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Faux February. February 15, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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This ain’t February.

I mean, the calendar says it is, but it really isn’t.

Cattle don’t forage on snowless ground here in February:

Bulls don’t paw and grub through the rattling corn stubble:

Mount Holyoke doesn’t watch over fallow fields of flattened grasses as the sun sets:

No, this isn’t February – it’s something else.

It ain’t right, I tell ya.

The top two were reeled in by Ollie, the last one is the work of that scoundrel Elliot.  That boy gets around.

Watchin’ The River Flow! February 13, 2012

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The Deerfield, at the “Potholes” in Shelburne Falls:

It’s disconcerting to see the river basically ice free in February, and flowing at what look more like summer levels.  There’s a little more snow up over the Vermont line, so I haven’t entirely written off the Spring melt, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it be uncustomarily light.

Country Boy, Cityscape. February 13, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Politics and Society.
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Today I had occasion to travel to Albany, New York – ostensibly a two hour drive, though reality intervened to make it three.  Chalk it up to emergency road closures and a lack of maps on my part (hey, I’m a guy!)

Anyway, I went to answer phones at a thrice-anual fund drive for my local favorite radio station, WAMC.

Yeah, I know – local, but three hours away.  What can I say?  They’re amazing enough to deserve the pilgrimage and several hours of my life answering phones and writing down the pertinent information.

But as this post’s title implies, this hunter of landscapes found himself in an altogether different environment, and after serving my term on the pledge phones, I hit the streets looking for visual statements which would do this humble Capitol City proud.

Now, it was really cold and windy, so the colorful and intimate stuff seemed unlikely (and unpleasant,) so I set my sights on cityscapes which I could snag from my driver’s seat, or some reasonably close platform.  I came up with these images of I know not what – the streets were sparsely labeled and the buildings more pronouncedly so, and I really had no idea what I was looking at!

An edifice of State government, judging by the county names inscribed on its face:

Someplace Important, judging by its columns:

A skyline of buildings which I believe are part of the University of Albany:

…and another shot of some artsy buildings which are probably associated with some institution of higher learning and lower practicality:

Sorry for the ambiguity, but I was mapless and wandering and a bit out of my element.

All of these are from Elliot, with a butt-load of shift, a little swing and no filters, hand-held and hoping.

Evening Light. February 9, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Here’s a shot not of the warm light of evening when the sun comes to us through lots of atmosphere and the red wavelengths predominate, but rather of the reflected atmospheric light which characterizes the half-hour after sunset:

This is taken looking out across a meadow in high Shelburne, with southern New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock visible on the left skyline.  It’s worth noting that this expanse of exposed ground is entirely atypical for Western Massachusetts in early February.

If one has a tripod and can snag a long exposure (this one was 2 seconds,) the camera will often pick up more of the Earth-shadow/pink-band effect than is obvious to the unaided eye.  Here I used a hand-held 3-stop graduated filter to balance the weight of the sky and ground, though it cost me the “shadow” part of what was happening on the eastern horizon.

Oh well, you give a little, you get a little…


An Erratic. February 8, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in climbing.
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Somewhere along the ridgeline north of Route 2, a glacial erratic sits in a deciduous grove.  It’s pretty spectacular, given that it’s all alone out there, a chunk of pristine granite parked a bit above its schistose host stratum:

If you’re a climber/boulderer, there’s plenty to do there to justify the 20 minute approach. I expect half of the possibilities to crack the double digits, which will mean nothing to most of you, but everything to those who “boulder.”

This is the ideal time of year to go there; no bugs, the sodden approach is stiff as a mackerel, and no bugs.

Did I already say that?  Well, yeah.

A February Full-ish Moon. February 6, 2012

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I went hunting for a nearly-full-moonrise this evening (the charts all say it’ll happen tomorrow evening, but the skies were expected to be clearer tonight,) and had some success.

I’d gone out yesterday afternoon and taken bearings on the moon at various times, then back-plotted the moonrise and set my compass for tonight’s event.  I wanted to be positioned to catch the moon rising against an interesting horizon, which is always tricky, given that the moon isn’t visible ’till it rises!  That’s not the case with morning moonsets; one can see the moon as it heads for the horizon and get somewhere where the results are predictable.

Anyway, I’d hoped to get the moon rising behind the Mount Toby fire tower in Sunderland, but somehow miscalculated, getting it entirely missing the mountain:

Dang!  Not a bad shot, but so much for my Scientific Method!

Well, with the moon visible it was much less of a crap-shoot to get it breaking the skyline somewhere else, as long as that “somewhere else” had taller hills so the moon would “rise” again.  So I booked it to Shelburne Falls, where the looming bulk of Mount Massamet rose more steeply skyward, and tried again.

Prowling the higher Buckland side, I took a bead on the visible moon:

The palette was entirely different but not at all unpleasant.  So with an eye on the prize, I wound my way down into the village, cruising side-streets to get to somewhere which would let me shoot the moon re-rising behind the Mount Massamet fire tower in the above shot.

With a bit of aggressive driving and a spate of running through peoples’ front yards, I finally got this:

While I’m happy with these shots as blog-fodder, they’re not nearly of printable quality, which has me frustrated beyond words.  I don’t know if Gizmo’s 400mm length just won’t ever cut the mustard, or if I’m doing something wrong here.

I guess more research is in order.

And Also Too… February 6, 2012

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While I was Out East I hit the near reaches of the Cape for a little beach action.

Well, being February, it wasn’t that  kind of beach action, but hey, I’m old, so I’m not that fussy…

Getting around the bay-side coastal roads involves a fair amount of blind wandering through salt marshes and tall grasses:

…especially if you don’t know where you’re going!

The harbors of the small towns were mostly packed away for the season, with boats in dry-dock and docks stacked on dry land; I only saw a few rigs still in the water:

The shoreline itself is pretty built-up and almost entirely privately owned, which makes parking problematic, and sporadic at best.  Consequently, I only stopped in a few places, and kept my lens pointed out to sea to sample nature and exclude the development.

A rocky reach-around:

Catching a wave:

This particular beach was awash with the white noise of these small pebbles tumbling in the surf, first cast ashore, then dragged away in a cacophony of clattering crystals.  I liked it.

Waves crash on a dark jetty:

…as the implacable sea comes and goes in a dance its done for years uncounted:

These are strange scenes to the eyes of a hill-town boy, and I’m sure I missed much in the way of subtleties.  The sea looked very different with every shot, and I’m really not sure why.  I guess I’ll chalk it up to The Learning Curve and hope to have a better grip on things when I return later in the season.

All shots here are courtesy of Elliot, who tilted his little butt off to get them.

Thanks, Kid.


At The Coast. February 5, 2012

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This Friday evening I headed into Boston with three objectives – to visit my daughter Ursula, whom I adore and see too infrequently; to revisit my friend/housemate/photographic mentor Lizz Bartlett’s photography showing at the Belmont Hill School’s art gallery; and to get out to the coast to photograph it, inspired by Lizz’s brilliant shots of lighthouses and coastal waters.

Two of these were blessed no-brainers – I got to Boston early enough to snap off a shot of the skyline beneath a waxing gibbous moon:

That’s from Cambridge, across the Charles river.  I got to Boston an hour early hoping to park somewhere downtown and photograph the emerging moon set against glass-faced buildings reflecting the setting sun, but Boston doesn’t work that way.  Not only could I not park where the photos were easy, I couldn’t park at all!  So I drove out of town and settled for this overview, which  I kinda like, though it wasn’t what I was there for.

Then I picked up Ursi as she was coming out of work and spirited her off (in as much as rush-hour traffic allowed) to Belmont where Lizz’s work was being displayed.

It was tear-inducingly beautiful, though I admit to being a softee, and to being partial to her style of rendering landscapes.

Hey, one has to learn from someone,  right?  And Lizz has it happening, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, after the show we had a really nice dinner at a place in Arlington, then Ursi and I parted ways with Lizz and Holly.  I spent the night at Ursi’s, then got an early start to catch the sunrise at Scituate Light on the bay side of Cape Cod, a bit south of Boston proper.

It really isn’t a “sunrise” kinda place, but I didn’t know that.  The angles and visual interlopers were way sub-optimal, but I punted and none-the-less got a few shots worth sharing.

Here’s Job One, which is to just shoot the damned thing  before you get too technical.  This means that if a rabid dog appears and you have to run away, you at least have some proof that you were there.  It also gives you a rough idea of what you’re working with, and if it’s worth putting subsequent effort into.

Job One, culled from half a dozen Job-Ones:

That came out pretty viewable in this format, but it wouldn’t hold up to being enlarged, i.e. printed at any reasonable scale.  Still, it captured the moment, and got me going on the path toward more “keeper” material.

This isn’t a great light for sunrise shots; the sun does indeed rise here, but it’s difficult to get views which show the good and exclude the ugly.  So I scurried a bit to snag this shot from the opposite side of the light:

All of these shots are courtesy of Elliot, my Canon 24mm tilt-shift lens.   While the (horizontal) “landscape” shots are reliant on the tilt function of this amazing lens, the taller “portrait” shots were mostly done by spinning the mechanism into “swing” mode – the above shot has a vertical plane of sharp focus laid onto the fence and lighthouse and distant sunrise.  I only regret that the lighthouse wasn’t pulsing its red glow at this point, and don’t really know if I missed it by careless timing or if it had shut down with the impending daylight.

This shot, from the same side and taken soon afterward, is my favorite of the lot:

I think this was still with Eliot in “swing” mode, with just a tiny bit of lens shift to lay the focal plane outward from the light toward the sun, even though most of the “landscape” oriented shots employ “tilt.”

I backed off a bit and found evidence that I wasn’t the only one who had hung out here:

This beat-up deck shoe spoke volumes about both the power of the pounding surf and the casual carelessness of those of our species who hang out where the sea meets the land.

Lastly (for this post) I got a shot of the Scituate Light from the south as the light settled into its daylight palette:

All of these were fun for a Hill-Town Boy, but leave many subtleties unspoken to.  Perhaps with more time prowling these regions I’ll get into the swing and do it justice.

But for now, these shots will have to do.

A Stupa In Ashfield. February 3, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
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Here’s a lithic monument I regularly pass in Ashfield, MA, beneath a set of power lines running along a rural road:

It’s a good-size piece of work:

It’s quite a ways from the nearest dwelling, and not in a particularly pretty spot, which leaves me wondering why it was built there.

I suppose that everyone who needs to know that has already been told.

More Breaking News: Josh Fox, “Gasland” Director, Arrested! February 2, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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OK, some of you are familiar with the independent film, “Gasland,” directed by anti-hydro-fracking activist Josh Fox.  For those of you who aren’t, it’s a scathing expose of the hazards inherent in the Natural Gas Industry’s latest technology “advance,” which involves pumping a high-pressure slurry of chemicals into horizontally branching deep wells for the purpose of fracturing shale formations and holding those fractures open while Natural Gas is extracted.

There’s sooooo  much wrong with this process that I could write volumes on it, but others with the knowledge and numbers have done it before (i.e., “Gasland”  director Fox,) so I’ll get right to the point made in this post’s title:  Joshua Fox was taken away in handcuffs from a House subcommittee hearing on hydraulic fracturing which he was recording (filming,) ostensibly for “lacking the proper credentials” to film the proceedings.  This despite his Herculean efforts to secure those “credentials,” this despite the fact that uncredentialed Congressional staffers  were recording the proceedings on their iphones all around him, this despite the fact that these hearings are OPEN TO THE PUBLIC AND ROUTINELY RECORDED/FILMED, this despite the First Amendment’s prohibition on curtailing freedom of the press.

And this despite the fact that no one has ever  been arrested for “uncredentialed” filming of sub-committee hearings without first causing a significant disruption to those proceedings.

What followed Mr. Fox’s removal, according to witnesses present, was a vicious attack on the EPA by Subcommittee Chair Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) and industry shills who want their viewpoint and only their viewpoint  to reach the American people.

My friends, this is not about jobs, it’s not about “energy independence,” it’s not about National Security, though the Corporate Whores on Capitol Hill will try to sell us that bullshit.  It’s about Corporate Profits in the age of Citizens United.   And an informed populace ought to know that our rural landscapes, our local control over the use of our lands, and the safety of our drinking water  are being compromised for the benefit of the Filthy Fucking Rich.

The Corporate Giants who now own “our” government expect us to ignore this, to take our cultural cues from the M$M, to turn on American Idol and tune out the scourge of environmental devastation and obscene profiteering being visited upon us by multi-national corporate behemoths.

I, on the other hand, expect at least some  of you to sit up and take notice, to not be asleep at the wheel as our Ship of State takes a hard right turn toward the dangerous shoals of corporate profits at the expense of public safety, the health of our children, and the integrity of our efforts to protect our natural world for future generations of both humans and our fellow travelers on this fragile sphere.

Learn everything you can about this very controversial (and I believe very dangerous) practice, and get involved.  See Gasland,  and when it comes out this summer, Gasland II.   Read everything you can find about what’s being done and what’s happening to the people and places where Hydraulic Fracturing is already taking place.

Then call your “elected” representatives in government and let them know where you stand.

It’s not just important – it’s essential to the survival of our children and the world we’ll leave them.