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If You Love Music… January 30, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in music.
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Whenever I’m in the Boston area on a weekend, I tune in to Emerson College’s radio station, WERS, and try to catch their afternoon All A Cappella show.

A cappella singing has come a long way from the (already amazing) Take Six days, and with the inclusion of beat-boxing (thank you, Rap!) it’s moved into the hard-to-believe realm.

If you can invest any part of the 5:35 it takes to hear the Boston University Dear Abbys take on U2’s “Where The Streets Have No Name” with nothing but their collective voices, I promise you won’t consider it to be time wasted.

Where The Streets Have No Name

I’m sorry there’s no video to accompany this, as I’d love to see it myself!

And BTW, you can live-stream this program at WERS.ORG.  I believe it runs Saturday and Sunday from 2pm to 5pm EST.

Two Seasons In One Day.* January 29, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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*With apologies to Crowded House, whose song, Four Seasons in One Day,  informed this post title.


I slept in this morning, which felt good considering that I need to be up at 5am when I’m working.

But at 58 years of age, I get really antsy sleeping my remaining hours away, so once I was up and as soon as I had the necessities of life under control (firewood, mouse traps, dishes, etc.,) I headed out in search of photos to share with you.

I went north into Vermont up Route 112, thinking I might find some river views, but the recent warm weather had melted things back enough that the snow was pocked with tree detritus, gray and old looking, and I didn’t see anything that made me want to stop until I hit the hills south of Jacksonville, where the skyline was glowing with ice.  I hung a left and climbed up a side road I’d never taken before, and may never see again, as I don’t recall the name.

I was glad I did.  The high country had indeed gotten a fair coating of ice, and was catching a lot of light:

I went through woods and fields, passing occasional houses and farms, appreciating the angle of the road relative to the light – ice storms are visually stunning, but I find them hard to photograph, and shooting obliquely into the light like this rendered it much as I saw it in person.

Up higher, maples dominated, casting sassy shadows in their new-found mirrors:

The frozen forest was a feast of contrasts, daylight and pitch black juxtaposed as only Nature can do it:

I worked my way northward to VT Route 9, then headed east through Wilmington.  Crossing the southern tip of the Green Mountains, I caught my last view of the icy forest beneath cotton batting clouds, Jesus Rays and all:

The skies looked like they might deliver something interesting in the way of a sunset, and I thought of looking for a reflection in the unfrozen ponds and puddles I knew I’d find down in the Connecticut river valley.

So I hit the highway and beat feet southward.

I got to Hatfield half an hour before sunset, just as the western sky began to make nice.  If you aren’t set up to shoot when this happens, you’re usually too late to do anything more than “snapshots,” hand-held and mostly unfiltered.  I reeeeeally  wanted to put Elliot to work and get the light range right, so I worried I might be too late.

I hit a farm road I know which leads through fields east of some tobacco barns, and immediately needed 4-wheel drive to get through the mud.  It was like Spring conditions, with mud over frozen ground, and no snow to be seen – what a difference from what I’d been in earlier in the afternoon!

I parked where the road ran into what looked like a substantial puddle, threw on a pair of hip waders and packed a few filters.  With Elliot on the box and tripod, I waded into the “puddle” to get the right angle on the sun and barns, and was amazed to soon be wading over my knees, coaxing room-sized ice flows aside to get through. By the time I got past them, I was at mid-thigh and  figured that was far enough, regardless of my view of the barns.

The wind had picked up, rendering the water too choppy for a decent reflection and driving all of the floating ice to my end of the puddle, which I’d realized by now wasn’t so much a puddle as an inland sea – I was mid-thigh in it!  I set up quickly, trying to dial in a tilt and make something of the extreme dynamic range of the scene, with nearly full-on sun mixed with deep shadows.  My first step was to just shoot it,  dialed down so as not to be over-exposed.  Without filters, here’s what I got:

Stopping it down so the sun wasn’t a total blow-out made the rest of the scene look like night, which it definitely was not.

As the sun slid behind some lower clouds,  I was able to open up the sensor in Live-View (prolonged straight-on sun shots can kill a sensor, which I can’t afford to do) and position a couple of stacked, hand held graduated filters to get this:

So much for the “onion fields” of Hatfield.

As the sun continued it’s westward escape, the skies finallt lit up with something like sunset light:

It looked like the Caribbean, if you could ignore the ice flows blowing past, but felt more like the Arctic Ocean.  I mean, it is  January after all!

I waded on through to higher ground, hoping shallower water would have less waves and perhaps get me more reflected sky.  I was sorta  right:

It was still too windy for reflected forms, but some of the colors came through.

When the light got too  low for precise manual focusing – Elliot is all manual focus – and my fingers were too stiff to continue, I packed it in, throwing the filters in my camera case and my camera over my shoulder, and fought the muck back to my car.  I rinsed things off and changed back into shoes, packed up the tripod and backed my way roadward, still in 4-wheel drive.

At the point where I could turn and drive out, my headlights revealed a scene which looked interesting enough to pull Elliot back out, albeit without the tripod.  I leaned back against the grille, estimated a tilt, fudged the focus and snapped this off:

Hatfield by Headlight, Corn-stubble version.

Anyway, the day ended differently than it began, and I got the benefit of two very different photo shoots in one day.  🙂

Hawley Bog. January 26, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Up in Hawley, Massachusetts sits Cranberry Bog, A.k.A. Hawley Bog, which is the highest elevation acid bog in the State.  It’s an expanse of floating mats of sphagnum peat, harboring large communities of leatherleaf, bog cranberries, laurels and azaleas, as well as some less common species of plants and trees.

I got up there today in poor weather and worse light, just in time for the beginning of the snow:

…which is expected to turn to sleet, then rain, later today.  It didn’t make for great pictures, though the abundant towering spruce snags standing ghostly guard over the pall were impressive:

While this light isn’t conducive to landscape photography, it’s sometimes good for capturing details, rendering them in richly saturated hues.  Such was the case with these Northern Pitcher plants, Sarracenia purpurea,  which love to grow in the sphagnum moss:

They aren’t well served by this year’s thin snow pack; time will tell how they do going forward.

All of these were taken with Ollie, my 24-105mm L-Series zoom, on the box.  I really didn’t want to change lenses in these conditions.


Beneath The Button-Ball Tree. January 26, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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While waiting for my car to be repaired (again!) I wandered out behind my mechanic’s place to a big Sycamore tree and took this picture:

This is along the banks of the Deerfield river, and the shoreline here was drastically changed by Tropical Storm Irene, leaving water-worn cobbles of every size and description where grassy banks used to be:

That trio of stones may have been arranged by a neighborhood kid, as they’re right in the central village.

I took my newly nimble steed for a test drive, finding little of interest photographically until I passed through upper Cummington at the end of the day and stopped for this lone maple, which I thought would look nice as a black and white photograph:

So, a light day of posting here at LBT.

And so it goes, and so it goes…

The Upper Cold. January 24, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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The upper reaches of the Cold river lie in a deep valley, sheltered from the winter sun for all but a few hours a day.

I hiked down into that rift today, negotiating stream crossings, following bear tracks for a hundred yards (they were too melted out to photograph,) and finally descending the steep ledges hemming in the river.

The emerald green waters flowed nearly silently beneath pillows of snow clinging to the larger rocks, and I picked my way gingerly out among them, poking with my ski poles to ascertain the safety of my path.

I got only this for my efforts:

…not that it’s a bad shot, but I had hoped to come away with more.

Well, at least I got a little bit of exercise!

Fiber Farming. January 23, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Politics and Society.
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It’s not uncommon in these parts to find farms where the primary product is hair.

Animals which get sheared for fiber (think “sheep” as a starter) are common in Western Massachusetts.

At a farm up in Hawley, goats and their man-servant:

Goats aren’t one of the fiber producers, but that guy is – tending stock is a job without Sundays or vacations.

Jacob sheep, noted for their multiple horns:

Generally four, occasionally six.  That’s news to me, but then, I’m a country boy, not a farm boy.

A Llama:

These beasties were roaming free, but with short leashes attached, which I suppose would make them easier to get hold of, if (when) you needed to.

This place was also raising pigs and Guinea hens, the latter of which played Chicken with me in the narrow road.  I knew my 4-Runner could win that one, but I really didn’t want to fricassee someone’s assets.  Or hurt a birdie.

Rural life continues in these parts, but it ain’t a get-rich-quick scheme.

By the way, these were all hand-held with Gizmo, my 400mm lens, from the driver’s seat of my running car.  They came out better than I anticipated without image stabilization (which is a whole lot more bucks that I didn’t have when I got Gizmo.)

The Elusive Honey Mole! January 23, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Tracks of a large honey mole* punctuate a couple of inches of new snow up at Bog Pond in Savoy:

“Honey mole,” you ask?

Why, yes…  Honey mole!  🙂

* OK, the back story:

Years back, when our daughters were Wee Beasties, my In-laws Maria and Fernando came to visit (they had retired back to Portugal.)  When Gina and her Mom came back from a day out (if I’m remembering that correctly; I bet Pagan Sphinx will remember) and I got home from work, the Grrrlz were all excited.  “Daddy, Daddy, Vovo Frenando saw a Honey Mole in our garden!” they squealed.

“A “honey mole?” I queried, not having heard of that one before, and wondering how Fernando would have known about it.

Fernando came in and explained that yes, it was a “honey mole,” and a BIG one – he held his hands about 18″ apart to indicate its size.

After getting a fuller description from Fernando, it became clear that he’d seen a woodchuck  – and that “Honey Mole” was his broken-English approximation of “animal.”

Sadly, Fernando has passed on, but every time I see tracks in the snow I think of him and smile.

Thanks, Fernando.

This Afternoon… January 21, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
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…in Williamstown, Lizz B. and I checked out a farm southwest of town and found some interesting out-buildings on a cold and somber day:

This is another one of those places which was doubtless once grand, but now its half-dozen buildings are held together by the vines which are taking them apart:

Their weathered exteriors look ancient:

…but their insides remember better days:

We got chilled to the bone, lost patience with out toes, and retreated for a heated drive to another place I know, a farm for sale below Mount Greylock:

Lizz homed in on an old truck I’ve photographed before:

…while I explored farther afield, having been told their was another grand old beast in the woods down below.

And so there was – a long lost cousin of the truck up above.  They told it not to go down to the Wooly Swamp, but it wouldn’t listen, and now it’s paying for its youthful impetuosity by spending eternity mired in muck and entangled in thorns:

I do  hope you children are listening!

Back at the ranch, we looked inside the larger barn to find a coven of tractors casting spells on all who entered.  They made me render them in black and white:

I swear, I was powerless against their magic…

We’ll doubtless be back to this place soon.

The tractors insist!

Slithering Snow Snakes!!! January 20, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Four inches of new snow overnight, combined with persistent winds up in the hills, turned many a high meadow into sculpted ‘scapes, including this one on Grout Road up in Hawley:

I hung onto my tripod to keep it from taking flight with the wind as the world whirled dizzyingly by, snapping these shots at 1/800 of a second in an attempt to freeze (!) the charging armies of ankle-deep spindrift.  Elliot might have served my quest for accuracy better, but given his less-than-weather-sealed articulations, I stuck with Ollie for these shots, choosing f:20 for best depth of field and manually focusing about a third of the way into the scene.

Here’s another shot, perhaps compositionally cleaner:

I was gunning for the erosion forms just above the center of the frame, but they were obscured by blowing spindrift.  Oh well.

This looks amazingly like a dune on the cape to me; boot the white balance up 2000 degrees, and we’re at the beach!

Pardon my Trompe-l’oeil pretensions, but that snow photo looked enough like sand dunes that I wanted to see how it made the leap.  😉

We’re expecting a few more inches overnight and into tomorrow morning, so I might have more of these (such as they are) to share in the near future.

But I promise, no more Cape Cod In Hawley shots.

Forge Hollow Meeting House. January 19, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
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Here’s a rather austere snippet of the Forge Hollow Meeting House taken this January:

It’s like a reflection about a vertical axis, but not completely so.  Finding what’s not reflective is like a puzzle which is still surprising me.

Beyond that, this photo asks me questions.  How were those two doors used?  One in, one out?  His/Hers?

I don’t know, but I thought I’d throw this out to you before I throw this out.  I don’t see it in a frame, but I’m glad I got to see it.