Come with me on a Portsmouth waterfront walkabout

Looking at Seacoast city through a camera lens

Jim Cerny, essay and photographs

On a sunny Saturday in September I picked up my camera and did a walkabout in Portsmouth for an hour and a half.

(annotated Google map)

My route was counterclockwise through Prescott Park, along the edge of Strawbery Banke, along Bow Street, down Ceres Street to the salt piles, back along Market Street to Market Square, then returning to my car via Daniel, Court, and Marcy Streets. These pictures are shown and numbered in that order. Images were taken with a Sony A100 digital camera and 18-250mm zoom lens, with post-processing in Photoshop.  See each image for comments.

1. Prescott Park. Vinca (Catharanthus roseus), also called Periwinkle.

This is the Titan Blush variety of Vinca, with water drops just catching the mid-day sun. There are many, many flowers in bloom in the Prescott Park gardens. This stood out because of the color mix and the fact I'm fascinated by water drops.

2. Prescott Park. Monarch butterfly on orange Zinnia.

Monarch butterflies are very active at this time of year, much more evident than Swallowtails and other species. With a camera you can be an amateur lepidopterist, discovering for yourself, for example, that the pattern of white dots is not random, but identical from individual to individual.

3. Bow Street. Replacing a parking lot with a waterfront condominium.

Ricci Construction Company is replacing a small parking lot between Harpoon Willy's and the Martingale Apartments, on Bow Street, with a multi-level condominium. Given the steep slope of the land to the water (three floors) and the proximity of Bow Street and existing buildings, it is fascinating to watch the concrete form work progress in the excavation. Looking up river you can see low-rise Mildred Long bridge, Freeman's Point (green at left), and the high-rise Interstate 95 bridge.

4. Ceres Street. The stern of the bulk carrier (salt ship) Pamakaristos.

Many kinds of bulk carriers come and go on the Piscataqua, with the salt ships the most accessible for viewing when they unload at the salt pier on the Ceres Street waterfront. We can learn a lot about these ships by searching the Web. The Pamakaristos is registered in Valletta, Malta, and was built in Japan in 1986. It is fairly large as Piscataqua shipping goes, rated at 38,398 tons (DWT) and is about 357 feet long. Following common practice in marine shipping, multiple firms are involved: the owner is Mount Zakris Maritime (Greece), the manager is Anbros Maritima (Greece), and the insurer is The London Club (UK).

5. Ceres Street. At Granite State Minerals, dumping a load of salt.

To the eye this is a blur of cascading salt. With the camera it is possible to stop the action. This image was shot at 1/1600th of a second and it is interesting to calculate backwards to see how much motion is occurring, a test of our numeracy at the same time. Acceleration due to gravity is 32 feet per second per second. Let's assume a maximum of 1 second has elapsed from the opening of the bucket to the moment of the photograph and that the photograph only shows salt that has fallen 16 feet or less. 16/1600 = .01 foot in 1/1600 of a second = .12 inch in 1/1600th of a second. So, I'd expect salt at the bottom of this picture to have moved no more than an eighth of an inch during the interval the lens was open and at the distance from the camera to the salt (over 200 feet) I would not expect that to be noticeable.

6. Market Square. The giant ant sculpture.

This giant ant sculpture by artist Nathan Walker is made of found steel objects and is part of the Overnight Art 2008 project of Portsmouth's Art-Speak Cultural Commission. The ant has received an unexpected amount of attention, being vandalized twice, once when the head was torn off and once when the antennae were painted a different color. In the bright sun it is an impressive piece of work. And it is for sale with an asking price of $6,500 or best offer.

7. Prescott Park. Detail of a Troiano Rubbish Removal dumpster.

This image demonstrates my belief that by selective composition and editing, inherently unattractive places and objects can be photographed to look interesting, often attractive. This is the vulture logo on the side of a Troiano Rubbish Removal dumpster in the performance area of Prescott Park, excluding the other dings and marks on the dumpster and the trash sticking out of the top!

You really should do your own walkabout, as I'm leaving out 99% of the interesting things I saw: dozens of flower beds and several fountains in Prescott Park; dozens of creatively decorated shop windows; boats moving on the river; the 1702 Oracle House (which is for sale!) at the margin of Strawbery Banke; the pocket garden opposite the Moffatt-Ladd historic house; the birthplace of Celia Thaxter; the Moran tugboats; and completely missing here, the people! Plus, there is the sun, the breeze, the sounds, the smells all that the camera lens can at most suggest, but can't capture.

Go to Letters in November,2008

October, 2008