This has been quite an adventure. It's taken longer than I thought (or that the contractor estimated). Part of the problem is that the "grabber" (the equipment that grabs chunks of cut-down trees in a huge metal jaw) developed hydraulic fluid problems, and in spite of their onsite attempts to fix it, it just wouldn't work properly. Their other grabber was at another job today, but will be here tomorrow.
I've been taking pictures all of both days, and will be posting them here now and for a few days to come. Here is the original view of the massive white oak...
They cut off all the side branches first.
Then they started on the oak. Now, these guys have see a LOT of trees, but even they were impressed! I hated to have it removed, but it has been dropping more and more 6' diameter branches the past coule years, and I was becoming convinced it was dying and would fall over on the house (as the prevailing winds would blow it in that direction).
They cut off the smaller branches and push them in a safe direction. The larger branches take a bit more preparation. They tie a rope (which is looped up over higher branches) to the branch, twist the rope around the tree trunk (for friction), and then just one guy can can the cut branch from falling while releasing the rope slowly. A couple other guys grab the branch near ground level and guide it to a safe landing (away from the house and fence). I thought I had a picture of the twisted rope trick, but I guess that was one of the dozens of blurry ones I had to delete.
They use a neat knot I am familiar with from Boy Scouting called a "bowlin-on-a-bight" . It makes a loop in a rope that it tight under weight, but undoes easily afterwards. It is the knot commonly used to lift people from cliffs and such. Its one of those "the rabbit runs into his hole, circles around, comes back up and then dives down again" kind of things. There is an odd pattern of wrist looping movements that I recognized.