Photography in the Time of Covid 2020

Rich Stolarski

When the Covid pandemic shutdown began, Shirley and I began getting out by taking short hikes on local trails that were not too crowded. We found that getting out of the house, even for a short drive, improved our mental outlook. We carefully wore masks and stayed away from crowds. We gave more than 6 feet of distance to any passing hikers. I took my camera on these little jaunts and did my best to take interesting pictures. I also took a lot of pictures in our yard and the adjoining Crofton Country Club.

As time went on we decided that we could drive a little farther from home. We began by driving down to the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge, about a one and a half hour drive. We packed sandwiches and timed the trip to be down there in the late afternoon when the evening sunlight was optimal. The trips were mostly on Sundays and on the way home we listened to the "Big Broadcast" of old radio shows on NPR. This was part of the original motivation for making the Sunday trips. The other motivation was to visit places mostly in Maryland to see those places and take photographs. As time went on we went to more and more places and I started seriously working on improving my photography. I started this blog as a way to record the places we had been and what we had seen.

I started the blog with photos taken in March of 2020. I have now gone back and added a few photos from January and February and have decided to close the blog as a record of our 2020 adventures. We are hoping in the near future to be able to make trips around the United States and perhaps back to Europe or somewhere else in the world. We miss the ability to travel where we want, but the exploration of Maryland has proved to be quite exhilarating on its own and this is our record of the pandemic year of 2020.

In January we were aware of a "pandemic" sweeping parts of China. Our son-in-law was scheduled to leave for Beijing where he would teach English for a year. But, at Christmas we were already pretty sure that the trip would be cancelled, which it was. In January the pandemic had not reached the US in any degree that was noticed. We took a trip across the Bay Bridge to visit Rich and Janice McPeters. We went to Prospect Bay to take a short hike and a few pictures before going for a nice dinner at the Narrows restaurant. The pictures below show scenes around a small pond.

In early February we took a trip to Arlington National Cemetery. The trip had two purposes; first and foremost we go down occasionally to visit my parents remains in the Columbarium. Second, the Arundel Camera Club was having a photo contest in which the theme was "death". I decided to take a few pictures at Arlington to see if I could come up with a competitive photo. I didn't come up with one but the photos below are what I took that day.

On March 29, the night before the shutdown, we went to downtown Annapolis at sunset. The streets were nearly empty. In some cases I had to wait for a few cars to come by to get their tail lights blurred through a 30 second exposure. It is almost impossibly rare to see so few cars going up Main Street. There was plenty of parking on Main Street (left) and Francis Street (right) was deserted with only one parked car.

One evening we went down to Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis for a short exercise walk. The park is large with only a few people about. The photo on the left is of a gazebo near a pond in the main part of the park. There were several flowering trees that I went into the middle of to take the photo through an opening in the branches of the trees. I stacked photos with 4 different focus points to try to get everything in focus. The photo on the right is of a pond surround by trees that cast a pleasant reflection in the pond.

We started going out in the evenings for short walks on the Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis (WB&A) trail. The first trail that we tried on March 18, 2020 was the WB&A trail on the Anne Arundel County side of the Patuxent River. The trail was relatively crowded so we have since gone to other trails or later in the evening. The pictures below were taken on the first two times we used that trail. The first picture is of a pond with scattered logs heading south from the parking lot on Patuxent Road near Woodwardville. The other 3 pictures were taken heading north from Patuxent Road towards Odenton. The Bridge in the lower right takes the trail over the Little Patuxent River. The other two pictures show the grassy areas, fallen trees and swampy areas along the path.

These photos were taken on the short spur of the WB&A trail that starts near the old Bowie race track and heads towards the Patuxent River. The first picture is a good representation of social distancing. In about an hour on the trail we saw 4 or 5 people. The next 2 pictures show the evening light coming through the trees to light up a fence along the trail. Finally, the picture on the lower right is the view coming out of the tunnel that takes the trail under Race Track Road.

We soon discovered the relatively new South Shore Trail that starts near the intersection of Maryland Route 3 and Millersville Road just north of Crofton. Like much of the WB&A trail it goes along the old cuts for the power and telephone lines. The pictures below show some of the sights along the trail. The upper left photo shows one of the power poles looking upward. The upper right photo shows a pond where the drainage water is gathering as it passes under the path. The lower left photo shows an old abandoned house where a large tree has nearly blocked the front door. The lower right photo shows some grafitti on the stone wall of an abandoned building.

These pictures are from closer to home. From behind our back yard we walk down the first hole at the Crofton Country Club towards the clubhouse where I photographed several trees in the late evening light. The lower left photo was an interesting group of cut limbs placed inside a hollowed out cut tree trunk.

One night we went out to deliver some masks that Shirley had sewn for her friends. On the way home we stopped at the WB&A trail near Woodwardville as the sun was setting. A short spur went off the trail very near Patuxent road. It led to a dead end in less than 100 yards where there was a picturesque pond with a group of trees growing up together from the middle of the very small pond. These are two of my photographs of those trees. The vertical picture shows a view of the trees with their reflection and the reflection of the sky in the pond. The horizontal photo shows a closer view focussing on the trunks of the trees and their reflection.

One day I actually got up at sunrise to photograph the Sun's rays passing through the trees and illuminating our back yard. I still need to try this again to do a better job of getting the rays near the Sun.

It is now May 1st so I decided to go out in the back yard and take some closeup pictures of the dwarf iris flowers that have begun to bloom. These were all experiments with my 50mm standard lens that could be opened up to f1.8. The pictures were taken at varying f stops from about f1.8 to f5. To get down low enough to take these pictures I had to lay on the ground and prop the camera on a towel. Laying down like this is very hard on me at this age with getting up being the hardest. I then took some on a tripod with the center post in upside down to get the camera lower. It is particularly difficult to operate the camera when it is upside down. I will be out again to try to improve my composition and refine the focus.

It's now mid May and I have done experimenting with backyard pictures. We also made another visit to Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis. The left two pictures are from that walk on a trail near the South River. The right picture is in our backyard looking upward along the large oak tree with rhododendron blooms in the foreground.

I just bought a new 70-200 mm telephoto for my camera. The following photos are a few test shots taken in the yard. My hope is that I can take this with me on a future landscape photo workshop like the one that my brother and I are planning for late June of 2021 to Glacier National Park. I have become convinced through many videos by landscape photographers that the most interesting pictures will tend to be take with a wide-angle lens or with a telephoto lens. My previous telephoto was a 70-300 mm that was quite inexpensive. I am hoping that this lens will dramatically improve my long-lens shots. Photo on the left of ivy climbing up an oak tree was taken with the lens extended to its maximum 200 mm (equivalent of 300 mm for my APSC sensor). The photo in the middle was taken with the lens at its minimum of 70 mm. It is a composite of 2 focus-stacked images, one focussed on the nearby azalea and the other focussed on the further away rhododendron. The photo on the right was taken at 140 mm of our blooming hydrangia in the back yard.

We packed a couple of sandwiches and made the drive to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday June 13. The sun was fairly high in the sky so that the best bird pictures were probably not available. Plus my lens only goes to 200 mm and closeups were hard to get. However the trip was pleasant and the images below of a heron standing on a small stump were taken from the car. The first is a profile in near silhouette. The second was taken after driving around the corner to get better light on the heron, but the background is a problem.

These are photos taken in our back yard; a day lily on the left and a squirrel munching on a nut on the right.

June 24, 2020 we ventured out to Kent Island to visit Rich and Janice McPeters. We ordered takeout dinner from the Narrows restaurant and ate on their back deck, socially distanced. After dinner we went down to the small boat launch at the end of their street where I took the left hand photo of the sun going down behind the trees in the distance. On the way home we stopped just before Bay Bridge. The right hand photo of the sunset was taken near the entrance of the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club.

On July 14, Bastille Day, we went down to Annapolis at sunset to try to get a photo of the setting sun behind the Capitol building. These photos were taken from Eastport on 1st street where it dead ends into the Severn River. The location is not great because of the many things in the foreground so I focussed on the silhouette of the capitol dome with the interesting sunset sky.

On July 26, Sunday evening, we drove down to Blackwater Wildlife refuge again. The left picture is a snowy egret seen there. The right picture was taken on the way back as the sun was setting over Cambridge, MD. We drove down by the shore of the Choptank River where I took several pictures.

On Sunday August 2 we drove up the Eastern Shore to Chesapeake City. Shirley read a story about the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, a 14-mile stretch that links the upper part of the Chesapeake Bay with the Delaware River. The canal provides a shortcut from the Port of Baltimore to many destinations and carries about 40% of the traffic to and from the port. We got up there about an hour before sunset and walked around looking for good views of the bridge over the canal. I took several pictures of the bridge from various angles. The top picture is my favorite of those because the setting sun is illuminating the bridge. Just before we started for home, a spectacular sunset started and the bottom picture shows the setting sun's rays emerging from the clouds on the left side and illuminating a growing cloud on the right.

On the evening of Sunday August 9 we drove down to the National Mall to the World War II monument. We parked just off Constitution Avenue and walked through the mall past the Constitution Gardens Pool. There were not great crowds at that late hour and a large percentage of people were wearing masks. The first picture on the left is the Washington Monument with its reflection in the Constitution Gardens Pool. The picture on the right is taken from inside the WWII memorial with two of the columns flanking the monument.

Later in the evening of August 9 I focused on taking pictures of the WWII Memorial and its fountains. The top picture is of a portion of the fountains in the WWII Memorial as the sun began to set with the Lincoln Memorial in the background. The middle picture is a larger portion of the fountains and the WWII Memorial as the lights began to illuminate the fountains. The bottom picture is a wider view of the fountains completely illuminated at night.

Late afternoon Sunday August 23 we drove Scaggsville to the Maple Lawn location of the Lisbon Sunflower Farm. The weather was interesting with nearly clear skies to the south and a growing thunderstorm to the north and west. There were very few sunflowers near the edge of the field as you walked around it, but a lot in the middle of the field where they were hard to photograph. I took several pictures from a farm trailer platform that had been provided. The first two pictures on top were taken from the platform showing the extent of the sunflower field. The next picture was taken standing on my tiptoes and holding the camera above my head. It is the cropped central portion of a much larger shot showing the one sunflower that I managed to get in the shot and in focus. The dark background of this picture is the encroaching storm. The bottom picture is taken from the other side of the field looking back at the farm buildings with some of the storm in view.

Sunday August 30 we decided to drive to Great Falls of the Potomac. We went to the park on the Virginia side of the river to Overlook 2. There were still a quite a few people there when we arrived about 45 minutes before sunset. I set up the camera and tripod near the corner of the overlook and put on the telephoto lens to try to get some closeups of some sections of the falls. I later went to a normal wider lens to get more of a perspective of the entire falls which are more like an extreme set of rapids. Even though it was near sunset, the sun was setting behind and to our left and was not a factor in composing pictures. The top picture is a wide view of the falls and the downriver flow. The two bottom pictures isolate the a small portion of the falls. The picture on the left isolates one portion with a relatively fast shutter speed. The picture on the right isolates an even smaller portion with a long shutter speed and has been converted to black and white.

Monday morning August 31 I was on my way to the golf course for our 7:00 am starting time. Along the way at about 6:20 I observed the spectacular sunrise in these pictures taken with my cell phone out the car window.

On Sunday September 14 we drove to Cambridge, Maryland to see the Choptank River Lighthouse. The lighthouse is a replica of the one at the mouth of the Choptank River where it flows into the Chesapeake Bay. We got there a little before sunset and I took several pictures before and after dark, two of which are shown below. The lighthouse is surrounded by a jetty that attracted several herons such as the one shown below.

On Saturday, September 26 we had our grandsons Zach and Max with us for the weekend. We decided to take a short hike on the WB&A trail near Bowie Racetrack down to the Patuxent River. I took my camera and took several pictures of the bright yellow goldenrod bushes (I think that's what they are). I had the aperture too wide open at F5.6 so that the bushes were only partly in focus. Shirley and I went back on Sunday so I could retake some of the pictures. The 2 below were taken at F16 to make sure of the depth of focus.

Tuesday October 6, our carpet was being shampooed so we left on a short drive to the Shrine of St. Anthony near Clarksville, Maryland. The shrine is a large tract of land just outside the DC suburbs in a farming region. The buildings are very interesting and the grounds are beautiful and serene. We walked around a bit and took advantage of the many chairs and benches. The picture in the upper panel is the entrance to the main building. The left-hand picture in the bottom row is a small shrine to the side of the main building with a windmill in the background. This picture was noticed and taken while sitting on a comfortable bench in front of the building. The bottom center picture is a mantis of some sort that was on the back of Shirley's chair with the fly very close to it. The lower right picture is a closeup of the bark on a cherry tree on the grounds.

Saturday, October 10 the weather prediction for Sunday was rain from the remnants of hurricane Delta so we decided to take our drive a day early. We went to Brighton Dam in the southern part of Howard County. Behind the dam is the Triadelphia Reservoir. The top picture is taken near the dam showing the reservoir in the background. The second picture is the path through the azalea garden at the dam. The green bushes are all azaleas and we intend to come back in the spring when they are in bloom. The bottom picture is taken from the Greenbridge Recreation Area on the reservoir. This was mostly a launch point for fishermen. I took a short walk on a path through the woods and came upon these canoes up on the shore. I'm not sure what the story is behind them. All of these pictures were taken with my phone.

The Arundel Camera Club had a presentation on October 14 by Don Rosenberger about abstract photography. In the next couple of days I tried a couple of his techniques by setting the shutter speed for about 1/6 second and moving the camera while in burst mode. The left picture is of a dogwood tree in our back yard taken while rotating the camera. The right hand picture is a wooded path in Whitemarsh Park taken while moving the camera upward to get a sort of simulated impressionist picture.

On Tuesday, October 20 we decided to go across the Bay Bridge to Terrapin Park where we could see the sun set over the bridge. We hiked in about 1/2 mile to the narrow strip of beach where we could get a clear view of the bridge. The photos below were taken as the sun was setting. Also shown are some photos taken along the path from the parking lot to the beach.

On Saturday, October 24 we went to Marshall Hall Landing in the southern end of Piscataway Park. Marshall Hall was an amusement park built in the 1920s and partly destroyed by tornado-force winds in 1977. The park finally closed in 1980 and all that is left is a boat launching ramp and the remains of the original Marshall family home that was constructed in the 1730s. The history of the land and amusement park can be found here. The pictures below are the remains of the original Marshall house and the secondary building thought to be a kitchen built in the 1760s and a large ginko tree beside the house.

On Tuesday, November 3 we had a nice day after several days of cold and wind so we decided to finally go up to Baltimore to Patterson Park mainly to see the pagoda. We had passed by many times on the way home from Johns Hopkins Hospital. We were able to park on the street near the pagoda and I took several photos including these.

On the way home from Patterson Park we made a few stops. We took the route south through Fells Point and around towards the Francis Scott Key bridge. The first stop was on the other side of Patterson Park where I took a picture of the interesting sky. The second was along Boston street at a small park where I took the picture of the setting sun lighting up a building and the shore.

As we were crossing the Francis Scott Key bridge the sunset was developing into a very good one. I noticed on the map that there was a small park to one side of the bridge called Armistead Park. It might have a good view of the bridge. So we exited the Baltimore Beltway and found the small road down to the park. There were several fishermen there and the view of the bridge was spectacular. The pictures below were some of the many that I took. The first two were views of the bridge about 15 minutes apart as the sky changed rapidly. The next two were looking the other way, the sky reflected in the waters and a lone tree with a fisherman on the shore.

Saturday, November 7 we went for a quick drive to Woodwardville and the WB&A Trail. Near the parking lot off Conway Road is this lake with some nice fall colors. I took a few pictures of which this is an example.

On Sunday November 8 we decided to make a trek to Assateague. After more than 40 years in Maryland we had never been there to see the beaches and the wild horses. It was a significant trip for us with 2.5 hours of driving each way. We stopped in Salisbury to get a drive-thru Arby's lunch that we ate in the parking lot of a park in town. We then continued to Assateague where we drove through the park and eventually stopped at a parking lot to walk to the beach. We sat for a period of time just watching the waves and the few people there relaxing on the beach. I imagine that the crowds could be significant during the summer. I took the pictures below of the waves and a couple sitting and watching them. On the way back to the car I took the picture of the row of posts with the young child running past them. I also noted the sand fence meant to reduce the shifting of the dunes. On the way out of the park we went to the bay side where I took the picture of the kayaker among the reeds. Driving out of the park we came upon this single wild horse.

Thursday, November 12 we had the cleaners who come every two weeks. I would normally be playing golf but it was raining. Shirley and I left the house while they cleaned and went to Whitemarsh Park. The rain let up a little so we went for a short walk into the woods. I took several shots but this is the one that I like the best.

Saturday, November 14; after calling Kellen to wish her a happy 25th birthday, we decided to go to Conowingo Dam where all the wildlife photographers like to go to get photos of eagles that fish in the outflow from the dam. The best time is early mornings between about November and February. We decided that we didn't want to go really early and fight the birders, photographers, and fishermen for the parking places. Besides I only have a 70-200 mm lens that is dwarfed in comparison to the mega-lenses that were in great abundance. It was a very interesting place where many photographers get great eagle pictures, but with my small lens the best that I could do was to take the accompanying picture of the fishermen in the shadow of the dam. They were catching some big fish that were coming in from the lake above the dam.

Saturday, November 21; we drove to Williamsport, Maryland a small town on the Potomac River a little above Harpers Ferry. I somewhat randomly picked it out off of a map as a place that might be quite scenic with the Potomac River, the C&O canal and the canal towpath. We drove through the town down to the river where we found a nice stone aqueduct carrying the canal over Conococheague Creek. There was also an old building with interesting wooden doors. We then went to a slightly different location where we had to drive over a very narrow one-lane wooden bridge down to a boat ramp where we could take pictures of the Route 11 bridge over the Potomac. On the way out of town we stopped in the main business district where the Williamsport Town Hall is located. The pictures below indicate the picturesque nature of the area.

Sunday, November 29 we drove to Point of Rocks in Maryland on the Potomac River. Point of Rocks is one of the crossings of the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia. The C&O canal and towpath is on the Maryland side. We took a path along the shore and then across the towpath up to the railroad tracks where they go around then mountain and also through an old tunnel. Across the river is Furnace Mountain.

Sunday, December 6: we drove to St. Mary's City, the first capital of Maryland. We took sandwiches and went to the old town where there were almost no other people. The pictures are of the old "state house" building, the trinity episcopal church, some closeups of an old wooden building, and a gnarled tree along the shore of the St. Mary's River. On the way back we stopped briefly at Scotland beach where I took a picture of the post-sunset glow over the Chesapeake Bay.

Going through my pictures from Point of Rocks I found a couple more that I liked that were taken with my cell phone. They are of the Route 11 bridge over the Potomac River.

Sunday December 13 we drove to the Eastern Shore and around to the Eastern Neck Wildlife Refuge, a bird-watchers paradise. On the way in, I took a picture from the car of a line of telephone poles along the road while the sun was illuminating the clouds.We weren't there to see birds and we only saw a few although they could be heard all around us. We went out to a couple of bird-watching blinds where we could see the the sun set over the fields of reeds. We went to Bogles Wharf where we could see the sun setting over the water and the wharf.

Sunday December 20 we drove to Tilghman Island. The island is at the end of a long peninsula reaching out into the Chesapeake Bay. The island is separated from the mainland by Knapp's Narrows that is only about 200 feet wide. The village at the northern end of the island is primarily about fishing and the harbor contains a large number of working fishing boats. Going down to the south end of the island, the road goes along the shore of the Chesapeake. We had sandwiches while taking pictures of a glorious sunset.

Sunday December 27 we drove to Fort Washington National Park on the Potomac River. Fort Washington was originally built in 1809 to protect Washington DC from invasion coming up the river. It was a small earthwork near the shore that failed to stop the British from invading and sacking the city in 1812. The current stone fortification was built after the war. It is now a National Park with many interesting buildings to photograph.

Our last outing of 2020 on Wednesday December 30 to the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary. Jug Bay is is a marshy part of the Patuxent River 50 miles from the mouth of the river. It surprised me to find that the wetlands were tidal and that we were there during high tide with much of the marsh under water. We took the marsh boardwalk trail that goes along the edge of the marsh for a little more than a quarter mile. The boardwalk is quite spectacular and I definitely want to go back at low tide and when there is more foliage in the spring or summer. These pictures show the boardwalk, a swan, some birdwatchers, the river, some marsh reeds, and views on the trails.

Throughout the year I played as much golf as I could. The courses didn't open until mid-May. The pictures below were taken at various times on the course. The first on the top left was taken looking backward down the inlet called Deep Creek from the 5th tee. The picture on the right of the top row was taken from just in front of the 2nd tee looking down the fairway toward the green. The next picture is a panorama looking from near the 18th green across the lake that is between the 10th, 11th, and 18th holes. The final two pictures are another view across the lake in front of the 18th green and a view of the 18th green on a frosty morning.

Below are a few pictures taken at various times of the year in our neighborhood in Crofton. The first two are taken of our house from the street, one on a bright autumn day looking up the driveway, the other on the one day of snow (about 1/4 inch). The next two are taken during the fall after a rain with lots of leaves. One is of the backyard while the other is looking down Ardsley place. The next picture is taken from our front porch during a hard rain. The last two are pictures of discards, one is the pumpkins that we had for halloween that were place among some vines during the snowfall. The other was taken over by the golf course parking lot where a bunch of skids were discarded.

The End:

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