CHRISTMAS CARDS PAST

In preparing for a recent craft show appearance I came across this Christmas card which I made and sent eight years ago.  You people probably think this kind of thing is easy:  It’s not!  This one took an hour of negotiation and a bucket of fish before he’d cooperate.  And he insisted on retaining an interest in the image.

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The original was made in Chincoteague.  I’ve always liked the image and I thought why should they disappear after one use.  So, I printed and framed it and I’m enjoying it on my wall for the holidays.  This also made me take a look at other past cards in the file, and I found that they, too, deserved another moment of fame.

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A few years ago two friends from the yacht club were speculating one night (over wine, of course) about having a view of the club under a full moon.  It is reckless to say such things in the presence of a pixel machinist.  Things happen.

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This was, admittedly, over the top but I think it was used that year sans Santa.  The moon shot was from a summer beach; the sheen from yet another.  I had photographed the tree in 2001 at Pittsburgh’s Winter Garden, and it enjoyed a life in many other alien scenes.  Perhaps the strangest was on the Holyoke Avenue jetty during a snow storm.  One friend, showing her confidence in us, asked Barbara if we had actually run an extension cord out on the jetty.  Of course we did.  🙂

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But it also had a more tender moment standing by the old shack along the causeway onto Long Beach Island.  Sadly, both the shack and the tree left with Sandy.

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That wreath around the heron’s neck has also had other assignments.  On a winter trip to the Catskills I found it floating in this stream.

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In yet another year it served as a frame for my Box Hill home.

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And here, decorating a race course marker under a guiding cormorant on the sailing grounds.

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A couple of years ago I experimented with photographing the Milky Way. The LBI beach is not a dark sky location but I had fun and produced a couple of creditable images.  Then, come December, this image fell into my head and stayed there.

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I once sent this picture to a friend, claiming it was evidence that Santa spent his summers at Beach Haven.  In the original he was surrounded by his pots of tomato plants.  She replied, “Oh, yeah, where’s the Christmas Tree?”  Wrong question as the revised picture showed.

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I don’t always mess with the pixels.  Here is a scene in a hallway of the Melk Abbey in Austria.  I hope they had floor polishers, and that the nuns didn’t have to do that floor.

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I’ve always loved this winter scene with its pictures of my family on the window seat at Box Hill.  Lots of eye-filling memories here.  Even some of those pictures had served as past Christmas cards, dating back to the last century.  Of the girls on the left, Maddy’s now out of college, and Gretchen will finish in 2017.  How did that all happen?

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Finally, in recent years I’ve been sending out a montage of my year’s work and art and fun with photography.  Here it is for 2016.  You can see the thumbnails better in a larger version by clicking here.

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Where would I be without my family and friends?

So, Merry Christmas and love to you,

and to all friends, Happy Holidays,

and “To All A Good Night”.

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ONE WEEK TO GO

It’s clear that someone removed a week in either July or August because, suddenly, there is now only one week remaining in the summer season.  Shame!  Something else to blame on Sandy?

This past weekend was wonderful;  in the sixties at night, and bright, clear skies and northerly winds in the daytime.  But they’re a sign that someone’s bringing the check soon and I’m overdue for posting some summer snapshots.

Pearl and I still have this kind of a scene during early morning coffee on Grampa’s deck.  Near, in the copse on Mordecai Island is the Great Blue Heron which seeks out that spot for the early morning sun.  Awakening, four and a half miles away, is Tuckerton Beach.

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We continued the post-Sandy cleanup.  My son-in-law, Bob, has worked hammer and tong to replace the wallboard in the flooded first floor, and he has done so with a half-height surface of beach-ey beadboard.  Looks nice.  Outside, Sigrid worked to clean the planting beds and prune the Crepe Myrtles.  We were delighted to see them come into bloom.  I had to protect the rambler roses, however, as the sense was that they should be torn out.  They must have heard that because they yielded beautiful blooms.

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Paddle boarding has become popular both off of the beach and, more so, in the bay waters.  I see these groups and singles going by frequently.  Once there was a solo with his dog on the bow of the board.  Here it looks as though the babysitter didn’t show this morning, or is that the babysitter?  Daughter Sigrid has been out a couple times, making the 1.5 mile circumnavigation of Mordecai Island.

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Storms come in summer, some impressive with scary wind and lightning.

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There were rainy days.  The Black Pearl pirate ship sails daily from Beach Haven into the waters of Little Egg Harbor bay.  This was a sad trip, however, as the heavens opened.  Most of the passengers crowded the poop deck for shelter (please, that’s from the French for stern, la poupe) but some seemed to enjoy being at one with the elements.

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This is the once proud Sultan, fisher of all manner of seafood, sailed by two generations of the Cotov family.   Friends of ours here remember going down to the boatyard on Friday nights and buying fresh lobster right from the boat.  Several years ago, the last to sail her, the late Nick Sr., was hard at work caulking and painting her on the scaffold.  I asked him if he planned to launch her.  He answered’ “Yep.  As soon as the ocean comes cross the island she’ll go in. ”  Well, Sandy came and went and I’m really surprised that Sultan didn’t go with her as there was certainly enough water under her.  Here she continues to age amidst her eclectic setting, including many of her lobster traps.

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On the side of the shop at the landing is this salute to Kate, wife of the first Sultan owner, Sam Cotov.   Kate lived for more than a century, passing away only a few years before Nick, Sr.  Young Nicky who makes his living in part from slip rentals and wholesale bait keeps the window box tended.

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Finally, yes, we do have some great sunsets over Mordecai and distant Tuckerton.  I was sitting in my living room recently when I noticed the warm glow of another production sunset coming through a nearby window.   The stained glass panel is one I described in a May post, and can be seen further under the Stained Glass Work tab at the top of the page.  Anyway, it was a serendipitous happening of warm sunset, structured clouds, reflection from the water, and the panel.

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It’s been a good summer for me.  The kids, their three dogs and their cat left last week to restart the off-island life.   That’s always a melancholy event but….some of them are coming back.  Granddaughter Maddy moved back to her second year at Cornell but granddaughter Gretchen doesn’t leave for UCLA until late in September.  So, the family will be back with me in the coming weeks to share the beauty of fall’s arrival.

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FLORIDA … IT’S FOR DA BOIDS

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Feeling cold and crotchety in mid-February I decided I should take the cure in Florida.  My friend was amenable so off we went, first to her family condo at Delray Beach.  The sun was shining and it was warm and we enjoyed a pleasant few days there.  We justified the cocktail hours with a little work, redoing a stepping stone path from the lanaii to the lawn with its sunset bench by the lake.

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One of the highlights of the area is the Wakodahatchee Wetlands.  This excellent project of Palm Beach County’s Utilities Department is a fifty acre meadow traversed by three quarters of a mile of boardwalks through and around marshes and ponds and thickets of nesting and resting bird life.  We visited it last year (see Wakodahatchee Wetlands) and it was great even without my long lens.  This year I brought the lens (100-400mm) and I was pleased with the results.

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There is the usual array of Great Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, and Anhingas.

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

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Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Anhinga

Anhinga

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A fun capture for me was this Red-winged Blackbird.  I’ve heard them in the fragmites and other shore foliage all my life, and watched them flit between hiding places, never pausing long enough to be captured.  This one did, and I was pleased to find the splashes of yellow under the red.

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From Delray Beach we headed across Alligator Alley to another favorite place…Sanibel Island.  After a few days on the beach there I began to think that maybe I could get into this Florida-in-February thing.  It is a quiet, laid back life pretty much focusing, for us, on the beach, the wildlife refuge, the competitive shelling, and looking for the green flash.  The opening scene above was taken early in the morning on our adjacent beach.  Here’s another scene illustrating what’s referred to as the “Sanibel Stoop.”

The Sanibel Stoop

The Sanibel Stoop

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As the above scene and the one below suggest, the weather wasn’t splendid every day but it didn’t get in our way.  One morning started this way but eventually cleared enough for a float-boat ride with a naturalist through the mangrove thickets of Tarpon Bay.

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We also went through the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge three times including once with a guide which was worthwhile.  And, we toured the excellent educational visitor’s center.  On the refuge trail I managed to capture something new for me: juvenile ibises, long legged, long billed wading birds. 

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On our last day on our way off the island we took one final swing through the refuge.  I was thrilled to capture this Yellow Crowned Night Heron.  They don’t come easy; they’re named Night Heron for a reason.  This one, however, was locked in on something, never flinching as I got close enough for the capture.  The feather detail and colors are beautiful and the yellow stripe and its head spike-feathers are high-five sporty.——————————————————————————————–

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Waiting for the green flash.  An evening ritual.

Waiting for the green flash. An evening ritual.

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For more scenes from the trip please click here.

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CHINCOTEAGUE FUN FOTOGRAPHY

In late November I returned for my fourth trip to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

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This time I travelled with eight others, all members of the South Jersey Camera Club.  This was one of the many field trips the club sponsors during the year, and it was a fun and productive trip.   Full Disclosure:  We broke out eaaarrrrly Saturday morning to capture the sunrise, and I discovered that my camera was still in bed … back home.  I had all but one of my lenses, my filters, and my tripod and all other gear that we carry … but … no … camera.  So ashamed.  Fortunately there were three other spare bodies available so the weekend wasn’t a total loss.  And, the companionship made up for it.

Our field trip leader, Pat, had us out on the grinder at (it seemed like) 4:00 AM, actually more like 5:45.  We drove out to the parking area for the wildlife loop road and proceeded on foot with our flashlights in pursuit of a 7:00 AM sunrise.  There was a wonderful ground fog above which the scraggly pines stood starkly.  Sure enough, the dawn light began to illuminate the Snow Goose Pool and we could begin to make sense of things.   The opening image above was one I captured just as the sun broke above the horizon.

Here’s most of the group that dawn.  There were things to photograph on both sides of the road. 

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Here’s another scene that morning before the sun had actually risen.  These two images show why it was good for us to be there at that time.  Our leader, Pat, and colleague, Larry, had both come down a day early and had scouted out locations for us.

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After that session we returned for breakfast and planned the rest of our day.  That included scouting out some interesting wading bird shots and also the famous wild ponies.

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The day concluded with pleasant relaxing around a bonfire on the beach in the long shadows of the setting sun. 

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After that a great group dinner in town which concluded with a small birthday cake for me, it being but two days after the event.  I was so moved that I offered a birth-inspired toast;

Here’s to the finest years of my life

Spent in the arms of another man’s wife.

My Mother, God bless her.

A splendid field trip with some wonderful people.

THE WAKODAHATCHEE WETLANDS AND THE MORIKAMI JAPANESE GARDENS

I recently enjoyed a week at a friend’s condo in Delray Beach, Florida.  The condo looked out on a small lake where there was a lakeside bench we enjoyed during  the cocktail hour.  Out in the lake was an aeration fountain;  its peak is shown above, caught in the setting sun marking the end of each pleasant day in the area.

One highlight was a visit to the Wakodahotchee Wetlands.  This is a vast park maintained by Palm Beach County as a pleasant place for bird watching while serving to final filter the already pure outflow from their water treatment plant.

The park is fifty acres with a three-quarter mile boardwalk that crosses between open water pond areas, emergent marsh areas, shallow shelves, and islands with shrubs and snags to foster nesting and roosting.  Over 151 varieties of birds have been seen along with turtles, alligators, frogs, otters and racoons.  I was envious of the photographers with their long lenses, capturing the various herons, anhingas and cormorants nesting in the thickets.  My own long lens was nesting back home.  Oh, well.

a tri-color heron.

 
 
 Here’s a female Anhinga and a Great Blue Heron.
Talking about all the crazy photographers.
 
This place was so pleasant and enjoyable that we returned for another walk.  We also visited a similar Palm Beach County Park, Green Cay Nature Center, 100 acres of constructed wetlands with a 1.5 mile elevated boardwalk through it with extensive educational facilities.
 
 

ANOTHER REWARDING ACTIVITY WAS A VISIT TO THE COUNTY’S

 

 MORIKAMI JAPANESE GARDENS

 

In 1904 a group of pioneering Japanese farmers came to Florida to establish the Yamato farming colony between Delray and Boca Raton.  By the 20’s the group had given up its dream but one member, Sukeji Morikami, persevered and became a successful farmer and fruit and vegetable broker.  In the mid-70’s he donated land to the county to be used as a park to preserve the colony’s memory.  Today it is a magnificent destination.  One wanders along peaceful paths through six major gardens surrounding a central lake.  The gardens reflect periods of Japanese garden design from the eighth to the 20th century.  Centrally there is an excellent museum and educational facility, the museum housing some 5000 artifacts.  The cafe lived up to its reputation as one of the three top museum cafes in the country.

The Wisdom Ring
 

Morikami Falls

Memorial Waterfall

 

For a gallery of trip images, please click here.  

 

A WINTER DAY ON CHINCOTEAGUE ISLAND

On my way home from Williamsburg I stopped at  Chincoteague Island to visit one of my favorite spots, the adjacent National Wildlife Refuge.  For scenery and water birds this place is like the Forsythe Refuge on steroids.  In the last week of December it certainly wasn’t people-crowded but the birds were out working the marshes and tidal pools.

Sunrise from the wildlife refuge.

As you see above, the sun rose over a quiet sea.  Cold? Yep!  Looking left or right for a couple of miles I could see maybe four people.

A cold cafeteria.

But the birds had begun their daily foraging.

 There is an access road that runs through the refuge, and a one-way circular road that is only open to cars after 3:00 pm.  But the two-way access road is lined with drainage ditches that provide a barrier between people and birds, and the birds have acclimated to the traffic, permitting lots of good closeups.  On the access road around Snow Goose Pond I could see Snow Geese in the distance and hear Trumpeter Swans but they were too far to photograph.

Among the best places to shoot are the culverts which pass under the road and which enable tidal flow into and out of the marshes.  The picture below was taken at one such place.  The flow of water brings lots of food for them.

Lurking for breakfast.

I set up my tripod along one of the ditches and watched this bird patiently sit….and study…….and strike!

Regretfully, the day came to an end, with these ducks still bottom feeding on Snow Goose Pond.

Sunset over Snow Goose Pond.

For larger versions of the above images and some more views please click here to go to a gallery.

I have never included a commercial note in two years of my posts but I heartily recommend the Best Western on Maddox Road just slightly before one enters the refuge.  It’s clean, well appointed, convenient, the people are pleasant and the rate was reasonable.  And, after watching the ducks bottom feeding I settled for a delicious steak in a comfortable atmosphere at AJ’s, also on Maddox Boulavard.  I’ve patronized both places before and the quality has held up.

Mid to late March would probably be the next good time to visit the refuge, about four hours drive from the Philadelphia area.

FALL’S COMING ASHORE

They say that fall doesn’t arrive until next week but I must tell you:  it has been prowling around off-shore for a couple of weeks, sneaking in at night,  probing our summer softness with chilly nights, and pushing winds into our days .  My cat, Pearl, has inquired as to the whereabouts of the electric blanket.

I’ve watched the meadows age as the spartina gives up the green, turning to a straw-colored glow.  There were one or two ospreys hanging around, late for their season but they have also taken the hint from nights in the 50’s.  The Great Blue Herons and the Great White Egrets are still here.  A sharp eye will see egrets on the far side of the inside pond above.

I’ve loved watching them take the warm early morning sun on the marsh on the near side of the island (Mordecai) above.  There have been four great blues, two yellow-crowned night herons, the great whites here and there, and a Belted Kingfisher who counter-wobbles on the day marker as the wind moves it back and forth.   Yesterday morniing as I watched I found myself amidst a gentle flutter-by of Monarch butterflies headed southwest.  Not a cloud by any means but a steady here-and-there of singles or twos or threes, and it continued during the morning.  They’re headed for Mexico.  Vaya con Dios.

And what’s happening on the beach three blocks away?  Well, there’s room to put your beach towel down and the ice cream vendors have left.  The island cleared out after Labor Day, and the windier days haven’t helped.

I think we can find a spot.

Even the gulls mourn the passing of lunch on the beach, hoping here for the last potato chip.

I don't care! We're not going home yet.

SOME BIRDS IN THE ‘HOOD – 9/03/09

Here’s a splendid portrait of a juvenile Green Heron resting on Bob’s boat rail.  I was only about ten feet from him and he was comfortable posing.  Took a while to identify him but my omniscient birding friend, Del, pronounced it a Green Heron and that settled it.

 

 

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Here’s a Great Blue Heron looking over some rental property on nearby Mordecai Island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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While these cormorants squabble over landing rights on the pole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a pair of  “Rats With Wings” shots.  The one on the left was taken after a delightful lunch at Cape May’s Lobster House.  On the right, in my back yard.

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Here’s a scene I captured in June but its mood is perfect for the end of the season.

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