MEET MEMBER HELEN ABRAMS: Shutterbugs in the Snow

BOLLI Member and Photographer Helen Abrams
BOLLI Member and Photographer Helen Abrams

Helen Abrams, a second year BOLLI member who led the photography Special Interest Group’s recent tour of Mount Auburn Cemetery, reflects on Mount Auburn, and photography.

Being in nature led me to bird watching and photography. Living in Watertown, right next to Mount Auburn Cemetery, I was able to indulge both interests while also learning how to become a tour guide and docent. Over the past eight years, I’ve led tours on famous people (inventors, explorers, women reformers, artists), symbols of passage, Jews buried at Mt. Auburn and photography. After leading photo walks during the spring, summer, and fall, I decided to try a winter walk. I am particularly interested in photographing trees and have found that it is in the winter when their bark, seed pods and overall trunk and branch formations are the most sculptural. I invited Jim Gorman, one of the cemetery’s foremost horticulturalists, to join us.

1 single branch

 After the tour, Helen reflected on the group’s venture.

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Bright sun, fresh fallen snow, brisk but not windy. Since the walk started at 2 p.m., we got the long shadows of afternoon light which was especially interesting for photographing trees, grasses, and monuments.

The BOLLI group—including Martha Berardino, Maike Byrd, Ricky Ezrin, Joanne Fortunato, Dick Hanelin, and Arthur Sharenow—carpooled to Auburn Lake and parked along Oak Avenue. From there, we circumnavigated Auburn Lake, which has a great collection of unusual trees as well as long vistas with a bridge that cuts the lake in half. It’s sometimes called “Spectacle Pond” by birders.

2 branch w shadows (1)

As we walked, Jim talked about the trees. He talked about when they had been planted (especially those after the Hurricane of 1938), shared some historical facts about them (such as the discovery of the Metasequoia or Dawn Redwood that had been thought to be extinct), and what to expect from them at different seasons of the year. He pointed out pine cones, “antlers,” seed pods, and the famous Bald Cypress “knees.” Best of all, to me, was the array of unusual types of bark on the trees which, without leaves or flowers, were particularly handsome against the snow. A highlight was the Lacebark Pine with great patterns and shapes in blue and gray hues.

3 mottled branch

Having Arthur Sharenow on the tour was so helpful. He was so generous to everyone by sharing his great knowledge of photography. He gave us valuable insight into camera equipment, exposure settings, battery use in the cold, shooting from different perspectives, and more. Dick Hanelin, who admits to loving abstract work (or, to paraphrase him: “I hate literal shots”), spent much of the afternoon on the ground.   He says it gave him a different vantage point for shooting at unusual angles.

4 Dick in Snow

By 3:30, we were back in our cars, heading home.  All in all—great fun!

Helen enjoyed a career in healthcare which culminated in a fifteen year stint at Harvard University Health Services where she served as Director of Contract Management and Strategic Planning.

Seeing the Northern Lights is on my bucket list, and since sightings are never guaranteed, I may just fly to Tromso in Norway and stay there until I’ve had my fill!  Three major personal interests evolved for me over the course of my working life: nature, travel, and learning.   Finally retiring this past August, I’m now free to explore them full time.

BOLLI is certainly richer for it!

Click here for an album of truly spectacular shots by various members of the group!