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Posts from the ‘Worcester’ Category

Photoessay: The Blackstone River and Route 146

I’ve mentioned here that my current project focus is on the Blackstone River.  For those who don’t know, the Blackstone flows from Worcester, Massachusetts to Providence, Rhode Island.  It’s strategic importance as a source of power led to rather extreme levels of both entrepreneurship and exploitation spanning nearly two hundred years.  It remains in content with humanity even as interest in its natural potential grows.  That tension is most acutely visible, to me at least, along a two mile stretch of the river in Millbury and Worcester, Massachusetts. There the River contents with a super highway and a very active freight railroad line.  Being in the city, it also contends with city life and the best and worst that the city existence has to offer.  Here’s a portfolio of images from my travels there over the past year.

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Photoessay: Searching for a Mood Under the Highway

I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving.  We did, it was great spending time with family as always.  I had much to be thankful for this year, including a more experimental attitude.  Why not?

I’ve been exploring the Blackstone River area in Massachusetts over the last few months.  It is striking just how much psychological as well as environmental territory the River covers.  Though it remains quite polluted from centuries of exploitation, stretches of the River are quite beautiful and natural.  Other stretches are, more complex.  No stretch of the River though, at least that I have traveled, requires more effort to understand than the Blackstone Valley Bike Trail in Worcester, Massachusetts, where the River originates.  Along this two mile or so stretch you will see the River, a super highway (Route 146), an active freight train yard and line, as well as legacy tracks, a Walmart and Sam’s Club, trees being cut by a beaver, beautiful small falls and rapids, trash and signs that say stay away from the water for health reasons.  It’s all right there.  Nature and civilization crash into one another at top speed in places and this is one of those locations.

I have photographed there for months, searching for the right way to capture the feel of such a complex place.  I’d used most every technological trick I could think of, but ultimately wasn’t satisfied.  I decided to go back and try again, this time with black and white film.  Digital is just capable of making pictures that are too perfect for this location it seemed to me.  Nothing about this location says “perfection.”  This work, like this location, is incomplete and some of the images you see here may not survive the next cut.  This is where things stand though at the moment.

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Shooting on film is interesting of course.  I realize that the look can be replicated in software using a digital means of capture.  But that somehow doesn’t seem quite right at times.  What is really different about shooting on film is the process.  You do indeed slow down.  You have to for economic reasons if nothing else.  For a time, you have to step away from the technological (rat) race.  It’s quite refreshing.

Tech Notes:  Shot on Kodak TMax and Ilford Delta films using a Nikon F6.  The later, for my money, remains the finest 35 mm camera ever made.  Negatives scanned on a Nikon 5000 film scanner and finalized in Lightroom/Photoshop (You can’t really escape the technology can you.)

More Snow….

When given lemons, make lemonade, right?  What if one is given a freight train loaded with lemons.  Such is our situation here.  Nothing else to do but try and create some interesting art.  The lemonade I’ve come up with so far.  My strategy here was to isolate and simplify, while still capturing the kind of art that only nature, sometimes in interaction with humans and sometimes on her own, can create.  My most recent batch of lemonade:

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Enjoy the snow.  Fourteen more inches of it in the next two days.  Is that really necessary?

Before the Storms Begin

The weather in New England of course deteriorates after Thanksgiving.  We already had a brief taste of winter snow, and today it is very cold.  The landscape changes under those conditions of course.   I had the urge to hold on to the fall just a little bit longer.  These were taken in Institute Park, downtown Worcester, Massachusetts, right before Thanksgiving.  The leaves are now gone of course.

_DSC7132-EditThis family of Swans was doing some final business before dispersing.

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The sky gave a hint of what is to come.

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Events of recent days remind me that, as John Prine says, “all the news repeats itself.”  Here we go again.  Perhaps we’ll learn something this time.

 

Randomness at the Intersection with Nature

(There are quite a few images in this post.  If you find that some seem to be missing, hit the refresh on your browser.  Some have to do it a couple of times to get the images to load properly.  Sorry about that!)

I have been thinking about urban nature for a number of years now, trying to understand why it so frequently surprises me.  You see species where you least expect it.  You see beauty where no one intended it (of course, that’s just like actual nature).  Changes in the light, weather, time of year, etc. can all create a drastically different experience.  But the later, like much of nature, is actually quite predictable.  Nature works by a fairly clear set of principals, albeit complex ones.  You can predict with some degree of success a lot of what you’ll see (except the weather of course) based on those principals.  They are well understood.  When nature surprises us, it is often, though not always, because we just don’t understand it.  When humans surprise us on the other hand, well that’s just another day at the office.  So, my wife and I are heading home from the morning walk when, in our driveway, we see this fellow.

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Seriously.  Are you kidding me?  Check out the beautiful colors and check out the talions.  Oh, and this bird, wants to come right at you.

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I am, at this stage, very surprised and uncertain how to proceed as we all were. (Our neighbors actually were the first on scene.)  Were we in some kind of danger?  Look at those feet!  I made the assumption, turns out correctly, that this bird had somehow flown the coop and is domesticated.  A quick e-mail to Molly and Lou, the professional biologists in the family, and we had an ID.  This is a Silver Pheasant.  Was it some rare bird?  A few more googles revealed, you guessed it, you can buy a pair online at Efoul.com (you can’t make this up) for the sum of $99.00.  Were we in danger if the bird actually came right up to us?  We were probably only in danger of being kissed.  That bird had bonded with people somewhere who lost this wonderful creature, or tried to make sure the creature was lost.  This was an unpleasant surprise.  We were all very concerned about the bird, who unfortunately ran off not to be seen again.  We didn’t know who to call.  The Dog officer?  In a big city, I’m guessing no.  Turns out that there are people around who do know what to do, so we’re ready to swing into gear should we have another sighting.  Why in the name of whoever would someone have an animal like this in the city?  Pretty random as they say.

We humans inflect a level of randomness on the world, with which nature most contend.  One of my favorite locations for observing human randomness and natural reality is the Blackstone Valley Trail that runs under Route 146 in Worcester, Massachusetts.  There you see humanity (the underbelly of it) and nature coming face to face.  The results can be startling interesting, much like our Silver Pheasant.

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For those who do not know, the Blackstone River was once a major navigable connection between Worcester and Providence, Rhode Island.  In fact, a Canal based on the River was built in the early 1800’s to promote commerce.  The railroad, however, quickly made the Canal irrelevant.  Route 146 was ultimately built between the two cities and upgraded considerably over the past decade.  In the process of rehabbing the road, the Commonwealth, wisely, created a wonderful path for hiking and biking.  Nature has reclaimed quite a bit of territory and the River still flows.  However, it flows underneath a busy superhighway, next to a major rail line, in the middle of a big city.  There is all manner of human activity around this small oasis.  What we see is the interaction of all that, and while beautiful, is anything but pristine for the most part.

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As anyone who follows nature knows, it’s a tough world.  Animals and plants fight for their survival everyday.  Of course, billions of people do as well.  Perhaps we’ll never know what happened to our Pheasant friend.  We’d like to think that his owner actually tracked him down and that he’s safe at home.  Perhaps.