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A Boulder In Clarksburg. February 28, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in climbing.
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This is a big old rock up on a ridge above North Adams, actually just over the line into Clarksburg.  Jacob climbed a tree to get on top, then patiently brushed off as much snow as possible:

…Plenty of crash pads there for the efforts to come.

Half a dozen lines went that day, from moderate to hard.  This project will go from the sit-start:

…though the initial move didn’t quite happen.  Later, perhaps.  Jacob sent it from one move higher, and the true sit will happen soon enough.

The tall arete to the right went as well, much more easily than the previous problem:

That wasn’t apparent from looking at it, until Jacob was on it and making it look easy.

That man can climb!

Clubbing With The Diamondstones! February 26, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in music.
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My friend Nick Pop has a band, The Diamondstones, which have a reputation for being very good in live performance.  I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t heard them before this past weekend, though I’ve heard Nick play in other groups and was impressed.

So with camera in hand and a desire to shoot something totally different, I hit the road in search of rock and roll.

I wasn’t disappointed.  The venue was a club in Amherst, recently renamed “Snowzees,” and no, I didn’t ask why.  I was there for the music and to try to get some photos in this den of dim lighting.

I opened Ollie up to f3.5 and booted the ISO to something in the Crazy Range to get these shots, so they’ll never be prints.  But still, I had fun with the music and the process.

On lead guitar:

…Ashton L:

On rhythm and vocals, and writing most of the original material:

Ben Pop:

Laying down a tight bottom:

Jen G:

…and pulling it all together:

Nick Pop, drummer and driving force behind The Diamondstones:

They’re a great night out and getting better with every gig.  If you’re in these parts, go hear them.  If you’re not  in these parts, get out and find the scene in your town and support it.  Live music is a gift worth going out for.

And Club Lighting is a challenge worth gritting my teeth for.  It’s not my usual set of challenges, but I dug trying to figure it out.

Amherst Orchid Show 2012, Part 1. February 26, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.
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The end of February is usually a time for us New Englanders to long for an escape from the grip of winter – her harsh winds and interminable whiteness have by this point lost the pristine magic they possessed in December.

This year it would be disingenuous to martyr ourselves on the cross of a harsh season stoically endured, but still, a little color is welcomed amidst the dismal browns of this Un-Winter, and with that in mind Susan and I headed down to Northampton for our yearly visit to the Amherst Orchid Show:

What good fortune it is that many varieties of orchids bloom in what is our winter season!  Their vibrant variety is a marvel of form and color, functionality disguised as flamboyance.

Here are a double handful of shots from our day:

(That one’s way  too scrotal for polite company, but if you’re here I’ll assume you’re looser than that.)

And no, I didn’t get their names; I was too busy feasting my eyes to work that hard.  My apologies to the growers who deserve more respect than that, but hey, I’m just looking and loving the fruits of their considerable labors.

All of these are courtesy of Ziggy, my 50mm Sigma macro lens.  He’s fast at f2.8 (though I didn’t open him up that far, opting instead for a little more depth of field,) but I worried about his lack of Image Stabilization technology.  Most of these shots were very slow for the shaky hands of this old dust-farter.  As a consequence of my concern for slow shutter speeds, I shot most everything here at two stops under what my on-board exposure meter told me to do (Hey, I’m  the boss here!) and brought the levels up in Photoshop post-processing.  The resulting images have a lot less background noise than they otherwise might, which I think is an improvement over last year’s effort.

All-in-all, I’m pleased with the results.

If I get to them, there will be another rack of shots coming.  We’ll see what happens between now and their appearance and adjust things accordingly.

Expecting Spring. February 26, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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The fields outlying Northampton ought to be deep in snow this time of year, anticipating the annual floods which accompany the Spring thaw.

But they’re not.  They’re silt-laden from the waters of Irene, cracked and dried in the subsequent sun, and anticipating nothing beyond longer days and warmer temperatures:

The Holyoke Range recedes into the east, with Mount Hitchcock appearing as the high point, though it’s not quite that.

With nothing to melt in these parts and scant snow cover up north, I’m not anticipating much of a Spring Surge on the Connecticut river, the once-proud benefactor of the fertile farmlands of its namesake valley.

Again, I wonder what this is all coming to.  Change happens whether we participate in it or not – I’m not lamenting the change, but rather wondering if we’re causing it to happen faster than the rest of Nature can adapt.

This is a bit more of Elliot’s handiwork, though the foreground fodder was barely worth noticing.

How The Hell… February 25, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
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…do I work this thing???

Trying to remember how my old point-and-shoot works:

Well, it works, but it ain’t pretty.

This was my only camera when I started this blog, so I’m not dissin’ it, but what I’m working with now does a lot more.

Evolution is good.

Meanwhile, Back At The Ridge… February 24, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in climbing.
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Dakota sends the obvious line from a sit-start:

This was, in addition to Dakota’s excellent effort, a chance for me to do something different with Elliot.  I usually use his “tilt” function to extend my depth of field, as in landscapes where I keep a foreground element sharp while getting the whole scene in focus.  But here I’ve isolated the climber by dissolving the rest of the photo in a slurry of soft focus.  Having Elliot on a tripod allowed me to get the (more or less) same shot of the rock with Dakota moving through the image, with a plane of sharp focus laid diagonally from lower right to upper left.

It was odd to be an observer of this climbing excursion.  I’ve been a climber all my adult life, and still dabble as my broken body allows.  But on this day, I didn’t even bring my climbing shoes; I wanted to disengage from the physical and observe.

It was one of the hardest days I can remember.  I’m not a born “watcher;”  I lost my taste for television, for instance, decades ago.  But my damaged shoulders constrained my participation.  So while the climber in me paced like a caged beast,  the Outer Me snapped away.

I suppose I’ll have to get used to being an observer, but it still feels odd.


Miss Hemlock’s Knotty Bits. February 24, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Miss Hemlock may be old, but her knotty bits are still impressive:

The inside of this ancient (several centuries old) hemlock is studded with the “knots” which gave roots to her lower branches.  Heart-rot and time have revealed them to the casual passer-by, such as me.

And Elliot, who notices such things.

Winkle Picker! February 19, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in music.
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Well, a new “tradition” got its start this weekend in Ashfield, MA: Winkle Picker!  It’s ostensibly  a Mardi Gras-themed celebration with music and food and related festivities, though the name was chosen to allow plenty of latitude for future explorations along different lines (I mean, it doesn’t really pigeon-hole the thing, does it?)

This year’s line-up included Cajun food served at the excellent Elmer’s, a restaurant/store in the center of town; Cajun cooking classes, a museum display of Cajun/Creole/General Mardi Gras costumes, and two musical events – an afternoon show headlined by Chris Smither and an evening event capped off by Buckwheat Zydeco!

I had the good fortune to go to the afternoon show, with the ticket being a Valentine’s Day present from my sweetie-pie, Susan B.   Thanks, Sweetie!  🙂

And as I’m trying to learn new tricks, I brought my camera.  I’m not versed in photographing people, and want to take every opportunity to practice.

The show was opened by Andy Friedman, a singer/songwriter from New York City:

He did a commendable job, and we’ll doubtless be hearing more from him.

The Main Event, though, is in a rare class of musicians who spin words into gold, alternately tickling you to tears and ripping your heart out with them:  Chris Smither is a master at telling quintessential truths in ways you never heard before and will never be able to forget.

Here’s Chris and his part-time sideman, whose name I’ve shamefully misplaced (he deserves better) and can’t find anywhere:

He joined Chris for half a dozen songs mid-way through a loooong set, and really added a nice sound, hauntingly hollow and as tasty as it gets:

But mostly it was Chris’ house, held in the palm of his hand, singing his ass off and stomping up a whole rhythm section in his trademark one-man-band style:

It was a more intimate setting than when last I saw him play (at the Green River Music and Balloon Festival,) and I dug in at the left edge of the stage with my 24-105mm L-Series lens, which worked well at this distance of perhaps sixteen feet:

The room was daylight-bright with visual distractions behind the performers, so I shot everything two full stops under-exposed, then played with the levels in post-processing to get these results.

Thanks to Mr. Smither for a brilliant and moving performance, and for allowing me to get in this close.

And people, if he comes your way, don’t even think about it, just go.   You won’t be disappointed.

Not “Buried,” But “Berried!” February 19, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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The walkway above the Shelburne Falls “Potholes” is usually buried deeply in snow this time of year; this February it’s covered with berries which have fallen from the ornamental trees which abut it:

It’s making me jones for Spring!

That’s a hand-held shot from Elliot with eight degrees of “tilt” and a whole lotta luck.


Big Old Trees. February 17, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
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Well, they’re not big like Sequoias, or old like Bristlecones.  But here in the Northeast, where everything from vehicles to homes to fuel used to be produced from wood, the ancient forests were all but gone  by the late nineteenth century.  In Southern New England forests were nearly nonexistent, except where the terrain rendered them inaccessible.

So it’s rather amazing to find a stand of Old Growth Forest in nearby Ashfield, occupying a gentle knoll along side a very old road.  It’s doubly so if one considers that these stately trees are white pines and hemlocks, very desirable woods (the hemlocks for their bark tannins,) and that the property they’re on has changed hands between numerous loggers and lumber companies over the past many years, including a trio of local brothers who set up a sawmill right across the street from them!   It’s presently owned by Hull Forest Products, which is preserving it in an undeveloped state.

And here they are, still looming proudly over Sears Meadow:

There’s a spectacular number of board-feet of “lumber” here, growing straight and true:

The larger ones have a CHC (“chest-height circumference,” a standard forestry measure of girth) exceeding the reach of two grown men (that’s three  of me! )

And they’re tall , disappearing through their lofty canopies as if to poke out the sun:

But with great height comes great peril; lightning finds them long before their more common brethren, splitting them from tip to toe, blasting bark away in jagged lines:

…allowing access to insects and fungi, which do what the lumber barons left undone:

This fatal wound will soon fell this magnificent hemlock, and as with all things which live in the forest, it will find its place in the circle of life, sleeping with its ancestors, feeding its progeny:

And so it goes, and so it goes.  The closed system agreed upon by Mother Nature and Father Time is harsh but beautiful; learning to live within it is essential to our survival as a species.

Let’s hope we figure that out before it’s too late.

All of these shots were taken with Elliot, except for the fourth one, which required the wider view of my 16-35mm L-Series zoom.

Thanks, fellas!