Tag Archives: New England Shutterbugs
From a caterpillar springs forth a butterfly
This is a multi-part story that will track the 5th instar ( life cycle phase) of the Black Swallowtail or for those who remember their Latin, Papilio polyxenes.
First off I’m not a biologist, I’m a photographer so most information that I’m spouting here is coming from the internet. In fact at first, I first (mis)-identified this caterpillar as the one for the Monarch butterfly, but they don’t have spots. So If I’m lucky enough to capture these guys emerging from their chrysalis then I will feel truly successful if they are actually Black swallowtail and not moths or something else…
I wrote an article over on Scenic New England (my personal photo blog) about creating the correct environment for bringing in butterflies and hummingbirds… So far, in my garden this spring, I’m zilch on hummingbirds but I did have a hummingbird moth, and that’s pretty close I guess. :-)
On 21 June, I found three; green, yellow and black striped caterpillars on an unidentified plant. The place remains a secret as I don’t want to find that someone came in during the night to take them home…
This is a link to what I feel is a really good butterfly & gardening page, it gave great information and it listed specifics that helped me decide what instar they are in and it helped me identify that they are ready to go into this final chrysalis stage and if I’m correct by the 2nd of July they should be emerging from their chrysalis as Black Swallowtails… (I’ll be really embarrassed if they aren’t)
I’ll be writing another piece assuming I find them either in or starting their chrysalis and then another when they emerge. I hope you will stop back over the next two weeks+ to see their status.
Video of the caterpillars
This is the second of three installments featuring Vermont’s beautiful highway byway system. Last time I wrote about Route 17 which runs through western central Vermont and terminates at
• Moss Glen Falls, Granville–A large and sometimes overpowering waterfall just south of Warren, Moss Glen Falls is particularly impressive after heavy rains. This falls is right on Route 100, so you can’t miss it.
through beautiful valleys with rivers. near vertical forests and rich valley fields and farmland.
Although a good part of the route hugs the eastern slopes of the Green Mountain National Forest, much of it steps away for farms and quaint villages ideal for browsing and meal breaks, and overnight or weekend lodging.
I was joined by my good friend and regular hiking partner, Ben, on a recent trip to the top of Mount Pierce in New Hampshire’s Presidential Range. Over many years, Ben and I have conquered a good deal of peaks and footed a good number of trails during the spring, summer, and fall. Although not completely inexperienced, Ben doesn’t have nearly as many miles logged as I do during the winter months.
We hardly ever need a ‘reason’ to hike, but we did have some specifics to accomplish on this journey: First, we wanted to begin an independently funded video blog (more on that in a few months). Next, I wanted to photograph the Presidential Range at sunset from the summit of Pierce. And not least of all, we simply wanted to get out of dodge and hike to the top of a great mountain!
The considerations and precautions for a trip like this are many, and while we were getting prepared we shared in some conversation about the gear related to our hike. By and large, there are a good number of folks out there who share the same kinds of questions and concerns that Ben had during our exchange. With so many learnings in one conversation I felt compelled to share our dialogue with you, the wider audience, in hopes that you may find some of it useful in planning your own Artistic Adventure!
Ben’s questions started with clothing…
“So Matt, I have some cotton stuff that I generally wear, and I see you have a lot of synthetics. Is it okay for me to wear cotton?”
The short answer is no, it’s not okay. There’s a longer answer though: Cotton is insidious in the winter since it absorbs and retains moisture, including sweat. A damp article of clothing can get quite cold in the winter, and in turn undermine your body’s efforts to stay warm. Check the care tag to see what your gear is made of if you’re not sure. Synthetic fibers like GoreTex are actually engineered to perform in the winter; it has “pores” that are 20,000 times smaller than a droplet of water, but 700 times bigger than a water vapor molecule. This allows vapor (sweat) to escape while keeping other moisture (rain or snow) from getting in. If you have nothing else, and your sweater that you generally use as a mid layer is, for instance, 60% cotton, you can go on short hikes with it but be darn careful about managing that layer “off” when you feel yourself getting warm. Eventually, you should make the investment in synthetics, because in the winter if you sweat, you can die.
Ben watched as I pulled my laces tight on my hiking boots…
“What about my footwear? Do you think I should tie my boots really tight? It actually kind of cuts off the circulation to my feet.”
Even though it may feel uncomfortable at first, your boots should be pulled and tied nice and tight. As you begin to walk, your ankles will articulate and your feet will begin to stretch and move this way and that. This loosens up the boot a bit as the laces and the fabric of the boot stretch. Keep in mind that your boots shouldn’t be so tight that your feet fall asleep while you’re walking, but essentially, try to experiment and find what works for you.
If there is too much play in the boot, you’re bound to get blisters, or worse, twist an ankle. If you experience discomfort after trying all levels of tightness, it’s time for newer and better fitting boots. And by the way, double plastic is ideal for warmth while winter hiking, but other boots are suitable for shorter hikes and hikes that take place among less extreme temperatures.
“I wish there was a way to prevent blisters, period. Seems that no matter what I do, I can’t avoid them and they can really ruin my hike. Any advice?”
Well, you probably know the spots on your feet where they tend to occur. Maybe it’s your heel, or the bottom of your big toe, or the outside of your little toe. Try this: With completely dry feet, cover your ‘problem areas’ in moleskin. Wait a few minutes for the moleskin’s adhesive to completely affix, then toss some foot powder in your sock. Put the sock on, being careful not to peel the moleskin off as the sock slides over it. Put some powder in your boots, too, before putting them on. The powder and moleskin will help prevent moisture and friction, the two major coefficients of blisters.
Ben pulled the curtain back and peeked out into his front yard…
“Speaking of feet, I have snowshoes but I’m guessing there isn’t much snow left. Do you think I’ll need them?”
Ah…backyard bias. My philosophy is even if there’s no snow in your yard, count on it being up in the mountains. Even the tricky monorail of snow can exist well into the middle of May in some spots, and since it’s only April I recommend that you bring the snowshoes along. Strap them to the outside of your pack. Snowshoes are meant to distribute your weight over a larger surface area, making it more difficult for you to sink into the snow (known as “post-holing”). This keeps snow out of your boots, and in combination with a good gaiter you can keep your feet very dry in even the deepest of snow.
“Okay. Snowshoes are a go. Another thing I just remembered: I have spare batteries for my headlamp. How can I keep them from dying in the cold?”
Good, spare batteries are essential when planning on a night hike. Keep them in your chest pocket, as close to your body as possible. The batteries probably won’t die in the cold, but they can stop functioning correctly if you don’t keep them warm. The last thing you want is to be night-hiking without a headlamp!
“Speaking of cold, do you think it’s cold enough for my water bottle to freeze?”
The plastic of the water bottle offers a negligible amount of protection from the elements, as do impurities in the water itself. However, the water inside will still freeze up at about zero degrees Celsius, or 32 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have insulating bottle holders, simply wrap your bottle in a spare shirt, sock, or jacket, and place upside down in your pack (keeping the bottle upside down keeps the cap and the bottle’s opening from freezing up completely). Hydration Packs are also a great product to consider using, but without an insulator for the line, it can freeze up quickly in cold weather. If you use a Hydration Pack, try keeping the water out of the line by blowing into the tube, and have spare water just incase it does freeze.
Hydration is critical in the winter months, even though we tend to associate water needs with hotter weather. The human body needs water for nearly all of its processes, including thermoregulation. Plus the body has to work harder to heat and to humidify that drier winter air as you breathe. Of course, I’m not a scientist or a biologist, but I think you’ll find that most of this is pretty accurate. You need to drink plenty of water before the hike, and be sure to have enough water during the hike. Finally, have a plan to get more if you’re on a longer hike. Water is the most important thing on Earth, and you should always plan for worst-case scenarios with regards to it.
“Speaking of worst-cases, what happens if we were to get stranded? Do you think a tent would hold up in winter conditions if we needed to use one?”
No three-season tent should be expected to hold up well in an emergency overnight situation during the winter. High winds can tear them to shreds, and they offer little-to-no protection from winter’s other callous elements. You can buy an expensive and heavy winter mountaineering tent, but hauling them around can be burdensome. My prefered way to prepare for an emergency overnight in the winter is to pack a mummy-bag and bivouac “tent” (it’s more of a cover than a tent). Using the two in tandem, I would sleep solo among the snowpack. My avalanche shovel would also help to dig a snow cave if I were in need of one. Chapters could be written on this subject alone!
Ben remarked, “That is certainly a lot of good information. We should finish packing so we can hit the trail!”
Once preparations were complete, we hit the road, and shortly thereafter we hit the trail. We practiced careful layer management to strike the appropriate temperature balance, and avoid perspiration. We made it to the top in a few hours, poked around a bit, and awaited the sunset. While anxiously awaiting the moments of dusk, Ben asked some great questions about my craft as a photographer…
…To be continued … visit again soon for Part 2, where Matt & Ben’s Conversation shifts to the really good stuff, and more toward the photography aspect of their amazing journey!
Photographing Salem MA
Photographing Salem, Massachusetts, (or any seaside coastal town) is for many a dream come true. Truth be told, any time I can be at the seashore, I’m in seventh heaven. I’ve lived around the world and many parts are incredible. Being here in New England, however, defies description. (But I’ll try…)
Research needed for success
To successfully get the most out of a photographic excursion in a new area calls for a bit of research on your part. I’m going to save you a couple of steps in the process by providing you with a map at the bottom of this article that shows the route to each of these scenic spots.
Here are three favorite spots that you can easily find and enjoy for yourself.
The diversity of New England and Boston’s North Shore is what draws photographers and artists from the world over. All of these spots are a short walk within downtown Salem or, in the case of Fort Pickering lighthouse, a short drive.
Let’s start at Winter Island. All you have to do is drive down Derby Street to Winter Island and pay the entrance fee (which was $10 per car last year).
Winter Island has many attractions, including a nice sandy beach (try finding that in New England) to the Lighthouse at the edge of the remains of Fort Pickering. On the other side of the peninsula is Salem Willows which I’ll discuss in more depth at another time. If you’re into roughing it a little and want to wake to the sounds of the surf, you can also bring your RV or tents and stay awhile.
Next we’ll travel back towards downtown to another lighthouse in Salem’s inner harbor. Derby Wharf Light sits at the end of Pickering Wharf. Note: Parking is tough in Salem, but just a short walk from Pickering Wharf is a parking garage.
The Derby Wharf Lighthouse isn’t a giant. It’s actually more of what’s called a “bug light.” Once you are out there, you have a commanding view of the harbor. If you like small lighthouses check this article by Mike Blanchette about small lighthouses.
A fantastic reason to visit Pickering Wharf happens on the 4th of July. If you are like most of us and struggle with catching a great 4th of July fireworks shot, then I have a solution.
Most folks photograph fireworks by concentrating solely on the explosions over head with no other element in the shot, thus producing a very static image.
Put a ship in your fireworks photos!
To remedy this… Try imagining a three-masted schooner in the foreground with fireworks going off behind the masts and rigging! As you can see, we have the Friendship of Salem at anchor on Pickering Wharf. I have found that a great place to sit is at the end of the wharf with the Friendship of Salem sitting at its mooring directly in front of you and the rigging shack on your right. Timing is important! Don’t expect to get there at 7PM and get a prime spot. All of the photographers know to get there early and stake out their territory.
The day I took this image of the fireworks, I got there at 2PM with my chair, cooler and photographic gear in tow. All through the afternoon it was a carnival atmosphere, topped off with a fly over by our armed forces, and a local orchestra playing tunes leading to the 1812 Overture and the start of the fireworks.
Here I covered a few of my favorite things about Salem and not once did I mention the Witch Trials of 1692… See, there is more to Salem than being witch central. Want to know more about that? Leave a comment…
Jeff “Foliage” Folger
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I’m very fortunate to live near the Annisquam Lighthouse, which is located in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Originally erected in 1801, the lighthouse marks the entrance to the Annisquam River at Wigwam Point. As a Rockport photographer, it’s just a quick drive for me to get there when the mood strikes.
What makes the Annisquam Lighthouse such a wonderful photographic subject is its visual diversity. Light and shadows due to the position of the sun – along with the height of the tide and changes in the cloud cover – vary from day to day. These collective elements create an ever-changing palette that photographers can use to showcase the lighthouse structure.
One day I was working in my home office when I saw some ominous clouds rolling in from the southwest. Knowing that I had a very small window of opportunity, I quickly grabbed my camera and headed for Annisquam Light. My hope was that the tide was still somewhat out. Mother Nature was kind to cooperate. I loved how the filtered sun affected the color of the water.
Speaking of color… Sunset is also a great time to visit this pristine location. Doing so never disappoints me. From my favorite vantage point up on the rocks, the view is heavenly and I find my mood instantly serene.
So I hope you can see why I love the visual diversity of Annisquam Lighthouse. Just remember, you have as much control as Mother Nature – well, in some ways. Certain shots, for instance, are just as dramatic when presented as black and white. Tonal contrast can really rock!
Sadly, the Coast Guard chose to close the Annisquam Lighthouse parking lot to the public as of October 15, 2010. However, the lighthouse can still be seen and photographed from Gloucester’s Wingaersheek Beach and, of course, by boat.
~ Liz Mackney