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Oink! June 28, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
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High up in Plainfield at the Manda Farm…

…Summer sets the larger livestock to languid lounging:

But wait, what’s this in the shadows?

It’s Junior, coming around Momma’s flank, his little legs moving with flip-book rapidity.  Squeeee!     🙂

And here come his siblings, tumbling over each other and nipping indignantly when they get butt-bumped to the back:

Three of them stop for a brief pose, and I can’t help thinking of them as Moe, Larry and Curly-tail:

I wanted a closer shot (and didn’t have Gizmo on the box,) but though Farmer Mike had assured me that Momma was gentle, I declined to go inside the little shed with several hundred pounds of Maternal Ham lying there.  Tolerance has its limits, whereas Motherly Love knows no bounds!

Thanks to Mike Kalagher for his hospitality, and for pointing me at these five-day-old cuties.

 

 

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The Wild, Wild East! June 25, 2012

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An unexpected tableau on the Great Plains of Hadley, MA:

American Bison being raised for the table.  They’re impressive animals:

 

Along The Connecticut. June 21, 2012

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I had occasion to head toward Amherst today, with the intention of showing some of my photos to a restauranteur who expressed an interest in having them on his walls.

Well, that didn’t work out – something about a “family emergency.”  That could, of course, be the case, but it’s so cliched I can’t help feeling slighted.

Anyway, having carted my wares all the way down river, I spent the late afternoon scouring the lowlands for more raw materials, knowing that the transition to Summer would produce some sort of blossoms and at least a little bit of atmospherics.

What I found was tall grass:

…laced around the edges with roadside randomness, including a LOT of Cow vetch:

This hot, dry week we’re experiencing is ideal for harvesting hay, and the grass is beautifully high, so farmers down in the valley are making hay:

Much of Hadley isn’t exactly flood plains of the Connecticut river, but more accurately viewed as the bottom of Lake Hitchcock, gone for ten millennia  but still evident by its sediments.  The land is rich despite having provided several hundred years of legendary productivity.

Haying happens several times per growing season, depending on growing and harvesting conditions.  Rain makes it grow, but dry conditions are necessary for cutting and baling, and the two don’t always coincide.

This, though, looked like a really productive mowing:

This farmer was good enough to welcome me into his field to take these photographs.    He was working for his living, and stopping for a stranger was an added task on this very hot and humid day.  I greatly appreciated his permission to shoot.

Here’s The Man round-bailing the cut, dried grass:

These round bales are tied up and dropped out of the back of this baler, whereas traditional rectangular bales are packed, wrapped and pitched into hay wagons being dragged behind the operation:

But this is Hadley, rolling lowlands which don’t flood seasonally.

Across the river to the west is Northampton, where Spring flooding is common.  The flatlands have been harrowed and planted and harvested and flooded in a cycle extending for centuries.

These days they grow corn and potatoes there, with a bio-diverse fringe of invaders separating the field roads from the crops:

That looks like wild mustard and lettuce, with mullein piercing the skyline.  I love mullein – it looks like the pacifist’s version of yucca or agave, all cuddly and hippy-friendly (they smoke it, you know!)

One of a zillion types of daisies found locally piles up between the tires and the ‘taters:

Again with Mount Holyoke’s crowning Skinner House in the distance.

Another of the volunteers which dot these dusty fields is the ubiquitous cow vetch, here seen with Mt. Tom shaping the skyline:

I think what keeps drawing me back to this decidedly lowland place (a strong hour from my hill town home) is it’s suggestion of something farther west, perhaps a view of the Heartland, maybe even something higher and drier, the alti-plano of Wyoming or Montana.

I know that if you’re from there you’re pointing and laughing, but still, it’s a feeling I get, and I’m playing with it.

All of these shots are from Elliot, my Canon TS-EII tilt-shift lens, and most benefit from the use of hand-held graduated filters to bring the brooding skies further into compliance with a photo’s useful dynamic range.  This combination is really my Standard Operating Procedure for landscape photography, though my 24-105mm zoom Allie lives on the box in my daily travels.

Thanks for hanging in there for this longish post on a place I’ve photographed numerous times before.  I keep hoping for exceptional light or some remarkable bloom, but I’m meanwhile thankful for whatever the place gives up.

Another Perspective On The Bridge. June 19, 2012

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I’ve photographed Shelburne Falls’ Bridge of Flowers ad nauseum,  unless of course you love flowers and can’t get enough of them.

Yesterday, as I once again succumbed to the urge to park and walk and photograph, I thought I’d try something different.  I put Gizmo on the box, and where I more commonly take macro photos,  I looked at The Bridge from a telephoto perspective.

A cascade of roses, taken from the town’s central Steel Bridge:

Tourists, either ecstatic or antsy, depending on whose idea this excursion was:

Roses, a major player this time of year:

Many of The Usual Suspects formerly photographed with a macro lens, now viewed from a distance:

…and a gone-by allium set amidst roses:

It’s a different way of seeing, I guess, something which I’ve been looking at for years.

Hey, it’s cheaper than airline tickets, which is another way we get to see something new.

 

A Surprise On Mount Greylock. June 19, 2012

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This past Sunday afternoon I headed up to Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts.  At 3,491′ it’s not a Giant in the Pantheon of Lofty Landforms; still, it rises a steep 3,000′ above the valley floor, providing exaggerated wind currents and a micro-climate which attracts migrating birds which otherwise wouldn’t stop in our State.

So, with Gizmo and my new-ish 2X Tele-Extender on the box, I headed up the steep and winding road from North Adams, stopping at the first overlook which afforded me a view of the Veterans’ Memorial Tower on the summit:

I was a bit disappointed with my summit view, the 800mm combo of lens and extender giving me tremendous vibration for this hand held shot.  By rights I should have set up a tripod, manually focused (a necessity with this lens configuration,) locked up the mirror to isolate that vibration, then used a wireless shutter release to avoid touching the camera.

But as I wasn’t at my destination yet, I did none of that – I just hopped out of my car, rested my lens plate on the guardrail, and snapped one off.  If I saw any interesting birds I’d go the extra mile toward some “keeper” photographs, but I wasn’t there yet.

And I was disappointed as only a nature photographer can be to encounter mostly robin’s-egg blue skies with puffy white clouds.  Not much drama there, no tension between Mother Earth and Father Sky, just… a pleasant  day.

Oh well.  Perhaps I’d snag some pleasant  bird photos.

The road to the summit wound around the south and east sides of the upper mountain, and I stopped once more at the Adams overlook, lamenting the flat light on the town and farm fields far below.

Suddenly a shadow flashed across my windshield – a large bird?  I got out of the car, Gizmo in hand, and scanned the sky for the shadow-caster…

…and there it was – a paraglider!  It darted into view, circled gracefully and disappeared behind the peak.  I jogged around to the other side of my vehicle to lean my lens against it, cursing that I hadn’t gotten up there in time to do a proper set-up, expecting the opportunity to have passed…

But there it was again, coming through the spruces, 50 yards over my head!  I focused furiously to keep the rapidly moving target in range and pushed the shutter release:

I groaned at the palpable vibration of the mirror flopping up and down, then made a few quick adjustments – boot the ISO up to 400, open it up to f/11, see what the shutter speed might be… Eureka!   1/2000th of a second.  I hoped that  would outrun the vibrations, at least as much as this hand-held scenario would allow.

The parasailer circled and appeared again, which is the photo above, reasonably crisp given the stiff winds of circumstance blowing against my efforts.

I continued shooting, getting far more shots off than I’d imagined I would.  This guy was good!   He played the mountain air currents like a symphony, hanging in place like a hungry seagull, swooping and diving like a kestrel:

He swooped in close enough for me to see his face and read the make of his gear:

He was sporting a spiffy new Advance Impress 3, designed by champion parasailer Chrigel Maurer for his X-Alps flights in 2009 (I Googled it,) ten pounds of comfy heaven, with an insulated footbox, on-board navigation capability, built-in hydration options… pretty cush stuff!  And…

…a built-in reserve ‘chute, in case, you know…  The red handle at the pilot’s hip is the rip-cord.

Mr. Bird descended gracefully toward the farms and fields of Adams:

…then rose up above me and… What The… !!

He began circling his wing in Giant Swings (though I’m sure the sport has a catchier name for them,) going round and round as he plummeted toward the valley below:

…then leveled out:

…looking over his shoulder at the dairy cows ruminating far below.

He circled and rose once more to a position above me, where an unearned trick of the light gave me this gift:

These shots were culled from many dozens snapped off in a hurry.  Frankly, I wasn’t prepared for this kind of action and doubted if any of them would be viewable, but was pleasantly surprised with the keepers.

Alas, I didn’t get any bird photographs…

😉

The Grrrlz Of Summer. June 17, 2012

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Summer brings the wildflowers out of the woods and into the meadows.  There, they face the reaper’s blade, as most of the grasslands in these parts get cut and baled several times during the warm season.

So it falls to me to be attentive to the rhythms of the seasons, and of the farmers who wring a living from them; a week early and the blooms aren’t happening, a week late and they’re in the feed.

Today saw me taking the long way to everywhere, snaking my way across the Eastern Front of the Berkshires in convoluted lines, connecting every reflecting pool and flowered meadow I could think of that was remotely in between me and Mount Greylock, my intended destination for the afternoon.  I was hunting, you see, for something to share with you.

Up in Windsor, I got lucky.

Good Old Windsor, high and wide and starkly beautiful, a no-bullshit place of wind and sky and visual gems tucked amidst the casually unremarkable vastness.  This is one of the places where I first learned to get down on my belly and look harder.

Today, I beat the reaper, though just barely; every field I passed on the approach had either been hayed or had a tractor taking it down as I passed.

So I was pleased to top out on Windsor Mountain and find the meadows along Route 8A to be flush with flowers.  At the Moran Wildlife Management Area I pulled over and suited up prior to wading out into the waist-high grass, donning a Tyvek coverall duct-taped at the ankles and dosed with DEET.  I’ve been treated twice so far this year for Lyme disease, and now that I’m without health insurance, another go-around isn’t an option.

The sky wasn’t dramatic, but rather a patchwork of cotton-ball clouds in a deep blue firmament.  Still, it provided a passable foil for the flowers below.  Here blue flag irises and ragged robin punctuate a field of buttercups stretching over the horizon:

Across Route 8A hawkweed and clover held sway, barely contained by a stockade of spruces:

I love this place.  Wildflowers in Spring, meteorological drama in Summer, and some of the wildest Winter scenes I’ve seen in the East.

Both of these are from Elliot, with my tripod splayed low to the ground in an effort to Freeze the Breeze.  Between three and five degrees of tilt gave me acceptable depth of field without the longer exposures necessitated by smaller apertures, thereby mitigating the wind problem.  And I brought the skies down with a two-stop hard-step ND graduated filter.

Then it was onward to Mt. Greylock, which I’ll save for another post.

 

 

 

 

Cat Woman. June 17, 2012

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A beautiful woman, loving one of her beautiful cats:

This little guy wasn’t sure he should be comfortable with me and my camera, but his mommy got him to relax and accept me for long enough to snag this shot.

A Minor Disturbance In The Shelburne Falls Zeitgeist… June 17, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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For the past two weeks or so, one of our little bits of Country Heaven, Shelburne Falls, has been transformed into a New Hampshire town of an earlier era, for the filming of the major motion picture Labor Day  starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin.

The town is abuzz with activity, some of it welcomed, as a lot of the people working on this project are bringing their considerable resources to bear on this little hamlet, and these things get sold as a boon to the local economy.

I guess if you rent lifts and generators, that’s probably true.  But if you’re a local small business which depends on people’s ability to get at you…  perhaps not so much.  The town’s parking has been usurped by roped-off rows of semi trailers filled with movie stuff:

…and the streets are filled with police redirecting traffic, gawking locals hoping to get a peek at Miss Kate (the Boston Globe reports that she’s loathe to even acknowledge the existence of us here in the un-California hills of Western Massachusetts,) and rolling obstacles like this screen/shade/reflector being moved down Bridge Street:

I had occasion to brave the melee to check on some photos I have for sale on the wall of Mormor Gallery, whose sign coincidentally appears in that last photograph.

I turned down Deerfield street, which was  nearly impassably clogged with carts and wagons filled with back-lot electronica:

…when suddenly, unexpectedly, there She was… OMG, schwiiing!!!

What timeless beauty!  I showed her bodyguard my very fine camera and asked if he wanted to trade, but I don’t think he spoke English.

Anyway, our little town is in flux.  Businesses like Mormor are dead in the water because people can’t get to them, and the folks clogging our commercial pores aren’t shopping, they’re working, making a movie.

And it won’t even have our name in it.

So much for the Mystic Pizza effect.

 

 

 

Regarding Fathers’ Day. June 16, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
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I’ve never been all that comfortable with the concept of Fathers’ Day.  It always seemed like a Hallmark Opportunity which played on a sense of entitlement which we Fathers have, due to the investments we make in our children.

Tonight, listening to a local folk music program on the radio (I wonder how many of you have that luxury,) I saw things differently.

The song which prompted this post was Jonathan Edwards’ “Little Hands,” which I saw him perform live in the 80’s.

And tonight, I cried.

I thought of the journey my daughters’ little hands have made, from meconium-covered straws to capable tools, into which I entrust the future of the world.  From helpless chubby knuckles to the slender implements which will carry on the work of all good people, the work of pursuing justice for those below them on the Have Scale, demanding accountability from those above them on the Have Scale, insisting on some measure of goodness in this world.

My two girls have taught me so much about being a man, about being worthy of their respect, that there’s very little I can say to express my gratitude to them beyond, “Thank you.”

Meredith, Ursula, your beauty and integrity are the greatest gifts a father could ever wish for.

Teach your parents well.

Happy Fathers’ Day, my children.

Equine Photography. June 15, 2012

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Another thing to work on:

There’s so much going on here that I as a photographer have no control over.  I’m not first an action photographer, but I’m trying to learn how to do that.

That was from Ollie, my 24-105mm L-series  lens, whose compositional flexibility made this day work for me.

I briefly backed off for some telephotos…

(that one taken with Gizmo, my f/5.6L 400mm lens)

…but the action was happening down at the jumps.

Thanks to the folks at Biscuit Hill Farm in Shelburne, MA for their forbearance as I shot what I got.