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Interview with the Authors
1. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. How and why did you get into photography?
Klepner: Photography for me is a medium that captures a moment in time—a place, an emotion, a pattern in nature, a beautiful sunset, or diamonds sparkling on the water. It is a visualization and a means of externalizing my emotional reaction to what I see.
Snellings: My godfather was a professional photographer who gave me his darkroom equipment when I was a kid. My dad and I got the chemicals, and we started developing and printing my pictures. Having a picture mysteriously appear on a white sheet of paper under a smelly liquid and a red light really captured my interest. This hobby evolved into a general love of photography when I became the main photographer for my high school yearbook.
2. The two of you collaborated on this book. Tell us how you met and how the book evolved into its present form.
Klepner: We met at a fund-raising event for a volunteer organization that we both support (Harpswell Aging at Home). I admired Bill’s photographic skills and spoke to him about creating a pictorial book of Harpswell—which there is none. The book evolved over many months of shooting and selecting photographs, developing themes, organizing, creating a mock-up, and working with a designer.
Snellings: Jerry and I talked about our experiences showing our photography work at Harpswell Town Hall. That led to Jerry asking me to be the main photographer for the Maine gubernatorial debate in Brunswick, Maine. This was the beginning of sharing pictures from trips we have made with our families. He asked me to be a co-author of the book. The book became what it is today by us collecting all the best pictures we had and making a list of what additional pictures we could take to make the book show what we liked about our town.
3. Maine is known for its magnificent coastline, landscapes, and seascapes. Why did you choose to photograph Harpswell specifically?
Klepner: We both live in Harpswell, and, in our opinion, it reflects the most interesting and beautiful part of Maine. With its islands, its coastline, its historic buildings, its fishing industry—it is a quintessential Maine town. Since there is no book that captures the diversity and beauty of Harpswell, we decided to create one.
Snellings: Just look at the pictures. All were taken within three to ten miles of our homes. Several were taken in my backyard. It just does not get any better than this!
4. Describe the perfect spot, time of day, and scene for you to photograph.
Klepner: There is no perfect spot or time of day. Much depends on what you want to say and how you want to say it. For example, the best time to shoot the “Fishing Memorial” was early in the morning or in the evening to create the image I visualized. As it turned out, the evening captured the light and the background that I wanted.
Snellings: One of my mentors preached that anybody can take a picture; you need to learn how to make a picture. Therefore, the challenge is to make the best picture you can. And, if you like the perspective of the shot, come back on a day when the light and clouds make the picture even more interesting.
5. What was the process of selecting the photos? How many did you choose from?
Klepner: We knew there were certain scenes and locations that best represented what we wanted to highlight about Harpswell. We selected the 68 photographs in the book from more than 500 images that we shot and liked. It was the most difficult part of creating the book.
Snellings: First we divided up the town into the different geographic locations—for example, Bailey Island to Cundy’s Harbor, and from North Harpswell to Harpswell Center to South Harpswell. We then listed what made each location unique, added our current pictures, and then listed what needed to be done to make it a complete journey throughout our town. We reviewed hundreds of pictures.
6. Do you have a favorite photograph? Which one, and why?
Klepner: I like them all. Each one stands alone and makes the statement that we wanted to express. Some are more dramatic than others, but our point of view is captured in each one.
Snellings: I have never lived in a location that can have a condition that produces sea smoke. One early winter morning when there was the unusual situation of no wind and cold conditions (around zero degrees), I saw sea smoke over the water. I traveled to the end of Harpswell (Bailey Island), where I took many pictures of the sea smoke. When I blew up the pictures in my camera, I saw that one of the vista pictures had a kayaker in it. This was a rare find for me but was probably even more unusual for the kayaker.
7. What is the most important lesson you learned on your photographic journey?
Klepner: Patience and being self-critical.
Snellings: Enjoy what feels and looks good and do it again and again.
8. Is there a particular lesson you’d like viewers to take away from the book?
Klepner: An appreciation of the beauty of the world in which we live and the contributions of each generation. How beauty can be found even in the most difficult and mundane.
Snellings: Look at what you have around you and take many pictures. This is just the first part of the process. You must evaluate the pictures, probably when you get home, and determine from what vantage point the picture could have been better. Then when you pass the same area in the future, stop and shoot it again when the light and clouds are different.
9. What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?
Klepner: Enjoy the creativity. There is no bad photograph if it expresses how you feel about a scene or situation. You can develop your skills through taking classes, shooting with others, and examining your work with a critical eye. Express what you wish and how you feel. It is the journey and not the end point that matters.
Snellings: One of the pictures in the book was taken with my cell phone. When I am asked what is the best camera to buy (I am a Canon guy), I say the best camera is one that you will most likely take with you and the one where you can learn VERY well a few different features to make the picture more like what you actually see or what you would like to see. Do this and shoot thousands of pictures each year.