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Posts tagged ‘Trustees of Reservations’

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.

The Rock House Reservation

I was driving through the Brookfield’s along Rt. 9 on my way to the Quabbin Reservoir, and I couldn’t believe the vibrancy of the foliage. It was finally peaking.  I started to think about great locations for a foliage shoot and my mind immediately went to the Rock House Reservation in West Brookfield.  My current web site home page is a nice image taken from there on a spring day.  But I suspected this would be different.  Parked the car and hiked into the site with a wide angle lens and tripod, and I could see it through the trees and brush.  I wasn’t coming to get the image, the image was coming to get me.  The heart quickens..  (click the image for a better view.)

Rock House Reservation is an aptly named collection of glacial rocks strewn about a lovely site, including a pond, under the management of the Trustees of the Reservations .  A place of worship and camping for Native Americans, the landscape was forged by the movement of glaciers over thousands of years, leaving these “erratics” to pose us questions.  When you spot a location like this, in this kind of light, you should work it.  You don’t go for one kind of shot.  Vary your lens length and your exposure. You’ll start to see things differently.  We move in for some details..

And it suddenly makes one wonder…

Is that big rock gonna catch that little one, and if so, then what???

Just as I was packing up to go another photographer, a nice gentleman from the area, came up from behind.  We chatted for a bit, and he offered that not enough people in the area know this site.  That was too bad we agreed.  A view like this makes you feel glad to be alive.

(Technical note:  The first and fifth images were actually made from three and four image captures, in what is called “high dynamic range” software. Cameras, both digital and film, have a problem.  They can’t see the range of tones that we can with the naked eye.  In a location in which there are very bright highlights and very dark shadows, if you only shoot one image, you’ll have to sacrifice something.  Either the clouds “blow out” or the landscape “goes into the shadows.”  I didn’t see blown out clouds or harsh landscape shadows.  Merging images sequences shot to capture the full range of tones from the seen in programs such as Photomatix allows you to create a more realistic picture of that scene.  Unfortunately these tools can also be used to make an image look ridiculous.  Hopefully I avoided that pitfall here.  These scenes really were that colorful and bright.)