Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Solitude Is Bliss
Kurt Budliger creates peaceful landscapes in the uncharted territory around his New England home
Kurt Budliger appreciates the great American tradition of Western landscape photography. He makes photographs that fit nicely into that canon, but it just so happens that his preferred subjects are found far from the American West. Budliger lives and works in northern New England, photographing mostly in Maine, New Hampshire, the Adirondacks of New York and especially his adopted home of Vermont. It's the perfect locale to create quiet, intimate landscapes.
Budliger's approach involves making photography a very real part of normal, everyday life. This allows him to continually revisit favorite places, refining his vision and perfecting his work.
"The images in my ebook," he says, referring to Vermont: Behind the Lens, "I bet most of those are taken within 30 minutes of my house. Maybe a handful push out to the 45- to 60-minute range. Ellie's Run, for instance, that's a stream I shoot all the time. It's literally 10 minutes from my house. If it's a rainy day in spring and the rain is stopping and the light is really nice—boom—I know where I'm going. I can pop in the car, get down there and see what's going on. And it's always different.
"I'm lucky," he continues. "I've got the Mad River Valley to the south of me, Stowe and Mount Mansfield to the north of me. I've got a beautiful mountain range and a trailhead within a mile-and-a-half of my house, so if it looks promising I can get up on something in the evening. You get to know a place well. There's a certain luxury. Some shots are years in the making before you get the light you want or the sky you want or the conditions you want. It's nice to have those places nearby."
Though his portfolio belies the fact, Budliger says New England is a challenging subject. While the West is filled with iconic landscapes that attract photographers by the busload, the Northeast doesn't have the same draw. There are fewer icons of the American landscape in Vermont, except for fall foliage, which Budliger says is only the tip of the iceberg. The best thing about working in the region is not having to worry about treading on the footsteps of others.
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