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Brrrrrrrrr! January 23, 2013

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Well now, this  is winter!   🙂

We got a fresh inch of snow overnight, not enough to shovel, just enough to freshen up the older snow pack. And with a daytime high in the ‘teens assuring clear, crisp air, it seemed like a good time to scout some river scenes.

I headed up the Cold river a bit after noon, beneath blue skies and scuttling clouds:

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The valley is still a tangled mess from Irene, but winter disguises her scars.

I’ve always liked the way tumbling rivers look when they rise up around snow covered rocks, saturating their marsh mallow hats, turning them into emerald slushies, washing them down river like slow moving ghosts. This cold weather grows the well-anchored ones into wonderful ice islands:

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Quartzite cobbles complement the color scheme, wavering from below the fast-moving surface:

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A faster shutter speed captures the kinetics of the flow:

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The wind was brutal, and after an hour of walking the river bank, my fingers had had enough, despite my beefy gloves, and I headed back to the car, noticing on my way down river that the moon was rising. At the car I put Gizmo and his little buddy Tele on the box and got this:

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I packed it in, cranked the heat and ran a few errands.

My day ended with a drive home along the Deerfield river, where I snagged this shot of the frazil ice building it’s tortuous tangle as the sun disappeared behind the near hills:

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That one’s from Elliot, with a degree and a half of tilt and a hand-held three-stop graduated ND filter. It took me all of fifteen minutes, by the end of which my tripod had frozen into the river, my fingertips were wooden and I had wind-whipped tears frozen to my cheeks.

Good thing I spent all those years climbing ice, or I wouldn’t have enjoyed that one bit!  😉

Well that’s all for now, friends. I have 909 shots from last weekend’s climbing competition to process, so I’m off to work!

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Along The Deerfield. December 10, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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On the way to the Shelburne Falls post office this morning I spied an eagle in a tree across the Deerfield river from Route 2.

Naturally, I hung a Bat Turn to get a shot.

I took these from my driver’s seat while pulled over on the shoulder:

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That’s from about 50 yards away, with Gizmo’s 400mm and a 2X Tele-Extender, and cropped pretty hard.

I was hoping to get this beauty taking off, but all it seemed inclined to do was preen in the drizzle.  😦

At last it spread it’s wings:

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…but only hopped to another nearby branch.

These were taken at ISO 4000 and f/11, so they’re not technically great. Still, I had fun shooting them; gotta practice that steady hand, especially with no auto focus or image stabilization on this lens!

First Snow. November 27, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Here in Charlemont, the high pastures saw a nice fine snow fall throughout the day.

Local horses seemed oblivious:

Horses in a pasture up at The Warfield House, a beautiful local venue for dinner or events.

Thanks to Gizmo for these shots at 400mm, with a 2X tele-extender for the close-ups.

Guests In The Garden. September 11, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.
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Our zinnias have been hosting some winged guests recently. I caught these images of them today:

…and:

Both of these were taken with Gizmo and a 2X Tele-Extender from twelve to fifteen feet away, allowing me to get compressed close-ups without disturbing our guests.  🙂

Sheep In Sheep’s Clothing. September 10, 2012

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Among the livestock populating our local hills are lots of sheep. They’re a favorite of local farmers because they don’t have to be milked at the crack of dawn, 365 days a year, and because they produce something, namely their wool, which doesn’t require slaughtering them and starting all over with lambs. Here are a few shots of sheep from my ride home this afternoon.

A ewe at 800mm:

This ewe is trying to keep a fence post between herself and me, but I only needed one eye to call this a postable shot.

A mother’s life is never easy, and if nursing pasture muffins is a big part of it, it’s downright hard on the knees:

…and the udder, which is constantly tugged at:

I was surprised to find this crew of lambs at this time of year. Obviously, a lifetime of living in the country doesn’t make one a farmer!

At any rate, it was fun to watch the little ones cavort in the tall grass:

…until Momma called them back together:

…and lead them away from the gaze of the stranger:

Buh-bye!

The July Full Moon. July 4, 2012

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Taken Tuesday night, a bit too late for the landscape:

That is all.

A Surprise On Mount Greylock. June 19, 2012

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This past Sunday afternoon I headed up to Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts.  At 3,491′ it’s not a Giant in the Pantheon of Lofty Landforms; still, it rises a steep 3,000′ above the valley floor, providing exaggerated wind currents and a micro-climate which attracts migrating birds which otherwise wouldn’t stop in our State.

So, with Gizmo and my new-ish 2X Tele-Extender on the box, I headed up the steep and winding road from North Adams, stopping at the first overlook which afforded me a view of the Veterans’ Memorial Tower on the summit:

I was a bit disappointed with my summit view, the 800mm combo of lens and extender giving me tremendous vibration for this hand held shot.  By rights I should have set up a tripod, manually focused (a necessity with this lens configuration,) locked up the mirror to isolate that vibration, then used a wireless shutter release to avoid touching the camera.

But as I wasn’t at my destination yet, I did none of that – I just hopped out of my car, rested my lens plate on the guardrail, and snapped one off.  If I saw any interesting birds I’d go the extra mile toward some “keeper” photographs, but I wasn’t there yet.

And I was disappointed as only a nature photographer can be to encounter mostly robin’s-egg blue skies with puffy white clouds.  Not much drama there, no tension between Mother Earth and Father Sky, just… a pleasant  day.

Oh well.  Perhaps I’d snag some pleasant  bird photos.

The road to the summit wound around the south and east sides of the upper mountain, and I stopped once more at the Adams overlook, lamenting the flat light on the town and farm fields far below.

Suddenly a shadow flashed across my windshield – a large bird?  I got out of the car, Gizmo in hand, and scanned the sky for the shadow-caster…

…and there it was – a paraglider!  It darted into view, circled gracefully and disappeared behind the peak.  I jogged around to the other side of my vehicle to lean my lens against it, cursing that I hadn’t gotten up there in time to do a proper set-up, expecting the opportunity to have passed…

But there it was again, coming through the spruces, 50 yards over my head!  I focused furiously to keep the rapidly moving target in range and pushed the shutter release:

I groaned at the palpable vibration of the mirror flopping up and down, then made a few quick adjustments – boot the ISO up to 400, open it up to f/11, see what the shutter speed might be… Eureka!   1/2000th of a second.  I hoped that  would outrun the vibrations, at least as much as this hand-held scenario would allow.

The parasailer circled and appeared again, which is the photo above, reasonably crisp given the stiff winds of circumstance blowing against my efforts.

I continued shooting, getting far more shots off than I’d imagined I would.  This guy was good!   He played the mountain air currents like a symphony, hanging in place like a hungry seagull, swooping and diving like a kestrel:

He swooped in close enough for me to see his face and read the make of his gear:

He was sporting a spiffy new Advance Impress 3, designed by champion parasailer Chrigel Maurer for his X-Alps flights in 2009 (I Googled it,) ten pounds of comfy heaven, with an insulated footbox, on-board navigation capability, built-in hydration options… pretty cush stuff!  And…

…a built-in reserve ‘chute, in case, you know…  The red handle at the pilot’s hip is the rip-cord.

Mr. Bird descended gracefully toward the farms and fields of Adams:

…then rose up above me and… What The… !!

He began circling his wing in Giant Swings (though I’m sure the sport has a catchier name for them,) going round and round as he plummeted toward the valley below:

…then leveled out:

…looking over his shoulder at the dairy cows ruminating far below.

He circled and rose once more to a position above me, where an unearned trick of the light gave me this gift:

These shots were culled from many dozens snapped off in a hurry.  Frankly, I wasn’t prepared for this kind of action and doubted if any of them would be viewable, but was pleasantly surprised with the keepers.

Alas, I didn’t get any bird photographs…

😉

The Transit Of Venus. June 6, 2012

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Today was supposed to be the last Solar transit of Venus, i.e. its passage between us and the Sun, for 105 years.

The next such transit will occur when I’m 163 years old, and I might not be looking, so I was sorely disappointed to find the day heavily overcast with intermittent heavy rain.

Oh, well.  I had bought the necessary filter to protect my camera and keep me from going blind, but the weather is the weather, and there’s no getting around that.

So instead of sitting home sulking, I went down to Northampton for the Tuesday Market and brought Musician Extraordinaire Peter Blanchette a present – a print of a photo I’d taken a week earlier.  He seemed genuinely pleased, and I was delighted by his reaction.

I bought some home-grown shitakes and headed home through the gathering gloom, then the intermittent rain, lamenting the lost opportunity for a celestial feast.

At home, I unloaded some groceries and fired up the ‘puterbox, forlornly checking the weather.  As I pulled up a graphic map of the next six hours, I saw…

…a hole in the cloud cover moving down from the North.

Shit!   A potential opening, and me sitting here at my computer!

I threw everything I thought I might need back in the car and sped southwestward toward the high meadows of Windsor, hoping my path would somehow intersect the parting of the clouds.

I got there just as the sun waxed and waned through an impending thinning of the clouds.  Setting up Gizmo and his 2X tele-extender, I noticed a knot of Cedar waxwings on a tree a hundred yards to the southeast, doubtless anticipating one last blast of sunlight before the clouds regrouped and left them cold:

They were well over a hundred yards away, but with 800mm of lens and a stiff crop, this is what I got.

I threw on my Orion Solar Filter, and suddenly the daylight became night.

To the West, the sun was showing itself through substantial clouds:

True Solar filters have a believable reddish hue, whereas welder’s glass makes viewing safe but imparts a vivid green cast to viewing.  Between the preferred fiery cast and the fact that Solar filters are made to lock firmly onto the end of a telescope (or long lens,) I was glad to have the Orion in my kit.

As the clouds thinned, I captured this image of Venus piercing the margin of the sun:

…along with a dozen or so sunspots visible at this magnification/resolution.

I was thrilled!  My expectations, dashed an hour earlier, were being exceeded by this small meteorological miracle.

The clouds wafted by in thicker and thinner bands as the sun slunk toward the horizon, and I took well over a hundred photographs, tweaking the focus and exposure in an effort to bring something worthwhile home from this last-in-a-lifetime event.

Another shot through clouds:

…here with Venus totally committed to the Sun’s disk.

I shot skads, but culled the lot down so as not to bore you.

A few more of the ones I saved:

…and finally, Sol sinking into a sea of obscurity, still early in Venus’ transit but approaching sunset here on the East coast:

The sunspots and clouds added a lot to these shots, and were accidents well outside of my doing.  But I planned ahead and drove fast and worked hard for these images, so I’m grateful for the happy accidents which augment them.

Thank you, Father Sky.

Piglets. May 22, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
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‘Tis the Season.

Piglets on a farm in Shelburne:

…here with Mom.

Here without:

…eating everything green it could find:

And accompanied by every barnyard’s Overseer:

They’re cute little buggers, but when they get bigger they’ll be delicious.

This is the reality of farm life.  Raise it, kill it, eat it, don’t get overly attached.  And please understand that that’s very different from not appreciating the part our prey plays in our lives.  If we’re carnivores, if we eat beef or pork or poultry, we couldn’t do better than patronizing the family farms dotting our countryside.  Locally, it’s not cages and cubicles, it’s not force-feeding of the wrong stuff.  It’s green grass and sunshine and attentive care from people who are committed to something much more sustainable than Factory Farms.

Cute piggies become delicious pork, and fuzzy chicks end their days on a spit over a barbecue pit. It’s called a “food chain,” and we’re a link in it.  Understanding that is important to either accepting it or changing it.

Rockin’ Robin! May 15, 2012

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Tweedly-Deedly-Deet.      🙂

A feisty robin has been supervising my planting of our garden, knowing he’ll be rewarded with bugs and worms as soon as I get the hell out of his way:

His rounds take him to a perch atop the water station I’ve set up to make garden management easier.  This allowed me to pre-focus and wait for a shot:

I’m still working the bugs out of my system for super-tele shots.  These are at a focal length of 800mm (400mm from Gizmo, plus a Canon 2X Tele-Extender III.)  The Extender negates the auto-focus on this particular lens and slows it to a maximum aperture of f/11, and the whole mess is huge, which contributes to vibrations from mirror flip-up.

At 800mm, any vibration is unacceptable, so I need to tweak this system.  Perhaps a combination of live-view focusing, mirror lock-up and a cable release will yield better results.