Monday, May 29, 2006

A bridge, a creek, three cameras and me

I was out with P-Doug and G running around the southern fifth of the province on Saturday, and on our way home, I happened to catch sight of what looked like an abandoned bridge just off the north side of the 401 in Bowmanville. It sparked my interest, and I quietly endevoured to go back and look it over the following day. And so, Sunday I set out about 11:30 in the morning, heading east to Durham.

1959 Ford Zephyr
Just as I was turning onto the 404 southbound to get onto the 401 eastbound, I encountered this car. According to the frame of the license plate, this is a a 1959 Ford Zephyr. I ended up following this car most of the way across Scarborough before it driffed into the express lanes and I remained in the collectors.

HDR IR Abandoned farm
On arriving in Bowmanville, I parked my car and crossed a street, entering a field. If my maps are to be believed, the scoured surface of the field, and the bridge it leads to, recently carried a spur of the CN line just sound of the 401 up to a factor on the north side. As I corned a small copse of trees, I was greeted with the sight of this abandoned piece of farm equipment. Note to the viewer: any black and white shots you see in this post are in fact infrared images taken with my Canon G1, which has been converted to take such shots. They're also high dynamic range images composed of three photographs each, one -2 EV, one 0 EV, and one +2 EV as their exposures. I love infrared photography. It makes everything look like 1950 or something.

Rise to abandoned RR bridge

HDR IR Rise to abandoned RR bridge
This is, in visible light and infrared, the rise leading up to the bridge itself. If it did carry railroad tracks till recently, this rise must (obviously) have been more gradual than it is here; it's a bit of a climb of about 15 feet on the approach and a nearly straight drop of about 30 on the far side! It would seem the risers on either side have been deliberately removed. Perhaps the bridge itself is next?

A look across the bridge
This is a panorama view of the surface of the road surface, taken as I climbed up. This view looks west.

HDR RR graffiti
This is the only high dynamic range colour image I created from the shots I took that day. My excursion gave me opportunities to use all three of my Canon cameras — the G1 for infrared shots, the Rebel XT for long shots, and my new S80 for... pretty much everything else. The S80 is quickly proving to be my Swiss Army knife of cameras. The S80 took the three images that were combined to make this HDR shot here.

I wish I could tell you that leaf is a maple leaf... but it ain't. It was more the love of pharmacology than of Canada that inspired that doodle.

Down the other side
I crossed the bridge and came to the other side. It's hard to tell from this shot, also a panorama, just how abrupt the drop is; in the dark, someone might plunge from this spot and potentially kill themselves. It's not quite a straight drop, but I'd say it's a 75 or 80-degree drop. As you can judge from the height above the trees, it's about 30 feet to the ground.

Itsy-bitsy spider
Just before I headed down, I noticed one of those tiny spiders. I've always called them "brick spiders" or "jumping spiders"; I have no idea what they're really called. I remember them from when I was a boy in Nova Scotia; typically, I would notice them on the brick cladding of houses. Brick in Nova Scotia was almost universally clay red, and these spiders stood out. You can see that their camouflage works much better in situations like this (note to the reader: this instance of the word "camouflage" represents the very first time in my entire life I've spelled that word properly entirely on my own. Yay for me).

Incidentally, this is another shot taken with the S80, using the digital macro setting. I find myself more and more amazed by this camera. The Rebel XT, even with a 28-135 lens with macro capacity, came nowhere near this level of magnification when I put it to the test.

Bowmanville Creek under the railroad bridge
Though the dropoff at the lip of the bridge was severe, it was still possible, just barely, to slip off to the side where the rise still met the side of the bridge, and trot down in a friendlier, grass slope of about 50 degrees. I made my way around to the riverbank itself on the northwest side of the bridge.

Bowmanville Creek west bank
It was a pleasant enough location; I poked around for about ten minutes before finally determining to ford the creek. It looked to me to be not quite three feet deep at its deepest, and since I was in shorts, this presented no real obstacle. My real concern was that, between the G1, the S80, the Rebel XT and the EF 28-135 IS lens, I was carrying about three grand worth of camera equipment around my neck and shoulders. But I'm a determined creek wader, come the good weather, so I decided to indulge myself, with due caution. You're looking here at my chosen point of embarkation.

Crossing the creek
The riverbed was soft and silty, not slippery. The water itself was cool, but not numbing; I found it very refreshing. It was too cold to have been comfortable to swim or sit in, but for wading, it was just warm enough.

Bowmanville Creek, at midpoint, looking north

HDR IR Bowmanville Creek, at midpoint, looking north
Here you see two sets of shots taken at the midpoint of the creek, looking north. They're both panorama shots; the infrared one is composed of, if memory serves, nine separate exposures of three sets each, made into HDR images that were themselves stitched into a panorama.

401 bridge over Bowmanville Creek

HDR IR 401 bridge over Bowmanville Creek
Another pair of images, again contrasting visible and infrared, this time looking south to the bridge that carries Highway 401, the very backbone of southern Ontario, over Bowmanville Creek, in which I was standing mid-stream. As a matter of fact, I spent ten or fifteen minutes crossing the creek, though if I'd had a mind to, I could have made the transit in a minute or less. But I was in no way in a mood to rush the very pleasant journey... I've waited too long for spring. :)

HDR IR ripples
This is an infrared HDR image showing the ripples and waves of the creek as it passed me, and, surprisingly, elements of the riverbed itself that cannot be discerned in any of the three images that actually went into making this shot. This is the magic, the occasional magic at least, of high dynamic range imagery. There's so much information hidden in the shots we take, just waiting to be teased out...

Crawdad... or is it crayfish?
I took several shots of this little guy, and this is the one I liked best. This is, if I'm not mistaken, a crayfish, or crawdad. I was amazed to see it; I had no idea they lived this far north. As a native Nova Scotian, I'm familiar with lobsters, but I think this is the very first time in my life I've ever seen a crayfish, at least that I remember. I had assumed them to be characteristic of the US south, but apparently they're to be found in the Great Lakes river valleys as well. This one was rather forward... it sat for a few moments, and then began, slowly but inexorably, to advance on me. I found it unnerving... aren't these things supposed to be afraid of us? With all the equipment I was carrying, I had no desire to be pinched or nibbled or whatever it had in mind. This little 4" lord of the creek moved me along, I'm ashamed to admit.

The image itself is retouched in Photoshop, using the autolevels command. It did a fantastic job, clearing away the murk and the brown cast. You'd hardly know this little bug was over a foot underwater, would you?

Bowmanville Creek ford
When I got to the far side of the creek, I stopped to consider the little trip. What you're seeing here is the route I took to ford the creek from one side to the other.

HDR IR under the bridge
I noticed the leaves of the trees under the bridge. Always mindful that foliage appears white in near infrared light (that is, the leaves powerfully reflect it), I decided to see what the G1 would make of the scene. The leaves were far more pronounced against the dark steel background in IR light than in visible light; they yielded this stunning and rather surreal contrast, seemingly in defiance of common sense notions of light and dark. It doesn't seem that the leaves have any business being this bright in the shade, and yet they are...

Bridge graffiti 1

Bridge graffiti 2
On this side of the bridge (which was built, as you can see from the date impression in the upper right, in 1982... surprisingly recently), there was a collection of somewhat satanic graffiti. Who knows how long it's been there, or what was the mindset of the author. I didn't pay it much mind at the time, aside from recording it as a curiosity. It was only in retrospect, hours later when reviewing the shots, that they gave me a vague sense of disquiet. The passage at far right reads, "I have had a terrible vision of my universal kingdom that awaits." Corny line from a bad 80s horror flick... but I'm still glad I didn't bump into the author.

Incidentally, if you happen to click on the image and investigate it large, check out the stack of flat rocks just under that passage in the right-side image: perhaps the world's least-inspiring inuksuk. :)

This side of the bridge was rocky, but having taken my sandals off and slipped them into my cargo pocket, I determined to carry on barefoot, and remained so until I set out to leave, a little over half an hour later.

Dandelion close-up

Dandelion extreme close-up

Dandelion unfolding

Dandelion seeds

Dandelion before and after
I passed over the rocks to the grassy rise on the northeast side and padded down into pasture land alongside the creek. Here are five digital macro shots of dandelions, taken with the S80. The subject matter is just about as pedestrian as it's possible to get, but I find the images themselves remarkable, especially that second one. The interior petals are rendered sharply in a detail that I've never even seen with the naked eye, and the outlying petals only a half an inch away are in soft focus. Talk about remarkable depth of field.

Bowmanville Creek bend

Bowmanville Creek bend tighter angle
Two views of the bend just north of the bridge; one a panorama, one a straight wide-angle shot.

East embankment
I decided, before I left, to have another look at the bridge. I'd brought along a tripod in hopes of taking shot with the mouth of the bridge in focus in the foreground and the 401 in soft focus in a foreshortened background (what a great shot that would have been, if I could have managed it), but the angles were just not with me. But this is another shot of the approach to the bridge, this time coming up from the field to the north of it.

Looking down through the bridge to the river
One of the things I did take several shots of were the rain grates along the side. I noticed when I was under the bridge that I could look up and see the sky through it. Conversely, you can look down through the bridge and see the creek and the trees that border it. The concrete was warm and smooth; the steel was hot to the touch.

Abandoned farm equipment
On my way back to the car, I stopped to compose this shot of the abandoned farm equipment. I wanted something with no real hint of the town around it; something that might have been twenty miles from the nearest soul, lost out in the middle of nowhere. I think I pulled it off. What do you think?

1 comment:

katherine said...

"You can see that their camouflage works much better in situations like this (note to the reader: this instance of the word "camouflage" represents the very first time in my entire life I've spelled that word properly entirely on my own. Yay for me)."

It's this very type of personal detail in your writing that keeps us readers engaged. I don't mean spelling words properly on your own. I mean the fact that you added the excerpt to your story. Love it!

Looks like you're out on the adventure trail once more! Glad to see it.