2020 Already?

2019 flew by

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These were captured from the 2015 July Fourth fireworks at Ithaca’s Stewart Park. We have a clear view from our home’s front porch, the view is hampered somewhat by the wires, not registered when viewing but show up in photographs. The best shots, shown above, were from a Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L USM lens, the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III mounted on a Manfrotto studio tripod with hydrostatic ball head. ISO set to 1,600 and exposure set to 5 seconds. I started each shot when I heard the very first whooosh of the rocket.

Maybe I’ll set up on the roof for the 2020 July Fourth display? If Pam will let me.

Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Quaker Settlement Series 2

Gone too soon

Joseph P. Lee, a middle aged gentleman with carvings of a mature willow flanked by urns. In the intervening 162 years the upper layers of slate flake at the edges.

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Rhoda Ann Mattison, a wife who died too young. What was the relationship of James and Rhoda to Catherine and John?

The carving is a pineapple (for hospitality) set in a elegant vase on a plinth flanked by ionic columns, a simple arch (banded to imply a rainbow?) surmounts all. Cross hatching implies space. An implied eternal banding of stylized leaves as starbursts.

I brought out the characteristic slate coloring. There is evidence of ware from the intervening 197 years, though the carving is surprising crisp.

Slideshow of photographs in this series

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Quaker Settlement Series 1

Delving the past

On my way to Taughannock Falls, November 6, 2019 (see my post “Cuteness Break”, the first of that series) I explored a different route and came up this cemetery set among an appealing pine grove.

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Located in the town of Ulysses, New York there is a Quaker Settlement church a few feet further west on Perry City Road. I have Quaker ancestors, so took the opportunity to peruse the family names. The stones were unusually beautiful and touching, mostly local slate, some with intricate carvings.

Here is a headstone for two young people of the same family name. The white marble carved in the form of a willow, from the flowing lines and, knowing how our willows green up springtime, it calls to mind the same youthful greening as appropriate for two young people who lived 22 and 15 years.

Analysis of the dates, given in the following capture, tells the story of an young woman, a baby born 5 months after her death and who followed his aunt 15 years later.

I have a great aunt who also died young with a headstone naming her mother and father. Here is the granite headstone of Mary R. Daughter of George & Margarett Wills Died Oct. 3, 1886 Aged 20 years. Saint Mary of Assumption Cemetery, Sweetwater, New Jersey. My grandfather James Edward Wills was 9 years old at his sister Mary’s passing. He must have attended her church service and internment, standing at this spot.

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

At Home with Tom and Hen Turkey

Thanksgiving Freedom

The Catskill Mountains are not mountains. The Catskills started as a high plateau. Over eons, before the first humans, water, the sun, and wind carved high steep peaks: rounded, forested and teeming with life.
October 2008, on a return trip from my Mother’s house on Long Island, we traveled the winding road called “Route 17”, through the high autumn hillsides, one of our last trips to see her.  She broke her hip on New Year’s and lived with me and my sisters until her 2013 passing. 
Click Any Photograph for my Online Fine Art Gallery 

Route 17_FishsEddy_throughTheWindshield– CLICK ME!!!!

Fishs Eddy

We left Long Island early afternoon, as the sun passed over the western hills we stopped to explore a place called “Fishs Eddy”, a town on the banks of the Delaware River.

Delaware River at Fishes Eddy– CLICK ME!!!!

On the east side, facing sunset is a formation that would be a cliff if it was not for the hardwood trees growing from every available nook, crevice.  Everywhere a root could be sunk, roots fed trees that, one late October afternoon, made a hill bright with autumn.

Turkey Habitat

Turkeys live in this type of habitat. We took a trail, barely a road that climbed past failed farms and hunting shacks.

Catskill Hillside– CLICK ME!!!!

The Hens Flee

On a level place, in front of a ruined home, we came upon a Tom (male) turkey and his four hens. The hens fled at the sight of us.
With barely time to raise the camera I caught Tom and the last hen as she fled into the bushes.

Tom and Hen Turkey Flee the Scene– CLICK ME!!!!

Tom Turkey Defiant

I say she, because Tom stayed behind. He stood erect, all three feet of him, defiant and strutting in a direction opposite from the hens.


This is the bird Benjamin Franklin proposed as the national emblem of the new United State of America (the bald eagle won that competition).
Hunted into almost oblivion, across the United States the wild turkey is making a dramatic come back in many places, including the forests and farmland of rural New York State.

A Defiant Tom Turkey– CLICK ME!!!!

This fellow made no noise. His strutting posture and head bobbing said it all.
We left Tom Turkey in peace to his domain and hens.

Tom Turkey Stalks the Ruin– CLICK ME!!!!

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills


Island Shrine

part of the Irish landscape

Modern stonework borders the 1/2 mile path to the inner Dún Aonghasa walls, keeping tourists off delicate plants, maintaining the integrity of this ancient site. 

The view north, northwest over the walled path to Dun Aonghasa (Dun Aengus) looking across karst landscape, walled fields, farms, the North Atlantic Ocean, coast of Connemara and the 12 Bens (12 Pins) mountains. Aran Islands, County Galway, Ireland.ng lintel) in the surrounding wall, to left of center in middle distance.

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Click the link for my Getty IStock photography of the Aran Islands

A roadside shrine on Cottage Road, Inishmore. The faith brought by the saints has deep roots here.

A large crucifix set with wet stone walls with cut flowers. The walls are the native limestone.

It is a spring (early June) afternoon and there are fern and wildflowers. The white flowers are Greater Burnet saxifrage (Scientific Name: Pimpinella major).

The existing dry stone wall was interrupted by the shrine. In the distance are dry stone walls around fields, a stone shed, feeding horses and the sea, being Galway Bay, storm clouds with distant rain.

Aran Islands, County Galway, Ireland.

Click me for the first post of this series, “Horse Trap on Inishmore.”

References: search google “Wet Stone”

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Dying Man House


Cong Village, County Mayo Ireland. A scene from “The Quiet Man” has a man, on hearing a fist fight underway, jump from his death bed to run from this house on Riverview Street. This is the view heading east with the Cong River behind.

Dying Man House on Riverview Street is a popular photograph on my Facebook Photography page, to this day visitors leave comments with occasionally inside information about “The Quiet Man.”  Here are some examples:

Edward James Soul The dying man in the film was actually, John Ford’s (the director) brother in real life. And the actor who played the young priest was, in real life, Maureen O’ Hara’s brother. The movie is definitely a classic.

Diane Benson Morrow And 2 other brothers were in the film. The older priest and the man who met John Wayne at the railway station at the beginning of the movie were brothers.

Edward James Soul,you are in the right church but the wrong pew. The older priest was Ward Bond. The man who met John Wayne was Barry Fitzgerald. In real life he was the brother to Arthur Shields, the actor who played the Protestant Minister, ” Rev. Playfare”.  If you look at the two, you can see the family resemblance.

Diane Benson Morrow yes. I meant Arthur Shields

Edward James Soul, also remember the scene at the lnishfree race, where there were children sitting on a railing next to Maureen O’Hara? They were John Waynes children.

Kerry Keegan Mulhern  what was the name of Barry Fitzgerald’s horse?

Pauline Ryan Grew up and around the village of Cong lovely wee place its swarming with visitors most of the time but it’s nice and quiet for a few months of winter. It’s getting very commercialized but thank God there is very little room for it to grow.

Eileen Fitzgerald Uber So wonderful to maintain the precious buildings of the past.

John Feeley The guided tour of Cong includes the tourists playing a scene from the movie. I got to play the part of Barry Fitzgerald. I had one line…”Where’s me pint?” Type-casting?

Jackie Smith Just watched that movie this weekend.

Greg Thompson Will never forget our singing tour guide and the most glorious artisan shop ever there in Cong…….

Ethel Beth Gallagher That was John Ford’s brother. He’s the man who referred to Seaneen as “tall man” in the Pub and got the coat thrown over his head.

Kolokea Kakiki I didn’t realize that film was made in 1950! I watched it in the 70’s and loved it!

Diane Eiden Been there, it was great to see after watching the movie all my life. I believe Maureen O’ Hara grew up close to Cong, and spent her final years there.

Marnie Rosé This is on my bucket list of places I want to go and I only live up north .. my favorite movie 🎥 ❤️

Robin Axler Kupfer We really enjoyed our visit to Cong. Got some great poses of my husband and me on the Stone Bridge.
Enjoyed seeing where they filmed the race on the beach….charming town.

MichaelStephenWills Photography If you walk by the Abbey over the River Cong and forest path, you will recognize another shot from the film where Mary Kate and Sean walked along the river. 2

Ann McNamara Visited Cong a few MONTHS ago.Love taking photographs- so between Cong,the grounds of Ashford Castle,Ashford Lodge and Ballinahinch castle I was in 7th heaven.Lots of wonderful photos to use for my calligraphy + card making class in the Library over Halloween- if I can arrange it!!!!

Julie Dance I bet it is, my family are from co Clare, a little place called Kilkee, and I visit Killarney a lot got friends there.

Click this link to read the photograph’s story in my online gallery.
Click this link to read another Ireland story “The Cloigtheach of Glendalough.”

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Apollo 1 Anniversary

Memories from the catastrophe on Launch Complex 34

Here is the eighth, and last, in a series of photographs centered on the early history of space flight on Cape Canaveral mostly taken during a tour organized by the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation. “Google” the foundation for details of future tours. Here we remember the loss of the Apollo 1 astronauts on Launch Complex 34 (LC-34).

Test Mice

In “Launch Complex 14 Today” we visited the place where John Glenn launched into the first American orbital mission. In ” John Glenn: A Memoir,” Glenn writes: Friendship 7 crossed the African coast twelve minutes after liftoff, a fast transatlantic transatlantic flight. I reached for the equipment pouch fixed just under the hatch. It used a new invention, a system of nylon hooks and loops called Velcro. I opened the pouch and a toy mouse floated into my vision. It was gray felt, with pink ears and a long tail that was tied to keep it from floating out of reach. I laughed; the mouse was Al’s joke, a reference to one of comedian Bill Dana’s characters, who always felt sorry for the experimental mice that had gone into space in rocket nose cones. In the early days, especially, the astronauts talked of this feeling among themselves, of being test subjects in a can and, by extension, like mice, expendable.

A monumental relief on the facade of Kennedy Space Center “Heroes and Legends” is from an iconic Project Mercury 7 photograph. Glenn is third from left, front row.

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Mural on the outside wall of the “Heroes and Legends” immersive experience, Kennedy Space Center near the Rocket Garden.

Gus Grissom, center top in the relief, was the veteran astronaut on the Apollo 1 crew, with Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee. White was the first American to walk in space during Program Gemini . Chaffee entered the space program with Program Apollo. These are images from the “Heroes and Legends” memorial to Apollo 1: the mission patch created by the crew, the three on-site in front of the launch pad. The patch is reproduced on the space capsule.

For this and the other slide shows, click on image for a larger view, use navigation arrows. Click elsewhere on larger view to exit.

Gus Grissom, who almost drown when his Liberty Bell 7 capsule hatch opened prematurely after an Atlantic Ocean splashdown, was a vocal critic of the problem plagued Apollo 1 capsule. The crew sent the following photograph to the project manager, Joseph Shea, with the message, “It isn’t that we don’t trust you, Joe, but this time we’ve decided to go over your head.” On issue was the quantity of flammables in the capsule. The use of velcro fasteners increased since the Glenn’s first orbital flight. There was 34 square feet of velcro throughout the capsule, almost like a carpet. Shea ordered it removed August 1966 and sometime before January 26 it was reinstalled. There were other flammable materials as well and a pressurized 100% oxygen. atmosphere.

The following photograph is low resolution, clicking on it will not yield a larger image.

The Apollo 1 crew expressed their concerns about the capsule in this parody of their crew portrait sent to ASPO manager Joseph Shea on August 19, 1966. From left to right: Ed White, Gus Grissom, and Roger Chaffee. April 1, 1966. NASA photograph

On January 27, 1967 the crew was suited up, in the capsule, for a “plugs out” test on Launch Complex 34.

A spark started the fire, it quickly spread and the inward opening hatch cover could not be opened under cabin pressure. It took five minutes to open the hatch, Grissom, White and Chaffee were lost: asphyxiated and burned.

My photographs are from the “Heroes and Legends” exhibits of Apollo 1 and later missions. Above, next to the burned capsule hatch is the seared capsule mission patch. Below, a moving display is the personal effects of the lost astronauts.

Launch Complex 34 Today

By chance our Lighthouse tour was January 27th, the 51st anniversary of the loss of Grissom, White and Chaffee. As we approached the complex parked buses and a gathering of people came into view. All that is left is the massive poured concrete base of the launch tower, topped with rusting pipes.

LC-34, site of the Apollo 1 disaster

The following two images are taken from the above photograph. On the left is the LC-34 information kiosk. The other is people gathered around a display of photographs and a person walking toward our approaching bus.

This turned out to be Dr. Sonny Witt, Director of Operations for the 45th Mission Support Group , Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Dr Witt came onto our bus and explained it was not possible to visit LC-34 today, with no further details, then went on to provide interesting background to Cape Canaveral Lighthouse. We were so lucky, instead of experiencing the abandoned structures, we had the attention of an expert who had published books on the subject.

Here is a UTube video featuring Dr. Witt on a tour of the lighthouse.

Sources of information for this post: I used information from the Wikipedia site for the key words Apollo 1. Memoir excerpt is from “John Glenn: A Memoir”, (pp. 341, 343). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Click for the first post of this series, “Cape Canaveral Lighthouse.”

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.