After a colorless winter and a dive straight into spring with all its rainbow colors, I sometimes come off a color binge and process a series of monochrome images. Usually I try for something with lots of interesting texture and a definitive structure and these leaves are perfect. I have no idea what they are, but I like them and the water still clinging after the rain is what makes the images really work. At least to me. All shot w/the OM 90mm macro at varying apertures.
And if you can figure out where the titles come from and why I used them now (without Googling) you get bonus points!
The Piscataquog is my favorite river. I know, weird, huh? It’s an important waterway not only for people, but for many animals and plants that thrive in the ancient glacial habitats along its course. It has 3 branches (north, middle and south), runs for 57 miles with little interruption and its name translates from a local Indian dialect as The Great Deer Place or The Place for Many Deer.
Over the last couple hundred years, many local towns have sprung up on its banks using its regular and forceful flow to power mills, one of which is said to have been the very first shoe factory in the United States. Only remnants remain and much of the land around the 3 branches is officially protected. Each branch has unique geological features which I’m exploring as a project of sorts.
This is the only gorge so far as I can tell and unfortunately most of it is covered in no trespassing signs so I didn’t explore where it was prohibited. I hope someday easements can be granted to allow hikers and of course, photographers. : ) It is on the south branch and is on the border of two towns – Lyndeborough and New Boston.
The bridge in this shot used to connect the two ends of High Bridge road, but is now unsafe as the decking has rotted and there are many holes and the iron supports have rusted to lace in some spots. When a horse put its foot through in the mid 1990s, the bridge closed and has remained so. There is a project underway to raise funds for its restoration, but they have a long way to go. Further downstream is another set of gentle falls as well –
Over the coming months I hope to continue to explore different branches of the Piscataquog. I already have a few scouted and am waiting for some ferns to grow in, etc. There are some flood areas called eskers I want to try to locate as well, so hopefully you will like what’s to come as I explore.
From this morning. I couldn’t resist the patterns or the light.
Fall is one of the most productive…well, if I can call it that, times for me as a photographer. There are so many things that catch my eye and the season is so volatile that there is a surprise almost every day. Here’s a few of my favorite catches.
Early in October things are still relatively mild and all kinds of delicate things still thrive –
But as unexpected things go, one of the prettiest is this –
It’s pretty, but so, so destructive, too –
But at this time of year, it doesn’t last –
and paradise returns –
but the mystery doesn’t end –
I was in Kentucky and Tennessee this past weekend. My husband had a seminar in Nashville on Monday and since he had to go down on Sunday anyway, we decided to go a day early and see what we could see. Having never been to either state before it was a new experience for both of us and one we’re likely to repeat. One reason is Kentucky bourbon. We’re both fans and so some bourbon tasting was definitely on the agenda. A friend of his suggested we take the back road to Woodford Reserve so we could see some distillery ruins. Oh how could I refuse? Unfortunately (or fortunately since they seemed really decrepit and dangerous) we couldn’t get into one and didn’t have time to trespass in the other. Here’s the one we couldn’t go into –
Old Crow Distillery –
To get all of these shots I had to put the camera on top of the chain link fence between strands of barbed wire. It was well over my head and I was very thankful for my flip and swivel LCD so I could see to compose.
Bourbon making evolved out of whiskey making pretty soon after it got started in Kentucky. Every current bourbon producer has its own story as to how bourbon was created but a few things are consistent. At first whiskey was a clear liquid made simply from corn mash. It was drunk all through the colonies and also used as a bartering product in Appalachia (leading right to the Whiskey Rebellion under the contentious administration of Jefferson and Hamilton). I didn’t get a sense of Kentucky’s participation in it, but here is where true American whiskey was born. Someone, somehow put whiskey in a barrel that had been burned. Exactly how it was burned is lost to us, but it was probably an accident. Shipping whiskey down to New Orleans took a long time; 5-6 months on average and by the time it arrived it had taken on the character, color and flavor of the charring inside the barrel. After a while people began to prefer it, asking for that whiskey from Bourbon county Kentucky, eventually shortening it to bourbon.
Just down the road from the ruins of Old Crow are the ruins of the Old Taylor distillery. In between are barrel houses upon barrel houses, many of which are used today by the Jim Beam company. When we got to Old Taylor we could hear voices from people trespassing by the barrel house and further up the sound of some power equipment; like a saw. There was a new, red pick up truck parked just inside the now open gates. Eventually someone came out and asked what we were doing there. He warned us that if we were caught inside the complex or even had our car parked near it, we could be ticketed or towed or both. Playing the tourist angle and introducing ourselves got us an invitation into what turned out to be a woodworking shop, ironically housed in the old cooperage. Deputy Sheriff Sandy was working on some plaques for the various law enforcement departments he does work for. He invited us to sit a spell and talk. We did.
He told us all about the Old Taylor and Old Crow distilleries and how the Old Taylor brand is being revived by the good people at Buffalo Trace in Frankfort. It was closed down in the 1970s and left to sit. Barrel tracks, loading bays, mash cookers – all left behind. Even the timecards of the last shift workers were left in the clock house by the gates. Sandy went on to explain that Kentucky bourbon must first be made in the state, contain no less than 51% corn mash, distilled to 160 proof and no higher, be barreled for at least 24 months in new, charred, white oak barrels. Charring those barrels is a highly individual thing and ranges from just a few seconds to almost half a minute. Most bourbon spends far longer in those barrels; averaging 7-9 years.
Well, as much as it pained me to go (since I wanted to tour the ruins legitimately) we had to. Before we did though, Sandy told us about a soldier who is buried in the cemetery across the street from the distillery gates. I would have stopped there to shoot anyway (you know me and cemeteries), but knowing about this really old dude made it all the more special. Here’s his death notice in the Louisville and Nashville Christian Advocate 1853 –
JOSHUA McQUEEN born Baltimore. Co., Md., Oct. 15, 1746; died Franklin Co., Ky., April 17, 1853 in his 107th year; s/o Thomas and Jane McQueen; firstborn of five children; enlisted in American army and served 7 years during the Revolutionary War; among battles he was in: Germantown, Monmouth, Brandywine. “At Valley Forge, he was one of the sufferers in that memorable winter, when the fidelity of the soldier was thoroughly tested” during which time he was servant to Gen. /Nathanael/Green(e); md Margaret Baxter; had 11 children; about 1790 moved to Madison Co., Ky.; joined MEC 1792/93; wife died and he md Jemima Cornelison d/o John and Elizabeth Cornelison of Ky. who was a Baptist; moved to Franklin Co., Ky. 1832; to three miles below Frankfort, Ky. in 1842 where he died.
Wow. Just wow. Sandy himself bought and erected the modern stone you see here. No one knows exactly where Joshua is buried, but just knowing he’s been commemorated is a good thing.
Oh and before I go, here’s a working distillery – Woodford Reserve –
We got an excellent tour here. That building houses all their active production; shipping & receiving, bottling, yeast cooker, mash fermenters and 3 copper distillers themselves. Amazing and very labor intensive. Small batches is putting it mildly. The tour guide mentioned a nearby cemetery, so of course I had to go there, too. It’s directly across the road from the visitor center and had its own fascination –
In the back corner there is a stylized representation of what I think is a corn maiden. Corn being the biggest cash crop around Kentucky and a mandatory ingredient for bourbon, it’s not too surprising that images of corn appear everywhere; signs, gateposts and fences just to name a few.
Anyway, that’s it for now. Coming up – a Kentucky ghost train just in time for Halloween!
Up until recently, I’ve been a catch-as-catch-can type of photographer. If I was going somewhere, I took my camera and tried for photos as I went. Rarely did I return to a location to do better or capture a different aspect of the place. Now though, I understand what scouting a location can do. Remember that old slogan the Boy Scouts used, be prepared? Or maybe it was Outward Bound. Whatever it was, scouting helps me do that really well; be prepared. I have no idea why I didn’t do it before. Just lazy I suppose. Now though, even if I don’t come away with the best portfolio-making shot on earth, I find just being in a location valuable enough to make it worth my effort.
The more familiar you are with locations near you, the more confident you’ll be going into the field. I’ve got shot list in my head and a ton of trail maps in my glove compartment so I’m never short of ideas. In New England we’re lucky to have distinct seasons and the changes that come are big ones. Locations look completely different and it’s an adventure to capture all aspects of them. And don’t forget local meet-ups. I love both being introduced to a new location by someone, and sharing one that might be new to others. We always have fun and it’s great to see how differently we view the same place at the same time.
Sunday for example, I met up with a photographer friend to take advantage of sunrise side-light at another Nature Conservancy Preserve – Lubberland Creek in Durham, NH. It’s part of the Great Bay estuary and is mostly a tidal wetland full of grasses, reeds, flowers, birds and oh yeah, poison ivy. That evil vine aside, the place is lovely and has potential for future sunrises when the sun is in a better position and when there are clouds in the sky. I think it would even work well for sunsets. There’s a beautiful island in the mouth of the creek’s delta and boy won’t that be great at high tide. I’ve really got to get some waders or at least knee-height rubber boots so I can go in the really squishy parts. As it was today I got my shoes pretty soaked, but that was probably more because of the dew than anything.
Watching the light on the grasses was pretty wonderful even it it wasn’t dramatic –
I was fascinated by how the light transformed the scene and of course I got down for some bokeh action –
If you’ve got your Sherlock Holmes hat on, you’ll notice the difference in the bokeh between those two shots. It’s part of what fascinates me about using extreme bokeh and pinpoints of light, like these dewdrops. The shapes of the aperture blades in the lenses is different and gives you different looks. The blades in my Olympus Zuiko Digital 12-60mm are round and the blades in my 80s vintage Olympus Zuiko 65-200mm are octagonal. Oh and I used the close focus feature of that old lens, something I don’t do very often, and I think it came out really well. After playing with the depth of focus for a few frames, I decided this mid-point approach was best. It was tough finding a section of grasses that went all the same way. Reaching in and even delicately removing a blade going the wrong way would make all the dew fall off and ruin the shot. I think my shooting buddy Jeff found out the same thing and if anyone was watching us we must have been pretty comical.
It was all about texture, light and patterns and I think even monochrome works well –
So now that I’ve scouted it, I’ve got ideas brewing for other shots I’d like to get. Frost and snow in winter. A dreamy sunrise with fog. Now I just need to spend a little time with The Photographer’s Ephemeris…
Late last year I visited a nearby Nature Conservancy property called The Cedar Swamp Preserve. Yeah, real romantic sounding place, right? Well it’s got two great things going for it – Atlantic White Cedars and Great Laurel or Giant Rhododendron as it’s sometimes called. This is a small preserve jammed between huge condo developments, some commercial operations and an abandoned-before-it-was-built college campus. Lucky for me it’s only 15 minutes from my house. I’m very grateful for its presence.
I have a thing for trees. Not hugging or anything too silly, but a reverence for what they are and what they do. How long they live and how symbiotic our relationships to them are. I wish I still had my 10-year-old body and mind so I could keep climbing them. I am always saddened by the sight of a full logging truck. I think of the animals and birds dependent on those trees and how they’ve been destroyed. Sometimes when I see a particularly wonderful tree, I put my hand on it and feel the wind vibrate through it. I especially like to find trees that are extraordinary for their size or their mere existence. Like these Atlantic White Cedars for which the land was set aside.
According to the website, these trees are quite rare around the world and this 42-acre stand is part of only 550 total acres in NH. This swamp is the most northern of all Atlantic White Cedar swamps and also has a black gum tree which I have yet to actually find. The walkways are a bit treacherous in places, but I haven’t taken a dunk yet. Neither has my tripod which is too big for the planks. I do like taking a stroll through though. Check out those cinnamon ferns!
So the other thing that makes this special (and me glad that UNH chose the mill buildings in Manchester) is the Great Laurel or Giant Rhododendron. In all my wanderings and hikes I’ve never seen these anywhere else up here (except some cultivated plants which might be variations on the wild species). They’re giant, ghostly and faintly primordial trees. Much bigger than mountain laurel they can grow to 35 feet high. I wished for a taller tripod or a stepladder while photographing them, so much of the drama seemed to be taking place far above my head.
I missed the blooming last year and was determined to get there at the right time this year. Unfortunately because of the weird, wet spring we had, wildflower timing was all over the place and I had to keep coming back and back and back to check on the blossoms. The last time I did the bud casings were soft and springy to the touch, so I knew the time was near.
Each time I visited the groves, ideas would start to coalesce. I envisioned black and white primarily because the canopy above these huge bushes obscures a lot of light and I could play up their natural drama. And because when they do bloom, the flower clusters seem to hover in space a bit against their dark leaves.
But the light was amazing and so soft that I couldn’t resist doing some in color as well.
I had the idea of heading over just after dropping my husband at the airport at 6:30 am. Like I’ve been trying to do all year, I wanted to incorporate more dappled sunlight in my images. The low-angled, early morning sun was perfect. I couldn’t believe the wind was so still either. Wind! The bane of my existence. But it was still; just a breath. A perfect storm of conditions. Just look at the texture and depth the sun adds. And that subtle blush of color. OMG.
Sometimes when I’ve got an idea in my head for months and I finally get to execute on it, I’m disappointed, but not with these. I’m so happy they came out the way I thought they might; better even. It’s stuff like that that makes me light up inside.
So for you technical peeps here’s the skinny. I used my normal rig; Olympus E-30 and ZD 12-60mm lens. No polarizer since the leaves are so beautifully shiny; like rubber almost and they catch the light to give depth to the shots. Lugged my ancient Bogen tripod since it is the taller of the two I own. I exposed for the highlights which is part of the reason there’s so much detail in the whites. I find the E-30 and most other modern digital cameras can hold lot of detail in the shadows, more than the highlights, so I just watched the clipping blinkies in Live View and held them down. Processing-wise the monochromes are pretty basic, just some stretching of curves to emphasize certain tones in certain shots. The color shots had a bit of vibrance intensity added and some white balance adjustments. Not much cropping post-capture on any of them.
The woods and forests are magical to me and when I can capture that I’m so pleased. I hope you enjoy it, too.
The weather and the hordes of mosquitoes have kept me from doing a lot of shooting, but I have been out. The thing is that the shots don’t really seem to go together. Then I had a morbid thought about some of them. Poison mushrooms and grave stones. Heh. It’s ridiculously me and goes with the Wicked Dark thing. So without further ado –