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Back Under the Highway – Blackstone River Photo Essay Part 1

I have visited this spot a number of times and always found it compelling.  I’ve decided to take up the Blackstone River as a project, to explore it’s story and its visual presentation.  I’m looking forward to the challenge.  It’s 48 miles long or so, starts in Worcester Massachusetts, right in the middle of the city, and ends up in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  It’s been called one of the most polluted rivers in the country, which is a artifact of it’s history as the home of the first successful cotton mill, and many many subsequent factories powered by its water.  History isn’t the only problem, however.  Communities along the River, including evidently Worcester (though someone can correct me if I am wrong) have long used the River as a way to dispose of waste water post treatment.  That problem is being addressed at this point, but it took an act of Congress (literally) to get things started.  Even though it’s gotten a bit cleaner, you aren’t supposed swim in this river, let alone drink from it.  It represents what we have left of our planet.  This is about the interaction of humanity and nature.  Nature is still there, but it is a contentious situation.  We began at the Blackstone River Bike Path in Worcester, walked first back toward the city, and then reversed our tracks and headed toward Millbury.  It was a lovely day it turns out, though initially a bit cold.  Here are some samples of what we saw.




This is Route 146.  The bikeway wraps around the River and under the Highway above.  Providing the public an opportunity to access the River here was a great idea.  But this is an urban landscape, to be sure.


That does not make it any less appealing, however.



These falls deserved an extra shot for obvious reasons.


Nature has a way of fighting with the footprint of our society, even if it is just through a leak.


I did not offer an Earth Day greeting this year.  The crazy and very anti-scientific debate around the environment in Washington may have gotten the better of me.  I’ll offer one now to those volunteers who try to keep places like this reasonably inviting.  Thank you.



Tech Note:  It wasn’t sunny out there but it was fairly bright.  Some of the shots taken underneath the highway would have in times past required HDR (High Dynamic Range) technique which involves the merging of several images, bracketed to Over, Normal and Under exposure of the image to capture the full range of tones,  The incredible contrast between the shadows under the highway and the bright though cloudy day outside of those shadows used to be practically impossible to photograph in one image.  No more.  The incredible sensors coming out of Nikon and Sony make it possible with one click.  I am amazed.  I was ready to do some HDR work and took the images that would have been required for it, but it just wasn’t necessary.

Ice Out in Elm Park

In spite of the fact that once again we are confronted with a winter weather advisory in mid-April, there is fresh snow on the ground, and driving is likely to be somewhat dangerous, I wanted to post about ice out in Elm Park.  Elm Park has been the subject of many posts here because it is an iconic aspect of Worcester, Massachusetts and one of my favorite places to photograph.  The Park was established in the 1800’s as part of a movement to ease the challenges of urban life, much were, and in some ways still are, considerable.  Elm Park was not designed by Olmsted but his firm did work on it later and the landscape still reflects his wonderful perspective.  The Park flows.  There is a natural circle around two large interconnecting ponds for the walker and park bench resident.  The city is everywhere beyond its borders, clearly visible, but you are not in the city if you cling to the ponds, not really.

These ponds always ice up during the winter as the water isn’t moving and they aren’t that big.  This winter was no exception.  What was different was that the Park was almost hostile to visitors with terrifically high snow banks everywhere.  These then started to give way to ice of course as the temperatures warmed.  We made our way back there first perhaps three weeks ago.  You could hardly walk around the side walks that border the Park without taking your life in your own hands, the ice was so slippery.  One week ago, things were better, but not great.  This week, all was good.  The circle path was clear and the ice, was out.  The ponds could resume their rightful place in creating the contemplative mood that the Park’s creators had envisioned.

There were two kinds of parks established during the late 1800’s.  Many parks of course were created for exercise and recreation.  Some, were created for contemplation.  Elm Park fits in that later group.  No ball fields here.  (Central Park in New York is mostly contemplative, but it is so big it could handle both tasks, though they are largely kept separate.)  In my view, water, and the reflections the water creates, are as essential to the contemplative process as is people watching. Our first view of ice out.


As I said, the city is right there, but psychologically distant.



The Myra Kraft Bridge, under construction.


So ice is out in Elm Park, thankfully.  Actually, we shouldn’t complain about the weather around here.  All that snow has left our Reservoirs full.  Folks from California and Brazil probably would not take kindly to complaints about two much moisture.