A Photoblogger Snaps Country Life

Kathleen Connally shares her love of rural Bucks County, Pa., through digital images of a land that has not yet been overwhelmed by urban sprawl

May 04, 2006|By JESSICA BERTHOLD

The photoblog A Walk Through Durham Township, Pennsylvania (durhamtownship.com) is a visual valentine to scenic southeastern Pennsylvania. An ever-expanding collection of landscape and slice-of-life photos, the blog lovingly documents rural life, from farmers framed by freshly plowed fields to rolling hills dotted with silos.

Many of the shots are simple collages of clouds, earth, sky and an object (a tree, a tractor, a person) whose solitude renders it remarkable. The composition and coloring of the images are quietly, and consistently, stunning in their artistry.

Almost all the photos are taken within a 10-mile radius of photoblogger Kathleen Connally's home in Bucks County, though she also shoots in the nearby Lehigh and Delaware valleys. It's an area Connally says she's in love with, and one look at her blog will confirm that's so.

Native Pennsylvanian Connally moved from Seattle back to the Keystone State with her husband seven years ago. Every day she takes long walks with her 5-year-old son and captures what she sees with her trusty Canon 5D. A shutterbug since childhood, Connally still has every snap she's ever taken stacked in her basement.

Why do you like photography as an art form?

Because it's real, it's there and you have to get it while it's there. You aren't making things up as in a painting; you're not filling in blanks once the scene has changed.

What makes a good photo?

Someone having the presence of mind, and a camera, to take the shot when everyone else around is gawking. Also, when you can see that someone put their heart into it, that the person who took the photo loved taking it.

What's special about Durham Township?

I grew up in Chadds Ford in Chester County, which these days is just an extension of the suburbs. Thirty years ago, it was a really rural area; we used to have to get the operator to dial the phone for us. Durham is like the old Chadds Ford; it's remote and rural with open space everywhere. Everything is left to nature and to the farmers. Also, being along the Delaware River, you get this strange fog, and these floods. ... There are a lot of beautiful capturable things here.

What are some rules you have for taking photos?

One is that I don't pose anything. I photograph what I see at the time it is happening. And I don't use artificial light; I use the light that's available. I guess the other one, which seems obvious, is I try to look at things from different perspectives. I lie on the ground, or I get in a tree, and try to look at it some other way.

What are some favorite places to shoot in the region?

The farms and fields, the Delaware and Lehigh rivers and the canal. And the old Bethlehem Steel plant; that's a fascinating place to take pictures. But, really, I have this ambition to shoot the whole state, county by county.

Any spots in particular?

The Allegheny National Forest; that's one of the best places in the country to put together a wildlife portfolio. The Delaware Water Gap. The Appalachian Trail.

How do you handle shots of people?

I ask beforehand; I don't really randomly shoot people. I don't have any interest in offending anyone or getting anyone upset; it's not worth it for me. I don't really ever have a problem getting permission; I engage people and talk to them. I like people, so it comes pretty naturally.

Is it mostly photographers who visit your blog?

It's all over the map, from photographers to people who like photography. The people I hear from a lot are sad that the open space is disappearing. They are happy to come to my site and see it, and ... hopefully it will cause some action on their part.

So your photography has an activist element?

I'm trying to say that there is a poetry that exists in a cornfield, and once that field has been turned into an impervious surface, that poetry disappears. This is what we do with open space: We enjoy it. It's not just another plot of land to put houses or stores on. It is important as it is.

Jessica Berthold writes for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa.

DURHAMTOWNSHIP.COM

In a word:

Enchanting.

E-candy for:

Shutterbugs. Nature lovers. Anyone who is Pennsylvania proud.

In Sum:

Landscape and slice-of-life photos of rural Bucks County, Pa., and surrounding areas.

This blog as a person:

Andrew Wyeth with a camera.

Sample images:

A boy in an orange jacket plays in frozen puddles outside a metal shed. The ruins of an 18th century farm house. A red tractor in a dry field, set against a brilliant blue sky scarred by a jet trail.

Classic image:

Shot of the blogger's young son, spread-eagle on a frozen pond, gazing up at a blue and orange sky that's reflected on the ice. (Feb. 27, 2006.)

Making it happen:

Photographer Kathleen Connally, 43.

Created:

January 2003.

Updates:

About every other day.

Writing:

Kept to a minimum, but it's clear and precise.

Design:

Lovely, easy to navigate.

Comments allowed?

Yes.

Popularity:

Half a million page views/month.

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