Up a creek behind a Mute Swan

While on an exercise/photo expedition in my kayak on the Navesink River this morning I re-learned some important lessons about wildlife:

1) Bring your longest lens.
2) Don’t bother trying to photograph Bufflehead right after duck hunting season ends (they’re very skittish).
3) Don’t follow a Mute Swan up a creek during breeding season
4) Make sure you know how to paddle really fast in reverse when following a Mute Swan up a dead end creek during breeding season.

I’ve always been aware that swans are powerful animals. I also know that they are capable of breaking a human limb. I also know that you don’t corner an animal. And I know that you want to be careful during breeding season.

You’d think I would have been more cautious.

I thought I was keeping a respectful distance from a pair of swans during my morning kayak.

Unfortunately, the cob (the male) thought I was too close, and as I took this photo, I realized he was beginning to busk (that’s when their neck goes into that beautiful curve and they start swelling up in size as they raise their wings like the swan boats in Boston’s Public Gardens).

Long story short, I ended up paddling for my life in reverse, and after I turned my kayak around in a wider part of the creek, he continued to pursue me. As a matter of fact, as I started going full speed in forward mode, he began to use the open water as a place to take off in full pursuit of me, which is an advanced stage of busking. When I saw how large he was and how quickly he was closing the gap I realized I would have to defend myself. Fortunately, as I began to turn the kayak’s bow back towards him so I could hopefully keep him at bay with my paddle, he returned to the water and slowed his pursuit. I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t a bit intimidated.

I wish I could have taken the shot of him taking off towards me, since it was a spectacular sight, but at that point, my life was more important than the photo.

My wife can be assured that I got my exercise this morning.

If you’d like to see more photos from the morning kayak you can see them here at my website H2Ophoto.co in the On The Navesink Gallery

Announcing IN EXTREMIS, a new project

I am very excited to announce a new project I will be working on for the next year.
It will be called, IN EXTREMIS.
As many of you know, I love ships.  I also love photography, and I also love a good cause.  With this project I will get to combine all three of these passions.
This project came about when I crossed paths with the SS United States as she lay at her berth across the parking lot from an IKEA, a Wendy’s and a Chick Filet. A not so glorious location, albeit, at least one where she can be seen by ordinary citizens like myself.
The SS United States was the Ship of State for the United States after World War II, and soon after its launch it broke the Transatlantic speed record for passenger vessels, which made it the winner of The Blue Riband of the North Atlantic.  It is a record she still holds.  This year will be the 60th anniversary of those record-breaking crossings (a vessel had to break the record both eastbound and westbound for it to be official).
Due to the jet age and the economics of the time, the SS United States went out of service in 1969 and since then she has been laid up.  She has passed through numerous hands, but currently she is on death row, or as they say in the maritime industry when a vessel is in grave danger, In Extremis.
Last year a Philadelphia businessman donated close to six million dollars to prevent the vessel from being turned into razor blades, which gave it a temporary stay of execution, but unless some investors are soon found, the vessel may be lost.
After I spotted her a few weeks ago, I approached the current owners and they gave me access to the vessel so I could photograph her.  You can see many of the photos on my new website, H2Ophoto.co.
The SS United States is a beautiful ship, even in its current state.  This effort is not meant to start a debate as to whether she should be saved.  Instead it is my hope that my photos will reach someone who wants to save her. Her current owners, the SS United States Conservancy do not plan to sail her again, but they want to preserve her by docking her in Manhattan and use her as a floating museum with restaurants, bars and other facilities.  They are looking for investors to accomplish that goal.  It will not be cheap to save her, but it would be impressive, and a sizable and significant nod to the past.  There are no other US ships like her.  Some will point to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, but she is a British ship. The SS America, which sailed for US Lines during the same period as the SS United States, met a sad fate on the shores of the Canary Islands in 1994.
 Even though there are still a number of US flagged cruise ships, there are no US liners from the transatlantic era other than the SS United States. She is the last one. If she is scrapped, there will be no do-overs.
Over the next 12 months I will be photographing other vessels, both large and small, passenger vessels, war vessels and pleasure ships.  All of them will be vessels in need of an assist from the public, the government, or an investor.  Some of these will be privately owned, some will be museum ships that are threatened with sinking or worst, and others may be little known ships that have already been forgotten, but still have a shred of hope that someone will save them.
I hope you will help spread the word about this ship and others I will be photographing in the next year.
I will be selling limited edition gallery prints of these photos and a portion of the proceeds will go to the organizations that are trying to save these ships. The sale of the photos will not raise enough money to save these vessels, but I hope that when people see the photos they will feel compelled to spread the word, donate to the cause or contact those who can save them.
If you know of any vessels you feel should be saved, please drop me an e-mail, and I will add them to the list of vessels I have under consideration for this project.
Stay tuned for next month’s vessel and please pass along the link to this post.