Mother Nature On A Roll

August 25, 2011

People milling about following earthquake

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

On August 23, 2011, the East Coast experienced a 5.8 earthquake as described here by the United States Geological Survey.

In Fells Point, just outside Baltimore, MD, the ground rumbled and the buildings shook-was something to see the store-front glass windows undulate and the interior lights sway to and fro.  Fortunately, none of those windows shattered and there appeared to be no visible damage.

There was a brief moment when bystanders tried to make sense of the vibrations and looked for passing trucks.  That sentiment was quickly replaced as customers rapidly exited the restaurants into the streets and talked about how they felt their chairs move and that it had to be an earthquake.  Out came the smartphones and, seemingly instantaneously, people were reporting that it was indeed a 5.8 quake.

Folks continued milling about until slowly they went back about their business and it seemed to be just another afternoon in the city.  Many more appeared to have decided to leave or were told to leave as the main roads out of Baltimore were jammed a bit earlier than the usual afternoon rush.

Further south it was a different story as depicted in this photo essay and article from The Washington Post and this article about the epicenter, Mineral, Virginia.

While a 5.8 quake is considered “moderate” by the USGS and therefore no small event,  what happened here does not compare to the damage wrought by the earthquake that struck Japan earlier this spring.  That quake and subsequent tsunami devastated the areas impacted and the cleanup will need to continue for some time.  Damage to the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant created a major concern.  (Please note that these articles are dated but provide a sense of the progress and work yet to be completed.)  Nonetheless, for those on the East Coast, this event does provide a frame of reference for the experiences of those who are struck by larger disasters.  Having seen the deer-in-the-headlights look on people’s faces as they ran out of the stores and felt my own confusion and heart racing at what was happening when the quake hit, I can only imagine what it must be like to live through such a catastrophic event.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Irene has become a Category 3 storm and is continuing on a path toward North Carolina.  Soon we’ll feel that impact as well.

Take care.

One Less Tree

August 24, 2011

Norway Maple tree

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

I moved into my current house a bunch of years ago.  One of the main attractions was the backyard and the trees that provided ample shade for that yard.  One of the trees was damaged enough by Hurricane Isabel so as to require removal.  Another, the largest, a grand Norway Maple, was taken down last week as a result of age and decay.

Shelf fungus

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It appears to have been suffering from root decay and eventually sprouted a shelf fungus that seemed to confirm that the efforts to save the tree were not going to remain successful. Due to the size of the tree and its location in relation to mine and my neighbor’s houses, bringing it down in a controlled manner was much preferred to a catastrophic falling.

Noray maple limb being lowered

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

And so last week, down it came.  The crew arrived a bit ahead of schedule and went right to work.  It is not insignificant to note that my outdoor thermometer hovered between 96 and 98 degrees during the time in which they systematically dismantled the limbs and trunk.  This thermometer is located on my porch and generally reads a bit cooler than the ambient temperature as it received shade provided by this tree.  Now it will receive the full morning and early afternoon sun.  As will my house.  Seems more than a little ironic to be taking out such a large source of  cooling shade given the issues of climate change.

Paradoxically, it is climate change that hastened this end as I had become concerned about the stability of the tree and its ability to withstand the large, albeit infrequent, heavy, wet, snowfalls experienced over the past two winters and the windy thunderstorms that blow through in summer.  Oh, and the occasional hurricane needed to be considered as well. (UPDATE: Hurricane Irene is now working its way toward the coast.)

Wood chips blown from chipper

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Wood chips ready for disposal

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

At any rate, after about six hours of almost continuous work, the tree was reduced to the branches and smaller limbs that were ground to chips and many segmented logs piled about the ground.  Over the next couple of days, the logs were also removed.  Quite sad actually.

Norway maple logs and trunk

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Upon awakening on August 9, the southern windows presented a very different view as there seemed to be a big hole to the sky now.   Eventually, another tree will be planted.  However I doubt seriously if I will be in this house long enough to see it grow to the height and splendor of this one.

Take care.

The Joy of a 50 mm Lens

August 3, 2011

Frankie the cat sleeping

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Please allow a moment for a reflection on camera equipment.

I am an avid gear junkie trying hard to wean myself from this affliction.  For years I carried two camera bodies, an assortment of lenses, flash equipment, and a tripod.  The lenses varied, but usually consisted of a wide-angle zoom, a mid-range zoom, and a telephoto zoom.  Most often these were of professional grade, so they were quite large and heavy (not to mention expensive.)  Quite tiring for a day of shooting.

Television and trash in building alcove

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It is also important to note that this was overkill for most of what I was doing at the time-natural history photography with 35mm SLRs.  As I was using smaller apertures (f/11-f/16) in order to maximize depth-of-field, using fast-aperture (f/2.8) zooms was ridiculous.  These lenses excel when there is a need for those apertures and the flexibility of multiple focal lengths in one lens-as in photojournalism.  The build quality is certainly unparalleled.  However, as I began to change my subject matter (inner city debris) and style of work (shallower depth-of-field to isolate said subject matter and sans tripod), these lenses became more of a liability due to their weight and size.

Oh, I also began to fly more and airline travel is decidedly not photographer-friendly when lugging large amounts of gear.

As a result, I no longer have any of those lenses.

Empty water bottle left in a downed tree

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

And that brings me to the humble 50 mm lens.  When I first started taking (not making) pictures all those years ago, a 50 mm lens was what came with the camera body.  Usually these were the f/1.8 variety and so were small, light, and quite sharp.  More importantly, that f/1.8 aperture allowed for a great deal of control over depth-of-field.  That is precisely what is compromised with the 18-whatever f/3.5-4.5 zooms of today, which are yes, convenient.  However, it is harder to achieve that portrait-like separation of subject and background with the smaller apertures that accompany these lenses.

And so for the past year or so, I have been mainly carrying a small 20 mm f/3.5 prime lens and a 50 mm f/1.8 prime lens (which is the one used for the photographs included in this post) on most of my forays.  I still carry two bodies and using those lenses on my full-frame digital body gives me those focal lengths from which to choose.  On my sub-frame body, the lenses provide effectively 30 mm and 75 mm focal lengths.  This package is quite functional and much lighter in weight.  When I want to really pare down, I use the sub-frame body and the two lenses.  If I need more reach, I add an 85 mm to the mix.

I have not found this minimization of equipment to be a major hurdle for what I am currently photographing.  And it certainly is a lot easier to move around.

Take care.