Category Archives: Personal Photographic Wanderings

The light in the forest

Figure 1 – The Light in the Forest, Sudbury, MA. (c) DE Wolf 2017.

I am naming the photograph of Figure 1, “The Light in the Forest.,” and I am very intentionally evoke Conrad Richter’s book by that name as well as the Disney Movie of that name, starring the hero of my generation’s childhood Fess Parker. But really the point of such a photograph is The “Intimate Landscape.” Unless you are very lucky the “Sweeping Landscape” eludes us. But intimate landscapes are everywhere. You turn a corner, or maybe you just turn around, and there is a tree glowing through a hole in the canopy filled with a warm autumnal light. It is part of the great beauty of living and a gift to those willing to see.

I feel it every day as my daily commute takes me through the edges of the northern forest; over a river shrouded in fog; past the edge of the marsh; or alongside a field where cows or horses are grazing. It is like our discussion about how the next stop is Willoughby.  Drive on an it is a lost photographic opportunity. Take a moment to stop and you are rewarded. That illuminated spot in the forest calls to be photographed and like The Secret Garden it calls to be photographed.

Canon T2i with EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens at 100 mm, ISO 800, Aperture Priority AE Mode 1/250th sect at f/7.1 with -2 exposure compensation.

The humble woodchuck

Figure 1 – Woodchuck, Sudbury, MA. (c) DE Wolf 2017.

My son and I went hiking yesterday at the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, and just as I was getting out of the car, I was greeted by the fine fellow of Figure 1. He is a woodchuck, Marmota monax, and he was pretty nonplussed by my presence, just enjoying his late afternoon nutty snack. It was time to build up some body fat before a long winter’s nap.

Well, the photograph gives me the opportunity to put to bed some of the weightier questions of life.

  1. Is a woodchuck a groundhog? Answer yes, they are different names for the same animal; as are: chuck, wood-shock, groundpig, whistler, thickwood badger, Canada marmot, monax, moonack, weenusk, and red monk. Significantly, Monax was a Native American name of the woodchuck, which meant “the digger.” Which woodchucks do – rather than chucking wood.
  2. Is the badger related to a woodchuck? Not even close!
  3. Is a woodchuck a gopher? No the woodchuck and the gopher are different animals. “Somebody call for an excavation expert?”

Now the woodchuck has a noble lineage. It was first described by Linnaeus in 1758. But, I believe more to the point is that a family of woodchucks has been living by the stonewall of my backyard as long as I have been here. I saw him last summer carrying off huge tomatoes from my neighbor’s vegetable garden – one in his mouth and one in his hands. He laughs at the wire fence she has put up to keep him out. In the 19th century there was a wheelwright’s home on the site where I live. I suspect that this family of groundhogs were living there then and probably go much further back, beyond even the time of King Phillip’s War. From their perspective we are the one’s that come and go.

Canon T2i with EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens at 340 mm, ISO 800, Aperture Priority AE Mode, 1/320th sec at f/7.1 with -1 exposure compensation.

Reassuring moments in physics #4 – Iridescence

Figure 1 – Iridescent metal, Natick, MA. (c) DE Wolf 2017.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve done a “reassuring moments in physics post.” So I’m offering up today Figure 1. I came upon these beautiful iridescent metal cups and flasks the other morning and fell in love with them photographically. There is something so, so appealing about iridescence – beautiful metallic colors shifts with your eye. The photograph required very minimal work-up. Look for me in the photograph. I am there in olive pants and pink shirt. But I am not the looming specter in the foreground. Whoever he is, he seems fittingly placed as we near Halloween.

Iridescence, a kind of metallic glow can be caused by several phenomena. Here it is the most common, thin film interference, much like the flash of color from an oil slick on a puddle. It is caused by a thin film of metal oxide on the metal surface. It is applied usually with a torch the heats-up and allows the metal to oxidize. A ray of light partially reflects off the film’s surface. The part that penetrates the oxide film reflects off the metal surface and rejoins the original ray, but it is delayed which causes its oscillations to be out of synch. It is said to be phase shifted, which causes it to interfere, like two waves at the beach. Some colors interfere constructively (intensifying them) others destructively (diminishing them) because the index of refraction of the film is wavelength dependent, causing the delay to be wavelength dependent. Remember that the speed of light through a material is the speed of light through a vacuum divided by the index of refraction. And the final part of magic is that as you shift your head and look at different angles the rays coming at you have longer or shorter paths through the film causing the colors to shift. This last part is really what we call the iridescence effect.

There you have it physics at the mall. Physics is everywhere – so reassuring!

The snap in the air

Figure 1 – Autumn comes to Dean Park, Shrewsbury, MA a few years back, (c) DE Wolf.

It is October, and you can smell it – apple cider, sugared doughnuts, and pumpkins. I saw a swan gourd yesterday that was quite obscene. There is a certain damp chill to the air, but the sun is making a last glorious display ahead of winter. My favorite holiday is coming fast upon us. Halloween. So it is time to dust off an put up The Hati and Skoll Halloween slide show.

In Massachusetts, we are never far from witches and we have not always treated them so well. So if you run into one on a Halloween’s night, it is best to be deferential and kind. Though still cross about this Salem thing, they mean us no harm. They are not MacBeth’s crones. They delight in the spirit of the world. They speak a very ancient tongue. And seek only to make the world a better place. Give them candy if they utter the incantation, “trick or treat.” And remember what Tibullus (55-19 BCE) said,

“I myself have seen this woman draw the stars from the sky; she diverts the course of a fast-flowing river with her incantations; her voice makes the earth gape, it lures the spirits from the tombs, sends the bones tumbling from the dying pyre. At her behest, the sad clouds scatter; at her behest, snow falls from a summer’s sky.”

Shattered glass

Figure 1 – Heart pendant shattering glass, Natick, MA. (c)DE Wolf 2017.

I continue to be impressed by retail window designers. One of the always delights places is Tiffany’s at our local mall. I took the image of Figure 1 with my IPhone 6 – a heart pendant shattering a plane of glass. I am not quite sure what exactly the symbolism is, broken hearts perhaps, but I found the concept very appealing. I knew immediately that I would need to go high contrast because of all the reflections in the window.However, in the end, I decided that I liked the additional ambiguity of meaning that the high contrast contributes.

Burberry dolphin

Figure 1 – Burberry dolphin, Natick, MA (c) DE Wolf 2017

Figure 1 today is that of a fanciful dolphin on a Burberry handbag. It is another mall/IPhone shot that I took. Dolphins always bring a smile to our faces. I remember vividly going to the Everglades National Park and when the boat took us through the mangrove swamps and into the Gulf of Mexico, they gunned the motor and the dolphins joyful road our boat’s wake. They are magical in two ways. First, we believe them to be of superior intelligence rivaling, perhaps surpassing our own. Dolphins do not kill one another, nor do they threaten us with nuclear war. We long to communicate with them and wonder what they might tell us of their world. Second, they are deeply rooted in human mythology. They adorn the frescoes of the Minoan Palace of Knossos from the second millennium BCE. To the Greeks they were sacred to both Aphrodite and Apollo, although they were most closely associated with the god Poseidon, who is often depicted surrounded by them. To Greek mariners they were considered a good omen. Perhaps most significantly, the ancient Romans placed dolphins in charge of carrying the souls of the dead to the Blessed Isles. At a deeper level this role associates them with the fundamental mystical processes of life, death, and resurrection.



Figure 1 – Pottery, Natick, MA. (c) DE Wolf 2017.

I was in a good mood on Saturday when I went for my walk at the mall; so I spent the time exploring what can be done artistically with my IPhone 6. I was happy with several of my “shots.” The first one was the image of the macarons from yesterday. Not too far from the macarons, I found this window full of pottery. You’re almost always shooting through glass and have to pay close attention to all the reflections. But one nice point is that the window display designers tend to use nice highlight lighting Here you see highlights even in the dull grey pot in the foreground. I imagined it as a black and white, but in the end found that I liked to subtle green, blue, and grey tones of the original scene.

Fall colors and the Tower of Yum

Figure 1 – Macaron Tower of Yum, Natick, MA. (c) DE Wolf 2017.

I am a firm believer that in New England fall colors are not confined to leaves. So I captured this “Tower of Yum” at our local macaronerie in the mall with my IPhone 6 needless-to-say. Macarons never fail to delight the eye with their gorgeous pastel shades. It may be heresy to say this, but for me they are more beautiful to see than to eat!


Freshly broken

Figure 1 – Freshly broken, Maynard, MA. (c) DE Wolf 2017.

The northern forest is dynamic. It changes with the seasons, with the winds, and with the storms. At the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge the woods are very brittle. Trees are always breaking, and I admire the efforts of the rangers at keeping the paths safe. Today i came upon a newly cracked tree. Some wind had snapped it off its base. The color and the smell of the freshly broken wood was evident. I took a picture (Figure 1) first with my cellphone and then with my Canon. It is curious how the different formats demand different perspectives. Here I chose the Canon’s image as preferable. Despite the big lens, I think the image worked, meaning nice and sharp, nice and close-up.  It reminds me of a mineral rather than a botanical specimen. And I also think of the monolith rising in “2001, a Space Odyssey.”

The first September light


Figure 1 – The first September light, Late summer’s grass, Sept. 1, 2017, Sudbury, MA. 9c) DE Wolf 2017.

So, it is officially September, and I am taking a day off ahead of the Labor Day Weekend. Always sad to see summer officially go; always nice to see and feel the coming of the September light. For the first time in a very long time, and I emphasize the very long time, I went this morning to the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge and was struck, so immediately, by the glow of grass seeds in the September morning light. It was glorious, and I took the photograph of Figure 1 to try and capture the moment. I used my big lens close-up, not the best but what was on the camera, and spot focused on the seeds in the middle foreground. The result, I hope, is successful in its simplicity. The sunlight on the grass is nature’s simple gift for a late summer morning, and, of course, the woods beckon.

Canon T2i with EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM len at 100 mm, ISO 800, Aperture Priority AE mode, 1/80th sec at f/22 with -1 exposure compensation.