The other day, a well-known Island photographer asked, on her blog, how could one be re-inspired to take photographs on these brief and cold winter days? The answer that blurted out from under my fingers? ”Re: Picture taking in the winter…a ferry ride almost never fails to make me pull my camera out of my pocket or my pack.”
There’s almost always something interesting on a boat ride.
There’s the weather. Vineyard Sound and its weather are changeable, and those changes can happen quickly. Fogs are a veiled atmospheric showtime, and come complete with a soundtrack of waves, bells, motors, and foghorns. Foghorns from ferry and from land, foghorn blaring their visceral megabass.
There’s nothing like the boat during a sudden and torrential summer squall, a swell-tossing southwest gale, or a heaving, spraylasher of a winter northeaster.
There’s the social. You may see a friend, and finally have the time to catch up with each other. You may see someone you only know by sight…the forty-five minutes of crossing time is sufficient for a getting-to-know-you conversation. You may have a serendipitous encounter…just about any sort of person, from the plebian to the plutocrat, travel on the ferry. Strike up a conversation, and you can experience, through them, what you never even knew existed.
Something exciting and dangerous might happen.
One summer day, as the transfer bridge was being raised to let the ferry depart, its support cable snapped, and the bridge fell, BANG, back onto the boat. During an hour delay while repair clamps were found and the cable temporarily fixed, the drama was as exciting as any teevee show. On another summer day, on the freight boat, a gentleman pressed hard on the accelerator pedal instead of the brake, and slammed his car into the car in front of him, which slammed the car in front into the ferry wall in front of them. There was great excitement, and fortunately only minor damage. It would have been another story had anyone been sandwiched between the colliding cars.
Since then, it always makes me nervous when workers on the freight deck stand in front of, and not to the side of the vehicles they’re directing onto the the ferry.
If the weather isn’t interesting, perhaps there will be a light show. Sunrise and sunsets are visual feasts. Maritime light has a quality you can’t find inland. At night, the captain sends a spotlight beam into harbor and channel, which turns the darkness into a theatrical presentation. During the day, cloud openings send God’s spotlights across water and land. Sunlight frequently sparkles from wave and ripple.
Speaking of sparkling, there’s a wonderful ten-dollar adjective for sparkling. It’s “coruscant”, from the verb “coruscate”. The dictionary says these curuscation-family words are from the Latin “coruscātus”, the past participle of “coruscāre”, which means “to quiver, or to flash”.
My most recent flash of ferry imagery comes from a 3:45 PM winter departure from Vineyard Haven to Woods Hole.
In the wintertime, that trip is the “sunset cruise”. Just as the boat makes the turn into Woods Hole, one side of the ferry faces southwest. And light pours into that sunset-facing side.
During that turn, across from me, was a silhouette in the sun.
Unseen in the photo is part of the reason for his contentment.
In his lap was the head of his sleeping dear companion.
The texture in the yellow of the sunlit window is from salt crystals, which cover the outside glass. They have formed from drying salt spray.
The ferry slues slightly, and the full glare of the sun enters the corner of the frame.
May the light shine on you, wherever you travel.