Michael Witten is a science-educated geek turned photographer. Based in Babylon, NY, he enjoys the Ocean, a north wind in summer, moonshine on his sails, microbrew craftiness, and sharing his lens on beauty.
Long Island. Our harbor and grey seals will probably not be sticking around too long in some parts. If you love seals, but don’t have time to head out east, head down to Robert Moses, or the Oak Beach area. You will need to go at low tide, and you will need binoculars, telescope, or a huge lens. The haul out is towards the middle of Great South Bay, so they are far out there, but they are there. This picture, and this info should help you find them. Remember, they are federally protected marine mammals. If you alter their behavior, you are too close. Please keep that in mind if you are in a boat. Enjoy.
Everyone loves the Ocean! Just kidding… You love disposable plastic more.
We’ve all heard the stories of sea turtles eating plastic bags and balloons, mistaken for jellyfish, and dying as a result. Fish, seabirds, whales, dolphin… all seem to consume plastic, many dying as a result. (44% of seabirds eat plastic by mistake.) But the problem runs deeper. This video is well worth watching:
Plastic breaks down. As opposed to the old idea that plastic is virtually indestructible and lingers for centuries, it does, in fact break down. Through physical and chemical means, it gets broken up into smaller and smaller pieces. These smaller pieces disperse at a local level, basically creating a plastic soup. Most fish and birds can eat the smaller pieces.
To make matters worse, plastic acts as a sponge, sucking up dangerous organic pollutants such as PCP, DDT, BPA, etc. We now are creating toxic plastic soup in the far reaches of the ocean.
Maybe lay off the plastic water bottles for a start???
…a short piece of writing by Dean Potter, ex-Flow king climber/base jumper:
***Cold air from the valley drifts upwards. It’s predawn and I’ve been moving on the north Nose of El Cap through the night, focused on the rock in front of me in the faint light of my headlamp. Suddenly, I think of how tired and exposed I am, alone, ropeless, far past any point of retreat. A surge of panic courses through me. I try to think of the summit but that thought, too, is dangerous.
An image floats into my mind. I’m following my father in the early through a pasture in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. He strides towards Moosebrook, his favorite fishing spot. I’m not even half his height, and the frosty grass brushes all the way up to my waist. We reach the river. My Dad skips from rock to rock, downstream to the first hole, and looks back for me. The water is freezing, and the rocks are covered in slime. I’m afraid to follow. I burrow painfully through the thickets of pricker bushes, swamp, and blackflies as my father calls for me. The bugs chase me back to the river’s edge. and I timidly wade in and try to catch up. Tense and anxious, I lose my footing, and fall into the river. I gasp for breath in the icy water, but manage to scramble onto a rock where I bawl until my father comes back. “I don’t like fishing. I want to go home”.
My father shakes his head at me, and his eyes sparkle. “Dean, put everything else aside. There’s nothing to be afraid of, except a little cold water. Just focus on the next step you are taking. I feel so happy running down the river, the sun reflecting off the water, my body naturally going where it’s supposed to. I almost don’t think at all. I just respond to what’s in front of me.” He stops talking and heads downstream again. We slowly pick our way across the rocks, catching rainbows and brook trout. The day passes quickly and my confidence rises. Soon, I’m playing and racing down the rapids with eyes wide and senses alert, not knowing I’ve just received my first lesson in Zen.
The air drifts over my body. I grasp the immediate. I reach for the next hold.****
This story struck a chord in me. I vividly remember being about 6 or 7 years old, visiting my Grandma in upstate NY. There was a gully with a stream rushing through it, complete with rocks at all angles, slippery moss, and icy water. I used to love hiking in that stream as a kid. It was beautiful, serene. Fairly quickly, I learned the art of sprinting from rock to rock, without any distractions. As you pushed off with your right foot, your body already knew where your left foot was going to land, and the precise angle you should land on to prevent slipping, while sending you in the direction of the next “pre-selected” rock. And it was all so effortless. It exhilarated and calmed me at the same time. I guess my addiction to the state of “Flow” started here. In one way or another, I’ve been pursuing this state ever since.
In the moment, harmony, complete concentration without effort, zoned in. When you experience this deeply, there is joy, a smile on your face for days. You have tapped into a great state of consciousness that is not always easy to do.
OK, enough rambling… Go back and read the article again. Instead of reading about climbing and rock-hopping, read it as a metaphor for life. Life as it should be, not the whirlwind of stress it often becomes. Life can be a rock hop if you allow it.
I don’t shoot much inside anymore, preferring to be outside at the beach. For some reason, with the winter blues or whatever, I didn’t feel like venturing outside in Thursday’s blizzard. I must be living a bit dead, since I am usually twitching to get into the middle of any storm.
A trailer for the upcoming season of Walking Dead played, a memory that a friend had dressed up as Negan for Halloween also played, so I came back to life a bit and set up some lights and played. It had been a while. Gotta shake out the rigor mortis. “I need a phone call. I need a plane ride. I need a sunburn…”
Set up: 3 foot softbox as main light, cam right. Small softbox hair light behind black seamless paper. Reflector cam left. I added a extra light behind subject to control background for a bit more separation from the black jacket. Processing was just some quick Lightroom, except for dropping in the full moon in PS. (Negan doesn’t get skin treatment.) There was also a fog machine for that pic. Shot in living room with 70-200mm, mostly at 80mm. (Negan credit: Adam Snair.)
Anyway, playing with lighting is really a lot of fun. And cabin fever is no good reason to let your brain get eaten. If you have any comments / questions feel free to leave a comment! Thanks for looking!
“NYC/Long Island, let your voice be heard or show up for moral support! This meeting is your chance to “interact face to face” with the people who made the calls that directly effected the Moriches Whale’s outcome.
At this meeting, all in one room, will be some of the most influential people in the Humpback Whale Community for our area.
Community Meeting on Moriches Bay Whale Response. 4-6 p.m. at the Brookhaven Town Hall, 1 Independence Hill, Farmingville, NY.
Goal – Provide an overview of the incident, lessons learned, and plans for future responses in New York for community members. Panelists will also receive comments and questions from the community.”
This is a chance to hear and be heard! We need more power at the local level.
Almost over slept this morning. Got up, but I was a bit slow getting enough coffee in me after yesterday’s fantastic game. I wanted to get some landscape shots before the sunrise – I like an hour to a half hour before for photography and observing. Those times often offer the best color. Running a bit late, I caught the sun coming up over the ocean, always a blessing, but I missed all the good color from earlier.
The light was still great so I changed plans. I switched out the wide-angle for the Tamron 150-600mm and went looking for wildlife. I was hoping to get lucky, maybe see some raptors or a fox. Drove around a bit, nothing. Had another thought and this is what I found this morning. (Phoca vitulina)
All shots are cropped considerably, even at 600mm, the harbor seals were pretty far away. Because the low sun was hitting them just right, I set exposure compensation at -1.0, to help prevent any overexposure of the seal’s light fur. (Seal fur, btw, belongs on a seal.) I was shooting in aperture priority, not manual mode, since I was kind of parked in the middle of the road, with a park ranger behind me tooting his horn for me to get back in my car.
All shots: ISO 500, F9.0, 1/1250th sec., 600mm. The ISO was bumped up to increase shutter speed, as I was hand holding 600mm. Aperture was 9.0, because this lens is very sharp there, and figured I needed some depth of field.
There are some better places to find seals on Long Island and I will try to hit that in another post. Seals are federally protected marine mammals. Please respect them by staying at least 50 yards away. If your presence alters their behavior, you are too close.