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Posts tagged ‘Pine Needle Scale’

Context and Ambiguity

This summer, I set out to develop a better understanding of creativity as it relates to entrepreneurship, but also to my own photography.  So naturally, I’ve probably been less creative. Ironic I know.  I have been reading, a wonderful way to spend the time.  Most recently, I’ve been working my way through Brooks Jenson’s The Creative Life in Photography.  Brooks is the publisher and editor of LensWork Magazine, one of the most important outlets for good fine art photography. I had the pleasure of doing  a portfolio review with him last year, and I’m still working on the lessons gleaned from the experience.  In his chapter on Photography and the Meaning of Life, he rants as I believe he would say about trivial photography, photography that emerges from the psyche of the photographer and more importantly does not involve an effort to say something that will be meaningful to others.  He then offers a simple, but incredibly powerful exercise:  If you had five minutes left on the earth, or five minutes to talk things over with God, what would you say?  (This is a Kindle book, so the page numbers are strange, this “at” Location 1247.)

That’s quite a challenge.  The point he is trying to make regarding photography, I think, is that when an image is displayed, we’re asking someone else to stop and look at it, to take their precious time and give it to the artist.  Is it worth it?  He feels that too often, it is not.  Time to look in the mirror I suppose.  What would I say?  As a trained academic, I would probably try to take up as much time as I possibly could, so I’d probably want to make quite a few points.  One in particular though, is that things are not always as they appear to be.  That we need to stop and look more closely.

It’s rained quite a bit recently and we’ve gone out to photograph regardless.  Once you get used to it you quickly see that the rain causes the greens and reds to appear deeply saturated.  No Photoshop necessary.  The stand of trees here was beautiful. (Click on the images for a better view, particularly if your on one of the retina displays.)

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However, the graphical pattern that makes this stand of trees so beautiful is the result of unwise forest cultivation.  The trees are dead, from Pine Needle Scale, a problem I’ve discussed before.  In reality, most of what we see is actually fairly ambiguous.  Which means that we can interpret things anyway we wish.  Frightening, isn’t it.

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This beautiful country road is the back side of Winsor dam, a massive expression of the sheer will of humans to overpower the forces of nature.

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The boulders along the shoreline are yet another manifestation of engineering prowess, not millenia of tides and waves, at Goodnough Dike.

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And this little guy was hiding out right in the middle of a 2500 ft long dike.  How did he get there? Great question.  And he was not alone.  He had friends as well.  I think he knew what he was doing. Perhaps these images trivialize the point but to state it more clearly, they remind me that we are intimately connected with our environment, an environment that we have shaped and continue to shape.  Everything you see here has in some way been influenced by humans.  It is interesting that a great deal of beauty has resulted from that influence, at least as can be seen at these locations, after a nice rain.  Of course, that’s not always the case, regardless of what some might think.  It is important to understand the context of what we see in our environment.   That’s our job.  Thanks for listening.  I think my five minutes are up.

The Dying Trees – III

We returned this week to Quabbin Park, in Belchertown and Ware, Massachusetts to continue exploring the story of the dying Red Pines in New England Forests.  Just to recap, Quabbin Park is the more or less officially designated visitors area for the Quabbin Reservation, home of the massive and wonderful reservoir that sustains much of eastern Massachusetts.  The accidental wilderness there was created in part by the rebirth of natural forests once farming there ceased, but also by the planting of millions of pine trees to aide in the natural filtration of the water.  In places, the population is quite mono-species and as such, is vulnerable to infection.  Invasive species moving north as the climate warms attack, the forests, the most notorious being bittersweet, that overwhelming vine that is now common place in our forests, draping itself around the trees.  (Think back, if you’re a New Englander, it mostly wasn’t there when you were a kid.  I’m from Virginia and it wasn’t even a big deal there.)

The second most obvious invasive species in the Quabbin area is Red Pine Needle Scale, on loan from Pennsylvania and further south.  It attacks Red Pine trees only but makes really quick work of them. Here’s the forest near the Winsor Dam spillway.  Three years ago, these pines were all nice and green.

The stand of Red Pines along the red side of the road, for about 100 yards or more in, is now dead.  It clearly has become a potential safety hazard, and the Division of Conservation and Recreation who managers the land in the Reservation is now taking those trees down. I’m going to switch to black and white imagery here, as, at least for me, it captures more of the mood of the work in process. Things begin to get a bit otherworldly.

They are making progress it seems.  This is seriously difficult work, requiring heavy equipment and traversing some challenging landscapes.

Your taxes and water bills at work…  As I’ve stated in previous posts though, I don’t see that there is any choice here.  We should keep in mind though that to the extent climate change or other human actions play a role in these species migrations, our bill will continue to rise.

That being said, life goes on, sometimes in spite of our best efforts.

The Dying Trees – II (And it won’t be the last)

I’ve talked on several occasions about the impact of Red Pine Needle Scale at the Quabbin Reservoir, including here if you’d like some more background. In essence, Red Pine Needle Scale infects and quickly kills Red Pines.  In the Quabbin forests, inside the Reservation there are numerous stands of Red Pines.  They are all vulnerable and many are dying.  This is taking place in part because of the migration of the Scale into New England, from south of here (perhaps due to climate change, as some believe), and in part because mono species cultures are vulnerable to attack.  (We should think about this, whether or not there are too many people in one place or too many cows/chickens in a barn. The Asian Long Horn Beetle which is currently attacking Worcester, Massachusetts is successful, in part, because too many maples were planted in the city after Worcester was victimized by a massive tornado.  It did seem like a good idea at the time.  It’s just too easy for any sort of disease to spread from one member of a species to the next.)  The impact here is quick and intense.  This was, only about four years ago I’d say, a very normal and healthy looking stand of Red Pine.

Now, the stand is dead.

This was taken, last week, in August.  Of course, pine trees aren’t supposed to be barren at any time of the year.  The stand is about 100 yards deep it would appear.  Though there is pain in the tops, where the needles belong, there’s still a hint of beauty down below.  If you just looked down, you might not notice anything.

DCR, the Division of Conservation and Recreation, is now removing the stand.  They have to it seems to me.  One strong down draft and the highway that runs through Quabbin Park would be littered by these dead trees, and someone could get hurt.  The process has just begun it appears.

Even in the midst of this we can already see what nature has in store.

We cut the trees, then we replanted, now nature is taking them down.  Our environment is very dynamic and subject to change.  We play a role in that change, like it or not.  Red Pine Needle Scale will change the face of the Quabbin Forest.  I’ll follow up in a few weeks to see what this area looks like after the trees have been removed.

The Dying Trees

If you run a WordPress blog such as this, you can access a statistics page which will provide you with all sorts of interesting information, such as how people got to your site.  I’m occasionally surprised and given to some self doubt.  One of my more popular posts was “Things to do on a rainy day” in which I presented a variety of ways of photographing wood on the side of an old bar(n) in Vermont.  I have a feeling that my title threw off a bunch of parents who, desperate, tried to google their way through a rainy day and probably found instructions for photographing wood to be less than helpful.

Sometimes though, you see something quite powerful.  Recently one of the Google searches that led someone to this blog was titled “Why are the trees dying at Quabbin Reservoir?”  That got my attention.  In fact, the situation isn’t quite that dire.  They are not all dying, thankfully, but the Red Pines are, due to Pine Needle Scale.  Pine Needle Scale is an invasive species, joining us from Pennsylvania and parts south, that is nearly always fatal to a Red Pine.  Increasingly, you can see its impact at the Quabbin forest.  (Click on the images for a better view.)

This was taken at Gate 52, inside Quabbin Park.  If you look carefully, you’ll notice a small deer feasting off the vegetation on this small island which lies just off Little Quabbin Island.  (This is what the folks at National Geographic call a “scale element.” It’s a tool to help the viewer get a sense of size.)  Here’s another view, this time of Little Quabbin Island itself.

What you see are small clumps of dying trees amidst otherwise healthy hardwoods. Each individual clump by itself doesn’t look so alarming. The real impact though, probably the impact that drove the sad Google search is experienced through a view of the big picture.  Here’s a small version of a very large panorama.

The real panorama, full size, is posted at Gigapan here.  Have a look.  We live in an amazingly small world, from an environmental perspective.  Some of you may have followed the story of the Mountain Lion that was unfortunately killed by a car in Connecticut.  In the Boston Globe this morning, it was reported, in “New England in Brief,” that the Mountain Lion was actually from the Black Hills of South Dakota, by way of Minnesota and Wisconsin.  It was tracked by authorities using DNA samples, presumably from its scat.  This was not a captive animal escaped.  This Mountain Lion made the journey in the wild.  It is one of the longest journeys ever recorded by a land mammal.

While taking this panorama, we were joined by one of the most beautiful birds we’ve ever seen in the wild, a Scarlet Tanager.

Of course I had the wrong lens on at the time, one of my strengths when it comes to wildlife, but you get the idea.  This little guy and his buddies will be leaving soon, for their winter home in Central America.  It is a small world indeed.

Bad Weather at Hanks’ Meadow

Bad weather actually offers some of the best photographic opportunities. Several weeks ago we were at Hanks’ Meadow in the Quabbin Reservoir Park.  It’s a very accessible place, lovely for a picnic.  It’s clearly marked if you ride through the park road off Route 9 (Belchertown, Massachusetts, USA) in either direction.  Deer and turkeys frequent the place, along with who knows what else.  It’s an easy walk down to the Quabbin waters from the Meadow.  On this particular day, however, the temperature dropped a good ten degrees in that 100 meter walk.  The Quabbin Reservoir has its own weather.  Down at the shoreline it was cold and windy, felt like a good old New England nor’easter.   (Click the images below for larger views.)

The sky was nice, but it’s interesting to play with the water as you might if photographing ocean waves or rapids in a river.  Well these aren’t ocean waves but they are waves nevertheless, so a slow shutter speed made for some interesting results.

Zooming in for a bit of detail:

Detail shots are everywhere of course.  In this case, rocks and water were no problem.  Other details presented a more difficult challenge.  We always like to take note of the small signs of life one encounters everywhere. Along the beach we noted these interesting little yellow wildflowers in great abundance, in spite of the rather rough terrain.

Repeated efforts resulted in one semi-decent close up.  Strong wind creates beautiful effects in the water, but really undermines you’re ability to shoot a decent close up of living flowers.

So when all else fails, there are those scenes that reflect the end of life. Every natural site is also an eco-archeological site as well.  The history of nature is there if you take notice.