Woody Peony 50 mm handheld

Tree Peony

See my previous May Woody Peony postings for background on this peony variety.

These photographs were taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV dslr and the Canon EF 50mm f/1,2L USM lens. I opted for handheld exposures; the morning was absolutely still.

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

George Washington Bridge to Schuylerville 2021

Happy Thanksgiving to all you Road Warriors

Throughout my life, beginning with trips between Long Island and Tucson, Arizona for college…throughout young and mature adulthood to return to the family home for celebrations…in my 40’s, 50’s and 60’s caring for aging parents and now, in retirement, researching genealogy I have travelled this route over the George Washington Bridge, over Manhattan, through the Bronx, then over the Throgs Neck Bridge to Queens County, Long Island and always as the driver. This is the first time being able to document the route with a quality camera. Driving here requires the total attention of the driver, the traffic, reading unfamiliar signs…..what a treat to sit and snap. Here goes.

On Interstate 80 then 95 moving through Bergen County and Fort Lee, New Jersey.

Over the George Washington Bridge, upper level.

Into the Bronx via the imfamous Cross Bronx Expressway…..trucks from across the continent funnel through here.

Glorious fall foliage on a perfect autumn morning.

Bronx Autumn 2021

I captured these during a trip through the Bronx, returning on a perfect fall afternoon from our outing to find Grandfather Wills’ resting place: Bronx River Parkway, Moushulu Parkway, Henry Hudson Parkway then over the George Washington Bridge to New Jersey. The trees were in their glory.

I had a session using a tripod for longer exposure shots and neglected to revise the camera settings for shooting on the run from an auto…so the photographs are not as sharp as they could be.

New Jersey from the Transcontinental Interstate Route 80 connecting New York City to San Francisco and all point in between.

Pinelands Connections X

Finding Grandfather’s Final Resting Place

When I was a young adult Mom told me Grandfather Wills was buried in the Bronx. James Edward Wills died when my father was very young and they were poor, living in tenements on the upper West Side of Manhattan April 1916.. Looking through Dad’s papers after both he and Mom were gone, I found the grave receipt: “Saint Raymond’s Cemetery, Westchester, New York.” James Wills, born April 1877, the youngest of six children of George Wills and Margaret McCambridge, who were 43 and 38, their place of residence two years later cited in the 1880 Federal Census as Shamong, New Jersey. Today, Shamong Township is part of New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve. Atsion, the Iron Furnace town where James’ Grandmother Ann McCambridge (nee Milley) worked as a cook, is in Shamong Township.

Finding and researching the grave receipt is what began my adventures in genealogy. What was, in 1916, Westchester is now the Schuylerville section of Bronx county, a borough of New York City. Saint Raymond’s Parish, still going strong, acquired more consecrated land for burials with now an “Old” and “New” cemetery separated by the confluence of interstates 95, 295, 678 including the approaches to the Whitestone and Throgs Neck Bridges, the superstructures of which are visible from the “Old” cemetery.

Having sorted out these details, I approach my cousin Mary at the October 2021 engagement party of my niece where we made arrangements to find Grandfather Wills’ final resting place the following month. On Wednesday, November 10th, Mary’s husband Peter drove us over the George Washington Bridge, through the incredible traffic of the Cross Bronx Expressway (a funny name for this moving parking lot, bumper to bumper trucks), to Schuylerville. We navigated to the “Google Maps” push pin I placed next to Section 7. Google Maps even has street views of the cemetery, in retrospect the view of Section 7, Ranges 35 – 51, includes grandfather’s grave.

We worked together, walking the rows, reading headstone inscriptions, on the expectation of finding Grandfather’s name without success. Peter and I took to counting the rows to find number 41, with success. With less success counting the headstones and spaces (unmarked graves) to find number 82. At the same time, Pam and Mary searched. I used the “Find A Grave” website to look up headstones in section 7, row 41 and found the only location provided was “Section 7.” I also called the cemetery office where they were most helpful. There is NO record of James Wills.

Then, Pam noticed some headstones inscribed with the exact location, Section, Range (Row) and Grave.  This was the key.  Here are the headstone references that pinpointed Grandfather Wills’ final, unmarked, resting place.  

In the following photograph I am on the right with wife Pam. Cousin Mary next to her husband Peter on the right, Mary is standing on grave 82.

James Edward Wills unmarked grave, Section 7, Range (Row) 41, Grave 82, Old Saint Raymond’s Cemetery, Balcom Avenue, Schuylerville, Bronx, New York. Wednesday, November 10, 2021. Here we are facing south / southeast into Section 7, James Wills’ unmarked grave is to the left and just behind Nevins headstone (Row 40, Grave 83).

Emerge II

Watch a Monarch butterfly leave the chrysalis

For Father’s Day 2021 I received cages for raising Monarch butterflies. A large zippered door is a great feature, one side of the cage drops away for easier access and photography. Here are some photographs of the developing chrysalis and emergence.

In the first step of chrysalis development, the caterpillar climbs to a chosen location and weaves a silk pad from the abdomen. We are looking down on the caterpillar through the top of the woven material that forms our cage. The silk pad is a small white dot to the right.

Click photograph for a larger view and use Ctrl-+ (press down Ctrl, hold, then click plus sign repeatedly) to zoom in closer.

After the silk attachment pad is complete, the caterpillar releases itself to hang in a shape of the letter “J.”

The caterpillar sheds the outer skin as the chrysalis forms around it.

Just prior to emergence the chrysalis turns from opaque green to translucent Iappears dark). Here the wing pattern and body markings (white dots) are visible.

I used a Manfrotto tripod, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV dslr (high resolution video capability) and Canon’s EF 100mm f/2.8 USB macro lens for the following up close coverage of a Monarch emerging followed by wing expansion.

Click me for better experience viewing the following video. To do this from WordPress Reader, you need to first click the title of this post to open a new page. Note the replay icon (an arrow circling counter-clockwise.

Thank You for visiting. 

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Night Blooming Cereus VIII

reaction to cold temperature

Our “Night Blooming Cereus” is blooming earlier in 2021, blooms opened twice during nights of early August. I put the name in quotes because during the course of writing the first seven posts ( I through VII ) I learned this is NOT a member of the genus Cereus, it is actually an epiphyte of the Epiphyllum genus.

For those familiar with the early history of New York City and Hudson Valley it is easy to see why a common name of the plant is “Dutchman’s Pipe Cactus.”

Click me for another Night Blooming Cereus Cereus flower post.


Wikipedia, “Epiphyllum”, “Epiphyllum oxypetalum,”epiphyte.”

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Yellow Hibiscus IV

anthers and stamens

Evening breezes brought to a halt my series of hibiscus bloom photographs, that bloom faded and shriveled, to be replaced by another. I captured the images of this post on a very quiet summer evening. This bloom was facing up closer to vertical that the previous.

A key identification for all 300 species of hibiscus is the long stamen tube. I have yet to see a local insect interacting with the stamen, always they are in the flower throat. In the tropics, pollination is thought to proceed from large butterflies and birds.

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Here are three macro photographs of this bloom, all from the Canon 100 “macro” lens. I learned by experience to tamp down the diaphragm to the smallest setting, f / 32 for this lens. The different aspects were achieved by moving the lens objective closer to the bloom. This is a “fixed” lens, it has one focal length.


Wikipedia – “hibiscus.”

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Yellow Hibiscus III

anthers and stamens

Nyctinasty (flower response to light: opening with or closing without light) in hibiscus plants is a mechanism to protect against adverse conditions such as cool temperatures that can be damaging. Through a lack of light stimulus and circadian rhythms the plant is able to trigger the molecular movement of ions to allow for the closing of the flower.

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Here are three macro photographs of this bloom, all from the Canon 100 “macro” lens. I start with the shutter diaphragm open at 4.0 (“F-stop”), a little narrower at 4.5 and a bit more at 9.0. For this lens the maximum opening is at 2.8, the narrowest is 32. As the opening narrows (F-stop increases) the exposure time needed to capture enough light lengthens and the range of the image in focus increases.


Wikipedia – “hibiscus.”

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Yellow Hibiscus II

flower and buds

This is a perennial, commonly known simply as “hibiscus”, or less widely known as rose mallow. Other names include hardy hibiscus, rose of sharon, and tropical hibiscus.

The hibiscus flower is traditionally worn by Tahitian and Hawaiian girls. If the flower is worn behind the left ear, the woman is married or has a boyfriend. If the flower is worn on the right, she is single or openly available for a relationship.

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Here are the three photographs of this bloom, all from the Canon 100 “macro” lens. Two with “sweat bees” and one without.

Wikipedia – “hibiscus.”

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Yellow Hibiscus I

flower, buds, bee

Yellow hibiscus, the state flower of Hawaii was recorded in ancient Greece. In the photograph is captured several unopened buds, behind the flower, and a bee in the flower throat, attracted by nectar there. It is a small bee, of the Halictidae family, that lives alone in a ground nest and also called a “sweat bee,” from being attracted to perspiration.

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Wikipedia – “sweat bee” and “hibiscus.”