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Posts tagged ‘Swift River’

What’s Left Over

I’ve been trying to get a reasonable shot of this location for the past few weeks. It’s not physically demanding but the lighting once again can be friend or foe.  The water is moving through a man-made canyon.  This is what is left over from the Quabbin Reservoir after the water has begun to tumble over the spillway.  I should add that this flow back to the Swift River is in addition to the water released from below the Winsor Dam, that keeps the Swift River alive and heading down to Connecticut.  Seems that when the Reservoir was built, the good folks in Connecticut said something like, “Hey, what are you doing with all that water???”  They said that in court, and the settlement required an on-going release of water regardless of the level in the Reservoir.  The spillway releases when the water gets high enough, which it has been this spring.  Back to the challenge, the canyon creates some really nasty shadows so when the light hits the white water and starts to glow, the difference in terms of F-stops between light and dark becomes sufficient to cause your camera to practically seize.  An overcast sky can help once again, alleviating that very wide “dynamic range.”  (Click on the image for a better view.)

Tech note:  Nikon D3s, and the Nikon 300 mm F4 AFS lens.  First time out with that wonderful piece of glass.  Old tech, but incredibly sharp.

Spring and the Water is Flowing

We’re sitting here waiting for it to snow again.  Enough already!  However, the big picture is clearly working to our advantage.  It is in fact spring and the melt is underway.  The water is flowing again.  (Click on the image for a better view.)

This is at Gate 41 in Hardwick, one of our favorite spots.  Here Rand Brook (I believe I’ve got the name right) flows toward the Quabbin Reservoir. The last time we were here the Brook was still doing OK, but now it’s quite interesting.

It’s important to keep in mind that the waters around here worked for a living.  Rand Brook powered several factories downstream.   In the spring when the snow melts, you can get a clearer sense of the water’s power and potential.  The same day we stopped at the Eastern Branch of the Swift River, perhaps the largest source of water feeding the Quabbin Reservoir.

Just off Route 122 the River leaves an area owned in part by the Harvard Forest and enters the Swift River Reservation, owned by the Trustees of the Reservations.   The Falls, man made and visible from the road, are impressive this time of year.

The background hills create a stunning vista, reminding you of the River’s context.

And it’s current job.

More to the Story at Gate 30 – The Quabbin

Happy New Year!  I hope the year brings you and your loved ones peace, happiness and meaning.  (Well, meaning and happiness sometimes conflict it seems.  You will have to sort that one out yourself.)

If you’re familiar with my work or with the Quabbin area, you are almost certainly familiar with this iconic image from the Quabbin, the bridge at Gate 30. (Located in Petersham, MA, near the intersection of Routes 122 and 202.   Click on the images for a better view.)

This wonderful bridge was built in 1866 by Adolphus Porter for less than $50.  Mr. Porter accomplished his task with NO mortar or cement.  These are keystones.  This wounded Civil War Veteran obviously was a man of serious talent.  The bridge still stands after all these years.  This is the middle branch of the Swift River, a major source of water for the Quabbin. I have to imagine that it is vulnerable to flooding.  But, it still stands.

Strangely, Chris and I hadn’t ever gone beyond the bridge at Gate 30.  It’s so easy to get distracted by icons, even worthwhile ones such as Mr. Porter’s bridge.  But where does his bridge lead?  We had actually walked a bit down the road in the past.  To the right, heading south, are wet lands. Good places for Moose (when we’re not there of course), but not terribly dramatic, or at least that’s what I thought.  In fact, when you walk through Gate 30, you’re walking along the Orange Millington Road. Millington was one of the largest villages taken to create the Reservoir. “Where Millington was,” is now at the bottom of the northern end of the Reservoir, perhaps three miles due south of the entrance to Gate 30.  I had assumed, erroneously, that the walk south would be through fairly dense forest as it often is on the western side of the Reservoir.  There, you really can feel the absence of people or the press of history.  That isn’t the case at Gate 30.  We decided to follow the well worn road south.  Evidently we weren’t the only ones.

It appears that quite a few representatives of various species survived hunting season in reasonable shape.  But for us, the trees were telling the story.

As we walked, we quickly began to note the presence of character trees, with a growing sense of regularity, until our breath was literally taken away by this scene.

I’m not sure I was able to do justice with this image but the light struck these carefully arranged trees wonderfully, as was intended to be the case. Prosperous individuals planted, or had planted, these trees to provide shade to the traveler.  Along this stretch, quite a voluptuous amount of shade it would appear.  That was of course long ago.  Nature, and the Division of Conservation and Recreation, are now in charge. At the Quabbin the hand of man, or woman, and nature is so closely intertwined through history.  It is easy to be struck by the industrial level impact of the region’s transformation, even though it’s largely out of sight.

But in other ways, the interaction of man and nature is still evolving.  As we continued south we came to Bullard’s Corner.  If you haven’t looked through a guidebook, you’d be surprised to see the following.  (We expected it and were still surprised.)

In case you have trouble reading the sign, here’s a crop from the image above.

Quite a sentiment isn’t it?  There is in fact an orchard beyond the sign.  I didn’t get a great image of it unfortunately, and it’s hard to tell how fruit trees are doing this time of year.  But here’s a glimpse…

What was once a stop over for people, is now a stop over for wildlife.  This is Herrick’s Tavern, or what was Herrick’s Tavern.

I continue to find a sense of grace here that always impresses.  If you continue south along the Orange Millington Road you quickly come to Rattlesnake Hill.  (Love the name.)  Putatively, Rattlesnake Hill is the wildest part of the Quabbin.  More about that in a future post, maybe…

OK, So, It rained…..

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.

Gate 16 at the Quabbin Reservoir – New Panorama

Gate 16 is off Route 202 in Shutesbury, MA.  The gate itself is pretty nondescript and it’s easy to miss.  There is parking in front of the gate though.  Then a short half mile walk through the forest takes you to a wonderful surprise.  Standing on the shore of the right Reservoir, you’ll have a stunning view in one of the most expansive and yet peaceful settings you’ll ever find.  I feel blessed by the opportunity to experience such grandure, just an hour’s ride west of Worcester.  Have a look….