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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.