BY THE RIVER

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On the last day of July, the heat finally broke. The humidity, too. A few months ago, I got a Panasonic Lumix f4, 40 to 150mm telephoto for my Olympus cameras … and then, the Olympus f1.8 25 mm went on sale.

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I bought it, thus completing my lens collection for the Olympus cameras. There are others I wish I had, but they are all out of my price range — or they duplicate (or overlap) lenses I already own.

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It was a very bright day. The big problem on very bright days is always exposure. The contrast is so sharp, it is hard to find an exposure where you can see the highlight and not lose the detail in the shadow.

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I learned a lot about my two lenses. That the Lumix telephoto is not as good as I might wish, but it’s okay. It gets me closer than I thought it would with acceptable quality. The exceptional lens in that range is out of my price range. I can work with this.

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The Olympus f1.8 25 mm is a terrific piece of glass. Sharp from edge to edge with lovely bokeh.

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My collection is complete. I know I’ll want something else. That someone will make a camera I lust for because a passion for camera gear never really ends. But for the foreseeable future, I’ve got what I need, more than I ever expected.

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MUSE: FOLLOWING THE RIVER

I fell in love with the Blackstone River when we moved to the valley fifteen years ago. The birds that nest along its length, its canals, tributaries, bridges, ponds. Even the swamps make this one of the most beautiful places in the world. In the autumn, the trees are magnificent.

We have swans and geese, ducks and herons. Turtles, beaver, fishers, and trout — they all live along or in the river. It is a rich and fertile world. Beautiful and ever-changing.

MANCHAUG DAM – JUNE 2015

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Each year, it’s different. Everything depends how much rain we get in the spring rainfall as well as the amount of snow that melts after the winter.

pond before manchaug dam

When we are not having a drought, the dam will have a strong waterfall. Manchaug is at its most magnificent when we’ve had plenty of rain. I haven’t seen the dam at full strength in four years.

Manchaug June 2015

Last year, the dam was nearly dry. The pond formed by the dam was a puddle, because they had closed the dams upstream to save water.

Manchaug falls june 2015

When the rivers don’t run and the ponds dry up, it’s tough on the wildlife. There’s no place for the swans and geese to nest. The fish can’t breed. But there’s no choice.

Manchaug dam falls maple trees

The dams control and contain water when rainfall is insufficient, which has been most of the past five or more summers. This year, the dam has a moderate waterfall, reflecting a good winter snow-melt, but weak spring rains.

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Today, for example, it was supposed to rain, yet there was barely a sprinkle. We had no rain at all in May until the 31st of the month. Water restrictions are in place in most of the valley’s towns and villages.

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I’m hoping we’ll have more rain. Everyone complains when it rains. Sunshine is popular for picnics and summer activities. Rain is not. But we need rain. Without good, drenching rains, the aquifer can’t refill. Reservoir levels drop. Wells go dry.

closeup manchaug dam waterfall

Water is as necessary as air. We cannot survive without it. Nothing survives without water.

Manchaug above the dam


The pictures in this post are by both Marilyn and Garry Armstrong. You can tell by the signature who took each picture.

I was using two different Olympus PEN cameras (PL-5 and PL-6) and a variety of lenses. I don’t remember which lens I used for which pictures (sorry!). Garry was using his big Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ60 with its amazing 24-600 mm Leica lens.

manchaug daisies

5 PHOTOS, 5 STORIES – GARRY AT THE DAM – DAY FIVE

FIVE PHOTOS, FIVE STORIES CHALLENGE – DAY FIVE

There is a challenge called Five Photos, Five Stories.  I secretly hoped to be asked to participate in it. Looked like it was right up my alley.  Sure enough, Cee at  Cee’s Photography Blog asked me to join!

I have been following Cee and participating in her challenges for a while.  If you aren’t familiar with her and her beautiful work, I invite you to visit her.

The rules of Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo (or more!)  each day for five consecutive days.

2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or nothing more than a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to you.

3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is supposed to be fun. It is not a command performance!

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I was not shooting alone at the dam. Garry was there too. I always find it interesting how similar — and different — we shoot the same scene. Some of our pictures are nearly identical.

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For others, he finds a way to shoot it differently and it often works better than my way. (Not to be outdone, I pushed the limits of my camera to its 600 mm limit to capture details of the Great Blue Heron’s feathers. It’s a bit of a trick to overcome camera shake. It’s also very easy to lose the target entirely, have to back off and zero in on it again. The heavy use of the telephoto and frequent refocusing eats your battery in a big hurry.)

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Because of his perch on the ledge, Garry got angles on the falls I couldn’t get. I’m much too chicken about falling. His fearlessness is impressive and scares the pants off me.

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Nonetheless, I admire his derring-do. When I was young, I would do all kinds of crazy things to get a picture. I’m surprised I didn’t get run down by a truck or fall off the edge of a mountain. These days, nope, no way. But Garry will still go literally out on a ledge.

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I leave the ledge to my better half. These are some of his pictures.


The rules of Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive day

2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.

3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!


I got more than a little negative feedback initially, but eventually, quite a few of you have joined in. You’ve been sharing wonderful stories and beautiful images. I am so glad. This is an idea whose time has come.

It’s simple. Most of us have more than enough pictures to never run out and cameras and phones to take more whenever we want. I have more than 100,000 images in files, many of which I haven’t looked at for years. This is a great reason to go poking around in the archives of my life!

The Daily Prompt is dead. WordPress is not going to bring it back, so we all need to find something else to do. I like this. If you want to be realistic, the Daily Prompt wasn’t so great when it was “in full flower.” Many of the prompts were silly, morbid, and could be answered in a single word. This is more fun and seems to me what blogging is about — showing pictures and telling stories.

This being the final day of the Five Day, Five Story Challenge, anyone who wants to continue is welcome.

You are welcome to link with me. We can form a network of photo-and-story bloggers. If you send a pingback, I’ll accept your link. We can prompt ourselves and each other. We can make our own prompts. If you sign up for emails from me, you’ll know when a new one comes out.

I am subscribed to most of you already. If I’m not, let me know and I’ll fix it. Onward and upward!

Today’s Participants (I will keep adding to the list as your posts come out):

  1. Bright Eyes|Evil Squirrel’s Nest
  2. Photos and Stories behind them: In the Motorway Tunnel, Day 3
  3. FIVE PHOTOS FIVE STORIES: Garden Fresh Greens ! (Day 3)
  4. FIVE PHOTOS, FIVE STORIES CHALLENGE (DAY FIVE): OCEAN’S FURY
  5. FIVE PHOTOS FIVE STORIES: Let’s start with a Serendipitous Bang (DAY 4)
  6. Photos and Stories behind them – day four – The secret places in Bern the capital town of Switzerland
  7. I Went To A Carnival, And A Baseball Game Broke Out!

5 PHOTOS, 5 STORIES – A GREAT BLUE HERON – DAY 4

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Just across from the dam …

FIVE PHOTOS, FIVE STORIES CHALLENGE – DAY FOUR

There is a challenge called Five Photos, Five Stories.  I secretly hoped to be asked to participate in it. Looked like it was right up my alley.  Sure enough, Cee at  Cee’s Photography Blog asked me to join!

I have been following Cee and participating in her challenges for a while.  If you aren’t familiar with her and her beautiful work, I invite you to visit her.

The rules of Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo (or more!)  each day for five consecutive days.

2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or nothing more than a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to you.

3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is supposed to be fun. It is not a command performance!

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It was time to visit the dam in the middle of town. The weather was finally warm enough for short sleeves. Probably for shorts, too, if we felt inclined. We planned the excursion for today, knowing it would rain yesterday.

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Spring is here. No leaves, but the trees have a soft, fuzzy look.  I decided to start shooting from above the dam. I usually shoot from the bridge, but I have many pictures of the dam from that angle. I thought I’d give try something different.

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I felt pretty good, so I followed Garry out onto the ledge. I’m too scared of heights to go all the way. I’m a wall hugger. But I got a nice shot of the husband on the ledge. From behind. With my back against the wall.

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It was just about that time when I spotted the bird. A very large bird and it wasn’t a bird I’d seen before. I got all excited and took so many pictures, I burned through my spare battery. At which point, my camera shut down. I should get a second spare battery.

Turned out, it is a Great Blue Heron. Sounds like something Perry White might say. “Great Blue Heron, Superman!” I did not know what it was. Despite all the birding sites that assure me how common it is, I’ve never seen one. I’ve spotted and photographed other herons, egrets, geese, swans, ducks of all kinds. But never one of these guys and I’m sure, given he was taller than me, I’d remember a sighting.

This bodes well for our river. The Great Blue Heron follows the fish. As of 1974, the Blackstone River was one of the top five most polluted rivers in the U.S. It has come a long way since then and this bird is the proof. If there were no fish, he would not be waiting by the river. The birds always know.


The rules of Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive day

2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.

3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!


I’ve gotten a lot of negative feedback when asking others to participate in this. I don’t understand the problem since it’s what we do anyway. We post pictures and write about them or other things of which the pictures reminds us. This challenge doesn’t require much writing. A paragraph will do.

I’m not going to ask anyone specific, but I hope a few of you will volunteer. Considering how many bloggers complain about the Daily Prompt, I would expect everyone would welcome something new. Not exactly true.