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Where We Live by John Silveira and Richard Blunt. Photos and commentary from Oregon and New England.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Archive for November, 2012


Elk in Oregon, Part 1

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

I’ve been following a herd of elk that hangs out on the Wedderburn side of the Rogue River, just over the Patterson Bridge from Gold Beach. There must be thirty or so in the herd including several bulls, all but one of which are still young. The young ones pose no threat to the lead bull. A few of the calves are probably males, too, but calves are calves, as far as I’m concerned.

The big bull isn’t anything spectacular, or so I’ve been told by the locals. At least one fellow I spoke with said he thought a couple of bigger bulls might come out of the hills, this fall, and challenge the bull that currently “owns” the herd. That would be a sight to see: Bulls squaring off in an epic battle over a harem.

When I see elk, it’s always the big bulls, with their massive racks, or the really young calves, with their disproportionately big eyes, that I want to capture with my camera. The younger bulls and the cows hold no interest for me nor, it seems, much of anyone else.

I’ve photographed this herd a couple of times in the last few days with my Canon 5D Mark III. On one of the trips I almost missed them but my eagle-eyed friend, Christine Mack, pointed them out as I was driving by. So I was able to stop and get some interesting photos.

Fortunately, I had my EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens attached to the camera, both times, so I didn’t have to waste time switching lenses. It’s currently my best lens and arguably the best zoom lens made by Canon or almost anyone else. I use it as my walk-around lens because with the full-frame sensor I can get decent fields of view and with the possible 2.8 f-stop, at all focal lengths, it’s good in a lot of low-light situations. On my previous camera, a Canon 60D, which has a cropped sensor, the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens had too narrow a field of view to be used all the time.


Mornings like this are part of the reason I love the Oregon coast. This scene with elk  is just a mile or a mile and a half off of Highway 101. People blazing through town heading either north toward Washington or south toward California miss this.,

Shutter speed 1/200     f-stop 11.0     ISO 1250     focal length 102mm


These are three of the young bulls that hang with the herd. None, this year, are a challenge to the bull that “owns” the herd.

Shutter speed 1/800     f-stop 4.0     ISO 800     focal length 200mm


This is one of this year’s calves. Not as cute as it was just a few months ago, the calves are a close second to a bull with a full rack of antlers when you consider what most people want to see when they see elk.

Shutter speed 1/1000     f-stop 5.6    ISO 2000     focal length 200mm


This is a better look at one of the young bulls. He doesn’t have much of a rack and it’s oddly unbalanced.

Shutter speed 1/1000     f-stop 5.6    ISO 4000     focal length 200mm


This guy with the big rack is the dominant bull in this herd.

Shutter speed 1/1000     f-stop 5.6    ISO 4000     focal length 200mm


This doesn’t look very gentlemanly, but using his antlers this way seems to be how the dominant male gets the cows going when he either wants the herd to move or when they’re just in his way. In this case, I think he was just irritated with the cow being in his way. When I returned to the car, my friend, Christine, didn’t have any nice things to say about the bull.

Shutter speed 1/1000     f-stop 5.6    ISO 4000     focal length 200mm


Here he is, in all his glory. But as imposing as he is, there are bigger bulls with bigger racks out there, and if one shows up, this fellow may lose his harem.



The Big E— Celebrating Fall In New England

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Located in West Springfield Massachusetts on 175 acres, the Eastern States Exposition is home more than a hundred yearly events, including the fall spectacular that we call The Big E.  The Exposition was founded in 1916 as a not-for-profit agricultural and educational institution. That year, a group of New England businessmen went to Chicago to offer the executive body of the National Dairy Show an opportunity to hold their their annual extravaganza  in Springfield instead of it’s traditional home. The executive body accepted the offer, and this prestigious show was the first event held on Exposition grounds. In the fall of 1917, the first Big E type event was opened to the public. It was attended by 138,000 people.  The  fair evolved into  an enduring tradition, now known as the Big E. The fair has only been interrupted  by the two World Wars, during which the grounds were requisitioned by the military to establish a storage depot.

 Representing the six New England states, the Big E is the only cross state agricultural fair in the United States  It is the sixth largest state fair in the country and the largest in New England. Every year the fair opens on the second Friday after Labor Day and continues for seventeen days. It is New England’s last blast of the summer. During this grand celebration, visitors are treated to classic foods from around the world, competitive exhibits, prime farm animals, rides, crafts, and parades, including a popular Mardi Gras parade presented daily at 5 pm every day. This year nearly 1,500,ooo fair-goers passed through gates of the Big E.

One of the most popular attractions at the Big E  is the  AVENUE OF STATES, shown bellow. Each building shown here is a smaller scale  replica of the original six New England state houses. Massachusetts was the first to donate a replica of it’s state house 1919. During 1930’s Main and Vermont donated buildings. In 1958 the buildings donated by Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire were finished. Each building features exhibits and vendors that best represent heritage and food of each state. It is interesting to note that each state owns the building and the land on which it built on. This makes it possible for visitors to the exposition to travel through the six New England states and, as they travel, sample the architectural style, traditional food, and crafts that exemplify each state. As visitors enter through the main gate, they are greeted by the music of the “Mighty Stinson 2000m-2” Fairground Band Organ with a custom electronic sound system. Rather than trying to explain the magnificence of this remarkable instrument, I have included a photo of the plaque that explains it all in eloquent fashion.

One of my mother’s most loved music forms came from an early Wurlitzer band organ that was a regular feature of a carnival that came to her home town in Pennsylvania every summer. She would love the sound of this magnificent organ.

I smoked my last cigar nearly 35 years ago, but my life long fascination with the nightshade family of plants, which includes tobacco along with the chili pepper, tomato, eggplant, and potato has remained high. Tobacco farming has a long history in New England, especially in Connecticut and Massachusetts. When the first settlers arrived in central Connecticut in the 1630s they discovered that tobacco was being grown by the native population. It is believed that the first Broadleaf tobacco seeds were brought to central Ct and planted by Major General Israel Putnam in 1763. General Putnam was a central figure in the planning and execution of the Battle of Bunker Hill. It is widely believed that he was ordered by William Prescott to tell his troops, ” Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” By the 1830s Connecticut valley farmers were growing tobacco used for the two outside layers of cigars, the binder and the wrapper. During the late 19th century a fine grained leaf imported from Sumatra began replacing Ct valley tobacco as the outer wrapper most fine cigars. To match this competitive leaf, tobacco farmers erected shade tents of cloth to reduce sunlight raise the humidity. The first shade tent was raised in Windsor Ct in 1900. The technique of growing shade tobacco has changed little over the years, and Windsor  Ct tobacco leaves are still highly prized by manufacturers of fine cigars. I stood in front of the tobacco booth for about an hour watching the young woman in the picture below hand wrapping cigars with Ct Valley tobacco. When my wife noticed that I was eyeballing the fresh cigars in the case, she announced “It’s time to move on, we have a lot more to see.”  Traveling with a strong conscience is a good thing.

Rhode Island is the smallest of the 50 states. It was the first colony to declare independence from England. It did so on May 4, 1776, two months before the Declaration of Independence was released. My first attraction to Rhode Island was the mansions at Newport. My first visit to the mansions was in 1962, while I was attending the Newport Jazz festival. Since then I have toured all eleven mansions several times. The splendor and extravagance of these summer homes, built by wealthy folks like the Vanderbilt family will probably never be replicated in this country again. Two traditions have emerges from these trips: On the way to Newport a few years ago, I stopped  in the small town of Wickford RI 20 minutes from Newport.  A cook that worked with me loved a small seafood restaurant with reasonable prices and good service. He enjoyed eating there with friends while reminiscing  the high points of a 1940s radio situation comedy show, Duffy’s Tavern, featuring actor Ed Gardner as a tough, wise cracking bartender named Archie. The food at Duffy’s Tavern was, and still is great at a reasonable price. I left the Rhode Island building with 2 packages of clam fritter mix from Kenyon’s Grist Mill. I usually avoid commercial mixes, but this stuff is worthy of exception.  Most supermarkets and general stores, in , New England,  sell Kenyon Grist Mill products. It is also available on line.

This past month has been a time of reunion with long standing friends. The most recent was with a friend of more than 60 years. I am sure that this recent reunion on my mind when I walked into Main building on Avenue of States. Seeing of of the images of this long time playground brought to mind the image  of a time when another life long and me loaded my 1955 Pontiac with some meager supplies and an old army tent and headed wilds of Main. We got lucky when asking directions from a old logger. He said that he knew exactly what we were looking for, and directed to the best fishing and camping the we have ever experienced.

Most of the visitors to Main are fascinated with  the popular culinary traditions. I am no exception. After securing my multiple topping baked potato, I moved back to Sabastain’s, and ordered some smoked salmon and a cold drink. Without a doubt this was a good day.

Fishing  The Unknown Lakes in Hancock county Main.

Vermont is the largest producer of maple syrup in this country. Vermont law requires that all maple syrup produced in the state be  slightly thicker than syrups produced in other places which requires using more sap. This process also adds more flavor to the syrup. New Hampshire  maple syrup producers also maintain a high production standards. Over the years, I have been involved in some serious conversations about which of these states produces the best tasting syrup. I am now convinced that handing 100 people samples of syrups of the same grade from both states; the voting for the best tasting syrup would be a 50/50 split. Most folks seem to be a little confused with the system used to grade most maple syrup. Many that I have  spoken to think that the grading system is confusing. Grading system terms like “fancy Grade A and Grade B imply that one is better than the other. These terms really refer to color, flavor intensity  of the syrup. There are four grades of maple syrup, which are standard in most states.

Grade A light amber, made from the first run of sap in the early spring. It has a light and delicate maple flavor

Grade A medium amber, made from sap drawn later in the season. This syrup is slightly darker with a richer maple flavor

Grade A dark amber, made from sap drawn near the end of the season. It has a stronger, more robust flavor than the medium amber.

Grade B. This syrup is made from sap drawn at the very end of the season. It has a very strong maple flavor. I use this syrup for preparing glazes for grilled salmon, pork, and chicken. The maple flavor is not pushed into the background by the smoky flavor from the grill.

The grading system does not imply any difference in consistency. All of the syrups have the same density.  When buying maple syrup it is important to remember that the best maple syrup is the one that suits your taste best.

New Hampshire is well represented by it’s horticultural displays.  The giant pumpkins and squashes shown here are  only a small part of this states presentation.

Ripple Pottery is located in Rumney, New Hampshire, a small town with about 1500 residents. The is nestled on southern edge of the White Mountain National  Forest. The pottery sold here is all high fired stoneware, which makes it safe microwave, oven or dishwasher. Over the past several years friends have given me several pieces of this pottery. It isn’t cheap, but it is quality hand crafted stuff , designed for everyday use in any kitchen.

Massachusetts was well represented also. On a warm sunny day  there is usually few seats available at the  Sam Adams tent. Consistent with all of the New England states, the Massachusetts agricultural was a very popular attraction.

The display of antique workhorse and farm equipment was impressive. All of these vehicles are fully restored and ready to go back to work.

Along with the agricultural, botanical, and craft exhibits the Big E’s Midway offers visitors host of carnival rides and outside vendors selling items ranging from state specific trinkets and regional memorabilia to household goods and accessories. At 5 pm every day all eyes turn to the avenue that circles the fair ground in anticipation of the start of the Mardi Gras parade. Like all of the events at the Big E, this parade is spectacular, and fun to watch.


Morning in Oregon, Part 1

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

I’m learning a lot about my Canon 5D Mark III camera. First, it’s an incredible low-light camera. On my way home from Dave Duffy’s house, last night, I stopped on a deserted road, changed the settings, and using my EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, I stepped out of my car and took a photo of the road in front of my headlights. Unfortunately, I used a 5.6 f-stop and wound up with too shallow of a depth of field. But, as you can see, it still has decent image quality at an astounding 12,500 ISO. When I try this kind of shot, again, I’ll slow the shutter speed a little more and open the aperture a little more. I realize this has nothing to do with “morning,” but I did want to demonstrate some of the capabilities of camera.


Shutter speed 1/60     f-stop 5.6     ISO 12,500     focal length 200mm

Then, this morning, I stepped out into my backyard and saw dew glistening on webs on the fence and the grass. I’m not sure exactly what the benefits are of a macro lens because I’ve never used one. But my EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens does a really nice job with closeups and, until I obtain a decent macro lens, this is what I’ll use. (I should mention I have an attachment — sort of a magnifying glass — that’ll make the lens wearing it double as a macro lens, but I haven’t tried it, yet.)

I’m going to offer the following photos with very little comment.


Shutter speed 1/500     f-stop 5.6     ISO 160     focal length 200mm

The following is the same web, but I’d overexposed the shot, so I messed with the exposure settings in ACDSee 7.0 to get this:

Shutter speed 1/60     f-stop 5.6     ISO 100     focal length 200mm


Shutter speed 1/500     f-stop 5.6     ISO 160     focal length 200mm


Shutter speed 1/500     f-stop 5.6     ISO 160     focal length 200mm


Shutter speed 1/500     f-stop 5.6     ISO 125     focal length 200mm


Shutter speed 1/500     f-stop 5.6     ISO 160     focal length 200mm


Shutter speed 1/500     f-stop 5.6     ISO 125     focal length 200mm



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