Category Archives: Adventure

Return to Pine Swamp beaver pond

Pine Swamp beaver pond overview

If you click through on any of these embedded images you’ll see popup notes on my flickr images.

West Cornwall, Connecticut. Another trip to the Pine Swamp Beaver ecosystem last week during a cold snap to explore and take pictures.

This is an overview of the main beaver pond and dam from the west looking east. You can see the lodge in the middle and the large, S-shaped dam to the right. You can also see a recently felled tree (more photos later) on this shore of the pond.

This remains one of our favorite destinations on short hikes, it’s amazing what beavers have done with this stream and swamp over many generations and the ice is wonderful to photograph here as well.

Pine Swamp beaver pond overview

This is an overview of the main beaver pond and dam from the west looking east but looking further downstream. You can see the main dam but there are at least five more dams below it going out of frame on the right. There are also 5 more dams upstream to the left of this frame. Beavers construct these dams to make it easier for them to swim up and downstream with food (branches and bark). They’re very slow and awkward on land so they build waterways to safely travel in. Pure genius (and a lot of hard work).

Newly felled tree

This tree had been taken down within the few weeks before this shot was taken. It’s about 16 inches in diameter at its base and my guess this was one night’s work for one or two beavers. They took this tree down for food but also for branches to add to the dam.

I’m on the west shore of the main pond, you can see the lodge at the top of this frame.

Channel above main Pine Swamp beaver pond

This channel is typical of what you find both above and below the main pond and dam. The beavers swim up and down this channel with both food and construction material. It’s also a great place to shoot ice.

This particular channel is upstream of the main pond.

Pine Swamp ice

This was shot on the edge of a channel. You can see my left toe in the picture for scale of ice pattern. I’ll post the picture I took of that pattern in the next few days.

Early in my ice shooting experience I did a lot of macro work but lately I’m looking for larger patterns and this is about the scale of many of my more recent images taken with the Sony RX100.

Pine Swamp beaver lodge

This shot is from the east shore of the main pond looking west. You can see the newly felled tree on the far shore as well as the lodge in the middle. My earlier overview shots were taken from that far hill and the Appalachian Trail is about 200 yards beyond that hill.

Pine Swamp beaver lodge closeup

This shot is from the east shore of the main pond looking west, zoomed in a bit on the lodge.

You can see the newly felled tree on the far shore more clearly here.

What’s interesting about the lodge is that when we first started coming here six years ago it was just a single mound (the lower one on the right) and in the last few years the newer mound on the left was built. We’re not sure why, could be an expanding family or that the old one is not habitable anymore.

For those who don’t know, the beaver swims underwater to enter the lodge and has a platform inside above the waterline. The top is not only branches but mud so it’s water and wind tight. But, the water level is important here: if an upper dam breaks and the water comes up a bit the lodge can have problems and the beaver will have to let excess water out of the main dam by making a spillway. Amazingly, these animals have all of this wired into total control and you can see evidence of this all over this ecosystem, way upstream and downstream. It’s simply mind boggling what they’ve done.

Dave on main dam photographing lodge

This shot is from the east shore of the main pond looking west/northwest.

Dave walked out on the main dam to take a closer look at the loge. We routinely walk across the dam, easier in winter when things are frozen but doable any time of year. Just beyond where Dave is there’s a hole in the ice where the beaver comes up and slides across the dam to get into the lower pond(s). Each dam has a smooth place where beavers traverse.

Ice on Thayer Brook

Ice stalagmites under waterfall

Thayer Brook, Schaghticoke Ridge, Appalachian Trail, Kent, Connecticut. Dave and I took a quick hike south on the AT to shoot ice on this brook. I used both the G15 and RX100 and got a few keepers from each.

These are ice drippings (stalagmites) under a waterfall and while it was tough to shoot these I think this image turned out well as it gives you a sense of the volume of the cones.

Ice hole with ripples and reflection

This was a shallow spot in the brook with holes in the ice so one could see the water running underneath, the bottom, and every now and then, an interesting reflection and/or ripple from the trees around and the rocks underneath.

Ice, snow, water, and sun at Pine Swamp

Ice, snow, water, and sun at Pine Swamp

West Cornwall, Connecticut. We went back to the Pine Swamp beaver ecosystem again last weekend and this time travelled farther downstream from the main pond and beaver lodge.

This image was shot four dams below the main pond and lodge.

Beavers need to create waterways so they can venture away from their lodges to get food and this ecosystem has numerous dams and waterways upstream and downstream of the main pond. Great for both the beaver and us as it’s more interesting swampland to explore.

Snow, rock, reflection at Pine Swamp

This image was shot upstream two dams from the main pond and lodge.

Snow and trees reflected in Guilder Pond

Snow and trees reflected in Guilder Pond

Mt. Everett Reservation, Massachusetts. On the way up to Mt. Everett on snowshoes we stopped and took a few shots of Guilder Pond. We snowshoed around it and got some more nice images but this one was the best I got that day.

I continue to be both frustrated and amazed with the Sony RX100: It’s a pain to use but the images it makes are spectacular. I solved the cold hands on metal body problem I was having with a pair of very thin neoprene gloves. Amazingly they seem to work okay on the RX100′s tiny controls and shutter button.

Every time I want to return this camera or sell it I look at the images and change my mind. Be patient Richard… Sigh.

More from Pine Swamp

Dave and Loren crossing beaver dam, Pine Swamp

Dave and Loren crossing beaver dam, Pine Swamp

West Cornwall, Connecticut. We did a short hike back up to the Pine Swamp beaver ecosystem yesterday in about 6″ of snow. Great fun. The water wasn’t frozen over enough to walk across so we had to carefully walk on the tops of a few of the beaver dams (there are at least 10 in this ecosystem).

This hike, while not all the long or tough remains one of our favorites because the destination is so interesting in any season.

I’m still digging the image quality of the Sony RX100 (less its ergonomics) and my solution to the metal body making my hands cold is a thin pair of SmartWool glove liners that I leave on under my mittens. I can turn it on/off and push the shutter button with the gloves on which really saves my hands.

Ice pattern

Lots of wonderful ice patterns in the frozen pieces of Pine Swamp and the extra resolution on the Sony RX100 reveals some great details.

Stick, swamp, ice, snow

It hasn’t been consistently cold enough for the entire swamp to freeze over so there are some nice spots with a mix of water, ice and snow which looked quite photogenic.

Broken ice with bubbles

Needle Ice

Needle Ice

Needle Ice

Race Brook Falls Trail, Southwest Massachusetts. We hiked up to the junction of the Race Brook Falls trail and the Appalachian Trail and found dozens of outcroppings of needle ice along the way. It’s a most photogenic phenomena although its got so much depth its tough to take a decent image of it.

Dave shooting needle ice

It’s a most photogenic phenomena although its got so much depth its tough to take a decent image of it. Here Dave is using his Canon Powershot G12 with its articulated LCD screen to shoot the ice.

Grass reflection in upper Pine Swamp

Grass reflection in upper Pine Swamp

West Cornwall, Connecticut. Dave and I returned to the Pine Swamp beaver ecosystem along the Appalachian Trail toward the end of the day to see if the lower light might make things more interesting and it certainly did.

I look for textural juxtapositions and this area upstream of the main pond was calm and glassy and it contrasted well with the tall grass. I’ve uploaded this at full resolution and it’s a square crop from a larger image. The little Sony RX100′s sensor really does record a lot of detail my other small cameras miss.

Pine Swamp impressionism

Pine Swamp impressionism

West Cornwall, Connecticut. Dave and I returned to the Pine Swamp beaver ecosystem along the Appalachian Trail toward the end of the day to see if the lower light might make things more interesting and it certainly did. The trees and clouds look very different in lower light and the big sensor on the Sony RX100 didn’t hurt either. This camera definitely has some magic although as a Canon guy it’s going to take some getting used to.

I love the work of Claude Monet and many of the other French impressionists and a bit of breeze on a glassy reflective surface gives a straight reflection an impressionist feel. Well, that’s my impression of it anyway.

Tour of the International Space Station

In her final days as Commander of the International Space Station, Sunita Williams of NASA recorded an extensive tour of the orbital laboratory and downlinked the video on Nov. 18, just hours before she, cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and Flight Engineer Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency departed in their Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft for a landing on the steppe of Kazakhstan. The tour includes scenes of each of the station’s modules and research facilities with a running narrative by Williams of the work that has taken place and which is ongoing aboard the orbital outpost.

This is one of the best videos from the ISS I’ve ever seen, led by ISS Commander Sunita Williams.

Update: Here’s a shot of Sunita and crew after they landed:

Expedition 33 Soyuz Landing (201211190001HQ)

Here’s NASA’s ISS overview video which is worth watching if you’re not familiar with what the ISS looks like from the outside.


Using an RC Helicopter to film a Trango Towers expedition

The Trango Towers are a group of spectacular rock spires in the Karakoram Range in northwest Pakistan. In this video a radio controlled drone helicopter is used to film the approach and climbing. This is incredible footage shot in a very remote corner of the world.

Here’s another video that contains some of the same footage and more of the actual climbing.

[via Devour]

Curiosity has landed

Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) (201208050013HQ)

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) team in the MSL Mission Support Area reacts after learning the Curiosity rover has landed safely on Mars and images start coming into the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012 in Pasadena, Calif. The MSL Rover named Curiosity was designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Most excellent!

The complex landing went off without a hitch and the vehicle is sitting on the surface of Mars. Incredible.

Here’s NASA’s Photostream at Flickr.

Update: Here’s the Curiosity team during the landing:

Curiosity just days away from Mars

Curiosity just days away from mars

A spectacular set of images of the building and launching of the Mars rover Curiosity. I’m guessing when this contraception enters the Mars atmosphere a lot of people (me included) are going to be glued to our TV sets, computers, tablets, smartphones, and radios.

Amazing how the number of things glued to has increased since the Apollo Moon landing.

Here’s a an excellent video on how the landing is supposed to work on August 5th:

Great Catskill Hiking on The Devil’s Path

Richard and Gary on Twin, Catskills

Richard and Gary on Twin Mountain, Catskills

Devil’s Path, Catskill Mountains, New York. Gary is visiting again and we decided to do a piece of the Devil’s Path, a hike he’s never done.

Started at Roaring Kill parking area, went up the blue trail to Pecoy Notch, Climbed the west side of Twin Mountain on the Devil’s Path, then went back down to Pecoy Notch and continued on the Devil’s Path up Sugarloaf Mountain and down the other side into Mink Hollow, returning to Roaring Kill on the Mink Hollow blue trail. Great hike, strenuous, steep and rocky but we took our time and had a blast.

Next year we’d love to do the entire eastern section of the Devil’s Path in a day: Indian Head, Twin, Sugarloaf and Plateau. This would be a huge accomplishment for these two old dudes! I’ve done each of these mountains in pairs but never all at once.

On the Devil's Path, Catskills

This is the view behind us which is where we’re about to go: Down Twin to Pecoy Notch (again) and up and over Sugarloaf.

Gary in a chimney on Twin

On Sugarloaf Mountain

(Gary took the above picture of me on Sugarloaf).

The great thing about hiking in the Catskills is the shale rock makes for the most interesting formations that trails have to weave in and out of. The Devil’s Path is full of this stuff making what would ordinarily be a strenuous hike up and down a bunch of 1500 foot hills much more interesting.

Gary on the devils path

I have to say, many people think the Catskills aren’t “real” mountains and the park is just full of old, broken down “Borcht Belt” resorts. I’ve hiked and climbed in almost every national park and major mountain range in North America and I have to say the Catskills is one of my favorite places bar none. And, I hiked and climbed in the Sierras, Cascades, and Rockies long before I was introduced to Catskill hiking by my neighbor Dave McCullough. I love the odd shapes of these mountains, the shale rock, and the fact that there’s an extensive and well maintained trail system in the park. We look forward to snowshoeing up these great mountains in winter as well. Frankly, I’m sort of glad that many people go elsewhere to hike and I’ve hiked there without seeing another person all day.

Short walk at Macricostas Preserve

Macricostas Preserve, Steep Rock. Washington, Connecticut. It was hot but I wanted to see what the Queen Anne’s lace looked like in Macricostas so I took a short walk with small camera and iPhone. Great stuff to shoot, too bad it was so hot I didn’t feel like doing anything. Heat and humidity sucks.

Queen Anne's Lace from below

Queen Anne’s Lace with Canon PowerShot S100

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne’s Lace with iPhone 4S and Instagram.

Bee brook

Bee Brook with iPhone 4S and Instagram.