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Posts from the ‘video’ Category

Erosion and the Power of Nature

I’ve restated the obvious a few times on this blog. Nature is more powerful than we are. Does anyone still need convincing? Probably, I’m afraid. I don’t.

A now more subtle case in point of course is erosion. Wind and water overpower the land and our human dreams of the conquest of nature. Like many nature photographers, I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to capture erosion, with mixed success. Last fall I was honored to have a number of my erosion images featured at the Aldrich Gallery, Whitin Mill in Whitinsville, Massachusetts. They are now working on creating an online platform for that exhibition.

The move to the creation of online exhibitions in the times of Covid is a most interesting one, saying something about our resilience. We can’t have real exhibitions, at least not quite yet, but we’ll see if we can come up with something else. It’s actually a very creative process, pushing me to move ahead by going back to the creation slide shows, just like the old days. Slide shows offer you an opportunity to expand the narrative to include sound, as well as more imagery than you’re likely to get in an exhibition. I often think about trying to create immersive experiences, without the excessive use of technology. Audio helps (so turn up the volume on your device to about 50%). I’ll leave it to you to be the judge. If you are on a mobile device and can’t see the thumbnail below, you can find the slide show here.

The Dams of the Blackstone Watershed

The Blackstone River, which runs from Worcester, Massachusetts to Providence, Rhode Island was, and still is, very heavily dammed.  Counting its tributaries it’s easy to find a dam nearly every mile or so along its path down to the sea.  The River falls nearly 500 feet along the way and was the river of choice for textile mill builders in the late 1700’s and 1800’s.  It is considered to be the energy for the dawn of the industrial revolution in the U.S. (beating the Merrimack River by a couple of decades).  I’m currently teaching a course titled “Unintended Consequences:  at the Interface of Business and the Environment,” at Babson College.  I’m very fortunate to be joined in this effort by Professor Joanna Carey, an environmental scientist.  It became very clear early on that she sees a river in a very different way than I, even though I’m also an environmentalist.  To her, a river if far more alive and dynamic.  The dams of the Blackstone River and watershed play a crucial role in the course.  They have changed nearly everything about our landscape.

I wanted to capture a bit of the sense of these dams for our students, most of whom have never set foot in the Blackstone Valley, though we’re about to bring them out.   I initially thought I should really have used a drone for this, but there’s a problem with that approach.  I don’t fly drones.  Then I realized that there is something about these dams that is particularly New England, at least to me.  Their scale is different.  In spite of their impact, which is massive, they tend to be much more approachable, more intimate.  T’hey remind me in some ways of the dams at the Quabbin Reservoir which though massive, are also very approachable.

If you’re on a mobile device the embed may not work.  You can see the video here.

These dams powered numerous textile mills, changed the landscape, and created beautiful ponds.  Some played a role in the expansion of slavery (for another post, but yes, it’s true).  Most impeded the work of the rivers involved by stopping the movement of sediment, and fish.  Some will be removed, though I suspect many won’t.  It’s just too costly.  Dam removal impacts both property values and in some cases can release centuries of pollution.  Perhaps what’s done is done.  Human impacts can be irrevocable.

Under the Highway

People don’t tend to know what’s going on under the highway.  Neither did I.I had driven over this location for nearly twenty years before I looked. I’ve mentioned this area before, this is near the head of the Blackstone River in Worcester and Millbury, Massachusetts.  The River winds, looking rather tepid at times, along beside the Providence and Worcester Railroad tracks and under Route 146, the main highway that also, like the River, goes from Worcester to Providence.  Beside the River there also winds a Bikeway, part of the Blackstone Valley National Heritage Corridor.  The Bikeway is lovely in most spots, down here, it is more interesting.  Here’s a short journey.  (My apologies, if you are on a mobile device, you probably can’t see the embedded video directly.  However, go here, and you’ll be able to have a look.)

I’m grateful to have found my way down there, with Chris’s accompaniment of course.  FYI, the sounds you here are the combination of falling water and the echo chamber effect from the semi’s going by overhead.

I find this location to offer a powerful look into the quandary that is our relationship with nature.This is in fact a very beautiful river further south.  It has its own beauty here.But, it also been abused for several centuries.  Now there is a real interest in cleaning it up, and that is happening.  But you can’t go back in time, you can’t reset the clock.  The question is I think, what can we learn from our shared experience?

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.