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Doane Cemetery, Hawley MA. March 9, 2013

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
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My housemates went up to the Maine Coast this weekend for some night photography, reminding me that it was a New Moon ’round about tonight and tomorrow night.

Well, I can’t get away, but thought I’d find something closer to home which might make a suitable subject for taking advantage of a clear, moonless night.

I headed up into the hills to get away from cities, towns and highways, but you know, there’s nowhere really, really  dark in Massachusetts. The best I could manage was to get to a high meadow in the hills, find something worth shooting and work with the ambient light.

I settled on the Doane Cemetery in Hawley, beautifully situated on a dome of farmland off of Forget Road. The faint glow of distant Pittsfield tainted the horizon, and I knew that with a long exposure to get the stars, it would be a compositional element. So I looked for a foreground element with enough presence to stand up to the background light.

I settled on a tall monument, which I lit with about five seconds of “light painting” from a small LED flashlight. It was a bit clumsily done, but with the camera a foot off the snow, evaluating the image meant laying in the wet snow, which I could only do a couple of times before I was soaked and had to call it a night.

Next time, it’s full gear and a foam pad for this old boy!

Anyway, here’s the best of several images – taken with a 16mm lens, ISO 6400, f/8, 30″ exposure:

Blog Doane Cemetery

I was surprised at how little of the sky I got with my 16mm lens; seems to me it looked somewhat grander when I last took night shots up at Acadia National Park in Maine this past autumn.

Oh well, I like the image anyway, and without buying a wider lens, that’ll have to be good enough! 😉

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A Bog Pond Outing. February 13, 2013

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
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Way up in the hills from my valley home sits the town of Savoy, and a big patch of Savoy Mountain State Forest (parts of which are found in other adjacent towns.) It’s a land of boreal forests and wind-swept ponds, usually frozen long before their valley counterparts.

This past weekend I got up there with my sweetie Susan for a few hours of snowshoeing.

The weather was perfect, cold enough for physical effort but not so windy as to risk exposed skin. We strapped on our ‘shoes in the pull-off at the pond’s spillway, she learning about the bindings of her new shoes, me trying to adjust mine to a pair of felt-pacs which I usually don’t wear with them. I spend a majority of my outdoor time in steeper terrain and generally use a stiffer, more technical boot.

The skies were an amazing shade of blue, with high clouds doing a choreographed dance across the firmament:

FB Sky Detail

We headed across the pond, marveling at the sculpted snow, breathing deep the cold, clean air:

Bog Pond_7517

Susan took to her snowshoes without a hitch, and was having a great time:

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Heheh!  🙂

She took this photo of me in my element, the Great Outdoors:

At Bog Pond

We’re both so packed full of warm accessories, I have boobs!

A great white birch along the shore looked spectacular against the deep blue sky, and I couldn’t resist snapping this one off:

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We took a little detour into the mixed shoreline forest, here captured in a black and white image which I hope conveys the quiet weight of the winter woods:

Savoy Forest B&W

I took the B&W aesthetic back out onto the pond, capturing this image of a waiver of ghosts rising from the wind-tortured snow:

A Waiver of Ghosts

..and this one of a very low sun illuminating the underbellies of some interesting wind-sculpted features:

_MG_7607 B&W

I’m amazed at the difference between these two images, with shadows defining the first and light delineating the second.

My apologies to those of you who already saw some of these on Facebook, but this forum serves as a more accessible record for me, rather than just being a point in the torrent-stream of Facebook.

This was a beautiful afternoon of being outdoors and sharing that with my sweetie. I hope you enjoy the photos as much as we enjoyed the excursion.

Eagle Street. February 1, 2013

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
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A view of downtown North Adams which always catches my eye:

Eagle Street

My preferred shot would be with my 16mm lens from the middle of the road, but I’m chicken to go stand out there with my back to oncoming traffic…

To All, A Happy New Year! January 1, 2013

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
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Well, 2012 is behind us.

What a tumultuous year!

For me, it was 365 days of juggling large bills with little income, layered onto a massive effort to turn my photography into an income stream. I can’t say that I succeeded at that, but I will say that I had fun trying, and learned a hell of a lot in the process.

Here’s to a most productive 2013 for all of you who read this, and for everyone else as well.

Love and Thanks to you all,

Ralph

The Cunning Runt.

Beaver Fever. December 23, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
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Along route 8A in Hawley, a beaver has decided to turn a tumbling brook into a series of ponds:

Beaver Dam

It’s pretty, unless it floods your yard and home, or pollutes your well with Giardia lamblia,  or just plain takes down the trees along your private stretch of brook:

Beaver Damage

City people sign petitions to Save The Beavers, while country people have to live with the consequences. As often as not, they find a way to make the problem go away, regardless of whatever laws the mammal-huggers pass.

I’m a big booster of Nature, but see us as a part of it which ought not to be disregarded, as long as we recognize the rest of it.

Drydock. December 19, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
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Along the road in Shelburne Falls:

_MG_5240

A sailboat sits it out near the Lamson Sharp cutlery factory.

 

Being There. December 14, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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Oh, what a beautiful morning! Clear skies, seasonable temps, a fresh pot of coffee.

You got The Boy up, fed and dressed, and Li’l Sis after that.  You don’t even mind going to work – it’s Friday, after all!

So off you go, The Boy to kindergarten, Li’l Sis to daycare, you to work. It’s blue skies and puffy clouds all the way from here to The Weekend!  🙂

Mid-morning, the smell of coffee break gets you up from your chair. Some work behind you, a little more to go, a light afternoon – you’ve arranged to get out a bit early. Christmas shopping, you know. Your boss understands – she’s got kids, too.

Your pocket vibrates: a text message.

Reading it, you put your cup down slowly, trying to process. “Come to the school. emergency.” Your smile fades to a furrowed brow, and your boss notices.

“What’s up? Everything OK?”

“Yeah, I… I think so. Hey, I gotta pick my kid up at school. Do you mind if I…”

“No, go ahead. We’re good here, have a nice weekend. And get an early start on that shopping.” She smiles, with just a touch of concern in her eyes.

You’re driving a little wild as you get to the school. A text message? Not a phone call? You try calling to find out if The Boy isn’t feeling well, no answer. Very strange.

As you turn the last corner, there are police cars, lights flashing, and a blue hand pulls you over.

“I’m a parent, I need to get…”

The Officer tells you to leave the car right where it is and directs you to a side lot, where other parents are standing, waiting, anguished. Damn,  why hadn’t you had the radio on? This looks like news, and you might have seen the congestion coming, had a clue.

Soon you’ve heard the worst of it: somebody with a gun, shootings. Your heart is in your throat. Shootings??

The Parent-Mob grows until it seems everybody in town is there, or at least everyone with young children.

Then, from the fire station, a teacher appears, leading her class, and two dozen parents break off from your group, run forward calling the names of their children, some crying, each desperate to hug and hold their little jewel.

Then another teacher and his brood, and more parents swoop forward, snatching their children from the clutches of gravity, thanking God, lavishing kisses, bathing confused little faces in tears of gratitude.

You watch the firehouse doors, praying for the sight of your teacher, The Boy’s teacher, but the next one isn’t her, and the next  one isn’t her, and your chest feels like it’s in a vise.

You look around at the thinning crowd of faces, hearing only a roar in your ears where the desperate prayers of these other young parents should be, and you see mostly the parents of The Boy’s classmates. A slow, freezing cold grips you, the same awful cold you see in their eyes, and as a last group of parents break away and run toward their children, colliding in muffled sobs, you meet the eyes of the police separating you from the awful truth, see the grief and pity in the faces, their jaws clenched, their eyes filling as they struggle to Be Professional.

The woman next to you grabs your elbow, not looking at you, wild eyes overflowing, knees buckling. You catch her fall, this woman you now recognize as living half a block from you, the one with the little girl just The Boy’s age.

A police officer comes to your aid, helps her softly to the ground, and you see the look in his eyes, “I’m So Sorry,” and you know that her little girl isn’t coming out of that fire station.

And in that instant a lightning bolt sears its way through your mind, your heart, your soul,  and you realize that The Boy isn’t coming out either.

………….

Perhaps I should apologize for putting “you” into this account; after all, it wasn’t your  child who was killed this beautiful Friday morning.

But there will be other Fridays, or Wednesdays or, God forbid, Sundays, and there will be other schools, temples, movie theaters, malls.

It happens in big cities, in small towns, wherever We The People might carve out our little piece of Heaven. It happens to Liberals and Conservatives, to Christians, Jews, Muslims and Atheists.

And there’s absolutely no reason it can’t happen to you or me, or to our children.

For a lot of parents in Newtown, Connecticut, there will be no Christmas shopping this weekend.

It’s time to talk about why.

Zappadan, Day Eight. December 11, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, music.
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As we keep the flame alive during Frank’s absence, there’s plenty of material out there (yeah, He built that!) to choose from.

I’ll start with tonight’s dinner, a humble meal inspired by the 1970 album of the same name:

_MG_5669

Now, that in itself would be a paltry tribute to  man who spent his adult life making music which will survive him by centuries, and defending Freedom of Speech from the Theocratic Crunge we here in America call “The Right.” So here is Frank speaking Truth to Power on CBS’ Nightwatch in 1988, as was his daily wont.

Frank Zappa tells Charlie Rose what he thinks:

Frank’s disdain for the Main$tream Media was always thick enough to cut with an axe, but here he treats Charlie Rose with more deference than he showed the troglodytes he ate whole on Crossfire in 1986 (6:16, “I love it when you froth like that ,”  he says to dim-witted gasbag John Lofton.)

More music and words from Frank will be forthcoming as we hold the fort in His absence.

Working on the Chickley River. December 9, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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The Chickley river in Hawley took a massive hit from Tropical Storm Irene over a year ago, and has since been cleared of storm debris and redirected into a channel which doesn’t threaten Route 8A.

But the clearing left the river looking more like a canal than a wild river; Hawley’s head of public works had all obstructions removed, and deepened and straightened the channel. Locals protested, but up here in the Hilltowns, there are plenty of people in positions of power who don’t give a crap about girly stuff like fish habitat and letting Nature be Nature.

Thankfully, several State agencies stepped in and imposed a program of re-naturalizing the river, rebuilding it to where it might not only return to being a viable hatchery for native species, but might also stand a chance of surviving future floods.

Here, an ET&L excavator is replacing boulders previously removed from the riverbed and adding contours to the banks to slow seasonal run-off:

_MG_5570

The banks are still a mess, and I expect the raw spots to be colonized by fast-growing invasives like Japanese knot-weed, which was taking hold here before the flood and will likely take advantage of the open space afforded it.

But at least there will be trout habitat, and something in the channel to slow the Spring floods:

_MG_5581

This work is nearing its end, and the sad turbidity of the worked-in water will give way to the clarity of winter, only to be followed by Spring’s reworking of what Man has done.

I feel bad for the people of Hawley, many of whom objected to the inappropriate channelization of the river, and all of whom (and their children and grandchildren) will be paying for the bond needed to fix this avoidable mess.

Zappadan, Day Four. December 7, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, music.
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So it’s Friday the 7th, a few days into the bitter-sweet celebration of Zappadan.

There’s a ways to go ’till the end, but so many worthy stops along the way that it’s hard to imagine doing justice to His genius.

Today’s exposition will be a rendering of “Watermellon in Easter Hay,” caught here in a live performance. It might be the first and only speed-metal lullaby in 9/4 time ever recorded.

If you got that, you don’t need further explanation, and if you didn’t, no amount of explanation will help.

Frank Zappa and Orchestra performing Watermellon in Easter Hay, displaying His guitar mastery in a world replete with guitar masters:

Enjoy.