Photography: A Picture-perfect Hobby For James Barrington


By John Deming, Atlantic News Staff Writer

Atlantic News, Thursday, December 9, 2004

JUST PICTURE THIS -- Hampton Town Manager James Barrington explains some of the ways and places he has gotten the picture-perfect snapshots which line his office in Hampton's Town Offices. [Atlantic News Photos by John Deming]

HAMPTON | After 31 years of marriage, Darlene Barrington is used to it.

"There was no place to pull over and park, except in a store parking lot," says Hampton Town Manager James Barrington. "My wife said, 'You just go shoot, I'll go shopping in the store and we can meet afterwards.'"

Barrington proceeded to set up his camera and take several pictures — one real good keeper — of a bridge in Arcadia Park sharply reflected in the pond it passed over.

Complementing his duties as town manager, Barrington is an amateur photographer who carries a camera with him "virtually all the time." Both his office and the halls of the town office building are decorated with blown-up copies of his impressive work.

"You miss 100 percent of the shots that you don't take," he says. "As I'm driving, I'm always looking for photo opportunities."

His wife Darlene has gotten "irritated" in the past at Barrington's frequent need to pull over and capture an image, he says — but over the years, she's softened.

"She's used to it by now," he says.

Barrington has sold photographs, won contests with photographs and had photographs hung on the walls of the town office building. But mostly, he just loves "making" the photographs.

"I'm a town manager to make a living, but I make photography to live," he said, a statement supported the tie he wore, which had several illustrated cameras on it.

Photography has been important to Barrington since he took pictures for his high school yearbook. He seems to know the make and model of every camera he's owned, and he has a wealth of knowledge about lenses, lighting and other particulars.

"My Vivitar died at 25 years," he said. "I knew that camera so well; it was like an extension of me."

He is quick to distinguish between "making" photographs and simply taking pictures; the lens, the lighting, the shutter speed — they all work together to capture an image, and capture it in a manner different than the human eye.

"I think 'what will this picture look like,'" Barrington says. "It might be a nice view, but not a nice photograph."

One of his most beautiful pictures—displayed at the top of the spiral stairs at the town offices — is titled "Millennium Dawn."

Barrington has always loved photographing sunrises over the beach, he said, so he decided — in the midst of all of 1999's Y2K hoopla — to photograph the sunrise over Hampton Beach on the morning of January 1, 2000.

He was not the only one with the idea to watch the Year 2000's first sunrise; in fact, parking was difficult to find, and it was hard to get a clear shot.

That is, until Barrington noticed that other people watching the sunrise became silhouettes in the orange light. The sunrise, with silhouetted locals looking on, became the image.

"Eventually, I just said 'that's my shot," he says.

Town Office Receptionist Alice Macgregor said she enjoys Barrington's photography.

"It's really nice," she says. "You see things in them you probably wouldn't see."

"Millennium Dawn" was used on the front cover the 2000 Town Report, Barrington says.

One key to successful photography is taking a lot of exposures, according to Barrington.

"I'll quote Thomas Edison," he says. "I find that the harder I work, the luckier I get."

Barrington will use up multiple rolls of film to get that one memorable image.

One such picture was taken when he first moved to town and rented a duplex before closing the deal on his new house. He had decided, after a violent snowstorm, to take a walk out to the beach.

"We had come from Florida, and wanted to see snow on the beach," Barrington says," for the novelty."

The picture shows fierce waves and a sky full of clouds to match. Barrington shot two rolls of film that day, he said, but this picture stood out from the rest.

Barrington is a subscriber to two photography magazines, and understands a lot of underlying theory in photography. But primarily, he enjoys the art and its continuity — "there will always be more," he says.

"There are so many photo opportunities in someone's back yard," he adds. "It's largely a matter of training yourself to look."

Still, Barrington doesn't limit himself; he travels to make sure he gets good photographs from all of the New England states. One of his most recent photographs is of the November "Beaver Moon."

"I shot the whole roll," he says. "The sky was so beautiful that night."

Barrington said he has thought about taking pictures professionally, but decided against it.

"I asked some photographers, 'If I have to make a living at it, do I lose the flare? The passion I have for doing it?" he says. "I got different answers."

Nevertheless, there are always pictures to make, he says.

Another recent shot of Barrington's was of the Nubble Lighthouse, though he was disappointed that the ocean water didn't come in to view.

"One of these days I'll go back up there," he says, "when the tides are right."