Hotel pool at night taken in an 85mm 1.2 lens.

I’ve long held the belief that design and art are all around us, but sometimes as hard to find as Ms. Cheeze in a field of Belted Galloways. Those of us who live in tourist towns often find the ending weeks of summer filled with melancholia. As visitors leave the shore and head back to neatly aligned suburbs or big fluorescent cities, I sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision leaving a big city for a small suburb-by-the-sea.  In these early days of fall inspiration leaves me. So last week I decided to go out in the evening and visit some of the places I drive by all the time. My hope was that in these common places I might find an element of art or design that escaped me during my daily wanderings.

I live in a place with many old hotels, motels and lodging in varying stages of decay. Some of these structures were built during the heyday of Cape Cod motels, between the 40s and 60s. A time when hotels had themes inspired by far-away-places like the exotic Orient, or evocative eras when swashbucklers roamed the high seas with a ballast of treasure. Back then the big attraction was color tvs in all rooms and free continental breakfast (donut). Although in most cases the original hotels have been severely altered to accommodate a younger, more demanding clientele, one aspect does remain: the timeless heated indoor swimming pool. Many in need of serious upgrades and lighting, the pools feel lost in time. Dark, uninviting, yet familiar, these pools provide interesting subject matter for night photography.


No, this was not taken with my phone.

I went out with an  85mm lens, 1.2 lens which is he best low-light lens I have in my arsenal. I considered using my 50mm 1.2, but I have a love-hate relationship with my 85 because of the slow focus, so I decided to give a another walk around the block. Now, I wear glasses, and focusing at night can be hard, I rely heavily on autofocus, but focusing in low light can prove a challenge even with a great lens and perfect peepers.

I returned to the  M______ Hotel pool for three consecutive nights shooting through the steamy windows. Each time taking only a handful of frames as the pool faces a busy thoroughfare teaming with speeding cars, drunken passersby and the occasional officer. The light was very low and uneven, I couldn’t quite figure it out. There was more color the scene than I initially noticed. When I reviewed my images, it seemed like I was trying to capture of memory of a time and place in my life that never existed. Like a memory in someone else’s life. These pictures remind me of abstract expressionist paintings, although not the priceless ones.

Pool and chair, with a bit of cross processing.

Pool and chair, with a bit of cross processing.

Having absolutely no talent for painting, I took up photography instead, and every now and again I see the influences of my heroes Rothko, DeKooning, Pollack, Diebenkorn and maybe a smattering of David Hockney. I often look at paintings for composition and color. Ah, those painters have it easy, they can just create the perfect scene, we photographers have to go out and find it.

I realize that many in this series of  images look like Hipstamatic shots, I do want to stress I do them with my Mark III. I cropped a number of them for Instagram. The detail is somewhat obscured in the low-res images, but these frames have quite a bit a detail and range that I can’t get from an iphone….yet.

The walk in the dark proved productive and I’ve caught a pool bug. I plan to visit some of the other inground subjects in my area very soon, and very quietly. Disclaimer: I’m not going to encourage you to tramp around on private property, crouch in the privet and peer through misty windows at unknowing bathers. But, I’m not going to tell you not to either. Just be mindful, and always have an extra set of eyes in the back of your head, or better yet, a designated driver.