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Hadwen Arboretum – Neglected in Worcester? (Updated, November 6, 2010 and March 29, 2011))

(Update March 29, 2011.  There are some new developments going on at the Hadwen that you can read about here. )

(Update November 6, 2010.  This blog post is being updated in response to some very helpful information provided by Greg Doerschler, which you can find in the comments section below.) The Hadwen Arboretum is a small (I’m guessing four to six acres) stand of urban forest that sits at the intersection of Lovell and May St.’s, not far from downtown Worcester.  It’s a lovely spot and I’ve had the opportunity to walk it many times.

It’s a spot that’s obviously been used by the community for many years as a playground and a place of reflection.  The huge beech, oak and maple trees lend themselves well to climbing and play.  Initials carved into the bark suggest that play there was not confined to pre-adolescents.

It is, however, difficult to get good information on the Hadwen.  It is owned by Clark University but there’s little mention of the property on their web site, other than that is is currently being used as site for composting of landscape waste (not a bad thing in and of itself) and a community garden, which does present as a welcome site.

I had read about the Hadwen first in a book I discussed several months back by Evelyn Herwitz, Trees at Risk.  Obadiah Hadwen bequeathed the land to Clark in 1907.  A very civic minded gentleman Hadwen was involved with the Parks Commission.  Perhaps more importantly, he was a farmer of trees and on his eighteen acre property on Lovell St. in Worcester he raised a variety of trees brought there from around the globe including magnolias, siberian maples and black walnut trees from Japan

You can find a report on the property, created by what I believe was a student group or student project, here . As the unnamed authors of the report…CORRECTION:  This valuable report was created by Mr. Greg Doerschler and I’m very grateful for his communications in the comments section below. Note that this story is still unfolding, thankfully. The report confirms Evelyn Herwitz’ report that the University has been at a loss as to what to do with the property, though they have made a commitment to keep it.  Mr. Doerschler’s document also includes a very interesting map that plots the location of the tremendous variety of tree life there, or at least there as of 1978.  Species include Oak, Beech, maple, hemlock and birch as one might imagine, but also horse chestnut trees and magnolia trees as well. (American chestnut trees of course have all but disappeared from the eastern United States, due to disease.  I wasn’t clear whether or not the horse chestnut, which is European in origin, was also vulnerable to asian chestnut blight, the culprit in this case.  Nevertheless, the horse chestnut still presents an interesting and somewhat rare site, to my eyes.)

But it is not hard to find signs of neglect at the Hadwen, as the local species and native ground cover overwhelm the forest.

Trees compete for light and nutrients.

The winners come to dominate, and the losers pass on.

Hadwen’s bequest was “to be forever kept for the purpose of educating students in agricultural, historical and arboreal knowledge scientific and practical.  I adopt this course with the purpose in view of preserving the trees and plants growing thereon, being a portion of my life work, shall be preserved as an Arboretum, and an object lesson to assist students in the education of the science and art of arboriculture and improving the landscape.”  (From Hadwen Arboretum Historical Notes, page 1.)

We are reminded in touring this lovely but fragile spot that it doesn’t work for humans to walk away from the natural environment.  Hadwen created this environment, in collaboration with nature.  Once we have intervened in the environment, we’re in the game in perpetuity in many instances, unless we intend to encourage a piece of land to become “wild lands.” (More about that in an upcoming blog.)  Here we have an example of the legacy of a man, his personal vision, and its interaction with an environment.  While the property is owned by the University it has clearly been in the custody of the community for many many years.  The citizens are stakeholders in this business too, and speaking as one of those citizens, I’d like to see this lovely spot maintained for future generations.  That will, however, require some work.

The Rock House Reservation

I was driving through the Brookfield’s along Rt. 9 on my way to the Quabbin Reservoir, and I couldn’t believe the vibrancy of the foliage. It was finally peaking.  I started to think about great locations for a foliage shoot and my mind immediately went to the Rock House Reservation in West Brookfield.  My current web site home page is a nice image taken from there on a spring day.  But I suspected this would be different.  Parked the car and hiked into the site with a wide angle lens and tripod, and I could see it through the trees and brush.  I wasn’t coming to get the image, the image was coming to get me.  The heart quickens..  (click the image for a better view.)

Rock House Reservation is an aptly named collection of glacial rocks strewn about a lovely site, including a pond, under the management of the Trustees of the Reservations .  A place of worship and camping for Native Americans, the landscape was forged by the movement of glaciers over thousands of years, leaving these “erratics” to pose us questions.  When you spot a location like this, in this kind of light, you should work it.  You don’t go for one kind of shot.  Vary your lens length and your exposure. You’ll start to see things differently.  We move in for some details..

And it suddenly makes one wonder…

Is that big rock gonna catch that little one, and if so, then what???

Just as I was packing up to go another photographer, a nice gentleman from the area, came up from behind.  We chatted for a bit, and he offered that not enough people in the area know this site.  That was too bad we agreed.  A view like this makes you feel glad to be alive.

(Technical note:  The first and fifth images were actually made from three and four image captures, in what is called “high dynamic range” software. Cameras, both digital and film, have a problem.  They can’t see the range of tones that we can with the naked eye.  In a location in which there are very bright highlights and very dark shadows, if you only shoot one image, you’ll have to sacrifice something.  Either the clouds “blow out” or the landscape “goes into the shadows.”  I didn’t see blown out clouds or harsh landscape shadows.  Merging images sequences shot to capture the full range of tones from the seen in programs such as Photomatix allows you to create a more realistic picture of that scene.  Unfortunately these tools can also be used to make an image look ridiculous.  Hopefully I avoided that pitfall here.  These scenes really were that colorful and bright.)

The Coast of Maine

Just got back from a very provocative (in every sense of the word) but very useful photography workshop on the Maine coast.  There were some fine people attending the work shop.  We carpooled to the various locations and I was lucky enough to be asked on board the traveling headquarters of Greg and Larry Craybas, a terrific Son and Father photography combo. Greg is an enormously gifted photographer as you”ll immediately see if you check out his website.  Larry’s not far behind either!  As with any educational experience, and I can say this as teacher, you often learn more meaningful lessons from the other students in the class, and that was certainly true for me.  Family matters most and hanging with these two wonderful guys was a real reminder of that most important lesson of all. (Of course, I was also lucky in that Chris could take off from work to be with me! I understand they have quilt shops in Maine…:)

But let’s see, coast of Maine, peak fall foliage season, anything to look at? (Click on the images for a better view.)

So you have to get up pretty early in the morning if you want to catch the best possible light, and we did.  Up at 4AM.  Yikes.  This is getting precariously close to sounding like work.  But the light is really what differentiates a good from a great photo.  With the right light, you show up, compose and click as we did at Casco Bay.  The photo above is not retouched.

The foliage was indeed just about hitting it’s peak.  But even the foliage can start to look somewhat stale in bad light.  The best light can be quit fleeting, as you notice on the horizon.

Wet rocks have a very interesting sheen, one that brings out their color in a more saturated fashion.  Take note though, those rocks are quite hazardous.  Before I had a chance to click the shutter once, I went down. I landed, gulp, on my Nikon D3x. Everyone rushed in to help me up.  I felt very cared about until it became clear to me that the real question on everyone’s mind was, “is the camera OK?”  It was.  Thank you Nikon. (Seriously, wet rocks are as slick as ice. Take care if you go after shots like this.)

From the landscape to the industry….Maine is not just a recreational stop over for photographers of course, though it sure the harbors sure are picturesque.

Many of the boats at South Bristol Harbor work for a living.

Again, time of day is everything.  The sun had been below the horizon for probably close to an hour.  We were just getting ready to leave.  The sky and the landscape had a wonderful blueish hue, punctuated only by the moon and the incandescent lights of the harbor itself.  I turned around, saw this shot, and asked Greg and Larry for just one more click.  They obliged…

The next morning, crack of dawn, back to work.  This time in Damariscotta, a real Maine small town.  At dawn and dusk you’re also more likely to see interesting things happen in the atmosphere.  The changing temperatures create atmospheric movement, as well as influencing the hue and contrast of a scene.

The town was enthralled and entangled in a gigantic pumpkin festival. About every 25 feet you’d  see another monster pumpkin that had sacrificed it’s existence for, not actually sure what…

Several years back I did a travel photography workshop with the great Bob Krist. Bob is a terrific photographer, writer, educator and person, but he’s also I believe the last person to have given me a dope slap (deservedly in this case let me stress).  In each of the workshop week’s photo shoots, we were to deploy the tactics of a good travel photographer to get the story.  A good travel photographer should come back to his or her editor with wide, establishing shots, mid range shots and detailed shots.  The weather that day was lousy, I was uninspired, and so came back to the workshop after an afternoon spent at the Pemquid Point Lighthouse with not one single picture of the lighthouse. Hence, the dope slap.  I hope we’re all square now Bob.

Actually, I think this is the picture Bob wanted.

Who is in charge here?

Thanks again to Chris, Larry and Greg!

The Bear’s Den

The Bear’s Den is just north of the Quabbin Reservoir, in the town of New Salem.  It’s not technically part of the watershed, but in fact, the Swift River, the middle branch of which flows through the glacial rock formation there, is on it’s way to the Quabbin.  Here’s a panoramic overview.  (Click on the images for a better view.)

If you’d like to see the detailed panorama, it’s posted on Gigapan.

It’s a wonderful place, luckily preserved by the Trustee’s of the Reservations in Massachusetts, a not for profit land conservation organization.  Those of you who have been to the Bear’s Den previously will note that on the left is a big tree truck.  If you look carefully you can see that the tree was growing on the side of the hill.  That tree, or what’s left of it, took out one of the great spots for planting a tripod.  As the Trustees of the Reservations typically leave these kinds of properties wild, that tree is going to be with us for some time I fear.  But it adds to the sense of intimacy of the place.  You’re standing right at the level of the falls.

The River then flows on south, through a beautiful set of small rapids.

The flow of the waters meant that this was a working river.  Just a few feet from the the flow are the remains of an old mill from quite some time in the past.

It’s difficult not to try and reflect on what it must have been like, to work so close to such a beautiful yet small, intimate river.


The only sounds would have been the sound of the mill and the sound of nature I suppose, for the most part, the sound of the flowing water.

But of course, the winters would have been, and still are brutal. Everything looks better, to paraphrase Paul Simon, in photography season.

The Video Still

Video capabilities are now routine on digital single lens reflex cameras and as such present the photographer with some new options.  I’ve always wanted to create images that convey something of the feeling of “being there.”  Video is often a distraction in our lives, moving us too quickly from one image and experience to the next, but it may also have the potential to enhance our ability to focus on an experience as well.  But how do you convey “action” when you’re trying to encourage contemplation.  Very carefully is I think the proper answer, so what you see here is a short, very short, experiment.  The Bridge at Gate 30 of the Quabbin Reservoir is one of the most important and overlooked locations in New England.  Here’s one effort to convey what it’s like to stand before the bridge, next to the Swift River, on a very stormy day.  (You can see a slightly larger version at my web site, under “video stills.”  This is not an HD video.  Those take longer to load and I’m just as impatient as the next person.)