I got a nice new Apple Watch for Christmas from my lovely wife Robin. It is pretty cool but a little too advanced, it wouldn’t work with my old iPhone 6, so of course I was forced kicking and crying to to upgrade my phone! OK, I’ve been eyeing one for a while so it wasn’t too painful, other than the price. I got the spiffy iPhone 11 Pro Max since it has what is reputed to be a great camera built in. I hear a lot of people saying their phone can make images as good as my expensive DSLR camera. I tell them to come to my gallery and I’ll show you plenty of shots you aren’t going to make with that phone. But now that I have the fanciest around I need to give it a try.
All phone cameras have an extremely wide angle lens but this gets even wider. While a nice soft snow was falling this morning in Vermont, I went out with our dog Pudge to give the phone a little trial run. I shot some photos on normal setting, some with the telephoto and then the wide angle. Any camera would handle these conditions pretty well so it hard to tell what the camera will really do but so far they look pretty good. I got Pudge to sit and pose and used the extreme wide angle to really make her dominant in the photo. Like most cameras, it made the image too dark because of all the snow. It made the snow gray rather than white and I needed to correct it in post processing but it wasn’t off that far. I got the normal wide angle distortion in the trees but that is to be expected. The image looks pretty sharp but I’m not making a 60″ print. That will be the real test.
I went to Washington Square Park today and ran across Paul, a guy who seems to have an affection for pigeons. Paul was sitting on a park bench surrounded by maybe 100 pigeons and many sparrows too. But the pigeons weren’t just on the ground like the sparrows, they were all over Paul, sitting on his arms, legs, clinging to his shirt, hanging off his pants, covering his shoes and even sitting on his head. It was quite the sight.
There are times when I’m shooting and big, heavy thoughts come into my head. I think about how the photo might be symbolism for the meaning of life or wonder how images alter the behavior of people. Fortunately that doesn’t happen often or I might be goofier than I already am. But there are times when I’m out enjoying the world while I have a camera in my hand and the scene is just classic pretty.
This evening I was wandering a beach in Cape May, NJ, as the sun was going down. It wasn’t the most spectacular sunset ever but it was pretty and the few people sharing the beach were enjoying it. A couple was walking on a levy jutting out in the water as the sun lowered on the horizon. I like watching people, seeing how they interact and making up stories about them. This couple was young, obviously on a date and didn’t know each other well. They didn’t touch or hold hands but she walked in a demur way and he had a macho strut. If I were a fiction writer this couple would fit well into a romance novel where she ends up being a serial killer who strips the tattoos off his arms with a potato peeler. Now you know why I’m not a writer. Anyway, I like trying to capture body language in my photos and they were great unwitting subjects. Although I usually like to talk to people I photograph, I wanted to keep this couple anonymous so my stories about them wouldn’t be spoiled. I would have freaked out a bit if I saw she had any kitchen implements.
I went to a Ft. Meyers beach for sunrise today that is more populated by wildlife than people. There are lots of better beaches for sunbathers, so the only people that come to Bunches Beach are there to either walk, look at birds or photograph birds. Today there was a large group of bird watchers carrying binoculars and scopes, wearing their bird watching clothes and their boots. Which means they were going to mess up a lot of photos.
So I went the other direction on the beach. There weren’t as many birds and no people, but one great blue heron was working the surf to get a fish. Herons are one of my favorite birds to photograph. Their long necks make great shapes, it is either curled back as they relax or it gets taught when they have prey in sight. My heron today was standing in shallow water as small waves rolled in on. It didn’t move a whole lot so I tried lots of different shots, using different composition and placement of the bird in the photos. I decided to try some very slow shutter speed to see if I could get a unique effect blurring the incoming waves.
The heron had caught a good size fish was standing pretty still so I knew it would be sharp and the blurry water surrounded it. Of course, as soon as I make lots of setting changes the heron kind of turned around and a bald eagle came out of nowhere and stole the fish from the heron’s mouth. I was a bit dumbfounded knowing I didn’t have time to change camera settings and fired the camera anyway knowing that anything moving would be a blur even though the eagle was moving fast. I got cool wave effects but the two birds look like blurry blobs. It was fun knowing I was the only person to witness nature at its peak.
We headed north today during my Vermont Fall Foliage Photography Workshop, to check out the area around Groton and Peacham, which has some of the best scenery in Vermont. There are a couple of ponds in Groton State Park that are amazingly scenic and they didn’t let us down. I’ve been there when the color was better but we still made some nice photos.
One thing that always strikes me about Vermont is how welcoming the people are. While in Peacham we were photographing around a church and a neighbor came out to show us some wild turkeys walking through his field toward us. Peacham gets tons out of town photographers and I’m sure many walk through this guy’s fields without thinking that they may be stomping on a fence, but he invited us come into yard to photograph his cows and the approaching turkeys.
While in Peacham, workshopper Steve Minden took a fun picture of me in the town’s information booth.
I’m a big fan of people doing weird things with common objects, so when I heard about this guy in Florida who planted classic Airstream trailers in the ground, I had to swing by and see them. So as my Florida photography workshop was making its way back to Orlando from Venice, we stopped to see Airstream Ranch off I-4. It was all I hoped for, eight trailers planted face-first in the ground. I got this shot of Fred, a workshop participant, filling in a gap.
Tonight was the annual Halloween costume contest at The Hungry Hound where dogs put up with their owners desire to make them look funny. Some dogs handle it better than others, wearing a wig and a hat isn’t something that comes natural to many pooches. My favorite of the evening, and the official winner, was Gia, dressed like a funky hippee from the ’60s. Gia was far out and groovy and matched the look of her handlers. She also was good at posing in the studio. There are more photos over on The Hungry Hound’s Facebook page.
I witnessed one those things in nature today that I doubt if I will ever see again. I went to a state park in Cape May near the lighthouse to see what birds might be around this early in the year. As expected, there wasn’t much activity but I went to a blind on a pond to take a look. I’ve gone to the blind a dozen times before and probably didn’t shoot a frame and I really didn’t expect anything different this time.
As I walked in there were a couple of ducks swimming around and soon a Canada goose landed to my left and went into the tall grass. In a few minutes a mute swan swam in from my right. It paddled right in front of me as I shot away. I noticed the swam wasn’t swimming in a normal, smooth way, it was lunging, like it was doing the breast stroke. The swan headed for the goose and the goose flopped into the pond and starting swimming. The swan headed out toward the goose and quickly caught up. I learned swans swim faster than geese.
The swan got right behind the goose and the goose flew about 30 feet and then landed again. The swan quickly got on the goose’s tail and the goose flew another 30 feet, landing in the pond. The two raced around the five acre pond a few times and then the goose took to the air. As I was watching the goose fly, I heard the swan taking off and I learned that swans fly faster than geese. The swan would get right on the goose’s tail, the goose would dive and the swan would be right back on the goose. They circled the pond, flew up and down as the swan tried biting the goose in midair. Lucky for me they were going right over me and I was ready. I had a 70-200 mm lens with a 2X teleconverter and filled the frame as the swan tried to take a nip of the goose.
The goose landed in the pond and the water chase was on again. Three more times across the pond and they did the aerial chase again. The goose landed in some tall grass and was safe. That was until two other geese landed on the pond and the goose who was getting bullied started honking at them. I was thinking the goose should shut up or the swan was going to know where he was. Well, the goose flies out and lands over by the other two geese. They looked at him and flew off. I don’t know if the goose had BO or was a jerk, but obviously he wasn’t liked by swans or geese. As soon as the two geese left, here comes the swan and the chase is on again.
After nearly an hour, I left and they were still swimming around the pond. When I go back to Cape May for my photo workshop in May, I’ll see if they are still on the chase.
I get amused by stupid people.
There is a report on Sky News about a man in Belaus being attacked by a beaver while trying to take a photo of the large rodent. Wild animals are called wild for a reason and when squares up on your, it is time to retreat.
As you can see in the video, the beaver was minding his own business and got tired of the fisherman turned beaver paparazzi. A main artery in the guy’s leg was severed by the beaver and he bled to death even though his friends tried to stop the bleeding.
Beaver attacks are rare and according to experts those animals that do go for humans are usually rabid, says Sky News.
However, they are not unheard of.
Earlier this week a video was posted on YouTube showing a man in the Tver region, northwest of Moscow, running away from a beaver who charged at him as he was filming in the area.
Last year in the US two girls were mauled by a beaver in a lake in Virginia as they swam. They suffered serious bite and scratch injuries. A man was also attacked in New York and an elderly woman in Washington.
I used to be in fairly decent physical shape. It has only been seven years since I did a 30-day bicycle ride from San Francisco to Somerville, NJ. So when Lisa Lacasse asked me if I wanted to do a sunrise shoot from Mt. Tom in Woodstock, Vt. I didn’t think anything about it. I even asked if she wanted to invite her photographer friend Derek MacDonald to join us. The full moon would be setting, so there should be some great photos.
We traveled to Denali National Park on our bear search. On the way, we saw a pretty coyote sitting along the road. So, of course, we screeched to a halt and went back for some shots.
You can drive 12 miles into the park and then you have to take a converted school bus the 89 miles to the end of the road – unless you know somebody. Walter has a client doing road work past where the buses go. So we are going in with them tonight at 6 p.m. It is a four hour ride, then Walter will shoot some photos of them working for a couple of hours and then we’ll ride back out.
We drove the 12 mile route a couple times this afternoon. It was a rainy day so we decided not to do any hikes. We’re also saving energy since it will be a sleepless night. We are amazed at the number of gulls in Alaska. They are everywhere, including Denali which is hundreds of miles from any major body of water. At one of the pulling off spots on the 12-mile drive, a friendly gull lands on car roofs. It seems like it his gig, being cute for food. I’m sure it works way too much.
Be sure to read more at Walter’s blog.
What a first day in Alaska. It started with arriving at the Anchorage at 2:30 a.m. and then catching a 6 a.m. flight to Fairbanks. That meant catching a few winks in the airport, very few.
Walter and I hit the ground running, heading right out to shoot in the beautiful weather. Our plan was to head to Copper Center near Wrangle-St. Alias National Park, the nation’s largerst and least visited. We stopped in North Pole on the way to make fun pictures with all the Santa stuff, then it was down the Richardson Highway. We stopped for lunch along a river and then met our first big animal. A moose who was happy to pose for pictures. The rest of the day featured big mountain ranges, following the Trans Alaska Pipeline, watching a loon family and ending along the Klutina River.
Read daily details at Walter’s blog.
I was sitting in a slow line at the McDonald’s drive-thru for what seemed to be 20 minutes. Yea, before you ask, I was there for a salad. I wasn’t in a big hurry, so it didn’t really matter how long I was sitting there, but the guy behind me wasn’t taking the wait too well.
I went back to the big pond on the property I visited yesterday. It was the perfect day and place, the air was warm but not too hot, the scenery was beautiful and the only sounds were frogs, birds and wind. It is a place of total relaxation, I’ll be spending a lot of time there.