Apple pie time

Making pies

Warren, Connecticut. My wife Anne and our friend Joy Brown finishing up the first batch of what turned out to be ten apple pies (ten more to go). My job was already done, I peeled all the fruit and at this point my hands are so tired I can hardly hold the camera.

Some of the pies are our traditional pie mix and some have experimental supplements. As the wine flowed, the supplements got more adventurous: blueberries, cranberries, raisins, walnuts, and various combinations of these.

Pie mix

traditional pie mix

We’re scheduled to have another baking session here soon to use up the fruit we bought at our local orchard. Oh, we don’t eat all pies right away (tempting), we seal and freeze them for use at Thanksgiving and Christmas. When the turkey comes out of the oven (2 pm or so) turn the oven off and put the frozen pies in. By the time you’re ready to eat again the pies are defrosted and warmed up and great. Serve with high butter fat vanilla ice cream.

The one we ate

After dinner we ate one of the "experimental" pies. This one had our pie mix plus dried cranberries, raisins and walnuts in it. Anne was skeptical but we all agreed: killer pie. I’d say this particular pie was one of the best Anne’s ever made. Must have been Joy’s influence.

Fireworks on Lake Waramaug

Fireworks on Lake Waramaug

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Warren, Connecticut. I’ve been meaning to hike up to Waramaug Rock to watch the fireworks display on this lake for a few years now. I even went on a scouting trip last year to think about how to do the shooting.

I shot this fireworks display in 2005 from our town beach but there are so many people there I thought it would be more fun to get further away to a place where few people would go.

The problem with Waramaug Rock is that it’s a two mile walk in the woods to get up there. Not a big deal in daylight and I do the walk often but getting down at night seemed like it might be a bit more of a challenge.

As it was, the entire adventure went off without a hitch. Two friends came along and I packed camera gear, a small tripod, a foam pad to sit on, extra clothing, water, flashlight, batteries, first aid and of course, the iPhone. Enough to be safe.

The tradition is that at 9 pm each town and property owner lights road flares around the perimeter of the lake and the fireworks start at 9:30 pm. You can see the red flares in some of the images. A very generous individual who lives on the point right in the middle of the lake has not only allowed the fireworks to be staged from his property but he hires and pays for the pyrotechnicians.

We left the cars at 7:30 pm and were on top by 8:20 pm. Given that I’d never been up on Waramaug Rock (the Pinnacle) before on the 4th I wasn’t sure if others watched from there and I was hoping we’d have it to ourselves. As it was, about 15 young people (college age I’d say) were up there having a party but they were fine, not too loud and they had no fireworks. But, they forced me to find a new place to shoot and I’m glad that happened because I walked south along the ridge and found a better place to shoot, a bit sheltered from wind and with less hill in front to block the view of the lake.

I got all set up and was able to set the tripod up low so I could sit behind the camera with the remote shutter release and comfortably control things. I did some test shots before setting the camera to bulb, the AF to manual and focus to just shy of infinity (attempting hyperfocus), the aperture to f/11, the ISO to 100 (bumped up to 400 later).

I was afraid I might have trouble figuring out how to meter this situation because unlike typical city fireworks, the area around the lake is very dark and the fireworks bright. I used two meter settings, no doubt the wrong ones.

In some of the images you can see boats in the lake with their red and green lights.

The images are fine, nothing super duper but good enough to document what it looked like from up there. The important thing is that we had a blast and I hope to make this an annual tradition. Walking out was easy with flashlights; no one got lost, fell down, or got scared. We did talk loudly all the way down hoping to keep bears at bay.



Warren, Connecticut. My friend Bill and I took a walk out on a pond near our houses which is now frozen over a foot thick. Most of the ice is relatively clear but in a few places there were air bubbles and stress lines frozen in making interesting patterns.

Francine Gray’s globe thistles

"Compressionism" with balls and bokeh

Warren, Connecticut. I’ve been driving by this group of globe thistle flowers in front of the author Francine du Plessix Gray’s house for the past week and finally stopped to shoot them. The group of them looked like it might lend itself to long lens impressionism. Maybe us long lens shallow depth of field painters will start a new art movement: "compressionism."

"Compressionism" with balls and bokeh

"Compressionism" with balls and bokeh

"Compressionism" with balls and bokeh

"Compressionism" with balls and bokeh

Summer morning, Lake Waramaug

Summer morning, Lake Waramaug

Warren, Connecticut. The summer morning fog can be very thick on this lake which is usually windless and still in the morning making for lots of great photo ops. I was about a half hour late for this shot looking across the lake at Tinker Hill and the town of New Preston. And, the versions of this shot with smaller apertures all had problems leaving me with a wide open landscape shot. Oh well, good thing I’m not trying to join f/64.

Dogwood bloom

Dogwood Bloom

Warren, Connecticut. The problem with shooting blooms on trees is that even on a dwarf tree the blooms can be high enough so it’s difficult to shoot down on them without having a tripod that can get your camera higher and for me (5 feet 6 inches) a small step ladder. I have the tripod and my friend Zarinna supplied the step ladder and after setting all of this up the sun came out strong and the wind started up. I felt like I was on a movie set waiting for all the pieces to fall into place so I could film the scene, take the shot. While the bloom is beautiful, my skill at getting it all in focus is lacking. f/22 focused on the stamen but alas, the petals were one half inch deeper and f/22 isn’t enough to pull them in. Amazing.

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Guess who's coming to dinner?

Warren, Connecticut. We were watching the NewsHour and I kept hearing this noise from the backyard but didn’t pay it much attention as it was raining out and the rain makes noises on gutters and things around here.

Then I stood up and this is what I saw, exactly this view at this scale. I yelled something and Anne turned around and gasped. I ran to the basement to make sure the cat was inside (she was, thank god) and then up to the office to get camera. Quickly (and stupidly) put 300mm f/4 on (should have left 24-70 on to get whole bear) and ran downstairs. It was obvious I couldn’t get him through the window so I had to go out on the deck. I was not happy about this, it was raining and this is a very large bear, much larger than I thought we had around here. I snuck out on the deck but he saw me, so I quickly squeezed off a few bad shots and ran back inside and locked the door (he could have beaten it down in 3 seconds). He, in turn, lazily got down and walked into the woods.

Anne was all worked up “did you get him, did you get him” and I’m thinking “crap, I’m just glad to be alive.” Did I tell you, this bear is big. How big? This feeder is six feet off the ground (I hang them from trees on string to keep squirrels off but not high enough it seems) and he’s sitting on his butt here, lazily having his dinner. If he stood up full height he’d be, well, bigger.This ain’t no nature show. This ain’t no zoo shot. This is my backyard!

Small Town Fireworks on Lake

waramaug_fireworks_2004The town we live in, Warren, Connecticut, has 1300 people in it. It’s just north of a wonderful lake called Lake Waramaug. The towns of Kent, New Preston, and Washington also share this lake and each Forth of July all the towns chip in for a fireworks show.

The tradition is that people on each town beach build a bonfire or set off flares so that we can see where we are across the large lake at night but these days it has evolved into anyone who wants on the shore building a fire or lighting flares. The perimeter of the lake has wonderful dots of light that show where people are hanging out, waiting for the display.

This year the fireworks seemed better than ever. I’m not sure if they really were, my memory is failing. I do know that our country is quite messed up at the moment and a long way from the spirit that the fireworks represent but it was nice to take a moment and just enjoy them, even in our current, Disney-esque decontextualized way.