Nubble Light

Nubble Light sits on a giant rock, about 200 feet offshore. I’m not sure what it is about lighthouses but people flock to them, me included. Perhaps it’s because they look so majestic against the sea or one of the Great Lakes. They were certainly part of a green system of transportation. With just a compass, sextant, ship’s clock, and lighthouses to mark the coasts mariners were able to sail (that is, with only wind-power) all around the world. Global trade is roughly 600 years old. How time flies.

I discovered this lighthouse recently on one of my club cycling rides. About a dozen of us stopped by on a beautiful Sunday. The place was packed! Then, the tour bus arrived–super packed! Of course, everyone had their ever-present cell phone cameras out, taking pictures. I wasn’t among them doing this. However, I thought this lighthouse would make an excellent subject. Now, typically, the best light is during the morning or evening golden hours when the shadows are long. But this is of somewhat less importance when shooting in black and white, particularly if you have something other than a clear blue sky. So I returned a few days later under a threatening forecast with my 35mm film camera. Although the overcast lacked clear cloud definition, with a bit of post-processing I was able to get an austere sky, shot using Kodak T-Max 100 film.

Nubble Light

As many of you now know, sometimes during this time of Covid-19 our perceptions of reality can become a little distorted, one might say, even wonky.

I’m open to receiving any of your own wonky observations.

Can Renewables Save Us?

Originally Published July 10, 2021

Updates: The New York Times recently reported how the race for lithium to power batteries for electric vehicles will further degrade the environment. The Times again raises the question of what percentage of power to recharge those batteries will come from renewable energy. Neither are bio-fuels the answer to a carbon free environment as they raise food prices, displace forests, and emit carbon dioxide in their development, as reported in the New York Times. While it is critical to transition away from fossil fuels, renewables cannot fully replace fossil fuel energy, at least in the foreseeable future. This means, humanity will be producing a lot less, with all those implications no one is talking about.

According to an article in The New York Times, electric vehicles, while green, are not without greenhouse gas and other environmental problems. Many power-plants still burn coal or natural gas, and mining the metals poses health threats and environmental degradation.

See: to calculate vehicle emissions under different situations.

A Hike Up the Wilderness Trail

A friend of mine and I recently hiked up this trail located off the Kancamagus Highway in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It’s trailhead is the largest along this highway. The highway is a great drive with steep climbs and descents and a switchback towards the east end. The fall leaf peepers love it. The speed limits are reduced to minimize collisions with moose (neither of you are going to do well in a collision).

I found many cyclists along this highway, some with panniers. Climbing those grades, some miles long, requires superb fitness. I’m still wrestling with short 12% climbs. Miles of 5% grade are far more difficult.

We started our hike with the hordes but they fell off after a couple of miles. We finally made our way up to Franconia Falls where we met a few people enjoying the water rushing through the glacier-strewn boulders. We also watched as some teenage boys leapt from the rocks into the deeper pools.

We took in all that nature had to offer: the views, the sound of rushing water, and the absence of the noise of modern life. I go into the back country not only for the exercise and views, but to clear my head. The wilderness is a great stress reliever (well, as long as you are adequately prepared). Of course, as many of you know, I also go in to document our natural environment.

At the start of our return we lunched on a log and later found pizza for dinner before returning to our homes. Doing this with a friend made it all the more enjoyable!

Post-industrialization to Micro-industrialization

Originally published December 16, 2016

Update: It turns out that sails for ocean-going ships will be coming back, though far different than those of those fast clipper ships. See the New York Times.

Looking at my shoot of Boston’s tall ships in 1980 (I took these with a Yashica TL-Electro SLR, which I still have, using Kodak reversal film) got me to thinking about ways of cutting back on petroleum. As I have

Boston, Tall Ships The Juan Sebastian Elcano, 1980 Boston, Tall Ships
The Juan Sebastian Elcano, 1980

discussed in earlier posts, climate change is not the only reason for cutting back on petroleum. Although we have plenty of oil now, scientists have noted that petroleum and other natural reserves will be in shorter supply and increasingly expensive over the coming decade, forward.

One solution for ocean ships would be new designs using both solar and wind power (with solar panels embedded in their sails). Although these ships would need larger crews, and could not be as large as current ocean-going ships, they could be larger than their 19th century clipper counterparts. Though this is not economically viable now, it will be as oil depletes, leading us to what I call neo-industrialization (a period of scaled back production using mostly/only-renewable resources).

I will talk more about this in a later post. In the meantime, perhaps you would share your own ideas on this topic.

Grafton Notch State Park

Grafton Notch State Park is located near the Sunday River ski area and the New Hampshire border. I recently made an exploratory trip there looking for some open valley areas so I could take some mountain shots. Unfortunately, since the area is heavily forested (as is true throughout Maine) the best views are from Route 26 that cuts through the park. The max temperature was around 80o F. There was a threat of afternoon showers and since it was a weekday there were few people in the area. Although black fly season is upon us I had no problems with them (though I wore light colors, had repellent, and a head net); it was pretty nice. I’m also happy to say I hiked the Appalachian Trail (well, about a mile). I photographed with my medium format film camera.

Grafton Notch State Park

I’m planning a return trip in the near future to hike up a couple of the lower summits to get some shots of the Grafton Notch and the mountains. Park signs indicated that bears are prevalent on the trails and that hikers should make noise prior to trail rises or curves so as not to spook a bear. If confronted by a bear, it’s best to hold your ground, make noise, and spread your arms (the same applies to mountain lions in Rock Mountain National Park). It’s also good to have bear spray, which is now on my list. If all else fails, you are supposed to use whatever is at hand and fight the bear–yikes!

If you’ve been to this park please leave me a comment about your experience. As always, you can find more of these photos at my on-line gallery.

The White Waters of Essex County

I recently visited friends from Rochester, New York who rented a farmhouse in the Adirondack Mountains State Park. This is the largest park in the lower 48, greater in size than Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier, and Grand Canyon National Parks, combined. Its boundary is shown on maps by a blue line that includes both public and private lands. The Adirondacks are geologically active and continue to rise.

This was my longest trip since the pandemic began.  Traveling from Maine through New Hampshire and Vermont, the Green Mountains in the latter provided the more picturesque views as I wound my way through. Crossing the lower end of Lake Champlain on the bridge of the same name, I entered Essex County, New York, and made my way up to Elizabethtown, making the trip from Portland in about five and a half hours with two stops.

After lunch we did some exploratory hikes and had grandiose plans to shoot sunrises and the Milky Way, but alas, we were thwarted by clouds. We also had two days of spring snows, sometimes approaching white-out conditions. The result was fewer photos than planned. Most of the snow was gone a day after it ended, however.

View from Otis Mountain (cell phone shot)

As it turned out, the best photography opportunities were the surging white waters from the melting snow and ice flowing down the mountains, shown in the following video and photo.

A cloudy day shortly before sunset.

We also saw several beavers in the area that, as you might expect, had been busy. You can see some of their work below. We thought the photo showing the downed tree across the stream was felled by the beavers to provide a bracing structure for their dam building materials. They seem pretty smart—perhaps they have civil engineering degrees from M.I.T.! We also found trees that can grow on boulders!

As we were driving along I decided I wanted to photograph the falls on Giant Mountain. And wouldn’t you know it? I left my long lens back at the farmhouse, thinking I wouldn’t need it on this foray. Instead, I shot the falls with my shorter zoom lens, then I tightly cropped the photo. As a result, it’s not super sharp but, not too bad.

Down Giant Mountain

However, the best part of the trip was getting together with friends after 15 months of lock down.

You can see a few more photos from this trip at my online gallery.

What experiences might you have had in the Adirondacks?

Earth Day 2021

There was time when we believed that we were the center of the universe and that we should have dominion over the Earth. But then Copernicus came along who asserted that the Sun is indeed the center of our solar system, the Moon being the only body that revolved around the Earth. I’m sure you know that this resulted in a bit of an uproar. As for the dominion idea, our use of resources, over-hunting, and factory farming of animals have contributed to climate change and the current sixth extinction. Watch Marvin Gaye’s video, Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology), released in 1971.

The following two photos show a contrast between Greenland’s Tunu Glacier in 1933 and 2013. This melt-back is characteristic of ice all around the world, though melt-back varies widely, depending on location.

Source: The Greenland Ice Sheet – 80 years of climate change seen from the air. / Bjørk, Anders Anker; Kjær, Kurt H.; Larsen, Nicolaj Krog; Kjeldsen, Kristian Kjellerup; Khan, Shfaqat Abbas; Funder, Svend Visby; Korsgaard, Niels Jákup. 2014. Abstract from 44th International Arctic Workshop, Boulder, Colorado, United States.

It wasn’t so long ago that Carl Sagan and climate scientists started sounding the alarm that we were going down a dangerous path. Subsequent climate data has revealed that those early projections vastly underestimated what was happening, since we now know that climate change is not a linear but an exponential process. That is, it happens faster and faster over time.

Via Voyager 1

The now famous photograph of Earth as a pale blue dot was taken on February 14, 1990 by the deep space probe, Voyager 1, from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles). The more recent

Via Cassini

photograph was taken by the deep space probe, Cassini. Though more striking with Saturn in the foreground, it also shows how Earth is but a spec in the cosmos. As Sagan said in his book: Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. (Carl Sagan, The Pale Blue Dot, 1994)

People often say we have to save the Earth. Not so! The Earth will go on just fine without us. The issue is preserving the current biosphere that supports us and the other higher vertebrates. There will always be life on the planet so long as there’s liquid water. As I present every year, here is my fictionalized account of our worst scenario. Let’s do better!