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Friday, June 20, 2014


Making bird photos is not my thing.  And I have great respect for bird photographers! They need a lot of patience and BIG lenses.  Birds move quickly and unpredictably and they spook easily- it's difficult.  Yet I had fun sitting in a small dark blind with another photographer, whispering, "Oh, look at that one!" and "Did you get that shot?".
We were on Machias Seal Island Bird Sanctuary in the Gulf of Maine in early June for an afternoon of bird watching and photography.  Both Canada and the US claim sovereignity but Canada maintains a working lighthouse and researchers come to live for periods in the summer.  We took a boat tour with Captain Andy from Cutler, Maine.  The coming ashore is not always guaranteed.  It depends on how high the seas are.
   This is the island from the boat. Then it was necessary to take a smaller boat to the landing ramp which is tricky for folks with lots of gear.  Luckily the seas were calm enough and Captain Andy said it was a go.


We walked on boardwalks to the picnic area near the lighthouse.  Boardwalks are mandatory and still we had to watch out not to step on errant eggs as we later walked out to the blinds nestled smack dab in the middle of puffin territory!  We learned that if we were quiet and did not poke our lenses out of the windows then the puffins would come close to the blinds and you can see that they actually sit on the roofs!  We saw Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, Common and Arctic Terns.

The puffins did come close!  This time of year they have their mating colors.  They make nests down in dark holes between the rocks and periodically check the eggs and keep them warm.  There were birds flying everywhere, skimming the surface of the water and bobbing about on the swells.

We got 45 quiet minutes in the blind to photograph.  I used my Canon 70-300mm lens.  Another photographer had a lens that zoomed to 500mm and she got great close ups.  I had to hope they would come waddling up closer, which rarely happened.  The light was very contrasty, there were shadows but, hey, we were shooting puffins!

I am still not a bird photographer but it's fun to push your limits now and again.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My Year at the Marsh

I drive by this marshy area everyday.  I'm always going somewhere - the gym, the grocery store, the mall.  It's right off of boring, ugly Route 110 in Haverhill, Mass.  Sometimes I see a great blue heron or a duck or two.  Most of the time I don't notice it at all.
I read about photographing in our own "backyard".  I read about going back to an area  many times to really discover what's there.  It doesn't seem that exciting.  But in between the WOW! workshops and the gorgeous sunsets of a scuba trip I want to have something to photograph.  I want to have somewhere I must go every week.  I want to have a project!
 East Meadow River Marsh - Jan 8
So this year my little marsh (yes, I think of it now as "my little marsh") is what I will photograph each and every week of this year 2014.  Having said that, I did that 3 out of the 4 weeks of January.  Oops! But I did not give up.  This is as much an exercise in discipline as it is in creativity.
I had decisions to make.  Should I stick with one view? One focal length? The same time of day?  The same day of the week? I started off by answering those questions with yes, yes, no and no.  I chose this view at 35mm.
Jan 15 - nice morning light.
The same time of day was impossible.  I want to explore the marsh in all kinds of light as I explore it at different seasons of the year.  I've also switched my perspective around a bit as you will see.  I regret I haven't written a monthly blog.  I will catch up in the next few weeks.
Jan 18
January was cold.  It kept snowing every other week.  February was no different.  The winter seemed never-ending.  But my little marsh changed every time I stopped to take a photograph.  Afternoon light, morning light and midday sun - all different.

Feb 6 - the midday sun washes out the color.
Feb 16 - trying to catch an interesting sunset.  How does one predict a sunset with color?
Feb 19 - more snow and the right side of the marsh.  Looks like a meadow doesn't it?
Feb 28 - a little warmth shows the river's direction.  Oops, the power lines cast a shadow in midday!

The next two months, March and April, show big changes in my little marsh.  It's definitely spring!  And I've learned much about photographing this scene.