Skip to content

Posts from the ‘multi-media’ Category

The Middle Branch of the Swift River and the Hazards of Nature Photography

As readers of this blog know by now, one of my main concerns about how we think about our environment is, actually, how little we think about it.  We take for granted so much without questioning what supports our lives.  The food shows up at the grocery story, the water in the faucet and the oxygen that sustains us in the atmosphere.  I live in central Massachusetts and work in eastern Massachusetts.  Most people in eastern Massachusetts don’t know where their water comes from, the Quabbin Reservoir.  So my mission is in part educational.  As such, I’ve been working more with video as a media for engaging with people about the source of their water.  This has involved creating short videos that hopefully take the viewer to the source of their water and at least help them connect a few dots.

With that as background, here is a short two minute trip along two sections of the Middle Branch of the Swift River, one of the most important sources of water that goes into the Quabbin Reservoir. I’m shooting from two locations, one the Bear’s Den and the second, where the Middle Branch cuts through the Quabbin Reservation, closer to the Reservoir itself.  You can reach both in New Salem.  Both are rather tame walks (but see my warning below).  I find both of these locations compelling and have posted still imagery from there many times.  I hadn’t been back in a year or two, much had changed, though much remained the same.

A word of warning and a request.  Posting video online is not as satisfying as you might think given that every one seems to be doing it these days.  Most services compress the video severely and if you’re used to good photography, you notice this immediately.  Second and more seriously for me, most of you read my blog as subscribers.  You have it e-mailed to you and WordPress does not always embed the video properly, meaning you may not see it.  This happened a few months ago, to my chagrin.

Trying something different this time, I’ve actually uploaded this version to WordPress itself rather than embed it from Vimeo. However, If you can’t see it, click here and you’ll go right to the video as posted on Vimeo. Regardless, make sure you’re watching the HD version by clicking on HD in the lower right hand corner of your video screen.  You’ll know to do that if the quality of the video is particularly annoying.  If the preview version I can see is any indication, you will need to click HD to get the higher quality view.

On the hazards of nature photography.  When we go out into the field, we are actually quite careful.  Tics are everywhere and they are particularly dangerous in New England.  So we are fully covered regardless of the temperature.  No sandals, short sleeves, etc.  Never, even when it’s really hot.  But that isn’t always enough to protect you it seems.  I’d been to this location many times but evidently this is where I contracted poison ivy, or something like that.  Even though I didn’t think I was excessively allergic to poison ivy, I have never been cavalier about it.  Your reaction can change over time with aging.  This time something went wrong and the poison ivy mixed with something else and left me severely ill.  The treatment, prednisone was just as bad as the disease as some of you know.  It finally seems to be working now thankfully.  I got some good medical care along the way, including from an excellent Dermatologist.  Just as I was leaving his office, he shared a rather bone chilling observation that he said all his dermatology friends had been pondering over the past few years.  Poison ivy is getting much more virulent. They don’t know why.  I have no expertise in this area other than what I’ve learned over the past month so I can’t verify his statement, but he’s a good doc and very well trained.  So why am I saying all this?  If you’re old enough you may remember a pretty good police show, Hill Street Blues.  The desk sergeant at the precinct had a way of closing his start of shift meetings that came to mind recently:  And hey…..be careful out there.

Mysteries of Manteo – Updated

I have already posted several images from my most recent trip to Manteo, earlier this summer. Manteo lies in the Outer Banks region of North Carolina.  It’s a wonderful place and we had the benefit of wonderful company throughout. We had more time to explore the area and to think, and both those two “t’s”, time and thinking, often make for better photography.  I’m happy to report the release of a new book, in hard copy (on fine art paper) or e-book form that includes over twenty of those images is now available from Blurb.  You can see a preview if you look to your right.  If you are on a mobile device and don’t see anything to your right, then you can click on the link here:

Mysteries of Manteo

Here’s some background for those interested.  I’m a huge proponent of project oriented photography, an approach most clearly articulated perhaps by Brooks Jenson, publisher of Lenswork, my favorite photography magazine.  I”ll do a lousy job of trying to paraphrase him here, but in essence, projects emerge from the photographer’s collection of assets that are subsequently grouped together around some kind of theme.  You may go out on an assignment to collect a particular kind of image, built around your own vision for a particular output.  But sometimes, things come together after the fact as well, when you’re looking at a body of work from a particular location.

Such was the case for me in relation to my Manteo work.  After three weeks I had lots of images, some of which I liked.  But I didn’t see the theme.  I knew I wanted to pull them together in some type of organized output, but wasn’t sure how.  Manteo is on Roanoke Island and as such is surrounded by water.  Now there is a unique theme.  Is that really what it’s all about?  Then as I looked at the images I found myself drawn to the most mysterious ones, ones that seem to ask rather than answer questions.  The reason became clear to me over time.

I was deeply moved by the story of The Lost Colony, one of the great mysteries of the English invasion of the continent. I’m from Virginia originally and often have some fun with New Englanders by reminding them that “we got here first.”  (Actually, we, meaning Virginians, were not even close to being first.  There were of course the Native Americans, who really were first.  Then probably some Vikings.  Then of course the Spanish, and who knows who else.)  But actually there had been a previous attempt at establishing a permanent English colony in North America earlier in the 1580’s.  That attempt took place in what is now Manteo.

It did not go well as I mentioned in earlier blogs, but the fact is that we don’t know what went wrong, to this day.  Clearly, the colonists who presumably died there were (a) pawns in a larger geopolitical dialing match; (b) left to fend for themselves by greedy privateers; (c) victimized by climate forces that they could not understand nor influence; (d) beset with their own hubris, thinking that they were well prepared to farm when they really weren’t; and we could go on.  The notion that they ran into a lethal conflict with the local Native America population has not been proven either, and in fact, the opposite could also have happened.  They may have been befriended by those who really did get there first.  Archeologists and other scientists are truly stumped.  I won’t go into the details, but if you like a good mystery and particularly if you like scientific puzzles, I’d highly recommend further exploration.

That set of events, for which the play was subsequently named, is called The Lost Colony. (Click on the link if you want more background.)  So while Manteo is a charming and quite friendly town surrounded by water on three sides , I will always think about the mystery that permeates the water and marshes.  The new book, Mysteries of Manteo, is the result.  It is printed by Blurb, which may give some pause.  I now find Blurb to be doing a pretty good job, much better than in the past. The book is printed on fine art paper and the color management is quite effective.  The images are a good representation of what I was trying to invoke.  Again, if you’re interested, you can view the book in the widget to your right, purchase a soft cover addition, or at a greatly reduced price, the pdf.  The later of course is NOT printed on fine art paper, but  then you know that.

Thanks to Al, Donna, Maya and Chester, our wonderful hosts.

Tech Note:  The book was created using Lightroom’s book function.  I was overall pleased with how well the function worked, though it is not InDesign.  Try it to create your own PDF’s.

 

A Bit of Gratitude

It is Memorial Day in the United States.  This is a day on which we remember those we have lost.  In particular of course we remember those who sacrificed so much to maintain our freedoms and our way of life, as well as our family members and friends.  I don’t handle loss particularly well, but I am reminded on days like this that we have a great deal to be thankful for, so I’ll take it in that direction.  Here’s a very short video I made recently of something for which we all should be grateful (or at least those of us who are lucky enough to have access to it) fresh drinking water.  This is from Fever Brook as it cuts its way through the Federated Women’s Club State Forest in New Salem, Massachusetts.  Fever Brook feeds into the Quabbin Reservoir, source of drinking water for much of Eastern Massachusetts.  Our drinking water exists in large measure because of the sacrifice of those who came before us.  Sacrifice, painful as it is, is what makes all of what we value possible.   (This video looks infinitely better in HD, but if you don’t have a good connection, hit the HD button in the lower right and you’ll see it at a lower resolution.)

Tech Note:  This video was actually shot on the new Panasonic GH4, in 4K believe.  It is then down sampled to give a better looking HD video, at least that’s the theory.  We’re still working on the implementation here I think but you will hopefully see some better work in the future.

Ron Rosenstock Multi-Media

I am a huge fan of fine art and nature multi-media and have experimented with it a bit here.  Nature speaks to us on multiple channels.  When you’re out in the world you don’t just see.  Experience encompasses what we hear and feel as well.  All that being said, I think good multi-media is hard to pull off.  It is easy to go too long, too short, too everything, and lose the viewer.

I have mentioned Ron Rosenstock’s work here before as well.  He is one of our finest and most productive fine art photographers.  I’m very grateful for his support the last few years.  Ron’s work, particularly his books, often try to capture the more complex feel of his appreciation of nature through the use of accompanying poetry.  He recently alerted me to a new multi-media work, inspired by his book, The Light Within, in which his imagery is accompanied by a new musical composition from Eugene Skeef, a noted South African composer.  In addition, the piece contains haiku by Gabriel Rosenstock (no relation I gather) with whom Ron has collaborated in the past.  Too often, multi-media pieces though struggle and seem to take forever.  For me, this one just flies by. Enjoy.