In the light

As a photographer, I’m deeply aware of the importance of light in the creation of an interesting image. There are many times when the type of lighting is as vital as the subject matter.

This was one of those times.

My wife and I were spending a couple of days visiting The Henry Ford, an excellent and somewhat unusual museum in Dearborn, Mich. We were near the end of a long day at Greenfield Village, the 240-acre outdoor component to The Ford, when we stepped into the Daggett Farmhouse, a 1760s farmhouse from Connecticut. Four historical presenters, in period clothing, were sitting around a table sewing by window light  They explained to us that they had finished their chores for the day and were using the rare free time to darn — or repair — some clothing, just as the Daggett family would have done 250 years ago.

The late afternoon sunlight filtering through the window beside the table was perfect for photography. It provided an excellent modeling light on Cindy, one of the presenters, highlighting the textures in the handmade clothing, providing contrast to the muted colors and showing the character in her face. In general, the defused, directional lighting created the perfect tone and mood — the atmosphere — of the scene.

So I knelt down to table level and grabbed a couple of candid shots of Cindy as she sewed, talked and laughed with friends.

The shot wasn’t posed. It wasn’t even planned. But the lighting was too good to pass up. And It’s my photo of the week this week.

Before we left I showed Cindy the series of shots on the camera’s LCD panel. She gave me her email address (something the Daggetts definitely didn’t have in the 1760s) and I sent the shots to her when I returned home.

We really enjoyed the two days we spent at The Henry Ford, the first day at Greenfield Village and the second day at the indoor portion of the museum. But I have to admit I had mixed feelings about Greenfield Village.

It was educational — and fun — to see things like the Thomas Edison laboratory, the homes of Noah Webster and Robert Frost, the Wright Brother’s bicycle shop, the Farris Windmill and the many, many other historical structures as vintage Model Ts carried visitors around the grounds.

But one fact put a damper on the fun. None of these structures had any tie to their current location in Dearborn. The Thomas Edison lab was in Menlo Park, N.J., when Edison used it from the late 1800s to create many of his inventions. The Noah Webster home was in New Haven, Conn. Robert Frost’s home was in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Wright Brother’s bicycle shop was in Dayton, Ohio. The Farris Windmill, thought to be America’s first windmill, was used to power milling equipment in the mid 1600s in Cape Cod, Mass. All had been disassembled at their original site, transported to Dearborn and restored on the grounds of The Henry Ford.

Personally I would have preferred that these structures be restored and preserved at their original sites. The historical significance would have been much greater. But I don’t know the stories or reasons behind each structure’s relocation. Maybe there was an unwillingness or a lack of funding in the local communities to undertake the restoration/preservation. 

It’s impressive that The Henry Ford has gone to the time, effort and expense to transport and preserve these structures. It’s just odd to see Henry Ford’s garage down the street from the Wright Brother’s shop, which is around the corner from Edison’s lab and down the road from Frost’s and Webster’s homes and a stone’s throw from the courthouse where Abraham Lincoln practiced law. That’s one impressive neighborhood.

The history is there. It’s just the geography that’s distorted.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.


Date/time: May 15, 2017, 3:24 p.m.  
Location: 42°18’10.999” N 83°13'19" W 
(Show in Google Maps) 
Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II  
Lens: Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8L (52mm)
Aperture: f/2.8
Shutter: 1/500th second
ISO: 1250