Saguaro Sky

dramatic skies from Saguaro National Park

November is a special time for the ranges and basins of southern Arizona deserts.  Climb a bajada of foothills, face west and wait for the sunset.  That is what I did this day, November 3, 2005.  East of Tucson the Saguaro National Monument at the foot of the Rincon Mountain Wilderness is where I parked, unpacked the photo gear and climbed the side of the Tanque Verde Ridge for a favorable view.  Weather was pushing high level moisture from the west, clouds were developing.

You see here a shot from that session.  In the distance, looking across Tanque Verde, are the Santa Catalina mountains.  Months since the last rainfall, the giant Saguaros are using internal moisture reserves drawn up from a shallow root system, the flesh is less plump, the supporting structure of the ribs, always evident, are more pronounced.  The last light catches these ribs in relief against a dramatic sky.

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Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Firebush

slow burn

After we came home from the Underground Railroad excursion, with a camera and time on my hands, this Euonymus bush fringed with scarlet leaves caught my eye. Starting with a leaf here and there in September the flame-like color spreads until it takes on the character it is named for “Firebush.”

Springtime it is covered with tiny green flowers, each turns to a small, fleshy fruit encapsulating tiny seeds said to be loved by birds. As ours neglect the fruits, I’ve taken to collecting them to spread along the borders of our back property. Here and there some have sprouted around the bush, this year I marked a few to move this winter when the plant is dormant. I have high hopes for success of this project as the species is known as “invasive” in 21 states.

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We feel the planting is in an excellent place, though it is difficult to photograph for the clutter I was reluctant to resolve at that moment. In one of the following photographs is the gangly Cereus plant atop its water barrel.

All parts of the plant are toxic, causing severe discomfort when eaten. The name “Spindle plant” was given it in England for the corky wings that grow long the length of stems, not so pronounced with our Euonymus species.

Here are macros of the flaming leaves and fleshy berry.

Click this link for another Autumn posting, “Thin Crescent Bowl Filled with Earthglow.”

References: search Wikipedia for Euonymus alatus

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Underground Railroad

Autumn Wonder

We have often travelled Lower Creek Road as an alternate route to visit my son and his family who live in Freeville, a village named for the activity of the Underground Railroad. After noticing this sign in passing for years, this week we stopped on a glorious autumn morning to capture it. I had packed the Sony Alpha 700 dslr for just such an opportunity.

Just off the road, under a maple tree in full autumn color (yellow), ground covered with fallen leaves (brown) on a fine early October morning, the sign reads, “New York, UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, HOME OF WILLIAM HANFORD AND WIFE ALTHA C. TODD, WHO SHELTERED FUGITIVE SLAVES ON THE WAY TO CANADA AND FREEDOM, STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT 1932”. These dark blue background, bright yellow letter signed are found throughout this region and much appreciated.

An added plus for me is the acceptance of both photographs by Getty Istock. Click this link to view a selection of my Getty photography in and around Ithaca, New York.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Zion National Park 2007

My Zion Photography on Getty

I finished my Zion photographs from oyr 2007 trip. Click this link for the 22 images accepted by Getty.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Loughan an Lochan Ruin III

Romance of Ruins

….continued…..

In this multi-part blog series:

Part 01: the romance of the ruined cottages of Loughan Bay was introduced, the following questions stimulated:  “Who were the people who lived here?  Why did they leave?  Why is nobody here now?”

Part 02: the scene was set, the townland of Loughan named and visualized.

In this Part 03, some contemporaneous people are introduced, more information on the environment provided, some previous residents named and imagined.

Michael Wills with View of Loughan Bay
On the way to Torr Head we stopped at this spot in Coolranny Townland to take in this view of the Irish Sea. The land overlooks Loughan Bay toward the Mull of Kintyre and Sanda Island, Scotland. County Antrim, Northern Ireland.  Coolranny borders Loughan Townland on the east.

To understand the full beauty of a place, it is necessary to live it, to experience the seasons, approach the land from different aspects; pass the same place many time, noticing overlooked features, enjoying old favorites.  We did our best in this single day and took the exploration of this Antrim County coast slow, savoring all the views we noticed as this is a once in a lifetime experience.  Imagine our amazement to find Scotland so close at hand.  In the past, on a fine day the trip across the North Channel, up eastern Kintyre peninsula shores to Campbeltown at the head of Campbeltown Loch, was easier than a land crossing to a closer town.

I picked Campbeltown because my great great grandfather, a sea captain, emigrated from Scotland to County Louth where my great grandmother, Anne Campbell, married John Mills.  In this way Captain Campbell escaped persecution for his Roman Catholic faith.

Anne Mills

Late in her life, Anne Mills posed for this portrait.  I can tell great grandmother Mills is facing north from these clues:

— the press of the eternal east wind on her dress, against her left left and flowing away from the right.

— the sun shadow on her cheek.  It was around noon.  With the sun, at this latitude, in the south the shadow from her right cheekbone is darker than the left.

Stressed Costal Hawthorn
Rowan Tree directional growth from a constant east wind, County Antrim on the Torr Road nort of Cushenden.

A few miles before Loughan Bay, at Coolranny, are informative placards describing the area.  I thought the white flowering trees, or shrubs, on the slopes were Hawthorn.  On revisiting my capture of the placards I learned these are a different plant named Rowan Tree, aka Mountain-ash.  This wind stressed specimen is an typical example of Rowans on this coast, stunted and little more than a bush.  This individual is slanted westward from a constant and stiff east wind, as with Anne Mills’ portrait.  Residents, past and present, of this coast know this damp, persistent wind well.  Note the lack of blossoms on the east side, blossoms that ripen to small dark red fruit called poms (also called rowans).  The leaves turn red in the fall.  More time, for the fruit to form and leaves to turn, was necessary for me to be certain my identification of this, as a Rowan, is correct.

Loughan Bay Farmer
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.

On this day, Friday, June 6, 2014 I did two rounds of shooting the cottages.  The first, handheld, with a Sony Alpha 700.  Upon returning to the car for the Canon, Pam was talking to a friendly sheep farmer who pulled up in a large tractor pulling a tank.  It turned out we parked below the turnout for his sheep enclosure built on the hill west of Torr Road.  His flocks grazed the surrounding land. He and I talked, too briefly, about the hard lives of the people who lived here.

The Coolraney placard, up the road, claimed the cottages were deserted in the 19th century.  I found evidence, in the 1901 Irish Census, of three Roman Catholic families, 19 men, women, children, living on Loughan Townland.  In Part 02 of this series, setting the stage, Loughan is sized at 112 acres, a single photograph captures Loughan entire.  These families had nowhere else to live, in Loughan, other than the cottages.

The smallest, and poorest, the poorest of the poor, family was 32 year old Mary Corbit and her two children, 10 year old Mary and Robert, 2 years.  The Corbit family lived in a one room, stone walled, house with a wood or thatch roof.  Unlike the other families they had no outbuildings, structures to house livestock or to support a farm operation.  The house owner was Marj Delargy.

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Here is a single room house among the ruins, four low walls, the east/west with intact gables, the stones collected from the hillside.  The west wall higher up the slope, the floor now thick with fern.

Little Mary most certainly took care of Robert for part of the day.  Did Mary, with Robert along, gather rowans, and other forage?

Single Room Loughan Bay Cottage
A thick growth of ferns, grass on the gable was once a home with a view of Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre 12 miles across the Irish Sea. The Isle of Sanda just visible on the right of the far gable. Alisa Crag just visible in the distance, to the left of the nearest gable.

Mary Corbit: head of household, occupation laborer.  There is a footnote to Mary’s “Marriage” entry as Married, “husband at sea.”  The “C” of her census signature exactly like my mother signed her name Catherine.

CorbitMaryCensusSignature

Mary Corbit and her children were not listed in Loughan Townland for the 1911 Census.

….to be continued…..
Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills, All Rights Reserved.

Loughan an Lochan Ruin II

Romance of Ruins

….continued…..

Setting the Stage

For me, the romance of a place is settled in exact knowledge as much as a feeling. Starting with a recollection of the ruined cottages making such an impression we found a parking place and hiked into them loaded with photography equipment, three years later returning to use the photographs, bringing back a rush of memories and feelings, it is a matter of using the set of photographs from that day to build the location.

This much I knew, going in: we were touring Antrim Glens entering at Cushendall, after visiting Glenariff Forest Park, proceeding up the coast through Cushendun to Torr Head. A fortuitous encounter with a village of abandoned farm cottages (“ruins”) happened somewhere in between.

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There was a photograph of a notable church prior to the ruins and a fine view, from a place named Greenhill, afterwards.

Here is a picture of the terrain with the three pushpins:

  • A fine church just off Torr Road, to the west. I found the location in Google Maps, marked as “church”. Google earth showed buildings at the location, this set the “church” pushpin. Associated with the church, using the date/time stamp, were images of signage naming Coolranny townland.
  • A sign identifying a location as “Greenhill” was after. Neither Google Maps or Earth lists this as a place. It took hours searching web sites of Irish townlands before I found the reference. Greenhill is not a townland; it was listed as a place on one of the maps. Just above the notation was Torr Road, two unique bends in the road. I used these bends to identify the turnoff where I photographed the “Greenhill” sign.

For reasons to be explained later, it is important to know the name of the ruin townland. The place name sign presented in post 1 was a clue (“Loughan an Lochan” — or Loughan Bay), as well at the web site (see link below) listing Irish townlands. The web site map names “Loughan Bay.”

Click for a site providing the exact boundaries of Loughan townland

With this information I was able to peruse Google Earth, found the turnoff and the ruins!

See the above Google Map image sized to approximate the Loughan townland boundaries.

The scenery was jaw dropping lovely the entire time, so I captured view and view. Here are two landscapes time stamped just prior to the church, views including Coolranny and Loughan townlands with Torr Head in the distance.

That is Torr Road….

……a bit further along. It is possible to locate the ruin site from the Google Earth picture. There is a signature grove of bushes on the slope below the ruin site, sandy beach along shore. In the landscapes, Loughan Bay is cradled in a curve of coast.

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Click for the first postings of this series.

Imagine the effect of this environment on the inhabitants, the love of it grows with time.

To be continued…..

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills, All Rights Reserved.

Loughan an Lochan Ruin I

Romance of Ruins

Introduction

Here is a photograph from our day touring the Glens of Antrim.  While making our way up the coast to Torr Head a group of stone walls resolved into ruins. A cluster of cottages on grassy slopes above the Irish sea above Loughan Bay.  This is the townland of Loughan.  Along the road are wonderful signs providing in handsome carved letters the place name in english and gaelic.  Here a signed only provided a gaelic name: “Loughan an Lochan”…near enough to meaning “Loughan Bay” in English.  The bay is a shallow scallop shaped indentation of the coast, a margin of narrow sand strand.

Ruins are spread across the slope.  Immediately before the views are traces of a foundation above the grass.  Beyond the top of a gable, an entire gable to the left.  On the far ridge, just visible, is an entire structure with doorways, gables, walls.

Across the Irish Sea, 13 miles distant, is the Mull of Kintyre.  In faint outline, rising above the horizon, find the highlands of Islay more than 30 miles.  Both are tips of peninsulas jutting from Scotland.

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The ruins lead to curiosity over who live here?  What were their lives like?  Why did they leave?

To be continued…..

Click link for the next post in this series.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Zion Narrows XII

Family Group with child

In this series of three exposures from a tripod mounted Kodak DSC Pro SLR/c and Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM lens, all were ISO 250, at f/8. The difference was the exposure time. In is the shortest exposure, 1.6 second, the human figures are blurred, though to a lesser extent than the second image, released earlier.

This is the last image of our trip to Zion National Park.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Bench Sitting Nature Watch

a monarch in steady progress south

On a sunny autumn morning we set out, my soon to be three grandson Sam and I, to the Lime Hollow Nature Center near Cortland for an adventure.  For the first time I brought a newly purchased iPhone 7 instead of the usual slr camera.  The phone can be carried in a pocket and is simpler to us, to allow me to give full attention to Sam.

WillsSamuelJackBenchsitting20181014-1

At the start is a large, today sunlit, field with an “art trail.”  There are various anthropomorphic transformations on the trees and a very large sculpture of a blue face.  Here is a tree from another place near here, to give you an idea.

PumpkinFarmTreeFace2012

I do not point out the tree faces to Sam.  His Mom likes to say he enjoys being frightened and, when the blue face came into view, he turned back and said, “home.”  Sam was mildly anxious, so I carried him and tried to turn him up the trail away from the face.  He turned to keep an eye on it while I assured him it could not move.  This and a climb up a 230 foot hill were the only times he didn’t walk the half mile to a open grassy knoll with a bench.

WillsSamuelJackBenchsitting20181014-2

There we sat for 30 minutes, still and watching, Sam and I talked about our sightings:
1. The sunlit sky of clouds, from a milky blue towards the north to, overhead, a bright robins egg blue.
2. A circling hawk, shadow crossing over us.
3. One blue jay in a maple turning red, loudly calling over and over.
4. A little while after a second jay, landing in a tree turned yellow, drawn in and giving answer.
5. A monarch butterfly’s steady progress south. Such a strong gliding path.
6. A yellow butterfly who did not leave us, fluttering round and round.
7. Four honking Canadian geese flying north east, turned to check out a nearby pond, the returned to the original heading.
8. The sound of wind through the trees, listening to the sound made by each tree.
9. The late season golden rod, now dried gray.
10. A distant chittering red squirrel.
11. Distant peeper frogs in the swamps at the foot of the hill.

Sam did not want to leave the bench, eventually we headed on to the pond the geese checked out.

WillsSamuelJackBenchsitting20181014-3

I used the “panoramic” feature of the iPhone 7 for this shot. On the hill we were sheltered by trees and bushes from the steady northeast wind. Here, on a bench by the pond, that direction was open to the wind. The sun kept us warm. It was clear why the geese did not land, the water surface was deserted, filled only by rippling wind driven waves.

On our walk back we sat on a bench on the edge of the art trail field, the blue face out of sight. A woman, the only other person encountered, emerged from one of the trails cut from the brush, camera in hand. She was collecting images for a Cortland Historical Society publication and asked to take our photograph. “OK,”, I said and gave the story of living here for 25 years in the house on Fall Creek where my son’s family lives now. She replied, “My daughter is in San Francisco. We don’t know who will have our house when we are gone.”

Click me for “Celestial Geese with two haiku by Issa”.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Zion Narrows XI

Blurred water and human figures

The image is from a tripod mounted Kodak DSC Pro SLR/c and Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM lens, ISO 250, exposure 3.5 sec at f/8. The flowing water in forground has an appealing blur, fellow waders, in the distance under beeteling cliffs, are blurred and unrecognizable.

Here the canyon turns sharply to the right.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved