Last week a friend of mine and I were out searching for Snowy Owls, since there were several reported sightings in the Braddock Bay area. After a couple of hours of searching, we found no owls. We walked along a boardwalk overlooking Braddock Bay where we saw all the usual cattails. It was early morning and they were backlit so we took a few shots.

Braddock Bay
Cattails at Braddock Bay

They do look nice, glistening in the morning sun. They provide protection for birds and animals; beaver and muskrats rely on them for building shelter and as a food source, respectively.

I’ve never given much thought to cattails until I heard a subsequent  report about continued funding of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. It includes monies to remove a large part of the cattail stands along Braddock Bay.

It turns out they are an invasive species that displace many other plants vital to the eco-system. As is so often the case, we have fostered cattails with fertilizer run-off and maintaining low lake levels. The plan now is to raise the lake level 2 1/2  inches, which doesn’t sound like much, but will have a great impact on coastal residents during storm surges.

This is yet another example of how so much of our collective activity has unintended consequences.

Post-industrialization to Neo-industrialization

Looking at my shoot of Boston’s tall ships in 1980 (I took these with a Yashica TL-Electro SLR, which I still have, using Kodak reversal film) got me to thinking about ways of cutting back on petroleum. As I have

Boston, Tall Ships The Juan Sebastian Elcano, 1980
Boston, Tall Ships
The Juan Sebastian Elcano, 1980

discussed in earlier posts, climate change is not the only reason for cutting back on petroleum. Although we have plenty of oil now, scientists have noted that petroleum and other natural reserves will be in shorter supply and increasingly expensive over the coming decade, forward.

One solution for ocean ships would be new designs using both solar and wind power (with solar panels embedded in their sails). Although these ships would need larger crews, and could not be as large as current ocean-going ships, they could be larger than their 19th century clipper counterparts. Though this is not economically viable now, it will be as oil depletes, leading us to what I call neo-industrialization (a period of scaled back production using mostly/only-renewable resources).

I will talk more about this in a later post. In the meantime, perhaps you would share your own ideas on this topic.

Plum Panoramas

Braddock Bay Marina @ 18:35:28
Braddock Bay Marina @ 18:35:28

Although I have shot panoramas in the past I am now working to improve my technique. I used to photograph in landscape format but this did not work so well because I ended up with a long skinny panorama. Shooting in portrait format minimizes this problem (although I have to shoot more frames for a panorama of a given angular view). However, when I switched to portrait format I found it difficult to precisely aim my camera when I tilted it 90° on my ballhead. The solution was to get an L-bracket so I do not have to tilt the ballhead 90°. In addition to precise aiming, the L-bracket also has the advantage of keeping the same center point of my scene when I turn the camera to the opposite format.

The scene, above, consists of six frames that I merged in Lightroom 6 (resulting in a RAW or DNG file, depending on the format of your original frames, other programs typically create the panorama in a TIFF file). Thereafter, I used Lightroom to post-process the photo. By the way, Braddock Bay is on the south shore of Lake Ontario, located west of Rochester, NY.

Here is what I did to capture the image:

  1. I set the camera to manual mode and engaged live view to use the histogram to properly expose the brightest part of the scene (using f/8 to f/16, depending on the scene).
  2. The camera rig must be plum. I set the camera and tripod level/vertical (use camera level and tripod bubbles) to avoid distortion after the merge. Do not point the camera up or down or this will also create distortion.
  3. Avoid using a polarizing filter since the wide pan will produce an uneven sky.
  4. I used a remote shutter release to minimize camera vibration, and took photos with 30° pans (I used a 45mm lens on my APS-C camera). Longer or shorter focal lengths need smaller or greater degree pans, respectively). You want a 30% to 50% overlap of each image.

If you are using a wide-angle lens, or if you have foreground objects, some distortion might result as a result of parallax, unless you use a nodal slide. This is because most cameras are mounted to the tripod at the base of their body and so pivot around their base, rather than the lens. However, unless you are doing really critical work, I do not think the several hundred dollar nodal slide is worth it.

I decided to “go off the rails” and shoot a really wide panorama, below. I took this during the October 2016 super moon; it consists of 24 frames. The merged DNG file is 1.6GB; it will produce a sharp print up to about 11 feet! Realistically, only a commercial building or museum is likely to have space to hang a photo of this size. Of course, my other option would be to print a smaller size photo.

Overlooking Salmon Creek at Braddock Bay, Lake Ontario
Overlooking Salmon Creek at Braddock Bay, Lake Ontario



Any comments you might have about shooting panoramas would be welcome.

Global climate agreement finalized in Paris

A recent BBC article reported on implementing the Paris accord. Central to this agreement is limiting the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning between 2050 and 2100. The report goes on to say that the Paris agreement, even if adhered to, is only a first major step to solving the climate change problem.

I’ve presented data in several of my earlier posts, along with a page of information from reputable scientific institutions. However, although data powerfully persuades scientists, it does not hold as much sway with the public. But photographs do. So here are some photos taken of the Grinnell glacier in Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana next to the Canadian border. In the three following photographs you will see the dramatic recession of this one glacier.

Grinnell Glacier Overlook: 1920
Grinnell Glacier Overlook: 1920
Grinnell Glacier Overlook: 1940
Grinnell Glacier Overlook: 1940


Grinnell Glacier Overlook: 2006
Grinnell Glacier Overlook: 2006
Public domain: USGS
Grinnell Glacier Overlook: 2013 (Public domain: USGS)

Although we know that recession would have started shortly after 1850, due to rising temperatures, note the dramatic difference between the 1940 and 2006 photographs. Collectively, these photographs are evidence of  climate change acceleration. Rephotographic evidence shows that all glaciers around the world are receding, and acceleration is fastest at the poles—all inline with historical studies of atmospheric and oceanic data.



Did you pay the electric bill?

Ontario 9-mile Point Reactor from Selkirk Shores State Park
Ontario 9-mile Point Reactor from Selkirk Shores State Park

I recently visited the east end of Lake Ontario to photograph. As it turned out, the shoreline presented the best photo opportunities, including a nuclear plant sitting prominently across the water near Lycoming, New York.

Richard Heinberg has written extensively about the end of the post-industrial era, due to dwindling energy and other critical resources. Some see nuclear power as an alternate source of energy that is safe and doesn’t add to greenhouse gases. Although nuclear plants do have a mostly safe track record, there have been notable accidents: Three-mile Island, Chernobyl, and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, to name the notables.

Even though nuclear plants don’t pollute in the traditional sense, they create thermal pollution when heated water used to cool the Uranium rods is returned back to the adjacent lake or river. This results in fish kills and increased algae populations. Furthermore, once the Uranium rods are spent, they will remain radioactive for about 250,000 years. This raises the issue of how to safely store them, and adds a “hidden” cost to this energy source.

Developing clean, renewable energy is critical. Nevertheless, it will not fully replace the energy produced from fossil fuels. The 21st century will be one of radical change. Either we can plan that change, or the natural environment will do it for us. The explosive growth of world gross national product and human population are not sustainable in light of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases, diminishing arable land, and other natural resources. We face critical challenges.