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Posts from the ‘video’ 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.

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.

 

Swipes (and a Blue Heron) Across Elm Park

I’m taking some liberties with the term swipe here.  A swipe, as I was taught, involves slowing down the shutter speed of your camera to as slow as perhaps 1/2 second and moving the camera in order to create a kind of moving blur, one that gives a sense of movement.  It helps if you’ve got a colorful landscape scene with which to deal.  I this case, I inadvertently created a swipe when trying to capture the flight of a blue heron across the pond in Elm Park, Worcester, Massachusetts.  You can deal with motion in a number of different ways.  You can use a high shutter speed to freeze the action.  You can also, however, sacrifice sharpness by slowing your shutter speed to the point at which the movement itself is captured.  This gives you an abstract representation of the subject (i.e., sharp, it ain’t).  Enough with the lecture.  Here’s a slide show of what happened when a blue heron, a common site in Elm Park, decided he’d had enough of the nosey photographer.

 

Bird Convention – The Movie

Several friends who viewed the previous blog post about the incredible bird convention that we witnessed at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in May wanted to get a better sense of what it was like to bump into this mass of birds hanging around on the side of a busy road.  The new breed of Digital SLRs gives us the ability to shot videos as well as stills.  That doesn’t make it easy to do, nor does it ensure a high quality outcome.  After some work and hand wringing, I decided to post this one minute video to fill out the story a bit.  I’d suggest you watch it on the HD setting, as the quality is significantly better though it may take a minute to load. The sounds you hear are the same sounds the birds heard.  This is a busy road, leading to a beautiful beach, on Memorial Day Weekend.  The birds were not particularly impressed.

Video can do things that stills can’t, so I’ll be working on my technique and equipment a bit.  The challenge of course is that doing two things at once can mean that you do neither terribly well.  In this case, I was using a stills tripod, and it shows.  Video tripods allow for smooth movement, stills tripods are built to make it nearly impossible to move the camera.  On a technical note, this video was edited in Photoshop CS6, which has a significantly improved video capability.  It’s also quite easy to use.  I suspect that we’ll see quite a few videos being edited,  on the fly as it were, in what was once a purely “stills” oriented software.

Mobile viewers:  You may not be able to see the video thumbnail (though it seems to be working on my iPhone, which would indicate that WordPress may have been working on the problem).  If you don’t see the video, please click here. Sorry for any inconvenience.