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Windsor man studies a familiar scene in series of photographs

  • Dan Hertzler, of Windsor, stops daily on his commute to Song Garden, a pick-your-own flower farm in Cornish, N.H., run by his wife, Peggy Heath Ogilvy, to photograph the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge. He then posts the photos on his blog "The Shape of the Year." Hertzler was photographed at the Song Garden in Cornish, N.H., Friday, August 2, 2019. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Mt Ascutney, Tuesday, December 11, 2012, 3:35 p.m. (Daniel Hertzler photograph)

  • Mt Ascutney, Wednesday, April 18, 2012, 7:44 p.m. (Daniel Hertzler photograph)

  • Mt Ascutney, the Connecticut River, and the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 11:27 a.m. (Daniel Hertzler photograph)

  • The Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge across the Connecticut River, November 29, 2011, 3:24 p.m. (Daniel Hertzler photograph)

  • Mt Ascutney & Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge, Friday, October 18, 2013, 7:54 a.m. (Daniel Hertzler photograph)

  • Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge, Thursday, February 28, 2013, 7:57 a.m. (Daniel Hertzler photograph)

  • Mt Ascutney and the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge across the Connecticut River, November 19, 2009, 3:23 p.m. (Daniel Hertzler photograph)

  • Mt Ascutney & Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge, Saturday, May 18, 2013, 11:42 a.m. (Daniel Hertzler photograph)

  • Mt Ascutney and the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge across the Connecticut River, Tuesday, November 25, 2014, 4:27 p.m. (Daniel Hertzler photograph)

  • Mt Ascutney and the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge across the Connecticut River, November 27, 2010, 3:00 p.m. (Daniel Hertzler photograph)

  • Mt Ascutney and the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge across the Connecticut River, November 11, 2011, 3:07 p.m. (Daniel Hertzler photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/4/2019 8:14:18 PM
Modified: 10/4/2019 10:00:13 PM

A few scraps of clouds clung to Mount Ascutney as Daniel Hertzler parked his blue Ford pickup in a patch of gravel on Route 12A in Cornish one morning last month, pulled an orange cap over his white hair and followed a path he’s trampled in the grass over the years, to a spot where he could see the cars in both directions. Crossing the road in a half run, he climbed over the guardrail, positioned himself in a patch of weeds thick with poison ivy and raised his camera.

Anyone watching would say Hertzler was photographing the famous Cornish-Windsor covered bridge, one of the most photographed landmarks in the area. And they wouldn’t be wrong, exactly. Every day for the past 11 years, Hertzler has been taking photos from this same spot, and every day for nearly eight years he’s been posting photos featuring the bridge on his blog.

But the structure, famed for being the longest covered wooden bridge in the United States, isn’t what the project is about. It’s merely a fixed element in nature’s ever-changing tableau, an accent mark for what Hertzler really wants to share with the world.

“This is not a covered bridge project at all,” Hertzler said. “It’s definitely got visual interest to have the geometry of the straight line. (But) the bridge is less important than the river, the mountain and the sky.”

Hertzler, 67, started photographing the scene because, well, it was there. Traveling back and forth between his home in Windsor and the Song Garden, a pick-your-own flower garden and tea house he operates with his life partner, Peggy Heath-Ogilvey, in Cornish, he began stopping by the river once or twice a day to appreciate and capture the view.

“It’s just a natural expression of a person’s reverence for nature and the universe,” said Hertzler, who has been taking photos since his father gave him a camera in high school.

The onset of digital photography, followed by the birth of social media, gave Hertzler an easy way to share the views he frames in his lens. Each day on his blog, and more recently on a Facebook page, he now posts four photos, taken at different times throughout the year, to show the changing seasons.

“It’s the interaction of those four pictures that gives you a sense of the planet … a glimpse of the Earth,” Hertzler said.

Offering that glimpse is not without hazard and hardship. Traffic comes fast down Route 12A: hence the hustle and the orange hat. Hertzler has also done battle with brush and poison ivy plants, and in the winter he has to shovel a spot for his truck and climb over a snowbank to get to his spot.

Standing in that same spot day after day after day with his Canon Rebel has allowed Hertzler to hone his photography skills and develop his artistic eye, he said. Nor does he find the self-imposed structure limiting. Instead, it frees him to focus on different elements in different ways and to reflect deeply on the scene.

A friend who is a more experienced photographer recently told Hertzler that the spot he chose isn’t really right, that he should be farther down the river. He recounts this with a shrug.

Hertzler grew up in Connecticut and moved to the area in 1978 to work at Vermont Public Radio. He admits he’s never been much of a career person. “All I ever wanted for a career was to protect my inner child,” he said.

The Song Garden, which Hertzler tends gently, working with rather than against nature’s will, has fulfilled that ambition, as has the photo project. With 42,000 views, the blog is a modest endeavor by today’s social media standards, but just as the man-made bridge is not the point of the photos, human validation is not really the point of the posts.

On his Facebook page, Hertzler wrote: “Taking, editing, and sharing the photos over eleven (!) years has become a meditation, not to say a ‘ministry.’ For there is hope in the procession of the changing seasons. The turning wheel of the year is something we can count on. But together the four images posted each day describe the unseen thing, the earth as a sphere. The shape of the year is round, and the message is unity, and the sensation of that unity is divine joy. … I’m proud to have found this positive use of social media to share a message of peace.”

Hertzler has come to think of Mount Ascutney as a Buddha figure and of the Connecticut River as a hand that elevates that figure. That interpretation came to him just last year, after dashing across the road, climbing over the guardrail and collecting nature’s gifts in his camera lens every day for a decade.

Hertzler’s photo project can be viewed at http://shapeoftheyear.blogspot.com/

Sarah Earle can be reached at searle@vnews.com or 603-727-3268.




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