Saturday, March 31, 2012

Forbidden II

The Photo Dude is going to be proud of me! I told you the story about a month ago about the security guard who said I couldn't photograph this plant, and how he pointed at a sign that said "no photographs, no video." So I wimped out then, and walked away. The Photo Dude reminded me that if I was standing on a public street, I could photograph anything I could see. So today when I did my three-mile walk, I passed by this scene, but kept moving. Then I stopped, went back, and photographed these tanks. I loved two things about this scene: one is that it is mostly "high key" - meaning that pretty much everything is white or light gray, and two, I love the design in this scene. I love the red pipes running around the tanks, and then the other dark lines criss-crossing the scene.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Military Honors

Because my Uncle Paul served in the U.S. Army in WWII, he was accorded an internment ceremony with military honors. We have all seen these ceremonies on television, but it was really impressive to see it in person. There was an honor guard consisting of two sergeants - a woman from the Air Force, and a man from the Army, in addition to a rifle party of three service members, who fired a three-volly salute which was followed by one of them playing taps. Then the flag was removed from where it had been draping the coffin, and was carefully folded into a triangle, and then presented to my aunt Marie. It was a moving ceremony.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Uncle Paul 1921 - 2012

I am in Connecticut for the wake and funeral of my uncle Paul Clarke. He was the last of 5 Clarke children including my mom, and now they are all gone. He was such a cool uncle - he knew cars and boats and electricity and could fix anything. He had a garage with some antique cars in it - they all needed restoration, of course. I had not realized that he was a sergeant in the U.S. Army, and that he had served in WWII in central Europe, southern France, and Africa. I remember when I was an 8th grader, going on a boat trip with him, from Connecticut over to Sag Harbor, Long Island. I never dreamed I would actually live on Long Island. He was an inspiration for me - when I saw that he knew how to fix anything, I realized that I could probably learn that myself, and I did.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Different Daffodil

Every year it seems, I photograph a Daffodil or two. I am just overjoyed to see the first brilliant color of spring on display. And every year I photograph the blossom from the front. So this year I realized I needed to look at the Daffodil in a different way. So this was fun to explore with a camera, and to try and see it differently. This shot from the side is different, and I tried a number of exposures from the side, but chose this because of the arrangement of the tips of the leaves at the bottom of the frame.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Observing the Moon and Planets

Our club had an outreach event this evening, where a bunch of us brought telescopes to a middle school, which the son of one of our members attends. The response before the event was so-so, but at the last minute there was a crunch and we had over 50 people, adults and students, show up to look through our telescopes. For me, I think there is nothing about astronomy that is more rewarding than showing the moon, and planets to people who may have never looked through a telescope before. I spent some time at the end of our session with a father and his daughter - she could not take her eye from the eyepiece! They both had questions about what they were looking at, and their fascination was, for me, such a wonderful affirmation of why I do astronomy.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Moon and Venus

This a very poor representation of a spectacular sight that I saw tonight. It is the crescent moon and Venus blazing in the western sky. It seems impossible to show the grandeur and scale and beauty of this in a mere photograph. You need to see this with your own eyes. It would have been better if I could have shot it earlier in the evening, when the sky was deep blue, but I was in a class and not out shooting. This last month has been spectacular with the dance of Venus and Jupiter in the western sky after sunset , and then to have the Moon added to the collection was the crowning glory. Tomorrow night the Moon will be further away from Venus, and not as spectacular. I wish you all could have seen it tonight.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


When I sat down at the dinner table tonight I looked out the dining room window and saw the setting sun lighting up the neighbor's Magnolia tree which was in full bloom. I grabbed my camera and ran outside so that I wouldn't have to shoot through the window. But from the driveway I was standing about 4 feet lower and the composition wasn't right. So I went back in and shot through two panes of glass - the regular window and the storm window. I didn't have much hope that the image would be sharp, but it was sharp enough. I love the contrast of the brilliant magenta blossoms, and then in the background the scraggy branches of the Locust trees.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Face in the Mirror

I was stopped at a light yesterday, and saw something unusual. This face in the rear view mirror. I don't think I have ever seen this before. Of course the sunlight had to be coming from just the right angle, and the angle of the mirror correct in order for me to see this. I sat there for perhaps 20 seconds thinking "Wow, look at that..." before I thought to grab my toy camera and get this image. I like this picture a lot, because it is quite different from what you usually expect to see from me. Another attempt at a new way of seeing.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cleaning the Mirror

I went to help a friend clean his telescope mirror this morning. We took the mirror out of the telescope and sprayed it with water first to dislodge any dust and grit, then we gently swabbed it with a mild detergent solution, and then rinsed it with with distilled water. When we were done, these water drops were all over the cleaned mirror, so I took out my toy camera and did a few shots. I was pleasantly surprised to find these wonderful sparkling stars reflected in the water drops. Please click on the image to enlarge it and see the wonderful detail in the drops.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The End of an Era

OK, this is a funny story. We finally had to buy a new refrigerator. The good news is that this one has lasted something like 28 years, so I can't complain. Sadly I don't expect the new one to last anywhere near that long. Anyhow, we picked out a stainless steel model, which looks more modern than this one. It was only after buying it, and driving home that it hit me: MAGNETS do not stick to stainless! Oh no! So this is the old refrigerator, and obviously we have way too many refrigerator magnets! But the new fridge will have no magnets. I have no idea what we are going to do with all the stuff that was on the old fridge.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Fog

I was on the way home from my astronomy meeting tonight, and the closer I got to Sea Cliff, the more dense the fog. I love fog, so instead of driving straight home I drove around town looking for an appropriate scene. There is a favorite park that always seems to come through for me and this is where I took this photo. I love how strange and unfamiliar the dark shape is in the foreground. It is a kid's play gym, I guess it is called, with two slides, a straight one on the left, and a circular one on the right. Or, this may actually be a spaceship.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Tree

What a gorgeous day for a bike ride! 66 degrees and blue sky and sunshine. Warm enough for me to sit on the park bench after the ride was over. And I was looking around. I spotted this tree, back behind the bench, and I was stunned - "How long has THAT tree been there?" I thought this had an amazing shape, and I know that it has to have been there for years! How did I not notice it before? I have no idea, but I went to work with my iPhone and the Hipstamatic app, and shot it in color and black and white. Love this the best.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sunlight and Shadows

A friend called and said she had bought a new camera for a trip she and her husband were taking, and she was looking for advice on how to use it - it was a Canon T2i, which is a good choice. So I went over to give what I thought might be good tips for using that camera on a long trip overseas. While taking test shots in the living room to demonstrate some of the various adjustments, I turned around to see this! Since it is for MY blog, I put her fancy camera down and used my Canon S-90 to grab this shot, just in case it changed quickly.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


This just may be the height of laziness. A friend who just bought a new camera called me to ask what the difference was between the "Auto" and the "Program" mode. I told her that actually I didn't know the answer to that. So I went and got my SONY camera and the instruction manual and sat down in my easy chair to read. At some point I looked up and saw the sunlight coming in the window and lighting up the ballustrade and all the right-angle and diagonal lines - more than you could shake a stick at. I have seen this view before, but I think it was the light today that grabbed me. The camera was in my lap, and I shot without even getting out of my chair. How sad is that!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Attempt at Creativity (failed)

So on my bike ride today I stopped at the top of the mile-long hill to note my checkpoint times, which I do every ride. Every time I stop here, I see this street sign warning of the curving road that descends from here, and which makes a great ride on a bike, carving turns downhill all the way to the water. So I used my iPhone to take a photo of the sign and the sky. When I got home, the photo was disappointing, so in desperation I used my High Dynamic Range software to try and "enhance" the photo. Well I did that, but it is still pretty ordinary. Sorry, I was desperate.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring (Out of the Ground)

I saw these Crocus coming out of the ground in the garden of my dentist. His front yard faces south, so it gets more sunlight than the garden next to our house. It brightened my day to see this first sign of spring. Then the question is, how many blossoms do I include in the photograph - one or two or three. One would be OK, two does not make an interesting design, and three is always a good choice in terms of a more interesting composition. I think I read somewhere that if I was doing a food photograph, I would not want an even number of apples, for instance. Too static a composition, so I would always use an odd number of fruits or vegetables.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

This is for Sam!

I was driving along Northern Boulevard, and came upon this car going in the same direction. I could see that it was an old timer from a long way off. So I immediately realized that I needed to photograph this, so I could send the shot to Sam so he could tell me what year and make and model this was. If you mention those three items to Sam, he can make you a beautiful drawing of the car, on a napkin, in a diner, from memory! He has done it for me so many times. But then I realized that this is such a fascinating automobile, that I would share it with everyone. It has an old New York State license plate, dated 1960. I did see the Chevrolet logo on the rear, but that's all I know. It felt so good to see this old timer, left over from my youth.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cairn, Revisited

During the winter, the person who builds cairns at the beach ceased their work. Just a normal rocky beach. So I was pleasantly surprised, now that it is warm, and now that I can rest after my bike ride, to find two cairns waiting in front of my favorite bench. I know I photographed these before, but when I saw what they had done, I knew I had to photograph THIS one. It is all about the balance, and the complex arrangements of rocks. They must have had help. The first thing I noticed is the second rock from the bottom is cantilevered out from the much smaller rock supporting it. And then all the rocks above that long one hold it down. Makes me wonder if the builder had help while building this. Oh, and the shape of the finished "sculpture" is just fascinating. And by now it is probably gone, after the tide came in.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Bridge at Night

Shortly after I took the photo of this bridge with the squiggly lights, I took this photograph while crossing the bridge. I was torn about which image to post. I loved the mood of this image - all dark and brooding. But I thought that maybe the squiggly lights were more creative. But I think that in the end, this is a stronger image because of the mood.

Monday, March 12, 2012


I have some left over photographs from my Washington, DC trip, and this is one of them. This monumental sculpture named "Ascent" is by John Safer, and is installed in front of the Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum. It is 75 feet tall, and absolutely stunning. It is polished stainless steel, and reflects the sun and the sky. I came to see the museum, but spent 20 minutes just walking around this, looking for good angles, and then after the museum closed, I came out and walked around it again photographing. This image is one of the first group of photographs that I took.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

And in This Corner...

These are my friends Julia and Alejandra, talking photography at the Northern Short Course. I could never find them in the crowds outside the lecture rooms, but when I went looking carefully, I would find them both in some empty corner, deep in a discussion of photography. They are both young photographers, and they are brilliant in what they do, both still and video, which they both excel in. I miss working with them, and miss seeing them on the street, so it was wonderful to get to spend some time with them at the workshop.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Really Paying Attention

The photographers who spoke and showed slideshows of their photographs today put on a stunning presentations. The work was so good and there were so many moving photographs that it actually was exhausting by the end of the day. These photographers in the audience are obviously transfixed during the presentation. I love the different sizes and positions of the heads within the frame. I zoomed in with my toy camera, and didn't realize how close to the edge of the frame the man on the right was. I actually like that his nose is touching the edge of the frame - I think it adds a bit of tension.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Lighting Lecture

For twenty years I did a lighting workshop each year at this convention for photographers - two lectures in two days. I have wondered what the new photographer would do, and I was pleasantly surprised. She is a photographer in New York who does celebrities, among other things, and she was a terrific speaker, and showed people how to light simply, with the small flash units that most photographers starting out actually own. And she was funny, and told wonderful stories. This may seem strange to see the subject of this particular demo sitting on the floor, but the photographer tethered her camera to her laptop, which was connected to a projector, and we could see each image as she took it. Very cool. I like this shot because the subject seems overpowered by the photographer, her assistant, and the equipment.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Moonrise, Fairfax

OK, so "Moonrise, Fairfax" does not have the cachet of Ansel Adams' "Moonrise, Hernandez," and that it partially why I gave it that title. "Fairfax" sounds so unpoetic. And I guess the photograph is as well. I shot it from my hotel room, and the thing that made this a photo for me were the dimly-illuminated green windows in the office building across the street. If the building had been in complete shadow, I would have abandoned trying to make a photograph out of the scene.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Airplanes, Airplanes, Airplanes!

So I am in Virginia, 20 miles from Washington, DC, for a photo conference. Fortunately, the conference location is just around the corner from the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum. The original museum is on the mall downtown and it still open. This one opened 9 years ago, and is HUGE. Inside this giant hangar they have the B-29 "Enola Gay," a Boeing 707, a Lockheed Constellation, a Concord, the SR-71 supersonic spy plane, a Space Shuttle, and about a billion other aircraft. It is just stunning. So I wandered around drinking it all in, and photographing, and when they threw me out at closing time, I was on my hands and knees. What an amazing day! To spend this much time looking at airplanes all day is good for what ails you!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Oh man! He's doing it again... Driving and photographing... At night, no less... Anyhow, the Verrazano Narrows bridge is just stunning, both night and day. At night the lights on the suspension cables look like strings of pearls. Of course, there is no way to pull over to take a proper picture, so you know what I did. Of course since I was moving over a bumpy road, the picture was going to be shaky or blurry. I shot anyway, and I was really surprised at how interesting the little squiggles turned out. I hate to say it, but I think the squiggles made the photo more interesting. Or, it may just be a cheap trick, to try and make up for a lack of creativity on my part... :-) Oh and here is the really cool thing I discovered: Because of thermal expansion of the steel riser cables, the bridge roadway is 12 feet lower in summer than in winter. Twelve feet! Are you kidding me? That is astounding! Don't you love coming here to learn important stuff like this?

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Shadow

I was on my way to the Post Office to mail some letters. I stopped at a stop sign, and happened to glance to the left. Something caught my eye, and you won't believe what it was. The shadow of the bird house! I have no idea why, but it was that long black triangle that drew my attention. So on the way back I stopped to take the shot. I didn't want to be intrusive at all, so I shot from across the street with a 200mm lens. This is a beautiful old house with a wonderful front porch, and it is really cool to see that they have this old wooden cupboard sitting out front. But it was only today that I saw the bird house.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mirror Image

I never tire of the kitties. I saw this the other day. The two of them, exact duplicates of each other as they took one of their many naps that they take each day. Actually they didn't make a "mirror" image - that would require their heads to be facing each other, or their tails. It is unusual to see them next to each other like this, in the exact same shape. It tickled my fancy to see them this way. I hoped they would not wake up when the camera started clicking, and fortunately they didn't.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


I was riding the up escalators to get to the top floor of the galeries, and as I approached the floor, there is this giant window looking out on the rest of the museum. It looked like a possible photo, so then I rode the down escalator, and got another glimpse out the window, but I realized that I couldn't compose properly when moving. Then I discovered if I stood at the railing on the top floor, I could carefully move the camera until I got the perfect composition. It involved moving the camera as little as an inch to make sure that vertical window mullion lined up exactly with the tall building behind. With all the verticals and horizontals in the frame, I realized that it reminded me a bit of a Piet Mondrian painting. Funny that should happen at the Museum of Modern Art, of all places.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Two Statues

I was leaving the Museum of Modern Art, and the last set of stairs brought me to this huge window looking out on the courtyard. I happened to notice this man, who I think probably works at the museum - he looked like he was wearing some kind of uniform. But the reason I noticed him was that he was talking on his cellphone in a VERY animated manner. He was walking back and forth and constantly made gestures with his free hand. So I stopped to watch and photograph for a while. It was hard to get a shot with his hand sticking out, because it was waving around so much. Please click on this photo, and you can see the hand more easily.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Framework Houses

I am a huge fan of Bernd and Hilla Becher. For years they have photographed all kinds of architecture, and industrial structures like head frames for mines, water towers, and blast furnaces, in Europe. They have published a number of books, in different categories, with each of the objects being only slightly different in their appearance. Here is a collection of 21 framed prints in an exhibit I saw at MoMA today, and they are all framework houses, and they are similar, but different in subtle ways. I had to wait until some people came by dressed in black, to make a good contrast to the very light background of matted prints and a white wall. Please click on this image so you can see it in a larger size.