Monthly Archives: January 2006

Postcard from Dubai

Brian Byrne has written a fascinating post on his recent visit to Dubai: Postcard from Dubai full of information, history, images and insights about this super-rich Arab country that has more modern IT infrastructure than most countries yet does things like block flickr. Fascinating.

Tourist photographer takes picture of tourist photographer in Times Square

Tourist photographer takes picture of tourist photographer in Times Square

The woman noticed me and rolled her eyes and giggled, then looked back at her boyfriend/husband to get the shot right. He had a very nice high-end canon with maybe a prime lens with hood on it.

Aaron was behind me taking pictures of signs. Janel was behind me taking pictures of a prostitute who I was a bit scared to look at thinking it might be like an auction and if I looked I bought. Her “aural” patter was quite simple and direct, if you know what I mean, and between her and the din of Times Square it was a bit chaotic.

This is what I love about going to New York. This is an urban photographic adventure and feeling slightly ill at ease gets me excited. Okay, I’m a provincial dork, I admit it but the contrast from rural Connecticut to this is wonderful once in a while and innocent eyes make for good ideas for photographs.

My first long exposure night shot

My first long exposure night shotWe were on Aaron and Janel’s rooftop “deck” at dusk sucking down Sierra Nevadas and talking B and H wish-lists. All of a sudden we’ve got a load of Canon lenses spread out on the table and our three cameras and we’re going crazy taking pictures.

Aaron brought up his tripod and proceeded to do some long exposures. Remembering mysteryme’s night shots, which I love, I just had to give it a go.

So, I broke out my little Bogen desktop tripod and set it up on the wall and shot this. Okay, 2.5 seconds is no big deal but for me it was a first and I love the results. I can’t wait to try this out here in the woods with a tripod. I think I’m hooked on yet another new technique. Thanks Aaron.

Picnic table in Bryant Park

Picnic table in Bryant ParkTurning 180 degrees from this view one sees Bryant Park behind the New York Public Library. More sycamore trees and a lone picnic table with a grove of great spindly trees and tent with lights behind it.

All of Bryant Park is open and free wifi (inside the library is too) so one could easily take pictures and set up a laptop on the picnic table and upload to flickr, all in a matter of minutes. I’ve sat in this park in the summer with my PowerBook reading the digital (web) New York Times while others sitting next to me are reading the analog (paper) version. Sounds like a photo op to me.

Arctic Monkeys

The New York Times had a story this morning: Teen Spirit: Arctic Monkeys Observed in the Wild which I read for some reason. New music isn’t necessarily my thing but something drew me to this title with a photo of a band member on the story.

The article tells the tale of a group of four young Brits who have gone from relative obscurity to worldwide fame in months (not years). It drew me in as did the various videos on their site.

Went on the iTunes music store and found two of their cuts (they have one album out) and bought them and burned a CD which I listened to in the truck on errands today. It’s not my kind of music but they are tight and they have it. No doubt, they’re gonna make it big and not from hype, but from their music.

Arctic Monkeys sold 120,000 copies of their first album in one day and some think they’re on their way to having their first album sell a million copies this year.

They give their music away and encourage music sharing sites to carry their stuff. They even give CDs away at concerts.

I’d say this band is worth tracking whether you like their music or not.

Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building

We were standing in Bryant Park behind the main branch of the New York Public Library (building on right) and the Chrysler building was framed by some great old sycamore trees and the library.

I was pretty sure that these shots would not turn out because they were hand held but I’m pleased with them and I got numerous shots in Bryant Park that I like.

Just a note for those of you who have followed my recent postings: these sycamore trees were probably “pups” when my 90 year old mother used this library.

Aaron in the Subway

Aaron in the Subway

Went into New York the other day to meet up with Aaron and Janel and wow, did we have a fun time taking pictures.

The great thing about getting together with other photographers who are trying to learn but know different things from you is how fast the ideas flow back and forth and I learned tons just from watching Aaron work. After dinner he clipped his camera onto his tripod and just walked out of the house with this rig over his shoulder. Dang. I’d have packed it all away and prepared to scale Denali but he just walked out with this and got on the subway. But of course, it was a nice evening and why the heck not.

If the truth matters

I have a question for Oprah Winfrey which I’ll get to in a second.

Recently, it became known that James Frey, the author of the best-selling non-fiction book A Million Little Pieces exaggerated and lied a bit in telling his tale of overcoming addiction. Oprah, who had recommend this book and helped it sell over a million copies felt duped when The Smoking Gun outed Frey as having lied about some of the “facts” in the book.

Personally, I don’t give a darn about Frey’s bending of the truth to tell his story as long as it remains a good story well told. Categorizing it as fiction or non-fiction or semi-fiction just doesn’t seem all that big a deal to me.

But, Oprah got all worked up about the book being categorized as non-fiction and because she has considerable power to move books she wanted to make sure her credibility and brand was beyond manipulation (I don’t think Frey did this to dupe Oprah).

So, Oprah had Frey back on her show and ripped his head off publicly (sold more books no doubt, why else would Frey do it) and she attempted to repair her tarnished reputation and “brand” by publicly proclaiming that “truth matters.”

I know Oprah has done and will continue to do good in the world and she uses her considerable influence and money to help developing countries, fight racism, and get people to read important books that broaden their views of the world.

Okay, the setup piece is over, here’s the question:

If the truth matters and Oprah knows she has a popular brand and following, why doesn’t she make a public statement about our president, George W. Bush’s lying about the facts leading up to the war in Iraq including weapons of mass destruction, and lying about domestic spying on Americans. I mean, if the truth matters and all. If she felt duped by Frey and ripped into him about a book’s categorization, why doesn’t she feel duped by Bush and rip into him about the fact that over 1000 Americans have died in a war that is the perpetuation of a lie. I mean, if the truth matters.

How to shoot pictures from planes

A photographer up on flickr asked me how I get such nice images out of plane windows. Here’s the answer I just gave her:

1. Know the kind of plane you’re flying so you can choose a seat relative to the wing. Generally, these days most of us “plebes” sit in coach which means either over the wing or further back. Too close to the wing and you have not only wing but engine exhaust to shoot through (you have this anywhere behind the wing on most jets). The problem is, the closer to the tail you are in the plane, the worse the ride will be and you’re generally near a bathroom or a galley or both. How dedicated are you ;).

2. Know a bit about the route and decide which side of the plane to sit on to get the view you want. Consider time of day and the sun’s position over the time you’re flying. You want the sun on the other side of the plane so as not to flare the image or glare on the window. Knowing the plane will also give you knowledge of the seating layout. Most planes have a 3 and 3 layout which means that seat A is the left window and seat F is the right window.

3. The outside of most plane windows is a hard plastic which, over time gets scratched. If you get a heavily scratched window it will make things harder although not impossible as you’re focusing beyond the window. Also, go to the bathroom and wet a paper towel and clean the inside of the window. Between finger prints and god knows what else it can be pretty grimy.

4. Worst case, move your seat if you can.

5. Carry camera and an assortment of lenses to your seat: do not store them overhead and then bother people putting them up and down. Keep it all with you so you can shoot.

6. Many of my early aerials were with a Canon G3 which I set to “landscape” mode on the mode dial. I could do this with the 20D as well I suppose. The important thing is to not allow the lens to focus on the window and keep the flash off. The landscape setting will do this and more automatically for you or, you can do it manually.

7. If you can’t get a fast enough speed out of the lens on manual, push the ISO high. No need to worry about high quality here, you’re already shooting through plastic. You’re looking for decent quality.

8. I don’t think there’s much reason to shoot in RAW (see above) so I shoot all of this stuff in jpeg.

9. Stop down some from full open as you’re never going to be shooting perpendicular to the ground (unless the plane really banks hard, in which case you’ll probably throw up on the window.

I hope this is useful. Bottom line is that you have to put a bit of effort into planning and when you do of course there will be clouds the entire trip. But, clouds can be interesting too. I’ve also seen some fantastic shots on flickr of plane interiors and the backs of people’s heads.

Kitty in the sun

Kitty in the sunOur 15 year old arthritic cat “Kitty” has a routine to warm her stiff old bones: curl up beside the woodstove in the morning (like now as I write this) then as the sun comes up and my wife Anne goes off to school, sneak up on our bed and stretch out in the sun.

Later, when I come upstairs she attacks me wanting to play. I caught her here, just before the attack.

My great grandmother Leah’s tombstone

My great grandmother Leah's tombstone

This picture, taken at Mt. Zion Cemetery in Queens, New York in 1918, has much of my mother’s family in it. My mother is the smallest child on the right. Her maiden name is Dick. She is 90 now.

The old man with the beard is David Dick, my great grandfather and the husband of Leah, the person who has died. David and Leah were a busy pair, they had ten kids, some of whom are in this picture. David’s name is now on the other half of that stone although I have yet to photograph it but I will as the Mt. Zion Cemetery is like something from another world.

David and Leah were brought to the US from Austria by Samuel (Sam), my grandfather who is in the derby with his hands on his son’s shoulders (Sam died before I was born and Samuel is my middle name). Sam was a successful dressmaker in New York.

Sam and Ida, my grandmother (second from the left in the lighter colored dress who came from Russia) had four children, three of whom are the kids in front of Sam and the youngest of whom was being carried (womb) by Ida when this was taken.

The older girl is my aunt Bertha (Bunny), the boy is my uncle Irving, and my mother Frances (3 years old). The unborn sibling, Lilly (changed from Leah).

Women on left, L-R: unknown, Ida, Pearl, Sadie, Rose and Gladys kneeling (all but Ida are Sam’s sisters, my mother’s aunts). I met and knew Sadie, Rose, and Gladys. I still see Glady’s son, Bob from time to time in LA as well as Pearl’s daughter Dorris.

Men on the right: David, Pearl’s husband, Sam, and the three men to the right of Sam are his brothers.

Everyone in this picture except my mother is now gone (including the unborn Lilly).

Knowing Ida (my grandmother, second from the left) this picture was probably taken by a pro with a big view camera. Ida spoke Russian and Yiddish and very poor English and she was probably schizophrenic. However, she was highly creative and encouraged her children to be individuals. I think she had a pretty big impact on my mother.

Widmer Hefeweizen

Widmer HefeweizenOur Macworld group went to lunch and hey, people started ordering beer and the restaurant had one of my all-time fav beers: Widmer Hefeweizen, a Portland, Oregon micro-brew that we can’t get on tap back here in Connecticut, so what the heck.

I can see it now: Carlos will be world famous for shooting Vincent in shopping carts (continuing until Vincent is 24), Gary for shooting his dish rack daily for years, Mamen for the 1000 moods and faces of Aisha, and I’ll be infamous as the guy who shot beer, drank it, and then dropped his camera into the bay. I’ll receive a “less than Darwin Award” and maybe they’ll write a play (Lawnchair Larry).