Ayer Mill Clock TowerThis past Saturday was an incredibly windy day with plenty of clouds in the sky – a perfect recipe for some long exposures.  Unfortunately, by the time I was able to get out with my camera in the afternoon, much of the cloud cover had moved out.  There were thankfully still enough, however, to provide some nice movement in the sky, anchored by the various mills of Lawrence like the Ayer Mill here.

I really liked this composition, but because my subject was at a distance, the motion of the clouds was less noticeable in this 30 second exposure even though they were still moving pretty fast.  I have some other images I’ll share in future posts where the camera is positioned closer to the mills, and the clouds appear to move much faster across the frame.  This shoot really highlighted the importance of perspective and camera position with long exposures of moving clouds, as this is a key factor in determining how much of the “streaking” effect you can achieve.  Please click on the image for a larger view.


For today’s post I thought I’d show one of the detail shots I took while at the Ayer Mill clock tower.  These gears are part of the clock mechanism, and help control the movement of the hands on one of the clock faces.

These gears are maybe 12 inches in diameter, yet they’re partially responsible for moving the enormous hands on a 22 foot clock.   Fascinating.

Inside the Clock

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned the fantastic opportunity I had this past weekend to photograph the historic Ayer Mill Clock Tower with my friend Bob Lussier.  I started with an exterior shot yesterday, and am posting this shot today of the inside of the clock tower.

Just getting to this location was a bit dicey.  We had to climb 5 or 6 flights of incredibly steep cast iron steps, while carrying our camera bags and tripods.  I wouldn’t have felt so bad about this had I not watched Charlie, the clock keeper and several years my senior, climb these stairs without so much as a pause.

The Ayer Mill Clock Tower is the largest mill clock tower in the United States, and at 22 1/2 feet in diameter, it’s clock faces are only 6 inches smaller than those on Big Ben in London.  I chose an ultra-wide perspective to highlight the size of this space, and you can see Charlie outside the clock room which gives the image some scale as well (I truthfully didn’t know he was there when I shot this, and saw him when I processed the image).  I’ll post some detail photos, as well as information about this landmark, in future posts.  I believe this tactic is called a “tease.”

Ayer Mill Clock Tower

I’ve always considered it a privilege when granted access to photograph any of the old mills in Lawrence.  The mill owners are generous, trusting, and they allow me to do something for which I have a true passion.  This past weekend, however, a privilege became an honor.

My good friend and fellow photographer, Bob Lussier, had been asked to create some environmental portraits of the man who has served as the keeper of the Ayer Mill Clock for the past 22 years.  As you know, Bob and I share the same passion for the mills, and he was kind enough to allow me to join him for the shoot.  In exchange for acting as a light stand for some off-camera flash for the portraits, I was able to shoot the inside the clock tower, and more importantly I got to know Charlie.

Charlie has incredible stories to share, and is an encyclopedia of facts about the mechanics and history of this special landmark from his many years maintaining and rebuilding it.  It was a pleasure and an honor to meet him, and in the process, I also got some pretty cool images to share.  I’m starting today with a shot of the exterior of the clock tower taken from the roof of the Ayer Mill before we went inside.  Images from inside will follow in later posts, along with some interesting information about the mill and clock tower.

And please check out Bob’s site for some of the photos he captured of Charlie.  Really great stuff.