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Happy Arbor Day – In Massachusetts, USA

Environment oriented celebrations naturally would occur in the Spring, wouldn’t they.  After all, that’s when it hits you right in the face.  Last week it was Earth Day, yesterday, in Massachusetts at least, it was Arbor Day.  Sensibly, Arbor Day is set on a state by state basis, and arrives earlier in the south than up here in (what used to be at least) the cold north.  No matter, some good things happen in New England that I’m told don’t necessarily happen in some other parts of the country.  We get a “reverse foliage” effect.  The new leaves on many of the deciduous trees start with a distinct yellow “pop.”   Others, with a more subdued red.  It last for two weeks or so, and then everything turns straight green.  Enjoy it while it lasts…  This is one of my favorite trees, the Lancer Oak, on the grounds of Worcester State University.  It is thought to be one of the oldest trees in the City of Worcester.  Click on the image for a better view.

The Extreme Ice Survey

(Mobile readers, as I feared, wordpress is not embedding the video in a fashion that will make it visible for you.  On my iPhone, it doesn’t appear.  My apologies.  Can’t be helped I’m afraid.  If you’re interested, track down the old lap top and have a look.)

As we contemplate today Western Pennsylvania getting hit by a blizzard (no kidding, check the weather channel, it’s true), it occurred to me that it might be useful to say a bit more about Earth Day.  Climate photography has many inherent challenges, not the least of which is the fact that climate change unfolds over time. We do of course have an app for that, time lapse photography.  One of my favorite environmental photographers, James Balog, established on-going time lapse monitoring of a number of the most threatened glaciers in the world, creating what he subsequently described as The Extreme Ice Survey.  He and his colleagues set up cameras at  strategic locations around the glaciers and equipped them for extended time lapse work.  This meant protecting and powering a large number of Nikons, mostly D200’s I believe.  If you click on the link above, you will see before your very eyes, the impact of global warming.  Massive glaciers are melting at an alarming pace.  Alarming?  Yes, remember he’s only been collecting imagery for five years. Have a look. Meanwhile, I’ve embedded a promo here that will give you an idea. James is also a film maker and his an exciting film on the Extreme Ice Survey out this year.

Photographers take note.  How can we be more creative and useful in documenting what is important about the natural world and how it is changing?

Happy Earth Day 2012

Happy Earth Day, 2012.  (The image below is a panorama, even though it doesn’t look like one.  You’ll really need to click on it, to see what we saw, just last week. When you click on it, you should then see a small plus sign on your cursor.  Click again and you’re there.)

Peppermill Pond, at the southern end of the Quabbin Reservoir.  May we be blessed by such wonderful places (and drinking water and fresh air) for yet another year.

Dancing with the Turkey Vultures

As the climate warms, species that one might customarily see rarely sometimes become more visible.  Turkey vultures are now very common in central New England, whereas before, they were more common on Cape Cod.  Further south, they are quite common.  On our recent visit to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, we happened to encounter a flock of turkey vultures, hanging about in some wonderfully abstract looking trees.

I know, everyone really wants to know if we saw the ponies.  Yes, we did, but they were, shall we say, working.  They hang out in the marsh and they eat.  My lens, though long, wasn’t long enough but more frustratingly, not once did they look up from their work so that I could get a shot with them looking at me.  Pictures of ponies with their heads in the marsh grass are, at least in my opinion, rather boring. So, not  wanting to be a turkey (sorry), we decided to hang with the turkey vultures.

I’ve been told on good authority (by my daughter, who really is a great authority) that when we think we’re seeing hawks in the sky, we may well be seeing turkey vultures.  They are about the same size (the turkey vultures appearing to be just a bit bigger), but they are far more social it seems to me.

However, social, on this day it wasn’t clear how well they were getting along.  They seemed very restless.

Of course, spring was in the air, and you know what that means.

Leaving us with much to consider.

Tech note:  All images shot with a Nikon D700 and 28 – 300 lens.  That lens is supposed to be mediocre at best according to “the internet.”  “The internet” is wrong on that score.  Converted to black and white in Lightroom and Photoshop.

Early Spring at the Elizabethan Gardens

The Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo, North Carolina (on the Outer Banks of the State) are one of our favorite places to view cultivated flowers.  It is really a conservatory and classical gardens.  Those who aren’t familiar with the area should note that the name is a token of honor to Elizabeth the First, who sent Sir Walter Raleigh to the area to found a new colony, over a decade before my relatives made it to Jamestown.  Alas, it was not meant to be.  When the Colony’s founders returned from other duties (England was at war with Spain at the time, which slowed things down considerably) they found the Colony gone, a mystery yet unsolved.  There had indeed been conflict with the local Native Americans, but the evidence suggested that the departure of the surviving colonists was not hurried and the agreed upon sign, a Maltese Cross carved on a tree to indicate that hostilities had taken place, was not to be found.  Thus the name:  The Lost Colony.

The Gardens themselves are, for me, as much about their classical design as their horticulture.

Carefully planned paths and a wonderful tree canopy, coupled with statuary that is nicely integrated with nature make for a very contemplative experience.

I am, however, always drawn to the designs created by this great, and greatly loved, trees.

You mean you went to the Elizabethan Gardens and didn’t photograph any flowers? I wouldn’t make that mistake.  Even though it was only the third week in March, the flowers were on the field.

The tulips were well along.

We asked the Hostess there about the unusual weather.  She explained that the plants were running roughly a full month ahead of schedule.  Yes, it was beautiful, but one had the eerie since that something was wrong.  The Azalea’s were already past their prime.