Seldom scene

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A mouse eared chickweed at Soldiers Delight. I don't know which species this is.

A mouse eared chickweed at Soldiers Delight. I don’t know which species this is. Spring 1975.

There are portraits of more than a dozen species of plant among my old negatives of Soldiers Delight. Most of these are characteristic plants of the barrens, like post oak, blue stem, and moss phlox. A few photos are of plants that are uncommon in Maryland except on serpentine. I don’t know these plants well enough to be sure of the identification, and some might be impossible to indentify just from photos. I photographed these between 1973 and 1975 before I paid very close attention to plant names, but I must have been aware that certain species were special at Soldiers Delight.

Assay office

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Assay office and goldenrod. Fall 1974.

Assay office and goldenrod. Fall 1974.

Land purchased by the State of Maryland for the Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area included two historic buildings: Red Dog Lodge and a log cabin said to have been built in 1848. The lore is that the cabin was used as an assay office for the Tyson chromite mining operation. It was apparently well maintained for most of its decades and was well preserved when I photographed it in the fall of 1974 before much restoration had been done. There were no windows or doors, but it had a real foundation (maybe even a cellar), intact chinking, and a mostly functioning roof.
Assay office. Fall 1974.

Assay office and bristlegrass. There seems to be some light leakage at the top of this and other frames, I guess from worn out bulk-loaded cassettes. Fall 1974.

Soldiers Delight’s first ranger, E. Vernon Tracy, organized some restoration, and by the spring of 1975 the windows and doors were boarded up and it had a new roof, or at least a different roof. In 1974 there was a patched composition shingle roof, and in 1975 there appeared to be a wood shake roof, but not necessarily a brand new one. So I’m not sure what changed.

Stemming the tide

Below is a diagram that was never shown to me in science class. Alfred Wegener proposed his theory of continental drift in 1912, but it was not until 1960 that most scientists began to accept the new paradigm that continents move around. The idea of crust formation at mid ocean ridges came even later in 1966. So when scientists and teachers in the 1950s and 1960s presented a story about the serpentine rock underlying Soldiers Delight, they got it wrong. Serpentinite is formed in the lower oceanic crust, typically at the mid ocean spreading centers. That’s where it picks up its heavy minerals, like chromium, nickel, and magnesium, which are more abundant in the mantle and deep crust. When Africa floated over here 300 million years ago, a little bit of this oceanic rock got pushed along with it and ended up in the Appalachian Mountains, and in Soldiers Delight. Nobody knew that in 1960.

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A diagram of magma rising through the mantle and forming new oceanic crust at a mid ocean rise. This is where serpentinite is formed.

A diagram of magma rising through the mantle and forming new oceanic crust at a mid ocean rise. This is where serpentinite is formed.

Red Dog Lodge

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Red Dog Lodge in a recent photo from the SDCI web site.

Red Dog Lodge in a recent photo from the SDCI web site. Both benches have plaques on them, I think one of them has my mother’s name on it.

Red Dog Lodge was built in 1912 as a hunting lodge and has been a symbol of Soldiers Delight for me since I started meeting, playing, and hiking there when I was a kid in the 1950s. It always seemed like a place with secrets, a place were men once did things that weren’t done anymore, things that Tom Sawyer would know about because he had seen them in a book. It was built for Mr. Dolfield, who gave his name to the road I grew up on, and also for the namesake of Sherwood Hill Road where our three-letter friends the Lees and the Coes lived. I knew Mr. Hibline who used the lodge after World War II, but I never knew that he was a person who used it, or what it was used for. It never occurred to me that somebody owned it. So I didn’t know much at all, but it was always good to be at Red Dog Lodge.

Copy that

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Nikon D3100 on the 22A copy stand. The lens is a Micro-NIKKOR 55mm 1:3.5 with a 12 mm extension tube.

Nikon D3100 on the 22A copy stand. The lens is a Micro-NIKKOR 55mm 1:3.5 with a 12 mm extension tube.

The film is placed in a negative carrier from my old Omega B-22 enlarger. The light source is a frosted glass lamp shade with a compact fluorescent bulb.

The film is placed in a negative carrier from my old Omega B-22 enlarger. The light source is a frosted glass lamp shade with a compact fluorescent bulb.

I watched eBay auctions for Nikon D3100 cameras for a day, then started watching auctions for D5100 cameras. I assumed that the upgrade from the Nikon D40’s six megapixels had to be at least to 14 megapixels to make a noticeable improvement in copies of old Plus-X film, and I assumed that to really record the film grain, the D5100’s 16 megapixels would be required. But the D5100 was $100 more, and the raw files it makes are 20 MB, compared to 15 MB for the D3100 (and 5 MB for my old D40). The D5100 is also bigger and a bit heavier. After several D3100 auctions completed, I ordered a refurbished one from Adorama for $350, about the price used ones were going for on eBay with a kit 18-55 mm VR lens. This gave me a 90 day warranty and it was easy to order a couple of spare batteries. It arrived in 1.5 days for $6 shipping, way better than most eBay deals.

Convergent artifacts

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<em>A brief article about Soldiers Delight in the brown section of the Sunday Sun Magazine, August, 1960.</em>

A brief article about Soldiers Delight in the brown section of the Sunday Sun Magazine, August, 1960.

Digging around for 40 year old negatives last week turned up a couple of even older things. I found a little T-shirt, and a couple of copies of the Sunday rotogravure section from The Baltimore Sun for August 21, 1960, 53 years ago today. The brown section had been archived because it included photos of my entire family in a two page spread about Soldiers Delight. We were honored to be pictured in this article because the photographer was A. Aubrey Bodine who had worked for the Baltimore Sun since 1920. We were chosen to be the models for this photo shoot because my parents were advocates for the preservation of the undeveloped tract of serpentine barrens near our home in Owings Mills, Maryland. Also because we were really cute.

Negative space

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400 rolls of film from the 1970s.

400 rolls of film from the 1970s.

In the 1970s I exposed about 400 rolls of black and white film. Most of these were 36 exposure rolls of 35 mm Kodak Plus-X which I bulk loaded and developed at home. I made an 8 x 10 inch contact print of each roll, and put an accession number on the contact sheet and the glassine envelope with the negative strips. I still have all 14,000 of these negatives and contact prints. If you think that preserving this collection suggests that I am farsighted, consider that I never put a single date on any of this material.

Lytro Schmytro

The Lytro camera is probably the most interesting advance in photographic technology this year. An array of microlenses allows the sensor to capture information about the exact direction from which light is coming, and that allows software to focus every part of the scene regardless of it’s distance from the camera. To highlight this advance, the company’s first camera produced interactive online images which could be refocused by clicking anywhere in the scene (see some here). We have all looked at photos with out-of-focus parts, and it is a novel experience to be able to click on or touch the fuzzy places and have the crisp focus shift as if a focusing ring was being turned. But it has also been maddening to know that the captured data would allow the entire photo to be in focus all at the same time, yet this was not an option for any Lytro photo. It was a clever marketing approach, because modern digital cameras with tiny sensors have very good depth of field, and many of the photos we take now already have everything in focus. Allowing the viewer to “focus the photo after it was taken” highlighted how new this technology was.

Kite’s eye view

In the late nineteenth century, hand drawn “bird’s-eye maps” were a revelation to earthly New Englanders. When exotic hot air balloons were the only way to gain such a perspective, enterprising artists just imagined what a bird might see. The customers for these maps lived and worked in the buildings depicted, so these are probably placed with some accuracy, relying on existing maps for data. It is the details of the rest of the landscape that were recorded nowhere else. In the 1889 drawing below, cleared fields, orchards, and shrubby growth nearly to the top of Hogback Mountain confirm the wisdom that in 1850 the entire slope, like others all over Vermont, was probably cleared of trees. Today, the young ages of the trees tell the same story, but an old bird’s-eye view is still a revelation.

Grave images

Chopping hay below the Fled as I walk alongside.

Chopping hay below the Fled as I walk alongside. Click images to enlarge

My town’s cemetery committee would like to have maps of the grave stones in the three town cemeteries. The late Fletcher Brush cataloged the headstones in each cemetery in the 1990s, and probably made hand drawn maps, but it would be nice to have more official versions. I was asked on Thanksgiving about helping with this mapping, and the next day was beautiful AND had a nice south wind. Flying a kite over the cemetery in the village requires a south wind, and the row of overhanging locust trees along the edge makes late autumn the best season to image all the headstones from above. So I couldn’t resist exploiting what might be one of the last good opportunities to image this site for a long while.

Practice

Self portrait

I have lost a kite, but I have never lost an RC transmitter (around neck). This was taken during one of the first short-lived launches.

The winds have been light this week as the peak colors have been waning and my KAP pack has been poised by the door. I finally had to ignore the “4 mph” reports at WeatherUnderground and WeatherSpark and just go. I went to the hay field south of the Salisbury village where the south wind might push the kite toward the village center. There were some gusty spells that lifted the KAP rig just high enough so that I had to frantically reel it in when calm returned. Attaching and detaching the Picavet in a hurry requires more practice than I have had, and I surpassed my own record for making nasty tangles that included Picavet line, kite line, and alfalfa. At one point I didn’t have time to take off the Picavet as I wildly pulled the line in hand-over-hand, laying it across the field. After untangling (not my favorite thing), I called it a day, disassembled the Fled, and headed back across the field to the pack. When I got there the wind had picked up, so I assembled the Fled, threw it into the air, and had the rig attached when I noticed that I had left the RC transmitter out in the field — out in the huge field of alfalfa and grass that is at places a foot taller than the transmitter (the thing around my neck in the photo above).