Monday, January 28, 2013

Cape Cod Red Tail

On a recent trip to Cape Cod, I observed a number of seagulls soaring above the shoreline in search of their next meal.   The wind was very strong, coming from the southwest.  The gulls were floating in nearly stationary positions from 10-30 feet off of the ground.

Much to my surprise, a red tail hawk was mixed among the seagulls.   The hawk was displaying the same behavior of floating just above the shore line, waiting for its next appetizer to wash ashore.    It showed its superior flying skills in the stiff wind.   The gulls had a tough time staying in a fixed position, while the hawk had to simply twitch its tail to hold its position.

Most flight shots are very difficult to make, because birds usually fly very fast and sometimes very erratically.  I was very excited to photograph the red tail as it held still in the air, making it very easy to photograph.

I was very intrigued by this hawk's behavior.   Did it learn to scavenge the beach from watching the seagulls?  Did it learn this technique from its parents?   It was quite amazing to be so close to the hawk for so long.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Adventures in Photography: Stars in the Heavens Above

As in any art or craft, excellence in photography demands diligence, patience, forethought, and determination. Please notice that I did not include the word talent. People often assume that talent is the magical answer to becoming great at everything. It can become a crutch. As a musician and a photographer I hear this all the time, “You must be so talented.” Sure, I have talent, but so do you.

Nearly everyone has the ability to pick up a camera and click the shutter button. Likewise, the vast majority of people can sing. However, many people will try to convince you that they are tone deaf. While some people actually are tone deaf, most people simply have not developed the skills of hearing and singing. It has little to do with talent. Like every other skill, singing and perhaps even more so, photography can be learned.

Some will argue that talent is still the most important part of the equation. For example, not everyone can learn to dunk a basketball. While that is true, most people can shoot a basketball. With practice, most people will be able to make a layup, even if they are dreadfully out of shape. Likewise, many people can sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” If Twinkle Twinkle doesn’t sound quite right when you sing it, try again. At least you knew it was incorrect, which proves that you are not tone deaf. That ability to hear is the kernel of your talent. It is your opportunity to develop it or not. Please don’t expect that you will have quick success. For most of us, any worthwhile endeavor, including photography, will take years of practice to master.

My first photographs were dreadful failures. I would take many shots hoping for a good one. My friends and family would silently groan on the inside when I asked them if they wanted to see my latest photos. Slowly with a lot of practice I improved. I took what talent I had and I persevered. Eventually, I was able to make images that I was proud of. Today, I can make excellent images on demand, which many people assume is derived from my “talent.” Even with the ability to make satisfying images, I can always find areas to improve upon, which may be my real talent.

I preconceived this image years ago. I have been waiting for the right conditions to come together. Fresh snow, a wreath on the door, a clear night, and the time to devote to crafting this image are a few of the prerequisites for creating this photograph. It had very little to do with talent. I like this image enough to share with the public, yet there is a laundry list of things that I would like to improve. I am sure I will be back at it again when the right conditions come together. There is an old saying in the music business that applies here, “Chop wood and carry water.”

This month’s tip: Dream. Dream big and find a way to make that dream a reality. Struggle long and hard enough and you will succeed. If you don’t like your photos, figure out how to improve them and try again.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Desserts and Destinations: Italy and Gelato!!


On January 19, I will make a Desserts and Destinations presentation at the Massachusetts Audubon North River Sanctuary. The destination will be northern Italy and the dessert will be gelato! I was fortunate to spend two weeks in Italy last summer. My wife and I traveled to Venice, the Dolomites, Verona, La Cinque Terra, Tuscany and Rome. I will present some of my favorite images and tell some tales from our journey. Some of my favorite moments include listening to monks sing Gregorian chant in Tuscany, hearing cowbells ring like the Sound of Music while hiking in the Dolomites, watching Aida in a Roman arena, and seeing the stars wheel above the Mediterranean at La Cinque Terra. On our first day in Venice, we discovered gelato and it became our 5th food group! We ate the mouth watering treat at least once a day. Brenda's favorite was stracciatella. It is sort of like chocolate chip, but much better. My favorite was limone! At the conclusion of the event, I will serve gelato from the Gelato Grotto in North Scituate. They serve the best gelato this side of the Atlantic! The presentation costs $10 for members and $13 for non members. You can sign up for it by calling the Audubon at 781 837 9400. The event will run from 1-2:30PM. I hope to see you there!
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