COLUMN: ‘Secret’ changes within Bill 23 will prove lethal


Ford’s proposed legislation ‘completely guts’ the vital Ontario Wetland Evaluation System and muzzles conservation authorities, warns columnist

Despite my personal preference of returning this column to one of discussing natural wonders, I am once again propelled to wax political about the proposed Bill 23: The More Houses Built Faster Act. Sorry, but there is a need to further explore this bizarre proposal.

As most of you now know, there is growing push-back to this omnibus Bill 23 that has openly declared war on environmental restrictions to developments; but you must realize that there are other ‘secret’ changes within it. One is the complete gutting of the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System (OWES).

The hand-cuffing and muzzling of conservation authorities from commenting or opposing proposed developments in wetlands or flood plains is bad enough, but to ensure they have no regulations to back them up, OWES is being ‘updated’ by the Ford Conservatives. To truly understand the impact of this, allow me to provide some background.

Prior to 1983, developers could, with enough money and silver-tongued lawyers, get permissions to alter or even destroy wetlands in order to facilitate their dreams of a strip mall on every corner. However, about the same time conservation organizations were raising red flags about the loss of wetlands in southern Ontario (so far over 85 per cent of all the wet areas left behind from the retreat of the Wisconsin glacier have now been destroyed).

The arguments put forth in favour of protecting wetlands were tenfold:

  1. Wetlands (swamps, marshes, bogs and fens) are home to many species of wildlife, some quite rare and unique to the area;
  2. Every food chain or food pyramid has a link to a wetland dependent species;
  3. Wetlands provide flood control by absorbing the vast volume of water that can be suddenly released from rainfall or snowmelt;
  4. Wetlands prevent erosion of streambanks and roadsides by slowing down the velocity of this flash flood rainfall;
  5. Wetlands filter out just about everything from chunky debris to excess nutrients that flow in with dirty water from parking lots and hard surfaces… the outflow water is remarkably clean;
  6. Wetlands cool the water as it seeps underground before being released downstream, and cool water supports life better than warm water (high oxygen levels and no algae);
  7. Wetlands recharge groundwater supply, thus ensuring wells don’t have to be drilled deeper and deeper;
  8. The production of biomass (every living thing considered as one lump) within a wetland equals a rainforest: a lot of plants means lots of oxygen released to the air, and equally a lot of carbon sequestered from the air;
  9. Wetlands attract human users, who pay good money to go hunting, fishing, birdwatching, paddling and to do nature photography (not just in their gear, but buying gas, staying at resorts and hotels, and picking up food). No wetland means no visitors which means no money added to local economy.
  10. Wetlands are recognized for their aesthetic value to our society. They are fun places to visit, they provide a boost to both our physical and spiritual needs. They are pleasing to look at and appreciate. Viewing a sunset over a sea of residential rooftops just isn’t the same as that sun viewed setting over acres of cattails.

One might think that with all of these proven values that wetlands would be revered. Unfortunately, just the opposite. “Too wet to build on, too shallow to boat on.” So wetlands sold for much less money than solid soil as “it was good for nothing.”

However, this cheaply acquired land soon became the sprawling grounds of poorly approved building plans. “Drain ‘em, fill ‘em in, put a little drainage ditch along the roadside, and shazam, we got ourselves a profitable little subdivision.” And within the following years there was a high demand for basement sump pumps, and occasionally a few homes were floated away in spring floods.

Land use planners needed a way to determine if a particular wetland was expendable or not. Along comes OWES, an evaluation and scoring system to level and equalize the field of comparing one wet area to another.

The provincial government put the Ministry of Natural Resources in charge of doing the evaluations, and the conservation authorities used the resultant reports to assist with permit approvals, or not.

OWES assigned a score to four main categories: social history and impacts; biological species present (plants and animals to prove biodiversity); hydrology and size; and to record any special features (such as rarity of wetland type and/or if any endangered or threatened species were there): 250 points max for each category. If the combined score broke 750 points, it was declared to be a Provincially Significant Wetland and ‘hands off everybody’ plus a 100-metre buffer zone around the wetland border.

Land developers were not pleased, not at all. And despite their lands being recognized as special and thereby receiving a break on their taxes, some landowners were not pleased to realize their property resale value has plummeted. But conservationists and environmentalists were very pleased to finally have a process of proving the values of retaining these wet areas.

Back to this proposed Bill 23. As part of the current government’s plan to build poor quality homes really fast on unsuitable lands, this interfering OWES and its Provincially Significant Wetland offspring had to be removed. And therefore hidden within Bill 23 is the plan to gut the evaluation system to the point it is meaningless.

By example, rather than allowing several associated wet areas be lumped together as a wetland complex, there will be a separate evaluation down on each mini-wetland. Oh look, it scores really low when all by itself, so fill it in … quickly!

Also, if an endangered species had been found in a wetland under the original OWES scoring, the area was almost automatically elevated to being Provincially Significant. The new ‘upgrade’ removes the recording of any endangered species. “Shh… I see nothing….”.

So by rendering the OWES program down to be a joke, conservation authorities and local planners have nothing to work with in determining permit issuing. Oh, and the proposed ‘upgrade’ takes the whole program out of MNR&F and allows private consultants hired by developers to do their own evaluations. Can you say fox guarding the hen house?

The sitting Members of Provincial Parliament need to get an education about a lot of things, especially about natural environmental functions. Wetlands provide many natural services for free … it you just leave them be.

 

 

 



Former Press Herald photographer Donald Johnson captured compelling, small moments of history


Donald Johnson was there, camera in hand, as presidential candidate John F. Kennedy greeted a small boy during a campaign stop in Portland in 1960. A year later, he captured the crumbling Union Station clock tower as the ornate granite building was razed in the name of urban renewal. And in 1965, he was in the arena as Muhammad Ali knocked out Sonny Liston with his so-called “phantom punch” in the first round of their match in Lewiston.

During his time as a staff photographer for the Portland Press Herald, Johnson documented notable events in Maine history. But he also captured smaller moments that offer a compelling glimpse of life in Portland in the 1950s and 1960s.

Johnson, a self-taught photographer with a fondness for nature and the working waterfront, died Nov. 1. He was 92.

In September 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy campaigned in Maine before speaking at the Portland Stadium.

Union Station demolition


During his career as a newspaper photographer, and later as a freelancer, Johnson had a knack for putting people at ease and making images that were timely and memorable, said John McCatherin, a former journalist and longtime friend who worked with Johnson on projects starting in the 1960s.

“He had a sense that I don’t think all photographers had, to know the moment,” McCatherin said.

Johnson was raised during the Depression in South Portland, where his father was a carpenter and his mother was a homemaker. He was the middle of seven children in a family with very little money. He developed an interest in photography when he was young and somehow saved up to buy a Kodak Brownie. He built a darkroom in his parents’ house so he could develop his own film.

“I don’t think he remembered a time when he wasn’t taking pictures,” said his son, Keith Johnson.

The 138-foot-tall clock tower at Portland’s Union Station crumbles to the ground as the station is demolished in 1961 to make way for a strip mall.

At the famous 1965 Lewiston fight, heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali defeated Sonny Liston in the first round. It was the first time Muhammad Ali fought under this name, but local newspapers still referred to him as Cassius Clay.

The heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali defeated Sonny Liston in the first round of their title fight in Lewiston, on May 25, 1965.


After graduating from South Portland High School in 1948, Johnson served in the Marine Corps for two years before returning to Maine to focus on his photography career.

In 1950, he was hired as a staff photographer at Guy Gannett Publishing, then the publisher of the Portland Press Herald, Maine Sunday Telegram and Evening Express. He was just 20 years old. He worked at the newspaper until 1972, then did freelance work until his retirement at age 80. His family says he never stopped taking photos.


The 1966 Maine gubernatorial election pitted Kenneth M. Curtis against Republican Governor John Reed, who was seeking a second term. At a rally in October 1966, Curtis, left, with Sen. Edmund Muskie and Congressman William Hathaway listen to Sen. Robert Kennedy at a campaign rally in Portland.

Sen. Robert Kennedy in Portland in September 1966.


During his career, Johnson documented the last steam engine to leave Maine, the state’s last log drive and the clearing of the site that would become the Cumberland County Civic Center. He photographed Mainers at work and at play, campaign events and boats on the waterfront. He made portraits of poet Carl Sandburg strumming a guitar in 1959, and of author E.B. White behind a typewriter in 1969.

Bette Davis, left, Carl Sandburg and Gary Merrill, Davis’s husband in 1959. Davis starred in “The World of Carl Sandburg,” a stage presentation of selections from Sandburg’s poetry and prose, and the show premiered in Portland.

Carl Sandburg, 1959


Johnson received national attention and an award for a photo he took in February 1956 of a father and son embracing as their family farm burned down. He loved taking photos of nature and Portland after snowstorms.

He married in 1954 and he and his wife, Jane, raised their three children in Westbrook. After the couple divorced in 1980, he moved to Portland. He spent his last 40 years with his partner, Cheryl Cook. They lived together in Otisfield until Johnson moved to the veterans’ home in South Paris a year and a half ago.

When his children were young, Johnson would sometimes bring them along on assignments. Jill Detmer remembers her father waking her in what felt like the middle of the night to go down to the waterfront, where they would ride on tugboats. When she was around 10, she went with him and a reporter on the last passenger train trip from Maine to Montreal. They rode home in the caboose of a freight train.

Donald Johnson, 1962


During those outings, Detmer saw how easily her father connected with people.

“When he was getting a photo together, he wasn’t demanding,” she said. “He knew what he wanted and he knew how to get people to do what he wanted.”

His son remembers tagging along with his father to the Press Herald building on Congress Street. Johnson was always on call and never hesitated to chase after a fire truck so he wouldn’t miss a shot, even if he had other plans.

“He lived photography first,” Keith Johnson said. “He had to document everything.”

Folk singer and social activist Pete Seeger plays before the launch of the sloop Clearwater in South Bristol in 1969. In 2004, the Clearwater was placed on the National Register of Historic Places for its groundbreaking role in the environmental movement.

In despair over the pollution of his beloved Hudson River,  folk music legend Pete Seeger came up with a plan to raise money and awareness by building a boat like the old 19th-century sloops that sailed the river. The sloop Clearwater, in the back center of photo, launched in South Bristol on May 17, 1969, making its maiden voyage from the Harvey Gamage Shipyard to the South Street Seaport in New York City – and eventually on to the Hudson River.

Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, R-Maine, and Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kansas, praise the Nixon administration at a news conference in Portland on May 15, 1971. Dole, chairman of the Republican National Committee, was in Maine to speak at a fundraising dinner for Smith.


McCatherin, who had been a reporter at the Kennebec Journal and Associated Press, hired Johnson for freelance assignments when he edited the company publication for New England Telephone. Johnson’s photos were always terrific, he said. McCatherin’s favorite – a spectacular color photograph of the sun rising over Cadillac Mountain taken from a plane – still hangs in his office.

During the holiday season, McCatherin and Johnson traveled the state by car as Johnson took photographs of people, places and equipment for the telephone company to use throughout the year. They would gab all the way from Portland to Madawaska and back, McCatherin said.

“It was always a treat when we’d finish up the trip and a few days later I’d get proof sheets from Don,” he said. “I would sit there and smile because it was always great stuff.”

After several of his close friends died suddenly in the 1970s, Johnston took up running. He loved running, even in winter, and kept it up until he was 80, his daughter said. When she lived in San Francisco, he visited each year so they could run the 7.4-mile Bay to Breakers race together.

President John F. Kennedy, the 35th president, in Orono, where he received an honorary degree.

President John F. Kennedy received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws at the University of Maine, Orono on Oct. 19, 1963, a month before he was assassinated in Dallas.

Jill Detmer and her father, Donald Johnson, in 1995 at the Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco.


Johnson loved to be outside and would spend hours waiting for the perfect nature shot, unbothered by the weather conditions. He climbed Mount Katahdin, went to Gulf Hagas and traveled Down East, camera in hand. He and his son would go fishing, but Johnson was always more interested in taking photos than catching fish.

“He never went anywhere without a camera, ever,” Keith Johnson said.

Johnson bought a camp on Little Sebago in 1971 and loved spending time there with his family. He visited for the last time about 10 days before he died and he was happy to be back, his son said.

“The older he got, the more he valued time,” he said. “He didn’t want anyone to be unhappy. He was always looking on the bright side of life.”

One of Maine’s last log drives


Throughout his life, Johnson was curious about the people and world around him. It wasn’t uncommon for him to wander off during a hike because he he had spotted something he wanted to photograph. When he and his daughter went to Iceland, Johnson insisted they get off the main roads to really explore the country.

He also was curious about the lives of his three children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, Detmer said.

“He was very good at listening and asked incredible questions,” she said. “I felt very important to him.”



When Johnson moved into the nursing home, he wasn’t allowed to have a camera with him. It drove him crazy to be without one, but his children made sure to have a camera ready to use on trips to camp or other outings.

“He had to be a photographer,” his son said. “That was just in his blood.”


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Wildlife are adapted to winter | News, Sports, Jobs


PHOTOS BY GARRY BRANDENBURG — Winter-like weather has given people and wildlife a big dose of reality this past week. Snowy conditions were a sure sign that the chaotic weather machine of Planet Earth is alive and well. What we have to do is adapt. Wildlife is already prepared for this natural cycle of shorter days, colder air, and harder times to find food. In today’s images, snow accumulated on fallen tree limbs in the Iowa River are reflected in mirror smooth water, an interesting combination. While making this image, falling snowflakes can be observed filling the air. And in a harvested farm field, 24 wild turkeys and at least two deerwere searching for any ears of corn or just dropped corn kernels to eat. Wildlife with a good accumulation of body fat will be able to survive a long winter.

Winter weather is with us, even if the season of fall says otherwise. This week’s weather was kind of a surprise but not unexpected.

November is a big transition month for weather events, and Mother Nature just made sure we recognized who is in charge. A quick check of the weather history books tells us of everything from mild and above normal air temperatures, to rain, or snow, and of course in Iowa we must not forget wind.

Those arctic blasts from the northwest can sometimes penetrate even the best of winter clothing to send chills into our bodies. Our friends in Florida, Texas or Arizona like to give us a call with open invitations to come visit for the next three months.

My response is “No thanks. I’m an Iowan and here is where I live.” Home is where the heart is, and although this author likes to visit other places, it is always good to be home.

Even in retirement, now in its 18th year, I have obligations to meet. So does my wife in her volunteer endeavors. Our schedules are flexible for the most part on our terms, not those of an employer.

A footnote in this author’s history book is worth noting. Last week’s edition of Outdoors Today was number 1,600. Today, that number increased by one.

From October 1991, when I started offering outdoor adventure highlights, wildlife and nature photography to share, writing stories and sharing observations in the natural world has become a passion. I can educate readers of this column with natural history happenings, good images and fact based information as together we continue to learn more about the fantastic natural world we live in.

My stories and observations from nature began long ago. I did not realize it at the time, but my curiosity about wildlife and wild places began as a young farm kid growing up on a farm in Bremer County, Iowa.

Hard work was ingrained in me by examples set by my parents, other family members and friends. After the hard work was done, time was found periodically to explore.

Ring-necked pheasants beckoned me to pursue them after a school bus dropped me off. A quick journey along weedy fence rows could be accomplished before the cows needed to be milked.

My intent was to bring home a rooster. Our farm dog named Sport, knew that an excursion to go hunting was a good thing. A pheasant supper a few days later was food we did not have to purchase.

An intriguing thing about those pheasant hunts was a small parcel of unbroken prairie in the middle of the section. This place was fantastic. It had “exotic” plants of all kinds and a unique earthy smell.

I learned much later that big bluestem, prairie cordgrass, switchgrass, and a host of other native grasses and forbs were holdout examples of native vegetation once predominant across Iowa. But at the time I was young and interested in pheasants. That little parcel of land was usually good for a rooster excitedly bursting from behind a clump of grass as its wings clamored for more air and more speed.

Sometimes they escaped, and sometimes I made a good shot. If the bird fell, the dog thought he was the reason for my success. We proudly brought the colorful rooster home.

My farm days ended after high school graduation in 1963. I had enlisted in the Air Force. Soon I was to be whisked away to new places stateside and overseas, observing strange habitats, and no pheasants.

Four years later, with my military time satisfied, Iowa State University said “come on over, glad to have you.” At age 23 and a freshman at ISU, I was enrolled in the Fish and Wildlife Biology course of studies. It was interesting to see my own fascination with nature and natural systems blossom into a career path that ultimately landed me a job with the Marshall County Conservation Board.

I began the Marshall County adventure in 1972 and retired in 2004. I found a niche in writing for work. As an outgrowth of that, writing for the Times-Republican filled an opening when the late John Garwood’s outdoor adventures titled Sighting Upstream closed.

His appreciation for the natural world was evident. Some people, like Garwood and many others, share a bond with nature cultivated in part by participating in hunting and fishing, hiking or canoeing, camping or just relaxing streamside watching clouds drift past.

My aim in writing Outdoors Today columns is simple. I want to share any natural history subject from A to Z. I love science and I love facts.

I do not like or approve of political correctness and the misuse of science, as some will do, to misrepresent the world according to their politicized version of “facts.” I like critical thinking and honest discovery of the truth, even if it is not what we may want to hear.

So I say thank you to loyal readers of this column for your continued interest in the outdoors, our earth’s natural environments, and long-term conservation work needed to sustain a healthy world. That is my proclamation as we all enjoy Thanksgiving time this week. Enjoy.

——–

I have a walnut tree in my yard. It was planted by me nearly 50 years ago. That tree has grown well and produced many walnuts over the years. This year was that tree’s big time production cycle for walnuts.

If I had not diligently picked up those walnuts, walking on the soil under the tree would have been problematic. My collection technique was to try to keep up with collecting as the walnuts fell to the ground.

I started in late September with a daily routine of picking up what fell the night before. I finished in late October when wind and time had allowed all the once heavily laden branches to release the fruits. Baskets, totes and later a trailer filled to the brim attested to the fact that 2022 was an abundant time for this tree.

When it came time to sell the walnuts to the Hammon Products Company of Stockton, Mo., I contacted the local walnut buyer near State Center. First I took my trailer load of walnuts over a scale. After the sale, those same scales showed I had a bulk weight of 1,640 pounds.

That was the walnuts with their outer shells/hulls. At the buying station, a shelling machine took the hulls off and dutifully deposited the nuts into awaiting sacks. When all was finished with the weigh in of de-hulled walnuts, I had 746 pounds to sell.

The Hammon Company has buying stations in many localities in 16 Midwest states. Annually, they take in over 30 million pounds of walnuts. The factory process takes the nuts to the next step of separating the core from the nut meat inside.

Nut meats go one way, and the broken shell fragments go another way. While the nut meats make their way into lots of food products, the shells become fodder for grinding into smaller and smaller pieces.

Sand blasting operations for specialty manufacturing use those byproducts. It is an interesting process.

——–

Here is a quote to ponder:

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

— Henry David Thoreau, American writer and naturalist.

——–

Garry Brandenburg is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology.

Contact him at:

P.O. Box 96

Albion, IA 50005


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I never expected to see deals on Apple’s new M2 iPad Pro this quickly


There’s no doubt that Apple’s latest iPad Pro is a beast of a tablet. Packing the tech giant’s own M2 chip, excellent battery life and a stunning screen, it could put a lot of laptops to shame. The only downside is the price. But the good news is that we’ve spotted the first M2 iPad Pro deals – yes already!

The 2022 M2 iPad Pros were only released last month, so we weren’t expecting to see any discounts this side of New Year, but Amazon has $100 off the M2 iPad Pro 12.9 – now $1,199 $1,099 (opens in new tab) with 256GB of storage.

And good news for buyers in the UK too (although not quite as good). Amazon has £50 off the iPad Pro 12.9 – now £1,369 £1,319 (opens in new tab)and also £50 off the smaller 11in iPad Pro (opens in new tab).

The 12.9in iPad Pro has the benefit of an enhanced Liquid Retina XDR display, which gives it the edge over its smaller sibling. But both boast the M2 chip for super fast performance while providing Apple Pencil 2 support so you can turn it into a drawing tablet. And of course, you can add a keyboard and turn it into an actual laptop too.

OK, so it’s not the Surface Pro in the sense that it runs iPadOS not MacOS, so you can’t run desktop apps, but then so many people make iPad versions of their software now, including Adobe, that this might no longer be a big problem for many.. Here are the full details of those deals, but for more Apple savings make sure you’re following our Black Friday Apple deals live blog and our general roundup of Apple Black Friday deals.

The best iPad deals in the US

The best iPad deals in the UK

Not in the US or UK? Deals above sold out? No worries, check out the best M2 iPad Pro deals in your area in the list below.

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Holiday reviews inspire postcards from hell in nightmarish DALL-E 2 project


AI art generators are a controversial new creative tool, and many are unsure about what role they’ll come to play. But sometimes a fun creative experiment comes along that seems like just the thing they can serve for. 

Skimming through TripAdvisor reviews can be enough to out anyone off travel forever. Almost every destination seems to have at least a couple of scathing reviews that make it sound like hell on Earth. But what if the place really was that bad? Well, someone’s used AI to show what some popular tourist destinations would look like according to their worst write ups, and they look bad (unsure of how the technology works? See our guide to how to use DALL-E 2).

England’s most prized prehistoric monument (Image credit: My Favourite Cottages)

Many of us will have been disappointed by the reality of certain popular tourist destinations compared to the postcard images we saw before our trip. Some people really vent that frustration in colourful online reviews, which can often put potential future visitors off.

So Holiday Rental Company My Favourite Cottages (opens in new tab) has reimagined the UK’s top tourist attractions according to one-star reviews, with the help of the AI-powered text-to-image generator DALL-E 2 (opens in new tab). It used text prompts comprising each attraction’s name and keywords from their worst TripAdvisor reviews. Then the image generator did its thing. So, what do some of the UK’s top tourist attractions look like in the eyes of their harshest critics? Here are some more examples.

Unsurprisingly, the images suggest that the main complaint in TripAdvisor reviews is crowds, but then we all know you need to get up at 5am or use some serious editing in Photoshop to get those clean images of landmarks free from crowds. But it’s a nice use of AI as a tool to imagine what things could look like rather than to try to create a finished work of art. 

For more on AI art, see how the best AI art generators compare. And if you want to edit you’re holiday snaps to get rid of scenes like this, it’s worth noting that there’s an Adobe Black Friday deal on Creative Cloud right now (see the prices in your area below).

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THE GREAT OUTDOORS: Incoming geese inspire a photo challenge | Lifestyles


It is no secret that I’m addicted to nature photography, which I practice on an almost daily basis regardless of weather conditions. In fact bad conditions sometime produce some neat images. I love “shooting” sunrises; they usually are the thing that gets me going in the morning. With sunrises, or sunsets, the secret to getting good ones is to be out there before they occur. Sometimes the best sky color is before the sun rises or after it sets, and you need to be in a good position before that happens. After sunrise, I head to a likely wildlife scene.

Lately I have been sitting along the Feeder Road off Route 77 near a marsh where geese and ducks come to rest in the morning. No hunting is allowed on this marsh, so many of the waterfowl naturally pick it for a safe haven. This was my favorite spot last week as I aimed to get good flight shots of geese coming in. Lighting and wind need to be from the right angle, and the birds are fast, so you have to be on the ball. It is very satisfying to catch that goose image, tack sharp, as he cups and drops into the marsh.

I used to do a lot of waterfowl hunting and the incoming geese always seemed to be the most exciting to watch. That’s still true today as I hunt them with my camera. Their distance calling tunes me in to their arrival and even when they are about to take off. I take way too many pictures of them in flight, but that’s necessary to catch the birds’ most flattering positions, which involves how the light is hitting them, their wing positions and their angle to the camera.

One shot I’m always trying to capture is their flying upside-down (yes, you read that right!). Sometimes when a flock is coming in to land they come in from a high altitude and are in a hurry to get to their chosen landing spot. To do this they “slip” sideways as they drop from the sky, and even flip over on their backs, which cuts wind resistance and helps them drop more quickly. Now, this maneuver takes only a split second, and they do it individually, not as a group. Thus it can be very difficult to catch this move. The best way is to just click away as you see birds in the flock doing this and hope you catch one upside-down.

When the birds are ready to leave the marsh, their body positioning and type of call usually prompt me to get ready. I try to catch them both flying and running on the water as they get airborne. Again, it is a matter of taking a lot of shots to catch it just right.

A lot of other things went on as I waited for various groups of geese to arrive. One morning a pair of trumpeter swans flew over me from a side that I don’t eyeball that much, and by the time I saw them I could only get angling-away images, not very flattering to the swans. A few mornings later, now peeking at the southeast side of my position more often, I caught the pair coming towards me. Getting ready, I kept focusing on them as they approached, and hit the “trigger” a number of times as they passed low and right in front of me. Each time I did, the thought “got it” clicked in my mind, and the end result was about six great, tack-sharp, well-exposed and flattering shots. As they continued on their way I took a deep breath — I often hold my breath as I shoot, probably a habit from my long range woodchuck hunting days that gave me a more accurate shot. A quick review of the shots proved I hit the nail right on the head, and my day was made even if the geese and ducks didn’t cooperate.

Other creatures often show themselves while I’m waiting out a particular set up like this. A mink will scramble in front of me, never giving a good shot because it is so quick in its sudden appearance and disappearance. Then there’s the great blue heron that has not flown south yet, offering some close “fishing” poses to me. Although not as plentiful as the incoming geese in this marsh, some mallards, pintails, teal and an occasional wood duck come in, elevating the excitement for me.

When the geese do start arriving there seems to be numerous groups coming in, one after another, which keeps me on the ball and breathless as I concentrate on various groups, trying to pick ones with good background, or doing quick maneuvers and coming in at the right angles.

Nature’s creatures are not the only things that keep me entertained while I’m in this area. The seasonal road is traveled by both vehicles and hikers looking to see nature or photograph it, and sometimes it’s pretty funny watching the wildlife outmaneuver these people. I can often predict what’s going to happen. Someone stops quickly and jumps out of their vehicle, camera in hand for a picture, only to find the creature has disappeared. Or, they walk or drive by never seeing the wildlife right off the road, because they don’t know how to look for it.

Nature photography can be addictive but that is OK because it makes you more appreciative of what’s out there.

I have a list of folks to whom I send my nature images. If you’re interested in seeing what I see, send me your email address and a request and I’ll add you to the list.

Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at 585-798-4022 or woodduck2020@yahoo.com.

How to capture moody monochrome landscapes


January 12, 2022

Landscape pro Jeremy Walker is your guide to capturing moody and atmospheric monochrome landscapes this winter


Why mono? It’s a simple enough question. Why not instead utilise the full ability of the modern sensor and shoot in glorious colour? To me, the answer is not a technical one. I find there is an undefinable quality about black & white images that I just don’t get from an image that was shot at sunrise or sunset and packed with super-juiced post production primary colours.

15th century tower house in late autumn, Dumfries and Galloway. Leica M10-R, 1/30sec at f/8, ISO 100, Silver Efex Pro

Black & white imagery is of course not for everyone, and I recently heard a client on a workshop say bluntly, ‘I don’t do black & white’, which is fair enough, but I feel they are missing out on an incredibly creative part of the photographic process. The days of starting your photographic career by mixing chemicals in the bathroom, sticking bin bags across the window to achieve blackout, an enlarger precariously perched on a stool and prints being washed in the bath probably just do not happen any more, but processing your own black & white negatives and then printing them really concentrated the creative mind.

You looked at the world in black & white, your whole photographic output was in mono and so you looked at the world in terms of shadows, tones, contrast and texture. Colour, unlike today, rarely came into the equation.

Being in the right place at the right time

Shooting moody monochrome landscapes requires a great deal more effort than just getting up for a sunrise or sunset and then hitting the saturation slider in post production. Having found a location that will work well in mono is one thing; being there at the right time in the right conditions is another.

Cuillin Hills in winter, Isle of Skye. Nikon D810, 1/640sec at f/8, ISO 64. Three images stitched together in Photoshop. Converted to B+W in Silver Efex Pro

Weather forecasts showing the percentage of cloud and rain, wind speed and direction become critical. A forecast showing a 50% chance of rain with the wind at 15 to 20 miles an hour can be encouraging. Basically, look for sunny intervals with frequent showers.

Clearing (or approaching) storm clouds on a background of deep blue sky with dark patchy shadows scudding across the landscape are heaven for those photographers who want oodles of mood and drama, although there is a price to pay for such dramatic conditions. By the very nature of wanting storm clouds, the chances are you are going to get wet, cold, hit by hailstones or even snowed on, but trust me on this one, it will be worth it.

Hunkering down on a hillside, even well prepared and in the right outdoor kit, can seem slightly unpleasant at times but when the storm clears you are there, in place and ready to shoot. There is no getting out of the car, getting togged up and having to walk to the right spot; if you do this the chances are you will have missed the shot, that transient moment when all the elements have come together for just a split second.

Marlborough Downs in late summer, Wiltshire. Leica M10, 1/250sec at f/8, ISO 100, Silver Efex Pro

Yes, you may have to suffer a cold waterdrop dribbling down your neck or a hard hailstone hitting home, but to be in the right place at the right time, ready and waiting and then getting the image, there is no better feeling, even after hours of discomfort. Thinking and shooting in mono also opens up the possibility of a larger, longer working window.

Sunrises and sunsets with their pretty pink skies come and go after about an hour but when you are shooting in mono there is often an opportunity to be shooting much longer into the day. Yes, the conditions and location will play a huge part in how long you can shoot for but even several hours after sunrise or before sunset you can often still use the light to your advantage.

Late autumn, winter and even early spring are great times to be thinking in terms of shooting mono as there is precious little colour in the landscape anyway and the sun is never going to climb too high in the sky.

Post production

When you are shooting moody monochrome landscapes, you should be aware of how you are going to process them and what sort of feel and look you are going to give your images. The doyen of many landscape photographers, Ansel Adams, always said visualise the final print on the wall before you take the camera out of the bag, and this still holds true today.

Avebury stone circle in late winter, Wiltshire. Leica M10, 1/125sec at f/5.6, ISO 100, Silver Efex Pro

When you are on location you should know what look and feel your image will have and when you are sat in front of your computer you should know how to achieve the desired result. Creating moody monochrome landscapes is not just a case of pushing the saturation slider to the left in Photoshop, desaturating the image and hoping for the best. Contrast, clarity and colour channels can all come into play in creating the look and feel you want.

Possibly the best-known software for creating black & white images is the superb Nik Silver Efex Pro. It is a very creative and powerful program with many presets but it too has its limitations. It can be a very aggressive piece of software so you need to check your images carefully for any deficiencies and imperfections that it may create.

In using software that has many presets you also risk having your images look like everyone else’s and so you must be very careful and selective in what you use. Look to create your own style, apply a pic ‘n’ mix type of approach to your selections so that hopefully no one else will have quite the same look and feel to their images.

Beech Trees, Marlborough Downs, Wiltshire. Leica M10, 1/250th at f/8, ISO 100, Silver Efex Pro

You have visualised and shot your landscape as a black & white, but of course the camera chip is seeing colour (unless you have the stunning Leica M10 Monochrom) and the resultant raw file will contain all the colour information that was in front of you at the time of shooting. In converting the raw file to a black & white image the software is using the colour information and you can turn this to your advantage.

For instance, if you want dark black skies, make your blues as dark as possible, using a polariser or grad. Even when you are shooting for a black & white image you still must be aware of colour and how its conversion will affect the resultant image.

Conclusion

Even if black & white photography is not for you, I urge you this winter to give it a go. Not just pleasant images with a wide tonal range and a well-balanced histogram but images with solid blacks, and mood and drama by the bucket-load. Set your camera monitor to mono and visualise and explore a drama-filled world devoid of colour.


Why it works

Before

The ruins of Kilchurn Castle on the shores of Loch Awe are often photographed at sunrise with calm waters, reflections, snow on the hills and perhaps a thin layer of mist wafting by. I wanted to see what the castle was like late on a breezy, wet winter’s afternoon. My visit was more in hope than anticipation as it had rained all day. Scotland in winter is always a frustrating battle against the elements.

Storm clouds hung over the hills, the wind ruffled the water, and the sun was well hidden, not a promising start. However, just for a few minutes a beam of light pierced the gloom and illuminated the stark trees in the foreground, the castle being almost an afterthought in the distant background.

After

I knew then with a bit of work in Photoshop and a black & white conversion in Silver Efex ProI would have the moody and dramatic image that I had in my mind’s eye. Judging the scene when you shoot it and knowing your software are key to this type of image. At the time of shooting, you should have an idea of what your final image will look like, and how you are going to achieve it.


Jeremy’s top tips for moody monochrome landscapes

Follow the weather forecasts

Don’t be put off by warnings of showers or even storms. You want moody and atmospheric conditions, but you need to find a balance of showers, sunshine, and a strong breeze. Use at least three different forecasters to get a good cross-section of what is likely to happen.

Go prepared

There may be a great deal of hanging around waiting for the perfect conditions. Warm waterproof clothing and the correct footwear are the essentials but carrying a flask of coffee and some comfort snacks can be just as important. A soft waterproof cushion to sit on and protect you from cold and damp surfaces during a long vigil is also a must!

Make use of filters

Use grads, polarisers and any other filters that will have an impact on how a colour or hue will translate into black & white. It’s also important you get to know your software and how it works with and interprets your raw files. This comes with experience so don’t let one shoot put you off. The more you shoot and process, the better understanding you will gain.

Appropriate subject matter

Pick an appropriate subject matter for your moody monochrome landscapes

Large, dark brooding skies work well over castles and ruins, less so over pretty rose-covered cottages. Try to choose a subject matter where the mood and drama help tell a story – ancient stone circles, Neolithic earthworks, and abandoned buildings like old churches can all look amazing with stormy skies and fleeting patches of light.

Perseverance

Judging the conditions at any given location is never going to be easy. There will be a great deal of frustration when the elements do not come together, hours spent just waiting with nothing to show for it. But when the light, clouds and the landscape come together in harmony the struggles will be worth it.


Jeremy Walker

Jeremy, one of the UK’s leading landscape photographers, is known for his eye-catching panoramas and moody black & white landscapes. Landscape is his acclaimed first book and he is in much demand as a speaker, writer, and workshop leader. See www.jeremywalker.co.uk or follow him on Facebook or Instagram.


Further reading

Tips for black and white photography

Mono magic: Black and white landscape photography



Fine Art America? I Don’t Think So.


What Is Fine Art America?

Fine Art America is a POD (Print On Demand) company and online marketplace that sells the work of more than 500,000 artists around the world. Fine Art America offers various forms of art including wall art, prints, posters, tapestries and apparel. Have you been looking for a shower curtain with a boat powered by butterfly wings for your newly renovated bathroom? You got it! A rainbow zebra coffee mug? Of course you can, go treat yourself!

If rainbow zebras don’t tickle your fancy, there’s no need to worry — Fine Art America has 10,702,506 coffee mugs, over twelve million shower curtains and close to nineteen million art prints for sale! Clear your schedule for the next six months, disconnect your phone and get to decorating!! What is the problem with such an amazing selection you ask? The problem is the lack of “fine” in the “art”.

A legendary Japanese maple at the height of its autumn spendor sits on a hillside inside the Japanese garden in Portland, Oregon. Fine Art Limited Edition of 100.

What Is Fine Art?

Fine Art has a wide range of definitions and is many things to many people. Art in general is subjective. By definition, according to Oxford’s dictionary, fine art is creative art, especially visual art whose products are to be appreciated primarily or solely for their imaginative, aesthetic, or intellectual content. Fine Art is also defined as an activity requiring great skill or accomplishment. Not just anyone can create a butterfly sailboat shower curtain you know! In my opinion, at the very least, I have an expectation that fine art is of a quality greater than mass produced trinkets and cheap photo prints. This is my personal definition of Fine Art America. In fact, Art America would be a far more fitting name.

Transform your space with Aaron Reed’s limited edition photography print, The Empire, from his Iceland Nature Photography collection. Order yours today! Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

How Do Photography Art Buyers Feel About FAA?

Fine Art America is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau and it’s average customer review on the BBB website is 1 star. They have had 21 complaints filed against their company in the last twelve months alone. Searching TrustPilot, here is the first review that I found:

“If you want to wait over a month for your order, only to be sent the incorrect items, be offered a refund for this error on the companies part and then have the company refuse to give you a refund and send out replacement items that you did not ask for, Then I’d recommend using Fine Art America.”

Yikes. That doesn’t speak well of a company that claims to be the premier online marketplace for buying fine art originals, fine art prints and framed prints. With reviews like that, I wouldn’t spend five dollars there. Would you?

A long tree lined driveway boasting fiery reds of autumn welcomes visitors in the town of North Bend, Washington. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

Can You Find Quality Photography On Fine Art America?

While I am sure you can find thousands of examples of visually beautiful artwork from the tens of millions of options provided, the quality of the art produced is far from fine art. The products offered are not produced under artist direction or by the artists themselves. Fine Art America creates mass production poor quality artwork from one of its sixteen manufacturing centers around the world. You can buy a print for as little as $20. Once you receive it you will immediately know why you scored such a bargain!

Transform your space with Aaron Reed’s luxury fine art photography print, Out To Sea, from his Panoramic Wall Art collection. Order yours today! Fine Art Limited Edition of 100.

So Where DO I Find High Quality Art?

The worlds most successful photographers market their work directly through their own personal websites. Not only do you have the opportunity to purchase work produced directly under the guidance of the artist themselves, you often have a chance to get to know the artist on a personal level as well. This attention to detail offers both greater security and added value to you as a consumer.

In a business where the materials used to produce the products we sell are widely available to our competitors as well, our experience, expertise, customer service and our overall value as a brand are what truly sets us apart. As one of the most widely collected landscape and nature photographers in the world today, Aaron Reed Luxury Fine Art is the last place you will need to look for dynamic, limited edition photography prints with both material and real world value.

The amazing colors of autumn reflected in a still pond inside the Japanese garden in Seattle, Washington. Fine Art Limited Edition of 100.

Is Fine Art America Good For Photographers?

As an artist, trying to sell your work on Fine Art America is going to be very disappointing for you. With over 11 million photographs for sale, the chances of buyers seeing your work is next to impossible. In addition, Fine Art America charges higher than normal prices for cheap products and then allows the artist to decide what to charge on top of their prices.

While this may sound like a viable business model for some, you will soon find that with no way to stand out from the crowd and no unique products to differentiate yourself from the thousands of other photographers, you’ll be lucky to pay your electricity bill with your monthly profits.

Transform your space with Aaron Reed’s limited edition photography print, Diamonds In The Sky, from his Iceland Nature Photography collection. Order yours today! Fine Art Limited Edition of 100.

As An Artist Where Should I Sell My Photography?

As mentioned previously, there is no greater value than selling your work directly through your own personal website. There is an art to selling fine art without selling your soul in the process. If you are unsure how to sell your photographic art, working with an experienced mentor may be just what you need to inspire and provide direction based on their personal success & experience.

If you simply do not have the time, energy or dedication needed to set up and maintain your own business selling your work, there are more reputable companies out there that I would suggest looking into instead of Fine Art America, including YellowKorner, Lumas Photo Art and Saatchi Art. While I do not personally work directly with any of these companies, my limited experience researching each of them has shown that all three are better options for both consumers and artists looking to sell their work.

The quality of the work you will find on these websites does not compare directly to the the worlds best nature photography prints that I offer, but may provide lower cost options for the budget friendly, as well as higher royalty rates for fellow artists.

Transform your space with Aaron Reed’s limited edition photography print, Wind & Water, from his Iceland Nature Photography collection. Order yours today! Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

Thank You

Whether you are a fellow artist who enjoys the inspirational and educational content that I provide through my blog, are a past student of mine, or one of the worlds greatest art collectors, I appreciate each and every one of you and thank you for taking the time to follow my work!


Non-Affiliation Disclaimer

Aaron Reed Photography, LLC is an independent business. Aaron Reed & The Luxury Fine Art website is not affiliated, associated, authorized, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with any other company, agency or government agency. All product and company names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders. The use of any trade name or trademark is for identification and reference purposes only and does not imply any association with the trademark holder of their product brand(s). All photographs found on this website are owned and copyrighted by Aaron Reed Photography, LLC.

You can almost hear the hush of the cool morning fog enveloping this tree lined driveway near Snoqualmie, Washington. Fine Art Limited Edition of 100.

Fine Art Limited Edition of 50

The contrasting colors of autumn against the stark white trunks of aspen trees located just outside Leavenworth, Washington. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50.

Natural Landscape Photography Awards Winners Revealed


Just look at that. Who needs paintings or imagination when nature alone can provide something as beautiful as the above snap? And that’s exactly the point of the Natural Landscape Photography Awards, which are designed to celebrate nature photographs at their most realistic and unaltered.

The NLPA has only been running two years, but in that short amount of time it’s still managed to attract mind-boggling photographs from seriously talented photographers all over the world. This year’s edition received over 10,000 submissions from 55 countries, from which the winners were decided by a panel of expert judges. 

You can view all of the winning photographs of the NLPA and find out more here but, in the meantime, here’s a selection of our favourites.

Marley Butler

Photograph: Natural Landscape Photography Awards 2022 / Marley Butler

Spencer Cox

Photograph: Natural Landscape Photography Awards 2022 / Spencer Cox

Stuart McGlennon

Photograph: Natural Landscape Photography Awards 2022 / Stuart McGlennon

Caleb Weston

Photograph: Natural Landscape Photography Awards 2022 / Caleb Weston

Eduardo Blanco Mendizabal

Photograph: Natural Landscape Photography Awards 2022 / Eduardo Blanco Mendizabal

René Algesheimer

Photograph: Natural Landscape Photography Awards 2022 / René Algesheimer

Hal Gage

Photograph: Natural Landscape Photography Awards 2022 / Hal Gage

Kyle Goetsch

Photograph: Natural Landscape Photography Awards 2022 / Kyle Goetsch

Antonio Fernandez

Photograph: Natural Landscape Photography Awards 2022 / Antonio Fernandez

Photograph: Natural Landscape Photography Awards 2022 / Brent Clark

Did you see that these are the best architecture photos of the year?

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I hope Canon makes this pancake lens for the RF mount


As a long-time fan of the original Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM (opens in new tab), you can imagine I am very excited about the news from Canon Rumors (opens in new tab) that a new version of the EF-M 22mm is rumored to be heading our way soon for the Canon RF-S mount.

The Canon RF-S 22mm f/2 STM is rumored to be coming out alongside the as-yet-unannounced Canon EOS R50 (opens in new tab), which itself is meant to be a replacement for the EOS M50 (opens in new tab). A Canon EOS R50 and RF-S 22mm pancake lens might just be the perfect pocketable setup for content creation, and therefore a big win for Canon if it wants to continue to attract new users.

Although Canon’s EOS M range of cameras always felt a little like the unloved younger sibling of its attention-hogging EF older brother, Canon actually produced a couple of very nice EF-M lenses (opens in new tab). Canon EOS-M lenses managed to strike that perfect balance of image quality in an impressively compact form factor. Canon’s EF-M 22mm f/2 STM is a shining example of this and potentially one of the best Canon lenses (opens in new tab) for the Canon M system of cameras (please don’t write in).

Sure, the EF-M 22mm has its flaws, hello extreme vignetting, but it is one of the most compact pancake lenses (opens in new tab) on the market, with sharpness and quality that has no right coming from a lens that size. Especially combined with Canon’s excellent M50 or M6 (opens in new tab) cameras, it is an excellent choice for travel and vlogging.

My hope is that Canon manages to keep the aspects of the EF-M lens that made it so special to begin with, and we get a really compact travel and street photography lens that also outperforms in the image quality department. Hopefully, the new wizardry in the RF mount and its increased flange distance can smooth out some of the issues with the previous EF-M version.

Stay tuned for more Canon rumors in our Canon rumors hub, and check out the best Canon camera (opens in new tab)s to see all the latest models in the lineup.