Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Sneak Peak at LL Bean's Norwegian

Last week I stopped by LL Bean's headquarters in Freeport and met with Don Rogers, a project manager and expert on all things Norwegian, to chat about bringing back the Norwegian sweater for the next issue of the H(Y)R Collective. The Sweater will be made in the exact same factories as the original sweater. Kudos to LL Bean.

A few years ago, LL Bean experimented with a Norwegian style sweater made in China out of a blend of cotton, wool and nylon. Look at the difference between the sample of the Norwegian sweater on sale this fall and the made-in-China Norwegian style sweater from the archives.

Here's a first look at the 1/4th zip version available only in LL Bean retail locations. Its a classic alternative to a 1/4th zip fleece. Be sure to check out the issue 13 of the H(Y)R Collective for more on the sweater and the resurrection and updating of a forty year old design.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Five Minutes of Sunrise over Great Pond

I woke up to catch the sunrise on Great Pond hours after returning empty handed from an hour long fishing adventure at dusk. Normally I hear the birds chirping and witness the intensifying glow in the east with the same shock and anxiousness of a vampire.

For five minutes I watched the sunrise before retiring my camera and picking up my fishing gear to continue my hunt for a brown trout.

I will never forget the still morning air and fog resting on the lake.

Here are some more links,
Fishing at Sunset on Great Pond (ART),
Sunrise on Great Pond (Picasa).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fishing at Sunset on Great Pond

Around dusk and dawn the brown trout of Great Pond come to the surface to feed. At about 7:30 one evening, Tucker and I went out in his LL Bean Old Town Canoe in search of the elusive trout. I prayed for the clouds to open up with thunder and lightening and for an unsuspecting five pounder to latch onto our hooks and pull us around the lake in an Old Man and the Sea type battle.
Much to my disappointment, the clouds fled to the horizon, exposing a beautiful sunset. I didn't even hear a fish jump. Once again, my fantasy of recreating a Hemingway scene failed.

I couldn't have been happier, and the next morning I woke up at five to give it another go.

Here are some more links,
Sunset on Belgrade Maine (Picasa),
Great Pond (ART).

Monday, May 25, 2009

Flags for Memorial Day

In honor of Memorial Day, here are some photos of flags draped on houses or barns throughout New England. I love how the character and charm of their surroundings transfer to the fabric or paint of the flags.

Down East Maine.

The Berkshire region, Massachusetts.

The Berkshire region, Massachusetts.

Central Maine.

I want these flags.

Here are some more links,
A Walk Outside (Picasa),
Memorial Day (Picasa),
Millard Wardwell (Picasa),
First Day of Summer (Picasa).

Friday, May 22, 2009

Chopping Fire Wood

The man is not an IRS tax collector or a faceless oil executive, but a fun squandering third grade teacher or an overbearing parent. As a little squirt, the pedantic teachers and volunteer parents at my local elementary school squandered my fun, telling me to wash my hands, wear safety goggles and not to wrestle with other boys during touch football. In their soulless eyes, scraped knees, bumped elbows and fat lips are gateways to barbarianism.

In order to provide wood for the perpetually burning fire on the shore Grand Pond, we walked to the nearby woods to participated in some "forest thinning" in the hopes protecting the great Maine woods against potential forest fires and under cooked marshmallows.

With Tucker's hatchet we attacked cherry saplings like Paul Bunyan, reclaiming our manhood one chip at a time.

Sometimes the hatchet got over zealous and bit off more than it could chew, latching onto a log like a burr into a wool sock. A jarring swing and a well placed hand liberated the hatchet, and Tucker was back in action.

By wearing a Barbour International motorcycle jacket, a Filson Mackinaw hunting jacket, a pair of Red Wings work boots, or other pieces of clothing associated with a potential dangerous, yet pure activity, you are sticking your nose up to the shoulder pad laden third-grade teacher that put you in time out for running down the hallways or jumping out of the swing at recess. Here's to you Mrs. Johnson, "We will use hand chopped wood to cook our wieners, not some safe burning, mongoloid hybrid of wood pulp and fossil fuels!"

Here are some more links,
Chopping wood (Picasa),
Paul Bunyan Disney,
Flamz Errol Morris (High Life).

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Few Days on Great Pond

After finishing my last test and turning in my final essay, I joined nine friends to make the twenty mile drive due west to Tucker's cabin on Great Pond in the Belgrade Lakes region of Central Maine. We brought nothing but the essentials: ten sleeping bags, four beer balls and two cases of beer, ten pounds of hamburger meat and two pounds of flank steak, three fishing poles, two dozen night crawlers, two avocados, five packs of Bubbilicious Bubble Gum and one pack of original Redman.

For three days we terrorized the cold waters of Great Pond in search of elusive brown trout and male bonding. We woke up early and fell asleep late.

Regardless of how often I organize my tackle box, it inevitably looks like this. I guess tackle box entropy is an essential part of fishing and a necessary hurdle standing between a fishing pole and a golden fried trout.

Four of these Beer Balls lubricated the cold the water of Great Pond and sleeping on the hard floor of Tucker's uninsulated cabin.

We relied on manpower to negotiate the glacial lake, not this fine piece of American outdoors equipment.

LL Bean Old Town Canoe like my Grandpa has. Old Milwaukee Beer like my dad drank at the University of Wisconsin. Night Crawlers like I used on the banks of the Columbia River as a little boy.

Tucker's Blackberry is back in action after five months in Copenhagen studying architecture. I look forward to bopping around Maine next fall with Tucker after my summer in the Big City.

We didn't catch a single fish, but we sure drank a lot of beer, ate a lot of meat, burned a lot of wood and told a lot of stories. I couldn't ask for a better start to my summer. Many thanks to Heather, Tucker's mom, for letting us use the cabin.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

H(Y)R Collective Issue 12: Lunch over Ralph

Issue 12 of the H(Y)R Collective is now up. A couple weeks ago I met with Jon Patrick from the Selvedge Yard and chatted with John Fiske and Lee Norwood from Rugby about their personal sense of style and influences while we had lunch and some cookies. JP wrote up our discussion and I took photos for a Focus article in Issue 12 of H(Y)R Collective.

Please head over to the site and check it out. We are really happy with how it turned out. Make sure to look for Lee's comments about the style blogging space. He has some interesting conclusions.

We are already hard at work on our next Focus article about LL Bean bringing back the Norwegian Sweater. Look for it to come out in a month or so.

Here are some more links,
Issue 12 H(Y)R Collective,
Jon Patrick from the Selvedge Yard (ART).

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Family of Red Foxes Near Bath, Maine

"I will be down there in a couple of hours," I told my friend Tucker. "I am going to take back roads. It will probably take me two or three hours with stops," I said as I grabbed my two cameras and my Filson Jacket and headed towards the car. After fueling up Nick's 1994 BMW 525I with 87 octane unleaded, I headed south towards Cape Elizabeth with four unassigned hours to negotiate the old BMW for miles. I expected to see barns, Mainards, or perhaps the occasional abandoned boat but I never expected to see a family of red foxes near Bath, Maine.

Twenty five miles north of Bath, the Maine woods started closing in on the two-lane highway and cell phone reception dropped. Just as I started thinking about turning around and heading west towards 295, the woods opened up, exposing a small field with two bulls standing on a small knoll. I slowed down to look at the bulls and spotted three foxes, a mother and two kits, playing with flowers.
Seeing these foxes made me realize that I soon will live far from foxes and picturesque rural farms like this. After I graduate in almost exactly a year, I will most likely move to a large city and start working a lot. Lee Norwood recently told me a story about how the year he started working for Ralph Lauren, he bought a top of the line backpacking stove and has yet to use it. He has worked at RL for twenty years.

After chasing the kits into the woods for the third time, I hopped back in Nick's BMW and headed south grinning ear to ear. Within three minutes I saw a weasel and turkey. Maybe I will be able to balance my professional career with doing other things I love.

Here are some more links,
Red Fox (Wikipedia),
A Family of Foxes (Picasa).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Polaroid SX-70

I represent the first generation of photographers who grew up never knowing the dark room or the schlep of buying roll after roll of film. Instead, I grew up frustrated by buyer's remorse, and Moore's law impact on the constant progress in digital photography capacity and quality. Despite the decades of advances in CCD (the device that captures light and record the image) technology, digital photography still struggles to capture some of the magic of film photography, especially the colors of a simple Polaroid.

Last weekend I found a Polaroid SX-70 at my local Goodwill, on the same shelf where I found the switchable panorama plastic camera, for $5. Unfortunately, Polaroid discontinued the SX-70 film five years ago and Ebay is the only place to find film. The high cost of film, $2 to $3 per exposure, delegates SX-70 photography to a cult-like following.

The SX-70 was the first auto focusing Single Lens Reflex camera in wide-scale production. Today cameras rely on color contrasts and the sharpness of lines to quickly focus. These Polaroid SLR's used sonar, identified by the circular gold plate with a mesh cover, to judge the distance from the subject and adjust the lens in the same way that submarines use sonar to aim torpedoes and navigate shallow waters.

The chrome plated steel and leather body breaks down to a 12" by 5" by 1.5" block, roughly the size and weight of a photo book. Its a pretty slick little set up. Here is a video from the 70's showcasing the original SX-70's features. (Please not that this is not the auto focus version as described in this post.)

I have developed my creative photographic process on the assumption that each exposure costs nothing, I will never shoot film because I can't conceptualize spending a few dollars per exposure to get a photo. For example, after about 30 tries, I finally got this right. With an SX-70 I would have spent anywhere from $60-$100. With my Canon G9, it was just a fraction of the price I paid for the camera and memory card.

My inability to shoot Polaroids makes them all the more interesting and desirable. Here are some Polaroids taken by my friends with cameras similar to the SX-70:

Mikael Kennedy

Spencer Philips

The SX-70 was in my possession for a turbulent couple of hours as I toyed with the idea of trying my hand with Polaroids. In the end, I sold the camera to my friend Spencer and decided to stick to my guns.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

LL Bean Norwegian Sweaters Back for Fall/Winter '10

Yesterday via Twitter, I sent the comments from my post about two LL Bean Norwegian Goodwill finds to Laurie Brooks and Mary Rose MacKinnon at LL Bean. Much to my surprise, Laurie quickly replied with a DM Tweet informing me LL Bean will resurrect the classic sweater for F/W ‘10. It will reappear in its original, 80% wool, 20% rayon, and, like the original, it will be made in Norway. Check out this photo from the F/W '10 look book.

They’re offering two versions of the Norwegian sweater: the Classic Norwegian Sweater (pictured here) available online, in the catalog, and in LL Bean retail locations across the country, and a three-quarter zip available exclusively in-store.

Brilliant move on LL Bean's part. These photos of my friend Edge do a good job of displaying the modern preppy appeal of the sweater and how its easily incorporated into contemporary outfits. Head to toe: Moscot Glasses, Vintage LL Bean Norwegian Sweater, Tom Brown Button Down, RRL Khakis, JCrew Wool Socks, and Common Projects Desert Boots.

Many thanks to Mary Rose MacKinnon and Laurie Brooks (AKA the twitter account LLBeanPR) at LL Bean for giving me the heads up about these sweaters and being loyal followers of A.R.T.

Update 5-15-09: The Norwegian Sweater will be made in the same exact vendor as the original. Advances in wool technology since the sweaters origins in the 70s allow the sweater to be made entirely out of wool, with no addition of Rayon.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

LL Bean Norwegian Sweaters

On a 75° afternoon this weekend I was perusing the sweater rack at my local Goodwill and stumbled across two LL Bean Norwegian Sweaters from the 1980's. I first spotted the classic LL Bean Norwegian Sweater in navy and white, made famous during the 1980's as preppy staple and immortalized in the Official Preppy Hand Book. The sweater was next to a Champion Waterville High crew sweatshirt. I grabbed it like a fat kid taking candy from a "Take One" bowl on Halloween.

These sweaters were made in Norway with a blend of 80% Wool and 20% Rayon, a synthetic material usually produced from cellulose derived from wood.

For decades this classic weave identified college students with the LL Bean brand. However, LL Bean discontinued the sweater in the late 90's. Today these sweaters are delegated to eBay, vintage stores and flea markets in Williamsburg for around $40 a pop. Not to brag, but these were just $9 a piece.

Where I come from, Goodwills and other thrift stores are as picked over for vintage clothes as thoroughly as garbage heaps in Bangladesh are for food scraps. Central Maine is hundreds of miles away from savvy vintage shoppers and has no shortage of quality clothes.

Farther down the rack, the thick sleeve of a wool sweater stood out from the cheap fleece and cotton weaves and much to my surprise I pulled out another, less known LL Bean Norwegian sweater.
The Goodwills in Maine put X's on LL Bean labels to avoid potential abuses of Bean's rock solid customer service. I love these buttons, very Sun Valley Idaho circa 1965.

The Classic Norwegian sweater is already spoken for by a friend and loyal blog reader. I plan to wear the other for decades to come. I hope that someday LL Bean resurrects these once great sweaters. Without a doubt, LL Bean fans old and new would buy them. If this resonates with you, leave a comment and I will forward it along to my friends at LL Bean.

Here are some more links,
LL Bean Norwegian Sweaters (Picasa), forum discussion,