It’s Memorial Day, and I’m with my daughter in Newport, Rhode Island, where ironically I discovered a family tie to Newport more than 200-years-old. Have you heard of Oliver Hazard Perry, the Naval Commodore who successfully fought the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812? A statue in his honor stands in a central park in Newport, and his family gravesite (photo below) is just down Farewell Street from my daughter’s house.
I got curious about our family ancestry when I found some intriguing papers in my mother’s files after her death last year. I learned that my paternal grandfather was raised by his grandmother, Virginia Theresa Perry, after his mother died young. Virginia told stories about her famous cousin Oliver Hazard Perry. When I began to read about OHP, my research put the spotlight on Newport, and I was able to learn even more on a visit to the Newport Historical Society.
But enough about me and the Counselman family from Baltimore. So many of us Americans have descended from the pilgrims who braved the seas and landed in New England. Or perhaps your family came from Africa or a more recent immigration. We must honor today all the brave men and women who did their part, large and small, in forming and preserving this “land of the free and home of the brave.”
Have you heard of a “rookery island” where dozens of birds of several species flock at sunset to find sanctuary for the night? I have found it magical to observe: as one great egret and eight ibis and three cormorants and six pelicans and a couple great blue heron and even more and more soar in from every direction and land side by side on every available branch of a tiny island of mangrove trees as the sun turns a brilliant orange and the light rapidly fades across the water… and the scene is silent.
I described the scene to my uninitiated friends as a Christmas tree fully decorated with ornaments on every bough, or a crowded church were a few more families arrive late and say, “please make room for us.”
Are you finding ways to exercise your creativity during Isolation? I hope I can inspire you to play a little. Of course, first things come first: we pray, we clean, we prepare meals, we help our neighbors, we work remotely, we stay in touch over the Internet, we catch up on our sleep, we read, we exercise and then we do it all over again.
But for the first time in a long time, the rat race has paused. You can actually be patient when driving a car. You can smile and say hello to strangers you pass outside. You can reflect about life and how to live a better life when normalcy returns. And you now have time to be creative. It’s okay to amuse yourself — draw, write, cook — whatever pursuit suits you.
I have been experimenting with my Lensball, which I ordered in December, but have been too busy doing everything else until now. It is a carefully manufactured and polished spherical prism. When you take a photo of it, the image you see is reflected on the back and then the front of the sphere and it appears upside down. Don’t let this stop you. You can always invert the image in photo editing software if you need to. There are endless creative possibilities. (You just have to be very careful to keep the lens ball out of strong direct sunlight, as it heats up in about 2 seconds and can burn your fingers!) You can guess how I discovered this outdoors in southwest Florida.
“A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure. “ Book of Sirach, The Bible
Those words defined my father, and they were invoked at his funeral Mass. My father was a sturdy shelter to me and many others.
When I reflected on the sturdy foundation of this pier, the reference to sturdy shelter came to mind. This sturdy pier brought the first settlers to Old Naples, Florida many years ago. In this millennium, it withstands the hurricanes and tropical storms and supports hundreds of individuals who enjoy it.
In these trying times of the Coronavirus pandemic, a faithful friend is a treasure, showing his greatest value in supporting those around him. As the hectic pace of life slows to a pause, meditate on your faithful friends.
“A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth.” (Book of Sirach)
While I treasure a close-up of each species of bird in its exquisite detail, and I get excited about a more rare capture of a bird in flight, the trifecta of wildlife photography thrills for me is to witness a drama between animals — the rare sighting that leaps beyond good color, detail and composition to tell a story.
Such was my luck late one afternoon on Sanibel Island in February. So far the visit to J.D. Ding Darling Nature Preserve had been pretty uneventful, and I was apologizing to my friend Mary who accompanied me. We had planned our trip to coincide with low tide to observe the large birds feeding, but few white pelicans or roseate spoonbills were in sight.
Here is how the action unfolded: We set up my tripod between the road and the water’s edge to observe for awhile when a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron emerged from the brush. About 4 onlookers pointed and whispered to each other as it paused in the gentle afternoon light. At Ding Darling, most bird watchers are quiet and respectful of wildlife.)
This heron took graceful giant strides, and within a few minutes, it had grabbed a crab in its beak and held it up in the light right in front of us. I had to adjust my 150-600mm zoom lens to 400mm to see the entire bird in the frame, and I could not believe my luck with the beautiful light and the chance to witness the scene.
We quietly contained our amazement (oh my God!) as the heron shook and stabbed the crab til its legs and claws came off and the prey was manageable to go down the hatch, right in front of us. I have numerous photos of this drama, and I will share them with you in the next few blog posts.
I’m now grateful that I saved this series of wildlife photos for this quiet time we are all experiencing now. Please share this blog with your friends who may enjoy it too.
This Great White Egret strode purposefully across my path at the Naples Botanical Garden. I squatted down low and focused my camera on his back-lit body, hoping to capture some action. As both the egret and I followed our instincts, we were both rewarded. Catching a wriggling lizard in its beak, the great egret found dinner, and I got my image of the day.
Sharing positive thoughts and staying in touch with each other during the Coronavirus pandemic will help all of us stay strong as we self-isolate to keep our community healthy. I’m grateful that this photography blog has created a positive online community, and I encourage you to make it stronger. You might follow the blog by entering your email address on the site, and recommending the blog to friends and family. This artist is not seeking financial gain (there is none). The rewards are purely spiritual.
One member of our community asked for more flower photographs and flower names, as she wrote, “I love to learn more about flowers.” (She is also an animal lover.) So, today I bring you the Hong Kong orchid, photographed at the Naples Botanical Garden this year. I first discovered the Hong Kong orchid — where else — in Hong Kong in 1998 while visiting friends there. Now I count myself very fortunate that the orchid trees thrive in tropical southwest Florida, and I have one of these trees on my street.
Do you have a request for the photography featured in the blog? Flora? Fauna? Tropical or Snowy? I still have an archive of Nature, Wildlife and Landscape photography from Jackson Hole and Southwest Florida, but I’m always excited to hear from you. Thank you for strengthening our community.