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There is another Reservoir, you know….

Indeed there is, quite a few actually, but one stands out in particular given it’s importance and linkages to the Quabbin, the Wachusett Reservoir, also under the stewardship of the Massachusetts Division of Conservation and Recreation.  The Wachusett which sits in and around the towns of Boylston, West Boylston, Sterling and Clinton, was created around the turn of the last century, again to supply water to Metropolitan Boston.  In this case, only parts of the towns were taken, though a significant number of residents and businesses were displaced. Interestingly, some of the same individuals who built the Wachusett, at one time considered an absolute marvel of engineering, also were involved in the building of the Quabbin. For me, the Wachusett is beautiful, but not so much a wilderness as the Quabbin. It’s closer to Boston and to major population centers and it’s also smaller, though still impressive in scope.  The water from the Quabbin actually runs to the Wauchusett on it’s way to Boston.

Like the Quabbin there are many sites to see and many routes in.  One of my favorites is the portion of the Central Massachusetts Rail Trail that runs through West Boylston, Holden and beyond.  The Trail basically follows parts of the routes of the old Mass Central Rail road and it owes its existence to a collaboration between local and state governments and the citizen’s group, Wachusett Greenways.

The Trail runs in places along the Quinapoxet River, which is one source of the water in the Wachusett.  I should add that it’s a very level hike, good for biking, kids and you can even bring dogs on the trail, though not down to the water.  The River was quite active for our visit, owing to all the rains.  (Click on the images for a better view.)

You have to walk down the embankment to get to the river, though the trail by itself is pleasant enough if that’s not your inclination.  There are flowers, some wild, some not, along the way.

A short way in, and down, you come to a nice set of falls near one of the water stations.  This one is man-made.

Fortunately, the designers saw fit to include a fish ladder/spillway in the design.

As with so many of these locations though, the water itself is captivating.

Water like this though calls for a variety of treatments.  The details can be as compelling as the larger establishing shots.

In addition to detail shots, the moving water and it’s sounds suggests a playful and abstract approach as well.  Here’s what is known as  a swipe, courtesy the teaching of Tony Sweet.  (These are reflections found in a pond just off the trail.  In order to create this effect you need to have a shutter speed of around 1/2 second.  You are moving the camera upward when you hit the shutter.  You’ll have to do it quite a few times in most cases before you get anything interesting.)

So once again we find that our need for water has created significant social upheaval and at the same time leaves us with so much, that we rarely notice.

Institute Park, Under Construction

Institution Park in Worcester, Massachusetts began with a bequest from Stephen Salisbury III in 1887.  Salisbury, of the famous Worcester family, intended to create a park that bordered the Worcester Polytechnic Institute but at the same time would be open to the public.  One condition of his bequest however was that he would take charge of the Park’s design, according to Evelyn Herwitz in Trees at Risk.  The Park has a fascinating history which you can read about at the web site of the Friends of Institute Park.  I was not aware for instance that there was once a tower on the grounds and that there was a bridge to the island in the pond at the Park.  As the history also reveals, however, like most other parks, it’s been a long and winding road, with periods of reinvigoration followed by neglect.  I’ve come to understand that that’s the nature of the beast, as Herwitz details in Trees at Risk.  The important point is that it’s not always neglect.  Neglect breeds activism.  In the absence of the activism, we’ve got a real problem.  Happily, Institue Park is now undergoing some significant reinvigoration which you can read about here.  We visited the Park recently.  I focus here not on the renovations, which are coming along, but the experience of the Park as it was, which illustrates to me both the beauty of it’s design, as well as its need for a bit of sprucing up.

To me, the carefully planted rows of great trees has always been the hallmark of the Park.  That being said, for others, I’m sure the Pond is the centerpiece.

The banks of the Pond are home to a wide variety of wildflowers, really doing their thing this time of year.  These are “spotted joe-pye-weed”, at least that’s what Chris thinks.  Identifying these things isn’t as easy as it might seem.  (But I just wanted so much to use the name “spotted joe-pye-weed.”  You have to love the names of wildflowers.  That’s got to be a story in and of itself.  At any rate, if we’re wrong about the name, please post a comment.)

Many of the trees standout on their own as character trees. If only these trees could talk…

But alas, some of them are beyond the talking stage.

The life of an urban tree is not an easy one as Herwitz points out.  Institute Park was first developed roughly 120 years ago, so it is inevitable that the population of trees turns over.  Again, this is where we come in.  Places that matter require our attention.  We are grateful that Institute Park is receiving some needed attention and anxiously await the results.

Tech note:  Shot on Kodak Ektar 100 film, believe it or not.

“Shooting Through” at the Goodnough Dike

This is a dike, the Goodnough Dike at the Quabbin Reservoir, inside the Quabbin Park.  (Click on the image for a better view.)

OK, so it’s a picture of a dike with Lens Flare.  But ignoring that, fascinating?  Maybe not.   It’s a long straight, now empty road.  Don’t dikes have a job, like holding back billions of gallons of water?  Where’s the water???  What to do?  Always try looking behind you.  If I turned around pretty much at this spot, what would I see?

Got rid of the lens flare, and everything isn’t quite so long and straight anymore, but where’s the dike?  I then remembered a lesson taught to me by the great nature photographer Tony Sweet.  He was actually referring to flower photography when he was stressing this point, but the technique of “shooting through” has wide applicability.  Find something to fill the space that is interesting, adds to the composition.  Trees, in addition to their other many wonderful characteristics, make great frames, for the primary subject.

Got our dike back.  Time to move on.

Tech note:  Shot in infrared on a converted D200, converted to black and white in post processing, Lightroom, Photoshop and Nik Silver Efex Pro.

Hills in the Rain

When you leave for a photo shoot, you really never know what you’re going to find. It’s helpful in some cases to know what you’re looking for, but if your a nature photographer, that means you’re really hoping for the cooperation of the weather….. a dicey proposition. The Quabbin Reservoir is only an hour away from home.  It looked like an OK day. By the time we got there, it was pouring.  So we had coffee, found a cool place to look at the Reservoir and enjoyed.  Then the weather started to do some very interesting things.  (Click on the image for a larger view.)

If it isn’t raining too hard, and if the temperature and wind are working in your favor, cloud trails begin to emerge from the hills themselves.  So we swung into gear.  Photography of those clouds is challenging because there is so little contrast working in your favor.  You have to significantly increase the contrast in post production and that creates the risk of making these delicate little vortices of water vapor turn white, just like much of the sky.  It is a beautiful show however.  Here’s Mount Zion, known well to all who visit the Reservoir.

We eventually did catch a break in the weather and were able to pay a visit to the primary location for the day, Goodnough Dike.  The storm was beginning to pass, or so we thought.

Water, Water Everywhere

You learn something new everyday.  This morning on the Weather Channel’s Wake Up with Al show, Al did a short piece on the history of Las Vegas.  I didn’t know, but should have been able to figure out, that Las Vegas was actually built at an oasis in the desert.  Vegas sits in the Mojave Desert.  But the town it self was founded where there was water, and plenty of it.  The area was green, good for agriculture.  In fact that was it’s claim to fame before the rest of the story we all know well.  That’s all gone now.  The asphalt, reflective buildings, etc. caused the springs to dry up in the 50’s.

Meanwhile in Massachusetts we have, for now,  plenty of water.  I’ve shown imagery from this location before:  Hank’s Meadow at the Quabbin Reservoir.  This lovely spot is off the road that runs through the Quabbin Park in Ware and Belchertown, Massachusetts.  The Meadow is clearly marked and there is good parking.  All you have to do is walk toward the water.  It was hot that day, or so we thought.  When we came within about 15 feet of the water, the onshore breeze of the Quabbin weather system hit us.  The temperature dropped a good ten degrees and suddenly everything was pleasant.  All you could hear was the sound of the wind and the waves.