Carl Monopoli: Blog en-us (C) Carl Monopoli (Carl Monopoli) Thu, 19 Oct 2017 10:09:00 GMT Thu, 19 Oct 2017 10:09:00 GMT Carl Monopoli: Blog 120 80 Den The project I’ve been working on is a den for raccoons, foxes or groundhogs.  As you can see in the videos below the chamber and the anti-chamber are repurposed composing bins. The passageways are aluminum tubing. I wanted to use codex but 6-inch Codex isn’t as easy to get as you might think. If at next year at there are no residents, I’ll probably swap out the tubing installed currently for something wider and hopefully more substantial. The camera is fully operational and can take stills or video. The trash bag is there to provide some rain protection even though the camera is fully sealed for outdoor use.

Here is a video of the den still open to view.

Here is the den, with posts designating the chambers, completely buried.

(Carl Monopoli) Thu, 19 Oct 2017 01:10:34 GMT
New Project Update 2 How about the pics and vid below as a hint? Any guesses as to what the project is? If not...reveal next week.

(Carl Monopoli) Thu, 12 Oct 2017 08:15:00 GMT
New Project Update 1 Below is a picture of an outdoor motion/sound activated camera system. Is this enough info to make a guess at what this project is all about? If this space. Another hint will appear next week.

(Carl Monopoli) Fri, 06 Oct 2017 01:02:15 GMT
New Project It's been a while since we've committed to a wildlife-focused project that required more than a day's worth of effort. After a little research and stock taking of some of the stuff (more like junk) that is lying around our place, the decision was made to move ahead. No beans will be spilt with regard to specifics just yet. A little background is in order first.

    Our previous residence was on a very restricted lot. Not only was it a tiny amount of land but we had more than a few neighbors who kept a pretty close eye on us. Their lots were just as small as ours and their proximity put them close to cohabitation with almost all of the denizens focused on the sole pastime of fence peering. With all of this in mind, we still wanted to compost. Plastic bins seemed like the perfect option, being that we were a bit lazy, maybe focused a bit too much on instant gratification and more than a little appearance-conscious (recall the busybody neighbors). We bought 2. Fast forward to the present. We're in Plainfield on a big lot with neighbors who have things to do, other than minding our business.

  We still compost all of the leaf litter on the property but this is accomplished in the tree lines without any bins at all. So....what to do with those bins? And what's with those aluminum ducts in the pic below? Can anyone guess? If nobody does, another hint will be tossed your way next week.

(Carl Monopoli) Thu, 28 Sep 2017 12:47:05 GMT
Flying Predators 2 It's the beginning of prime flying predator season. With the leaves thinning, the youngsters past fledging and fanning out away from the nest, you're more likely to catch a glimpse of a Cooper's or Red Tail swooping in and, as with most animals, the juveniles are much more tolerant of annoying photographers always pointing their cameras in every direction. If you're at a pond like the 1 at the Cook school, you might listen closely to the mallards if a raft (this is 1 of the words for a group of waterfowl on the water) is on the surface. There are a number of calls that signal different things to the bunch but a low collective murmur signals a predator in the area. If you don't see a fox, check the trees and your camera settings.  

(Carl Monopoli) Fri, 22 Sep 2017 01:12:45 GMT
Photo Exhibit – Plainfield Wildlife Part 2 I would just like to thank everyone who came out and will come out to see the exhibit at the Plainfield Library. There are still a few weeks left to go on down there to see the wildlife and pick up some free swag too. I usually make sure there are some 4X6 photos to take home on a table by the entrance.

(Carl Monopoli) Thu, 14 Sep 2017 18:12:26 GMT
Monarch Update 2 We've verified that 2 monarch larvae have made their temporary quarters in our backyard. They seem to add significant body mass almost every day. This makes sense given the warm days of summer are numbered and their goal is to pack on the milligrams with the hope of metamorphosing many weeks before the first frost. The milkweeds look like Swiss cheese but that's just fine. They were grown as food and the more that is consumed the greater our success. If you have even an empty planter, YOU CAN DO THIS TOO!

(Carl Monopoli) Thu, 07 Sep 2017 21:57:35 GMT
Pup Update 04 The local poop factory (gaggle of 9 goslings and 2 parents) has, for the most part, kept the foxes away and so I’ve had no real sense of whether any of the fox pups are still claiming this area as part of their territory. Then I took a series of shots that put that question to rest. The pic below is of a half-size fox. Its fantastic to see a little min-fox running around and I’m pretty sure, although can’t be certain, that its 1 of the original litter.

 Thanks for reading/looking!

(Carl Monopoli) Thu, 31 Aug 2017 16:19:22 GMT
Monarch Update 1  The plan to aid monarch populations in the area by planting milkweed is working. After weeks of sporadically checking under the leaves, the first monarch caterpillar (see below) has been spotted. The little guy is only about a quarter inch or so but may (one can hope) be 1 of a few in the area. Will they all or any of them make it to chrysalis stage? With all the proximal insect predators, mantis, ambush bugs etc., who knows? Watch this space for updates. If you have space of a planter, you can EASILY do this too!

(Carl Monopoli) Thu, 24 Aug 2017 10:40:31 GMT
Photo Exhibit – Plainfield Wildlife The Plainfield library is truly 1 of the best around. They always have amazing local stuff exhibited and for the next few weeks they’ll be exhibiting MY STUFF! So if you want to get a look at 36 wildlife shots I’ve taken recently in the Plainfield City area IN LARGE FORMAT go on down there. It’s in the lower level in the Anne Louise Davis Room. Thanks to Larry Quirk, Dan Damon and Bruce Zehnle for championing my photos and to Sarah Hull and everyone at the library who made my shots look so great!

Here's the blurb I wrote for the exhibit....

Plainfield City Wildlife

People have a certain notion when they think of New Jersey just as New Jerseyans have a certain preconception when they think of Plainfield.  But you and I are members of the club that is in the know about this town. It is such an amazing place, from its incredible people, diverse culture, history and wildlife. Yes. You read that right – WILDLIFE. Plainfield has amazingly beautiful and diverse wildlife; something that long ago vanished from many of the towns that surround us.


From the thriving Plainfield fox population to the rebounding bobcat in the north of the state, New Jersey and Plainfield are urban/population-dense paragons for the United States and the world that demonstrate that rewilding your backyard is not only possible but a proven, successful strategy for reinstating and fostering wildlife.  This is the wildlife living in our town. We CAN help it flourish.


(Carl Monopoli) Thu, 17 Aug 2017 12:34:00 GMT
Raccoons! Raccoons are all over Plainfield City. Any night you can go out with a flashlight and catch their crazy-looking eyeshine, an effect caused by the tapetum lucidum, a layer of tissue in the eye located behind the retina which reflects visible light back through the retina increasing the light available to the eye’s photoreceptors. Given their incredible cleverness, its unbelievable that these guys don't make a constant and consistent mess every night before garbage collection. Even without being habituated to human food, these guys will eat almost anything and love hunting in and past the water's edge with their amazingly-dexterous hands. 

Get out there!


(Carl Monopoli) eyeshine new jersey plainfield raccoon wildlife Thu, 10 Aug 2017 09:00:00 GMT
Fox Track Without a doubt a lot of interest is generated over at 500px when a photo of a fox is posted. There is just something about these amber little guys that touches a nerve. It's hard not to put them high on the list of favorite subjects. Their antics and appearance make them naturals for photography. The summer months are always a challenge as they are always kept at a distance by geese protecting their young. They return in late summer or early fall with winter being the best time as they begin the mating season and are always fun to spot running around and acting crazy.  Recently we've tried to keep track of a few. This is particularly challenging, given their very short life spans.  One of the constants you might recall seeing over and again is Patches, the fox with a patchy coat. Below is shot of the most recently-spotted denizen, Notch, so named because of the missing notch in the right ear.

Get Out there!

(Carl Monopoli) fox new jersey plainfield tracking Thu, 03 Aug 2017 09:30:00 GMT
Every Little Bit Helps Sometimes it seems like there is nothing we can do to mitigate human impact on wildlife. How can any of us in the U.S., other than to contribute to the myriad of Rhino-focused organizations, help in a hands-on practical way, the Northern White Rhino which now only exists in zoos? Even some of the stuff I've highlighted in this space is a bit much. For example, most can’t build a mallard nesting tube since, for it to be useful, a body of water should be proximal. But that’s silly defeatist thinking. There’s lots more to do besides dredging ponds or other such craziness.  How about...cutting back or eliminating insecticide use? There is also the option of using only the soap-type which is much less impactful…

OR you could plant milkweed seeds (yep – you can get them on Amazon) or order plants themselves, which is what I did 2 years ago. These plants are essential to rehabilitating declining monarch butterfly populations. I shot the photo below just a few days ago and this particular butterfly seemed pretty interested in the area as it stuck around for a while hopping from plant to plant. Will we have caterpillars soon? Who knows? It’s a start…

I would just like to plug an org I really like here, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation

Get out there!

(Carl Monopoli) butterfly monarch new jersey plainfield tracking Thu, 27 Jul 2017 08:45:00 GMT
Bug Season II Taking photos with your phone is cool and you can get some great stuff but if you really want to get some detail on the small wildlife stuff (going macro) can be done  on almost any budget and anywhere there is green grass or a few flowers. Insects (see picture immediately below) and plants can be great subjects and the equipment can be had for a tiny fraction of the dough required for the glass necessary for larger animal captures.

Here is that shot I took with the setup listed below.

My macro setup is VERY simple and is based on my camera body requirements but keep in mind that much cheaper bodies can be substituted as long as the body allows for lens changing.

Extension tubes can be had for $10 or less on ebay ($14 on amazon -

An old 80s-era MANUALLY adjustable aperture lens adapted to the camera body type can be obtained from ebay for about $60. You can also use a newer lens but this will mean more $$$$. Auto-focusing is not of much use in macro as you'll see once you get going.

A diffuser can be obtained for about $9 on Amazon -

My setup is shown below based on my Canon EOS bodies but, as I said above, cheaper bodies can be used to get very similar results.

Here is the setup altogether.


This is the diffuser. The lens goes through that hole there.


This is the extension tube (with lens attached), which allows for 3 sections, 28mm, 14mm, 7mm, to be used altogether for the closest proximity, or in any combination, or with any of the 3 sections on their own, with the 7mm useful on its own for the least magnification.


Here is the old lens I use with the aperture almost closed for the deepest depth of field, which allows for more “stuff” in the shot to be in focus.


This is the lens with the aperture open, which allows for a brighter shot in exchange for less of the subject being in sharp focus.


Here is the camera 7D Mark II body alone. You can go much cheaper than this and get almost the same results. A 7D (first version) for example can be had on ebay for about $350-400 but you can go for a much cheaper body if you need to) The grip on the bottom is an extra that helps but is not essential to the beginning photographer.

Get out there!

(Carl Monopoli) insects macro new jersey photography plainfield tracking Tue, 18 Jul 2017 20:34:02 GMT
Mission A new image is posted every day on 500px and instagram and a lot of the stuff is from zoos and aquariums. These places are amazing resources for maintaining species that are extinct in the wild, for education and for gaining access to animals that are almost impossible to see in the wild. There's a great series on Animal Planet running right now on the Bronx Zoo. Of course there are trade-offs, safety for freedom, in any unnatural environment. Anthropomorphising one's subject is not good for much more than composing/selling "cute photos" and makes little sense when evaluating any habitat, human-made or otherwise. When one tracks any wild population for any length of time an understanding will arise for how tough these animals' lives are. For instance, it is unlikely a fox will live past its 4th year in the wilds of Plainfield NJ. Lifespans in Zoos and Aquariums are usually longer than in the wild, depending on the species.

These zoo/aquarium images are sold to stock sites but they are not on my own site for sale. Why? My mission, at least currently, is to shine a light on the amazing wildlife in my town and to me wildlife is that which can be photographed in its natural state doing what it would normally do as if nobody was in proximity. 

Of the 20 shots in my current portfolio, 18 of them were shot in Plainfield, the remaining 2 were shot in nearby NJ towns, and all were shot in the wild (yes even the insects).

If you’d like to follow me on instagram, I’m @carlmonopoliphoto.

Get out there!

This is an example of 1 of my "Zoo" shots that is a fun capture but doesn't appear in my portfolio.

It was taken at the Dublin Zoo, a truly great zoo.

(Carl Monopoli) new jersey photography plainfield tracking Thu, 13 Jul 2017 09:30:00 GMT
Bug Season The bugs are out. The words insects and pests are almost synonymous in the vernacular. But as a photographer, these little guys are a godsend for the daylight hours when the light stinks/is over-bright and overhead. That’s the time to capture that otherworldly jumping spider, dragonfly or mantis, like the 1 below.  BTW – if photographing these predators is on the docket, 1 should ensure they are not stressed and certainly not injured when the shooting is done. These important animals fill an import role in keeping those true "pest" insect populations in check.

Get out there!


(Carl Monopoli) Thu, 06 Jul 2017 21:29:08 GMT
Slainte Just got back from the emerald isle (Ireland). What a great place for photography. Getting a bad shot really takes a significant effort. The wildlife was somewhat sparse but I was able to get a few captures, as evidenced by the shot below. The Dublin Zoo is first rate and the Galway aquarium is worth a look too if you are as wildlife-obsessed as I am and have a bit of time on your hands. If you’d like to see more, all the shots are currently being posted (1 per day) at my 500px site. Thanks for looking!

(Carl Monopoli) Thu, 29 Jun 2017 23:03:00 GMT
Fledglings Around this time of year most fledglings, those birds that just learned to fly, can be glimpsed bumbling from branch to branch. Technically the bird pictured below is a pre-fledgling jay as the shot could only be attained because the bird’s sole option was to hop away from the lens. Around these parts there are a number of boxes placed at recommended heights for different species but, for whatever reason, there are no occupants. The wood duck box vacancy is no surprise as these guys are very skittish and Plainfield City is likely too urban for their temperament, although a number of very unflappable - pardon the pun - drakes can be observed in Central Park so…who knows. As for the silent wren, nuthatch and chickadee boxes? Still a mystery. Get out there!

(Carl Monopoli) Tue, 20 Jun 2017 10:15:00 GMT
Ubiquitous We have yet another growing family here in Plainfield City. I’ll give you a hint – the members are grouped as a herd and will eat anything that was, is or is proximal to anything green, painted or otherwise.

Deer of course have been the bane of Plainfield gardeners for as long as there have been plants to mulch. Actually 1 of my neighbors, whose Sleepy Hollow citizenry credentials backdate my own, does recall a time when a deer sighting was something to note. Now they are so prolific hunters are paid to manage the population and all of the trees on my property are caged to the point that my yard looks like the set of Oz.

The 2 shown in the shot below must have been birthed only a few weeks back and their energy is infectious. They bounce around and kick their heels as if some miniature invisible, leprechaun, bronco buster was still hanging into the 10th second. Thanks for looking!



(Carl Monopoli) Tue, 13 Jun 2017 10:17:42 GMT
Gaggle A brand new brood has been spotted bobbing around in our backyard pond. In a way, I have been fighting this particular 1 – a gaggle of goslings - off for years with any number of contraptions, rc boats, rc helicopters and laser pointers for years owing to their disgusting habit of turning the yard into their own green hell/toilet. But this year is different in that 1) these guys do not primarily reside in my yard (my neighbor can deal w/the bulk of the green mess) and 2) it seems my theory regarding the mallard nest as dependable and working talisman against goose residency seems to have been proven. We’ll see what happens next year, assuming the tube will be occupied again…

(Carl Monopoli) Thu, 08 Jun 2017 14:16:27 GMT