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Posts from the ‘Trees’ Category

Nature Photography Day (and Father’s Day)

Greetings,

This is Father’s Day in the U.S. so Happy Father’s Day to all involved.  It is also Nature Photography Day, an annual event sponsored by the North American Nature Photographer’s Association, which has as its purpose to:  “promote the enjoyment of nature photography and to explain how images have been used to advance the cause of conservation and protect plants, wildlife and landscapes locally, and worldwide.”  (From the web site link here).  Photography was used from nearly the moment of its invention (which is a moment hard to pin down) to build an awareness of our environment, or components of the environment, that so many can’t witness.  It remains an important calling, even in an age in which we are inundated by images.  So many of those images don’t tell a story, of any sort.  It really is the story that counts.

As luck would have it, I had a chance (with family) to spend some time roaming around the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site on Roanoke Island in North Carolina.  This is the site at which the famed Lost Colony story unfolded.  You may know the story, and I won’t recount it in any detail, but in essence, a group of English colonists were left on Roanoke Island in the late 1580’s to establish a business oriented settlement on behalf of the English Crown and associated entrepreneurs such as Sir Walter Raleigh.  They were stranded and did not receive resupply for over three years.  When the English returned after the three-year delay, the colony was gone.  There was no sign of violence, or mass illness.  The buildings were taken down (not torn down) and the only clue remaining was the name “CROATOAN” carved into a tree.  To this day, a satisfactory theory backed by evidence regarding what happened has eluded scholars. Visiting sites like this is always an education. I was struck by several key points.  First, the colonists had to find a way to live in harmony with their surrounding.  They had to get along with the native Americans (who were already angered by previous unsatisfactory contacts) and they had to live off the land, off of nature.  Sadly, they were ill-equipped to do either.  Their ranks were staffed with those ready to exploit the environment, not come to terms with it:  the military, miners, loggers, etc.  Farmers and craftsmen were lacking.   The colonists were prepared to exploit an environment that was simply not going to yield, for many reasons.  Sound familiar?

The colonists at that time were surrounded by lush maritime  forests, as well as the familiar marshes and bodies of water we associate with the region.  Many of those forests included the famed “live oak” tree that is iconic to the south.  You will recognize them by their outward growth and the elaboration of their large branches into nearly a humanoid form.  Old forest growths of these trees were nearly all taken throughout the south for ship building and lumber.  The live oak is a very strong tree (used in the construction of Old Ironsides, the U.S.S. Constitution, for instance). _DSC6844-Edit

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So now in a few places you can find these wonderful trees.  These shown here are obviously not four hundred years old, they’re quite a bit younger but this will give you some idea of what those forests were like.  Away from preserves such as this, the live oak is still threatened by development.

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Conservation doesn’t have to be an all or nothing pursuit, though it is often thought of as such by some.

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Debuting a New Website and Portfolio Collection

It is amazing to me how easy it is to ignore updating the most important presentation of my photographic work, my website.  But there it is, true confessions.  A complete redo was long overdue.  I’ve spent the better part of this now fading summer performing major surgery on www.jameshuntphotography.com.  Was the operation a success?  I believe you’ll have to be the judge.  I’m moderately happy which is about as much jubilation as you’re going to read my express.  I believe it was Leonardo Di Vinci who said “art works are not completed, they are abandoned.”  The fact that I understand what he was trying to say is probably the only thing I have in common with the man!  Time to put it up and move on.

The new web site is much more current.  It reflects the evolution of my photography over the past three or four years. Over that period of time I’ve continued to drift away from a more straight forward documentary approach to photography, to one that is for me a bit more imaginative.  I’m still driven by the underlying desire to create imagery that reflects something important about our environment and our world.  However, I now see more clearly than before that there are many ways of approaching that goal.  There are many ways of trying to encourage someone else to stop and reflect on what they see.  At this juncture, there are so many technically capable photographers that technique by itself just doesn’t do it any more.  So, we continue to experiment.

If you’re interested, click on the link, www.jameshuntphotography.com.  If you’d like a preview of coming attractions there, here’s the story.

There are now four Quabbin based portfolios.  I had received feedback that some organization would be useful to the viewer.  The story begins with , “The Last Witnesses.”

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The story continues with studies of the engineering that created the Reservoir.

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As well as the water the created the Reservoir and sustains many of us in Massachusetts.

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And finally, the Forest that grew up around the Reservoir and that cleanses the water there.

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There is a very recent portfolio from my studies of Elm Park in downtown Worcester, a location very dear to me and one that is currently undergoing a rather massive rehabilitation.  The focus of this portfolio is on the contemplative nature of the space that was created so long ago.

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The Artistry of Birds reflects my own appreciation for the kind of art that they provide for us, through the way they live their lives.  Of course, their lives are not easy.  Nevertheless, their beauty, grace and relationships with one another are compelling.

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There is also included a portfolio from my visit to Lonaconing, Maryland.  This is the site of the last silk mill in the United States, a mill which closed in 1957.  This portfolio which I put up in the blog in monochrome some time ago, is without question the most popular work I’ve ever created.  I say that with some reluctance and I include the portfolio with some reluctance for several reasons.  First, the work lies at some distance from my own photographic interests.  This is a story of decay, which can be useful if it motivates thought.  However, this location seems to have motivated a great deal of photography without much thought about its meaning.  But I do appreciate the interest this has generated so I decided to retool the images by bringing back some of the color tone, and see if they did a better job of reminding us just how much our working world has changed.

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The final portfolio simply documents my love of the water, and my appreciation for what it means to us.  These are all images from various locations along the east coast that have some personal meaning.

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As always, thanks for stopping by.  We’ll see how things develop over the next four years.

Context and Ambiguity

This summer, I set out to develop a better understanding of creativity as it relates to entrepreneurship, but also to my own photography.  So naturally, I’ve probably been less creative. Ironic I know.  I have been reading, a wonderful way to spend the time.  Most recently, I’ve been working my way through Brooks Jenson’s The Creative Life in Photography.  Brooks is the publisher and editor of LensWork Magazine, one of the most important outlets for good fine art photography. I had the pleasure of doing  a portfolio review with him last year, and I’m still working on the lessons gleaned from the experience.  In his chapter on Photography and the Meaning of Life, he rants as I believe he would say about trivial photography, photography that emerges from the psyche of the photographer and more importantly does not involve an effort to say something that will be meaningful to others.  He then offers a simple, but incredibly powerful exercise:  If you had five minutes left on the earth, or five minutes to talk things over with God, what would you say?  (This is a Kindle book, so the page numbers are strange, this “at” Location 1247.)

That’s quite a challenge.  The point he is trying to make regarding photography, I think, is that when an image is displayed, we’re asking someone else to stop and look at it, to take their precious time and give it to the artist.  Is it worth it?  He feels that too often, it is not.  Time to look in the mirror I suppose.  What would I say?  As a trained academic, I would probably try to take up as much time as I possibly could, so I’d probably want to make quite a few points.  One in particular though, is that things are not always as they appear to be.  That we need to stop and look more closely.

It’s rained quite a bit recently and we’ve gone out to photograph regardless.  Once you get used to it you quickly see that the rain causes the greens and reds to appear deeply saturated.  No Photoshop necessary.  The stand of trees here was beautiful. (Click on the images for a better view, particularly if your on one of the retina displays.)

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However, the graphical pattern that makes this stand of trees so beautiful is the result of unwise forest cultivation.  The trees are dead, from Pine Needle Scale, a problem I’ve discussed before.  In reality, most of what we see is actually fairly ambiguous.  Which means that we can interpret things anyway we wish.  Frightening, isn’t it.

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This beautiful country road is the back side of Winsor dam, a massive expression of the sheer will of humans to overpower the forces of nature.

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The boulders along the shoreline are yet another manifestation of engineering prowess, not millenia of tides and waves, at Goodnough Dike.

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And this little guy was hiding out right in the middle of a 2500 ft long dike.  How did he get there? Great question.  And he was not alone.  He had friends as well.  I think he knew what he was doing. Perhaps these images trivialize the point but to state it more clearly, they remind me that we are intimately connected with our environment, an environment that we have shaped and continue to shape.  Everything you see here has in some way been influenced by humans.  It is interesting that a great deal of beauty has resulted from that influence, at least as can be seen at these locations, after a nice rain.  Of course, that’s not always the case, regardless of what some might think.  It is important to understand the context of what we see in our environment.   That’s our job.  Thanks for listening.  I think my five minutes are up.

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

I’ve written previously about the Isaac Newton apple trees on the campus of Babson College, where I work.  They are a wonderful symbol of the intellectual curiosity and excitement of the founder, Roger Babson as well as his appreciation of the natural world.  They were grown from cuttings from the original tree that helped Newton deduce the laws of gravity.  Many trees have come from that line but my favorite, and the favorite of many on campus is this particular tree, which was planted in 1954.

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It is old as fruit trees go, quite old.  It’s longevity is really the product of the hard work of the Facilities staff of the College.  But caring ultimately can’t conquer time.  Last Wednesday, was the time chosen for Sir Isaac’s and Roger’s tree to be taken down.  The tree is still producing leaves, as you can see here.  Examination by experts though over several years, made it clear that it was extraordinarily fragile.  Building will be taking place nearby.  It could not survive a move.  So with reluctance, the decision was made that this was the time.  The College did a very good job of communicating the issues to the community, thankfully.  Ever since I came to Babson I have found the tree to be a place of contemplation, a place that was very helpful, even necessary at times.  It turns out, I was not alone.  Other came to say goodbye last Wednesday morning.  It was difficult to watch, to experience, but I’m glad I was there.  The day began like a bad trip to the doctor.  Waiting.

Clearly I have a deep affection for nature and at times, anthropomorphize trees. Relationships are what we put into them.  Watching arborists at work has always fascinated me.  Like many professions whose work doesn’t make it to the TV or computer screen, we don’t realize just how complicated the job is.  I’ve had the good fortune to photograph a number of arborists over the years, and have come to view them as part craftsman/woman, part scientist/engineer, part naturalist, part business person, etc.  They have a lot going on. I was struck here by their exercise of craft.  The removal of a tree in close quarters is difficult and can be dangerous.  In addition, they were quite aware that this tree was special.  I appreciated that.  Preparation took the better part of half an hour.

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I was reminded then of the carpenters’ oath:  measure twice, cut once.  The tree was being held up at this point by a cable from a crane, tied carefully to the trunk and upper branches.

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The cut took just a minute or two, after which Sir Isaac’s tree was released from the bonds of gravity.

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And moved toward the heavens.

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The ascent also lasted only a few minutes.

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The tree was then laid on the ground and the arborists and staff from the College examined it, and could clearly see that indeed, it was literally a shell of its former self.  Much of the wood, however, as well as the remaining cuttings will be saved for gifts and other symbols.

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It is difficult to come to grips with just how powerless we are in the face of our mortality.  We try not to think about it, but there are reminders.

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I’m glad that I had a chance to get to know Sir Isaac’s tree, and to share it’s life with quite a few other admirers on the campus.  It occurred to me that, hey, this is a college campus and I’ve been here quite a while.  I’ve never seen any form of disrespect paid to the tree.  Not so much as a piece of liter or toilet paper.  From what I’m told, my perception is accurate.  So now, we move ahead.  Here is Babson’s new apple tree grove, and you can guess where the seedlings came from.

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I want to thank Stephen Tolley who was in charge of the project for giving me access and background.  I also want to thank Stephen and colleagues for the care they demonstrated.  Best wishes to those in the USA and elsewhere who observe Memorial Day and pay their respects this weekend.

More Strange Tails from The Quabbin

We all found out over the last two days (something that the Rangers at the Quabbin Reservoir, source of drinking water for half of Massachusetts, have been saying for a long time) that the Reservoir is so big that  terrorists would have to drive in more than several truck loads of toxins into the Reservoir to do any harm.  Nature is that powerful, when scaled up to this size.  Of course we found this out because the State Police arrested a group of mid-night trespassers causing significant alarm.  But it seems that perhaps they were just being dumb.  (It also appears that they may have parked their cars in front of the “no trespassing when closed” sign a few hundred yards from the State Police Barracks.  I don’t think these people will make successful criminals if that is there career plan.)  Add another story to the list for this rather amazing place.  We also learned through the press that they’re actually not pumping water from the Reservoir to Boston at this moment.  The water level does seem to be rising a bit.  These are from Pepper Mill Pond, just before you enter the first Gate to Quabbin Park if you’re traveling west on Route 9, in Ware, Massachusetts.  This is a someone isolated pond for how close it is to the road but it appears to be full  (Other locations such as Hanks meadow do not.)  Like many of the streams around the Reservoir, there is evidence of the dynamism of the forest.  That dynamism creates its own ambiguity and stokes the imagination.  Click on the images for a better view.

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The fishermen are there of course.  One told us this morning that he’d been visited by a bear when he first arrived.  Yet another story.

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My exhibition of work, Quabbin Memories, Boston’s Water, continues at the Jewish Community Center of Worcester.  I want to thank Nancy Greenberg from the JCC and Ron Rosenstock, famed nature photographer for making this possible and now I’m happy to thank all those who have come to see the work, including reporters Christine Peterson and  Richard Duckett from the Worcester Telegram and Gazzette.  Christine created the video below which is currently posted on the Telegram Blog, and on Youtube.  Christine did a great job considering what (who) she had to work with! Thanks Christine.