Category Archives: Personal Photographic Wanderings

Animal faces #9, “Alpaca”

Figure 1 – Animal faces #9, “Alpaca.” Lincoln, MA. (c) DE Wolf 2017.

For the last four years I have passed the historic Codman Hill Estate in Lincoln, MA every day on my commute and have always wanted to stop and photograph the Alpacas. It is always so serene to see them especially when they frolic in the freshly-fallen snow. Well, today I finally stopped, since they were all out in the field and this guy and a friend came running up to me. I really wanted to pet him. But l was deterred by the electric fence – “Massachusetts photographer gets too close; fries camera on electric fence – Vicugna pacos laugh.”

I spent several happy moments stretching to get my camera above the fence line and waiting for the best pose to augment my series of “Animal Faces.” The square format is requisite for the series.  The goal as always was an image that captures the gentle creature’s inner self – dare I say, soul? The result is Figure 1, which I leave to speak for itself.

Canon T2i with EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens at 120 mm, ISO 800, Aperture Priority AE Mode, 1/1250 th sec at f/7.1 with -1 exposure compensation. Codman Hill Estate, Lincoln, MA.

At the physical therapist

Figure 1 – Physical therapist’s table, Concord, MA, (c) DE Wolf 2017

Yesterday I had an appointment with my physical therapist. It was the quintessential November day in New England – cold, cloudy, and damp. Still it was not so cold as to rush me inside, and I paused to take in the Assabet River meandering lazily in the bleakness. A few duck persisted defiantly against the weather and floated or paddled along. November is like a month between seasons. It is as if the weather cannot yet make up its mind, although we know the inevitable choice that it will make. The paradoxical fact is that rather than dismaying, we actually rejoice in the gloom and melancholia.

My physical therapist’s offices are within an old, restored, and repurposed Massachusetts textile mill. You see these in particular as you ride up I 495 particularly in Lawrence and Lowell – absolutely huge structures and you imagine them filled with cloth looms. No problem you think, but then you realize that this is 1853 and there was no electricity. It was all done with water power, canals, flues, giant wooden turbines, belts and gears transmitting mechanical energy throughout the plants – a triumph to there age. The archeological remains of all of this are channels diverting the river into and out of buildings, and lots, really lots, of handmade stonework. The Massachusetts economy did not die with the American textile industry. Rather it was resurrected first with the high tech boom and then with the biotech boom. Many of these wonderful “old mills” have been restored and re-functioned including the offices of my physical therapist.

So I found myself that dull November morning in the scene captured by Figure 1. Gloomy skies outside, blobs of condensation on the window panes, and this therapist’s table with its complex yet simple wooden mechanism. I shifted it to black and white, adding a deep creamy sepia tone to it. The image was taken with my Iphone and to my mind’s eye perfectly captured the mood.

Dark moments with Cthulhu

Figure 1 – A dark moment with Cthulhu, Stow, MA. (c) DE Wolf 2017.

I want to thank all of you who made it to the opening of my show “The Laser Pen of Nature” last week at Beyond Benign. The show will last until January 31; so “come on down.”

I have spoken before, perhaps too much, about how when you walk the Assabet River Natural Wildlife Refuge there is always the sense of the Cthulhu mythos in the woods. More specifically, I start the little hike through the marshlands, which are rough and gorgeous, looking for birds to photograph, and then when you descend from the marsh on what is referred to as “Otter Way,” there is a great squawking of blue jays just before you enter the pine barren. It is as if they are warning you to beware. At that point my search changes, I am now looking for oddly-shaped trees and finally the World War II ammunition bunkers that were built into artificial berms, now covered, seventy plus years later, with trees and vegetation. These bring you into the mood of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu and Stephen King’s “It.”

It is easy to image that there is something not quite right. That these sealed bunkers with with very impressive and prominent locks hold something not so wholesome – and perhaps of another world.

“Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.
In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.

“That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange aeons even death may die.”

It is an ongoing theme in Lovecraft’s and subsequent “followers'” work that humanity is wholly irrelevant in the face of the cosmic horrors that exist in the universe. Central to the theme of this fictional mythology is Lovecraft’s frequent references to the race of the  “Great Old Ones,” a pantheon of ancient, powerful deities who traveled through the four dimensions of space-time to Earth, where they once ruled and have since fallen into a deathlike sleep. But if mankind itself becomes too evil these creatures, chief among them Cthulhu, may rise again to wreak unknown and unspeakable horrors.

It is an intriguing question just what it means to travel through the four dimensions. We all travel through the four dimensions of what is referred to as a Minkowski Space along our personal world line. But we are subject to two limitations: first, time is an arrow, we always move forward in time; and second, we can never travel faster than the speed of light. Physicists have recently conjectured about geographical four dimensional structures like worm holes that would allow passage between any two points in the Minkowski space. It sounds, and is, of course very much science fiction; but it is kept alive by the basic indifference of the equations of physics to time reversal – that is they can run both forward and backwards.

So when you come upon a strange, dark spot in the woods, you can become just a bit unnerved and uneasy. What is inside of those bunkers? In Figure 1, I have photographed such a moment and place – remember the four dimensionality of space and time. It was a very dark and dull moment. The forest floor was made silent by the annual fall of dried pine needles from the canopy. Here is a little geometric structure – the pine needle covered steps that lead to the great sealed iron door, and masses of concrete keep us out, or perhaps, “it” in.

Canon T2i with  EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens at 100 mm, ISO 800, Aperture Priority AE Mode, 1/50th sec at f/6.3 with -2 exposure compensation.

David’s one man show starts next week at Beyond Benign in Wilmington, MA

On exhibit

Everyone is invited to the opening next Thursday evening November 2, 2017

The Laser Pen of Nature, Photographs

by David E. Wolf
November 2, 2017 – January 31, 2018

Opening Reception: Thursday, November 2, 2017 4:30 – 7:00pm

The reception is open to the public and free to attend! Join us for viewing art and discussing science. Food and refreshments will be provided!

Exhibit viewing by appointment only

David’s photographs feature birds and animals in the wild, along with intimate landscapes. A scientist by training, he provides a unique perspective on the science and art of the photograph – how these two worlds come together to create beautiful imagery.

David E. Wolf Bio and Artist Statement

Also posted in Reviews and Critiques

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.