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Get Alowng, Little Dawggie! January 19, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
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The other day as I was tooling up West Hill Road in Hawley, I was “chickened” by a calf trotting down the road at me.  He was followed (loosely) by a woman walking, who stopped when she saw me approaching.

So did the calf.  He stopped, looked left, then right, then back at the woman behind him.  Then he attempted a slow-motion walk-around, stopping along side my car long enough for me to snag this sheepish cow-shot:

…all the while, with me doing my best Frankie Lane impersonation, intoning, “Keep movin’, movin’ movin’…”

He did a prudent about-face (wouldn’t you???) and went back up the road, with Gil Favor* here dawgin’ him all the way back to his pasture gate.

Turns out the woman in the road had been walking by when the calf wandered out into the road and was scared my way.  She retreated as I approached, and between those two circumstances, Li’l Beefer got home safely.

Don’t you just love a happy ending?  😉

*I hope those of you too young to remember the TV show “Rawhide,” where Clint Eastwood got his break as a co-star, will forgive my dust-farting indulgence!

Berkshire Ramblin’ January 18, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Here are a few shots from my recent wanderings, wherein I reveled in our newly-bestowed winter.

A Buckland barn viewed through a screen of thickly falling snow:

This pair of uncharacteristically-colored silos always makes me smile, paired as they are with the adjacent Family Plot.

As the snow thinned, I got this shot of barn doors wearing their Winter Whites a ways farther up the hill:

This, by the way, is very near where the snow-covered piano sits out under a tree.

And later on in Upper Hawley (on a road which is wisely much  less traveled,) a simple shot of a winter scene with the skies clearing just in time to not produce a sunset shot worth sharing:

Prudence should have turned me back, but the way forward was mostly downhill, so it couldn’t get that bad, right?


I love it when there are no power lines or guard rails, and just enough of a track to assure me that I’m not the Last Living Fool in the world.


Earth Shadow, Four Treatments. January 15, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Sunrise/sunset photos depend to some extent on clouds and atmospheric interference for their emotional impact.  The best clouds are high sheets (cirrus clouds) with distinct patterns and textures; the sun often breaks below them as it sets (for instance,) its light traveling a maximum distance through the atmosphere before reaching our eyes, filtering out many of the shorter wavelengths and leaving a preponderance of red light to bounce between earth and clouds and give the view its glory.  Lower, thicker clouds such as cumulus are likely to show as dark blotches rimmed with golden light, which can also be nice, but that has a much more somber emotional feel.

The hardest skies to take to the photo-bank are the clear ones, where the landscape benefits from the warm, rich glow of that last “golden hour,” but the skies simply fade to the pale blue of a lost lover’s eyes.

That might be emotive to you, but is likely to underwhelm viewers who never knew her.

That is the perpetual bane of desert photographers, especially those of us who have to pay big bucks to get there, burn scant vacation time, and come home with sub-optimal shots for our efforts because we can’t hang around waiting for the infrequent cloud cover to creep in.  The cactus may be in bloom, but a boring sky yields a B+ photo at best.

So here’s what I do to salvage the heartbreak of beautiful, clear skies:

Get to the highest point you can, and turn around.   Look away from the setting sun.  Finding a nice foreground element in these conditions means that it will be warmly lit until the sun drops below the horizon, rather than being back-lit, which requires fancy filter work and substantial post-processing in Photoshop to recover the dark areas and get the balance right.

And behind your chosen subject, you’ll get to watch the blue of the sky deepen to a band of lovely warm light, pink or orange or magenta, and below that, a darker band of indigo and violet and midnight blue.

This is “Earth Shadow,” a term I first heard from my photo mentor Lizz Bartlett.  It’s literally the Earth’s shadow, your  shadow, creeping up the dome of the heavens as the sun “moves” in the opposite direction.  And the red band results from the light you’re seeing having passed through all of the air between you and the sunset, then most of the air between you and the opposite horizon, then all of the air traveling back to your eyes (or, hopefully, your lens!)

The total effect can be a satisfactory salvaging of an otherwise unsatisfactory shoot.

Here are four examples of Earth Shadow shots, all taken at a farm in a high meadow in Windsor, MA.  A few dark blobs (Cumulus turdis ) clung to the rim of the western horizon as the sun set, so I turned Eastward.*

[*Ed. – In fact, the little pansy couldn’t face into the stiff wind with the temps in the single digits, but don’t expect him to admit that…]

I found a pair of old, storm-damaged maples and, feeling no need to leave my vehicle*, shot these from the driver’s seat, hand-held at a too-large fraction of a second (thank Gawd  for Canon’s excellent image stabilization technology) and a relatively high ISO, like 2000.

[*Ed. – See, I told you! ]

The sun had actually left the foreground by this time, so there was indeed some post-processing done to these, but I hope they’ll still demonstrate my main point.

I’m calling this one, “Barn Hiding Behind Maple:”

The Earth Shadow hasn’t yet progressed to the indigo stage, but it will, and soon.

Here’s a fun one I titled, “Barn Arriving Too Late to Save a Damaged Tree:”

I thought that was funny.  Note the rising line of shadow beneath the rose band.

Here’s a shot of the second tree, titled simply, “Goodnight, Tree:”

I waved, but couldn’t pick myself out on the horizon.  Dang.

And finally, showing the full effect, “Goodnight, Barn:”

That was the last shot of the night; I rolled up the window and headed for home.

I hope that didn’t come off as a mediocre joke which takes all damned night to tell.  But you know, I try to frequent the websites of much better photographers than me, hoping to learn something.  And guess what?

They’re mostly stingy bastards. Excepting those writing “How-To” columns for photography magazines and for manufacturers of filters such as Singh-Ray, my favorite filters, they’ll say nice things to your face, but don’t expect any useful tips beyond, “Shoot lots.”

That’s not bad advice, but as I learn, I hope to do a bit more to “pay it forward.”


Oh, and by the way, none of these shots have anything more than a circular polarizer affixed to the lens; the blowing snow and hand-held format didn’t really allow for it.

For Music Lovers. January 15, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in music.
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Here’s something that my friend and savior Tanya Beecher turned me onto via her Facebook page.  Apparently it’s making the rounds, and perhaps I’m the last person to get this particular memo, but just in case you haven’t seen it, here it is:

I’m amazed and delighted, and hope you will be, too.

Thanks, Tanya!  😉

Winter Views! January 15, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Mid-January is a heck of a time to start  posting seasonally appropriate views of winter…  but hey, it’s better late than never, as they say!

Snow coats everything in the high valleys, which are sheltered from most of the wind:

That’s along route 8A between Charlemont and Plainfield.

If you’re driving around in these conditions and need to find a rest-room, the bushes might be your only option.

Or, perhaps not:

Look for this on the right as you detour up West Hill Road.  🙂

And of course, some color combinations are just plain striking beneath the heavenly blue dome of a winter sky:

A working farm in the rolling hills of Shelburne.

These are all from Ollie, whose 24-105mm zoom range allowed me to compose from the driver’s seat, or at most from a very short walk away.

More to follow, as I make them presentable.

Finally. January 13, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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I love winter.

I mean, I love summer, and spring, and fall.

But I love  winter.

So it’s been a disappointment to me so far this season to not have snow.

But as of yesterday, that’s no longer an issue.

Here are a few shots I found while wheeling around the hilltowns today.

A barn almost in the village of Shelburne Falls:

It was snowing pretty heavily at this point.

So naturally I set sail for Parts Unplowed, and found myself once again way up in the hills of Hawley, beyond the poles and wires of civilization, the buildings with actual lights in them, the last sliming belly-tracks of the town Dune-worms, to the point at the top of the hill where some local had proceeded me with his (I’ll assume) plow six inches off the dirt.

Hey, if my undercarriage isn’t floating, my tires have a chance of biting, and that’s about all I need.  Besides, from the top of the hill, gravity is on my side.

So down I went, passing an old cellar hole with its chimney mass standing starkly in the maw:

…a logging operation parked ’till the storm passes:

(They had apparently plowed this little stretch of the road, which was near the Berkshire East ski area wind turbine)

…and an inexplicable incarnation of piano dolce  sitting beneath a tree:

Pianissimo,  indeed!

That shot was taken in gusty wind and heavy snow, and required three tomato stakes, a big hammer, a bigger umbrella, several bungee cords and a buttload of heavy lifting from Elliot.

Plus a period of time where I sat in the wet snow and pulled the levers.

So anyway, I made it out, winter’s here, I’m happy, and it’s late, so I’m going to bed.


“Freeze At Last, Freeze At Last…” January 13, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Well, we failed miserably at our stated intention of having a White Christmas, but it looks like we’re working our wintry way toward a White Martin Luther King Day.

Let me know if you detect a hint of irony there.

Not that it’s entirely “in the bag” – we only have a couple of inches from last night’s weather event, and a bit more predicted for tomorrow – but still, it’s as close to Winter as we’ve gotten since October!

I took a ride up into Hawley to catch a few views of the white stuff before nightfall.  Along Route 8A, stately white pines stabbed skyward beneath a burden of heavy, wet snow:

It was the kind of snow which insists on not being shoveled despite its low loft, and even when it’s plowed, can render a steep driveway a Triple-Black-Diamond run:

The sign here reads “Eggert’s Folly,” and it’s rated Most Difficult.   I took their word for it.

The new coat of white rendered a hot property a bit easier on the eyes:

That tumble-down old garage actually sits on a nice piece of property, if you don’t mind being limited to six hours of sunlight a day (it’s in a narrow spot in the deep Chickley river valley.)

But my favorite shot from the ride was this one, of the Chickley burbling along through a relatively undamaged section of the elsewhere devastated river:

I’m always amazed at the vivid greens proffered by snow-sopped rivers; it often (as here) contrasts with the monochrome surroundings of wet wood and white snow.

We’re expecting a bit more snow tomorrow, followed by blistering (but seasonally appropriate) cold, which I hope will provide me with more traditional winter shots, with sparkly landscapes beneath Arctic-blue skies.

Hey, I can dream, can’t I?




Stopping By Woods… January 12, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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…before the snow falls.  This is an uncharacteristic view of hemlocks on a January afternoon, up in Leyden with the sun sinkin’ low:

Looks like the new greenery of Spring, but it’s more accurately the remnants of last season.

With a little luck, this will look more wintry by the weekend, so I thought I’d post it while it was still relevant.

North Pond, Before The Snow. January 11, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Rumor has it that the next couple of days will deliver us from our present brownscape with a splattering of snow, sleet and freezing rain.

I’ve wished hard for the former, but will accept the latter with, um,  grace and resignation.

“The Latter” will likely compromise the just-now-forming pond ice up in Savoy.  I’ve been waiting for that, too, but those bogs seem to generate their own heat, and hadn’t yet been trustworthy to support the weight of interlopers like me.

None the less, not wanting to miss what I’ve waited so long for, I headed up to Savoy State Forest this afternoon and ventured out onto North Pond, where a couple of ice fishermen attested to the likelyhood that I’d not perish in a watery grave.  “Five inches,” one proclaimed as I headed out onto the ice, and as he had chopped several fishing holes, I figured he knew more than I did.

The late afternoon light found the growing pond ice crawling up the sides of the granite boulders jutting from its shallows, shattering and melting and refreezing beneath a sky of gathering clouds:

In the long run, the ice will win.  But for these present seasons, the granite will bend the ice to its will and weight, sending it skyward to wither in the dry air.

I continued along the pond’s edge, skirting thin spots as they appeared.  A fallen log, rotted and infested with insects, lay as a feast for boring birds and dotted with their drillings:

…though the pristine ice suggested that the borings had happened while the tree stood upright.

Farther along, a mysterious mound jutted from the shoreline beneath a storm-damaged tree:

…A beaver lodge!

I circumnavigated it, knowing that these industrious critters keep passageways open for easy access, and approached cautiously from the other side:

A patch of thin ice separated me from the lodge as I stood listening to a loud, rapid munching from within, punctuated by ecstatic, wheezy moans of pleasure.  It was a delightful moment in my day, and I spent quite a while standing there as silently as possible, smiling like a child.  🙂

Then I crept closer to the thin-ice access used by the tenants to get to the shore and the fresh woody shoots which provide the bark they eat.  Here their dooryard canal is roofed over by a canopy of thin ice pushed up by the last cold night and constrained by the season’s accrual of denser matter:

Beavers are amazing, both for their engineering feats and for their social structures.  I’m good with having them protected, though I understand the arguments of folks whose properties and water wells are compromised by their unbridled industry.

Well.  Onward.

Along the way I spotted a bit of color in the ice, which turned out to be a fisherman’s minnow, laid to rest in the cold grey ground of his birth:

But the light was waning, and the temps were dropping as the sun dived toward the horizon.

So I set up for a shot of the partly cloudy skies going all Technicolor and stuff.

Well, they didn’t.  What I got instead was another detail of a granite interruption to the ice’s dictum, with a bit of color to set it off:

Not spectacular, but still, it gives me a chance to share what I saw with you, my friends.

All of these are brought to you by Elliot, my Canon L-series TS-E II tilt-shift lens.  What it lacks in compositional flexibility, it makes up for in front-to-back clarity.

Next,  the aftermath of this oncoming weather event.

Cheers, – R

You Can Tell I’m Unfulfilled… January 10, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.

…when I start taking pictures of things around the house to augment my paltry Daily Haul.

A peacock feather decorating the window above our kitchen sink:

They say, “It gets better,” and I’m fully invested in believing that.

Thanks to Ziggy for bailing me out here.