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Drydock. December 19, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
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Along the road in Shelburne Falls:


A sailboat sits it out near the Lamson Sharp cutlery factory.


Moonlight Magic In Shelburne Falls! November 26, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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Despite being a convert to Reverend Billy’s Church of Stop Shopping, I’m also a strong supporter of my local towns, and have of late taken frequent opportunities to promote the events and little businesses in said hamlets.

The most recent of such events was Shelburne Falls’ Moonlight Magic, which was a Black Friday affair (so much for my membership in the Church of Stop Shopping.) The whole town gears up for this night of sidewalk sales in a candle-lit setting.

Aside from the considerable pre-planning coordinated by the Shelburne Falls Business Association, the day begins around noon with our local high school students building the luminaries which will light the night:

Hundreds of these sand-weighted candle lanterns will be placed throughout the village and lit at sunset. They create a beautiful aura for this community event.

The village was striking enough as sunset approached:

…but destined to become even more so after the light left the land:

At any rate, the late afternoon was spent setting things up, with the main (Bridge) street closed to vehicular traffic:

Merchants set up tents and product displays:

A magician appeared on the steps of Memorial Hall and conjured an appreciative crowd:

Storefronts came to life:

Vendors showed their wares:

…The smell of a variety of foods filled the air, including this wood-fired pizza offering:

A parade motivated from the Buckland side of town, lead by the Expandable Brass Band:

…and a Snow Princess in a white convertible:

…riding past a Steel Bridge Santa:

…and followed by the Serendipity Stilt Walkers:

…and of course, a magical lady tying balloons:

…into hats for happy children:

And all the while, upstairs in Memorial Hall, Fred at Pothole Pictures kept a loop of Looney Tunes going:

…perhaps the most fun way I could envision to get warm between tours of The Street.  🙂

All in all, it was a truly magical night of friends and lights:

I hope you’ll excuse the ghosts and noise in these silly-long exposures, but it seemed to me that existing-light photography was the way to go for this event, and that was the price I paid for photographing it this way.

Bridge Of Flowers Foot Race! August 15, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Action/Adventure.
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I spent a good deal of last Saturday photographing, or trying  to photograph, the annual Bridge of Flowers 10K Classic, as well as its little brother, the ’round-the-village 3K starter.

I say “trying”  because the results were fairly disastrous from a number of perspectives, which I’ll try to parse as we go.

The first hurdle one encounters in this endeavor is that police and race officials close the village streets before the race starts, so you as an observer/photographer pick your spot, and there you are. No hopping in the chariot and whipping the horses to get ahead of the action, and good luck packing up your kit and running  to get ahead, unless you’re accustomed to changing your clothes in a phone booth…

…So the logical one spot to be at is the Start/Finish line, which are blessedly one and the same. Forget the along-the-course drama and the rural ambiance which inform the character of this race from the participants’ point of view, and settle for the Money Shot at the race’s end. The official race photography outfit apparently deals with this problem by working as a group, with people at all of the important spots.

But as I’m just me, I tried to game the venue, so to speak. I got in early for a photo of the Start line, with a bit of bustle but no massive crowds:

Racers will line up behind the timers and fill the town’s central Steel Bridge, then stream past where I’m standing and loop the village before heading back across the bridge, up over the killer Crittenden Hill and down around a loop of paved an unpaved Buckland roads near our Regional High School, finishing with one more crossing of the Steel Bridge and a dash for the finish.

I got out of “downtown” just before the roads closed and set up at the farthest reaches of the in-town loop, hoping to get some 3K racers, then get out to the countryside for some action.  With any luck I could shoot for a while, then head back into town to get the last finishers bringing it home. As much as the glory goes to the winners, I think the real heart of these events resides in those who work the hardest only to finish last.

I set up on a corner of Maple Street with my 35-16mm tele on a tripod at knee height, all settings on auto, and Gizmo on a monopod, with the expectation that I’d snap away at 400mm as runners crested a nearby hill and get close-ups of folks cutting the corner close to my lower set-up. Gizmo did his job as admirably as a long lens might without a tripod:

…which is to say, I got something which was viewable, albeit not crisp.  I threw away a lot of these, either because they were blurred or because they were boring, usually both.

My knee-high wide-angle tripod set-up was even less productive; the camera’s auto function was stupidly satisfied to focus on the distant background (hey, it can only do what I tell it to do!) and consequently didn’t do the racers justice:

Sorry, folks.  Perhaps next year.

Oh, one more from the 3K, a really crappy photo of a really inspiring effort:

This smiling little girl flew by me on what looked like a “Cheetah” prosthetic. I’m sorry to have neither a decent photo of her nor her name, but uplifted just knowing that she’s out there in my world.  🙂

I packed it in after the bulk of 3K runners had passed and got back to the car, which would have been boxed in if I hadn’t had four wheel drive and a willingness to plow through tall weeds, and reviewed my shots, cursing and scheming for a way to do better at my next set-up.

Gizmo, I deduced, needed a steadier hand, especially as I’d next be shooting at 800mm with my tele-extender, which also meant manually focusing.  Jeee-zhus! What tangled webs we weave! I resolved to shorten my mono-pod and kneel next to my low tripod, bracing against it for more stability.

Hope springs eternal, or so they say.

During the short drive to the high school I decided to switch out my 16-35mm lens for Elliot, my 24mm tilt-shift job.  I figured if I swapped the tilt for swing and preset the manual focus to catch a near and a far object, my task would be reduced to pushing the shutter button at the moment when runners were crossing that plane.

Ah, “The best laid plans…”  😆

I got to my spot well ahead of the runners and had time to get this all set up, with a little bit of wildflowers as a foreground to keep Elliot from getting bored on me and falling asleep at the wheel, then waited.

And waited:

Finally, the pace car:

…and the first runner:

…Frikadu Lemma of Bronx, NY, well ahead of his closest competitors, and looking very much in control. Thinking of the grueling Crittenden Hill he’d just climbed, I was absolutely amazed. He would go on to win in a time of 32:22. Congratulations, Frikadu!

The second and third runners passed, then came the rest in small and large groups, including the first woman, Renee Knapp of Eugene OR, who would later finish third among the women with a time of 39:12, half a minute behind leader Amelia Landberg of Boston:

I didn’t get a shot of Amelia, but Renee here was very focused and running hard, as were all of these front-runners.  Amazing to see, it was.

The groups and singles flowed by, some in pain, some in ecstasy:

That woman in black was the happy hare to a group of glistening greyhounds, perhaps the most Zen-looking bunch to pass. Thanks for the smile, #549 (Francia Wisnewski of Greenfield, I looked her up!)  🙂

Francia was an example of the range of humanity passing my lenses, not all the stereotypical “runner type.” There were Specimens:

You’re welcome.  😉

…there were folks young and lovely:

…old and lovely:

That’s Kathleen Scotti of West Hartford, CT.  You Go, Grrrl!

…There were graceful gazelles who floated lightly over the course:

…and more determined sorts, some of whom pounded the pavement hard enough to leave a mark:

That’s right – cammo, a full rucksack and jump boots. Don’t even think  of saying anything but “Yessir!”

I was surrounded by race workers handing out cups of water, some of which were snatched up by the racers and dumped unceremoniously over their heads, some of which saw an attempt at ingestion:

…not an easy feat at a gallop.

A cheer went up from the cognoscenti around me as they recognized the man coming down the hill, local legend Ray Willis of Charlemont, my home town:

At 83 years young and running through a knee problem, Ray was the “oldest” participant in this year’s event, and proved that chronological age doesn’t necessarily dictate desire.

Q:  How humbled am I???

A:  Quite!!!

…but not as humbled as I was a bit later, when I found my way back into the center of town in time for this heart-swelling moment:

Ray Willis, official time 1:24:17, and still smiling, as was everyone who was there to see it.

And in case you were wondering, Sean Sullivan of Springfield finished his mission as well:

At Ease, Sir.

Your Daily Bridge. August 13, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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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.

A Blue View. July 13, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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The Bridge in blue:

…well, blue-ish.   It certainly ain’t red.

A wasp on Blue Sapphire Sea Holly.

And these tall white things, unlabeled and so anonymous to me:

…and that’s it for my tour of the Bridge, and of the color wheel.


The Bridge In Yellow. July 13, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Continuing along the color wheel, here are a few shots of the gloriously yellow blooms on Shelburne Falls’ Bridge of Flowers:

That last shot looks here as it did there – surreal.  It’d make a passable wallpaper.  😉

The Bridge In Red. July 13, 2012

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Shelburne Falls’ Bridge of Flowers is a constantly changing gem of beauty.  It yawns and wakens with the first snowdrops and crocuses and evolves throughout the warm months and into late Autumn, resolving into a clattering of improbable dry forms thrumming in the winter winds.

Right now it’s a blessing of colors the whole rainbow come down to light on an old trolly bridge for us to marvel at.

And I do, with ridiculous regularity.  I tell myself I’ve got too many thousands of Bridge photos, but if the light is right I just can’t help myself.

Thank God I’m not paying for film and developing!

Anyway, here are some reddish shots from the bridge:

That’s the reds; other colors to follow.

Independence Day, Shelburne Falls, Masaschusetts. July 5, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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We The People would like to wish our Country a Happy Birthday.

Out here in the western end of Franklin County, we do this with a parade, humble by some measures, but proud by ours.

It starts with a Color Guard of flags:

…enjoyed by local families:

Hey, we’re all having fun here!

…followed by a double handfull of veterans:

…one band:

…a Cub Scout den, who were to be the beneficiaries of the Chicken Bar-B-Q to follow:

…one “float,” promoting another event in a different town (mine):

…two horses:

…one bagpiper:

That’s Eric, a local producer of lots of pastured lamb.

Let me interrupt this parade to say that We The People were thoroughly enjoying this right-sized spectacle.  Families lined the curbs (can you spot the brothers?)

All were welcomed, people and pets:

Big people and Little people:

Yeah, that’s a repeat, but it tells the story…

There were displays of patriotism:

…and of skill and daring:

…and of Just Plain Cute:

There was a long line of classic cars, from which I culled this shot:

…and every piece of fire-fighting equipment in West County, God forbid that anything choose today to burst into flames:

Here, a little family digs (or doesn’t) the sirens of the passing fire engines:

…while kids wait for the candy tossed by every passing vehicle:

The parade wound through town, ending up at the local elementary school for a Bar-B-Q which benefitted the local cub scouts:

Great grilled chicken and fixings:

…and the happiness of a full belly:

So, a nice day and an unwieldly-long post about something which is only locally relevant.  I can’t help it; the local sights push all of my buttons, and seem to my provincial eye to be worth sharing.

BTW, this was shot with such a variety of lenses that I won’t bore you with the details.

Checkin’ Me Out. July 1, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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A gray squirrel in Shelburne Falls pauses on her rounds to check me out:

Of course, I’m not complaining; I was doing the same thing to her!  🙂

Another Perspective On The Bridge. June 19, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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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.