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Just Another Sunset… March 8, 2013

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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…from this past Tuesday evening in Hadley, MA:

Tuesday's Sunset

That’s courtesy of my Canon 16-35mm L-series lens and a hand-held three stop reverse-graduated filter.

Taken along a back road behind Trader Joe’s. I’d have posted it sooner, but I was busy getting set up for my show at the AACC on Thursday.  🙂

March (Moonlight) Madness! March 7, 2012

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So March’s full moon will occur on Thursday night, but I’ve learned to reach for Gizmo a night or two earlier, given the statistical propensity for Full Moon nights to be overcast, and also because the moon rises before the light leaves the land, allowing for scale, perspective and a better balance of exposures.

Such was the case yesterday evening, when my up-country meanderings were interrupted by the appearance of the risen moon through a stand of birches up in Hawley:

That one’s courtesy of Ollie, my Lens-In-Residence due to his 24-105mm zoom compositional flexibility.  I dug the red glow of the fading light on the birches and, after driving past this scene, backed up like a crazy man to snap this one off from my driver’s seat.

Then I swapped lenses, putting Gizmo’s 400mm bulk on the box, and headed for the valley.  Here in the hills, I’ve found, if you start up high you can descend below subsequent eastern skylines to photograph a number of “moon rises” set against varying backgrounds.

Next up was a re-rising moon over Shelburne’s Mount Massamet:

…and a bit later, from back up in Hawley, this surreal take on the moon-in-clouds meme:

I wasn’t really prepared for the shift in hues as the rising Earth-shadow enveloped the moon, but dug it nonetheless.

I’d headed back up-country to try to find a clear western horizon to catch the fading sunset, which I just barely did:

There’s something about the complexity of The Chase in full moon and sunset photography which approximates for me in a strange way the puzzle and anticipation of my former avocation, rock climbing.

Go figure.

At any rate, this stuff is immeasurably easier to share on Teh Webz.

Two Seasons In One Day.* January 29, 2012

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*With apologies to Crowded House, whose song, Four Seasons in One Day,  informed this post title.


I slept in this morning, which felt good considering that I need to be up at 5am when I’m working.

But at 58 years of age, I get really antsy sleeping my remaining hours away, so once I was up and as soon as I had the necessities of life under control (firewood, mouse traps, dishes, etc.,) I headed out in search of photos to share with you.

I went north into Vermont up Route 112, thinking I might find some river views, but the recent warm weather had melted things back enough that the snow was pocked with tree detritus, gray and old looking, and I didn’t see anything that made me want to stop until I hit the hills south of Jacksonville, where the skyline was glowing with ice.  I hung a left and climbed up a side road I’d never taken before, and may never see again, as I don’t recall the name.

I was glad I did.  The high country had indeed gotten a fair coating of ice, and was catching a lot of light:

I went through woods and fields, passing occasional houses and farms, appreciating the angle of the road relative to the light – ice storms are visually stunning, but I find them hard to photograph, and shooting obliquely into the light like this rendered it much as I saw it in person.

Up higher, maples dominated, casting sassy shadows in their new-found mirrors:

The frozen forest was a feast of contrasts, daylight and pitch black juxtaposed as only Nature can do it:

I worked my way northward to VT Route 9, then headed east through Wilmington.  Crossing the southern tip of the Green Mountains, I caught my last view of the icy forest beneath cotton batting clouds, Jesus Rays and all:

The skies looked like they might deliver something interesting in the way of a sunset, and I thought of looking for a reflection in the unfrozen ponds and puddles I knew I’d find down in the Connecticut river valley.

So I hit the highway and beat feet southward.

I got to Hatfield half an hour before sunset, just as the western sky began to make nice.  If you aren’t set up to shoot when this happens, you’re usually too late to do anything more than “snapshots,” hand-held and mostly unfiltered.  I reeeeeally  wanted to put Elliot to work and get the light range right, so I worried I might be too late.

I hit a farm road I know which leads through fields east of some tobacco barns, and immediately needed 4-wheel drive to get through the mud.  It was like Spring conditions, with mud over frozen ground, and no snow to be seen – what a difference from what I’d been in earlier in the afternoon!

I parked where the road ran into what looked like a substantial puddle, threw on a pair of hip waders and packed a few filters.  With Elliot on the box and tripod, I waded into the “puddle” to get the right angle on the sun and barns, and was amazed to soon be wading over my knees, coaxing room-sized ice flows aside to get through. By the time I got past them, I was at mid-thigh and  figured that was far enough, regardless of my view of the barns.

The wind had picked up, rendering the water too choppy for a decent reflection and driving all of the floating ice to my end of the puddle, which I’d realized by now wasn’t so much a puddle as an inland sea – I was mid-thigh in it!  I set up quickly, trying to dial in a tilt and make something of the extreme dynamic range of the scene, with nearly full-on sun mixed with deep shadows.  My first step was to just shoot it,  dialed down so as not to be over-exposed.  Without filters, here’s what I got:

Stopping it down so the sun wasn’t a total blow-out made the rest of the scene look like night, which it definitely was not.

As the sun slid behind some lower clouds,  I was able to open up the sensor in Live-View (prolonged straight-on sun shots can kill a sensor, which I can’t afford to do) and position a couple of stacked, hand held graduated filters to get this:

So much for the “onion fields” of Hatfield.

As the sun continued it’s westward escape, the skies finallt lit up with something like sunset light:

It looked like the Caribbean, if you could ignore the ice flows blowing past, but felt more like the Arctic Ocean.  I mean, it is  January after all!

I waded on through to higher ground, hoping shallower water would have less waves and perhaps get me more reflected sky.  I was sorta  right:

It was still too windy for reflected forms, but some of the colors came through.

When the light got too  low for precise manual focusing – Elliot is all manual focus – and my fingers were too stiff to continue, I packed it in, throwing the filters in my camera case and my camera over my shoulder, and fought the muck back to my car.  I rinsed things off and changed back into shoes, packed up the tripod and backed my way roadward, still in 4-wheel drive.

At the point where I could turn and drive out, my headlights revealed a scene which looked interesting enough to pull Elliot back out, albeit without the tripod.  I leaned back against the grille, estimated a tilt, fudged the focus and snapped this off:

Hatfield by Headlight, Corn-stubble version.

Anyway, the day ended differently than it began, and I got the benefit of two very different photo shoots in one day.  🙂

Stopping By Woods… January 12, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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…before the snow falls.  This is an uncharacteristic view of hemlocks on a January afternoon, up in Leyden with the sun sinkin’ low:

Looks like the new greenery of Spring, but it’s more accurately the remnants of last season.

With a little luck, this will look more wintry by the weekend, so I thought I’d post it while it was still relevant.

North Pond, Before The Snow. January 11, 2012

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Rumor has it that the next couple of days will deliver us from our present brownscape with a splattering of snow, sleet and freezing rain.

I’ve wished hard for the former, but will accept the latter with, um,  grace and resignation.

“The Latter” will likely compromise the just-now-forming pond ice up in Savoy.  I’ve been waiting for that, too, but those bogs seem to generate their own heat, and hadn’t yet been trustworthy to support the weight of interlopers like me.

None the less, not wanting to miss what I’ve waited so long for, I headed up to Savoy State Forest this afternoon and ventured out onto North Pond, where a couple of ice fishermen attested to the likelyhood that I’d not perish in a watery grave.  “Five inches,” one proclaimed as I headed out onto the ice, and as he had chopped several fishing holes, I figured he knew more than I did.

The late afternoon light found the growing pond ice crawling up the sides of the granite boulders jutting from its shallows, shattering and melting and refreezing beneath a sky of gathering clouds:

In the long run, the ice will win.  But for these present seasons, the granite will bend the ice to its will and weight, sending it skyward to wither in the dry air.

I continued along the pond’s edge, skirting thin spots as they appeared.  A fallen log, rotted and infested with insects, lay as a feast for boring birds and dotted with their drillings:

…though the pristine ice suggested that the borings had happened while the tree stood upright.

Farther along, a mysterious mound jutted from the shoreline beneath a storm-damaged tree:

…A beaver lodge!

I circumnavigated it, knowing that these industrious critters keep passageways open for easy access, and approached cautiously from the other side:

A patch of thin ice separated me from the lodge as I stood listening to a loud, rapid munching from within, punctuated by ecstatic, wheezy moans of pleasure.  It was a delightful moment in my day, and I spent quite a while standing there as silently as possible, smiling like a child.  🙂

Then I crept closer to the thin-ice access used by the tenants to get to the shore and the fresh woody shoots which provide the bark they eat.  Here their dooryard canal is roofed over by a canopy of thin ice pushed up by the last cold night and constrained by the season’s accrual of denser matter:

Beavers are amazing, both for their engineering feats and for their social structures.  I’m good with having them protected, though I understand the arguments of folks whose properties and water wells are compromised by their unbridled industry.

Well.  Onward.

Along the way I spotted a bit of color in the ice, which turned out to be a fisherman’s minnow, laid to rest in the cold grey ground of his birth:

But the light was waning, and the temps were dropping as the sun dived toward the horizon.

So I set up for a shot of the partly cloudy skies going all Technicolor and stuff.

Well, they didn’t.  What I got instead was another detail of a granite interruption to the ice’s dictum, with a bit of color to set it off:

Not spectacular, but still, it gives me a chance to share what I saw with you, my friends.

All of these are brought to you by Elliot, my Canon L-series TS-E II tilt-shift lens.  What it lacks in compositional flexibility, it makes up for in front-to-back clarity.

Next,  the aftermath of this oncoming weather event.

Cheers, – R

On A More Pastoral Note… January 10, 2012

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A couple of B-Team landscapes from this past week, which haven’t yet found a place in the ‘sphere.

Sunset along the Deerfield:

Dig the Jesus rays!

…and a moon rising over Pelham Lake in Rowe:

Not exactly what Winter usually looks like in these parts, but then, the camera doesn’t lie, unless you ask it reeeeal  nice.  😉

Trees in Hawley. January 8, 2012

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A later-than-sunset shot of a treeline along side a cemetery in Hawley.  I’ve usually gone there to photograph grave stones, but tonight I saw this bigger picture:

This is kind of the yang  to my last post’s ying, if you see what I mean.

Our January landscape is still suspended in mid-stride.  It’s cold, but not bitterly so, and the rivers and lakes are unusually open and unfit for travel.  There’s no snow outside of pockets in the high valleys, and no snow in the forecast.  The prospect of beautiful photos of winter seems to have been postponed until another year.

But then, winter isn’t over, and we’ve been surprised with late-season dumps before, so I’m not entirely ruling that out.

It’s just that I’m not counting on it.


Sunset At The B.F.I. September 10, 2011

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A local icon waves “Buh-Bye” to the setting sun, a couple of miles from my home:

This dude’s huge – I’ve seen whole families sit between his feet for photos.

Field Work. August 22, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Politics and Society.
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There’s something basic and good about working the land.  Plowing and planting, tending and harvesting, mowing and baling.  It’s back-breaking work, but it’s rewarding in a way that only participating in the natural cycle can be.

I encountered Andy on my most recent visit to the high meadows of Windsor, the scene of some of my favorite Western Massachusetts landscapes.  The gate to the stone road leading up over the hill was open, so I drove right in hoping to connect with someone, ask if they minded me being there with Elliot and the gang.  Andy was up to his elbows in hydraulic fluid, doing the knuckle-busting work of getting sleeping farm machinery up and running.  Turns out he’s the guy who tends this Fish and Game property so it’s productive, rather than returning to the tangled wild.  He invited me to shoot away, just don’t drive out into the fields (check!) and don’t get locked in when he leaves.

So I set to shooting, getting a hay wagon in waiting:

…and what they turn the hay with in the field, I don’t know the name of it (* “tedder,” from jomegat in comments):

Anyway, it fluffs and dries it, weather permitting, before baling.

Andy got his old Allis Chalmers up and running (his newer rig was broken) and set to work mowing under charcoal skies:

…while I scurried to get a parting shot of some Goldenrod before it met The Reaper:

It was a New England afternoon with its Wyoming moments; I like that kind of weather.

All of these shots are courtesy of Elliot, with considerable shift on the hay wagon and tons of tilt on the rest.

He’s a good boy, that Elliot.

And approaching home, a nice sunset from the bridge over the Deerfield in the center of town:

And that’s that.


A Beautiful Summer’s Eve. July 15, 2011

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Tonight was a beauty, warm enough for shirtsleeves and driving with all of the windows down, cool enough to keep the bugs at bay.  There were scattered patches of rain moving in from the west, which made for a lovely view of this potato field at sunset:

…and a bit later and some miles closer to home, a beautiful just-past-full-moonrise:

These cool nights generate copious river fogs; perhaps I’ll snag some shots of that tomorrow morning, if I can get my butt out of bed at 4:30 (no promises, though, as I’m up at 5 on weekdays for work, and I’ll be out late tomorrow night… Lord knows I’m in desperate need of my beauty sleep!)    😉