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Sunday, 6 March 2011

Leap of Faith (Stand Rock)



Ashley Bennett, son of the photographer Henry Hamilton Bennett (1843-1908), leaping across Stand Rock, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, to demonstrate his father's advanced shutter technique
: photo by Henry Hamilton Bennett, 1886 (Wisconsin Historical Society)

The leap of faith looks planless to a witness,
as much an accident as elation
always seems. Or is. But without the energy
of the chilly hours and minutes of uncertainty
of youth to supply an updraft it's
almost not possible to catch the wind.
And when sundown pales the sky
the boy caught in mid air jumping between two
rock formations fills a moment of time that's
elsewise lost in the swift race from gate to gate,
which moves at the shutter speed of life.

Stand Rock, Wisconsin Dells: photo by dccradio, 9 May 2010


Anonymous said...

I love the way this takes both direct and oblique views of the subject at hand. "The leap of faith looks planless to a witness". It definitely looks like a leap of faith, however; Bennett's shot is and his son's leap (and his agreement to leap) seems so astonishing that it makes it difficult to think clearly, just gasp and stare. I remember first learning about shutter speeds and playing around with them and in wonderful black & white darkrooms when I was much younger. I'm sorry to think that those days are gone.

MW said...

Net's up now in current photo. No net back then. Thanks, Tom. Nice poem.

Michael Wolfe

TC said...


Well, the son's agreement to leap is something we must take with a small leap of faith. The evidence shows he did bravely do the deed, but as to what sort of persuasion might have preceded the event, who can say.

For over a century since that feat, it's been a sort of tradition for ambitious photographers to attempt to capture bold leaps from Stand Rock. As the potential dangers of inducing one's children into such an act could not but be obvious, dogs were routinely impressed into standing-in as rock-jumpers. In fact, what made me dwell upon all this was the discovery, some time back, upon my mother's passing, of a small trove of old photos, some dating back to my parents' modest little honeymoon junket to the Dells... and in amongst those photos is, you guessed it, a snapshot of a dog making the Stand Rock leap.

And indeed the lower photo on this post is one of a set that also includes shots of a fellow up there on the rock with a German shepherd. The man appears to be explaining the brilliance of the idea to the victim... er, perhaps I should say, the loyal, trusting dog.


It is very lovely to hear from you.

And yes, thanks for noticing the net. It appears to be part of the great advance of civilization and progress. (My guess is that the net may have been strung up in response to the undesirable results of some earlier, unsuccessful leaps; for after all, faith can carry one only so far, even one blessed by the optimistic gifts of youth -- or the grudging doggedness of obedience. But I suppose all this would come under the heading of what the suits customarily refer to as "liability issues".)



NIce "advanced shutter technique" here, and yes --

"The leap of faith looks planless. . ."

"almost not possible to catch the wind. . ."


clouds moving to the right in grey white
sky above ridge, shadowed leaf on branch
in foreground, sound of wind in branches

scene “to show you the idea,”
later after that this

what is, which always means
what can be, perceive

grey rain cloud against slope of ridge,
circular green pine on tip of sandspit