Archive for September, 2011

Scarborough Marsh Soars.

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Laura Watson, of Cleveland OH, is a regular summer visitor at the Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center in Maine. When she made her first solo flight earlier this year, she wore a logo t-shirt from the marsh for good luck.

SEPTEMBER 22, 2011

When Memorial Weekend rolls around, I look forward to the Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center opening for the season. I have volunteered there for six summers now, helping to man the register in the gift store and assisting visitors who come to canoe on the river. We get to meet people from all over the world — Mexico, Germany, and Taiwan, to name a few places. We get to hear their stories as well: a man from northern California was excited to observe cardinals (a bird we take for granted here); a young woman who had served in the Coast Guard in South Portland, but who now lives in Washington state, was visiting with her husband, who had always been enchanted by the way she talks about Maine; and a couple from Rhode Island, who moved to the US after they had to leave their home in the Ukraine after the nuclear reactor explosion at Chernobyl, came to spend time with their son, who is doing his residency in emergency medicine at Maine Medical Center.

There was one story this year, though, that stood out for me because it was about how a memento from Scarborough Marsh played a significant role in the lives of one of our regular visitors. Laura Watson, of Cleveland OH, has been coming to Scarborough every summer since 1969, when she was 12. Her mom, Betsy, had had a childhood friend who used to tell stories about spending summers in Old Orchard Beach. On their first visit, the family wound up finding a spot to stay a couple of miles down the road at the Sun & Sand Motel on Pine Point Beach, and that’s where they’ve returned every year since.

The nature center at Scarborough Marsh is about two miles west of the beach. Laura says, “The marsh became part of my growing up.” She enjoyed canoeing, hiking, and bird watching. She met her husband, Joe, at Brown University, and they enjoyed many romantic evening canoe tours on the marsh in the summer. Laura and Betsy usually stop by the gift store at the center to pick up souvenirs. Betsy enjoys the jewelry pins shaped as animals, and Laura says that she and Joe drink their coffee each Sunday morning in mugs they brought home from the marsh. It was a favorite Scarborough Marsh logo t-shirt, though, that Laura wore for luck when she made her first solo flight between airports in a Cessna 172 this spring.

Watson had taken a couple of flying lessons in the late 1990s when she and Joe were living and working in Chicago, but it wasn’t until January of this year, when Joe gave her flying lessons as a 25th wedding anniversary present and encouraged her, that she went ahead and got her student pilot’s license. By March she had done her first solo, circling over the runway at Lorain (OH) County Airport. In June she soloed from there to the 5A1 airport in Norwalk, OH.

Laura says that in the early days of flight, when students sat in the front of the plane and their instructors behind them, the cockpits were open and there was no radio communication. In order to guide their students, instructors would pull on their shirttails to get their attention and then yell in their ears.

“The tradition was that once you had completed your solo flight, your shirttail was cut off,” says Laura, “because at that point you didn’t need the guiding hand of your instructor anymore. I wanted to have my Scarborough Marsh t-shirt on for the flight, though. Since it doesn’t have a shirttail to cut off, I had it signed, instead, by the instructors and students who were waiting in Lorain when I returned from the round trip.” Watson will test for her private pilot’s license later this fall.

Besides our attachment to the marsh, Laura and I share a connection of being photographers, both having switched from other careers. Laura had worked as a corporate executive for University of Chicago Hospitals. Her love of nature and an interest in conservation, however, led her to ask the head of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago if she could tag along on a trip to a scientific research station in the rainforests of Ecuador. Even though she didn’t own a camera at the time and knew nothing about photography, she volunteered to take pictures of the leaves of the tree specimens that the research group was counting. Talk about flying by the seat of your pants!

She went out and bought a camera and a macro lens and began learning as she went. Laura says, “When I started photographing the leaves, I was able to see insects up close. It was like falling in love.” She became fascinated by crawling into tight spots and finding exotic insects, snakes and spiders. Her love of photographing them was compelling, but she was afraid of breaking off from her life in the corporate world to take this up as a career. Wise words from her mother got her to take that leap of faith.

Betsy told her, “Don’t keep pushing and looking for what you should be doing in life. Just watch for doors to open. And when a door opens, step through it.”

Since then Laura has traveled extensively in Central and South America and worked with local biologists to document insects and other creatures living under the forest canopy. Her photographs have been published in field guides and scientific articles, and her first photographic exhibition hung on the walls of the Cuban Natural History Museum in Havana in 2001. Samples of her work may be seen on her website at www.natures-edge.org.

Media Award Announced.

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Paula Mahony, left, marketing expert at Words@Work, project manager Lou Christen, and VNA business development director Lisa Fuller with the 2011 Media Award winning slide show.

SEPTEMBER 15, 2011

When Paula Mahony, marketing expert at Words@Work, comes up with what she calls one of her “harebrained schemes,” you never know where it can take you. Today it took us to the Hilton Garden Inn in Freeport, where one of her “schemes” was honored with the 2011 Media Award by the Home Care & Hospice Alliance of Maine.

The award went to a slide show called “Ask for VNA” that Paula and I produced for VNA Home Health & Hospice, based in South Portland. The project started when Paula casually approached me and asked if it was possible to put words on pictures. I said, yes, you could create text layers on digital images. She then asked me if I knew anything about digital picture frames. I had purchased one for myself about three years ago, but wasn’t up on what models were currently available. My curiosity piqued, I wondered why she wanted to know.

Paula had been doing market research for VNA and had found that patients didn’t know what services were provided by the agency or that they could ask for these services when they were at their doctors’ offices. She was looking for a cost-effective, clever way to educate the public and thought that if patients could see a short slide show while waiting in their doctors’ reception rooms, the message would be delivered directly to the people who could most benefit from it. It occurred to her that digital picture frames could fit in with the décor of most offices and could be placed on end tables or hung on walls. They would be visible, yet unobtrusive. She wasn’t sure, though, whether the vision she had in her head would translate well in reality. The challenge was to use existing client photographs to carry a verbal message in a way that would be easily readable and understandable.

So how did Kathleen Kelly Photo help Words@Work produce an effective message for VNA? We started by creating a small demo, using three images provided by VNA and a rough draft of the text provided by Words@Work and playing it for the client on my digital frame. When VNA saw what Paula had in mind, they gave us the go-ahead for the project and asked us to have it ready to debut for an open house celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Visiting Nurses Association.

I was tasked with researching current makers and models of digital frames and getting comparisons of prices and features. I looked for a frame that could render high image quality at a moderate price. Due to time and budget constraints, we weren’t able to go out and photograph fresh images, so Lisa Fuller, business development director at VNA, selected more photos from pictures nurses had taken in the field showing patient care and acquired additional stock images. I edited the images to make sure that all had similar file size, resolution, and proper color balance and selected fonts for the text display. Paula amended the text, and she, Lisa, and I conferred to determine which words and phrases needed to stand out on the screen. The client also wanted the “Ask for VNA” logo, designed by Judy Paolini of TPDA, to be displayed several times during the slide show. After a second demo, I suggested that we repurpose several of the portraits that I had photographed of a number of the staff two months earlier for the VNA website to be layered with the logo. I reduced the opacity of the portraits so that the logo would pop more on the screen, and now the words were backed up by warm, smiling faces of caregivers. After the third demo, I rebuilt the slides with new typefaces for the text and scanned a vintage photo of one of the nurses from the 1950s to incorporate into the show. With all revisions complete, I loaded the digital slides onto memory cards for all of the frames and set the slide show to play in continuous mode.

After the slide show debuted for the staff and board of VNA, the digital picture frames were placed in a half dozen primary care physicians’ offices in the greater Portland area. Ms. Fuller says that they have been well received and that offices are requesting even larger frames (we are using 8×10 inch now) in the future. VNA plans to expand their reach with slide shows that will target specific services, such as physical therapy or wound care, to be placed in specialists’ offices. I’ve posted a version of the slide show on YouTube that plays with a music track, but the show that runs continually in reception rooms plays without sound.