Vermont has had, no doubt, its share of talented and famous photographers, including such notables as Richard W. Brown and David Middleton. Though not a Vermonter himself, one special member of this group, however is Arnold John Kaplan.
Those of you who know me are aware that nature still photography is something I feel passionately about. In Summer, 2005, I planned an October trip to Vermont to re-connect with this magical place where I had spent much of my youth. As a serious photographer, I come at the process of planning a trip differently than others. On a pure photography trip, I plan to be up long before the sun rises, and often will not eat dinner and quit for the night until long after it sets. My quest is to find “photogenic” places and I am often looking for a certain “iconic” scene or scene type to photograph.
The internet is an amazing place. Not long ago, our research would have been relegated to the library, the bookstore, and word of mouth. With the internet we can find things we never would have found. Using the popular “Google” search engine with phrases like “Vermont Photography” ultimately bore fruit. I found a Yellow Book by a New England photographer named Arnold John Kaplan, entitled “How To Find (And Photograph) the Photo- Scenics in Vermont.” The write up on the website promised detailed directions to “iconic” scenes of Vermont Villages, Churches, and Farms. It looked promising, and at $16.95, was certainly worth a look. The website is not an Amazon Bookstore experience. Rather, in his unassuming way, Arnold gives out his personal e-mail address with instructions on how to contact him. He then responds with an address, instructions for payment. In quick time, my “book” arrived.
To call it a “book” may–at first glance–seem a stretch. It is more of a booklet, inexpensively printed, with black and white illustrations. But oh, the content!
I own many expensive, slick printed books replete with the author’s own beautiful photos. Arnold’s book is not in any way self-promoting or aggrandizing. Rather, it is as advertised–an extremely useful guidebook for the photographer in serious pursuit of great photographic locations. Arnold gives directions to the site and how to get to the spot to get the photograph, as well as local knowledge and best times of day. It is a planning tool any photographer planning a trip to Vermont should have.
There was a problem, however. As I have alluded to in my own freely downloadable PDF guide to “Photographing Vermont,” Nature, and conditions are ever-changing. Arnold’s guide was first published in 1978. 30 years later, many of the locations he described have become more of a challenge to shoot because of the new growth trees, urban sprawl (some might say blight) and other conditions. Some have simply become no longer viable. For reasons now inexplicable to me, I was unable to maintain communication with Arnold, to give him the information from my visits to some of his locations. What started as my own notes, ultimately became my PDF Guide (which wasn’t intended to supplant Arnold’s book in any way). I lost contact with Arnold, and judging from his photo on the original book, he wasn’t as “young” as I. I wondered if he was still with us.
Recently, through the intercession of one of our regulars on the SOV Foliage and Photography Forums, Arnold and I were put in touch. At 93 years young, I am happy to report that he is still actively photographing Vermont! He is in the process of another update of his book which will include some interesting new additions and should be at or near the same price.
Arnold John Kaplan began traveling to Vermont to find and photograph the scenics in the 1970s. His passion to share how and where to capture the photos made him the hero of many photographers, amateur and professional alike. Born in 1916, by the 1950′s, Arnold was a well-known advanced amateur and part time professional photographer. A member of the Photographic Society of America, he received honors from the Photographic Society and the Federation Internationale de la Photographique of Europe for his contributions and his photographic images. In the 1970s, he began giving workshops on creative photography, and in 1978, opened Cape Cod’s first photography school. Though I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting him, I am told by those who have that Arnold is a gentle, enthusiastic person who was born to teach and share his talents. More about Arnold and examples of his photographic images can be viewed at Foliage Vermont’s page dedicated to Arnold’s works and on Arnold’s own website.
Other than direct sales through his website, Arnold only sells his book in one location — fittingly, in Vermont, at the Yankee Book Shop in Woodstock Vermont. Arnold notes that “the Information Center in the Village Green in Woodstock Vermont has had a copy of my book for the past 30 years and use it when people ask them where to find the photo-Scenics.”
Arnold tells me that as a result of his Vermont Photography Book, he has made friends all over the world! One touchingly funny anecdote Arnold told me recently: A couple years back, he was approaching one of his famous Vermont Photo Scenic locations with his camera gear and another photographer shouted across the road to him, “do you have Kaplan’s Book? ” To which, Arnold replied, “No. I am Kaplan!”
Arnold has recently visited the SOV forums and will be joining us there. Watch for an announcement for something special from Arnold soon.