Urban Archaeology - Boston

 Cities are constantly changing, constantly under construction, constantly moving forward. But if you know how and where to look, and if you look carefully, much of the past is waiting to be rediscovered beneath the façade of progress. Dan Tobyne leads readers on a contemporary archaeological tour of Boston, revealing fascinating aspects of the city’s history through what remains of old buildings, structures, streets, and even such mundane objects as manhole covers, callboxes, and trash cans.

Cities are constantly changing, constantly under construction, constantly moving forward. But if you know how and where to look, and if you look carefully, much of the past is waiting to be rediscovered beneath the façade of progress. Dan Tobyne leads readers on a contemporary archaeological tour of Boston, revealing fascinating aspects of the city’s history through what remains of old buildings, structures, streets, and even such mundane objects as manhole covers, callboxes, and trash cans.

We also have a new book about Urban Archaeology in Boston - Discovering The History Hidden in Plain Sight. The book is due out July 2019.

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Down East Books (July 1, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160893991X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608939916

Thoreau's Cape Cod

 Beginning in 1849, Henry David Thoreau made four walking tours of Cape Cod. Along the way he recorded his observations on the natural world as well as on the nature of the people he met. His resulting book has generally been considered his sunniest and lightest, filled with jokes, puns, and tall tales. Now photographer Dan Tobyne captures the essence of the Cape Cod Thoreau discovered. The combination of short excerpts and stunning imagery carries Thoreau’s work to a new level, presenting it in both glowing words and pictures.

Beginning in 1849, Henry David Thoreau made four walking tours of Cape Cod. Along the way he recorded his observations on the natural world as well as on the nature of the people he met. His resulting book has generally been considered his sunniest and lightest, filled with jokes, puns, and tall tales. Now photographer Dan Tobyne captures the essence of the Cape Cod Thoreau discovered. The combination of short excerpts and stunning imagery carries Thoreau’s work to a new level, presenting it in both glowing words and pictures.

We're coming out with a new book as we revisit Thoreau's Cape Cod. Publication date is June 2018. Hardcover: $24.95.

For those fond of complaining that the Cape has been transformed into one long overcrowded strip mall, with too much traffic and too many souvenir shops, I urge you to find the other Cape; the real Cape.  It’s still there waiting to be visited and explored at a level of consciousness far removed from the dulled realizations of the herd. If you dare to pull away the self-imposed curtain drawn across your mind’s eye, you must throw yourself headlong onto the beach, but not just any beach. Go to the place Thoreau called “The Great Beach” where the mighty Atlantic meets the coastal plain. Move past the rope lines and dare to walk the shore as far as it will take you, realizing life is about the vista you choose, and attitudes and impressions are what you make them; sometimes grand, but more often narrowing and without real perspective; cultivated by a hardened relationship most have spent many years fertilizing. Go to the place where you can visit the great white shark, the sea lion, and the whale, test your legs not against the brake pedal but against the shifting sand and pounding surf.

 If you choose to go to this transitional place between land and sea, you might find or at least begin to see, that reality is a mask we’ve placed upon ourselves, and although it feels concrete and permanent, it’s pliable; a moving target if you will, that’s alterable if one dares to be enlightened by a new perspective, or perchance an old one that through “maturity” was allowed to dim from view.

The beach can be the arena for your reawakening. Yes, it changes every day, but even though it’s in constant dynamic motion, in an elemental way it’s as much the same as it is different.

It is a wild place, and a loud place as waves constantly pound the shore echoing back off the dunescape. It is as serine as it is dangerous, seemingly voiceless yet filled with chatter, it will pluck at your strings if you dare to engage. Don’t be as Thoreau talked about; “a faint-hearted crusader” who now-a-days takes on no persevering never ending enterprises; whose expeditions are but tours that come round again at evening to the old hearthside.

You see the Cape now as traffic and shops because that’s all you’ve allow yourself to see. The shore, this shore, will clear the self-imposed blindness that blocks your vision. It will bring you to a threshold between; safety and peril, life and death, the intense and the sublime, and although it brings you close to danger it will also move you away from simply existing. It will push you toward the long-forgotten exuberance of living and force you to become an active participant in your own play. No longer a critic on the sidelines, you will be squarely downstage right for the first time in a long, long, time.

Walking the beach will be an awakening if you choose to hitch up and move along its eternal shore, and if fortune prevails—and we all make our own—you will learn something about yourself that most have forgotten. You will learn you weren’t born to merely exist.

You will become childlike and remember how it feels to be truly alive as it should be, and every day will be a new day with new things to experience and explore. Don’t be most of us; strive to never be most of us, because that would be a tragedy. As Thoreau discussed in his novella about walking;

  “Most of us live as unconscious of the animated world about us as we are of the cloud of unseen witnesses by which we are said to be surrounded. We turn a deaf ear to all but the most obvious songs; our eyes gaze into the haunts of the birds and we see only sparrows and robins. We go our way and let our humble brothers go theirs. What we know of "animated Nature" we take on faith.”

So go to the beach and begin your journey by shedding your self-imposed blinders, learn a different way of seeing and don’t ever look back.

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Down East Books (June 15, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608939553
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608939558

Greenville Maine

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Already we had thought that we saw Moosehead Lake from a hill-top, where an extensive fog filled the distant lowlands, but we were mistaken. It was not till we were within a mile or two of its south end that we got our first view of it, — a suitably wild-looking sheet of water, sprinkled with small, low islands, which were covered with shaggy spruce and other wild wood, — seen over the infant port of Greenville, with mountains on each side and far in the north, and a steamer's smoke-pipe rising above a roof. A pair of moose-horns ornamented a corner of the public-house where we left our horse, and a few rods distant lay the small steamer Moosehead, Captain King. There was no village, and no summer road any farther in this direction, — but a winter road, that is, one passable only when deep snow covers its inequalities, from Greenville up the east side of the lake to Lily Bay, about twelve miles.

Henry David Thoreau

The Shipwright and the Schooner

The smell is what I remember most about my first visit to the boatyard. The tide was out on the river that hot August night, and the fusty smell of mudflats blended with whiffs of turpentine and cut wood. My daughter and I had come to meet Harold Burnham, the shipwright and owner, to talk about the possibility of photographing the construction of his new schooner.

Harold started his boatbuilding business in 1995 on the same land used by five generations of Burnhams. A master shipwright, he builds boats using the traditional methods of his ancestors, shipwrights since 1819. He’s an eleventh-generation boat-builder and the 28th Burnham to operate a boatyard in Essex. As the story goes, around 1650 the first boat was built in Essex by a man named Thomas Burnham. He built the boat inside his house and had to tear a wall out in the spring to get the boat to the river. Harold wouldn’t be tearing out any of the walls in his house. His boat would come together outside, open to the weather, and if inside work needed to be done, he’d use the barn his great-great-grandfather Oliver originally built.

Entering the boatyard we could make out a number of structures including a house at the top of the rise and the barn below. We headed for the barn, largest of the buildings and closest to the water’s edge. It was dark with little lighting and as we made our way down we navigated many obstacles: coils of rope, chain, stacks of wood, a couple of old boats on jack-stands, and a strange gangway that ran past the building and down toward the river. Inside, we saw the barn was expansive high-ceilinged and open, with a workbench running the length of one wall and a large collection of half models on the other. The interior was illuminated by two small lights and we could just make out an old dory hanging from the rafters, hand tools scattered around, and heavily stained floorboards beneath our feet. Steep, tight stairs ran up one wall, capped by a hatch that led to the loft.

Entering the loft the sight left us speechless, a wood stove was attached to the ceiling by long metal rods, and every inch of space around the perimeter held an assortment of nautical odds and ends. A bench in the corner harbored what looked like plans or drawings, and the lines for the new boat had already been “lofted,” full scale on the floor. Scattered about were all sorts of tools: awls, long thin strips of wood, strange flexible measuring devices, odd shaped weights and an assortment of rules. A sewing machine sat off to one side, along with a band saw, bolts of sail cloth, a rocking chair and a couch. The loft had a very low ceiling but as I was to find out later, most real work in the loft happens on the floor.

It was here that we also found Harold. He was pondering an issue involving degrees of curvature for one of the lines. Looking over at us for a few seconds he paused, and in what I was to learn later, typical Harold fashion, he stared at us for a moment, then put his head back down and continued discussing the issue with the other two men in the room. They were throwing around words like “dead-rise” and “futtocks”, “fairings” and “offsets”, and other words I could only assume referred to more technical aspects of boatbuilding.

After about five minutes he looked up and said, “Hi I’m Harold,” and that was the beginning of a grand adventure and one of the most interesting years of my life.

Color vs. Black and White

This was one of those times when I just couldn't capture what I saw in my minds eye. I could see the finished print but couldn't maneuver to get the shot. I needed to move to the left but was hanging off the end of a dock as it was. Black and white can be less tolerant than color when it comes to balance because there's less distraction in a black and white print.  I look at the volume of a scene and view things in terms of heavy and light when it comes to balance and this one for example, is heavy on one end and light on the other. If I could have moved to my left I might have been able to balance this frame and capture what I was looking for. Moving left and turning the camera to the right may have fixed the giant mass of pots on the right. It definitely would have brought the lobster shack into view more and filled in the other side of the frame.

Without a boat there wasn't any way to do this.

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In The Beginning

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This is the first post on our new website. We haven't completely built the site yet but we feel there's enough done to publish. This blog will probably be all over the place, and that's fine as far as we're concerned. We hope to talk about; photography, our trips and adventures, and some of the drudgery, yes drudgery of what it takes sometimes for us to get things done. I looked up the word drudgery before I used it; synonyms: hard work, menial work, donkey work, toil, labor, chores; Sounds accurate, I especially liked donkey work. We do haul a lot of stuff.

Anyway, hello everyone.