Dan Ion Photography: Blog https://www.danionphotography.com/blog en-us (C) Dan Ion Photography [email protected] (Dan Ion Photography) Sun, 25 Dec 2022 16:50:00 GMT Sun, 25 Dec 2022 16:50:00 GMT https://www.danionphotography.com/img/s/v-12/u783223134-o637849316-50.jpg Dan Ion Photography: Blog https://www.danionphotography.com/blog 120 116 Four landmark churches of Columbus, Indiana https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2020/5/the-four-landmark-churches-of-columbus-indiana First Christian Church, Eliel Saarinen architect, 1942. Sculpture 'Large Arch' Henry Moore, 1971First Christian Church, Eliel Saarinen architect, 1942. Sculpture 'Large Arch' Henry Moore, 1971
Built in 1942 and designed by Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, it was the first contemporary building in Columbus and one of the first churches in the US built in a contemporary architectural style. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2001. In the early planning, before Saarinen was brought in, a church in the Gothic or Early American style was considered. J. Irwin Miller suggested building a modern church instead. Saarinen, who disliked churches in the traditional overdone Gothic or Georgian style, only designed one church previously and was not too keen on the modern design idea until he heard the proposal from the building committee. 

“Our town is small and there are all sorts and conditions of men. While we should like the church to be beautiful, we do not want the first reaction to be, how much did the church cost. We want the poorest women in town to feel at home there and able to worship her God in those surroundings.”

— Nettie Sweeney Miller, Chairwoman of the building committee

Of the four churches, this one is most radical in design. As one approaches the building from the front, the question rises: ‘What am I looking at?’ A fairly tall squarish facade with a very tall and dominant rectangular tower detached to the right with a clock close to the top. The giveaway is a thin light colored cross on the front of the building taking up most of the height of the facade. Yes, it’s a church. The design of the facade, the placement of the cross, the doors and windows are completely off center. As is the interior of the church. There is almost nothing symmetrical about it. Saarinen believed symmetry creates a sterile environment. Inside, it’s very bright. Narrow but very tall windows let in a good deal of light. A hidden skylight above the altar area brings in even more light. As in all of these four churches there’s no stained glass or any of the paintings found in traditional churches. I found the church very interesting and I get the asymmetry approach. But I also found it to be on the austere, cold and industrial side. I know, it’s a modern design. I didn’t mind the simplicity of the design. I just wanted to find a bit of warmth in my surroundings. Would that come from the presence of the Lord? Perhaps.



Only a couple of blocks to the East from The First Christian Church there is a 186 foot tall spire with a cross atop reaching for the sky. It belongs to St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. It was designed by Latvian born architect Gunnar Birkerts who spent most of his career in the metropolitan area of Detroit. The church was completed in 1988. A massive structure that can accommodate the growing number of parishioners that reached close to 2,700 in 1983. The previous church accommodated a bit more than 500 members. This design was his second in Columbus. His first was Lincoln Elementary School completed in 1967. Depending on your point of view, you could think you’re looking at two different structures. From one side the it shows tall flat rectangular walls of cement panels with four narrow slats between them to accommodate windows hinting of the brutalism architectural style. Walking to the opposite side the view is that of two curved walls, one with 12 windows breaking up the brick structure. A ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ side to the structure. Very typical of some of Birkerts’ designs presenting opposite personalities.

The interior is vast and bright. Light comes in through indirect natural as well as artificial lighting. The seating is in two non-concentric circles. One on the main level and the other in the form of a rising ‘balcony’ with a good deal of woodwork all around. The floor is carpeted in open areas otherwise it’s sealed concrete. The pipe organ is at the top of the balcony housed in a maple case and incorporates the 1962 organ from the previous sanctuary. There were a good deal of musical instruments all around the church and on one occasion while visiting I came in just as the band practice was ending. They were playing some rock and roll tune. Martin Luther regarded music as essential to evangelical worship. He wrote, ‘Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.’ Luther was a singer, accomplished performer on the lute, and composed some of the greatest hymns of the Reformation. The circular interior design, the high ceiling with the central 18-foot diameter light fixture, the bright lighting, reminded me of a concert hall. I felt relaxed and comfortable in the church. I felt that something good and enjoyable was about to happen here during the next service. 



Built: 1965 Architect: Harry Weese, Chicago. Landscaping: Dan Kiley. National Historic Landmark in 2000

The church has two levels. The upper level consists of the sanctuary with room for seating 500 and a chapel seating 100. The sanctuary is slightly higher than the main part of the upper level. The chapel is a miniature version of the sanctuary set at a perpendicular angle. The lower level and additional structures contain 25 classrooms, four restrooms and the heating plant.

To symbolize the lowliness of humankind the main entryway and ceilings were kept very low. Once inside, to get to the sanctuary one climbs a few steps and unwillingly looks up at the high-pitched ceiling bringing one closer to the higher power of God. 

The A-framed sanctuary space with vaulted wood ceilings has no windows keeping out all distractions. Hidden windows under the eaves give indirect natural light as well as ventilation. The ceiling is 49 feet high at the peak and built of exposed tongue and groove decking supported by laminated wood beams. There are more knots in the wood at the rear of the ceiling than the front. As one gets closer to the altar the last panels of wood are knot-free, to symbolize the purity of God. Right behind the altar is a triangular brick wall with holes or gaps in it. It is also part of the bell tower. Behind it is the organ and choir space. The center aisle between the white oak pews and the pulpit are off-center. However the wooden cross on the brick wall is centered to symbolize the centrality of the crucification to Christianity.

The main features of the church are very clearly expressed in the pamphlet provided at the entrance:

The Building  Castle or fortress motif evident in the front entrance moat/bridge and the curved brick walls. It reflects the Christian belief of ‘A Mighty Fortress is our God.’

Front Entrance  Leads to a low ceiling narthex intended to create the feeling of lowliness and humility as preparation for worship.

Sanctuary Entrance  The lowliness/humble feeling continues through the open doors as one enters and approaches the first view of the sanctuary creating a great contrast to the worshiper.

The Sanctuary  As the worshiper moves from under the low ceiling and climb the steps to thew sanctuary the gaze rises to the 49 foot ceiling. The contrast creates a sense of wonder and awe.

Lighting  No visible windows look out into the world to create a distraction. Only the windows over the chancel bring in light from above reminding the worshiper of the One who is ‘The Light of the World.’ The building is positioned so that the sun rising in the East floods the wall with light during thew worship hour. 

The Pierced Wall  It separates the choir from the chancel is symbolic of the rending of the temple veil following the crucifixion of Christ, announcing that each person now has access to God. It reflects the Baptist theology of the ‘Priesthood of all believers.’ The wall has three crosses of brick designed into the construction that are subtle to the worshiper. The suspended wooden cross at the center of the wall highlights the centrality of the cross in providing salvation.

The Baptistery  The curved lower wall to the right is the baptistery. Baptism by immersion is at the core of Baptist theology.

The Pulpit  Where the word of God is proclaimed is slightly elevated, not merely for better viewing, but to highlight the importance of preaching the Word of God. 

The Communion Table I s centered under the cross for additional emphasis of the centrality of the body and blood of Christ which provides salvation for the World. Communion is served the first Sunday of every month. 

Of the four churches this one comes closest to reveal itself as a church from the outside. The inside however reveals something very different. The way the walk from the entrance to the sanctuary was designed is very profound as one makes way to the high A-framed ceiling of the sanctuary. Inside the sanctuary I felt safe, warm and at peace in God’s presence as if in a womb or the hold of a great ship. 


Last but not least is the NORTH CHRISTIAN CHURCH. Eero Saarinen architect, completed in 1964. National Historic Landmark in 2000

This little church is very, very special both outside and inside. The simple elegant plan is that of a hexagon, elongated slightly along the East-West axis 

Materials: 3,800 yards of concrete, 320 tons of reinforced rods and 22 tons of leaded copper. Floor space: 33,000 square feet. The pews seat 465 with an overflow bench around the top allowing a total seating capacity of about 615.

In July, 1961, Saarinaen described his design: “When I face St. Peter at the gates of heaven I want to be able to say that out of all the buildings designed during my lifetime, one of the best was this little church because it has in it a real spirit that that speaks forth to all Christians as a witness to their faith.” Little did he know that only a bit more than a month later, on September 1, 1961, he would died unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm at the age of 51.

North Christian Church, Eero Saarinen architect, 1964, Dan Kiley landscape architectNorth Christian Church, Eero Saarinen architect, 1964, Dan Kiley landscape architect What makes this church so special?

Saarinen wanted to design a church, where the sanctuary would stand alone and represent just that. Unlike other churches that are made up of a number of connected structures, he wanted to separate the two functions of a church. The worship side from the social function. The church is the sanctuary, and nothing else, at least visible to the eye. From the only parking lot in front of the church one is led up a number of steps to the entrance. Through the doors and straight up a few more steps one enters the sanctuary and looks up at the center of the ceiling. There, the oculus bings in the only natural light. One is now in the middle of the church right by the central altar. North Christian Church, Eero Saarinen architect, 1964, Dan Kiley landscape architectNorth Christian Church, Eero Saarinen architect, 1964, Dan Kiley landscape architect Arranged in the same elongated hexagon, the sanctuary’s color is on the dark side. Natural materials like dark-gray slate floors and mahogany pews (rising from floor level) bring an air of cave-like ambiance. The pews are arranged in two semi-circular areas separated by the main entrance with the choir area and organ at the end opposite the entrance.  The communion table is at the very center and made as a focal point as communion was considered a central part of their faith. It consists of 13 tables: 12 representing the disciples and a taller table at the end representing Jesus. Natural light from the oculus in the spire shines directly down on the tables meant to be symbolic that God’s light comes from above and that he is continuously revealing himself to mankind. The pipe organ was one of the very last instruments designed by Walter Holtkamp before his death and specially designed for North Christian. There is a small chapel area with a full-immersion baptismal pool outside the sanctuary on the end opposite from the main entrance. The baptismal area is very unique and symbolic of the Holy Trinity with elements designed by Alexander Girard. The sunburst grill which normally covers the baptismal pool represents God. A silver dove directly above represents the Holy Spirit. A cross represents Jesus and the fountain is symbolic of the Living Water. The baptismal pool/fountain can also be covered with a wooden platform and the accompanying seating area designed by Saarinen can be used for a variety of purposes. The chapel area can seat 50 people.

North Christian Church, Eero Saarinen architect, 1964, Dan Kiley landscape architectNorth Christian Church, Eero Saarinen architect, 1964, Dan Kiley landscape architect Saarinen’s objective was therefore to design a building that could meet contemporary needs without losing focus of the church’s original function as a place for worshipping and coming closer to God. Dan Kiley landscaped the 14 acre site including a tree-lined allee (a double row of red sunset maples), flowering magnolia trees surrounding the church and the unique ‘parking rooms’: small parking lots surrounded by arborvitae hedges meant to isolate the building from the automobiles.

The social spaces in the church are not visible at all as one enters. To get to them one must turn right or left and walk down a few steps. All the rooms are located below ground along the circumference of the church. 

This is the one church where I felt completely removed from the outside world and spiritually closer to God.

The North Christian Church is very special but is also in a bit of trouble. The number of parishioners has declined drastically in the last few years. A good deal of money needed for many structural repairs was acquired through government funding. 


I visited Columbus and these churches a few days before Thanksgiving. Preparations were being made for the Thanksgiving feast and also for providing food for the needy. I was invited to join one congregation for the festive lunch. Preparations were also under way for decorating the churches for Christmas. It was a very busy time. On a number of occasions I visited during non-visiting hours. Not a problem. The church staffs were very kind and helpful and showed me around or let me see myself around. One church I visited just before closing time. The lady in charge was very kind, told me she was leaving soon and asked me to just close the door behind me when I was done. Unfortunately I was not able to participate in any of the services in these churches and I regret that a lot. Next time I visit I will make it a point to do just that.

Expanded gallery of the churches and Columbus modern architecture here


[email protected] (Dan Ion Photography) architecture architecture_photography Baptist Christian churches Columbus_Indiana contemporary contemporary_architecture Eero_Saarinen Eliel_Saarinen Gunnar_Birkerts Harry_Weese Indiana landmarks Lutheran modern modern_architecture National_Landmarks travel_photography https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2020/5/the-four-landmark-churches-of-columbus-indiana Fri, 08 May 2020 01:43:37 GMT
The Barn Owl and the Vole ... in the pellet! https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2020/3/the-barn-owl-and-the-vole-in-the-pellet I have walked a trail that borders the nest of a Barn Owl many times but never noticed anything unusual. This time as I looked to my right in the lower bushes a few feet away from the trail I noticed a lot of white spots or blotches on leaves and the on ground. Barn Owl at nest in late afternoonBarn Owl at nest in late afternoon  

I stopped for a moment and thought about what I was seeing. It must be poop droppings from some bird. So I stepped over to get a closer look. Sure enough, a lot of white poop all over the place. And to my surprise a good number of grayish patato-like things on the ground. “Ah! They must be pellets from the Barn Owl.” So many pellets about 300 feet from the nestSo many pellets about 300 feet from the nest They looked fairly fresh. I thought it would be nice to take a couple home, examine and dissect them. Since I was not prepared for this I left and came back the next day, this time prepared with gloves and a plastic zip-lock bag. I picked up three pellets and went home quite excited. Regurgitated pellets are just that. Undigested parts of food, mostly bones and hair, the owl had in the past day or so that accumulate in their stomach. It is not fecal matter. Nevertheless I was very cautious on how to go about handling the pellets. Gloves on all the time and goggles. There might be some bacteria in the pellets so I had to make sure it was all dead so it would be ok to handle the pellets without gloves. A very careful dissection begins with removing the abundant hair and gently pulling apart the piecesA very careful dissection begins with removing the abundant hair and gently pulling apart the pieces   Vole skull with lower jawVole skull with lower jaw

So I had to sterilize them. That meant ‘baking’ them. Well, almost. To completely destroy any live matter, I wrapped them in aluminum foil and put them in an aluminum dish in an oven. I had a portable electric one. I would not do this in my main oven in the kitchen. I set the temperature to 350 degrees, and the timer to 30 minutes. As time went on, I started to smell something. The smell of burning hair. This smell brought back memories from my early childhood. One of our neighbors would slaughter a pig every year. Part of the process was running a flame all over the pig’s skin in order to burn off the hair. It was that kind of smell. It stayed in the garage for a few days. I think I overdid the ‘cooking’ a bit. Either too hot or too much time in the oven. Nothing really burned though.

I let the pellets cool off for a few hours and then started the dissection. There was so, so much undigested hair. Gently using two tweezers I started taking the pellet apart. Pieces came off in clumps containing bones. Some with large bones like the skull, others with very small ones, like the disks between the vertebrae, or the very tip of the paws. Any bone that had a cavity or recessed part was full of hair. This became the biggest challenge, removing the hair from the bones. Great care had to be taken as to not break or destroy the bones. Some, like the ribs, were very delicate. It started to look to me that I had a fairly complete skeleton of a Meadow Vole, about 80% complete. I think I had bones from every part of the body. From all that ‘cooking’, the bones were not that clean looking, more like the color of dark and dirty ivory. The next step was to clean the bones. That involved soaking the bones in a solution of Hydrogen peroxide and water for at least 24 hours. I had to repeat this one more time to get good results. They come out very nice with a beautiful color of light ivory. Now I could sort out the bones by part of the body and start to reconstruct the skeleton. It was all very interesting. Vole skeleton. About 80% completeVole skeleton. About 80% complete The skull was the most captivating part. Especially those four incisors. As I was handling the skull, one of them came right out. I found that I could easily pull out all of the incisors and put them back in with no trouble. They were huge and pretty sharp. I did the same with some of the molars. Massive incisorsMassive incisors The incisors are in a continuous state of growth. Voles eat many different kinds of food. In the spring and summer they consume mostly living plants. In the fall and winter it’s seeds, bark and roots. Since they do not hibernate and do not store food, they have to actively forage for food every day of the year. A good thing for the Barn Owl. As it turns out, the front and side surface of the incisors are covered with enamel, while the back part is exposed dentin. Dentin is the yellowish tissue that makes up the bulk of all teeth. It is harder than bone but softer than enamel and consists mainly of apatite crystals of calcium and phosphate. Incisors close-up. Very sharpIncisors close-up. Very sharp As the Vole gnaws, the softer dentin wears away leaving the enamel edge sharp like the edge of a chisel. Just like so many other rodents, the vole has to constantly gnaw to keep the growth of the incisors in check. Rodents don’t have canines like many other mammals, and have a large gap between the incisors and the molars.

The other pellets were not as rewarding. Skeletons were mostly incomplete. I also realized that the bones belonged to a vole much smaller in size, an immature victim. I thoroughly enjoyed this whole thing from start to finish. Most of us don’t get a chance to do this kind of activity every day, or want to. It certainly was very unusual for me and I must say I found it very interesting, rewarding and educational. Hmm, what else could I dissect and reconstruct? No worries! I’m not picking up any road kill!

More images from this dissection in the gallery here


[email protected] (Dan Ion Photography) Barn_owl bones dissection incisors Jamaica_Bay_Wildlife_Refuge macro_photography Medow_Vole pellet regurgitate skeleton https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2020/3/the-barn-owl-and-the-vole-in-the-pellet Sun, 29 Mar 2020 17:34:50 GMT
GHO owlets Falling out of the nest https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2019/8/gho-owlets-first-time-falling-out-of-the-nest

Great Horned Owls along with Bald Eagles are the earliest nesting birds in North America. They are secondary nest users taking over nests of hawks, herons or even squirrels. The nest this pair of GHOs chose in Hempstead Lake State Park was very small. And on top of that it was in a tree on the side of a meadow very close to a busy area of the park. What a place for an GHO nest. The big tree at left, almost close to the top.What a place for an GHO nest. The big tree at left, almost close to the top. About 60 feet high, right by a paved path busy with people walking, biking, skateboarding or walking their dogs. A very unusual choice. The park is pretty big. More than 737 acres, two large bodies of water and a lot of wildlife. The park folks set up a restricted area around the nest but people oblivious of what was going on just walked right through. Bicycles, skateboarders and dogs. 

When I first got there, mid March, people were not sure what was happening. Some said the mother was sitting on eggs. Others told me she had three chicks. I should have know that by that time the eggs must have hatched. Sure enough, a few days later I got my first glimpse of the two owlets, 2 to 3 weeks young. My first owlet sightingMy first owlet sighting Whitish-gray down feathers, eyes mostly closed and barely managing to stand up. However the beak was a good size for young chicks. In such a small nest, there was not too much room even at this early stage. The mother would sit on the edge of the nest with the wings slightly spread to protect and keep her babies warm. She was occasionally agitated by all the commotion going on below the tree. At times there were 10 to 20 people near the nest.  Now and then she would leave the nest to take a break and rest on a nearby branch. 

Great Horned  Owlets. Looking over the world around them.Great Horned Owlets. Looking over the world around them. By the fifth week or so the owlets got bigger and started to find their way around the small nest sometimes getting close to the edge. Flight feathers began to emerge from their sheaths. Stretching and exercising their wings a lot. The mother would spend more and more time just off the nest on a close-by branch watching over the young ones. The space in the nest became smaller by the day. And then the fear that most of us had, became real. What? That's not an owlet. It's a dead rat. What happened!What? That's not an owlet. It's a dead rat. What happened! They fell out of the nest. Actually that is not unexpected. Before they fledge, the owlets will start to hop and clamber on nearby branches. It’s called the ‘brancher’ or ‘jumper’ stage. The parents would feed them on the ground until they could get back in a tree. But for these two to fall out of the nest at this young age was just a bit too early. They were found the next morning in close proximity of the nest. They fell from the nest. Found and rescued. Short rehab and back in the park in the rescue truck, April 13They fell from the nest. Found and rescued. Short rehab and back in the park in the rescue truck, April 13 The rescuers planning for the new nest.The rescuers planning for the new nest. Caring and concerned people jumped into action and calls were made to WINORR, (Wildlife In Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation). Bobby Horvath and Cathy Spire took care of the displaced owlets. Minor injuries from the fall were checked out and given attention in a rehab facility. Of course the owlets were fed a diet of mice like never before. And not once did they refuse. I saw the mother in the days following the fall desperately looking for her babies. Sometimes with pray in her claws. 

So the plan was to quickly get the owlets well and returned them to their parents. Using the same nest was out of the question. For one, it would be hard to reach and second, it was way too small and another fall would surely happen. Bobby Horvath, a NYC fireman and experienced licensed animal rescue and wildlife rehabilitator knew exactly what was needed. Relocating the owlets in a man-made nest of good size close to where the original nest was. Word got out that April 13 was the big day. Wow! Everyone so happy to see them back and SO CLOSE!Wow! Everyone so happy to see them back and SO CLOSE! Now the iPhones became the best cameras.Now the iPhones became the best cameras. Terrified by all these creatures!Terrified by all these creatures! The owlets had a large following by this time and a lot of us were waiting for Bobby and the two rascals to arrive back in the park. And they came. We got a rare chance to see them really up close. Together in a blue bin, looking at us a bit frightened and distressed, hissing and making loud bill snapping sounds. They looked well fed and in good shape. Ready to go back up. Bobby already put together a box nest from some pine boards and a few natural pieces. Question was where will the new nest go? A bit lower than the original nest but that ladder is only so tall!A bit lower than the original nest but that ladder is only so tall! A place that was within reach of Bobby’s ladder and a tree that would support branching. After a short debate and search a location was picked almost in the middle of the meadow on a branch about 20 feet high. A few twigs and leaves on the bottom of the nest and the new home was ready. Bobby and Jeff putting finishing touches on the new home.Bobby and Jeff putting finishing touches on the new home. Fred and Laura have the honorFred and Laura have the honor First one going up with Bobby.First one going up with Bobby. Many last pictures with the owlets for everybody, one last check from Bobby and up they went. Probably very relieved to get away from all the people and cameras. Their last five days must have been very stressful. The fall, strange places, examinations and x-rays, people all around them. No complaints about the food though!

A bit scared but happy to be away from those big creaturesA bit scared but happy to be away from those big creatures So would the parents find them, want them and continue raising them. A strong and definite YES! Within a day the mother bought food and spent time in the new nest with them. They all got accustomed and comfortable with the new accommodations and life went on for them. Great Horned Owl mother checking out the new nest and the youngsters.Great Horned Owl mother checking out the new nest and the youngsters. An enormous thank you to Bobby, Cathy and the other people who were part of the rescue, rehabilitation and relocation of the two owlets. People with kind hearts for wildlife devoting personal time and effort to preserve the precious creatures around us. You are the best!

Link to full image gallery here

[email protected] (Dan Ion Photography) Bobby_horvath chicks falling Great_Horned_owl Hempstead_lake_state_park man_made_nest nest owlets photography rescue suburban_park https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2019/8/gho-owlets-first-time-falling-out-of-the-nest Wed, 21 Aug 2019 17:42:43 GMT
GHO owlets Falling out of the nest a second time https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2019/8/gho-owlets-second-time-falling-out-of-the-nest

April 20. Growing fast and so are the wings and instinct to get out of the nest and fly.April 20. Growing fast and so are the wings and instinct to get out of the nest and fly. After falling out of a very small nest in early April and being relocated in a new man-made nest on April 13, thanks to the kind care devotion and concern of a lot of people, the two owlets resumed their life in the park. The parents were feeding them well and one could see them growing fast from one day to another. And their followers grew as well. The big guns out in force.The big guns out in force. Regulars who used the park daily, birders, nature lovers and photographers, a lot of photographers. Some came from more than 100 miles away. 20 to 30 people at peak times. The spring was a bit wet and there were many days when the youngsters looked soaked to the bone and miserable. Those days only ducks were happy. But life went on. Their feathers grew amazingly fast. They were doing a lot of wing stretching and flapping. First signs of 'branching'. Getting close to flight and leaving the nest.First signs of 'branching'. Getting close to flight and leaving the nest. Almost ready to fly? Almost. Branching became a daily activity. At first, just a couple of feet away from the nest. Then a few more. Then a branch further out reached with a combination of jumping and half flying. I could tell where they’ve been by spotting the poop marks on branches. It was fun watching them develop. Always together and so closeAlways together and so close They were two very cute characters. Two brothers that were always very close together, grooming one another and bonding. The natural instinct to fly, wonder and discover the world around them was strong. And of course it happened again. One of them fell out of the nest and was missing. We became very concerned when only one of them was visible in the nest. I got to the park about 3 in the afternoon. It was an ugly day. Rain on and off, drizzling the rest of the time. Said hi to Jeff and Fred, two of the regulars, and we talked about the missing youngster. One of them is missing. Looking for them all over for almost half a day.One of them is missing. Looking for them all over for almost half a day. They looked around the area for a few hours already but could not see any sign of the missing youngster. I started searching also. Couple of other folks showed up to help. We looked close and far. Nothing. It was getting late, after 5. I took another walk around looking and hoping. And then I saw him. Unbelievable. When I looked behind me, there he was. All wet and a bit confusedWhen I looked behind me, there he was. All wet and a bit confused When I looked behind me, there he was. Wet to the boneWhen I looked behind me, there he was. Wet to the bone He was in thick bushes right behind me where we were all the time earlier. On the ground and looking soaking wet and miserable. Looking at me like almost saying “Where have you been? I’m here I and need a little help to get back home with my brother”. Wow, I called Jeff and Fred and they could not believe it. They looked in the same spot for hours and could not see him. He must have been further back in the bushes out of sight. He saw me and we made a connection. Do you think? 

A call to Bobby and he's back for another rescueA call to Bobby and he's back for another rescue Again a quick call to Bobby Horvath and help was on the way. We kept an eye on the youngster. Got really worried when a couple with a big dog NOT on a leash walked by. With a security detail of four guys, the owl had nothing to worry about. And then we spotted the mother. I think she knew all along where her son was. They connected and the youngster started to walk away from us heading into thick brush and out of sight. Just for a minute or two. Within the hour Bobby arrived. By this time the young owl was up on a fallen trunk in thick brush. Bobby and Fred with the lost owletBobby and Fred with the lost owlet Not a problem for Bobby. He went in got him and brought him out. We kept an eye on the mother. She might take some action to protect her baby. Everything was fine. Bobby checked him for any broken bones and gave us a thumbs up. One last check and a bit of cleaning. The two of them should know each other by nowOne last check and a bit of cleaning. The two of them should know each other by now Ready to go up?Ready to go up? I'm smiling and so happy to have found him. He just wants to go homeI'm smiling and so happy to have found him. He just wants to go home A bit of cleaning from all the mud on the feathers and he was ready to get back up. Since I was the one who found him Bobby let me hold him for a few minutes while he got the ladder up by the nest. Then we let him on the ground for a bit. Even though very young not afraid to challenge anyone.Even though very young not afraid to challenge anyone. Tough guy he was. He put on a mean face, puffed up his feathers making himself look big and threatening. He didn’t fool any of us. What a character. And then it was time to rejoin his brother. We all went home feeling good and relieved. It was a good day. 

Back homeBack home This second fall was only 11 days after the first one. Amazing to see how fast they grew in such a short time. This fall was more in line with what was expected. 'Branching' out farther and farther and farther'Branching' out farther and farther and farther Them branching out and leaving the nest even though they did not fledge. Sure enough, a week or so later they were gone from the nest. This time we did not make a rescue call. 

The boundary barricades were taken away. The crowd of followers thinned out quickly. A few of us, concerned,  were still looking for them. For a few days they were not to be seen. April 28. A day or two after saying goodbye to the nest.April 28. A day or two after saying goodbye to the nest. Then they were found, in opposite parts of the meadow. Mostly roosting on a branch, practicing flying and calling for the mother at dusk. On the ground after a fall. Using their claws to climb back up. They were pretty flexible and resilientOn the ground after a fall. Using their claws to climb back up. They were pretty flexible and resilient Within a week or so they were flying regularly, doing pretty good although the landings were still a skill to be developed. And then they got back together. A family again.

Link to image gallery here


[email protected] (Dan Ion Photography) Bobby_Horvath chicks finding Great_horned_owl Hempstead_lake_state_park owlets photography rescue rescuers search siblings suburban_park https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2019/8/gho-owlets-second-time-falling-out-of-the-nest Wed, 21 Aug 2019 17:41:31 GMT
GHO owlets Bonding brothers https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2019/8/gho-owlets-bonding-brothers Getting bigger by the day. Early AprilGetting bigger by the day. Early April I am not sure of the exact day the first egg hatched but I am pretty sure the second one was not more than a day or two behind. These two owlets spent the early days close together in a very small nest. They were always in touch of one another except on a day or two in March when the temperature reached 80+ and they were overheating with all that down fur on them. I got to see them and their parents (mostly the mother) almost every day for a few hours for about five months. A lot of things happened to this owl family as I wrote in other posts. T Always time for a kissAlways time for a kiss hroughout their young lives I was amazed at the loving feelings and emotions they showed for one another. And for the mother and mother for them. I’ve seen those emotions in dogs and cats, in deer and in other wildlife. I’ve seen many birds, mostly in my backyard, taking care and protecting offspring. But I have never seen the level of love this owl family expressed. To me what distinguishes them from the rest is the eyes and facial expression. And what eyes do they have!

The owlets showed this emotion from an early age. Even when only a month old I could see how affectionate they were with one another. Feeding time was not fighting time. Mother GHO giving some love.Mother GHO giving some love. Fledgling returning mother's love.Fledgling returning mother's love. There’s nothing like a mother’s love and care. The love in her eyes as she looked over her babies was unmistakable. Occasionally the father would roost near the nest but I have never seen him feeding or spending time in the nest. 

You're so nice to me!You're so nice to me! Love you brotherLove you brother As they got older I think their love and affection only grew. In the man-made nest they were easily see them. So many times they just liked to be tight together. Looking into each other’s eyes. Kissing, touching beaks, preening one another. When branching came I could see the first one encourage his brother to join him on the branch. 

After they fledged they got separated for a short while. Then they found each other agin. Roosting during the day in close proximity. As dusk approached they would roost together. Most times touching one another. Finding comfort in touch. These feelings stayed with them even when they were bigger boys. Not a fight. Just friendly grabbing and touching.Not a fight. Just friendly grabbing and touching. Not a fight. Just friendly grabbing and touching.Not a fight. Just friendly grabbing and touching. Sometimes they got together on the same branch and, to the passing observer, it looked as if they were fighting. Wings speed and flapping, claws out, jostling for position. Not so. It was just loving play. After the ‘fight’ I saw them settle down next to one another, kiss and shake hands. Claws that is. June 6. A clear change in the feathersJune 6. A clear change in the feathers They stayed together till almost the last time I saw them, about six months since birth. By August they were not to be found. They either went to other parts of the park or they might have left to find their own home miles away. 

While they were extremely close in these few months, I doubt that they stayed together afterward. They are not communal birds and even as paired adults they are not really that close. I hope they find love in a mate. Being males, and later as fathers, they might become distant and cold with the kids. I hope they don’t forget one another and the loving time they shared together as they became young adults. 

Link to image gallery here


[email protected] (Dan Ion Photography) chicks close falling Great_horned_owl Hempstead_lake_state_park kissing loving owlets photography rescue siblings suburban_park https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2019/8/gho-owlets-bonding-brothers Wed, 21 Aug 2019 17:40:06 GMT
GHO owlets Feeding time https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2019/8/gho-owlets-feeding-time As the youngsters fledged, most of the feeding took place before sunrise or at dusk. I witnessed a few feedings about half an hour before sunset. Finding them proved a slight challenge. They roosted most of the day and hardly moved so spotting them in the trees was never easy. If sitting on a branch somewhat in the open, an easy find. If roosting in the middle of the tree, in a leafy area, very difficult to find. Many times the loud alarm calls from Blue Jays and Robins would point me to the right tree. 

Feed me, feed me!Feed me, feed me! So just before sunset the two fledglings would wake up and would start to move around a bit and get agitated. They would jump or fly from one branch to another intensely looking for a parent. From my observations it was the mother. And they would call her constantly. The usual call was a harsh repeated sheik lasting about a second or so. A food-begging call. That would go on for about 30 minutes. If the mother was spotted, the youngsters would jump and fly over to her. Many times she had no food for them. When she did bring food it usually was a bird. That’s when the fledglings would go into a frenzy. Both of them would try and get to her first to get the meal. There would be a bit of ‘elbowing and pushing’ going on. Chasing mom for a meal.Chasing mom for a meal. Where is my meal?Where is my meal? In the early days just after fledgling, the mother would still ‘baby feed’ them smaller bits of the pray on the branch. As they got bigger one of them would win the elbowing and pushing and grab the bird for himself and fly to a nearby branch for a meal in private. Mother GHO bringing pray for the fledglings.Mother GHO bringing pray for the fledglings. Second fledgling coming in to claim his share.Second fledgling coming in to claim his share. The other fledgling never challenged the other for the meal. Lucky fledgling got this oneLucky fledgling got this one Looking for another spotLooking for another spot All goneAll gone On a couple of occasions I saw one of them with parts of a squirrel in its claws. I don’t think it was caught by one of them. The squirrel would put up a good fight and the young owls were too inexperienced to make a proper kill. 

Not much of a meal but it will have to do.Not much of a meal but it will have to do. As they got bigger, they became more independent and hunting on their own was the norm. The food-calls were fewer and fewer. There was plenty of pray in the park. It's going to take a while to finish this off!It's going to take a while to finish this off! Lots of Robins and Starlings foraging on the ground. Rodents and small rabbits also abundant. And of course squirrels. They were very hungry in the first three or four months but later on as the growth slowed a bit, so did the hunger. GHOs are very opportunistic predators adapting to what their territory offers. So it was a bit unusual when I saw them try to eat some leaves. Or maybe they were just imagining devouring a mouse?

Link to image gallery here


[email protected] (Dan Ion Photography) chicks close closeness Great_horned_owl Hempstead_lake_state_park kissing loving owlets photography siblings suburban_park https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2019/8/gho-owlets-feeding-time Wed, 21 Aug 2019 17:39:04 GMT
Red Knots on Delaware Bay https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2019/7/red-knots-on-delaware-bay This past May I took a five day trip to the shores of Delaware bay to witness two of the most epic migrations on the North American continent. One is made up of almost a million shorebirds. Mostly Semipalmated Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones and Red Knots rufa. The other migration is made up of millions of Horseshoe crabs. The shorebirds are on a journey that stars at the bottom of South America at Tierra del Fuego, and ends up in the Arctic. The Horseshoe crabs start at the bottom of Delaware Bay and are looking to get to its beaches especially at high tide a few miles away.

Red Knots. The feeding never stopsRed Knots. The feeding never stops The Horseshoe crabs, by the hundreds of thousands make their way as far up the beach as they can to spawn. They deposit millions of eggs on the sandy beaches of the bay. About the same time almost a million shorebirds on their way to the Arctic where they breed and nest, arrive, need to rest, feed and regain their strength on this very long journey. They need to double their weight for the last leg of the migration, 2,000 miles north to the Arctic. They will feed on the horseshoe crab eggs non stop every day till they are fat enough to resume their journey. 

Red Knot feeding on Horseshoe crab eggsRed Knot feeding on Horseshoe crab eggs I have always enjoyed being close to water. No wonder then that shorebirds are some of my favorite. Sandpipers are at the top of the list. Weather by the ocean shore, a lake or pond or a nearby marsh I take great pleasure in watching and photographing the sandpipers calling these places home for part of the year. I didn’t get to see too many Red Knots all these years so when I read about the thousands and thousands of Red Knots that will stop for a brief period of time on the shores of Delaware Bay, so I planned a five day trip there to see them. The peak migration of the birds is hard to predict. Some years it happens in early May, other years towards the end of the month. I did some research on eBird, looked at figures for past years and decided to go towards the end of May. Horseshoe crab eggs for allHorseshoe crab eggs for all Some folks spotted a few hundred, while others counted a thousand or more. Sightings were on both sides of the Delaware bay. So I made my choice to go to the Delaware side. It’s a bit of a gamble so I hoped luck was on my side. As it turned out, I caught the end of the migration and I think a larger number were spotted on the New Jersey side. The Red Knots were in smaller numbers, maybe a few hundred to a thousand or two. But I got to see them very close while feeding on the millions of Horseshoe crab eggs littering the beach. They liked to be in the company of the Ruddy Turnstones and not the Semipalmated Sandpipers. The Semis were there by many thousands. The Turnstones numbered in the thousands with the Red Knots coming in last. 

Red Knot feeding on Horseshoe crab eggsRed Knot feeding on Horseshoe crab eggs Seeing the Red Knots rufa was not disappointing. Most of them were in the early stage of breeding plumage with a beautiful rusty-red chest. Unfortunately the Red Knot rufa has been declining in numbers at an alarming rate. The population has dropped by 70% since 2000. In 2014 it was listed as a federally threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the second most critical status that can be awarded to a subspecies. Human disturbances, such as development of land along the shore, increased number of tourists and locals on beaches (preventing the Red Knot from properly feeding and regaining its strength to continue its long flight), commercial development along the shore, are major concerns to its survival. Red Knots in flightRed Knots in flight The dwindling number of Horseshoe crabs in the Delaware Bay means fewer Horseshoe crab eggs to feed on. As of 2007 harvesting of Horseshoe crabs has been prohibited in New Jersey. The population will recover but it takes about 10 years for a Horseshoe crab to reach maturity and lay eggs. Delaware, Maryland and Virginia have not yet banned the harvesting of Horseshoe crabs. 

Horseshoe crab eggs in seaweedHorseshoe crab eggs in seaweed The Red Knot rufa is not at the top of the list of long distance migrations but is well known for being a long-distance flier on a perilous journey. Those that make the longest journey start at the bottom of South America, Tierra del Fuego. The first leg is about 4,200 miles with the first stop in Brazil. All along the coast of South America oil spills from the petrochemical industry pose a great threat to the Red Knots. The next leg is about 3,500 miles to the Delaware Bay. Dwindling number of Horseshoe crabs and human disturbance can keep the Red Knot from effectively feeding and preparing for its long journey. A final flight of about 2,000 mile will take it to the breeding grounds of the Arctic. The eggs and chicks are a food source for some predators there further threatening its survival. 

Red Knot feeding on Horseshoe crab eggsRed Knot feeding on Horseshoe crab eggs The female will lay a clutch or 3-4 eggs in early June. The incubation takes about 22 days. The young chicks are independent from the first day. Shortly thereafter they are abandoned by the mother and only have the father for protection. They feed on their own, mostly insects.  About 21 days from hatching the chicks fledge and no longer need the watchful eye of their father. The fall migration to Tierra del Fuego is a bit different than the spring one. Only the adult Red Knots will make the trip to Tierra del Fuego. The juveniles will spend the first year along the coast of North and South America and join the adults on the flight south the following year. The adult females leave south shortly after the eggs hatched. The males will follow them about three weeks later. Some males will stay another week or two to help the juveniles on their way south. The fly path in the fall is not as well defined as the the spring migration. They will stop in Mingan Archipelago in Canada, Bay of Fundy, Florida, the Caribbean and the coast of French Guiana and Brazil, feeding mostly on tiny mussels, clams and marine worms before they get to Tierra del Fuego.

Red Knot searching for Horseshoe crab eggsRed Knot searching for Horseshoe crab eggs Seeing the Red Knots was great even though the numbers were not overwhelming. The other shorebirds will make your day also. The thousands of Semipalmated Sandpipers, huge numbers of Ruddy Turnstones, thousands of Laughing Gulls, a lot of Dunlin, a few Plovers, Willets and who knows who else will want to be there to have a feast on Horseshoe crab eggs and fatten up. And on top of that there are the Horseshoe crabs. By the thousands. I never experienced seeing them in such numbers, crawling all over the beach, hanging on to the female while other males fight for a chance to fertilize her eggs. I need to go back next year not just for the shorebirds for equally for the Horseshoe crabs. They are fascinating.  

Link for the full image gallery from my visit here


[email protected] (Dan Ion Photography) Arctic beaches Delaware Delaware beaches eggs feeding horseshoe crab May migration New Jersey red knot spawning https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2019/7/red-knots-on-delaware-bay Fri, 12 Jul 2019 19:20:30 GMT
Our friend by the river in the Andes https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2019/1/by-the-river Saying hello to our friend by the river. Up in the Andean cloud forest in Kosñipata Valley we were always close to the river. The flow was roaring most of the time but it was way below us, a couple of hundred feet in the valley, down a steep incline from the edge of the mountain road. On this November photo journey with Summit Workshops our guide, Ian Segebarth (Rainshadow Expeditions) arranged for a visit down to the river to look for birds, butterflies, insects and frogs. Greening us with a smile and wanting to shake hands with all of us. This old woman allowed our group to go behind her property and make our way to the river’s edge. To get there we had to machete our way through thick forest jungle. We did see some interesting species down there. But I was moved by this woman and how and where she lived her life. She must have been in her 80s? Lived by herself with the nearest house miles away. No electricity, no running water or sewage. The shed behind her one room wooden-board ‘house’. A one room wooden-board ‘house’ with a small shed behind it. A few corn stalks growing in the side yard, a puppy, four or five chickens running around and a few guinea pigs in a corner in the shed. The shed was also her kitchen and den for the guinea pigs she was raising. A fruit bush on the side. She was very friendly and so happy to see us and wanted to shake hands with every one. She makes a few soles from giving people access to the river below and from collecting butterflies and selling them to local guides. Heading down to the river. The path to the river is not traveled very often. Had to machete our way down. Only thing she complained about was some stomach discomfort and asked us if we had any yogurt to help with her ache. We left her place a couple of hours later, gave her a few power bars and juice and promised her some yogurt or some medication for her stomach. Life in the small villages of the high Andes is very hard. Poverty rate is close to 50%. Most of the younger people have left, leaving the older folks to fend for themselves. . . .

To see the Peru Amazon rainforest gallery click here.
She was very happy to see us and have our company for the short time we were there.


[email protected] (Dan Ion Photography) andes andes_mountains kosnipata kosnipata_valley mountain_people people_of_peru peru peru_culture peru_people summit_workshops https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2019/1/by-the-river Fri, 11 Jan 2019 18:56:13 GMT
Peruvian Andes and Amazon rainforest https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2019/1/peruvian-andes-and-amazon-rainforest Cock-of-the-Rock in the dense canopy of the cloud forest. Just back from an unforgettable 21 days in Peru. Most of that time was spent with Summit Workshops and a small group of fellow photographers for an amazing journey over the Andes Mountain range and into the heart of the Peruvian Amazon basin. Lima to Cusco by plane, then by van over the Andes into the Cosñipata Valley, then by motorized canoes to Madre de Dios and Manu National Park, Peru’s Amazon Basin. This area is considered one of the most biodiverse environments on earth. Cock-of-the-Rock in the dense canopy of the cloud forest. Looking for the lady! Thousands of species, fauna and flora in a very concentrated area. Wherever we turned there was an unbelievable sight to absorb and experience. Being within the main ‘lungs’ of our planet and breathing the rainforest air was very special. The vegetation of the rainforests, the wildlife, the terrain, the small villages, the people, all new and exciting. Cock-of-the-Rock in the dense canopy of the cloud forest. Checking out the competition. Summit Workshops and our guide, Ian Segebarth of Rainshadow Expeditions put together an awesome itinerary. Every day was special. There are so many things to share from this amazing journey. Cock-of-the-Rock in the dense canopy of the cloud forest. Preening time so to look sharp for the lady! If I had to pick one, it would be witnessing the courtship ritual of the Andean Cock-of-the-rock, the national bird of Peru. The unmistakable bright red and orange plumage of the males and the fan-shaped crests make them super special. And very hard to find and see in the rainforest canopy. So many other highlights. After the Summit Workshop, I had to go back to Cusco and spend two days visiting the archeological sight and citadel of Machu Picchu. What a way to end this very special journey to Peru. 

To see the Peru Amazon rainforest gallery click here. Cock-of-the-Rock in the dense canopy of the cloud forest. Realizing he is not the only one interested! Cock-of-the-Rock in the dense canopy of the cloud forest. Looking his best!


[email protected] (Dan Ion Photography) adventure cloudrainforest Cosñipata explore jungle nature nature_photography peru rainforest rainforestalliance summitworkshops travel travel_photography tropical wildlife https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2019/1/peruvian-andes-and-amazon-rainforest Fri, 11 Jan 2019 16:55:22 GMT
A day at Grace Farms https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2018/10/grace-farms New Cannan CT has a couple of architectural jewels. One is The Glass House, designed by architect Philip Johnson, his home for many years. I visited the Glass House and will write a blog and upload a gallery in the near future. But this blog is about the other architectural jewel, Grace Farms and the River building. It does look like a river when viewed from higher elevation as it winds it’s way through the green hills and meadows. Grace Farms, the River as seen from the bottom. The Court at right, the Pavilion at leftGrace Farms, the River as seen from the bottom. The Court at right, the Pavilion at left And I would have no issue if it was called the Snake. But 'the River' fits much better with the vision of Grace Foundation and the architectural firm that took on the project. That firm was SANAA. Led by Pritzker Prize winning architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa and a staff of 25 in Tokyo, their designs are, in the words of the Pritzker jury, “The buildings by Sejima and Nishizawa seem deceptively simple. The architects hold a vision of a building as a seamless whole, where the physical presence retreats and forms a sensuous background for people, objects, activities, and landscapes.” Some of their notable designs are The Serpentine Galleries in Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Central London, The Louvre-Lens in Lens, Pas-de-Calais, Northern France, The Rolex Learning Centre ("EPFL Learning Centre") in Lausanne, Switzerland and The New Museum of Contemporary Art, in New York City 

In 2010, Grace Farms Foundation, selected SANNA to bring to life their vision for a flourishing place and multi-purpose building where visitors could get close to nature, explore the arts, pursue justice, be part of a  community and explore faith. The building would blend effortlessly into the landscape with minimal interference, taking advantage of the  landscape and its topography. Basically it is a single long roof that meanders its way across the landscape connecting all-glass rooms, some very large, others on a smaller scale. The structures are made of glass, concrete, steel, and wood. Grace Farms is a non-profit center dedicated to advancing faith, nature, arts, community and justice initiatives. The center is owned and managed by Grace Farms Foundation, a private organization, which encourages individuals and institutions to collaborate for good at the local, national, and global level. The 80 acre site also includes a walking trail and 75 of the acres are left in a native state made up of hills, meadows, ponds and wetlands. 

As you leave your car in the parking area, the first buildings you see are the two ‘barns’. In the West Barn you’ll find the Welcome Center, an art studio, classrooms, a rehearsal space and a number of meeting rooms for both public and private programs. The community church is also located here. The East barn holds offices for the staff.

Grace Farms, the River, the PavilionGrace Farms, the River, the Pavilion Depending on which way you walk once out of the West barn you may come across the the Pavilion.  It is the smallest glass-enclosed volume of the River buildings. It is a space where people are welcome to relax, have a conversation with others, sit in Arne Jacobson Swan Chairs and sip some tea from a tea bar. It offers 360 views of the grounds from anywhere in the room.

Grace Farms, the River, down on the CourtGrace Farms, the River, down on the Court Short walk to the right and at the bottom of the River, you’ll find the Court, a multi-purpose recreational/gym and event space. It is below ground level but it’s surrounded on all sides by glass, allowing natural light to filter in and also for those walking outside to peak in and see what’s going on in the gym. It could be pick-up basketball, pickleball, volleyball and other sports. There’s a mezzanine with tables and sitting for board games, studying, and spectators. It’s a very bright and pleasing space with gorgeously varnished 85-foot long GLU-LAM beams and wood paneling.

Grace Farms, the River, the CommonsGrace Farms, the River, the Commons Following the River upstream, passing the Pavilion you’ll com up on the Commons.  It’s a central community gathering place where fresh food and beverages are available for purchase for lunch or for a light snack. For large groups there are 18-foot-long communal tables made from red oak harvested on site. Some of the produce used in the Commons kitchen comes from Grace Farms’ Community Garden or sourced locally. For those who like sweets, pastries are made on-site daily. My lunch there was a delicious tomato soup, two pieces of fried chicken on a Portuguese roll with lettuce and grilled vegetables. For desert, a gluten free tart which tasted pretty good. One level below, either by stairs or elevator, you’ll find a 42-seat lecture hall for curated visual programs, training, and various presentations. As you walk the River there are also some round concrete buildings. Those are for bathrooms and elevator access. 

Grace Farms, the River, the LibraryGrace Farms, the River, the Library Further up the River is the Library. With all-glass walls it’s a space where one can read, study, hold a meeting in the small conference room, work or relax near the fireplace during winter months. Books in the Library are available for purchase and loan, and mostly cover the initiatives at the core of Grace Farms: faith, nature, arts, community and justice. In the middle of the Library is the Justice Bar with mixed media resources to learn about the global crime of human trafficking and modern day slavery.

Grace Farms, the River, inside the SanctuaryGrace Farms, the River, inside the Sanctuary At the top of The River you’ll find the Sanctuary. It’s a 700-seat indoor amphitheater that naturally slopes downhill. From the seats one can see the expansive views of Grace Farms’ natural landscape. Performances, lectures, workshops and a variety of activities are held here. It seats a maximum of 700 people. When I visited on a weekday there was nothing really going on there. However there was a sound installation by Julianne Swartz. Interestingly the sound installation was also available in the Library via specially designed audio boxes that one would hold to the ear to experience the sound installation without interfering with the folks in the Library. The view from the Sanctuary is spectacular. One can see the River as it winds and meanders its way all the way down to the Court. 

I also went on the hiking trail. It’s about one mile or so and winds its way around the property around a couple of ponds. I didn’t see much wildlife on the short hike. The trail is not marked very well and you may find yourself in the backyard of a neighbor. I did see a pair of Red-tailed hawks. One of hawks was enjoying a just-caught bird. One of the staff told me there’s wood ducks there in the spring. 

Grace Farms, the River, the Pavilion as storm approachesGrace Farms, the River, the Pavilion as storm approaches Grace Farms, a beautiful, inspiring and uplifting place. For what the Grace Foundation stands for, and for the unique architectural design of the River. To me it’s also about all the curves, light and shadow at different times of the day. And as the day turns into night, the warm glow coming from the lights in the River buildings brings a bit of magic to the place. A place to experience by oneself or share and enjoy with others, view from different vantage points, study, photograph and contemplate. 

An extensive photo gallery of Grace Farms can be found here.


[email protected] (Dan Ion Photography) architecture building community Connecticut faith Farms Grace_Farms Grace_Farms_Foundation Japanese_architects nature peace people photography https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2018/10/grace-farms Sat, 27 Oct 2018 23:10:15 GMT
Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, NYC https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2018/8/cornell-tech-campus Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, NYCCornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, NYC In the past couple of years as I drove over the Queensborough bridge to make my way into and out of Manhattan I noticed a great deal of construction going on just south of the bridge on Roosevelt Island. At first it was fairly low level construction, maybe five stories high. But later on I noticed the building of a residential tower growing close to the bridge rising up at a fast rate. In a few short months it was higher than the level of the bridge. I knew that the City of New York led by then Mayor Mike Bloomberg offered the land to Cornell University for the development of a new campus with technology at its foundation. The Cornell Tech campus opened in 2017. I’ve been on Roosevelt Island many times. Beautiful little jewel of an island with long walking alleys lined with cherry- blossom trees next to the East River with a fantastic view of its much bigger sister Manhattan, especially at night. At the very south end is the beautifully designed Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park. And at the very tip of the north end, Roosevelt Island Lighthouse, a stone lighthouse (currently non functioning) built by New York City in 1872, now on the national register of historic places since 1972.  

I decided to take a couple of days and revisit Roosevelt Island and spend a few hours checking out the Cornell Tech campus. I also took the 45 minute campus tour give by Cornell. It is given weekly. I enjoy discovering and studying architecture a lot. From the ultramodern like the Crystal in Ontario, Canada (here) to the Etruscan residential architecture in Italy (here) 

Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, NYC, Tata Innovation CenterCornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, NYC, Tata Innovation Center A short history of how Cornell Tech got to build on Roosevelt Island.

In 2010 the City of New York went searching for a university strong in engineering and applied sciences to build a new research institute and issued a challenge to institutions from around the world. Then Mayor Mike Bloomberg sweetened the deal by offering real estate for the university at almost no cost along with $100 million in infrastructure upgrades. The result was  18 proposals from 27 outstanding institutions from six US states and 8 countries. Early 2011, Stamford university was one of the front runners mostly because of it’s strong performance in launching start-ups and cooperation with Silicon Valley companies. To strengthen its position and perhaps to gain a slight advantage in the selection, it partnered with the City University of New York. Later in the year another university became a strong contender for the campus, Cornell University, the Ivy league institution from Iticha N.Y. As did Stamford, it also found a partner in Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. In December Stamford announced that it would drop out of the running while Cornell announced that it secured a $350 million donation toward the building of the campus. By the end of the month Mayor Bloomberg announced that Cornell and Techion had won the proposal. Since winning the proposal, Cornell Tech has raised more than $750 million towards the development of Cornell Tech. The $350 million donation came from Charles F. Feeney, a billionaire who founded Duty Free Shoppers. Irwin Jacobs, Qualcomm (the American multinational semiconductor and telecommunications equipment company that designs and markets wireless telecommunications products and services) founding chairman and CEO emeritus, and his wife, Joan, gave $133 million. Bloomberg Philanthropies donated $100 million. Make it a total of $850 million if we also count the $100 million from the city of New York for infrastructure upgrades.

The City of New York contemplated giving land for the project either on Staten Island or Roosevelt Island. Staten Island, a bit isolated, has a great deal of space, but the location of Roosevelt Island is unbeatable. A short tram ride, subway ride or a bike ride if you prefer will take you to Manhattan. And the proximity to so many corporations and businesses, cultural and educational venues made it an easy choice. 

Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, NYC, Bloomberg CenterCornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, NYC, Bloomberg Center Cornell Tech is about connecting academia with commercial and non-profit organizations bringing them together to work for a better digital future. Cornell Tech offers graduate and post graduate education and research for the digital age integrating technology, business, law and design in service of economic impact and societal good. Cornell Tech’s focus on innovation is also reflected in the concept, design and building of its urban campus. It sits on 12 acres just south of Queensborough bridge, previously occupied by Goldwater Memorial Hospital, with expansive views in all directions, acres of green and public spaces. It is one of the most environmentally friendly and energy efficient campuses in the world.

Currently it is made up of three buildings, two of which are of a striking design. 

The Bloomberg Center is Cornell Tech’s hub for learning. The four-story academic building, named in honor of the Mayor's daughters, Emma and Georgina Bloomberg, it is the intellectual center of the campus. Designed by Thom Mayne of the Pritzker Prize-winning firm Morphosis, the building is clad in a warm bronze-colored metal. The wall panels, designed and fabricated by Zahner, have small punched-out circles with tabs tilting them to various angles to form a background design, representing pixelated nature from a distance. Viewed from Manhattan the wall should show the New York City skyline. On the campus side, if you can get far enough, it shows the countryside in Iticha NY. The flat roof is a lilypad-shaped photovoltaic canopy. The design sets new standards for building performance and targeting Net Zero and LEED Platinum Certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a green building rating program. It operates under the umbrella of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a non-profit coalition of building industry leaders. The goal of the rating system is to encourage and reward sustainable design for—sustainable site choice, energy savings, water efficiency, reduction of CO2 emissions, and indoor environmental quality, among others—all while improving company profitability and employee well-being. Net Zero energy buildings combine energy efficiency and renewable energy generation to consume only as much energy as can be produced onsite through renewable resources over a specified time period. The aim at the Bloomberg Center is to have:

Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, NYC, Bloomberg CenterCornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, NYC, Bloomberg Center  An all-electric building: No fossil fuel is used in the building.

 Geothermal wells: 80 closed-loop geothermal wells, each 400 feet deep, were drilled below the main campus public open space. The electrically powered ground-source heat pumps are used to heat and cool the building in conjunction with an active chilled-beam system.

 Solar power: An acre-sized photovoltaic array tops The Bloomberg Center and neighboring Tata Learning Center building, generating solar power. Instead of locating remote solar panels off site, the designs of The Bloomberg Center and the Tata incorporate the panels as an integral building design feature, converging engineering requirements and architecture. 

 Highly insulated façade: A unitized, continuously insulated rainscreen wall system covered by an iconic metal panel façade designed by Morphosis architects balances exterior views and daylight while maximizing facade insulation.

 Smart building technology: Smart building features, designed by Morphosis and engineering firm Arup, provide on-demand power and respond to user needs and occupancy, contributing to reducing energy usage.

 Green roof: A low-maintenance green roof incorporates native plant species along the southeast edge of the building to help cool the lower roof surface. 


Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, NYC, Tata Innovation CenterCornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, NYC, Tata Innovation Center The Tata Innovation Center formerly known as The Bridge, is very different than the Bloomberg building. Designed by Weiss/Manfredi Architecture it has a central bowtie-shaped space that connects floors and collaboration spaces. Cantilevered wedge outcroppings at the north and south ends, interior views of the East River, an outdoor classroom on the building’s east side. The 245,000-square-foot building holds classrooms, labs and studios in its lower third. The upper floors will host technology companies and start-ups. The glass façade melds inside and out, allowing those inside to draw inspiration from river-to-river views throughout the interior of the building and from the rooftop terrace. It is built to LEED Silver sustainability standards.


Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, NYC, Tata Innovation Center and The House The House is the residential tower for students and faculty with about 350 apartments and about 500 beds on 26 floors. It was designed by Handel Architects to meet stringent Passive House standards that aim to achieve aggressive efficiency targets of 60 to 70 percent less energy consumption than a standard building. In order to achieve energy conservation targets, The House at Cornell Tech needed to be super insulated and tightly sealed, almost completely eliminating thermal bridging and reducing air leakage.

The House is the largest and tallest residential building in the world built to Passive House standards.

The building’s exterior shimmers, using a state-of-the-art, color-changing paint that, when reflecting light, naturally shifts color from silver to warm champagne. The façade, constructed of a prefabricated metal panel system, acts as a thermally insulated blanket wrapping the building structure. The wrap ends in a louver system that extends the entire height of the building. This reveal is designed to be the ‘gills’ of the building, providing an enclosed, louvered exterior space where the heating and cooling equipment live, allowing the building systems to breathe.

Purified fresh air is ducted into each bedroom and living room, providing superior indoor air quality. Use of low VOC-paint, which limits off-gassing and also improves indoor air quality, is used throughout the building, among many other elements. Compared to conventional construction, the building is projected to save 882 tons of CO2 per year, equal to planting 5,300 new trees.

Additional energy reduction and sustainability measures included an energy recovery ventilator that uses hot and cold energy from exhaust air to condition and circulate fresh air throughout the building, improving indoor air quality; glazed, triple-pane windows; and maximized natural lighting to Passive House standards. Geothermal-powered heating and cooling systems are located in a louvered ridge running up one side of the building. Residents can access energy usage data, further encouraging conservation. Rainwater collection helps to irrigate landscaped areas and native plantings around the building.


Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, NYCCornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, NYC, Tata Innovation Center Two more buildings are scheduled for construction at the pressent time. Verizon Executive Education Center and Hotel.  The buildings are designed by Snøhetta and are the final part of phase one of the campus. The center will be a place for the entire tech community to gather, a convening place to leverage the impact the campus has on technology beyond its degree programs targeting young women in the undergraduate and graduate school pipeline that aims to increase the number of women working in technology.

The current campus is home to about 300 graduate students and 30 world-class faculty. When fully completed, sometime in the late 2030s to early 2040s, the campus will include two million square feet of state-of-the-art buildings, over two acres of open space, and will be home to more than 2,000 graduate students and 250 of faculty and staff. The future for Cornell Tech is very bright. 

Many more images of the campus in the Cornell Tech campus gallery here.


Sources and quotes: Cornell Tech; architectural firms



[email protected] (Dan Ion Photography) academia architecture Bloomberg_Center campus Cornell_Tech Cornell_University New_York_City Queensborough_Bridge Roosevelt_Island start_ups Tata Tata_Innivation_Center Techion The_House https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2018/8/cornell-tech-campus Thu, 02 Aug 2018 14:08:27 GMT
Updating 'Suburban conflict' post https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2018/7/updating-suburban-conflict-post YCNH gathering nest material.YCNH gathering nest material. It's been more than a month since I observed and wrote about this conflict in suburban Long Island very close to where I live. Conflict between nesting Yellow-Crowned Night-Herons and the people who live right under the nesting colony. At that time the herons just about completed their nests and were about to lay eggs. I think five nests in the same tree or neighboring trees make it a colony. I've been watching all along as I did my morning walk almost every day and I have good news to report. Good news for the herons and not so good for the home owners as you might have already guessed. And also, sadly, very bad news about one unfortunate young heron.

Young YCNH in nest. Poop is all over the nest and nearby branches.Young YCNH in nest. Poop is all over the nest and nearby branches. The good news first. All five nests are still active and have done very well. From what I can see, one nest has five offsprings, another four and I am guessing the other three have three ore more youngsters. Hard to tell with the dense foliage now. And all youngsters are very close to fledging. They are testing their wings constantly. Either at the nest or as they move about on tree branches. And a few are taking very short flights between tree limbs. They have been growing very fast and are close in size to the adults. The nests are very crowded and some of them need to find nearby branches for a place Young YCNHs resting on tree branch.Young YCNHs resting on tree branch. to rest. Also they are very hungry. With so many mouths to feed the parents are very busy. And all that food equals to a lot of poop. And they constantly do. The smell is pretty strong. Most birds that feed on fish make one nasty smelling poop. Also I have seen one chick throw up a pellet. Undigested parts from their diet. So most of the day they rest on tree branches, exercise their wings and wait for a meal. And when they see the parent coming in with food it's a mad dash to the nest. The parent regurgitates the pray right in the nest. And the youngsters dive in. The meal is gone in less than a minute. 

This nest had five young YCNHs, all very active and hungry.This nest had five young YCNHs, all very active and hungry. The bad news for the home owner is that with about 30 birds in the trees the amount of poop is huge. Briefly saw them but I didn't hear any complaints. Maybe they got used to it, (really?), or maybe they've given up since there's not much to do about it. It will be there for another few weeks and then it's over. Don't even think to ask them what's going to happen next year. 

YCNH poop on street. And the smell is pretty strong.YCNH poop on street. And the smell is pretty strong. Now, very bad news for one of the youngsters. While taking some photos of the almost fledging youngsters in the one nest with five of them, almost above me there was another nest with four youngsters. I heard a small commotion and spotted a parent flying in with a meal. Of course the chicks got excited and scrambled to get to the nest to get their share of food. As I was looking up at the action I saw one of the chicks rushing to the nest half walking half flying on a good size tree branch. As it did that, it lost its balance and fell to the pavement. I heard a solid thump as it hit the asphalt. Right in the middle of the street ten feet in front of me. It was a 40 foot drop. I quickly stepped over and saw that it was in shock and badly hurt. One leg was broken and probably also the wing that it fell on. I picked it up and took it by the curb and rested it on the grass. There wasn't much resistance to my handling it. Young YCNH seconds after falling from tree. It was a 40 food drop. Dazed and in shock.Young YCNH seconds after falling from tree. It was a 40 food drop. Dazed and in shock. There was not much I could have done for this one. It had zero chances of surviving. I am sure in its short life it practiced flapping its wings and maybe even fly-hop to a nearby branch. But it was just too young and inexperienced to know what to do. All it had to do was spread its wings and glide to the ground. But it didn't know how or what to do. Five minutes after the fall I did see it give a try to move and flap one wing. But, just for a second or two. I know it was suffering and feeling a lot of pain. The shine in the eye slowly faded and in about 20 minutes or so it was gone. I continued watching the nest with five offspring for another 30 min or so and thought about what just happened. Then I packed up my gear, took a paper bag and placed the dead heron in it. I wasn't going to leave it there to wind up in a garbage can and be taken to the landfill, or worse … road kill. I took it home, and found a spot in the backyard, close to the pond by a hydrangea bush and underneath a hackberry tree. Final resting place in my backyard. Headstone will be there for a few days.Final resting place in my backyard. Headstone will be there for a few days. I dug a two foot deep hole in the ground and gave it a proper burial. It was very hard to see it happen and as I write this my eyes are a bit watery. It's just hard to see, especially when one has some sort of a connection to the animal. I clearly understand that that's how nature works, every day all the time. It's just the way it is. But for the moment and the day it was sad to see. Link to YCNH gallery here.

Click on the images to see at full size.

Many more images covering both blog posts are in the Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron gallery here.

[email protected] (Dan Ion Photography) chick conflict death fall fledging nest poop smell suburbia tree yellow_crowned_night_heron https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2018/7/updating-suburban-conflict-post Wed, 11 Jul 2018 17:13:56 GMT
Letter to my three inch oak tree https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2018/7/letter-to-my-three-inch-oat-tree I wouldn't have done it had I known who you were. Part my ignorance for not recognizing your tiny leaves. Part my intension to clean up the weeds in that large mulch area out back. I found you at your most vulnerable part of your life, a three inch seedling. Your first few weeks above ground soaking up the sunlight and letting photosynthesis feed your growth. 

You came to me in late fall. I didn’t see the gray squirrel who buried you in the mulch patch, you tiny little acorn. Just a couple of inches into the dirt. And then you went to sleep. Was the winter as hard for you as it was for me? But you didn’t mind all that snow and ice on top of you, did you? Actually it was good for you. As it all melted, it only provided you the moisture you needed when you woke up. And the squirrel who buried you didn’t remember where to look for you over the winter. I know you were hoping for that forgetfulness on its part. So you were lucky also! 

And then spring came. Your tiny seed inside the acorn shell started to swell with the dream of becoming one day a tall and handsome oak just like your parent. And swell you did till you cracked the shell, and started your germination. Very small at first but determined to dig down into the earth. The taproot. Your first ‘anchor’, the one to hold you for the rest of your life, seeking moisture and nutrition from the soil. And then you went the other way. You sent up your first shoot. I don’t know how you did it but somehow you did push your way up through the dirt, leaves and mulch. Wish I had your strength and determination. First one tiny leaf, then a second, a third and fourth. Soaking up the sun, taking in carbon dioxide and sucking up the moisture. You were on your way to becoming an oak tree. Like your big brothers and sisters out there you would have grown to be a tall mature tree in a couple of hundred years. Reaching for the sky at maybe more than 200 feet in height. Giving a good refreshing shade to those below you. Welcoming birds looking for a nest. And your acorns would have fed so many. Like gray squirrels, red squirrels, chipmunks, wild turkeys, crows, flying squirrels, deer, rabbits, opossums, blue jays, quail, raccoons, wood ducks, just to mention a few. Thousands of acorns every fall. Yes I know, you drop many thousands because you know only a very, very few will see the day when they will become a majestic oak tree. And then I came along and grabbed your fragile little body and pulled you up out of the ground. And just like that, that was the end of your very short life! Sorry, really. 

But, to be fair, can you tell the squirrels to burry you in a better place? That mulch patch was a horrible place to start your life. You were too close to other trees and had no room to grow either tall or wide. You know, somewhere by the edge of a meadow, with plenty of sun, space around you and nowhere near squirrels, deer, rabbits, bears, raccoons or … people. 

When I pulled you out of the ground I expected a weed. Instead I got a big surprise. And then you started me on this learning path about your life, from the acorn to the giants of your kind. I am grateful for that! Next time I’ll be more careful of those tiny little leaves just sticking up three inches above the ground. If you are in a bad spot I’ll transplant you to a better one. I’ll watch over you and protect you, though I know I’ll never get to see you as a young tree!

Note: Click on the images to view at full size.

[email protected] (Dan Ion Photography) acorn germination letter naturephotography oak seedling taproot tree https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2018/7/letter-to-my-three-inch-oat-tree Sun, 01 Jul 2018 22:59:35 GMT
Suburban conflict: wildlife vs. people https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2018/6/urban-fight


Nesting Yellow-crowned Night Herons in trees on a quite suburban street.Yellow-crowned Night Herons nesting in the two trees at right. For the most part people and wildlife in urban or suburban environments have learned to live with one another. Though I think that wildlife has had a lot more learning and adjusting to do since we are constantly increasing in numbers and are taking up more and more space with commercial, industrial and residential construction. Not to mention the effect our modern lifestyle has on the air, water and soil. We spend most of our life in controlled spaces while the wildlife has only one home, the ‘great’ outdoors. And wildlife has no means to adjust or alter the environment. They get what they get. 

Nesting Yellow-crowned Night Herons building a nest.Yellow-crowned Night Heron pair building their nest. I live in suburban Nassau county in Long Island, NY. Quite streets with a diverse style of houses on mostly third of an acre lots built from the early 1900s on. Manicured lawns, children playing out front or in the backyard, neighbors having breakfast on the front porch. If you like the suburban life, it’s a town well liked and sought after. There’s a creek close by and a couple of fairly large lakes a short distance away in a state park. There’s plenty of wildlife around. Pretty much everything you can name in this part of the country except for deer, foxes, coyotes and bears. It’s only 20 miles east of New York City so the wildlife is not too wild. 

Nesting Yellow-crowned Night HeronsYellow-crowned Night Heron pair building their nest. The birds are in abundance and the varieties change with the seasons and migrations. In the small pond that I have in the backyard I have seen some unusual species. Surprised to see a Tricolor Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Red-tailed Hawk and a Mallard pair. It’s a really really small pond. As I do my morning walk or bike ride along the nearby creek, in the spring I see a good number of herons, egrets, cormorants, terns and ospreys. I have seen Yellow-crowned Night Herons (YCNH) nest in the trees close to the creek in the past few years and watched the eggs hatch and the fledglings take to the air. Nesting Yellow-crowned Night HeronsYellow-crowned Night Heron nest and silver streamers just below on the branch But a couple of weeks ago as I was doing my morning walk, I came across a serious suburban conflict between a homeowner and herons.  

The house on this quite street has a good number of big trees in the front and back yard. This spring two of their trees have been taken over by nesting Yellow-crowned Night Herons. I counted five active nests and have seen at times more than 12 YCNHs in the trees as other herons are looking to find a nesting spot also. Yellow-crowned Night Herons are beautiful birds. Fairly big with very pretty plumage. So where is the conflict you may ask. The herons are ruining the everyday life of the people in that house. Poop! Yes, there’s poop everywhere. On the street, on the sidewalk, on their cars, on the house, on the patio table, in the Nesting Yellow-crowned Night HeronsTrimmed tree and silver streamers on branches in the hope of deterring Yellow-crowned Night Herons from building a nest. backyard. White blotches all over. Talked to the homeowner who understandably is very upset. They had to deal with one nest last year and they managed that situation. But five nests and additional herons hanging around is way too much to deal with. Their tranquil and enjoyable suburban life has been ruined by these nesting herons. In these trees the herons have very small and sparsely-built nest and spend a lot of time walking on tree branches or flying from one branch to another. The only time they stay in the nest is when sitting on eggs. The owners have taken some action. They called a tree-pruning company to go up in the trees and trim some of the branches. To be clear, not the ones that have a nest on them. Also they had silver streamers attached to branches in a lot of Nesting Yellow-crowned Night HeronsYellow-crowned Night Heron collecting nest-building material. places in the hope that the herons will be deterred from finding a nesting place there. The streamers did not work at all. They called the wildlife conservation bureau in Nassau county and were told that the herons are endangered and that there’s nothing they can do about it. They are not endangered but are protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Act. The homeowners have lived there for the past 20 years and never had such a serious problem. They are very very upset and don’t know what to do about this health hazard, the all around mess and smell.

Yellow-crowned Night Herons produce a single brood and usually lay three to five pale blue-green eggs. After hatching, the chicks grow quickly for five weeks and fledge in about their sixth to eighth week. Even after fledging, the juveniles often remain attached to the nest for a couple more weeks. The complete breeding season can end as late as July or early August, when the juveniles have grown and learned enough to survive on their own. Nesting Yellow-crowned Night HeronsYellow-crowned Night Heron collecting nest-building material. So if my math is right, the five pairs nesting there now could potentially grow to a population of 25 or more birds. Wow! That’s a hard number to digest. With that many nests in two trees this qualifies as a nesting colony. Cutting down the trees was a thought but the tree with most nests is not rooted on their property.

The YCNHs are not a threat to humans. They could bite (not really) and they will take flight if people come too close to their area. However there is a remote potential threat of disease transmission. YCNHs are an intermediate host and amplifier of the eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE) virus, or sleeping sickness. The birds first get the virus from mosquitoes. Then the YCNHs can transmitted it to a wider range of mosquito species that then in turn transmit the virus to horses and humans. Nesting Yellow-crowned Night HeronsYellow-crowned Night Heron nest Eastern equine encephalitis is rare in humans, and only a few cases are reported in the United States each year.

The homeowners have spent a large sum of money to purchase their house. They are spending a lot more money on taxes, maintenance and gardening expenses, to support a lifestyle they like. The Yellow-crowned Night Herons have been around for thousands of years and have always found nesting places in trees close to water. They don’t know anything about property values and high taxes or suburban lifestyles. There’s no winner her. I feel for the homeowner and I also feel for the herons. Don’t know what I would do if this would happen to me. Setting up plastic tarps over the driveway and patio? Trimming Nesting Yellow-crowned Night HeronsHouse, trees, people, herons ... problem! more branches off the trees? Hoping that crows discover the colony and start stealing the eggs or pick-off the young chicks when or if the parents leave the nest for a few seconds? Spend time daily washing off the poop? Most people could deal with one nest. But five? And possibly 25 or more herons constantly pooping on the house, cars and property for the summer?

I don’t know what’s going to happen from now till the end of summer but I don’t have a good feeling about this situation. I feel bad for both sides. Link to YCNH gallery here

Note: Click on the images to view at full size.



[email protected] (Dan Ion Photography) colony county health_hazard herons nassau nest_building nesting photography poop story suburban_conflict trees wildlife_conflict yellow_crowned_night_herons https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2018/6/urban-fight Mon, 04 Jun 2018 23:10:18 GMT
BIF photography ... and the B is for Bees https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2018/5/bif-photography-and-the-b-is-for-bees Carpenter bee in flightMale Carpenter bee in flight For nature and wildlife photographers capturing birds in flight, BIF, is one of the toughest challenges and most rewarding when good images are captured. That’s because most birds are very fast and many have unpredictable flying paths. Peregrine falcons are the top speedsters of the air with some duck species, Red-Breasted mergansers, not far behind.  And then you have the smaller varieties such as warblers, finches and humming birds that are not super fast but have a very erratical flying style. 

But there is another BIF that is even tougher to handle. Bees In Flight. Or small insects. They also fly around very fast but what makes photographing them in flight almost impossible is the extremely unpredictable flight path combined with the very very small size. Any insect smaller than a bee is going to be almost impossible to capture in flight. I gave this BIF a try recently and with some luck and some planning I got a few acceptable images. 

Male Carpenter bee in flight There’s a couple of things you can do to increase your success rate. The biggest issue is having the camera focus on the flying bee. Of course it’s set on AI servo, with Zone AF or 61-point automatic selection AF selected. If shooting against the sky the camera will focus on the bee with some success. It will still fail a lot because the bee is very very small and is flying erratically most of the time. Bees, as the Carpenter bee here, will hover in place for a second or two. That’s the moment when you go into action. If the background is vegetation, the autofocus will surely lock onto that and not the bee. There is a trick you can use to avoid that situation. Prefocus. As you hold the camera and hunt for the bee, manually focus the lens until the the bee is in focus. As the bee hovers or moves around, you are still focused at that distance. As the bee comes back into the view or as you move the camera looking for the bee, the lens is already prefocused. Then press the shutter release button half way and the autofocus will have a much easier time to lock onto the bee and stay locked as you follow it around. Same can apply when shooting against the sky. It takes a bit of practice but with a lot of patience good results can be achieved. As the bee stops hovering and flies away, you have a split second to follow it and get a good sharp in-flight shot. After that you’re done, and have to start all over again with the prefocusing method. Male Carpenter bee in flight Another alternative is again to prefocus on an object nearby that you estimate to be the distance where the bee will be hovering. The other important setting is your shutter speed. Over 5000 of a second is what you want especially if you want to capture the beating wings. Humming birds are well known for those ‘invisible’ wings as they hover. They beat their wings at an average of 50 to 60 times per second. The Carpenter bee beats it’s wings at almost 250 beats per second. That’s per second, right? Depending on the position of the wings at the moment of the shutter release you may get them pretty clear and sharp. If that’s the image you’re looking for. 

The other option is to get a bee, or insect, as it approaches a flower. Since you are not hunting for it but are just waiting for the bee to come to the flower you know your focusing distance. Go to manual focus, focus on the flower, select a decent depth of field setting and as the insect approaches shoot away in burst mode. You’re bound to get a few sharp images. Good luck!

Click on the image to see at full size.

More images of the Carpenter bee gallery here.

[email protected] (Dan Ion Photography) bee carpenter carpenter_bee flight flying male photography https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2018/5/bif-photography-and-the-b-is-for-bees Sat, 19 May 2018 23:45:11 GMT
The Peonies and the Ants https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2018/5/the-peonies-and-the-ants Sounds more like the title of a book, play or movie. As it turns out it is a natural association between the flowers and the ants that happens most of the time in ground level gardens. If you have a roof garden they're going to miss out. This partnership benefits both the peony and the ant. 

The Peony and the AntsThe Peony and the Ants Folklore would have you believe that peonies will not bloom unless there are ants on the buds. I know many a gardener that swears by that and remembers years when one of their peony didn’t bloom due to the lack of ants on the plant.

Science on the other hand proves otherwise. As the peony grows and makes buds, one can see green scales covering the bud. These scales have a specialized gland known as a nectary along it’s edge. And it produces The Peony and the Ants nectar. Ants have an extraordinary sense of smell. They can smell using their antennae. It happened more than once that I left an apple core, a slice of orange or a small piece of cantaloupe on the porch table. Sure enough, when I return 5-10 minutes later I find a group of ants intensely feeding on the leftover. I can follow the trail of ants along the wall leading to a spot on the floor at least 5 to 10 feet away. So yes, the ants can definitely smell the nectar on the bud of a peony. Or a scout ant finds it and then leaves a chemical trail for the rest of the colony. So yes the peony nectar is a very good source of food for the ants. 

The Peony and the AntsThe Peony and the Ants What do the peonies get in return? Possibly the ants also eat some of the small insects and mites that can have a damaging effect on the peony. A few gardeners panic when they see the ants on the plant and quickly reach for the pesticide spray. They don’t what to get ants on their sleeves as they garden or bring them in the house once the flowers bloom. No need for that at all. Most ants will leave the peonies once they bloom. And if you see some on the cut flower, just turn it upside down and shake it gently. 

Peonies are perennials that bloom in the spring and produce an exquisite flower with a strong fragrance ranging from sweet and rosy to citrusy and spicy. They make a wonderful lush, cloud-like arrangement for a centerpiece on your dining room table. 

The Peony and the AntsThe Peony and the Ants I have three peony plants in my garden. I see ants on two of them. On the third one the buds are a bit small so far. I’ll keep an eye on that one. Once they bloom I’ll update the blog with those images.

Note: Click on the images to view at full size.

[email protected] (Dan Ion Photography) ants blooming bud eating flowers gardeners gardening nectar peony spring https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2018/5/the-peonies-and-the-ants Sun, 13 May 2018 00:01:33 GMT
FLASH! ... Orchids at the NYBG https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2018/5/flash-orchids-at-the-nybg Orchid Show, New York Botanical Garden, April 2018 I am a member at the New York Botanical Garden and saw this opportunity to attend one of their workshops: 

Orchid flash photography workshop. Get an exclusive opportunity to photograph The Orchid Show using your DSLR 100–300mm telephoto lens and dedicated speedlights. Master techniques to achieve the best lighting and exposure for these vibrant flowers without the use of tripods or monopods. Required Equipment: DSLR, zoom telephoto lens (100–300mm focal length), lens hood, dedicated speedlight, brackets, hotshoe cable or remote.

Orchid Show, New York Botanical Garden, April 2018Orchid Show, New York Botanical Garden, April 2018 Sure, since I recently got my Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT and have always enjoyed the world of flowers and have not done much flash photography. So I registered. The issue with a lot of botanical gardens is that they will not allow anyone to bring a tripod or monopod in the conservatory to use for taking photographs. I do bring my tripod with me to these places but can’t open it up for use indoors. I did use a mini tripod in strategic places at a few botanical gardens but you get the idea. As soon as a staffer sees you with the camera on the tripod they pounce on you. And rightfully so. The conservatories are usually crowded, not very bright and space is limited to begin with. So the alternative is to use a quality DSLR at a higher ISO and perhaps a slower shutter speed. The problem is the depth of field when getting really close as when shooting macro. It is very shallow. And once you get to a wider lens opening and slower shutter you’ll want the tripod. But you can’t. The other option is to use a flash.

The instructor was Jeffrey Falk. Jeffrey has 45 years of experience in floral photography. He has led numerous workshops throughout the city teaching digital photography and exploring the uses of photographic imaging and equipment. Class was to take place between 9 and 3 pm. Turned out about 10 people showed up. The direction in the class add was for using a DSLR with flash and a 100-300 zoom lens. Also the use of flash brackets and diffusers was suggested. A lot of people came in with equipment they just bought and were not familiar with it at all. I only brought my flash, a small folding diffuser, Vello Mini Softbox, my Canon 7D II, 5D III and the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II zoom and the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS macro.

Orchid Show, New York Botanical Garden, April 2018Orchid Show, New York Botanical Garden, April 2018 As it turned out the ‘using your DSLR 100–300mm telephoto lens’ was not exactly correct. Any lens/camera combination was just fine. Jeffrey was very good and knowledgeable. He had to accommodate folks of very wide experience levels.

After an hour and a half of classroom instruction we walked to the conservatory. It was a cold day. Once in the conservatory I realized the issue with the blurry images I was getting. The lens fogged up a lot. And rightfully so. Coming in from the cold and entering a semitropical environment condensation on the lens was severe. Luckily my other camera was in my bag and did not suffer from the condensation issue. 

The big zoom or primary lenses can work very well as a macro lens. The main reason I wanted to use the 400mm focal length was to get more depth of field as I would be shooting from a much greater distance than I would be shooting with a macro lens. And it worked well. The flash I was using could reach the distance. Using the flash for the first time in shooting flowers during daylight is a bit tricky. I am a beginner with flash. I found that I needed to bring down the strength of the flash quite a bit to avoid blowing out the lighter colors. Since we didn’t have a lot of time to experiment many mistakes were made. Lightroom saved some of the files. Also another issue I had was the shutter speed. All may bad. I always think I can push down the exposure time. I had many shots with way too low a shutter speed. Without the tripod that becomes very critical for getting sharp Images. 

Back to the classroom for image critique. Again we had a diverse group that took some poor images while others had great shots.

Orchid Show, New York Botanical Garden, April 2018Orchid Show, New York Botanical Garden, April 2018 I also went to the orchid show a few more times and improved on the mistakes I made in the first try. I also attended the orchid show at night. Now that’s a whole different ballgame. Must shoot with flash almost all the time. And now flash is not to just to fill in. While shooting orchids the danger of blowing out the flower is much greater. Bringing down the flash output will save the image of the flower but the background will be much on the dark side. Like I said I am beginner in flash photography. There are many expert websites that give good instruction of flower flash photography. I will be checking them out. Practice and more practice. 

My final take from the workshop and for flower flash photography without a tripod:

Orchid Show, New York Botanical Garden, April 2018Orchid Show, New York Botanical Garden, April 2018 ◊ Absolutely use a diffuser on top of the flash to soften the light. And hold the flash away from the lens with a bracket ..  or if you have more than two hands. Even better get yourself an assistant or good friend to hold the flash away from the camera. That way you’re not killing the flower with the straight on light and some interesting effects  can be achieved with side lighting.

◊ Watch your f/stop. Watch your shutter speed. Without a tripod it’s going to be impossible to get a lot sharp. Make your choice and have that part of the flower tack sharp. Don’t be too concerned with high ISO. If you don’t crop it’s OK. 

◊ Your depth of field will be shallow. Since you are not using a tripod you’re either standing up, on your knee or crouching. That translates into movement. With the shallow DOF that’s going to get you a bunch of blurry shot. One suggestion. Don’t shoot just one shot. Set your camera to continuous shooting and take 2, 3 or 4 shots fast. Since you moved slightly, one of those shots will probably be sharp.

◊ Focusing is another critical part. Auto focus or manual? I shot auto focus but on both cameras I had complete control of which focus point I wanted. Without a tripod manual focus is going to be a tough task. Orchid Show, New York Botanical Garden, April 2018Orchid Show, New York Botanical Garden, April 2018

◊ I shoot on manual mode. That can be good and bad. The bad was me choosing a slow shutter setting a lot.

◊ I used regular AA alkaline batteries for my flash. Not good. You want to use AA high capacity Ni-MH  batteries. And have a second set ready and charged. If you plan on doing a lot of flash photography get the rechargeable type.

◊ Watch your composition and try to isolate the flower from the background if you’re doing portraits.

◊ The more gear you bring with you the more things you’ll have to handle and more problems you’re going too have. I had two cameras with two or three lenses and of course the flash and diffuser. Also, over 4-6 hours of shooting that’s a lot of weight to carry. One DSLR with lens and flash plus one other lens will be my Orchid Show, New York Botanical Garden, April 2018Orchid Show, New York Botanical Garden, April 2018 gear next time since I don’t have an assistant or a friend who is willing to hang around with me me for half a day taking a few hundred shots of flowers. Or just concentrate on one thing at the time. Shots with a zoom lens for better depth of field and another day just work with the macro lens. Don’t dismiss the wide angle lens for close up also. You can get really close with good DOF and still have everything sharp. And if using a full frame DSLR cropping can get you in very close. And don’t forget the wide angle shots for bringing context to the gallery. 

Link to my NYBG's Orchid Show gallery here.

[email protected] (Dan Ion Photography) flash macro new_york_botanical_garden nybg orchid orchid_show orchids photography telephoto tripod https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2018/5/flash-orchids-at-the-nybg Fri, 04 May 2018 16:48:38 GMT
Time to say good bye to the Snow … Geese! https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2018/3/time-to-say-good-bye-to-the-snow-geese Snow Geese in V formation over Jamaica Bay NY March is here and the winter stay for the Snow Geese is coming to an end. Their 3,000 plus mile journey back to the breeding grounds in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions will soon begin. Part of the Anatidae family which also includes the swans, which are mostly larger than geese, and ducks, which are smaller and have short necks. Not the most colorful in goose family but nevertheless interesting to me. Their plumage, mostly white except for the black-tipped wings, is plain but attractive. What I find most interesting is their gregarious behavior, their vast numbers as they fly from place to place, their vocalizing and their feeding habits. 

I have seen flocks numbering in the thousands taking flight at sunrise and covering the rising sun and sky with their sheer number. And the noise they make as they fly overhead is deafening. The show repeats itself in the evening as the Snow Geese return to the night resting grounds.

Small flock of now geese, Jamaica Bay NYSmall flock of Snow Geese, Jamaica Bay NY I’ve had the opportunity to observe a few large flocks, numbering in the many hundreds, in my local waters around the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, New York, in the last few years. They show up around the end of October, beginning of November. I could guess their coming a minute or so before spotting them. The sound of barking hounds is unmistakable. Listen. And then, suddenly the sky fills up with hundreds and hundreds of tiny snow flakes drifting slowly across the sky. If their number is in the thousands it looks more like a snow storm is about to hit. The snow flakes get bigger and bigger and before you know it they are all floating on the pond or bay I was looking at. The noise subsides a bit but never stops. Then a few minutes later all of a sudden one of them gives a signal and the whole flock takes to the air and the barking gets very loud again. Rising snow. Off to the feeding grounds. 

Snow Geese digging for roots on the bay at low tide.Snow Geese digging for roots on the bay at low tide. The Snow Geese, herbivores, are voracious foragers. They have to be, food passes though their digestive system in only a couple of hours! Feeding for most of the day in concentrated areas of coastal saltwater marshes and bays, wet grasslands and freshwater marshes. They feed in water-logged soil or shallow water. Diet consists entirely of plant material, and their primary foraging strategy involves grubbing for underground rhizomes, tubers, and roots. They are capable of eating the entire plant and not just the roots. They Snow Geese in a very rare fight over feeding rights.Snow Geese in a very rare fight over feeding rights. are peaceful eaters and rarely have I seen any ‘arguments’ while feeding. They are also fairly tolerant of my presence. Most of the time I am in a hide but occasionally out in the open within one hundred feet or so to the nearest one. Not so tolerant though when on the water. 

Snow Geese digging for roots on the bay at low tide. That is one big root.Snow Geese digging for roots on the bay at low tide. That is one big root. Their very strong bill come in very handy when digging deep in the mud in search for roots. Not uncommon to see them dig down more than 4-5 inches deep. And of course when one comes up from all that dirt and mud, the head Snow Goose coming in the pond for a drink and a bath at sunset.Snow Goose coming in the pond for a drink and a bath as the sun sets. and neck are not white anymore. They clearly show the menu on their face and chest. While feeding in shallow water the mess is not so bad. Feeding for a few hours on the bay side at low tide, then taking a quick flight to the fresh water pond for a drink of water and then back to the feeding grounds. As the day comes to an end, one last trip to the pond for a drink and a thorough cleaning and preening before settling in for the night. Feeding Snow Geese in a tidal salt marsh They are Snow Geese again. Until the feeding starts all over again the next day. 

As for their loud barking, squawking and honking no real studies have been done to determine the meanings, if any. They must be talking to one another. Alerts to danger of predators, to take-off time, to spotting a good food source. Or they might be just singing a good song or telling a good story. I have captured images of them in flight looking at one another and clearly having a conversation. It’s a long 3,000 mile journey to and from breeding grounds. They are a very chatty Snow geese flying and conversating, Jamaica Bay NYSnow geese flying and those two are definitely having a talk, Jamaica Bay NY group.

A lot more images of the Snow Geese in action here


[email protected] (Dan Ion Photography) conversation digging dirty drinking feeding fighting flock flying jamaica_bay low_tide mud muddy plants pond preening roots snow_geese snow_goose sunset v_formation https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2018/3/time-to-say-good-bye-to-the-snow-geese Sun, 25 Mar 2018 14:15:39 GMT
Light painting and my Penobscot 14 daysailer Missee Lee https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2018/3/missee-lee Light painting. Hand planes and wood shavings.Light painting. Hand planes and wood shavings. Been doing some more light painting this winter and having a lot of fun with it. In these two images I set up three hand planes I used while building my wooden daysailer Missee Lee. Shaving and shaping wood with a hand plane is very rewarding, though you may find yourself swimming in a sea of wood shavings if you can’t stop. 

Swimming in wood shavings as the mast is taking shape.Swimming in wood shavings as the mast is taking shape. Dave Black introduced me to the art of light painting while attending the Summit Nature Photography Workshop in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in September 2017. I am glad he did because it’s another branch of photography that I didn’t know anything about and as it turns out it’s very exiting and rewarding. Dave teaches light painting done in one exposure. Other methods involve multiple Light painting 2. Hand planes and wood shavings.Light painting 2. Hand planes and wood shavings. exposures and then combining them in Photoshop. I like Dave’s method best. It’s intense, a 20-30 second exposure, and you have to be quick to ‘paint your canvas’ using different lights, angles and colors and experiment with multiple focus settings. No two images are the same.

Missed Lee was my first attempt at building a boat and it was a bit of a gamble. “Would I be able to finish her and would she turn out to be beautiful”? Working with wood was a radical change from my regular workday which involved sitting in front of a computer and producing graphics. I enjoyed being on the water since the early 80s and spent time sailing fiberglass boats. In time I developed an appreciation and admiration for wooden sailboats. A long history of beautiful classic and timeless lines rich in tradition. As I read about naval architects and their designs, about methods of building and lumber selection, wooden-boat building projects by professionals and amateurs, sailing adventures in my local waters or in Maine or in the South Pacific, all those things built in me the desire to have a wooden boat in my life. Building one myself would be even more exiting, rewarding and of course challenging. The inspiration to build Missee Lee came from a few sources. Reading a lot of Woodenboat magazines provided some technical knowledge and Great reads, for young and not so young.Great reads, for young and not so young. inspiration. Another was reading British author Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series of children's books about the school-holiday adventures of children in small wooden sailboats, mostly in the Lake District mountainous region of North West England taking place between the two World Wars. Those inspired the heart, soul and imagination. The name Missee Lee comes from Arthur Randsome’s book by the same name. Missee Lee was the chief taicoon over the Three Islands in the China Sea. She was the daughter of the pirate who united the islands and she held the rank of ‘twenty-two gong taicoon’.

Upside down on the building jig.Upside down on the building jig. So in 2005, with some hesitation, I made the decision to go ahead and fulfill my dream to build my own wooden boat. In the end I chose the Penobscot 14 daysailer designed by naval architect Arch Davis out of Maine. She had the sweet lines of a Whitehall, hull material is out of African okoume plywood, sitka spruce for the mast and boom, oak for the keel, ash for the gunwales and yellow pine for the seats. Space in my garage would accommodate the building process and she promised to be easy to handle and sail. From my estimates I figured that she would take one year or so of weekend building and cost a reasonable sum. As it turned out she took twice as long and cost twice as much as originally estimated. Well, that was a good thing since the enjoyment was doubled.

Bare and beautiful.Bare and beautiful. I ordered the plans and started from scratch. It was a challenge for the mind and hand to work from a set of plans on paper and transfer those figures to wood on a building jig. Learning to work with new tools (some hand, others power), special glues, marine hardware, mixing and applying epoxy, making sure everything fits just right, measuring three times and cutting once (there are no square angles in a boat), shaping a long square block of wood to make the round shaped mast, boom and gaff for the rig. I could go on with the building details but that is a much longer story for another time. I am also very very happy that I still have all my fingers.

Missee Lee makes it out of the building space.Missee Lee makes it out of the building space. Missee Lee turned out beautifully. I went through a couple of rough spots during construction and I only called the architect once to clarify an issue. There was so much pleasure and enjoyment in working with wood. The feel and smell, the sound, the heart, the look. The hardest part didn’t involve wood. It was working with epoxy (nasty odor and vapors) and specifically applying the clear epoxy to the inside of the boat to achieve the beautiful look of clear varnished wood. She turned out to be a sweet sailer, loved a breeze in the 5-10 knot range, left a thin and smooth wake behind her and made a soothing sound as she parted the water. 

At the dock awaiting departure.At the dock awaiting departure. I spent many days sailing her on Oyster Bay on the north side of Long Island and the Great South Bay on the south side. Only the wind pushing or pulling her along. When the wind died I picked up the oars. She was a daysailer 14 feet long and had good room for two adults and a child. More than that she would run out of space. I enjoyed sailing her for a few seasons since the launch in 2007. As the years went along, I sailed her fewer times for one reason or another. Sailboats are meant be sailed and not sit idle at the dock, on a mooring or in storage. My friend suggested to transform her into a coffee table. Actually not a bad idea for a boat retirement, and I could still have her every day year round. Unfortunately my living room is not that big. 

Heading out for the day.Heading out for the day. So I sold her to a family from New Jersey with young children who wanted to move up to a ‘bigger’ boat. They told me they had a lot of fun sailing her and got  many complements on the construction and finish of the boat. Wooden boats don’t last as long as fiberglass or steel boats. In time they start to rot. A wooden boat has a soul. A wooden boat is made from organic, once living trees, by hand, each one unique and special in her own way with a good story about how she began life. And in the last chapter, returning back in the earth completing the circle of her life. 

I’ll always have fond memories of building Missee Lee and will dearly miss those warm carefree breezy days on Long Island Sound when I was sailing free with the wind with no Sailing out of Oyster Bay, Long Island SoundSailing out of Oyster Bay, Long Island Sound destination for the day, dropping anchor for a relaxed drink and lunch, taking a nap in the afternoon and getting back to the dock as the evening breeze died and the sun set. 

Wherever you are Missee Lee, may you always have wind in your sails and a hand's breadth of water under your keel!

“The desire to build a house is the tired wish of a man content thenceforward with a single anchorage. The desire to build a boat is the desire of youth, unwilling yet to accept the idea of a final resting place.” 

– Arthur Ransome


[email protected] (Dan Ion Photography) boat_building dave_black daysailer hand_planes light_painting penobscot_14 sailing https://www.danionphotography.com/blog/2018/3/missee-lee Thu, 08 Mar 2018 15:12:47 GMT