Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Adventures in Photography: The Pride of Baltimore II

Here is the latest article in my Adventures in Photography series. I was thrilled to sail aboard the Pride of Baltimore II earlier this month, while it had a mock battle against the Lynx in Boston Harbor. This was part of the OpSail 2012 celebration, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. You can also see this article in the Freebird Times.
Adventures in Photography: The Pride of Baltimore II

BOOM….the canon fire roared off of the deck of the Pride of Baltimore II. The crew was taking aim at its mock enemy, the Lynx. Both ships are Baltimore Schooners, a highly specialized type of sailing vessel that made its naval debut in the War of 1812. Sleek lines and shallow drafts make them highly maneuverable and very fast. This deadly combination surprised the British and helped the Americans balance the War of 1812 at sea.

The British had an undeniable naval superiority in the War of 1812. Their basic plan was to cut off the Americans’ supplies by dominating the shipping lanes of the Atlantic and blockading American harbors up and down the East Coast.

What the British could not account for was the speed and agility of the Baltimore schooner. “These schooners have splendid sailing characteristics,” said Jamie Trost, Captain of the Pride. “The technological innovations coming out of the Chesapeake Bay had been refined for 200 years before this style of ship took the world by storm in 1812.”

While these ships were not designed to stand toe to toe with British ships of the line, they were very capable of running blockades and capturing enemy merchant vessels. They were so lethal to British merchant ships that the British Navy had to devote many vessels to protecting them from the American privateers.

The most famous event of the War of 1812, the penning of the Star Spangled Banner, happened as a direct result of the British trying to destroy the shipyards where the Baltimore Schooners were constructed. Fortunately for the Americans, Fort McHenry withstood the attack and Francis Scott Key would later have his poem immortalized as our country’s national anthem.

Today, the Pride of Baltimore II sails to ports around the world to promote the history of the Baltimore schooner and its role in the War of 1812. The mission of the Pride and its crew is to allow the public to interact with a living piece of American history. “Experiencing the Pride under sail is a link to our history. We do all of the maneuvers under sail like it would have been in 1812, showing the phenomenally nimble design of this type of schooner,” said Captain Trost.

Quite frankly, the historical nature of sailing on board the Pride cannot be denied, but the chief reason for many people to sail on this beautiful ship is that it is fun! Being on board while the Pride participated in a mock battle in Boston Harbor was the thrill of a lifetime. Watching the crew perform one tactical maneuver after another, while firing four canon at their “enemy” was exhilarating.  When the canon fired, their power resounded, causing many hearts to skip a beat. Bringing history to life, the Pride was far more inspiring than any text book could ever be.

Fortunately, you too can sail aboard the Pride when it visits Nantucket from August 15-19. You can book a tour on the Pride by visiting this website: http://www.pride2.org/index.php

This Month’s Tip: Captain Trost is also an accomplished photographer. I asked him, “What was the most beautiful thing that you have ever photographed while sailing aboard the Pride?” He said, “Last summer, we were sailing in Lake Superior, near Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore, late in the day. There was a rock formation that looked like a dragon. Many people didn’t believe that it was a photograph. They thought that I had photoshopped it.” Amazing beauty can be found all over the world. Are you ready to sail to your next adventure?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Evening Visitor

Brenda and I were on our deck this evening enjoying the good weather. Suddenly Brenda's eyes opened wide with surprise. Swooping out of the pine forest was a giant bird. It landed in a pine tree in our backyard. At first, I thought it was a very large hawk. I didn't get a good look at it as it flew by. There had also been a hawk calling all afternoon from the same area
that the owl had flown from. Then as I observed the bird sitting in the tree, I realized that it was much wider than any hawk. It was none other than the great horned owl. I asked Brenda to keep an eye on the owl and I quickly went to get my camera. I was very fortunate to have just enough light to make a decent photo. I was also very happy that the owl held still and posed for long periods of time! Thrilled to have such a beautiful bird in my backyard!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Blue Angels Take To The Skies

On July 4th, the Blue Angels were scheduled to perform a fly over the U.S.S. Constituion at 12:22PM. They surprised me and other photographers when they took off from Logan Airport at 12:02. They flew right over Boston Harbor, very close to the Constitution and Fort Independence. There were four news photographers there and I believe that I was the only one to get the shot. It was quite stunning to see and hear them rocketing through the skies!

The Blue Angels took off in a formation of four.   A few minutes later two more came rocketing off the runway surprising us again. Finally, a lone Blue Angel flew across the harbor and into the clouds. When the Blue Angels reappeared, they were in a formation of six, with no sign of the seventh jet. They flew over the Constitution towards Boston at exactly 12:22. They returned for two more flyovers before returning to land at Logan. It was quite a thrill to see them and to be in position to photograph them!

  In order to make sharp photos of such fast jets, I set my ISO to 800 on my D7000 and 400 on my D90. THe D7000 does a much better job of handling noise from high ISO's than the D90 does. I could have set the ISO much higher than 800 on the D7000, but I didn't need to. With bright sunlight, I was able to achieve a shutter speed of 1/2500 of a second which was more than enough to freeze the fast jets in place. These images were all hand held. To be honest, I found the Blue Angels to be quite easy to photograph compared to most of the birds that I have practiced on in the past. For starters the Blue Angels are a significantly larger target than say a snowy owl or a tree swallow and they fly in a perfectly steady path, making it relatively easy to track them. It was fantastic to photograph them and I can hardly wait to get to another air show!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

U.S.S. Constitution's Big Day

Here are two photos of the Constitution on July 4th. This year's annual turn around was extra special, because it comemorated the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.

The Constitution earned its nickname of "Old Ironsides" during its many battles in the War of 1812. The British were dismayed by the extra thick oak planking that simply repelled their canon balls. At worst some of the canon balls were lodged into the wood. This was quite a benefit to the American sailors who were saved from the deadly splinters that would usually result when a canon ball came shattering through the sides of a ship.

The first image shows the Constitution firing a canon to salute the U.S.S. Eagle and Fort Inependence. Catching flames coming from a canon is one of my favorite types of images. It takes a lot of practice and patience. On this 21 gun salute, I finally got the timing correct on the 21st canon shot. The second image shows the Constitution headed back towards its berth in the Charlestown Navy Yard. It is accompanied by the Eagle and the Blue Angels. (Full Disclosure- I moved the Blue Angels slightly to the right to make a more appealing composition.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July!!

Today I went to Castle Island to photograph the U.S.S. Constitution as it performed its annual turn around. The Constitution was accompanied by six tall ships, two fire boats, numerous police and Coast Guard boats, tugboats and fly overs by the famous Blue Angels! This event was a dream come true for me. I have wanted to photograph this event since 2000, when I attended my first tall ship event in Boston.

 I am fascinated by American History and the Constitution has excited my imagination since I was a little boy. To see the Constitution firing its canon and flying its colors, while being saluted by the Coast Guard Eagle was absolutely amazing.

Then the Blue Angels flew off the runway from Logan airport at what seemed like Mach 10! They flew directly over the top of the Constitution and Fort Independence. A fellow photographer commented that they must have flown to Connecticut, because it took them about twenty minutes to return. In the meantime, the Constitution was treated to flyovers by Air Force jets, Navy helicopters, and Marine and Navy aircraft including what I think was a small AWACS jet. The Blue Angels then performed three flyovers to the delight of the crowd at Fort Independence.

Even veteran news photographers for local tv stations were excited about the flyovers. One was jumping up and down in delight after getting the shot of the first fly over. Another commented "It never gets old, does it?" This was a truly exciting day that certainly stirred my patriotism. The crowd cheered wildly at each flyover and canon blast. Patriotic marches played during the ceremony and music from Top Gun was blasted each time the Blue Angels appeared. It was uplifting to be a witness to this celebration of America!

This photo is a blend of two photos. The photograph of the Blue Angels was taken today. The flag was photographed on Patriots Day 2008 in Lexington. I will soon post more images of today's event and of my recent sail aboard the Pride of Baltimore II as it "battled" the Lynx in Boston Harbor. Happy Fourth of July!!
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