Great Egret in flight

My camera settings were ready to capture this graceful Great Egret in flight when he lifted off. You need a fast shutter speed, the bird in focus, and a proper exposure (difficult when the bright sky is the background). I was really excited to see this egret with two wing positions and water dripping off his feet.

Since the sky was cloudy, I had my ISO set to 400. My Nikon 70-200 lens was extended to 200 to isolate the bird without moving too close to disturb him. I had my Nikon D800 set to Aperture Mode and set the aperture to f/5.6 to keep the bird in focus if he moved a bit closer or farther from me. This setting gave me the balance between wide depth of field and enough light to yield a fast shutter speed (1/1,000)  to freeze action. I also employed the fast continuous shutter mode, so my camera would shoot multiple exposures with one long depression of the shutter button. Of course, you have to make these choices ahead of time, so when the bird takes off, you can pan and press the shutter button.

#egret, #greategret, #snowyegret, #bird, #birdinflight, #florida, #sharkvalley, #everglades, #wildlife
Egret in flight with its prey. Such a beautiful fan of white feathers.


#egret, #snowyegret, #greategret, #wildlife, #nature, #florida, #birds, #flight
Wings up on Snowy Egret, Shark Valley, Everglades

The Neighborhood Wood Stork

My dog Sophie can’t believe how big the birds are in Florida. Yes, that’s a six-pound wood stork over there! And looking at its fuzzy head, I can tell it’s a juvenile. This bashful bird is wary of the photographer inching along the grass to come just a little bit closer. He is one of a threatened species, the only breeding stork in North America, found in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. His biggest predator is the raccoon, who steals eggs from its nest.

#woodstork, #threatened, #stork, #bird, #wildlife
“Who me?” says the wood stork in Naples, Florida

Wood storks wade in lowland wetlands and look for fish, frogs and insects to eat. They shuffle their webbed feet in the shallow water to stir any aquatic critters to move, and then keep their bills in the water to catch dinner. That is a blue heron standing behind the wood stork.

#woodstork, #stork, #bird, #wildlife, #Florida, #swamp
Wood storks have interesting knees that bed backwards.


#woodstork, #stork, #bird, #florida, #swamp, #wildlife, #nature
Wood stork feeding in its favorite habitat, shallow swamp.

In my neighborhood in Naples, Florida, the wood stork shares the swamp with numerous heron, ibis, egrets, turtles, fish and alligators. Sophie, you’re not in Pennsylvania anymore.

Shopping in Piazza Navona

You can only sightsee in Rome in the summer heat for so long. Then, you need to get off your feet, snack on a dish of cold gelato and do some shopping. Besides, no trip to Italy would be complete without shopping for some hand made Italian goods, right? I love to shop while traveling abroad, because I know how much I enjoy my souvenirs after I get home.

If you are planning a trip to Rome anytime soon, I have a great tip for you. Piazza Navona is a lively square,  both day and night, and it is well located walking distance from the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. You can find good gelato shops and cafes there, but you can also find one of the nicest leather shops in old Rome.

I visited the fragrant leather shop La Sella in 2005 when I spent two weeks in Rome with my daughter Erin and our friends who lived two blocks from Piazza Navona. It is small but packed with high quality hand made purses, briefcases, belts and wallets. I bought myself a brown leather purse, and my husband a brown leather briefcase that we still use frequently, ten years later.

Charlie shops La Sella in 2015, ten years later.
Charlie shops La Sella in 2015, ten years later.

So, in 2015 when I looked for the shop between Piazza Navona and the busy avenue Corso Vittorio Emmanuel, I was delighted to find it alive and well. So, my husband Charlie (shown in photo) and I shopped again — for our sake and theirs!

We also got off our feet and enjoyed a dish of gelato as a late lunch at Tre Scalini while we admired Bernini’s grand Fountain of the Four Rivers. That grandiose and beautiful fountain features life-sized human figures on the north, south, east and west faces and is a real challenge to photographers. It’s a fantastic centerpiece to a vibrant square, that is also dotted with working street artists.

My husband ordered a mushroom crepe, but I ordered gelato for lunch.
My husband ordered a mushroom crepe, but I ordered gelato for lunch.

I shot these photos on my iPhone6, because it is so lightweight and easy for this kind of spontaneous documentation of happy moments while traveling. I thought you, my readers, would enjoy a few shopping and snacking tips from my travels for yours.

Roman Domes / Best of 2015

The ancient Roman Pantheon, Michelangelo’s dome in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Borromini’s San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane — these are a few of my favorite photography subjects in 2015. Walking around Rome last August, I enjoyed the chance to examine how different architects and engineers imagined and then constructed the same great architectural achievement — the Dome.

Today as I look back on these photos, I can reflect on the symbolism of their shape: beginning with the circle, which has no beginning and no end, with a three dimensional shape that draws the eye skyward and a window in the center to give the eye a focal point and provide natural light.

While the Pantheon was the first major dome ever constructed and the model for every major dome that followed, each dome is uniquely constructed and styled. The Pantheon’s large open oculus (eye) welcomes a beam of sunlight and heavy rain at other times. While it is now used as a Roman Catholic church, a burial place for Italy’s founders and the artist Raphael, and at times a concert hall, it did not begin that way. I took a panoramic photo with my iPhone 6 that shows the view from the altar to the open oculus.

Ancient Pantheon now used as a Catholic Church and a concert venue.
Ancient Pantheon now used as a Catholic Church and a concert venue.

The giant scale of St. Peter’s dome is one its first impressions. How will I capture how immense it really is? Here is another iPhone shot from the base of the dome, looking down at the people below.

From the base of St. Peter's Dome.
From the base of St. Peter’s Dome.

From the marble floor below, looking up, I braced my camera (no tripods allowed) and shot the painted inside of the St. Peter’s Dome. Nikon D800 this time!

Exquisite interior of St. Peter's Dome.
Exquisite interior of St. Peter’s Dome.

Then, go ahead and climb it! I lost count of how many steps it is within the inner and outer shell to the cupola, where you can look out over Rome from its highest point. Stick your camera lens through the safety fence to shoot a horizontal panorama.

Pano with Nikon D800, merging 6 images.
Pano with Nikon D800, merging 6 images.

A lesser known church among the hundreds in Rome is San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane. You might easily walk past its relatively unremarkable facade right on top of a busy street. But once you enter the small church and look up, you will fall in love with the originality of the oval dome — all in white and beautifully sunlit with perfect symmetry and sculptural detail.

San Carlino, a Baroque gem.
San Carlino, a Baroque gem.

If you liked this Baroque gem, you should also visit the small church and dome by Borromini’s rival Gianlorenzo Bernini in the same block: San Andrea al Quirinale. Or San Ivo della Sapienza. Share your own favorites, and if you want to read a cool book about domes, check out Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King. I read this book after I got home, and it really turned me into a dome freak!

Like what you see? Cathy Kelly has photographed churches and temples in many countries around the world. If you are looking for a print or image license for a location she may have captured, please email Cathy at

More Italy travels to come!



Back to Rockefeller Center

What is your favorite Christmas tradition? Is it the children’s Christmas play? The choir concert at your church? Caroling with your neighbors? All of these activities are close to the top of my list, but my #1 choice this year was visiting Rockefeller Center in the heart of New York City.

The “gi-normous” (gigantic and enormous both) tree covered with tiny colored lights towering above the gold statue of Prometheus and the busy outdoor ice rink are iconic for me — larger than life, and understandably the scene draws a solid crowd. I was able to take a long exposure of the tree and ice rink by sitting my Nikon D800 on the stone pedestal and using “live view” to frame the shot and focus. I propped the lens on my eyeglass case (gotta use what you have on you!) The one-second exposure allowed the skaters to blur for a more artistic effect.

RockCntrTree-4965 copy

The pedestrian corridor leading from Fifth Avenue to the ice rink is adorned with lacy angel sculptures, and the facade of Saks Fifth Avenue (just across Fifth Ave.) sets the stage for a clever holiday light show.  This shot was handheld, but I edited the image in Photoshop to de-emphasize the crowd and make the overcast afternoon at 3pm look more like dusk.

I consider myself blessed that my three daughters have settled in New York City. There are so many fun and fascinating things to do there. This year, the balmy weather made our weekend too good to be true. We walked, we Ubered, we ate very well and spent our money. See you next time!


Reflections on a sunset

Sunsets, and especially sunsets over  the water, give us a rich feeling of satisfaction. You may have witnessed the sun sinking into the lake in front of your summer cabin or the sun sinking into the ocean from the west coast of just about any island or continent around the Globe. But why, have you wondered, do you cherish those opportunities to witness this daily event whenever you can? I can think of so many reasons — so many threads that weave a complex and rich tapestry in our minds.

Evocative sunset from Kona Coast of Hawaii, 2012
Evocative sunset from Kona Coast of Hawaii, 2012

First, you may notice the complimentary colors of orange and blue dominating the image. These colors are very pleasing to the human eye. Here, the sun sets at a great distance — as far as the eye can see on the distant horizon.  As humans, we feel a great sense of freedom and safety when we can see a long distance and see that the way is clear and without threats. Without thinking about it, we know the sun as an enormous source of energy, warmth and life. Without thinking of it, we know that water is life giving, always in motion and often signifies the journey we make through life. Without actually thinking about it, we see the clouds in motion, sometimes obscuring our view, in other places offering a window for us to see more light and more color.

We are passive observers. We cannot make this happen. We do not make this happen. Nature is powerful, very powerful.  We are not so powerful.  I am one person of billions on Earth, very small and rather fragile. As we quietly watch the sun set, we don’t have to act. We can just experience the sunset. For a few quiet minutes, we can just enjoy it. We have a few minutes to pause our busy day and reflect. This day is ending. In endings, we see beginnings. We believe the sun will rise again, and continue natural its cycle. We think about Time. Each moment is unique. Before our eyes, the view changes every moment. We can see it: each moment is fleeting and won’t be repeated. Time marches on. For how long?

Longest and shortest day all year

Yesterday around 5 p.m. in Pennsylvania, I watched the a super sun (the larger than usual orange ball) sink into the horizon, which was fringed with the lacework of bare treetops. Alas, it was time to leave the dog park before darkness descended. I thought about how short the day was, and that we are approaching the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, December 21.

For my daughter, who is has been living in New Zealand for the past year, the opposite is true. December 21 marks the longest day of the year. Last December, I visited Erin in New Zealand and enjoyed those long days and late sunsets. In Milford Sound, watching the sunset means watching the clouds and snowcapped mountains reflect the setting sun. Waiting alone at the water’s edge with my camera and tripod until 10p.m., I was rewarded with my first ever glimpse of alpenglow.

#longestday #NewZealand #sunset #MilfordSound
Alpenglow at Milford Sound, New Zealand