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Surfing Bedrock. September 6, 2012

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Back here in Massachusetts, the Potholes along the Deerfield river provide a venue for surfing the bedrock of Franklin County:

Boys defying the No Trespassing signs and exploring their world. I have a love for this place and a love for this process.

Evening Along The Deerfield. August 8, 2012

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This evening’s skies looked like they might light up, so as the light grew low I headed down to the river.  First stop, the Route 8A bridge in the center of Charlemont, where the setting sun danced on the waters of the Deerfield river:

The light was nice, but the color wasn’t there.

After a few shots, I packed it in and headed eastward toward home.

But as often happens when  I pack it in, the light began to shift, and the colors bloomed, and soon I was accelerating past my driveway, heading toward a riverside view in East Charlemont which regular visitors to this site might recognize.  As I drove the eastern skies lit up, and I hit the binders just in time to get these takes on the fading light reflected in the river:

Our river is unusually low for this time of year, and the bones of its bed are exposed to whatever voyeurs happen by.  I’m embarrassed for it, and wish the roadside weeds would dress it more decently in its diminished state.

But that’s just me being anthropomorphic, feeling Nature in a way to which I haven’t a right.  It is what it is, and it isn’t really my business.

Still, I hope this is a passing phase.  My river can’t stand very much of this without losing a good deal of what it once was.

Whitewater! July 27, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Action/Adventure.
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When water is released through the Dryway section of the Deerfield River in the Northern Berkshires of Massachusetts, people come from all over the East Coast to play.

It’s not that it’s the biggest or most spectacular whitewater in the East; rather, this is a Class 3/4 river run, challenging enough to entice experts, but not beyond paddlers of moderate abilities.

Plus, it runs through one of the least despoiled river valleys in the Northeast, where one can paddle or float for miles without seeing a single house:

This is a rapid through a narrowing, where the water drops over boulders, forms “holes” and piles up in “standing waves” which look stationary even as water rushes through them.  They’re ideal for experts to play in, and negotiable for reasonably competent paddlers.

There are several rafting companies operating here which allow folks who don’t have skills or knowledge to experience the river, but this post will highlight the other boaters, the ones whose skill and strength and spine gets them through.

There are kayakers, “K-1” paddlers, who can be spotted by their double-bladed paddles:

K-2 boaters do the same in pairs:

Kayakers paddle in a seated position with their legs out in front of them, though that’s not apparent to the casual observer.

Then there are “C-1” paddlers, in solo closed canoes:

They use a standard single-blade paddle and work twice as hard as the kayakers.  “Twice the man, half the paddle,” they’re fond of saying.  🙂

Canoeists kneel with their feet under them, and have a minimal seat to settle onto when they like.  It’s an ideal set-up for little guys like me; I can kneel up to see over upcoming waves, whereas if I’m sitting on the bottom of the boat, I have at least a foot less height and a LOT less sight distance, which makes navigation much more difficult.

There are also some open canoes which run rivers of this grade, though you won’t see birch-bark canoes or your father’s aluminum Grumman.  Rather, they’re high-tech fiberglass or plastic models, with every unoccupied cubic inch filled with inflatable floatation devices:

I’d say, “That’s a MAN’s boat,”  except that women can and do paddle them as well:

That’s a rotary injection molded model, and though I’m sure that woman can paddle circles around me in it, I prefer the aesthetics of the more classical designs:

Full Gnarlz indeed!  😆

There were also a few inflatable catamarans, like this one paddled by a mixed gender team:

…and a few crazy people paddling those new-fangled stand-up boats, sort of a cross between a canoe and a surfboard, but I was too busy laughing at their swan-dive demises to take a decent photo!

Competent paddlers find a way to thread rapids like this and get to the bottom in one piece; folks with higher skill levels will “eddy out” at every opportunity, then turn upstream and play, paddling against the current to the crest of a standing wave and surfing its upstream side:

Sometimes they’d get eaten and flushed, and roll up downstream; sometimes they’d drive forward into the trough, lean forward to bury their bow and do numerous cart-wheels, then resume surfing – amazing!!!

So here’s the part where I try to get you to hold your breath:

How’d I do?  😆

Well, you can breath now – they mostly  all popped up and paddled away…

I’ll leave you with these last few photos:

…I have a fireworks display to shoot tonight, and I’ve got camera prep and dinner still to do!


Lost And Found. June 4, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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The Deerfield river is widely known as a great trout fishing venue.  It’s fast and cold and relatively clean in the reaches here and above, and has rebounded from it’s Irene Make-Over with astonishing speed.  The section immediately above Charlemont is a catch-and-release area, no bait-fishermen please, and as such is a popular float-fishing destination for several fly-fishing outfitters.

The cardinal rule of Catch-and-Release is DO NO HARM so that returned fish survive and thrive.

So it’s a little bit karmic that this trebble-hook spinner, decidedly not  kind to fish (and frequently fatal) was lost among the logs and rocks just above town:

I hope it was his last one, and that its parting ended someone’s day of fun.

This is from Elliot, tripod-mounted within a foot of the rocks (yes, I was lying down on the job!)  Eight degrees of tilt, with a hand-held reverse-graduated ND filter.

TMI for most of you, but food for “inquiring minds…”

Susan’s View. May 22, 2012

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This afternoon the showers broke, and beneath stormy skies, I snapped this photo of bugleweed in my Susan’s yard:

I was dressed to be seen in public and not to do nature photography, so this was a rush job, with me kneeling briefly in the rain-soaked grass and bending down with my head a foot off the ground.  A tripod set-up was warranted, but not to be.  Rather it was hand-held with Elliot at about 5 degrees of tilt, no shift, f/20, 1/30th of a second, no image stabilization.  Sorry about that last bit.

This is a lovely view down into the Deerfield river valley at Shelburne Falls, and has the potential to catch some great skies.  River fogs and sunrises come to mind.

At any rate, I expect to see this in many lights.

Sycamore. May 18, 2012

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An over-arching sycamore branch frames the dawn along the Deerfield river:

I’d hoped for a foggier atmosphere, but hey, you gets what you gets.

Giving You The Bird. April 8, 2012

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Our National symbol, that is.

Here in Western Massachusetts we have a resurgent population of eagles, which were extremely rare in my youth.  Conservation and re-introduction efforts since the ban on DDT have been one of the great success stories of the modern environmental movement, and I’m thrilled every time I witness the results.

Along my local stretch of the Deerfield river we have frequent eagle sightings; they’re nesting near-by, though I’m not sure where.

Yesterday I got home in the evening and unloaded my camera gear and groceries, then saw the laundry basket in the back seat and remembered that I had a load drying at the laundromat in the next town down river.  I hopped back in the car and went for it, and along the way spotted three eagles roosting in a tree across the river – damn!   I always  have my camera with me, but… not tonight.  Bummer!

I carried on and retrieved my laundry, then headed home, and don’tcha know, there they still were, three eagles in one tree.  And me without my camera.

So I got home, ditched the laundry, grabbed my camera and headed back down river.

I know: my chances of success at this point were slim.  But if I didn’t try,  my chance of success was zero.

So I went, and some little while later as I pulled around the bend into view, I saw…

…two eagles.

Oh well.  Mother Nature isn’t obliged to mark time while I get my act together.

So here are a few shots Gizmo snagged over the next twenty minutes.  I resolved as soon as I turned the key off to stay ’till somebody took wing, and many cramps later I got my wish:

Yeah, I shoulda been closer, but there was the small matter of a river between us.  And I shoulda had an 800mm lens, but that’s several more thousands of dollars I don’t have either.

So I got what I got, and I hope you like it.

That Time Of The Month. April 6, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Yes Kids, it’s That Time of the Month again: the moon is fat, and I’ve been on the hunt.

My best (and indeed only  effort) happened a couple of days ago, and quite by accident – I was hip deep in the Deerfield river, heading for a gravel bar to snag a sunset shot or two, when I saw The Gibbous One over my shoulder, dodging in and out of some artsy-looking clouds.  As soon as I got to Terra Sorta Firma,  I threw Gizmo on the box and shot this:

Not what I came for, but you gotta dance with the celestial bodies what brung ya.  😉


In Like A Lion. March 2, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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So it’s March, and don’tcha just know it, it’s winter.


Except for our October Surprise, of course.

Nonetheless, I was prompted to head upriver to see what this storm had made of our neighborhood.  I drove northward through some semblance of sleet and steel grey skies:

The river was cloaked in something akin to Marshmallow Fluff:

Along the way, there was evidence of small animals stumbling about, murmuring, “WTF, what happened to Spring??”

The answer, my little friends, is it’s been postponed by current events:

Eventually I got up to Readsboro VT, where a couple of buildings caught my fancy.  The First Baptist Church:

…and an abandoned building, boarded up in a delightful fashion:

I’ve marveled at this before, though I don’t recall stopping to photograph it.  It’s at its best when the skies are blue and sporting sunset clouds which approximate the hues and textures depicted on the rather excellent paintings thrown up on the windows of this once grand building.

This is a testament to those folks who reside in this proud but struggling Vermont village.  Prosperity has packed up and left for warmer climes, but hope holds on here.  Perhaps it’s because the resources to relocate don’t exist, but perhaps it’s because the folks who grew up here love the place, and have decided to stand and fight.

I’m thinking it’s the latter, though I can’t help remembering the Alamo.

Watchin’ The River Flow! February 13, 2012

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The Deerfield, at the “Potholes” in Shelburne Falls:

It’s disconcerting to see the river basically ice free in February, and flowing at what look more like summer levels.  There’s a little more snow up over the Vermont line, so I haven’t entirely written off the Spring melt, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it be uncustomarily light.