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A Surprise On Mount Greylock. June 19, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Action/Adventure.
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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…

😉

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Comments»

1. Bob - June 19, 2012

Sweet.

So when did they start putting hammocks in the air like that? 😉

2. TheCunningRunt - June 19, 2012

I’m a Blind Bambi there, Cuz (“No-Eye Deer!”) It’s news to me!

3. emdoyle - June 19, 2012

Too bad about the winged creatures in the skies. Beautiful shots of the sailing human. Really amazing. How cool that disappointment was met with serendipity.

4. TheCunningRunt - June 19, 2012

Eileen, yes, a huge disappointment. 😉 I’ve learned that if I want to be pitched a curve ball, I just need to plan a photo shoot. The majority of the time, reality has other plans.

But then, if I don’t plan a shoot, I’ll never get what I came for, so I’ve learned to roll with that and just go for it!

5. susancrow - June 30, 2012

These pictures of the paraglider are absolutely stunning. You may not have been properly prepared but your results show that in some way you always are. I bet the flyer would love some copies of these if you could reach him.

6. littlebangtheory - June 30, 2012

Alas, I haven’t a clue about how to contact Mr. Bird. Pity, they really are “keeper” shots.

And to some degree, I’m seeing that my skills are indeed accumulating, and yes, I’m better able to handle unexpected photo opportunities. It’s gratifying, given the amount of time and energy I put into getting better at this, to have someone else see and appreciate the fruits of my labors. 🙂


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