Tuesday, September 30, 2008

DC Cormorant

I wondered about this Double Crested Cormorant. It is unusual to see cormorants sleeping in the daylight. It was about 5:00 pm. On my return walk, he was up and about diving for fish.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Begining of Fall

The leaves are starting to turn here on Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Braving the rain yesterday, I just had to get out of the house. It’s Fall. When I was a kid, I used to hate autumn because it signaled the end of freedom…back to school.

Living in LA for three years and Colorado for sixteen, I’ve been away from the spectacular Fall colors. The kind of colors that would fill the mountain sides as far as you could see. Or maybe that is the way I want to remember Vermont.

I remember my University days at UVM, walking down Maple Street from campus in October with the sun shining through one hundred year old trees onto a carpet of colored leaves, kicking them up as when I was a kid. It didn't matter that I was now 20 and studying physics, I was somewhere between lecture and study. This was my free time.

There is a smell to Fall, the leaves falling have an earthy smell of dampness mixed with the fragrance of MacIntosh apples. The colors and the sounds are punctuated by Blue Jays calling across the woods.

Maple Leaves (c)2008

Maple Leaves (c)2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Beacon Hill, Boston

My experience is predominantly wildlife photography. I’m totally out of my element in the city. There are so many new lighting conditions, shapes, lines, and forms to photograph in the city. This gets me out of my comfy zone.

Rather than succumbing to the temptation to pontificate on the justification for the existence of this photo, I’ll leave it up to you do decide the meanings, merits and shortcomings of this image. After all, isn’t that what art is all about?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Derby Wharf Light, Salem Massachusetts

This is my 100th post. We are having absolutely dismal weather here on Cape Ann. Does that excuse us from getting out? Heck, no! When I saw the fog socked in, I though of only one thing, I wanted to go down to Salem and shoot the Derby Wharf Light. Chances were good that it would be quiet.

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

I made it down to Salem at high tide. I think that it was prefect because at low tide, sometimes things get a little muddled with the exposed rocks, seaweed, mud and what ever. Perhaps if I made it at low tide, I would have taken different angles to compensate. Who knows?

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

I generally don’t include people in my photography. Why? I just prefer not to alter the mood of the photo with people that I cannot put in the right position, or maybe they are doing something that doesn’t fit what I want to show. There were people walking and jogging to the end of the wharf and I could shoot around them. This man went to the end and just hung out, looking over the harbor. There was a little something in the back of my head saying, “Shoot the frame, it will be the best one”. I wanted a peaceful, reflective photo. He makes the shot. So you see, sometimes you have to break your own rules.

I decided to bring the tripod and both bodies and lenses. Normally for structures, I just bring the short lens, however the decision to bring the 70-300 zoom paid off. The longer lens came in handy because I ran into a Semipalmated Plover and three Semipalmated Sandpipers.

Birds can make an excellent accent to a photo. Here the Semipalmated Sandpiper on the granite wall with the iron ties adds interest. I couldn’t resist just pulling back and shooting him facing out of the picture. Logic tells us to have the plover facing in, but I like the effect of having him look out of the frame. It is totally unexpected and it’s off beat.

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

I really like this shot of three Semipalmated Sandpipers. This illustrates why it is fun to go out and shoot in the fog. All three of these birds face different directions with relation to the sun. But because the light is so diffused, there are no faces lost in the shadows. Totally fun! I love fog.

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kalmar Nyckel

We saw the Kalmar Nyckel on our trip to Provincetown. The Kalmar Nyckel is a reproduction of the original Dutch 200 tonne Pinnace built in 1625. The original Kalmar Nyckel sailed from Sweden to the New World in 1638 leaving its passengers to establish the first permanent European settlement in the Delaware Valley, the Colony of New Sweden in present-day Wilmington, Delaware. She made a total of four roundtrip crossings of the Atlantic—more than any other ship of the era.

We don’t see ships like this in Gloucester.

As was typical of the day, the Kalmar Nyckel is adorned with carved faces, head and figures. This was considered a show of wealth and power.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Annisquam Light

Annisquam Light is found at the mouth of the Annisquam river in the community of Annisquam, west of Gloucester. I love photographing this little lighthouse. It has differnt moods with the tides and sun. It is worth hunting down when you are in the area.

Man Taking a Picture of a Man Taking a Picture

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cross Post, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sanderlings

This is a being posted simultaneously on SLG.

This is my home office space. That is my monitor and my wine. The other day, I came across a flock of Sanderlings feeding at low tide with the sun going down. This creates dramatic colors and an opportunity to get some great shots. In these lighting conditions, shutter speeds become slow and the depth of field become shallow. This makes for difficult shooting conditions, especially when working with active, twitchy birds. Such is wildlife photography.

The 50 Sanderlings were feeding and being “relatively” quiet. I couldn’t pass this up especially because they were quite content to allow me to approach them and with patience, I was able to get a working distance from 10 to 50 feet. But hand holding 300mm lenses, kneeling in the mud and getting down low, you best over shoot.

Taking pictures can be a joy, and I shot 100 or so knowing that the majority were going to be blurry because of the activity of the subject and the low light. That means hours of culling through pictures, sending them to the “cutting room floor”. Then deciding on the best of the best that are worthy of posting becomes a laborious task. A nice glass of wine will help.

Cabernet Sauvignon
Sonoma County
Blended with Cabernet Franc and Merlot
Vintage: 2004
AVA: Dry Creek Valley
Alcohol: 14.4%

Color: Garnett
Intensity: Dark
Aromas: Cherry, plum, jam, raisin, violet, rose, mint, tar, allspice, anise
Flavors: Strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, cherry, currant, mineral, anise, allspice, coffee, chocolate.
Body: Full
Acidity: Moderate
Sweetness: Dry
Tannins: Suede
Finish: Long

Summary: This is a very highly extracted wine, very dark and rich. The wine is what you would expect from Dry Creek Valley, it is fruit forward, well balanced, very intense in its flavors. The finish goes into a very pleasant spiciness with mineral and earth on the mid finish then back to cherry and blueberry. There is a slight mint quality that shouldn’t surprise. What does surprise me is a lack of a eucalyptus component that is very common in the region. This isn’t a flaw, just an observation.

I think the Cabernet Franc and the Merlot bring a great deal to the table. The fragrant qualities of this wine stay right to the end of the glass.

I would have this with big foods. Pizza, roast beef, grilled mutton dishes, barbeque, grilled Portobello mushrooms or you can do as I’m doing, enjoying it while posting. Summer is about over here in New England. It is starting to cool off. I’m ready for a big wine again. Yah, I’m enjoying this.

Post Script: Just a few photos for the SMU post.

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I went back up to Rockport tonight after work to shoot the Sanderlings again. Yesterday I felt a little rushed and I wanted to catch the sun about an hour earlier. After the Sanderling shoot, I looked around the beach a bit.

The sun was shining across from the eastern horizon on a group of fishermen casting from a rock outcrop. I took five test shots to see what would happen. Tonight’s posting is a simple one. I hope you enjoy this photo of a man fishing in Rockport.

Casting from the rocks. (c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Chasing the Light in Rockport

I could see that the sky was setting up good sunset. Decisions have to be made quickly. I thought I’d like to go up and shoot Thacher Island from a different vantage then skip up to Rockport to shoot a weather vane with the high pink clouds that I was predicting. I didn’t know what I was setting myself up for.

I drove up to Rockport a beach on the a few miles south of town. I hopped out of the car. The sun was getting low in the sky and what did I see? About 50 Sanderlings feeding in a corner of the beach at low tide. They were not doing much running back and forth and I the lighting was dramatic. Abandon plan A, onto plan B. Down to the beach, knees in the mud. I got some awesome shots.

Sanderling (c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

I hung on a long as I thought I could squeeze shutter speed out of the light. The birds were extremely cooperative. I was shooting from 10 to 50 feet and they accepted me quite readily.

Then onto Rockport. What did I see? No pink clouds behind the weather vane, but some awesome light on Motif #1. Now those of you who don’t know Rockport, Motif #1 is called so because ever since Moses was in the third grade, people have painted the red fishing shanty. I thought it was just a brilliant photo subject the day I discovered it. Now it is fun to watch other people discover it.

Motif #1. (C)2008

Finally, the pink clouds were setting up behind the weather vane. I didn’t get the exact profile I wanted, but I’m pleased with it. From the time I hit the beach to the time I finished the weather vane: 30 minutes. I call this “chasing the light”. In fact, I wanted to call my blog “chasing the light” but someone else used it and never started the blog. Danm.

Weather Vane (C)2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Ann's Eyes", Thacher Island Twin Lights

The Thacher Island Lights as viewed from Rockport, Massachusetts. Standing one hundred and sixty feet above the sea, the twin lighthouses of Thacher Island have stood guard over the coasts of Cape Ann ,Massachusetts , since 1771. Although Rockport is know for its granite quarries, the granite for these lights came from New Hampshire. Naturally, this did not set well with the locals.

The North Light Tower

The South Light Tower

Monday, September 15, 2008

Least Sandpiper on Seawead

We recently had a south wind blow seaweed on the rocky shore at Eastern Point. I was excited to have a chance to photograph this Least Sandpiper on the striking colors of the different types of seaweed.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Weathercock (C)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

This weathercock is rather old and primitive. It seems to have been well taken care of sitting atop of a church that was erected 1756.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Political Reporting

Spotted Sandpiper Brawls with two Semipalmated Sandpipers

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

A Spotted Sandpiper was seen brawling with two Semipalmated Sandpipers on the patch of seaweed at Eastern Point Audubon Sanctuary. The Spotted Sandpiper, seen teetering about the rocks has been reported by Sibley and others to be a loner.

One of the smaller Semipalmated Sandpipers fled the scene and perched on a nearby rock avoiding the fight. There was no available food on the rock.

What would you conclude from reading this? Spotted Sandpipers are aggressive birds? The actual fact is that the fight was started by one particular Semipalmated Sandpiper. In this mixed flock of Semipalmated Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones, Least Sandpipers and Semipalmated Plovers, one particular Semipalmated Sandpiper was seeking down other birds and starting fights. It was not the Spotted Sandpiper.

None of the statements were false. But I did not give the full story. Such is political reporting.

The Press seems to be doing a lot of focusing on their objectivity. Why are they spending so much time telling us that they are unbiased and objective? Because they are not. They have their own agenda, and it seems to be slanted towards the Democratic Agenda. It may be the right choice, that is up for you to decide. If you vote Democratic or Republican or Third Party, it will be based on your own judgment. But judgment takes facts and knowledge to build understanding. The press does not help us with their obfuscation.

As an illustration, Palin was reported to have voted against a pork barrel “bridge to nowhere” project and the press was eating her alive because she once supported it. Prior to that piece, they showed excerpts of her from interviews where she was obviously nervous being interview. This woman is not a polished politician yet and the press is not interested in helping her develop.

Obama made a comment about a pig with lipstick. Now the press is saying it was directed at Palin. Remember the “Newlywed Game”, the game show from the ‘60s and ‘70s where couples were supposed to predict their spouse’s answers to questions? The host was A MASTER at getting the couples to fight and bicker for entertainment value. That is the role that Press has chosen to take on to boost ratings.

Is this rant the result of watching “Network news”? No, it was PBS. The network that is telling us that it is the most unbiased and objective. Who are you kidding?

Obama and McCain are both capable politicians. Either one of them is qualified to run the country. Come on Press, help us with facts. PBS and NPR, you too.

BTW, Semipalmated sandpipers are peaceful birds too. Here are two hanging out with a Semipalmated Plover.(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

Friday, September 12, 2008

Iron Weather Vane

I found this great iron weather vane on an early 19th century house in Vermont.

I've adopted a policy to not disclose the locations of weather vanes on private lands. I was talking with a museum staff member about their weather vane. It was a reproduction. Sadly, the original was stolen. This is not the first weather vane theft that I have heard about.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sanderlings, how to Photograph.

Sanderlings are plump little shorebirds that present some unique photography challenges. Here we have a Sanderling running across the sand. The bold black and white plumage distinguishes this as a juvenile.

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

Sanderlings feed along the shore lines where the wave actions stir up their food items. They will run back and forth with the waves probing the sand for little crustaceans and worms. This action gives the photographer a challenge of a rapidly moving target. I shoot primarily in aperture priority mode where I can control the depth of field. A narrow depth of field can add interest. I also target my auto-focusing bracket on the eye of the target bird. I have the ability to move my focusing bracket to the left of the view finder. I know that the birds will be running right to left, so I want to focus on the eye of the leading bird. In this case, I had the autofocuse on continuous rather than automatic or single.

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

I left the shooting mode in single because of the rapid running of the birds. This gave me the opportunity to shoot when at the optimum time. In this case, shooting in continuous mode would have given me a lot of bad shots that I would have to waste time sorting out.

The Sanderlings I was shooting were not hanging around preening. This feather fluff was a rare moment I was lucky to capture.

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

This adult Sanderling in winter plumage has found a tasty meal. Capturing a moment like this provides additional insight into the bird’s life. The reflection of the shallow water can add interest, but in this case, there were other Sanderlings trying to steal the prize and getting the reflection shot was the secondary to capturing the food item.

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

Wildlife photography entails a bit of luck. You just cannot plan a shot like this. This reminds me of a 747 taking off next to a Piper Cub.

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

I shoot with lenses up to 300mm. This is short for this type of work, but I can hand hold it without fear and it gives me mobility. The trick is not to pressure your birds. The pros use 500mm and 600mm and can shoot from a distance. This makes it easier as the birds don’t care and will act natural.

Every bird has its feeding habits. Sanderlings are very active running up and down with the waves. When I shoot birds, I take my time to approach the birds, slowly and test their comfort level. When the birds stop feeding, preening or resting and start to move off, that's my clue that I’m pressuring the birds and I will back off. They will usually settle down and go back to their normal activity. This gives me a feel for my working distance, how close I'm going to get. I may spend an hour or two working with a flock of birds to get photos like this. On the beach, there are no trees, no cover. I just mind my working distance so that the flock doesn’t freak out and fly off.

Birds on migration have a job to do. They need to feed and pack on the fat. It is a matter of life or death. Chasing birds off feeding areas wastes their energy. If the birds do not settle down quickly, I'm done, end of photo shoot. I won't get the shots I want so why pressure them? If it all goes well the birds will get used to me and will approach me on their own. That is when the photography really begins!

I hope you found this posting helpful. If so, let me know.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Meeting Joey of Good Morning Gloucester

After shooting Annisquam Light and some Semipalmated Sandpipers, I decided to stop by and meet Joey of Good Morning Gloucester. Joey is a very dedicated, hard working, community minded blogger. Here he is working at the family lobster business sorting lobsters.

Blogging on Joey’s level takes a lot of work and creativity to stay fresh. What I like about Good Morning Gloucester is that the postings are always fresh, they include people he meets along the way, he promotes others and it is very positve. I’m learning tons about Gloucester, fishing and lobstering.

Hmmm...looking at all of these lobesters makes me want to go get some wine.

New friends made along the way.

I’m way behind on my postings, or maybe I’m too far ahead on my photography. This is a posting I wanted to do last weekend but the Schooner Festival kept me hopping and editing photos.

Having a blog or two opens the doors to meet new people that you normally wouldn’t. I want to introduce you to an artist I met down at the Maritime Heritage Center in Gloucester. Martha Everson is a photographer from Salem. When I walked by her display, I was stopped in my tracks. Martha was showing her Coastal Art Blocks. Naturally, I had to chat with her.

Martha is a warm and friendly gal who I understand walks around with a digital camera and shoots her universe. Looking at her Coastal Art Blocks, she really captures the mood. Check out www.marthaeverson.com. She has great depth as a photographer. She works in the Wedding, Pregnancy, Family, Landscape and Still Life genera.

Next I spied Liz Grammas spinning yarn. Liz was gracious enough to let me take a couple of snap shots. I grabbed her business card however there isn’t a website posted. Sit tight, I’ll see if I can do an on-line interview.

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