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A Pastel Moon. November 8, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Tonight’s nearly-full moon was tasked with rising through a hazy maze of moisture, and didn’t break clear of the clouds until it had long since escaped the frame of the horizon’s details.

That usually means the photo op is a total loss.  But in this case, the setting sun abetted my efforts by painting the banded offenders in a pleasing rose hue, so I snapped one off anyway:

It will never see a frame, but as blog-fodder, I’ll take it.

The forecast calls for increasing clouds culminating in rain, so that may be it for this month’s moon.

When The Moon Waxes… November 7, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
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…strange things happen.  Yesterday’s growing orb had a fearful effect on the Arms Cemetery in Shelburne:

The giant oak at the center of this repository seems to have a sort of spirit of its own…

I don’t know, it’s just an impression I had…

A thirty second exposure at dusk.

Fading Colors, Shifting Winds. November 7, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Politics and Society.
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The air is changing here in Western Massachusetts.  It feels like winter is bearing down on us, even when daytime temps belie that perception.

So it seemed, this past week, like if I was going to catch the last of the colors, it would have to be now or never.  So here goes.

Bittersweet laying claim to a barn in Hadley:

…as if it had any right to it.

That’s by Elliot, with a hand-held 3-stop soft step filter.

And this, a shot of some horses’ asses which I’d hoped to use to illustrate a Republican Debate:

…but then, it’s just one photo, and there are so many asses to illustrate, so that just kinda didn’t happen.

Perhaps I’ll find a nice Shriner Mini to get political with.

Meanwhile, I think that’s about it for Fall colors.

Later, then.

More Photos From The Edge. November 6, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, climbing.
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Here are a couple more photos from Saturday’s “bouldering session” out at Farley Ledge, of which I was an observer rather than a participant.

I went there hoping to capture some essential quality of that activity rather than an overview of it, and at some point booted my ISO way up to 6,400, meaning that the photos would be “grainy,” but still possible in the waning light of a late afternoon in November.

Now, action photographs (and this ought to qualify as “action”) are normally shot at really fast shutter speeds to freeze the action, but in this case I wanted to call attention to a specific part of the photo, and didn’t care if the rest of it disappeared into the visual morass.

The results are indeed tightly focused on a small region of the photograph.  I’m not sure how they’ll translate to this low-fi Blogosphere world, but in the scaled-to-print world, they were more than satisfactory.

Anyway, here’s Breyton putting the moves on Babies With Rabies,  a notable V10 (difficulty rating) boulder problem at Farley.

The start, with both hands crimping a shallow hold on the belly of the beast:

…followed by a foot-hand exchange, with individual fingers making room for the incoming heel-hook as Breyton moved up the lithic swell:

It wasn’t really possible, in the low light of a November eve, to freeze this frenetic action, so I chose instead to go for the hand-foot switch, letting the rest of the photo soften a bit.

The overall effort of this attempt on Babies  warrants a photographic go in better light.  Maybe I’ll get an invitation to the party at some future date, as the “bouldering” season in these parts extends well into early winter.

Jon, Hayden, Breyton, thanks for your patience as I horned in on your community of people covering each others’ backs.  I wasn’t much help, unless one considers illumination as “help.”

Hangin’ With The Boys. November 6, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in climbing.
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I freed up a bit of time at the end of Saturday to head out to Farley Ledge in Erving MA, hoping to find someone bouldering in the crisp autumn air of early November.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

Now, if you aren’t a “boulderer” or haven’t been following the death-spiral-arc of my life, “bouldering” is the branch of the rock-climbing tree which eschews ropes in favor of crash pads and “spotters,” rarely (and quite consequentially) venturing above a height from which it’s safe to fall onto a prepared landing.  Boulderers put maximum effort into navigating a small expanse of rock, by definition close enough to Terra Firma  to survive the defeat so often negotiated by gravity.

And nearby Farley Ledge offers so much potential in this category of climbing that rutting bucks come from all over the Northeast to throw themselves against these rocks, hoping to nudge their perception of the possible ever upward.

As a former climber and present-day photographer, my part in this dance of testosterone vs. gravity was to document it.  I won’t go into the psychic pain of being excluded from the action; my past physical excesses render me now eliminated from the field of participants stretching their physical horizons.

But capturing it is a different high, a chance to occupy spaces not available to those with the fire in their fingers and souls.

Here I got above an elegant boulder ridge which has begged to be climbed for some years, yet hasn’t been “sent,” as those who climb refer to Done Deeds:

That’s Jon’s hand working the arete (ridge) on this stiff problem.

A bit later, Breyton tried a toe-hook to reduce the force on his higher hand, gaining a strong meter in his quest for Upward Mobility:

That shot’s indicative of the difference between common folks’ conception of rock climbing and the reality of it as it now exists.  Rock climbing has undergone a conceptual differentiation which leaves many of its  adherents doing things which don’t fit the popular perception of climbers posed far above the normal plane of existence, reaching for the sky.  Instead we’re reaching for the next imaginary hold on ridiculous expanses of inconsequential boulders.

Inconsequential, that is, unless you care deeply about conquering the impossible.

Which these guys do: they drive the interminable hours up from NYC to spend the day doing exactly that.

Higher on the same piece of obstinate stone, Hayden throws for a tiny crimp:

…and fails to hang on, instead tumbling backward into the attentive hands of his “spotters.”

This is how the esoteric pursuit of Bouldering proceeds: individual efforts are buffered from the ravages of failure by a ground-level team effort.  This was my last love in rock climbing, as I learned the value of maximum personal effort, and of the safety net afforded by a caring community.

More to come, perhaps a bit artsier and less pedantic.

Occupying Your Hometown. November 6, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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Well OK, Amherst isn’t exactly my “hometown” – it’s an hour’s drive away.  But as the scene of my Adventures in Higher Education, and as a place where the Future (read: college kids) lives amongst the Dinosaurs (read: We The Old People,) it still resonates as a nexus of power and a place of potential change.  After all, I remember well the activism of the early 70’s and how it changed the general public’s conception of what the United States was actually doing in Viet Nam.

So when I heard that an Occupy action was going to take place at the town’s main intersection, which just happens  to be the parking place for one of this country’s Great Big Banks, Bank of America:

I took the first important step by responding to an email invitation, hedging my response against more self-serving temptations like going out looking for photos, by saying that I’d “try” to be there.

And I did  make it, albeit a bit late.  Good thing I hadn’t committed to setting the thing up, but BOOOO on me for not being there to help.

Now, being late, I sorta expected to drive into a scene of some hundreds of college folks making a lot of noise, fueled perhaps by their understanding of their dwindling prospects as the wealth and opportunities of This Great Nation settle comfortably into the pockets of the Already Wealthy.

But instead, I saw a group of activists of my own general vintage:

…and while it was gratifying to connect with those I spoke with as the Action proceeded, I have to admit that it was a bit deflating to see ABSOLUTELY NO ONE from the college community.

I mean, it would have been inconceivable  in 1970 to see the Greatest Generation out there protesting the Viet Nam war, alone, without student support.

This may be the best argument ever for reinstating the draft – I can’t help wondering how different the demographics of this gathering would be if those who benefit from our Corporate Hegemony were called on to put their lives where their line of credit now sits.  For the hour I spent mingling and offering “Thank You’s” to these folks, Our Future brushed past in tight pants and sexy boots, Mall-ward bound and thinking about less weighty things than their own futures.

As if there were such a thing.

I spoke with a couple of people who seemed to be positioned at the base of this action, for which I can’t possibly thank them enough.  They were all of the mind that Occupy Amherst’s action hadn’t been adequately linked to the broader Occupy movement, and that if I wanted to see young people gettin’ jiggy wit it, I ought to check out neighboring Northampton’s regular Occupy events.

I’m totally inclined to do that.  I need to know that The Future I’m fighting for cares enough about the outcome of this battle to stand and fight for themselves.

This isn’t just an intellectual distinction.  If young people can’t be convinced of the dangers of the Bread and Circus they’re now being served, we’re not going to make it.  We The Vocal are getting older, losing our voices, and destined to settler into the rhythms of a life spent trying to keep our greying heads above the rising tides of income inequality and the concentration of wealth in the hands of people we’ll never know.

And this kind of “sustenance existence” isn’t conducive to worrying about others.  We’ll have our hands full just staying warm in winter.

So come on, kids – show us you’re not just riding the wave of prosperity generated by the the coordinated movements of your parents’ shoulders.  We paid it forward with the expectation that the ball would be picked up and moved down-field by YOU.

I hope that challenge is taken personally, though I doubt if many from the Next Great Generation will read this.

Meanwhile, I’ll pray that you prove me wrong.

A Half-Moon… November 2, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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…rises over Pelham Lake in Rowe, Massachusetts:

This shot is a collaboration between my eyes (hey, I saw it first! ), the Mad Skilz of Elliot, who laid a vertical plane of sharp focus along the shoreline rock and trending toward the rising half-moon (1-1/2 degrees of swing,) and Photoshop, which allowed me to shoot fast (4 seconds) in the waning light and still be able to adjust the exposure later, bring up the dark areas, and sharpen it a bit.  Still, it involved a funky set-up with me lying in the pond-side mud and holding a reverse graduated filter reeeely  still for the duration of the exposure, so I won’t be falsely humble regarding the results.  I hope you like it.

This was the first time in eons  that the wind was calm enough to capture a reflection, and I loved it enough to get disgustingly muddy.  We’re deep into Ugly Season, with most views being primarily brown and most waterways (my favored venues) being littered with the destruction of Irene.  So it pleases me to find anything, anything  which looks at all natural these days.

Thank you, Pelham Lake.  Thank you, Rowe.

And thank you  for visiting.