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A Few Climbing Shots. August 18, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in climbing.
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From last weekend, at Farley Ledge in Erving, MA.

Matt smoothing the steep rock at the left end of the sport wall:

…and Zach throwing the moves on a taller piece of rock right of that:

I hadn’t come prepared for this shoot with quite the right lens; the whole forest is grown in with invasive vines, and my line of sight was reduced so as to make Gizmo almost useless. These shots really need context to evoke any emotion, and it was all I could do to get a whole person in the frame!

Anyway, they’re a bit of documentation of what’s happening in my world, and here they are.

A Vermont Minute. August 15, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Part of my time last weekend was spent toodling around southern Vermont in search of skies.

The skies never quite materialized despite forecasts and teaser clouds, and as the odometer churned, I wondered about the sanity of my venture.

I looked for rivers, and found none which beckoned. I looked for barns, and found none which called to me. I looked for wildflowers, but they’d all dried up in the preceding month of drought.

When at last I’d resigned myself to finding the route southward, a glint of gold caught my eye, passing over my shoulder, or rather I was passing under it’s watchful brow – the steeple of a town building in West Dover.

I turned the car around and parked, then took this shot with Gizmo and my 2X extender:

This steeple was fully clad in copper flashing and sporting a jaunty weather vane.

It troubled me only slightly that its directional letters were reversed from my point of view.

I got back into the car and resumed driving, but due to a lucky accident of parking I had to drive a little way up a side road to reverse direction.

And the driveway I chose to turn around in was flanked by a farm pond full of water lilies:

Ah, Serendipity, You Rock!

I threw Gizmo back on the box and got these shots before resuming the journey home.

Blooms beneath cat-tails:

…and  closer view of a blossom:

And among the hundreds of beautiful magenta blooms, one contrarian:

It wasn’t the fraught skis I’d been hunting, but when the object of my desires failed to materialize I was pleased to have these shots to come home with.

Bridge Of Flowers Foot Race! August 15, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Action/Adventure.
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I spent a good deal of last Saturday photographing, or trying  to photograph, the annual Bridge of Flowers 10K Classic, as well as its little brother, the ’round-the-village 3K starter.

I say “trying”  because the results were fairly disastrous from a number of perspectives, which I’ll try to parse as we go.

The first hurdle one encounters in this endeavor is that police and race officials close the village streets before the race starts, so you as an observer/photographer pick your spot, and there you are. No hopping in the chariot and whipping the horses to get ahead of the action, and good luck packing up your kit and running  to get ahead, unless you’re accustomed to changing your clothes in a phone booth…

…So the logical one spot to be at is the Start/Finish line, which are blessedly one and the same. Forget the along-the-course drama and the rural ambiance which inform the character of this race from the participants’ point of view, and settle for the Money Shot at the race’s end. The official race photography outfit apparently deals with this problem by working as a group, with people at all of the important spots.

But as I’m just me, I tried to game the venue, so to speak. I got in early for a photo of the Start line, with a bit of bustle but no massive crowds:

Racers will line up behind the timers and fill the town’s central Steel Bridge, then stream past where I’m standing and loop the village before heading back across the bridge, up over the killer Crittenden Hill and down around a loop of paved an unpaved Buckland roads near our Regional High School, finishing with one more crossing of the Steel Bridge and a dash for the finish.

I got out of “downtown” just before the roads closed and set up at the farthest reaches of the in-town loop, hoping to get some 3K racers, then get out to the countryside for some action.  With any luck I could shoot for a while, then head back into town to get the last finishers bringing it home. As much as the glory goes to the winners, I think the real heart of these events resides in those who work the hardest only to finish last.

I set up on a corner of Maple Street with my 35-16mm tele on a tripod at knee height, all settings on auto, and Gizmo on a monopod, with the expectation that I’d snap away at 400mm as runners crested a nearby hill and get close-ups of folks cutting the corner close to my lower set-up. Gizmo did his job as admirably as a long lens might without a tripod:

…which is to say, I got something which was viewable, albeit not crisp.  I threw away a lot of these, either because they were blurred or because they were boring, usually both.

My knee-high wide-angle tripod set-up was even less productive; the camera’s auto function was stupidly satisfied to focus on the distant background (hey, it can only do what I tell it to do!) and consequently didn’t do the racers justice:

Sorry, folks.  Perhaps next year.

Oh, one more from the 3K, a really crappy photo of a really inspiring effort:

This smiling little girl flew by me on what looked like a “Cheetah” prosthetic. I’m sorry to have neither a decent photo of her nor her name, but uplifted just knowing that she’s out there in my world.  🙂

I packed it in after the bulk of 3K runners had passed and got back to the car, which would have been boxed in if I hadn’t had four wheel drive and a willingness to plow through tall weeds, and reviewed my shots, cursing and scheming for a way to do better at my next set-up.

Gizmo, I deduced, needed a steadier hand, especially as I’d next be shooting at 800mm with my tele-extender, which also meant manually focusing.  Jeee-zhus! What tangled webs we weave! I resolved to shorten my mono-pod and kneel next to my low tripod, bracing against it for more stability.

Hope springs eternal, or so they say.

During the short drive to the high school I decided to switch out my 16-35mm lens for Elliot, my 24mm tilt-shift job.  I figured if I swapped the tilt for swing and preset the manual focus to catch a near and a far object, my task would be reduced to pushing the shutter button at the moment when runners were crossing that plane.

Ah, “The best laid plans…”  😆

I got to my spot well ahead of the runners and had time to get this all set up, with a little bit of wildflowers as a foreground to keep Elliot from getting bored on me and falling asleep at the wheel, then waited.

And waited:

Finally, the pace car:

…and the first runner:

…Frikadu Lemma of Bronx, NY, well ahead of his closest competitors, and looking very much in control. Thinking of the grueling Crittenden Hill he’d just climbed, I was absolutely amazed. He would go on to win in a time of 32:22. Congratulations, Frikadu!

The second and third runners passed, then came the rest in small and large groups, including the first woman, Renee Knapp of Eugene OR, who would later finish third among the women with a time of 39:12, half a minute behind leader Amelia Landberg of Boston:

I didn’t get a shot of Amelia, but Renee here was very focused and running hard, as were all of these front-runners.  Amazing to see, it was.

The groups and singles flowed by, some in pain, some in ecstasy:

That woman in black was the happy hare to a group of glistening greyhounds, perhaps the most Zen-looking bunch to pass. Thanks for the smile, #549 (Francia Wisnewski of Greenfield, I looked her up!)  🙂

Francia was an example of the range of humanity passing my lenses, not all the stereotypical “runner type.” There were Specimens:

You’re welcome.  😉

…there were folks young and lovely:

…old and lovely:

That’s Kathleen Scotti of West Hartford, CT.  You Go, Grrrl!

…There were graceful gazelles who floated lightly over the course:

…and more determined sorts, some of whom pounded the pavement hard enough to leave a mark:

That’s right – cammo, a full rucksack and jump boots. Don’t even think  of saying anything but “Yessir!”

I was surrounded by race workers handing out cups of water, some of which were snatched up by the racers and dumped unceremoniously over their heads, some of which saw an attempt at ingestion:

…not an easy feat at a gallop.

A cheer went up from the cognoscenti around me as they recognized the man coming down the hill, local legend Ray Willis of Charlemont, my home town:

At 83 years young and running through a knee problem, Ray was the “oldest” participant in this year’s event, and proved that chronological age doesn’t necessarily dictate desire.

Q:  How humbled am I???

A:  Quite!!!

…but not as humbled as I was a bit later, when I found my way back into the center of town in time for this heart-swelling moment:

Ray Willis, official time 1:24:17, and still smiling, as was everyone who was there to see it.

And in case you were wondering, Sean Sullivan of Springfield finished his mission as well:

At Ease, Sir.

Your Daily Bridge. August 13, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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I just can’t stay off of that damned thing!

But this particular visit to the Bridge of Flowers in nearby Shelburne Falls was a furthering of my investigations of the combination of my 400mm Gizmo and a Canon 2X tele-extender.

The combo is cumbersome, shaky and slow – the auto-focus on my 5D Mark II doesn’t work in this configuration, and the 2X closes the maximum aperture by two stops, leaving me with a max ap of f/11, which makes hand holding difficult for this shaky old relic. I addressed that problem with a monopod collapsed short and canted against my thigh in a kneeling position. It made for wet knees on a dewey morning…

Hey, one does what one must to get that shot!  😉

So, the results:

People can be photographed from enough of a distance to not be self-conscious – here gardener Carol works to keep things beautiful:

Thanks, Carol!  😉

The tele-extender doubles the magnification of my 400mm Gizmo without increasing the minimum focusing distance. Glads from just over twelve feet:

Crisp focus is difficult with 800mm hand-held, and nearly impossible for these hands with a twirling subject:

…but she was too darling to not include in this post. God bless the children!  🙂

I did better with stationary subjects like dahlias:

The effect is nearly macro-like, with a peek-a-boo look which brings a viewer into the scene, or so it seems to me…

…and the depth of focus includes the entirety of a blossom while utterly excluding the background:

This is exactly what I was hoping for from this visit: find the strengths, isolate the weaknesses and develop strategies to contend with them.

I’m pleased.

Sunflowers! August 12, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.

A couple of quick shots from the garden on our western lawn:


…and that is all.  😉

1700 And Counting. August 12, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Uncategorized.
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So it turns out that “Between The Rains” was my 1700th post here at Little Bang Theory.

Yaaay Me!!

Well, before I dislocate my shoulder trying to pat myself on the back, let me admit that some of them were pitifully brief, many were lame, a whole bunch were raging rabid rants, and at least one had a picture of my ass.

No, really.

So I just want to take a moment to thank all of you who have been here for me since April 28, 2007, who kept me honest (well, kinda ) and interested and encouraged me to post more photos. It was YOU who got me to take photography seriously. Your compliments embarrassed me into wanting to deserve  them, and I tried harder. Thank you for changing my life for the better.

And I’d like to give a special shout-out to Blue Gal, the blogger who got me started. Back then I was doing mostly socio-political commentary; Blue Gal is still doing that, and SO much better than I ever did or ever could do. Go listen to her Friday podcasts with her new(ish) husband Driftglass. They’re priceless examples of cogent analysis and clear (if blue) language to argue for a saner world.

And lastly, a big thanks to Phydeaux, my first ever commenter, who turned out to be my long-lost Siamese Cousin from whom I was separated at birth (by a thousand miles and several years!)

OK, the music just started to play over me, and some Academy lackey is gesticulating ominously with The Hook from behind the curtains at stage left, so I gotta go.  I’ll mention my centennial blogiversaries whenever I notice them, and pray you’ll humor me.

Now back to our regular programming…


Between The Rains. August 12, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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After an unusually long dry spell, we seem to have entered the it-rains-every-day phase of our screwy New England weather cycle.  I can water the garden during dry spells, but keeping everything from rotting when we have too much rain is a bit more problematic.

Still, the wet weather has its advantages; our rivers certainly need the water, and if we’re going to have anything like a foliage season this year, so do the forests.

And the vistas of mists rising from the valleys is interesting to photograph, such as in this evening shot of a homestead in the Pudding Hollow section of Hawley:

There’s too much wrong with that photo for it to ever hang on a wall, but it’s passable for blog viewing.

Besides, while I have tons of other photos to process, I haven’t anything else ready to post, and I don’t want you all to fall asleep on me!  😆

Evening Along The Deerfield. August 8, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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This evening’s skies looked like they might light up, so as the light grew low I headed down to the river.  First stop, the Route 8A bridge in the center of Charlemont, where the setting sun danced on the waters of the Deerfield river:

The light was nice, but the color wasn’t there.

After a few shots, I packed it in and headed eastward toward home.

But as often happens when  I pack it in, the light began to shift, and the colors bloomed, and soon I was accelerating past my driveway, heading toward a riverside view in East Charlemont which regular visitors to this site might recognize.  As I drove the eastern skies lit up, and I hit the binders just in time to get these takes on the fading light reflected in the river:

Our river is unusually low for this time of year, and the bones of its bed are exposed to whatever voyeurs happen by.  I’m embarrassed for it, and wish the roadside weeds would dress it more decently in its diminished state.

But that’s just me being anthropomorphic, feeling Nature in a way to which I haven’t a right.  It is what it is, and it isn’t really my business.

Still, I hope this is a passing phase.  My river can’t stand very much of this without losing a good deal of what it once was.

At MASS MoCA. August 7, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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A drive-by shooting at MASS MoCA, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in our neighbor to the west, North Adams.

This sprawling complex was once the Sprague Electric manufacturing facility, and has been brilliantly re-purposed as the Bastard Progeny of M.C. Escher and Lewis Carroll.  Visitors to this extraordinary venue should expect the unexpected, such as this resident installation in their front dooryard:

Years after first seeing these inverted maple trees, I still chuckle at them.  🙂

And woe to those who shop at the on-site Hudson’s Antiques, who may indeed go home with more than they bargained for:

Hey, the price is right…

Tregelly’s Fiber Farm. August 5, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Up in the hills of nearby Hawley (though it’s only accessible by road from Buckland) sits Tregelly’s Fiber Farm, operated by Ed and Jody Cothey.  It’s an amazing place filled with a menagerie of animals, many with fur useful for weaving.

Although Ed has largely given up weaving and sold off all of his looms but one (know anyone looking for a beautiful twelve-footer?) the place is still amazing to visit, as I did this past Saturday with my sweetie Susan.  She has an affinity for animals, and is in fact a communicator, and needed some photos of her interacting with them, so…  😉

Susan and I were greeted by Ed and most of his nine dogs:

The house and barns sit on the brow of a hill overlooking the Deerfield river valley.  The northern exposure gives a beautiful light to the great stone Stupa in the front yard:

Susan had a friend right off the bat –

Our little parade o’ fur meandered around the property, stopping to smile at common animals like goats and uncommon ones like yaks and this Bactrian camel:

These guys are BIG!  They grow to over seven feet tall and can weigh over a ton.  I asked Ed how they do with a New England winter, thinking of camels as desert beasts.  He said these guys are native to the Mongolian plateau and the Gobi Desert, which is a desert only in that it’s dry – they routinely see temperatures of -40C in winter, and the camels do just fine!

Susan connected with some little burros…

…who were so excited and delighted to have the attention that they played up a storm!

They were a lot of fun to watch.  🙂

A little llama joined in the socializing:

…as did this somewhat skeptical sheep:

It was lovely to see, and I got lots of pictures, including this one of a sweet little Jack Russel terrier (I think)  who wanted his “fifteen minutes:”

He only got three, but they were good ones!  😆

After the photo tour, Ed invited us in for tea, and we got to meet his birds, which he obviously adores as much as he loves his furred friends:

If you’re going to be in this area before November, I’d like to recommend a visit to this wonderful spot.  Ed has a LOT of inventory from his now closed store, items made by his friends in countries all over the world (think Ten Thousand Villages or some such store) and is trying to move it all out before he leaves for six months in the Phillipines.  Consequently, the prices are really hard to believe – I bought tee-shirts for a dollar apiece!

And if you can’t  visit, I hope these photos will suffice.  🙂