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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 August, 2013

 

An egret at the Port of Gold Beach

Monday, August 12th, 2013

There appear to be two egrets staying in the port, here in Gold Beach. I’m not sure whether they’re a mating pair or not.

The other evening I saw them. One was on one side of the port near me, the other was across the water. They were both looking for food.

I know this isn’t going to mean an awful lot to many, but it was getting dark and even though I was using the worst of my low-light lenses, the camera I have, a Canon 5D Mark III, is a fantastic low-light camera. To get the photos of this egret I was shooting at 12,800 ISO, almost unheard of with any other camera, but I still got fairly clean shots. Not the best, mind you, but still pretty good.

I used to have a Canon 60D, but I wasn’t really happy with it. When I heard rumors of a new version in the 5D line, I decided to wait for it. I spent a long time waiting. Then, when it was announced, a little over a year ago, I agonized over whether to buy this or switch over to the Nikon D800. I was only about 60 or 70 percent sure I was making the right decision when I bought the Canon, but in retrospect, I realize it was exactly what I wanted. I’d never get the photos I can get in low light using the Nikon camera that I can get with the Canon 5D Mark III. What I would have gotten with the Nikon would have been a greater pixel density on the sensor which effectively works as a zoom. I may still get another camera with a higher pixel density, but it’s likely to be the Canon 7D Mark II, which has an even higher pixel density than the Nikon D800, so the potential for blowing up the photos will be greater. We’ll see. It all depends on the sales of my novels.

In the meantime, enjoy the bird.

I just love the way this camera functions. This and the following photos are at 12,800 ISO

I just love the way this camera functions. This and the following photos are at 12,800 ISO

I thought it was about to take off, but it was really trying to maneuver its way into a good position to catch something.

I thought it was about to take off, but it was really trying to maneuver its way into a good position to catch something.

This was just a nice reflection.

This was just a nice reflection.

In this one, it’s looking into the water...

In this one, it’s looking into the water…

 and literally two seconds later it’s pulled something out and is swallowing it. You can still see the water droplets flying through the air. I wish I’d caught it with the burst mode because I may have caught a shot of what it was eating.

…and literally two seconds later it’s pulled something out and is swallowing it. You can still see the water droplets flying through the air. I wish I’d caught it with the burst mode because I may have caught a shot of what it was eating.

 

 

The Original Sherlock Holmes and His Castle

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Sherlock Holmes is considered modern culture’s most famous private detective. Over the years this great sleuth has been portrayed by a number of talented actors in the movies and on stage. The impressive list of actors includes: Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer, Nicol Williamson, Robert Stephens, John Neville, Peter Cushing, and recently Robert Downey Jr., who has starred in two movies and has signed on for a third. In the reception area of Gillette Castle there is a bronze casting of William Hooker Gillette, an American actor, playwright and stage-manager; best known as the first to portray Sherlock Holmes in a 1916 silent film. His imaginative portrayal of Holmes established the familiar modern image of this near-genius detective. During his successful career Gillette portrayed Holmes over a thousand times. This was an amazing accomplishment when you consider he was portraying a character that could briefly review vague clues at a crime scene and sum it up with: “Oh this is elementary my dear fellow.”

Gillette was born in the Nook Farm neighborhood of Hartford. This was the literary and intellectual center of the city where residents like Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe also called home. His father, Francis Gillette, was a United States senator, and his mother, Elizabeth Gaggett Hooker, was a descendant of Reverend Thomas Hooker, the Puritan leader that founded the town of Hartford.

The character of Sherlock Holmes was the creation of  Scottish physician and author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Holmes first appeared in publication in 1887, and, over the years, has been featured in 4 novels and more than 50 short stories. Gillette was given his first opportunity to portray Sherlock Holmes in the play “Sherlock Holmes” that he coauthored with Conan Doyle. The four act play also introduced Holmes’s archenemy Professor James Moriarty, a criminal mastermind that Holmes described as the “Napoleon of Crime.” Despite the fact that Doyle was listed as coauthor, it was Gillette that actually wrote this very successful play. That play launched the Sherlock Holmes character into the entertainment world to be enjoyed by millions in future stage plays, movies and television productions.

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Visitors making their way along the path to the to Gillette Castle are greeted by a welcome sign featuring a silhouette image of Sherlock Holmes sporting a deerstalker cap, and holding a curved briar pipe in his mouth. This familiar image was created by the Victorian era illustrator, Sidney Paget, best known for his illustrations accompanying the publication of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, that were published in the United Kingdom by Strand magazine during the 1890s.

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Gillette named his estate Seventh Sister because it was built on the southernmost of a group of hills known as the Seven Sisters. The Castle is well known to most Connecticut residents because they became familiar with it at a young age and visited it many times while growing up. This familiarity makes it difficult for some to believe that a medieval-style castle looming high over their placid Connecticut River Valley is anything out of the ordinary. After only one visit, I can assure you that Gillette Castle is not an ordinary Connecticut mansion. Gillette designed and built the Castle over a five year span (1914-1919) from local field stone skillfully layered to conceal the steel support structure below. He designed the entire building himself, including 47 doors, each with its own wooden puzzle lock that he also designed. He installed a bar that could be made to disappear, a convenient and necessary feature during prohibition. Being somewhat voyeuristic, he set up a mirror system that allowed him to see down into the main room of the Castle from his bedroom to see when invited guests arrived, so that he could make a “proper grand entrance.”

He was not married when he died, so he willed the 128-acre estate to the state of Connecticut. His will precluded the possession of his Castle by any “blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” The state renamed the building Gillette’s Castle, and the property Gillette Castle State Park. After four years of restoration, the park opened in 2002. The park now features a museum, hiking trails and a picnic area, and receives about 300,000 visitors a year.

Below is a western view of the Castle.

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The Castle as seen when approached from the visitors’ parking lot.

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A stone archway leading to one of the hiking trails.

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Gillette was fascinated with trains. He built a three-mile, small-scale working railroad around his property along with a series of tunnels and bridges. He called this railway the “Seven Sister Short Line,” and often drove the engine himself when entertaining guests. He had two engines built to service his railway: one steam operated and one electric. The electric engine is pictured below; the steam engine is scheduled to be restored.

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Below is “Grand Central Station,” one of the stations that Gillette built for his short line railroad.

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Gillette owned and rode at least two motorcycles: the first was a Triumph and the second was a Ner-A-Car, like the one pictured below. Edwin “Cannonball” Baker, a vaudeville actor turned race car driver, rode a bike similar to this from New York to Los Angeles in eight days, sitting in the saddle for 172 hours, cruising at 30 mph while getting 75 miles per gallon of gas. Not bad for a machine that cost 225 dollars. That is about 3000 dollars in today’s money. Unfortunately, the bike pictured below is not the one owned by Gillette. This machine is on loan to the state from a Connecticut resident, and is believed to be the most complete, unrestored  Ner-A-Car on this continent.

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The lookout terrace offers a scenic view of the Connecticut River.

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A view of the path to the Castle as seen from the lookout terrace.

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A view of the grand staircase the leads to the upper floors.

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A view of the magnificent stone fireplace located in the main room downstairs.

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A hallway leading from the Grand hall to the outside terrace

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Farmington’s Riverside cemetery is located above and beside the Farmington River. In the fall, as the leaves start falling from the trees, visitor can enjoy a view of the river and, one of my favorite hangouts, Kolp Community Gardens. William Hooker Gillette died of a pulmonary hemorrhage at age 83 on April 29, 1937. His grave can be found  in the Hooker family plot near the south entrance of the Farmington Riverside Cemetery.

Is history alive in Connecticut? Elementary my dear friends.

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Then there was one…

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Three and a half weeks ago I posted some photos of baby western seagulls that were in a nest atop some pilings at the launch ramp in the Port of Gold Beach. I don’t know how many eggs were originally in the clutch, but when I started taking photos, there were three babies. Several days later, I returned and saw only two. I didn’t know if the third one was “hiding” because they can hunker down in the holes on the pilings and they’re invisible when they do. But I eventually realized one was really gone. A few days later, there was only one, and a few days after that I went down there and didn’t see any. Now, however, I’ve discovered there is still one and sometimes it does hide.

I don’t know what happened to the others. A few people suggested predators may have gotten them. But I’ve watched them jump from one part of the nest to another and, if they stumble and fall,  it’s a long way from the nest to the dock and the water and there’s no way of them getting back up.

This is a photo from almost a month ago. The babies seemed to like going from the "hole" atop one of the pilings to the hole atop the next one and jumping back.

This is a photo from almost a month ago. The babies seemed to like going from the “hole” atop one of the pilings to the hole atop the next one and jumping back.

This is the set of pilings where the nest is located. As you can see, a misstep or an errant breeze could be catastrophic to a baby that can't fly.

This is the set of pilings where the nest is located. As you can see, a misstep or an errant breeze when it’s jumping could be catastrophic to a baby that can’t fly.

This is when they were down to two.

This is when they were down to two.
Then there was one.

Then there was one.

This, of course is a different angle from the one I usually shoot them from.

This, of course is a different angle from the one I usually shoot them from.

I don't know if this one is as advanturous as the other two. It always seems to be atop the one piling.

I don’t know if this one has survived just because it isn’t as adventurous as the other two. It always seems to be atop the one piling.

This is the latest photo. The parents seem to hover around the nest. Maybe they realize this is going to be their only offspring this summer.

This is the latest photo. The parents seem to hover around the nest. Maybe they realize this is going to be their only offspring this summer.

 

 

 

 

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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