Category Archives: Staring

2015 Persieds


The 2015 Persieds promised to be pretty good this year: no moon and a forecast of clear skies.   From a “sitting on the deck” perspective they came through: we saw quite a number of them when we were out and observing.  As chance would have it Damien and Cayla, our grandchildren, were here for a sleepover and so they both got to see their first “shooting stars”.  That alone made the night worthwhile.

Photographically, however, not nearly as much luck.   I set up the Fuji X-T1 with interval shooting (1 second, the minimum) and with 15 second exposures at ISO 1600.  Sadly my 10-24mm lens only opens to f/4.   With the noise reduction on it was only taking images about 60% of the time, so serendipity was a play.   In the end only 4 frames out of 400+ had meteors in them.  (Lightroom processing was +1.3EV, boosted the whites a bit, and converted to black & white for all but the dawn shots.)

Here’s a time-lapse of the evening.   The first part starts around 10pm and ends up with clouds.  It then switches to around 4am and runs until dawn starts to overwhelm the starlight.   You’ll see a lot of satellites and aircraft and a few flashes here and there of the meteors.

Here are the other 3 meteor grabs:

Very faint in lower-right:


This looks like 2, but the meteor is in the bottom-left corner (in the trees).  The other streak (center-ish) is a satellite.


Another faint streak above the tree (just left of center):


If this were a Friday or weekend, I probably would have babysat the camera all night and grabbed a few more images.   In retrospect, I should have set up another camera with a different timing sequence to get better time coverage… something I definitely considered but given the light pollution from Boston and the hill obscuring Perseus, this worked well enough.  Besides, this wasn’t about the pictures — meteor showers can really only be appreciated in person, preferably with good friends and family nearby.

March 2015 Wallpaper

March 2015 Wallpaper

Here in the Northeast we’ve pretty much had our fill of snow, but that’s all there is to photograph this year and I could not bring myself to do that again.   Looking back through my archives, it turns out that March isn’t a great month for color (although last year’s March wallpaper was the exception – but that turned out to be the only round in that particular gun…)   So we moved the photographic eye ahead a few weeks into April and found a nice scene from our waterfall area.  I hope it brightens your March a bit…

Download the 1024×768 version here. (Great for your iPad)

Download the 1280×800 version here.

Download the 1366×768 version here.

Download the 1920×1080 version here. (HDTV widescreen)

Download the 1680×1050 version here.

Download the 2448×1836 version here. (iPads with Retina Screens)

Technical: Canon 5D Mark II, EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro, 1/160, f/14, ISO 1600. Processed with Lightroom 5 (minor exposure tweaks: highlight -31, whites +19; clarity +17; masked sharpening).

October 2014 Wallpaper

October 2014 Wallpaper

One of the late-blooming wildflowers in our backyard.   We had a burst of yellow this year: goldenrod, black-eyed susans, and whatever the heck these are… 🙂   The deep shade of my neighbor Liz’s pine trees combined with a soft overcast created an interesting opportunity for this composition.

Download the 1024×768 version here. (Great for your iPad)

Download the 1280×800 version here.

Download the 1366×768 version here.

Download the 1920×1080 version here. (HDTV widescreen)

Download the 1680×1050 version here.

Download the 2448×1836 version here. (iPads with Retina Screens)

Technical: Fuji X-T1, 55-200mm f/4.8 R OIS on a tripod, 1/320 at f/8, ISO 320.   Processed in Lightroom 5 (small exposure tweaks, sharpening).

Sun dogs and Sunset


A beautiful sky this evening…   We were in Lancaster (at Kimball’s) for a mini-birthday party for our grandson and on the way out Betsy noticed the sun dogs.   So we took the long way home and stopped at Wachusett Reservoir, which provided some nice views.  During the time we were there the sun dog to the right was so bright you could see it reflected in the water.

20149-022-3411 20149-022-3416


Shortly after arriving home the clouds were putting on a show….


… so I scurried over to the “Ice House Landing” (Assabet River, Ben Smith Dam impoundment) which had a nice reflection going on.



Technical: All “sun dog” photos were taken with an Fuji X100S, handheld.  The sunset photos are mostly a Fuji X-T1 (10-24mm), handheld  (one is with the X100S).  Processed with Lightroom 5.


A Boundary Waters Travelogue – Day 1


Jump to: [Day 1] [Day 2] [Day 3] [Day 4] [Day 5]

For the past 10 years or so Betsy and I have travelled with some good friends on various paddling trips.  Photographs from many, if not all, of those trips have been chronicled in this blog.  We’ve been to Umbagog in New Hampshire (at least twice), Aziscohos on the border with Maine, the Connecticut Lakes, and a few places in the Adirondacks, Rangley in Maine.

Throughout that time we’ve talked about paddling the Boundary Waters in Minnesota – a federally regulated wilderness area on the border with Canada.  After too many years of hemming and hawing, we pulled the trigger and decided that this would be the year.  This is a short summary of our travels: 9 states, 2 countries, 3200+ miles driving, 30+ miles of paddling and portages, and an accumulation of stories that will be annoying our friends and family for years to come…

Before we start, this was a paddling trip – not a photography trip.   I hoped it would be a source of great photographs and brought along some equipment to try to capture a bit of our experience – but photography took a second seat to the bigger challenge of the trip itself.  I hope you enjoy the story and the few images I captured along the way…  (Note: you can click on just about all of the images to see larger versions of them, if your screen permits.)

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a 1-million acre wilderness  area west of Lake Superior on the border between Minnesota and Canada (the Canadian side is part of the Quetico Provincial Park).  The U.S. side is managed by the Forest Service who controls the number of people who are in it at any one time (you have to get a permit to enter).   For the most part, no motorized boats are allowed within the BWCA and you can pretty much only access it via canoe/kayak.

Here’s a map of our trip which covered 8 of literally 1,000+ lakes that are part of the BWCA (click to embiggen):


Day 1: Orange, Day 2: Purple, Day3: Green, Day 4: Red, Day 5: Peach

Betsy and I decided to drive while our paddling partners opted to fly in to Minneapolis and drive up from there (still a several hour drive!).  For a variety of reasons our trip out west was a basic “hop on route 90 and hang a right in Wisconsin” kind of trip.  We opted for different route on the way home.   Our traveling by car made it possible to the flyers in the group to travel light – we carried their PFDs and other sundry stuff.

Our 1,600 mile trip was divided into 3 days: 400 miles to Rochester, NY, 800 miles to Tomah, WI, and then 400 miles to Grand Marais, MN and then down the Gunflint Trail.  We arrived at the Clearwater Outfitters lodge in the early evening and headed to bed in the bunkhouse.

August 25th we began our adventure with breakfast at the lodge followed by a bit of orientation and walkthrough of the gear.   We were going out in 3 canoes: 2 tandems and 1 solo.  (It should be noted that while 2 of our group are very experience canoe paddlers, 3 of us, myself included, are kayakers and minus a few hours of test runs earlier in the summer, this was our first trip of any kind in a canoe.   I had brought my kayak paddle – a very wise choice.)


Around 11am we were on Gunflint Lake heading east, with 3 canoes loaded with food and shelter for 5 days, sunny skies, and west-to-east winds predicted for the entire trip.

Heading out on Gunflint Lake (X100S)
Heading out on Gunflint Lake – Pat & Paula on left, Betsy & Donna to the right (camera: X100S)

I, personally, was having an absolute horrible time.  It took me about an hour to understand how to control the canoe – which would pretty much spin any time a tailwind touched it.   After a while I worked out some strategies that made it tolerable, but I was sorely missing my kayak for this entire trip.

We stopped for a quick lunch break at a campsite around 2pm.


Discussions afterwards said that we should have stayed put there, but we pushed on.  This turned out to be a less than ideal decision.  The winds had been slowly but steadily picking up and we had reached the east end of the lake – Betsy noted the whitecaps shortly after we pushed off.    We made our way to a bay and decided, since we were nearly done with this lake to head for the corner and the next lake (Little Gunflint) which would be much calmer.   The winds and waves turned nasty and we ended up getting split up.  I made it further along the coast, but (despite a stream of obscenities) I was unable to turn the canoe into the wind and ended up getting slammed into the rocky shoreline.  I climbed out of the boat and dragged it about 30-50 yards to the point, got around the point and pulled it into a (slightly) calmer section – still getting whacked by waves.  I proceeded to start bailing out the swamped canoe with a water bottle (occasionally set back by a wave), occasionally pulling it higher as I managed to empty more of the water out of it.   Somewhere in that process I banged my arm pretty badly, but otherwise I was unhurt.

A few hundreds yards away, unknown to me, the other two canoes had given up trying to make the turn and beached themselves in a cove.  We spent the next 4 hours not knowing the fate of each other, unsuccessfully tried to bushwhack our way on land, and then basically sat and waited for the winds to die down a bit.

Wind and 3 foot waves pinned us at the east end of Gunflint Lake (X-T1)
Wind and 3 foot waves pinned us at the east end of Gunflint Lake (X-T1)

After the adreneline stopped flowing and I realized there was little I could do until near sunset, when the winds should start to calm down a bit, I pulled out my camera and tried to take a few photographs.  Even though it was trying to injure me, it was pretty in its own way…  (next 3 photos with the Fuji X-T1)




Around 6:30pm, about 30 minutes before I was going to head out and either try to make my way to the cove where I assumed they had taken shelter, or head for a real campsite and hope to spot them, Betsy and Donna came around the corner – followed shortly by Pat & Paula.  Relieved to see they were OK (and they me) I yelled that I would follow them and proceeded to get back on the lake and start cussing at my boat.   We worked our way first to an island and then headed for the corner of Gunflint where the inlet to Little Gun would be.

There are no signposts here.  It’s starting to get dark, the waves and wind are still nothing to be trifled with, we’re all tired, a bit scared, on an unfamiliar lake, and the inlet to the next lake isn’t exactly obvious.   Just then a motor boat comes out of nowhere and Pat has a quick “chat” that determines he just came from Little Gunflint and he points to the inlet.  We scramble there and have a much saner time working our way to a campsite that is right next to the portage we will have to cross in the morning.   (The “plan” had called for us to do this portage on the first day but it didn’t account for a quarter of the day taking an impromptu survival course.)  We set up camp around 9pm and had dinner around 10pm.

Betsy prepares some soup at our first campsite (X100S)
Betsy prepares some soup at our first campsite (X100S)

Glad that we managed to make it through our first day unscathed, but a bit annoyed that we put ourselves into this situation, we called it a day.   Later we would learn that the winds were quite a bit higher than expected and several other groups traversing Gunflint Lake were pinned down on shore for a couple of days.   While several more physical tests lie ahead, we were happy to get this first day behind us and looked forward to calmer waters.

Jump to: [Day 1] [Day 2] [Day 3] [Day 4] [Day 5]

If you have any interest in the technical aspects of photography in the wilderness, I wrote an article in my company’s blog about this trip from that perspective.