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Posts from the ‘Panoramas’ Category

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.

The Dying Trees

If you run a WordPress blog such as this, you can access a statistics page which will provide you with all sorts of interesting information, such as how people got to your site.  I’m occasionally surprised and given to some self doubt.  One of my more popular posts was “Things to do on a rainy day” in which I presented a variety of ways of photographing wood on the side of an old bar(n) in Vermont.  I have a feeling that my title threw off a bunch of parents who, desperate, tried to google their way through a rainy day and probably found instructions for photographing wood to be less than helpful.

Sometimes though, you see something quite powerful.  Recently one of the Google searches that led someone to this blog was titled “Why are the trees dying at Quabbin Reservoir?”  That got my attention.  In fact, the situation isn’t quite that dire.  They are not all dying, thankfully, but the Red Pines are, due to Pine Needle Scale.  Pine Needle Scale is an invasive species, joining us from Pennsylvania and parts south, that is nearly always fatal to a Red Pine.  Increasingly, you can see its impact at the Quabbin forest.  (Click on the images for a better view.)

This was taken at Gate 52, inside Quabbin Park.  If you look carefully, you’ll notice a small deer feasting off the vegetation on this small island which lies just off Little Quabbin Island.  (This is what the folks at National Geographic call a “scale element.” It’s a tool to help the viewer get a sense of size.)  Here’s another view, this time of Little Quabbin Island itself.

What you see are small clumps of dying trees amidst otherwise healthy hardwoods. Each individual clump by itself doesn’t look so alarming. The real impact though, probably the impact that drove the sad Google search is experienced through a view of the big picture.  Here’s a small version of a very large panorama.

The real panorama, full size, is posted at Gigapan here.  Have a look.  We live in an amazingly small world, from an environmental perspective.  Some of you may have followed the story of the Mountain Lion that was unfortunately killed by a car in Connecticut.  In the Boston Globe this morning, it was reported, in “New England in Brief,” that the Mountain Lion was actually from the Black Hills of South Dakota, by way of Minnesota and Wisconsin.  It was tracked by authorities using DNA samples, presumably from its scat.  This was not a captive animal escaped.  This Mountain Lion made the journey in the wild.  It is one of the longest journeys ever recorded by a land mammal.

While taking this panorama, we were joined by one of the most beautiful birds we’ve ever seen in the wild, a Scarlet Tanager.

Of course I had the wrong lens on at the time, one of my strengths when it comes to wildlife, but you get the idea.  This little guy and his buddies will be leaving soon, for their winter home in Central America.  It is a small world indeed.

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.

The Spring Forest

As I have complained about here before, creating compelling visual imagery of a forest is a challenge.  It’s not that forests aren’t visually interesting or fascinating in and of themselves.  Increasingly I’ve come to believe that there’s just too darn much going on.  So what you can do?  One approach, to  focus on chunks rather than the whole thing.  That’s what I’ve tried to do here.  We had the chance to visit a wonderful forest fully engaged in springtime a few weeks back, The Chamberlain-Reynolds Memorial Forest in Center Harbor, New Hampshire.  This is a wonderful working forest that borders squam lake. There were quite a few more birch trees than I’m used to seeing, which was a refreshing change from a photographic standpoint.  Now you’re definitely going to have to click on the images to appreciate the site.  Remember I’m simplifying here, so help me out.

As is the case for most of our forests, this was once farmland.

It is now largely utilized by the community for recreation and spiritual matters.  The trails are in terrific shape.  It has other jobs to do as well.

Just below this scene is an active loading area for logs.  Harvesting on a sustainable basis is taking place here on behalf of the owners, the New England Forestry Foundation.  The forest will survive I’m betting, in part because it’s got a job to do.  It’s been going on for some time.

For those who may have seen enough forest after a mile or so, there is a payoff at the end of the trail.

Tough Shot – Surprisingly Good Light

In my humble opinion this is one of the easiest shots to take, poorly, at the Quabbin Reservoir.  The scene is the Enfield Overlook.  You’re standing on a rather high point on Mount Quabbin.  The town of Enfield was down in the valley below.  The shoreline has grown up considerably since the reservoir was created, making it easy to take a bad shot.  You end up with too much going on in one photo.  I’ve seen a few that I liked over the years, but it’s tough.  It is a location that seems to dare you to try. The reality is that some scenes are truly compelling, but it is darn hard to capture their beauty in a still image.  This is one of them.  Today though, we had some luck  (maybe, you can be the judge).  The light, surprisingly for this time of day helped out, as did the spring buds on the hardwood trees.  (Click on the image for a better view.)

That is Mount Grace or Mount Monadnock in the distance  (If anyone knows for sure, please comment.  Both are in that direction.  Mr. Grace is closer.  Yes, the water really was that blue.  Thanks to whoever is running the lights.  Good job.

Tech note:  D3s, 300 mm lens.