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Posts tagged ‘Drinking Water’

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.

Is it Spring Yet?

Well is it?  Goodness, what a winter.  That being said, it did offer me an opportunity to explore several areas of interest in a new, albeit colder, way.  (By the way, a cold winter does not equate with not having to worry about climate change, but I’m assuming you know that.  Weather is not equal to climate.  Climate is the average of weather over a long period of time and over a geography.  Cold winters will probably always be with us. It is the average temperature over time that matters.  Now back to the images at hand.)  I’ve continued to focus on the design of the two great structures, Winsor Dam and Goodnough Dike, that hold back the water at the Quabbin Reservoir.  The Quabbin is the source of drinking water for several million inhabitants of eastern Massachusetts.  I’m more impressed with every visit regarding the degree to which these structures are not like what we have come to expect from a dam.

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As such, they provoke a very different response from the visitor.

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Something much more spiritual.  The snow provides another take on that design, one that clearly emphasizes the graphical elements of the structures.  This is all visible of course in the other seasons, but the presence of color obscures the power of the lines and other elements created by the designers.  I continue to wonder what they were trying to achieve, and why.

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Come on spring, you can do it.

 

 

Engineering and Wilderness

Happy New Year!  I was finally able to return to the Quabbin Reservoir today, after quite an absence due to other obligations.  I’m focusing at the moment on the structures that cut through the Swift River Valley to create the Reservoir and all of the additional work that went along with that massive undertaking.  On the south end of the Reservoir is Quabbin Park, where the most obvious artifacts of the imprint of the Commonwealth can be seen.  The dams, the buildings, parking lots, etc.  The Quabbin is not the largest watershed in New England..  That distinction belongs to the Connecticut River watershed.  Nevertheless, it may be the most important.  But it is hard to get one’s arms around the all that was done to create this large body of naturally filtered drinking water, and of course, all that as changed and destroyed in the process.  The work began in earnest just over 75 years ago.

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The Winsor Dam is one of two primary structures holding back the water.  What is the difference between a dam and a dike?  A dam has a spillway to let water flow through.  This particular spillway, when the water is high enough, lets what remains of the Swift River continue it’s journey.  However, the water is not high at this point and as such, there is no spill.  I find that gives one the opportunity to focus on the structure itself.

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These intrusions into the landscape over time create an new kind of beauty, a new kind of landscape after a time.

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Let’s hope 2014 is a good year for everyone.

Thanks for the Water

Happy Thanksgiving to those in the U.S.  It has been a tumultuous and difficult year in some ways, but we seem to be making it through.  It has been dry here, in response, in part, to our changing climate.  However, we had a beneficial day long recently which suggested that the water would be flowing, and indeed, it was.  We made our way to the Swift River Reservation, a wonderful and important property owned by the Trustees of Reservations, in Petersham, Massachusetts.   How important?  A good deal of the water that flows into the Quabbin Reservoir runs by this point.  The Quabbin Reservoir supplies the drinking water for about two million citizens of eastern Massachusetts.  It is essential to their, our, well being. The Eastern Branch of the Swift River dumps into Connors Pond, and then moves south into the Reservoir.  It is just off Route 122.  When we got there, we found an amazing cornucopia of running water, reflections, forests and ice cycle structures.  Like so many great but intimate locations, it was too much of a good thing.  It is eye candy if you’re just looking. Not so much if you’re trying to make a good photograph.

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You can see the water flowing over a “dam” of sorts, as it is leaving the Pond.  The reflections were wonderful, but difficult to position.  You might try standing on your head to view this one.  The basic problem is that the forest surrounding the flowing water creates a massive set of distractions.  The only approach that, sometimes, thankfully works, is to isolate interesting components of the scene with a longer lens.  That was more satisfying.

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I am always amazed at how little chunks of ice debris can withstand the onslaught of a river.  These two are gallantly fighting on.  I am using a longer exposure here to capture the movement of the water.

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The longer exposures reveal patterns of water flow as the water moves through the rocks and mud. These are patterns that like so much of nature are often invisible to us, unless we care to look a little harder.  You may learn something if you do, however.  For starters, it’s a lot of little things that matter.  This place, though and our water, add up to something big, for which we should be quite thankful.  In many parts of the world people would die for this stuff.  We are exceedingly lucky.

A New E-Book: Boston’s Water Now Available

I’m proud to make available a new collection of imagery from the Quabbin in PDF format.  This is available for download at no charge.  If you are interested in prints, please contact me.  Thanks.  Update: Iphone and ipad users, I’m sorry what you’re seeing doesn’t look right!  please go to this link, where things should look a bit better.  

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