On the way home from an appointment I took a rather long detour which brought me by the Hopkinton-Everett Dam. It was built in the early 60s as part of a flood control measure. In 1938 there was a powerful hurricane that caused immense damage and destruction. The Piscataquog, like other rivers, overflowed its banks and raged unchecked for days. It’s one of the most picturesque rivers in NH and important part of the Merrimack river basin.
Anyway, I got there after the peak color, but the golden glow is still pretty spectacular in the afternoon sun.
The Everett lake is a popular spot in the summer for swimming and boating. I hunted around on the shore to find just the right foreground framing elements and really like the results, especially the white of the birch trunks –
I walked up top in the bright sun and couldn’t help a few perspective shots –
As you can see, the tower platform is guarded with chain link fence, but more importantly it is guarded by swarms of hornets that made me so mental that I got out of there fast. I guess the unusually warm day and bright sun had them active, but with so few flowers or whatever they had nothing to do except buzz around in little swarms and terrorize me. They were even on the railings and flying between the slats. Ick. I made my escape.
I didn’t exactly run, but I was really glad to be away from the bored, buzzing, kamikaze hornets.
Son of Massive Dynamic. Told ya I’d go back. Yesterday afternoon was a pretty good day to be out. Better than today which is overcast and blah. Anyway, I didn’t take these two shots deliberately to match. They’re like bookends and I only noticed it when I got to processing them. I mean, it’s not too shocking considering how I compose shots and the time of day, but man, they are pretty cool together. Even though there is a bit of color in the trees and sky, I still went with monochrome to preserve the feeling of the bridge set as a whole and to emphasize form and lines. That’s my excuse anyway.
Oh, so you want some color now do you? Well, ok.
I’m really pleased with how that one turned out. After repositioning the tripod a few times, I got that ridge of white water to angle where I wanted it. The combination of polarizer and neutral density filter gave me the colors and exposure I wanted. The Merrimack is no river to fool with and so while I did want to convey an idea of it’s flow, I also wanted to preserve the feeling of power and so a 1 second exposure was pretty good at doing both. I tried both slower and faster and neither works as well as this. It also brings up the yellow reflections of the leaves pretty well which to me, adds interest.
Anyway, I have a few more from this ramble, but I’ll save them for another post.
Props to the writers of Fringe for the great company name. I’m surprised it is still available for TV to use and I couldn’t resist borrowing it for this series of photos. I think it encapsulates the industrial authority of the bridge and the persistent ecology that it spans. That being the Merrimack river.
A funny story led me to photograph this bridge. My mom has a neighbor who we think isn’t right in the head. If it’s the person I remember from my childhood, she used to be married and had a couple of kids. Now it’s pretty clear she’s alone and probably a hoarder although our only evidence for this is the couple of junked cars in the yard. This is not the strange part though. The strange part is the fact that she walks to work. Ok, by itself that’s not so weird, but it is a long way. Probably 8 miles one way on secondary roads with no sidewalks or other pedestrian aids. And she has to cross a river. The Merrimack.
Only problem is the one footbridge I know of is in the city and quite a bit out of the way. The other bridges are highways and the one nearest her isn’t open to pedestrians…like any highways are. So that leaves a disused train trestle. At first I pictured something rickety, dangerous and falling to pieces, inducing visions of stumbling and watching my shoe drop away from me into the raging water below. I should have known better. This is a train bridge after all. Infrastructure built to last.
Maybe 20 years ago it was still possible to get a car over this bridge. My husband’s friend surprised him by showing up at the house a good 15 minutes before expected because he used this bridge instead of the legal one. He was so casual about it – “oh I used that old train bridge down the road” – like it was nothing. Now though it’s blocked off by a berm. Supposedly some assholes dumped some stolen cars off it. Looks like that would be really hard to do. And what’s the point of stealing cars just to dump them in the river? Ah, urban legends.
Damn, look at that bridge. Isn’t it great? I can’t believe I’ve gone by it thousands of times and never stopped to look. It’s visible from a main road that connects my neighborhood to the highway. Incredible. And you can see it from the car when you’re on the main bridge over the river. I’ve seen it hundreds of times that way, but never close up.
When I explored it was a nice day. High 60s or low 70s. Breezy. The sun was out most of the time. Pretty much perfect if a tad cloudy. Not so bad for this lady to make her way across every day. The scenery is worth it even if she didn’t need to get to work. Looking up river gives the best view –
Pretty cool. But what about at night? What about winter? What about winter at night? Apparently this doesn’t give the walking lady a second thought. Or a first. She wears black and nothing reflective. I don’t even know if she uses a flashlight. She’s gonna get smacked by a car one of these days. Either that or she’s going to run into a bunch of kids out drinking on the beach under the bridge. It’s crazy. Why doesn’t she get one of the junked cars working? Or take a bus…I’m pretty sure it’s possible, but she would still have to walk a few miles to the nearest stop. Why doesn’t she get a job on her side of the river (there’s another Macy’s over there, so it shouldn’t be that hard)? Freakin’ weird. Maybe someday she’ll turn into an urban legend, too. Must be the bridge.
This idea has been rolling around in my head for some time. Months maybe, certainly weeks. I like the idea of it even though my back does not. Have you heard the term before? I think I must have picked it up somewhere since I’m not the type to go around coining phrases. It has definite parameters for me though. A solid definition.
For example this is a microscape
and this is not
Do you see the difference? No? Kinda?
Well it’s the inclusion of the ground, certainly. Like a true landscape a microscape needs to include land. Also like a good landscape, it must have depth. Foreground, midground and background. A path for the eye to travel. Scope. Perspective. It all plays a part. A mere close up (I do tons of these, so I’m not dumping on them, just differentiating) isn’t the same. See?
Most landscapes include sky, too. Should a microscape? Can they? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Because of the perspective, many won’t and I think that’s ok. When a microscape can include sky though, it’s pretty damn great if I do say so myself.
What is micro anyway? How big a field of view should a microscape be limited to? Is it really perspective I’m talking about? For me it’s both. A real microscape can only be captured on the ground. If you can stoop, squat or stand it doesn’t qualify. Too much height. Too much background. I want intimacy. I want secretiveness. I want to be shown something I wouldn’t normally see strolling around. Remember that awesome scene in Glen Garry, Glenross when Alec Baldwin’s character yells at Jack Lemmon’s character to put that coffee down? (click here if you haven’t, it’s brilliant) Well, put that camera down! On the ground that is. For me, this shot shows the limit –
Simultaneously it is intimate and encompassing. It shows scale not only of the mushroom, but of the forest in which it lives. The perspective is ultra low, actually looking up at the mushroom, but includes no sky. Sure, I could have gone tighter, and I think some of those are on the discard pile, but this one conveys more story than just a narrow portrait of a mushroom from ground level.
As the outlines and confines of the microscape coalesce in my imagination I find myself on the fringes. As I go through my catalog to tag photos, I find the ones on the edge. Fence-sitters. Borderline cases. Almosts and wannabees. For example, is this a microscape?
It has land in it. It’s low to the ground. It’s certainly intimate. Alas however, the perspective is wrong. Oh sure you can have a successful landscape looking down from above, but a microscape, no. At least not to me. These are my rules I make ’em up.
What about this one? The perspective is right – it’s low down. It has a foreground and a background. It has sky. But does it have too much scope?
It’s definitely a borderline case. While I wouldn’t necessarily argue with you if you decided to tag it as a microscape, I’m not going to. At least not yet. As the concept evolves in my head, maybe I will.
Can wildlife be part of a microscape? Sure, but first they have to be tiny and second they have to be in harmony with the rules of the microscape. The ground needs to be there and the perspective, but also background. Showing the environment in which the creature lives is critical. I have plenty of close ups of spiders, moths and butterlfies, but precious few wildlife microscapes. These are basically the only ones I’ve found so far –
Why am I on about this? Well because I love doing them. I love the secret world just under our noses aspect of them. Here’s one I did the other day –
Yes, I know this is in the last post, but I think it’s marvelous for a couple of reasons. First is that foliage. Not what we usually picture when we think of fall foliage. Tiny trees change color, too. Second is the aspect…a miniature forest. Does it work like a full-scale forest? Does it have the equivalent of deer, squirrels and hikers? I have no idea, but I like imagining that it does.
I think it’s un-marvelous for a couple of reasons, too. Well kind of. One isn’t really a reason it’s a conflict. Is it too messy? I struggle with the messy nature of microscapes. On the one hand I think it’s inherent in wild areas and what makes them wild in the first place. These are not clipped, weeded, tended spaces. They just happen. Messy also keeps a microscape from being too twee if you know what I mean. Precious is another word for it. Cutesy, even. However, the other hand tells me that messy detracts from a photograph by distracting the viewer from the main subject. Yes, I’m guilty of removing extraneous debris from my close-ups and microscapes. As a photographer I’m compelled to do so. As an amateur naturalist I’m appalled by it. Why should I take it upon myself to distort, disrupt and alter what nature has so blithely arranged for me. For art? Is that what I’m making here? Art? Or is it a documentary? Just what the hell am I trying to convey?
Firstly I want to show what captivates me about these miniature landscapes. Why they fascinate me. Is neatening them up the photographic equivalent of a lie? Would a painter approach it the same way? Does adding things or removing things make the photo dishonest? Maybe, but not doing so can make for a bad photo and if it’s a bad photo no one will look at it or appreciate it for what it is and so mission not accomplished. So I guess I will be looking for balance in my future microscapes. Leaving what gives it authenticity, removing what distracts the eye.
Secondly I’m looking for my signature as a photographer. Everyone and their second cousin once removed is a “landscape photographer”, but how many of them are “microscape photographers”? Precious few. I couldn’t find one other person who used the tag on flickr. I’m sure there are pictures that qualify, but the term isn’t used. And I don’t know how many people work on them. I mean really work. Craft is perhaps a better term. Here’s one from earlier this year that I definitely crafted.
I moved sticks and leaves that created bright spots and distractions. I moved around and got just the right OOF background flower. I deliberately left the stick by the base of the main flower because I think it’s a strong natural frame. The aperture I used is mid-lens to blur, but not render unrecognizable the other flower. Overall it’s messy, but deliberate and I think it’s a strong image because of it.
Maybe it was my Lily of the Valley project that got me thinking this way. When I made a camera rest out of a couple bags of barley I could finally get the perspective I craved. Low. Mouse eye level. Not really macro photography in the purist sense, but close-up, intimate portraits of life down low. There are plenty of macro photographers out there hunting bugs and dewdrops, but that’s a different art altogether from what I’m trying to do. I guess I’ll have to wait to know if I’m successful.
Let me count the ways –
It’s been truly wonderful this season. More to come.
While the season is by no means over, the peak color is draining rapidly. A storm came through yesterday that probably knocked a lot of leaves off the trees and so I was even more glad to have gotten out in the days before. Because of my health issue, my fall season was in jeopardy and that makes what I’ve been able to photograph even more valuable.
I’ll start with a trip to a nearby Nature Conservancy park in the city called Cedar Swamp (poetic huh?). It was designated to preserve the rare Atlantic white cedar among other species and has truly spectacular groves of giant rhododendron which I can’t wait to see in spring. Judging by the buds already set it’s going to be a wondrous display of blossoms.
Here’s an obligatory leaf shot to start out with. I think it’s a scarlet oak, but the contrast of textures and colors on the granite boulder were too much to pass up. The hell with originality.
Further into the cedar swamp itself I was caught by the color contrasts in this next shot. And yeah, it’s a fern, what of it??
On our way to the rhododendron loop trail we went through a part of the woods that got creepy all of a sudden and I half expected the hunter from Snow White to appear from behind a tree with his knife. Real Grimm’s Fairy Tale stuff. I think if it weren’t for the color-changing ferns in the foreground, the picture wouldn’t work half as well. The textures are really great and I like the depth it has, too.
Mushrooms are popping up everywhere and I used a downed tree as a tripod for this little microscape (check out the rhodie leaves – they’re huge!). I think these guys are in the Amanita family.
Another day we went to lake Massabesic to hike around and see what we could see. Mostly it was an excuse to be out and drive our 1988 BMW 325 ix. We walked way out to a pointy cape-like section and the witch hazel was blooming like crazy. I found some on the shore and loved the contrast of colors –
And what would a walk around a lake be without some traditional foliage shots? I wished for a more interesting sky, but nature was not obliging that day. Still, it was perfect weather and I was with my honey and who am I to complain?
Well that’s it for this post. If I include everything I’ve shot so far it will be too long to manage. Thanks for checking it out.
Even though I’m still mourning my boy, I have been out shooting. Partly it takes my mind off him (which I stupidly feel guilt over), but mostly I’m glad I can. The health crisis I came though only had one stage of cure/recovery, but could have had two, the second of which would have totally canceled my fall shooting ability. Luckily though, I am mobile.
The other day I met up with some friends and we went up north to the White Mountains. As I still shouldn’t be carrying anything heavy, I pared down my equipment and only shot with the E-30 and the ZD 12-60mm zoom. I brought my travel tripod instead of the Bogen Beast. It proved an excellent combination. I didn’t know we were going on a covered bridge quest, but that’s what we ended up doing. It was like being a tourist in my own state. Of course bridges weren’t the only things worth photographing, but our first stop was Blair Bridge –
Racing the sun, we headed to Ellsworth hill. The valley fog adds a touch of distinction to what would probably be just another foliage shot. The gate, too adds something. At first I thought it was too overwhelming, but now I’m used to it.
I couldn’t resist a detail shot of another gate further along in the wall surrounding the meadows. It’s an iris seed pod and I love the touch of sun on what is the horizon in the background.
Another stop within easy reach was Smart’s Brook. Ever-popular it never fails to provide opportunities for memorable photos –
From here we went to the fabled Kancamagus Highway, renowned for its foliage and tourist throngs. On this trip we had both and only stopped once. If it were me I would have pulled off at some barely populated trailheads and hiked a bit, but I wasn’t driving and I wasn’t in charge. We ended up at Albany bridge which spans the highly photogenic Swift River. It’s hard not to fall into cliche gap when photographing here –
In the end, it was a good day. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to be more active and do some hiking up that way, but this year I was very grateful to have the opportunity at all.
The Era of Chuck.
Aka The Orange Menace.
Aka The Boy.
Aka The Old Man.
And he was old. 18 years. Amazing really, but not enough. This is the last photo I took of him. Again, not enough.
My heart is broken and my life is surely poorer without him. For 18 years he made me smile. Made my heart light up just for seeing him. His little pink nose. His bushy, bottle-washer tail. The times I made his toes bloom. How can a cat take up so much room? I knew it would be hard to lose him, but I had no idea it would be so intensely devastating.
Here he was last year making a wicked awesome face.
How can an animal, a mere pet take up so much space in a person’s life? Chuck did for me. I got him at 11 or 12 weeks from a friend of my mom’s. I wanted a male orange cat and her cat’s litter included one so I jumped at him. I think she was a little annoyed at my insistence that he stay with his mom as long as possible, but I think it helps mature them and make them more independent. Certainly I did not want a needy cat. And I didn’t get one. Chuck was his own creature; beholden to no one (unless you had something yummy on offer) and I loved that about him.
Even though it’s quite frowned upon now, and almost considered abuse, I let Chuck go outside (although not at night). He craved it and was impossible to live with when confined. It wasn’t always this way. His first taste of the outside was an accident. He leaned up against the screen on the second story porch where I lived and fell out. Hours later it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen him in a while and went looking. Soon I found the pooched-out screen and raced outside calling his name. Soon he appeared, scared and shaking, from under a lilac bush. Meowing pitifully he ran to me and clung with a fierceness that pierced my flesh and my heart. As soon as he saw the open front door he launched himself off my shoulder and up the stairs. It would be a couple years until we tried the outdoors again.
In no time, I could barely get him inside.
Things Chuck liked –
- Me and my husband
- Outside – he didn’t go far, but liked to be out all day
- Beef jerky (we made our own and he’d maul you for some)
- Spaghetti sauce
- Cheez Its
- Sleeping on my head and taking up most of the pillow
- Coming to see me outside and hanging out for a while
- The bushes by the corner of the house
- Chin scritches
- Purring – damn, he was the best purrer ever. Loud and strong. What a motor!
- The sun and breeze on his fur
- Smooshy food (I fed him canned food the last year of his life and boy did he love it!)
- To destroy carpets
Things Chuck did not like –
- Other people
- Larry and pretty much all other cats
- Deep snow
- Heavy rain
- Riding in the car
- The cat carrier (shadows of things to come)
- Being kept inside during baby bird season
- The vacuum cleaner
- Being scooped up and taken indoors just when it just got dark and interesting out
- Playing baby kitty
- Me making his toes bloom
- Having his feet touched
- Me making him do Elvis
- Having messy fur
I don’t know how to end this post. My heart is heavy and I’ve cried a river of tears for him. The weight of the grief is the heaviest I’ve ever felt and I will mourn him for a long time. Possibly for the rest of my life. Oh my Monkey Boy, 18 years wasn’t nearly enough. I miss you terribly.
I am back.
I am not 100%, but I’ve been out photographing here and there. Not just for this project, but walking in the woods and stuff. Hopefully this weekend is reasonably nice and I can see about finding fall color.
But fall color isn’t just about leaves. Picking up from the last installment in this project, the berries ripened really fast, going from a greeny-tinged orange to a deep orange in a couple days. Then seemingly overnight they were red.
Now due to a combination of wind, rain and the advancing decomposition of the plants themselves, things have come to this –
I really like the shades of brown and gray in this as well as the leaf shapes. Only a little manipulated by me, mostly as found.
It’s supposed to rain all day today so I might have some interesting shots to take when it stops. Saturated, soaked, puddled and really bedraggled leaves is what I’m hoping for.