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Along The Westfield. April 11, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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The Westfield river is an untamed Cerberus tumbling through the hills to our south, coursing through three different drainages before converging in Westfield, MA and dumping into the mighty Connecticut.  Its lower reaches traverse the entropic, post industrial landscape of Southern New England’s lowlands, but its three heads arise in the pristine highlands  to the northwest.

I had occasion to pass that way today, and got down into a narrow gorge on the Middle Branch.  It was poorly (and so not legally) posted, and a landscaper working at an adjacent property assured me that the landowner wouldn’t mind.  I needed to ask no further.

So I didn’t.

I got these shots by clambering over rocks in the river bed, employing the Safety Nazi skills I’d learned over years as an outdoor adventure professional with a perfect record (well, I did  use a band-aid once in fifteen years.)  There was a fair bit of leaping from one dry rock to the next, collapsing my kit and passing it ahead of me, or extending it and leaving it behind, propped where I could grab it after clambering up some step where I needed both hands to progress.  It was a logistical puzzle which I dug, loving every small triumph over the obstacles around me.

Packing in a tripod and range of lenses allowed me to look at my surroundings from multiple vantages, from zoom to macro.  I found the flat light of the overcast day to be uninspiring from a landscape point of view, so concentrated on the details, which were dramatic and compact.  A tripod let me take these long exposures deep in the gorge.

One of the cascades in the gorge:

I was more than satisfied with Allie’s depth of field here; the constant winds of the past two weeks had finally died, so long exposures were an option.  This shot required two graduated filters, one reversed and both hand-held for a two-and-a-half second exposure.

The small falls in this reach of the river were intimate and expressive, painting their quartzite boulders with life:

The steep narrows were deeply shadowed and ominous:

…until the sky brightened a bit for one last painting of light and color:

I had headed in this vague direction knowing that there was something worth photographing here, but hadn’t expected to encounter a local and get permission to go beyond the “posted” signs.  So this set of photos is a pleasant windfall from a day spent wandering through these hills where I live.


Photo Quickie! October 30, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Because my internet has been in-and-out for the past several days (mostly out!) I’m gonna cut to the chase and just dump these photos on you.

Sunrise and sumacs:

St. James Episcopal in Greenfield:

The French King Bridge over the Connecticut River in Gill, MA:

The Westfield River as it runs through Chesterfield Gorge:

And lastly,Pegasus makes an appearance at sunset:

Now to hit the “send” button before I pop offline again…

Chesterfield Gorge April 23, 2008

Posted by littlebangtheory in Uncategorized.
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On one of my recent homeward meanderings, I decided to visit the Chesterfield Gorge on the East Branch of the Westfield River.

Just saying that evokes a sort of geographical ambiguity, and interestingly, I’ve always found that area of the state to be in some sense ambiguous. The three branches of the Westfield share a common geology and a common destination, but otherwise their characters can be so very different.

The East Branch seems to be the largest of the three, though I don’t have any hard data on that. It just seems more present and powerful a lot farther north. And by the time it passes through Chesterfield, it’s a real river, and the high waters of Spring are a thing to behold.

Like the Deerfield River to its north, the Westfield has carved its signature in the land, most impressively in Chesterfield, where the river passes between the walls of a schist chasm, crashing through drops and eddys into deep, dark pools beneath shadowed walls:

The bracing spray of a youthful Spring flow is slowly supplanted by the mists of a steamy summer, and all the while the river infuses its surroundings with the Water of Life. Mosses grow in profusion on surfaces too steep for forests:

The late afternoon sun throws long shadows across the walls as evening approaches; the parking lot clears out, and you’re left alone in the chill air.

Savor it. Listen to the river.

Today’s Bridge. April 9, 2008

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Smith Road in Chester, Massachusetts is guarded by this rusting, slightly sagging span, perched as it is on a natural ledge and a forty-foot stone wall:

The first time I drove across it (and watched the water rushing by below through the metal-grate deck) I wondered about my judgment, despite having been assured that it was “safe.”

But hey, we’re replacing it, so don’t worry at all.  😉

It’s really in an amazing spot, where the Westfield River runs deep and cool through a steep-sided valley, hopping drop after drop on its way to the sea.

The whole place is a living history lesson, a succession of old mill walls and foundations:

And the water below runs through shadow and sunlight, the schist reflecting back the greens of the engulfing hemlocks, the smooth quartzite adding touches of orange to the palate:

The warm sun and cool shade played with me today, teasing me with promises of more.

And I really do want more.