15 April 2016

9 on 5: Field Trip No. 1, Herkimer NY west

9 on 5
Herkimer NY West
updated 1 May 2016

Herkimer skies display cirrus clouds overhead with more cirrus underlain with
cumulus in the background.  Try your hand at cloud identification. It's fun!
Would you agree these are cirrus duplicatus?
Northeastern birds tell the season. The starlings are gathering in flocks.
Must be fall!
The Rocky Gates
an old Sugar Maple graces the entrance to St. Mary's Cemetery along Route 5
Monument to years of hard work, a silo is all that
remains of a once busy Herkimer dairy farm.


A quiet day on the NYS Barge Canal, Lock #19.
Notice the flood control structure at 2 o'clock, on your right. This is new construction. Tug 44's web page provides close-up photos of these features.
Teachers! This is an opportunity for you to use Google Earth 3d to your advantage in the classroom. The basics of canal design can be demonstrated by looking at these satellite views of Lock 19 and its vicinity.

In the view above, the camera is looking west. Water flow is from right to left and from the top to bottom. How do you know that? (Your students may ask.) Look for the white of water flowing through the lock gates near the center of the picture and the white water flowing over the flood control dam where Sterling Creek joins the canal.

The following videos give a basic introduction to canal operation and a quick time laps video of going through Lock #17, which we visited earlier on this field trip:

How Canals Work (YouTube: 1 min.)

(YouTube: 5 min., Aaron Pufal)
Water flow through lock gates is normal.
Some are more watertight than others.

Think piloting a vessel through a lock or canal is easy? Everything takes practice, as the two videos below illustrate:

How it's done! (in French)
YouTube: 10 min.
real-time passage of barge

YouTube: 9 min.
a first canal excursion

Why bother spending money to build a dam at the mouth of Sterling Creek? The object, it would seem from the geological evidence you can gather via Google Earth, is to prevent flood damage to the canal and its structures. What geological evidence? Let's take a look.

Flowing right to left, Sterling Creek approaches the Canal. Notice the creek is a dark wavy
ribbon against a telltale gray background. This photo shows Sterling at low water, with the
channel meandering back and forth across--guess what--a floodplain! The plain is very noticeable
because the floods are frequent enough to prevent plants from growing very much before they are washed away. The gray marks the width of the stream in flood compared to what you see here.
In the foreground, just beneath the water, bedrock! Sterling Creek's flooding has exposed a layer of solid shale (?) beneath ten feet or so of assorted boulders, soil, etc. known as glacial till. The Creek has carved out both banks. Can you imagine its power in flood! 
Marked by a Google directional arrow, a large tree has come to rest, perhaps miles from its
original upstream location on Sterling Creek. The plants growing in the gravel give a clue
as to the length of time between floods. My guess is every two or three years, as they look like mostly annuals, though I do see some more substantial small shrubs and trees in the background.
Even way upstream, the power of Sterling Creek is shown by the dozen or so uprooted trees
left by the last flood on this gravel patch in the middle of what must be a very impressive
Sterling River when it is in flood.
Break time!
Ah! The beauty of atmosphere! Photo processing has brought out a hint of blue to the shadows on the photo above. Daytime shadows are not pure black. They reflect the color of the sky. In this shot, there's a blue tint to the stream in spots, too. On Mars, you probably noticed from the NASA photos that shadows have another color. There are no black shadows on Mars, either!

A historical marker confirms that this is the Palatine German Frame House as listed in Wikipedia.
Thanks to the kind assistance of the Executive Director of the Herkimer County Historical Society, the following additional information has been obtained:

Interior shots of the Palatine German Frame House were printed as part of a sales brochure published by Century 21, Rob Diedrich Associates, Mohawk NY. Although this property is not for sale at this time, similar fine properties can be found by contacting this local realtor.
Sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places usually have photos associated with their entry. Below is the listing and the illustrations that accompanied the original application:

Palatine German Frame House (added 2004 - - #04000282)
4217 NY 5 , Herkimer
Historic Significance: Architecture/Engineering, Event
Architectural Style: Colonial
Area of Significance: Exploration/Settlement, Architecture
Period of Significance: 1800-1824, 1750-1799 
Owner: Local
Historic Function: Domestic
Historic Sub-function: Single Dwelling
Current Function: Domestic
Current Sub-function: Single Dwelling 

(click above photos to enlarge)
(click article above to enlarge)

Utica Observer-Dispatch, 4 Aug 2003
Herkimer Evening Telegram,
11 August 2003
A CSX caboose at rest.
The caboose was a distinct type of rail car that used to mark the end of every freight train. Made obsolete by advances in technology near the end of the 20th century, in 2016 they can be found rotting on sidings or repurposed for other uses...
The Vanishing Caboose
YouTube: 4 min., bullfrog 1954
ABC's Good Morning America
7 April 1988

...unless you take a trip a few hundred miles south to Strasburg PA. There you will find a whole motel full of cabooses you can stay overnight in, a rail museum and other sites of interest to railfans.

Strasburg PA, railroad museum and surroundings
[click map to enlarge]
The video below briefly tours a motel made up of cabooses from a great variety of American railroads.

A drive through the Red Caboose Motel
YouTube: 2 min., BaltimoreandOhio RR

From YouTube: ~2min.
Andrew Falconer tours a restored caboose

Lightgone, cowsgone, doorgone, with siding deteriorating, a barn with an unusually
firm foundation represents potential as yet unrealized while proudly testifying
to the many lives that once called this "home."


A marsh is often at its best at sunrise or sunset.
Utica marsh is no exception.
Picasa brings out the colors of this 9 eyes shot from Route 5 in October 2015. 
Purple loostrife marks an earlier pass of 9 eyes.
Utica Marsh, August 2011
Google Earth's satellite view of the Utica Marsh vicinity reveals many interesting features:

[click the photo to enlarge]
Bisected by a railroad and a former railroad siding, the Utica Marsh is on your right.
The light blue on this Google Earth view marks roads on which Google Street Views are available.
This area has an extraordinarily fascinating geology. Aside from the Marsh itself, the Mohawk River beautifully illustrates characteristics of a river in "old age," meandering across a flat post-glacial plain. The scars of former river channels include among them an "oxbow" lake on the left. As a whole, the picture shouts back to the observer, "water, water, everywhere!"

It appears from the Google Earth view that the Marsh had a more circular shape before it was penetrated by canal, railroad and highway construction. My guess is that the marsh is what remains of a "kettle" lake formed by the continental glacier when a huge landlocked iceberg was left behind by the retreating glacier. This mammoth chunk of ice buried in the glacial till eventually melted, leaving a hollow filled with glacial meltwater--a lake. Since its formation, the lake has been filled with sediment, both natural and man-made.

But that's only a guess. You can read more about the Utica Marsh on the Utica Marsh Association home page or the NYS DEC page featuring the Marsh.

One of the most obvious needs for canal construction is to eliminate rapids that would otherwise prohibit the passage of boats. Google Earth demonstrates another advantage. The NYS Canal System here parallels the NYS Thruway in a straight, businesslike line. Can you imagine the time the Canal saved over boats navigating up the wandering Mohawk River!  

I got lost in Utica. Just trying to follow Route 5 proved to be a great challenge for me. Either I missed much of what there is to see along 5 in Utica, or my head got lost in the clouds, of which there are plenty in central New York southeast of the Great Lakes.

July Cumulus clouds over the NYS Canal System in Utica, 2011 
The same stretch of canal at North Genesee St., Utica in November 2015.
Lowering stratus could mean an approaching cold front and the area's first lake effect snow.


Fields of corn are seen frequently along Route5. Although nothing to compare to the giant
fields in Iowa, the alluvial soils in particular, sometimes mixed with glacial till, provide
adequate nutrients for a substantial crop. The history of corn is fascinating. Turns out it is
derived from grass long before the European colonization of the Americas.

Teachers! The brief video below is a most informative and easily understood explanation of the origin of corn. HHMI Biointeractive provides additional resources for classroom use. Follow the links below for additional information.
"Popped Secret: the Mysterious Origin of Corn"
a film (YouTube: ~18 min.) by
Day's Edge Productions
Produced, directed, written & edited by
Nathan Dappen
Neil Losin (narrator)
posted to YouTube by
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Biointeractive
film guide, student quiz & educator materials are available here

Just Like Grandma's antiques, etc.
The Tin Man makes an appearance at
Just Like Grandma's, Sept 2013,
with a classic car in the background
Done dairyin'
This barn is of typical construction. The prow over the double door probably once had a
device for lifting loose hay into the hayloft.
Antique Farming illustrates such a hay carrier in operation:

The future looks uncertain for this distinctive Vernon building on Route 5.
The storefront may have been altered from the original more than once.
My guess is that this sturdy building was once someone's pride and joy. 
Either deliberately or through weathering, these shutters seem to have arrived at
just the right colors for this building.
A volunteer at the Oneida County Historical Society has kindly provided further information about the building above and its hitching post (below).

"During the 50's thru the mid 70's,the building was owned by Frank P. Sansone. It was known as " Sansone's"  and was a men's clothing store...a very classy store.  They sold Jumping Jack men's shoes. Their advertisement read:  where you find the best selection of men's suits, sports coats and slacks in central New York...tailoring done here to fit any man."  Their advertisement was also attached by the phrase "by the Hitching Post."  The hitching post is still in the front of the store. In the town where I live, I have found 3 hitching posts - same thing, so I cannot verify that they are original - or that some  company went around selling them because they were attractive items. 
"...There might be occupied apartments above the store, but you are correct to assume the building is not kept well. I am not positive there is nothing on the first floor but there was a clock in the window that was running [purple]  Mr. Sansone died in 2004.  He established this business in 1947. 
"There was one article in the Rome newspaper that stated:  "the Vernon Bank was established in 1839, ten years after the village [of Vernon] came to be by Salmon P. Case. In one corner of his store[now the Frank P. Sansone] he placed an iron safe in the wall and here business was carried on by the 'Vernon Bank.' Later in the year, the present bank was built and in 1865, it became known as 'The Bank of Vernon.'" 
You can tie up your horse now!
A month's supply of seasoned firewood is ready for the fireplace.
If not used soon, it will be compost.
Unusual church architecture for this region...
United Methodist Church, Vernon NY


Remains, but of what?
a further clue...
Once again the volunteer at the Oneida County Historical Society comes through:
"...I knocked on the door of the nearest house located to that stone post. I noticed an additional stone [cement] about 20ft away but this one had a pointed top. This narrower post had a ring and chain still on it which indicates to me that it might have been part of a gate. Also in the distant opposite corner was a cemetery.  The owner was gracious in showing me the cemetery and the following stuff I found on the Internet. The cemetery had a large iron fence surrounding it - two tombstones inside. "Charles J. DeFerriere 1804 - 1890"  and Angel DeFerriere 1774-1853 and his wife Polly." 
"This property was...owned by DeFerriere and was part of the Oneida Indian reservation. DeFerriere was born in 1769 to a family of French nobility under the reign of Louis XVI. During the turbulence of revolutionary France, DeFerriere and a companion fled to Holland in 1792. They were introduced to some men who belonged to the Holland Land Company, who suggested that DeFerriere and his companion try their fortunes in the U.S.  DeFerrier sailed for New York, where he met Col. John Lincklaen and traveled with him to Cazenovia. [Cazenovia is further on down the line on Rte 20 and the name Lincklaen is well known in that present day village.] 
"DeFerriere was a surveyor; eventually married Polly Dennie and settled in Madison County where he built a tavern [that the lady said was located across the road from her-completely gone now. She also mentioned there was a murder in the cellar of that tavern. I didn't have time to investigate further.] 
"Polly Dennie [Denny] was the daughter of a prominent family in the region - her mother was an Oneida Indian; her father was French origin. They raised a family of five children. DeFerriere died in 1832 and his cemetery is not listed  in any place that I could find. 
"The  post that you showed me a picture of was the only one like it on the property which has since been divided into plots of land and sold.
It is located quite near the highway, but highways change.  There is the Cowaselor Creek nearby.  It is also on a crest of a hill - called Deadman's Hill - the lady told me that many a carriage had accidents on this hill because it was much steeper in the old days. Our bushes & trees have not blossomed yet, so it was easy to find.  My supposition is that it was one of the entrances to the property. 
"Somewhere in the area is another house [I didn't know this until I got home]  It is called the DeFerriere House and is on the National Register of Historic Places [in 2007]  It is a 1 and a half story, frame Greek Revival home."
The DeFerriere Cottage is framed by Sugar Maples and Norway Spruce. Though it is on the National Register of Historic Places, it is private property. Winter is the only season this home can easily be seen by passing motorists. The residence is occupied and is not open to the public. The owner is using personal funds to maintain and restore this property. Please respect their right to privacy if you happen to drive by. As with all National Register listings, ample documentation and photos is provided as part of the original application for listing.
This rear view from the Register of Historic Places application illustrates some of the unique features of this residence. Contrary to appearances when viewed from the front or sides, the building is not a square of uniform height, but a U with two wings that have shed roofs. Behind a pair of very plain doors on your left in this photo is the carriage barn.
Excerpts from the original application for listing provide additional information about the contrast between the "public" and "private" faces of this cottage. The main DeFerriere residence was across the street and was torn down decades ago.
[New York data for the National Register has not been completely digitized. The PDF file linked above is a low-quality scan I made from a print-out. Accessing New York records from the Register itself will hopefully be operational sometime soon.]

[click to enlarge]

Title:DeFerriere House
National Register Information System ID:07000097
Architectural Styles:GREEK REVIVAL
Areas Of Significance:ARCHITECTURE
Periods Of Significance:1825-1849
Significant Years:1832
Resource Type:BUILDING
Related Collections:National Register of Historic Places Collection
Resource Format:pdf
File Size (bytes):22151
Date Published:3/1/2007
National Register of Historic Places
State: New York
County: Madison County
Oneida ; 2089 Genesee St.
NEW YORK ; Madison ; Oneida
Asset ID:7e528565-b2d1-4d28-8655-cc81663f304a


11 April 2016

Good grief. Imperfection!

Be Imperfect!

updated 22 April 2016

Abridged Double Arch
Google Street View, June 2011
(former wine storage vaults under Brooklyn Bridge--now vacant NYC property)
Ye olde (very olde) imperfect photographer here! After all these decades I've finally noticed that nobody sees my world precisely the way I see it. After all, I have two advantages, poor eyesight and abundant ignorance of my surroundings. Can you beat that?!

That is why I have been pleasantly surprised by the popularity of some of my "weaker" photographic efforts and disappointed that what I consider my "triumphs" are ignored. The intended message is not always the message received, it seems.

For example, one of the two following photos was hailed as a "masterpiece" but has not been very popular. The other was an experiment that received many likes in spite of my opinion that it could have been better. Can you tell which was which?

WARNING: The author is about to indulge in advice-giving, a hazardous practice for all concerned, particularly for those who think the advice is good. Skip the next two paragraphs.

Tackling imperfection is what most photographers do. Accepting imperfection comes to most people, if ever, after a good deal of life experience. If one were to suggest to most people that their goal in life should be to embrace imperfection rather than achieve perfection, one would probably be thought of as just a tad deranged. (Many of us already perceived that way of course, need not be concerned. Just go for it.)

For some of us, accepting imperfection is just about as difficult as accepting death itself--or the death of someone close to us.

From YouTube: ~2 min.
(The giraffe was a quick study.)

To recover from our hard-wired drive for perfection something daring must be done. Break the rules! Use a cheap fixed-focus camera. Maybe a pin-hole camera. Experiment! There's no need to be bashful. Put your creations before the public without reservation--before they're "finished." In short, play! Pay attention to friendly critics. Ignore the trolls.

If it's not fun, take a break. For the time being at least, you probably should be doing something else. (If you lack ideas for alternative activities, friends and especially family are usually good at telling you what you really should be doing!

Here's the way somebody else puts it. Though you might be interested in the entire presentation, the theme is well illustrated by the story related in the first 5 minutes:

Tara Brach, YouTube ~55 min.
"Relating Wisely with Imperfection"
~ ~ ~ 

Google's Street View cameras are improving. The contrast between the blurry first images captured in 2007 or 2008 and those produced in 2015 is dramatic. Google's nine eyes in 2016 are better coordinated to provide a focused look at the landscape. Roadside signs can actually be read!

Additional fine tuning by Google is anticipated, as the current equipment still results in double images, blurry spots (other than deliberately blurred faces) broken straight lines and other (oh dear) imperfections. If you travel down a single road for a distance, you're likely to encounter the jarring experience of switching from new to old footage and back again. Crossing the bridge at Palatine Bridge NY provides one example. Start here. The bridge is your next right.

time travel on Palatine Bridge
your goal is to cross the bridge on your right on Google Street View

Google's nine eyes have much yet to discover. While metropolitan streets have been photographed many times since 2007, offering the derivative photographer some choices of sun angle, etc., some rural roads have never been photographed. As of early 2016, no railroad footage exists, though it would seem not too complicated for Google to execute such a program.

 ~ ~ ~ 

Hmm...did I mention railroads? My personal experience with photography goes back to my grandfather, DeForest ("Pat") Diver, whose entire basement was the storage area for glass negatives, dangerous chemicals and prints. It was amazing down there, but somewhat spooky, too, for a 7-year-old! There was even a coal bin for the big coal-fired furnace that used to heat the home. My grandfather's photos are part of the Cornell University Library collection in Ithaca NY. A few years ago several were digitized and put on Flickr.

New York Ontario & Western train crew,
one of Cornell University's Flickr entries
Howard Diver, my father, was also a photographer. His darkroom was our kitchen counter. Every year a family portrait was taken, sometimes under protest. I no longer remember why the initial photo was considered such a chore, but the photo would be followed by burning "Seasons Greetings" or similar onto the portrait after adjusting exposure, focus, etc.

Father used his father's Speed Graphic with a variety of lenses and filters. He knew all about aperture settings and used a light meter to get correct exposure. Considering his high degree of skill, he was extremely modest and the annual family card was his only public photographic endeavor except for several creative photo ads he designed for his employer, The Middletown Savings Bank in Middletown NY. The ads appeared in the local newspaper, The Times Herald Record:
22 September 1959 My sister and I were happy to quit!
18 May 1960 starring our cat ""Pinky" 
During my father's time, few people developed their own color photos. Processing black & white prints at home was complicated enough! As I recall, the enlarger focused the image on the paper. The light-sensitive paper was then dunked in developer. Once the image darkened the desired amount, it was removed from the bath of developer to a shallow pan full of fixer, which stopped the developer's chemical reaction. From fixer, the print was washed in plain water and then dried. This laborious process was repeated for each print. All processing was done under red light to avoid darkening the light-sensitive paper. The chemicals stank.

In my time, the first technical changes in the art of photography introduced advanced film cameras that could handle color. Color slides and color prints became common. The single lens reflex was the camera of choice. Our family would go next door to see beautiful slide shows projected on a big screen. Whoopee! That was an impressive display!

Kodak and Polaroid soon realized there were a lot of us who couldn't be bothered with all the settings of a single lens reflex, no matter how crisp the results. They also realized that waiting several days for pictures to be commercially developed tried our patience. So Polaroid invented the instant camera and Kodak brought their Instamatic line on board, which had fixed focus and an easy loading film cartridge instead of roll film.

The Kodak Instamatic 300 marked my entry into photography. There were a couple of choices of film. Shutter speed was slower on the flash setting. (I'm not sure this was a "setting." Ye olde memory is as foggy as some of the prints. It may have been automatic.) This was the camera I used when I was a Ranger Naturalist at Acadia National Park in the summer of 1968:

Close-ups and distance shots were both challenging.
The originals are slides used in lectures delivered at Blackwoods and Sewall campsites.
Scanning the originals introduced additional imperfections.
No effort has been made to eliminate the dust specs.
1968 June solstice, antique car sunrise rally on Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park
I covered the flash on my Instamatic 300 with my finger and took a personal favorite.
Composition and knowing your equipment sometimes trumps all!
~ ~ ~ 

The digital era opened lots of opportunities for all of us, especially folks like me who just want results and don't really care much for technological details. I have played the megapixel game through a series of cameras and have found to my dismay that I find carrying baggage--even good expensive baggage--a chore. The technology has evolved so fast I have not had time to become as well-acquainted with any of my digital cameras as I was with my old film cameras, especially that dumb Instamatic 300!

I used Photoshop and the latest printers to produce enlargements of some of my shots while working in Mann Library at Cornell.

I give instructions on loading paper
into one of Mann Library's plotters.
My office is in the background.

The back wall of my office at Cornell University's Mann Library Computing Centers.
Great job and a great wall for my experiments with the plotter!
(You won't see me there, as I retired in 2010.)
Yet, I don't much like Photoshop. Similar to dedicated word processing software, Photoshop is built to do everything. Those whose goals are modest must learn to negotiate complexity to achieve simple results. Tedious and boring! I'm sure most of my work might have benefitted by additional tweaking in Photoshop, but I did not have the patience and time to become a Photoshop expert so I moved on. As you may know from elsewhere on my blogs, for the moment I prefer Google's Picasa program which was (just my luck) discontinued shortly after I became at ease using it.

Fortunately, just about the time I retired from Mann Library, there was yet another revolution in photography. Apple invented cell phone obsolescence! One of the things that keeps cell phone sales up year after year in the early 21st century is the improvement in cell phone cameras. No longer does one have to have a movie camera here and a still camera there and a phone ringing into an answering machine at one's residence. You can have it all here, right in your pocket available not only to capture those ephemeral shots but to transmit them instantly to lots of folks who would rather not see them! Temptation beckons....

Suddenly the number of photographers has multiplied exponentially.

Not so fast. Maybe not. The number of images being exchanged has increased, not necessarily the number of people who pay detailed attention to their content or composition. Good photography, no matter what apparatus is used, takes practice, imagination and attention to that little bit of imperfection that many people ignore on their daily rounds.

Which brings us back to Google Street View. Only Google knows why Street View was developed or what plans the company has for it in the future. Most people use Street View as a navigational aid. Able-bodied travelers negotiate their world, phones & cameras in hand, experiencing the world first-hand and in person. There's no substitute for that. The phenomenal images that result are found in one of my favorite Google Communities.

Some of us, however, have discovered another option. We travel the real world virtually, poking around see what Google records out of the corners of its eyes.

Photographers Street View is a collection of what I have discovered on Street View. I'm sure there will be much more to come--from me and you and Google, too. Enjoy!