Sunday, October 31, 2010

Boo! Happy Halloween!

Every year since forever, I make sure to get a pumpkin and carve a Jack-O-Lantern to put on the porch for Halloween. This year Liz and Amy were home, and they did the pumpkin carving, and so we have two Jack-O-Lanterns this year! How cute are these guys! It was fun to watch them shop for pumpkins, because apparently they already had an idea of how they wanted their "punkins" to look. I hope you all had fun on Halloween. We have too much candy left over, so we will, of course, have to eat it, so it doesn't go to waste. Heaven forbid that we waste candy... :-)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

"Hello From Times Square!"

After the Javits Center yesterday, I had dinner and then headed over to Times Square to see what was going on. About a year ago they converted Broadway to a pedestrian mall, and it has been an unqualified success. There were people everywhere really enjoying themselves and taking in the city. I wandered around photographing various people and scenes, and then I saw this. It happened fast - the young woman gave her camera to a passerby, and climbed up un the bench and took this pose. I only got one frame, but it is THE frame. Her enthusiasm makes me smile and then I feel good!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Crown Graphic

I went to Photo Expo Plus today, at the Javits Center in Manhattan. It is a giant photo equipment show. I saw this dapper gentleman leaning against a wall chatting with someone, and was stopped in my tracks by his camera! It is a 4x5 Crown Graphic press camera, circa 1958. It is the camera I used in High School, and I used it to take the first picture I ever had published in a newspaper. It was a photo of a Milford High baseball player sliding home, and it was published in the Milford Citizen. Anyhow, I stopped to talk to this photographer and found that his name is Louis Mendes, and he has been a "street photographer" for over 40 years, going to events around New York to photograph people and sell them prints. He goes to graduations, and shortly he will be at the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. It was so much fun talking to him and seeing this classic old camera. He is famous, by the way and has been featured in a story in the New York Times.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Walk Around Town

The four of us went for a walk around town, and I was looking for photographs every step of the way. I have seen the grasses that were planted at this house within the last few years. While walking I went toward the house to see if I could do something with the grasses. As I got closer to the grasses, I realized that they, alone did not seem to make a photograph. So I went to one side, and then noticed the long stem of the flowers that were there. Then I crouched down so the stem was seen against the trees but the background was very confusing Not a bad composition, but I wanted the stem to be more dramatic, so I moved to one side, and now the stem was silhouetted against the sky and clouds. This felt right, so here it is.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hints of Fall

I am not absolutely sure what these annoying vines are - I think they may be "grape ivy." It is all over the place, and I am constantly chasing after it and ripping it out wherever I find it. This stuff will climb up a fence, and then balance itself on the fence and climb into the lower branches of trees, sometimes "jumping" up 18 inches to find a branch. An amazing, yet annoying nuisance. Anyhow, I looked out out the window of the stair landing, down at the tall hedge that marks the boundary of our property. I thought that this was quite beautiful - the delicacy of the color and of the vines. I also love the contrast between the red and green colors, of course.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Church of Saint Mary

I went to the church for the rehearsal, and was looking all around for photographs as I tend to do. I photographed some people for a while and then spent time looking at the architecture of the church. It is a stunning building, dedicated in 1874. I saw this stained glass window in the vestibule and took a photo looking out. Later on I went outside to look for one of the guests, and then looked in through the window. The illumination from inside the church made the window glow, and there were reflections of the darkening blue sky reflected off the door. What a difference the illumination made. What a gorgeous work of art this window is. By the way, I don't want to get called out on this by those of you who read the blog carefully.... This window is dedicated to Saint Agnes of Montepulciano, who at age 20 became the prioress of a new convent in Tuscany. Oh, in 1288. Glad you asked.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Photography Gene!

If you go to any kind of family gathering, beware the Spencer women! And their cameras! This photography thing is in the Spencer genes. I have it, and I got it from my mom, and her sister Jean had it (well, actually they were Clarkes). My three sisters all have it, and my daughters have it, and Karen's daughter Kelsey has it. And they even influenced Reagan here, who they met at the wedding reception! You take your life in your hands if one of them wants to take a photo - the next thing you know you are surrounded! But... Now we have a wonderful record of past gatherings.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My Grandfather's Workshop

When I was 5 or 6 years old, my parents and I lived in a bungalow behind my grandfather's house in New Haven, for a few years. When my grandfather died the house was sold, and within the last 5 years or so became derelict. I have not visited the house in over 50 years. After the wedding on Saturday we had some time before the reception, so Liz and Amy asked if we could go by the house, so we did. What an amazing experience to be back there after such a long time! Wow! So many things were as I remembered them. This is the entrance door to my Grandfather's workshop in the basement, where he built and repaired organ pipes. The interior of the house had a huge pipe organ installed in it, and a small chapel attached to the side of the house which was used for small weddings. The house is boarded up - I wish we could have seen the inside, but it was mind-bending just to be there again, and to talk of my memories of the house with Liz and Amy.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Very Special Wedding Party

This is a very special wedding party photograph. On the left, with the shawl, is Jenny. Her brother Jonathan is in the center with his brand new bride, Lauren. They have just been married at St. Mary's Church in New Haven. They are very special people these three. Every summer they volunteer at a camp for kids with cancer - Camp Rising Sun, "A place where kids with cancer can smile and have fun." they have been doing this for a number of years. So when they were getting maried they invited a bunch of kids from the camp to their wedding, and were thrilled when all these kids came! And the kids themselves are an extraordinary group of brave children. It was moving to see the excitement of these kids because they were at the wedding. What an amazing day!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Rehearsal Dinner

We are in Connecticut for the wedding of my nephew Jonathan, and his lovely fiance Lauren. Tonight was the rehearsal and then afterwards, for those taking part in the ceremony, a rehearsal dinner. I get to go because I will be doing a reading during the ceremony. I was thrilled to be chosen for this task, because they have a billion friends, and I am an old guy... :-) The church is a stunning gothic structure built in 1886. It looks like one of the famous stone cathedrals in France. The rehearsal and dinner were really nice, and Lauren and Jonathan gave each other gifts, then stood and thanked their parents and everyone present for their love and support. They are a lovely couple and will do well.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Punkin' Patch

We went up to the local Methodist church here in town, where they have been selling pumpkins for years. I don't know why I never went there before to buy one. What we discovered was that all the pumpkins for sale come from New Mexico! They are raised by Najavo farmers, and there is little market for pumpkins out there, so they load a trailer truck full of thousands of our favorite Halloween vegetable and drive them here to Sea Cliff! All the money raised from selling them goes directly to the Navajo. Tell me that isn't a great reason for buying THESE pumpkins! Amy and Liz went right to work and each found their "perfect" pumpkin! And you get to see them first. Wait until you see their Jack-O-Lanterns!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Light In The Stairway

I was coming down the stairs and spotted the blue light on the balustrade, and the blue light from the window on the gray wall to the right in the photo. It was the contrast of colors that grabbed me, as well as the shadow of the balustrade on the wall to the left. When I grabbed my camera to shoot this, and looked in the viewfinder, the scene seemed a bit dizzying. So my sense is that this is about both strong design, and color contrasts. Unlike some subjects, there was no question in how I would crop this image - there seemed to be just one way to frame the scene.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Made My Day!

I was driving along this morning and this scarecrow on someone's lawn jumped out at me because it was backlit by the sun, making it stand out from the house in the background. I mean, it is tied to the lamp post, so it didn't actually move toward me - figure of speech, you know? Anyhow, I kept driving while thinking about the happy expression on its face. I stopped at a stop sign a block away, and then realized I needed to go back and take the photo. I have no idea why I didn't stop instantly, but it is telling that after seeing the scarecrow, it stayed with me, and I went back. I smiled for the rest of the day, thinking about this happy character. You might want to click on the photo to see it in more detail.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Inspecting My Telescope

This is another photograph from Astronomy Day. I Loved watching the children who visited look at my telescopes. In this photograph, two sisters were examining my home-made Newtonian scope. What makes it a "Newtonian" is that it doesn't use a lens to make the image - it uses a mirror, in the bottom of the square wooden tube on the left hand side of the photo. They were laughing because when they looked in, they were not expecting to see reflections of themselves from within the telescope.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Spooky Place

I am playing with a new application that does HDR imaging - High Dynamic Range. So this is a photograph of the upstairs stairwell here at home. It is done by making three different exposures, one normal, one over-exposed, and one under-exposed. The software combines all three exposures, so you have detail in the bright highlights, and detail in the dark shadows. But what happens is that you end up with an air of unreality to the final picture, as you see here. It is creepy in kind of fun way, don't you think?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Astronomy Day

Today was Astronomy Day at the Vanderbilt Planetarium and our club was there for the activities. We set up special telescopes for looking at the sun and I brought one of my home made telescopes. I also brought a demonstration model of a telescope I built to show children. It consists of a big magnifying glass lens, and a telescope eyepiece, in a wood frame. I like it because some people wonder just what is "inside" a telescope to allow it to magnify. The answer is "nothing." There is a lens in the front and an eyepiece in the back. So kids are amazed that this is actually a telescope that works, and they are fascinated to look through it. But they are always surprised about one thing - whatever you see through the telescope is upside down! That happens with all telescopes, unless you add a prism to turn things back upright.

Friday, October 15, 2010


What is the most interesting part of this photograph? I saw this leaf in the back yard this afternoon, and was taken with the colors. Usually I see leaves when they are either green, or yellow (or maybe red, depending on the tree) But this leaf looks as if it came down before its time, and that's what attracted me to it. Now, the next question was, what kind of background was I going to use. It was laying in the grass which was green, and so the leaf kind of faded into the background. I thought of the brick walk, as well as the dark mulch in the flower beds. Then I thought of the blacktop driveway. I wished the blacktop was a darker black. THEN it occurred to me - I took the garden hose and wet down a patch of blacktop, which made it jet black, and it held the leaf in place when I put it down, because the wind was howling around here all day. So my answer to the quiz is, the background is the most interesting part of the photo. Your answer may be different, of course.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Driving at Night

I went out tonight with some of my telescopes to an old folks home. Wait! I am an "old folk!" Anyhow, the hope was to show them Jupiter and the Moon. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain all night. So instead I talked about some of my telescopes, and how I made one of them, and how I grind and polish telescope mirrors. I brought along some of my photographs of the moon, and comets and eclipses, and talked about a lot of astronomical topics. Some of the audience members fell asleep, of course, but there were others who were with me all the way and had some really interesting questions. I was so glad I agreed to do some outreach for our club. And then I had to drive home it the driving rain. I would have loved to have photographed some audience members, but I was speaking and couldn't do that. So I did my normal thing, and photographed while driving instead. Duh!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Big Tinkertoys

I saw these in the city a week or so ago. Really interesting objects. It was immediately obvious how these things worked. First, they are construction barriers, and they don't weigh that much sitting here, given that they are just plastic. I found some others connected together further up the street. There are big white pins that go down through the holes, joining the pieces. Now the cool thing is, once everything is connected, the "tinker toys" are filled with water! NOW, they are heavy! How much easier than dragging solid concrete barriers around. But I couldn't get over that these things do look like toys, don't they? And I love the brilliant orange color.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Fence

I was looking carefully at the fence that is in front of the park bench I sit on after my 10 mile bike ride each day. It was cloudy today so the soft light allows seeing more detail in objects. So I was just standing there looking at how the fence was put together and how the wood had aged over the years, with some lichen on it as well, I think. I was just enjoying the subtle coloring of the wood in the late day light. But in addition to the color, I guess it is more about the shape of the fence post and rails. Something about the shapes of everything. Don't you love how I have no idea of why I photograph things? :-)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Holly Blossoms

I was next door doing helping with the painting, and my neighbor mentioned how pretty the Holly blossoms were and how nice their aroma was. "Holly blossoms?" I asked. "Where?" All I saw from about 30 feet away were the green holly leaves. She said the blossoms were really small. As I got closer to investigate, I could smell this beautiful scent - kind of like a geranium, I think. Anyhow, I immediately went home and grabbed my Nikon with the Micro Nikkor closeup lens, and headed for the bushes. This is the result. And and I didn't even get stuck by the sharp points of the leaves.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Halloween at Church

After church today we went over to the church office, and I was surprised to find these wonderful figures arranged along the sidewalk next to the building! A bit early for Halloween, of course. What really tickles me is that all the hard working garden volunteers who keep the flowers looking so pretty all year long, have added these decorations for the first time. Another example of adding some color to our lives to make the world better. You might think that this photo looks a bit strange. You would be right. It is the second time I used the High Dynamic Range software to reduce the high contrast of the scene, and to increase the saturation of the colors. I hope you don't mind.

The Tuft of Flowers

Sorry for being late with this post. I drove out to Southold for Custer Institute's Astronomy Jamboree yesterday. After a wonderful day of listening to lectures on astronomy, some of us set up our telescopes to show the heavens to visitors. Another late night - not back home until 2:30 AM. On the way out, I drove by this vineyard, one of many now on the north fork of Long Island. The way the rows of vines climbed the hill and curved into the distance is what caused me to pull over. But what then got my attention were several plantings of flowers at the ends of some of the rows. I don't recall ever seeing this before. So I spent a while trying to find the best angle and the best composition to show the beauty of the rows, and yet to show the flowers prominently enough. So here is the mystery - why are they there? At first I thought it might have something to do with pollination - perhaps the flowers attracted bees, but there didn't seem to be enough flowers for an entire vineyard. I thought of other possibilities and then discarded them as I continued to drive east, and looked at the other vineyards along the way. No flowers were to be seen. So I now think that the only reason they were planted was to add beauty - to brighten the view. And what better reason could there be? I decided that was the best reason, and I am happy thinking that. Please click on the photo to see a larger image with MUCH better color. Thanks.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Buttonball Tree

This is an old family photo from 1952. It is a historic gathering, not because of the people, but because of where they are standing. The family farm was called "Buttonball Farm" because of a number of Buttonball trees that surrounded it. The largest of these trees was so rotted that it needed to be cut down. When they did that, it was discovered that the center of the trunk was hollow. And, it was more than seven feet across! So to mark the occasion, my father, at right, and his brother, center and my grandfather, and a bunch of us kids stood on what was left of the trunk and had our picture taken. I have a book called "Old Guilford" with drawings of the farm done before 1939, and the tree was huge then. So perhaps this tree may be 200 years old. I posted a larger than normal image, so click on it to see a larger version so you can study the details.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Great One

Within a hundred feet of the two buildings posted previously, I found this! "The Great One!" I guess I had known that this statue existed, of Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden, perhaps the most famous bus driver in the world. How wonderful to have this beautifully crafted statue just outside the entrance to the Port Authority Bus Terminal! I wanted to photograph the whole statue, but there was construction on the front of the building, so I only did a close-up of his head.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mountains With Windows

OK, right up front, a confession... The picture I posted yesterday? This picture was taken from fifteen feet away from where I stood to take that one! Wow, what a lazy photographer. Well, not really. It is about how many exciting and wonderful visual things there are to be found in Manhattan! I can walk down a street and find three photographs in every block. I am on visual overload, which is wonderful. This is a Coor's beer ad on fabric, that is stretched on the sides of two buildings. And they had to allow for the windows in the building. But if you look at the photo of the mountains and then see the windows in them, it is pretty bizarre. Which, of course, you know that I love.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Building Made of Clouds & Sky

This is a photograph from the visit to Manhattan this past weekend. We were standing around waiting to meet the other couple in front of the Port Authority Bus Terminal. And since we were standing around, you know that I wasn't wasting any time - I was looking and looking. And this is one of the things I found - a building that appeared to be made of sky and clouds. Of course it was really a mirrored building, just reflecting the sky, but I like to think it is actually made of sky. But I can't tell you why. Just me being whimsical I guess. It is pretty, isn't it?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mystery Image

I had dinner with my friend Bob tonight, at Bertucci's out in Melville. His warden let him out of the Melville Prison for the occasion. We had a great dinner, with lots of catching up to do. When we left it was still raining, and it occurred to me that I didn't have a blog shot for the day yet. I started up the car, and the headlights lit up some decorative grasses just ahead of me. Because the effect of the car headlights was much like a spotlight, I thought that the grasses made an interesting photograph. I turned windshield wipers off, so I could shoot through the glass, but gradually the raindrops began to obscure the grasses. I kept shooting and the picture began to get more abstract. So I ended up choosing this one, which is as abstract as anything I shot. I love that you can't tell what it is.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Times Square

We went to the city today to see Sharon and Glenn, who we haven't seen in years, and who were visiting New York. So we met them and then walked through Times Square to find a restaurant for lunch. On the way back, we passed these two young women - they were not working together - each one of them had handbills for different area attractions. I was mainly interested in photographing the woman with the King Tut headdress. There is apparently an exhibit of artifacts relating to Tutankhamen at a new private exhibit space in Manhattan. So they have people wearing these headdresses handing out flyers. I actually walked past them, after briefly speaking to the women, and then a block down the street thought: "What am I thinking? That's a PHOTO!" So I walked back up the block to where they wer and asked to take their picture. I thought I would ask if I could photograph both of them, so that the woman with the headdress wouldn't feel uncomfortable. They readily agreed, and were good sports about it.

Burning The Candle at Both Ends

Crazy day yesterday. Sorry I didn't post last night. I went to get my haircut at Lucia's home and there was the smell of smoke in the air as I came around the back of the house to enter her salon. I could see smoke, but was't sure what was going on. When I asked her about this, she said she was smoking peppers in this wood burning oven. There is one log in the burner, and the temperature is about 200 degrees. The peppers, by the way, will later be dried in the sun. I examined the oven after my haircut, and was amazed at how beautiful these peppers looked through the window of the oven which had condensation on it. I photographed the peppers, and then backed up and did this photograph of the oven. It seems like a lovely backyard landscape - the plants, and the oven and the smoke. Then I came home, and after dinner went observing an hour and a half away out in Southold, and didn't get home until 3 AM. Then got up this morning and headed for the city to have lunch with visiting relatives! Whew!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Back To The Beach

I didn't actually go back to the beach - it was just a way of saying that I took more than one photo the other day, and I am going to post this one today. This is Jones Beach, and I am sure that for most people, it conjures up images of wall to wall blankets on hot summer days, with hardly enough room to walk around. So imagine my surprise when I looked at the beach the other day and saw this. I mean, I knew it would be empty, but somehow I was surprised at how empty. But it was this shack that grabbed me. I think they sell ice cream here during the summer. I was amazed at how different the entire beach was - it was so empty that I felt as if I was at Kitty Hawk, expecting the Wright Brothers to emerge and prepare one of their Flyer aircraft for a launch.