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Posts tagged ‘Route 146’

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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Back Under the Highway – Blackstone River Photo Essay Part 1

I have visited this spot a number of times and always found it compelling.  I’ve decided to take up the Blackstone River as a project, to explore it’s story and its visual presentation.  I’m looking forward to the challenge.  It’s 48 miles long or so, starts in Worcester Massachusetts, right in the middle of the city, and ends up in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  It’s been called one of the most polluted rivers in the country, which is a artifact of it’s history as the home of the first successful cotton mill, and many many subsequent factories powered by its water.  History isn’t the only problem, however.  Communities along the River, including evidently Worcester (though someone can correct me if I am wrong) have long used the River as a way to dispose of waste water post treatment.  That problem is being addressed at this point, but it took an act of Congress (literally) to get things started.  Even though it’s gotten a bit cleaner, you aren’t supposed swim in this river, let alone drink from it.  It represents what we have left of our planet.  This is about the interaction of humanity and nature.  Nature is still there, but it is a contentious situation.  We began at the Blackstone River Bike Path in Worcester, walked first back toward the city, and then reversed our tracks and headed toward Millbury.  It was a lovely day it turns out, though initially a bit cold.  Here are some samples of what we saw.

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This is Route 146.  The bikeway wraps around the River and under the Highway above.  Providing the public an opportunity to access the River here was a great idea.  But this is an urban landscape, to be sure.

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That does not make it any less appealing, however.

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These falls deserved an extra shot for obvious reasons.

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Nature has a way of fighting with the footprint of our society, even if it is just through a leak.

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I did not offer an Earth Day greeting this year.  The crazy and very anti-scientific debate around the environment in Washington may have gotten the better of me.  I’ll offer one now to those volunteers who try to keep places like this reasonably inviting.  Thank you.

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Tech Note:  It wasn’t sunny out there but it was fairly bright.  Some of the shots taken underneath the highway would have in times past required HDR (High Dynamic Range) technique which involves the merging of several images, bracketed to Over, Normal and Under exposure of the image to capture the full range of tones,  The incredible contrast between the shadows under the highway and the bright though cloudy day outside of those shadows used to be practically impossible to photograph in one image.  No more.  The incredible sensors coming out of Nikon and Sony make it possible with one click.  I am amazed.  I was ready to do some HDR work and took the images that would have been required for it, but it just wasn’t necessary.

Down Under the Highway

Contemplating the passing of another fall, I’m always reminded that fall is why I got into photography in the first place.  When you stop to think about it, why should nature put on such a light show for us?  Seriously???  But she does thank goodness and so we appreciate.  Nature meets humanity.  It is one of the great conundrums of our lives and impacts everything we worry about and enjoy at the same time, from a wonderful day at the beach to global warming.  It’s all about what we experience, or rather notice, and how we interpret what we notice.  So I’ve been looking for points of intersection that seem particularly interesting and I found one, under the highway.  In this case, I’m referring to Route 146, AKA the “little dig” which was transformed a few years ago into the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor that runs from Worcester, Massachusetts to Rhode Island.

The Blackstone River has followed that basic route since the last ice age, but it was also the location of the Blackstone River Canal which was designed to run from Worcester to Providence before their war railroads, in the early 1800’s.  Alas, the railroads were not far behind and the Canal never saw much service.   Route 146 was the connector between the two cities and when it was being redesigned at the Worcester end, the State wisely, thankfully, decided to include a path/bikeway and connect the people once again to the river.

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As you can see, however, the connection is, to a degree, quite funky.  The river and path share the road with, well the road, the road supports and graffiti artists.  Late at night, we could probably add some other elements to the menu, but you get the idea.  Urban meets nature.  Nevertheless, it creates a compelling, though tough to photograph view.

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We were of course lucky to be there just at the peak of the foliage.  The contrast between nature and the artifacts of the urban was intense, but somehow enjoyable.  The river, depleted a bit because of the lack of rain and because of well, the fact that it has a tough life at this point in its career, keeps on flowing nevertheless.

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Till next time….

Tech Note:  Photographers will recognize that these shots are “HDR” or high dynamic range shots, pulled together in Photomatix.  Under the highway the difference between dark and light is too great for the sensor to comprehend.  Multiple shots, taken on a tripod, hopefully with no wind and no touching, allow you to capture the highlights and the shadows.  However, the results sometimes don’t look that natural (though I tried to stay true to what I saw), which is the case here.  This to me represents another piece of evidence that nature (our eye balls in this case) can still trump technology, at least for now.