Sunday, December 27, 2009

Loss and Restoration

Some of you may remember that two days before Christmas 2007, the church I attend burned to the ground. I posted about this topic back in April and showed the wooden framework of the new church sanctuary being built to replace the one lost to the fire.

This week we held the first services in the new sanctuary, and it has been wonderful to once again have a 'normal' house of worship. We had been holding services in the fellowship hall ever since the fire.

I was asked last year to create an exhibit to be displayed in the gallery of the new building. So for a little over a year I have spent many days at the construction site capturing the progress in photos, and also meeting many of the 'hands' that built it. I have made many friends along the way, and I have even been up in an 80-foot crane, photographing it from high above the roof. Unfortunately, I was not able to include many images of the finished interior construction in the exhibit, since the 12 x 18 prints had to be given to the framer while the final work was still being completed. The last three weeks prior to completion saw a 60 rank pipe organ being installed. The first service was held this past Wednesday, December 23, on the 2-year anniversary of the fire. I thought I would take a few minutes and give those interested a glimpse into this magnificent new structure.

The exhibit consists of twenty-one 12 x 18 inch prints. It attempts to capture some of the emotions experienced by a congregation during the loss by fire, and the subsequent questioning, soul-searching, planning, and finally rebuilding of their church. I have posted photos of the exhibit below, and you can see the actual images of the exhibit by clicking on the following link:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis

Yesterday I had the opportunity to view the launch of the Space Shuttle from the NASA Causeway, and it was one of the most exciting things I've ever witnessed. I had seen several launches before, but never from this close. My normal viewing site was always the rooftop of a business on US Highway 1 in Titusville, which according to Google is just a smidgen over 13 miles from the launch pad. But after getting lucky enough to purchase tickets for this launch, I was only 6 miles away.

The day started out very cloudy and I was skeptical that it would even launch as my brother and I were driving down from Jacksonville. It's about 2 1/2 hours drive and we hardly saw any blue in the sky most of the trip. The forecast was for a 70% chance of favorable weather and we kept hoping the clouds would blow past before the 2:28pm launch time. As luck would have it that's exactly what happened, and Atlantis was headed up toward the international space station exactly on time after a picture perfect liftoff. This was a welcome change for me personally, because the last time I had causeway tickets, I made 4 trips to Kennedy Space Center only to have the launch scrubbed all 4 times.

For viewing from the NASA Causeway visitors are required to arrive well in advance, with arrival times being assigned to everyone who is lucky enough to purchase tickets. There is quite a crowd of people and the arrival times are staggered so that everyone does not arrive at the same time. Our arrival deadline was 11am for the 2:28pm launch, but we arrived around 9:30.

The image above is heavily cropped to show the detail. But the images in the flight sequence below are the full width of the original image, but most of them have been cropped in the other direction only enough to create an 8x10 aspect ratio. The close up images were shot with a 300 f2.8L IS lens and Canon 2x extender on a 40d body, and the wider shots were done with a 100-400 and 28-135 lens on my Mk2N. I'm always reluctant to use the 2x extender but it usually works out ok on the 300 f2.8.

Additional images can be seen on my website here.

For a look at a night launch, check out The Launch of Space Shutle Discovery

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Great Blue Heron

Of all the large birds I've photographed, the great blue heron is one of my favorites. During breeding season the plumage is really beautiful, especially at its peak when the lore turns bright blue.

I was cleaning up some files on my computer today and ran across some images from a previous outing that I had not yet worked up or converted from raw. Looking through them brought back memories of the day I photographed this graceful bird, and I decided to post a flight series from that day. These were shot in Wakodahatchee Wetlands in South Florida. In the flight shots below, the male was flying out to retrieve sticks, which he would then carry back to the nest and hand off to the female.

I hope you enjoy these images. Breeding season is winding down in Florida and looking through these images makes me wish for springtime to begin all over again. To see more of my birds in flight images, click here.
Click any image to enlarge.

Finally, here is a photo of the male pictured above, landed in the nest with the female.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Pittsburgh's PNC Park

Timeout for baseball
71031 [click on any image to enlarge]
The week after I returned from Alaska, we traveled to Pennsylvania for a family reunion and spent over a week in the Pittsburgh area visiting various relatives. I was also able to take time to see a Pirates game at PNC Park. I had been past the stadium a few times in the past, and had photographed it from the outside, but this was the first time I had attended a game and took the opportunity to get a photo that I had always wanted from the inside.

My plan was to get a shot from up the upper deck behind home plate showing the playing field and the city skyline in the background. But as luck would have it, it was raining before game time and we had to wait through a 45 minute rain delay before the game started. It did clear up later but my chance for the ideal photo with a perfect blue sky did not really materialize the way I had hoped (I have enhanced the sky a little bit in the first photo at the top of the page).


In the photo at left you can see a well formed rainbow that appeared after the rain. There was actually a double rainbow and I captured that in a different photo, but it is more faint so I did not post the image.

I walked to different parts of the stadium during the game so I could capture the view from several different places. The last photo below is from the left field exit where we stopped to watch the 13th inning.
The game went to extra innings and we stayed pretty late, but finally left at the end of the 13th with the game still in progress. As we got to the car, we listened to the game on the radio. When the Pirates won the game with a walk-off home run in the 14th inning, we wished we stayed just a bit longer. However we finished off the night with some cold beer and an excellent pepperoni pizza from Gino Brothers, which eased the pain just a little. This was absolutely the best pizza I've had in a long while. I can't understand why nobody in the south can make such a good pizza, but that's another story.
I've not been out photographing any birds or wildlife since returning from Alaska, so this is the reason I have not posted lately.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Da Bears

When I set out to travel to Alaska, the one thing I hoped to do was get some close up photos of Grizzly Bears. For whatever reason, I felt like this was one of the main photo goals of the trip. Unfortunately I only saw Grizzlies at a distance the first 2 trips I took deep into the park, and I had one last chance on my next to last day in Alaska. We had just gotten back from Valdez at around 5am, and I had to grab a couple hours of sleep and get back up at 9:30 to get my gear ready to hop on a morning bus.

This turned out to be the best day of all in the park as I did finally see a sow and 3 first year cubs just about 50 yards off the road. They were traveling further away and moving behind some underbrush before I would be able to try to photograph them. By the time they were in clear view again, they were probably about 75 yards away. I had been using a 40d with a 600mm setup, but this was too close to get all the bears in the frame, so I quickly switched to my Mk2N with 100-400 lens. This allowed me to fit the sow and cubs all in the frame at the same time, but I gave up the opportunity to get close ups of individual bears when I set down the other rig.

Below are some additional photos from this sighting. I couldn't get over how cute the cubs were, and I felt fortunate that I had been able to see them this close.

Other wildlife seen later in the day were several caribou and one moose. I have included one photo of each below.

The bears were sighted just a few miles east of the Eielson Visitor Center which sits at mile post 66. After seeing the bears, and especially the three cubs, I would have been happy even if I had not seen any other wildlife on the return trip. While I would have loved to have also gotten some close ups of the individual bears, I think it was better to do what I did, given the choice. I was unable to manage both cameras in the short time I had to squeeze off a few shots, and I felt more confident with my main camera rather than the less capable 40d.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cruising Prince William Sound

70208 - Humpback Whale
Down in Valdez, we went out on a Glacier / Wildlife viewing cruise with the hope of seeing some whales, and as luck would have it we were fortunate to see three of them as well as several sea otters, tons of sea lions, and a few bald eagles and puffins.
[click on any image to enlarge]
70117 - Humpback Whale
70163 - Humpback Whale
70192 - Humpback Whale
8198 - Bald Eagle

In addition to that, we enjoyed watching dozens of dall porpoises buzzing the front of the boat for about 20 minutes straight as we cruised out toward the area where we would look for whales.

69878 - Dall Porpoise
It was nearly impossible to get a good photo of the porpoises because they moved so quickly and were so close, only popping out of the water or an instant at a time.

From the bow of the 75 foot
Lu-Lu Belle we were looking straight down at them most of the time.

70287 - Ice field near Columbia Glacier
70286 - Iceberg
The ride out was comfortable but got quite chilly as we rode toward Columbia Glacier. Overall it was a great day out on the water, and Captain Fred Rodolf and his crew only added to our enjoyment. I met a young woman working on the boat wearing a Florida Gators hat I and had to ask about it since we are die-hard Florida Gator fans. As it turned out, Brittney is a UF student spending her summer working in Alaska on the boat.
70304 - Fred and Brittney

We had some good laughs and got a photo of her doing the "gator chomp" in front of an iceberg out near Columbia Glacier.
8438 - Brittney does the "Gator chomp"
The ride back was more scenic than the ride out as the skies cleared up a bit and the conditions were more conducive for photography.

70338 -
70352 - View from the Bow

Finally this last photo is "Oscar" the sea otter, who is often seen around the harbor in Valdez. We spent quite some time watching and photographing him as he would dive for mussels and then resurface to eat them.
69202 - "Oscar" the sea otter