Monday, January 28, 2013

Botanist, Photographer, Woodcrafter

Scott Massed spent a summer at Woodcraft before his studies took him to the Southwest. I recently reached out to Scott after seeing some of his great photographs online.

The Adirondacks seen from Vermont at sunset.
AWC: A few years back you spent a summer working at Woodcraft. What memory of camp sticks out in your mind?

SM: Yes, I worked with the Adirondack Woodcraft Camps in the summer of 2009. At the time I was working as one of the cooks in the kitchen, and this required me to be up well before the campers so that we can get a head start with the breakfast. Each and every morning that I woke up and crawled out of my cabin into the crisp morning air was a memory to behold, whether it be the families of deer scurrying around in the forest understory or the thinnest layer of fog spread out across the lake and onto the shore. Many of these mornings prompted me to sling my camera around my shoulder in order to capture that morning light.

In all reality, the entire time I was living and working at camp was an amazing memory. As a child I didn't get to experience a "sleep away" summer camp so to enter this unique setting and be welcome into the community was amazing.

As a botany researcher, what do you recall about the plant life in the Adirondacks?

I had a great time taking long nature walks in between meals through the woods and along the lakes. while on one of these walks I encountered my first ever "Fairy Ring" which is a large circle of mushrooms that comes about when the mycelium of a single mushroom spore grows in a radiating pattern. When the time is right, the outer-most reaches of this mycelium produces mushrooms in a large ring, a very unique sight to behold.

The two lakes, on which the camp is situated, offer a unique bog plant community. Armed with my camera I would float out in a kayak to photograph the amazing bog plant life along the shore line. The
bogs are slowly growing and encroaching on certain parts of the lakes, which in all reality is a part of the life cycle of a lake. Very neat!

You're a Vermont native, what is the view of the Adirondacks like from the other side of Lake Champlain?

I was lucky to grow up in the Champlain Valley of Vermont in a house which yielded amazing views of the Adirondack High Peak region. Here is a sampling of the many photos I have accumulated over the years.

A Vermont barn with the Adirondacks in the distance.

The High Peaks rising over the Champlain Valley at sunset.

What part of the country do you study in now?

I am currently working with the National Park Service and living in Flagstaff, Arizona, which is situated in Northern Arizona at 7,000 feet in elevation. When one thinks of Arizona they think of the saguaro cacti towering throughout the desert but Flagstaff is located in the high desert of Arizona where we have Ponderosa pine forests and open grass meadows. At these higher elevations of the Southwest the forest composition can sometimes be similar to what we find back east, mainly in the high alpine regions. Both here and the Adirondack High Peaks have fragile high alpine plant communities which are capable of surviving incredibly variable conditions such as cold snow in the winter and harsh sun exposure in the summer.

Is the botany of Arizona very different from the Adirondacks? Do you notice similarities?

For the most part Arizona has a vastly more arid environment than the Adirondacks, resulting in very different adaptations by the plants. This will be my fourth year living and working in the Southwestern environment and each year I come across some deep-down similarities between here and the Northeastern forests. As we all know, the Northeast during the fall is a spectacle of color to behold. Since moving west this has been the one thing that I have missed so dearly. To my surprise, this fall, while hiking in a narrow red rock canyon my friend and I turned a corner and came to an overgrown part of the stream that contained may different species of deciduous trees including the Rocky Mountain maple, all of which were ablaze with color! It was here that we found our fall foliage, within this small hidden canyon!

Now that you've expanded your expertise in the field of botany, are there any spots on or around camp you'd like to revisit and explore again?

Since the desert is so dry and arid I would love to poke around in those bogs once again, water side communities certainly are hard to come by out here.

Your blog is great and full of amazing pictures. Did you take pictures at Woodcraft? Do you have any you'd like to share with the readers?

Absolutely! Here they are:

Scott? Can we get a comment on the binomial nomenclature of this plant?

Bog plant life on Kan-Ac-To.

Some tricky camera work with the shutter wide open.

The beach and that giant old tree.

Kan-Ac-To looking east from the high dive.
Scott's photos are fantastic. Be sure to check out his Tumblr for some stunning photos from Ecuador to the Adirondacks and many places in between. Don't miss out!
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