Monday, December 31, 2007
But how do we KNOW that it is a new year? The Earth travels in its orbit around the sun, and there is no "bump" to let us know that we are beginning a new orbit. We know from the stars.
The sky gives us all its brightest nighttime star, Sirius, at its highest, on the meridian, at precisely midnight between December 31 and January 1. (The local meridian is an imaginary line from the north pole, to the south point on our horizon. It is directly South when we look at the sky.) This photo shows Sirius, the "dog Star" to the lower left, on the meridian at midnight, and Orion, the mighty hunter, in the upper right. Orion's belt is made up of three stars on a diagonal, and his sword consists of three more stars in an almost vertical line beneath the belt. Please click on this photo to get an enlarged image so you can see the stars more clearly. Think of it! The sky gives you a gift, its brightest at the highest, as a "sign" or "gift" to mark the start of your new year. May your year be rewarding, sparkling, and bright! And thanks to my good friend Sam for the astronomical details!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:02 PM
Sunday, December 30, 2007
So just for fun, we decided to go out tonight and look at houses that were really "done" for Christmas. So I went to the website of the paper I work for, and could NOT find the web version of the story the paper ran on "Holiday" (I HATE that term, it's Christmas...) decorations. The print version listed a whole bunch of homes worth visiting. Since I couldn't find the list I decided we should go to Massapequa because I have photographed decorations like this, and that town had a pretty good collection. So we were not disappointed. The snapshots I took were a bit more interesting because it was raining at the time.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:06 PM
Saturday, December 29, 2007
George Washigton slept here. Or he didn't. Oh wait, he had tea here, that was it. Or he didn't. Doesn't matter. It is another House for Sale story, and the original structure was built in the 1630's and was added on to over the years several times. One of the results of all that, is this really long hallway upstairs that leads from one end of the house to the other, with bedroom doors all along the way, with wonderful light coming into the hall. I was really excited to see this, and spent some time looking from one end and then the other to find the best shot. I like this photograph because of the monochromatic color, and I like this view because of the doorknob in the foreground.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 11:10 PM
Friday, December 28, 2007
This is Aleja, a modern photojournalist, who is a colleague of mine at work. I saw her the other day sitting in her car working on a story. Notice, in the center of the photo, a blue rectangle - that is the viewing screen of her SONY High Definition video camera. She has a brand new Macintosh MacBook Pro laptop on her lap with Apple's Final Cut Express video-editing software. Not seen is the Air Card connected to her laptop, so she can transmit her still photos and video files wirelessly back to the office. Wow. The modern photojournalist, indeed! Oh, and did I mention that she is a terrific photographer? One of the best!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 6:48 PM
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Silly Cat! Stuffed in behind the back of a chair, and lying on a warm radiator, but with her legs hanging off the end, out in space like this! Why would that be a comfortable way for a cat to sleep? Wait. She's a cat. I am a human. OK, I sort of get it. The duck decoy seeming to be watching it all is also silly, I think. Silly, cat, silly duck, silly photo, and silly photographer!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:30 PM
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
I had to photograph some Christmas mantelpiece decorations at an upscale florist. To make the photo more realistic, the owner suggested we go to his home and he would arrange the decorations on the mantle there, which we did. Why am I telling you this? Because, on the way out of the house, I walked across the patio and spotted this amazing bench, made from part of a tree trunk. Isn't it amazing? It has such beautiful form, I decided to show it in black & white. The color image showed some faint color differences in the wood, and some greennish tint from some moss, which I thought was distracting. Black & white just shows the form.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:07 PM
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
What's going on here? It is our Christmas day in Connecticut, and this is a photo of my mom, who is 91, and my 3 sisters, and a neice and two nephews, and Kathy. But what are they looking at and why are they smiling so?
The answer is that both of our daughters are a continent away, in Los Angeles. This is the first year since they were born, that they have not been home for Christmas. So we all have iSight webcams on our Macintosh laptops, and this was our way of connecting so we could all be together on this day. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to talk to them, and to see them in real time as well. A wonderful Christmas indeed.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:32 PM
Monday, December 24, 2007
"What?" "An out-of-focus Christmas tree?" "Are you kidding me?" Well, actually I never photographed an out-of-focus Christmas tree before. What I WAS going to do was shoot one image in focus, and one out-of-focus, and then combine them in Photoshop. Well, what happened was that the result was not pretty. But the out-of-focus one was actually quite lovely. So I have decided to go with just this one. I wouldn't dare turn something like this in for the paper, but, hey, it's my blog. Oh, and by the way... Merry Christmas to everyone!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 5:58 PM
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Oh man! I nearly forgot to post tonight! It's 2 AM and I have been working on printing photographic cards all night as a gift for my mom, and baking more gingerbread men (women) and I was headed to bed and just remembered I hadn't done the blog. Duh! Anyhow, you saw the children's playground the other day - the spaceship kind of thing. After I photographed that I turned around and saw this cloud of seagulls down low, and a man standing amongst them. I put a long lens on the camera and started moving toward him and the gulls. I managed to get this shot before he was finished feeding them from his hand to the birds in flight. I asked his name, because I thought it would make a nice shot for the paper, and he told me he comes here every day to feed them, and they recognize his truck and come to be fed. He also asked if I had seen any of the Ospreys that live near there, and told me that he had been responsible for putting up poles for Osprey nests out in the marsh. Oh, the paper didn't use the photo...
Posted by Ken Spencer at 11:12 PM
Saturday, December 22, 2007
It's that time of year! Gingerbread men for the Cookie Project! The Cookie Project? Since I was a kid, my mom would make a whole bunch of different kinds of Christmas cookies for the whole family. When she was about 85, she said it was difficult for her, because of the arthritis in her hands, to continue to make all the different kinds of cookies. So here's what we did - Kathy and I and my three sisters, and our daughters Liz and Amy, and my sister Joan's kids, Jennifer and Jonathan, and Karen's two kids, Kelsey and Chris, each took one of my mom's recipes and made enough cookies for everyone. Christmas day we do a cookie exchange. My all-time favorite is the gingerbread men, so that's the cookie that I make. Only I made my own cookie cutter, and I make gingerbread women. Makes better use of the dough! So here I am, at the one time of year I get to make gingerbread! Here is the dough rolled out, the rolling pin, the cookie cutter, and the baking sheet, on the kitchen counter, ready to go! Yummm! They are delicious!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:48 PM
Friday, December 21, 2007
I had to photograph a kid's playground today at Crab Meadow Beach because it is going to be rebuilt. It is at a beautiful location, as you can see. So I did the regular photographs, and then thought I would have some fun and look for the "something else" quality of the scene. I couldn't stop thinking that parts of this thing looked like a spaceship, or some kind of strange bug. So I think this is the best "otherworldly" image from the shoot.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:00 PM
Thursday, December 20, 2007
I was doing a story on Christmas decorations that were being made for one of the famous Gold Coast mansions on Long Island. Obviously the scale of the decorations is a whole lot different from what we need for our houses! I caught this image of a finished wreath being transported. Loved that is just a wreath and legs.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:19 PM
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
OK, I admit it - I was desperate. Too many assignments today in too short a time, so I really had to hustle, which is not bad in itself, it just didn't give me time on the assignments to look for the "other" pictures. It was when I was leaving my astronomy club meeting that I saw this, and stopped to make a shot. OK, so it's not the best photo I ever took, but I was desperate for something to post. Desperate is not a good way to run a blog...
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:38 PM
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I love industrial things. New or old, large or small, I am fascinated by great projects. Now I have a huge project nearly in my back yard. This is the reconstruction of the half-mile long Roslyn Viaduct, which was originally built in 1949, and which is being rebuilt with a new state-of-the art concrete bridge. The amazing thing is that they are doing it one lane at a time! Traffic continues to flow in 3 of the 4 lanes, with the steel and concrete for the 4th lane having already been removed. This amazing yellow structure has been gradually erected on top of two new poured concrete piers, and it is the lifting and alignment mechanism for the new modular stressed concrete pieces that will make up the spans of the new bridge. It was perfect that the water was calm and that it reflects this amazing structure.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:54 PM
Monday, December 17, 2007
I have been doing portraits of people who were interviewed about what kind of advice they would offer to people. This is the pastor of a church, and from the moment I walked in the door, we started gently talking and listening to each other, and it went on for an hour! It is hard to remember all the subjects we talked about, but it had to do with the meaning of life and stuff like that... He feels that the best advice he can give to people is to minimize and make life more simple... put things aside, and explore and make your life lighter more purposeful and meaningful. About his work as a pastor he told me that his mentor told him: "ministry is in the interruptions." I am reminded on days like this, that this is why I love my work.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:13 PM
Sunday, December 16, 2007
I was on the way to photograph a doctor on Friday morning, and had left the house to get there on time. But then I drove by one of my favorite scenes down at the water. It was misty in the rain, with fog in the background, and there was snow everywhere. I was dying to pull over and make a photo, but with snow along the roadways, it would have taken 15 minutes to park safely, and walk to where I could shoot the photograph. It killed me, but I kept driving! So today, late, it was raining lightly, and I thought I would go back and see how the scene looked. It was not what it was the other day, but it had a different quality, which I thought was worth capturing. Does it look cold and damp and miserable out? It sure was.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:17 PM
Saturday, December 15, 2007
I have been looking back at a lot of my posts, and it feels as if they are starting to look the same. So for somthing different, here's a face. I am mindful when shooting picture stories or photo essays, that I need to vary the scale from distant shots, to medium shots to close ups, so that there will be more visual variety. So now I have done that here. This is a quick shot I did of one of the models while waiting for two other girls for a group shot. She was leaning against this column, and the light was just right, and she happened to look down, and I said "Don't move!" and I got my camera and did four frames. She is actually wearing a dark blue dress, but it hardly shows in this small image. I have intentionally kept the image dark, I love the monochromatic tone of the photograph, but most of all, I love the mood of the image.
Friday, December 14, 2007
I was doing some more photos of homes with something called "Hampton Style," although this house isn't finished yet. As I wandered around looking for photos, my "radar" went off when I spotted this. I loved how strange it was. That bundle of wires behind the chair was coming out of a box in the wall and is apparently for a home theatre system waiting to be installed. So they just hung the bundle on a nail, until the hardware arrives. I don't think the photo would have worked if the vase with the dried stalks was not there.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:16 PM
Thursday, December 13, 2007
One of the things I do is to go to various Senior Citizen housing facilities, and make photographs of the facility - maybe one shot of the outside, and another of either some residents involved in activities, or perhaps a resident in their apartment. The director of the facility brought me to this apartment, but the woman who resided there didn't want to be photographed, so I took a few photographs around the apartment, knowing they wouldn't be used. But I loved this view of the TV set. I think if I didn't tell you who lived here, you would be able to guess on your own. Maybe my TV will look like this someday...
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:48 PM
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
This is a photograph of some of the multiple roofs of a new house for sale in the Hamptons. It is beautifully designed, and solidly constructed. You are looking at a number of roofs which are all covered in cedar shakes. The spire on the circular roof adds an element that makes the whole scene remind me of something from the fantasy computer game "Myst" of years ago. The high cumulus clouds only add to the feeling. Oh, the cost? Four million, more or less.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:54 PM
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I was out east today photographing some homes, and took a wrong turn and went down a this road, and as I drove along, thought something looked a bit different. It was the fence. It was black! Wow, I don't ever remember seeing a black fence before. So I pulled over and spent about 15 minutes trying to make an interesting photo. I am not sure I succeeded. I spent most of the time shooting along the fence, and it was only when I was walking back to the car that I saw this view over the fence. I liked the strange "Island" of trees in the middle of the field.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:28 PM
Monday, December 10, 2007
As I drove by a golf course this morning I caught sight of trees disappearing in the fog. I immediately stopped because fog usually offers a good chance at an interesting picture. For me, the thing that makes fog photographs most interesting is to be close to a nearby object, and then to have other objects behind, become fainter and fainter as they receded into the distance. I don't quite have that here, but there is enough of that effect to make the tree in the foreground more interesting because of the faint images in the background.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:08 PM
Sunday, December 9, 2007
I decided to go out drinking the other night, and when I arrived at this bar... JUST KIDDING! I have never gone out drinking! :-) I arrived at a restaurant late one afternoon to photograph the restaurant for a review for the paper, and while waiting to meet the owners, I noticed these employees sitting at the bar waiting to start work. The pattern of their legs against the front of the illuminated bar caught my eye. So that they wouldn't see me photographing them, I actually photographed the reflection in a mirror on the opposite side of the bar. I loved the pattern the legs made and I liked that because the tops of people were lost in the darkness above the bar, you are not sure what is going on at first.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
I wasn't sure if photography could be accurately described as "handiwork" so I looked it up. There were two definitions that seemed to apply: "The characteristic quality of a particular doer or maker," and "The product of a person's efforts and actions." And I do hold the camera in my hand... Anyhow, after I described my bridal shoot to you, I thought I would post one of the photographs I did that day. How easy it was shooting in that mansion - beautiful light, and wonderful architectural detail. Well, actually when it comes to the light, I had a 400 Watt second strobe out of sight around the corner to the left, which I set off by radio from the camera.
Friday, December 7, 2007
There are some images that don't quite make it as a "complete" photograph. The photographer Minor White, who I was incredibly lucky to study with for 3 years while I was at RIT, referred to those images as "fragments." I think that it is really useful concept to be aware of. Sometimes when I am struggling to make a photograph after seeing something that interests me, I realize that it will never be a complete photograph, but it can be an interesting fragment. I think that this shadow of an ornate railing in an old mansion falls into this category. It's nice, and I thought it was worth taking.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Wow, look at all that's going on here! It's a bridal shoot that I did in one of the great old Long Island mansions. Lovely architectural backgrounds, beautiful light from the large windows, and the models were easy on the eyes as well. But these things don't just happen - they require an entire cast, including the producer who chooses the dresses, those who get the clothing to the shoot, unpack the clothing, jewelry, and shoes, set clothes up on hangars, steam the wrinkles out, and then there are the two hair and makeup stylists and finally, the clothing stylist. Wow! Oh, and the photographer. That's me! That's a lot of people. I find the specific location in the house, and set up my electronic flash units to light the scene. Just before I get to shoot, the hair, makeup and stylists all swarm over the models to make sure everything is just so. "Clickclickclickclickclickclick..." and we are done with one shot, and on to the next.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:38 PM
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
This makes me crazy. I have labeled the photo "colonnade" but I am not sure this structure is one. I took this photo at Old Westbury Gardens, and I have two books about the gardens, and the PR Director's phone number. I can't find the books, and it is after 1:30 in the morning and it is a bit late for me to call her! I was here to photograph the gardeners making Christmas decorations for the main house, and when leaving spotted this as I drove past. It stopped me in my tracks! Isn't this just lovely? The combination of the beautiful architecture and trees in late fall has that wonderful feeling of a faded beauty which I love so well.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:33 PM
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
I was on the way home after my last assignment today, and realized that I hadn't seen anything worth shooting for the blog. I thought I would use an older photograph, and then I caught a glimplse of the sky. It was pretty spectacular with the grey overcast with breaks near the horizon, as seen through the clear cold air. The closer I got to home the better it got as the light continued to fade. I was shooting through the windshield with my Canon SD800, and when I came to these red lights with the power poles on either side, I realized I had something. I'm not sure what, of course, but the "something" I feel that I feel when I have seen a complete photograph, and not just a fragment of a photograph.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:37 PM
Monday, December 3, 2007
So about two days ago I promised to stop posting photographs of the Japanese Maple. On the morning of the snow, I spent about half an hour photographing the tree, both up close and from a distance. I finally decided to post the close-up for visual variety on the page - I wanted a photo at a different scale, just to break up the sameness of the images. But I was struggling with that decision, and sent a couple of friends the photo that I was not using. They all wrote back and said "Post it!" So I am. I like the subtlety of this image. It seems more delicate, and there is more "going on" in the image (as we photographers are likely to say.) I think this is a "better" photograph than the close up. And now I will stop photographing the tree for the time being - as a result of a wind storm, most of the leaves are now gone. But what a gift this tree was to me this year.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:55 PM
Sunday, December 2, 2007
I woke up this morning to find the ground covered with a thin layer of light snow that had fallen in the early hours of the morning. This is quite unusual for us to get snow while there are still leaves on the trees. The snow was light enough sit gently on the tops of the leaves. I did mention a few postings ago, how delicate the leaves were on the Japanese Maple. Aren't they beautiful seen up close?
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:06 PM
Saturday, December 1, 2007
One day last week I had to wake up early for an assignment. Unaccustomed as I am to rising early, I was lying in bed trying to come awake, and noticed the play of light and shadow on the bedroom curtains. I staggered out of bed, went downstairs, and returned with my Canon SD 800 point and shoot, and got back under the covers where it was warm, and then spent the next 5 minutes or so trying to find the best composition. It is amazing what kind of photographs we can find in the very familiar in our lives.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:51 PM