Thursday, October 30, 2008

Memento Mori, 18th and 19th century grave stones

Memento Mori

We have some of the country’s oldest graveyards here in Massachusetts. I found the art of the headstones very interesting. There are obvious fads that come and go. The headstones I’m presenting here are from the 18th and 19th century. I’ve tried to display a wide verity of styles. You can see the trends change about every 20 years and you see the same trends throughout the region.

It is worth mention that these were real people. They settled in an pioneer area, lived through and died in wars. This is part of our heritage and each stone is a national treasure.

(c) 2008 ShootingMyUiverse

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Above is a head stone and below is the matching stone at the foot of the grave.

(c) 2008 ShootingMyUiverse

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(c) 2008 ShootingMyUiverse

Finally, sadly, these headstones are not going to last for ever. These 18th and 19th century head stones on slate hold up much better than the late 19th and 20th century marble statues. But there were variations in slate quality and many have split and disintegrated with the weather.

I found a couple of useful sites for headstone symbolism:
Symbols on Headstones Demystified
Headstone Icons, Symbols and their Meanings.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Shoot first and ask questions later



So last Sunday night, I went up to Rockport and thought I’d try to get some sunset shots of Thacher Island. When I arrived on the scene, this little guy greeted me. The light conditions were low, and wide open, I could get 1/40th of a second. Not a good shutter speed hand holding a 300mm lens on a twitchy little sparrow.

I wasn’t sure what he was so I invoked the “shoot first and ask questions later” policy. I can upload and figure it when I get home. So I rattled off about 20 frames because I know that photos of twitchy little sparrows in low light conditions end up in the recycle folder. Again, my strategy was to over shoot and hope for discernable field marks.

Five photos were good enough to show field marks. “It’s a Song Sparrow. I’m near water, it’s brushy…case closed.” I though. But then, the colors are a little off and he was more interested in standing on rocks than on the tops of bushes…what is this guy? After an hour of studying face patterns, digging through four field guides I made up my mind. “It’s a Song Sparrow. The face pattern, the spot on the chest, the notched tail, it all adds up. Notched tail????” No, Song Sparrows have rounded tails. Harrumph.

Back into the field guides…finally, it is a Savannah Sparrow. I was stumped because Savannah Sparrows have yellow eyebrows. The lesson learned is that the eyebrows fade in the fall. This is cool, because I’ve never seen the Ipswich sub species. (It’s a birder thing.)



Notice the yellow eyebrow on this Savannah Sparrow that was shot in Mechanicville, NY last April. We came across him him singing on a bulldozer in a development that was being built. The land was farm fields, perfect for Savannah Sparrows. It was like he was singing and claiming his land saying, "This is my home, get this dozer out of here!"

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Windy day experiment.

The wind kicked up this afternoon, pushing out the rain of this morning. The high thirty to forty mile per hour winds coming out of the south created fast moving, billowing clouds that were drifting in the light. But what caught my eye were the sea gulls skillfully mastering the gusts.

Gulls congregate on the leeward side of Tenpound Island and soar over the island like bees.(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

This presented a challenge, what are the possibilities? The gulls were not well lit by the setting sun, but with digital photography, I could experiment and it wouldn’t cost me a cent.

A compromise between detail of the bird and washing out the clouds.(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

What I was interested in was just practicing. What are the capabilities of the camera? How well will the camera follow the gulls? Will it capture the broad range of luminosities? How will the composition look? This simple experiment would have cost me about $45 in slide film and processing and the results would be sitting in the landfill next week. With digital, I could shoot 120 frames, go over to the computer and delete the 90 percent of the frame that I know will be bad. These conditions are tough, but I can take the shots and test the capabilities.

The low setting sun under lights a banking gull showing detail and good cloud color. (c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

None of the above photos are that spectacular, their importance is in the experience gained. With the sun setting low, the underside of the birds can be illuminated. This prevents silhouetting. Over expose to detail the birds and you wash out the clouds. So you may have to compromise and decide what your image is all about. Is it colorful clouds accented by a bird or is it a bird with a colored cloud background?

This photo shows the billowing, swirling clouds with good color.  I want the birds in silhouette to add some depth and interest. (c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

Monday, October 27, 2008

The yellows are dominating now or "Steve B goes Point and Shoot"

This is a graveyard in Ipswich, Massachusetts. The colors were just amazing. And why not do a posting about a grave yard? They are actually fascinating places, especially in this part of the country. This graveyard was originally set aside in the 17th century, but I couldn’t find any headstones from that period.


I met this father and a son reading the head stones. He lamented that he didn’t have his camera with him. (What was he thinking? It’s autumn in New England for Pete’s sake.)



This is a cemetary in the center of Essex village. The leaves there were turning red and yellow on the same trees.



The drive home took my by another grave yard and I had to just pull out the camera. I was enthralled by the long shadows, the backlit sugar maple leaves and the headstones in shadows.

My wife went to the wine blogger’s conference in Sonoma. I was playing the bachelor. She took the D80 with the 18-200mm lens. I blew the dust off the Cannon PowerShot A70 and grabbed the other D80 and went out to do some leaf-peeping. I didn't know what I wanted to call this post until I realized all three of these were taken with the point-and-shoot.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Harbor Scene

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

This is one view of Gloucester Harbor. It has a look and texture all its own. I’ve been in different towns and seen wood cuts, oils, water colors, photos and drawings not know that they were from Gloucester and thought, “This is Gloucester.” There is a unique combination of steel, wood, granite and water. Gloucester is unmistakable in the look and feel.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.

Last night the sky was clear as a bell. I woke up at 3:00, excited that it was Saturday and I'd be able to get out to shoot the sunrise. I tossed and turned until about 4:00 and slept until 6:00. The sky was overcast and it looked like the cloud bank was quite extensive. Disappointed, I tried to go to sleep.

At 6:30, I saw a glimmer of red coming through the dusk. I leaped out of bed and threw on my cloths and was out the door in five minutes. Down the road I headed. I could see that the colors were developing quite rapidly, and didn’t think I could make it up to Rockport to shoot Thacher Island. I made it to Good Harbor, about half way and hit the beach. This is the results.



Thacher Island.



Salt Island



Bass Rocks. Always look around during sunrises and sunsets. You never know what you will see.

For these photos, I stopped down to get a longer exposure. This gives the waves an ethereal, softer look. Using the fastest shutter speed, approximately 0.1 seconds would have given the water a coarser look, detracting from the main subject. These shots were on the order of five to ten seconds. In true SMU fashion, I have not altered the colors.

Post script: As far as the famous weather adage, "Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning." The wind is howling! Here is the present weather statement from the National Weather Service.

"Overnight: Showers, mainly after midnight. Some of the storms could produce gusty winds and heavy rain. Low around 55. Windy, with a south wind between 25 and 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts between a half and three quarters of an inch possible. "

Friday, October 24, 2008

Spider

I decided to go for a walk after work because it was so nice out and there is a finite number of pleasant days left in this year. I found this little guy building a web out on the docks. Now I’m no macro photographer but the digital revolution has provided me with the freedom to do things that I wouldn’t normally do. This little guy, (actually, he was about 2 inches long) has a furry little face that was hard to shoot. He was quite happy to give me the opportunity to just watch him for about 20 minutes. Thank goodness digital film is cheap!

Putting aside the creepy factor, it was really interesting to watch the spider purposefully move around, “just like he knew what he was doing”.

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

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I was packing my 70 to 300mm lens. The light was getting low so I had to go with flash to get a little depth of field and some stop motion. I was shooting on a dock, so the water and boats were far away enough to keep the background clean. The extra depth of field gives the pictures some body.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Gloucester City Hall Clock Tower

The clock tower on our historic city hall has been behind scaffolding all summer long hiding a new copper roof. I’ve just been itching to photograph this. Today I was really excited to see that some of the scaffolding has come down.

We’ve had rainy weather and the morning started out cloudy and butt cold. By the time I got home from work, the sky was bright blue. I like to decompress after work so I grabbed the 300mm and headed out for a stroll. I had no idea what I was in for.

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse



This is what the clock tower looked like before work started this spring.
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Cracked paint, broken trim work and missing sections of roof.

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My goal was to capture an image of the new copper flashing and the weather vane, but when I got closer, I noticed there was a hawk on one of the architectural features.

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse



It seemed like an odd place for a Red-tail, but then my mind flashed back to an instant a couple of weeks ago when I thought I saw a Peregrine Falcon fly by…but didn’t trust myself. Oh my gosh! It is a Peregrine!

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

I had to throw this photo in. I can just imagine what is going through this Rock Dove's mind, “OH CRAP!”

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I wish I had some more lens...this would have been a great shot.

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

Here is our new clock tower dome. Ain’t it pretty?

To get a real "before" close up look, go to the City Hall web page and see the video at the bottom.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cape Ann in October

These are three photos I wanted to get up before the snow flies. The first image is a Claude Monet inspired piece.

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

This is a Maple showing a nice orange-red against the blue sky.

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Finally we have a granite quarry located on Halibut Point on the north tip of Cape Ann. The foreground water is contained by the quarry and the background is the Atlantic.

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse
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