I'm a retired medical sociologist from the University of Rochester. My publishing experience includes a wide variety of academic articles and a book, "The Practice of Uncertainty" (1999). The mission of my blog is to provide accounts of the natural environment, including photos, in order to raise awareness of its fragility and the impact of climate change. Climate change is the greatest challenge currently faced by humanity. I occasionally write about the impact of climate change. To do this I read reputable books and articles on the topic. So when I make statements about climate change you will see a link taking you to the scientific source(s) of the information I provide.
As for my independently published photobooks, each has gone through several layers of editing and peer review for both readability and accuracy.
This is not to say that everything I say is accurate. Even the New York Times makes mistakes. So, if you find something that is factually incorrect, let me know.
I hope you find reading my blog a positive experience. If you do, please encourage your family and friends to have a look.
If you’re interested in photobooks about the natural environment and climate change, you can preview these at my bookstore. Nunavik, Exploring Maine’s Coast, and Shrinking Bird Populations contain wonderful photos examining these topics, each in their respective settings.
If you’ve searched for unique photos to grace your walls, my bookstore will show you the prices of my photos and direct you to my online gallery.
I just received a “pingback” from Great Canadian Wildlife Adventures that hosted my expedition to the tundra in 2015. Here is the link to their site, citing some of the quotes from my book, Nunavik, available through my bookstore. The tundra is all I said it was, and more.
I highly recommend any one of Great Canadian Wildlife Adventures‘ trips.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Quabbin pamphlet:
The Quabbin (Swift River) Valley was part of the territory of the Nipmuc Indians. Quabbin means the meeting of many waters. By the 17th century their population had declined, decimated by war and disease, and the valley was rapidly settled by Europeans drawn by the abundance of water and rich farmland.
Four towns were eventually established: Dana, Enfield, Prescott, and Greenwich. However, as was the case with England 125 years earlier, rural New England populations declined as people started moving east to Boston and other coastal towns in search of jobs. As a result, land values in western Mass declined. By the early twentieth century, a rapidly expanding population in the east required ever-greater water supplies, creating a new importance for the Swift River Valley as a primary water source. The idea was to dam the Swift River and Beaver Brook to flood the valley and create a reservoir. The Massachuetts Legislature passed the Swift River Act in 1927; using the right of eminent domain, the Commonwealth bought out the residents, and removed all buildings and vegetation over a period of years. Quabbin Reservoir began to fill in 1939 and reached its capacity by 1946. The reservoir is about 18 miles long with 118 miles of shoreline (not including the islands).
In many instances of dams and reservoirs, they not only alter the landscape, they are tinged with a confrontational if not violent history. However, on a positive note, since Quabbin is a protected area it provides a lush environment for fish, and other wildlife (not to mention it provides water to millions).
Winsor Dam is located next to the Visitor Center in Quabbin Park at the south end of the reservoir in Belchertown, MA. The reservoir is on the left of the dam in the
photo. The area is nice to walk and provides a great view.
A while later there were some cirrus clouds painting the sky. I attached my
polarizer filter to darken the sky above as I shot Sky Fire from the spillway, looking west.
Later, walking back to my car, I noticed an area with dead trees that were likely the result of their being flooded for long periods. I left the roadway to get a few shots, of which Dead Zone (not to be confused with Mt. Everest’s death zone that begins at 26,247 feet)
was the best. This stand of trees provides both a stark and aesthetic view of a micro environment.
Although the Winsor Dam area excluded vehicles, a ranger told me that if I drove to the East gate I could take the car in from there. There, I drove up to the Enfield Look Out. The skies had darkened and rain was expected in a few
hours. Given less light, I set up my tripod so I could use a slow shutter speed with my 135mm lens to enable a smaller ƒ stop for good depth-of-field. The result is a nice, compressed, distant scene to the Northeast, shown in Life Substance. The islands are the tops of the area’s hills surrounding the valley.
I only had about six hours to photograph Quabbin. I know there are a few people who photograph there regularly. I would be happy to hear about your experiences.
You might recall from my post of March 12, 2017 that I returned to film using my old Yashica TL-electro 35 mm camera. It has been a slow process looking for good photo labs, being disappointed in their results and costs, then learning to develop my own film (originally with Mark Watts). The latter included loading the film developing reels in the dark and using film chemistry. At first, I was producing poorer quality negatives than the labs, many full of spots and chemistry blemishes (my negatives still are not perfect, but I am almost there.) I also had to relearn to use a manual camera effectively—no auto-advance, no autofocus, no zoom, no semi-auto exposure, no adjustable ISO or exposure meter. Yikes!
Therefore, with this camera in hand I recently shot some snowscapes this past February (some on a 15° F day). I take the social constructionist view that the photograph does not convey one objective impression; rather, each individual can see it differently (though there are some photos where the majority of people have the same impression, as with Alfred Eisenstaedt’s Winston Churchill. Of course, the then leaders of the Axis powers would not have had the same impression.
Having said this, I will give you my reason for shooting this particular subject along with my interpretation of these photographs. Photographically, winter displays form and texture–essences; it is a time
when nature converts to monochrome. Foliage is gone, most animals are gone or hibernating, and many plants are dormant. The natural environment, simplified, becomes a metaphor for reflection. For me, the reflection is on life. Although much of life dies with winter, it feeds the next cycle of spring growth. And it all begins with massive stars. All life forms are born of the physical elements originating in stars at least 8 to 15
times the solar mass of our sun. At the end of their relatively short lives (the larger the star the shorter its life) they cast the heavy elements they produced in their cores into the universe with supernova explosions. Stardust containing these elements eventually begin to coalesce around new or existing stars, creating planets, some of which are in the “Goldilocks zone” (i.e., not too hot, not too cold, thus providing for the possibility of liquid water) opening the potential for the evolution of life.
Among animals, adults teach their young, except in the case of humans, the young also build on the social, cultural, economic, and scientific ideas of past generations. Winter reminds me that, in these respects, we are no fundamentally different from any other animals (though we like to think so). Clearly, this view is partly shaped by my training as a social scientist and my readings in the natural sciences.
So how does all this play out for me in the following photographs? With Silo I see the “dormancy” of a winter farm. The farm animals mostly inside,
the fields bereft of crops. However, it is not at all dormant. The farmer is planning the next season with equipment maintenance or replacement, placing orders for seeds and fertilizer, and applying for loans or federal agricultural grants. Unfortunately, recent seasons have seen heavier than average rainfall resulting in many lower lying fields flooded or made marshy during critical growing periods. I see this in ‘T‘ with the cattails in the middle of a several acre field. They do align in a somewhat pleasing T formation, however. Agricultural fields across the globe are under threat, due to climate change that results in precipitation, temperature, and insect variations; soil erosion and contamination from mining and fracking pose additional threats.
Loose Bark shows me a dead tree in Washington Grove within Rochester’s Cobbs Hill Park. During its life, it sheltered birds, mammals, insects,
mosses, and other life forms. It absorbed atmospheric carbon, gave off oxygen, and kept the ground beneath it cool in the summer. Eventually, high winds will knock it down where upon various fungi, worms, ants and termites will feed, decay it, leaving its remaining elements to be absorbed into the soil to one-day support new life. I see the culmination of this process in Snowbound where a baby tree grows in a picnic area at Hamlin Beach. It absorbs the nutrients from the soil of its plant, animal, and massive star predecessors, where perhaps one day a picnic table will be placed beneath it.
I would greatly appreciate receiving your interpretations, different as they might be.
George Carlin, the late comedian, once satirized Americans for having too many possessions–stuff. Well it’s true. And some of that stuff we dump. I remember as a kid growing up in farm country we had our own dump. That’s right. Less than a quarter of a mile away there was a large pit where we took our trash and garbage via a wooden wagon to sling it in–this well ahead of the days of mandated disposal and town operated transfer stations. You still see evidence today throughout rural areas that house the resting areas of old farm equipment, cars, trucks, and other stuff.
I found some examples from a hike through a Monroe County park last summer where I found a steel drum (I dread to think what it might have contained) and a vehicle chassis. Today, disposal is strictly regulated with some stuff being shipped to poor countries to be recycled,
the rest sent to our ever-growing landfills. Some radiators I found near a cottage renovation project this past fall on Peaks Island will hopefully be reused or recycled into other products in the U.S. under safe working conditions (unless Trump rescinded these too by executive order). A bit of thought suggests that is not ethical to expose people in poor countries to the dangerous process of recovering recyclable materials , and the room required for more landfills limited.