Another Look

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It’s been a while, mostly because I was busy, but also because I just haven’t been driven to grab the camera this summer.

But today I was back in Lowell, revisiting a recurring subject, the Moody Street Gatehouse on the Merrimack canal in Lowell, Mass.  I’ve photographed this before, although from the other side.  Actually, I’ve taken a lot of photos of it, but didn’t like most of them.  That’s partly because the best side is generally shadowed by the afternoon, which is when I’m usually there.

The gatehouse itself is one of the older parts of the mill complex, dating from 1848 (as you can see spelled out in the bricks if you look closely).  It’s really just a cover to keep the rain off the valves that let water from the Western canal into this end of the Merrimack canal, required after additional mills fed from the original Pawtucket canal were using that water.  It’s a bit ornate for a rain shield, but by this point the mills were very successful, and had the money to spend on civic beautification. They lined their canals with trees, too, to make them a comfortable place for strolling, a significant recreational and social activity of the day.

The rail line ran in roughly the same place back when it was built, too.  Although back then it carried freight trains pulled by steam locomotives, and today it’s a tourist line used by vintage trolley cars from the early 20th century.  Today’s was an open-sided excursion car, which I rode back from the far end of the line after walking the length of the tracks.

It was a lovely old car, in richly varnished wood (and some paint), open to the air with running boards on both sides.  They probably wouldn’t let you ride on the boards (I didn’t ask), but in this day I’m surprised the let an open car like this carry passengers along busy streets at all. Although the two-person crew did include a flagger, who would walk out into the intersection and wave a red flag before the car crossed. The rather strange-looking traffic light is actually a signal for the trolley, but connected to the intersection’s traffic light so it warns the trolley to stop when cars crossing the rails have a green light.

I like the way this photo captures the late afternoon tranquility of this area. Despite it being in the middle of a busy city (I had to wait several light cycles to get a break in traffic to take this photo) the wooded canal is quite peaceful. And more than a century and a half on it was still home to several groups of strollers, although the ones I saw looked to be tourists rather than townsfolk. And that’s another aspect of the image that I like: the mix of old (gatehouse, trolley wires) and modern (road, trash can, and signal)

This image is, as is typical for me, an HDR composed from a set of five photos at 1 EV offsets. The center was at 1/200-second exposure, with ISO 400 and f/11. Adjustments were minimal: I took the balanced preset, which tries to correct for the typical washed out look of a RAW file without too much distortion of colors, and only made a mild tweak to improve contrast. I used my circular polarizing filter, which helped bring out the cloud detail. The strong yellow cast is from the setting sun, not yet down but getting there, as the lengthening shadows show.

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