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Full Moon, Fuller Clouds. February 16, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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I tried to get some shots tonight of the rise of the almost-full moon, but thick clouds moved in as the appointed hour approached.  I thought the mission was to be a total loss, without even a sunset to show for my travels.

But then, crossing over the hills of high Florida on the way home, the clouds overhead gathered into pleats and folds, as though the frontmost one had encountered an impassable place and was brought up short.

I availed myself of the first place I found to pull over, these atmospheric anomalies generally being short-lived, and threw on a lens which I thought might fit the unfolding scene.

I got off this shot of Mount Greylock beneath what should have been a sunset:

… before the light shifted and the clouds bellied up a little farther north.  I threw my kit back into the car and sped up Tilda Hill Road for this one, with the light fading:

Again, the scene changed even as I panned my camera to the south, and again I sped off across Route 2 chasing the ever-shifting ripples.

Then, through a gap in the overhead blanket, the moon appeared:

…too high for a good moon shot, but nonetheless interesting as a landscape element.

At last I packed things up and drove home beneath the thinning clouds, arriving at Berkshire East ski area in time to capture one more 30-second moon shot:

It wasn’t the kind of moon shot I’d been looking for, but rather something totally unexpected.

I guess you never know.




Ducks (Nearly) Unlimited. February 14, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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After chasing a non-existent (well, perhaps “cloud-obscured” would be more accurate) moonrise this afternoon, I headed home through the back roads of Montague.  It’s pastoral and fairly open there, with views of the Connecticut River.  I figured if the light was right I might get lucky with a landscape photograph.

Crossing the much smaller Mill River I noticed movement off to my right – birds coming own through the trees to roost!  I turned around at the next crossroad and went back, and sure enough, there were hundreds of ducks landing in the water and climbing out on the banks:

…with dozens more landing every few minutes.  The clouds were thick but occasionally broken, and I waited for breaks of light – Gizmo likes a lot of light.

These birds were fun to watch, with their flashes of color and their ungainly walk:

Perhaps it’s the anthropomorphism prevalent in the advertising world, but they seemed to me to be talking to each other.

Here a passing Hen flipps off three too-cool-to-look Malards:

…And always, more birds coming in:

They looked like they were settling in for the night, huddling in pairs and little groups, tucking their heads under their wings; it wasn’t dusk yet, but perhaps they felt the weather coming in.

I headed for home, and it was raining before I got there.

Smart birds.

Red Tail Hawk. February 14, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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A red tail hawk scans an open field for a passing meal:

Taken along Route 5 in Deerfield today, courtesy of Gizmo.


Happy Valentine’s Day! February 14, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
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To all of you with love in your life, a big hug.  And to all of you still looking for that special person to go the rest of the way with, an even bigger hug!

And to My Susan, this ice sculpture, found outside of Spoleto Italian Restaurant in downtown Northampton:

It may be a made-up, commercially motivated holiday, but hey, any excuse to say “I love you,” ya know?


When You Say “Bud…” February 13, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.
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…I think of flowers.

Yeah, I know, I just got my ass kicked out of the Real Man’s Club, but ask me if I care!

Anyway, flowers float my boat.  Blame it on the testosterone, but I find them sensual, even sexual, in a way which I would never admit to a stranger.

Good thing we’re so close, eh?


Lest you doubt my view of the Flower World, I present as evidence these shots of the Amaryllis blooming in our kitchen.

Exhibit A, the red folds of a petal worthy of a kiss:

…Lips beckoning you to come inside:

…deep inside, surrounded by beauty:

This might just be proof that God is a man.   Or maybe a lesbian.

Hey, we report, you decide!

There’s more than one bud swelling here tonight…

…and one flower fully open:

These warranted a trip to the textile store for a few yards of black backdrop, which you’ll surely be seeing more of now that I have it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to take a nice cold shower.


Mixed Climbing. February 11, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in climbing, Love and Death.
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“Mixed climbing” refers to a style of climbing which melds rock and ice climbing.  It employs the tools of the ice climbing world, applied to a rock medium ravaged by winter conditions – that is, rendered unclimbable by a layering of ice insufficient to allow actual ice climbing, yet sufficient to thwart the efforts of a pure rock climber.

I’m perversely drawn to, and evidently equipped for this type of climbing.  Although it’s considered to be the realm of younger climbers with a newer world view, I find it much more appropriate for my strengths than either pure rock climbing, which demands brute strength and monumental endurance, or pure rock climbing, which requires monumental endurance and brute strength.

Mixed climbing, in contrast, requires only a slippery grip on what’s allowed and what’s not, on what works and what doesn’t, and a willingness to cast aside any preconceptions which may have followed you to the base of the climb.

Yeah, I got that.

So it pleased me a bunch to get up North this past weekend to the Mount Washington Valley Ice Festival for a day on the steeps.

I got to climb with a quartet of younger guys (and Frau B, not climbing this time ’round but rather working her Nikon) and I had a ball, my damaged shoulders notwithstanding.

We hiked out to a little cliff near Intervail and set up a couple of “top-ropes,” wherein one can climb without the risk of taking a long and likely damaging fall.  I snapped a few shots of the action, including this one of our friend Chris pulling a difficult little rock overhang:

…and another guy high on a route to his left:

I’m embarrassed to not remember his name, but I don’t.

Hey, if you grew up in the 60’s you might not remember everything either:

I took my turn on the rope, then set up to get this shot of another Chris coming up behind me:

Anyway, the lads shifted one of our ropes to a severely overhanging corner, a big step up in difficulty and commitment.  Here, Brian works the route to its top:

…getting up with a couple of falls (top-ropes allow one to fall, rest and continue working a route.) His was our proudest effort excepting mine; I got up it without falls, proving that I’m not dead yet!


Lizz may have gotten some shots of my efforts, but I don’t expect them to be pretty – there was nothing elegant about my core-crunching collision with this ugly gash.

At any rate, it felt good to crush this vertical challenge, and I won’t say it felt bad to smoke the young’uns along the way.

Especially since they were adamant about me having no business playing this Younger Man’s Game.


Amaryllis Interlude. February 10, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Amidst the seemingly endless snows of winter, a bit of color threatens to erupt in our kitchen – an Amaryllis I planted in December.

Here it is, partially blooming against my reflection in our kitchen sink window, with a glass ornament rounding out the image:

It took a bit of finagling to get the lighting right on all three elements, but hey, what else is one to do on a winter’s night?

More shots will follow as this bloom develops into its full glory.

Weather Update. February 10, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
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Yesterday was very windy in these parts.  Driving was complicated by buffeting winds, with visibility varying wildly from infinity to zero in the time it takes to say so:

After sunset, actual snow squalls blew through accompanied by high winds.  I drove home through intermittent white-out conditions and passed several spots where other cars had driven off the road and back onto it, presumably because they had no way of seeing where it was!

Some nights, it’s exceptionally good to get back to the comfort of one’s wood stove.  😉



Mount Washington. February 9, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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I spent this past weekend in New Hampshire, ostensibly to enjoy the Mount Washington Valley Ice Festival, but truth be told, I’m not much of a climber these days.

I mean, I still dabble in it, but not much I’m going to do will compare with the stuff I did in my younger days.  Time hasn’t ravaged me as it might have, but neither has its effect been inconsequential; my shoulders are shot, my right ankle is a mess and my waist is no longer 26″.

But perhaps the most telling sign of my aging is what I appreciate about climbing.  I love the movement, and have all but given up roped climbing, preferring instead to climb easy terrain smoothly and steadily, unencumbered  by the technicalities of rope work and building anchors; I love the views, preferring to climb somewhere beautiful rather than somewhere famously difficult.

And I’m not into risk for glory’s sake.  The weekend sported two nights of slide shows and videos of Famous Climbers doing the nearly-impossible in the most unforgiving of styles, treading the razor’s edge between Cover Shot Immortality and  a page three obituary.  It left me more sad than excited, more moved to introspection than motivated to raise the bar on my own accomplishments.

And it left me thankful that I have another avenue of expression besides creating dicey new routes, which I’ve had the privilege of doing in Days Past.  I have my camera, and a few people who seem to enjoy looking at my photographs, giving me the perfect excuse to blow off the climbing and just cruise around taking pictures.  🙂

I’m also blessed with the company of my friend Lizz, my housemate and another climber/photographer of similar vintage, who has no problem letting go of the Glory Days in favor of a day behind the lens.

So Saturday was spent driving and hiking and snapping photos of Beautiful New Hampshire, not the coastal version with the lighthouses, but the higher and drier White Mountains.  We got up before sunrise to catch that event below the flanks of Mt. Chocorua, and though the skies were unspectacular and it was an easy ten below, we did manage to snap one or two off.

Mt. Chocorua at sunrise:

…followed by a hasty retreat to the heat of our vehicles and a yummy breakfast back in town.  We wavered about where to go next, then settled on a trip up Crawford Notch to the higher climes of Fabyan Station and Bretton Woods and views of Mount Washington.

We got up there mid-morning, and despite the increase in altitude the hours had worked their magic and the temperature was much more manageable.  I got this shot of Mount Washington from the south going up Crawford Notch:

…and this one from farther west, up by Bretton Woods:

Mount Washington is on the right, with Mount Adams (my personal favorite) on the left.  I was jazzed about the lenticular clouds forming over both peaks and being driven off eastward by the winds at higher altitudes, as lenticulars are wont to do.  Also in that last photo is the Mount Washington Hotel, a gorgeous place to drop a few pence and the place where the Bretton Woods Accords came to be in 1945, establishing both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.  I have mixed feelings about both, but the Hotel is historic and beautiful and available, albeit at a price.

Mt. Washington’s summit was in and out of the clouds, with its buildings and structures coated in wind-driven rime ice:

…courtesy of Gizmo, by the way.  This piece of terrain embodies both Heaven and Hell, depending on conditions, and I have to say I’ve been there to experience both.

Now, neither Lizz nor I are Born Lookers, and roadside vistas don’t really satiate us.  So we headed back to the Mount Clinton road, found the Crawford Path trailhead, and ‘shoed up for the hike up toward the Mizpah Springs hut.  It was by now mid-day, but we determined that we’d go as far as time allowed.

The hike was steep, the snow was deep and the whole situation was magical:

Given our time constraints we didn’t quite make it up to treeline, but rather caught gimpses of the northern horizon through the trees:

It was a day well spent, even if the photos were less than spectacular.

On Sunday we hit the cliffs for a bit of climbing; film at eleven.  😉

Plenty Of Snow! February 8, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Snow:  Yeah, we got that!

This has been a very good winter in Western Massachusetts for those of us who like snow.  Despite a fair amount of sleet and freezing rain, the fluffy stuff has still managed to pile up:

In fact, it’s getting difficult to heave the new stuff up over the old stuff!  It’s also putting a heck of a load on area roofs*:

Fortunately our barn is structurally sound and has a steepish roof – that’d be a helluva snow removal job!

…And oh, by the way, it’s snowing again as I type this!  🙂

* I just heard on the radio that 149 roofs have collapsed in Massachusetts in the past week.  I’m very sure that figure doesn’t include many older structures out in the hills, as such happenings are taken in stride by us hill-folk  and don’t necessarily warrant reporting, except over coffee at the local breakfast nook.