Aerial Sailing

The boats may be all tucked away for winter at this point, but thats what makes me miss summertime more than anything. One of the neat summer activities in Boston is the very accessible opportunity for sailing along the Charles River and taking in the sights and sounds of the city. As cool as it is to actually do the sailing, it’s also a staple of the city skyline and is a beautiful activity to be happening in any city.

Countless people take pictures of the boats all summer long, and they add a lot of visual activity and interest to pictures of the city, especially those from Cambridge looking over to the Back Bay skyline. The Cambridge view is a great one, but as often as I do those ground level views it feels a lot more special to make a different picture of the boats, and this one was a very different angle than the usual.

Aerial view of sailboats on Boston's Charles River. (Michael J. Clarke)
Aerial view of sailboats on Boston’s Charles River. (Michael J. Clarke)

These are the boats seen while looking down from an altitude of about 1000ft in a Bell Jetranger Helicopter, and its a whole different perspective of the afternoon sailing going on down below. Flying is one of my very favorite ways to make the usual look unusual, and with careful safety measures, timing, and flight planning helicopters can be one of the most useful and effective tools for both urban and landscape photography that we have available in the world.

I usually aim for two different picture types during flights, one being the glorious vista type of perspective that is simply impossible from ground or even building level perspectives, and another being the simplification of the landscape – which is the main goal when working a picture like this one.

A lot of things came together correctly in this image, including the subject matter and patterns below, the dramatic afternoon light, and the altitude and position of the helicopter to get in place for this view. I’ll be sharing more unique pictures and aerial views over the coming months, but it never hurts to look back at some summertime fun during the cold winter days ahead.

Doanes Falls

Around this time of the year at the waterfalls the water gets cold and the natural conditions take on a new element of change as they wash away the leaves from the autumn months and take on their winter form. The waterfalls of New England are rather unique because they go through such drastic change throughout the year as the seasons come and go, making them truly unique during each and every visit. This here is Doane’s Falls in the Massachusetts town of Royalston, an area of the state that is quite interesting in terms of water features.

The middle tier of Doanes Falls in Royalston, MA. (Michael J. Clarke)
The middle tier of Doanes Falls in Royalston, MA. (Michael J. Clarke)

These cascades sit on the Lawrence Brook which provides a powerful source of water for the cascades that run through this stretch of land. On this visit the water running through the falls was ice cold just like the air temperatures, and had already washed away most of the autumn leave coverage which left behind a more barren but still beautiful formation.

Cold water cascading through Doanes Falls in Royalston, MA. (Michael J. Clarke)
Cold water cascading through Doanes Falls in Royalston, MA. (Michael J. Clarke)

The action and clarity that rivers display during the winter months makes for especially clean forms, and makes the hard work and extra gear worth the effort. The rivers are often displaying their last gasps of motion before ice and snow take over during the long winter.

Icicles forming at Doanes Falls in Royalston, MA. (Michael J. Clarke)
Icicles forming at Doanes Falls in Royalston, MA. (Michael J. Clarke)

As the temperatures dip below freezing the battle between rivers and mother nature is usually an ebb and flow that can fall in either direction, and during the times of transition the rivers and waterfalls are sometimes at their most interesting state. Doane’s Falls and the Lawrence river were having their last few days of smooth flow during this visit, and it was a good chance to witness them before the freeze.

Cutting Steel

One thing I want to do here is share a more in-depth look at specific pictures, because there is often a good story behind a good picture. My picture work varies a lot in terms of planning and preparation, meaning that some things are painstakingly planned, and others are a lot more spur of the moment – in this business, its really the only way to be. Planning is great, but so is being ready when a moment strikes.

I was out on an evening walk around the esplanade this past spring when I made this frame of an ironworker cutting through steel beams on Boston’s Longfellow Bridge construction project, and it was quite a strong moment for making a construction photograph.

An ironworker cutting steel beams on Boston's Longfellow Bridge. (Michael J. Clarke)
An ironworker cutting steel beams on Boston’s Longfellow Bridge. (Michael J. Clarke)

This was definitely an instance of being in the right place, with the right gear, at the right time. Building construction happens to be something that Boston is seeing a lot of lately, but it’s when sparks fly during the deconstruction of buildings that brings out this type of situation, and it was a really good one. I was able to anticipate what was about to happen as the workers prepped this beam for the chopping block, and was able to work with the long throw of my trusty 100-400 with a long exposure to visualize the motion and flow of the sparks being thrown from the torch. It’s fairly rare to get things to line up this well, and to have the cutting work be done in a relatively slow motion to allow for a tack sharp frame. In the case of this frame it all came together just right, and made for a moment that I was glad to witness and be ready for.