Authors Posts by TBR Staff

TBR Staff

TBR Staff
TBR News Media covers everything happening on the North Shore of Suffolk County from Cold Spring Harbor to Wading River.

Brookhaven Town Councilman Dan Panico, Supervisor Ed Romaine, and Councilman Mike Loguercio at the town's youth bureau's Prom Boutique. Photo from Brookhaven Youth Bureau

The Brookhaven Youth Bureau wants to provide young ladies with an opportunity to attend their prom in style, regardless of financial constraints. The Prom Boutique, located on the second floor in Brookhaven Town Hall, is decorated as a dress shop fitting room filled with prom gowns ranging in styles and fashions.

Young ladies are outfitted with a gown and other accessories that are theirs to keep. There is no charge for this service and all clients are kept strictly confidential. The program will run from March 19 to June 15, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Evening hours will also be offered April 12, May 3 and June 14 from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

For further information regarding the Town of Brookhaven Youth Bureau’s Prom Gown Program or to schedule an appointment, please call 631-451-8026 or visit

Currently the real estate market is being held hostage by low inventory. Stock photo

By Michael Ardolino

Michael Ardolino

The concept of pent-up demand is not restricted to buyers. Many local homeowners are ready to move up to a more desirable home or neighborhood, but when they crunch the numbers, they come up short. Often, this is because they are overlooking hidden wealth, and buying power, in the form of home equity. There is more to a home purchase than the traditional nest egg.

The basics: Let’s say a couple purchased a home with a 20 percent down payment, meaning they have a 20 percent equity stake. As they make mortgage payments, their principal decreases, and their equity — the portion of the home that they own — increases. With home price appreciation added, equity can add up much more quickly than expected.

Home price appreciation: Home prices locally have been steadily increasing at a modest rate for about five years, and the cumulative effect is now showing up in the form of increased home equity. For owners who have been in their homes for 15 to 20 years, the numbers can be surprising. According to Frank Nothaft, chief economist at Core Logic, “Homeowner equity increased by almost $871 billion over the last 12 months, the largest increase in more than three years. This increase is primarily a reflection of rising home prices, which drives up home values, leading to an increase in home equity positions and supporting consumer spending.”

The law of supply and demand: With low supply and high demand, prices will generally increase. For several years, both nationwide and locally, home inventory has been exceedingly low, while pent-up buyer demand has been very high. The resulting higher prices are boosting home equity.

Currently, our market is in effect being held hostage by low inventory. Multiple listing service stats show that in December 2017, inventory on Long Island was down by 7.1 percent over December 2016. Home equity is a solution. As more and more owners tap their equity and put their homes on the market, the constraints being placed on the market by low inventory will be lessened. As more homes are freed up for sale, more first-time buyers will enter the market, more existing owners will move up, more people will buy vacation homes and a healthy market cycle will be nourished.

Mortgage lending standards: According to research by Fannie Mae, “… if homeowners believe that large down payments are now required to purchase a home, then widespread, large underestimates of their home equity could be deterring them from applying for mortgages, selling their homes and buying different homes.”

The stringent lending standards of six to eight years ago have become much more consumer friendly. Loans with lower down payments are readily available to qualified buyers, and requirements regarding income, assets and employment are being relaxed.

If you are a potential seller who is sitting on significant home equity, it may be time to put it to work. If you are unsure as to the size of your equity position, consult a qualified real estate professional. Your equity is a valuable asset that can help you take advantage of our seller’s market while enjoying upward mobility.

Michael Ardolino is a founder and broker-owner of Realty Connect USA in Setauket.

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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) made history by nominating a woman to serve as police commissioner, and we’re hoping a path is being paved for others.

Bellone nominated Northport native Geraldine Hart, who if approved by the Suffolk County Legislature, would be the first female police commissioner in the county’s history.

At a Feb. 22 press conference, the county executive said that gender didn’t play a factor in his selection, but he did go on to tell a story about how he told his two young daughters what he was going to do, embracing the significance of the moment. He said the pair had huge smiles on their faces, as did our editorial staff, a majority of whom are women.

“We were making calls … it was late … and Molly called me, who is 8 years old, asked me where I was, and she was able to get on the phone with Gerry, and it was really a great moment,” Bellone said. “I could tell how happy she was, even through the phone, as she was congratulating her on being nominated for this position.”

Hart has impressive experience for any law enforcement agent. She has spent 21 years of her career with the FBI, and most recently served as senior supervisory resident agent in charge of the FBI’s Long Island office. She has done it all, from investigating white-collar and cyber crimes to gang violence and terrorism. One of her investigations led to the indictment of two former NYPD detectives who were eventually convicted of committing murder and disclosing sensitive law enforcement information to mob bosses. She was also involved in investigations that resulted in the takedown of five members from the Genovese, Colombo and Bonanno organized crime families who were charged with murder.

Women in a position of authority in Suffolk County is a trend we would like to see continue. We can’t help but be optimistic when we hear stories like Laura Curran (D) being voted Nassau’s and Long
Island’s first female county executive, and Laura Jens-Smith (D) being voted in as Riverhead’s first female town supervisor this past election. We hope to see a day in Suffolk when journalists will be covering its first female leader.

Today’s women have confidence in their knowledge and ability to take on these roles and be models for future generations, which was the case with Danielle Turner, who took over as Port Jefferson School District’s athletic director in 2016. In an interview with TBR News Media, Turner credited Lisa Lally and Deb Ferry, Miller Place and Port Jefferson’s former longtime athletic directors, for paving the way for females in the position. She also said the two were supporters of her ambitions.

Hart’s nomination is also a second first for the county in recent months. Earlier this year, Suffolk Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D) became Long Island’s first African-American elected official in a nonjudicial countywide position. In recent years, the county saw the first person of color be elected as presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature when, in 2014, Legislator DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) was named to the position.

Sometimes being the first can be intimidating, but when a person has the experience and talent as backup, anything is possible. We hope to see more firsts in the near future, especially for people in power, because in 2018 there are still plenty of glass ceilings waiting to be broken.

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Cougars score nine 3-pointers to nab third county crown in four years

Commack's girls basketball team celebrates in county title win over Half Hollow Hills East. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

Commack’s girls basketball team proved once again why it’s the No. 1 seed and team to beat by securing the program’s third Suffolk County championship title in four years.

Kim Shaloub shoots from outside. Photo by Jim Ferchland

The Cougars controlled the tempo with their ability to spread the floor and shoot from the perimeter, making nine 3-pointers in a 52-25 topple over No. 2 Half Hollow Hills East Feb. 27 at Farmingdale State College.

Senior captain and Commack sharpshooter Kim Shalhoub drained a team-high four threes to lead the Cougars with 14 points. She had 13 points in a Feb. 24 semifinal win over Ward Melville. She felt more comfortable taking shots from beyond the arc this time around.

“It was really good to finally hit some shots after last game,” Shalhoub said. “Nothing was really going in for me on Saturday.”

She said she was able to get open shot opportunities coming off screens, which is a vital part of the Cougars’ offense.

“A lot of our plays have to do with setting screens for each other, cutting, and a lot of fast movement,” Shalhoub said. “I think that’s really important when it comes to getting open for shots.”

Junior guard Katie Kelly contributed 13 points and knocked down two 3-pointers for Commack. It’s her third straight time making it to the county finals game. In the second half, Commack ran away with the game by outscoring the Thunderbirds 24-9 while playing smothering defense. Going into the game, Kelly was not anticipating a one-sided affair.

Amanda McMahon shoots ahead of the block. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“I expected them to come out a lot harder,” Kelly said. “I think that we just played our game. We stayed together, ultimately. We said that no matter what happens in this game, we have to stay together.”

Commack senior captain Casey Hearns orchestrated the offense. She called plays and made extra passes until her Cougars were open for shots. She added eight points, also making two 3-pointers. Her first shot from outside was a running bank shot off the glass at the end of the first quarter, which gave Commack a comfortable 21-8 advantage. To finalize a 13-0 run in the third quarter in the final minute, she tossed a shot that put Commack up by 23 points, 44-21.

“We usually depend on Katie [Kelly], but she was being covered,” Hearns said. “When she’s being covered or when the offense is a little slow, I’m obviously going to step in and help her. I think that’s what we do really well on offense. I’m always happy to assist my teammates by sharing the ball.”

Hearns said she was astonished to know her team allowed just nine points in the second half.

Katie Kelly drives to the basket. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“I had no idea. That’s awesome,” Hearns said. “We played defense really well in the second half. I’m so proud with how we played.”

Denis Conroy, Commack’s 12-year head coach, missed a large portion of the season due to medical reasons. Assistant coach Russ Tietjen, Harborfields’ former head coach, has led the team most of the year, but Conroy said he could not be happier to add another county title notch to his belt.

“It’s the pride of my life to be their coach,” Conroy said. “They are just tremendous kids. You can’t say enough about what they did. It means a lot to play as well as we did against a team that good. We have managed to develop a strong continuity in our program and I’m very proud of that.”

The Cougars await the winner of the Nassau Class AA final between Massapequa and Baldwin. Commack will play the winner in the Long Island championship/ Southeast Regional semifinal March 8. The game is currently slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.

'Chickens,' etching with Chine-collé
‘Bluejay,’ etching with Chine-collé

‘I draw inspiration from the familiar in nature. My etchings are a close inspection that reveal a whimsical character, and my landscapes portray scenes for which I feel a deep nostalgia.’

— Karen Kemp


Karen Kemp

By Irene Ruddock

A native of Long Island, artist Karen Kemp recently moved back from Boston, where she maintained a studio for 10 years. She studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and at the University of New Hampshire where she earned a degree in art history and has received numerous awards for her work in painting and etching. Her artwork is collected worldwide in private and corporate art collections. I recently had the opportunity to interview Kemp and welcome her back to the Island.

Why did you decide to move back to Long Island from city life in Boston?

There are many reasons for moving back, but one huge reason is that I wanted a home where I could have a larger studio space and a yard for gardening. And being closer to my parents was a big factor too!

What did you miss most about Long Island in the years that you were away?

I missed the open farmlands of the North Fork, the proximity of the shoreline and the marshy inlets of the Long Island. They inspire me to do more plein air painting.

‘Two Boats,’ oil on watercolor paper

I see that you were trained in Italy. What was that experience like?

It was a living fantasy! Shortly after graduating from college, I saved up enough money to live and study in Italy at a school for fresco painting, a process of painting on a freshly applied, damp surface with water-based pigments. I do few frescoes these days, but the process of layering and building up color all continue to inform my work today.

Did you study art conservation?

Yes, in Italy and also in New York City where I spent time apprenticing at a painting conservation studio from which I developed an appreciation for using archival materials.

Some have said that your landscapes in oil have a peaceful feeling to them. How would you describe them, and how are they different from other oil painters?

I try not to make an exact replication. I say that my paintings are representational, but not realistic. I attempt to evoke a calm mood, a setting or a sort of dreamscape. I am very sentimental about Long Island, and perhaps that comes out in the painting. My oil paintings are different from many painters because I paint on gessoed watercolor paper or matt board, which is easy to prepare and transport.

‘Mousewatch,’ etching with Chine-collé

You also are known for your etchings, which have been described as having a whimsical charm to them. Would you explain what etching is to people who may not be familiar with that art form?

Etching is one of the oldest methods of printmaking dating back to the 15th century. It is a technique involving a metal surface such as zinc or copper, and an acid-biting material that “eats” or “etches” into the surface creating a design or image. To print, ink is rubbed into the etched lines, and, with paper, it is run through a press. The image is then transferred to the paper, but in the reverse form. It is much more involved, but this is a simple version.

The background of your etchings often have what is called Chine-collé? Can you tell us about that technique?

Traditionally Chine-collé was used to create a tonal background for an etching using thin tissue or rice paper. The paper and the printing of the etching are run through the press together to create the finished image. Through experimenting, I have updated the technique using origami and patterned papers to achieve a colorful background for my subjects.

Your mother is the much-admired artist Flo Kemp. How has she influenced you growing up? 

My mom, master etcher that she is, taught me quite a bit about etching, and we still spend time in the studio together. I lived and breathed her work for so long, it naturally manifests itself in my work too. Mom has always encouraged and supported me along the way, providing me with etching advice and giving me business advice too.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to develop my paintings and etchings even further. In responding to your questions, I’ve learned a few things about myself that I hadn’t stepped back to consider. I realize how much I enjoy processes and techniques, and how much they inform the style of my work. These will continue to influence the evolution and progression of my art.

What galleries represent your work?

Danette Koke Fine Art in NYC, who has carried my work for almost 20 years, Radius Gallery in Montana and Ogunquit Museum in Maine. I also show yearly at the Gallery North Outdoor Show and with the Setauket Artists. You may view my work and order etchings or landscapes at

Mount Sinai and Miller Place also come in first, Northport and Ward Melville second

Rocky Point's cheerleading team placed first in the county for the third straight season. Photo by Jim Ferchland
Miller Place’s cheerleading team rocks the house. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

The Eagles’ consistency and dominance is second to none when it comes to high school varsity cheerleading.

Rocky Point claimed its third cheerleading county championship in Division I medium varsity Feb. 24 at West Islip High School in front of a boisterous crowd shouting out Rocky Point’s name. The Eagles finished with 94.6 points, the highest overall score of the day.

“It feels amazing,” head coach Anna Spallina said. “There’s so much pressure on me to always compete and be on top. I think it’s just my personality. Climbing to the top is always good but once you’re up there, it’s harder to stay at the top.”

A Mount Sinai cheerleader atop a pyramid. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Before the meet on Saturday, Rocky Point was down in Orlando, Florida for nationals. After earning a pass straight to the finals, the Eagles’ performance put them in a disappointing seventh place.

“It’s a sport,” Spallina said. “Like any other sport, you’re going to have a good day and a bad day. It’s just the way it is.”

Northport finished second (81.2), Newfield third (67.3) and Kings Park fourth (65.9).

Mount Sinai was the only Division II large school in the competition. They finished with a score of 87.7. Mustangs head coach Kara Bochicchio said there still was competition — themselves.

“It was really just about going out there and trying to perform the best routine they could,” Bochicchio said. “Throughout the whole routine, there was fight. It might not have been the most perfect routine of the day, but they fought for everything tooth and nail. I’m really proud of them.”

Mount Sinai senior Charlotte Fiordalisi said there’s no way better to finalize the season with a county championship, especially after the Mustangs also finished nationals in fourth place.

Northport’s cheerleading team brings the excitement. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“I’m just really proud of my team,” Fiordalisi said. “My first ever competition six years ago was here and my last competition being here is bittersweet. It was a great way to finish the season. I’m just living in the moment.”

Miller Place finished first in Division II Medium varsity. The Panthers had 68.5 points to Hampton Bays’ 45.2. The pair are the only two teams in the division.

To wrap up the day was the Division I large school, Sachem North (88.7) earned first place over Ward Melville by one point.

“They really amaze me,” Ward Melville head coach Christine Perretta said of her team. “They never let anything defeat them. We pushed through every routine and they’ve definitely gone further than they’ve ever gone for Ward Melville. They don’t stop until the end.”

A Newfield cheerleader shouts a chant. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Ward Melville senior Kara Manuud has been with the team since her sophomore year. She said she was confident in the Patriots’ routine.

“Just being on that mat one final time, I knew nothing could go wrong,” Manuud said. “We have the skill, we’ve had all the practice we could have and it was just the matter of perfecting that and showing it on the mat.”

The Patriots took eighth place in nationals this year, and senior Courtney Cardillo said it feels good to finish her high school career on a higher note.

“After getting eighth, we worked really hard this past week,” Cardillo said. “We came in stronger than we’ve ever been. We hit a bunch of routines. We showed them what we deserved and who we are.”



Ward Melville’s cheerleading team. Photo by Jim Ferchland

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Hauppauge's cheerleading team placed second in the county after finishing second in the nation. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

The Eagles soar to another second-place finish.

After earning a runner-up nod at nationals two weeks ago, the Hauppauge cheerleading team placed second in the county in Small School Session 1 with a 90.3 score, just two points behind top-finisher Longwood.

“It feels good considering that there were so many teams that didn’t make it here,” head coach Laura Alonzo said. “It’s a little disappointing for us, however, because we knew going into it all we had to was hit. We didn’t do that, but the rest of the routine was great.”

Senior Francesca Capilets gets the crowd excited. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Hauppauge was deducted 2.5 points for a minor fall during its routine, so without that fall, the Eagles would have taken first place by half a point.

Taking third was Walt Whitman (86.1), fourth West Islip (84.4) and fifth William Floyd (83.6).

Hauppauge senior three-year starter Sam Suazo said coming in second was not what the team wanted, but was happy with how her final season with the Eagles went.

“I’m proud of the season and how far we’ve come throughout the year with everything that we’ve accomplished,” Suazo said. “Even though we had a fall, we still had a great performance today. This has been my favorite team, and I had such a nice time this year.”

Senior Francesca Capilets has been with the team since her freshman year. During the routine, she said the team had to work hard to make up for the fall.

“We needed to bring more excitement to the routine,” Capilets said. “It’s harder when you have a fall because the crowd is not as interested. We just had to catch everyone’s eye.”

After the national performance , Capilets said there was a lot of pressure going into the final competition at West Islip.

“We came into county’s thinking we need to have our best performance,” she said. “Nationals went so well. We hit it at nationals, and knew we had to do better here.”

Cougars are second Class AA team to make it to four straight county finals

Casey Hearns makes her way through Ward Melville's defense. Photo by John Dielman
Amanda McMahon leaps up to the rim. Photo by John Dielman

By Jim Ferchland

Commack’s Katie Kelly, Amanda McMahon and Kim Shalhoub were too much for Ward Melville to contain.

The Cougars trio combined for 43 points in their team’s 60-45 victory over the Patriots in the Class AA semifinals Feb. 24 at Suffolk County Community in Selden. Commack is the second team in Class AA to go to four straight county finals since Sachem East did it from 2008-11.

“We know we’ve always been rivals,” said McMahon, who with Kelly each recorded a team-high 15 points. “We know we always have to bring our game. It feels really great to get a win because we prepared for this so much. The intensity really picked up as the game progressed.”

The packed house was there to not only watch the two teams duke it out, but see Ward Melville head coach Samantha Prahalis face off once again against her alma mater. Commack beat Ward Melville back on Jan. 3, 75-59. Prahalis was ejected that game in the fourth quarter after arguing with officials. On Saturday, Prahalis picked up a technical with 3:45 left in the fourth quarter, which gave Commack momentum to finish the job.

“It’s not necessarily about Ward Melville-Commack,” Prahalis said. “It’s the semifinals. A lot is on the line.”

Katie Kelly reaches powers into Ward Melville’s zone. Photo by John Dielman

Ward Melville junior Lauren Hansen was back healthy after missing six weeks with a hand injury. She finished with 18 points, making four 3-pointers after recording 39 during the first matchup. Junior Bre Cohn finished with 13 points.

“It was difficult,” Hansen said. “I was missing a lot of shots. It was kind of frustrating but it felt good to be back out there.”

Commack senior captain Casey Hearns defended Hansen the entire game. She said guarding her was a huge challenge.

“She is an outstanding player,” Hearns said of Hansen. “It’s definitely hard to guard her. Each time we play her, she has the ability to turn it on in a game like that and take it over. I just focused on staying in front. I knew there were times she was going to pull up and I couldn’t really do anything about it.”

Kim Shaloub passed the ball. Photo by John Dielman

Despite a slow first quarter, the Cougars were up 26-24 at halftime and outscored the Patriots 34-21 in the second half. Commack senior guard and captain Shalhoub (13 points) said her team is more a second-half team.

“I feel like every game we play better in the second half,” Shalhoub said. “It’s really important at the end of the game once you tire the other team out to keep on pushing. It really makes the ending better when you finish strong.”

Prahalis said Ward Melville had a chance to win after Commack went on a 13-0 run to push its advantage, but let the game slip away.

“We kinda had them, and then little things here and there — one or two things leads to three or four,” Prahalis said. “I’m proud of my girls for sticking in there and working hard. We’ll be back here next year.”

Hearns is proud of her team going to yet another county final. Commack will face off against Half Hollow Hills East at Farmingdale State College Feb. 27 at 5 p.m.

“We are used to this,” Hearns said. “This is our fourth one in a row. We lose kids every year and we are still able to get back here. That’s something I’m so proud of and I’m really happy to be a part of this team — from the first girl on the court to the last one on the bench.”

Commack’s bench erupts during a 13-0 Cougars run in the fourth quarter. Photo by John Dielman

In a July 2017 tweet, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin insisted he’d ‘married up’ when his wife Diana asked him to take their date to the shooting range. Photo from Twitter

By Ernestine Franco

We’ve seen a number of letters in this paper where you [U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley)] expound on all the great things you’ve done for your district. However, it seems to me that you either have forgotten
about or don’t want us to know some of your votes and issues you’ve supported, especially relating
to gun control.

The horrific events at the Parkland high school in Florida happened because a 19-year-old was able to walk into the school with an AR-15-style rifle, which he legally bought, and murder 17 people. Some of the children who survived the shooting, the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook, are speaking out: “How are we allowed to buy guns at the age of 18 or 19? That’s something we shouldn’t be able to do,” Lyliah Skinner, a student who survived the shooting, told CNN.

Beginning with the attack at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, life for many of our children has become about practicing active shooter drills and huddling through lockdowns. So I have to wonder about your position on gun control. I question whether you care about what many children now have to deal with when they go to school.

On Jan. 14, 2014, after the Newtown massacre, in a letter to the New York State Senate, you wrote, “This debate should be even more focused on targeting illegal guns and providing maximum assistance to New Yorkers with mental illnesses in order to most directly avoid another tragedy like Newtown. Our focus …  has to be providing people in need of mental health care more access to help. Society as a whole also needs to better understand mental illness and develop improved means of detecting potential violence long before it can become a threat to anyone else.”

So it seems you believe the solution to some of these mass shootings is that we need to better detect problems with the mentally ill rather than ensure that people with mental illness cannot buy a gun? Then please explain why you voted “yes” on the bill to nullify the Obama-era rule that prohibited people with severe mental health issues from purchasing guns?

Granted there was lots of evidence that the shooter’s behavior should have triggered alarm in those around him, but it is unclear whether recognizing and trying to deal with the signs would have changed what this young man wanted to do that day. However, it is clear that if he couldn’t buy an AR-15, he more than likely could not have been able to kill 17 people. So, I ask you, will you support a ban on assault-style weapons?

The day after the school shooting in Florida, in a Facebook post, you expressed sympathy for the victims and their parents. Taking President Donald Trump’s lead, however, you never used the word “gun,” as if the carnage were just about the person.

According to, you have received $33,732 from the National Rifle Association. So, here, I have to again wonder whether your views on gun control have more to do with gun sales than with gun rights. The majority of Americans, even most gun owners, as well as the majority of Republicans, support enhanced background checks as well as a ban on assault-style weapons. Why don’t you? Is it about the money you can get from the NRA rather than what most people want? What’s more important to you: That anyone, even someone who is mentally ill, should be able to buy an AR-15 or ensuring that our children are kept safe?

On Dec. 6 you co-sponsored H.R. 38 — the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017. This act authorizes someone who holds a concealed-carry permit issued in one state to carry a concealed firearm in any state that also authorizes concealed carry of firearms. This bill overrides federal law concerning the concealed carry of a firearm into a school zone or onto a federally owned property.

In case I have misrepresented any of your positions, and if you are really committed to keeping our children — and your own — safe, how about holding an in-person  town hall meeting so we can
discuss these issues?

Ernestine Franco is a Sound Beach resident and proofreader for TBR News Media. She is also a member of the Sound Beach Civic Association.


Gerard Romano of Port Jefferson Station took this surreal shot of Crystal Brook Hollow Road as it snakes south along Mount Sinai Harbor on Jan. 11. He writes, ‘Low lighting required a handheld exposure of only 1/30sec. Walking along the road this day proved to be too much of an adventure as you can see the normally narrow shoulder was snow covered, and the occasional car passed too close for comfort. We wisely retreated back to our car.’