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Amherst Orchid Show, 2011. February 28, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.
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OK folks, it’s time for Our Yearly Orchasm!

The Amherst Orchid Show, held again this year in Northampton (!) is a sight for winter-weary eyes – a large room full of outrageous form and color, and stuffed full of delighted Flower Zombies milling about and muttering, “Oh, Harold, look at THIS one!”

At first glance it’s a cacophony of color:

…but like much of what’s complex in the world, it divulges its secrets to those willing to take it apart.

A constellation of stars rode high above a ruby sunset:

…as a choir of Angels descended from their Heavenly trellis:

…and a family looked up in slack-jawed amazement :

There were simple single blossoms:

…and some that were fantastical in form:

There were Lady’s Slippers:

…and classics of the family Orchidaceae:

There were interesting pairings of climbers:

…and standers:

…the depths of which caused palpitations in otherwise staid admirers:

…and still others which challenged Elvis for the title of King of the Velvet:

…and some so other-worldly as to seem like beautiful fictions:

I think that’s my favorite shot from the day.

A lot of these takes were in the 15-30 second range; I’d love a chance to get in there without the crowds milling about, as even the breezes of passing people caused enough motion in the more delicate specimens to make photographing them a low-probability prospect.  Nonetheless, I got better shots this year than last, and I’m pretty jazzed about that.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed viewing these as much as I enjoyed taking them.

G’night, now!


Up Country. February 26, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Trucks sleep up in the fields of Shelburne after the last big storm:

Cattle daydreaming about green grass in Hawley:

A workhorse grown coarse and shaggy for the season:

…while in the valley below, Salmon Falls saves itself for Spring:

It’s a little farther along down in the flat-lands of Franklin County, but even here there’s a change in the air, a feeling that Winter is dying as Spring struggles to be born.

Music For A Freaky Friday. February 25, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in music, Politics and Society.
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Ah, Music – Gift of Muses, Balm for the Soul.

Unless it’s by The Fugs, in which case it just might be politically anarchic, culturally subversive or both.

In the case of the following stellar example of their Art, it’s both, and most definitely Not Safe for Fucking Work.  So put the kids in the attic, roll a big fattie and sit back and thank your Lucky Stars you weren’t born next to a nuclear testing facility.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you…

Mutant Stomp!

Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

King Of The River! February 25, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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We have a Resident Eagle who makes regular appearances circling our yard, and is a frequent sight cruising along the Deerfield as we drive into town.  It’s appearance is usually fleeting, and I seldom get a chance to break out my camera.  I’ve gotten in the habit, though, of driving with Gizmo set up on a tripod in the passenger seat… “just in case,” you know.

Well, yesterday I got lucky – our Eagle had landed, and even though it wasn’t close enough for a real “keeper shot,” it was across the river from a place where I could pull over without stopping in the travel lane (not always the case on Route 2.)

So, of course, I did just that, and got off this shot:

It was pretty heavily screened by brush and branches at roadside, but thanks to the magic of a large aperture, I dissapeared ’em!

I wanted to wait for this magnificent bird to take flight, but alas, I had an appointment to keep, and miles to go before I could sleep.

So I hit the road reluctantly, determined to keep an eye out in the days ahead.

Lowlands’ Lament. February 24, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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Half an hour’s drive east of here, the Deerfield river flows into the Connecticut, New England’s longest and grandest waterway.

The lowlands of the Connecticut are legendary for their fertility.  For the hundred centuries since the draining of ancient Lake Hitchcock, yearly floods have replenished the fertile flood plain with organically rich silts, turning the once-lake-bottom into some of the most productive farmland in North America.  For generations, the Connecticut River Valley was an exporter of cash crops, most notably tobacco, and in the last century, the fabled Hadley asparagus.  The latter has of late succumbed to a rust blight and is now in decline.

As population in the valley grew and the bottom lands were developed, however, the cost to individuals of the yearly Spring floods, some of which were really quite monstrous, prompted calls for control of this awesome force of nature.  Dams were built, levees erected, and except for rare breaches, Civilization was saved.

But as with all such human interventions, there were unforseen consequences.  The end of the yearly floods marked the beginning of the decline of the region’s reign as Bread Basket (or humidor, as the case might be) of The Northeast.  Crop yields dropped even as the amount of fertilizer needed increased, raising the cost of doing business and driving much of the commercial farming elsewhere.  While Summer still sees the valley bottom sown with corn, tobacco and assorted pumpkin patches, the area has lost its preeminence as a commercial farming hub.

Here’s a winter eve’s view of the Holyoke Range, with Mount Tom’s impressive basalt escarpment in relief on the right, as seen across a stubble of corn between Northampton and the Great River itself:

Stars are just beginning to twinkle at upper left in this thirty-second exposure, while the Milton coal-fired power plant’s stack glows malevolently red in the gap where the Connecticut transects the range.

This image reminds me of Western landscapes I’ve loved forever, and I intend to mine this spot through the seasons until you beg me to stop.


Orchid Warning! February 24, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.
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In honor of the upcoming Amherst Orchid Show (Feb. 26/27) here are a couple of shots of a bloom in my kitchen.

First, a full-on “portrait:”

…and then a close-up, looking down its wee little throat:

This cut flower was a Valentine’s Day gift from my Susan, and is still hanging in there despite my legendary Brown Thumb.

By the week’s end I’ll have more shots, thanks to the growers and collectors who will be exhibiting on Saturday.

‘Till then… enjoy!


A Slow Month For Moons. February 23, 2011

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February has been a less than, um, stellar month for moon-shots in these parts.  It’s not quite that I didn’t get any,  but rather that Her Fullness eluded me.

I stopped taking these monthly curses personally when I read that, statistically, the days and nights around the full moon were more likely to be cloudy, the weather unsettled.

This makes some sense to me – the exact opposition of the sun and moon (which is necessarily the case for the moon to appear “full” from the Earth) creates more extreme tides in our oceans (other factors such as storms being equal,) so why shouldn’t it affect the ocean of air surrounding us?

So I’ve quit being surprised when it rains or snows on my Full Moon Parade or the horizon is shrouded in mists right as I’m expecting to juxtapose a big round fattie against a jagged spruce skyline, and have made it a point to get almost-full moonrises a couple of days before and moonsets a couple of days after the Blessed Event, such as this one of the Very Gibbous Moon over a hillside in my hometown:

…That way, if the weather stinks at full, I still have something to look at!

That one is courtesy of Gizmo, my 400mm L-Series Bad Boy.

By the way, moonsets during the first few mornings after Full are easier to catch (weather permitting) and set up for, as you can see the moon ahead of time and plan accordingly!

Just in case you wanted to know.


A Spike In Page-Views! February 23, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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Yesterday my “daily page views” jumped from well under two hundred to well over one thousand (!), which leads me to suspect I’ve been “linked to” by a far more popular site.  There used to be a feature on my blog’s Dashboard which showed me when this happened, but WordPress changes have left me in the dark about such things.

If any of you new viewers get back here, I’d love to know how you heard about my humble blog so that I can properly thank the source of my increased traffic.

Thanks!  – TCR


Yeah, that was easy (thanks to me attentive visitors!)

Thanks to Tengrain for his kind link over at Crooks & Liars!

…and to beatgrl and McJeff for their help on this one.

Down By The River… February 21, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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…I shot my camera.  Got this photo of trees reflecting in the Connecticut up at the Montague/Sunderland line:

…and this one, of a New Age Tobacco Barn in Hatfield at sunset:

Both of these venues have potential for some interesting photographs, and will bear watching through the seasons and in various weather.


Consolation Prize. February 18, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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I’m a loser, Baby, but don’t kill me just yet.

After getting skunked in my quest to capture a full moon photo Wednesday night I thought I’d get up early enough Thursday to catch moonset.

So with only four hours sleep I popped out of bed at 5am, microwaved a mug of joe and headed for the high country.  A very hazy moon was just ducking below the hills to the west, and I figured if I hustled I’d have a clear view of the horizon as Luna took her last bow.

But “clear view” was the kicker; turns out my hazy glimpse of Her Fullness was to be my last for the day.  The western horizon was a solid mass of clouds, and though I got to the vantage point I’d planned on, there was nothing to be seen of her.

All was not lost, though – I’d noted that sunrise would be about an hour after moonset, giving me enough time to get across Florida to Whitcomb Summit to catch that phenomenon, if indeed it was worth catching.  For some reason that spot has yielded some of the most amazing raspberry skies I’ve ever seen in the East, and most especially in winter.

I wasn’t disappointed.  The eastern horizon was just cracking a wry red smile as I arrived, and I had time to set up and snap away until I got this:

It was another iteration of the corrugated clouds of the night before, painted pink through a fortuitous gap between Heaven and Earth.

I did nothing to that shot in post-processing other than to bring the levels up; the clouds were moving quickly and a long exposure wouldn’t do, so I under-exposed it at two seconds.

As consolation prizes go, I was satisfied with this one.

Then I was off to brew a fresh pot of coffee and pitch another porch full of firewood.