Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Freedom Tower

I haven't yet begun to start posting all the photographs from Minnesota yet, but I saw this amazing scene on approach to LaGuardia this afternoon, and wanted to show it to everyone.  I haven't flown into or out of LaGuardia for a number of years - Jet Blue is based at JFK and that's my usual airport these days.  So it was fun to fly the approach that runs alongside the east side of Manhattan, and then to let down below the cloud deck and see Freedom Tower rising above everything else in lower Manhattan.  All I could think of was "The Greatest City in the World!"

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Stone Arch Bridge

These are two views of the famous Stone Arch Bridge, spanning the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, and one view of St. Anthony Falls.  It is hard to represent both objects well in just one photograph.  The bridge built in 1883 is a former railroad bridge and it is the only arched bridge made of stone on the entire length of Mississippi River.  The structure is now used as a pedestrian and bicycle bridge, and it is an Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.   St. Anthony Falls was the only natural major waterfall on the Upper Mississippi River. The natural falls were replaced by a concrete overflow spillway after it partially collapsed in 1869. Later, in the 1950s and 1960s, a series of locks and dams was constructed to extend navigation to points upstream.  This whole scene is just spectacular as you can see.  How many cities have such an amazing view!  Please click on the top photo and it should expand to fill your screen, where you can see so much more detail.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Gathering

Our convention started Friday night at the Observatory here at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.  We did some observing through the Alvan Clark refractor in the dome, and then went outside where some students had set up some 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes for us to observe with. On Saturday morning we all came back to the observatory and I decided to look around in the daylight.  I saw these robotic-looking devices, lined up as if they were waiting for some kind of meeting to begin.  These concrete columns have metal telescope mounting plates on top, which are protected by the gray canvas.  They are not robots.  Whew!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Washburn Mill Fire

You are looking at the ruins of what was once the largest flour mill in the world.  It is the Washburn "A" mill, located on the banks of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.  It once was eight stories high and was built in 1880.  General Mills shut the mill down in 1965 and it was abandoned.  Homeless people moved in, and in 1991, a huge fire burned the mill nearly to the ground.  Fortunately some forward-looking people in the city saved what was left, stabilized the ruins with steel beams, and turned the remains into a museum about the founding and growth of Minneapolis, especially flour milling and the other industries that used water power from Saint Anthony Falls. It is an amazing place to visit.  After spending a couple of hours in the museum, you can go outside to the banks of the Mississippi and view the falls, and the Stone Arch Bridge, and see some more ruins where other water-powered mills were located on the river bank.

Friday, September 26, 2014

My Lucky Day!

So yesterday was my lucky day!  I landed in Minneapolis, and immediately drove to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts for a quick visit.  Got there at 2:45, thinking that it would close at 5.  But it was Thursday, and it was open until 9 PM!  Then there was a photo show that was being installed during the day, that I couldn't see.  But a staff member who I was talking with said that there would be a talk by the photography curator at 7 PM.  So not only did I get to see the photography show but got to meet and talk with the curator as well! In terms of visiting the museum, I kind of just wandered around.  I stumbled across this piece, above in the Egyptian section.   It is a detail from a false door that was once installed in a tomb.  What's amazing is that it was done in 2400 BC!  It is carved into the surface of a flat piece of stone.  It is a little funny when you look at it - you're not sure if the relief goes in, or comes out.  It goes in.  Please click on it to see it in detail.  It is a stunning carving and I studied it for a while.  When it was approaching 9 PM I was exhausted, so left the museum just before closing.  Look what I found on the way out!  The columns were illuminated by color lights.  Not the kind of thing you would expect with this kind of architecture, but I thought it was a wonderful and unexpected surprise.  Be sure and click on the first photo so you can see the carving in more detail.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

"The Conga Line"

I'm on the road again!  This time to Minneapolis, for the Antique Telescope Society Convention.  Flew out of LaGuardia this morning in a light rain.  There was a bit of a wait for takeoff today, but it wasn't too bad.  A few years back, we sat in a "conga line" for an entire hour, waiting for takeoff.  Now they do "gate holds" and aircraft don't get to start their engines and push back until they have a takeoff slot available.  In the old days, they would have 30 aircraft in a conga line, burning up fuel, waiting for takeoff.  So this is just a short line of Delta Canadair CRJ 200 jets waiting for the runway.
Just for fun, the shot below is the first shot of the day I was playing with - water drops on the window.  My attempt to be creative.  You may not be impressed...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What's Missing From This Picture?

So this is a leftover from Los Angeles.  It is a picture from the plaza at the Getty Center.  What's missing from this picture? And I am not talking about the people.  Any guesses?  Ok, so you are looking at a wonderful fountain in the plaza.  What is missing is water.  There is a terrible drought in California, and they are doing everything possible to conserve water.  So there is a notice at the edge of the fountain explaining why the fountain is not running.  You might wonder why not fill it and just run it.  The answer is that in this climate, evaporation causes a huge loss of water.  This is a great reminder to everyone to conserve water.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Photographer

As part of the photo exhibit at the library, there are two panels which include a photograph and text for both the woman who produced the exhibit, and for me, the photographer.  This is my photograph, holding a picture of a Pan American Airways Boeing flying boat which began service to Europe in 1939.  This is the text under my photograph:

"Photographer Ken Spencer has always had a passion for Long Island’s aviation history.  As a staff photographer for Newsday starting in the late 1960’s it didn’t take long for him to discover that Long Island was the “cradle of aviation.”  Ken is a private pilot and earned his seaplane rating at Ventura Flying Service in Manorhaven."

“When I learned that Pan American Airways began its transatlantic air service out of Port Washington, it made my head spin!  How I would have loved to see these huge Boeing 214 flying boats in their heyday departing Port Washington for Europe!”

Monday, September 22, 2014


I thought I would show you one of the portraits I took for the exhibition at the library.  This is Lucy, and she is one of my favorites!  So the story is that there was a huge sandpit in Port Washington, which I have spoken of before.  They started mining sand there in 1880, and continued until 1989.  It is estimated that 80 percent of the concrete used in New York City was made from Port Washington sand.  The sand was loaded into barges, and towed to Manhattan by tug boats like the one in the painting that Lucy is holding.  Her husband was a sand miner in the sand pits for most of his life!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hanging the Show

For the last several months I have been working on a project for the Port Washington Public Library.  I have been taking portraits of people holding objects from the library's collection of drawings and paintings that are meaningful to them.  Some of the subjects are people from the community, some are library staff or directors of the library.  There are text blocks for each of the subjects where they explain what the objects mean to them. The amazing part is that the finished portraits are 30 by 40 inches in size!  I have never made prints this size before.  This picture was taken on the day that all of the portraits were being hung for the exhibition.  You can see how large the prints are in this photo in comparison to the people in the photograph.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Trans World Airlines

This was the TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport, an architectural icon designed by Eero Saarinen and completed in 1962.  This is the back of the building.  You may remember seeing it because of its curved, wing shaped roofs, as seen from the front.  The building is now part of the new T5 complex of Jet Blue, and it thrills me that they have left up this iconic sign. Trans World Airlines was a major American airline from 1925 until 2001.  Along with American, United, and Eastern, it was one of the "Big Four" domestic airlines in the United States.  Carl Icahn acquired control of TWA and took the company private in a leveraged buyout in 1988. TWA became saddled with debt, sold its London routes,  and underwent Chapter 11 restructuring, before finally being merged with American Airlines.  American laid off many former TWA employees in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks and closed its St. Louis hub in 2003.  Such a sad end to a once-great airline.  Funny how seeing the TWA logo again brought this all back to me.  In the background is the new modernistic control tower for JFK airport.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Final Approach

That golden sunlight that you saw in yesterday's post was not done with as the flight continued.  We were circling around on approach to the airport, and then when we turned on to final approach, landing to the north, we could see this beautiful golden sunlight illuminating the Rockaways.  It was absolutely stunning.  I don't ever remember landing at any airport with such stunning light.  Good to be away, and always good to be back home.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

ALWAYS Have Your Camera Handy!

When am I going to learn?  I had the window seat outbound, and Kathy had it heading home.  So I left my camera in the backpack under the seat in front of me.  It was cloudy most of the way, so no need for the camera.  UNTIL it was time to let down from cruise altitude.  We were descending through a cloud deck, and suddenly there was the sun reflecting off the water!  So I went to grab it and realized there was no time!  So I quickly grabbed my iPhone and made this shot.  This looks OK, and you might wonder why I am disappointed it wasn't done with a camera.  It's just that the quality would be so much better, if I wanted to make a large print.  A pretty amazing scene, isn't it?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Back to the 1950's

Our alternate breakfast place in Venice is Cafe 50's on Lincoln Avenue.  It is a different experience from the place on Abbot Kinney.  As you can see, it has all the accoutrements from the diners we knew back in "the old days."  My favorite, of course, is the juke box selection box in each booth.  They don't work here - you have to get up and go to the juke box itself,  but that does work.  And of course our favorite choice for breakfast is two eggs scrambled, with bacon and whole wheat toast, and home fries.  Makes me feel sixteen again!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Artist at Work

This is Dave and I found him at work at our favorite funky coffee shop in Venice.  I saw him drawing one day, and stopped to comment on his drawings.  The next day I talked to him again, and asked if I could do a portrait of him.  He draws in pencil, and then finishes the drawings in charcoal, which makes them deeply, richly black.  Apparently he takes the drawings and prints tee-shirts from them.  This coffee shop will be moving eventually to a brand new building under construction, and will loose  all it's charm - it has been here forever. So this is not only a portrait of Dave, but a portrait of the coffee shop as well.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Lost In Venice

So this is a great story.  I saw this young woman, wearing a blue jumper, and carrying a handbag over one shoulder, riding her skateboard in the bowls of the skateboard park on the beach in Venice.  There are guys racing all around the park on their boards doing unbelievable tricks!  This young woman is slowly learning to skate and would swoop down into one of the bowls and around through the other bowls.  She was cautious, and when she got to a dicey spot, would just run off her board, pick it up, and walk back to where she started.  All the skaters here are respectful of each other - I have seen children five or six years old, and the killer skaters stand respectfully by and watch them, as they did for this woman.  The thing that I really love about this, is that if you didn't know the story, she appears lost in the canyons.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

If You Look Up...

If you look up, and see this, you are in California!  Absolutely crystal clear days with blue skies that go on forever, and then when the sun goes down, the blue starts changing to black overhead.  But it is the shapes of the palm trees that are the signature here.  At least we don't see these trees in Sea Cliff.  Not sure why, of course.  Oh wait, we have snow in the winter.

The Venice Pier

We all went to a big dinner tonight, and met Sarah's brother and his wife from Utah.  So there was lots of meeting and talking and conversation, which was really fun.  After much wonderful food, and conversation, and coffee and desert, we headed back to the parking lot by the water.  As we walked to the car, I saw this view of the Venice Pier, illuminated by the streetlights on it.  Fortunately there was some fog around, and that made the atmospherics much more interesting.  I balanced the camera on a piling at the edge of the parking lot, and set the ISO to 3200.  I think the exposure was about a full second.  This photo is the result.

Friday, September 12, 2014

One Million Three Hundred Thousand

One Million Three Hundred Thousand.  That's what this house just sold for!  What?  Yeah, sadly that's how things work in this town.  This house is headed for a teardown after being vacant for years.  And the sad thing is, that these houses are not being bought by young families, they are being bought by investors who will be building modern two-story homes that will be worth twice what this property sold for.  You can see this as you drive all around this town.  It is all about rich people now.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Vexed Man

Liz and I went to the Getty Center Museum today, mainly to see the Minor White show.  They handed out a sheet of events at the museum, and one of the entries said: "#Getty Pose with the Vexed Man.  Snap yourself making a scowl to match this sculpture's sour expression."  So we immediately headed to the gallery with the sculpture - we were really up for this!  So these photos are the best of our efforts!  We did a good job, don't you think?  We had a lot of laughs as well!

Venice Street Scene

The scene on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice is always interesting.  This is the view from inside the pizza shop where we had slices for dinner the other night.  It is much easier to do street photography from inside a building looking out, because most people are unaware than I am photographing them.  Lots of characters in this town.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

New York to Los Angeles

JFK to LAX - five hours and thirty minutes.  What an amazing country this is!  I see photographs from the minute we take off, until the minute we land.  As many times as I have made this trip since 2005, I never get tired of looking out the window at the earth and sky, looking for things that grab my attention.  The photographs here, from top to bottom, are: 1. Climbing out of JFK, with Jamaica Bay and the Rockaways in the distance.  2. Irrigation circles in Kansas - farmers irrigate their fields by using a spray pipe connected to the center of the field which travels in a circle, watering the crops.  3. Hundreds of cumulus clouds over the border of western Kansas and Oklahoma.  4.  A view of downtown Los Angeles, with urban sprawl in the foreground, on approach to Los Angeles International Airport.

Monday, September 8, 2014


You have probably been wondering how they are going to take the smokestacks down as they demolish the power plant.  I certainly have thought about how they might remove them.  My first thought was that somehow they would cut the stacks at the bases and let them crash to the ground.  It is much more organized than that.  They have cut small openings in the stacks all the way up, and then put small I-beams through the holes which would support platforms for the workers.  From inside each stack, they have been using gas cutting torches to slice off a ring about eight feet high.  Then the crane comes in at the end, and lowers the ring to the ground.  You can see the sparks of molten metal near the top of the cut stack near the center of the picture.  Here's the interesting thing - this picture is really all about the colors - the various shades of rust and the gorgeous blue sky.  It's not about cutting torches at all!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Endangered Species

So the regular blog is back, which means no more Montauk photographs!  There was a photograph and story in the newspaper about the demolition of a library building attached to "St Paul's School for Boys" in Garden City.  I knew this building was here, and always thought I should go photograph it, but I didn't.  So when I saw the picture of the demolition I went down there the next day and spent an hour wandering around photographing it.  What an amazing structure!  It was built in 1869, and closed in 1991.  The village has been unable to come up with a use for it that was affordable.  The architecture is simply stunning in its attention to detail.  It may not be long for this world, which is a shame.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The End of Montauk

I mean, it's not the end of Montauk.  It's the end of my Montauk postings.  I guess it should be, because it's been nearly two weeks since I have been there.  There is something about this place.  I see photographs everywhere I look!  It really is amazing.  And then there is that amazing light.  Interesting that I could find two week's postings in two days of shooting!  This happens to be a small window in the gallery that I happened to look out of.  At first I was drawn in by the ivy growing on the glass, but then the picture began to be about the sea and the sky and the building outside.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Trying Too Hard

So I wanted to do something different for another picture in the gallery where Phillip's work is.  So I found a vantage point that I liked, and asked if he would walk slowly from one side of the room to the other, while I used a slow shutter speed.  I wanted to have him blurred, for a different feel to the picture.  This is not an original idea.  He showed me some amazing photographs that he had done for an advertising campaign for shoes that involved part of the model being blurred.  I have a weak mind and am easily influenced by others brilliant ideas!  But I am not sure that this photograph works all that well.  It's as if I tried too hard.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

In The Gallery

Phillip has a large exhibit in a gallery in Montauk.  So we all went over there to see the photographs.  And of course, all of us Spencers have the photo gene - it is a dominate gene!  So in addition to looking at the images, we went around photographing each other.  I am not sure what Amy is doing here - making a movie, I think.  But I thought the juxtaposition of her iPhone and her face required that I take this picture.  Some photos are like that - they demand to be taken.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Pound Nets

This first picture is of part of a pound net, if my research is correct.  It is made up of poles planted in the shallow water just off a beach, perpendicular to shore, connected with a complex arrangement of nets.  When it is in use, the end of the net is extended to the shore.  Fish swimming parallel to shore run into the net, and turn toward deeper water.  When they get to the end of the straight net, they find themselves in a heart-shaped net, which leads to another smaller round net, and they are caught.  The reason I photographed this arrangement was not for a lesson in fishing, but rather because I thought the silhouette of the shapes of the poles and arrangement of the nets was a really fascinating design.  In short, it was about the design, and the feeling of water and sky.  And, of course, this being the east end, the light is wonderful as well.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Father & Daughter

I was standing out on the breakwater at Ditch Plains, using a long telephoto lens on my camera, and saw this father and daughter heading out together on a surfboard.  They stood out from the usual crowd on their boards because there were two of them.   I kept my eye on them and as they caught a wave, I watched them surf in together all the way to the beach, and then turn around and paddle back out. I saw them make a couple of runs, and you could see the daughter grinning.   It was so cool to watch, and warmed my heart to see them enjoying their time together.  I also loved the daughter's trust in her dad, that he would keep her safe.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Tired of Montauk Photos?

I hope you are not bored with my Montauk photos yet.  I was there for a few days and shot so many interesting photographs, that I could post on the blog for two weeks, and I may do just that.  There are so many photogenic things in Montauk that it is not even funny.  These are surfboards leaning against the drift fence at Ditch Plains, the surfer's beach.  I have never seen so many surfboards in one place!  Of course, it's the deep blue sky that makes this photograph.