Ballet in the Desert

Whenever the shapes of Nature remind me of ballet, I have to stop and take a picture. This Joshua Tree seems to be arcing a curved arm overhead in a graceful reach to frame the desert.

A single leaning Joshua Tree frames the desert scene on a sunny day in May, 2019.

When you are visiting from the East Coast, you don’t normally think of rattlesnakes and jumping cacti (the cholla or teddy bear cactus), but I was watching my step too.

Notre Dame Cathedral: Crown of Thorns Chapel

No one would have predicted the catastrophic fire at Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral yesterday. Millions of people around the world have visited the iconic, historic and major religious site, and I imagine that millions watched the fire on television with feelings of horror and grief. We are all immensely grateful that much of the stone construction survives, and that the French are committed to rebuilding — replacing historic 800-300 year old craftsmanship with today’s. A reconstructed Cathedral won’t be the same, but we can’t leave Paris without its heart.

I have visited Paris six times, and I plan to revisit my photos from all of those trips. Most recently, I walked through Notre Dame late in the day on November 17, 2019. The security line stretched across the plaza, and the interior was packed with people, but we walked the the perimeter in the side aisles, and I took photos of the two Rose windows and the Crown of Thorns Chapel behind the main altar.

Crown of Thorns Chapel in Notre Dame Cathedral on 17 November 2018. Copyright by Catherine Kelly of USA. Prints available at http://www.cathykellyphotography.com.

My Sony mirrorless camera takes amazing images in very low light. Of course, I was not using a tripod in the Cathedral, so I set the camera for ISO 10,000 to hand hold it. It is ironic that my photo of the Crown of Thorns Chapel included a small fire extinguisher in the lower left corner.

The image shown here in this blog is lower resolution, so it will load quickly on your computer or mobile device. The full resolution image will be uploaded to my website and available for purchase. It can be printed 26.7″ x 11.6″ at 300 dpi (recommended). Please keep in mind that this image is protected by U.S. Copyright law, which means it can be purchased from Cathy Kelly, but it should not be copied and distributed without permission/purchase. If you wish to share this image, you are most welcome to share a link to this blog. Follow my blog, please, if you would like to see more images of Notre Dame Cathedral in years past. My next post will feature the beautiful Rose windows, which were destroyed in this tragic fire.

Our hearts are with the brave first responders, the French, the Roman Catholics, the tourists who visited and held Notre Dame in their hearts and the art historians who revered the Cathedral. We all mourn together.

Osprey with Prey

Here is a close look of an osprey with a fish (okay, a beheaded fish) in its talons. He paused on a branch in the mangrove before flying home to share with his partner.

#osprey, #florida, #rookerybay, #southwestconservancy, #ecocruise, #prey, #fish, #raptor, #naples, #nikon
I observed this osprey on a sunset cruise in Rookery Bay south of Naples, FL.

As we slowly sailed past, I snapped a few more frames. He was keeping an eye on us.

osprey, #raptor, #prey, #fish, #nature, #wildlife, #florida, #naples, #southwestconservancy, #rookerybay, #ecocruise, #nikon
You can see this strong, muscular raptor bird who snatches fish from the estuary.
#osprey, #raptor, #wildlife, #nature, #prey, #fish, #rookerybay, #southwestconservancy, #naples, #florida, #nikon
A high (3200) ISO and 1/500 second shutter speed on the Nikon D800 gave me a sharp image from our moving boat.

Quiet morning, until now…

It was a quiet morning at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples, Florida until the Anhingas started to squawk. They are usually quiet birds, but I discovered that when they cry out, they can be loud. (Click here to hear one.)

Sometimes called the “snake bird” because its slender neck often curved in an S shape looks like a snake when it sticks out of the water when they swim underwater, and pop its head out to breathe. Since females have brown necks, this one appears to be a male. They are also quite large (wingspan 42″) and are commonly seen in Southwest Florida and the Everglades. Black and white feathers on the mature Anhinga resemble piano keys.

This one had a lot to say. He seemed panicked as though he was putting out a danger call. Perhaps there was a bobcat or a vulture in the area.

Watching for birds, found bobcats!

Whoever the teacher was who told me, “always look behind you,” was right again today. Watching a pelican at daybreak and listening to a dog barking persistently, I turned around to find exactly why the dog was barking… two bobcats were stalking in the shadows and hissing at one another.

I was lucky to have my 600mm lens mounted on my Nikon D800, and clamped on my RRS (Really Right Stuff) tripod, so I quickly focused and snapped a few frames. The light was very low in the shade of the large ficus tree and on a foggy morning at dawn, so the shutter speed was very slow. Motion blur, unfortunately, compromised the quality of the final image — but you definitely get the idea.

#bobcats, #wildlife, #nature, #florida
Bobcats seen just before dawn today at Royal Poinciana Golf Club in Naples, Florida.

These wildlife experiences are always teachable moments. One rule, often repeated for good reason is: Never hike alone. This morning I was grateful to be out with about 15 other bird watchers. The bobcats were more interested in each other than in us, but I’m sure the size of our group discouraged them from approaching us.

To capture a better final image next time, I will have changed my ISO setting ahead of time to 1600 or 3200. I confess to being half asleep at 7am, and I had not changed my ISO setting from 100, which I use for a still landscape when motion blur is not an issue.

Lastly, I feel more thankful than disappointed because this wildlife sighting was something special I experienced. It was exciting!

Fall’s Fog and Color

I love to watch fog moving along the surface of a river in the Fall. I have memories of that fog on the Potomac when I lived in Washington D.C. and on the Ohio River in Pittsburgh. In Jackson Hole, morning fog crept across the Snake River as we watched the sun rise.  A thicker layer of fog — not so translucent — filled in the valley closer to the mountains.

#fog, #fallcolor, #mountmoran, #jacksonhole, #grandtetons, #grandtetonnationalpark, #sunrise, #nationalparks, #snakeriver, #fall, #landscape, #wyoming
The changing colors of the trees and the morning fog on the river made this sunrise scene in Jackson Hole extra special.

The trees are reaching their colorful peak in Pittsburgh today, and the sun is shining, but rain is on the way. I hope to capture some Fall color close to home. Happy Halloween!

 

Overnight in the Castle

If you would like the full experience of eating and sleeping within a Norman Castle, then Durham Castle is for you in the summer time. You can enjoy the magnificent Cathedral and the charming town with its many shops and pubs while you call Durham Castle your home away from home.

#keep, #durhamcastle, #bandb, #dorm, #university, #castle, #norman
The Keep of Durham Castle (central and most secure part of the castle) houses university students during the academic year, and is a B&B open to anyone July through September (generally).

 

Durham Castle Gate-8167LR
Just across the Palace Green from the Cathedral, you will enter the Castle through this gate.

For information, go to http://www.dur.ac.uk/universitycollege or email durham.castle@durham.ac.uk

Story of the Pineapple

Inside Durham Castle, where Durham University students live during the school year, photography is not allowed. That’s too bad in my opinion, because I’d love to share with you the beautiful Norman chapel,  14 century Great Hall and more. Instead, I can share a story with you.

#durham, #castle, #durhamcastle, #norman, #university, #stories, #pineapple, #stairs, #chapel, #history
Begun in 1072 and restored in the 1800s, Durham Castle once housed bishops but now houses University students.

The grand Black Staircase curiously has pineapples carved into the wooden banister. Pineapples in England? Yes, you see it was very hard to grow a pineapple in England, and so fresh pineapples were very expensive. Back in the day, you would do your guest a great honor to serve pineapple, while at the same time, the host would have his wealth and status on display. In fact, there were stories about the Prince Bishop who lived here displaying a real pineapple as a centerpiece, and then serving a fruit that resembled pineapple, in the hope that guests might assume it was pineapple. In fact, the carved pineapple doesn’t really look much like a pineapple, so perhaps the artist had never seen one.

Finding this tale rather humorous, I asked our guide if this grand gesture of honoring a guest by serving pineapple might be the origin of the pineapple as a symbol of welcome or hospitality. (The pineapple is described this way in Newport, Rhode Island, where it also serves as a symbol of the town.) Our castle guide didn’t know the answer, but I have a good hunch about it.

Have you heard of a Prince Bishop? As the story goes, there were three earls in Northumberland. Two earls dueled and killed each other, and the third one rebelled against the king, so the English King Henry VIII had the great idea to appoint bishops as princes, give them taxing authority. They minted coins and organized an army.  Not surprisingly, the bishops were fine with this idea.

For more stories, stay tuned. There is an interesting story tied to the door knocker of the Durham Cathedral, where again no photographs were permitted.

 

 

Eight Ducklings and Mom

This morning my neighbor called me to come outside and see a mother duck with eight ducklings in tow. Careful not to stress the mother, we kept our distance, but I took photos with a 400mm lens of the new family.

#ducklings, #mother, #ducks, #wildlife, #spring, #babies, #lake, #naples, #florida, #sony, #morning
In the lake right in front of my home, mother duck leads her ducklings on a morning swim. She kept a watchful eye out for any predators.

#ducklings, #duck, #mother, #lake, #swim, #morning, #sony, #family, #wildlife, #naples, #florida, #nature, #spring
Mother duck and eight ducklings swim the other way across the lake. The light is different as they paddle toward the sun.

Swimming Anhinga

Some people call the lovely Anhinga a “snake bird” because it swims completely underwater to spear a fish and then tosses it up in the air to swallow the fish head first. When the anhinga first surfaces from its underwater swim, the long bill, head and  neck are the first parts to emerge.

I think that “snake bird” is a bit unfair and rather unpleasant, not being a fan of snakes, and being an admirer of the Anhinga and the way it dries out its wings after a swim. They are also pretty tame around people, and don’t mind if you walk right past. A bird that doesn’t fly away fast upon spotting a human? That’s a photographer’s best friend!

I was pleased to capture this image of a male anhinga swimming where you can see his feathers underwater.

#anhinga, #maleanhinga, #corkscrew, #underwater, #snakebird, #action, #bird, #sony, #sonyzeiss
Male anhinga with feathers like piano keys, swims for his supper.