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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.

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A Bit Of A Strange Sky. November 4, 2012

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On the way home today, the thick cloud cover which had blanketed the day became a succession of waves coming from the west, alternately thinner and white, or thicker and…

blue.

It was a much more colorful sky than is usual around here, especially when it’s deeply overcast, so I looked for a place to pull over and get a shot of it.

The timing was such that I got to a favorite pull-out of mine, a few miles down river from my home, with a clear view of the river. I scrambled down the bank to a set of rocks which jutted beyond the brush of the bank and set up a shortened tripod in the shallows, kneeling on the second rock to get a shot of the first as a foreground for the sky. I had Elliot on the box and was glad to have a planar near-object to focus on and a relatively flat horizon. At f/16 I figured I had a nice fat wedge of focus to play with, so I expected the river and hills to all be well rendered, and that was indeed the case:

I really intended to just get a shot of an interestingly colored sky, but this shot turned into somewhat more than that, at least in my eyes.

It’s getting harder and harder to just take a snapshot.

From Elliot, with a degree and a half of downward tilt, f/16, ISO 100, .8 second exposure, and a hand-held 3-stop ND graduated filter. This lens vignettes if I use a filter holder.

A Pow-Wow. August 27, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
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A mile from our house sits a sacred patch of land where both local and visiting Indians dig for their roots. It’s called the Indian Plaza.

And before you get too far along the path of thinking I ought to have said “Native Americans,” I’m going to go with the ‘druthers of the people I’ve talked to at these gatherings and use the umbrella term “Indian.” It describes them all without differentiation, and if there’s anything striking about that it’s that they see their commonality as being greater than their differences. Such is, I assume, the outfall of collective persecution.

Anyway, the Indian Plaza was badly flooded a year ago by Irene, taking on five feet of silt-laden water and looking dead as a doornail when the rive receded.

Well, it didn’t die. After months of hard labor by its faithful people, it opened last weekend with a gathering and dance:

There were perhaps a hundred people present, though I confess to being an unreliable reporter of numbers – calculate in a generous margin of error and I’m good to go.

Four or five drum circles provided, in turn, the rhythm and reason for the dancing:

And dance they did:

They danced in a measured pursuit of their heritages, my heritage, shallowly buried in the clutter of the American Present.

It was hopeful, and it was beautiful:

Lame Bull traded for this bear headdress, and wears it proudly.

Stone Elk makes staffs for walking and dancing:

And everyone danced:

It was good to see, a resurrection of sorts and a celebration of life.

The next gathering will be September 1-2, if you’re in the area.

Old Trees. August 22, 2012

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White pines, one of the taller tree species which grow in New England. These are out behind the Hall Tavern Farm in Charlemont:

There are four or five of these great things growing amongst a younger forest – how they were spared the saw is a mystery to me, but they’re inspirational enough for someone to have built a few benches for the contemplative visitor:

Those are both tilt-shift photos, although that gets lost in this venue. The first shot has a good deal of tilt, the second a full boat of swing planted right up the tree and catching the bench on its way by.

Large trees these are, at least for these parts. Two tall men might not reach around them.

I’ll be back.

A Homecoming! August 5, 2012

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My recent Dash’n’Snatch run to Boston was to retrieve my elder daughter Mer and my new grandauger Franchesca, who are moving to Boston from California.

I’m thrilled to have Meredith back where I can visit regularly and perhaps even help out once in a while!

Here they are, visiting the Bridge of Flowers while staying with me for a few days:

…and again at the Hail to the Sunrise Park in Charlemont:

This was my first time meeting Chessie, and she’s a real sweetie!  🙂

After a few days here, it was off to her Mom’s house, where Chessie was greeted by the Neighborhood Welcome Waggin’, Cooper:

I suspect Pagan Sphinx will have plenty of photos from their visit, as Mer is likely to spend somewhat more time with her Mom – there’s a lot more to do there, places of interest within walking distance and a friendly dog to play with rather than our skeptical Mr. Cat, who pitched a hissy whenever Franchesca suggested that they PLAY!!!!!!

Hey, he’s a cat, she’s a dog, and never the twain shall meet.

Anyway, Welcome Home, Meredith and Chessie!  🙂

Yankee Doodle Days! August 2, 2012

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Our little town has one stand-out summer event: Yankee Doodle Days, a Friday-through-Sunday extravaganza.

Now, “extravaganza” might conjure certain images for some people, and other images for, um, other people.

Those other people?  Yeah, that’s us!  🙂

This celebration of rural life takes place at the Charlemont Fairgrounds, which has for the past decade been the scene of Herculean efforts by a small, dedicated group of local folks.  After generations of neglect and decay, the fairgrounds is seeing a resurgence, with a functioning Exhibition Hall (which less discerning eyes might assume was an old barn,) a roofed pavilion with a stage and lots of picnic tables and a covered ox/horse draw pit with bleacher seating.  There aren’t adequate words to thank the folks who put so much of their time and effort into this improbable but unstoppable resurrection.

Likewise, the planning and execution of this three days of fun takes a year of work, pulling participants together, raising money for contest prizes and expenses such as insurance…

You get the picture.  I’m going to show you a good time which looks totally low-key and country, but it doesn’t just happen because a bunch of hicks show up.  It happens because a lot of people work really hard to make it happen.

So, here we go!

Friday night’s Main Event is the fireworks display, which is saved for last.  But setting it up starts a good bit earlier:

These folks have nerves of steel and a a gallows humor befitting self-proclaimed “pyros.”

But the fruits of their labors would be harvested after dark.  Meanwhile, there were classic cars to judge, including hot rods:

…and less jazzed up models, like this old Studebaker:

The owner wasn’t around when I was, so I didn’t get the year, but I liked that blue job!

The evening’s events included the first rounds of the Ox-Draw:

…which I had never seen before.  Call me a City-Boy, but I found it to be in some instances unjustifiably brutal; all of the drivers used thick nylon canes to “encourage” their team to pull, but some treated their teams with such viciousness, I found it hard to abide.  I expect to try to get to a few more ox-draws before I draw my final conclusions, but I have a suspicion that there’s some serious abuse going on here in the name of “sport.”

The folks in the bleachers must have been veterans, as they seemed unphased by the sight, as did the little kids in the adjacent “daycare:”

In fact, they didn’t seem to be paying attention to the on-goings, but rather to be running their own little dairy farm.  😉

There was activity on the main stage as well, including a DJ, a magician and, for the little children and their Daddies, hula-hooping:

That’s Shenandoah again.  The girl gets around!

And of course, what would a country fair be without a pie-eating contest?

The adults were slow to line up, ’cause we’re all so proper out here you know.  I tried to instigate a grudge match between the Fire Department ( a lot of big dudes) and the Police Department (a lot of other  big dudes,) but the police seemed to be of the opinion that it was Conduct Unbecoming.  We eventually got some takers:

The kids were a good deal more enthusiastic, with the younger teenagers diving right in, to the amazement of the littler kids:

This lad came in second, but had the First Place Face I wanted for the photo.  😆

Eventually night fell, and as the clouds moved in to obscure the nearly full moon, a big American flag waved from the ladder of a fire truck:

…and the crowd gathered for the Big Show – Fireworks!

The valley rolled with the BOOMs of the big ones and the sizzles of the fancy ones:

The folks gathered gave up “Ooohs” and “Aaaahs” as the show went on, filling the sky with smoke and light and color:

I’ve got to figure out how to capture fireworks in the box; these shots are OK, but I was hoping for something a little more distinctive.  Help me out if you know any cool tricks not involving a hat (yeah, I was using that one.)

With the fading of the Grand Finale, the audience bolted for the gate, and I was right there with them – I had two more days of this revelry to document!

(To Be Continued – it’s going on midnight, and I have a big day tomorrow.)

The Damage Done. August 30, 2011

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I got out for a bit yesterday, with the dual intention of finding a passable route westward for today’s travel to work.  The main route through the region (Route 2) was closed just west of town, so I ranged farther east, then north, in search of open roads.

Now, I’d already been stunned by the spectacle of high water and amazed at the wreckage of mud-encrusted Shelburne Falls, but with the water levels dropping, a whole new level of devastation was being revealed.

I got to Shelburne, then headed north on Route 112 through Colrain.  At the hamlet of Lyonsville, the first bridge was closed – the roadway, gone:

I back-tracked, knowing a long-cut through the hills.

Beyond the bridge was more destruction.  Dams:

…gone.

Powerlines:

Not gone, but nonetheless destroyed.  These high tension lines suspended a mangled tower over the North river.  They’re fully loaded, supplying a large part of the region with power, and can’t be shut down until a reach-around is arranged.  Good luck with that.

The road northward through Halifax, VT was, shall we say, “compromised:”

It’s over the State Line and so won’t be my job, but it’s worth noting that the miles of road in this condition in Southern Vermont are nearly uncountable.

Jacksonville, VT took a monstrous hit; they opened the Glory Hole at Whitingham Reservoir to avert a dam breach, but totaled a lot of the places downstream, including the Honore  (formerly North River) Winery:

It wouldn’t be there at all if the dam had let loose, so I’d say this mess qualifies as the Lesser of Several Evils.

I stopped to inquire about the way westward, and learned that it wasn’t going to happen – Wilmington was unreachable by land by any means.  Bennington, the next large city going west, was similarly unreachable.  National Guard helicopters were doing the essential lifting there.

I headed south at Readsboro, following the Deerfield back south into Massachusetts, making it as far as Dunbar Brook:

It’s gonna take more than asphalt to patch that pothole, I do believe.

A long ride over Monroe Bridge, astonishingly intact, led back through Rowe to the lower part of River Road, where Zoar Gap had reduced the road to one undercut lane.  Finally, I’d found a way out, via Whitcomb Hill Road.  That would be, um, sweet come winter.

With daylight fading I retreated to Charlemont, hoping to get a glimpse of what was keeping Route 2 from opening – it’s the main east-west artery in northern Massachusetts,  and sees a tremendous amount of commercial as well as private traffic.  I slipped on my yellow work vest and hard hat, passing the National Guard roadblock with a business-like wave, stopping to bullshit wth the local police who knew my work, and swerving slowly around the last group of local residents beyond the roadblock:

It was good to see people whose lives had been devastated turning the disaster into a rare opportunity to grill on the double yellow line.  They handed me a hot-dog on home-made jalepeno bread as I passed, admonishing me with a wink to “take pictures.”  They’d been up the road and knew I’d be impressed.

I was.

I know the Cold River along this beautiful stretch of Route 2 well, every swimming hole and sunning rock.  But not today.

Today, it was gone.  Gone!  All of it, the swimming holes, the forested shorelines, the valley I love so much I can taste it, gone.

Route 2, the lifeline of our county, miles of it, gone:

Car sized boulders and a forest’s worth of trees buried the pavement, filled the gaping holes, obliterated the way forward:

And the river was unrecognizable, its massive concrete retaining walls collapsed, its course altered for all time, its beautiful pools obliterated.

I don’t mind saying that I cried.  I’m still grieving as I write this, for the beauty which won’t be back in my lifetime, for the special places I’ll never see again, that no-one will ever see again.  Places I was so looking forward to seeing this Autumn are now lost forever, joining their ancestral mountain fathers in the sea, perhaps to rise again in a billion years, In Sh’Allah.

It’s my job to fix this sort of thing; roads and bridges, that’s what I do.  But when the money’s not there, fixing things takes a long, long time.  In the meantime, while I’m infinitely grateful that everyone I know and love survived this storm, everything  I love didn’t.  And I’m going to miss it.

I know, “It’s a big world.  Find other spots.”  Of course I will.  That’s what we do.

Back at the cold river, I turned and drove back down the valley, stopping for one more burger, served with courage and good cheer by folks who knew exactly what I was feeling:

After all, it’s their  river, too.

Yankee Doodle Days! July 24, 2011

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Hoo-wee, we’re gonna go to the fair!

Actually, it’s my town’s little “signature event,” a long weekend of simple pleasures and entirely believable spectacles which might not exactly take your breath away, but will certainly keep the kids occupied for a few of those summer vacation hours.  We’re talking ox pulls, a (semi-) trained pig act, a demolition derby (!) and lots of fried dough.

Here’s a little carrousel full of Baby-Bumpkins to give you that back-of-a-pickup scale:

This ride came complete with the cutest little Carnie in my limited experience, a Daisy-Duke sportin’ vision who challenged my childhood memories to a duel and won hands down.

And there were fireworks on Friday night, the real reason I’m doing this post, which is a far cry from doing justice to the townspeople who came together to make this thing happen.  But hey, I’m visual, fireworks are visual, you get the connection.

So anyway, I worked my way across the fairgrounds, over/under a few fences, bullshitted a cop or two, and found myself talking to the Pyro-In-Chief, a nice guy by the name of Bill, who cleared me to set up my camera near the control panel, provided I didn’t mind wearing ear protection and a hard-hat.  I said, “Yeah, we got that,” and scurried back to my car to get suited up.  Apparently, four inch balls of flaming God-knows-what are known to fall back onto the launch area, and being crazy doesn’t render these folks fools.

Said control panel:

I fielded a few questions like, “Ever done this before?” and responded with a dope-in-the-headlights look (which I failed to document) which roughly translates as “Duh.”  So Mrs. Bill (Lynn, I believe) clued me as to what had worked for her – high film speed ( in my case, ISO) and long exposures.  I dialed it in and donned a hard-hat.  I subsequently heard different recipes for success on the Tubes, and will explore them.

Then, “BOOM!”  and we were off!  I clicked away, missing my range but still getting a piece (hey, you  try focusing on a moving object which isn’t there yet!)  I liked the odd solidity of the fragment I caught enough to include it here:

It looks like a solid thing dangling on a string, doubtless a result of the time-chunk I captured with this bulb exposure.

I stayed with the “bulb” setting for the shoot, trying to get both launches and explosions in the same shot.  The results were mixed; I’ll let you be the judges of what worked and what didn’t.

An abstract, as I homed in on the action:

Another, getting my range:

…and a short series capturing both the origin and the destination of these brilliantly burnt offerings:

That’s my favorite of the bunch, primarily because the colors broke the heavily-red pattern of its predecessors.

So there’s a first effort at photographing fireworks, the distinction being that it’s not nature and it’s not standing still while I spend twenty minutes setting up each shot.  I’ve a ways to go on this arc of my learning curve, so bear with me while I think out loud here.

 

Summer Time. July 4, 2011

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It’s the Fourth of July, a great American holiday.  I missed the fireworks, chasing The Light with my tools of choice, and instead of Chinese pyrotechnics,  I got a few more shots of My America.

These are actually an assemblage from the week past, but hey, in the grander scheme they’re cotemporal.  (I made that word up because it works.)

For me, the absolute apex of Summer occurs when the wildflowers are at their best.  For the most part, we’re there now, though there will be other shows later.  Right now, the high meadows are filled with Rugosa rose, Ox-eye daisies, Northern bedstraw, clovers and vetches, and grasses unfurling their pollinated flags:

Thistles beckon bees to flit between them:

The fields are ripe, the grasses are high, and the clouds are full of promise:

…and the rivers and streams flow with the rains, which recently have been generous:

Two black and whites, from Rowe and Conway respectively.

And to end this American birthday, a sunset on the Deerfield river:

Proof that humid nights have their greater purpose.

Happy Birthday, America, and good night.

Weekend Roundup. June 12, 2011

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Another week of water over the damned, as they say.  Here are a few images culled from the pile, before I retire this ol’ ‘puterbox in favor of This Year’s Model.

Wild mustard beneath a Dr. Seuss cloud:

An old wooden truck bed being recycled by lichen:

A monobow descends over the hills of Bernardston:

The Bridge of Flowers in full bloom:

The local planting season swings into high gear:

A little rain does nothing to slow these folks down.  God bless the farmers!

The first cutting of hay came the third week of May, earlier than usual:

And here’s a view from Shelburne’s High Ledges at sunset, looking back at the Deerfield river running through Charlemont:

There are a few other shots from the week which may yet see daylight, but they’ll be coming atcha from a newer computer (once I get it figured out!)

Later, Peeps.