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A Walk In The Woods. January 7, 2013

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I sprawled in the snow to take this:

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My sweetie Susan helped me up and brushed me off.

GAWD  I love that woman!  🙂

 

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Geology At Wilcox Hollow. December 2, 2012

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Those of you who come here with any regularity know that I live along the Deerfield river in Western Massachusetts, and that many of my photographs are of that river and its environs as it wends its way from Southern Vermont past my home to its terminus at the Connecticut river south of Greenfield, MA.

Along the way it passes named points – The Dryway and Zoar Gap, where whitewater paddlers play; Shelburne Falls, where the famous “Potholes” have attracted Indian fishermen, artists and, more recently, tourists; Stillwater, where campers and fishermen steep themselves in the languid waters of the Lower Deerfield, deep and slow and tranquil.

Here’s a glimpse of a spot just below Shelburne Falls: Wilcox Hollow, a low meadow on “river left,” the Shelburne side (across the river is the town of Buckland,) which is being conserved and allowed to return to something like a natural state.

I ran into a group of UMass geology students there this past week. They were looking at the riverside geology, taking notes and photos and sharing observations:

_MG_5258

The consensus (and I concurred) was that this place was a lithic mess, with its “history” obscured by so many events over the last 400 million years that the true history was unclear.

I mean, WTF is this???

_MG_5254

OK, so the light brown rock is granitic gneiss, folded into undulating waves. The darker stuff is an interbedded sill of something broadly basaltic, perhaps a diorite, metamorphosed to where there are hornblends clearly visible without a hand lens. And through it all are the light banded “scratches,” which extend down through the interbedded layers, showing that they’re in fact later-forming fractures which have filled with… what?  Perhaps quartz, which is difficult to melt at high heat, but water soluble under high pressure.

It’s all so confusing!

These young folks were fortunate to be learning at the hands of Professor Mike Williams, chair of the UMass Department of Geosciences. I understand that he’s currently engaged in pioneering techniques of mineral dating which are yielding amazingly precise results. At any rate, he was fully present for his riverside class, and still had time to answer a few of my pedestrian questions about what I was looking at in the record at my feet. Thanks, Professor Williams.

But in the end, I’m no geologist. I’m a photographer with an interest  in geology.

So here are some artsy-fartsy black and white photos I took when I wasn’t standing slack-jawed with amazement.

Roots revealed by Storm Irene’s violent denuding of so much of the Deerfield’s banks:

_MG_5257 B&W

The feathered edge of a thin layer of something “broadly basaltic:”

_MG_5253 B&W

…with a cross-hatching of fractures filled with a lighter-colored mineral;

And a pothole carved into the granitic gneiss by a swirling rock, something harder, perhaps a piece of basalt:

Apostrophe B&W

This place isn’t beautiful on a landscape scale, but it holds a treasure trove of details for those with the time and patience to explore its nooks and crannies.

I’ll doubtless be back soon for more surprises.

Roy’s Place. September 12, 2012

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Roy’s place is a bit gone by, as Roy lives up the road with his brother now.

Still, the old farm stands, mostly square and entirely proud.

On the south side of the house:

A weather vane doubles as a lightning rod, keeping the place from being blasted all to hell at the least storm:

In the shadows, a phalanx of Fords reflects the last of the afternoon’s light:

…as one of the old trucks bids the day’s sun adieu:

It’s a bitter-sweet sunset up in Shelburne.

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!

Dairy Cows, . July 8, 2012

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Dairy cows lined up behind a fence, expecting (demanding!) to be milked:

The farmer showed up on schedule ( these grrrlz were a bit ahead of him,) dropped the electric fence, and lead a bovine parade up the road to where their udders would be relieved of their burden.

These local dairy farmers work really hard for their bread, with NO days off, obscenely early and late hours, and not a lot to show for their Herculean efforts.  Consequently, they’re dwindling in numbers, and soon, if we don’t all pay attention, all of our dairy products will come from large corporations.

Monsanto manufactures the BGH which makes these shy beasties produce more than the normal amount of milk, but also makes them prone to infections.  Hearing of problems with their genetically-modified milk producers, Monsanto commissioned a study, which concluded that their Bovine Growth Hormone injections for dairy cows resulted in a significant amount of blood and puss in the milk we drink, the milk we feed our little children.  Monsanto addressed this problem by buying the study and burying it.

I’m not gunning to ruin anybody’s day with this kind of news, but rather trying to help us all understand what we’re up against, and how directly it affects us and our families.

Support your local farms, lobby the FDA for tighter controls on GMOs, and resist corporate take-over of our daily lives.

Your children thank you for getting aboard this train.

Thanks to Elliot for this shot; I got the swing wrong and missed the focus on the Dear Ones at photo right, but got a really productive depth of field right down the middle.  I see hand-holding “snapshots” with a tilt-shift lens as kind of a crap shoot which sometimes achieves my goals, sometimes comes close, and sometimes falls flat on its face.  In this case I came close, and the result is more than acceptable.

Equine Photography. June 15, 2012

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Another thing to work on:

There’s so much going on here that I as a photographer have no control over.  I’m not first an action photographer, but I’m trying to learn how to do that.

That was from Ollie, my 24-105mm L-series  lens, whose compositional flexibility made this day work for me.

I briefly backed off for some telephotos…

(that one taken with Gizmo, my f/5.6L 400mm lens)

…but the action was happening down at the jumps.

Thanks to the folks at Biscuit Hill Farm in Shelburne, MA for their forbearance as I shot what I got.

Lady’s Slippers! May 31, 2012

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OK, we’re back to the woodland flowers.  There’s a good deal of overlap, you know.

I went up to High Ledges in Shelburne to look for Ladies’ Slippers, common enough in these parts if you’re looking for the (ubiquitous) pink ones.  But I was hoping, for the third year in a row, to find the much rarer yellow variety, closely related yet significantly different in both color and form.

Near the overlook, mountain laurels were just starting to pop:

…and red columbines sprung from a cleft in an old stone wall:

And then, along side the trail running above the ledges, there were… Lady’s Slippers!

Groups of pink ones graced the forest floor with their showy blooms and deep, lush foliage:

These are our most common local orchids, Cypripedium acaule :

Their distinctive pink labellum  opens with a slit down the front:


…which, it turns out, is a distinctive feature of C. acaule.   (Most lady slippers open with a rounder hole at the top of the lip.)  It’s also worth noting that the two lateral petals are fairly straight and flat, like little knives.

I spent an hour wandering the trails, looking for the elusive yellow lady slipper, Cypripedium parviflorum.  This plant is also called C. pubescens  and was formerly conflated with the Eurasian C. calceolus.   (No, I don’t know stuff, and yes, I Wiki’d it.)

Finally, as I was about to give up and go home disappointed, a flash of yellow forty feet off the trail caught my eye, and… there it was:

…my first yellow!

The structural differences were noteworthy – the lateral petals were wonderfully twisted, the sepal on top was all fancy (Ah must say! ) and the pouch opened with a round hole at the top rather than the frontal slit of the local pink variety.

There were two plants here, only one of which had the flower attached to its single stalk, which is extremely unfortunate – the flower MUST cycle through and wither on the stem for the plant to return next season.  I say it’s unfortunate because lady slippers seldom reproduce in the wild, but live a very long time if undisturbed.  Many are thought to be older than the trees surrounding them!

Well, there it is.  Now that I know where to look I’ll start a bit earlier next year and hope for more, but for now, we only get one.

 

 

Piglets. May 22, 2012

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‘Tis the Season.

Piglets on a farm in Shelburne:

…here with Mom.

Here without:

…eating everything green it could find:

And accompanied by every barnyard’s Overseer:

They’re cute little buggers, but when they get bigger they’ll be delicious.

This is the reality of farm life.  Raise it, kill it, eat it, don’t get overly attached.  And please understand that that’s very different from not appreciating the part our prey plays in our lives.  If we’re carnivores, if we eat beef or pork or poultry, we couldn’t do better than patronizing the family farms dotting our countryside.  Locally, it’s not cages and cubicles, it’s not force-feeding of the wrong stuff.  It’s green grass and sunshine and attentive care from people who are committed to something much more sustainable than Factory Farms.

Cute piggies become delicious pork, and fuzzy chicks end their days on a spit over a barbecue pit. It’s called a “food chain,” and we’re a link in it.  Understanding that is important to either accepting it or changing it.

Columbines! April 26, 2012

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…at a little ledge along Colrain Road in Shelburne:

These were pretty specimens and easily accessible, but I have yet to see them when the wind isn’t gusting, so I got what I got.

That’s my excuse, and I’m stickin’ to it!  😉

Evening Light. February 9, 2012

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Here’s a shot not of the warm light of evening when the sun comes to us through lots of atmosphere and the red wavelengths predominate, but rather of the reflected atmospheric light which characterizes the half-hour after sunset:

This is taken looking out across a meadow in high Shelburne, with southern New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock visible on the left skyline.  It’s worth noting that this expanse of exposed ground is entirely atypical for Western Massachusetts in early February.

If one has a tripod and can snag a long exposure (this one was 2 seconds,) the camera will often pick up more of the Earth-shadow/pink-band effect than is obvious to the unaided eye.  Here I used a hand-held 3-stop graduated filter to balance the weight of the sky and ground, though it cost me the “shadow” part of what was happening on the eastern horizon.

Oh well, you give a little, you get a little…