Skip to content

Archive for

Where the Road Meets the Sea

One of the many compelling attributes of the Quabbin Reservoir is the on-going dialogue of past and present.  Artifacts of the lost four towns and their residents can be found everywhere.  Some are easy to miss, like the character trees that line the old roads inside the Quabbin Gates.  (Click on the images for a better view.)

I’ve mentioned these before.  We noticed their visual presence almost from the first day of shooting here, but didn’t realize until later that they represented the aesthetics of the folks who  populated the towns.  In many places, the residents, some of them at least, clearly wanted shade and beauty along the sides of their roads.  These can be found at Gate 5 in Belchertown along what was once Enfield Road, now an extension of “Old” Enfield Road.  This was also state Route 21.

A closer look at the image, however, reveals something else.  The road goes directly into the Reservoir.  Not a terribly subtle reminder of the history of the Reservoir, not subtle at all.  In fact, this road resurfaces about 20 miles to the north at Gate 35 in New Salem.  What’s in between?  Water.

Lots and lots of water.  What you see here was once valley farmland.  I have to say that doing justice to this interesting site photographically has been a substantial challenge. Here’s a classic framing shot.

Historically accurate but artistically, I’m not sure.  The reality is, you can’t always get the picture that you want.  Here’s my favorite.

Some questions are better off left unanswered.

(Tech note:  Images taken with an infrared converted Nikon D200, converted to black and white in post production.)

Farewell to New York – For Now

Two final shots from a recent trip to the Apple, both taken at South Street Seaport, which is a “target rich environment” if you’re a photographer.  This 10 shot or so panorama of Brooklyn was taken from the end of the pier.  (Click on the images for a much better view.)

These were both taken hand held, amazingly, stitched together in photoshop. Unfortunately, the Brooklyn panorama wasn’t big enough to be posted on gigapan, believe it or not.  The following, my favorite, was, however.  These are the ships masts at the Seaport.

You’ll find the gigapan version here.  Farewell, New York.  We’ll see you again in the fall.

The iPhone Takes Manhattan

Taking a break from environmental concerns (and the yoyo of the stock market) we had a nice visit to Manhattan, courtesy of Al, Donna, Maya and Chester. While I was fully equipped with my Nikon’s, both film and digital, the iPhone got a lot of use, I think in part because it encourages the photographer to let go of reality (a state of mind that fits in quite well in Manhattan).  Some people can’t stand the City because it is so intense, so powerful, so awesome, and iPhone apps can help to capture that mood.

It’s not the objective reality.  In fact, at the risk of sounding heretical, I don’t think the camera in the phone is particularly good.  It’s the apps that allow you to capture the feeling in a way that can be more difficult with a traditional photographic instrument.

The round building was, I am told, the work home of one Mr. Bernard Madoff. Sometimes reality is every bit as frightening as anything we can imagine. I continue to be most impressed though with the iPhone’s love affair with flowers.  I’ve come to the conclusion that the lens in the phone is maybe the equivalent of a 40 mm lens (on a regular camera).  It’s pretty wide, and as is frequently the case with a wide angle lens, you can get in real close.

A rose by any other name…..

Battling an Invasive Pest – The Asian Longhorn Beetle at Dodge Park in Worcester, MA

Worcester, Massachusetts, for those who don’t know, is currently at ground zero in a major battle against an invasive specie, the Asian Longhorned Beetle.  This particular critter probably joined us via wood palette, courtesy of global commerce.  Here are a few links that will give you more information about the pest and the battle if you’re interested.  We paid a visit recently to the front lines of the battle, Dodge Park, in the Burncoat section of Worcester.  Here’s what we saw.  (Click on the image for a better view.)

(You can see the full sized panorama posted at gigapan, and get geographic coordinates for the shot here.)  If you take a visit to Dodge Park via Google Earth, this is not what you’ll see, at least not yet.  Their most recent satellite photos will show a park that is completely forested, largely with maples.  All of the maples and other susceptible trees were cut down in the past few months from what I am told. You don’t see any stumps in this image because the stumps have to be ground up as well.  The Beetle can’t live in ground wood evidently, so the wood can actually be repurposed to an extent, in this case to make paths through the now rather Martian looking landscape.  It’s quite eerie there.  The good news is that the State’s Division of Conservation and Recreation is now involved in doing some replanting.  This is a big park though, and recovery will take some time.

The battle is not without controversy.  The taking of the trees, which is actually a Federal (Department of Agriculture) and not a State decision obviously has a terrible aesthetic and natural set of consequences.  Indeed, as reported in a recent Boston Globe article, some scholars question the value of some fights against invasive species. (Though evidently very few question the value of the fight against the Beetle.)  What is at stake of course are the economic consequences of not fighting the Beetle, including the loss of the maple syrup industry in Vermont if the critters make it that far north (a possibility to be sure) as well as significant impacts on the lumber industry.  Government intervention to stop the spread of disease is as old as humanity and often quite necessary, though at the same time, painful.

On the other hand, it is difficult to know what we could possibly do to stop an invasive such as Pine Needle Scale, which I’ve written about frequently.  The reality is, the Red Pines will die, and other species will reclaim their place in the sun. Perhaps the question as to whether or not to fight an invasive isn’t the only one we should consider.  Another question might have to do with lessons learned.  On our visit to Dodge Park we had the pleasure of chatting with a DCR supervisor who was happy to answer our questions.  She said that one of the factors that promoted this particular epidemic was the Great Worcester Tornado of 1953.  The tornado passed through this part of the City and obliterated much of the standing shade trees. Replanting at the time relied heavily on  one particular species of maple, a species highly susceptible to the Beetle.  Mono species populations packed in too tightly are in general more vulnerable to the spread of disease.    This is true of Red Pines, Maples and who knows what else.  Diversity, in the face of global travel and global warming, is likely a very good thing.

A New Portfolio – The Last Witnesses

I’m happy to announce the creation of a new portfolio at my web site, The Last Witnesses.  You can find it by clicking here, and then going to the portfolio drop down box.

All the residents of the four towns taken to create the Quabbin Reservoir, Enfield, Greenwich, Prescott and Dana, were off the land by late in 1938.  Their dwellings were removed to ground level, and most of the locations of their homes and farms were subsequently flooded.  You can still see signs of what was, however, at a number of the 55 gates that surround the Reservoir.  Probably the most famous site is at Dana Common, a two mile walk in at Gate 40.  There you can see the town Common with its roads and cellar holes.  You feel like you’re in a small New England town, except of course for the fact that you only see cellar holes.  No buildings, and no people.

There is another sign of life, however.  Along many of the paths and roads inside the gates, you will find trees that had obviously been planted, and cared for, by the residents.  You find them along the sides of roads, in meadows and at Dana Common.  These trees are now of course very old.  I’m guessing that some are over 150 years old.  But, amazingly, many are still open for business.  They seem to show their age in the winter, and the many twists, turns and gnarls of their branches suggests that they have seen much.  In the spring, however, most of these obviously quite tough maples and oaks seem to make a come back. Of course, there are many former residents of the four towns who are still very much alive.  These trees though still stand in the same locations as representations of the lives of those residents. They’ve been watching over the land, day in and day out, since 1938.  It seems likely that they will continue to be the last witnesses for many years to come.