Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Home Archaeology

I am just finishing up roofing the back room. Today I ripped off two layers of old shingles, and while doing that, happened to see these calculations in pencil on the original roof boards. (You may have to click on the image to enlarge it in order to see the writing.) The house was built around 1910 or 1920, I believe, but the small back room was added on later - perhaps in the 1950's. So here I was, face to face, so to speak, with the carpenters who built the back room. It is hard to explain the feeling exactly, but I loved the connection, such as it is, between someone who built this, and me, who is rebuilding part of it, sort of, all these years later. There is a wonderful Robert Frost poem, titled "The Tuft of Flowers." I will let you read it on your own, but the key line is: "Men work together, I told him from the start, whether they work together or apart."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Revealing Light

There are two ways to think of photographing an object - one way is to photograph it for what it is. The other way is to photograph it for what else it can be. if you use "soft" light, as I did here, you can see every detail in the object, in this case, a piece of driftwood. If you use bright sunlight, the object will have dark shadows, and may be more dramatic in its appearance, and it is liable to look like "something else." So I chose this soft, "revealing light" for this piece of wood. One way to get this soft light is to photograph it on an overcast day, as I did here, and the light comes from every direction, and eliminates all shadows.
This piece of driftwood is interesting - it comes from the house next door. It has been sitting on the ground in a garden next to the house, and I had seen that it was there, but I never stopped to look at it closely. Today I had to move it to put my ladder where it was, and that's when I realized what a beautiful object it is. Trying to decide what to use for a background was not easy. I considered the lawn, and then the driveway. An hour later it occurred to me that fresh dirt would be great, so I raked a spot in the garden at home, and brought this over to my house to do the photograph. I think that it is the perfect background. What beautiful form it has!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Euthanize Grandma!

This is just plain STUPID! I passed this guy in front of the Glenwood Landing Post Office, and couldn't believe his signs, both the "Euthanize Grandma" and the picture of President Barack Obama with a Hitler mustache. I don't wish to discuss politics or health care reform here, but it is this kind of stupidity that is replacing meaningful discourse. I am really troubled by the nature of political discourse in Congress. It used to be a discussion among gentlemen, and now it seems to be a fistfight in a mud pit - it is no longer about working together to create legislation for the American people - it is about one party trying to make sure that the party in power fails. They should be ashamed of themselves. And this guy is an idiot, because the claim of euthanasia has been proven false. I was going to stop and ask this guy a couple of questions, but then decided I would rather paint my house. End of rant...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Rain and Mist Today

I am not good about remembering what the weather has been, exactly. Today was lovely with rain and mist most of the day. I guess that means that it has been dry around here lately. I say that because the rain feels welcome - it feels nice to be out in it. So I went looking for something that caught the mood. I thought the scenic was nice, but when the man and his dog came along, it was icing on the cake.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tower & Cloud

I drove out to Southold today, on the North Fork of Long Island, because I was invited to speak at the Custer Astronomy Jamboree. I was looking for photos on the way out, but was a bit pressed for time, and hadn't found anything by the time I arrived at the High School where the event was held. As I was walking in to the school, I looked up and saw this scene - I was taken by the bright white cupola on the High School, and the single cloud. I also looked for a photo on the way home, but it was night and I didn't find anything.

Friday, September 25, 2009


I saw this rose next door while painting. I have been dodging the rose bush over there for weeks while moving my ladders around, and never managed to find a fresh rose bloom. Any roses I saw seemed to have been past their prime. Yesterday there was this one rose that looked pretty good. Not perfect but pretty good. But I was desperate for a blog shot, so I went home and got my camera and came back to shoot this. Oh well...

Thursday, September 24, 2009


I photographed a rose today for the blog, but afterwards I decided this photograph was much more interesting. Today I was editing photographs from my trip to the Detroit Observatory in May, because I am speaking at an astronomy jamboree this Saturday. On that trip we also went to the famous McMath-Hulbert solar observatory as well. That observatory is no longer in use for research, but volunteers had it set up to demonstrate its workings for us. This is a photograph of the image of the sun projected on the slit of a spectrograph. I love the heavy industrial construction and the mysterious quality - the "What IS that?" kind of thing.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I think I mentioned that I carry my toy camera with me on the bike now, in a little pouch that velcros to the bicycle frame. So at the end of my ride each day, I always have a camera with me when I sit on my park bench down by the water. It pays to have the camera with me. Of course, you may get bored seeing all my photographs from down by the water. This is just an ordinary sunset, but there was something about how it looked - it feels to me as if this was taken in some other place. Maybe the darkness of the land both in the foreground and in the distance? I'm not sure, but this view, although familiar, feels quite different.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Million Galaxies

I took this photograph in the back yard. In daylight. It's not galaxies at all. I took down the aluminum awning over the back door to paint it. It is painted white, and was covered with some black stuff on the outside, and inside a very delicate gray pattern of some kind of mold, I think. So I photographed it with a close-up lens. I thought it made an interesting pattern. Then when working on the image in Photoshop, I imagined what it would look like as a "negative print" where the blacks and whites are reversed. In a darkroom it used to be a relatively complicated process, but in Photoshop it was just a click. And guess what, I am not thinking of this as a cheap trick - I studied with the photographer Minor White, and he used the negative print for some of his images. My conscience is clear! By the way, please click on the image to see a much larger picture. There is a lot of interesting detail to be seen.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Abstract Expressionism

I should probably call this image "Cheap Tricks." This is part of the pile of old shingles in the side yard which I have taken off the roof. Winding through the view is a bright orange hose from my air compressor, used for the nail gun. When I looked down and saw this I thought it would make an interesting abstract photo. So I shot it, but looking at it later, I decided it needed more. So I did the unthinkable - I increased the saturation of the image in Photoshop. This wildly accented the differences in color of two different layers of shingles. So now it is an unrealistic image, but more interesting than it was originally. But it is still a cheap trick.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

By My Own Hand

These are two of the telescopes that I have built. The white one has a 6" mirror, and the larger telescope has a 10" mirror. I made the 6" mirror, but not the 10" one. When observing at night, the air temperature keeps dropping, and eventually dew forms all over the telescopes. Eventually parts of the optical system including the secondary mirror and the eyepieces dew over, and then I have to use a little 12 volt hair dryer to warm things up just a bit, to chase the dew away. When I put the telescopes away in the car at the end of the night, they are usually soaking wet. So this morning when I got up, I set up the telescopes in the sunlight in the driveway, to dry them out. Watching them sit there, I decided to photograph them

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Under The Stars

It was a gorgeous day today, with a sky bluer than I had seen in months. Since it was also New Moon, I decided to head out to the east end of Long Island to Custer Institute in Southold where I am a member, to do some observing. Southold is 76 miles and an hour and a half away. It is a long way to go, but it is worth it - it is one of the few places on Long Island where you can still see the Milky Way. I love looking at the sky - I think it makes an inner connection for me, something deep and sublime. As much as I love observing, I really love showing the sky to others. There was a group of six - 3 adults and 3 teenage girls who came buy hoping to look through a telescope, and I spent an hour showing them some of the highlignts of the heavens. They really enjoyed their time at the eyepiece. Then I spent the next three hours looking at some familiar objects, and I went looking for some that I haven't seen before. When I left at 1:30 AM I was filled with this wonderful sense of renewal - something about looking at the stars connects with the spiritual within me.

Friday, September 18, 2009


This photograph is SO strange. First of all, I think it is surrealistic! It just looks SO weird! It is me, stretched out on a park bench down at the water, cooling down after my ride. I did try using a self-timer and shooting a photo of me from the side, stretched out on the bench, but it looked as if I was dead! OK, forget that idea... So then I did this view, which is bizarre, but at least it is different!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Telescope Parts

I am finally starting to work on my big telescope. I bought the mirror and it arrived almost a year ago, but other projects have taken precedence. Finally, I am starting to build my dream scope! The mirror is 18" in diameter, and the glass is only 1.5" thick, which sounds thick in terms of window glass. If you consider that the curve in the surface of the mirror needs to be accurate to millionths of an inch, you would think that an inch and a half of glass would be thick enough, but it is not and it can easily be distorted if it is not supported correctly. So these are parts of the "mirror cell" which supports the glass from behind. I cut these triangles out of 1/4" thick scrap aluminum on my table saw, cut the corners round and then sanded the front and back to make these pieces look new. These parts are sitting on an 18" circle of particle board which I will be using as a "model" of the mirror to check on the fit as I progress. It is a beginning. I will be showing you more as the project progresses.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Dumb Idea...

I was driving to my astronomy meeting tonight, and thought maybe I should try and take a blog photo. So I grabbed my camera, and set it on a slow shutter speed, and tried to take a picture out the window, to give a sense of speed, as I drove down the road. I got some interesting things, but they were not THAT interesting. Then I thought I should try and be more creative in some way. After a while I considered intentionally trying to blur the photo by kind of waving the camera around during a long exposure. Oh, while driving down the road... :-( What made some photos more interesting than others was the kind of lights in the background. Street lights, car lights, traffic lights, and who knows what else. So this is my favorite image of all. Oh, I did get home in one piece, you will no doubt be pleased to know.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Little Project

I haven't taken any photos for the blog in the last two days because I am back to my roofing project. Working like a dog, because rain is due tomorrow. I had to tear off two layers of old asphalt shingles. Then I found some of the roof sheathing was rotted. I cut the bad wood out, and then discovered that one end of one of the rafters was partially rotted as well. So it started out simple, but took a lot longer that I planned. I am half way done with putting on the new shingles for this section. Looks nice, doesn't it?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Down By the Water (Again)

It's funny how I don't go near the water looking for photographs for weeks, and then I go there several days in a row, both day and a night, and find new things. Well, sort of new things. It was the sky that I saw first, then I saw the curving rivulets of water draining into the harbor, and then I saw the tiny fisherman in the distance. Maybe I won't go near the water for a while now.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I went down by the water after sunset and was surprised to see a ferris wheel all lit up across the harbor. Since it was such a long way away, I had to turn around and drive back to the house, and try and find my 300mm f/2.8 lens. I think it took me nearly 20 minutes of digging around to find it! When I got back to the harbor with my long lens and tripod, I started taking pictures. the ferris wheel was not moving at the time. I thought the photo looked pretty good. But then it started to turn and I made some longer exposures to get the blur - I was amazed to look at the final photographs, and realize how much better the blurred version was!

Saturday, September 12, 2009


We had a surprise visit today from our dear friends, Ken and Ronni, from South Carolina, and their daughters, and son-in-law Charlie and their grandchildren! We didn't have all that much time to visit because they were headed to a wedding. But while we visited just standing in the driveway, with Charlie watching, the boys immediately occupied themselves with exploring the water running down the street from the rain, and a little pool that had some earthworms in it. The boys are amazing - bugs and worms just don't phase them. They can be happy anywhere!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Old Friends

I went to the "Dinosaur Brunch" again today, and was so pleased to see Ed, a new arrival. Al is on the left, and Ed, on the right is a writer who I worked with for years at the paper. We worked on some really neat stories together. About two years ago, Ed had a massive stroke which he is only now recovering from. He told me that 7 months ago it took him all day to write one sentence! He has progressed a great deal since then, and had his first column published in a local newspaper today. It was so good to see him after all this time, and to see how far he has progressed.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


This is the Aloe plant in the back room, which I have photographed and posted here before, but this view is different. The same object, seen in a different way. I sat in the chair in the back room to put my bike stuff in the basket on the floor, and happened to look up to see the plant this way. Interestingly, I started by including the whole plant in the viewfinder. The picture did not seem as strong as I thought it would be, so then I came in closer, and I think it makes the image stronger.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lights For the Front Steps.

It is long past time to have lights for the front porch steps. Just one of those things I never got around to. So the other day I went looking at 12 volt systems, instead of the solar lights, which are not nearly bright enough. I liked the style of these lights - I forget what they are called, but they remind me of Frank Lloyd Wright - maybe this is Prairie Style? (On Long Island?) Oh well... In any case, they really are pretty, and I love the light.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Christopher's Planets

This was a very special evening tonight. We moved our astronomy club meeting night from Wednesday, to tonight, Tuesday, just so we could hear this talk from Christopher Go. He is from the Philipines, and is one of the most accomplished amateur planetary imagers in the world! In face he now works with a group and gets to use the Hubble Space Telescope! That is just astounding for an amateur astronomer. His talk was riveting, about how to take great photographs of the planets from our backyards.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Looking For The Light

The kitties love anything that moves, and they watch like hawks when there is any kind of light around. Thats because I have a laser pointer, and every once in a while I get it out, put the red spot on the floor, and the cats love to chase the spot around. Sometimes I put my watch crystal into sunlight, and reflect a little bright circle onto the floor or wall and the cats chase that. So when this kitty saw the light on the floor, she watched like a hawk, hoping, I guess that it might move and that she could chase it around.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Eloquent Light

I decided to bring my toy camera with me on my bike ride today. I never do that, but the sky was stormy looking and I thought I might find something to photograph at the end of my ride, when I stop at the beach to cool down. As if to prove a point, just as I arrived at the little park, an area of sunlight broke through the clouds and illuminated a portion of the sycamore trees along Shore Road. Good thing I brought my camera on the ride!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Malestrom, Again

I have photographed this sculpture at the Met before. It is Roxy Paine on the Roof at the Met: Maelstrom. It is a 130-foot-long by 45-foot-wide stainless-steel sculpture created by contemporary artist Roxy Paine especially for the Museum’s Roof Garden, set against the backdrop of Central Park. I spent an hour photographing it last time, and maybe only half an hour this time, but I wanted to spend more time with it before it goes away. It is so amazing, and for me it makes my head spin, imagining the creativity it took to think of this wondrous creation.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Painting, painting, painting...

So this is what I have been doing all week... painting, painting, painting. Something about painting that I love - making things look shiny and new. I am helping a neighbor paint their house. Why? Because I ain't got no job, because I have time on my hands, and besides, it feels good to be able to help someone. It is so nice to step back and see how nice everything looks when I am done. The dumb part? Well, that would be me, standing on the top of the extension ladder, holding the paint brush in one hand and the camera to take this picture in the other! Geeze... What a jerk!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Temple of Dendur

This photo was taken in the Sackler wing of the Met. This wing contains the Temple of Dendur, which was brought all the way from Egypt, where it was located on the banks of the Nile river. There was a pier in front of the temple so boats could dock there. When they built the surroundings for the temple, they included the pier and this water to give the feeling of the river. So I photographed the windows of the building reflected in the pool, and of course, waited for someone to walk through to add more interest.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Ho Hum. It's just me. Except, it is multiple reflections of me in a sculpture by Anish Kapoor, on display at the Met. It is titled "Untitled, 2007" It is a concave mirror, made up of a large number of small hexagonal mirrors. This big mirror has a "focal point" and when you stand in front of it, and move closer, the image in the large mirror changes dramatically. At one point you fill the entire mirror. At another point, you are upside down. At this point, you see multiple images of yourself. I guess this would be awesome for an egomaniac! (Or, in my case, just a curious person.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Garment Worker

I was in the city today, and decided to walk up Seventh Avenue from Penn Station. I usually walk on the west side of the street for some reason, but today I walked up the east side. And in the garment district I found this! The sculpture is called "The Garment Worker" by Judith Weller. It stopped me in my tracks! What an amazing and powerful sculpture. If you thought the worker's labors are difficult, he is sitting at a treadle sewing machine! What amazes me is that I have walked past this spot hundreds of times, but today is the first time I REALLY noticed this. I found it very moving, thinking about these men and their lives. If you are curious, the sculpture is close to life-size.