What can happen to your camera in the rain

We take lots and lots of photos as we travel, and our cameras may be our most essential travel “tools”.  We also take them for granted.  When we hiked in blowing sand in Nevada or pouring rain in Iceland, we tried to protect our cameras, but most of the time they are out and ready to snap the next photo.  Maybe we need to reassess that practice….

We arrived in Cape May, located at the southernmost tip of New Jersey.  Cape May is most famous for its grand painted Victorian homes.  The homes are lovely, but we were here to see another attraction: birds!

We were walking down to the Nature Conservancy’s South Cape May Meadows when we saw the yellow-rumped warbler’s lifeless body on the roadside.  We’re not sure how it died, but had to admire how absolutely beautiful this bird is when seen close up.

The day before, it had rained for most of the day, and now there was a lull until the next storm was due to arrive.  The conditions were less than optimal for bird watching.  Still, we walked on and hoped for the best.

Everything around us was damp or dripping wet.

We spent over two hours walking and watching birds in the preserve.  We think we were the only ones there….

…until we saw the raccoon prints on the path.

One of the more “exotic” birds we saw were mute swans.

Identifying birds is still not easy for us.  We learned to start the identification of swans by looking at their bills.  This photo was taken to ID the bird.  With a better look on the computer screen and with the bird book in hand, it was easy to figure out just which swan this was.

Photographing flowering plants and bushes along the boardwalk delayed our return.  The little dots of water were a nice touch.  And then it happened….

Beth’s Sony RX100 II camera froze.  The camera died with lens extended.  The on/off switch didn’t respond.  The screen was solid black.  We contemplated what to do.  Nothing worked.  The camera, like the little yellow-rumped warbler, had died with no explanation.  Beth carefully tucked the camera in her bag with the extended lens protected, and we walked home.

We’re not sure what happened.  It wasn’t raining.  Could it have been the moisture in the air?  The camera has been laid in a dry place with battery removed, and we’ll see what happens.  Stay tuned.

(Always trying to think ahead, we had saved our last camera, a Sony RX100 I, as a backup if anything was to happen to our newer model.  Cousin Susie was in possession of that camera, having used it on her African safari six months ago.  Now she’ll return it when she comes to see us in three days as scheduled.  How lucky is that?)


November 2018

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CT in 3 acts

We generally choose travel destinations for their potential.  How wrong can we go visiting a national park, the seashore, or a great museum?  On occasion, we steer our trip route to visit family or friends.  On those visits, our pace changes to catch up with people we’ve not seen for some time. For those few days we just want to enjoy being together, and we put aside our cameras, forget our long walks, stop reading our books, and just enjoy hours of catching up.

Our travel route dropped into CT (Connecticut) where we divided our time into three stops.

We chose to stay a few days at a popular AirBnB 3rdfloor apartment in Milford, looking out over the water of the Long Island Sound.

We walked on the sandy beach every day and took advantage of nearby bird watching reserves and parks. Our stay in Milford was the quiet break sandwiched between visits with friends and family.

We had arranged to meet long-time friends, Joyce and Jerry, at a seafood dive called Iggy’s Doughboys & Chowder House in Warwick, Rhode Island diving in to lobster rolls and chowder.

We navigated a section of the Cliff Walk with them in nearby Newport.

We hadn’t been to a cider mill in years, so Joyce and Jerry took us to nearby Clyde’s Cider Mill, the oldest steam operated cider mill in the US, with the promise of tasting their wonderful apple cider donuts.

We watched the apples funneled from the back of the truck into the bin attached to a conveyor taking the apples straight to the crushing machine.

The crushed apples oozed out of the metal tube and were hoed to evenly fill the cloth tray.

The cider makers covered the evenly filled tray with the white cloth and placed a wood pallet over it.  Pallets with their cloth-wrapped crushed apples were stacked one on top of the other.  Once a stack was the correct height, the steam press compressed the apple pallets and liquid cider dripped into a trough below.

As one last treat before leaving, Joyce and Jerry’s friend, Niall, accompanied us to Hammonasset State Park to see birds and specifically, a Hudsonian godwit, a shorebird not regularly seen in this area.  Niall knew where the bird was spotted the day before, so we made our way there.  We stood near a large parking lot and watched a number of birds gathered in a shallow wetland, just the right depth for wading birds.

We not only saw the Hudsonian godwit, but also dunlins, yellowlegs, plovers, and sandpipers.

Our last few days in Connecticut were devoted to a visit with Beth’s cousins.  We reminisced about Kathy hosting us in her Boston flat while we looked for our own apartment when we were all in our 20’s.  Kathy’s sisters, Beth and Eileen, along with their husbands joined us for a very enjoyable get-together.  We did what families who love each do who have been apart – we talked and laughed, and talked some more.

Kathy and George (on the right) allowed us to take a portrait of we four together. It was great seeing them!

Connecticut provided a break from our usual travel routine.  No museums were visited.   Sightseeing was almost non-existent.  We spent time and more time with friends and family and loved every minute.


October 2018

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Travel plans for what to do? Not much.

We have our travel destinations planned out for a year in advance, but, if you ask us what we plan to do while we’re at most of them, we don’t have a clue.  We had booked our next stop at a modest AirBnB in the Hyannis/Barnstable area of Cape Cod.  Ocean close by: Check.  Lots of seafood meals: Check.  Bird watching possible: Check.  What more did we need to know?  It would be soon enough to research online “what to do” attractions in the area after we arrived.

Our first evening in Hyannis, we walked down to the harbor where the ferries depart for islands nearby.  We were enjoying the calm water and the sky at sunset…

…when the first ferry glided in without a sound.

After a few days we decided it was time to see if there was anything compelling for us to do in the area.  We looked at the list on tripadvisor, and one place stood out as a must-see for us –  the home of Edward Gorey.

Gorey was a well-known artist and writer with a tendency to emphasize creepy mysteries in a Victorian setting.

We browsed through the collection of his murder mystery art and enjoyed his macabre humor.

His art medium was a pen with unmistakable drawings using hatch and crosshatch styles.

The house contained his many collections – books (and more books), frogs, medallions to wear around his neck, discarded items he found on the side of the road.  He was an eccentric man who wore a full-length fur coat for years and attended the ballet almost daily when he lived in New York City.  He bought a large teddy bear for himself at FAO Schwartz.

He had opinions on life, which have now been hung in the kitchen of the house where he lived the last 14 years of his life in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts.

After visiting the Gorey house, we took a walk in his neighborhood, by the old church and down a road along the bay.  Birds were plentiful so we drove back another day to see birds at Sandy Neck State Park (also known as Bodfish Memorial Park). We walked along the wetlands, protected from the biting northwest wind.  After miles of walking, we took an established path to the beach.

The wind chill dropped with very step as we approached the exposed beach.  It was freezing cold as we took about two minutes to survey the long beach on either side of us with not a person in sight.

Despite hats, gloves, scarves, 2 jackets, and even long underwear – we raced back to the protected path and started the long walk back to the car.

The week in this area of Cape Cod was a relatively simple week.  Many travellers would be mortified that we didn’t take advantage of more popular touring sites.  Sometimes less is more.


October 2018

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A first trip to Cape Cod: photographed in watercolor

In our extensive travels there are still lots and lots of places we haven’t been to – some by design and others because it just wasn’t on our way to anywhere else.  It was high time, we thought, to make a trip to Cape Cod.

We left Maine as the rain began to fall and headed south.  We took a lunch break at the harbor in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  After a seafood meal, we explored the working harbor with cameras at the ready.

Beth’s Sony RX100 II camera has a “watercolor” setting, and the overcast day was ready to be livened up with the painted effect.

The day was grey – both water and sky.   When we looked out to the distant boats they appeared to be small dark dots in the water. Using the telephoto and the paint effect created quite a different image.

Once we arrived on Cape Cod, where we’d be staying for 10 days,  we joined a guided bird walk at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.  We saw very few birds but the excellent guide dazzled us as she described how the diminishing night heron bird population and increasing numbers of native square-back marsh crabs negatively affect the sand grasses so important to the marsh ecology.

As she spoke, Beth captured a few images of the grasses, the critical buffer between and the water and the land.

At another beach, the more a photo image took on a painterly quality, the better we liked it.

We enjoyed another excellent guided hike at the National Seashore to the beech forest.

A few small bushes and trees had started to change color which is always a good time for photography.

We headed over to Head of the Meadow beach in Truro and started walking north along the water’s edge. Soon we saw a grey seal in the water, then another.  We sat on the sand and 25 seals swam nearby, just off shore, to gawk at us as we continued to watch them.  At the end of the sandy spit there were about 100 seals gathered – some on the sandy beach – but most in the water not far from the shore.  We walked down towards them for a better look but took care not to disturb them.

This was no time for a watercolor photographic image.  Beth turned the setting off and took many photos of the seals as they watched us.

Our favorite was a seal that looked like it was body surfing on a wave, never taking its eyes off of us.

We got some lovely images using the watercolor camera setting, but we knew that, when the seals swam nearby, it was time to reset the camera to manual and get the best photos we could.


October 2018

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We love the state of Maine – enough to have lived there many years ago when we were both teachers. We didn’t live near the coast but in the northern woods on the Kennebec River near the small town of Bingham (population 903).  We found the intervening years have not been kind to the area.

The best site in Bingham was the moose statue.

We took off south and headed for the state capital, Augusta, where we took our daily walk at Viles Arboretum.  The green ash forest was our first stop, then we strolled through a display of conifers.  At the end of the walk, a number of protective wire cages dotted a field.

American chestnut trees had been planted in hopes of replacing some of the many chestnuts which were almost wiped out years ago due to a fungus.  They look like they’re getting a good start.

We joined our longtime friends, Warren and Ethel, and headed east to Rockland, home of the Farnsworth Art Museum.  There was a lot to like at the Museum, starting with the special exhibitions of the Wyeth family paintings and Ai Wei Wei.

The untitled Greenland oil painting from the 1930’s by Rockwell Kent was one of our favorite works.  He was one of many artists featured who lived and painted in Maine.

Owl’s Head is a short drive down the coast.  Joe and Warren led the way through the woods to the lighthouse at the point.  The Abenaki lived in this area when Samuel de Champlain arrived to explore the area in 1605.

The Maine coast is rocky, and we weren’t finished exploring. Another park we visited, Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park, is south of Freeport, Maine.

Islands dotted the bay.   Most are very small and unoccupied except for double-crested cormorants and other sea birds.

Freeport is home to LL Bean, well known for its famous boots and outdoor gear.  In the years since we lived here, Freeport has become famous as a shopping mecca. We browsed in a number of shops ourselves and found the prize of the day in an antique store.

Beth sews a lot and found two little bags of antique fabric scraps dating back to 1875-1900.  She spread a few of the scraps on the table to see just what was in those bags.

Whatever she makes from the antique scraps will be a souvenir from our return visit to Maine.  How perfect is that?  Homemade and a memorable story of its own…


September 2018

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Rest days turned into touring days

Sometimes good intentions are abandoned for better plans.  We intended to spend our few days at a lovely Charlotte, Vermont AirBnB resting and reading. Then we talked to our host and discovered that, just a few miles down the road, the neighboring town of Shelburne, Vermont has two fabulous destinations that must be seen.

We headed first to Shelburne Farms with the largest barn we’ve ever seen.

Dr. William Seward Webb and Eliza Osgood Vanderbilt and their descendants owned Shelburne Farms from 1886 until 1972.  An inheritance from Vanderbilt money allowed them to create an “ornamental” farm, complete with numerous barns and Brown Swiss cows to graze on the picturesque land. Frederick Law Olmsted guided the Webbs in the design and landscaping of their 3,800 acres (1,500 ha).  Since 1972, the farm has become a nonprofit organization.

We saw turkeys, pigs, sheep, and a wide variety of chickens as we walked around the barnyard.

We’d been told the breeding barn was interesting so we walked over to see it. The size and architectural detail of all the barns at Shelburne made quite an impact.

Walking back along the paths through the landscaped woods and rolling lawns, we admired Olmstead’s work.

We came upon a wood sculpture by Jerry Geier not far from the main barn.  It was so subtly placed near the woods that we almost missed it.

One of the nicest gardens we’ve seen graced the lawn of the Webbs’s home (now an inn).  Imagine lush  plantings along long brick walls stepping down to Lake Champlain.

The next two days we spent visiting the other “Shelburne” in town, the Shelburne Museum.  The Webbs, of Shelburne Farms, had a son who married Electra Havemeyer, a women of great wealth.

Electra became an avid collector of all things related to arts and crafts in America, and the museum she founded was the repository for her extensive collection.  Her collection was housed in a series of smaller buildings, many of historic note, which had been moved to the site.   We toured through her collections of Early American and Impressionist paintings, weathervanes, quilts, trivets, dolls, hatboxes, duck decoys, pottery, and so much more.

One of the old colonial houses held her early American art, including one of our favorites, “Penn’s Treaty with the Indians” by Edward Hicks, ca. 1840-1845.

We passed a little lighthouse that had been moved to the museum grounds and placed on a small hill.   Nearby, in a sea of grass, …

…was the steamboat, Ticonderoga, originally built in Shelburne in 1906.  It had transported passengers across Lake Champlain before it was retired and made its journey back to rest at the Museum.

We did not overlook the many plantings and small gardens at Shelburne Museum, but two days is hardly enough time to see everything.

Our time at that lovely AirBnB in Charlotte was entirely devoted to seeing both Shelburne Farm and Museum, and we never did get even a moment to read or relax.  We couldn’t have asked for anything better!


September 2018

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Travel through a fog

A year before our road trip across the US and Canada, we started selecting destinations that we really wanted to see as we worked our way from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Bet you’d be surprised that little Amherst Island in Lake Ontario made our final list. It’s an excellent location to see birds, particularly raptors and owls in the winter.

This destination required a lot of preparation ahead of time: researching birds we might see, consulting the ferry schedule; downloading a map of the island with specific instructions of where to look for birds as we drove around the island; packing bird book, binoculars, and snacks as there is no place to buy food on the island.

The night before we had decided to get an early start (as birds would be up with the first light), but, when the alarm went off, we struggled to get out of bed and ready to go.  As we opened the motel room door, we stepped into a thick fog.  What a surprise!  Our immediate second thought: how could we watch birds in the fog?

By the time we got to the ferry dock the sun was up, but the fog stubbornly hung on.

We reasoned that by the time the ferry crossed the water and landed on Amherst Island, the fog would certainly have lifted.

A half hour later as we drove down our first road on the island, this was our view. We could hear birds, but, except for a few in tall grasses literally at the roadside, we couldn’t see any.

When the fog finally started to lift, moisture hung on the spider webs, creating a sparkly effect.

Birds started to appear, though not always as clearly as we would have liked.  Out of the last haze we saw a very large white bird swoop over the car and not long after a gull came by, much smaller in comparison.  We later found out we were in the area where one juvenile snowy owl has been hanging out – so maybe that’s what we saw?

Our last stop of the day was saved for the best place to see owls on Amherst Island.  The road there had a caution sign posted. A local woman had warned us the dirt road was not in good shape so we parked off the main road and walked in.

Several cedar waxwings settled on a nearby tree, and then we spotted a bronze-hued leopard frog sitting not far from a puddle.

At last, we arrived at the Owl Woods Nature Reserve.  No one else was there.  We heard a few birds calling so we walked slowly, while we carefully scanned the tree branches overhead for an owl.

It’s never been our talent and only on rare occasions have we seen an owl without someone else pointing it out.  No matter how hard we looked, we saw not a one.  However, some black-capped chickadees flew along with us.  We knew it wasn’t to console us though.  They hoped we might have brought some seed for them (a common practice of walkers we discovered in this part of Ontario).

At the end of the day, we took the ferry back across to the mainland and tallied the number of bird species we’d seen that day.  It was better than we expected, given the very slow start in the morning due to the fog.

Even though we didn’t have any interesting bird photos the entire day,…

…the next day we came across one of the most beautifully colored, ordinary birds we’d ever seen – a common grackle.

We had to laugh at our bad luck to choose a foggy day for our big trip to watch birds – and that the one wildlife photo of the day was a frog.


September 2018

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