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Forest Arriving Too Late To Save A Sinking Field. January 7, 2013

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Twilight up in Windsor, MA:


And that is all.

A Slight Detour. October 13, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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This past Thursday morning I set out for Northern Vermont, with the intention of getting some Autumnal photos.

Well, part way there, an employee of the State at a visitors’ center told me that Northern Vermont had turned brown and been blown clean by high winds, and unless I was looking for bare branches, I ought to look elsewhere.

So. “Elsewhere,” eh? Where might that  be?

I recalled my housemate Lizz saying that the Maine coast was usually behind the rest of New England in its rotation through the seasons, on account of the moderating effect of the ocean. So…

…off to Maine!

I charted a course across interior New England, which wasn’t entirely straight-forward – there are, apparently, no major roads making that journey.

Still, ten hours of driving later, I arrived at Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park, the first place in the nation to receive that designation. It was evening, and I barely had time to check in and buy a pass before it was time to head up Cadillac Mountain for some sunset shots.

The drive up afforded me views of Bar Harbor, the tourist town people come to from all over. And they’re not wrong to do so; there are a hundred fine restaurants and fascinating shops full of local arts and crafts, most at a premium price, but all worth considering. It’s one of my favorite little towns, though I’m economically relegated to browsing.

Anyway, the ride into the Park afforded an overview of the town below:

…and the world which comes from afar to see it:

My immediate destination, though, was Cadillac Mountain, the first place in the nation to see the sun rise.

I got up there in plenty of time to wander around in the light, but a distressingly high wind at first kept me from doing much beyond taking snapshots of the geology of the nearly-bare dome:

Sorry, no filters to balance the earth and sky, just a shell-shocked wandering in search of a subject.

As the light waned, the wind dipped slightly, and I got a grip. The long rays of the impending sunset painted prominent boulders red, and I took the opportunity to get my customary self-portrait:

The actual sunset was screened by a higher swatch of boreal forest to my west, so I opted instead for captures of the local flora…

…looking eastward, out to sea, toward the rising Earth-shadow.

The Wind, bane of us photophiles, was relentless. I searched for hollows in the landscape which might escape the brunt of the tumult, and found this scene:

That’s from Elliot, with five or six degrees of swing to plant the plane of sharp focus right up the middle of this scene, giving me the details of the foreground granite, the tuft of golden grasses and tall white flowers in center field, and the more distant trees. The trees looked capable of telling their own separate story, but in the fading light I didn’t get to explore that.

The coast seems to beg a curved interpretation of this Earth we live on, and  sometimes it even becomes visually apparent:

…thanks at least in part to the curved dome of granite I was standing on to take these photos.  😉

Night fell, and I began the sketchy task of finding a place to sleep for free in a place which makes its money off of visitors. There are a lot of people here whose solvency depends on a lively influx of tourist dollars, but I don’t have any of those dollars and intended to sleep in my car (hey, it’s big enough to be comfortable!)

I found an off-the-beaten-path picnic area and tucked myself into the bushes, then sat until well past sunset before breaking out the kit again for some loooong exposures of the night sky.

It was cold and clear, and the Milky Way was alight above the firred forestscape:

I shot for a while, then got into my sleeping bag for a few hours of sleep.

I got up just after five and hiked down to the shore in time to see the sun warming the Eastern horizon:

This was a nice spot, perhaps less overrun with photographers than the Island’s more iconic spots like Otter Cliff, where I’d originally planned to spend sunrise. In fact, there was no one in sight as I caught the geometry of the cove solidifying in the rising light:

I switched lenses to get Elliot’s perspective on things – he’s particularly adept at interpreting planar scenes, and wanted a shot at this rocky coastline.

I like what he did here, seeing the nearby granite as a path toward the rising sun, with a subtle hook directing one’s attention to the spit of forest on the left which balances this scene.

Thanks, Elliot. Your way of seeing things informs and enlarges mine.

As the sun came up the clouds came in, and the light changed from the clear air of twilight to a hazier brew. I headed around to the windward southern coast. There the waves were rolling in and breaking on a coastal shelf of granite, spreading over the rocks as they sought their own level:

Getting this shot was really fun for me. Driving to the Coast is always a trudge, but the Maine  coast is an especially long drive, and getting what I came for was a real thrill and a great relief. Taking this photo tipped me over the balance point of effort and reward, and I finally knew the trip had been worth the cost.

The walk back to the car was through an expanse of coastal forest draped with moss and carpeted with lichen. I’d rushed in past this section in the dark, but my more leisurely retreat allowed me to stop and take some shots.

At first I thought I’d switch to my macro lens and get some details at ground level, but the light was a bit harsh for that – I’d have gotten better shots just before sunrise, if I hadn’t opted for a view of the shore. So instead I kept Elliot on and looked for planar subjects, like the weathering granite which underlaid everything.

Here some displaced blocks seem to delineate a tableau of trees:

As I set up to shoot along the textured surface of this next boulder the sky obligingly turned angry. I love this look, and felt blessed by its unanticipated appearance:

The change of light provided some needed saturation to the scene. Thank You, Father Sky.

I snagged a few more shots of details in the moss-draped forest:

…then beat feet as the clouds lowered and portended rain.

Sure enough, by the time I headed for the park exit by way of Jordan Pond, the skies had opened up and shooting was limited to occasional breaks, like this moment when I passed the North Bubble:

Park rangers say this area is just moving into peak foliage season, so if you’re in these parts, this might be a great time to visit.

This trip was totally unplanned; I didn’t even have my maps of the area with me. I’d intended to be in Vermont, after all. But despite the 18 hours round trip drive and my 5pm-11am window of being there, I was glad I went.

A Show In Ashfield. October 5, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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I’ve been getting my photography “out and about,” as they say, and have recently sold a few pieces. I have a few nice old car and truck pics on the walls of Chef Rob Watson’s Lone Wolf Bistro in Amherst, MA, and a few of the young ladies I’ve shot at horse jumping meets have purchased prints.

It’s not enough to pay the bills yet (I’m still digging food out of the cracks in my kitchen floor) but it’s all moving in the right direction.

I currently have a show up at Elmer’s Store, Restaurant and Gallery up in Ashfield. It’s broadly Autumnal themed, designed to coincide with the town’s great Ashfield Fall Festival which runs this Saturday and Sunday. If you’re in the area and have a chance to visit, please do – I highly recommend their breakfasts, especially the hash – yum!  🙂 ‘ll be on their walls for most of October.

For those of you who don’t live close enough to visit, I’m posting the show’s ten photos here (hey, it’s a virtual world, non? ) for your viewing pleasure.

All of these shots have appeared here before, but never as a group.

Corn and Oak, Hadley MA:

Chickley Gold, Charlemont MA:

West Branch Storm, Deerfield river, Readsboro VT:

Deerfield Dawn, Charlemont MA:

Windsor Hay Wagon, Windsor MA:

Irrigation Ditch, Hadley MA:

Catamount Cascade, Colrain MA:

Autocar Light, Bernardston MA:

Black Brook, Savoy/Florida MA:

Forest Fog, Plainfield MA:

All of these images are printed at 12″ X 18″ and matted and framed at 18″ X 24.” They’re archival presentations with 100-year inks, acid-free/pH-buffered mats and backing and Conservation Clear UV-protective glass, and are available for $275 plus tax (where applicable) and shipping.

If you’re interested, email me: ralph@ralphmunn.com.

Or better yet, stop by Elmer’s Store for a great meal and a look-see.  🙂

And now I’m off to photograph some rock climbing adventures.


Serendipity. January 8, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Some while ago, a few years now if memory serves, I set up my camera in anticipation of a rising full moon.  My timing, though, was a bit off; I stomped about with an eye plastered to the Eastern horizon where I expected this spectacle to manifest, while behind me the sun was setting in spectacular fashion.

I almost didn’t notice.

Such is the trap of self-centrism: we miss what’s offered to us even as we pursue what we think we deserve.

I coined a phrase that evening and posted it as an off-hand comment, which has stuck with me ever since:  “Never piss on a sunset while you’re waiting for the moon.”   Thank you to my friend Paul from Albuquerque for recognizing that off-hand statement as a significant thought.  It’s kept me looking over my shoulder ever since, watching where I step even as I have Gizmo fixed on something way off in the sky.

That perspective serves me often, and most recently as I crossed the Route 5 / Deerfield river bridge between Greenfield and the town of Deerfield.  The sky looked as if it might burst into a showy sunset, so I banged a u-ie (is that a word?) and parked within walking distance of the bridge.  I got Ollie set up and dialed in, but then…

…nothing.  No fireworks, no singing choirs of angels, just a placid fading of the light.

Which, if embraced for what it was rather than for what I’d expected, wasn’t half bad.

Cottonwoods reflected in an uncustomarily placid Deerfield:

It wasn’t what I set up for, but it’s what was given to me, for which I am grateful.

I took half a dozen shots of this scene with very few changes in my settings, but this one conveyed the most tranquility, probably because the palette was subdued and homogenous and unconflicted by the oranges which the sunset interjected in most of the others.

What you’re seeing here is a combination of the dumb luck of Being There and a bit of elbow-grease on my part.

I hope you like it.




Strange Skies. June 2, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
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Yesterday after work I ran a couple of errands, and in the process, got totally drenched in a spectacular downpour.

So naturally I thought, “There must be mists rising on the back end of this thing; the sun’s still up, maybe sunset will get involved!”  … and I headed the car westward to see what I would see.

As I broke out of the storm’s western front, I saw the anticipated mists:

…but alas, the image wasn’t really compelling, so I drove on.

As the sky cleared, my auto-noodling brought me up toward Windsor, where I thought I might find some early meadow wildflowers.  I wanted to try to get some foreground blooms with some cumulus monsters in the background, something which can be done to good effect with a tilt-shift lens.

At a high meadow along route 8A I was pleased to find a view worth setting up for:

…with a nice carpet of Ragged Robin shepherded by a passable set of clouds:

This small version of this photo misses the finer details of the delicate flowers interspersed with buttercups, but hey, that’s the medium I’m working in here.

There were a lot of different types of grasses in bloom, with interesting seed-heads of various colors:

Tussock Sedges and Buttercups beneath a sky which was beginning to act up.

I looked for and found a patch of Blue Flag irises I’ve photographed in the past, and with Elliot’s trick objective lens, got this:

At this point, though, things got a bit strange – I thought the curving structure in the upper sky was some sort of aberration caused by my circular polarizer, but quickly realized that it was an actual feature in the clouds.  I stood back and watched in amazement as the ghostly sky began to boil, coalescing into radiating waves of gray and white.  It was as though all of the moisture in the air was being amassed and focused to the south, suddenly blushing as the western sun grew low and leaving the adjacent sky brilliantly blue:

The sinuous striations of the cloud’s underbelly spoke of spectacular wind speeds, and my mind raced with images of recent Midwestern disasters.  I was wishing for my 16mm wide-angle lens, but it was back at the car, and there just wasn’t time – I got as much of the total sky event as I could with Elliot:

I was gobsmacked by the sight of this unearthly cloud flowing from the sky with Auroral undulations;  calibrating the distance and direction of its focus, I thought, “Something bad is happening down Springfield way.”

With the light fading and mayflies gnawing at my every exposed inch, I jogged back to the car with frequent stops to gawk.  By the time I got to the road and put my Sweet Sixteen on the box the show was nearly over, and the apparition had resolved into an orange phantasm:

I would have liked to have held that image in my mind all the way home, but the car radio had other ideas: a frantic announcer was describing the wreckage in Springfield, Massachusetts, where at least three tornadoes had destroyed a swath of the city, tossing cars into piles and killing four people.

I had inadvertently photographed a sad bit of Massachusetts history.