Thursday, April 28, 2011

Passover 2011


Every year my family does a big Passover Celebration.  As I've said before Passover is kind of like our Thanksgiving.  A big group of us get together and we celebrate the holiday, but more importantly we reconnect with friends, eat great food, drink great wine, and give thanks for how lucky we all are to be living in a time and in a country free from religious persecution, and remember that there are many out there at this very moment not as lucky.  We still use the same haggadahs as we did when I was a child and they are adorably child-friendly and very 80's in style.  They make for a pleasant and laid back sedar that everyone enjoys.  We also do our very best to bring the story to life by doing an interactive retelling of the 10 plagues using props scattered around the table.
It may be true that the Jews were never really in Egypt and we weren't really enslaved, and we didn't really build the pyramids.  But Jews have been persecuted enough other times in history that we can still know what injustice looks like.  My family believes that part of celebrating passover, which is really a celebration of freedom, should be about helping others to become free.  In traditional sedars after the meal children search for the afikomen, a piece of matzah hidden somewhere in the house redeemable for a prize when found.  When I was 16 my parents began a new tradition where the afikomen would be redeemable for an amount of money that would be donated to the finder's charity of choice.  They also hide little slips of paper around the house each representing an amount of money that when found are pooled together and the group of young adults searching for them decides on a charity (or charities) to donate the money to.  Every year other attendees of the sedar end up donating money as well and this year we raised $2,500.  My friend Laura was victorious in finding the Afikomen and we all talked about different charities that are important to us right now.

We ended up donating $500 each to UNICEF, LA Food Bank, The DC Abortion Fund, Jewish World Watch, and Friends of the Bonobo.  All of these charities meant something to each of us and address issues on a global and local level.  We talked about the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan and then how with Japan getting so much help right now aid for Haiti is still needed so we donated to UNICEF, a global organization that has the ability to help in a big way.  We talked about starving children around the world that UNICEF helps and then we talked about how nearly 1 in 4 children in America are starving so we donated to the Los Angeles Food Bank.  We talked about our government's budget crisis and how in order to agree on a budget the DC Abortion Fund got slashed and is in dire need of funding.  We talked about how while we may be free genocide still exists all over the world so we donated to the Jewish World Watch and their fight to end genocide.  Lastly I brought up a new charity that I have recently become very interested in- Friends of the Bonobo.  Bonobo's are often referred to as the "forgotten ape" because they are much less known than their cousins the chimpanzee.  Until the 1930's they were thought to be the same animal, but they are in fact very different and only found in the Congo.  There is only one sanctuary in the whole world that is protecting them named Lola ya Bonobo and they do amazing work protecting the apes and working with the local community to give the Congolese pride in their ecological treasure and supplying jobs and education in the Congo.  They don't get very many donations from the US and I was very excited to be able to give them a substantial donation and adopt two baby Bonobos for a full year.  All of these are wonderful charities and we were all excited to be able to give something back.  For more information on the charities click on their names to go to their websites: UNICEF, LA Food Bank, The DC Abortion Fund, Jewish World Watch, and Friends of the Bonobo.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day!

I thought a lot about what I would write today in celebration of Earth Day. I was going to post an Earth Day poem or some inspirational quotes about saving the planet, but as I searched for some on the internet they all sounded so ridiculous to me.  Many of the poems focused on the idea of "mother nature" and how the earth is a living breathing soul that we must save.  The earth is not a living breathing emotional soul.  It is a piece of rock.  It does not care if the temperatures rise and the ice caps melt and all its natural resources dry up and all plants and animals die.  It does not care because it is a rock.  Want to know who does care?  Me.  And you should.  Because lets suspend or disbelief for a second and pretend the earth does have feelings, it is adaptable and can and will survive whatever humankind does to change it, it's not going anywhere.  It is us, humans, who are being affected by the way we are changing the earth.  We selfishly are carving into our planet plundering all we need and thinking nothing of consequences.  I hate all these cartoons you see on Earth Day of a sad crying earth.  The earth is not crying- our future generations are.  The one quote I will throw your way is the old saying, "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, instead we borrow it from our children."  We are creating an earth in which our children will be much less fortunate than we are.  They will not have fresh air to breathe, clean water to drink, or nature to play in.  They also won't have resources like gas to travel or coltan to make cell phones.   We are irresponsibly obtaining and plundering through resources that we will run out of.   We must find ways to change the current trend of abusing our planet not for the altruistic reason of saving the cartoon smiley face earth.  We must keep being selfish and change our ways so we can keep enjoying the earth and our future generations can too.

Our planet is made up of a delicate balance of living things- trees, flowers, bears, birds, humans, dolphins, coral, puppies- just to name a few of my favorites.  When these things start to disappear it is not mother earth that will be crying, it will be me, it will be your grandchild who visits a polar bear in the zoo and wonders why they only exist in enclosures or her grandchild who looks at pictures of gorillas and wonders why they only exist in the photographs.  Humans are pretty amazing at adapting.  We have evolved these amazing large brains which allow us to make complex decisions and change the world around us for our own benefit.  We all learn about moderation in our lives- too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing.  Well right now we as a species have just about too much everything, too much excess and not enough conservation.  The earth will not weep because there is no more panda bear, but your kids sure will.

We can all make little changes like using energy efficient light bulbs,  buying local food, carpooling to work or buying organic clothing.  I promise it's easy to make these small changes.  To read more about ways you can help out check out some of my favorite charities: NRDC, WWF, IUCN, and The Nature Conservancy.

And now please enjoy some pictures of animals that I love and will selfishly miss if we keep making earth an inhospitable environment.

Walrus in Torrelnesset, Svalbard
Polar Bear Hunting on Ice Flows, Svalbard

I hope these images show you just a slice of how much we have to lose. So be selfish like me and help save them! 
Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


In honor of the release of Glee's new Warbler CD my favorite warblers (other than Darren Criss and Chris Colfer).


Monday, April 18, 2011

The Importance of Being Patient

99% of great wildlife photography is waiting for the right moment.  Yes you can drop in on an amazing location like the Masai Mara and take millions of decent shots, but a truly beautiful stand out image takes foresight and planning.  As I've mentioned before I've waited hours for a lion to turn his head, returned day after day to see if an owl finally moved branches, and waited for hours on end for a panda to walk into an opening.  Sometimes you get the shot in the end, sometimes you don't.  With all the advances in photography equipment the gap between amateur and professional is growing thinner, but patience is still the factor that sets a spectacular photo apart from a good one.  While I long to be back in Africa waiting in the bush for a leopard to walk by, I realize that it is not feasible so I settle for birding in the parks of New York.  I brought out my new 500mm lens last week and played target practice with the spring warblers and a few other birds that I found.  There was one beautiful White Egret that I spotted flying to a nearby pond while I was photographing ducks by the Audubon Center.  I walked over to the pond and saw the bird hidden by the leaves.  The birders were very excited and snapped their pictures and waited for about 5 minutes and when they decided it wasn't going to move they left.  I however set my camera up framing it in a beautiful spot with an interesting green and brown backdrop of trees in the trajectory the egret was most likely to fly in when he took off.  I then practiced shooting the warblers while keeping a steady eye on the egret waiting for any sign of motion.  I waited at that spot for 3 hours while the bird didn't budge an inch.  Many people came saw it, snapped and left.  This is the image they got:

By waiting and being prepared these are the two perfectly light, perfectly focused shots I got:


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Waiting for Spring

Hi everyone!  Just want to let you know once again that I haven't abandoned my blog!  I've been so busy working on my portrait business that I have not had much time to go out and shoot lately.  That compounded with the non stop rain New York is having has been a recipe for not much picture taking.  However things will turn around soon and I promise new pictures and stories next week.  Another reason I've been so busy is that I've been planning lots of exciting travels that I will share with you right here!  I will be in Los Angeles next weekend for a late passover with the family, then Rwanda and Uganda in mid-May and Ecuadorian Amazon and the Galapagos in July!  So expect some amazing new travel photos coming your way this summer and in the mean time I will be posting some beautiful spring shots as the city starts to transition around me!  Here is one of my favorite spring shots to tide you over to next week!

As always thanks for your patience and loyalty!

East Green, Central Park, April 2010
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