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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!

Inclement Weather. September 8, 2012

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We have a weather system moving through our area, with a lot of moisture and substantial winds.

This season has been dry enough that I welcome the rain, and expect to tolerate the rest of the mess – the wind, lowland flooding, etc. It isn’t a disaster if Nature in general benefits by it.

I cruised a bit this afternoon, hoping to find a bit of lushness between the raindrops. Perhaps some plump moss, drunk and luminescent, or the first red leaves of autumn, richly saturated by the conditions.

The going was slow and the pickings scant; the recent bloom of mushrooms was bloated and toppling, and the moss was full but lacking the regenerative spark of Spring.

I headed to higher ground, hoping to find the beginning of our seasonal color change.

I wound my way westward around Mount Greylock, our state’s highest peak, and caught this view of a wind farm in Hancock:

A steep front was rolling in from the southwest, and I hustled up the Greylock road from Route 8 to beat it to the summit.

The mixed hardwood forest passed by uneventfully as  I crept up the mountain with Gizmo affixed to my camera; my last trip up this road had given me an encounter with an owl, and I wanted to be ready for another such event. I wasn’t so blessed, but still, the slow pace and attentive eye turned my uphill ride into an appreciative survey of my surroundings.

I still had Gizmo on the box when I arrived at the summit to find it in dense clouds, and took this telephoto shot of a snag protruding from the boreal forest:

As so commonly happens in a photographer’s world, it wasn’t what I went looking for, but it’s what I got, and I just say “Thank you” for that.

Birds Of Prey. August 27, 2012

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I haven’t seen prominent displays of eagles on the river since Spring, and our local population of hawks is pretty private, so I was pleased today to find both within range of my lens and comfortable enough with my presence to sit for me.

Well, the eagle wasn’t exactly close – it was perhaps a hundred yards away, and sitting in a densely-leaved tree, but I reeled it in with Gizmo and a 2X Tele-Extender for an effective focal length of 800mm. The shot is hand-held, albeit resting on the door of my car, and cropped pretty hard to get this:

The faster version of this lens, with image stabilization, is a cool thousand dollars more than what I paid for Gizmo, so you’ll have to suffer with us until I hit the lottery.

I did  get closer to a red tailed hawk perched on a roadside fence post this very same morning, and didn’t have to crop the photo to give you this:

I crept my 4-Runner up the shoulder of the road over ten or so minutes to position myself across from this beautiful bird, who stayed put and let me. Go figure – perhaps they know the difference between being loved and hunted.

I see lots of raptors every day, but it’s not every day that I have a chance to photograph them.

Thank you, Father Sky, for lending me your children.

A Few Climbing Shots. August 18, 2012

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From last weekend, at Farley Ledge in Erving, MA.

Matt smoothing the steep rock at the left end of the sport wall:

…and Zach throwing the moves on a taller piece of rock right of that:

I hadn’t come prepared for this shoot with quite the right lens; the whole forest is grown in with invasive vines, and my line of sight was reduced so as to make Gizmo almost useless. These shots really need context to evoke any emotion, and it was all I could do to get a whole person in the frame!

Anyway, they’re a bit of documentation of what’s happening in my world, and here they are.

Your Daily Bridge. August 13, 2012

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I just can’t stay off of that damned thing!

But this particular visit to the Bridge of Flowers in nearby Shelburne Falls was a furthering of my investigations of the combination of my 400mm Gizmo and a Canon 2X tele-extender.

The combo is cumbersome, shaky and slow – the auto-focus on my 5D Mark II doesn’t work in this configuration, and the 2X closes the maximum aperture by two stops, leaving me with a max ap of f/11, which makes hand holding difficult for this shaky old relic. I addressed that problem with a monopod collapsed short and canted against my thigh in a kneeling position. It made for wet knees on a dewey morning…

Hey, one does what one must to get that shot!  😉

So, the results:

People can be photographed from enough of a distance to not be self-conscious – here gardener Carol works to keep things beautiful:

Thanks, Carol!  😉

The tele-extender doubles the magnification of my 400mm Gizmo without increasing the minimum focusing distance. Glads from just over twelve feet:

Crisp focus is difficult with 800mm hand-held, and nearly impossible for these hands with a twirling subject:

…but she was too darling to not include in this post. God bless the children!  🙂

I did better with stationary subjects like dahlias:

The effect is nearly macro-like, with a peek-a-boo look which brings a viewer into the scene, or so it seems to me…

…and the depth of focus includes the entirety of a blossom while utterly excluding the background:

This is exactly what I was hoping for from this visit: find the strengths, isolate the weaknesses and develop strategies to contend with them.

I’m pleased.

The July Full Moon. July 4, 2012

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

That is all.

Horses, The Jumping Kind. July 3, 2012

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I stumbled upon this equestrian gathering at the fairgrounds in Northampton the other day, wandered in and snapped a few off before moving on.

One from Gizmo, hand-held at 400mm:

And some shots from Allie, my 24-105mm L-series zoom:

This one is cool for having all four off the ground, a testament more to the speed of the horse than the height of the jump:

And finally:

In that last shot, the horse and rider had just cleared the jump at left at high speed, wheeled and attacked this jump while still making the turn.  I don’t know if that’s considered “good form,” but it sure was exciting to watch!

Another Perspective On The Bridge. June 19, 2012

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I’ve photographed Shelburne Falls’ Bridge of Flowers ad nauseum,  unless of course you love flowers and can’t get enough of them.

Yesterday, as I once again succumbed to the urge to park and walk and photograph, I thought I’d try something different.  I put Gizmo on the box, and where I more commonly take macro photos,  I looked at The Bridge from a telephoto perspective.

A cascade of roses, taken from the town’s central Steel Bridge:

Tourists, either ecstatic or antsy, depending on whose idea this excursion was:

Roses, a major player this time of year:

Many of The Usual Suspects formerly photographed with a macro lens, now viewed from a distance:

…and a gone-by allium set amidst roses:

It’s a different way of seeing, I guess, something which I’ve been looking at for years.

Hey, it’s cheaper than airline tickets, which is another way we get to see something new.

 

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…

😉

At The Rowe Fen. June 13, 2012

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Up in Rowe, MA sits a fen, or basic pH bog, which hosts many hundreds of Northern Pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea.)   I’ve been there uncounted times over the past years to photograph them, with varying degrees of success.

Well, you know, one doesn’t improve by being satisfied with where one’s at.

So today I went back, arriving in late afternoon to find wonderful light slanting through the treetops.

Blue Flag irises separate the fen from the gravel road, and though they were nearly gone by, they were still worthy of a photo:

There’s an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail lighting on the iris just left of center, though it’s hard to see at this size.

In the grass at the fen’s edge, I got this shot of a sluggish butterfly, which looks something like a black Swallowtail, though it’s wings lack the definitive posterior points:

That could be a sign of old age or disease, as the wings tend to deteriorate with age.

The Northern Pitchers were gorgeous in the warm afternoon light, glowing as though illuminated from within:

Their totally unique flowers were red as roses and ripe with last night’s rain:

Before packing up my kit, I got all Artsy-Fartsy and took a couple of 1 second panning shots, hoping for something impressionistic.  While the results of this sort of experimentation aren’t that predictable to me, they were close to what I’d hoped for:

…and:

The first shot in this post is from Elliot, the rest are from Gizmo with a 2X Tele-Extender, giving an effective focal length of 800mm, albeit without auto focus or image stabilization.  I used Live View/mirror lock-up and a two second delay to get steady shots.

Up next:  some animal shots, which have been piling up embarrassingly in my to-post pile.