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Another Shot From Maine. September 8, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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One that slipped my editor’s noose, though I meant to show it to you. Portland Head Light from near the water line:

Some scrambling involved there, but no real climbing. Just an eye toward being inconspicuous and an efficiency with tripods and lens changes.

Courtesy of Elliot, with perhaps three degrees of swing, and a hand-held ND Grad filter.

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Portland Head Light. September 6, 2012

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On my way south from my visit with friends Mike and Cindy in Maine, I drove a couple of curlie-cues to take photos of Portland Head Light, the most photographed lighthouse in the world.

I wanted something a bit removed from the I-phone images which doubtless make up the mass of the action here, so chose to catch as much of the scene as I could with Elliot, my 24mm tilt-shift lens.

Here’s the light through a scrim of beach roses:

…with rose hips vying for attention with the remaining blossoms.

Another shot, with lilies in the mix:

Elliot gave me some advantage here over the point-and-shoots and cell phones, extending my depth of field by a lot. I laid my plane of sharp focus along all the axes of the compass to get these photos, and hope the difference is apparent.

Wave-swept granite below the light:

…beautifully sculpted by the ocean and the seasons over uncounted years. I scrambled over fences and down the steeps to crab-walk along ledges to get a low-tide perspective:

Elliot was delightful in this setting. The verticality of the Maine coast played to his strengths, and hard swings of his objective lens got me what I was there for.

Here’s a classic Portland Head Light shot, but with goldenrod representing in the foreground thanks to Elliot’s contortions:

Thanks, kid. You complete me.  🙂

Dairy Cows, . July 8, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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Dairy cows lined up behind a fence, expecting (demanding!) to be milked:

The farmer showed up on schedule ( these grrrlz were a bit ahead of him,) dropped the electric fence, and lead a bovine parade up the road to where their udders would be relieved of their burden.

These local dairy farmers work really hard for their bread, with NO days off, obscenely early and late hours, and not a lot to show for their Herculean efforts.  Consequently, they’re dwindling in numbers, and soon, if we don’t all pay attention, all of our dairy products will come from large corporations.

Monsanto manufactures the BGH which makes these shy beasties produce more than the normal amount of milk, but also makes them prone to infections.  Hearing of problems with their genetically-modified milk producers, Monsanto commissioned a study, which concluded that their Bovine Growth Hormone injections for dairy cows resulted in a significant amount of blood and puss in the milk we drink, the milk we feed our little children.  Monsanto addressed this problem by buying the study and burying it.

I’m not gunning to ruin anybody’s day with this kind of news, but rather trying to help us all understand what we’re up against, and how directly it affects us and our families.

Support your local farms, lobby the FDA for tighter controls on GMOs, and resist corporate take-over of our daily lives.

Your children thank you for getting aboard this train.

Thanks to Elliot for this shot; I got the swing wrong and missed the focus on the Dear Ones at photo right, but got a really productive depth of field right down the middle.  I see hand-holding “snapshots” with a tilt-shift lens as kind of a crap shoot which sometimes achieves my goals, sometimes comes close, and sometimes falls flat on its face.  In this case I came close, and the result is more than acceptable.

Along The Connecticut. June 21, 2012

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I had occasion to head toward Amherst today, with the intention of showing some of my photos to a restauranteur who expressed an interest in having them on his walls.

Well, that didn’t work out – something about a “family emergency.”  That could, of course, be the case, but it’s so cliched I can’t help feeling slighted.

Anyway, having carted my wares all the way down river, I spent the late afternoon scouring the lowlands for more raw materials, knowing that the transition to Summer would produce some sort of blossoms and at least a little bit of atmospherics.

What I found was tall grass:

…laced around the edges with roadside randomness, including a LOT of Cow vetch:

This hot, dry week we’re experiencing is ideal for harvesting hay, and the grass is beautifully high, so farmers down in the valley are making hay:

Much of Hadley isn’t exactly flood plains of the Connecticut river, but more accurately viewed as the bottom of Lake Hitchcock, gone for ten millennia  but still evident by its sediments.  The land is rich despite having provided several hundred years of legendary productivity.

Haying happens several times per growing season, depending on growing and harvesting conditions.  Rain makes it grow, but dry conditions are necessary for cutting and baling, and the two don’t always coincide.

This, though, looked like a really productive mowing:

This farmer was good enough to welcome me into his field to take these photographs.    He was working for his living, and stopping for a stranger was an added task on this very hot and humid day.  I greatly appreciated his permission to shoot.

Here’s The Man round-bailing the cut, dried grass:

These round bales are tied up and dropped out of the back of this baler, whereas traditional rectangular bales are packed, wrapped and pitched into hay wagons being dragged behind the operation:

But this is Hadley, rolling lowlands which don’t flood seasonally.

Across the river to the west is Northampton, where Spring flooding is common.  The flatlands have been harrowed and planted and harvested and flooded in a cycle extending for centuries.

These days they grow corn and potatoes there, with a bio-diverse fringe of invaders separating the field roads from the crops:

That looks like wild mustard and lettuce, with mullein piercing the skyline.  I love mullein – it looks like the pacifist’s version of yucca or agave, all cuddly and hippy-friendly (they smoke it, you know!)

One of a zillion types of daisies found locally piles up between the tires and the ‘taters:

Again with Mount Holyoke’s crowning Skinner House in the distance.

Another of the volunteers which dot these dusty fields is the ubiquitous cow vetch, here seen with Mt. Tom shaping the skyline:

I think what keeps drawing me back to this decidedly lowland place (a strong hour from my hill town home) is it’s suggestion of something farther west, perhaps a view of the Heartland, maybe even something higher and drier, the alti-plano of Wyoming or Montana.

I know that if you’re from there you’re pointing and laughing, but still, it’s a feeling I get, and I’m playing with it.

All of these shots are from Elliot, my Canon TS-EII tilt-shift lens, and most benefit from the use of hand-held graduated filters to bring the brooding skies further into compliance with a photo’s useful dynamic range.  This combination is really my Standard Operating Procedure for landscape photography, though my 24-105mm zoom Allie lives on the box in my daily travels.

Thanks for hanging in there for this longish post on a place I’ve photographed numerous times before.  I keep hoping for exceptional light or some remarkable bloom, but I’m meanwhile thankful for whatever the place gives up.

The Grrrlz Of Summer. June 17, 2012

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Summer brings the wildflowers out of the woods and into the meadows.  There, they face the reaper’s blade, as most of the grasslands in these parts get cut and baled several times during the warm season.

So it falls to me to be attentive to the rhythms of the seasons, and of the farmers who wring a living from them; a week early and the blooms aren’t happening, a week late and they’re in the feed.

Today saw me taking the long way to everywhere, snaking my way across the Eastern Front of the Berkshires in convoluted lines, connecting every reflecting pool and flowered meadow I could think of that was remotely in between me and Mount Greylock, my intended destination for the afternoon.  I was hunting, you see, for something to share with you.

Up in Windsor, I got lucky.

Good Old Windsor, high and wide and starkly beautiful, a no-bullshit place of wind and sky and visual gems tucked amidst the casually unremarkable vastness.  This is one of the places where I first learned to get down on my belly and look harder.

Today, I beat the reaper, though just barely; every field I passed on the approach had either been hayed or had a tractor taking it down as I passed.

So I was pleased to top out on Windsor Mountain and find the meadows along Route 8A to be flush with flowers.  At the Moran Wildlife Management Area I pulled over and suited up prior to wading out into the waist-high grass, donning a Tyvek coverall duct-taped at the ankles and dosed with DEET.  I’ve been treated twice so far this year for Lyme disease, and now that I’m without health insurance, another go-around isn’t an option.

The sky wasn’t dramatic, but rather a patchwork of cotton-ball clouds in a deep blue firmament.  Still, it provided a passable foil for the flowers below.  Here blue flag irises and ragged robin punctuate a field of buttercups stretching over the horizon:

Across Route 8A hawkweed and clover held sway, barely contained by a stockade of spruces:

I love this place.  Wildflowers in Spring, meteorological drama in Summer, and some of the wildest Winter scenes I’ve seen in the East.

Both of these are from Elliot, with my tripod splayed low to the ground in an effort to Freeze the Breeze.  Between three and five degrees of tilt gave me acceptable depth of field without the longer exposures necessitated by smaller apertures, thereby mitigating the wind problem.  And I brought the skies down with a two-stop hard-step ND graduated filter.

Then it was onward to Mt. Greylock, which I’ll save for another post.