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

Newlyweds and the Cruise Ship

Images of Newlyweds on the beach

With grandchildren in the Miami Area and a sister in Daytona Beach, Florida was on my mind this morning and memories of this beautiful experience on Cocoa Beach came to mind. After an eventful day touring the NASA launch control center, Pam and I took an evening walk during the golden hour, me with camera in hand.
Full in expectation of catching the passing scene with lots of shot I set to full size jpeg mode using a Sony Alpha 700 dslr with a DT 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 lens. The light was exceptional, so I did not expect much post production work.

My first impression was of the line of cruise ships heading south from Port Canaveral, the starboard side lit perfectly behind human denizens of the Cocoa Beach shore, in full enjoyment mode. A synergy of the images struck me. I took a few experimental shots then, as we progressed down the beach front this unusual tableau came into view.

Wedding Immersion
Newlyweds on Cocoa Beach give rapt attention to a distant cruise ship, it looks like an elegant child’s toy.
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Pulling back the focal length a bit the reason for the bride and groom on the beach is clear.

Newlyweds and Photographer
Photographer approaches from left.
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The session proceeded smoothly and professionally, it was a pleasure to watch. I felt no compunction for capturing these private moments on a public beach, the transcendence of the images reflect well on all participants.

Newlywed Photoshoot
Bride and groom pose while photographer composes the shot, her assistant behind.
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Pull back to capture the entire environment.
Enjoy!!!

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Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Bullet Dodge Finale

EPCOT Forever(?)

Our last “FastPass” was for the EPCOT Forever fireworks and special effects spectacular. COVID-19 rendered the “forever” to be futile pretension, though during our wait Pam struck up a conversation with a couple who returned year after years to EPCOT, people who miss it and look forward to reopening.

We found the “FastPass” venue lacking, as there were many structures in the line of sight, as you can see from the IPhone 7 videos in this post. In retrospect, the area in front of the Canada Pavilion was open and might be a better location — when Epcot reopens, you’d need to get their early to grab a space.

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“Dodge the bullet” is rather too active for our EPCOT experience as we did nothing to social distance, cover our faces and, even, attended a sit down restaurant. “Dumb luck” is a better characterization, but it makes a poor chapter heading.

As our time in Florida passed more information leaked from China, posted by their citizens on-line. I recalled the chaotic scenes from the hospital, frightened people screaming in packing halls. Seeking to protect ourselves during the flight home, we sought out N95 masks and all medical masks were sold out. We found packs of N95 masks marketed for auto body work, in Walmart. Wore them on the 2 hour flight home as the only “wierdos” wearing masks as several fellow passengers coughed uncontrollably.

Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Bullet Dodge Series 8

Japan Pavilion

Epcot is a different experience at night, in many ways an enhancement, a gathering of glamour, smoothing of edges.

These few photographs and one video of the Japan Pavilion exemplify this effect. We were blessed with a full moon.

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Tokyo Dining is a traditional sushi restaurant featuring served by native Japanese. Our service was efficient and attentive from a premium seat acquired through our on-line reservation through a smart phone Disney app. Traffic is immense. I can only think of the research from China that demonstrated transmission of COVID-19 to nine diners by one infected person. We learned in April 2020 a high percentage of infections are non-symptomatic.

After dinner Pam and I enjoyed views from the spacious terrace. All photos for this post are from that time. Many of our family gifts from the trip were from the large and well stocked Mitsukoshi Department Store. It is the only remaining branch of the company in North America.

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Sea Turtle

Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Bullet Dodge Series 7

Oh Canada!!

Several times in the “aughts” (2000 – 2009) Pam and I visited Ottawa, the capital of Canada, for work. We’d leave on a weekend to enjoy some personal time before the appointments.

It is sad, I could find no photographs of Ottawa to share with this post. We loved the European feel of the city.

Our exposure to the Canada pavilion was a walk by at sunset on the way to our Japan dinner reservation.

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Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Bullet Dodge Series 6

Norway Pavilion

Our Spaceship Earth “Fast Pass” was next, after the aquarium. With Fast Pass we arrived in a time slot and sped to the head of the line, boarded vehicle like a roller coaster car and enjoyed the presentations (a slow moving ride to the beginning of time through history, the present and the future). Photography is not allowed, so our memories of enjoyment more than suffice. Walt Disney conceived of EPCOT as a well designed city of the future, with full time residences. As time passed, his dream morphed into our reality of today. EPCOT is populated by many, many, many tourists.

Yesterday, Thursday, April 23, in the news we learned COVID-19 was into community spread, with people dying, in January. Here is a quote from the opening paragraph: “In January, a mystery illness swept through a call center in a skyscraper on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Close to 30 people in one department alone had symptoms — dry, deep coughs and fevers they could not shake. When they gradually returned to work after taking sick days, they sat in their cubicles looking wan and tired.” Reconsidered during this pandemic, the Spaceship Earth is a perfect engine for spreading air borne disease.

How close did Pam and I come to the virus circulating among the crowds from across the United States and our world? This question was far from our minds as we, people watching, walked from Spaceship Earth to the Norway pavilion. I have cousins who are Finnish descendants and when my ancestors settled in what is today western New Jersey, 1677, it was resettled Finns who welcomed them, remnants of a failed attempt by Sweden to colonize the New World.

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Many attractions, such as the log home and the following were on display in the bright air. These an all the photographs and videos are from my IPhone 7 — I traveled light to maximize enjoyment of the day.

I was very interested in rooms of Viking information. I had a home with large ash trees, the long bole leading to spread of leaves. These trees are in decline now, attacked by the emerald ash borer, not in my memories of them on warm days, shading the roof.

The IPhone 7 did a capable job of capturing all that was available in the display cases, for later perusal. Enjoy!!

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Coral Shimmer

Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

References:

Amid Signs Coronavirus Came Earlier, Americans Ask: Did I Already Have It?“, New York Times Online, April 23, 2020.

Bullet Dodge Series 5

Aquarium as metaphor

Perusing the Epcot brochure as we walked beneath “Spaceship Earth” (see photograph, below) we planning the afternoon. Between that moment and Tokyo Dining at 7 pm we had a afternoon “Fast Pass” for Spaceship Earth.

It was natural to wander into”The Seas with Nemo and Friends,”the first attraction after Spaceship Earth, first turn on the right. Pam and I were enthralled for an hour, walking about, viewing a 5.1 million gallon “Sea Base” aquarium.

A metaphor of aquarium occupants stops at the glass edge, the sea creatures on one side of the glass, the humans on the other very much closer to each other, breathing the same air.

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Here is a crowd favorite, the “funny nose” Unicorns.

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“funny Nose”

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Fish Home Schooling

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Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Bullet Dodge Series 4

amid the COVID crowds

In the 2000’s the company I worked for was installing software at Walt Disney World and over several trips became familiar with the Team Disney building, especially the wonderful sundial. My coworkers and I took dinner once at the “Rose and Crown” restaurant, Epcot United Kingdom pavilion. At first glance Epcot pavilions have a high cheesiness potential. A saving grace, what most impressed me, was the staffing. Young people from the United Kingdom served us, creating a deep authenticity to the experience.

I always wanted to visit “on my own dime”, January 2020 seemed like a good time. We are not “Disney or Die” (as in “Give Me Liberty AND Give Me Death”), the news available to the public was of an ill defined illness in China. Over that week I researched the park and purchased tickets for Friday, January 10. That morning I greeted the dawn and we headed out later morning for Orlando.

Once Walt Disney World is once again open, as I am sure it will be, two important preparations I recommend are (1) install the “My Disney Experience” app and, on arrival (2) take a photograph of the parking location before boarding the tram. The Disney Experience smart phone app allowed us to book restaurant reservations. Admission fee includes several reservations for attractions, to skip the line. Disney calls it a “Fast Pass.”.

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In keeping with our dangerous position, wandering among COVID-19 spotted crowds, “the invisible enemy,” here are several dangerous inhabitants of the first attraction we enjoyed, “The Seas with Nemo and Friends.”

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Hammerhead Shark

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Lurking Eel

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Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Bullet Dodge Series 3

Not quite murmuration

Today, enjoy two videos of shorebirds taking flight at once. Starlings can flock and swarm in clouds of birds, called murmuration. My videos of a shorebird colony taking fright, at something unknown as the beach was empty, are from my IPhone 7.

This is a still image, high resolution, similar to the view of the second video. A repeat from yesterday.

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With a tripod it is simpler to achieve a level horizon….

December 3, 2014 President Obama warned of the coming pandemic and passed along plans and a team to the incoming Trump administration. By December 2019, the pandemic unleashed in China, Trump gutted this capability and, while Pam and I were planning out January 10th Walt Disney World trip, hid the truth from United States Citizens.

We were keeping an eye on China, by January 10th the Chinese communist government was lying, “there is no human-to-human” transmission they told the WHO (World Health Organization). Knowing the truth, our plans for that day would be different.

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Sunrise, January 109, 2020 Cocoa Beach, Florida

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Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

References:

CNN YouTube, “Hear what Barack Obama said in 2014 about pandemics.”

Daily KOS, “How the Obama administration tried to save us from what Trump is doing right now.”

FOX News, “WHO haunted by January tweet saying China found no human transmission of coronavirus.”

Bullet Dodge Series 2

Shroomed (Happy May Day)

One week before January 10, the dawning of the day photographed here, “the CDC Director Robert Redfield was notified by a counterpart in China that a “mysterious respiratory illness was spreading in Wuhan [China]”. Redfield notified HHS Secretary Alex Azar shortly thereafter, who shared his report with the National Security Council (NSC). According to The Washington Post, warnings about the virus were included in the President’s Daily Brief in early January, an indicator of the emphasis placed on the virus by the intelligence community.” December( and maybe October/November), 2019 through January, 2020: COVID-19 was spreading across the USA as visitors from Wuhan disembarked from planes.

The following images compare IPhone 7 to a dslr mounted on a tripod.

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With a tripod it is simpler to achieve a level horizon….

I heard the word “shroomed” (as a verb) used in Episode 1, Season 6, of Bosch. As in “the Federal Government treats us like mushooms”: grown in excrement and kept in the dark.

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Sunrise, January 10, 2020 Cocoa Beach, Florida

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Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Reference: the quote is from the Wikipedia article “Timeline of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic in the United States.”