June 28, 2024

Toads, Arks and Rocks

It's hot and humid. I'm hiking uphill getting close to large rocks left by glaciers when suddenly noticing this toad prompts a reflex of surprised levitation. Feet back on earth, I crouch down, zoom in, and snap away.

Guardian - An American Toad

I'm on a Trustees of Reservations property in Manchester-by-the-Sea, recently renamed The Monoliths, a change from Agassiz Rock. According to the Trustees, "There is no doubt that Agassiz’s theories about the rocks dotting New England’s landscape being shaped and deposited by glaciers and not the biblical flood that floated Noah’s Ark, as believed at the time, were groundbreaking. However, Agassiz also vehemently promoted the theory of polygenism—the view that humans of varying skin color are of different origins and non-white races are inherently inferior—to a degree that was considered extreme even for his time."  Click for their full explanation for the name change.

How Long
 Has This Been Going On?

I'm shooting Little Rock with a contemporary Nikon Mirrorless Z6 II DSLR camera, using my 50-year-old 50mm f1.4 Nikkor lens acquired as a teenager.  

Positively Pyramidal

Using a technique to create experimental images I learned when teaching at Hallmark Institute of Photography, I removed the lens from the camera and held it an angle a slight distance from the camera's sensor. 


When not experimenting, my vintage lens renders super sharp images.

Same Scene Seen Differently

Like my unexpected toad spotting, I love the surprises that emerge when using equipment in a fashion it was not designed for. Perhaps the dreaminess captures the location's mythical aspects.

Life from Rock

The very large (f1.4) maximum aperture of the lens allows me to isolate subjects using shallow depth of field.

Big Rock

Down the hill from Little Rock near a swamp is the 30-foot-tall Big Rock. Nestled in trees, it was hard to photographically capture the majesty of the edifice. The process became even more challenging as a swarm of mosquitos attacked me and sweat streamed down my face.

Fern Fractal

Despite not being satisfied with my photos of Big Rock, the adverse conditions caused me to surrender and retreat back to my car.

Rock my World
On my way out, the markings on this rock evoked the toad that welcomed me to the property.

Back to top and toad.

Professor John Nordell teaches courses in the Arts, Media, and Design Program at American International College in Springfield, Mass. He blogs about the creative process at CreateLookEnjoy.com. Instagram: create.look.enjoy