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Flailing In The Dark On A Clear Night. November 11, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Tonight’s cold, crisp air was a harbinger of things to come. Winter in these parts really clears the air, if you know what I mean – low humidity, less smog and so on.

Expecting a fine display of stars, I headed up to Windsor, a hill-town half an hour south of here, to a high meadow which has given me some of my more memorable photos.

My intention was to take a few shots of the starry night, then try out an intervalometer I’d purchased back when I was employed (yeah, that  far back.) I was committed to sitting around for perhaps three hours while my camera dutifully snapped several hundred long-exposure shots of moving stars, which I would then stack into a night-time landscape of star trails with (I’d hoped) something of interest in the foreground so you-all wouldn’t fall asleep on me.

I’m sure you see where this is going.

I parked not far off the road in a grassy field, just far enough to be out of direct sight of passing cars – I was hoping not to be interrupted half-way through a three hour exposure by the incoming lights of concerned police. Then, with what I hoped would be all I needed for the night’s activities, I headed out across the broad hill to a barn which I knew to be just over the horizon.

The star shots were something I’d done before and, predictably, came out as viewable photos, though the barn presented unforseen challenges. With visible sides facing both west and south, and some important points being considerably farther away than others, it complicated the light-painting beyond what I was really ready for. I spent the thirty-second exposures running around like a mad fool, lighting the barn with varying intensities of light as their distance from the camera necessitated, and came up with this:

…which is, sadly, the best of a half-dozen shots I took, and soooo  far off the mark that I’m reluctant to share it.

Oh, but wait, that’s the good  news – the bad  news is that my star-trail photos never happened. I’d planned to spend two or three hours compiling one-minute exposures to be assembled into beautiful circular star trails, but when I set the process in motion I sat and listened to the camera’s mechanisms of shutter and mirror, and didn’t at all like what I heard. Where I expected minute-long silent captures punctuated by clunky one second turn-arounds, I was hearing shutter action alternately at thirty second and one minute intervals. Clearly, this wasn’t going as planned, so  I stopped the process and packed the whole mess back to the car. Seems like the learning curve is steeper and twistier than I’d prepped for.

That’s OK, though- nothing worth achieving comes easily, and  I don’t mind doing a whole lot more research and going back there better armed. I suspect the primary problem is in my camera settings, as my intervalometer has many less parameters to set and get right.

Buttoning Down The Yard. November 9, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
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It’s November.

Ugly Season, as some see it.

The colors of Autumn turn to brown, then blow away, leaving ligneous skeletons behind. Green grasses turn pale, blue skies turns gray. If I were a black & white photographer,  I might welcome the respite from all that damned life and color, the transfer of the load of seeing  from my cones to my rods.

But I’m not, and I don’t. Pulling out my camera requires a full-on act of will, and the recent results have been less than inspired. Sorry about that. I can only hope to try harder going forward.

At least there’s plenty to keep me otherwise occupied around here. The garden has nearly run its course, so I’ve pulled and pitched the coarse , frost-bitten remainder, leaving not much beyond my too-zealous planting of kale and a forest of Brussels sprouts, which are getting sweeter with every frost:

The hoses and fixtures have been drained and coiled and hustled off to the barn until Spring.

I dug up the Gladiolus bulbs, which are drying for a couple of weeks before being packed in sawdust and stored in a cool (but not freezing) room until the days grow longer again:

That blue bowl contains hundreds of mini-bulbs which came off the larger ones in the digging process… do any of you good folks know what I can do with them, other than throwing them out? I’d love a little advice on this one.

In the dooryard I took a different approach – last year’s Glads came back despite being left to winter over, due largely, I suspect, to the micro-clime of a space enclosed by walls on the North and West and lots of sun from the Southeast. Here I put the Glad bulbs to bed in situ, mulching them (and the raised tomato beds, which have garlic growing toward a June harvest) deeply with hay:

It’s more than I did last autumn, so I’m hoping it works out at least as well.

Goodnight, Glads.

The lawn will get one more mowing, as much to mulch the abundant leaves as to cut the grass, before the ride-on gets driven deep enough into the barn to hide from the worst of winter.

And I’ve re-glassed a bunch of the windows in our out-buildings, replacing a lot of missing panes in the garden shed and changing out a broken hinge so the door closes and latches (we love our tools and prefer to see them survive for many more seasons of gardening!)

The re-glazing process in the barn is more complicated, as several of the sashes have rotted beyond the point where they’ll take points, so I’ve been rebuilding them bit by bit. Without a router, this has been a challenge. I’m using a circular saw, often with Rube Goldberg jigs and a healthy dose of trial and error and a fair number of potential pieces turned into slivers and saw-dust. Sometimes the circular saw is inverted and used as a bad version of a table saw. It’s ridiculously dangerous, and I’m terrified, which makes the work inordinately slow.

Hey, I’d rather take too long than rush toward the nick-name “Lefty.”

All-in-all, though, I’m looking forward to a decent winter. We have enough wood in the barn to keep the place livably warm, and it (presumably) won’t be butt-ugly for too much longer.

That, folks, I’m really looking forward to!

A Frosty Morning. November 7, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.
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Election day dawned cold, well below freezing. I knew it wouldn’t stay cold all day, so I went for a shoot before I voted.

I was looking for frost, thinking of some wild strawberries I’d photographed a couple of years ago.

I didn’t find exactly that, but I did find some little things worth sharing.

A little frosted primrose:

…and a field mouse’s hole, frosted with mousey-breath:

I got there a bit late, and the ice crystals weren’t crisp.

I’ll try to be earlier next time.

Elizabeth! November 6, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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So, it looks like Elizabeth Warren has defeated incumbent Senator Scott Brown here in Massaacbusetts.



Plainfield, Between Showers. November 4, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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A recent drive through Plainfield had me using a long delay on the wipers as a high-country drizzle thickened the air.

But thick air means a saturation of colors, and I had my photographer’s eye out for something to shoot.

I passed a pasture with horses set against an angry black sky, and thought that would make a nice image. But when I pulled over and got out to shoot, the horses came over to greet me.

Oh well, no majestic white horse set against the dark sky, just a close-up of this lovely girl:

She was just diggin’ life out there in the tasty greens, and fairly ignored me as I lay in the wet grass to get this shot.

That’s from Gizmo, at perhaps twenty feet. I was expecting to take shots of distant horses, but they had other ideas.

Trinity Church. November 4, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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This afternoon I stopped by the Trinity Church in Shelburne Falls and shot this detail:

Actually, I shot a larger chunk of this building, liking the geometry of it, and cropped this detail out of it. I may put up some different crops of this same image, as sometimes looking at the parts  of a thing informs you about the thing.


Here’s a different crop, using the same 2:3 aspect ratio as the original photo and the version shown above:

At the expense of losing the corbelled corner at the right of the first photo (which I liked,) this take echoes the proportions of the window, which I think focuses more attention on it. I also adjusted the blacks a bit.

What do you  think?

A Bit Of A Strange Sky. November 4, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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On the way home today, the thick cloud cover which had blanketed the day became a succession of waves coming from the west, alternately thinner and white, or thicker and…


It was a much more colorful sky than is usual around here, especially when it’s deeply overcast, so I looked for a place to pull over and get a shot of it.

The timing was such that I got to a favorite pull-out of mine, a few miles down river from my home, with a clear view of the river. I scrambled down the bank to a set of rocks which jutted beyond the brush of the bank and set up a shortened tripod in the shallows, kneeling on the second rock to get a shot of the first as a foreground for the sky. I had Elliot on the box and was glad to have a planar near-object to focus on and a relatively flat horizon. At f/16 I figured I had a nice fat wedge of focus to play with, so I expected the river and hills to all be well rendered, and that was indeed the case:

I really intended to just get a shot of an interestingly colored sky, but this shot turned into somewhat more than that, at least in my eyes.

It’s getting harder and harder to just take a snapshot.

From Elliot, with a degree and a half of downward tilt, f/16, ISO 100, .8 second exposure, and a hand-held 3-stop ND graduated filter. This lens vignettes if I use a filter holder.

Classic Carriages In The Berkshires. November 2, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, poetry.
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This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending an event put on by the Colonial Carriage and Driving Society, a collective of folks who practice the fine but fading art of driving horse-drawn carriages.

It turns out that this is a time-honored tradition here in The Berkshires. Back in the nineteenth century, when the well-monied elite had beach-side properties in Newport, RI, The Berkshires became known as “The Inland Newport.” And why not? It’s an area of great natural beauty tempered with a pastoral placidity, with miles and miles of shaded country lanes. They’re a good deal hillier than many of the Southern haunts of horse-lovers, but then, meeting that challenge is a badge of honor among Coachers.

So vacation cottages sprung up, many in the towns of Stockbridge and Lenox (think names like Carnegie, Westinghouse and Vanderbilt.) You might not call these impressive edifices “cottages” if you saw them; they look more like mansions to me, but hey, I’m financially challenged.

Anyway, back to the present:

This event was held at Orleton Farm in Stockbridge. Our hosts were Harvey and Mary Waller, who are principals in the Colonial Carriage endeavor. They were most gracious to Susan and me, total strangers in this environment.

The Wallers have a stable of about forty carriages, not buckboards mind you, but rather splendid rigs with history, which aren’t just conserved  as in a museum,  but restored and used.   Perhaps their most well known carriage is Old Times, which didn’t come out this day, but I got a shot of its backside in their museum:

While many Colonial Carriage events are formal, with rather strict guidelines for the wearing of period clothing and such,  this was a more casual affair with participants and spectators alike clad in whatever was comfortable for the weather:

This pair of ladies had no intention of freezing on this dark and blustery Autumn day.

The Wallers’ contribution to the event consisted of tons  of tack:

…four beautifully matched German Warmbloods:

…and a carriage filled with enthusiastic participants, the entirety of which approached a weight of five tons, which is quite a lot to haul through the Berkshire Hills:

This was a magnificent sight, infused with the power of four-in-hand horses and, simultaneously, the simple elegance of a bygone day.

I’m looking forward to seeing more of this in the future, and in particular their Winter Classic Sleigh Rally.

Thanks to the Wallers and the Colonial Carriage and Driving Society for this beautiful day in the Berkshires.

Rising Waters. November 1, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Action/Adventure.
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Our recent storm has brought river levels up, and on a recent soirée I happened upon a pod of kayakers on the West Branch of the Deerfield river, up in Reasdboro, VT. Here are a few shots I took, zipping my car around, u-turns up the wazoo, scrambling up and down the river banks in the rain and hanging off the occasional bridge.

The river is small and technical, meaning that if you mess up you may well survive, but with cuts and bruises, a belly-full of water and a banged up boat:

It’s not that the amount of water won’t make you wish you’d gotten the line right:

…a “swim” here would be ugly.

But getting it right on a “technical” river of this size is a study in elegance:

…a flowing vignette in a too-often staccato life.

My favorite shot of the encounter is this panning shot of a kayaker threading the needle between a “strainer” and a hard place:

That’s 1/30th of a second at ISO 2000. Getting the forward deck sharp despite the tumult of motion was gratifying, and I love the energy of the shot, which brings back memories of being in a boat and dealing with the kinetics of the moment.

As much as I miss that, I’m even more excited to be working on capturing it from the outside.

A Thought. November 1, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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I had a thought today, and since I so seldom have thoughts these days which are succinct enough to be conveyed within the framework of my compromised capacity for communication, I thought I’d share it before it evaporated into the miasma of my mind.

The difference between Democratic politicians and Republican politicians is this:

Democratic politicians are Corporate Concubines.

Republican politicians are Corporate Property.

That is all.