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And Also Too… February 6, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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While I was Out East I hit the near reaches of the Cape for a little beach action.

Well, being February, it wasn’t that  kind of beach action, but hey, I’m old, so I’m not that fussy…

Getting around the bay-side coastal roads involves a fair amount of blind wandering through salt marshes and tall grasses:

…especially if you don’t know where you’re going!

The harbors of the small towns were mostly packed away for the season, with boats in dry-dock and docks stacked on dry land; I only saw a few rigs still in the water:

The shoreline itself is pretty built-up and almost entirely privately owned, which makes parking problematic, and sporadic at best.  Consequently, I only stopped in a few places, and kept my lens pointed out to sea to sample nature and exclude the development.

A rocky reach-around:

Catching a wave:

This particular beach was awash with the white noise of these small pebbles tumbling in the surf, first cast ashore, then dragged away in a cacophony of clattering crystals.  I liked it.

Waves crash on a dark jetty:

…as the implacable sea comes and goes in a dance its done for years uncounted:

These are strange scenes to the eyes of a hill-town boy, and I’m sure I missed much in the way of subtleties.  The sea looked very different with every shot, and I’m really not sure why.  I guess I’ll chalk it up to The Learning Curve and hope to have a better grip on things when I return later in the season.

All shots here are courtesy of Elliot, who tilted his little butt off to get them.

Thanks, Kid.



At The Coast. February 5, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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This Friday evening I headed into Boston with three objectives – to visit my daughter Ursula, whom I adore and see too infrequently; to revisit my friend/housemate/photographic mentor Lizz Bartlett’s photography showing at the Belmont Hill School’s art gallery; and to get out to the coast to photograph it, inspired by Lizz’s brilliant shots of lighthouses and coastal waters.

Two of these were blessed no-brainers – I got to Boston early enough to snap off a shot of the skyline beneath a waxing gibbous moon:

That’s from Cambridge, across the Charles river.  I got to Boston an hour early hoping to park somewhere downtown and photograph the emerging moon set against glass-faced buildings reflecting the setting sun, but Boston doesn’t work that way.  Not only could I not park where the photos were easy, I couldn’t park at all!  So I drove out of town and settled for this overview, which  I kinda like, though it wasn’t what I was there for.

Then I picked up Ursi as she was coming out of work and spirited her off (in as much as rush-hour traffic allowed) to Belmont where Lizz’s work was being displayed.

It was tear-inducingly beautiful, though I admit to being a softee, and to being partial to her style of rendering landscapes.

Hey, one has to learn from someone,  right?  And Lizz has it happening, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, after the show we had a really nice dinner at a place in Arlington, then Ursi and I parted ways with Lizz and Holly.  I spent the night at Ursi’s, then got an early start to catch the sunrise at Scituate Light on the bay side of Cape Cod, a bit south of Boston proper.

It really isn’t a “sunrise” kinda place, but I didn’t know that.  The angles and visual interlopers were way sub-optimal, but I punted and none-the-less got a few shots worth sharing.

Here’s Job One, which is to just shoot the damned thing  before you get too technical.  This means that if a rabid dog appears and you have to run away, you at least have some proof that you were there.  It also gives you a rough idea of what you’re working with, and if it’s worth putting subsequent effort into.

Job One, culled from half a dozen Job-Ones:

That came out pretty viewable in this format, but it wouldn’t hold up to being enlarged, i.e. printed at any reasonable scale.  Still, it captured the moment, and got me going on the path toward more “keeper” material.

This isn’t a great light for sunrise shots; the sun does indeed rise here, but it’s difficult to get views which show the good and exclude the ugly.  So I scurried a bit to snag this shot from the opposite side of the light:

All of these shots are courtesy of Elliot, my Canon 24mm tilt-shift lens.   While the (horizontal) “landscape” shots are reliant on the tilt function of this amazing lens, the taller “portrait” shots were mostly done by spinning the mechanism into “swing” mode – the above shot has a vertical plane of sharp focus laid onto the fence and lighthouse and distant sunrise.  I only regret that the lighthouse wasn’t pulsing its red glow at this point, and don’t really know if I missed it by careless timing or if it had shut down with the impending daylight.

This shot, from the same side and taken soon afterward, is my favorite of the lot:

I think this was still with Eliot in “swing” mode, with just a tiny bit of lens shift to lay the focal plane outward from the light toward the sun, even though most of the “landscape” oriented shots employ “tilt.”

I backed off a bit and found evidence that I wasn’t the only one who had hung out here:

This beat-up deck shoe spoke volumes about both the power of the pounding surf and the casual carelessness of those of our species who hang out where the sea meets the land.

Lastly (for this post) I got a shot of the Scituate Light from the south as the light settled into its daylight palette:

All of these were fun for a Hill-Town Boy, but leave many subtleties unspoken to.  Perhaps with more time prowling these regions I’ll get into the swing and do it justice.

But for now, these shots will have to do.

Slithering Snow Snakes!!! January 20, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Four inches of new snow overnight, combined with persistent winds up in the hills, turned many a high meadow into sculpted ‘scapes, including this one on Grout Road up in Hawley:

I hung onto my tripod to keep it from taking flight with the wind as the world whirled dizzyingly by, snapping these shots at 1/800 of a second in an attempt to freeze (!) the charging armies of ankle-deep spindrift.  Elliot might have served my quest for accuracy better, but given his less-than-weather-sealed articulations, I stuck with Ollie for these shots, choosing f:20 for best depth of field and manually focusing about a third of the way into the scene.

Here’s another shot, perhaps compositionally cleaner:

I was gunning for the erosion forms just above the center of the frame, but they were obscured by blowing spindrift.  Oh well.

This looks amazingly like a dune on the cape to me; boot the white balance up 2000 degrees, and we’re at the beach!

Pardon my Trompe-l’oeil pretensions, but that snow photo looked enough like sand dunes that I wanted to see how it made the leap.  😉

We’re expecting a few more inches overnight and into tomorrow morning, so I might have more of these (such as they are) to share in the near future.

But I promise, no more Cape Cod In Hawley shots.

Cape Cod, Part Deux. January 4, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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(“Tish, that’s French!” )  Three points for nailing the reference.

So anyway, where were we?  Ah, yes, heading up/out the Cape in search of lighthouses and ocean views.

After catching sunrise at Nobska Light and the requisite (and totally recommendable) Big-Ass Breakfast at The Daily Paper in Hyannis, Lizz and I continued up-coast to Nauset Light in Eastham.  This light, like the Nobska Point Light, is comprised of a cast iron shell lined with brick.  It has something of an interesting history, having been threatened by beach erosion in the early 90s; it came within 50 feet of a collapsing sand shoreline before being relocated 336 feet westward to its present location.

It also has the honor of being the logo for Cape Cod Potato Chips.  🙂

We got there mid-morning, when the light isn’t particularly flattering or memorable, but I got this photo anyway:

The beach itself is well below the present location of the light:

In fact, Marconi built his station to send the first radio transmission to Europe not far north of here in South Wellfleet because of the substantial elevation above sea level.

We noodled onward, killing time during the flat light of mid-day, eventually getting up to Provincetown, the fabled resort mecca which is New England’s answer to Key West in Florida.  At this time of year it’s, um, sleepy to put it mildly, but in summer it’s reputed to be a really hopping place.  😉

This was fine with us, though; we weren’t there to photograph crowds, after all.

We parked along the Cape Cod National Seashore, where we found a visitors’ center shuttered for the season:

… and walked up the beach toward its Northwestern tip.

The dunes here are amazing:

…tall, extensive, and anchored by grasses which progress season to season:

They offered me an opportunity for this self-portrait:

Humor me, ok?

The walk up the beach seemed interminable, but was offset by views captured by Elliot, my TS-EII lens:

… terminating at Race Point Light at the farthest reaches of the Cape:

Lizz was hard at work capturing the details of the scene when I arrived:

She has a great eye for the geometry of details which routinely escape my notice.

Incidentally, if the idea of being a long way from the pavement and surrounded by crashing surf appeals to you,  the keeper’s house and out-buildings with amenities can be rented as B&Bs.

Bring a camera and an intimate friend.  😉

The walk back yielded this shot of a lobster trap washed up on the beach beneath a waxing gibbous moon:

…and a glorious sunset, despite the sub-optimal low clouds:

That’s another one courtesy of Elliot, getting a really nice depth of field to compensate me for my very wet shoes.

To top it all off, Lizz snagged us both a ride back to her truck in a passing Jeep, saving us the tedium of the return trudge in the dark.

Good company, great views and the kindness of strangers – who could ask for a better day out?

Not me!  🙂

East Meets West! December 28, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
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Quite a while back, that is, in March of 2009, I was in California with my photo-buddy/housemate Lizz, when she stopped at roadside and suggested we take this photo:

We were at the western end of Route 6, and she sagely declared that the other end was closer to home and we’d get there someday.

Well, as happens with alarming frequency, she was right.  And though our end doesn’t have scenery like this :

…that’s a snow storm engulfing the High Sierra above Whitney Portal…

…it does have scenery like this :

That’s a fishing boat rounding the tip of Cape Cod on the Massachusetts coast.

As an aside, I had fun with that last photo on two counts.  First, it was a tilt-shift photo, courtesy of Elliot, my 24mm TS-EII lens, yielding pretty sharp focus from here to infinity; and second, because it was so hastily set up, I caught the trawler in mid-frame, and my daughter Ursula thought it would be fun to “mess with” the composition and encouraged me to stretch myself in Photoshop, moving the whole boat right in what turned out to be a pretty convincing foray into  the world of Photographic Art (as opposed to photo-journalism or pure “nature photography.”)

At any rate, “our” end of the road at Provincetown, MA wasn’t as spectacular as the Bishop, CA end, but it was fun to find this sign:

…with the “3,205 miles” matching the western one.

Hey, I’m easily amused!  😉

Cape Cod Lights. December 21, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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From Saturday, a trip out to the Cape with Miss Lizz driving.

Frau B. woke me at 4am (again) and we headed east.  She knew just where she was going, and I was glad I wasn’t driving – it’s just not my neck of the woods.

A couple of hours and two big coffees later we pulled into Woods Hole just in time to catch twilight and dawn at Nobska Light:

That thirty second exposure sees Venus (in the upper right) transit enough to look oblong.  I’d like to see that as a much longer exposure, with Venus leading the star tracks across the deep blue sky.

Nobska Light was decorated for the season:

…as were, we would soon find, most of the lights we would encounter on our meanderings.

The coastline here is tall and proud and still rocky enough to build bulwarks of bullet-proof granite to forestall erosion:

Farther out the Cape is not much more than beach sand, in fact a terminal moraine left from the last Ice Age.  We’ll see more of that in a subsequent post.

Lizz had gone off ahead, and was getting set up for The Sunrise Moment when I caught up with her:

I was trying to capture some wave action, but this locale was a bit too protected by Nantucket to offer very much in that vein:

Finally His Highness made a dramatic entrance:

Not as much high cloud action there as a “nature photographer” might wish for, but still, I think, enough to justify the 4am start.

More to come from the other end of the day, out at the other end of the Cape!

Manchester By The Sea. July 26, 2009

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Cape Cod Bay is framed by two really different geological features.  South of Boston, the great sweeping dune-scape of Cape Cod proper arcs out into the North Atlantic, its shifting sands increasingly impermanent as the bulk of Boston recedes into a backward glance.

North of Boston it’s a different story.  Here the ancestral highlands meet the sea in proud swells on a peninsula of pink granite, evocative of the best of Maine’s coast.

This is the part of Massachusett’s coast which intrigues me the most.  I try to get there once or twice a year, preferably in the warmer months, as I’m a pansy when it comes to swimming in freezing water.  And if I’m going to drive three hours each way, I’d like to actually, um, go swimming.

So this past weekend Slim and I made the pilgramage to Manchester By The Sea, a lovely little tourist trap with upscale shops, a beautiful beach of silky sand stretching between promontories of pink permanence, and on this particular weekend, an Arts Festival which had the place hopping and the parking lots pretty full.

But once the logistical difficulties were surmounted, the result was just as I remembered it – a beautiful beach, peopled but not crowded:

susan by the sea

Slim was game to explore the interface of sand and stone, where the shore line broke off into the kind of scene which made me reach for my camera.  At the southern end of the beach an island populated only by gulls framed the scene:

MBTS south end

…while to the north, a promontory of granite marked the pasage of innumerable sailboats in this blue-blood paradise:

MBTS north end

After a month of mostly rain, the weather was perfect and we had a lovely day, feeding each other sashimi as jealous gulls hovered overhead.

I could learn to like that.  😉