Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Beautiful Day!

It was hard to come up with a photograph today. But it was a gorgeous day with absolutely beautiful clear blue skies! The wind, however, was something else! Man, it was howling all day long. 25 MPH winds with some gusts to nearly 40 MPH. There was a tree down on our street and another down on my bike route. In spite of the wind, I decided to do my ride. It is much more difficult, especially when heading directly into the wind. Oh, and I got an unbelievable surprise - I was racing down a hill, into a curve, on a narrow residential street, and suddenly there was a line of yellow police tape completely across the road! I ducked as low as I could, and was not decapitated, you will be glad to know. It was there to warn people of another downed tree. Anyhow when I got home, I looked up to admire the sky, and saw this single cloud illuminated by the setting sun.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

LaGrangian Points

This is Helen, the president of our astronomy club. She was the speaker this evening, and her topic was "The LaGrangian Points." She is holding up a globe of the Earth and one of the Moon - they are not to scale of course - the Moon is only 1/4 the diameter of the Earth. You would probably want to know what LaGrangian points are, right? Here is the answer: "The Lagrangian points are the five positions in an orbital configuration where a small object affected only by gravity can theoretically be part of a constant-shape pattern with two larger objects (such as a satellite with respect to the Earth and Moon). The Lagrange points mark positions where the combined gravitational pull of the two large masses provides precisely the centripetal force required to orbit with them." See how much you can learn here?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Sticks

I have photographed these tree branches before. They are dead branches sawn off of an old Lilac tree, and I temporarily put them on the leaves under the Japanese maple tree. I didn't consciously arrange them this way - I just tossed them there. But for some reason the arrangement - the design they make - touches me in some unknown way. They have been lying there nearly a year and I can't bring myself to throw them away. I have photographed them on a couple of occasions, and posted them here at least once. So when I went out and saw them covered in snow, I was driven to photograph them again. This time the photograph may be about light and shadow, but I can't be sure.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The New Projector

The Vanderbilt Planetarium in Centerport is where our astronomy club meets. The Planetarium has been under renovation for about a year now, and is getting closer to reopening in March. The other night I got to take a look at the new projector which is a stunning piece of machinery. This is the device that projects all the stars on the dome, and the moon and planets - it recreates the sky at any point in history or in the future, and it can show the skies as they would be seen from anyplace on Earth. I an really looking forward to seeing the first show here!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Suburban Street Scene

I was driving down the mile long hill that leads to the power plant down at the harbor and the light on the smokestacks was really nice. Then I remembered that there is a hill right above the plant. I wondered what I could see from the hill. So I drove up to the top of the hill, and this is what I saw! It just seems like an incongruous scene, with the two giant smokestacks sticking up at the end of the street. I spent a lot of time trying to find the best composition. This was the first photograph I took. Then I walked down the street closer to the stacks, eliminating the cars and church. The stacks were more significant, but I lost the sense of a suburban scene, so I stayed with this longer shot that included the church.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Other Options

So here are some other photographs I took yesterday of the ice covered rocks. These are not necessarily arranged in the order I took them - I tried to vary the selections to make them more interesting. I love this photograph (above) because of the sky - the reddish color makes it feel like it was taken on the surface of Mars.
I tried to see if I could find an interesting composition if I moved in really close to a small group of the rocks. I like it as a more abstract composition.
I found this composition kind of by accident. I was looking at the rocks, and then happened to notice the bottoms of the tree trunks in the top of the frame. It gave a different feel to the scene, so I decided to shoot it this way. It doesn't feel like a traditional landscape.
And finally another close view of just ice-covered rocks. I think it is better than the first shot which includes the sky. In fact, I think it may be the strongest image of all. You would think that I would be the best judge of which of my photographs are better. Sometimes I am just not sure. Do you have a favorite of this group of four photographs? I would love to know which one you like best.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ice on the Rocks

So here's the deal - I went looking for photographs today and was excited to see that the rocks at one of my favorite scenes were covered with ice. It takes a week of temps below 20 degrees for this to happen. So I started with a wide-angle view, but thought that I could get a more interesting view if I moved closer. I did a lot of different photographs of this scene. If you are lucky, I will not be having "Ice on the Rocks Week!" But I will post a couple of other photographs so you can see what else I did. Anyhow, in the editing process I realized that there was a subtlety to this photograph, and there are some lovely colors as well. The sky is this color because of the coming snow we had after sunset. Oh, you know what else? The trees in this photograph are the SAME trees in yesterday's photograph! I didn't realize it until I went to yesterday's post to see if there were any comments. I had forgotten that this was a different angle of the the same landscape.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Harbor Nightscape

Another walk after sunset, and another different-looking photograph. It is interesting that the timing is critical. If it was earlier, then the sky would be too bright. If it was later in the day, the sky would be darker, and the hill in the distance would blend into the darkness. I didn't plan for the time exactly - I shot one photograph and through the magic of digital photography, I could see the result. I was lucky - it was a good time for this kind of photo. Life is like that sometimes - you end up in the right place at the right time.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I Am So Bummed!

In June 2009 they started the demolition of the old Roslyn Viaduct, a steel girder bridge. Then they began installing a new bridge of pre-cast concrete, tied together with internal cables. The gentle curves of the arches of the new bridge were beautiful. I kept thinking that when it was completely finished, I would be able to take a beautiful photo of the new bridge. For a while after all the concrete sections were installed there was construction equipment and materials on the ground from one end of the bridge to the other. So no photo. Finally they started moving the equipment away, BUT... They started installing black drain pipes on all the pylons! Oh man, that is ugly! So I stopped to see if there was any way I could get a beautiful picture. Fat chance. Maybe I need to try from another angle.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Woodpiles

I drove over to Port Washington yesterday for an oil change. Along the way I passed this parking lot for Hempstead Harbor Park, and was stunned to see the huge piles of tree trunks and tree limbs filling up one of the parking lots. I was just blown away by the amount of debris stacked 20 to 30 feet tall. They have machinery in use turning this wood into wood chips, and there are huge piles of chips as well. I mean, I know a lot of trees were blown down in Sea Cliff, but this was just a stunning sight to see! It looks as if they will be working for months to clean up all of this.

Monday, January 21, 2013

An Amazing Teacher!

I went to a lecture at a camera club this evening. The featured speaker was Tim Grey, who is an amazing teacher and wonderful presenter. He is an Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom wizard. I mean, he knows EVERYTHING about these applications. That is great but what made the evening so much fun was his manner of presentation - he has a really nice self-deprecating sense of humor, and if you were paying attention there were smiles and laughs every minute. I took pages of notes, and left with a lot more understanding. Oh, and get this - I had written him a couple of years ago, when he happened to mention he was a cyclist, so we had a few minutes to talk about our mutual hobby before the presentation. What a great evening!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Gibbous Moon

I was out looking at the Moon this evening, because day by day it is getting closer to the planet Jupiter. At 5 PM today the separation between the Moon and Jupiter was about 17 degrees. Tomorrow night the separation will be about less than one degree! It should be a spectacular sight. But the weather forecast is for overcast clouds. Bummer. Anyhow, because of the conjunction, I spent some time just staring at the Moon today. I know, I know... It really is such a stunning object - we are so lucky to have it in our sky. I love the shapes of the trees in this photograph - they look almost like some kind of tentacles.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Abagail Van Buren

In 1988 I was on the magazine staff, and they were looking for some kind of summer story. I said, in jest, "Let's photograph people born on the Fourth of July," because that's my birthday too. So they said "OK, do it!" I started doing research and calling celebrities. The first one I called was Ann Landers, because I knew her - I had photographed her in Chicago at her home for another story. I knew she and her twin sister were born on the 4th. I flew to California and photographed her sister, Abagail Van Buren, and also Ron Kovic, who wrote "Born on the Fourth of July." My idea for a style for each of the photographs was to feature something red, white, and blue. Mrs. Van Buren was very nice and it was an easy assignment at her magnificent home in Hollywood. Here is the funny part, because you all know me... I happened to mention that to save money on the cost of the flight I came out a day early, and then to make good use of the day, I drove out to Joshua Tree National Monument and spent the day photographing in the desert and I was excited because it was wonderful to be there. Her response was something about the fact that she couldn't imagine why anyone would want to spend a day in the desert! I never knew that her name was Pauline Phillips, until I read her obituary in the Times yesterday.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Excuse My Leg

The kitties are so fascinating to watch, and sometimes they crack me up. Somedays they are racing around the house, up and down the stairs, and hissing and batting at each other. Then there are days like this. Usually one sleeps on one of the chairs, and the other curls up on the couch at nap time. Today, for some reason they curled up together. I came through the living room and saw this, and laughed. "Pardon my Leg" I thought. My fear was, when I got the camera and clicked once it would be all over. Fortunately they didn't wake and I managed to get this.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Candle

I went over to a meeting of a men's group at a retreat house nearby. A small group of us sit around and talk about life for a couple of hours. It is a really interesting group made up of men from all walks of life. To help set the mood, the person who moderates the group brings the tablecloth and this candle. I spent a lot of time looking at it tonight, for some reason. I am not sure it has a specific meaning, but I like the feel of the sculpture that holds the candle, and of course, the feeling of the light.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How Not to Compose a Photograph

I headed out to photograph late in the day. After a few minutes I had an idea - change the Color Balance setting on the camera from "Auto" to "Daylight." This photograph if shot on "Auto" would be a neutral gray - the camera tries to take out any "off" colors. By using the "Daylight" setting, the blue light of late in the day is recorded as it should be. When I am composing a photograph, I am intuitive, and don't really consciously think about where to put things in the frame. So I moved the camera around and ended up with this composition. Just now, while looking at the finished photo, I realized that the photo is very symmetrical - the top and the bottom are the same. And do you know that there is a rule in photography that the horizon in a photograph should NOT run through the center of the photo? I know that rule. I rarely follow it. After writing all this, I don't have space to tell you why I liked this scene in the first place.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Sometimes if I want to come up with something different, I find it helps to go out at a different time of day. Since I have to stay up very late to watch Craig Ferguson each night, it is obvious that I won't be getting up early in the mornings. So I went for a walk just after sunset, and I stayed out until after dark. This is one of the photographs I found. It's hard to characterize this image, but it is a landscape. Not like a traditional natural landscape, but we are surrounded by scenes like this everywhere, so sometimes I like to do the landscapes of the man-made world.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Engaged Couples

It's Pre Cana season again for us. We do the winter Pre Cana program at church, which involves five couples coming to our home over four weeks as part of the marriage preparation program. At church yesterday, they invited all the engaged couples up to the altar and gave them a blessing before the program begins. This is only a small group of the couples - the entire group stretched all the way across the altar. I did include the whole group in a couple of pictures, but it was not as interesting as a closer view of just some of the group. I think this is a stronger image. I love looking at the expressions on their faces.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Technical Difficulties

Yesterday morning I got up early to go to an FAA sponsored safety seminar for pilots about enhanced preflight inspections for light aircraft. I was really looking forward to the talk - I have been to a number of these and they are all really good. Many of them are reminders of things I already know, but need to have refreshed in my mind. So we are all sitting and waiting for the talk to start - the speaker had a PowerPoint presentation - and guess what happened. Right. Technical difficulties! So the speaker and the host of the event huddled over one of the laptops, trying to figure out what the issue was. Turns out the speaker had copied the *shortcut* of the presentation file to his flash drive, but not the file itself. No problem - he had his laptop in the car, and he went off to get it while we watched another short program, until he returned and presented the main event. Don't you hate technical difficulties?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Flying Home

Well, as you have probably known, we have been home for over two weeks now, but I had so many interesting photographs from the California trip that I kept posting them until they were all used up. So this is another aerial photograph. The landform is really interesting to me - it almost appears that two tectonic plates are coming together, with one sliding under the other. But this is not a place on the earth where that would happen, so I am not sure what formed these features. In any case, it is an amazing landform, like so many others that we can see from the air.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Newest New Thing

I hope you're not completely tired with the California photographs. This may be the last of them. The newest Apple store in the country opened on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica recently. It is different from any other one that I have seen so far - it is floor to ceiling glass in front, and it has a giant glass roof. The roof is curved, and is tinted gray to screen the sunlight. The support structure for the roof is made up stainless steel rods under tension. It is really cool to look at and see what holds everthing together. Oh, about the photo - this didn't look that interesting until late in the day, and then the building was in sunlight, and the people were in shadow. I really like the light in this photo.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sarah's Shrimp

Sarah has this wonderful aquarium with a number of interesting fish. She also has this magnificent shrimp. The colors are so astounding, that the shrimp doesn't seem real, except that it is always moving. Believe it or not, it was not that easy to get a sharp image of this guy - you can see that some of the antennae are blurry. This is a salt water aquarium by the way, and I was amazed when Sarah told me about how much maintenance is required to keep this environment healthy. She has to replace a significant amount of salt water on a regular basis. It is an amazing mini underwater world that she has created.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Maybe, or Maybe Not...

This is a plant that was in the front yard of one of the houses on "The Walking Streets." Most of the houses do not have eight-foot high walls - some have a low picket fence or low brick wall, so you can see their gardens. This plant was at one such house. I photographed it in color, but thought it might be more interesting in black and white. I had memories of the similarity of this image to some by the photographer Edward Weston. His are MUCH better, I promise. Oh, the "Maybe, or maybe not?" That would be the identity of this plant. I am thinking that it is an Agave. Maybe, or maybe not... :-)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Magic of Light

A couple of things of interest about this photograph. First, it is a color photograph, believe it or not. Second, it was taken guess where... Right, Santa Monica Place - the mall - again! I saw the sunlight reflecting off a strip of polished chrome trim of one of the stores, and had taken a photo or two when I noticed someone walking toward me, and saw the shadow of their legs, and kept shooting. I think I got the right moment. It was fun working with the composition, before the pedestrian showed up, trying to make an interesting abstract photograph of the light and its reflection. The human shadow was the icing on the cake.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Walking Streets

In Venice, there are a couple of streets known as "The Walking Streets." They are called that because they are not streets at all, but rather sidewalks. You walk down the sidewalks, and you are looking into the front yards of homes. The trick is that there are alleys behind these homes, and that's how residents bring their groceries home and park their cars. It is a delight to walk these streets. A small number of homes have fences along the sidewalk, and very elaborate doorways. Here are three photographs, the first one giving a sense of one of the walking streets, and the others are details of two doorways.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

New Bicycle Finish

It's worth clicking on this image right away. You need to see the details of how the bicycle is "finished." It is almost completely covered in fabric. No multiple coats of shiny enamel here, nosiree. Fabric. To be fair, this bike is obviously not meant for riding - it is a display outside a store at, of all places Santa Monica Place. You are going to think that all we do is hang out at the mall. We only went there twice. You know how I love bikes, and this may be the most novel bike that I have ever seen. It is not the most beautiful bike, however - just the most clever.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Reading Tea Leaves

It was her hat that I spotted first. Very elegant for the Santa Monica Promenade. In fact she was elegant as well. So I stopped to see what she was up to. The sign on the front said "Irish Tea Leaf Readings - Only Lovely Fortunes Are Found In My Teacups." So I am liking the sound of this, and it was fun to see these two young women have their tea leaves read. I was not close enough to hear what she was saying to them - I just watched as each of the girls stirred the leaves with the whisk and then scooped some up with their cups. They all seemed to be having fun, and I got a photograph as well.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Eugene Atget

Eugène Atget, who lived from 1857 to 1927, was a French photographer noted for his photographs documenting the architecture and street scenes and the parks of Versailles, Saint-Cloud and Sceaux of Paris. I have known of his work for years, and he had this wonderful way of capturing the landscape. Characteristics of Atget's photography include a wispy, drawn-out sense of light due to his long exposures, and a fairly wide view that suggested space and ambiance. So in my garden photography I have attempted from time to time, to photograph in the manner of Atget. This is a wonderful garden in the Hamptons that I have photographed a number of times. The original is in color, but I converted it to black and white, and toned it to look like it is an old photograph. I stumbled across this photo from 6 years ago, when perusing an old hard drive the other day.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Father and Son

Back to the Getty again. I photographed most of the afternoon, between looking at exhibits. When the museum was closing, I looked around one last time, and saw this plaza which had been jammed with people all day long. What I saw was this father and son. I watched for a bit, and realized that the father was photographing his son. In any case, it made an interesting photograph because the father and son were so tiny, compared to the scale of the architecture. I hope you can forgive me for all these California photographs, instead of me having to go out in the freezing cold to look for photographs around here!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Patient Dog Waits at the Mall

We have been back in New York for nearly a week now, and I still haven't finished showing you all the interesting things I photographed in Sunny California. I found this wonderful dog at Santa Monica Place - the upscale mall. His masters were having lunch, and I am guessing they don't allow dogs in the restaurant, so they were pretty creative, and brought the leash through the planters. They get to have lunch, and the dog doesn't feel completely abandoned. I did feel badly for him, though, because he seems so left out.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Garden in Passing

We took the dog for a walk and walked from Venice a short way up to Santa Monica. We passed all kinds of things, and I photographed along the way. This was one of my favorite photographs. I have no idea, of course, what kind of plant this is. One of those always green California plants. I loved the sense that this plant was kind of like a giant green spider, slowly walking out of the garden.