Category Archives: Just for Fun
The sun has been shining and temperatures hovered in the mid-forties for the past few days. Not bad for December in northern Michigan. Even so, this late in the year the pickings are sparse, and the birds appreciate the seed we put in the feeders. I appreciate them stopping by during the day so I can make some images.
So as part of the deal with the birds, I took photos as they pecked at the seed. I used my 200 – 500mm lens on my Sony A77 (Factoring in the crop factor, I effectively have a 300 – 750mm of lens.) and from the comfort of our kitchen made these shots over the past couple of days. I adjusted my shutter speed between 1/500 and 1/1000, set the aperture at f11 and (because the birds were fluttering in and out of the sun and shade) set ISO on auto.
Here are handful of the shots I liked.
December 8, 2015
If you are under thirty years old, the name Carl Sagan may not ring a bell. But if you watched the 1980 original Cosmos TV series hosted and co-written by Dr. Sagan, you would likely remember him as America’s premiere astronomer, astrophysicist and popular science author of the seventies, eighties and into the 1990’s. I met Dr. Sagan several years before his untimely death in 1996. One thing I’m pretty sure of, that meeting would never have happened if I didn’t have a camera with me.
In the mid-1980’s my wife, Joanne, made plans to attend a conference where Dr. Sagan was the keynote speaker. As a long-time Carl Sagan fan, I begged to tag along, Joanne agreed and we made our way to St. Louis. I was thrilled with the opportunity to hear Dr. Sagan speak. As it turned out, so were a couple thousand other people who got to the auditorium before us. We got in, but just barely. Our balcony seats were in the very last row.
Dr. Sagan spoke for about forty-five minutes. He told stories of NASA, how he helped Apollo astronauts prepare for extended space flight and, of course, the Cosmos as in the universe around us and his TV series. It was great.
After the talk most people filed out and headed to meetings. A few dozen moved to the edge of the stage where Dr. Sagan took questions. Joanne headed to her next meeting and I headed to the stage floor. It took several minutes, but I made it to the stage area where Dr. Sagan was still on the stage talking.
But, I was at the back of the pack, barely able to hear his comments. The crowd had grown in numbers and my prospects of getting closer were not likely to improve. To my right at the side of the theater, I spotted steps that led onto the stage and I got an idea. As I headed for the steps, I pulled my Minolta XD-11 from my camera bag. Bounding up the steps I flicked on the camera and walked out onto the stage. Just like I knew what I was doing.
At the center of the stage, crouched on one knee, was Dr. Sagan. I walked to within five feet of him and also dropped down. He looked at me, apparently thought nothing of it and continued his conversation with the people below us on the auditorium floor. From my new vantage point I could see and hear Dr. Sagan much better.
Unfortunately, the stage lights had been turned off, the auditorium lights were dim and my camera was loaded with Kodachrome 64 slide film. Not a good combination. I knew my prospects for a good picture in such low light were slim, so I faked it. I raised the camera to my eye, framed, focused, steadied the camera as best I could and began taking his picture. At any moment, I expected a beefy stage hand would grab me by the collar, haul me backstage and deposit me in a trash bin. It was a risk worth taking, because there I was on the stage with Carl Sagan.
To my surprise, nobody tried to haul me away. After about five minutes, a woman walked out on stage. She also ignored me and instead told Dr. Sagan it was time for him to leave. The crowd on the auditorium floor gave a collective groan as Sagan stood. He gave an apologetic shrug and turned to walk off stage… in my direction. I stood, began to walk with Dr. Sagan and asked him a question about his speech. Unbelievably, he gave me an answer. At the side of the stage a security person joined our walk. He directed Sagan, and me, out the stage door and into a hallway that led to Sagan’s car.
It was thirty feet or so down the hallway and I knew that short walk was all the time I had left. Quickly, I asked another question and Sagan gave me an answer. It was like we were two pals in a regular conversation. (I wish remembered my questions and his answers, but I have no recollection. I’m sure we were both great.)
A few steps from the door, I dropped my photojournalist shtick and blurted out how much I enjoyed his Cosmos TV show and books. Then, like the Sagan junkie I was, I pulled a small notebook from my back pocket, flipped it to a blank page and asked for his autograph. His escort, in full security mode, scowled.
Dr. Sagan stopped, signed the page, handed back my notebook, then reached out and shook my hand. The escort stepped ahead and opened the door to the outside. Sagan walked toward the door. Waived off by the security officer, I stopped. When Sagan reached the door, he turned back toward, raisied his hand said, “I wish you good luck.”
Those last seconds are crystal clear in my mind. The light in the hallway was much better than the light on the stage and there was Carl Sagan smiling and waving at me. A really good photographer would have seized the moment and snapped off a couple of shots. Instead, I smiled and waved back.
(I rummaged through several old photo boxes to find the “best” bad shot I took that day. Dr. Sagan’s autograph is framed and kept on the bookshelf next to my desk.)
November 5, 2015
It’s been a week and a half since the July 4th and I finally found the USA t-shirt I wanted to wear on the holiday. It’s the one shirt I keep in a special place so I can easily find it on the one day a year I wear it. Couldn’t lay my hands on it July 4th, but stumbled right onto it yesterday. It was in a pretty good spot at the bottom of a box where I keep my old t-shirts. Had I looked in the box I am sure I would have found it. I just tucked the box away too well. So I put it back in the box and have every hope of finding it next summer. (Somebody remind me about July 1 next year, where I put it.)
We had a lot of fun with family and friends over the holiday. We went to the local parade, the grandkids did some fishing -and catching too. We ate a lot of good food, toasted marshmallows in our fire pit and, in the evening, drove back into to town to watch a terrific fireworks display.
The 4th of July is a colorful holiday with all the reds, whites and blues and I took a lot of pictures. But my favorite image (below) was close to my last shot of the day as the fireworks was winding down. It was okay in color, but when I stripped out the color, I found something different… blacks and whites instead of the rocket’s red glare.
It was the end of a good day for our country and with our family.
An Easter highlights at our home has always been homemade sweet bread. There may be another name for it, but Joanne follows an old family recipe and that’s all the family has ever called it. If there’s another name, we don’t know it.
Joanne use to make the bread a few days before Easter. But, now the kids are grown. Most are living downstate with kids of their own and there’s not the same rush to get bread made. So yesterday afternoon she pulled out her mixer and baking pans and started the annual bread making process.
Once the dough is mixed, kneaded and placed in pans the loaves begin to rise and our home fills with that unmistakable yeasty aroma. It’s second only to the smell of the bread baking in the oven.
Joanne doesn’t make as many loaves as when the kids were home, but she makes enough for us to enjoy for several days. She freezes a few loaves, so we can have it for another month or so by raiding the freezer. She also gave a couple loaves to neighbors, so she still makes quite a bit.
The bread is great warm and just a few minutes out of the oven. It makes great toast for breakfast slathered with strawberry-rhubarb jam and is actually just great any time. Like right now!
I’m done here and heading for the kitchen for a slice… maybe two.
In our previous life, I held fast to a philosophy of never shoveling snow after March 1.
It just didn’t make sense. Downstate, when it snows in March, it melts fast and is gone in a day or two. And, to the best of my recollection I only had to compromise my rationalization a couple of times.
There was St. Patrick’s Day 1973 when more than a foot of snow fell overnight. It was still snowing when I woke up that morning to the roar of a snow mobile in front of the duplex. Not a normal street sounds inside the city limits where I lived. It was a day before the street was plowed and it took me about that long to clear the driveway.
The other time was in the mid-nineties. I don’t recall the exact depth, but the snow was piled high enough that my neighbor, a good fifteen years my senior, offered me the use of his snow blower. “My cardiologist says every man over fifty ought to use a snow blower.” he told me, “Just bring it back when you’re done.”
I was only forty-eight at the time, but saw no advantage in putting too fine a point on the issue and accepted his offer.
Of course, things are different here north of the 45th parallel. I know I must remove snow from the driveway in March. But, it was difficult for me, on March 1, to consider removing snow from the roof of our home. I balked at first, but in the end took into account the near record snow fall this winter; the lack of any mid-winter thaw that would have reduced the snow load on the roof; daily temperatures still hovering in the single digits and, of course, the always wise counsel of my wife.
So we hired a couple of guys for the job.
No, I did not attempt the task myself; I am well over fifty and know better. Plus, there was no way I could get my snow blower on the roof. Here a few images of what the process looked like at both houses…
(And I don’t care what happens, I am not shoveling snow in April!)
This past Sunday, I was invited to tag along with a handful of Audubon Society members for an impromptu photo shoot along the Cheboygan River. Led by local birding “phenom,” Steve Baker, the group met at Washington Park where we took shots of several varieties of ducks and a few swans. From there we worked our way south along the river stopping at a half dozen other riverside sites ending near the M-33 bridge. It was great fun and I was pleased to have been invited.
The shoot started with overcast skies, but the clouds soon dissipated giving us a mostly sunny afternoon. The sunshine not only brought out the plumage on some of the birds, but also perked up winter-weary photographers.
From the start, I struggled with my Sony a7. I bought the camera just a couple days before and this was my first adventure in the field. In bright sunlight, I had difficulty seeing images on the LCD screen. (Which is standard with an LCD screen in bright sun.) What really bothered me was the minimal visibility through the electronic viewfinder.
I knew there had to be a camera setting to fix the situation, but while in the hunt I just couldn’t find it. (Can I say “hunt” around my Audubon friends?)
So, I faked it, tried not to complain too much in front of the others and managed to get a few usable shots. (Thank you back-button focus…)
Once home, indoors and out of the sun, I located the camera set-up page and a “monitor brightness” setting called “sunny weather” (Check ON) and a “Viewfinder Brightness” manual adjustment. (Increase +2)
I ventured out in the sunshine yesterday and discovered when properly adjusted for sun and snow I could see images on the LCD -pretty much- and EVF work well… and that was a big relief.
Tom Cadwalader (L) and Steve Baker “focused” on their photos
I’ve had trouble finding northern light to shoot recently, but this almost-double rainbow, from a few days ago, showed up and stayed just long enough that I was able to get a couple shots. Maybe with the rain, sleet, hail and snow we’ve gotten here since then, it was last kiss -or maybe kiss off- of autumn… Either way, it was nice to see and brightened up an otherwise gray afternoon.
Sorry there hasn’t been any activity on the blog for a while. The pleasant distractions of summer, visits from friends and family, some travel and several other obligations have left me wondering where the time -and my blog posts- have gone…
SmugMug also totally revamped their service and improved the way website function and look. I have been trying to get to that project since August. So far all I have achieved is to remove many image in preparation for a re-construction.
Bear with me if you can. By November I plan to work on the SmugMug site and get more post up on the blog.
There’s an old saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions. I don’t think I’m headed to hell yet.
At least not because I haven’t kept the blog active…
When I started this blog, I wrote that I just might veer off course from time-to-time and write about things other than photography. This is one of those times. I’d like to tell you about two websites that I think are unique and worthy of a look: TED.com and celebratewhatsright.com. “Celebrate What’s Right” will take just a few minutes a week to view and read. (Unless you read and enjoy the previous posts.) “TED” on the other hand, may pull you in for hours at a time…
TED.com has been around for since 2005. TED (Which stands for technology, entertainment and design.) began in 1984 as a conference in Monterey California. Speakers for the first TED conference came from the worlds of (You guessed it.) technology, entertainment and design. It was six years before the second TED conference was held and the list of presenters expanded to scientists, philanthropists, philosophers, religious leaders, musicians and more.
In 2005 the TED website was launched and hundreds of “TED Talks” as they are called that had been previously heard only by guests invited to the conference were available at the website for free.
The premise is simple. A TED Talk can be no longer than eighteen minutes and cover one subject. It would honestly take too many pages to write a list of the interesting and thought provoking speakers and subjects that can be seen and heard at TED.com. If you have ever thought there is nothing good happening in the world, you are wrong. Search TED and see for yourself. You will be amazed by the ideas and diversity of the presentations. For those who live away from a computer there are TED podcast for your iPod or smartphone, many public radio stations carry weekly TED programs and Netflix streams TED Talks online.
Celebrate What’s Right in the World is the brainchild of award winning former National Geographic photographer, writer and Academy Award nominated filmmaker Dewitt Jones. For many years Jones has used his photography and stories of his travels as the basis for his motivational speaking career. Recently he created Celebrate. There are daily facebook postings, weekly emails, a blog and the website with videos he has created. You may enjoy a quick look at the work he has posted or you may want to subscribe to all of it. What you will find are positive words that celebrate good in the world and terrific photography to inspire the photographer within you.
As I am writing this blog a new Celebrate post reached my computer. It is titled, The Power of Words and written by contributor Lynne Sheppard. It began like this: “An embarrassment of riches, a flood of responses, a deluge of requests, a whirlwind of activity. I wonder sometimes if it is more than the news that afflicts us in a negative way. How we use language might affect us adversely as well, acting as a barrier to celebration.”
I’m signing off now and am going to read the new blog post. I hope you will to.
PS. I hope TED Talks and Jones forgive me for pirating the images from the Internet…
At the encouragement of several of my photography students, with the offer to help from friends and because I’ve kicked the idea around for a while myself, I’m starting a photography club. An organizational meeting for the club will be held at the Cheboygan Area Public Library on Thursday May 23, 2013. The meeting starts at 6:00 p.m. and is open to anyone interested in photography.
I know there are many avid photographers in the Cheboygan area. They have attended my classes and I’ve seen the photos of many good photographers around Cheboygan. I hope a photography club attracts a wide range of folks from beginners to professional photographers. If in the process we learn a thing or two from each other, take some good pictures and have some fun along the way, then it will be a success.
Sharing photo ideas and information, taking some photography day trips and the promotion of photography in the community seems to me like a good place to start. As the club grows and evolves I am sure there will be other objectives and goals added.
To help at the first meeting, I asked my friend and neighbor, Neil Rankin, to talk about his life as a commercial photographer at Western Michigan University. Over the years Neil has photographed two U.S. presidents, dozens of sports figures and covered hundreds of other events for Western. Neil will show some of his work and tell us what it’s like to be a photographer on a college campus.
If you would like to join, but cannot attend this meeting, feel free to contact me or just wait until June. We have meetings scheduled for the fourth Thursday of the month at the Library through August.
Whether you like to take photos of peaceful lakes or more inclined to search for wild animals, this club is for you…