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Again With The Bridge! July 29, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Yes, again.  It’s right between me and the nearest stores/gas stations, so I pass there regularly, and it’s repetitive but it’s pretty.

Tiger lilies looking over the rail at the Deerfield river:

The Bridge of Flowers is in full bloom right about now, and well visited on a summer day:

Roses sweeten the air, while lavender cools the view:

It colors are uplifting:

The folks who tend this beautiful bridge pay attention to their work, as color combinations attest:

The full range of hues and colors was on display, and I played a bit with this non-classical composition:

I was trying to make the best of a shallow depth of field; I didn’t want to boot the ISO up, and it was consistently breezy, so I was shooting at f.5 or something.

The way things are going, the Bridge is going to bloom until it frosts.  I expect to be boring you with more visits before then.  😉

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Up In The Sky. July 29, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
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On the way home from work, a shadow on the windshield, a flash of color, a place to pull over and see what that was…

Up there, in the sky:

…riding the ridge, back and forth, turning above me:

Gliding off northward, returning to the south again and again.  It looked freeing, yet focusing.

I bet that was fun.

Wasps! July 29, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.
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All my life I’ve been terrified by wasps, at least since, at the age of perhaps three, I was badly stung by one.  I was playing outside my country home on a summer’s day when my carefree afternoon was interrupted by a sharp pinching pain in my left knee and, looking down, I saw a wasp sticking straight out of it, affixed by her stinger and doing a crazy Twist as she pumped me full of her venom.  I’m sure I wailed like a banshee, as I was that kind of kid.

At any rate, it’s taken me a fair while to forgive the whole lot of ’em and come to see wasps as a beautiful part of the natural world, to be wondered at rather than feared.  They’re amazing, really – many are solitary, and lead the same singularly productive lives their ancestors did eons before their birth.

On a recent trip to the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, MA I got to photograph a couple of wasps engaged in what they do best, making love to nectar-sweet flowers.  In this case the flower was an Eryngium,  of the sapphire blue “Sea Holly” variety, and the wasps were of two kinds, Sphex pensylvanicus,  the Great Black Wasp:

…and Sphex ichneumoneus,  the Great Golden Digger wasp:

These are two large specimens, each approaching an inch and a half in length.

Both of these Femme fatales  dig vertical ground burrows with side chambers, then hunt for katydids and crickets, paralyzing them with a nice little sting and dragging them live into those subterranean crypts, where they lay their eggs on them.  The larval wasps hatch and devour their still-living hosts, growing beautiful and strong thanks to Mommy’s thoughtful gifts.

Isn’t Nature wonderful?

And aren’t you glad not to be a katydid?

These shots were taken by Ziggy, my 50mm Sigma macro lens, and were a bit of an experiment – I nearly always shoot entirely manually, preferring to chose all of the parameters involved in this art form, but here I decided to give Shutter Priority and Auto a go because of the windy conditions – I wanted to shoot fast enough to freeze the motion.  They did reasonably well, snagging some shots I doubtless would have missed fiddling with the dials, but the aperture was necessarily set at a low number/large opening, resulting in such a shallow depth of field that large parts of the wasps aren’t in focus.  The effect, while “artsy,” isn’t really what I had hoped for.

I’ll continue to explore these modes hoping to tweak them into compliance, but I’m thinking that if I can’t improve on the results, I’d rather miss a whole lot of shots and bring home a few I’m really proud of.

Your impressions are, as always, welcomed and appreciated.

Mr. Cat Assumes The Position!!! July 28, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Friday Kittehz Blogging.
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In his typical imitation of Road Kill, Mr. Cat deals with the heat by going wheels-up on the kitchen floor, staring motionlessly at nothing:

If Pethouse gets a hold of this, he’ll be a centerfold  fer sher!

Actually, Mr. Cat prefers to be outside whenever possible, choosing to lounge on a warm flat rock to survey his kingdom:

That’s a good place from which to spy on chippies and mouses.  But don’t let him catch you  spying on him

“You lookin’ at my paws??  Well, are ya, PUNK???

That makes him go half crazy!

Like, dizzy,  man:

What a ham.

So there’s some Friday Kittehz Blogging for ya, after quite a while of none.

Enjoy your Friday evening!  🙂

It Stormed To The South… July 27, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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…So of course, I had to go see.

I mean, it’s not that I wanted to be devoured by a meteorological event, but rather that I expected to capture a bit of the kinetics which infuse the atmosphere in such situations.

Well, as so often happens in my life, I was late to the party; whatever was going to happen had already done so, and to the south of my photographic venue at that.  I’d driven madly to get to a patch of corn fields down by the Connecticut river near the Northampton airport, a place I’ve gone before when the weather sucked; it has the potential to give up an iconic photo of the Western Massachusetts I know, but does so only when caressed just so by rain and sun.

But the weather passed primarily to the south, and I was left with…

…what was there.  A farm with a truck-patch of leeks:


That’s from Elliot, with perhaps five degrees of tilt.  The storms passing to the south were pushing low clouds over the Seven Sisters, as the range of hills in the background are known hereabouts.  I liked the way that looked against the darker sky, and the scene was so planar that it begged for front-to-back focus.

I worked my way along the farm roads and tractor paths down to the Connecticut river, where yellow tanzies grew atop a high bank:

That’s Mt. Holyoke (the mountain) in the background, with the summit house of Skinner State Park atop it.  I didn’t get the “tilt” right to get it in focus; I was too close the the plane of the tanzies and wanted them more.

Well, having a tilt-shift lens on the box made me look for planar subjects which might benefit from its attributes, so I composed in two dimensions.  A fallow field harbors a bloom of Queen Anne’s Lace and asparagus:

The line of hills running away in the background is the Mt. Tom massif, with big basalt cliffs facing westward and some fun ice climbing in the early winter (for those who enjoy that particular trial.)  This afternoon it was simply a horizon element as I tried to pin down the Lace dancing in the breeze.

I wandered the field roads looking for foregrounds and sky elements, pulling over whenever I encountered something like these mullein plants with their flower stalks almost ready to bloom:

These things feel vaguely Southwestern, like a cross between saguaros and gerbils.  And again, I caught those low clouds sneaking in from the south.

A ways further along I was admiring another patch of Queen Anne’s Lace when a flash of rose caught my eye – a milkweed blossom audaciously pink among the pure Queen’s blossoms, and horror of horrors, hosting two beetles fucking in it:

They’re the reddish spots down left of center.  Trust me, in a print-sized blow-up they’re embarrassing.

Anyway, I thought all of this was augmented by the leaning power pole and the swarming low clouds, though diminished a bit by my inability to get this shot without the camera’s  shadow being in the picture (I ducked.)

But the overriding visual element of my drive through the fields was corn, tall and lush and loving the heat, and occasionally bordered by an un-tilled roadside shoulder of Giant Sunflowers (Helianthus giganticus),  so named for their height rather than the size of their blossoms:

They gave me a little foreground color for the last dim shot of the day:

…and were barely more than a silhouette against the flushing western clouds:

So I missed the storm, but got some shots anyway.  There will be other storms, and I will be back.

I hope you enjoy seeing these shots as much as I enjoyed the process of making them.

G’night.

 

 

 

At A Local Farm Stand. July 27, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Dinner with TCR, Uncategorized.
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One of our many local farm stands grows LOTS of beautiful flowers:

…as well as lots of great fresh veggies.  And they have an appropriate sense of humor for The Farming Life:

Got some great corn there to supplement our own crankin’ garden.  🙂

Tannery Brook. July 24, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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My recent excursion to Tannery Falls in Savoy, MA made me long for a return visit a bit earlier in the day, and this being so accessible to me, I indulged myself and went back yesterday.  Here are two more images I thought might be worth sharing.

First, a cascade in a deep cleft above the main falls sees no direct sunlight other than this late afternoon blessing:

…and a cairn built in the pool below the main falls catches similar late-day light:

That one is courtesy of Elliot, with 3+ degrees of swing imparted to his objective eye.

The water flow here is minimal at this point, though that’s subject to changing with the weather, and will doubtless increase as Autumn paints the place in shades of gold.

Not that I’m looking forward to Fall or anything…

😉

Queen Anne’s Lace. July 24, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.
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Among the summer roadside flowers which I most love, Daucus Carota  tops the chart.  Its complex umbel of tiny white flowers is at first gilded with pink highlights:

…then flattens into a jungle of fine little blossoms:

…hosting a steady parade of predators and prey.  There are no obvious dramas unfolding in these particular shots, but I’m committed to finding you some.

Later, – TCR.

Yankee Doodle Days! July 24, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Politics and Society.
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Hoo-wee, we’re gonna go to the fair!

Actually, it’s my town’s little “signature event,” a long weekend of simple pleasures and entirely believable spectacles which might not exactly take your breath away, but will certainly keep the kids occupied for a few of those summer vacation hours.  We’re talking ox pulls, a (semi-) trained pig act, a demolition derby (!) and lots of fried dough.

Here’s a little carrousel full of Baby-Bumpkins to give you that back-of-a-pickup scale:

This ride came complete with the cutest little Carnie in my limited experience, a Daisy-Duke sportin’ vision who challenged my childhood memories to a duel and won hands down.

And there were fireworks on Friday night, the real reason I’m doing this post, which is a far cry from doing justice to the townspeople who came together to make this thing happen.  But hey, I’m visual, fireworks are visual, you get the connection.

So anyway, I worked my way across the fairgrounds, over/under a few fences, bullshitted a cop or two, and found myself talking to the Pyro-In-Chief, a nice guy by the name of Bill, who cleared me to set up my camera near the control panel, provided I didn’t mind wearing ear protection and a hard-hat.  I said, “Yeah, we got that,” and scurried back to my car to get suited up.  Apparently, four inch balls of flaming God-knows-what are known to fall back onto the launch area, and being crazy doesn’t render these folks fools.

Said control panel:

I fielded a few questions like, “Ever done this before?” and responded with a dope-in-the-headlights look (which I failed to document) which roughly translates as “Duh.”  So Mrs. Bill (Lynn, I believe) clued me as to what had worked for her – high film speed ( in my case, ISO) and long exposures.  I dialed it in and donned a hard-hat.  I subsequently heard different recipes for success on the Tubes, and will explore them.

Then, “BOOM!”  and we were off!  I clicked away, missing my range but still getting a piece (hey, you  try focusing on a moving object which isn’t there yet!)  I liked the odd solidity of the fragment I caught enough to include it here:

It looks like a solid thing dangling on a string, doubtless a result of the time-chunk I captured with this bulb exposure.

I stayed with the “bulb” setting for the shoot, trying to get both launches and explosions in the same shot.  The results were mixed; I’ll let you be the judges of what worked and what didn’t.

An abstract, as I homed in on the action:

Another, getting my range:

…and a short series capturing both the origin and the destination of these brilliantly burnt offerings:

That’s my favorite of the bunch, primarily because the colors broke the heavily-red pattern of its predecessors.

So there’s a first effort at photographing fireworks, the distinction being that it’s not nature and it’s not standing still while I spend twenty minutes setting up each shot.  I’ve a ways to go on this arc of my learning curve, so bear with me while I think out loud here.

 

It’s Hot, But We’re Not! July 21, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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This past weekend was a scorcher, especially in the lower climes, so I invited my Susan to join me for an afternoon at the Cold river.  Flowing as  it does through a high, narrow valley and getting less sun than the wider water courses in these parts, it’s of a scale which is easily assimilated by humble minds and lives up to its chilly name.

We parked at a spot which has room for only one car (ours!) in a half-mile stretch, so we wouldn’t see another soul.

And we didn’t.  We walked the short distance down to the boulder-strewn river bed:

…and set to exploring.

It was magical; Susan got deeply into building delicate stone towers:

…while I scoped out the scene for photos.  The place was rich with opportunities, and I was soon hunkered down amongst the rocks, framing shots of the rich range of colors on display:

The predominant rock type here is schist, but there are chunks of blue-green serpentine as well.  I like the complexity of this rock, with its angular features on a micro scale:

…and its colorful weathering:

There are also a lot of big round quartzite boulders, which display a weathering pattern known as “spalling,” and look like they’ve been carved with a round chisel:

As a black and white image, I think that shot evokes old India ink drawings.

Eventually we got down to the hard work of the day: holding down the big boulders and keeping a bit of the sun off them:

It was grueling, enduring the hypnotic pink noise of the burbling cascades and all.

But hey, somebody’s  got to do it, and we volunteered!    😉