Thursday, December 31, 2009
I woke up this morning to find an inch and a half of snow on the ground. What was cool was that the snow was sticking to the tops of everything. When we returned from California, with 14 inches of snow on the ground, it wasn't very picturesque because all the branches and flowers were bare. This was not the case today, so I went out looking for pictures. I took a bunch, and am picking this one because as a close-up it is something different from the larger scale images I have been posting lately. I think this image has a nice feel to it - kind of blue and cold, like the day.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:00 PM
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
The sunday before leaving California, we all went to Venice Beach to walk up and down the boardwalk and enjoy all the sights. That means people watching, the most fun thing to do on the boardwalk. There is Muscle Beach, and now there is a brand new skateboard park, which is astounding to watch in operation. But then I saw this school bus. I thought this was just a brilliant work of art. Who would have thought to do this? Just brilliant! A guy in a battered motor home a couple of parking spots away said the bus was for sale. $200. I immediately reached for my wallet, thinking that if I bought this, I could save the airfare home. Alas, not enough money in my wallet. Oh well...
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:01 PM
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
These are the Christmas decorations at "Vernon Villa" in Venice, where Amy and Gus live. I love how cute the decorations are, and since it is tropical there, there will be no snow, and yet it feels so much like Christmas. I particularly love the beach umbrella in the photo, on the porch!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:00 PM
Monday, December 28, 2009
Here it is, the recipe you have all been waiting for. It has a storied history. I believe it came from Mertie Loomis, in Guilford, Connecticut, and was passed on to my Grandmother, Florence Jillson Spencer, and then passed on to my mom, Ruth Clarke Spencer, and 40 years ago she passed it along to me. I have been making Gingerbread Women for all these years. I made the metal cookie cutter myself a long time ago, and still use it, strange as it is. Yum!
"Mom's Gingerbread Recipe"
3 cups sifted flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp powdered cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 cup molasses
Sift dry ingredients together, including spices. Cut in butter, add molasses & chill one hour. Roll out dough about 3/16" thick, and cut with cookie cutter. Bake on lightly greased sheet for 9 to 10 minutes at 375 degrees.
Please let me know how you like them after you make some.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:54 PM
Sunday, December 27, 2009
So the real Christmas season lasts for 12 days. That's good because I have some other Christmas photos that I didn't use the days I shot them. I always shoot any possibilities that I see. Sometimes I find a better photograph later on, which happened this past week. So I will take advantage of the 12 days and show you some other photos I took but haven't posted yet. I saw this tree near a bank before going to California. It was at night, and wasn't very interesting, because it was surrounded by black. I made a note to come back at dusk. Imagine my good luck when I returned from the west coast, and there was snow all over the ground! I realized I had a much nicer shot, so went back at dusk. The blue is pretty, isn't it?
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:44 PM
Saturday, December 26, 2009
This is my niece Jen, and my Mom on Christmas day. Jen was using her MacBook computer to show my mom photographs that Jen had taken recently, and my mom was really enjoying them. She is 93 and still doing pretty well, all things considered. It was great to have a lot of our family together on Christmas. We missed Liz and Amy in California, and Kelsey, who is in Maine. But all in all, it was a really nice day.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:41 PM
Friday, December 25, 2009
Went to midnight mass last night, Christmas eve - it actually begins at Midnight, so it is really Christmas day. You pick up a candle when you enter the church, and after most of the service is over, altar boys come down the aisle and light the candles of people sitting on the aisle, and they they light the candles of people in their rows, until all the church is illuminated by the small candles everyone is holding. It is an impressive thing to see, and a beautiful experience to be part of.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:29 PM
Thursday, December 24, 2009
It's Christmas Eve, and today I had to make my Gingerbread cookies for the family cookie exchange in Connecticut tomorrow. Each member of the family makes one kind of cookie to share with everyone else. My specialty is gingerbread. I use the recipe that my mom gave me many years ago, and I made my own cookie cutter. These are sort of gingerbread women. I forgot how I came up with the design, but the shape ends up looking like a Dutch girl with a skirt, I think. All I can say is that it makes efficient use of the rolled out dough! I must say this is seriously good gingerbread, with lots of ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:57 PM
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Every year at this time we have a "Holiday Party" for our astronomy club. It is to celebrate all the holidays at this time of year. Everyone brings beverages and snacks and desserts and we have the evening to spend time eating and visiting with each other, which is really nice. When I arrived this evening, one of the members had this mask on! No one has ever worn a mask before, so this was a bit of a surprise. I have no idea which holiday this member was celebrating. He kept the mask on for half an hour, so clearly he was serious about his celebration. I thought it was a very creative mask. The part where the mouth is located lights up, which is pretty cool in a slightly darkened room. It was pretty dramatic, so I asked if I could do his portrait, and here it is. Any ideas which holiday this is?
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
This post is not about the photograph, which is a shot I took this morning when I went out to look at the clean driveway. It is our front picket fence buried in snow. The exciting news is that I found out who my driveway cleaning benefactor is! The story is even better than I thought! This morning I was listening to the phone messages, and Tina, across the street called Saturday and left a message and said that her husband Craig had just bought a snow blower, and she offered to lend it to me. Ah-Ha! Then Judy, the neighbor who lives next to us told an even better story... Craig, having fun with his new toy, first cleaned his driveway, and then went to his neighbor Gene, and cleaned his driveway, and THEN, he noticed that Judy was shoveling her driveway, and since he was having so much fun with his new toy, went across the street and cleaned Judy's driveway! Judy has been taking care of our two kitties for us, so when Craig started cleaning her driveway with his snow blower she came down to our driveway, and she started shoveling, so she could get up to the front door to feed the kitties. Craig, seeing this says: "What are you DOING?" And she said we were away, and she needed to feed the cats, so now Craig comes down to our house, and cleans his fourth driveway of the day! And Judy shoveled the steps and the porch. Lucky us! Isn't that a great story? Aren't these wonderful friends!
Monday, December 21, 2009
I have been checking with friends for the last few days to see how deep the snow has been in various places on Long Island. It was looking pretty grim - I was expecting from 14 to 19 inches of snow when we got home. And the problem was, we were due home at about 10 PM. And the show shovels are locked in the garage. I was not looking forward to dragging suitcases through that much snow to get to the front door. Oh man... You cannot imagine my complete and total surprise then, when the airport service car pulled up in front of the house, and the driveway was almost completely shoveled! WHAT? Who DID this? We don't know anyone with a snow blower! I kid you not. Not only that, but the front steps and front porch were shoveled off besides. I am absolutely stunned. How nice to wheel the suitcases up the driveway and across the porch. Welcome home, indeed! A true "Random Act of Kindness" Wow! This is a photo from the back door of the cars and the garage
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:24 PM
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Late in the day, on a Sunday afternoon, I noticed a large crowd on the beach in Venice. Gus said it was the "Drum Circle." They meet every Sunday in the afternoon, start drumming together, and drum on into the evening. There must have been at least 200 people there - a large group of spectators, perhaps 30 drummers or more, and people dancing around inside the circle, and in the crowd. When I got close enough to take this photograph, the sound was truly deafening, but hearing so many drums in concert was amazing! I am told that you can hear them drumming into the night, from blocks and blocks away.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 11:54 PM
Saturday, December 19, 2009
We were driving out of one of the wineries and when I turned onto the main road I spotted this scene. It was the group of white trees together that first grabbed my attention. The fact that they were surrounded by the muted browns and greens of the other plants and trees in the picture made the white trees even more dramatic. I love all the textures. It also doesn't hurt that there are blue mountains in the distance, and some clouds in the sky. You might want to click on the picture to see a larger version with more detail.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:02 PM
Friday, December 18, 2009
Today I went to visit my friend Jimmy "Moose." We were college roomates back in the day, and are still friends after all these years. His current job is that of Chief Building Engineer & Facility Manager for a brand new 28 story condominium in Los Angeles. I got the full tour, and then he took me up to the helipad on the roof. It is not for commuting - it only there for a worst-case scenario if there is a fire emergency - if residents are trapped they can be airlifted off the roof. Anyhow, Jim loves scaring himself, to we took turns posing at the edge of the helipad! Man, this was nuts. Loved that hollow feeling in my stomach standing there! :-)
Posted by Ken Spencer at 11:56 PM
Thursday, December 17, 2009
The Getty Center, the shining white museum on the hill in Los Angeles is one of my favorite museums of all time. I went back there again today, to see an exhibit of Irving Penn photographs, and some of the other exhibits. The thing about the Getty is, that the architecture is so stunning that you don't know whether or not to stay in the galleries, or come outside to look at the building! I took a lot of photographs of the center, but when I was leaving it was almost dark, and this was the first time I have seen the buildings at night. So I took this photograph in the main courtyard while leaving the building. I think it does a nice job of showing what an amazing place this is. Isn't this just magical!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:18 PM
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
We drove to Santa Barbara last night and stayed over, then drove to a state park beach where there is this wonderful restaurant right on the beach. This is where we had breakfast this morning before driving back to Venice. Some view! What an amazing place. What grand scenery! After ordering, I was looking out at the ocean. You can see one of the Channel islands in the distance, and a layer of fog lying low on the water. I got up from the table and walked to the other side of the glass surrounding the outside deck so I could photograph the scene. I stood there trying different compositions for 5 minutes or so, made a few exposures, and then this woman came running down the beach with her dog! Bingo! Much more interesting than just an empty landscape.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:45 PM
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
We went to Mission Santa Barbara today, and took the self-guided tour. It is a beautiful place, with such an amazing history. When we went out the exit door, there were these painted carnival-like figures which you can crouch behind and have your photo taken. So Liz decided she wanted to crouch behind the kid one, instead of the taller one. It is amazing that she could crouch down so low in order to look through the cutout. Amy thought it was hilarious, so took out her point-and-shoot camera to document the moment!
Monday, December 14, 2009
This is a writer at work, but not in the way you might expect. We were about to head out for the Santa Barbara wine country, but before leaving, Amy had a few things she needed to do before leaving. She had to email the web designer for the website for her new book to talk about some updates, and then write a few editors she is doing stories for, and then she had to "tweet" a couple of things to update her fans , and update her "Dating Optimist" blog site. These days, a modern author living with Web 2.0 is never done with all the things that need to be done to promote a book. I happened by her room this morning and saw her writing with their cat "Tarzan" sitting on the bed with her. Oh, and that pile of covers behind her on the bed? Amy's husband Gus is under there!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:10 PM
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Cold, rainy and overcast, and here we are at JFK airport, ready to depart for California. We've been waiting for this trip for a couple of months. It is our Thanksgiving and Christmas with Liz and Amy! After takeoff, there was a solid overcast until Utah, where a break in the clouds first showed beautiful snow-covered mountains. A short while later, a stunning barren landscape appeared below, with red mountains illuminated by the orange light of the sun just before sunset. Oh to be at a lower altitude in a slow-moving small plane with plenty of time to shoot aerials!
Then more clouds beneath us until we passed over Santiago Peak and the mountain ridges east of Long Beach. As we began our descent through the clouds, suddenly the setting sun appeared over the Pacific as we were on final approach to the airport. Sunny California at last!
Saturday, December 12, 2009
This is Dick, a colleague at work for most of the 41 years I was there. He is the guy who started the Dinosaur Brunches" which I have spoken of before - a gathering of retired and working photographers and others from Long Island and metro area newspapers. It is a wonderful idea, and it is all Dick's hard work. A brilliant idea! And, he photographs the group every month, and also makes a portrait of each new member and posts them on a website he has designed. Is this guy amazing or what? And he is a very enthusiastic person, and photographer. You can tell by watching him smile while he takes my picture.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:36 PM
Friday, December 11, 2009
I woke this morning to discover that it was 27 degrees out. Whoooo! COLD! I noticed that there was frost on all the windows upstairs, and in the bathroom, the sun could be seen on the other side of the frost. I thought there might be a photograph here, so grabbed the camera and spent some time doing pictures, some closer, and some further away. I think I like this one best because in this more distant view there is more variation in both color and shape across the frame. It feels to me like a view of some cosmic landscape. Please click on it to see more detail and better color.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:54 PM
Thursday, December 10, 2009
I stayed up way to late last night, and while getting ready for bed in the dark, my eyes began to adapt to the darkness and I saw all these shapes from lights outside the house. There is a streetlight out front illuminating the two distant bedrooms, and a neighbor's backyard spotlight is shining through the lace curtains to illuminate the wall in the right foreground. I love that this is unexpected, and different than anything I have shot before. It was REALLY interesting to begin to see more details as I became more dark-adapted, and then finally, to realize "Hey, this is a photograph!" For the technically inclined, my ISO was 3200 and the exposure time was 30 seconds at f/2.8
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:36 PM
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
It was drizzling outside after a rainstorm today, so I went out looking for something for the blog. I tried shooting the trunk of the Japanese maple but thought that maybe I had shot that before. I tried shooting this tomato and herb garden a week or so ago, from the bedroom window, but it wasn't that interesting. Today, from ground level, it looked a bit more interesting. I loved the fading straw-colored plant, and the tomato stakes with their rags still tied. I decided it looked like some kind of garden sculpture. Well, sort of. I love how the rain has increased the saturation of the colors in everything.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:49 PM
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
I was brushing my teeth this morning, when I saw "her." A small dot, out of the corner of my eye, moving across the windowpane. A Ladybug! "Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home..." Don't we all think of that verse when we see one? I had to run to the basement and get the Nikon, and the Micro-Nikkor close-up lens in order to get this close. Aren't they pretty? So I watched her move around on the window and did a number of photographs. But I didn't know anything about them, really. So I went to Wikipedia: "In the United States, usually in the fall, we start seeing the ladybugs. They leave their summer feeding sites in fields, forests and yards looking for a place to spend the winter. Typically when temperatures warm to the mid 60's in the late afternoon, following a period of cooler weather, they will swarm onto or into buildings illuminated by the sun. Swarms of ladybugs fly to buildings in September through November depending on location and weather conditions. A few species are pests in North America and Europe, but they are generally considered useful insects as many species feed on aphids or scale insects, which are pests in gardens, agricultural fields, orchards, and similar places." So now you know as much as I do about ladybugs.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:34 PM
Monday, December 7, 2009
It's the time of year again when I get to make Christmas cards. I was thinking about that today. I graduated from college in 1964 and that year I made my first cards. It had two black and white photos on the card, one on the front and one inside, of young children looking at dolls in a department store with wonder in their eyes. I think I made about a dozen cards. I have made cards every year since, which means this is the 45th year of me making cards. Wow, time flies when you are having fun! I think of them as little mini-gifts, kind of. Many people have told me that they have saved them all, which makes me feel really good.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:00 PM
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Well, not really ancient. Liz made this sculpture by making a sand mould and then pouring plaster of paris into it. When she was done, she hung it on the side of the garage where it has been for some time - I actually have no idea how long. Today I liked the light on it, and it has weathered some over time. So I photographed it. The surprise was when I turned it over, I found Liz had dated it - 1995! Wow, has it been there this long! I love the weathering, and actually I am surprised that the whole thing hasn't dissolved by now, but for some reason the rain and the elements haven't seemed to affect it much. I do love that it looks like some Aztec sun god.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:57 PM
Saturday, December 5, 2009
It is the end of fall, and all the leaves are off all the trees. This is one of those Japanese maple tree leaves that I was worried that were not changing color. Remember when I was surprised at their deep purple color? Well, they finally changed to yellow, and then, of course they all fell off. This was one of the last to go, since you can see that it landed on leaves that had fallen earlier, and are now brown. I love these beautiful and delicate leaves. Look carefully at the detail on just one blade, and see how it has a number of very small sawtooth cutouts in it.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:48 PM
Friday, December 4, 2009
I put this shot together late this afternoon for all of you who may be tired with all my "leftovers" from Upstate, and from looking at too many landscapes. I bought this pitcher from France a couple of years ago, and I noticed it on a shelf the other day. The Chrysanthemums, which are long past prime, are growing by the front porch steps. So in desperation this afternoon, I thought I would create a still life from stuff I had around. So the still life is the "new" part of the title. As for the "blue", I did the photograph long after the sun had set - it is a long exposure on the tripod. Once the sun sets, the light all comes from the blue sky, and so everything that the sky illuminates is blue, as this still life is. Please click on the image to see it with more saturation.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:11 PM
Thursday, December 3, 2009
I still have some "Thanksgiving leftovers" and here is another one. This is an apple orchard outside Rochester. I drove by a number of them while up there last week There is something in the way they prune the trees so that the branches are not too far above the ground, so they can be reached without climbing tall ladders. The trees look kind of old and stooped over. To see an entire orchard of the trees was amazing to me, so finally I stopped and went into one of the orchards and looked for an interesting composition. The title of this post is based on a Robert Frost poem of the same name. Hey, I grew up in New England, so of course he speaks to me with his poetry.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:07 PM
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
This is post number one thousand! I never really thought about this when I began this blog. It was just something I wanted to do, and so I started the blog, and never really thought about the future. My first post was February 3, 2007, and it was a series of 14 photographs from my trip to San Angelo, Texas. I was still working at the time, and wanted the discipline of looking for another kind of photograph, besides my images for the paper. Little did I know that 13 months later I would no longer be working for the paper. Once I left, I discovered that this blog was SO important to me, in making me feel like I was still a photographer. It is about the looking. Every day, day after day after day, I am looking, all the time. Everywhere I go, I am looking for photographs, knowing that at the end of the day, I NEED a photograph for the blog. It has been such an incredibly rich experience. I am so glad I began this project, and I will continue, because it is so important to me. About this photograph: I thought to celebrate the milestone, I would post one of my favorite photographs from a self-assigned project which had a working title of "The Architecture of Despair." It was about abandoned mental hospitals on Long Island. I shot the photo essay with 4x5 black and white film, and I have some wonderful photos from the project. This was the lead photo for the story, and it was the opening spread in the magazine, running across two pages. I will tell you one thing about how this came about. I was walking around the empty building, and found this curving hall with all the peeling paint, and thought that maybe there was a shot here, but I couldn't seem to find it. I walked to the end of the hall, and hadn't found "the" shot, so I turned around to walk back, and stopped in my tracks! My feet had kicked up dust from the floor, and the dust in the air made these wonderful beams of sunlight visible. It knocked my socks off!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:50 PM
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
I am not talking about food here... I took a bunch of interesting photographs while upstate, and I have posted some, but now I am back home and there are some images I haven't posted yet. So here is one, a "leftover." It is a road I was walking on near the apple orchard, and it had rained, so there were a few clouds in the sky and the road was wet, thus reflecting the blue of the sky. Subtle, but I love the colors!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:46 PM