflower II to run parallel to us.   This hid the tugboat from sight and provided ample opportunity to create beautiful images uncluttered by modern life.  

Soon, Mayflower II was greeted by the Plymouth Fire Boat, firing its water canon high into the air as a salute.   With the crowd enthusiastically cheering, Mayflower II reclaimed her place as the centerpiece of Plymouth Harbor.

This month’s tip:  New England is brimming with opportunities for recreating history.  Plimouth Plantation, Minuteman National Park, Fort at No. 4, Pow Wows, The Freedom Trail, Salem, Old Sturbridge Village and numerous other locations offer fantastic settings for creating beautiful “authentic” images.



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