Elm and Institute Parks, Worcester, Massachusetts, November 2014
Elm and Institute Parks, Worcester, Massachusetts, November 2014
Fall is rightfully thought of as photography season in many respects, and that’s for one reason, which can be summed up in one word: color. Since so much of my work is now in black and white, it can be a bit challenging to get into the spirit of the season. But it is infectious and one might say, came to me. Here are a few favorites from this year, for your enjoyment. I truly hope that everyone notices, and appreciated the changing seasons. Those beautiful colors, like so much of our climate related experience are indeed vulnerable as we move ahead. But for now…
Cold evening air over the warmer land and lakes kicks things off for us. Early fall, Patch Reservoir, Worcester.
It’s been another of those rolling foliage experiences. No real crescendo, some trees just seem to turn earlier than others. Above and below at Babson College, just last week.
That can make for it’s own interesting interplay of colors. Increasingly, I seem to note that it’s not only the trees that get into the act. Some weeds can be pretty spectacular themselves.
This was from June Street, in Worcester, site of a construction project. Hopefully the old stone wall will survive. These weeds, probably not. We also get help though from late season flowers. These tough guys have to survive some pretty chilly nights. Again, from Babson…
One of the great things about fall is that it isn’t winter! At least not yet. Opportunities for fishing are still to be found. (From Elm Park, in Worcester, an old friend…)
But at some point, it’s time to go.
Indeed in did. Last week I was complaining about how dry it was in central New England. Things are a bit better now since the tropical pump passed through. We had a couple of days of stormy weather. (Click on the images for a better view.)
The rain did make for some dramatic and very welcome water flows, not just for photographers, but for the entire ecosystem. This particular branch of the Swift River at Gate 30 was frighteningly low last week. Yesterday, you wouldn’t want to step in it. I’d estimate that the water passing by, at very high speed, was about eighteen inches deep. That’s about right in my experience. September should be our wettest month.
If everything looks deeply saturated, that’s the effect of the water on the leaves and rocks. It’s quite beautiful. In the image above, the saturation was accentuated just a bit with a circular polarizing filter on camera that takes the glare out of the water. But nearly everything looks beautiful in this light even without a polarizer.
But the water level in the Quabbin Reservoir is still low. Here’s the Swift River flowing from the spillway.
The spillway “spills” water the good citizens of Boston don’t need. We checked our library to see if the flow in September was comparably low in previous years. Indeed, that appears to be the case. However, the actual spillway, from which the water “spills” appears to be maybe three or four feet lower this year than previous years. You can’t refill a body of water that big quickly, so in essence, our situation remains the same.
Oh well, perhaps we’ll get some snow soon! Till next time……
Technical note: Images 2 (a panorama composed of about seven shots), 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 above were all shot with a new Nikon Lens, the 28 – 300 mm. super zoom. Normally you shouldn’t expect much from a lens like this. Every lens design represents a set of compromises and here, the compromise is weight and cost (to some extent, it’s still expensive). In my efforts to develop a nature photo kit of cameras and lenses I could take on very long hikes, for me, 3 miles and up, I wanted to give this lens a try. In essence, I’d have to say that Nikon has done a good job here. You can’t see these things on a computer screen, but these images are pretty sharp and quite printable. However, this lens is a slow lens, f 5.6 at 300 mm. That means you’ve got to really crank up the ISO if you want to work without a tripod. So my advice would be to make sure you’ve got a camera that can handle such an assignment, or, use a tripod. I used a Nikon D3s, shooting at between 800 and 2000 iso in this case. I normally shoot with a tripod, but it was raining at times and I was trying to work fast. (Clearly the first shot would have benefited from a tripod and slower shutter speed, but that was taken during a torrential downpour. Shot 6 obviously was taken on a tripod as I was trying to blur the water movement and a tripod is the only way to do so.) The bottom line: this is a good lens. It won’t replace your best lenses, but if you need to hike some serious distances, your back will thank you.
One of the most interesting pieces of media created about the Quabbin Reservoir was the video Under the Quabbin producted at WBGY in Springfield. It tells the story of an dive team lead by U. Mass Biologist Ed Klekowski that explored the biology and human artifacts clearly visible under the Quabbin, even today. As everyone in New England knows, it’s been a dry summer. We’ve been going to the Reservoir for three years now and we’ve never seen the water level quite so low. If this keeps up, you may not need to be part of a dive team to see what’s “under the Quabbin.” Here at Gate 35 is what remains of the old New Salem depot on the Rabbit Railroad. (Click on each picture for a better view.)
The Quabbin shore typically ends at the rock line, but now we’ve got sandy and, in places, marsh like beaches.
Not so obvious is the fact that the newly revealed shoreline has it’s own ecosystem properties. In amongst that grass and mud, we found one of the richest varieties of tracks to date. Otters:
Grouse and Deer:
And we have no clue as to what kind of critter made this track. We have put some effort into researching this apparent three toed animal. We don’t think this is a new kind of human sneaker, but we could be wrong. If you have any ideas, please let us know. (It’s not a heron or a turkey, which would be good guesses, but leave tracks that look more like the grouse track.)
Alas, we did not see any of these animals. We did see and hear loon in the distance, but not close enough for decent photography. And I did continue my unbroken record of face to face confrontations with a bald eagle when my camera was equipped with a wide angle lens and locked down securely on a tripod. I’m sure the eagle was interested in this renovated ecosystem as well. However, the driftwood along the shoreline is always of interest, now clearly more visible.
I don’t think that we’ll be seeing the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority hit the panic button quite yet, especially since there’s rain on the way. But the declining water levels are certainly impressive. Sadly, another hiker passing by told us that he had seen three dead beavers at Gate 43, obviously unable to survive because the water in their habitat area was so low. Here are two panoramas from the shoreline. The first, looking north.
This panorama was taken from near the train station foundation ruins, looking southwest.
You can get a better look at the second panorama on gigapan. Here’s the link. Let’s have some rain!
Actually, every season is photography season. Some seasons, like the fall, just make it more obvious. It’s hot today so instead of shooting (a cowardly approach to be sure), I ended up going through some old images from Worcester. These are from a location that everyone in Worcester knows about, Elm Park. A jewel for the City. One of the first great urban parks, created, after an extended struggle, with aesthetics in mind. The bridge at Elm Park (one of two, but this is the more classical location) is often used by couples and wedding photographers, because it’s just so visually pleasing. This shot was not cooked in Photoshop. The colors there, if you catch the right day, are really this intense and the vibrancy is made all that much more compelling by the reflections from the Pond, if the wind is perfectly calm. (Click on all the images below for a better view.)
Here’s the other bridge in Elm Park, and one of our favorite visitors to the Park, a Great Blue Heron.
The Park, like all ecosystems, is both resilient and fragile at the same time. This Park gets a lot of use by the citizenry, some who honor it, and some who don’t.
But humans aren’t the only challenge the Park faces. If you look carefully at this crop if another shot of the bicycle, you’ll see that the Pond is loaded with Milfoil, an invasive species that threatens to choke the life out of many ponds in this area.
The City ultimately treated the Pond for the problem and it now seems to be under control. However, that costs money which the City and the taxpayers had to provide. But, we have a responsibility for our environment. We’ve created it, and hopefully we’ll take care of it.