The truth behind At The Lake


“At the Lake” is one of my most popular photographs.  People like to purchase it for their lake house, give it as gifts or even buy it as greeting card.  The photograph was taken at Lake Placid in upstate New York and features two Adirondack chairs lined up along a peaceful lake (Mirror Lake to be precise).

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The first Adirondack chair was designed by Thomas Lee while vacationing in Westport, New York, in the Adirondack Mountains in 1903. Needing outdoor chairs for his summer home, he tested his early efforts on his family. After arriving at a final design for a “Westport plank chair,” he offered it to a carpenter friend in Westport in need of a winter income, Harry Bunnell. Bunnell saw the commercial potential of such an item being offered to Westport’s summer residents, and apparently without asking Lee’s permission filed for and received U.S. patent #794,777 in 1905.  Bunnell manufactured hemlock plank “Westport chairs” for the next twenty years, painted in green or medium dark brown, and individually signed by him.

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I once built a pair from instructions in a magazine.  They were built with pressure treated wood which turned out to be very heavy.  I painted them bright red and had them at our house on Mount Desert Island Maine.  I can’t say they were very comfortable, unlike some of the more modern designs that have rounded backs.

When I think of Adirondack chairs, I always recall a story of a photographer that a friend of mine told me.  He said he knew this photographer who was photographing an Adirondack chair at the end of a dock.  It was an idyllic scene.  The lighting on the lake was perfect and the chair at the end of the dock was so inviting.  He carefully setup his tripod and shot the chair from a variety of angles and tried different lenses.

Just as he was finishing up he heard a rather huffy voice of a woman behind him.  “Are you just about finished?” she asked in a rather stern voice as if he had been keeping her waiting for something.  “I’d like to take that picture too” holding her cell phone or point and shoot camera up.

“Sure, thing Madam” the photographer replied, “let me just get my stuff out of the way.”   And with that he picked up his tripod, camera equipment and folded up his Adirondack chair and walked it back to the car leaving behind a rather hot and bothered woman.

My photograph of the Adirondack chair by the lake has been so popular that I revisit from time to time trying new techniques.  I have a couple of versions of it for sale including this black and white version:

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The truth behind the shot is simply that I always carry my camera with me at all times. After dropping my son off for summer camp, my wife and I took a little weekend getaway trip to Lake Placid and I came across this scene while walking around the lake. Nothing too exciting, just always keeping my eye out for photographic opportunities.

I also have this sunset version of the shot:

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Lake Placid itself is a beautiful little town with fun restaurants and bars plus the tourist attractions from the Olympics. Lake Placid hosted the 1932 and the 1980 Winter Olympics but when you see the place, its hard to imagine since the modern day Olympics has become so huge. There is no way Lake Placid could host another Olympics, there just simply are not enough facilities to house the athletes and spectators. Its like this sleepy little town with a great ski mountain, ski jumps and a ice arena.

Lake Placid is best known as the two-time site of the Winter Olympics. Lake Placid first hosted in 1932 and again 48 years later in 1980. In the U.S., the village is especially remembered as the site of the 1980 USA–USSR hockey game. Dubbed as the “Miracle on Ice”, a group of American college students and amateurs upset the heavily favored Soviet national ice hockey team, 4–3, and two days later won the gold medal. Another high point during the Games was American speed-skater Eric Heiden’s performance, wherein he won five gold medals in as many events.