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Sunday, August 29, 2004


Photographic Curiosity

Annapolis, Parakalo!I had just hung twelve of my photos in the City Dock Cafe on Maryland Avenue in Annapolis. Now it was time to walk back to the car, parked a few blocks away, and head home.

The way back led me around State Circle, the colonial-era road ringing the State House, and past Number 88, the Janet Leland Hoffman Building. I had admired this fish-scale-shingled house many times before and even taken a few less-than-exciting photos. This time, I had a little more reach with my new 70-300mm zoom. And this time, I was very satisfied with the image, above, all angles and corners and fish scales.

But the point of this post is not so much the photographic image itself, but what happened in its aftermath.

I got curious.

When was this building built? What is its history? And just who is Janet Leland Hoffman, anyway?

I'm finding that this happens a lot to me lately - my photography is inspiring curiosity about those subjects about which I know little. Look at how I became an expert on the sex life of the seventeen-year Cicada. And this curiosity is easy to satisfy nowadays, since we have the Internet and Google.

So I Googled "Janet Leland Hoffman State Circle", and found that the building now houses the Baltimore City Liason Office, which looks out for the city's interests in the state legislature. Ms. Hoffman was Baltmore's chief lobbyist for over 30 years.

As I looked into the history of this beautiful Civil-War-era house, I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of my local photographic heros, Marion E. Warren, located his studio here from 1959 to 1962 (see http://www.annapolisbooks.com/MeWarren/ )

Now, I've lived about six miles from State Circle (which is the very center of Annapolis) for over eighteen years, and I can tell you I didn't know (or care) squat about any of these old houses in all that time. Then I put camera to eye and suddenly I'm halfway to being qualified to lead walking tours here.


Saturday, August 28, 2004


Annapolis, Parakalo!

Annapolis, Parakalo!
Annapolis claims to be "The Sailing Capital of the World," and if you walk around the various creeks and inlets here, you can easily believe this boast.

Today, I thought I'd scout out the Eastport side of Spa Creek to see what the downtown Annapolis side looked like from there. I was hoping to get some interesting vistas, but didn't really find a good point of view. On the other hand, I did stumble across a very large boatyard and some interesting boat details.

For example, this beautiful, big wooden boat, "Annapolis." The name on the bow is half in English (well, Latin) characters and half in Greek characters. That makes sense, actually, as the city name, Annapolis, is an English-Greek hybrid, intended to mean "Anna's city", Anna being Queen Anne, who was not yet queen at the time she became the eponym for Maryland's capital.

Thursday, August 26, 2004


New York City, Yada, Yada, Yada ...

Radiator Building Limo
Oy! It's been more than a week since my last blog post. Time really flys when you're not paying attention.

Well, I could write reams about what's going on with the election, the Middle East, or the latest government commission, but I won't. After all, this is supposed to be a photo blog, so let's talk about photos and photography. Especially New York City photos.

To say that NYC is rich in photographic opportunities is an understatement. A case in point: I was just tonight going through some early photos that I took in NYC in October 2002 with my first digital camera, a Canon A40 2MP point-and-shoot. I was taking a second look at these shots to see if I might have passed over a good image or two, especially now that I know a lot more about photo-editing software than I did in those days.

The first thing I ran across was the stretch limo photo above, taken from the sidewalk on the south side of Bryant Park.

Radiator Building DoormanThen I saw this image of a doorman standing in an elegant doorway. This one was taken literally a few steps west of the limo shot. The building is the Bryant Park Hotel, formerly the American Radiator Building, a.k.a. American Standard Building. The Art-Deco lower part of the building is topped by a gothic wedding-cake structure of black brick trimmed in gold leaf. This building, Raymond Hood's first of many more to grace NYC, is a worthy photo subject all by itself.

Bryant Park, for those who aren't familiar with this part of NYC, is the "back yard" of the New York Public Library. It sits behind the Library building, a magnificent marble Beaux-Arts edifice that itself sits on Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets. Bryant Park takes up the area between these same two streets from the west side of the Library building to Sixth Avenue (Avenue of the Americas for your out-of-towners.)

Bryant Park Pigeon ManWhen I lived in Manhattan in the second half of the '70's, Bryant Park was a truly a mess. There was trash and grafitti everywhere, and the park was used mostly by vagrants and druggies. These days, the park is clean, beautiful, and inviting, and everyone uses it all of the time. There are lovely, carefully maintained plantings, and most amazing to me, 2000 chairs for people to move to wherever they need a chair. That's right - not benches or bolted-down chairs, but nice, outdoor chairs, like you might buy from Ikea. You'd think they would have been stolen within the first season they were used, but as I've told my son Ben many times, this is not his father's Manhattan.

You could spend a day in and around Bryant Park happily taking photos - one of these days I may just do that! Besides the park itself and all its people-watching photo opportunities, there are several intesting buildings bordering the park, including the New York Public Library and the W. R. Grace Building - two opposite ends of the architectural spectrum. Also, from the 42nd Street side of the park, you can get some great views of the Chrysler Building, just a few block east.

72nd Street Arcade - Central ParkHere's another nice image I found from that same October 2002 trip to NYC. This one is inside the Bethesda Terrace Arcade under 72nd Street as it runs across Central Park. This area was still being restored in 2002, but it's essentially complete now. In a bit of reverse bragging, I must again say that in my day, the beautifully carved Victorian stonework and much of the tiled paving had been broken, vandalized, and covered with grafitti.

The arcade, which used to be dark and scary, now is light and beautiful. It once again serves its intended purpose of uniting The Mall (a.k.a. Poet's Walk)with Bethesda Terrace and the boat lake.

All of which, every single inch, is prime photographer country.

Monday, August 16, 2004


Subway Photography

Girl with Book, PATHI was looking at Dave Beckerman's photo blog just now, and Dave added a new photo this evening, Girl With Doll, Subway. Yet another excellent Beckermanian patented inside-the-subway-car photo.

Thus inspired, I looked through my 250 or so exposures from last week's trip to NYC, and sure enough, I actually had taken a few of these kind of photos myself. This one doesn't match Dave's for impact - I just thought this young woman was rather graceful and made a good composition.

In my youth, I would take photos in the subway every once in a great while. But that was in my try-to-be-like-Henri stage, using an old Leica IIIc and Tri-X. Which meant I actually had to put the camera up to my eye and focus ... or guestimate the focus and the framing, then hope, only to find out hours or days later that my I had actually taken a photo of the sign that says, Aviso - el via del tren es muy peligroso!

In comparison, life is good today! With my autofocus digital camera, I can just point it roughly in the direction of the subject, half-press the shutter and wait for a soft beep, then go for it. Then I can glance at the LCD to see how I did. Cut off too much? Zoom out a little, adjust my aim, try again. Rinse and repeat.

The day before I took this photo, Ben and I had been traveling the PATH in the opposite direction, from Hoboken to New York City. There were two men in an animated conversation who would have made a really good subway photo. I started to clandestinely set up the shot, but Ben was very nervous about me taking photos in the subway. He physically blocked the shot a few times, and then, to emphasize his disapproval, moved to another seat. By then, the two of us, him acting and me reacting, had caused to much commotion to be able to shoot discretely. Good thing Ben wasn't with me this time.

By the way, this photo is quite different from Dave's in another very significant way. I took it not in the NYC Subway, but in the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) tubes. More of a Hoboken look than a New York City state of mind.

Sunday, August 15, 2004


To The Dogs...

Lap DogToday, as I drove past our community college, I noticed a big event going on. There were a number of large, festive tents set up and there was a huge crowd.

Well, it so happened that I had thrown my Adorama Slinger bag into the car before I left the house, so I thought I'd park my car and check things out. Where there are crowds, there are people shots, I figured.

It turns out that this was a dog show sponsored by Annapolis Kennel Club. Now I am not now nor have I ever been a dog owner, but I'll be darned if this show wasn't a lot of fun! As it was, I was on a "mission", so I only stayed for about fifteen minutes, but I wish I could have managed an hour or more.

Martha My DearThe people were interesting and friendly, and the dogs were... well, cute! Not to mention that, from a photo-opportunity standpoint, there was a lot of material all around.

Once I parked my car, I switched to my new Sigma 70-300 mm zoom, and that turned out to be a good choice. There were a lot of people shots and doggy shots that were well-suited to longer focal lengths. It was a sunny day, so I was able to shoot at reasonably fast, hand-holdable shutter speeds while still being able to close down the lens by a stop or two.

Department store glassware displays and a dog show all in one weekend ... who woulda thunk it?

Saturday, August 14, 2004


Shopping with Sandy

Vase and Tray - Hecht Company Housewares DepartmentFellows, after 24 years of marriage, I've finally found the secret of accompanying the girls on shopping trips - bring along your camera! Department stores, clothing and gift stores have nicely-designed displays, often with great colors and dramatic lighting as a starting point. Look closely and you're likely to find interesting patterns, too.

Don't forget to take a moment between shots to tell her how nice the shoes (jacket, top, skirt, etc.) look on her, too!

Today, Sandy and I went out for a few hours to run some errands and, well, just to spend some time together. It was fun. First we went to Michaels, an arts-and-crafts chain, to buy some frames and pre-cut mats for some of my photos. We were going to a 2oth anniversary party tonight, and had decided to give the lucky couple two of my photographs as gifts (one of the great things about being a photographer is that you always have gifts handy!)

Then we went to Hecht Company, a nearby department store, where Sandy wanted to do some clothes shopping. Here's where my camera came out. While she was trying on some tops, I snapped some close-up photos of blouses and other displays. Actually, none of these amounted to anything, but it was a good warm-up.

Pitcher Study No. 2But the jackpot came when I followed Sandy upstairs to another clothing department. As we passed the housewares section, she suggested that the displays of dishes and glassware might make nice subjects. And she was right.

Guys, I'm telling you, this is the way to go! Not only did I get some interesting photos, but at the end of the day, Sandy gave me credit for cheerfully going shopping with her and being a "good husband."


"Best In Project" ... 30 Years Later!

L'homme sur Ban, bisAnother little bit of validation, always welcome by this semi-insecure photographer, arrived today. One of my photographs, "Man on Bench No. 2", was given a "Best of Project" (BIP) award on Usefilm.com.

Now before anyone gets too excited, this doesn't mean that my photo was the best in some project, as the award might imply. Rather, it is one of several images awarded this accolade for the current Usefilm.com project, which happens to be "Henri." Usefilm always has a project running (so far, there have been 46 of them) and encourages its members to submit one or more photos for each project. The volunteer staff award several "BIP" designations during the run of each project.

Recent projects have included "Under Your Feet," "Blurry Images," and "Shadows." Each encourages us to use our imagination and stretch a bit, perhaps trying a style or technique that we haven't yet attempted. It's a good thing.

The current project, "Henri," of course, is dedicated to Henri Cartier-Bresson and will run for the entire month of August. Members have been asked to upload their best street photography images.

I've uploaded quite a few, mostly from my recent visit to NYC, but also three from my youth. My "BIP" photo, which I renamed "L'Homme sur Banc, bis" for the project entry, dates from early September 1974. I was twenty-four years old, Nixon had not even been out of the White House for a month, and I had a newly-aquired collapsible 50mm Summicron for my Leica IIIc.

When I started thinking of getting back into photography about three years ago, this image was among the few that made me think that maybe I had once had some talent in this area.

I'm glad that someone else thinks so, too.

Friday, August 13, 2004


You CAN Go Home Again...For a Visit

Fleet Street PasserbyWhen I got started in photography, it was strictly black & white.

I had just graduated from high school, and my Dad's cousins Ellen and Harold gave me a Polaroid Swinger. I genuinely liked taking photos with it, but I soon ran through two or three rolls of the expensive roll film. My friend Roger, who was a year younger and had already been the yearbook photographer at high school, offered to show me how to use my Dad's old Retina 1a and how to develop and print black & white pictures. That was it, I was hooked.

Over the next decade-plus, I did take a lot of color photos, but B&W was what I always did for serious images. And "serious" to me meant street photography. And the most serious, I tended to take with my Leica IIIc, and later, with an M-3.

When I started back into photography in late 2001, I thought I'd pick up where I left off. As Leicas of any vintage were now too expensive for me, I bought some Soviet rangefinders and started to run some B&W film through them.

Ben and I even spent an afternoon setting up a makeshift darkroom in our laundry/utility room. Like a dream from the 70's, I mixed some D-76 and some Dektol, and we developed a roll shot in my Zorki-3M. I even reprinted a few of my 30-year old negatives.

But it was just too much work for this old fart, and I soon shifted to color, and then to digital. As it turned out, I liked color and digital quite a lot, and now I truly enjoy working in it, shooting mostly patterns, shapes, and colors that I find here and there. I also find that I really like taking my time in making my images, which are mostly of inanimate subjects these days (nothing that moves much faster than a tombstone, as I like to say.)

But last weekend in NYC, I couldn't help but be inspired to do some good old street photography. The great thing is that my digital camera and workflow give me the flexibility to shoot in color but later decide to convert an image to B&W. And indeed, some of the street stuff I took looks as good, or better in B&W.

The photo I've posted here is one I took just about a year ago in Annapolis. It's actually made from a file that I scanned from a 4x6 Wal-Mart print of some rotgut dollar-a-roll Fuji print film. I rather liked the color image, but I have to admit, I like it even better in B&W. I'm going to try to find the negative and scan it directly to see if I can do better.

Well, I'm not going to return in any big way to street photography and B&W, but it'll be fun to do now and then.

Two More Shows Coming Up

From August 29th through September 28th, I'll be displaying about a dozen of my photos at the City Dock Cafe, 71 Maryland Avenue in Annapolis (just off State Circle.) The nice thing about City Dock Cafe is that unlike the Barnes & Nobel exhibit, they sell the photos right off the wall.

So I'm now looking through my photo "inventory" to pick the ones to display. From my recent experience, Annapolis photos sell well, so I'll ease off on the Artsy-Fartsy abstract images I'm so fond of and show plenty of things like City Dock Morning, Skipjack Bowsprit, and Spa Creek Sunset.

As soon as the photos come down at the Maryland Avenue place, they'll go up for the following month at the City Dock Cafe in Arnold, just a few blocks from my house.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004


Bush the Draft-Dodger?

It really bothers me that a coward like George W. Bush spent the Vietnam War training to fly old and useless planes in Texas while John Kerry was heroically risking his life in combat and got three purple hearts!
- Jennifer Braun

Yesterday I stuck up for John Kerry military record, so today it's time to take a look at George W. Bush's service history.

I've been bothered by disparaging comments on Bush's military record like the one above, frankly, because there was a certain aspect of familiarity and truth to them.

Let's go back to February 1971. There I was with a draft number of 77 and ready to lose my student deferment that spring upon graduating from Stevens Tech. I asked my friend Al (draft number 69) what he was doing, and he replied, "... joining the Army Reserve unit in Jersey City." Well, in 1971, that seemed like a much better idea than being drafted, so I tagged along with Al, passed the physical, and trudged down to a run-down reserve center at Caven Point to swear to "... serve and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies..." as a Private E1, United States Army Reserve.

By 1971, it looked like there was little chance of sending Army reservists to Vietnam, so yes, you might say it was my legal way of avoiding the draft.

And yes, it worked. I never was even remotely in danger of being sent to Vietnam. In fact, as a "Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic," the most dangerous assignment I ever had was as assistant deputy firewatch guy at Indiantown Gap, PA during summer training the weekend of the Bicentenial.

But what about George W.? Did he really skate out of danger and duty as easily as I did, or is there more to it?

After all, strapping on a F-102 Delta Dagger interceptor is a little more unhealthy than me buckling up in my 1973 Chevy Nova. And 1968, when W enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard, was far different, Vietnam-wise, far worse, that is, than 1971.

So last night, just out of curiosity, I Googled on the non-phrase, "F-102 safety", and found this very interesting article, F-102, Vietnam & George W. Bush .

You should read it in it's entirety - it's not very long. But the crux of this non-political article can be summarized by this paragraph near the end:

Bush has been criticized for avoiding service in Vietnam, though the evidence proves that the Texas Air National Guard and its F-102 pilots were serving in Vietnam while Bush was in training. Bush has been criticized for using his family influence to obtain his assignment, but the evidence shows that he successfully completed every aspect of the more than two years of training required of him. Bush has been criticized for pursuing a safe and plush position as a fighter pilot, but the evidence indicates the F-102 was a demanding aircraft that claimed the lives of many of its pilots even on routine missions. Bush has also been criticized for deserting the Guard before his enlistment was complete, but the evidence shows he was honorably discharged eight months early because his position was being phased out.

Well, I think that's good enough for me. My conclusion is that like John Kerry, George W. Bush also served honorably, did more than what was required of him, and even exposed himself to a degree of risk during the Vietnam period.

Now Mother Jones, www.awolbush.com, and others in the kum-ba-yah crowd may still have their axes to grind, but I'm satisfied. Let's drop this whole military service thing and finally get to discussing policy and real issues

"I've been to war. I've raised twins. If I
had a choice, I'd rather go to war."
- George W. Bush, Houston Chronicle, January 2002

Tuesday, August 10, 2004


Hoser of the Month Award

The envelope, please ...

Being election season, we can expect both sides to do lots of stupid things, so maybe I should institute a Hoser of the Week award?

Anyway, this month's award goes collectively to the members of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Congratulations, boys!

SBVFT released a TV ad last week, called "Any Questions", which accuses Senator Kerry of lying about his war record. Among other things, the ad features a former swift boat gunner's mate, not a member of Kerry's crew, who says, "John Kerry lied to get his bronze star. I know - I was there."

Now those of you who have been following along in this blog over the past few weeks know that I am very critical of John Kerry and will not vote for him in November.

But Senator Kerry's war record and his heroism are a matter of long public record. Furthermore, Kerry has been in the public eye virtually continuously since he returned from Vietnam over 30 years ago. If these "for Truth" guys had something to say about his record, why is it only now that they are coming forward? Of course, any reasonable citizen understands the answer. This is the kind of thing that party "activists" do when they get out of hand.

Whenever you see an organization with "for Truth" in its name, watch out!

A spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign, Steve Schmidt, said that the campaign had nothing to do with SBVFT and "has never and will never question Senator Kerry's service in Vietnam."

But I'm not totally happy with that denial. This was a rotten thing to do, and some of that bad karma has rubbed off and will stick to the Bush-Cheney campaign unless it takes a more forceful stand against this foolishness.

Bravo, Rudy!

I don't know how I missed this gem, but apparently Rudy Giuliani, when asked by a reporter in Boston July 30th if he had seen Michael Moore's Fahernheit 911, replied

I don't need Michael Moore to tell me about Sept. 11th.

Bravo, Rudy!

Monday, August 09, 2004


Outsourcing Under Your Feet

Manhole Ripples
Here's something from my weekend trip to NYC that I forgot to mention. At one point on Saturday, as Ben and I were crossing a street, I looked down and noticed a manhole cover with "Made in India" cast into it.

I was shocked, shocked to see such a thing. I thought that New York City manhole covers were quintisentially American.

This would be a great campaign issue for Senator Kerry. I can even write the sound bite for him:

... and under the leadership of this administration, thousands of high-paying manhole cover foundry jobs have been outsourced to India ... we can do better... and Help Is On The Way!

Once I got home, I did a little research on the Internet, and found that it's not only the Big Apple that's outsourced its manhole covers. As this story shows, even in my own backyard, blue-collar Baltimore, the Queen City of the Pataspsco Drainage Area, has thousands of Indian manhole covers.

Go figure!

Sunday, August 08, 2004


More NYC Photos...

My visit to Dave Beckerman has me thinking more about black & white, or near-black-and-white images. Dave is using the Power Retouche plug-in for Photoshop to get amazing B&W results from digital color images. I don't have the plug-in (yet,) but playing around with desaturating the color images, then adjusting levels and contrast, is getting me some acceptable B&W results, at least on-screen.

I'm thinking that at this time, I ought to be saving my pennies for this piece of software, rather than for another lens, tripod, etc.

F Train Stoic

Optical 88

Bubble-gun Man

Lyceum Marquee

Saturday, August 07, 2004


Road Trip! (continued...)

St. James Air ShaftI had planned to get up early this morning and troll for photos around the East Side. But no such luck; I finally opened my eyes to the light of morning a little after 9 AM.

Now the St. James Hotel was ready for my utlimate test of residential worthiness - what kind of shower was it going to be? Plenty of hot water and good pressure, as it turned out, passing with flying colors!

Getting dressed and gathering my stuff, I decided to skip the elevator and walk down the twisty narrow marble stairs from the sixth floor to the lobby. As I got to the second floor, I noticed a large door open to what seemed like a roof.

Out I went, finding myself at the bottom of the hotel's airshaft. These airshafts were a common feature of older masonry buildings from the early part of the Twentieth Century. The idea is that inside rooms would have a way of getting at least some sunlight. But airshafts have always struck me as ugly and creepy, and this one was no exception, so of course, I took some photos. Can you feel the gloom?

Once I had my fill of the airshaft, I checked out of the St. James and began to head down to Penn Station and the PATH tubes to Hoboken. As I walked along W. 45th Street, I was taking some banal photos of the Lyceum Theater, when I heard, "Hey, take my picture!... I'm The Man!"
JoséI looked up to see a smiling young guy on the bed of a truck, unloading sheet rock.

He started to pose and flex his muscles, to the delight of his Asian co-workers. "All right!" I played along, taking a couple of shots, "you are The Man!"

I showed him the second and best shot, and he seemed very pleased with his photo. This is one of the really great things about digital cameras - being able to immediately show people what you've just taken. It usually evokes a smile.

I asked my serendipidous subject if he'd like me to send him a print and gave him a pen and index card to write his name and address ... José from Brooklyn. We parted company as newly-minted NYC pals.

I rounded the corner of 45th and Broadway and headed south, with Hoboken and our rental minvan as the immediate goal. No need to take the subway to the PATH station today; it's too nice a day and only 10 short blocks in a photo-target-rich environment.

Times Square Shock and AweAs I was walking south, I couldn't believe my good luck on this trip. Today was as beautiful a day as yesterday. The temperature was about 72F with reasonable humidity and there was a nice breeze. More like late May or early June than August in New York City. Not much schvitzing on this trip!

My progress down Broadway wasn't very rapid, as I stopped about every half-block or so to take photographs. Everything looked good to me today. Even the stretch of Broadway between 40th and 36th Streets, never anything to write home about when I lived here in the '70's, seemed newer and cleaner and spiffier than in the past.

Eventually, I reached Herald Square and Macy's, where I ducked underground and followed the signs to the PATH terminal under 33rd Street. A buck-fifty got me onto the train to Hoboken, and less than twenty minutes later, I was walking up Washington Street, Hoboken's "Miracle Mile."

Chairman of the BagelHoboken has really changed over the years - all for the better. Back when I was at Stevens Tech, we used to laugh at the sign that used to be here at the base of Washington Street proclaiming it the "Miracle Mile." But by a few years after I graduated, yuppies from Manhattan discovered Hoboken, with its then low real estate values and easy commuting. Money and new blood flowed into the city, and it seems as if everyone benefited over the long run.

Where derelict docks used to insult the eyes, Hoboken now has a beautiful park built out over the Hudson with a magnificent view, taking in the west side of Manhattan from The Battery to the George Washington Bridge.

I would have liked to linger in Hoboken for another hour or so, but I wanted to get the car and meet up with the kids back at Leah's dorm. So over the the municipal garage, where I ransomed the minivan for a mere $30.

Note to self: I don't think this park-in-Hoboken thing really pays. Next time, just bite the bullet and park in NYC.

It was now about 11:30 AM, and I was heading into the Holland Tunnel. About halfway through, it occurred to me that this would be a great terrorist target. Bad time to be thinking about that, eh? I noticed that I was a little bit nervous until I saw the Light at the End of the Tunnel.

Two Live Jews Doing Their Gang Signs - D'Agostino HallI parked the minivan on W. 4th Street, just a block away from Leah's soon-to-be-vacated dorm. We marshalled our forces and decided to head down to Canal Street so the kids could do some shopping and I could do some shooting. Back to the car and down to Grand Street and Broadway, where I checked into a parking lot. Oh boy, more bucks for parking!

For those of you non-New Yorkers who've been to midtown and think it's crowded, you have to see Canal Street! I had sight of the kids for about twelve seconds, framed a shot of a vendor's stall, then looked back and lost them in the crowd. Thank goodness for cell phones.

Broadway and CanalI headed east on Canal Street, enjoying the colorful storefronts and the colorful crowd. There are still a few old-fashioned hardware stores here, but within a block or so, we're solidly in Chinatown. Between the crowded storefronts and the vendors on the sidewalk, this isn't a place for the faint of heart. Lending a surreal air, there seemed to be an enthusiastic "bubble-gun" vendor every half-block or so, and soap bubbles wafted along with the crowd.

When I was a young guy living in Manhattan, one of my favorite things to do was to head down to Chinatown for a meal. Then, like a reverse Marco Polo, I would go to Mulberry Street and cross Canal Street into Little Italy for some cappucino and pastry. Fantastico!

So today, as my kids shopped on Canal Street, I took a detour down Mulberry. The part with all the Italian restaurants and shops is all of two blocks long, but it was so much fun, I ended up staying for about an hour.

Fratelli Ristorante - Little Italy
This gentleman from Fratelli Ristorante was handing out flyers for his restaurant. "Hey, I love your tie!" I said to him, and was rewarded with this million-candlepower smile.

Just a little bit further, I heard ... Frank Sinatra?? singing Come Fly with Me! It turned out to be a talented young guy, Tony, who could do Sinatra better than Sinatra himself. Tony was performing for a crowed at the corner of Mulberry and Hester, part of an afternoon-long tribute the the Chairman of the Board (there were more ersatz Sinatras waiting in the wings.) Tony was handsome and engaging, and he had us all eating out of his hand in no time. For his rendition of That's Life!, he enlisted us to do the background vocals (which, of course, are limited to belting out "That's Life!" every so often.)

I stayed for a very enjoyable five or six songs, then headed east on Hester. Back among the Asian community, I passed a few storefronts advertising foot massages. Now that's a great idea! My right foot was really hurting by now, and if I had had enough time, I woulda taken advantage of this unique service.

Note to self: Make time for a Chinese foot massage next trip to NYC!
Hester Street Boy and Grandfather
Now I was into the "new" part of Chinatown, which is actually what used to be the west end of the old Jewish neighborhood. "Old" Chinatown is centered around Mott, Bayard, and Pell Streets, across Canal Street from Little Italy, while this "newer" area is north of Canal and even a bit east of Bowery. Somewhere in this area, I remember, is the old Forward Building. The Forward is the Yiddish newspaper that my grandmother and great-aunts and great-uncles used to read.

I remember picking up a copy of the Forward from time to time in the '70's, usually when something big happened in the news. I can read a little Yiddish, and I wanted to see how the editors implemented terms like "space shuttle" and "nuclear power plant" in Yiddish (ah-TAW-mi-sher tzen-TRAL is what they called Three Mile Island, I remember.)

Forsythe Street Looking North
I was thinking of continuing on to around Orchard Street, hoping to find the old Forward Building and maybe photograph some Yiddish signs (the stores being closed today for Shabbat.) But the kids and I had arranged to meet back at the parking lot at 3 PM, and it was getting close to that time. Reluctantly, I headed back to rendezvous with Leah and Ben and head back to the dorm to finsh loading Leah's stuff for the trip home.

Back with the kids, into the minivan and back to W. 3rd Street, I parked the car across from D'Agostino Hall. It took us four tiring trips to get all of Leah's things out of her room and loaded into the car. As we brought down the last mini-dumpster load, I thought for a few moments that it wouldn't all fit. But Leah is her mother's daughter, and my wife can fit 10 pounds of potatoes in the proverbial 5-pound sack. It all worked out.

3rd Street Fire HouseProud of our hard work and just about ready to leave for home, the kids prevailed on me to walk over to an ice cream store a block away for some pre-trip nourishment. We were there for just a few minutes, then walked back to the car.

In we all piled, got ourselves seated and belted and ready to roll. Just as I turned the key, Leah said, "Dad, you've got a ticket on your windshield."

Sure enough, I was the lucky recipient of a genuine City of New York Notice of Parking Violation for ninety-five dollars!

I looked around, but Lovely Rita Meter Maid had disappeared. My timing was exquisite - the time marked on the ticket was 4:45 PM, and it was now about 4:50 PM.

Now I remember why I didn't own a car when I lived in Manhattan.

I glanced at the back of the ticket and noticed that you can now request an "internet hearing" by going to a web site. That's what I'll do - I'll simply tell my story and see what happens.

Maybe I can link to this blog post?

Friday, August 06, 2004


Road Trip!

Ready to Roll! Daughter Leah's 10-week internship at Tommy Boy Music in Manhattan being over today, it was once again time to rent a minivan and play Santini Brothers. This time, Sandy is in California visiting a girlfriend, so it's up to Ben and me to drive to NYC, stuff Leah and her belongings into the rental, and bring her back home. Leaving Ben and me without adult supervision is always a bit dicey, but I guess Sandy figured it would build character. Anyway, I know she's tired of moving Leah - we lost count at over ten moves since she started college.

But Ben and I are very psyched about this trip. We've wanted to take a road trip for some time, and this is our chance, at least for a short one.

Our plan went like this: Drive the car to Hoboken and park it there, then take the PATH to Leah's office on W. 18th Street. Have lunch with Leah, then go to our hotel, the St. James on W. 45th Street. I had planned to visit Dave Beckerman on the Upper East Side that evening. Then walk-around-photography Saturday morning, retrieve the van around lunchtime, drive to NYU's D'Agostino Hall to load the van, and finally head home late Saturday afternoon. Somewhere in there, the kids had plans to try to get tickets for Avenue Q, and failing that, for Rent.
Rest Stop on the Turnpike
I had planned to get up at 6 AM this morning, but sleep got the better of me; we finally pulled away from our driveway about 9:30. Still, traffic was light and we made good time. Before too long, we were over the Delaware Memorial Bridge and onto the Jersey Turnpike.

Ben deserves a medal for putting up with me, as I insisted on "documenting" our trip. At our first stop, the J. Fenimore Cooper Service Area, I had my camera out as we walked into the mens' room, saying, "Hey Ben, check out this great repeating pattern made by these urinals --- let's take a photo!" And so I did. Ben was a good sport to pose (simulated, of course.)

As Ben and I have seen an awful lot of rest stop mens rooms on our many trips to visit family and friends over the years, we've become urinal mavens. J. Fenimore would have been proud to know that his namesake rest stop had state-of-the art auto-flushing, "deep well" urinals, a fact on which I remarked to Ben as we were leaving. "Notice the vertically-oriented plastic strainer," I pointed out, "a striking departure from the conventional horizonatally-arrayed combination strainer/urinal cake holder." Ben nodded and gravely replied, "Impressive."

Exit 12 Underpass
Back on the road, I told Ben about my idea of a coffee table book with fine art photos of the Jersey Turnpike. "Never been done yet!" I said. I told him that I wanted to stop the car from time to time, get out, and take photos. "You'll get arrested," Ben warned.

Actually, the coffee table book idea may be a bit far-fetched, but I've been fascinated by the Jersey Turnpike ever since I was a kid. There are buclolic scenes all along the lower portion - not at all what you think of when you hear "Jersey Turnpike." My favorite stretch, by far, though, is from about Exit 12 on, with refineries, power plants, and port facilities, both operating and defunct, seemingly lining every inch. It's probably my education and background as a mechanical engineer, but I find it all fascinating.

We did stop once for a photo opportunity - a bridge over a small river bounded by wetlands. But for the most part, these scenes came up too quickly, so Ben just started making notes for another trip, jotting down the mile marker and a short description.

Welcome To HobokenFinally, a little before 2 PM, we got off of the Turnpike at Exit 14C turned north, and traversed the few blocks to Hoboken.

As we turned onto the mile-long Washington Street, the main drag, Ben remarked what a nice little town it was. And lively, too - attractive shops lined Washington Street and there were people all over the place. This was not his father's Hoboken, for sure. When I went to school here 1967-1971, Hoboken was a depressed area. Quite a few shops along the main drag were closed, and those which were open often had dingy storefronts that looked like something from the '30s.

I wanted to swing by my alma mater, Stevens Tech, to show Ben the incredible view of the NYC skyline. Stevens campus is a small green island, a few blocks long, along the eastern edge of Hoboken, built on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River. The center of campus, Castle Point, has the premier view of the City.

Empire State from Castle Point
So we spent a few minutes at Castle Point, and Ben was appropriately impressed with the view that I had enjoyed during those four years decades ago. I took a silent moment to look towards Lower Manhattan and remember the twin towers. From this very spot, we students at Stevens in the late sixties and early seventies had watched the steel go up and witnessed the first tower being topped off...

But it was too nice a day and too wonderful a feeling, being once again this close to Manhattan, to dwell on the past. I turned my gaze towards midtown, where picture-post-card clouds floated behind the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. Aha - a chance to use my brand-new lens, a 70-300mm Sigma zoom.

The buzzing in my pocket turned my attention away from the skyline. It was Leah, who was getting really hungry and wondering when the heck we were arriving to take her to lunch. So it was time to stash the minivan for the night and head over to Manhattan.

I drove back to Hudson Street and headed south, looking for a place to park. We ended up berthing the car in a municipal parking garage near the PATH station. Then into the PATH we went, our destination the 14th Street PATH station on the other side of the Hudson.

From the PATH, it was a short walk to Tommy Boy and our reunion with my first-born. Leah led us to a good deli at Union Square where I bought us lunch. Ben decided to stay with Leah to help her pack and then try to get tickets for Avenue Q. Meanwhile, I ducked back underground, taking the F Train to Times Square and then a short walk to the St. James.

Woman on Platform - Times SquareComing up out of the hole-in-the-ground at Times Square, I heard crowd commotion up ahead. With the security alerts in effect, this got me momentarily worried, but I soon recognized the location and the situation as the daily gaggle of girls at 45th and Broadway, hanging out under the MTV studios. Every once in a while, a cameraman on the second-floor studio points his camera at the crowd below, and they go wild. I've seen it before, in fact, when my kids were a bit younger, I stood with them in that very crowd during one trip. Anyway, welcome to New York City!

The St. James wasn't much to look at from the outside, but the room was quite nice. At $115 a night for two, this was the cheapest I could find. Nevertheless, the room appeared to be recently renovated, as advertised, very clean and nicely decorated. The shower worked, there was plenty of hot water, the air conditioner unit was functional and quiet. And, here I was right in mid-midtown. Not bad at all.

But by now, it was almost 6 PM and time to head uptown to meet Dave Beckerman. I have admired Dave's photography for some years, and we've corresponded by email, but we had not yet met in person. By coincidence, Dave lives just one block from my last apartment in Manhattan, on E. 83rd Street. Wanting to see the old neighborhood, we arranged to meet at his place and then go out for dinner.

Dave Beckerman, Photographer ExtraordinaireI arrived at his building, pressed the appropriate button, and he buzzed me in. I laughed as I walked up to the third floor, because the place had exactly the feel of my old apartment down the block, except that the staircase spiraled in the opposite direction.

Dave met me at his door and ushered me into his one-room apartment, also very much like mine, the one I enjoyed so much for three years in the last '70s. Dave's was much more efficiently laid out than mine, however, a fact that he attributed to having lived there for many years and having tried several different arrangements.

Dave hospitably offered me juice and megabytes, burning my day's exposures onto a CD so that I could reuse that memory card the next day.

After we chatted for a while, we headed around the block to Jackson Hole, arguably the best place in the city for hamburgers, and good hamburgers we had.

Although I keep close tabs on Dave by regularly reading his photo blog and already knew that he now shoots with a Canon Digital Rebel, it was fun to actually see it in action. Dave has used a number of different cameras in the past, from Leica M6 to 4x5 view to, most recently, a Canon Elan 7 - all film based. But just recently, he has Gone Digital, and now shoots with "my" brand. It's kind of like seeing Michael Jordan wearing your sneakers.

By the time dinner was over, it was about 10 PM, and bedtime was calling me. I bade Dave goodbye and walked north on First Avenue up to 86th Street, just to get the feel of walking around my old neighborhood again.

383 Madison Avenue - Looking NW from E 45th & VanderbiltBack into the hole-in-the-ground at Lexington and onto the Express to Grand Central. At the other end, the subway exit dumped me onto Lexington Avenue across from the Chrysler Building. But since one of my life mottos is, "Never miss a chance to walk through Grand Central," I headed west on 42nd Street to the middle of the block and strolled through the Main Concourse once again. Then up the escalators to the Pan Am... er the MetLife Building and out the doors onto E. 45th Street.

Finally heading back to my hotel, the end of a very long, and very enjoyable day. My feet are tired but my spiritual batteries are recharged from my day in and around NYC.

Tomorrow I plan more photos, of course. If I can get up early enough, I'll roam around Midtown East. If not, there will be plenty of photo-ops wherever the kids decide to go. I heard them mention something about shopping Canal Street tomorrow afternoon. Chinatown, Little Italy, lots of color and colorful people. That'll do just fine.

Editors note: SteveR did not know the name of the building in this photo at the time of this post, but our Architectural and Urban Technology Researcher, Greg Viola, has since determined that this is 383 Madison Avenue, also known as the Bear Stearns Building.

Armed with this information, our photo editor has done an extensive Internet search for other photos of this building, and amazingly, found not one single image that was better than this one. Try this experiment yourself: go to
Google Image Search and enter either of these phrase: "383 Madison Avenue" or "Bear Stearns Building" Go do it now and come back in a minute.

We told you!

Wednesday, August 04, 2004


Adieu, Henri

HBC's Isle de la Cité
Henri Cartier-Bresson died today at age 95.

HBC was one of the truly great photographers of the Twentieth Century, and like most anyone who ever held a 35 mm camera to his eye, I looked up to him.

"The decisive moment" is the phrase most associated with Cartier-Bresson, and for good reason. He seemed to know exactly when to click the shutter. He could detect that scintilla of time and space where people and expressions and dogs and whatever came together to form a fleeting image of maximum impact. And that's what he captured, maybe better than anyone. As he himself put it,

"What is best in photography is that you are catching an instant that will disappear. The photographer is like the voleur, the thief; he steals a moment, a fleeting moment and then he runs away with it in his camera. Being a photographer you have to be quick, quick, quick; you have to be like quicksilver, yes, like a tightrope dancer with death at the end.”
As a young amateur photographer, especially once I bought a 30-year-old Leica IIIc in 1973, I often tried to be HCB. I did actually take a few good B&W shots in his style, but basically, I'm too slow and fumble-fingered to be even a journeyman street photographer. I am too photographically meek to be the voleur.

Oddly enough, my favorite Henri Cartier-Bresson photo is not a "decisive moment" image at all. Rather, it's HCB's famous picture of Isle de la Cité in Paris.

There are two reasons, I like this photo so much. First, to me, that quarter-acre or so of the Isle that we see here is the one of the most magical place I've ever experienced. I can't quite explain it, but it was love at first sight for me when I walked to this end of the Isle on July 21, 1977 (exactly one year to the day before I met my wife!)

Second, and it's only within the last few months that I understand this, HCB's photo, taken in the mist, hides the background clutter of the rest of Paris and only shows the very essence of Isle de la Cité, with the Pont Neuf worn like an elegant stole over its shoulders.

I'm very happy he lived a long, full life. Who says only the good die young?


Where's Yasser?

Contest for today: How many Palestinian flags can you find in the photo at top of yesterday's post? The first person to email me with the correct answer gets a prize.

Bonus question: How many of those Palestinian flags are correctly displayed?

By the way, I took this picture on April 12, 2003, while on a visit to my in-laws in Ottawa. I was minding my own business when, schlimazel-like, I ran smack into this anti-US protest.

One of the really cool things was that being good Canadians, the protest was bilingual ... "No blood for oil!... pas de sang pour petrol!"

No kidding, for a few moments, I happened to walk just to the left of this little fireplug of a woman with a pleasant, freckled Irish-redhead face and a keffiyeh wrapped around her shouldlers, somebody's soccer mom from Blackburn Hamlet, maybe. She was the "cadence caller" for this rally, and while she held her bullhorn microphone in her right hand, I noticed that in her left she was holding the script for the rally!

A bilingual script, naturellement!

Useful Clichés Redux

Red Ball in Ivy
Ah, back to photography!

In May, I spent a few posts talking about what I call useful clichés in photography. These are little seed elements that sometimes can be the basis of a making a good image, like using a strong diagonal, repetitive shapes, etc. One of the "clichés" that I thought I used a lot was a little bit of something in a lot of nothing. As it turned out, I was surprised that I couldn't find any really good examples in my own work.

Well, this weekend, I was editing about 200 photos I took for a bat mitzvah recently, when I ran across what I think is a pretty good exemplar of this kind of image. This one is of the subspecies, a little bit of one color in a lot of another color, but the idea is the same. And yes, it was in among all those bat mitzvah photos. I remember now that I spotted the bright red ball in the ivy when I went outside my clients' house to shoot the kids having a ball in the Moon-Jump they rented for the afternoon.

A little bit of naches, a little bit of "art."

Tuesday, August 03, 2004


Silly Kerry-isms

Pre-emptive Protester
OK, I promised I would write some political pieces about the election campaign, so here is the first one.

For a smart guy, Senator Kerry said some pretty silly things in his acceptance speech last week. Here are some of the dumber moments:

"I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war. "

Senator Kerry has used this "misled us into war" accusation against President Bush since at least the Iowa Caucus. Repeating it again in his acceptance speech was like throwing red meat to the delagates, but it doesn't make it any more truthful .

While one could argue (which I don't) that the decision to go to war with Saddam was bad judgement, there is not now nor has there ever been evidence that President Bush misled the country about how he reached that decision. Back in last October, Dr. David Kay concluded his testimony before a joint House-Senate committee with these words:

Saddam ... had not given up his aspirations and intentions to continue to acquire weapons of mass destruction... Saddam intended to resume these programs whenever external restrictions were removed...
In an interview with National Public Radio in late January 2004, asked whether President Bush owed the nation an explanation for the gap between his warnings and Kay's findings, Dr. Kay said to the contrary,

I actually think the intelligence community owes the president, rather than the president owing the American people.

"As President, I will ask hard questions and demand hard evidence. I will immediately reform the intelligence system – so policy is guided by facts, and facts are never distorted by politics."

More recently, both the 9-11 Commission and the Senate Intelligence Committe found no evidence that President Bush or his staff tried to shape intelligence on Iraq. Even Lord Butler's commission in the UK, when it came to evaluating those famous "16 words" in Bush's 2003 State of the Union address concluded that

the statement in President Bush’s State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" was well-founded.

Look, Senator Kerry is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committe, and as such he had access to basically the same information as the President, and one would assume, that's why he voted in 2002 for the Senate resolution authorizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

And though he paints the Bush administration as a bunch of cowboys who just couldn't wait to attack Iraq, he knows perfectly well that the "neocon" Iraq policy of the Bush White House was virtually identical to that of the Clinton administration.

For Senator Kerry to repeat the calumny that Bush "distorted" intelligence on Iraq is indefensible.

"... And as President, I will bring back this nation's time-honored tradition: The United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to. That is the standard of our nation. "

Wow, this one really brought down the house in Boston. All that applause must have drowned out the almost-as-thunderous clap of ten thousand historians across the country slapping their foreheads in dismay.

How could Senator Kerry have made such a silly statement! What "time-honored" tradition of "only go to war because we have to" is he talking about?

America "having" to go to war is a decision that, at the time made, has almost always been debatable. Did we have to join the British and French in 1917? Not being attacked on our own soil by Germany, did we then sacrifice hundreds of thousands in North Africa and then Hitler's Europe because we wanted to? Did we have to send our soldiers, sailors and airmen 10,000 miles to Korea in 1950? Did President Clinton want to expose our young men and women to danger in Kosovo?

Now by my criticism of Kerry, I don't mean to imply that I agree with President Bush on every issue, or even on all issues related to the war in Iraq and problems we're dealing with there now. There is plenty of room for debate, especially about the planning and conduct of operations since April 2003.

But Kerry isn't framing the issues for serious debate. In the face of facts to the contrary, facts which he must be aware, Senator Kerry continues to repeat his mantra of "misled the nation", "distorted intelligence", "went to war because he wanted to."

I just don't feel that I can trust this man.

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