Underground Railroad

Autumn Wonder

We have often travelled Lower Creek Road as an alternate route to visit my son and his family who live in Freeville, a village named for the activity of the Underground Railroad. After noticing this sign in passing for years, this week we stopped on a glorious autumn morning to capture it. I had packed the Sony Alpha 700 dslr for just such an opportunity.

Just off the road, under a maple tree in full autumn color (yellow), ground covered with fallen leaves (brown) on a fine early October morning, the sign reads, “New York, UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, HOME OF WILLIAM HANFORD AND WIFE ALTHA C. TODD, WHO SHELTERED FUGITIVE SLAVES ON THE WAY TO CANADA AND FREEDOM, STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT 1932”. These dark blue background, bright yellow letter signed are found throughout this region and much appreciated.

An added plus for me is the acceptance of both photographs by Getty Istock. Click this link to view a selection of my Getty photography in and around Ithaca, New York.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Pinelands Connections IX

What is a Collier?

Here my exploration of Wharton State Forest, Pitch Pine Forest III, branches to the genealogical exploration of this landscape as my sister, Theresa and I, proceed along the humped, pitted sand road Goodwater through the wilderness to emerge in Batsto Village, a recreation of lives that touched my great great grandparents, James and Ann McCambridge among them. Ann saved money earned as a cook for Atsion furnace, the historical site at the start of the road to Quaker Bridge. Her husband James worked as a collier, supplying fuel for the iron furnaces at Atsion and Batsto, among other enterprises. During our Batsto Village visit we found these reproductions of charcoal clamps.

Since earliest times charcoal was used for cooking and heating. It was the best heat source for metal furnaces. Entire deforested regions are attributed to the demand for charcoal. Thomas Jefferson experimented with charcoal clamp designs, modifying air flow from the base.

James and Ann lived on the land that provided a livelihood, enough to support themselves and nine (9) children. From September 7, 1850 is the US Census for this family of my second great grandparents. Great Grandmother Margaret was 11 years. James is listed as a Collier, the value of Real Estate owned was 6,000 (a fortune for the time).

Like is wife Ann, James had a savings account…..

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Pitch Pine Forest III

Road to Batsto

Leaving the jeep on the west side of Quaker Bridge, I walked over to inspect the structure and poke around the other side, carrying a Canon 5d Mark IV (camera body) / EF 70 – 300 mm f/4-5.6 L IMS (lens), shooting as I walked. My sister Theresa and Maxie, a little white dog, lagged behind taking in the surroundings. Here they are, in shadow, on the west side.

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My work on the east side was shared in previous posts, “Pinelands Connections VIII,” I and II “Around Quaker Bridge,” and I and II “Pitch Pine Forest,” work interrupted by the sound of an approaching engine, a Humvee came into view. I waved my arm up and down, a sign to slow down, pulling alongside the driver looked up with dead eyes, no element of recognition of a fellow human, as I explained my sister was on the bridge. A stink of unfamiliar hydrocarbons, diesel fuel?, rose through the heat as they pulled forward with no acknowledgement of my request. Thankfully they slowed down as Theresa, Max in her arms, said, “hi.”

Multiple roads converge from all directions on Quaker Bridge, using GoogleMaps (surprising these unimproved, “jeep” sand roads were listed) I chose Goodwater Road as a route to Batsto Village, on the southern side of Wharton State Forest. The 6.1 mile road follows the east bank of Mullica River at a distance, a very rough passage through ancient Pitch Pine forest. Here are photographs of the enormous capacity of the pines to regrow after fire. Note a thick seeding growth among the mature pine trunks, lower portions fire blackened.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Pitch Pine Forest II

Multiple Lives

These photographs were taken deep in the wilderness of Wharton State forest, near where Quaker Bridge spans the Mullica River.

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The pitch pine is irregular in shape, in these forests a mature tree typically lives through multiple cycles of fire and regrowth.

Burnt pitch pines often form stunted, twisted trees with multiple trunks as a result of resprouting. Bonsai artists exploit this characteristic for their creations.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Pitch Pine Forest I

The Pinus Genera

The 115,000 acres of Wharton State Forest are predomenantly Pitch Pine, scientific name Pinus Rigida, and AKA Black Pine and Hard Pine. Climb the fire tower of Apple Pie Hill, in all directions will be a sea of these trees interspersed here and there with occasional oaks. Cedars mark water courses. These photographs, unless otherwise identified, were taken deep in the forest, near where Quaker Bridge spans the Mullica River.

A mature Pitch Pine has bark of large, thick, irregular plates, adapted to survive forest first, similar to another member of the Pinus genera, the Ponderosa Pine.

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Open-growth trees begin bearing cones in as little as three years, with shade-inhabiting pines taking a few years longer. The cones are 4–7 cm (1+1⁄2–2+3⁄4 in) long and oval, with prickles on the scales. Cones take two years to mature. Seed dispersal occurs over the fall and winter.

Unlike the another member of genus Pinus, the Pinyon Pine, the seeds released by Pitch Pine cones are not sought out for human consumption.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Red Near and Far

Yesterday, Pam and I headed to the peneplane behind our home to enjoy the Finger Lakes terrain graced by fall colors.  The day before I noticed the Japanese Maple leaves had turned from maroon to vermillion.  While waiting for Pam to get ready, I capture the following two shots.

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This tree was planted by my father and mother in-laws.  Developed over the centuries by the Japanese, specimens reached England in the 1820 and spread from there.  It is not strictly accurate to call the color vermillion, since cinnabar finely ground produces the pigment for which the color is named, when the sun strikes the leaves vermillion is a metaphor for the impression made.

The scientific name for these trees is Acer palmatum with common names Palmate Maple (for the shape of the leaves “like a palm tree”, as for the scientific name), Japanese Maple or Smooth Japanese-Maple (for the bark).

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We drove under the clouds, enjoying the rare dramatic shafts of sunlight and I gave up, finally, tying to time my shots.  Here is the view from Connecticut Hill.

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The previous photos were taken with a hand held Sony Alpha 700 with variable lens.  The next two are with an Apple iPhone I had a hand when Pam and I returned home for a walk around the neighborhood to witness the transformations.

We were surprised by this orange maple, never recalling this shade before.  Like our Japanese Maple were assume it is a non-native ornamental.

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Our Japanese Maple is a challenge to capture photographically as it grows beneath a larger “nut” (don’t recall the kind at the moment) tree.  We are working together to improve that, so I don’t have an overall photograph.

Here is our neighbor’s Japanese Maple.  They have a story of carrying this tree, as a sapling, on the bus from Long Island.   I love the impression of dark limbs among the clouds of red foliage. 

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This photograph (the “far” of the “near and far”) is from a remote corner of Chiricahua National Monument, during the trip mentioned in my post, “History and Ghosts of the Triangle T Ranch”.  To get there, I drove over a mountain pass to a location was featured in an “Arizona Highways” I read long ago.

I call this photograph “Red Dragon,” the formation is known as a “maple “

dragon”, from the long sinuous form of the tree limb.  Known for this reddish orange autumn color, this is a Big Tooth Maple, AKA Canyon Maple.  Scientific Name Acer grandidentatum (as in “big tooth”).  It is a wild specimen, living along the north fork of Cave Creek.  It is a area well know to avid bird watchers and ornithologists.

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The camera was my Kodak, DSC slr-c with a Canon 50 mm lens mounted on a tripod.

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Bench Sitting Nature Watch

a monarch in steady progress south

On a sunny autumn morning we set out, my soon to be three grandson Sam and I, to the Lime Hollow Nature Center near Cortland for an adventure.  For the first time I brought a newly purchased iPhone 7 instead of the usual slr camera.  The phone can be carried in a pocket and is simpler to us, to allow me to give full attention to Sam.

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At the start is a large, today sunlit, field with an “art trail.”  There are various anthropomorphic transformations on the trees and a very large sculpture of a blue face.  Here is a tree from another place near here, to give you an idea.

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I do not point out the tree faces to Sam.  His Mom likes to say he enjoys being frightened and, when the blue face came into view, he turned back and said, “home.”  Sam was mildly anxious, so I carried him and tried to turn him up the trail away from the face.  He turned to keep an eye on it while I assured him it could not move.  This and a climb up a 230 foot hill were the only times he didn’t walk the half mile to a open grassy knoll with a bench.

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There we sat for 30 minutes, still and watching, Sam and I talked about our sightings:
1. The sunlit sky of clouds, from a milky blue towards the north to, overhead, a bright robins egg blue.
2. A circling hawk, shadow crossing over us.
3. One blue jay in a maple turning red, loudly calling over and over.
4. A little while after a second jay, landing in a tree turned yellow, drawn in and giving answer.
5. A monarch butterfly’s steady progress south. Such a strong gliding path.
6. A yellow butterfly who did not leave us, fluttering round and round.
7. Four honking Canadian geese flying north east, turned to check out a nearby pond, the returned to the original heading.
8. The sound of wind through the trees, listening to the sound made by each tree.
9. The late season golden rod, now dried gray.
10. A distant chittering red squirrel.
11. Distant peeper frogs in the swamps at the foot of the hill.

Sam did not want to leave the bench, eventually we headed on to the pond the geese checked out.

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I used the “panoramic” feature of the iPhone 7 for this shot. On the hill we were sheltered by trees and bushes from the steady northeast wind. Here, on a bench by the pond, that direction was open to the wind. The sun kept us warm. It was clear why the geese did not land, the water surface was deserted, filled only by rippling wind driven waves.

On our walk back we sat on a bench on the edge of the art trail field, the blue face out of sight. A woman, the only other person encountered, emerged from one of the trails cut from the brush, camera in hand. She was collecting images for a Cortland Historical Society publication and asked to take our photograph. “OK,”, I said and gave the story of living here for 25 years in the house on Fall Creek where my son’s family lives now. She replied, “My daughter is in San Francisco. We don’t know who will have our house when we are gone.”

Click me for “Celestial Geese with two haiku by Issa”.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Autumn Stroll in Sapsucker Woods

a meditaton

On Halloween morning 2004 I set out with a camera upgrade purchased spring of that year, a Sony “Cyber Shot, DSC-F828” with an inexpensive tripod. My photograph “Autumn Stroll in Sapsucker Woods”, the feature photograph and below, achieved prizes with the Photographic Society of American and a few sales of self-produced prints. It was an early success.

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It is available on my Finger Lakes Memories online gallery where I provide recommendations for sizing, the best print medium with ideas for frame and matt.

The fall of 2005 I invested in a Kodak DCS Pro dslr-c and a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens.  October 30, 2005, one day short of the 2004 Halloween shoot, found me driving down Fall Creek Road on a mission of revisiting Sapsucker Woods to possibly improve upon my offerings.

Over the years, travelling Fall Creek Road on my daily commute, I admired this well formed maple next to a farm field.  At 6:45 am the sun was about this rise, the frost limned grass not yet burned off.  This tree turned a bright yellow, here a green-yellow and dull.  The form of the tree is perfect.  I was never able to catch this at the right moment, it is still there and maybe I can time it this year during a pick-up of my grandson.  If I do, my intention is to climb the fence and use the 24 mm lens to capture the tree and shed with less sky (unless there are some dramatic clouds).  That day, I needed to make time for Sapsucker woods.

On site, thirty minutes later, as the leaves of the Fall Creek Road maple predicted, Sapsucker Woods foliage is behind last year’s by a week or so.  In “Autumn Stroll in Sapsucker Woods” the over story leaves have fallen and the understory is at peak.  Here, I believe the overstory is gone, the understory leaves are yellow-green.

I carefully choose the sites and this one is a risen walk of boards.  In the nine years since, the walk as deteriorated and this scene will be different, possibly.

This is a match for the 2004 photograph as far as the camera position.  What I enjoy from the 2004 version, aside from the foliage, are the details of the fallen leaves taking up the foreground, a carpet filling the field to lead the eye up through the trees, path fading from view to the right.

This effect is not possible on the boardwalk, above.  With the fixed focus 50 mm lens it might be possible with effort.  Today, the 24 mm is my first choice to capture this effect.

Here we can see the leaf carpet is possible, if the f-stop is higher to allow a crisp focus.  In this scene it is f2 because I happened upon a buck in a daze.  He was just standing there as I headed back to the car.  I did not risk changing out lenses to the telephoto, so I moved forward slowly.

The best I did was this rear view as he looked backward.  Lack of flexibility is a draw back of a fixed-focus lens.

In 2004 my day concluded with Robert Treman State Park.  In 2005 the 50 mm fixed focus with a ND filter and tripod was in its element.  The sun is higher and overcast, one background tree is a peak foliage.  The moderate water flow and stair complete the effect.  This was my best work of that day.  I need to get this up on the “Finger Lakes Memories” gallery.

Other postings of interest. Click the link to go there.
“Last Sunlight” — the Gorge Waterfall
“Autumn Evening Hike Part 1 of 3”
Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Antique Silo Apple Harvest

A Bumper Apple Crop

More from the day Pam and I walked up the hill from our Malloryville Mill House.

The setting sun works its magic on a century plus maple tree on an esker bank.  The glaciers deposited this esker, under the tree, when waters from the melting flowed under the ice to carve a tunnel later filled with glacier debris.

Click any photograph to visit my Online Gallery “Finger Lakes Memories.”

The light brings out the beauty of two this pair of silos from the early 20th century abutting an abandoned barn and active cornfields.

Pam is using my first camera, a Sony Mavica.  It writes to a 4.5″ disk that limits the number of exposures and I carried a number of the disks.  It has a decent variable lens.  We still have that camera.  These photos are from my Sony dslr Apha700 with a variable lens.

At that time, our three apple trees gave a bountiful harvest.  We spent two days making and canning apple sauce.  For some batches we’d grind in blackberries or concord grapes.  We enjoyed the work over the next year.  Our grandchildren loved that stuff.

These apples hung from a tree of the farm house next to the abandoned barn.  A young family lived there, their toddler daughter recognized us from other walks and came over for a “hello”.

Other postings this Harvest View evening.  Click the link to go there.
“Celestial Geese”
“Harvest Views”
Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Libe Slope Autumn

A Magnificent Display

Libe Slope

Libe Slope is between the West Campus and Quadrangle / Libraries.

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Cornell University is on a west-facing hill above Cayuga lake.

Besides the exercise of walking the 18 degree incline several times each day, Cornell students and alumni remember The Slope for autumn color.

 

Wonderful Flow of Limbs among Gold

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Hickory

Seen from the north on a cloudy October day, this Pignut Hickory (Carya glabra) is the largest tree on the Cornell Campus, at 79 inches in diameter.

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Cornell University is on a west-facing hill above Cayuga lake.

Take another look at the previous image. Can you find the grey squirrel? This hickory grows south of the Johnson Museum and among the autumn glories, it is the largest and brightest yellow canopy on Libe Slope.

Contrast

An overcast day is the best to capture this spectacle. October 20, 2012 provided both bright sun and dark, rolling autumn clouds. I waited on the north side, sheltered from the glare of the sky, for these perfect moments.

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I remember this hickory for the contrast between the canopy and trunk, the way the clumps of yellow hang from dark boughs.

The pignut hickory is native to these Eastern United States. It is known to favor moist slopes and this specimen has thrived on The Slope. The ground beneath it is thick with nuts.

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One week later

Just one week later, late afternoon on a sunny Friday as hurricane Sandy approached the east coast the hickory has fewer, tawny golden leaves.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved