Misty Wind Turbines


Fog and mist often add to a photograph, giving it a softer, aesthetic look. Since fog and mist are generally a dawn phenomenon (water vapor condenses when temperature and dew point are within two or three degrees of each other) I got these shots early in the season since I live over an hour away from the field (I only had to get up at 4:30 to get these shots).

Since there is usually no wind associated with fog or mist, wind turbines are not likely to rotate, since they need at least a 4 MPH breeze. I was fortunate to have a view of some turbines on higher ground (where there was some wind) overlooking background mist on lower ground.

Aesthetic Wind Turbines

On this hot July Fourth here are some unique views of wind turbines. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” (an old social constructionist saying). Wouldn’t one of these look great on your wall?

I got lucky with the crows

Zoomed turbine

Looking up

Threesome power

Surrealistic wind turbine

Wind Turbines: One Leg of Renewable Energy

Wind turbines in western New York; property access courtesy of Davis Valley Farm, LLC

This past winter I began thinking about what might be an interesting local photographic project. Then, while on a trip through the countryside, I rediscovered wind turbines that I saw along the hilltops. So, I began exploring some of these fields from the surrounding roads. I will admit that my bias is towards renewable energy. I have no financial ties to any energy company (except for my monthly utility and gasoline bills). Rather, my bias results from data. Fossil fuels are not only warming the planet, but they will run out at current consumption levels over the next 50 to 100 years. The geological, climatic, and biological data (presented earlier on this website) all point to the critical importance of finding alternate energy sources.

Beginning in March I began photographing the turbines under different weather and lighting conditions and eventually got access to photograph some of the turbines up close. Contrary to what you might have heard, they

Multiple exposures create the blade effects

only make only a soft whirring sound. To my ear, it is almost as pleasant as listening to the surf. There are times, however, when some become noisy, producing whistling or other noxious sounds. This is due to rough surfaces developing on the leading edges of the blades from wear and tear, or small blade holes caused by lightning strikes. However, power companies replace the blades once noise becomes a nuisance. The turbines in this field (almost 100 of them) are certainly tall, standing 280 feet to the hubs with each blade extending out to 120 feet. And they are even taller in the west, some going 500 feet to the hub!

While I will grant you that wind turbines are not as aesthetic as trees and

flowering plants, they do present a majestic look over the landscape. Although many communities have rejected these (particularly when proposed for

Quiet, Clean & Renewable

offshore), they have a small footprint and have far more grace than traditional power plants. They take little time to erect and when finished the land is not compromised so crops or cattle can be farmed. Some folks almost have them in their back yards.

Wind turbines are not the total solution to our energy needs. There are several forms of renewable energy besides wind: solar, hydroelectric, biomass, hydrogen and fuel cells, geothermal, and tidal. Collectively, these sources will diversity our energy grid as the cost of these technologies decrease. This would have the added advantage of minimizing the risk of power plant shutdowns due to damage or maintenance.

I will present more photos and comments about wind turbines in future posts. I will add the best photos to my online gallery later and I anticipate a printed photo exhibition in the more distant future.

Do let me know your thoughts, positive or negative, on renewable energies.

You can learn more about wind turbines, including engineering information and references, from Wikipedia.

A Night in the Woods

Winter is not the most popular time to photograph. Not only is it cold but everything is so drab. However, winter is a great time for us black and white photographers. So, I donned my winter gear and spent some time in the woods in late February looking for some good tree compositions to photograph after dark. My idea was to use my flash to highlight a particularly interesting tree so it would stand out against a relatively dark background, much as you might do in a studio with a black, felt background cloth.

Once finding the compositions, the trick was finding the same shooting spot after dark. Accomplishing that, I set my camera on a tripod; then using Kodak Tri-X 400 film I set my lens to f/2 and the shutter to bulb. While handholding my Speedlite flash off-center from my camera, I opened the shutter just long enough to manually trigger the flash. I took three shots of each composition at 1/1, 1/4, and 1/8 power. Twenty-seven frames later, here are the best (click to enlarge).

“Decoding the Weather Machine” Right now, on Nova

Dunkirk, NY natural gas/coal fired power plant

Located at the eastern end of Lake Erie, the Dunkirk power plant, built in 1950, now burns natural gas, though coal can still be used as a backup fuel. As you can see, the stacks no longer emit that dense smoke plume as in years past.  Coal only produces about 1/2% of New York State’s power.  In 1950, coal power generated nearly 46 percent of electricity in the country, making it the largest power source at the time, according to the Energy Information Administration. However, by 2017 natural gas had overtaken coal , generating about 34 percent of electricity compared to coal’s 30 percent.

Still, natural gas emits some particulates, along with carbon dioxide. While natural gas is a step forward, greenhouse gases will continue to raise global temperatures, most pronounced at the poles and in the seas, at an alarming rate. The computer models all show that the planet’s flora and fauna will be drastically affected by the end of the century. Many coastal cities will be partly under water, agricultural land will be displaced, and summer heat will become dangerously high.

Nova recently aired a two-hour special on climate change, showing each step of how scientists from a range of disciplines have demonstrated how the level of carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases such as methane and water vapor) have caused global temperature change over the past 800,000 years.  Scientists have also documented the fossil fuel signature of modern carbon dioxide molecules, showing how they differ from those carbon dioxide molecules produced before the industrial revolution. This is the “smoking gun” proving not only that the global temperature is the hottest in 800,000 years, but that the warming climate is caused by human activity.

The documentary concludes with the political and economic realities, and the policy strategies  needed to address this global threat. Addressing climate change is a formidable challenge not only because of politics and economics, but also because we not only have to stop emitting carbon dioxide, we have to go carbon negative to stop the steady increase of global temperatures.

This not only means producing nearly all of our power from renewable energy, it also means using far less power—leading us into what I call neo-industrialization.  More on this in a future post.

Will we do it?

Even if you disagree with the findings of climate scientists, this Nova special is well worth watching. It is always useful to be familiar with one’s opponents’ arguments and evidence to know what one is refuting.

 

Winter on Lake Ontario

Solitary
Charlotte, Rochester, NY

It really looks like the far North for a short while here on America’s north coast. Since fresh water begins to freeze at 32º F, you can get what looks a lot like Arctic ice, as shown in the first photo of Charlotte pier at the mouth of the Genesee River.

People love to build along the water, so clearly evident with the large estate in the second photo.  Although the lake-level can be somewhat controlled via international agreement (see my earlier post  about Great Lakes flooding) this house is vulnerable to flooding, due to changing climatic conditions. Nevertheless, it looks like a pretty nice place to be in June through September.

Really Big House
Entrance to Braddock Bay Marina

Nunavik and Shrinking Bird Populations now 20% off plus free shipping of all books and photos to U.S. addresses!

If you’re interested in photobooks about the natural environment and climate change, you can preview these at my bookstoreNunavik, 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.

Please contact me if you have any questions!

Nunavik Revisited

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.

Quabbin Reservoir

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).

Quabbin Reservoir Winsor Dam

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

Sky Fire

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)

Dead Zone

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

Life Substance

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.