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The Windham Foundation in Grafton, Vermont

As I mentioned in the last post, we had a delightful family time in Grafton, Vermont, a locale that really epitomizes that part of New England. However, a casual drive through central Vermont reveals the challenges of making a go of it, given the problems facing the dairy industry and agriculture more generally.  The cost of producing a quart of milk in Vermont is now greater than the price that quart will bring on the open market. On the other hand, this is the type of situation that really calls for some creative thinking. There’s something very valuable here as everyone knows who has given the area any thought.  A substantial amount of the land in Grafton (I don’t know how much) is actually owned by the not for profit Windham Foundation.  There mission is to “promote the vitality of Grafton and Vermont’s rural communiities through philanthropic and education programs and it’s subsidiaries. The Foundation owns several significant businesses, including my favorite, the Grafton Village Cheese Company.  (Disclaimer, I have no financial interest here, though I do love to eat their cheese.)   This is a working farm, integrated with their cheese factory.  They also own the Old Tavern Inn as well as the land on which several independent businesses sit.  This is an organization that builds on both philanthropic and business activities in order to support the preservation of rural life in Vermont.  If you’d like to know more hit the links above, but suffice it to say that I applaud their efforts to think outside the box. Click for a better view.

Interestingly, the Foundation was founded by an investment banker, Dean Mathey who had family ties to the region.  Here’s to creative leadership and creative experimentation.  That’s the way ahead.

Things to do on a rainy day….

Just returned from a wonderful few days in Grafton, Vermont.  Grafton is a fascinating and beautiful town.  Just sings Vermont.  The weather however, was, shall we say, mediocre.  Obviously I can’t complain in light of the terrifying weather in the middle of the country or the flooding that is commencing in Burlington.  But photography in what is the equivalent to a giant soft box (a soft box is a very large diffused light source used in portrait photography) is less than inspirational.  I will post a few images of Grafton in my next blog, just for the sake of trying to communicate something about the area’s beauty.  The challenge for me is to come up with interesting imagery under such circumstances.  There are many approaches to the problem but the one to which I am increasingly drawn is that of focusing on interesting details, the kind of thing that is right under your nose, but often goes unnoticed.  In this case, I happened to be standing next to a very old and interesting barn, one that served several purposes.

No longer a home for horses, etc. (it’s actually now a bar:) it does serve as a stop over for our feathered friends.  This isn’t just decorative.  The noise coming out of this little bird highrise was deafening, telling me that my hanging around was not too welcome.  Nevertheless, I happened to notice the wood.  The patterns started to jump out at me and I worked quickly so as to keep piece with the birds.

There’s a lot of history in that wood.  More about Grafton the town next time.

The Spring Forest

As I have complained about here before, creating compelling visual imagery of a forest is a challenge.  It’s not that forests aren’t visually interesting or fascinating in and of themselves.  Increasingly I’ve come to believe that there’s just too darn much going on.  So what you can do?  One approach, to  focus on chunks rather than the whole thing.  That’s what I’ve tried to do here.  We had the chance to visit a wonderful forest fully engaged in springtime a few weeks back, The Chamberlain-Reynolds Memorial Forest in Center Harbor, New Hampshire.  This is a wonderful working forest that borders squam lake. There were quite a few more birch trees than I’m used to seeing, which was a refreshing change from a photographic standpoint.  Now you’re definitely going to have to click on the images to appreciate the site.  Remember I’m simplifying here, so help me out.

As is the case for most of our forests, this was once farmland.

It is now largely utilized by the community for recreation and spiritual matters.  The trails are in terrific shape.  It has other jobs to do as well.

Just below this scene is an active loading area for logs.  Harvesting on a sustainable basis is taking place here on behalf of the owners, the New England Forestry Foundation.  The forest will survive I’m betting, in part because it’s got a job to do.  It’s been going on for some time.

For those who may have seen enough forest after a mile or so, there is a payoff at the end of the trail.

What’s Left Over

I’ve been trying to get a reasonable shot of this location for the past few weeks. It’s not physically demanding but the lighting once again can be friend or foe.  The water is moving through a man-made canyon.  This is what is left over from the Quabbin Reservoir after the water has begun to tumble over the spillway.  I should add that this flow back to the Swift River is in addition to the water released from below the Winsor Dam, that keeps the Swift River alive and heading down to Connecticut.  Seems that when the Reservoir was built, the good folks in Connecticut said something like, “Hey, what are you doing with all that water???”  They said that in court, and the settlement required an on-going release of water regardless of the level in the Reservoir.  The spillway releases when the water gets high enough, which it has been this spring.  Back to the challenge, the canyon creates some really nasty shadows so when the light hits the white water and starts to glow, the difference in terms of F-stops between light and dark becomes sufficient to cause your camera to practically seize.  An overcast sky can help once again, alleviating that very wide “dynamic range.”  (Click on the image for a better view.)

Tech note:  Nikon D3s, and the Nikon 300 mm F4 AFS lens.  First time out with that wonderful piece of glass.  Old tech, but incredibly sharp.

Tough Shot – Surprisingly Good Light

In my humble opinion this is one of the easiest shots to take, poorly, at the Quabbin Reservoir.  The scene is the Enfield Overlook.  You’re standing on a rather high point on Mount Quabbin.  The town of Enfield was down in the valley below.  The shoreline has grown up considerably since the reservoir was created, making it easy to take a bad shot.  You end up with too much going on in one photo.  I’ve seen a few that I liked over the years, but it’s tough.  It is a location that seems to dare you to try. The reality is that some scenes are truly compelling, but it is darn hard to capture their beauty in a still image.  This is one of them.  Today though, we had some luck  (maybe, you can be the judge).  The light, surprisingly for this time of day helped out, as did the spring buds on the hardwood trees.  (Click on the image for a better view.)

That is Mount Grace or Mount Monadnock in the distance  (If anyone knows for sure, please comment.  Both are in that direction.  Mr. Grace is closer.  Yes, the water really was that blue.  Thanks to whoever is running the lights.  Good job.

Tech note:  D3s, 300 mm lens.