David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Share your most stunning autumn photos with us on Instagram: Use the hashtag #GlobeFall. We’ll round up our favorites and share them on bostonglobe.com and @bostonglobelife next week.
READING, Vt. — It was still more than an hour before sunrise, but Scott D’Amato had already unfolded his tripod and staked out a spot on the dirt road overlooking Jenne Farm.
It was the third straight year that D’Amato had driven four hours from his home on Cape Cod to come to this spot, in this season, at this hour, and he knew that before the sun peeked over the horizon behind him, there would be many more tripod-toting photographers elbowing for prime positions.
That’s because in the world of landscape photography, Jenne Farm becomes a sunrise mecca each autumn, a scene that so screams “quintessential New England fall” — rolling hills, weathered red barns, and an 18th-century farmhouse, all flanked by autumn leaves — that it has become, it is said, the most photographed farm in the country, perhaps the world.
“This is the centerpiece of fall photography in New England, and I’ve yet to get my best shot,” said D’Amato, a jovial hobbyist from Mashpee, as a slow stream of headlights crawled up Jenne Road from Route 106 and pulled into the small parking area. “And if I don’t get what I want today, I’m coming back tomorrow.”
The story of how this once-anonymous farm became a photographic obsession goes back to the 1950s, when students in a photography workshop from nearby Woodstock captured magical images at sunrise. Word spread quickly, and soon Life and other publications showed up, and the location of the farm was revealed in Arnold Kaplan’s “How to Find (and photograph) the Photo-Scenics in Vermont,” a small yellow booklet that is still available today. (Another spot Kaplan popularized was Sleepy Hollow Farm in nearby South Pomfret, a majestic vista, best photographed in the afternoon, that was recently owned by Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry.)
In the decades since, Jenne Farm has been photographed and photographed. It has appeared on countless postcards and in an iconic Budweiser commercial, and made cameos in the films “Funny Farm” and “Forrest Gump.”
For the family that owns the 330-acre farm, the attention can sometimes be flattering and sometimes tedious. “But at this point, it’s just a normal part of our lives,” said John Morgan, one of the 10 family members who are part of the trust that owns the farm. (His mother’s maiden name was Jenne).
“There are definitely times when it can feel a bit like you’re living under a microscope,” Morgan said. “On busy days, there can easily be a hundred people up on that hill photographing everything we do, and sometimes people get confused and think it’s a park instead of a working farm and private residence. They’re always asking for the public restroom, when can they take a tour of the house, and the location of the restaurant.”
In recent years, Morgan said, the crowds have grown thicker, more year-round — many try to shoot the farm in untouched snow — and more international, with a huge influx of tourists from Asia. But aside from the occasional over-aggressive elbow-jockeying and those seeking a bathroom, Morgan said, the vast majority of people are respectful and the family is happy to celebrate their postcard-perfect homestead. “We know it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world,” he said.
There is a donation box at the top of the hill near a small parking area and a sign urging people to buy some homemade maple syrup (the main business of the farm, in addition to raising beef cows), but Morgan said that as long as the family owns the farm, the view will always be free and open to all who wish to see it.
Back at the top of the hill, as the sun got closer to cresting the trees in the east, more and more photographers scrambled into position around Scott D’Amato. Expensive cameras were screwed onto tripods. Lenses were attached. Filters were cleaned.
At 6:45, a trio of cars pulled in carrying members of a photo workshop led by a local teacher, Loren Fisher.
“Okay, there’s a couple different things we can do here,” Fisher said to the students, who had come from around the world. “We can shoot across the valley from over there. There’s a pretty nice shot on the road.”
The students moved quickly. Time was short.
“Once that sun comes up this whole place is going to transform,” Fisher said.
With everyone in position, the photographers grew silent and the show began. And, just as it has for decades, Jenne Farm did not disappoint.
The yellow leaves of the maple trees began to glow. The chipped red paint on the barns lit up like it had been plugged into a socket. And the cows, as if on cue, began to move into a better position for the photographers.
“It’s beyond my expectations,” said Max Doemer, who had traveled all the way from Luxembourg to take Fisher’s workshop. “My friends thought it was a bit strange that I would travel all this way to photograph leaves, but I’ve been sending them pictures and videos and now they want to come here.”
The photographers were mostly silent, adjusting the settings on their cameras. The only noise was the opening and closing of shutters.
It did not last long, this moment of light photographers call “the golden hour,” before the soft redness of the dawn light was washed away.
“Did you get your shot?” someone called to D’Amato, who was folding up his tripod on the road.
“Oh, yeah. I’ve got the best there’s ever going to be from here,” he said with a big smile on his face. “I’m going home now.”
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