Scenes Around the Finger Lakes Before the Polar Vortex

The weather around the finger lakes has been pretty mild so far, with temperatures mostly in the thirties and some forties with little precipitation. However, this might change with the anticipated coming of the polar vortex. One struck last year and produced three consecutive nor’easters along the east coast.

I traveled around the finger lakes in December where there were light patches of snow scattered about the countryside. Here are some of my highlight photos.


Fall Nor’easter on Lake Ontario

Webster Pier

Here on the north coast the weather can get pretty rough. Remember the Edmund Fitzgerald (it sank on Lake Superior)?  Well, Ontario is a pretty rough place when the wind blows from the northeast. Last week a nor’easter swept up the east coast and we were on its northwestern side. Even so, we had winds up to 35 MPH with about an inch of rain.

So I decided to suit-up in my rain gear and go out for a shoot at the Webster Pier in the park of the same name. With my 35mm camera loaded with Ilford 3200 B&W film under a camera hood I ventured out, keeping the lens pointed down, then shooting mostly downwind to keep the lens dry (I still had droplets on the lens). That day the water was churning but the waves were only about 3 or 4 feet high. With the more powerful winter storms waves can be from 6 to 9 feet (great for winter surfing)!

Webster Pier

When I arrived the wind was “only” blowing at about 25 MPH; there were several die-hard fisherman trying their luck, with one pair out on the pier. However, after about an hour the winds strengthened to around 35 MPH and they left; I was really being buffeted during this period, making it difficult to compose my shots and keep my lens dry.

People love living near the water, but during storms things can get really dicey. Many had their properties at least partially flooded last year. You can see how close some homes are to the shore in the last photo.

If you have any storm shots from the Great Lakes, we would all love to see them!


Back on the Water

Portland, ME harbor

I am not back on the water, just thinking about it. Some of the best water in my opinion is off the Maine coast, as we see here with a sailboat sailing into a fog bank in Portland harbor. Living on the North Coast (i.e., Lake Ontario) is nice but it just cannot compare to the salt water coasts. The tides, the salty air, and, oh yeah, those “back door” cold fronts that so often create widespread fog. Ahh, “when that fog horn blows . . . .”

There is nothing like a storm breaking waves over the rocks. The sound of the

Peaks Island, ME

crashing waves is relaxing. Actually, nice weather or stormy  weather (hurricanes aside) by the sea affect most people quite pleasantly, which is why coastal property is so expensive. Here is a brief take of one stormy day on Peaks Island in the photograph to the right.

Peaks Island, ME

Something went horribly wrong in this next photograph on the left. It looks like the film was scratched. None of the other frames on the roll have these scratches so I am a bit perplexed. Seeing these, I decided to process the photo with a somewhat austere look, hoping to bring some new aesthetic to the photo. I am not sure it worked.

Late one afternoon, as cumulus clouds were building, I took this last shot as a small boat was on its way back from, well, who knows where?

Peaks Island, ME






I will be back at Peaks next year for more of these great Down East* scenes.

*The phrase derives from sailing terminology: sailors from western ports (e.g., Boston) sailed downwind (summer prevailing winds are from the southwest) toward the east to reach Maine and the Maritime provinces.


Sailing Lake Ontario

Evening photo shoot on the Genesee River breakwater

A friend invited me out on his sail boat this week-end. After leaving our slip we headed out the Genesee to the open lake. On our way out we saw a photo shoot taking place on the breakwater to our left (err, port). There was little wind so we had to motor about half of the time. The lake was smooth, it was warm, and the colors were great! You can view the shots of the evening in the first six frames at my online gallery.

Given our low winter temperatures and the lake’s fresh water, you might not recognize this breakwater in the dead of winter as strong winds produce crashing waves and spray that make the above look like an extended block of ice.

Summer Along the Water

Realizing that I have been the purveyor of bleak news in several of my recent posts, it is time to return to the positive aspects of our environment. Actually, most of us, most of the time, miss it–even when we are out in it.  We are focused on our cell phones or talking with each other as we walk the trails, not fully taking in our surroundings. Native people, in contrast, are/were alert to sounds, animal behavior, subtle changes in weather and so forth.  Animals are also more aware than us, even when it comes to impending earthquakes and tsunamis. During several major disasters they left for safer grounds, probably because they were aware of ground vibrations. We rarely feel these because we are so preoccupied with modern life.

I took the photos here during a couple of hot days this past July using Fuji Pro400 film. When walking with the camera (usually alone) I am looking all around and listening. When I discover a potential shot I think a bit about it (at least in those cases where my subject is not moving) and move around it, taking shots from different angles and/or exposures. You have to take several shots. If you take just one with what you think was a good composition at the time, you will likely be disappointed when you see the result.

So here is the “best” of what I saw on those hot summer days.

The Web It Wove
Blue-Green Algae




I am never sure what is better, taking photos or being out in nature. I suppose it is both.

Southern Maine’s Coast

Well, at long last I have completed this photo set where you can find them at my online gallery.  Whereas I see Massachusetts’ coast as gentile, Maine’s coast can only be characterized as rugged. In addition to my usual landscape work, I am experimenting more with fine art and abstract work, with some of these meager attempts included here.

I might also add that this film set represents my first time doing my own film development, after which I scan the negatives and import them into Lightroom for post-processing. I took a course on developing black & white film two years ago, but it wasn’t until I returned from this trip that a friend of mine (a former Kodak chemist) gave me a refresher and loaned me his equipment. Unfortunately, I lost about 25  images due to improperly winding the unexposed film on the developing reel (that, of course, needs to be done in the darkroom).

You can see more of Maine’s coast in my photobook, Exploring Maine’s Coast, available online and at Sherman’s Books of Maine .

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.

Casco Bay Lighthouses

Bug Light
Bug Light

I returned to Portland, Maine for Thanksgiving to visit friends. Dave and I took advantage of an overcast day to go to Bug Light Park located across the Fore River from Portland, adjacent to Casco Bay. There we photographed Bug Light,  among other scenes. Although it is no longer active, people love Bug Light and they walk out to take their photos there. Somehow, GPS marine navigation, good as it is, is just not as romantic as lighthouses.

Spring Point Ledge Light
Spring Point Ledge Light

Just a short drive away is Spring Point Ledge Light, located next to Southern Maine Community College. Still active, it’s out at the end of a long breakwater—again, a very popular photo destination.

After getting some good shots we drove to Fort Williams Park on Cape Elizabeth to Portland Head Light. Located at the entrance to Casco Bay and facing the Atlantic, this is one of the brightest lights on the New England Coast. It’s beam casts 24 nautical miles. George Washington ordered its construction in 1787; it went into service on

Portland Head Light
Portland Head Light

January 10, 1791.  Portland Head is the most visited, photographed, painted, lighthouse in New England.

What can I say, one just feels good at the sea and lighthouses.

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.

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.