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Jay Gammill

LIVING THE BEACH LIFE Jay Gammill of East Setauket captured this image of a piping plover at West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook on May 3. The shorebird, which derives its name from the bell-like whistled peeps it uses for communication, is considered threatened due to human activity, receiving protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1985.

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A blue jay enjoys a bird bath in Jay Gammill’s Setauket backyard. Photo by Jay Gammill

By Ernestine Franco

 

A trio of Snowy Egrets feeding. Photo by Jay Gammill

A hobby often starts merely by chance. A dad gives his young son a camera for his birthday. The son takes a few photos and has a good time. As he gets older, it becomes a passion. Then, after he retires, it becomes part of his soul and guides his vision of the world.

I am describing Jay Gammill of East Setauket who started taking pictures after his father gave him his first camera, a Brownie Starflash, and today uses a digital camera that has letters and numbers in its name as well as lots of lenses.

To call Gammill an amateur photographer does not do his photographs justice. To experience his exquisite vision, check out his first solo exhibit, “The Birds Among Us,” at the Emma S. Clark Library in Setauket throughout the month of March featuring 20 stunning images of birds taken in Canada, Maine, upstate New York and in Gammill’s own backyard over the last three years.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Gammill about his exhibit and hobby.

How did you get into photography?

My father had the most influence on my picking up a camera. He worked for a photographic company prior to World War II and was a Navy mapping photographer during the war in the North Atlantic. Dad always had either a still or an 8mm movie camera in his hand.

Why do you photograph birds?

Many beautiful birds visit our feeders in East Setauket, and I wanted to capture some nice photographs of our feathered friends.

What else do you like to photograph?

On vacations or when visiting local areas I really enjoy photographing the interior and exterior of mansions, castles, homes and all landscapes.

A Great Egret takes flight at Nissequogue River State Park in Kings Park. Photo by Jay Gammill

What kinds of cameras/lenses do you use to capture these stunning images?

Seventeen years ago I started with a 5-megapixel Sony, then I used a 12-megapixel Lumix bridge camera, and now I have a 26-megapixel Nikon D610 and have plans to upgrade yet again to a more professional Nikon camera. I have several lenses for the Nikon D610. In the field I use a 200-500mm lens primarily for birding and sometimes attach a 1.4 extender, increasing the focal length to 700mm. This gives me a lot of flexibility depending on the subject’s location being near or far. I also have 20mm, 50mm, 300mm and a 28-300mm lenses. The wide-angle 20mm lens (probably my favorite) can be used for landscape photography or indoors without a flash and produces excellent photos. The 50mm lens is very sharp and great for outdoor get-togethers. The 300mm lens with an extender is great for birding and the 28-300mm lens is excellent for all-around exploring.

Your photos show that you have an artist’s eye. How does your vision affect how you frame your photos and the subjects you choose?

A lot depends on the lighting. Having good light provides a variety of angles and shadows that can add interest to a photograph plus excellent detail within the photo. When looking at a subject, I try to envision how it will appear on my monitor and whether it will provide the same interest it provides me to others on social media.

You’ve described your wife Jan as your ‘spotter.’ Can you elaborate on that?

Jan has become an integral part of my bird photography. After she started coming out with me, it was evident she could pick out birds in trees faster than I could by myself. Now we enjoy finding birds together but also the exercise. It is not uncommon for her to say “take that shot” and that has proven to be very beneficial to my work.

This is your first solo exhibit. Have you enjoyed getting ready for it?

The answer is yes! I’m happy I started early on choosing my photographs and getting them printed. Visiting the library to view the exhibit location also helped. I am also working on some presentation work that will identify the subject in each photo.

How did you decide which photos to include in the exhibit?

Detail, pose and subject expression had the most influence on which photos were chosen. Some of the birds’ eyes just speak to you when you see them. You know what they are thinking.

What are your favorite photos in the exhibit?

I guess it would be the Red-tailed Hawk and the Atlantic Puffin. A part of getting the photos ready for the exhibit is framing them.

Can you talk a little about the different materials you used to do this?

There are many ways to display photos these days. I have chosen three different types for the exhibit. Some are mounted in the classic frame style. One is under ¼-inch clear acrylic with polished edges. This is a fairly expensive way to present a photograph, but it gives the photo a very unique appearance. The third method is having the photos printed on aluminum. You can have a very large picture and it will not weigh a lot, making it easy to hang, and it makes the colors really pop.

A Great Egret. Photo by Jay Gammill

Where else have you exhibited?

I was very pleased when the Huntington Arts Council accepted two of my bird photos to be displayed in its gallery for a month last year. Another photo, of the original Fire Island Lighthouse beacon, was accepted in last year’s 100th anniversary Parks Department photo exhibit held within the lighthouse keeper’s home for a month. Two bird and two landscape photos were displayed for a month last year at the 2nd Ave. Bayshore Firehouse exhibit gallery for the Long Island Triumph Association’s art show.

Any advice for others who want to have their photos seen by others?

Post your photos on social media for a lot of exposure and to get a feel for others’ reactions to your work. I have been posting on Facebook for years now, and it has given me a good indication of what people like.

Where can our readers see other examples of your work?

I have set up my own website, www.jayjaysvisions.com, to show others my bird, wildlife and landscape photography.

“The Birds Among Us” will be on view at the Emma S. Clark Library, located at 120 Main Street in Setauket, through the month of March. For more information, please call 631-941-4080.

'Cutchogue Barn’ by George Gough

Update, Feb. 11, 1:10 p.m.: According to the Huntington Arts Council, the opening reception scheduled for Feb. 5, originally postponed due to snow conditions, has been moved to Friday, Feb. 19, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Main Street Gallery.

The Huntington Arts Council’s Main Street Gallery will present its latest exhibit titled “Earth, Air and Water: A Celebration of Tri-State Wildlife and Nature” from Feb. 5 to 27. An opening reception will be held on Feb. 5 from 6 to 8 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

‘Osprey in the Rain’ by Tom Reichert
‘Osprey in the Rain’ by Tom Reichert

Participating artists in the juried photography show include Talia Amorosano, Irene Andreadis, Debra Baer, Amy Bisagni, Holly Black, Winifred Boyd, Laura Rittenhouse Burke, Terry Canavan, Dorothy M. Chanin, Tom Colligan, Joseph Cutolo, Leonard Digiovanna, Jessie Edelstein, Monica Friedrich, Jay Gammill, Shannon Gannon, Susan Geffken Burton, Phyllis Goodfriend, George Gough, Jovanna Hopkins, Patrick Keeffe, John Killelea, Susan Kozodoy Silkowitz, Julia Lang-Shapiro, Mark Lefkin, Matthew Levine, Elizabeth Milward, Vera Mingovits, Trish Minogue Collins, Howard Pohl, Tom Reichert, Burt Reminick, Spencer Ross, Max Schauder, Harry Schuessler, Ruth Siegel, Don Thiergard, E. Beth Thomas, Susan Tiffen, Mac Titmus, Pamela Waldroup and Joan Weiss.

The exhibit was judged by Andrew Darlow,  a New Jersey-based photographer and digital imaging consultant whose photography has been exhibited internationally and has been featured in numerous magazines and websites. He has lectured and conducted seminars and workshops around the world. Of the 154 pieces of work submitted, Darlow chose 42 photographs to appear in the show.

‘Crab Meadow Sunset’ by Irene Andreadis
‘Crab Meadow Sunset’ by Irene Andreadis

“Photography is like magic. In a fraction of a second, a moment can be captured that will never be repeated exactly the same way again. This is especially true when our images include wildlife and nature,” said Darlow. “The entries for this show truly showcased the natural beauty and splendor of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. In addition to many spectacular images of animals, flowers and breathtaking water scenes, I selected some photographs that include people and man-made structures. This balance between the human and natural worlds fascinates me, and I really look forward to viewing the exhibition on the gallery walls,” he added.

Best in show went to “Crab Meadow Sunset” by Irene Andreadis, and honorable mentions  were “Osprey in the Rain” by Tom Reichert and “Cutchogue Barn” by George Gough. Congratulations!

The Huntington Arts Council’s Main Street Gallery is located at 213 Main Street in Huntington. It is open Monday to Friday  from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-271-8423 or visit www.huntingtonarts.org.

An osprey with two chicks at West Meadow Beach. Photo by Jay Gammill

By Ernestine Franco

Like many sons, Jay Gammill has followed in his father’s footsteps, a U.S. Navy photographer during World War II. “My father had a tremendous amount of photographic experience. We even set up our own darkroom for processing pictures in our basement. Dad was always the guy with the camera,” said Gammill.

Jay Gammill photographs local birds.
Jay Gammill photographs local birds.

Born and raised in Long Island City, Queens, Gammill spent his entire life on Long Island, with the exception of his four years in the U.S. Air Force, 1968-1972. He met his wife Janet after returning home from the service. They married in 1976 and moved into their first home in Levittown. In 1999, they moved to their current home in East Setauket.

Gammill received his first camera, a Brownie Starflash, as a young boy. “Boy, was I happy! No one could turn around without a flashbulb going off in their face,”  he said. And so began a lifelong passion.

When Gammill entered high school at Rice High School in upper Manhattan, he was in the yearbook photography club, and his parents bought him his first 35mm camera. “That camera was glued to me; if there was any kind of school activity, you could be sure I was taking pictures. It was very gratifying to have many of my pictures published in my senior yearbook,” he said.

A Great Blue Heron at West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook. Photo by Jay Gammill
A Great Blue Heron at West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook. Photo by Jay Gammill

Gammill purchased his second 35mm camera while in the Air Force and used it for many years after returning home. “Friends always whined when I was taking pictures at parties and social events but those pictures are now filled with golden memories that can really make people smile.”

Retiring as the director of the maintenance training department of New York City Transit in 2009 gave him more time to pursue this unique hobby.

Sitting outside on the deck of his home, Gammill started taking pictures of birds. He found it wasn’t easy. “Then it became a challenge, and I knew I could do better,” he said. “I have an advanced digital camera now {a Nikon D610}, and birds have become my favorite subjects. My wife, who spent summers in Sound Beach growing up, and I go to parks, ponds, nature areas — anywhere birds may be feeding or nesting.”

A great egret at Nissequogue River State Park in Kings Park. Photo by Jay Gammill
A great egret at Nissequogue River State Park in Kings Park. Photo by Jay Gammill

Gammill has some advice for anyone interested in photography. “Taking photographs will expand your horizons. It is a very enjoyable hobby, getting you out of the house into the fresh air, not to mention some exercise, which I recommend to anyone.” For himself, he has lots of plans. “Now I want to increase my efforts into landscapes, sunsets, night photography and other areas,” he said.

Mimi Hodges, a resident of Sound Beach and long-time friend of Janet Gammill and her family, credits Jay Gammill with revitalizing her own enthusiasm for photography. At a family get-together last year, Gammill invited Hodges to join a closed Facebook photography group.

“The result is that, for the past year, my interest in photography has been revived and I am truly enjoying this renewed passion. I owe it all to Jay,” said Hodges.

Gammill has posted some of his own photographs on Facebook and was surprised that so many people enjoyed them. When asked by friends how he finds these birds, Gammill answers, “They are all around; you just have to look.” And when Gammill looks through his camera, what he sees is spectacular!