Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sfumato (Epic)

I should probably call this Mass MoCA week.  I will be posting images from my visit there last Friday, while staying in Vermont.  Every year I go there, and every year I am blown away by at least one of the exhibits.  There were several this year, and I will begin with this artist - Teresita Fernandez.  When you enter the downstairs galleries, this is the first thing you see.  It looks like a swarm of insects, perhaps.  What is astounding is that you are looking at little pieces of graphite, fastened to the wall, but first the wall behind each piece was smeared with a long smudge of graphite.  It was an amazing thing to encounter in several rooms, and I spent a lot of time wandereding around looking at the work from different angles.  I finally decided that I needed several photographs, at least,  In order to give a better idea of what this piece looked like.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Impossible Photograph

After the presentation at our astronomy meeting tonight, we went outside the planetarium and set up some of our telescopes to look at the stars.  It was a bit hazy, so there was some difficulty in finding star clusters and nebulae, but we found some.  I noticed John and Gordan using this home-made telescope from the 1960's because they were silhouetted against the planetarium building in the background.  When I lifted my toy camera up, they were not visible on the screen in the back, because it was so dark.  So I set the ISO at 6400 and tried a few frames.  The camera came up with an exposure of 1/3 second which is a little long for a camera not on a tripod.  But it worked, and no one was more surprised than I was.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Pharoah's Fury

Tonight was opening night for the St. Rocco's Festival in Glen Cove, the next town over.  It's like the San Genaro festival in Manhattan, but only 10 minutes away.  We had sausage and pepper heroes, and bought a cannoli and a napolean for dessert.  They have all the usual carnival attractions - games of skill and chance that are impossible to win, of course.  And rides.  This one looks like a giant canoe and swings back and forth, while the people scream.  Well, most of them do.  I love that it is called Pharoah's Fury, and check out the face on the kid in the first row!

Monday, July 28, 2014

What Just Happened Here?

What just happened here?  Nothing.  Let me explain.  This is the natural outdoor amphitheater where the keynote talk is held on Saturday night at the Stellafane Convention.  Everyone sits in the dark, under the skies, and there is a screen where the speaker shows slides as part of the talk.  I decided to try a long exposure and see if I could record anything at all.  So I put the camera on my knee to steady it, and pressed the shutter release.  I was amazed that I was able to capture so much detail.  You can see stars in the sky, which shows how dark it was.  The scene was illuminated by the light reflecting from the projection screen.  So here's the amazing part - I was looking through the pictures, and noticed both of these people with their mouths open.  That's because they were both yawning!  But it sure looks like something else, doesn't it?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tough Ride Home

I drove home from Vermont this morning, on I-91, and I was in and out of thunderstorms all the way to Connecticut.  When I first started out, I caught up with a group of about eight motorcyclists riding together.  They all had rain gear on, and clear goggles, and a covering on the lower part of their faces.  Man that is a really tough way to ride home. What would freak me out if I was riding on a motorcycle in all this rain, would be the possibility of having the wheels hydroplane because of so much water on the road.  If a car hydroplanes, at least it still stays upright.  For these riders, it has to have been a long ride home.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

This is Stellafane!

I have been coming to the Stellafane Convention, a gathering of amateur telescope makers,  for 26 years now.  Springfield, Vermont is where amateur telescope making was born, back in the 1920's.  Telescopes were so expensive, that if you wanted one, and you were not rich, you had to build one yourself.  Springfield was home to a number of precision machine tool makers, and they had the knowledge and skills required, and through articles in Scientific American, the information was passed on to other interested amateurs across the United States.  But it all started here.  The "Pink Clubhouse" is now on the national list of historic places.  You can see home made telescopes set up all around the field.  The white structure with the domed front is a concrete telescope, made in 1939, and you observe from inside the structure, during the bitter Vermont winters.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Collector

This is Chris, and I met him last year when he and his wife were filling in for the owners of the B&B I was staying in.  You might remember that I did a portrait of him by windowlight.  He is a collector and buyer and seller of old cameras.  I mentioned I had an old camera that I didn't want and he said he was interested, so this year when I came to Vermont, I brought it with me.  I stopped by his house today to bring him the camera, and I got to see all of his collection.  It was amazing - I watched my life flash before me as I spotted so many of the types of camera that I used for both work and play.  He is an amazing guy, and we had a really nice visit.  He looked up the value of my camera, and so I thought it would make a nice portrait of him with his cameras in the background, and holding the pricing guide for old cameras.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Black River

I was indoors all day at a conference on Double Stars.  After the dinner and the keynote talk I was headed back to the bed and breakfast.  As I crossed the bridge over the Black River, the reflection of the sky in the water briefly caught my attention.  I was not sure if there was a picture there, but I drove down the road and parked in a parking lot and walked back to the bridge.  There was something about the muted tones and the dark silhouettes that I really loved the feeling of.  And I love the name "Black River." It flows through the heard of Springfield, Vermont, and is a source of power for the many industrial factories built on her shores.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Bridge of Flowers

This is the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.  The 400 foot, five arch concrete span was built for trolly tracks back in 1908.  When the trolly went out of business the bridge was derelict and covered with weeds, until 1929 when the Woman's Club got the idea to plant a garden on the entire length of the span.  This is a spectacular place to visit and photograph!  There are over 500 varieties of annuals and perennials planted and tended by local volunteers. You can see the Deerfield river in most of the photographs, and the old iron bridge that carries automobile traffic, in one of the pictures.  What a wonderful way to spend part of an afternoon. Please click on each of these images to enlarge them and see all the wonderful detail in each picture.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Thunderstorm Sky

When we had thunderstorms around recently, I was down at the water and saw these interesting cloud formations.  I was using the weather radar display on my iPhone, so knew that there were some thunderstorm cells to the west of me - the direction that I am looking in this picture.  I could see the storm moving south and the gray clouds started covering up the whole sky.  I jumped on my bike and got out of there before the storm hit.  But the clouds really were beautiful.

Monday, July 21, 2014

On A Porch

I went to the Post Office late today, and when I came out, saw this on the front porch of the house across the street.  I have photographed other parts of this house before, so finding this arrangement was not a surprise.  I love the interesting combination of the U.S. Flag and the basket of flowers.  And there is some other quality that I can't seem to explain, but that I like. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie!

Rhubarb is in season, so Kathy has been making Strawberry Rhubarb pie.  Oh boy! When the girls were here, she made two pies for us all.  This is what the evening's dessert looked like before we dug in.  We did this a few nights in a row!  Wow, was this good!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Photographer

This my friend Larry who I haven't seen in at least twenty years.  We go way back.  He was a photographer at Newsday who had come and gone before I got there, but I knew of him.  He was also an amateur radio operator, as I was, and we used to join a group of friends from around the northeast for a Saturday morning group chat on the airwaves, starting around 1979.  He has lived in Florida for a long time now. I received an email saying he would be in the New York Metro area, and today he stopped by.  Wow, it was non-stop talking all afternoon!  He has a great sense of humor as you can see - he is holding up a miniature wireless camera in front of his eye.  Yup he is definitely still a photographer!

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Little Bit Spooky

This is the view out the bedroom window into the side yard.  The tree at left is our "famous" Japanese maple tree, that you have seen so many photographs of over the years, but from the ground.  When I saw this scene, it felt as if the vegetation was taking over the world.  I like that the house in the background looks like it is slowly sinking into the trees.  I shot this in color, but the black and white version has a more ominous feel to it, I think.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Donuts & Sunspots

OK, you are liable to think I am loosing it!  I was having a plain donut with my coffee the other day and I happened to look carefully at the donut.  You know what I though of?  Right.  A sunspot on the Sun.  What?  When I first began observing the Sun with a telescope and a special solar filter, about twenty five years ago, I was able to see little black circular spots, surrounded by a larger gray circle.  then one day I saw some famous drawings of sunspots by the astronomer Samuel Pierpont Langley, done in 1870 through a 13-inch refracting telescope at Allegheny Observatory in Pittsburgh, PA.  As you can see from the two images, there is an amazing similarity between the appearance of this sunspot, and the donut.  You are amazed, right?  I am.

This morning it occurred to me that probably very few people are familiar with sunspots.  So I decided to add this image to the collection.  It is a photograph I took about a week ago with my camera through a telescope and a special filter.  This was on a day when there were a whole bunch of sunspots on the surface of the sun.  And you can see the black center of the spot, the "umbra" and the gray surround, called the "penumbra." Pretty cool stuff, right?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Waaaay Up There!

There has been a lot of tree-trimming going on around here for the past two weeks.  First the village started taking down several Locust trees along our street, because they were apparently rotted inside.  Then when they were done, there was more chainsaw noise from the next street over.  Those workers were taking down a huge tree that has been there forever.  The tree was nearly 100 feet tall in my estimation.  I needed to use a really long lens to get this photo - a 400mm.  But it creeped me out that this worker was so high, and only supported by one piece of rope.  What if he accidentally hit the rope with his chainsaw...  Whew...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


I drove by the harbor this afternoon, shortly after a thunderstorm had passed by.  What caught my eye were the soft, pastel colors in the distance.  So I shot the first picture I saw, which was the view in the distance of the clouds and the water.  Then I started looking around, and thought that maybe I should take a wider view to show the scene in context.  So here were the choices I needed to make.  The "soft" version is at the top.  When I was working on the image, I added contrast to make the image more dramatic.  I think that ruined the feeling of the scene, however, and I don't like that version.  Then at the bottom is my wide angle view.  The picture is really interesting, and pretty, BUT the original scene that I saw is completely lost.  What do you think?

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Kitties Prepare for the Start of Their Day

The kitties sleep in various parts of the house, but in the morning they both assemble just outside the bathroom door.  They know that's where we will be, eventually, before heading downstairs to feed them.  I did the first picture with just the kitty in the foreground, and it was only just OK.  Fortunately the other kitty came in to the scene, and jumped up on the windowsill to check the world outside her window, which made a much more interesting photograph.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

"Mister, what's inside a hard drive?"

"Go away kid, don't bother me!"  JUST KIDDING!  I would NEVER say that to anyone!  I love telling people what I know about stuff.  Sometimes they don't even have to ask...   :-)  Another day of throwing stuff out, and I came across a box of old hard drives.  I have heard stories of people buying a box of old hard drives, and hooking them up and retrieving other people's data left on the drive.  So to prevent anyone being able to read the drive, I took the top off the drive, and then bashed the platter with a hammer.  It does seem like a shame to destroy something so beautiful.  The platter is the large gold-colored thing that looks like a record.  The thing that looks like a record player arm is the read-write head that puts data on the drive and reads it back.  In case you are curious what is under the drive, I have included a photo of the underside of the drive as well.  All those chips on the circuit board electronics control the movement of the actuator and the rotation of the disk, and perform reads and writes on demand from the disk controller.  A really complicated process we all take for granted.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Unfinished Business

So I am cleaning up and throwing stuff out.  I came across this box, with a Heathkit ET-3100 Electronic Design Experimenter in it.  In mint condition.  Unused.  I am a licensed Amateur Radio Operator, and back in 1979 when I was studying for the exams I had to take, I bought this, with some instruction books, in order to learn electronics.  I would read the lesson, on transistors, for instance, and then use the parts in the little plastic box to construct a circuit and then operate it and take measurements.  Hands on learning.  Only thing is, I had a really tough time understanding some of the concepts.  So I put the box away.  I have always meant to get back to it, and I always knew it was up there on the shelf.  So today was the day of reckoning - I had to admit that I am never going to get back to it.  Ever.  So into the trash it went.  It is hard to admit defeat and that I will never learn electronics.

Friday, July 11, 2014

It's About The Flowers...

This is my friend Mike who lives in Virginia.  We two go way back - to 1960 and our starting out as freshmen studying photography at Rochester Institute of Technology.  We were also on the varsity fencing team together.  So all these years later, we still keep in touch by using FaceTime on our Macs.  We probably talk once a month or so, and we cover all kinds of topics.  He is a sailor and I used to be, so there is that, in addition to photography, of course.  We were talking and suddenly I noticed the sunflowers appearing to be growing out of the top of the computer, and I thought: "Now THERE'S a shot!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fireworks From The Median

We wanted to watch fireworks when we were in Wallingford, in Connecticut.  We could have all walked about a mile up the road to the hill top and been very close to them, or we could have taken our chairs out to the little triangular green where the road forks.  It was not a long walk, and we got a decent view of the fireworks from the green.  This is a different looking landscape for fireworks, for me, with the house and telephone pole.  A interesting change of pace.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Midnight Train

Liz and Sarah went to  the city yesterday to see a Broadway play, and then they met a friend for coffee, and then had dinner.  Long, wonderful day in the city, and a late-night train home.  So I went to the train station to pick them up and give them a ride home.  The station has a nice feel to it late at night, with no one else around.  I photographed that, and then continued to shoot as the train arrived.  This is my favorite because I love the shiny reflections on the side of the cars - they remind me of lightning bolts.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Liz & Karen

I was taking pictures of all the goings-on at our July 4th party, and I saw Liz watching some of the family being photographed by my sister Karen.  It's funny, but even though we are all a bit over-the-top about family photos, we laugh at ourselves for doing that.  And obviously Liz thought it was funny too.  I really love this portrait of Liz.  I think it captures an essence of her.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Puzzle Addicts

I had forgotten that we have some puzzle addicts in the family.  Liz and Sarah went out and bought a new puzzle, and set up solving it on the dining room table.  Then Kathy jumped in, and Amy joined them as well.  They are SERIOUS about this stuff!  I was worried about having any meals, when they were working on this.  Actually I was the one who made dinner tonight, so that they would have more time to finish the puzzle.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

If You Come to a Spencer Family Gathering...

...You will be photographed!  I am not sure where the photography gene for the Clarke and Spencer families first came from.  My sisters and I first experienced this from our Mom, Ruth, and her sister Jean,  our aunt.  They were always taking photographs of us, and of family events.  And my sisters and I have that gene as well.  There are always "line-ups" of various members of one part of the family or another, and then there is another line - of everyone else with cameras, to photograph the line-up!  We, of course, joke about our obsession with photographs, even as we take them!  I just wanted to warn everyone, in case you ever attend one of our gatherings!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Apparition

Did you know that fireworks can legally be sold in Connecticut?  I didn't.  We stopped to visit cousins and nieces and nephews and one of them, Connor,  had just returned with a package of legal fireworks.  So he started lighting them off, and I thought it might make a cool picture.  So I got down low on the ground, and used a telephoto lens, and he stayed far enough away from the pyrotechnic so's not to get burned, and I started shooting when the fireworks went off.  He decided to raise his arms in a muscle builder pose, which was perfect for the feeling of the photograph.  Cool, huh?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Reading the Declaration of Independence

For the last 10 years or so, on July Fourth, some Sea Cliff residents have been holding an event where they ring a huge brass bell, and then read the Declaration of Independence out loud, and then tell the assembled crowd what happened to a number  of the signers of the Declaration.  A number of them were killed in the war, others had their houses burned to the ground by the British.  It is a very sobering, very powerful ceremony.  We have always been in Connecticut on the fourth, so this is the first year we could take part, and it was wonderful to finally experience all of this.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Sarah Waiting for a Thunderstorm

Liz and Sarah are visiting from California.  They don't have thunderstorms in seacoast California.  Sarah grew up in Utah, and they do have them there. But when Sarah came to Sea Cliff she was hoping for a thunderstorm refresher.  We had storms in the weather forecast today, and late in the day there was a rumble of thunder.  So Sarah went to the bottom of the driveway, where she could get the best view of the northern and western skies, because that's where they would come from.  Well, about 30 minutes later, she was NOT disappointed.  Bolts of lightning and torrential rains arrived.  By then Sarah was safely on the porch!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Red Ribbons

As I drove to the bagel store this morning I saw a flash of waving red ribbons out of the corner of my eye.  What?  I stopped to look at the scene on the way back.  This is the pond which has been undergoing rehabilitation.  They have done some serious dredging here, and dug out so many phragmites that the pond is now doubled in size.  It turns out that phragmites are an invasive species, so they have removed them all, and are now planting native plants.  The square plastic screening apparently keeps  animals from the young plants, and now they have added the red plastic strips to keep birds away.  The ribbons make for such an unusual landscape.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Place to Sit

I found this peaceful place to sit in the back yard of my brother-in-law's house in Connecticut.  I love the colors in the picture - the cooler colors of the spectrum.  That's because I took the picture early in the morning before the sun had risen far enough to bring its warm light to the scene.  Peaceful, don't you think?