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Amherst Orchid Show, 2013. February 27, 2013

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Uncategorized.
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My yearly intro to Spring is this presentation of the Amherst Orchid Society, incongruously held in neighboring Northampton.

This year I was less zealous than in the past; in lieu of my usual 400 photos, I took less than fifty, most of which were entirely serviceable despite being hand-held at 1/30th of a second or longer, and shot at ISOs of 4000 or higher.

I hope that means I’m becoming a bit more discriminating, though I suspect it speaks more to my becoming lazy as I get old and fat.  😉

Anyway, here are some orchids:

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A close-up:

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…and some paphiopedilums,  all relatives in the “Lady Slipper” family:

Paph !

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…as well as some more ornate sprays, which I haven’t a clue about:

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This was a fun outing – it’s late enough in our New England winter so that flowers make me smile!

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Enjoy these in the knowledge that Spring is on its way.  🙂

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A Venture Into Black and White. October 29, 2012

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A quick shot of Susan at a horse farm in Stockbridge, MA:

I’ve been following the work of a few B&W photographers, and they’re affecting the way I look at things.

Inclement Weather. September 8, 2012

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We have a weather system moving through our area, with a lot of moisture and substantial winds.

This season has been dry enough that I welcome the rain, and expect to tolerate the rest of the mess – the wind, lowland flooding, etc. It isn’t a disaster if Nature in general benefits by it.

I cruised a bit this afternoon, hoping to find a bit of lushness between the raindrops. Perhaps some plump moss, drunk and luminescent, or the first red leaves of autumn, richly saturated by the conditions.

The going was slow and the pickings scant; the recent bloom of mushrooms was bloated and toppling, and the moss was full but lacking the regenerative spark of Spring.

I headed to higher ground, hoping to find the beginning of our seasonal color change.

I wound my way westward around Mount Greylock, our state’s highest peak, and caught this view of a wind farm in Hancock:

A steep front was rolling in from the southwest, and I hustled up the Greylock road from Route 8 to beat it to the summit.

The mixed hardwood forest passed by uneventfully as  I crept up the mountain with Gizmo affixed to my camera; my last trip up this road had given me an encounter with an owl, and I wanted to be ready for another such event. I wasn’t so blessed, but still, the slow pace and attentive eye turned my uphill ride into an appreciative survey of my surroundings.

I still had Gizmo on the box when I arrived at the summit to find it in dense clouds, and took this telephoto shot of a snag protruding from the boreal forest:

As so commonly happens in a photographer’s world, it wasn’t what I went looking for, but it’s what I got, and I just say “Thank you” for that.

Away Message. August 28, 2012

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Hiya Folks,

I’m away for a couple of days, so if I seem unresponsive, it’s because I’m out having too much fun – see you all soon!

– TCR

1700 And Counting. August 12, 2012

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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…

***hook***

Yankee Doodle Days, Part 2: The End! August 3, 2012

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OK, this was bound to happen eventually.  My processed and resized photos of the rest of Yankee Doodle Days went off to a local newspaper without leaving behind copies, and life is moving on too quickly to repeat that process.  Suffice it to say that there was a petting zoo, very cute, some really loud trucks pulling a really heavy sled through really deep mud, and a Demolition derby (I’ll admit my first) which I found to be hilariously absurd.  I took lots of pictures got plenty wet, and will do it again next year.

The End.

Now, on with the rest of my life.

Yankee Doodle Days! August 2, 2012

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Our little town has one stand-out summer event: Yankee Doodle Days, a Friday-through-Sunday extravaganza.

Now, “extravaganza” might conjure certain images for some people, and other images for, um, other people.

Those other people?  Yeah, that’s us!  🙂

This celebration of rural life takes place at the Charlemont Fairgrounds, which has for the past decade been the scene of Herculean efforts by a small, dedicated group of local folks.  After generations of neglect and decay, the fairgrounds is seeing a resurgence, with a functioning Exhibition Hall (which less discerning eyes might assume was an old barn,) a roofed pavilion with a stage and lots of picnic tables and a covered ox/horse draw pit with bleacher seating.  There aren’t adequate words to thank the folks who put so much of their time and effort into this improbable but unstoppable resurrection.

Likewise, the planning and execution of this three days of fun takes a year of work, pulling participants together, raising money for contest prizes and expenses such as insurance…

You get the picture.  I’m going to show you a good time which looks totally low-key and country, but it doesn’t just happen because a bunch of hicks show up.  It happens because a lot of people work really hard to make it happen.

So, here we go!

Friday night’s Main Event is the fireworks display, which is saved for last.  But setting it up starts a good bit earlier:

These folks have nerves of steel and a a gallows humor befitting self-proclaimed “pyros.”

But the fruits of their labors would be harvested after dark.  Meanwhile, there were classic cars to judge, including hot rods:

…and less jazzed up models, like this old Studebaker:

The owner wasn’t around when I was, so I didn’t get the year, but I liked that blue job!

The evening’s events included the first rounds of the Ox-Draw:

…which I had never seen before.  Call me a City-Boy, but I found it to be in some instances unjustifiably brutal; all of the drivers used thick nylon canes to “encourage” their team to pull, but some treated their teams with such viciousness, I found it hard to abide.  I expect to try to get to a few more ox-draws before I draw my final conclusions, but I have a suspicion that there’s some serious abuse going on here in the name of “sport.”

The folks in the bleachers must have been veterans, as they seemed unphased by the sight, as did the little kids in the adjacent “daycare:”

In fact, they didn’t seem to be paying attention to the on-goings, but rather to be running their own little dairy farm.  😉

There was activity on the main stage as well, including a DJ, a magician and, for the little children and their Daddies, hula-hooping:

That’s Shenandoah again.  The girl gets around!

And of course, what would a country fair be without a pie-eating contest?

The adults were slow to line up, ’cause we’re all so proper out here you know.  I tried to instigate a grudge match between the Fire Department ( a lot of big dudes) and the Police Department (a lot of other  big dudes,) but the police seemed to be of the opinion that it was Conduct Unbecoming.  We eventually got some takers:

The kids were a good deal more enthusiastic, with the younger teenagers diving right in, to the amazement of the littler kids:

This lad came in second, but had the First Place Face I wanted for the photo.  😆

Eventually night fell, and as the clouds moved in to obscure the nearly full moon, a big American flag waved from the ladder of a fire truck:

…and the crowd gathered for the Big Show – Fireworks!

The valley rolled with the BOOMs of the big ones and the sizzles of the fancy ones:

The folks gathered gave up “Ooohs” and “Aaaahs” as the show went on, filling the sky with smoke and light and color:

I’ve got to figure out how to capture fireworks in the box; these shots are OK, but I was hoping for something a little more distinctive.  Help me out if you know any cool tricks not involving a hat (yeah, I was using that one.)

With the fading of the Grand Finale, the audience bolted for the gate, and I was right there with them – I had two more days of this revelry to document!

(To Be Continued – it’s going on midnight, and I have a big day tomorrow.)

At The Rowe Fen. June 13, 2012

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Up in Rowe, MA sits a fen, or basic pH bog, which hosts many hundreds of Northern Pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea.)   I’ve been there uncounted times over the past years to photograph them, with varying degrees of success.

Well, you know, one doesn’t improve by being satisfied with where one’s at.

So today I went back, arriving in late afternoon to find wonderful light slanting through the treetops.

Blue Flag irises separate the fen from the gravel road, and though they were nearly gone by, they were still worthy of a photo:

There’s an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail lighting on the iris just left of center, though it’s hard to see at this size.

In the grass at the fen’s edge, I got this shot of a sluggish butterfly, which looks something like a black Swallowtail, though it’s wings lack the definitive posterior points:

That could be a sign of old age or disease, as the wings tend to deteriorate with age.

The Northern Pitchers were gorgeous in the warm afternoon light, glowing as though illuminated from within:

Their totally unique flowers were red as roses and ripe with last night’s rain:

Before packing up my kit, I got all Artsy-Fartsy and took a couple of 1 second panning shots, hoping for something impressionistic.  While the results of this sort of experimentation aren’t that predictable to me, they were close to what I’d hoped for:

…and:

The first shot in this post is from Elliot, the rest are from Gizmo with a 2X Tele-Extender, giving an effective focal length of 800mm, albeit without auto focus or image stabilization.  I used Live View/mirror lock-up and a two second delay to get steady shots.

Up next:  some animal shots, which have been piling up embarrassingly in my to-post pile.

Tour of the Battenkill! April 16, 2012

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The Tour of the Battenkill is widely regarded as the largest single-day cycling event in the United States.  That’s very believable; around 2,500 racers set out on what is for most of them a 62 mile cramp-fest of paved roads, steep dirt, covered bridges and eventual dehydration.

I went there this past Saturday with my housemate/photographic mentor Lizz to stretch a bit.  Action photography is nothing I know about, but I want to learn.

We also acted as support/transportation for our friend Chris, who flew in from Colorado to test himself on this grueling course.

As classrooms for sports photography go, I couldn’t have had a better one: racers in groups of about a hundred started every fifteen minutes from early morning to late afternoon, allowing me to try plenty of different camera settings, most of which were discarded, a few of which appear here.

My favorite shot of the waiting-at-the-starting-line tension:

Every detail had been either attended to by now, or was a source of consternation for those who felt not-quite ready.  Chains cleaned and lubed, cables tensioned, just the right socks:

And then, with the blowing of an air horn, they’re off in a frenetic blur of kinetic energy and light:

That’s a blur-shot, something which took me numerous attempts to get right.  This requires a balance between all of the elements of basic photography to get the effect of motion, substance and light.  Thankfully, with starts every fifteen minutes, I had plenty of opportunity to try various settings, throw most of the results away, and still have a few keepers.  That’s one of the overwhelming advantages of shooting in the Digital Age; such experimentation with film is a) expensive, and b) difficult, as the results of one’s efforts are only visible long after the fact, so experimentation necessarily involves “bracketing” your settings and throwing away most of the results – after  you’ve paid for their development in either sweat or money.

I’ll have another of these shots at the end of this post with more details about what I did to capture it.

Lizz and I were pretty much stuck in the heart of Cambridge NY for this shoot, as the roads out of town were busy with cyclists sweating blood and gasping for air – this is a 100 km (62 mile) race along both paved roads and gravel tracks, with grades exceeding 20%.

In case you don’t ride, let me just say that that’s steep.  Really  steep!

Anyway, it was a manageable hike to the finish line, where we got to see the fruits of these folks’ labors.  It was astonishing to see packs of riders dukin’ it out 62 miles later as they approached the finish line:

To have that kind of aggression left after three hours of eating dust and hammering on it leaves me humbled beyond words.

Each of many classes and groups had its victors and surviving stragglers, but the overall champion of the day was Bruce Bird, first across the line in the Pro-1 group:

He won it, and he knew  it.  He smoked his nearest rival by over a minute.

Fuckin’ eh!!!

Congrats to Bruce, who looked as fresh crossing the finish line as he did leaving the starting line.  My head is spinning on that one.

Anyway, I’ve saved my favorite shot of the day for last, as my friend and housemate Holly asked me to say something about what I did to get it.

This is a blur I captured as a starting group passed me:

Two guys looking to get the advantage in a pack of a hundred, with nobody wanting to eat dust.

For this very fast pan, I wanted a relatively long exposure to blur the background, while still getting something in focus.  I dropped the ISO to 50 to get that long exposure in the bright light of late morning, set the aperture at f/20 because I was panning quickly and wasn’t really sure what would be in my camera’s focus sweet spot, and wound up with a shutter speed of 1/13 second to produce a shot which was two stops under exposed to avoid clipping of the highlights.  The under-exposure isn’t a problem when shooting digitally and processing in Photoshop CS5, as RAW photos can be adjusted for exposure after bringing up the levels of the dark areas with Fill Light.  Adjustments to Levels, Vibrance and Sharpness gave the displayed results.

Oh, and I was shooting at a fast burst, allowing me to discard most of my shots in favor of the ones I liked best.

And all of the “start” photos, including the blurs, were shot with my 16-36mm L-series zoom, mostly dialed in closer to the 35 end of things, and all of the finish line photos were courtesy of Gizmo, my 400mm L-series telephoto prime.

I know this is a lot of technical jargon for those of you who just want to see nice photos of Western Massachusetts, but I’m experimenting here with a different style and subject matter and am thinking out loud, while trying to share my process with others who are doing the same thing.

Thanks for humoring me here.

In A Black And White Mood. December 27, 2011

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Ah, December in the Berkshires, Solstice in the Snow, a White Christmas…

…but Oh, Wait – it’s still Ugly Season.  The mud has finally frozen, but there it sits in all its crap-colored glory, unfettered by the unbearable lightness of being an Actual Winter.

Not exactly what a would-be photographer wants to see this time of year.

But then, desperate necessity is the mother of devious invention, and if the pristine hues and simple palette of the season won’t cooperate, fuck ’em.

Enter Black and White.

Here are a few images I thought were worth seeing in B&W, some new, and one old but heretofore not posted in this vampirically drained format.

The side of a house in Shelburne, decorated with a hank of cord hung on a protruding bit:

This caught my eye while I was on my way to photograph more of the old Fords rakishly adorning the meadows at the Goldthwaite Farm, such as this one:

I’ve dubbed her “Eileen,” for obvious reasons.

And while I was conjuring this bloodless gallery of discarded rogues, I thought of this photo of a hay wagon, previously shared in full color, but which I always thought had the tonal range to make an acceptable  black and white image:

So.

That’s how I’m handling my Snow-Jones.  I’m trying to live in the present I’m presented with, rather than lamenting the loss of the scenes I’ve spent most of a year anticipating.

Perhaps the near future will send me some snow, but if it doesn’t, so be it.  I’ll find some reason to push the shutter button, and sort it all out later.