Frozen Ithaca Falls

human scale against a frozen waterfall

Here I am, deep in a past February, in front of an Ithaca Falls frozen but for a small waterfall behind me.

“photo by Pam”

Ice Bells

Noticing small miracles, taking the time and effort to capture them…..

These icicles were formed along Fall Creek during the coldest months of February in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State.

The transient nature of these forms is suggested by the thinness of the pedicle joining each bell to the ice lobe of the ledge. Note the golden crystals in the ice lobe.

A visualization of the symbolic power of the numeral three, reflected on itself.  Question: what do “threes” mean to you?

Captured with the Sony DSLR-A700, DT 16-105mm F3.5-5.6 lens, hoya circular polarizing filter, mounted on the Manfrotto tripod with ball head.

Click the photograph for my online gallery Ice Bells listing.

Fall Creek Winter

The magic of ice, water, light

This January 2005 morning dawned cold, the risen sun low to the south of a forested esker ridge, as I suited up for this long planned for photograph.  A Sony DSC-F828, a UV filter and tripod were all I needed to capture this.  That camera model has a integrated flex lens.  I needed to stabilize the lens to achieve this image clarity, depth and sharpness.

The shimmering gloss was achieved by waiting until the sun was above the ridge, shining light shafts through the trees, lighting the water obliquely.

As late as January the stream carries enough heat to create a fog or mist as the air chills after sunset.  This causes twigs to frost up to create those white stick figures on the far bank.  Snowfall from the previous day clings to trees.

Fall Creek freezes from the bottom up.  First the water smoothed boulders accumulate a glaucous ice coat.  Slowly moving water freezes from the edges, in stages, the middle stage an ornate filagree.  The stream narrows downstream where the surface ice first joins.  As the year progresses through February the creek gradually recedes under the ice, replaced by an ice road.

What is an esker ridge?  As the last glaciers melted 10,000+ years ago, the channels carrying meltwater and sediment, under the glaciers, deposited these winding ridged hills.  One of the outcomes was the channel of Fall Creek was altered to flow through the field of eskers among which, in the 19th century, a dam and water mill were created.  It made barrels and furniture.  My former home, in this photograph, was converted from the workshop of that mill.

Hoary Elm

This day, as our hill turns to snow globe, I remember this early morning, March 2007, on the edge of spring.  

Hoary as in covered in frost to appear bleached with age. 

As winter changed to spring I noticed the first greening of the limbs and, each November, the eerie form of the limbs revealed.  I call the tree an “elm” though I am not certain.  There are other lone survivor elms nearby, the leaves are right for an elm.  Some elm species/specimens have the same shape.

Christmas Tableau

Cozy Snowmen dance round the candle

My dear wife Pam is the heart of Christmas in our home. Over the years we have collected a treasure of ornaments and knick-knacks she crafts into displays around our one. Pam completed the project well in advance of our grandchild holiday visits, before card writing and gift wrapping.

My contribution is a photographic time capsule. Here is some of my artistic output from this work.

This grouping of five cozy snowmen (three males, two females) are warmly dressed in knit sweaters and stocking caps; the women with long skirts. The five hold hands in a ring, rising from a common platform. We place a cup and devotional candle in the center.

The tiny group evokes community, harmony, amity. I captured them with a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III dslr, a fixed Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L macro lens mounted on a Manfrotto studio tripod and hydrostatic ball head. Fixed lenses provide the sharpest macros. The mounting allowed precise framing and use of the widest aperture and a low ISO. The light sources were sunlight from a large north facing bay window, a Canon Speedlite 600Ex-Rt and the candle. When used, the flash was angled in various ways toward the ceiling.

I start with a tight shot, maximum aperture. A single figure is in clear focus, the remaining gradually lost in the bokeh. The flash was used. I can almost see then circling around the candle in a winter wind.

Cosy Christmas Snowmen

Here the candle is lighted, aperture narrow to f8 using only the candle and ambient light (no flash). The group is visible within surrounding figures. I backed away and the viewpoint is higher.

The candle light enhances the perception of community.

Cosy Christmas Snowmen

Viewpoint is closer, still only the candle and ambient light. Aperture widened to 3.5. I must remove the hair in lightroom.

Cosy Christmas Snowmen

I backed off, aperture at the max with only the candle and ambient light. The figures are placed in a tableau with other snowmen and a structure, a birdhouse.

Cosy Christmas Snowmen

For this overview I swapped in a Canon 24mm f/1.4L II USM with a flash, aperture f2.2.

Christmas Snowman Display
Christmas 2017 snowman display laid out in our den on top of the entertainment cabinet.

Christmas Angels

Angels I Have Known

This is part of my project to document our Christmas memories through photography. Here we explore the themes angels of the Christmas Story and in our lives.

The angels of our Christmas tree and home remind us of the Jesus birth stories of scripture and the force of love in our own lives.

What comes to mind with the sudden appearance of Gabriel to Mary and that astounding message? Unlike the attempt of Jonah to avoid his calling, the subtext to Mary’s ready acceptance is the risks faced by an affianced woman who becomes pregnant. The book of Deuteronomy (Chapter 22 verses 13 – 21) calls for stoning a woman who presents herself for marriage as a virgin, when she is not.

When learning of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph’s reaction, as a follower of Mosaic Law, was to divorce her quietly to avoid exposing her to shame. It was a visit from an angel, in a dream, that convinced Joseph to accept Mary (Matthew Chapter 2, verses 18 – 24).

ChristmasAngel-3

An angel visited shepherds, announcing “today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is the Messiah and Lord.” Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God.” Luke Chapter 2, verses 8 – 13.

ChristmasAngel-1

Was it an angel who warned the Magi, in a dream, not to return to King Herod with news of Jesus (Matthew Chapter 2 Verse 12)? Scriptures clearly state (Matthew Chapter 2 verse 13) “the angle of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt.”

ChristmasAngel-4

People can be angelic in expressing love for others through action. I am thinking of a movie Pam and I viewed last evening, “The Theory of Everything.” Jane Wilde, in her love for Stephen Hawking, stays with him when, shortly after their romance began, he was diagnosed with ALS. The prognosis was death in two years. In all likelihood, Jane gave Stephen his life and work through loving him. He is alive and working today at 75.

Nested Angel

The love of our parents is more common, no less precious.

ChristmasAngel-7

A note on the photographs, I used a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III dslr with Canon lens EF 50 mm f/1.2L, Canon Speedlite 600Ex-Rt, Manfrotto studio tripod and hydrostatic ball head.  Some of the photographs were hand held.  When the flash was used, it supplemented ambient light from a large north facing bay window.

Keuka Lake Fall Winter

October 5, 2014 found Pam and I at Keuka Lake after my son completed the Wine Glass Marathon.  Here we are at the finish line in Corning, home of the Corning Glass Factory.  You may know it from your set of Correlle dinnerware.

Marathoner and his proud father

Afterwards, Pam and I made it up to the Dr. Frank Winery for a tasting followed by dinner at a local restaurant.  Here is a photograph from the same viewpoint, using the “zoom” setting of my Sony DSLR A700.  The view is more interesting than the winter shot of “Keuka Lake Winter I”  from the autumn clouds and the burst of late day sun on the eastern lake shore.

This is the juncture of the “Y” shaped lake where the two arms joint the long foot.  The pointed high headland is the point where the two arms meet.  We are looking north here.  The western arm, on the right, is unique in that the water is flowing down into the juncture.  In Keuka Lake the water flows in two directions.  The flow of lake foot and eastern arm is in the opposite direction, Keuka Lake empties at the top of the eastern arm, eventually reaching Lake Ontario.  

North View from Overlook using “Zoom” lens

Here is the eastern view, from the overlook, looking over a vineyard ready for harvest, covered with fruit and leaves.  Every once in awhile there is a loud “bang” from a noisemaker used to discourage birds from feasting on grapes.  The buildings along the shore are summer cottages, Keuka is lined with them.

East View on an autumn afternoon

The same view, from our December 2018 visit.  The vines are bare, the fallen leaves cleared, the vine roots covered under banked earth to protect them from the cold.

Pam and I, enjoying wine after the 2014 Wine Glass Marathon.  Cheers!!

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Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Black Skimmers Feeding

An early morning revelation

I published six fine art prints from this photo session. Click this link for any photograph to visit my new Florida Gallery.

One early morning, just after dawn, Cocoa Beach, Florida, I had a revelation.  My wife and I walk the beach four or more miles each day we are lucky enough to be in Florida for the winter.  Yes, we are “snow birds” who flee the snows of New York for a few weeks, now and then.
Viewing Platform with Sheep – CLICK ME for more Ireland photography.

We love to catch the sunrise together, have breakfast, pull together a lunch for a long walk.  We catch the passing beach scenery, find a place to enjoy our meal, and return late afternoon.

The Black Skimmer (Scientific Name: Rynchops niger) literally stands out from the gulls.  The individuals gather together in a large group.  If there is a wind, most group members face into it.  They are aloof and dignified, unlike the gulls who grift for food, obnoxious and bothersome if you make the mistake of throwing a gull a morsel.

Viewing Platform with Sheep – CLICK ME for more Ireland photography.

Black Skimmers are just as large a gulls.  Slender, tern-like, black and white bodies.  Recognize a Black Skimmer from the colorful red of the base of the bill.  If you view my Fine Art versions, notice the lower mandible is much longer.

Viewing Platform with Sheep – CLICK ME for more Ireland photography.

My early morning revelation was how the Black Skimmer feeds, flying just above the surf, the lower mandible extended to fish by feel.  Unless you beach walk early mornings, you will be most familiar with the habit of grouping together, facing into the wind. I captured this individual, a member of a larger group, just after sunrise, on Cocoa Beach. It was just me and the Skimmers.

Viewing Platform with Sheep – CLICK ME for more Ireland photography.

Their feeding is successful enough to allow them to longue on the beach most of the day.  I have only seen them feed early mornings.  Here is another part of their feeding behavior.  They feed as a group in long sweeping lengths.  At the end, they turn as a group and head the other way.  Here are three Black Skimmers in a turn.

Viewing Platform with Sheep – CLICK ME for more Ireland photography.

One morning, after our sunrise view, I pulled together my photography kit for this successful photo shoot.  Enjoy!!

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Endless Searching

discerning a fascinating species

Gulls, an omnipresent element of any beach stroll. Pestiferous, abounding and incessant the gull is simple to deal with. Keep any and all foodstuffs under wraps.

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For those who adore a crowd of gulls

Conversely, for those who adore a crowd of raucous opportunists simply pull out the food and offer it to the air. There is more about this photograph at this post, “Lady Feeding Gulls, Cocoa Beach Dawn.”

Click any photograph for a larger view.

Beach Walking

Pam and I developed a habit of hanging out in Florida during Finger Lakes Winters when the gorges are closed for safety and even walking the streets is perilous, stray black ice encounters abound. We trade icy falls for beach walks.

It is natural to become inured to the flight of gulls along the shore. For all my carting along the Sony Alpha 700 with a variable lens ( 18 – 200 mm) there is not a single photograph of a gull in flight. Yet, I have my eye on them until my blindness was lifted by a peculiar individual. It seemed to be a white gull, yet it had a watchful eye.

Gliding shoreline parallel with head down, how could I have mistaken it for a gull?

Osprey occupy an environmental niche along 700,000+ shoreline miles worldwide as a single species Pandion haliaetus. A unique bird with its own family, Pandionidae, and genus, Pandion, some experts recognize sub-species in geographic regions. Ours is the Western Osprey.

The following photograph is of a wing shape very different from the gull.

Osprey Stalking Behavior

IPhone 8 always in my pocket, I captured this clip of an Osprey stalking fish in the Atlantic Ocean surf. You will have a better viewing experience by clicking on the title of the embedded YouTube, then click on the Full Screen icon at the lower right.

Copyright 2021, Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Red Sun over Cornell University

On this spring equinox morning a huge sun, filtered by morning clouds, hangs over East Hill and Cornell University. Taken from our home on West Hill, looking across the valley and Ithaca, New York.

The temperature is a balmy 18 degrees F.

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Red Sunrise Over Cornell– CLICK ME!!!!


Red Sunrise Over Cornell– CLICK ME!!!!


Can you pick out these Cornell landmarks?
— Jenny McGraw Tower
— Lib Slope still covered in snow from last week’s storm.
— the looming fortress shape of Bradford Hall.

Red Sunrise Over Cornell– CLICK ME!!!!


Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills