Around and About Athens, New York, part 1

Enjoyments of Athens, New York

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Memorial Day Weekend 2019 Pam and I visited Athens, first settled in the 17th Century by an ancestor through her maternal grandmother. Click me for more about the Van Loons. Jan Van Loon is 10 generations removed from Pam and her siblings and is one of 1024 (512 pairs) of ancestors. Whatever became of the other 1022 people (and all those in between) Pam was there with me that day to enjoy the experience of walking around town and talking about Jan Van Loon’s connection to herself.

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Founded as Loonenberg, named after the first settler Jan Van Loon. today,Athens is a lovely destination, a historic village on the Hudson River.

We stopped for a very enjoyable latte at Bonfiglio and Bread on 2nd street. As we ambled south on 2nd street Pam spotted someone to talk to and I proceeded with the goal of the Hudson River, visible at the bottom of the street.

I noticed this architectural specimen and turned to capture this side in a good light and was lucky to capture a young co-admirer of its style with whom I assume is her Mother. Athens, developed as a “National Register Historic Site,” is a charming place to stroll and admire.

Southeast view on 2nd Street between Water and Washington streets. Athens, New York

Hudson Riverfront

Yesterday I did a Red Cross blood donation at an elementary school on Hudson Street here in Ithaca. Henry Hudson, the first European to sail up the river that now bears his name, is memorialized this way across New York State so much so it is unusual to find the “Riverfront Park” named as such.

The city of Hudson, in Columbia County directly across the river named its park “Henry Hudson Riverfront Park.”

Looking east toward the entrance of the Riverfront Park, Athens, New York. Found at the east end of 2nd Street.

Peace and Quiet

The Athens Park is a gathering place for the village with a large swath of grass, a short boardwalk, benches and generous shade trees along with river…….

The photograph captions will speak for themselves for the rest of today’s post. Enjoy!!

A sole reader enjoys the solitude and view across the Hudson. A large mid-stream island, Middle Ground Flats, provides a swath of green instead of a view of the city Hudson.

…and a dock.

The map shows a dotted line between this dock in the Athens Riverside Park and the Henry Hudson Riverside park of the city of Hudson. Barely visible in front of the wooded hills is the Hudson-Athens lighthouse.
A pleasure craft motoring south on the Hudson River passes in front of the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse. On the eastern shore is a line of freight cars. Amtrack uses this line for service between New York City, Albany and beyond. We have enjoyed this Hudson River view from the train and highly recommend that trip.
Built 1874, the Hudson-Athens lighthouse guides traffics around the island named “Middle Ground Flats.”

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Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Island Romance

the original Moby Dick

Thinking about the Aran Islands for my last posts, “Killeany Bouy” and “Inisheer Welcomes the 2014 Gaeltacht Irish Football champions” brought me back to Isla Mocha.

Herman Melville’s thoughts were in and around this island off the central Chilean coast when he penned “Moby Dick” in the mid-nineteenth century while sitting in the city of Boston.  He was brought Moby Dick not only by his own experiences on a whaling ship, almost certainly Melville owned a copy of Jeremiah N. Reynolds’ “Mocha Dick: Or The White Whale of the Pacific: A Leaf from a Manuscript Journal,” an true-life account of adventures around Isla Mocha.  Sometime around 1810 Reynolds personally experienced encounters with Mocha Dick after the crew of an Antarctic expedition mutinied, stranding him at Valparaíso, Chile where he remained for two years.

Located  38°21’45.62″S,  73°55’6.91″W, around 8 miles in size north to south, 3.5 miles east to west Isla Mocha is surprisingly simple to find.  A ridge of mountains run the north south axis, just 20 miles off the coast, a ship following the coast will find it easily, as I did from the balcony of the Oceania Regatta during a “sea day” of travel between Valparaiso and Puerto Montt.

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Since waking that day I was on the lookout for Isla Mocha.  In preparation for our month-long cruise around South America every mile of our itinerary was scoured for interesting sights, experiences and information.  When I first learned of Isla Mocha (Mocha Island in English) and the connection with Melville reading about it in Boston, just as I was in Ithaca, one of my goals for that day was to catch sight of Isla Mocha as it rose from the horizon.

My goal was made easier for the cloud formation from the island mountains.  Here is my first photograph, taken from our balcony on the port side.  I chose the port side just for the landward view as the ship progressed southward on the western coast of South America.  The Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III was tripod mounted with an EF 70-300 f4-5.6L variable lens set to 70 mm.  We are northwest of the island with the coast just visible.

Isla Mocha First Sighting

Another view with 188 mm focal length.  The ship must have turned eastward, as the view progressed the island came closer.  It was a fantastic thought to cruise above the subduction zone where the Nazca plate dives beneath the South American Plate.  In the distance, on a clear day, the volcanic cones Villarrea and Quertrupillan are visible.

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With the island due east, only a few miles away, the lens at 221 mm focal length.  A fisherman is having an easier day in a calm sea.  The indigenous people told stories of the souls of the dead travelling west to Isla Mocha.  Pirates used the island as a resupply base.  The fishing boat was the only sign of life.

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That was February 14th Valentine’s Day.  With Isla Mocha passing into the distance I changed for an evening with Pam.  Here we are headed to dinner, somewhere off the coast of Chile’s Lakes (and volcano) region.

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Valentines Day 2016

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Killeany Bouy

a dangerous channel

The approach to Killeany Bay of the Aran Island Inishmore is very dangerous, guarded by a Lighthouse on Straw Island to the South and the Killeany buoy to the North.

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This view is to the north, northwest from a ferry en route to Inishmaan through Galway Bay.  In the distance is the Connemara and the 12 Bens (12 Pins) mountains. Aran Islands, County Galway, Ireland.

There of stories of this buoy coming unmoored.  October 27th 2012 it went adrift.  An Aran fisherman, Micheál Seóighe (Ml Joyce) and his boat Naomh Beanán tracked  it down, hauled it back to the harbor.  The buoy was back in service shortly after.

Here is a photograph of me with the camera used.  It is a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III with a Canon lens 200 mm f2.8/L.  I am standing on the deck of the Queen of Aran ferry out of Doolin next to the Cliffs of Mohr.

Pam Wills took this photograph with her Samsung Galaxy 4 smart phone.

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Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

 

 

 

Loughan Bay Ruins, County Antrim

Deserted Cottages above the Irish Sea

We pulled off the side of Torr Road for this fine view on the way to Torr Head to take in this view of the Irish Sea.  The steeply rising distant headland is the Mull of Kintyre. Loughan an Lochan, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

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We parked on a turnout above the Loughan Cottages, near this farmer’s sheep pen.  He drove up in a huge tractor and conversed with Pam while I was below shooting the cottages. He made a good impression.

Loughan Bay Farmer – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

Roofless walls of a cottage more substantial than the other deserted ruins above Loughan Bay, with two fireplaces a walled porch with a view. A number of outbuilding foundations lay around. The integrity of the walls, chimneys and gables speaks to the quality of construction. A freighter in the North Channel of the Irish Sea is visible in the distance above the upper ridge. Beyond is the island of Islay, Scotland, about 30 miles distant. Loughan an Lochan, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

I am happy to report a series of thirteen (13) photographs of these ruins were accepted for publication by Getty.  You can click any of the photographs in this posting for my Getty portfolio.

Loughan Cottages Ruins above Crockan Point – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

The land slopes steeply to a rocky beach.

Ruin Above Loughan Bay – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

A thick growth of ferns, grass on the gable was once a home with a view of Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre 13 miles across the North Channel of the Irish Sea.  The Isle of Sanda just visible on the right of the far gable.  A landform named Alisa Crag is just visible in the distance, to the left of the nearest gable. 

Single Room Loughan Bay Cottage – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

Please browse my reasonably priced stock photography. License a photograph, download and use it for your website or blog. Click this link to browse all my Getty IStock Photography offerings.

Or click this link or any photograph or this link to select a print with custom framing from my “Ireland” Fine Art Gallery.

Interested in learning more about this site?  I have a series of postings on Loughan Bay.  Click for the first posting in this series.

Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills, All Rights Reserved.

Skellig Puffins

The Lovable Puffin

Each of the 603 steps between the Skellig Michael dock and the monastery evoked contemplation, caution, wonder and gratitude.

  • Contemplation: how did the monks manage to survive while placing the steps?  It can only be by a careful division of labor once a survival tripod was build.  By tripod I mean the basics food, shelter, warmth.
  • Caution: as with any steps, for a 60+ person I have learned the hard way falls take a long time to recover from.
  • Gratitude: for the opportunity, growth and knowledge afforded by travel.
  • Wonder: every step offered a new vantage and discovery.

Puffins were on my mind for most of the lower steps being immediately at hand, almost underfoot, constantly.  Underfoot, not in a obnoxious way.  Underfoot in being right there, unabashed, going about the business of life.  Pam and I were lucky, Puffin wise, for the weather.  Sensible birds, when the visibility is low Puffins stay close to the burrow, making improvements and socialize with neighbors.

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Puffins of Michael Skellig

Bad News: Atlantic Puffin populations are on a precipitous decline across Ireland and British Islands.  There are talks of a population collapse.  Researchers enlisted assistance from wildlife photography enthusiasts with outstanding results released in 2017.  The photographs showed parents returning with less nutritious fish.  The stress on Puffin populations follows the decline of fish stocks from over fishing.  I listed two references at the end of this post.

The disturbing element to our experience was not one of the birds flew in with a catch.  On second thought, this is not unexpected.  Late May the eggs are laid and under incubation.  The individuals in these photographs were feeding only themselves.  If we returned mid-June there would be chicks to feed.

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Puffins of Michael Skellig
Puffin with an inquisitive attitude

Why do we love Puffins?  We see reminders of ourselves.  The expressive large eyes, over a striking beak and there is something expressive about the birds’ body movements.  Don’t you almost know what’s on the mind of this fellow?  “What’s going on, over there?”

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Puffins of Michael Skellig
A colony of nesting puffins on a flowering cliff of green.

Puffins are small birds, the size of a human hand.  This colony returned in late March or early April, each breeding pair claiming a nesting site.  The coloring of the beak happens during breeding.  The bird molts while at sea during the winter, the beak and other brightly colored facial characteristics are lost.

Social Puffin
Michael Skellig puffins in social setting on cliff with burrows and flowers.

Puffin sexual differentiation is unique among birds.  The coloring and markings are identical between males and females.  Males are somewhat larger than females is all.

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Puffins of Michael Skellig
Soft soil covering the flanks of Skellig Michael is the site of age old Puffin colonies.

Here is Puffin nesting behavior up close.  I did some research on the flowering plants surrounding the burrows and am not sure.  I believe the white flowers are a mixture of Sea Campion and Sea Mayweed.

As far as my photographic technique.  There are two sets of Puffin shots from Skellig Michael.  For the the walk to the top, the monastery site, I used the lighter Sony Alpha A700 dslr with a Sony variable lens, DT 18-200 mm F3.5 – 6.3.  On top, I switched to the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III and, for the descent, fitted a Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L USM lens.

The shot above and following are the Canon, taken on descent.  Prior shots are the Sony, taken on ascent.

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Puffins of Michael Skellig
Puffin Entering Burrow

Puffins have striking black and white plumage and leg color some describe as “tangerine.”  Tangerine?  I guess.  Here an individual ducks into the burrow.

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Puffins of Michael Skellig
A grouping of Michael Skellig puffins, the foremost with an attitude of regard.

I did not spend a great deal of time in any one spot, being time limited and needing to get back to the boat.  Don’t recall very much social interactions between individuals, other than this perching together on the rocks.  The foreground Puffin seems to take the behavior of another bird to task.

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Puffins of Michael Skellig
Puffins are capable, if awkward, fliers.

 

Click for another Ireland Posting, “On the River Cong.”
References
Puffins and Technology
Clues to the Puffin Population Decline

Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserves

Skellig Peek

A Trinity of Skellig Images

With the newest Star Wars cash cow , “The Last Jedi”, bruiting about the media show, now’s time to debut a trinity of images from a morning spent about the Skellig Islands May 2014.  Skellig scenery also graced the ending of the 2015 installment, “The Force Awakens.”

Pam and I have many stories from that day, a favorite is from the parking lot of Portmagee where we met the fast boat to the island. I prepared for the day by making a reservation for our ride. We traveled from Killarney, where an early morning breakfast feast spread by The Killarney Royal Hotel fortified us for the adventure. Throughout our tour, experiencing Ireland was like taking blinders off, this first experience on The Ring of Kerry was no exception, driving on a tight timeline to reach Portmagee with minutes to spare, every turn of the road presented a new delight.

Grateful to have made it to Portmagee, we quickly pulled our kit together. As I closed the bonnet, Pam exclaimed “our umbrellas.” At this point of the story we laugh together. Umbrellas indeed. I had a dim clue of what lay in store for us and insisted the umbrellas be left behind, a counter-intuitive decision for a rainy Irish day the Wild Atlantic Way. Regardless of the time, we needed a bathroom break as there will be no facilities on the fast boat or the World Heritage Site where there is no space for human waste products.

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Skelligs from Valentia Island
I was here perched on a cliff of Valentia Island across from Portmagee looking southwest across Valentia Sound.

The humor is in our welcome aboard the fast boat, like a fishing boat with a small cabin and small deck dominated by the engine hatch. We crowded on, handed a full set of fisherman slickers. This is a heavy coat with hood and pants, all waterproof. Our close timing guaranteed the worse seat, away from the cabin in the open. It was a new experience for us and we felt a sense of dread as the craft left the protection of Valentia Sound into the open Atlantic Ocean.

We faced a west wind, driving 12+ foot waves, as the boat breached each wave the crest went over the cabin in a waterfall of salt water. Up and down, up and down. Thankfully neither of us lost breakfast as some did. I do not have photographs of the trip out or the approach to the island, my equipment was safely packed away.

In the above photograph you see the entire course of our approach to the island, a bit more than 10 (land) miles from Portmagee. We toured Valentia Island that afternoon.

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Skellig Steps
Climbing the side of Skellig Michael, approach to the peak and monastery.

There is a fair climb to the top to view the former monastery buildings. The steps are uneven and, when wet as it was that day, slippery.  I wore a waterproof North Face shell with hood for the low threatening clouds.  There was no rain as such, a constant fog on the top kept all exposed surfaces wet.

From the point on, until the top, was the most exposed and uncomfortable (frightening, chilling…you get the idea).  Spare yourself the experience if you are afraid of open spaces and heights.  Here was a stiff wind blowing from the right, on the left the cliff falls away to the ocean.  Ahead, the path narrows to about 10 inches with a cliff wall on one side, the precipice on the other.  Then come the monastery entrance and rock wall safety.

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Monk Cell
Monk Cell, Grave and Cross

This single image gives a succinct impression of the monastery setting.  The bee hive shaped stone monk cell requires a stooped crawl to enter.  Inside, the space is small and, thankfully, dry.  The structure keeps out the rain and wind, a marvel of stone construction. This cell is off to the side, on a cliff balcony, over the wall an ocean precipice.

My closing advice is to plan your time wisely.  The ship boards in less than an hour, in that time you climb the 700 steps and explore.  There are people all over the place, in waves. To capture the structures without humans, you need to wait until the cohort become bored and leaves.  There will be a space before the next wave of tourists breaks. Leave enough time to descend the steps safely.  People have suffered fatal falls on the steps and cliffs, it is easy to do.  Make your personal safety a priority.

Click for another Ireland Posting, “On the River Cong.”

Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserves

A Far Country X: Hanging Valley

amazing resolution with the Canon 24 mm lens

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The resolution of the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM makes this lens a favorite of mine for landscape work.  Let me show you why.

In the previous post of this series you learned about a wonderfully shaped tree, a branch really, of Tempanos fjord.

The valley today’s posting lies behind the tree.  It is a broad valley shaped by ancient glaciers.

Here is the Google Earth view, from an elevation of 9,400 feet, with the ship position marked.  Northwest is a pushpin titled, “Hanging Valley and Waterfall.”

A Far Country X– CLICK ME!!!!

The waterfall marking the hanging valley is visible in the following photograph.   All photographs in this posting are from a Canon EOS-1Ds MarkIII, 24 mm lens (see above for complete name), on a Manfrotto travel tripod.  ISO 500, f5.6 or f6.3.

With a point of view about 50 feet above the water the valley bottom is hidden behind an 800 foot hill and the water fall is just above the hill.  See it?  …..I didn’t think so.

There is the island with the tree, to the left.  The following image is the same photograph, with the central section enlarged.

Fjord Island and Broad Valley– CLICK ME!!!!

The enlargement brings out the play of light, the low clouds, deep in the valley.  To provide scale, know those are full sized pines on the hillside, foreground.  The waterfall is just about visible.  I will enlarge the image one more time.

Fjord Island and Broad Valley– CLICK ME!!!!

There it is!!  I stepped up contrast, as well.

Fjord Island and Broad Valley– CLICK ME!!!!

Here is another version of the original view.  That patch of sky had opened up seconds after the first shot and, as a result, the 3,000 door mountain and waterfalls, on right, are better lit.  Notice the bare rock face on the mountain slope, marking a landslide.

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Fjord Island and Broad Valley– CLICK ME!!!!

A different landslide Scar is featured in two previous blogs,

A Far Country V: Landslides!!

A Far Country VI: View of Tempanos Fjord

The Regatta’s course brought us closer for the two following shots.

The lovely sky is still visible…..

Mountain and Waterfalls

….one minute later the clouds gather and relative darkness returns.

Fjord and Valley

The contents of this blog are Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen WillsThe lovely sky is still visible…..The lovely sky is still visible…..