The Day the Sun Set on East Narrows

Written By: Matthew  Mitchell

Social Media is all consuming for those who don’t put time limits on contributions. But Instagram is one of those where two of my passions meld into one, photography and writing.

Take a picture with your smartphone, optionally add different visual filters to the picture, supply a caption, location and/or story and post! Is that all?

Yeah pretty much. ‘Where’s the money in this?’ you ask. In the numbers of people who use Instagram, which is posted on their website as over 130 million a month.

But how can they capture revenues? Ask Facebook. They acquired Instagram with the admission that they, Facebook, now a publicly traded company had to create revenues. And where does Facebook generate most of their revenues? Ads.

Do you see where this is going? Latest research shows the attention span of ‘generation gps’ is 4 seconds. Goodbye traditional news, goodbye newspapers, hello Madison Avenue and the creation of the new ‘mobile ad’ generation, the four second gens. How can Madison Avenue get their meat hooks into 130 million active monthly users — customers — to sell to them when they have the attention span of the life cycle of a gnat?

Mobile Ads. This generation is transfixed on their hand held device. Just walk down Museum Mile (still infuriates those who live on Fifth Avenue) in New York City. You’ll see.

So recently Instagram, Facebook’s acquisition, rolled out a 15 second video feature as an answer to Twitter’s Vine which is only six seconds. And my guess, since Facebook, like Google is a great data harvester of your and my information, that Facebook, with this acquisition, is letting you and me do the heavy lifting as they form an opinion and a strategy to utilize Instagram’s video feature to anesthetize nearly a billion users for … tada … Mobile Ads. If they don’t mind taking the time to create their 15 second gems, then maybe (my reasoning) the nearly a billion users might want to watch a 15 second ad.

That’s the backdrop. But I’m not a business guy. I’m a nature guy. When I wrote ‘The Wall of Privet on Parsonage’ last year, I told you about the last remaining parcel of land on the South Fork where you could see straight to

the Atlantic Ocean three streets away, Parsonage through Hedges through Daniels to the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

The privet hasn’t completely filled in the view, yet. But the corn crop leading to that one small gap in the privet now reaches over 6 feet tall, obscuring that little parcel. After harvest, the view will open again.

I still go out of my way to travel down Parsonage to see the changes to the land. The Hamptons seem to be immune to the housing crisis, until you travel the backroads where the ‘For Sale’ signs pop up out of the ground. Not the exclusive views, they’re still in high demand, but the tough to get to places, the inventory seems to still be the same, maybe a little more. Those owners, I imagine, are trying to hold out to the possibility that the pre-2008 value of their home will change their fortunes.

You won’t see this traveling down the Montauk Highway. You have to venture north and south to see it. If you do, you’ll probably see me parked to the side of the road trying to capture a little bit of nature.

My Instagram account is @classictennis. You’d think it would only be about the sport that I grew up on, received an athletic scholarship for, and follow worldwide. When I first posted it, I thought it was going to be that as well.

But it’s not. Instead it’s my second love, photography.

I love shooting pictures of the places I travel to and from in between the stops on the way to my clients here in the Hamptons. I try to create as much time in between to capture some of the beautiful and alluring seasonal changes to the Hamptons. The landscape, time of day and the rotation of crops on the land make it a photographer’s dream (a painter’s as well). If I don’t have time I make a mental note on time of day I would love to shoot that picture.

But there’s always a risk to the ‘mental note’ strategy and that is you never know when that image might disappear from the landscape. As much as I love the fresh bounty that comes from the land, I know there is a season. And there is a harvest.

On this particularly slow traffic day on Highway 27, I veered off to the ‘northern route’ in Southampton, Head of Pond to Scuttlehole to the Sagg Harbor Turnpike back around through Sagaponack to Sagg Road and even further back around to E Narrows Lane behind Wolffer Estates: Vineyards and Horse Stables.

I was ten minutes away from an 8 am appointment in Easthampton, and it was twenty minutes before the hour, when I became mesmerized by this beautiful strip of Mustard Grass starting just before E. Narrows Road and weaving ever so slightly back towards the railroad tracks.

Crops have a wonderful geometry to them. Rows of potato plants, corn, flowers, whatever, if you stand at the correct angle you can see the beautiful lines take you from here to the edge of the slow rolling hills.

I pulled to the side of the road and brought out my camera. Could I capture this little gem? How would I photograph it? Should I post it on Social Media?

Or all the above?

I had ten minutes. Out comes camera, phone. First, stills. The beauty of the colors, lines and landscape can only be, to me, with a camera. One angle, another, high above looking down along the row, the other side where it’s dark edges stream into the distance with a yellow green hue.

Then comes the smart phone with camera and video. 15 seconds can be broken up into three segments, or, as the Instagram challenge was for that weekend #WHPmovingphotos one take no movement on a subject. Instagram allows every participant a chance to submit film in one spot something, anything: a wave crashing on the shoreline; the outdoor scene from a subway train; people walking down the street. Anything for the promise of ‘promotion’ where Instagram on the upcoming Monday after the weekend challenge posts ‘their’ favorites.

And Instagram’s eager users are all clammering for a chance to get a boost in views and additional viewers to your ‘gallery.’

I chose a head on, slightly higher than the front edge of the Mustard Grass, straight down the line and an ever so slight crease that ran straight down the green and yellow crop with a slight turn in the middle until it faded in the distance.

I wanted perfect quietness. And I was lucky that there were relatively few people driving past, planes flying, just the sound of the birds, the wind dancing through the crop, the bees and white butterflies going about their business. All in fifteen seconds.

A car comes racing down Sagg. Cut. Three minutes left. A train comes rumbling by. Cut. A minute left. Reshoot. I take a long deep breath and hold on for yet another 15 second straight shot.

Time’s up.

I had to pack it up and move on down the road.

What I didn’t realize in my haste was my video angle was too low and although you could see the line of the Mustard Grass, you missed it’s length.

A day later, I found a moment in my schedule to make another run at the Mustard Grass in Sagaponack, I created forty minutes but I didn’t need one.

The field was barren. The crop had been harvested.

There’s a sadness to witnessing such spectacular beauty disappear after returning to the place where it once was, and seeing a trail where it once

stood, framed in the landscape, pushed ever so slightly by the winds of the day.

It’s a reminder to me to capture the moment, take the time, and capture the memory for your soul.

That is something that Social Media will never grasp.

It’s what writers, photographers and painters understand so deeply, so closely to the fabric of who they are and where they’ve come from and somehow, where they will go in the future. It’s a moment in time and space where the world stops and an idea or an image is born.

So as Social Media tries to capture a market, commercialize a digital space, aggregate data and convert that into revenue, I will always choose to take the long road home at that special time of day and find a moment in between the push and pull of a day to slowly frame a shot that feeds my soul.

It’s alright to take your time, I tell myself, it’s alright now.