A Surprise On Mount Greylock. June 19, 2012Posted by littlebangtheory in Action/Adventure.
Tags: Adama MA, Advance Impress 3 cockpit, adventure sports, adventure sports photography, Canon 2X tele-Extender III, Canon 400mm f/5.6L lens, Chrigel Maurer, Gizmo, hand held telephotos, Mount Greylock, parasailing, Peak2 parasail, shameless gear whoring
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…