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…And On The Way Home… April 12, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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…I caught the low light of late afternoon on some Red Osier growing up in Windsor:

…along with the glowing yellow stems of pussy willows.  The colors on the drive-by made me turn around and put Elliot on the box to get you this view of the goings-on.

Thanks to Elliot and a reverse grad ND filter for that one.

Along The Westfield. April 11, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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The Westfield river is an untamed Cerberus tumbling through the hills to our south, coursing through three different drainages before converging in Westfield, MA and dumping into the mighty Connecticut.  Its lower reaches traverse the entropic, post industrial landscape of Southern New England’s lowlands, but its three heads arise in the pristine highlands  to the northwest.

I had occasion to pass that way today, and got down into a narrow gorge on the Middle Branch.  It was poorly (and so not legally) posted, and a landscaper working at an adjacent property assured me that the landowner wouldn’t mind.  I needed to ask no further.

So I didn’t.

I got these shots by clambering over rocks in the river bed, employing the Safety Nazi skills I’d learned over years as an outdoor adventure professional with a perfect record (well, I did  use a band-aid once in fifteen years.)  There was a fair bit of leaping from one dry rock to the next, collapsing my kit and passing it ahead of me, or extending it and leaving it behind, propped where I could grab it after clambering up some step where I needed both hands to progress.  It was a logistical puzzle which I dug, loving every small triumph over the obstacles around me.

Packing in a tripod and range of lenses allowed me to look at my surroundings from multiple vantages, from zoom to macro.  I found the flat light of the overcast day to be uninspiring from a landscape point of view, so concentrated on the details, which were dramatic and compact.  A tripod let me take these long exposures deep in the gorge.

One of the cascades in the gorge:

I was more than satisfied with Allie’s depth of field here; the constant winds of the past two weeks had finally died, so long exposures were an option.  This shot required two graduated filters, one reversed and both hand-held for a two-and-a-half second exposure.

The small falls in this reach of the river were intimate and expressive, painting their quartzite boulders with life:

The steep narrows were deeply shadowed and ominous:

…until the sky brightened a bit for one last painting of light and color:

I had headed in this vague direction knowing that there was something worth photographing here, but hadn’t expected to encounter a local and get permission to go beyond the “posted” signs.  So this set of photos is a pleasant windfall from a day spent wandering through these hills where I live.


Woodland Beauties. April 10, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.
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In the chill, dappled light of our New England woodlands, the pageant of Spring begins with tiny bits of color amongst last Autumn’s composting leaves.

Walk slowly through the striped landscape of slanting sun and tree trunk shadows.  Stop frequently, and if you have the time, wait for those shadows to sun-dial across the scene; you might be surprised at how quickly this happens, with the cool darkness thrown by treetops moving perceptibly while you hold your breath.

It’s in those shifting slivers of perpetual sunrise that little fires of white and yellow and incongruous maroon twinkle to life, ignited by the warmth and light like waking embers in a rising breeze.

The shy blossoms of Trailing Arbutus peek from beneath inauspicious leaves:

Newly tailored Dutchman’s Breeches flutter on the lines of their still-short racemes:

Spring Beauty ( a Claytonia, in the Purslane family) is abundant just now, but its tiny blossoms close tightly and nod demurely in the early morning cold.  Trout Lily will blanket this area in a couple of weeks, but for now they’re just pairs of fingerling leaves.

And Trillium is about to make its blood-red entrance to the Woodland Ball, though I haven’t yet seen any fully opened flowers:

I actually went to this spot to look for an uncommon Yellow Trillium, expecting to be early, but remembering that I was a bit late last year and not wanting to miss it twice in a row.  These sorts of woodland flowers last only until the leaves above them unfurl – then the show will move to the fields and meadows and roadside spaces.

Look for more woodland wonders in the next few weeks, and I will, too.  🙂

Giving You The Bird. April 8, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Our National symbol, that is.

Here in Western Massachusetts we have a resurgent population of eagles, which were extremely rare in my youth.  Conservation and re-introduction efforts since the ban on DDT have been one of the great success stories of the modern environmental movement, and I’m thrilled every time I witness the results.

Along my local stretch of the Deerfield river we have frequent eagle sightings; they’re nesting near-by, though I’m not sure where.

Yesterday I got home in the evening and unloaded my camera gear and groceries, then saw the laundry basket in the back seat and remembered that I had a load drying at the laundromat in the next town down river.  I hopped back in the car and went for it, and along the way spotted three eagles roosting in a tree across the river – damn!   I always  have my camera with me, but… not tonight.  Bummer!

I carried on and retrieved my laundry, then headed home, and don’tcha know, there they still were, three eagles in one tree.  And me without my camera.

So I got home, ditched the laundry, grabbed my camera and headed back down river.

I know: my chances of success at this point were slim.  But if I didn’t try,  my chance of success was zero.

So I went, and some little while later as I pulled around the bend into view, I saw…

…two eagles.

Oh well.  Mother Nature isn’t obliged to mark time while I get my act together.

So here are a few shots Gizmo snagged over the next twenty minutes.  I resolved as soon as I turned the key off to stay ’till somebody took wing, and many cramps later I got my wish:

Yeah, I shoulda been closer, but there was the small matter of a river between us.  And I shoulda had an 800mm lens, but that’s several more thousands of dollars I don’t have either.

So I got what I got, and I hope you like it.

Easter 2012. April 8, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
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Whether or not one considers themselves to be Christian, the life and lessons attributed to Jesus of Nazareth, as put forth in the Bible’s New Testament, are worth considering as a template for one’s life.  A simple carpenter born of an unwed mother and imbued with a passion for Social Justice, Jesus hung out with the poor, the helpless, the disenfranchised.  He challenged bigotry and discrimination.  He recognized the Devine in every living thing, spoke Truth to Power, and paid for it with his life.

Let’s take this opportunity to think about what we can do to honor his sacrifice, and perhaps look skyward and say, “Thank You:”

Happy Easter to all, and have a selfless day.

Low Tide, Down River. April 6, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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So I got out through the swift current with hip boots, ski poles and a good deal of patience and concentration; after waiting for visual low water, I was still amazed at the power of what looked shallow from the road.

Once I was at the gravel bar, the Deerfield was glowing in the rising blush of the setting sun, its cobbles showing their serpentinite-green roots through the silvery, slithering water.

I set up low, glad to have the hip waders on as I knelt in the shallows and contorted myself to get a working view of my camera’s LCD screen at 10X.  That part is necessary to get the best out of Elliot; the interplay of tilt and focus and exposure, coupled with the complication of arranging hand-held graduated filters, requires a view of the process beyond what appears through the view-finder.

The results were predictably mixed, and most of my haul went directly into the Round File (that’s trash,  for those of you who remember waste baskets.)

Here’s what emerged as the keeper from this effort:

Courtesy of Elliot, with about six degrees of tilt, and a pair of stacked/staggered hand-held graduated filters for a total of six stops of cooling that sun.

Once again, my hat’s off to the right gear producing the desired results.

Well, that and a little elbow grease.

That Time Of The Month. April 6, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Yes Kids, it’s That Time of the Month again: the moon is fat, and I’ve been on the hunt.

My best (and indeed only  effort) happened a couple of days ago, and quite by accident – I was hip deep in the Deerfield river, heading for a gravel bar to snag a sunset shot or two, when I saw The Gibbous One over my shoulder, dodging in and out of some artsy-looking clouds.  As soon as I got to Terra Sorta Firma,  I threw Gizmo on the box and shot this:

Not what I came for, but you gotta dance with the celestial bodies what brung ya.  😉


Seldom Scene. April 4, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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I took a walk yesterday, perhaps better characterized as a bushwack/hike, up the Cold river, away from Route 2 and out of view of the road.

In fact, it’s a place which very rarely sees human traffic; there are no paths beyond faint game trails.  I got there by forty minutes of traversing steep slopes and wading through rocky shallows.

The river was a magical mix of centuries of gradual change and the cataclysm of tropical storm Irene.  The steep valley had been scoured by the floods, with the outside of every bend eaten back to bedrock to a height of perhaps thirty feet above the current river level.

Still, time will heal this; it already looks somewhat normalized:

Along the way I found pools which will remain deep and cool in the heat of summer, with sandy, beach-like banks:

They’ll be wonderful to visit in the Dog Days, especially if I can get some adventurous others to join me there.

An Early Bloom… April 4, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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…of Scilla,  or Squill, a bulbous relative of the hyacinth and distant relative of the Asparagus family (!):

Found in my homeopathist’s yard.  Reeled in by Elliot.

Wholly Cow! April 4, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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This is Camellia, a Scottish Highland cow:

Despite her fearsome horns, she’s a cream-puff.  Seems all Highlanders are; it’s one of the reasons they’re among the oldest of domesticated livestock.  Still, I was glad to be in the company of her mommy Carolyn, who assured me of her  domesticity.

Plus, she’s all kindso’ Preggers, and is going to drop a little Camellia any day now.  I’ll get photos if I can.

Meanwhile the proud Mom-to-be is, as are most in her circumstances, radiant:

What a doll, eh?