Free Photo of the Day 6/30/14

Nikon D40: 18mm; 1/250 sec;   f/8;   ISO 200
Nikon D40: 18mm; 1/250 sec; f/8; ISO 200

Hello friends! The free photo of the day for this, the final day of a lovely June, hails from the same month in 2012. The main subject is this beautiful marsh ecosystem, but the beaver or muskrat lodge at center right is a nice bonus. I camped out for awhile on a grassy inlet hoping to get a good shot of the lodge’s occupant but to no avail.  Riparian zones (the interface between land and a river or stream) are the preferred habitat for beavers so this is probably a muskrat lodge, though.

Thank you to the those who have recently donated to my nursing school campaign – it’s so edifying to have one’s work recognized as worthy of remuneration. Speaking of paid gigs, look for my work in The Willimantic Chronicle in the future – I’ve just been hired as one of their part-time photographers!

If you enjoy these free photos – which are great for books, church bulletins, videos, and other blogs – do consider making a contribution. Have a great day!

Willimantic – Then & Now (Part 1)

While Willimantic, it its modern iteration anyway, is a mixed bag when it comes to arts and culture, the city certainly has a storied history and appreciable charm. I have generational ties to the city; one of my paternal grandfathers was Alderman-At-Large, then Mayor, and finally Housing Code Enforcement Officer. My other paternal grandfather was employed by the fire department for decades. My maternal grandfather worked at Brand Rex, a cable manufacturing company. I’m fairly certain that all of them worked at the American Thread textile plant at some point in their lives (Alfred Henry Noel as a sweeper and later foreman, for certain).

My return to Willimantic after a long absence has been a very opportune one, as far as exploring my family’s past and the general history of the town. It’s fitting that an area as poor as Willimantic has embraced me in my poverty, but perhaps also apt that the town once known for economic prosperity (a favorable work environment that made it a mecca for immigrants from France, Poland, and Latin/Central America) is the launch site for my new aspirations.

In my explorations and investigations, I’ve come across this fascinating website: There’s an extensive gallery of historical photographs, and while I was around town this weekend I decided to re-create a few of the shots for a “Then & Now” feature. I’ve desaturated the images and tried to recreate the “feel” of the originals. Vibrant images, I believe, would draw attention away from the differences in setting, the documentation of which is the primary intention of the work.


tc-60s willi-ff
Bridge/Main Street Intersection, 1960s. Note the Dunkin’ Donuts on the far left…
tc-60s willi-ff- Now
…and the very same Dunkin’ Donuts, today.
Looking toward the town hall (center) down Bridge Street, 1960s.
The same view today.
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The historic Murray building, which housed Hurley’s haberdashery for many years (it was still in business when I was a teenager).
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The Murray building now. Mostly unused at the moment, it has been the site of several coffee shops and bakeries, none of which were able to thrive in the depressed economy of the area. Despite earnest attempts by the community to draw in local business and artisans, Wal-Mart and Dunkin’ Donuts always seem to win out.
Looking out on Main Street from the edge of the historic foot bridge, a pedestrian walkway that transverses the Willimantic River to connect Main and Pleasant Street.
A surprisingly similar view today. The buildings in the 1950s shot remain standing, though the businesses have changed. The town has allowed nature to reclaim some of the land, too, and more flora is apparent.
The Willimantic Post Office, completed in 1910, is shown in this 1960s photograph. The granite and limestone building with a very elegant interior was abandoned in 1967 and boarded up for nearly thirty years…
…until purchased by the Willimantic Brewing Company, who operates a bar and restaurant there to this day. With fine micro-brewed beers and many of the original post office accents restored, it’s a rare success story in the area.
A view down Main Street. Note The Capitol Theater at right, a vaudeville house turned cinema that was wildly successful in its early days (it put the now demolished Loomer Opera House out of business, regrettably). Opened in 1926, The Capitol was a lavish establishment filled with grand marble staircases, burnished brass details and seating for 1,200 patrons. Like the Post Office, it closed in the 1970s and sat in disrepair for three decades, until a $17 million renovation project turned it into The Arts At the Capitol Theater, a magnet school for high school students. The building itself has allegedly been haunted (or so say those who believe in such things). My own mother swears that she and a friend saw a terrifying specter in the balcony while viewing a film there in her adolescence. You can check out the allegations of supernatural events here:
Present day view, including the marquee for the Capitol Arts school. Though cosmetic changes have been made, the two buildings opposite the theater remain standing.


On Fatherhood: Swim for the Orange Bucket

Photo by Jeff Buchbinder.
Photo by Jeff Buchbinder.

By the time River noticed, it was a distant day-glo dot on the waves.

“Daddy, my bucket is floating away!”

I slung my towel on the picnic table and hurried over to the beach. River was pointing urgently across the water and making panicked faces over the evident tragedy of her lost toy. But it was the expression she directed toward me that had the greater significance. If you’re a parent, you know it well – the look of curiosity and expectation that says: “What are you going to do now?”

Our children are always watching and absorbing the nuances of the world around them. I knew immediately that River was waiting to see how I reacted in a moment of need. There was no one in the water near the bucket, now rapidly moving toward the brackish and weed-infested part of the cove, and the little canoe on the dock had no paddles to propel it. I weighed the only options before me – swim for the bucket, or let it go?

I made a quick list of pros and cons for each choice. The bucket was cheap, less than $1 at the Job Lot. It had no particular emotional value to my daughter, it was just another of many toys. On the other hand, I’ve been trying to teach River thrift, and a dollar saved is a dollar earned, after all. Moreover, I’m always reminding her of the need to enjoy the natural world responsibly, to carry out our trash (and other people’s too) on hikes, to catch-and-release, and never to pick wildflowers. Retrieving the plastic bucket from the water would model good stewardship.

But what really pressed on me was that look of curiosity that said, “Prove to me that what you always say is true.” I’m always promising to take of River and assuring her of my constancy and solidity. Part of me felt a surge of primal masculinity. “Be her hero, dive into the water and make a mighty rescue that will earn her pride and amazement.” Demonstrate physical prowess and protect her property. The little speck in the lake became a symbol of my adequacy as a dad.

I pondered for a full minute. And then I made the wrong choice.

“We’ll get another one at the store, Rivs,” I told her.

She didn’t cry, and she hardly seemed concerned. But I couldn’t help but wonder if I let something else go: the opportunity to send a different message to my wonderful little baby girl had also vanished.

I was scared, I admit, of the deeper waters. Since childhood I’ve heard stories of over-sized snapping turtles and entangling elodea plants in that section of the lake.

They were insignificant concerns, of course. I agonized over it while River dozed in her seat on the car ride home. Maybe I’m making a bigger deal out of it than is warranted. Maybe I projected my own insecurities into a situation that she barely registered.

But next time, I will swim for the orange bucket.

Free Photo of the Day 6/23/14 (Natchaug State Forest)

Canon T3i: 22mm; 1/160 sec;   f/7.1;   ISO 200.
Canon T3i: 22mm; 1/160 sec; f/7.1; ISO 200.

Hello friends!

I’m really quite excited about today’s Free Photo. I’ve been visiting Natchaug State Forest for years, but on every visit I’ve made I’ve found the place to be overcast, gloomy, even eerie. Its 13,000 acres are ever silent. I can’t find very much on the history of the forest except that it was designated a state park in 1917, but the numerous old stone walls and crumbling house foundations lead me to believe it was a colonial community (as many of Connecticut’s state parks once were). The trails themselves are, in some cases, early American thoroughfares. Fittingly, many of those old dirt roads are now designated horse trails.

I’m quite used to meeting very few people on the trails in Eastern Connecticut, but I have only once encountered another soul in Natchaug. It was on an afternoon hike in the autumn of 2013. Taking a detour down a trail that wasn’t on the map led me to a hunter’s perch not far from Hampton marsh. He was decked in day-glo orange from head to toe and chastised me for wearing only red to ward off a hunter’s mark. We chatted for a few minutes about the void around us; he’d been there since dawn and seen no one until I arrived, had sighted no deer or game, had heard only a late going flock of geese above. Remembering the first rule of trail etiquette, I offered him some walnuts and dried cranberries. He declined, and I went on my way. A few minutes down the trail, I realized that I didn’t get his name and hadn’t seen his face. He’d never taken his mask off.

In any case, until yesterday I’ve always been unable to get a shot of the park that wasn’t a little on the glum side. But on my way home from Crystal Pond in Eastford, I stopped over at the Rt. 198 entrance and got the shot above, which I think turned out to be quite lovely.


Free Photo of the Day 6/22/14

Nikon D40; 1/40 sec;   f/10;   ISO 200.
Nikon D40; 1/40 sec; f/10; ISO 200.

Hello friends! It’s a beautiful day here in Eastern Connecticut. I’m off to enjoy a picnic and some swimming at a lovely lake in Eastford, but before I go I’m sending out this free photo of the day.

This is a shot of Mashamoquet Brook on a June afternoon in 2010. The sun was shining brightly in a field beyond the brush and I wanted to capture the view from my side of the water. I hope you enjoy it.

If you do, please consider donating to my nursing school fund! ( This week I’m aiming to raise $250, a modest sum that will pay for the required Advanced CPR class and books for my microbiology class. Your help would be greatly appreciated.

Have a wonderful day, and stay positive!

AP Life (And Your Free Photo of the Day)

Canon T3i: 194mm; 1/60 sec; f/5.6; ISO 400.

Hello readers! I apologize for the dearth of updates this week, but I’ve been busy finishing some film and TV projects I worked on last year. First and foremost among them is AP Life, a television show much like The Big Bang Theory but with a female lead cast. (Not all nerds are male, Hollywood!) In July and August of 2013 we filmed a pilot episode and 4 followup episodes in Connecticut, New Jersey, Boston, and New York City. Well, the whole losing my home and being poor thing derailed my work on the editing of the project but lately I’ve had the time to get it done, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. Given the production values that networks expect from even sitcom shows these days, AP Life won’t ever be broadcast as we shot it. So as much as I loved writing and directing the series, I’m still going forward with my nursing school plans. But I’d never say no to an interested executive who likes the concept of My So-Called Life meets The Big Bang Theory (meets Mean Girls? A little bit!) You can watch a preview video for the show below.

Your free photo of the day is another shot from the Richard D. Haley Native Plant Wildlife Gardens in Hampton, Connecticut. I searched high and low for the identity of this flower and my best guess is that it’s a variety of spiderwort, most likely the Virginia or Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana).

Stay positive, friends!

Free Photo of the Day 6/13/14

Canon T3i: 65mm; 1/60 sec;   f/4.0;   ISO 400.
Canon T3i: 65mm; 1/60 sec; f/4.0; ISO 400.

Another free photo, taken just yesterday. By the way, if you like these (or don’t) please feel free to comment – I’d appreciate the feedback.

This very narrow focus shot of a fairy ring I came across on a hike is visually interesting even if it’s not a good commercial image. The ring itself was unfortunately growing in what was essentially mulch, so there was no way to shoot it as a whole that would have artistic merit. But this ground-level view directs the eye to the beautiful caps, gills, and stalks of the this native fungus. I’m not sure of the species – mycology is not my strong suit – but here’s a nice tutorial on fungi and mushrooms.

Enjoy – link to my blog if you use this photo, please.