Thursday, February 26, 2009


Living in an area where water is literally everywhere, be it lakes, ponds, rivers, creeks or small rivulets, there will also have to be many bridges for people to get across them. This post is about some of these bridges.

The first two images are of the same bridge - one of my most favorite - a very graceful stone bridge which spans Fall Creek as it empties into Bebe Lake. Bebe Lake is barely visible on the other side of the bridge in both photos. I shot them recently from opposite sides of Fall Creek early in the morning when the area was shrouded in fog.

Fortunately this lovely spot is very close to where I live, so I am able to come here quite often. I have posted several photos taken nearby already (look at the entry 'Snow' from 2008) and I am quite certain that there will be more in the future!

This is Fall Creek again, but now it is the bridge just below Ithaca Falls, right after the creek has plunged down several dramatic falls while bisecting Cornell Campus. Of course there are many more interesting bridges crossing it between this bridge and the lovely stone bridge above, most with awesome views either of the different falls and the gorge the creek has cut through the rocks, or of breathtaking birds eye views of Ithaca and Lake Cayuga. I will of course post photos of most of those bridges as I take them. In the photo above, the creek is about to pass through part of Ithaca before it will finally empty into Lake Cayuga.

Now here is a completely different kind of bridge which is a considerable distance from the last one showcased. This photo was taken where Rte 96 crosses Taughannock Creek. It is a modern, very minimal looking bridge, but I like the clean lines contrasting the lovely view below. Taughannock Creek here still has some remnants of ice left. It was taken on a nice warm day, nearly 50 degrees F, most certainly the first harbinger of Spring! Of course we are not out of the woods yet, last year we had another snow storm end of March, but usually it will warm up very quickly after that.

Another interesting bridge near where I live, this one is a wooden footbridge which sways with every step as you cross over Fall Creek to the hiking paths on the other side. This bridge is located above the stone bridge shown at the very beginning of this blog entry. Cornell Plantation and Botanical Gardens are just across the road which meanders alongside the creek, Forest Home begins just a few hundred feet further down the creek from here.

Forest Home is a small enchanted community first settled in 1797 and it really looks like it belongs in a book of fairytale illustrations. Just on the other side of the footbridge is a small waterfall and below that is an area called Flat Rock, named for the numerous flat rocks found on either side and even in the middle of the creek, which make for an ideal sunning spots for the many bathers who come to enjoy the cool waters on hot Summer days.
In this photo, which was taken several weeks earlier just after the last snow storm, you can look across the footbridge while someone is taking a photo of the still frozen Fall Creek below.

For the sake of being thorough I must also include a very different kind of bridge into this photo essay, one provided by nature itself - a log which fell quite conveniently to assist some brave soul to cross to the other side of this narrow gorge in Buttermilk Falls Park at the southern entrance of Ithaca! My guess is that squirrels and other small critters probably have taken advantage of nature's largess, I am not so courageous and therefore must pay for it by having to take the long way around - so be it!

While I am on the subject of different kinds of bridges, I would like to include my attempt to depict a metaphorical bridge. I created it from two photos I took, one of a bridge spanning Cascadilla Gorge and another of the view from my office window in Manhattan. I combined them to illustrate my feelings after moving from NYC to Ithaca nearly two years ago.

It juxtaposes the verdant vibrant natural landscape of Cascadilla Gorge with Manhattan's wintery concrete canyons. I was very happy to have a window near my desk, many workers here were not so fortunate as they work cooped up in their highrise office building cubicles!

On this particular day there was a fire in the smaller building just to the left of center. You might be able to see the flames reach out to the fire escape about 10 floors up if you look closely. The small fire was put out promptly of course - this being the jewelry district where torches and dangerous chemicals are in use daily and such small fires occur often!

Next comes a small footbridge which enables people to cross a rather swampy area in Sapsucker Woods Bird Sanctuary and Ornithological Lab of Cornell. I am delighted to have this in my greater backyard as well, only a mere 5 minute ride from my house! I have spent many happy hours enjoying the peace and quiet here, while eavesdropping on numerous herons, red tailed hawks, owls, cardinals, finches and even bullfrogs. There are many interesting birds that nest and feed here - if you just sit quietly you can easily observe them in their own habitat. Unfortunately my little old digital camera is not up to the task of recording what my eyes are witnessing - maybe some day!

This interesting preserve boasts about 4 miles of walkways, most of them looking much like the one above, bridging a wonderful wetland with richly varied vegetation, then meandering through a small stand of deciduous trees and finally circling a pond, all of which provide endless opportunities for the inveterate photographer and nature connoisseur!

One of the many graceful stone bridges which cross some of the creeks here, this one is also in Cascadilla Gorge. There is a hiker relaxing on its generous ledges in the bright sun after the climb up the gorge. Most of these stone bridges were built in the 30's and 40's and have been lovingly repaired and maintained as the climate is a bit rough on things here, especially during winter.

Two different views of another stone bridge follow, this one is located in Buttermilk Falls Park just on the outskirts of Ithaca. Buttermilk Falls Park is a great place to go for a hike, there are countless waterfalls on every twist and turn of the creek as it makes it's way down the highlands to the big falls. It is a favorite haunt of photographers since everywhere you turn you can find gorgeous views!

I hope you enjoyed my little excursion visiting some of the numerous bridges in Ithaca! There are so many different styles of bridges here, from the examples of wood and stone bridges you have seen here, to others made of steel, concrete, old fashioned or modern ones. You guessed it - there is more material for future additions and you will be able to enjoy them if you revisit this essay from time to time!

Promise kept today for the first time, March 9th 2009, with a few new bridge additions - more coming in the future!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Rust in Peace Car Cemetery

What better time for nostalgia than late winter, when much of the fun and excitement about snow and wintery things has begun to wear a little thin and the longing for warmer days, greener fields and fragrant blooms is getting stronger every day!

Feeling a bit stir crazy yesterday we decided to go for a ride exploring some of the lovely back roads in the area and after many twists and turns we finally ended up at a magical place - an old car cemetery! It was a very blustery day with overcast skies, low racing clouds and distant landscape features all but obscured by myriad snow flakes driven by icy wind gusts.

The first hint of the treasures of bygone days hiding here surprised us when, coming around a tight curve in the narrow road, we were given the once over by this old rusty GMC truck (pictured below) sitting by the roadside, scrutinizing us with baleful, rusty eyes in tandem with a lone ancient Chevy front end (pictured above) - all that was left of a once racy vehicle long since returned to the elements or fallen victim to the ever hungry scrap dealer, hunkered down on what used to be the GMC truck's flat bed, both apparently in charge of deciding our worthiness to enter these realms as if they were the guardians of this hallowed place!

As we passed by them slowly we saw on both sides of the road countless vehicles of all kinds, cars, trucks, rusty tractors and other farm equipment, even a few cranes came to rest in between anything from Model A and Ts, Studebakers, Packards, Nash and DeSotos and many more to mention by name. We parked near a building and after getting permission from the owner of the premises we started walking around, camera ready, totally in awe of all of these beautiful old vehicles just sitting here by the roadside.

The wind was blowing pretty hard by now and even I, who am never cold, had finally buttoned up my coat, donned my gloves and turned up the insulated hood over my hat, thankful to have dressed warm enough to now be comfortable walking around admiring all this bygone glory. But after taking some shots and the weather quickly getting worse we had to admit that it really was getting too dark and uncomfortable for photographing, so we regretfully decided to come back on a brighter day.

But we did not have to wait very long, the weather being much more favorable the following morning we did not waste any time to make our way back. It seemed much warmer since the wind had finally died down and the sun was actually peeking out from behind the clouds every now and then! We really feasted our eyes passing by endless snowy cornfields circled by hawks, vineyards interrupted by small patches of forest, the still frozen landscape dotted here and there with picturesque Greek revival farmhouses lovingly attended by great mature trees.

We almost missed the place, but after a few wrong turns and the kind assistance of a rural mail carrier we finally arrived. So, without further ado, here are a few of the highlights of my meanderings among the greatest collection of old cars and trucks I have seen in a long time!

I really love the grandiose and elegant designs of these wonderful old cars and I very much appreciate all of the little special touches, such as the interesting hood ornaments some of them still sport after all of these years. They hail of a more innocent time, albeit a more ignorant time as we know now.

Back then we still thought the party would last forever, there would not be a bill down the line for all of this largess to be paid in full by future generations. The artist in me sees the beautiful lines, the dramatic ornaments and loves them for their beauty. Even time's ravages, the countless pits marring once smooth chrome finishes, the rust eating away the metal patiently and inexorably, turning once smooth finishes into abstract landscapes, their many colors holding a deep fascination for me in their endless variety.

Here are two views of George Petty's daring (for it's time) hood ornament for the 53/54 Nash - what great lines! This ornament really reminds me of the beautifully carved women gracing the bows of the grand old sailing ships before there were engines to facilitate ocean travel. Come to think of it, these massive old cars remind me of ships too, remember the slang term ' land yacht'?

The lucky owner of all this faded glory - who by the way is extremely knowledgeable about his treasures - looked in on us from time to time and regaled us with tantalizing tidbits, such as who designed this lovely hood ornament. He definitely is someone you might want to know more about, so maybe there will be another blog entry to be written down the line - provided of course that he is amenable to share a bit of his life with us!

Next is my favorite, an illuminated amber chieftain hood ornament! I think this was for a 1950 or even older Pontiac. Time sure left its mark on the finish, but I think if anything it looks more striking than the original smooth glossy sheen. The passage of time always leaves it's marks, whether it is on an old car or the face of a loved one. The pits and the rust tell their story just like every wrinkle in your longtime lover's face - there is no shame in that, only strange tales and many interesting adventures one hopes!

I love these old streamlined and very dramatic car designs of the early days of motorized travel if only for their artistic and historic value, even though some of their decorations and icons are considered politically incorrect today in many quarters, which I am more or less in agreement with as far as that is concerned. History is what it is, we can't change things once done, the best we can do is learn from our mistakes and do better in the future!

When one looks at this next ornament in particular, but also many of the others I am showing here as well, one really gets a sense of the speed and power which these vehicles represented. The amber chieftain's face is extended forward, as if to part the elements to allow the car to move forward more easily, his face shows unrelenting determination and forward movement even when resting, which is accentuated and mirrored by the still gleaming chrome which curves away gracefully beneath it. Just wonderful! Imagine it lit up, unwaveringly guiding the car and its occupants down the dark roads back to the warmth and comfort of home! So much drama - how could you not love this?

Speaking of political correctness - there is no argument coming from me as to the thoughtless exploitation of indigenous people here and elsewhere and the gross injustice of them being relegated to the status of icons and mascots while the real people whose images we use so mindlessly languish in poverty, denied their culture, their ancestral lands and their way of life!

To my understanding, finding myself living in this culture of planned obsolescence, mindless over consumption, devoid of a spiritual connection to what truly nourishes our minds, bodies and souls - this planet, our mother, the Earth! Might we not do well to reconsider our past maladjustment and misconceptions of what is really important in our all too short lives by taking another look at those same indigenous people's ways, whose lands we now occupy and have fouled so carelessly and greedily, to finally learn what we must if we wish to survive, if we want to leave a world worth living in to ALL of our children and creatures and finally honor those cultures by honoring the mother of all and finally cleaning the mess we have made of things?

This is what that strong pitted face of the chieftain represents to me as he calls on us to hear him speak over the expanse of time, to let his culture's ways guide us back home into harmony with nature - might we not heed what he represents and allow him to lead us?

This old car cemetery has caused me to think of not only beautiful designs and historic reminiscences, but also what this all means in the context of our present technologies which admittedly have made things easier in many ways, but whose hidden bills are now coming overdue, as we are becoming aware of the environmental damage the petrochemical industries are causing and especially since we are now also fighting wars over the resources necessary to power these technologies, when it should be easily possible for our innate ingenuity to create a better way!

Be that as it may, there is much food for thought here, no doubt, but I will return to sharing more of our adventure in the Rust in Peace Car Cemetery! Below is another even older Pontiac chieftain ornament, this time in chrome. It too has some of the feeling of the amber chieftain above, but without it's dramatic expression and powerful forward motion in my opinion.

Now this is what I call a car! I love the smooth curving lines here and the bared teeth of the grille look positively menacing. "Get out of my way or you shall be devoured just as I devour the miles!" What an experience it must have been to drive down the highways in such a vehicle!

Of course I would not want to have to pay the gas bill for this guzzler, especially at today's prices, nor could anyone be able to justify today using up so much resources simply to drive in style, but this is what nostalgia is all about, we wish that we were still back in the days when we were ignorant of the consequences of our choices - able to abandon ourselves without reservations to the enjoyment of the moment!

Next is a photo of an old Packard - I don't know which year. The car has lost all of the shine of it's finish but none of its elegance, there is rust in many places, but to me this just adds to the texture, like a pretty patina. Notice the white walled tires and the placing of the rear view mirrors! There is a close-up of the hood ornament as well, though it must keep for the next installment of the Rust in Peace saga!

Another beautiful car - lovingly embraced by feathery weeds, as my poetic friend Anne so poignantly noted when she visited me this afternoon and I showed her these photos! This is an old Nash and actually it is still in fairly good condition considering that it has been sitting here, exposed to the elements, for years!

There is so much still to see and write about here, I haven't even begun to scratch the surface, but for now this is enough of a sampling of bygone day's treasures. I hope you enjoyed coming along for this day's adventures, there will be more posted about this in the days ahead, so stay tuned!

Monday, February 9, 2009

More Nightime Adventures

Last night we took some friends home after a nice evening at another friend's art show opening in Ithaca's ABC Cafe. Our friends live in Dryden, a small nearby community and as usual we took the back roads through the fields. It was a lovely night and the moon was almost full illuminating the snowy landscape beautifully! On the way I noticed a small creek and I saw the reflection of the moon in the water as we passed over the bridge. When we returned we stopped by that bridge and I quickly took a photograph. I still had the highest ISO setting on my camera so I was hoping that something registered enough for me to be able to coax it out.

Well, I was able to make the scenery appear, albeit much too grainy for my taste. So I had a bright idea! I had been reading about HDR images and I really liked that effect, but since I don't have the full Photoshop software (only Photoshop Elements) I am not able to do HDR. But it gave me an idea - why not take a picture in the daytime and then combine them using photoshop's clone tool set at a low percentage!

Here is the daytime photo I took today:

It was such a gorgeous day, the sun was shining and making the snow melt everywhere. Most of the creeks around here were still frozen a few days ago! I really like the way this photo looks, the water is clear and you can see the rocks in the bottom, but the snow is still covering the banks.

Back at home I got right to work and you can see the result above! This is what I saw as we passed that creek last night, including the stars which I took the liberty to add - my eyes saw them even if my camera did not!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Taking photos at night without flash

For some reason I have never liked to take pictures with the flash on, not when I had my SLR Minolta and certainly not with the digital camera I now have. A few evenings ago I was playing around with my camera and discovered I could make some adjustments to the ISO settings so I pushed it as high as it would go and took a few photos. I began my experiment with a few photos in my kitchen, of which you see the above photo of my green man wall sculpture. I only had the small neon light on underneath my upper cabinets. I really like the result!

The adjacent dining room is one of my favorite places at home. It has two smaller windows, one facing east the other to the west and a large north facing bay window which I tiled and where I keep some of my plants. I love having my morning coffee here or my afternoon tea and at night I like to light up the lamp in the bay window and sit and read. So what better place than that for my little experiment! I even lit a candle holder I keep on the table in case I want to create a festive atmosphere. I took quite a few photos and this one above was my favorite of the bunch.

Opposite the bay window I have a small antique cabinet where I keep napkins and table cloths. It has a nice oval gold leaf mirror on the wall above it. I took my candle holder and placed it in front of the mirror and started shooting some self portraits. I have never done this, so it took quite a few shots to get some that I could actually use. The one above did not come out too bad, but I think I will try and do this again soon to see if I can't get a perfect shot! The only lighting for these shots was from the candle holder - I had turned off the lamp in the bay window.

This last one is actually a crop from another shot but I sort of liked it even though half of my face is cut off. I did a bit of photoshop to give it more of a painterly effect in the texture. Who knows, maybe I will paint an actual self portrait one of these days!

Snow and sunshine!

Today was a cold, windy, but still very lovely winter day, mainly because the sun was shining! So it was no wonder that I was eager to head out to see what lovely sights awaited me out there. Above is a photo I had taken a few weeks ago, but I thought I should include it here just for contrast, because I love this house and because we drove by it today. This is one of the many great Greek revival homes in the area. I think it is even a landmark building but I have no idea yet what it's historical significance might be. Maybe I will report on this later on.

Then we headed off to nearby Fall Creek where I took this photo of footprints (two and four legged ones) leading down to the creek.

There was nothing much exciting going on over at Fall Creek, so we decided to drive around for a bit. Well, we found this interesting area where the wind has made all these great snow dunes and I decided to take a lot of photos.

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho! the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
Thou dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remember'd not.
Heigh-ho! sing heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho! the holly!
This life is most jolly.

William Shakespeare, from "As you like it"

Winter Wind

Rolling, sliding comes the long silver serpent,
His breath frost crystals on the air.
He glides between the trees and nips at the feathers
Of twittering birds who huddle there.

He blows a snowstorm through the woods, and
Leaves a sheen upon the lake,
He slips a freeze into the burrows,
And hidden animals shudder and shake.

And as he slithers sinuously onward
Leaving in his path a wake of frost.
The grey forest whispers, “There goes Winter,”
“For Spring would come , but Spring is lost.”

Madeleine Bennett, age 14, Epping, New Hampshire, Phillips Exeter Academy

Oh thou whose face hath felt the Winter's wind

by John Keats (1795 – 1821)

Oh thou whose face hath felt the Winter's wind,
Whose eye has seen the snow-clouds hung in mist,
And the black elm tops, 'mong the freezing stars,
To thee the spring will be a harvest-time.
O thou, whose only book has been the light,
Of supreme darkness which thou feddest on
Night after night when Phoebus was away,
To thee the Spring shall be a triple morn.
O fret not after knowledge - I have none,
And yet my song comes native with the warmth.
O fret not after knowledge - I have none,
And yet the Evening listens. He who saddens
At thought of idleness cannot be idle,
And he's awake who thinks himself asleep.