Places

Cherry Blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Cherry Blossoms - Brooklyn Botanic Garden Luck has it that the cherry blossoms were almost peak at the Botanic during my visit to see my daughter. I was fortunate to experience the blooms back in 2014 when the flowers peaked on May 9. The gardens in bloom are quite magical especially when you are alone walking around in the misty coolness of the early morning. There was a small group of Japanese people, taking their time and moving slowly through the main walkway. They were noisy.

Cherry Blossoms - Brooklyn Botanic Garden

I was hoping that the drizzle would slow and it did, as I put the umbrella back in the backpack and started my routine of working the scene. I remembered some of the compositions of 3 years ago and did not want to repeat them. When I am photographing I normally don’t have an end in mind. Usually it is based on time or light or some other condition that causes me to stop.

Cherry Blossoms - Brooklyn Botanic Garden

I wandered out of the main Cherry Esplanade area and into the Japanese garden, another very peaceful area in the morning. For some reason I wasn’t finding what I needed here, the man-made constructions were too obvious and I made my way to this huge walnut tree that exuded so much power and quiet strength. I could see that the noisy group had finished their time with the cherry trees so I headed back that way only to find that my eyes for seeing were done. I had been in focused observation for 90 minutes and that is close to my limit. Found a place to sit and wait for my granddaughter to arrive. I shifted into family picture mode and ended up having a wonderful morning.

Walnut tree - Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Guana River WMA

Marsh at North Jones Creek Admittedly I haven’t spent much time at Guana and had never taken my bike onto the extensive trails to do any exploring. I made a reconnaissance trip to the north-west entrance to the park and did a small hike to take a look. Parking was very easy as the lot is designed to accommodate horse trailers. Walking on an equestrian path is not my preference for a wilderness trail. I returned with my bike and with my loaded backpack complete with tripod I headed into the park in search of wonderful things. My first stop managed to capture the last of the overcast light, and the sun burst through the clouds as I completed my shooting and I sighed with disappointment. No clouds in sight. I decided to keep moving on. The trails were flat but sandy in many areas and the weight of my gear was really starting to challenge me, plus the temperature was rising fast. I covered a trail that skirted Guana Lake but could not find a good place to access the water. The vegetation is very thick and full of bugs! After riding for about an hour I decided to head back and return when the light was better. Sometimes my dependence on the weather becomes a major hindrance on when I can shoot outside, but I have never been able to deal with the bright contrasty light of a sunny day.

Guana WMA, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Cloud Pool

Big Talbot Artist Residency

Big Talbot Island - View from the Milam House I'm enjoying a week at Big Talbot Island at the Milam House graciously provided by the North Florida Land Trust. This property is located on the only residential street on the island, a wayward attempt by the state to raise money by selling properties. Fortunately the idea was short lived before developers transformed this area into an Amelia Island resort. Driving up AIA and seeing the beachfront mansions one is reminded of the power of wealth to own property and do what they want with it. Certainly preserving unique and beautiful land for the public to access and enjoy is a privilege and something I support our government to pursue. There is less and less undeveloped land (especially desirable property near the water) and I can easily envision the crowded houses each with their own dock obliterating any natural view of what this land was like before everyone decided to take a piece for themselves.

Very rarely do I take time to be away from home and the studio to just be by myself. It's been an adjustment. After entertaining friends and family for a few days I finally faced the reality of dealing with myself and what I wanted to do. "Nothing" never seems to be an option for me, but perhaps should be considered seriously. I started complaining about the breezy bright sunny cloudless day and decided this was a message not to go out and shoot. There are plenty of overcast days that will offer themselves in the future. Right now it is sunny, so enjoy it. Being alone in a wonderful place is special. I will see what it produces, if anything. For now it doesn't matter.

Blackrock Beach - Big Talbot Island

Solitude at Cary State Forest

Cary State Forest The fog was thick this morning and i deliberated on where to go. We knew it was coming, and the morning schedule was empty. I decided to visit Ringhaver Park so that I could sleep in a bit and to check out the big oaks in the fog. Upon arrival a big dog in the yard next to the entrance was all excited and ready to tear down his fence. This disturbed my normal quiet preparation and entry and found myself anxious about disturbing the peace of the morning. As I walked into the park I said hello to a lady walking her dog. I had startled her and I'm sure she was wondering what all the tripod and camera gear was all about. As I set up for my first shot the mosquitoes started to attack, first covering my camera and then my face. Wow, I didn't expect this kind of reception. I walked to my go-to area of trees and as I took a quick test shot, knew that this wasn't going to work. My plan was to return to the car, spray myself down with Off! and then return. On my way out a strange man approached me and commented on my camera gear. I headed out and decided to come back another day as the dog resumed his barking.

It was already 8:40 but I decided to head out to Cary State Forest, a 30 minute drive. I needed some peace and quiet and wasn't prepared to waste this special morning. As I arrived at Cary the fog was still very thick and I drove up Fire Tower Road and stopped several times just to look. I felt that I had shot many compositions on this road before and was satisfied with just enjoying the solitude of the moment. With the exception of some highway noise off 301, all was quiet. I wondered about and got out the camera. I played around with no intentions or plans. That's generally how I like it. The roads are always a bit disorienting and I followed my intuition and drove towards the light. A few panorama compositions were captured, and the sun started to emerge around 10:30. Time to go.

Cary State Forest - Fire Tower Road

Osceola National Forest

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There are 3 National Forests in Florida, Osceola is one of them. I haven't been here in several years so I was much overdue, especially in light of the forest project I'm working on. Getting here requires a 90 minute drive which mean's Doug has to get up at 5 am, not an easy task. I was late for the sunrise but managed to catch the tail end of the fog as it lifted when the sun rose. There were several hunters actively loaded up to shoot some deer with their dogs. I was not comfortable driving around after passing a caravan of 6 trucks, but I was done by 10. The area is huge and will require some dedicated visits to get things covered. Lots of material here!

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Julington Durbin Preserve after the hurricane

Julington-Durbin_2016-1014-063 Hurricane Matthew slammed into Jacksonville on October 7 and caused widespread flooding to the beaches, but was not the catastrophic event everyone was predicting, which was a good thing. We have not had a major storm since 1964. We lost power at the house for 4 long days, and the tree removal in our immediate area of Mandarin will go on for weeks. Today I ventured out to the Julington-Durbin Preserve to check out any damage and could find very little in terms of downed trees. There was a lot of standing water making it difficult to get around without getting wet feet (which I quickly succumbed to), and of course the mosquitoes were having a field day. The fall wildflowers were in bloom and all was well in the woods, contrasted with the chaos and disruption on the civilized side of town.

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Southern Icons A-Z

Cypress on Suwannee SillS: Still Scene, Southern Swamp
By Hastings Hensel
Perhaps especially with this—
a swamp in all its mossy stillness,

caught in a photograph by Douglas Eng—
the mind must impress some phrase,

must make an order out of metaphor,
for such is the way of reflection, and so:

the world, it seems, is turned in on itself
at the waterline—cypress and tupelo trees

like narcissists, solipsists, as if nothing
existed in the world except themselves,

especially not sound: not wing-beat,
not tail-slap, not splash, no sibilance

of the cottonmouth, only this silence,
and, because they are not razed (not yet

at least), the mind believes the trees proud,
and tells the ear to hear a cry, full of praise.

This weekend I was part of an exhibition at Slow Exposures in Zebulon GA. The exhibit Southern Icons A-Z was curated by Rob McDonald, Donna Rosser, and Meryl Truett, and contained 26 photographs with accompanying text, each one representing a word characterizing the South. I received the letter "S" for "swamp." My immdeiate choice was an image I made in the spring of 2014 at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge title "Cypress on Suwanee Sill." The Okefenokee typifies the classic southern swamp, full of mystery, darkness, wetness, and bugs. The Suwanee Sill is a berm that runs along a canal that borders the west boundary of the park. The canal intersects the Suwanee River. Along the sill one can drive and then walk along the forested edge and most of the time not see another soul.

I was honored to be part of this group show and very pleased with the collaborative prose authored by Hastings Hensel.

 

Freedom and "old growth"

UCascades-MtBaker_2016-0706-147 I wrote this after two weeks visiting Mt Rainier and the Upper Cascades National Parks and surrounding National Forests and State Parks. I love the Pacific Northwest filled with cloudy days and heavily forested land. But the natural history of these areas are fresh with recent memory and existing battles with timber companies and interests that put the last old growth forests at risk. It's a continual war, and only through the diligence, tenacity, and sacrifice of concerned individuals do we have any forests left. For the general public has other priorities, and these battles are fought locally. I am indebted to all of those who are responsible for what is left and hope that there continues to be a future for these sacred lands.

7/24/16 – Making sense of the old growth

The northwest old growth forest stands in stark contrast to the southeast managed forests around my home. I was first taken by the overall sense of serenity, perhaps it was the quality of light, the temperature, the closed in feeling of the larger trees, or the different sounds of the birds and wind moving the branches. Early July meant that the leaves were fully out and that summer was in session, the trees were in full production and growth, the forest was alive. Large trees dotted the trails, enormous trunks heading straight up towards the sky. Walking amongst the foundations to these massive structures I felt insignificant. Often I reached out just to touch the bark and to try to feel the life force within. The forest floor was complex, filled with life and thick with vegetation, decaying limbs, stumps, and small trees all taking their turn at reaching for the sky. I was amazed at the diversity of growth and the sheer biomass of the scene. Primordial life as it has existed for centuries.

What occupied and interrupted my thoughts was the history of the place, and the thoughts about the old growth forests throughout our planet. These places are now very rare, less than 10% of what was, is still untouched. Is this a little or a lot? Who is to decide. The human race is consumptive, and I am an active participant in the depletion of the earth’s resources. How are we to recognize, reconcile, and rationalize what is happening to these places? What is evident for me is my awareness of what is happening, both here and in many other areas of our culture. The decisions about what gets cut, consumed, mined, polluted, extracted, and put at risk, are made by people who are primarily motivated by business. They strive for “balance,” which is all relative to where your center is. Capitalism is not self-regulating. It can become destructive by seeking goals that are not in the best interest of all…with all including non-human aspects of our planet. As I read more about the timber industry, and how trees have been (and continue to be) a pivotal factor in the economic wealth and security of nations, I realize how significant these forests are, and how drastically irresponsible we have been at even recognizing their existence.

Walking through these forests introduces the stark reality of what the forestry resource looks like. It’s like our use of water today. Each of us turns on the tap and lets the water run, because we have an infinite supply of fresh, clean water at our disposal. Why go to a lot of trouble being stingy and conserving a commodity that is cheap and abundant. Use it and focus your valuable time and effort on more important things, like watching TV and checking your social media feeds. Water is there and we have a right to it. When the Europeans landed in the New World it was the forests that completely overwhelmed their impressions. From a land whose forests had been decimated for centuries, this was a chance to start over again, to cut and cut and never have to worry about running out of timber. As they cut themselves across the country, when they reached the west coast, the timber exceeded any imagined possibility. Trees 300 feet tall and 15 feet in diameter filled the land for what seemed like forever. You could not possibly consume this much timber in several lifetimes, so cut they did. It was not until technology allowed the wholesale decimation of forests that we started to outpace these predictions. Just like our current consumption of water, we could not and would not stop.

Could we apply and learn the lessons from our old growth forests to conditions we have today? Sadly, no. As we speak the forests are being cut, and even more striking is the spread of insect infestations due to climate change taking down forests faster than the saws. Nature may be outpacing us and soon there may be no more forests to worry about.

These issues deeply concern me and draw me deeper into understanding a place where human beings have not managed to affect the natural flow of things. This is also true in the deserts of the Colorado Plateau, the boreal forests of Alaska, and in other sparsely populated areas like Death Valley. There is a certain attraction, curiosity, and connection to these remote places. The forests though, are very much alive, and it is this fragility that is so vulnerable to our intervention.

Considering that “man” has altered every other square inch of the earth makes me uncomfortable. It means that I am living in an artificial world, which is the reality of life, but something I haven’t really thought about. We always like to think that we are free beings, with the freedom of thought and existence particularly attractive, especially as Americans. But to know that we have created an artificial world, specifically to support the capitalistic “machine,” is disheartening. We cannot escape it, and running into the woods or desert is one of the few ways we can find a small glimpse of perhaps the last bit of real freedom in a real sense. Even going out on an established trail into these woods surrenders you to the fact that someone has established a path for you, one that you must take (“please stay on the trail”), but at least you can see beyond the trail and envision yourself in a place that is unique to you.

That is the attraction of these places for me. It is a reprieve and exercise of freedom in a visual sense to see nature unaltered by man. It is a necessary respite for all of us and re-establishes our existence as free individuals.

Back on the County Dock

Rain Watch - The County Dock, Mandarin FL As most of you know, the County Dock off Mandarin Road is one of my favorite places for an end of day experience, and when the weather looks threatening, it is the place to be. Today as I left the gym, I saw some huge clouds to the west and knew that the dock would have a show tonight. So after a few shots from the parking lot, I headed straight over. When I arrived, the rain clouds and pouring rain could be seen on the far shore over Orange Park. I did not bring my tripod (tsk, tsk), confident that I could handle anything put my way this evening. I saw two other photographers already in position, with their tripods and cameras ready to shoot.

Looks like Rain - The County Dock, Mandarin FL

As I made some exposures and waited for the weather to unfold, I thought about the timeless sequence of  weather, sunrise, sunset, and all the events in between, that occur time and time again. This grounds my anxiousness and allows me to just watch and listen. The wind was blowing and there was anticipation that we would get hit by the rain, but it appeared that for now, the lightening and rain clouds stayed at a safe distance.

The sky darkened and the sun set, leaving an orange sky and dark blue clouds. My desire to have my tripod accentuated as the light diminished and I increased my ISO setting. At a certain point you realize that it's over, even though color still lingered in the sky and there was a spiritual need to stay until the end.

Candy Clouds - The County Dock, Mandarin FL

Congaree National Park

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I made a quick reconnaissance trip to Congaree National Park near Columbia, SC, knowing that I needed to return with my kayak and more time. This is a fascinating place and one of the last old growth cypress forests in the south. My interest in old-growth has increased and as I learn more I become more curious about my reactions to being in these areas that have never been disturbed by man. I have a sense about them but can't seem to describe it, and visually, there is a different kind of randomness present. The park is not very large, but most of the area is only accessible by kayak. I'm always taken by the magnificence of these expanses of growth and habitat and how we have managed to destroy most of these areas through development.

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White Mountain National Forest

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Visiting New Hampshire's White Mountain National Forest in late April put me about 2 weeks ahead of the early spring growth ready to explode on the trees. Bright sun and warm temperatures made for beautiful weather for driving around, but I was looking hard for landscapes. I drove the famous Kancamagus Highway and did the big loop through Franconia Notch and Crawford Notch. I met my good buddy Craig Goss who drove in from Vermont for 2 days of fooling around. Unfortunately I think the weather was not going to cooperate. Stopping at a ranger station we spoke to a park service guide about the absence of old growth in the area. He interestingly remarked that the clearcutting of the forest allowed the secondary deciduous forest to come in giving the fantastic fall colors and a boom to the local economy. Hmmm, justification for the horrors of decimating the forest. You have to remember that the US government basically purchased all the lands throughout the country that were raped and clear cut and turned it into the National Forest system. So very rarely would you find any old growth in a National Forest. Ok, this makes sense, a positive spin on things.

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WhiteMountains_2016-0501-155My ultimate destination was a small patch of rare old growth located in a place called The Bowl Natural Research Area off the Dicey's Mill Trail which we attempted on Day 2. It was a rough hike (for me) uphill and I think we must have missed a turn somewhere because we never really think we saw an old growth forest, even though Craig, my guide, told me that NH "old growth" probably looks like your typical growth. Maybe we walked through it and never noticed. It started to rain and we wimped out after about 2 hours of hiking in. The camera gear was getting very heavy. At least we had a good workout, and a memorable story about the elusive old growth forest that we never found.

The Talbots

Big Talbot Island - Oaks Little Talbot and Big Talbot Islands are two of my favorite places for photography and for just getting away. I try to visit several times during the year. I got a late start and the overcast conditions were disappearing fast. But I've grown to accept "what is" in terms of the weather (and other things too!) so was perfectly ok if this turned into a reconnaissance trip and a chance to renew my annual Florida State Park pass. There is construction along Heckscher Drive with a new bridge over Sisters Creek. The drive is not quite as peaceful as it was when my dad used to take my brother and I out to fish at Little Talbot. I arrived at around 10 am, renewed my pass, and proceeded to the west beach. There were two cars in the parking lot. After a quick stroll along the beach I headed out to Big Talbot, crossing Simpsons Creek where it seemed like a lot of fishing was going on. I pulled off at the trailhead for Big Pine Trail which is the start of the new East Coast Greenway bike trail. The hike on Big Pine is always pleasant but the mosquitoes were still quite active. Next time I'm going to bring along my bike to experience the paved trail which is really nice. They will soon have the section completed that connects up through Amelia Island.

Big Talbot Oaks

Some of the best photography for the coastal live oaks is in the parking lot at The Bluffs. The lighting here is always sublime and there is an assortment of twisted and gnarled branches within easy access. I've photographed these trees several times already, but each time I'm here I feel as if there is something new I can capture. This area also gives you access to the beach and the driftwood along the shore (the boneyard). So what is it about these trees that holds my fascination? I am drawn to visually complex compositions. I try to make some sense out of them  by somehow understanding their inherent nature. There is a complex nature to each of us and often it is very beautiful. When we can reduce something complex into its fundamental structures, complex becomes simple and minimal, and the real beauty is revealed.

Big Talbot Oaks

Streaming South at the Wilson Center for the Arts

Streaming South postcard I'm excited to be exhibiting Streaming South at the Florida State College of Jacksonville - Wilson Center for the Arts. The exhibit opens August 17 - September 16, and a reception is planned for August 27, 5-7:30 pm. The exhibit contains 32 - 30x20 prints and includes a special behind-the-scenes area containing work prints and other fun stuff. The year long project evolved from humble beginnings and became a labor of love with many rewards. The project is ongoing with this short rest and regrouping. Sharing the results with the public and talking to others helps to reframe my approach and make adjustments. It is vitally important for me to produce material responsive to my audience. The project's primary purpose is environmental advocacy by awareness of "special places." I don't expect everyone to run out and jump in a kayak, but I'd like for each of us to consider spending time in those places that are special to us. It is through those connections that we become passionate and caring, qualities necessary for actionable responsibility.

PhotoNOLA

Swamp house A quick road trip to New Orleans to experience PhotoNOLA with a chance to hear Emmett Gowin's keynote and take a workshop with Camille Seaman. New Orleans is always a fun place to visit, with lots of good food and an urban vibe that is hard to top. I also saw some great exhibits at the New Orleans Museum of Art. PhotoNOLA is a great festival that should be on every photographer's list. The organizers do a wonderful job of attracting excellent exhibits, lectures, and the workshops are all very reasonably priced. If you want to do the portfolio reviews, apply early. The 50 slots were full within 10 minutes of the availability announcement. All reviewees participate in a Photowalk providing additional exposure to attendees of the festival...a great idea. Next year I hope to be luckier and land a portfolio review spot.

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The workshop by Camille Seaman was well attended. Camille was very gracious in sharing her insights into the fine art photography market and outdoor photography techniques. We took a "bayou" cruise from Westwego which was touristy and way too late in the day. We did afternoon image critiques which is not exactly what I was expecting, but everyone had a good time.

Seeing new in familiar places

One of my favorite walks in Central Park is along "The Mall," home of a large grove of American Elms. In late fall the the rhythm and flow of the branches are revealed. I love finding views that accentuate the organic nature of the tree along with the complexity of the structure. It was interesting that these shots were taken while walking north. When I turned around to walk south I failed to "see" anything. I did the walk 3 times, finding something new on each round. "The truth of trees can be found in the winter when the clarity of sunlight most reveals each tree as a unique form. Trees, rooted in earth, reaching for the sun and stars, each in its own way. And each with its own symmetry, its own pattern." - Hal Borland

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New directions

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It's a nebulous title for a post but I'm on to something new. A few months ago I bought a kayak. Enough said. In fact there is so much to say I started a new blog called Streaming South. Why another blog? I wanted a new platform to talk exclusively about my photography on the boat. I thought that this new conversation may distract from what I have going on here. Sounds like a strange reason, but head on over to see some new images and cool places to go.

Deep Creek on a kayak

Annual California excursion

Old Bridge, New Bridge - Oakland Bay Bridge Our annual trip to California came early this year. Usually we arrive in August. I don't have a good track record with the CA weather. While I hear that summers are typically cloudy and foggy, I've had no such luck. Bright sun and clear skies followed us all week as we covered San Francisco, Oakland, Monterrey, and Big Sur. I surrendered when we were at Point Lobos and Big Sur and decided to just enjoy myself without expecting to get any worthwhile images, which is exactly what happened. That's life, sometimes the weather cooperates and sometimes it doesn't.

Jackson and Grant - Chinatown, San Francisco

We managed to stop at some coastal towns for some good food and browsing. I enjoyed visiting the Photography West Gallery in Carmel and viewed work by Christopher Burkett. I'm always amazed at the high level of work being produced by some artists. Our other great discovery was a small hole in the wall restaurant called Dumpling Empire right near the San Francisco Airport. It's a 5 minute drive from the Best Western. Dumplings almost as good as my mom's.

Kelp - Pt. Lobos State Park

This year I feel that my interests are geared more towards local/regional subjects. Maybe that's why the karma wasn't right this year on the West Coast. I'm glad to be back home in familiar territory.

Spring at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Main Entrance - Brooklyn Botanic Garden On my list was to catch the Cherry Esplanade at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden at peak. I watched the Bloom Meter on the BBG website to see if there was any chance of catching something during our planned trip in early May. With the weather being all screwy lately, I thought there may be a chance. The stars aligned and the weather and trees cooperated for an outstanding display on a foggy May morning. I arrived at 8:30 and was the only one there for a while. Usually this place is packed with people. It was all magical.

Cherry Esplanade - Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Overall I was overwhelmed with what I saw. After about 3 hours I was exhausted. It is rare that I arrive at a place and conditions are so perfect for photography. I don't think I made any extraordinary images that day, but the experience was memorable. This day will be in my mind for a long time.

Cherry Walk - Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Touch - Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Spring in Prospect Park

Early Blooms - Prospect Park, Brooklyn Spring is in the air up here in Brooklyn where we are seeing some life in those dormant trees filling Prospect Park. I dodged the raindrops today and was thankful for some cloudy conditions. There was this cherry tree having an early explosion of blooms. Most of the other trees were just beginning to bud. I could feel the life ready to burst out of those lifeless branches.

Daffodils - Prospect Park, Brooklyn

Emerging Spring - Prospect Park, Brooklyn

Barnett Building finds new life

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Our 2013 One Spark project Beyond the Facade was located on the front of the former Barnett Tower on the corner of Laura and Adams. The once majestic windows are once again uncovered, as our murals and underlying plywood were removed. It's so nice to see the building again, and renovations are starting to house a law school, offices, and apartments. I was able to take a few shots inside the building before construction begins sometime after One Spark 2014. The building was already gutted several years ago in anticipation of another renovation project which failed. This time things look good for this grand building to come back to life.

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Walking around and photographing old buildings is one of my favorite activities. I like to feel the history within the walls and imagine all the activity in the previous use. It's uplifting to know a building is going to be re-used instead of torn down. Although most of the old character is gone, the main structure and exterior will remain. We need reminders of the past to realize that our city has a long and prosperous history.

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