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A Boston Cameo. August 3, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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I recently had the happy occasion of going to Boston to pick up my elder daughter, whom I hadn’t seen in three years – she’s been living in California, and I’m a poor working stiff without the resources to travel.

Anyway, I never go anywhere without my camera, but as this was a surgical retrieval with a single purpose, I brought just the camera and the lens on it, no filters, no tripod, nothing fancy.  I wasn’t there to take photos, I was there to get my Sweetie and bring her home.

Well, of course things didn’t quite work out that way – our timing was imprecise, and I found myself with a little extra time just as the sun was setting and the moon was rising.  I noodled around between Harvard and Boston University, crossing the Charles river several times, and found a spot to park where I could snap a few shots off.

They looked like this.

A gibbous moon crests the Prudential building as dragon boats* sit idly on the Charles:

An armada of sailboats ply the waters below Hancock Place, Boston’s tallest building and, at 60 stories, the 50th tallest building in the United States:

A dock with smaller boats piled on near the same spot:

…and a view down river toward the nearby Longfellow Bridge and the farther-away Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge:

The rich light of the evening “happy hour” was nice enough to get away without even a polarizer, though I’ll cop to diddling these a bit in post-processing.

After a fifteen minute stop I was off to retrieve said Daughter, which will be another post.  🙂

*  I thought these were skulls, but Frau B knew better – Thanks, Frau B!  🙂

Sea-Side Saturday! November 23, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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I went back East this weekend for the third Saturday in a row – a record for me, as I’m more of a mountain-type guy, but hey, one mustn’t be narrow, eh?

So I packed up Friday night and, at the invitation of my friends and local housemates Lizz and Holly, spent the night at their place in Arlington with the intention of catching sunrise on The Coast with Lizz.

We got up a bit after 4am, and I have to say, I’m glad Lizz was driving (she always does!)  I swilled a cup of coffee from the first place we encountered which was open, but that didn’t prevent me from drifting in and out of a pleasant stupor as we headed east, then north.

Our first stop was a lighthouse known as “The Nubble,” and our timing was close to perfect – the first hint of light was growing in the East, allowing us to pick our way down the rocks and set up just above the rising tide.

It was still dark enough to get some really long (15+ second) exposures, and we did:

I was pleased at the way the waves came and went and left their ghosts on the jagged rocks.

The sea itself was magnificent as the sky grew radiantly red.  I played with my graduated filters, then did virtually nothing to these two shots in post-processing:


As the dawn progressed the colors were swallowed by thickening clouds, muting the landscape of crashing waves and tortured granite:

But alas, it was friggin’ freezing out there, with the wind lashing at out coats and tripods so that we had to hang on to everything:

…and as the light flattened, we bundled ourselves back into Lizz’s truck and trundled off to a big breakfast at a place which came highly recommended, and proved to be worthy of every word spoken on its behalf.

Man, that was a great way to wake up!

I’ll have the rest of the day’s catch up soon – right now it’s getting late, and I have another 4am wake-up scheduled, this time for work at a bit of a distance from home.

G’Night!  😉

At The Coast. November 17, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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I spent last Saturday on Boston’s North Shore, in the general vicinity of Gloucester.  It’s a beautiful piece of the planet, juxtaposing the pink granite seaside escarpments more commonly associated with the Maine coast with the population pressures inherent in a locale within easy driving of one of the Northeast’s great cities.  The result is a blend of the power of nature and the control of polite society, with expensive homes commanding ocean views which, truth be told, ought to be there for us all:

The “No Trespassing” signs frankly fried me, and I thought of the 70’s pop song “Signs,” wherein this sort of economic privilege is challenged by a populist sense of fairness.

Still, the coast had serious photographic possibilities for a hilltown boy, and I snapped away, tilting lenses and shifting perspectives in an effort to milk the learning curve:

Grasslands give way to seaside granite under a waxing gibbous moon.

There was a storm out to sea, and the waves generated by it were substantial:

I noted many locals lined up along the seaside drive to enjoy the show, and deduced that it wasn’t an average evening of sound and waves.

And they were right – it was an “event.”  The incoming tide pushed waves up and over this twenty-foot chunk of sea-stained granite:

I got thoroughly soaked as this wave crested its puny granitic constraint and crashed down on my perch:

Yeah, I ran like a baby-child as the salt water doused my kit, and may have lost a few minor appendages to my photographic quest.

Anyway, this coming weekend will host an intersection of full moon and lighthouses and low tide, which I have an unpopular affinity for, so expect to see some of that as the weekend comes and goes.

Boston And… Beyond! November 7, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
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I had a chance to get to Boston today to visit my younger daughter Ursula, who is in her last year at Boston University.

She’s a sweetie, and I enjoyed her company immensely as we drove around Boston on our way to a nice Indian lunch.  I’m not a “city guy,” but I absolutely love Boston, as does Ursi – it’s a relatively intimate mix of the Very Old and the Very New:

Tree-lined boulevards surround an array of sky-scrapers, making walk-abouts feel cozy, while an abundance of waterways soften and enliven a cityscape punctuated by copper-trimmed tenements and brownstones:

Ursi would be happy to live there after college, and her ongoing gig at the Boston Globe seems like a pretty good foot in the door.

Our lunch was scrumptious and surprisingly affordable for city fare – $16 for the two of us, with take-home to boot!  Ursi was pleased:

It all ended too soon, as Ursi had schoolwork to dive into, and I had designs on photographing the coast before the sun got too far gone.

After dropping her back at her apartment I headed north, more or less.  But there are virtually no straight streets in Boston, and as I should have learned from many other such seat-of-the-pants navigational extravaganzas, “more or less” is a low-percentage move in Beantown, invariably devolving into a tour of curving cowpaths and (I kid you not) one-way cul-de-sacs.

Don’t ask.  Even if I could explain, it wouldn’t help.

Eventually I found my way to Rte. 93 North, then 95 East to Gloucester on the North Shore.  I’d hoped to get there in time to scope out the harbor for photo ops and find some lovely patch of publicly accessible and quintessentially rocky Atlantic coastline, but by the time I finally spied the ocean it was nearly five thirty, when the happy coincidence of low tide and sunset was slated.

I asked a gentleman walking his dogs if there was a legal place to access the shore (it’s largely private, and wandering through the grounds of these old-money mansions is looked upon unkindly.)  To my relief he pointed me to a spot “just around the corner,” two lefts and park on the right.  Simple enough, I thought, thanking him and heading off.

Ten minutes later I hadn’t seen the side-street he’d named, and took a chance on a turn which looked only vaguely promising, and came upon a secluded beach from which the last stalwart souls were just departing.

I jumped out nearly at a roll, doffed my jeans and slipped into a pair of hip waders, then grabbed my camera bags and literally ran down into the briny shallows, mentally calculating swing angles as I plopped Elliot down in the soft mud of low tide.  I muttered something uncivil about the low light as I fought with the finicky focus of the tilt-shift world, then escalated to genuine obscenities as my camera battery went dead.  Fortunately I had a spare in my pack and, casting caution aside, I threw the whole bag down in the draining sand and rummaged frantically through it, scoring and making the switch with speed engendered by desperation.

Then, with the light rapidly fading, I got a few quick shots off, hoping without conviction that the focus would be fair and that my hand-holding of up to three graduated filters at a time would produce the fabled Desired Result.

I was pleasantly surprised with my haul, which isn’t as crisp as it might have been with more time, but it is what it is.

Low Tide under a Black Sky:

I got some sky color reflected in the sand by ditching the polarizer at the last minute.

The wind was picking up and the waves seemed to be intensifying as a patch of clouds burst into Heavenly hues of pink:

Over my shoulder a light show was developing behind a spit of pink granite; I grabbed everything and dashed farther down the beach to catch it:

It was intense but brief, fading in minutes to mere placid loveliness:

Then it was just about light enough to pack up and head home, hoping I’d have something to show for it.

I’m not displeased, considering the rush-job and frantic antics of the evening.

And so ended a great day of friendship and photography, two of my favorite things!

Boston, In Living Color. January 7, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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As promised, some full-color shots (well, if photographing things in a sleet storm qualifies as “full-color) of my recent visit to Boston.

First, some Back-Bay apartments in the snow:

I know, they’re just buildings.  But we country boys are easily impressed.  Besides, I liked the way the old copper flashing oxidizes green:

Consider all of these as experiments in shift photography, though I used Elliot’s tilt capabilities to some extent on each one.

Here, Old Brick Boston meets New Steel and Glass Boston:

The Prudential Tower (right) was for a long while the tallest building in Boston; the smaller, but IMHO more interesting 111 Huntington Avenue (the oddly domed building to the left) was completed in 2001.

Here’s a color shot of the Old South Church which, despite the intensifying sleet, came out crisp from front to back:

Elliot and I are gettin’ it on.  Don’t tell Susan.  😉

And lastly, here’s the ultimate (for Boston, at least) Old vs. New, the iconic Trinity Church in Copley Square, dwarfed by the glass and steel monstrosity known as the John Hancock Tower:

Don’t get me started on this mess.

Well, OK, get me started.  The Hancock, currently the tallest building in New England, had the oafish bad manners to overstress its foundation walls, buckling adjacent streets and damaging surrounding buildings including the Trinity Church.  Then it began to shed its 500 pound glass plates from 700+ feet above street level, and if you live in a city, I invite you to imagine what that was like for the people of Boston.  And then it became apparent that the reason people on the upper floors were puking all over the place was that the building swayed horrifically when the wind blew.

So much for the inexhorable advance of civilization.

At any rate, all of these adverse effects have been mitigated at the expense of many more millions of dollars, except that it’s still butt ugly and casts a long shadow.

Well, that’s all I have from Boston.  I’ll doubtless be back soon, and if there is a God, the weather will be better.

See you then.  😉

Boston In Black And White. January 5, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Uncategorized.
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After I dropped my daughter off at BU this Saturday, I took a spin through Boston, hoping to snag a few photos in the new fallen snow.

But as I approached the center of town, I was suddenly surrounded by wailing sirens and flashing lights.  In my rear-view mirror an armada of fire trucks were rapidly gaining on me – and then another pack rounded the corner ahead of me and came screaming at me, one-way street be damned!  Incredibly, there was a double parking space on my right (I hadn’t seen one in blocks,) so I swung in to let them all by.

But they didn’t go by.  Instead, they screeched to a stop all around me, boxing me in, and an army of Heroes leaped out, dragging hoses and cranking their giant ladders skyward.

I clearly was going nowhere fast, so I grabbed my camera and tripod and hopped out, praying that my car and everything in it would survive this incident, and headed across the street (actually, onto the fenced median) to what I hoped would be a safe spot.

I noticed almost immediately that the fine snow was changing over to sleet – unfortunate timing, as I had Elliot, my tilt/shift lens mounted, and its articulated body isn’t as weatherproof as my other L-series lenses.  I hunkered over it like a modern Quasimodo, sharing my hat with it as I set up a shot:

Turned out that both the tilt and the shift came in handy on that one.

I stopped a passing Sergeant and asked if my vehicle was going to survive, and was relieved to get a “yes” out of him; turned out it was likely a false alarm, but they still had to evacuate and thoroughly check out the building.  He estimated an hour for the process, so I returned to Plan A:  shoot some architecture.  I began to walk.

The Back Bay neighborhood of brick and brownstone buildings in which I had “parked” was beautiful in the fresh, clean snow, and right away I was setting up to capture it:

Pardon the scroll on that one; I liked the whole thing and couldn’t decide where to crop it!

I played with Elliot’s articulations, getting more adept at pre-judging the amount of swing necessary for keeping facades in focus, despite the relatively low light:

A few blocks away I came to the meat of the matter, the heart of the city, where old brick buildings are dwarfed by glass and steel behemoths, in this case the Prudential building:

All of these shots of Downtown are hand-held, braced on light poles and sign posts, as it was too crappy out to spend time setting up the tripod.  Thankfully, I had a pocked full of tissues to dry Elliot as I walked between shots looking like I was smuggling something in my jacket front.  I’m almost surprised that I wasn’t stopped by the police – but then, this is Boston, and they’ve probably seen it all…

Approaching Copley Square, I got this shot of the Old South Church on the left and the Boston City Library on the right, another juxtaposition of the traditional and the modern:

By then my lens was getting impossible to keep dry, so I headed back toward my car, by then set free… and illegally parked.

I hopped in and beat feet, satisfied with my urban catch.  I hope you enjoy them as well.  🙂

I’ll have some color photos from this excursion soon.

The Spawn Are Gawn January 24, 2008

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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This week, both of My Little Passion Fruit went back off to college.

Ultimate Spawn once again left These Here Hills for the high-rise hustle and bustle of BU. Talk about “culture shock!”

That ride was courtesy of her Mom, who hates driving in Boston (and yes, it is the craziest place in The States to drive,) because I was not available.

Thanks, Mom.

I’m personally just wacked enough to consider the Brownian movement of the Beantown Bumper Fest a hoot.

To be fair, it’s not that Bostonians drive like Italians (though some do) or that they exhibit the road-rage of LA (though some have,) or even that it’s a lawless free-for-all. On the whole, I’d say Bostonians drive as civilly as most American urbanites, with an equal measure of harried, hurried Me-First-ism, tail-gaiting and Orange Light Phenomenon.

The “problem” is the “roads.” They were laid out four centuries ago.

By white-tailed-deer.

Picture 4.4 million body lice trying to navigate a cubic yard of dry Ramen Noodles (sorry Kids, No Leaping Allowed!) Now give them all cell phones, and you begin to get the picture.

Quincey (a “suburb”) is the only place on Earth where I was ever trapped in a one-way cul-de-sac. Seriously.

Oh, and if you need to get east of where you’re at, go ahead and turn east. I predict you’ll be watching the sunset through your windshield before you hit the next intersection.

Ah, Boston! Red Sox, white knuckles and “blue” politics.

But that’s not what I want to write about today.

Today’s subject is Mount Holyoke College, to which I returned Elder Progeny yesterday.

“MoHome,” as the young ladies who go there affectionately refer to it, is the oldest Women’s College in the Country. Founded in 1837 by the brilliant and visionary Mary Lyon, Mount Holyoke was the first all-women’s college in the U.S., and the first of the Seven Sisters, the female equivalent of the then-male Ivy League (MoHome’s “brother school” is Dartmouth.)


What an amazing place! With students from 70 countries and enough American “minorities” among its 2100 students to claim a 30% “diversity rate,” the place is The World in a nutshell.

The greatest commonality among Mount Holyoke’s students is that they’re: a) brilliant, and b) pretty well off. In fact, unlike a lot of other $45,000/year schools (think: Yale,) one is unlikely to get in on the strength of, say, Daddy’s Governorship.

E.P. is, however, a “minority.” She is (or rather, “We are”) Financially Challenged. Despite having the best package of financial aid anyone she knows has ever heard of, the “small” balance challenges us, with her Mom and I maxing out on loans, E.P. amassing a mountain of Under-graduate debt, and a younger sister deserving our equal support.

Anyway, dropping Elder Progeny off yesterday was a trip, meandering among the mostly brown-stone buildings in castle-like edifices.


E.P. scored a “single” on the third floor of this cool building:


…and after dropping her off at the door (XYs Need Not Apply) I headed around to the sunny side of the building (her suggestion) for a photo.

And while I was backed into the bushes taking pictures of this gurrrls’ dormatory, a pair of undergrads walked by, their casual stroll suddenly transforming into a shifty-eyed hustle.

I stood up ( I was kneeling) and looked down.


Flannel shirt, torn down vest, faded jeans, and a pair of knee-high rubber boots, like I should have been shoveling out the barn or something. And two days’ stubble. Hey, I’m unemployed!

I packed it up and split before the sirens came even close. 😉