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Starlings By Starlight. December 30, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Well, perhaps not starlings, but it sounded poetic, didn’t it?

Tonight’s pilgrimage to our local supermarket yielded this image of a flock of little birds bedded down in the scrub trees between the parking lot and adjacent Route 2:

They sat beneath the gibbous moon for their ten-second portrait without twitching.  It’s a miracle!  😉

Housemate and Friend Holly has me seeing more of my subjects in black and white, which totally suits this dismal season.

I hope you agree.

A Holiday Outing. December 30, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Well, not a traditional  Holiday outing, but an afternoon in the nearby woods, the day after Christmas.

Younger Daughter Ursula came to visit, and she and I went with Lizz and Holly up to a spot I call “Rooftopia,” just over the Vermont line.  It’s a jumble of schistose granitic boulders, just right for black & white photography, which was the general gist of the outing.

These shots are mine, obviously not black & white.

The Gang getting to the rocks:

Holly was keen on getting some B&W shots of the jumble, as well as some portraits of Yours Truly in his natural habitat (no accounting for tastes, they say.)  She came with her Cambo 4X5, a nice piece of work in and of itself:

Box cameras like this one are the film-world’s precursor to modern tilt-shift lenses like Elliot; the front and back elements can be raised or lowered (shift )  to correct perspective, or tilted (um, tilt ) to lay down a plane of sharp focus.  Her results from this venue are very moody and fraught with potential energy.  When she gets them developed to her satisfaction (we’ve only seen proofs) I’ll try to scan a couple and post them here.

I, meanwhile, was shooting digitally, snapping this one of Ursula as she patiently sat as a surrogate for me while Holly set up her complicated unit and I selfishly scampered around the rocks looking for details.

A patient Ursi:

Ursi caught me framing her in my sights, and showed a bit of her dismay at being photographed, as well as her plummeting core temperature.  She hates photos of herself, but I as a proud father love them.  I promised her this wouldn’t come out awful, or if it did, I wouldn’t post it.  I hope I haven’t done her wrong.

My detail shots, on the other hand, were rushed and came out entirely disposable.  Being that I was there at Holly’s request, I didn’t take the time to set up a tripod or apply any graduated filters, opting instead to do a furious circuit of the place and get back to the Cambo when it was ready for me.  Consequently, my shots are a train-wreck of over-exposed snow and impenetrable shadows.  That’s a visual dynamic which takes a lot more time to capture than I gave it, so my half-assed efforts were wasted.

Shoulda just stayed there and sat for the set-up.

More to follow, In Sh’Allah.

In A Black And White Mood. December 27, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Uncategorized.
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Ah, December in the Berkshires, Solstice in the Snow, a White Christmas…

…but Oh, Wait – it’s still Ugly Season.  The mud has finally frozen, but there it sits in all its crap-colored glory, unfettered by the unbearable lightness of being an Actual Winter.

Not exactly what a would-be photographer wants to see this time of year.

But then, desperate necessity is the mother of devious invention, and if the pristine hues and simple palette of the season won’t cooperate, fuck ’em.

Enter Black and White.

Here are a few images I thought were worth seeing in B&W, some new, and one old but heretofore not posted in this vampirically drained format.

The side of a house in Shelburne, decorated with a hank of cord hung on a protruding bit:

This caught my eye while I was on my way to photograph more of the old Fords rakishly adorning the meadows at the Goldthwaite Farm, such as this one:

I’ve dubbed her “Eileen,” for obvious reasons.

And while I was conjuring this bloodless gallery of discarded rogues, I thought of this photo of a hay wagon, previously shared in full color, but which I always thought had the tonal range to make an acceptable  black and white image:


That’s how I’m handling my Snow-Jones.  I’m trying to live in the present I’m presented with, rather than lamenting the loss of the scenes I’ve spent most of a year anticipating.

Perhaps the near future will send me some snow, but if it doesn’t, so be it.  I’ll find some reason to push the shutter button, and sort it all out later.

Florida Mountain Turnips! December 21, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Dinner with TCR.
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Among the local wonders of this season are the World *ahem* Famous Florida Mountain Turnips.

Now, if you’re a “Turnip Person,” you’ll really appreciate this.  If you’re not  a Turnip Person, this might be a good time to go clean the refrigerator.

So.  Florida Mountain Turnips are grown up the hill from here in Florida, MA.  They’re more properly (and widely) known as Laurentian Purple Topped Rutabagas, on accounta they were brought here from the Laurentian mountains in North Central Quebec, they have purple tops, and, um, they’re rutabagas (Brassica napus, a cross-breeding between true turnips and cabbages. )  They’re a soft, pale yellow on the inside and as sweet as root crops of the cabbage family get, due to the early and frequent frosts up there.  I could plant them here, within ten miles of their Florida home, and they just wouldn’t come out the same.


Lucky for me, several Florida growers sell them.  I stumbled upon this sign along Route 2:

…and followed it to the home of one Mike Gancarz, who sells said “fresh” turnips.

“How Fresh,” you might ask?  Well, here’s Mike:

Here’s The Snatch:

…and voila!   Fresh Florida Mountain Turnips!

“You can’t get them any fresher than this,” he proudly proclaimed.

“I could if I wanted to get down on my hands and knees and eat ’em out of the dirt,” I replied.

We both laughed, then I paid the man $18 for 20 pounds.

Not bad for the Real Deal.

Come Christmas I’ll be bragging about how good they were.

OK, you picky flatlanders can shut the fridge and sit back down.  I’ll find something for you-all presently.



Rooftopia. December 18, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in climbing.
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I spent part of this afternoon up at Rooftopia, a tumbling conflagration of stones and spaces hunkered down along the Deerfield river just over the Vermont line from me.

I’m enamored of this particular stone for its clean sweep of overhanging terrain, and just had to play with it for a bit:

It’s really out of my league, but I can dream, can’t I??   🙂

The vignetting in this photo is caused by my Cokin P-Holder, which really wasn’t made for full-frame wide lenses, but I’m in no position to upgrade to the 4X6 filters which would eliminate this problem.  Besides, I’m not all that displeased by the framing effect rendered by my technical incompetence.

I’d love to get a posse of strong climbers up here so I can let them play while I photograph the action.  It’s a beautiful spot, and I bet they’d enjoy themselves.

Happy Birthday Ursula! :) December 18, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
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My once-babygrrrl Ursula turned twenty-three years old today.  Happy Birthday, sweetie!

This event does far more than make me cognizant of my headlong tumble toward fate’s final curtain.  It makes me grateful that I was born, that I survived my insane teen years, that I met her Mom-to-be Gina (The Pagan Sphinx,) and that our love produced two such beautiful human beings as our daughters Meredith and Ursula.

Along side those last happy occurrences, everything else, from spectacular sunrises to the Aurora Borealis, recedes to insignificance.

Thank you, Ursula, for that inestimable gift.

Goodnight, Cesaria. December 17, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, music.
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Cesaria Evora, the Barefoot Diva of Cape Verde, has died at the age of 70.

If you don’t know her music, you’re not alone – she never really broke into the American music scene; apparently we prefer our singing  stars young and blonde and skinny.  After all, what they lack in real talent can be made up for with “tone correctors” and close-ups of various of their body parts.

The rest of the world isn’t quite this shallow: paunchy older men and stout older women are elsewhere recognized as masters of their genres of music, even if their health necessitates performing from chairs rather than gyrating lasciviously in fast-cut videos.

Thank God for the rest of the world.

So, whether you’re a current fan or among the uninitiated, here’s a going-out number from Cesaria, the Barefoot Diva.  It’s “Besame Mucho,” “Kiss Me Deeply” (my rough translation from Portuguese of meaning over literal words.)  This was among her hits on the world scene:

The obvious World-Class talent backing her up is a testament to the esteem  in which the rest of the world held her, and a reminder that we Americans are not the real nexus of art and culture, but rather, coarse outliers in the continuum of what’s Art and what isn’t.

Goodnight, Humble Songbird.  You will be missed.

Good Morning! December 17, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Sunrise along the Mohawk Trail, Route 2 in Western Massachusetts:

The big bronze elk at the Veterans’ Memorial at Whitcomb Summit:

The snow is mostly gone from the high country for now, but will doubtless return soon.




A Road Rebuilt. December 15, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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Route 2, the main east-west corridor along Massachusetts’ Northern Tier, has been closed through Savoy and Florida since Tropical Storm Irene took her pound of flesh from it this past August.

While local state highway engineers proclaimed this road closed for the next five years, I insisted that it had to be open before winter, and suffered their snide, derisive laughter.  After all, I was just a hired surveyor.

Today, December 15th, 2011, Route 2 reopened, thanks not to me (though I helped) but to the resolve of our Governor Duval Patrick, who demanded that it be so and unleashed all of the resources at his command to see that it would  be so.

The long washout which I previously posted, with its guardrails hanging in space, is now a finished roadway:

The bridge between Savoy and Florida has been patched up, though it will be substantially rebuilt in the coming year:

There’s a lot more work to be done, and in fact it’s on-going, but meanwhile the road is passable.

As National Scenic Byways go, it’s presently butt-ugly, but that will change with time, if the repairs hold up.

And therein lies the caveat:  the rush to reopen meant that “right” was subjugated to “right now.”  Plans were cobbed together, general principles were employed where specific circumstances should have informed, and problems were glossed over in service of moving forward at any cost.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see much of this work destroyed by Mother Nature in the next year or two, though I’m hoping to be proved wrong.

Time will tell.

In the meanwhile, kudos to the common folks who did the work, three shifts a day, seven days a week, from then until now.

Bog Pond, Savoy. December 14, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Jeez, these short days barely give a guy a chance to pull out the box after work!

Still, if one can think of a spot to get to in the next half-hour of light, one might snag a shot which works.

Tonight I scurried up to Bog Pond in Savoy State Forest, where the ice was trying to form:

Not much happening there, except for the slow passage of time.

That one’s courtesy of Elliot, with about three degrees of tilt, and three hand-held filters in the face of a frost-nipping breeze.

I can dig it in retrospect, but at the time my fingers demanded that I cry.

Good thing I’m bigger than my fingers.