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Something from nothing?

Something from nothing?

This is an iPhone/Hipstamatic image that I love. Something from nothing? Maybe there is more here than meets the eye.

Brooklyn Lily

I am sharing two lily photos because I was inspired by Vladimir Brezina’s post — Lilies

Vlad’s blog is usually much more ambitious and all his posts are worth a visit.

The first of my lilies was taken with my iPhone 4 and edited in the phone. I am so impressed with what’s possible in today’s smart phones. The other one is a Panasonic LX3 shot — I’m on the LX7 now — a great series of cameras in a compact form. A fine machine to put in your pocket for not much out of pocket.


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Wolf Moss Lichen

Wolf Moss Lichen

Here is my gem of the day — a photo I took while hiking in the woods on Cape Cod. Its Wolf moss, or Lutharia Vulpina its poisonous I believe. (Its actually a lichen not a moss) It was used to poison wolves years ago. Intimate glimpses into the forest floor yield endless beauty; it pays to look.

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Beautiful Skunk Cabbage -- my precious...

Better late than never!

This harbinger of Spring usually arrives in late winter. The photo above was taken near Snake Meadow Brook in Westford Massachusetts just the other day — April 2nd. Its a nice Skunk Cabbage one — they do make nice photos when they are sprouts!

What does F8 and be there mean to me? I ask that question because it came up in a discussion thread on, a stock photography web site I belong to. A new member was introducing himself and getting some advice about camera shake and other technical issues in photography. So I thought I’d give the new guy my take on the photographic middle way. Here is what I wrote:

“F8 and be there” means that one of the most important ideas in photography is to have your camera with you when you see something that would make a good photo.

F8 is a mediocre setting — or at least some people think that way. Its not wide open to create bokeh — the artsy blurring of a background that makes an object (flower, butterfly or person) stand out; nor is it stopped down to create seemingly limitless depth of field as in a landscape where everything in the image seems to be in focus. No, F8 is useful because it is a compromise between these two extremes. Its a simple setting for simply capturing reality. Or for simply capturing reality.

But being there — being wherever you would like to be to capture a ‘decisive moment’ — being there is the most important thing of all. Oh except that you need to have a camera with you.

There have been photo contests called the best camera contest or words to that effect. The idea is that the best camera is the one you have with you, so many entry’s (or maybe all of them) in the best camera contests are cell phone cameras.

The idea is that if your gear is so bulky and complicated that it sometimes prevents you for getting out and getting the shot or if you find that you can’t take a photo you’d like to because you left your bulky, complicated camera home — remember “F8 and be there!”

(I think the term F8 and be there” is an old one dating back to the days when Ansel Adams and others formed a group called F64 — it was dedicated to maximum depth of field. Some people reacted to this with an F8 and be there way of thinking. In reality, as Buddha taught, the middle way is best. Sometimes you want maximum depth of field — sometimes you can be quite happy with an F8 and be there attitude. My advice is not to be doctrinaire about either idea.)

Of course if you want bokeh or endless depth of field F8 will usually not do it for you. Until recently most point and shoot cameras (cameras without interchangeable lenses and with some ‘idiot proof settings that automate photographic decisions) had F8 as the smallest aperture. That’s changing but it symbolizes or embodies the F8 and be there esthetic, I think. Funny thing is because of the geometry of small sensors found in P&S cameras, F8 yields good depth of field when using these cameras. bokeh is more difficult to achieve because of this, but it can be done at least to a degree.

Really fine images can be made with your P&S or even with your SLR set on F8 — maybe with a walking around lens attached — for many this is a 28 to 105 zoom — kinda like the range of the whole Leica rangefinder kit many well heeled photographers of 50 years ago used. But that’s another story.

After the draw down

Shipley Swamp Looking toward Nabnasset Lake, across the beaver pool

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Leaves and Branches

(Nature, like politics can be very complex and confusing. Photo above taken in Westford conservation land)

Last night we watched the republican debate on CNN. It was worse than useless, Depressing and a waste of time.

The front runners McCain and Romney had at each other, partly because the questions set them up. The two others sounded a bit better but had trouble getting a word in edge wise.

CNN should be asshamed of itself for asking the wrong questions. McCain and Romney should be ashamed for falling into the trap set by CNN.

We will probably watch again tonight as the Democrats go at each other.  But we don’t expect anything better.

Prospect Hill Gate

In his book, Walking Towards Walden, John Hanson Mitchell treks — bushwhacks — with two friends through the woods from Westford to Concord. He spoke at the Conservation Trust’s annual meeting three years ago and was a delight. His book is delightful as well with just enough eccentricity to keep the reader’s interest up.

To start the eccentric motor running he and his small band paid a visit to the site of the stone monument to the Westford Knight, a fabled visitor to North America from Europe who in legend explored the area in 1399. According to Mitchell, no archaeologist has even bothered to refute the claims of this predecessor to Columbus, but many locals firmly believe in the Knight.

Mitchel is a believer in the importance of sense of place and told us at our meeting that he wrote Walking Towards Walden about it. He feels that Concord Massachusetts is the most America of all places. It is the place in the US with the most thereness, he feels.

I think that Prospect Hill Wildlife Sanctuary might be the most ‘Westford’ of all of our conservation lands. Its small — ~ eight acres — and humble but full of history and nature, and its right in the very center of town on Hildreth street (one of our most scenic) across from The Salt Box farm, one of the few remaining farms in town. It has Norway Spruce that were planted after the 1938 hurricane, a huge Shagbark hickory and its thickly wooded throughout making it a good habitat for deep forest birds including Wood Thursh and Blue-winged Warbler. To top it all off there is a corn field as if thrown in for good measure. (These details are from the Westford Trails guide book published by the Westford Conservation Trust)

The Sanctuary is also a place of invasive plant species. The is lots of Fire Thorn and other invasives, something that Lenny Palmer of the Conservation Trust is working to mitigate. It is also a haven for Poison Ivy, so wear long pants and boots if you hike through it.

The land was donated in 1999 by Priscilla Elliott and the entrance to the Sanctuary (nice word) is gated. I wonder of the gate was there before she made her generous donation or if it was put up then. It looks timeless so I guess its old.

I’ve been taking photos of the gate and entrance for the 2008 Westford Conservation Trust calendar. The photo above is my best effort so far. It is more of a challenge than I thought it would be. The sun creates hot spots so I arrived earlier today to avoid strong sun light. But then the breeze blows the leaves around making it difficult to have all the foliage in focus. But then why does it all need to be in focus? Maybe so the the image has a restful, peaceful feeling inviting the viewer into the woods beyond the gate. Or maybe I’m being a typically fussy photographer. If I was painting the scene I doubt that I would try to represent each leaf in perfect clarity.

If you care to please let me know how you like the photo. Or better yet, go to the Sanctuary and hike around then let me know what you think about it. Enjoy the birds and trees but — watch the poison ivy!

Mushroom Village

In his famous essay “Nature” Emerson says that

“Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact. Every appearance in nature corresponds to some state of the mind, and that state of the mind can only be described by presenting that natural appearance as its picture.”

I love the essay but tend to reduce it or over think it at times.

The essay continues in the same paragraph saying:

“Every appearance in nature corresponds to some state of the mind, and that state of the mind can only be described by presenting that natural appearance as its picture. An enraged man is a lion, a cunning man is a fox, a firm man is a rock, a learned man is a torch. A lamb is innocence; a snake is subtle spite; flowers express to us the delicate affections. Light and darkness are our familiar expression for knowledge and ignorance; and heat for love. Visible distance behind and before us, is respectively our image of memory and hope.”

So I wonder what the meaning of mushrooms is.

Maybe they represent people of all shapes and sizes in the world. Some are delightful, others poison. They grow every where or so it seems and are very adaptable.

What do you think mushrooms ‘mean?’ Is Emerson to be taken literally? Or are mushrooms too insignificant to have any meaning?

Here are some to look at while you think:

Mushroom Couple

Tree Sroom

The photo below has two bonuses from the animal kingdom. They might have a clue re: mushroom and their meaning…..

Trio with Toad

Robert Frost, a New England poet if there ever was one, wrote this:

Putting in The Seed

You come to fetch me from my work to-night
When supper’s on the table, and we’ll see
If I can leave off burying the white
Soft petals fallen from the apple tree
(Soft petals, yes, but not so barren quite,
Mingled with these, smooth bean and wrinkled pea);
And go along with you ere you lose sight
Of what you came for and become like me,
Slave to a Springtime passion for the earth.
How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed
On through the watching for that early birth
When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,
The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.

We planted a new front lawn this May with the help of an ‘organic’ landscaping company — John Coppinger and company out of Chelmsford — I hope it grows! But it should they did a good job putting in the seed.

The renewal of New England is well under way. The amazing  growth of plant life and touching families of the animal world are everywhere. Duck families are watching over eggs or teaching young ones about the world. Turtles are back and more people are walking the woods.

Here are some photos I’ve taken this Spring — I hope you enjoy them.

I don’t know the name of this little bush in Acker conservation land in Westford Mass. but its beautiful.

Green in Acker Land

In April this mallard pair kept company and each other warm in Stony Brook.

Mallard Pair

A hairy woodpecker way up a tree — pecking away — what else. This was taken in East Boston Camps in May.
Hairy Woodpecker

This is a pair of Black Ducks in Stony Brook back in April — looks like they know its spring!
Pair of Black Ducks

This is a killdeer — named for the sound it makes. I saw this one — my first — in the meadow near Nabnasset Lake and Shipley Swamp in May.


There must have been a nest nearby because the killdeer showed me a fake broken wing after a few minutes. Time to move on — didn’t want to unset the mother to be any more.

Killdeer Broken Wing Trick

A pretty pair of Hooded Mergansers in the Grassy Pond, Westford Mass.

Hooded Mergansers

One of two Great Blue Herons I saw during the second week of May on Stony Brook.

Heron May 2007

Finally there were quite a few chipmunks running around — this one tried to be invisible.


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