News, notes and observations from the Bay Journal staff.
Of the many exercises I do every week, the side plank is my least favorite. It involves taking the already loathsome plank and twisting it, so that you are stacking your hips and supporting your body with just the palm of your hand. If you can attain the pose without shaking, you’re supposed to hold it for at least 30 seconds. It’s challenging enough on the comfort of a yoga mat. It’s absolutely daunting on a paddleboard, floating in one of Baltimore’s most polluted creeks, with occasional drizzles falling and an ominous sky suggesting an onslaught of rain on the way.
And yet, there we were, in the middle of Bear Creek in Dundalk, a neighborhood where many steelworkers lived and died too young because of the pollution at nearby Sparrows Point. For 150 years, the Bethlehem Steel plant there churned out the underpinnings of modern industry, steel in all its forms. The copious amounts of toxic waste involved with making steel found its way into Bear Creek - chromium, zinc and benzene among them. In 1996, a University of Maryland study found sediments from the creek so thick with tar and petroleum that scarcely anything could live in them. At one site nearby, levels of benzene in the groundwater were 100,000 times the government’s allowable levels. When Bethlehem Steel was operating Sparrows Point at full tilt, the mill’s wastewater plant consistently violated its pollution levels and since 1997, the entire Sparrows Point property has been under a consent order from the Maryland Department of the Environment to clean up.
It’s mid-June on Deal Island, still a couple of hours until dawn when we board the Chesapeake Bay workboat, Lady Ellen, with Grant Corbin and his two mates for a long day of ‘peeler potting’—fishing unbaited crab pots in the waters of Tangier Sound. The pots attract crabs looking for a place to shed their shells. Grant will hold them in tanks of circulating bay water until they turn soft, and valuable, to be shipped overnight to urban markets.
Some 40 years ago Grant was the focus of two chapters in William Warner’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, Beautiful Swimmers, which brought crabs and crabbing and Chesapeake Bay to national attention. With videographers/photographers Sandy Cannon Brown and David Harp, I’m spending much of this year making an hour documentary, inspired by my late friend Willy Warner, looking at the future of Bay crabs and crabbers.
The Chesapeake Bay Commission announced has announced that Ann F. Jennings will become the Virginia director for the commission. She has been with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Virginia office for 18 years, and has served as CBF’s Virginia Executive Director since 2004.
The Chesapeake Bay Commission is a tri-state legislative commission created in 1980 to advise the members of the General Assemblies of Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania on matters of Baywide concern and to promote intergovernmental cooperation and coordination for resource planning. The commission was signatory to the first Bay Agreement in 1983 and all successive agreements since.
Jennings will replace retiring Virginia Director, Jack E. Frye, who has led the Commission’s Virginia activities since 2011 after a 30-year career working conservation programs for Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Tips from veteran Chesapeake Bay photographer Dave Harp about how to capture the perfect images from your outdoor travels.
I always try to get out and make some photos on the solstices and equinoxes, and an assignment to illustrate a story about Trap Pond allowed me to chase the morning light there a few hours after this year’s Autumnal equinox. It’s an amazingly beautiful patch of wild Delaware near Laurel and will be featured in the November issue of the Bay Journal. The pond, created in the 18th century to power a saw mill to convert the trees into board feet of lumber, is the epicenter of the northern most stand of bald cypress trees in the United States. The relatively young trees in the middle of the pond were planted in the 1930’s when the water level was drawn down to allow the trees to grow. Once they’re heads are above the water they seem to do fine in an aquatic environment. Be sure to look for a more complete story about Trap Pond State Park by Tom Horton in the November issue of the Bay Journal.
Photographers go to great lengths to make order out of chaos. A good photograph has a strong point of view, clean lines, generally good composition. In this case chaos IS the point. Anyone who has ever witnessed a flock of snow geese erupt into flight knows that the sight and sounds of those birds says chaos to the extreme. This flock was photographed with a 200mm lens, 2x tele extender, Olympus E-5 camera, 1250/sec. @ f5.6. ISO 200. The scene was made at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge just after sunrise, thin cloud cover.
It was a very cold pre dawn January morning along the Choptank River. Out to capture some winter scenes (since we didn't really have winter last year). I found this ice encrusted plant and made a photo in the early morning light. Wanting more drama in the photo I waited until the rising sun barely kissed it and made another exposure. Sometimes is pays to wait for the light.Both photographs were made with an Olympus E-5, 12-60mm lens at 21mm.