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Moonlight Magic In Shelburne Falls! November 26, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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10 comments

Despite being a convert to Reverend Billy’s Church of Stop Shopping, I’m also a strong supporter of my local towns, and have of late taken frequent opportunities to promote the events and little businesses in said hamlets.

The most recent of such events was Shelburne Falls’ Moonlight Magic, which was a Black Friday affair (so much for my membership in the Church of Stop Shopping.) The whole town gears up for this night of sidewalk sales in a candle-lit setting.

Aside from the considerable pre-planning coordinated by the Shelburne Falls Business Association, the day begins around noon with our local high school students building the luminaries which will light the night:

Hundreds of these sand-weighted candle lanterns will be placed throughout the village and lit at sunset. They create a beautiful aura for this community event.

The village was striking enough as sunset approached:

…but destined to become even more so after the light left the land:

At any rate, the late afternoon was spent setting things up, with the main (Bridge) street closed to vehicular traffic:

Merchants set up tents and product displays:

A magician appeared on the steps of Memorial Hall and conjured an appreciative crowd:

Storefronts came to life:

Vendors showed their wares:

…The smell of a variety of foods filled the air, including this wood-fired pizza offering:

A parade motivated from the Buckland side of town, lead by the Expandable Brass Band:

…and a Snow Princess in a white convertible:

…riding past a Steel Bridge Santa:

…and followed by the Serendipity Stilt Walkers:

…and of course, a magical lady tying balloons:

…into hats for happy children:

And all the while, upstairs in Memorial Hall, Fred at Pothole Pictures kept a loop of Looney Tunes going:

…perhaps the most fun way I could envision to get warm between tours of The Street.  🙂

All in all, it was a truly magical night of friends and lights:

I hope you’ll excuse the ghosts and noise in these silly-long exposures, but it seemed to me that existing-light photography was the way to go for this event, and that was the price I paid for photographing it this way.

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(Marco) Polo! October 1, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Action/Adventure.
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4 comments

Up until this past September, my only connection to the word “polo” was my elementary school indoctrination with the progenitor of the Spice Road Free Trade Corridor.

That changed when my sweetie Susan took me to an honest-to-God polo match, purportedly the only such match open to the unwashed masses here in jolly ol’ New England.

And people, as one of the 47%, I have to say I dug it.

The horses were very cool, little guys with a LOT of physical integrity:

…built for sharp turns, stop-and-go action, and smart as whips. Not your typical horse show dandies, I’d say.

The action was proscribed by rules of play, as in any legitimate sport. I didn’t know those rules, so just dug the action.

Full-on galloping passes:

For the riders, these matches are a mix of athleticism, strategy and butt-kicking riding skills, including one-handed reining (“Western style,” as I’m given to understanding):

Getting a horse to go where you want it to with one hand on the reins and the other swinging a big-ass mallet around its head is a feat which only happens after endless sessions of building skills and a level of trust worthy of much respect.

Given my dearth of knowledge about the game, I’ll let a few photos speak for the participants.

A mounted (and doubtless equally skilled) Ref monitors the action amidst a many-legged scrum:

Head-to-head races result in a ball being passed forward, here seen below the second chair from the right:

Passing back is as important a skill as shooting for a goal:

It’s an elegant, sweaty dance between horse and rider, with total focus a prerequisite to success:

The action speeds from one end of the field to the other, ball, mallets and hooves flying:

…with each strike of the ball being a coordination of horse and hands, and with a little luck, the depression of a very fast (1/2500th of a second) shutter:

For me, this wasn’t just a great introduction to the sport of polo; it was one of those days when the excitement of shooting takes over and everything else falls away. My apologies to my sweetie Susan who brought me to this revelation –  I hope you weren’t left too much alone as I was taken away by the task at hand. But the contagious energy of the charge toward the goal was powerful:

…as was the joy when a struck ball was perceived to be headed for the space between the goal posts:

Thanks to Susan for encouraging me to take a chance on photographing something I knew nothing about, to Gizmo for reeling in most of these shots, and to the Norfolk Hunt Club in Medford, MA for inviting the public in to watch this very special event.

I have a few more shots from the half-time entertainment in the hopper, and hope to get them posted soon.

But that’s enough for now.  😉

At The Heath Fair. August 25, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, music, Politics and Society.
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4 comments

Charlemont’s neighbor to the North is Heath, Massachusetts, and in the down-home vein of our Yankee Doodle Days, Heath has its annual fair every August.

This is a traditional New England country fair, with a focus on our agrarian lives and times. As a teenager I dismissed this stuff as “hokey,” but as an older person I view it much differently – it’s like a love letter to a friend who is threatening to disappear from our lives, and we know we’ll all be diminished if that happens.

So I’ve gotten it into my mind that I’ll do my best to find the hearts of these matters and share them with you.

Welcome to the Heath Fair:

There are animals of every description, many being judged for their exemplary breed characteristics, some just on hand to elicit smiles:

If these guys had a dollar for every time they heard “Aflac” this weekend, they could charter a jet to fly them around!

The grounds abounded with the fruits of these folks’ labors, including buildings full of arts and crafts and ribbon-winning vegetables:

And there was a full schedule of events, from the Church Ladies’ Ham and Bean Supper:

…to the Antique Tractor Parade – step aside, folks, they’re coming right down the middle of the fair!

And the music was a constant presence, all of it appropriate for the venue. Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem lit up Friday evening with a long and excellent set of alt-country tunes:

Their drummer took it up country with a kit comprised of a suitcase bass drum, cardboard box snare and Dap calking tubes, among other things, which he beat the pants off of to stupendous effect:

They were tremendous fun!

Outside the tent (and a safe ways away,) the fireworks crew were setting up with one eye on the sky:

The sky looked ominous as they hurried to wire the ‘works together and get it covered up before the predicted weather hit.

Still, impending floods be damned, the Tractor Pull went on as scheduled, with kids assuming their rightful place, which is “central” in these parts:

This little girl was dead serious about helping her Daddy win.

‘Round about the time local hero Ray Schwanger roll-started his old Farmall and made short work of pulling a heavy load, the skies opened up for real:

The announcer called a time out as we all scurried for cover. I hit a Sausage Grinder shack to snag my favorite guilty-pleasure fair food, expecting to eat it in the car while the downpour passed.

As I trotted back toward the parking lot, hunkering over my camera and grinder, I happened past the Heath Free Library’s tent, where I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of a young boy escaping the rain by disappearing into an entirely different world. I snagged this quick shot of the moment:

…which turned out to be my favorite photo from the whole weekend.

Thanks, kid. I owe ya.

Before long the rain let up, the tractor pull resumed, and the fireworks went off right on schedule:

I’m pleased with that shot as well, having struggled with the technicalities of shooting fireworks for a couple of years now and finally being happy with a set of techniques which deliver acceptable results.

Saturday was equally fun, though I was otherwise occupied in the morning and missed a few things. I got to Heath in time to catch Last Night’s Fun, a local Irish/Celtic band playing up a storm and laying down a soundtrack for a group of lovely young step dancers:

A walk around the grounds again found me surrounded by animals – baby ducks:

…rabbits, including this double-chinchilla:

…cows:

…bulls:

(…yes, a head shot. You’re welcome.)

I got to see the Adult Goat Show… and no, the Heath version is nothing at all like the one you may have heard rumors of down in the Gritty City:

And, of course, there were horses, the draft kind:

…the lovey-dovey showy kind:

…and the kiddie-kind:

Lots of horses. Enough said.

And speaking of children (I was, wasn’t I?) they were everywhere – crushing in the tug’o’war:

…devouring the competition in the blueberries-and-cream-eating contest:

I think Nathaniel subscribes to the “eat today, chew tomorrow” school of hooverism…

Kids  swarmed the truck-sized sand pile, with this young lady directing the relocation of the pile’s edges to its top:

A sack race bopped by:

…while tiny wobblers watched:

It was all very warming, and a pleasant break from the tribulations of a world on fire and politicians on crack.

Plenty of other stuff happened up at the fair, like the talk by an animal rehabilitator and her assistant:

…but I’m sure I’ve already tested your patience, so I’ll just apologize to those whose efforts I’ve left out. With a full boat of Fall events in the works, I’ll probably catch you later!  🙂

Steel Bridge Dinner, 2012. August 21, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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6 comments

Shelburne Falls’ 12th Annual Bridge Dinner happened this past weekend. The village’s main street bridge closes to motor vehicles and becomes a dining room for 400, which is a surreal situation when the light cooperates:

A long table is set with flowers and glasses and linen:

Plates await…

…the guests trickle in:

…and soon assumed their stations, anticipating their coming meal in the beautiful Autumn air:

It was a lovely evening to be out and about as people settled down in the hot sun and cooler evening air:

Salad appeared:

…thanks to the servers from Mohawk Trail Regional High School:

..and we dug it:

The table filled as the sun settled low:

…and the evening was well enjoyed:

The servers cranked:

…and the love of the moment flowed:

There was pleasant conversation:

Contagious congeniality:

…and LOTS of food:

Friends caught up between courses:

It was all well received, the meat and fish dishes and sides of all sorts, and at last, dessert:

It was quite  a nice night, so much so that I didn’t mind working – what I saw made me smile, and I had high hopes of capturing some of it to share.

I hope you’re smiling too.  😉

Green River BALLOON Festival! (Part 3) July 24, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Action/Adventure, music.
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7 comments

When the Green River Festival began 26 years ago, it was largely a hot-air ballooning event with a few musical acts hired to entertain those gathered to see that spectacle.

Sadly, by this year’s event, the balloons seem to be little more than an afterthought.

That’s not to say anything less than respectful about the event as a music festival, but rather to lament the diminution of the magic which is evoked when one sees these beautiful behemoths floating incongruously off into the blue July sky.

I made it part of my mission to document this year’s ballooning, at the cost of missing some of the music; hey, there’s only one of me!

Anyway, the balloonists pull into town on Saturday afternoon, staking out their staging turf in the lower field, waiting for the air to cool and thicken, and for the evening breezes to (hopefully) begin to stir.

This is the first year I took the time to watch the process literally unfold:

The spread-out balloons are attached to their baskets, then partially filled with large fans.  The field becomes a rippling sea of color:

Ground crews pull fabric outward as the envelope inflates:

…button up baffles and attach tag lines:

When the balloons are inflated enough, propane burners are fired up.  It’s a dramatic moment – here pilot/owner Jonathan Niccum fires up Day Dreamer:

…and the field comes alive with the magic!

Pilots and riders pile in, the engines fire again, and up they go!  Some stick around, giving “tethered” rides for small money:

..while others cast off their lines and float elegantly away, going wherever the winds take them:

But don’t cry, Dorothy – they’ll be back before nightfall.  After all, they wouldn’t want to miss the 9pm Balloon Glow!

It’s beautiful, and gets a lot of “Ooohs” and “Aaaahs” from the appreciative crowd.

The next morning is another opportunity for sailing off into the dawn air.  Local piper Eric Goodchild set the mood as the sun breached the horizon:

…and the process begins again, crews and pilots working, watching the weather, wishing for just a wee bit of wind.  Balloon Coordinator and Master Pilot Paul Sena went about his work efficiently, the result of many years of honing his skills:

…hooking up tanks, testing his engine:

When the whole thing came together, lightly dancing on the dewy grass, Paul smiled and called to me, “Hop in!”
I didn’t make him say it twice!!   🙂

…and we were off!

Children ran to pick up a shower of Worthington Ballooning business cards (that be Paul’s gig) as we gained altitude, chasing the early departed:

…chased by those just cutting themselves loose:

What an amazing experience it was to be floating soundlessly, watching the Earth recede, rising over the valley farms:

…floating past forests and fields:

…surrounded by beauty:

Paul’s piloting was masterful as he checked the altimeter with each puff of breeze, mapping the varying air currents in his mind, then rising or falling to catch a breeze going his way:

There’s a quiet camaraderie among the folks who float over the dawning day, a shared peace tempered with the cautions which accompany any such endeavors, and I was thankful to be sharing it:

Paul “boxed” the valley, moving around the area at different heights, taking cues about wind direction from our fellow travelers as I marveled at the broad horizon:

…and then gently descended to the festival grounds, landing (with a helping tug from his ground crew) right where he wanted to be for the final photo-op of our flight:

After the work of packing the balloons away, the pilots and crew assembled in the First Aid tent to carry on an age-old tradition, sharing a bottle of Champagne with the land-owners where you happen to come down:

…which, they gleefully noted, was US!  😆

So that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.  Thanks to Jonathan Niccum for putting in a good word with Paul, to Paul Sena of Worthington Ballooning for his generosity and skill, to Joe for hopping out and giving us that last bit of momentum to enable the spiffy parking job…

…start ckickin’ them heels together, Joe…

…and to my Sweet Sixteen, my Canon 16-35mm L-Series lens for delivering the goods.

Next up, if I can stand another day of sitting in front of my ‘puterbox: Sunday’s musical line-up.  I promise to be brief, on account MY BUTT IS GETTING SORE!!!  😉

Green River Festival 2012, Part 1. July 20, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in music.
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8 comments

Whoa.  This is going to be a monumental set of posts, with photos culled from nearly a thousand shots taken.

I know, this is a cross I constructed for myself to carry, but the opportunity to try lots of photographic ideas and techniques made me run my ass off for two days, elbowing old ladies out of the way and kneeing little children to get to the money-shots…

…well, almost.

The Green River Festival began as a balloon festival with a little music, and has evolved into one of the Northeast’s premier summer music festivals, with hot air balloons as an aside.

To balloonists, this is a palpable loss.

But if you love live music, this event is still worthy of a spot on your calendar, and I’d like to suggest that you look forward to 2013 – my 2012 “early-bird” tickets cost me $60 for the weekend, compared to the at-the-gate price of $75/day.

Well, this year there was WAY too much music and humanity to document in a single post, so I’ll expect to spread it out over three or four posts.

Saturday kicked off with folks setting up camp down by the stage:

…and the opening act of Sarah Lee Guthrie, totally winning over a crowd who came for the headliners:

This past Saturday was Woodie Guthrie’s 100th birthday anniversary, and his son Arlo would close this day’s events with a Guthrie Family Reunion, including grand-daughter Sarah Lee.

At any rate, Sarah Lee was excellent, and easy on the eyes as well:

She’d later return for the evening’s Main Event with her Dad Arlo:

…but that was much later.

Next up was Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three, a roots music outfit which slipped the novelty noose with virtuosic playing, fun material and a compelling delivery:

…not to mention the best pompadour I’ve seen since they took Pee Wee away in cuffs:

Pokey gave it his all:

…as did his harmonica/washboard player:

They took the crowd back to the ’50s Midwest, which seemed appropriate for the Guthrie theme, and the audience loved it:

Next up was the David Wax Museum, another mix of Americana and modern sass.  David played the pants off of a ukulale and a little acoustic guitar and sang with conviction:

…assisted by a helluva fiddle player:

…who also stroked the jawbone of an ass to spectacular effect.

*ahem*

…and a concertina (I think) player who had it happenin’:

I’m going to apologize right here for not getting the bass player, who hung back in the shadows, and the drummer, who was buried behind his cymbals.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.

At any rate, they rocked the crowd, which was by now stretching off into the distance:

There was a lot going on here – three stages of music, arts and crafts vendors, children’s activities, and great food prepared by a slew of excellent local restaurants.

And Hula Hooping provided by Shenandoah, a local woman who teaches the art:

If you’ve never considered hooping to be an “art,” you should see what she does with that lucky thing.

(‘Scuse me while I open a couple of windows…)

…ok, where was I?

Oh, yeah, at the Green River Festival!  🙂

The next performers on the Main Stage were Lake Street Dive, a quartet with its genesis at the New England Conservatory of Music, where trumpeter Mike “McDuck” Olson assembled the line-up and declared them A Band, then spent the next several years searching for their present sound:

I didn’t make the journey with them, but if this is the destination, I have to believe it was well worth the wait.

Mr. McDuck also played commendable electric guitar, but spent the great majority of the set on trumpet:

…which totally blew me away.  Thanks, Mike.

Drummer Mike Calabrese made magic with a simple kit, never standing out but always standing in, singing and playing with a level of class which denied the band’s simple structure:

Layer onto that the extraordinary upright bass playing and wonderful vocal harmonies of Bridget Kearney:

…and something quite unexpected happened – the nimble bass, sensual trumpet and two harmonizing voices created a richly textured tapestry onto which was laid the powerfully evocative vocals of Ms. Rachael Price:

Oh.  My.  God.

I can’t remember when I was last so blown away by a singer, one who knew just how to fondle a ballad, then send a soul song soaring!  If you’ve never heard the name, join the club, but expect to hear it more in the future.

Plus, she’s got that, how you say, look:

Between the 90 degree heat and the hormones, I was, well…smitten.

People, Hot Tip of the Whole Post: LAKE STREET DIVE.

All of this was happening on the Main Stage, with two other stages honking simultaneously, and I haven’t even got to the Big Names!  Obviously, I’ll need to move it along if you’re ever going to hear the whole tale.

I’ll try.

But it was all so good…

😉

*A photographers’ note:

In the past I’ve liked the stage-side look of photos taken looking up at musicians with a 50mm or shorter lense; they have an immediacy which curls a viewer’s fingers around the lip of the stage.  But they aren’t always flattering to the performers, especially if big hips and a tiny head aren’t what you’re gunning for.

So this time ’round I spent a lot less time lying on the ground amidst stomping dancers (though you’ll probably see a few of those) and a lot more time backed off, with my 400mm Gizmo on a mono-pod, sometimes with a 2X tele-extender.  The results are most apparent in the face-shots, which I’m seeing as both intimate and artsy.

I hope you’ll agree.

😉

Enter 2012. January 1, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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11 comments

Well I totally blew off blogging through the Holidays.  My ‘puterbox was relegated to a deep-freeze room to make way for food and guests, and I really couldn’t sit out there with a coat and hat and gloves and think cogent thoughts, much less type.

So, to make up for lost time, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy New Year, etc., etc., etc.  Please excuse my unbridled enthusiasm – the overtly commercialized nature of this time of year has left me somewhat (!) cynical.

Still, I’m grateful to report that my older daughter is doing well on the West Coast, my younger daughter is doing smashingly in Boston, and I’m newly among The Unemployed.

That latter bit of info manifests as a double-edged sword.  I’ll have paltry dollars to deal with life’s exigencies, but plenty of time to follow my Muses.  Let’s hope that results in a Great Leap Forward on the artistic front, though at this point I’m depending on Mother to provide me with some semblance of winter to replace Ugly Season with the purity of newly fallen snow.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of the details I’ve pried loose from the desolate brown landscape we’ve thus far called “winter” hereabouts.

Rocks, Rivers and Ice:

That’s a shot of melting ice along Pelham Brook in Rowe, MA.

And here’s another:

I especially like the distribution of weight in the second one.  The light balances the dark in a very comfortable way.

So Here’s to the New Year, fraught as it is with potential and peril, obstacles and opportunities.  We Old Farts have seen a lot of this before, and many of us remember what it took to set our Ship of State on a more proper course in the late 60s, and I dare say we’ll do it again, and with a vengeance.  I mean, it’s not OUR futures we’re standing up for, as our futures are largely behind us.  But coupled with our desire to secure a better future for our kids is an acknowledgement that with every passing day we have less to lose and more to gain from pursuing truth and beauty and justice.

2012 is another chance to make a difference, and I intend to try to do exactly that.

Please say you’ll join me.