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Tuesday, June 29, 2004


Poster Child

Joanna with Her Poster
Here is my former co-worker and current wonderful customer, Joanna, showing off the last of three poster-size enlargements I had made for her. They were all photos of Thai umbrellas hanging from the ceiling in Bangkok Delight, a restaurant around the corner from where Joanna works.

To me, the fascinating thing about this one is that it comes from a photo I took last November with my Canon A40 two megapixel consumer-type point-and-shoot camera! Now, if you put your nose right up against it, you'll see that it's not as sharp as the ones two blowups of the same size that I had made from my six megapixel digital SLR. But of course you don't put your nose up against a 24" x 36" print when you view it, you're a few feet away. And at that distance, as you can see from this photo, it looks just fine. The important thing, of course, is that Joanna liked it.

In Photoshop Elements 2, when I opened the original file, it measured about 6" by 8" at 180 dpm resolution. I resized it in increments of ten percent to about 26" x 36", a trick I found in The Photoshop Elements Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby. Onscreen, it looked much better than when I tried to resize it all in one step. Kelby didn't say why this works, and I don't know either, but it really does work!

By the way, I had this print, as well as the other 24" x 36" prints, made at a place I consider to be a photographer's best friend, Severna Park Photo. The people at SPP are friendly and knowledgeable, and unlike dealing with chain stores like Ritz, you'll see them season after season - SPP seems to be like a family, with little turnover. Dealing with them is such a pleasure. If you can find an "old-fashioned" photo shop like Severna Park Photo in your neighborhood, consider yourselves lucky.

Off to Florida

I'm packing my old-man shorts, Hawaiian shirts, and white belt and shoes... Sandy and I are visiting our longtime, wonderful friends Roz and Joel Ehrenpreis, who now live in Sarasota, Florida. Fun in the sun and lots of girls-versus-boys games of Password and Clue - Joel tells me he's developed some new techniques for cheating (a time-honored tradition.) We'll be leaving tomorrow afternoon and returning late Monday night, so no blog posts for a few days. But with any luck, I'll have some good subtropical photos when we return.

Wishing you a happy Fourth of July ... G-d bless America!

Monday, June 28, 2004


Father & Son Night

Dupont Circle 
<br />Station
Ben and I took a Father & Son trip into D.C. this evening to attend a meeting of WAMMO, which I think stands for Washington Area MacroMedia Organization - a forced acronym if I ever heard one ... but I like it.

Ben had heard that Cold Fusion guru Ben Forta was going to give a presentation on the upcoming version of Cold Fusion, codenamed Blackstone. Now I'm a Microsoft groupie myself, but my Ben has been a Cold Fusion programmer since ninth grade. He's been working with Cold Fusion now for four years and he's quite good at it. In early 2003, he managed to get himself a real part-time job as a Cold Fusion programmer at a small company in Odenton, where he's now working full-time for the summer. Cold Fusion really means a lot to Ben, and Ben Forta has become a hero to him.

I picked Ben up at work, and we drove to the New Carrolton station of the Washington Metro. Taking the Metro to the DuPont Circle station, we walked through a handsome neighborhood to the site of the meeting on 16th Street. I hadn't been in this part of D.C. for quite some time, and I made a mental note to come back some time this summer to shoot photos here.
Ben and Hero, Ben Forta
Ben Forta lived up to his reputation as both a guru and an engaging speaker. It was an interesting night even for a non-Cold-Fusion guy like me. Also, Ben and I were impressed that Ben F wears a kipa (yarmulke,) and we gleefully hi-fived each other in celebration of him being a Member of the Tribe. What can I say in my defense? - still crazy after all these years.

After the meeting, Ben and I went up to thank Mr. Forta and ask that he pose for a photo with my Ben, which he gladly did. Besides his towering intellectual stature, Ben F is also a pretty tall guy - my Ben at almost six feet is a bit taller than me, and you can see that Ben Forta is half a head taller still.

My Ben is a lot cooler and much more talented than his Dad, but I'm glad that at his core, there's a little of his Dad's geekiness, too.

Sunday, June 27, 2004


Jews & Chinese Food

A Good Sign ...
Posted by Hello

I'm curious about other blogs - normal blogs, that is, not the ones with 100,000 hits a day, but those by mere mortals like me. I've been browsing through recently-added blogs listed on photoblogs.org and, natch, Jewish Bloggers list. That's where I stumbled on Librarian Levin, intrigued by the name. It's a nice little Blogger.com blog by someone named Rachael. I don't relate to all of her posts, as a lot of it is about her adventures in Library School - student-type stuff that's too far in my past to resonate with my old brain. But some of her stuff is very clever and well-written indeed. Like this one, about Jews and Chinese food, one of those little running life-jokes that continues to amaze and delight me.

For those of you who are not of the Jewish persuasion, you might not know about Jews and Chinese food ... we go together like Rogers and Hammerstein, like bagels and lox, like Currier and Ives - well, maybe not like Currier and Ives. But you get the idea.

Jews love Chinese food! Don't ask me why. Ok, you can ask, and in fact, I've done some research on this subject for you. For starters, here's a scholarly treastise on the subject by sociologists Gaye Tuchman and Harry Levine that first appeared in the summer 1996 issue of Brandeis Review.

Here's Adam Stein's take on this phenomenon, a more personal and very funny approach. And I was surprised to find this article by Joseph Epstein on the website of the Hudson Institute, a prestigious think tank. Epstein articulates an enthusiasm for Chinese food that almost precisely mirrors my own (I say "almost" because I don't eat shellfish or pork.)

One of my favorite places in Baltimore is David Chu's China Bistro, a high-quality, strictly kosher Chinese restaurant in a largely Orthodox neighborhood. I find the sight of observant Jews, complete with beards and payes, enjoying Chinese food to be somehow eminently satisfying - as if it involved some sort of joyous mitzvah in which I participate. The only thing that would make the whole experience better is if the excellent Chinese waiters spoke Yiddish. Maybe I should discuss that with Mr. Chu...

Needless to say, I myself love Chinese food. It even comes out in my photography, as you can see here and here. I like the images themselves as images, but also for the bit of humor inherent and inevitable in the Jewish-Chinese connection.

Speaking of humor, I'll leave you with this:

A Jewish man and a Chinese man were conversing. The Jewish man commented upon what a wise people the Chinese are.

"Yes," replied the Chinese man, "Our culture is over 4,000 years old. But, you Jews are a very wise people, too."

The Jewish man replied, "Yes, our culture is over 5,000 years old."

The Chinese man was incredulous, "That's impossible, he replied. Where did your people eat for a thousand years?"

To which I add: a thousand years without Chinese food! Talk about suffering!

Saturday, June 26, 2004


Painless (Almost) Car-Buying

As I mentioned the other day, today was to be a car-hunting day. I had done some research on Hyundais, and for my purposes, it looked like their Elantra model would be a good value for me.

We made it a family outing today, with Ben tagging along with Sandy and me. I drove to a fairly new Hyundai dealer on West Street in Annapolis, and as we pulled up, a familiar looking young salesman came over to us. It turned out to be Jason K, whom we've known since he was five years old. Jason had been at the dealership for about two weeks. Jason's younger sister Lauren and our Ben were in nursery school together at age two and have been fast friends for many years. Sandy and I consider Lauren almost another daughter, and her parents look at Ben almost like another son.

Jason went with us on a test drive of an Elantra, and I liked the car right away. It felt fairly taut and had decent pickup. At least for my needs - I've never been a really fast driver and I'm certainly no car afficianado. Reliable, somewhat comfortable transportation is my aim.

Well, I liked the Elantra, and we found one on the lot in a color I liked ("crimson") and without lots of options I didn't want. The Elantra comes standard with a lot of good stuff anyway, like front and side airbags, power locks, windows, and mirrors, air conditioning, am/fm/cassette stereo, pinstripe, etc. The only extra option this one had that I could have lived without is cruise control - I'll be using this car primarily for commuting. I would have liked a CD player, but (a) it adds $350 on its own and (b) you can't seem to get one without lots of other gimcranks like power moonroof, fancy trim, etc.

So we sat down to negotiate, and to my pleasant surprise, the price Jason brought back from the office was very reasonable. Sandy wrote a check (we'd been saving for a while - that's the advantage of driving 10-year-old cars) and that was it.

Before we drove off, I gave Jason a hug and wished him Mazel Tov on his sale. The whole affair wouldn't be complete, of course, without the obligatory documentary photo, so here it is:

Ben with my new Hyundai Elantra
Posted by Hello

This is probably the last time we'll see the car this clean for a long time. I tend to wash my cars every two years whether they need it or not.

Friday, June 25, 2004


Odds & Sods ...

Note Cards

I printed up an order of 20 notecards the other night for a lovely woman who had already bought two framed 8x10's last month. I have Dave Beckerman to thank for the ease of this task, as it was in his photo blog that I read about Red River Paper and the very fine inkjet greeting card stock they sell. Once I set up the card in Photoshop, a snap when following their online directions, it took me no time at all to print the order (it was 20 copies of the same image).

It's actually kind of a good news/bad news thing - the good news is that I now have an easy and less expensive way to make quality note cards of my photographs. Before, I used to use Strathmore Photo Mount cards. They are very nice cards, with an embossed border around where the image gets mounted. But the little gummed squares they provide are terrible, and even using my own gluing methods, like 3M spray mounting cement, it's still labor intensive and messy to cut the photos just right and glue them on. Also, the Strathmore cards don't hold inkjet ink very well, so it's not practical to run them through your printer to imprint the back of each card.

The Red River card stock solves all these problems - they are prescored sheets, so all you do is layout the front and back of your card in a photo editor, configure your printer for the right size paper, and print.

So what's the bad news? Any way you slice it, you can't get rich on these cards as I see it. I charged my customer $40 for the order of the twenty cards with envelopes, and I thought I was pushing it (you can buy a nice boxed set of 10 fancy photo cards at Barnes & Nobel for eight to twelve dollars.) But 50 cards plus 100 envelopes from Red River cost me $37 shipped, or 74 cents apiece. Ink cost likely boosts this to about $1.00 each, so I'm only making $1.00 on each card. On the other hand, I may never need to visit a Hallmark store again!


Because I'm a Blogger.com user (I guess,) I was invited to test Google's new web-based email service, GMail. You probably already know that Google gives you one gigabyte of storage space for your mail (this has already motivated Yahoo! and Hotmail to greatly increase the paltry amount of storage space they had been offering.)

What you may not know is that GMail scans your incoming messages and based on a secret algorithm, sticks small text-based advertisements in the left-hand margin of the web page. As a June 21, 2004 New York Times article, The Internet Ad You Are About to See Has Already Read Your E-Mail put it,

So if your friend sends you a message about his vacation in Florida, you will see text ads for beach resorts to the right of the message. When your mother writes about her new digital camera, photography ads appear.

Now some people would find this annoying, or even frightening. But I could care less (or is it "couln't care less?") No human is reading my email, and I hardly ever even notice the ads, anyway. I figure that if it really bothers you, you shouldn't be using this free service.

On the other hand, it does sometimes lead to amusing situations. Like the email I got from Dave Beckerman with the subject line, "Frogs, Pigeons, etc." The email talked about his experience shooting some damn nice B&E photos of pigeons recently, and also mentioned, en passant, his cat and frogs in general. Here are the ads I saw:

Pest Pigeons a Problem?

Complete Bird Control Product Line Call 800-503-5444 for Expert Help!

Dove & Pigeon Keeping

Information on breeding and care. Where to buy them!

Racing Pigeons

Shop for Magazine Subscriptions! Find, Compare and Buy

Related Pages
Entry Index Page 297. The American Heritage Dictionary of the ...
Entry Index Page 297. The American Heritage Dictionary of the ...

PhotosByFeist.com Gallery: Water
PhotosByFeist. Browse dozens of galleries, with hundreds of artistic ...

Some pretty good information on pigeons to be had at the click of the mouse! But why no frog links?... and where did PhotosByFeist come from?... oh, I see, there were three or four instances of the word or word fragment "photo" in the email, including Dave's email address.

Hyundai Hunt Trumps NYC Trip

Bummer! I was going to take a day trip this Saturday to NYC - to take photos, of course - but it looks as if my 1988 Mercury Sable is on its last legs. So this weekend, Sandy and I will go out car shopping - at least looking. We drive cars a really long time - the last time we bought cars was in 1994. The '88 Merc was Mom's - she gave it to us when she bought a 2002 Accord. It was supposed to be for Ben, as he was just starting to drive, but he requisitioned my '94 Cavalier, and I've used the Merc ever since. It still runs OK, but it's at the point where it's becoming a money pit. It's just time to put it out to pasture.

Not being very interested in cars, and being cheap at that, I thought we should take a look at Hyundais. Their quality seems to have gone up quite a bit in the last few years, they're significantly cheaper than the competition, and there's that long, long warranty. Maybe we'll even buy two, as Sandy's '94 Voyager is getting pretty long in the tooth. Been there, done that - in '85, we bought two Chevys the same night - a Cavalier (natch!) and a Celebrity wagon - we drove out with those two new cars for about seventeen grand and our old K-car. Sandy wants a car she can sit up high in, so maybe we'll look at the Hyundai Santa Fe.

Parlez-Vous Canadienne?

Odds and Sods. I love that expression. In case you were wondering what that meant, it's "Canadian" for "odds and ends." It was one of the first expressions I learned from Sandy shortly after I met her.

Sandy is an honest-to-gosh Canadian! She was born, raised, educated, started working, and got married (to me) in Montréal. Sandy grew up in an Anglophile neighborhood in Dorval, a suburb of Montréal.

Canada seems, on the surface, so much like the United States that I found it jarringly amusing when she would use a "local" expression or name for common things or brand names. For example, "Javex" instead of "Clorox." "J Cloth" instead of "KimWipes" or "Teri Wipes." "Canadian Tire" instead of "Pep Boys." "Depanier" instead of "convenience store" (well, that one is local to Quebec.)

(Editors Note: mockery backfires on the mocker - to this day, 26 years later, I still call woven paper reusable towels "J Cloths".)

On the other hand, sometimes I wonder just how Canadian that girl is... unlike her parents and brothers, she doesn't say PRO-ject (pronounced with a long "o") or SHED-yule for "schedule."

But that's life, eh?!

Thursday, June 24, 2004


Hands Across The Ocean

SteveB, SteveR, and Dan meet at Chevy's
Tonight I had the pleasure of meeting in person two "virtual" friends of mine from Cyberspace. Dan Lightner lives just up the road from me in Glen Burnie, but Steve Bowden had traveled here on business all the way from North Yorkshire, UK.

We know each other through the "community" of Usefilm.com, a website where you can post your photos, others can comment on them, and you can comment on others' photos. Invariably, some members will gravitate towards others, either through geographical proximity, admiration of the other's photography, or both.

I started participating in Usefilm.com in mid-October last year, and almost immediately became aware of Dan Lightner. Dan's images are fabulously imaginative - he's always trying new things. And he's very persistent - like the time he shot a strawberry splashing into a dish of milk hundreds of times until he got just the right look. He has a fantastic eye for design, and I've found his work very inspiring. At dinner tonight, Dan told us he'd only been taking pictures for about a year and a half. All I can say, is that he's a very quick learner! I was happy to hear that good things are happening for Dan, photographically speaking - people are buying his pictures, he's become a photo stringer for two newspapers, and he's already shot a number of weddings.
At The Mall - Muvico Ghost
Steve is a delightful fellow who has a real enthusiasm for photography. Take a look at his wonderful nature and landscape photos on Usefilm.com. Steve also has a website that features more photos and some of his other interests, such as ham radio. He mentions that he is "42, going on 19." Definitely my kind of guy!

About two months ago, Steve put out the word on Usefilm that he would be staying in Columbia, Maryland on business during this week in June in case any Usefilmers lived nearby and wanted to get together. As luck would have it, I now work a four-minute walk from Steve's hotel. After a few emails Steve exchanged with some of us locals, it looked like we'd be able to get together. So tonight we met at Chevy's, a Mexican restaurant at a nearby shopping mall and had dinner together. Two more of our indigenous Usefilm comrades were unable to make it, unfortunately.

So we had a good time tonight, yakking away from 7 until about 10 pm. A wonderful experience, and something that just couldn't have happened even 10 or so years ago, pre-internet.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


Frog Photo Safari

Here's Lookin' At Ya!
As I mentioned on Monday, I discovered that the little goldfish pond in back of our office building is also the home of several Green Frogs, Rana clamitans melanota. They're really handsome critters, classically froggy-looking and about three to four inches long, with iridescent green markings on their snout and jaw.

That photo at the bottom of Monday's post was taken from about one-eigth of the frame - I just couldn't get very close to these guys before they got nervouse and jumped away. The only lens I have at the moment is the "kit lens" 18-55mm zoom that came with the Digital Rebel. It's equivalent, at the long end, to an 89mm lens on a 35mm camera - very handy for general shooting, but too short to get a decent frog image without getting really close.
Wanting to get closer, I brought my tripod with me yesterday and tried to use it as a boom on which to mount my camera. The idea was to use the "boom" to get the lens closer to the frogs, triggering the shutter with a remote release.

Well, it just didn't work for me - I got quite a few out-of-focus pictures - mostly of empty pond water with a few aquatic plants. I just wasn't able to aim it properly, and the autofocus wouldn't lock onto my intended subjects.

Abandoning the tripod/boom idea, I went back to standing at the edge of the pond and squatting down to take the photos. I finally hit on a technique that worked well: I'd look through the viewfinder and let the autofocus lock on the frog, then snap a preliminary image. Then I'd slowly move the camea away from my eye and straight towards the frog, trying to keep the red dot of the central focusing spot in view through the dwindling "window" of the viewfinder. Every few inches, I'd stop along the way and take an exposure.
Maybe this seemed less threatening to the frogs than bending right over them, or maybe they're just getting more used to me, but I was able to get a few properly-aimed and properly-focused shots near the lens' closest-focusing distance with the lens zoomed out fully on the telephoto end. It was hot in the sun, and I was schvitzing, but it was worth it.

Like last month's cicada photos, I'm very happy with these images, and a bit surprised as well. Surprised because in my camera-toting youth, I normally wouldn't have bothered to snap even an easy-to-grab picture of such small animals, let alone go to any trouble to get them. But these kinds of things really delight me now. I think the credit goes to Steve Irwin, of "Crocodile Hunter" fame. When I first was exposed to his series in early 2000, I found his enthusiasm infectious.

So yesterday, while shooting the frogs, I found myself saying, out loud and in a poor imitation Queensland accent, "... you're all right mate!", and "...isn't he GOOOAW-jess!"

A New Photoblog

Every few days, I scan the "Recently Added" list at photoblog.org to see who's doing what. Also, I figure that as thrilled as I am when I find that someone has actually looked at my blog, why not post a comment or two on someone else's newly-hatched blog.

One new blog that caught my eye yesterday, probably because I like the attitude implied by it's title, is Greg's beauty in the ordinary photoblog. Greg says in his first post,

Ok, so here it is. My first picture, my first note...
The idea is to force myself to publish a picture every day. To throw some discipline upon myself. To get myself to go out there and take pictures. No matter if I feel like it or not...

Seeing as how Greg is trying to do what I'm trying to do, and publically putting himself on the line with his very first post, I'm going to keep checking back over the next few days to see how he's doing. Good luck, Greg!

I should mention that the other photoblog I check almost every day is The Mother Of All Photoblogs, Black and White Photography : Dave Beckerman. Actually this link is for his website - when you get there, you'll see his Photography Blog link at the right of the screen. Dave's site has been there for years, and his online journal predates, I think, the blogging phenonmenon. Take the time to look at his amazing B&W photos, then jump in and start following his blog. You'll be inspired.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


Shoot It While You Can!..

Row 16 Shadow Study
One bright Saturday morning last October, I wandered onto the grounds of Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium (the U.S. Naval Academy stadium,) in search of "pattern" images. I figured (correctly,) that I'd find some interesting patterns made by the tiers of seats and the early-morning shadows.

The best photo of the morning, however, came as I was leaving and noticed one of the four concrete ramps leading to the upper deck. The ramps had a clean, Art Deco look to them, looking very much like the sterns of four grand old ocean liners. The clean lines of the sunlit concrete, the deep shadows inside the walkways, and the beautifuly blue western sky all came together to present me with great photo opportunity.
Ramp to Upper Decks at US Naval Academy Stadium
And I'm glad I took it, with whatever camera I had with me - which turned out to be my Canon A40 2MP point-and-shoot.

The image looks great on-screen and as a print up to about 6" by 8". But when I tried to print it recently at 8x10, it just wouldn't hold up - the even tone in the sky shows too much pixelation. So I figured I'd go back and re-shoot some day using my 6MP Digital Rebel. All I'd need is a nice morning with a good blue sky.

But there's a fly in this ointment - the ramps just don't exist any more! I discovered this weekend that the stadium is undergoing reconstruction and expansion, and those beatiful ramps have been demolished. I don't know if they'll be back in the new design.

The moral of this story is that when you see something worthwhile photographing, shoot it while you can, shoot it now!

As Elvis would have said, "tomorrow - may be too late - it's now or never!"

Monday, June 21, 2004


Farewell Brood X, Class of 2004!

Our 17-year cicadas, the cause of so much anticipation, anxiety, and excitement this Spring, have all but disappeared.

Having done their periodic duty by emerging by the millions, copulating, and laying eggs, there is hardly a trace of them now, a month later.

The whirring background chorus, which used to start promptly at 7 AM and last until early evening, is no more - there's absolutely no aural evidence of any surviving cicadas until about noon. Even then, the ear-splitting cacophony of late May is now replaced by a few dispirited chirps here and there.

I hadn't actually seen any live cicadas at all over the past few days. About 3 PM this afternoon, I stepped outside in front our building for some fresh air and walked over to a tall tree at the edge of the sidewalk. Suddenly, I heard a familiar, loud chirping just off my left shoulder. Sure enough, there was a healthy-looking cicada clinging to the tree bark.

I picked him up by the ends of his wings (of course, it was a "he", since only the males make noise,) and looked him over. He looked as lively as any I saw a month ago, his six little legs clawing the air, his wings flexing, trying to fly away, and of course, he was chattering up a storm in protest.

It was a little sad, really. "Where the heck have you been, pal!" I thought. This Johnny-come-Lately was chirping away, hoping to attract a virtually non-existant female with which to mate. All in vain at this point.

Well, I'm glad I went a little crazy over the 17-year cicadas this time around. I really enjoyed learning about them - learning a lot, thanks to the Internet - and having them around. Now that they're gone, what am I gonna do for fun??
Green Frog (Rana clamitans melanota) in our office's koi pond in Columbia
Hey, I just discovered that the little koi pond behind our office building has frogs!

Thursday, June 17, 2004


Supersize Me!

I've always dreamed of having poster-size enlargements of some of my photos but just didn't feel like spending, or more correctly risking, the money.

The other week, one of my co-workers asked for 2'x3' prints of three photos I made of colorful Thai paper umbrellas. Here was my chance to try this out on someone else's nickle.

I checked with Severna Park Photo, an excellent old-style camera shop nearby, and found that they charged only $40 for 2'x3' prints. These are made on a large-format Epson inkjet printer using special drivers and archival inks. Worth a shot, I thought.

Well, today I picked up the first of the three photos, my test case, and I'm very happy with the results. Here's a photo of Ben holding up the print.
Ben with Poster-Size Print

The original for this photo was a digital file made with my Canon Digital Rebel SLR which uses a 6 megapixel APS-size sensor. One of the other two files is from my older Canon A40, a point-and-shoot digicam with a tiny pinkie-fingernail-size, 2 megapixel sensor. Michelle at Severna Park Photo went ahead and made a test strip from that file, and amazingly, it looks really good. The colors aren't as intense and the image not quite as sharp as the one from the Digital Rebel, but it isn't as much of a difference as you might imagine. I think my customer will be as happy as I am.

I'm going to go ahead and let Severna Park Photo print the remaining two images, and now I'm ready to buy some poster-size prints for myself.


Happy Birthday, Mom!

Mom & Me - Amberg 1950
Today is Mom's birthday. Normally, we'd be celebrating with her this weekend, but this year, she's spending her birthday in a very special way, visting Israel and staying with our cousins, Tammy and Itzik Lederman. We called her this morning to offer our birthday wishes - she's having a wonderful time.

Here's one of Mom's favorite photos, taken with me in Amberg, US-Occupied Germany in 1950, where we lived as Displaced Persons (DP's.) From the foliage and Mom's sleeveless blouse, I'd say it was late spring or early summer. Within a half year or so, we would be on our way to a new life in the U.S.

Happy birthday, Mom, from your first-born!

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


Hey! ... SteveR! ... Up Against The Wall!

The Wall
Last Saturday, our daughter was in town for a wedding in Collge Park and asked me to drive her there. No problem - it was a beautiful day, I had my camera, and I knew just what to do after dropping her off - photograph some walls. Well, two walls in particular.

First stop: Seven Seas Restaurant, a deservedly popular Chinese restaurant (just a few blocks North on Route 1 from the University of Maryland campus) Chopsticks and one of the few in the world without "Golden" or "Dragon" in its name. I had photographed part of its wall in October while waiting for the automobile club to resuce my son Ben's broken-down car. This was with my 2MP Canon A40, and since I got the Digital Rebel, I've wanted to go back and shoot some more.

One side of Seven Seas is completely given over to a mural. There are several sections, each with its own theme.
Calvert and Crossland
The panel I photographed last year has a huge hand holding chopsticks holding sushi (yes, South Seas also has great sushi.) It's not a bad image, but I think it needs a person or two, perferably Asian, to finish it off. I took some more photos of this panel Saturday, but didn't have the chutzpa to ask someone to get in the shot.

I did get some nice images of some of the other sections, though. One of them has a large Maryland flag painted diagonally across it. Our flag is a nice graphic design in itself, based on the crests of the Calvert and Crossland families from Maryland's early history. Isolating details of this section yields some interesting abstracts.

Another photo that I like shows parts of the three adjacent sections, with some of the Maryland flag design reflected in a car window.

Now for the second wall at Proteus Bicycles, a well-stocked, well-equipped and friendly bike shop a few more blocks North of Seven Seas. This is a very old building by College Park standards, built in the 1930's as a car repair garage. The stucco exterior now sports a flourescent lime paint job that screams to be photographed. I had passed the shop on other sunny days camera-less too many times to let it happen again.
Lime Shadow
Casing the joint, I did find several good images. My favorite one is this one, the most simple imaginable - just a little pipe vent, it's shadow, and that maginificent lime stucco.

So Is It Art?

Well, who knows? You could ask that question about any "found" photo. I guess the whole thing hinges around how you record it, how you frame and isolate the part you find interesting. If it makes something in you resonate, then it's art. But for sure, these kind of photos aren't for everyone. Just ask my friend Paul F.

Another question, especially in situations like the mural at Seven Seas, is "if it is art, is it my art or the orignal artist's?" That's a little more difficult to respond to, but I give the same answer. Your milage may vary.

If you want to give "wall art" a try, my advice is to be on the lookout for walls with interesting color, pattern, or texture. Light directionality and intensity is especially important for texture, so early morning and late afternoon/early evening may be the best times. But you can also get good shadows at midday, like the vent pipe on the lime wall.

Find a likely image, and really work it over, shooting from different points of view, tilting the camera, and so forth. Here's where a digital camera may have an advantage - you don't have to worry much about taking 50 shots of a subject.

Here's another thing to watch out for - you may make people nervous. The shop owner may think you're a building inspector or even a competititor. Again, digicam may be advantageous - you can show her the exposures you just made, and even offer to erase them if they seem very disturbed (the offer alone may be enough to settle things down.)

But nervous proprietors aside, if you haven't yet done wall art, give it a try. Keep a lookout for likely prospects over the next week or so as you commute, go shopping, etc.

Now go shoot some walls.

Monday, June 14, 2004


Ronald Reagan ...

Backlit flag
Even though I'm a lifelong Democrat and Child of the Sixties, I must say that I do miss President Reagan.

When he was elected in 1980, I thought the world was going to come to an end. "How can we have this right-wing nut for a president?" I thought.

But President Reagan's actions soon started to change my mind.

I was really impressed, touched, even, when President Reagan appeared in his hospital robe, smiling and joking, only a day or so after being shot. Me, I woulda been in isolation in bed for a week from a hangnail. As a 70-year-old gunshot victim, I'm sure the President didn't physically feel like being photographed smiling and joking, but he did it out of convicition that seeing him in seemingly good shape would be good for the rest of us.

Two other events in 1981 raised my respect for President Reagan - his handling of the air traffic controllers' strike and his military action, pushing back on Khaddaffi in the Gulf of Sidra.

During the following year or two, I became more and more amazed and dismayed at the way my Democrats acted in the area of national defense, especially their support for the "Nuclear Moratorium" movement. "Now let's get this right, guys, you really think that if we unilaterally disarm, Brezhnev and his gang will do the same? Right!" No, time proved my Democrats wrong and Reagan (and me!) right.

By 1984, I had become quite a Reagan fan and voted for him in the election. No, I didn't agree with him all the time, but I had come to respect him and truly like him as a person.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


Busy, Busy, Busy!

Yeah, that's my excuse for not posting since last Friday, of course!

Well, lots has been going on in the last few days:

A comment on that last item... this is Job No. 4 since a year ago. And you're looking at a guy who for the first 27 years of his working life, worked for exactly 2 companies. So it sure looks as if I can't hold a job.

It's not all as bad as that. I left Job No. 1, a small company with strange management, at the end of last July. Job No. 2 was with a very solid and professional company in Towson, but it was only guaranteed for three months. They said that there was a good chance of going permanent, but after the first month, I checked and nothing was on the horizon yet. The very next evening, I got a call from Job No 3 in Columbia (with whom I had interviewed a bit more than a month earlier,) and they made me an offer, which I took. They were able to wait for me to finish my 3-month committment at Job No. 2, so I started No. 3 in mid-November.

Job No. 3 was also a large and well-established company and a very nice place to work. But after a few months, after some decisions by our one and only customer (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services,) it looked like our six-person I.T. staff would be out of work by the end of this year.

By great good fortune, I was contacted by Job No. 4, also in Columbia, about three weeks ago. It turns out that one of my co-workers at Job No. 3 had interviewed here and at two other companies. She got offers from all three, and decided to go with one of the other two companies. But she recommended that they contact me. They did, it looked good, and here I am.

My first day was yesterday, and I can say that the offices are nice, the people are pleasant, and the work seems interesting and plentiful. So here I am, and I'm happy and excited and ready to plunge into doing some good for them.

So far, so good.

Friday, June 04, 2004


It Pays to Schlep Your Camera!

Eero Cathedral - Dulles Main Terminal
Yesterday afternoon, I drove to Washington Dulles International Airport, out in the boondocks of Northern Virginia, to pick up my in-laws. They were arriving from Ottawa to be with us for Ben's high school graduation this coming Monday.

Just for the heck of it, I brought my camera along. I've been doing a lot of that lately, bringing my camera to work, trips to the landfill, etc. You never know.

I left plenty of time for the trip to Dulles, because traffic can often be horrible. As it turned out, traffic was horrible only for those going in the opposite direction from me, and I arrived at Dulles with plenty of time to spare for the 8:27 pm arrival.

I hadn't been at Dulles for a number of years, and definitely not since I was reborn as a photographer. As I approached the terminal, I appreciated its elegant, sweeping, ahead-of-its-time design. The architect was Eero Saarinen, and Eero really understood aero! He was also the architect for the TWA terminal at New York's JFK Airport

Overcoming a childhood handicap of having too many double vowels in his name, Saarinen rose to prominence as a master of modern architecture in the 1950's. Both of these Jetsonesque terminal buildings are now approaching 50 years old, but unlike much of this genre, they still look fresh and full of vitality.

You can see from my photo that Eero had as keen a sense of light as he did of form and function. As I walked through the terminal at 8:00 pm, I was treated to the sublime interplay of light and shadow from his west facade.

It pays to schlep your camera!

Thursday, June 03, 2004


Annapolis Sells!

City Dock Morning
Amazing!.... I went to Barnes & Noble Memorial Day morning to take my photos down - a new exhibit was going up June 1st. With a whole month's worth of exposure, I only ended up with one sale of two prints. But later that same day, I ran into one of my neighbors who hadn't been able to get to the showing. He asked if he could see the photos and ended up buying five prints!

Four prints were Annapolis scenes and one was a nighttime photo of the Double-T Diner in Annapolis in all its neon-and-chrome glory.

So I decided to take the framed photos to work the next day and offer them at $30 apiece. We have a large lunchroom with long tables - actually a lot more space than we need - and people often leave Avon catalogs and the like. So I just spread out a few photos and left the rest in a box for people to browse through. I sold four prints on Tuesday and five more yesterday before I took the box home last night.

Half of the prints sold were Annapolis scenes. Looks like there's a lesson in this for me - shoot more photos in Annapolis. People seem to like the waterside scenes. No problem, Annapolis is only a few miles away, and there are plenty of nooks and crannies I haven't explored yet.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004


The In-Laws Are Coming! The In-Laws Are Coming!

Once a year, we clean our house, whether it needs it or not :-) This is usually right before my Canadian in-laws come to visit.

This year, they're coming this Thursday and staying to attend Ben's graduation from high school next Monday.

Sandy has spent a lot of time sprucing up the garden. We've had the siding and the deck power-washed. Ben and I have been forced to straighten up and/or hide our respective messes in the basement. I vacuumed our cars out tonight. Etc., etc.

So no time yesterday and today for photoblogging.

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