Back To The Woods

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Well, that was a bit of a hiatus. Apparently I’m not only like a bear in shape, as I’ve been hibernating through the colder months. A combination of other things to do, a lack of inspiration for my photographs over the Fall, and the cold weather combined to still my shutter finger.  With this weekend closer to early Spring than late Winter, I decided I needed to at least get out for a walk, even if it wouldn’t likely yield any interesting photos, and so I returned, once again, to Wompatuck State Park.

It was apparently a popular idea, as I passed a number of families and small groups out for a walk, as well as a few solo or paired cyclists.

I keep returning there because the extensive trails mean that there are still plenty of places I haven’t yet hiked even once. This time though, I was revisiting well-trod paths, more to get a sense for how the season had changed them than with any expectation of finding something new to inspire me.

Although this winter has been mild in comparison with last year, recent weeks have been hard on the trees. A heavy wet snow, followed by a quick freeze/thaw cycle, and then a windstorm delivered a 1-2 punch that brought down tress all over. This weekend’s warmth, with both days close to 60°F (15°C) likely made things worse, as frozen ground thawed and became even more saturated with water.

The park was no exception, with the boggy ground providing poor support when saturated, and many trees had fallen. While most of the downed trees were deadwood, several healthy live ones had fallen across the trails I hiked today.  On the major trails most of these had been cut up or pulled to the side, but the secondary trails were still blocked in places.

Deadfalls are particularly dangerous just after a storm, as things can shift and suddenly fall.  At one point, just after a bicyclist going the other way had passed me on one of the dirt trails, I heard a sharp “crack” from up ahead, and looked up from the trail just in time to see a tree that had been leaning across it come down.  It was the end of the trunk that came across the trail, about six inches (15 cm) in diameter, and it only fell about ten feet (3 m), but had it fallen just a little sooner it might have hit the cyclist, or later, me, and done serious damage. The tree looked dead, and looking off to the side, I could see that the roots had pulled out of the ground when it first fell, and it had just been resting across branches of another tree.

The trigger may have been a small breeze, as I heard the treetops rustle about the time it fell. It was otherwise a mostly windless day. Whatever the cause, although I’m usually careful to keep an eye on overhanging trees, the remainder of my walk was done with more caution than usual.

I took a number of photos, though as usual they appeared less interesting when I looked them over later. But this hut, which I’ve photographed before but never found interesting, caught my eye today. Perhaps it was the sun, peeking through from the clouds, or the downed tree across the doorway, which I don’t recall from my last visit. I don’t know, but it just seemed more interesting this time out.

I’ve no idea what the structure was. As I’ve mentioned before, the park was formerly a Naval ammunition depot, and this was near to the trench-like structures, although located along a twisting road rather than one of the former rail lines. It may have been a shelter for guards, although it seems to be located too far from the road for that, and too small to be a storehouse. Perhaps it sheltered a phone; there was the cut-off base of a telephone pole nearby, although that could have been simply for electricity. Whatever it was, I doubt I’ll ever know.

The damage to the structure is part of what gives it character. It looks like some veteran of a war zone in the quiet woods, although since no conflict ever raged here, that’s almost certainly the work of bored hunters (or really, really, big woodpeckers). The way the color of the aged concrete matches that of the nearby stones is also interesting, making the structure seem strangely to fit the location, while its sharp lines make it look alien to the natural scene. A study in contrasts in many ways. The picture’s a little too “busy” with all the foreground clutter to be one of my better images, I think, but I like it anyway.

This image is, as are most of mine, an HDR made from a bracket of five exposures at 1 EV offsets. In this case the bracket was centered at 1/160th-second, with f/14 and ISO 3200.  I didn’t intend to use f/14, but apparently the knob had got bumped at some point and I didn’t notice. A pity, as I could have used a lower ISO if I’d realized. The photos were taken without my usual polarizing filter, as the close trees made haze reduction a moot point. Processing was fairly simple: after finding that two of the presets produced similar good images, I started from one of them, Deep 2, dropping exposure and saturation slightly while boosting contrast. The result feels true to what I recall from the woods.

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