Thursday, December 31, 2009

I decided to end the year by listing the blogs I follow. Most are photography blogs (surprise). I'll start with them.

I checked Guy Tal's blog frequently in the past and recently subscribed through Google Reader. Guy and I think a lot alike about photography and while I don't believe in only exposing myself to those opinions that I agree with I also think it doesn't hurt to know that I'm not alone in my views. Besides Guy takes some great photos that I enjoy looking at.

Another recent addition to my RRS feed that I had looked at occasionally is Kathleen Connally's photo blog A Walk Through Durham Township, Pennsylvania. She presents a very nice collection of photos of rural Pennsylvania. She doesn't seem to have any agenda except to show off the area where she lives and does so with affection and skill.

Absolutely Nothing is probably more portfolio than blog. Like Kathleen Connally, the photographer, Tristan Campbell puts the latest photo on the home page and then moves it to an archive as a new one replaces it. The photos are of England though. I'm a sucker for landscapes and these are good ones.

Chris Orwig's Flipside is a personal/professional blog where he posts his latest family photos along with some professional work. I first "met" Chris via where he has some tutorials. He is a photo instructor at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara. On any given day you are as apt to see photos of his young daughters as you are a portrait of a renowned surfer.

David duChemin's PixelatedImage blog is often philosophical. He also has some interesting and inexpensive ebooks that he sells through his site and is the author of a couple of 'real' books as well which can be found on Amazon. David's work is more in the photojournalist/National Geographic tradition.

Scott Kelby's Photoshop Insider is for the techie in me. It keeps me up to date with Kelby Training & NAPP (Association of Photoshop Professionals) with some personal touches.

Jim Richardson's Working Photographer blog has a list of photographers he's jealous of. I find that hard to believe because I'm jealous of Jim Richardson. He does a lot of work with National Geographic and beautiful work it is.

TOP (The On-line Photographer) is an interesting mix of reviews, photography news and opinion. Mike Johnson has been writing for and editing photo magazines for many years and carries on in this eclectic blog.

Lastly PhotoPreneur is about making money from photography, something I don't do well and need to do better next year which just happens to start tomorrow.

If you follow this blog because of the photography perhaps one or more of the above might also interest you. I'll list the non-photo blogs I follow in a later post.

Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Touch of PTSD

Those of us living in the Northeast are a bit nervous about freezing rain. Eleven years ago we had several days of it in a row in what became known as the Ice Storm of '98. We went without power for a week and were among the lucky ones. Some rural areas had no power for up to a month and areas of Quebec were without power for up to 6 weeks.

I well remember being afraid to walk out into the yard because the ice was breaking limbs from the maple trees which came down with a crash every few minutes. If you were hit by a falling 4" thick limb that would be bad enough but add an inch or more of ice and they were really dangerous. The 35 maples around my acre lost about 50% of their limbs in that storm and it took them about 10 years to recover. We lost a couple of them since the storm, in part I suspect because of what they suffered then.

We had freezing rain in the early hours of this morning. It wasn't nearly the scale of the Ice Storm of '98 but after an experience like that your mind jumps back and you hope it doesn't turn into another 3-4 day storm. This one was mild. Maybe ⅛" of ice. Enough to make everything slippery and a few things picturesque. The photo is of a vine on one of the garden trellises. We had a couple of different sorts of vines planted there and I'm not sure what this one was.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Littlest Christmas Tree

About 20 years ago Diane was working for Ames Dept Store and they gave each of their employees  an evergreen to plant. It was a single stem with needles, no side branches at all. We stuck it in the ground and it did nothing for about 2 or 3 years then it grew a few side branches (small ones) and then stalled again seemly a permanent dwarf. I moved it to the front of this flower bed a couple of years ago, intending it to be a temporary home but it seems to like this spot and has started to grow again so... I guess I'll be rearranging the flower bed to accommodate the tree as it grows. It seems a shame to disturb it again when it has found a home it likes. Today Diane suggested that we put some lights on it for the holidays. While we were out shopping I bought a string of 50 lights and strung them on it when we got home.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bloom Where You Are Planted

Photographers, especially landscape photographers like me, often feel they have to go off someplace special to make photographs. Photographs of something iconic, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite or the like. I used to tell my photo students to shoot what was around them and though I do make several trips each year an hour or so South to the Adirondacks I also spend a fair amount of time photographing the flowers in my own garden and the sights around the tiny hamlet where I live.

This morning, after several grey mornings in a row, the sun was brilliant but we left the cellular shades down because it was -6ºF and was projected to get up to only about 9º. The shades help retain heat. They also glow nicely as the sun shines through them and I was intrigued by this light on these objects in the livingroom.  As I looked at them and the light, I decided I wanted to make a photograph. It needed a square composition, so it is cropped, and the extremes of brightness required three exposures which I combined in Photomatix using the exposure blending option. I also added a pseudo film edge as a border.

As I'm sure is the case in most people's homes, all the objects have memories attached for Diane and I. The clock in the upper left came from our daughter. She bought it for herself but one of her cats insisted on jumping atop it and knocking it off the wall. I fixed it for her the first time it got broken but after it got knocked down again she gave it to us. The finial from the bottom is still broken and is behind the large cow next to the clear bottle. I bought the two bottles in an Adirondack antique shop while I was in college. The Buddha came from a visit to Diane's parents. Her father took us to a flea market that he occasionally did some work for. The owner, Pete, had a woman's hat on it and it was painted all black. We bought it (but not the hat) and I repainted it copper and gold. I also built the small stand for it. The plant is one of Diane's. If it were up to me to look after them they'd all be shriveled and dead because I'd forget to water them. The small bowl in front of the Buddha's stand holds shells and pebbles from Leo Carillo Beach in California which we visited one Thanksgiving when our son and daughter-in-law lived in Thousand Oaks. The blanket chest everything is on was inherited from my grandmother who inherited it from her parents. I think, though I'm not absolutely certain, that my great-grandfather built the chest.

The moral, if there is one, is that you need not go far to find subject matter.  Don't reserve your picture taking to special occasions. Use photography as a way to look more closely at the world around you every day.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday E-Card Time

Best wishes to one and all regardless of the holiday you celebrate. The traditions of Christmas go back centuries before December 25th was adopted by the Roman Catholic church to represent the birthday of Jesus. The 25th of December was celebrated by early Romans as the rebirth of the sun after it "died" on the shortest day of the year. The traditions of gift giving and decorating homes with greenery in this season go back to even earlier times. Today we have several religious holidays clustered around the solstice and Christmas is a civil holiday as well as a religious one. So whatever your religion or beliefs, may you find joy in the beginning of another trek around the sun.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Shameless Commerce

I have created a series of four Adirondack posters which I am selling as archival prints. One of the series appears above. The others can be seen at either my Picasaweb galleries or my Photoshelter galleries. The price is $80/poster. They are signed on the face in ink and on the back in pencil with an ordinal number and the date. They would make a nice holiday gift for someone who loves the Adirondacks or just loves the outdoors. They can be mailed in a tube to your home. If you live in NY state I have to charge 7% sales tax. For the holidays I will absorb the postage. I take Paypal. You don't need a Paypal account and you can put it on your credit card. Email inquiries and orders here. Please put "Poster" in the subject line so your message gets through my spam filters.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas Wish Lists

A friend asked what was on my ""Santa list", things I want for Christmas. My first response was that I didn't have a Santa list but upon more thought I decided there were things I'd like, things like world peace, an end to hunger, health care for all, a meaningful job for everyone who wants one. Those aren't in Santa's bag though.

There are things I'd like for myself too. I'd like to be in better physical condition, more like I was 18-24 months ago before I got off my regular diet and exercise routine. I'd like to have more people buy my prints which would result in me having more funds to pursue more photography.

The problem with all the above, not just the first group of wishes but the personal ones as well, is that they aren't things. They are conditions and conditions can't be given to you by anyone else. You have to create them for yourself or in the case of the first group contribute whatever you can to create them.

So my real Christmas wish is that we would all remember that the things we give and receive for the holiday, no matter which of the several holidays that fall around the winter solstice, are only symbols of our real desires for conditions that will only come about through our actions. Or as Gandhi said "Be the change you want to see in the world".

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I went out this morning and wandered around the yard in my shirtsleeves. We are having a mild day, overcast but quite pleasant. We were able stand only 5-6 feet from the bird feeders and talk to a woodpecker as he ate from the suet feeder. Diane wondered if he was the same one who rapped on the house this summer every time the feeders got low. The chickadees flitted about as if we weren't even there. They are so used to us that I can stand within an arms length and they will continue feeding.

Dinner about one. I have to go and work on today's project, a storm window for the kitchen window over the sink. I hope everyone has a great meal and much to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

When I first began doing digital photography the available image browsers either didn't let you apply keywords to images or if it did they used a proprietary format that other software didn't recognize. Eventually software publishers realized that the numbers of photos being generated by digital photographers required more than just "looking through" an archive to find a particular photo. A standard format was created and cataloging software was born in place of mere 'image browsers'.

I have used Adobe's Lightroom since it was first offered but I had scanned and shot many photos prior to getting Lightroom so I am still playing 'catch up' on the process of adding searchable data to all my older images.

I'm up to spring of 2005 on my catalog organization project and am starting to run into folders of images that I had done some cataloging & organizing of on a random basis in the time since first getting Lightroom. I'm also playing with some older files making new 'creations'. Anyway here's one that I morphed from a 2005 photo that I shot and never did anything with at the time. I liked the cloud reflections on the water with the little lily pads and stump as counterpoint but the straight shot came off as too detailed, too much surface litter breaking up the cloud reflections, too cluttered. I simplified it in Photoshop and now it works IMO.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Convergence of Ingenuity?

That is what a friend called it when The Online Photographer blog referred its readers to the site of a photographer on the West coast who was making tondi (art speak for round, also sometimes called tondo) images that were similar in flavor to some work I had been doing (see my "Ways of Working " post on Nov. 7th). Now I encounter another example in the Newsletter of the Photographer's Formulary. This involves another 'thread' of work I have played with but haven't shown anyone previously, photos of car details (hood ornaments, radiator emblems, rear view mirrors, etc.) like the one above. Mostly it is old cars, they're so much more visually interesting than the new ones, but I have shot a number of new car details, mostly headlight and taillight images. The compound faceting of the reflectors and lenses is very abstract and interesting.

Convergence of ingenuity is when two or more people independently have the same or very similar idea at the same time. With all the people taking digital photos these days I'm sure it is happening a lot in photography.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Shredding Leaves and Ear Worms

In my last post I mentioned that I’d been chewing up leaves by running over them with the riding mower several times. There is one corner of the yard though where there are more trees, thus more leaves and the mower ended up plowing them instead of mowing them.

I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus' garden in the shade

So I had to rake them and run them through the shredder. I’ve been at it for two afternoons and this morning.

He'd let us in, knows where we've been
In his octopus' garden in the shade

So I’m picking up bunches of leaves, with hearing protectors blocking out everything except the now muffled roar of the shredder and a song that keeps running through my head in an endless loop.

We would be warm below the storm
In our little hideaway beneath the waves

I did listen to that album on a few days before...

Resting our head on the sea bed
In an octopus' garden near a cave

But I’ve no idea why this song is the one that shredding leaves brings to mind.

We would sing and dance around
because we know we can't be found

I don’t hear it in my head the rest of the day, but this morning after I woke up...

We would shout and swim about
The coral that lies beneath the waves

As soon as I thought about finishing the leaf shredding job, it popped back into my brain

We would be so happy you and me
No one there to tell us what to do

My timing was great. I finished the pile I’d raked just as it started to rain. There are more leaves around the edge of the yard that I should rake and shred though. I wonder if the song will be back when I do.

I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus' garden with you.

We'll see in a couple of days when I start on another batch of shredding.

*excerpts from Octopus's Garden by the Beatles

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fall Chores

I spent part of the afternoon chewing up leaves, yum, yum. We have 30 plus maple trees around the perimeter of our one acre and they drop a humongous amount of leaves each fall. I used to rake them all and pile them in the back yard to compost but the supply of compose out stripped my need and after we got a riding mower (our son noted that happened after he left home) I decided to just mow over the fallen leaves several times and chew them into little bits that would decompose almost immediately into the lawn. That works pretty well if the weather cooperates and this year it is being very cooperative. It was cooler today than the last few days but it was still in the mid-40ºs and dry which is the more important part.

In the process of my chore I noted a couple of photo possibilities, the latter of which is represented here. It is a cedar tree which fell in the backyard directly toward the house but it wasn't quite tall enough to hit the house. The bark is coming off and there are some very neat insect burrow patterns underneath. They remind me of tribal tattoos I've seen in photos of some aboriginal people. Markings of the Cedar tribe perhaps?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Summer is Back

It was a very mild today for this time of year. The temperature was in the high 60ºs which is as warm as most days were this summer. I'd wager that I could count the days it was warmer than that on my fingers and toes. I could count the days we had over 80º on my fingers, possibly on the fingers of one hand. After breakfast Diane said it was too nice a day to stay inside and suggested we take a walk on the Stone Valley Trail in Colton. I agreed and took my camera of course.

On the way down the gravel road to the trail we met a couple on horseback who were enjoying the weather. Later, along the trail I saw the shape of the rock shoreline from the trail above the river and thought it might make an interesting photo so I went down to the shore. When I got down closer ...bonus... from the lower angle there was this great reflection of a pair of cedars growing among the rocks in mid-river.

We got home in time for lunch then I chewed up leaves in the yard with the riding mower. Mowing over them beats raking them any day. I have more leaves to do but the warm weather (not quite as warm as today) is expected to last for the next 6-7 days.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Follow-up on Yesterday

I watch several other blogs and this morning Chris Orwig posted an interview with Jay Maisel who is one of my role models. I've never met him in person. I first encountered Jay via a series of videos that Epson put out and I run onto interviews and his photos from time to time. I admire several photographers for different reasons. Jay's great quality is his attitude toward photographing and his ability to communicate his joie de vivre. The audio interview at jay maisel / interview is a must listen.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Ways of Working

Today's post is in response to an article in the NY Times which an e-friend sent the link to.

In thinking about the approaches to shooting that the article describes I'm somewhere in the middle between shooting hundreds of photos and editing out all but what he calls "happy accidents" or carefully considering each shot. In my opinion those who carefully consider each shot before tripping the shutter miss a lot of opportunities by pondering too long unless they are shooting in a studio and controlling every detail. OTOH shooting like crazy and trusting that luck will yield something worthwhile is not creativity (IMO) any more than winning the occasional $10-20 LOTTO prize is wise investing. I would add that the jackpots are about as frequent in either.

I began my life in photography as a photojournalist. I was taught to shoot the first view that grabbed me and then 'explore' the subject for other ways of seeing it. It is a strategy that I use to this day. If in doubt, I will take the photo and decide later whether it is good but the best shots usually come from 'communing' with the subject.

Today's photo is part of a series of photos of river foam. The foam forms naturally, often in eddys below waterfalls or rapids. I like capturing the patterns. It is an exercise much like the childhood pastime of finding shapes in the clouds.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Yesterday & Today

Yesterday after replacing some worn tiles on the kitchen floor I went off to find some more at Lowes. Unfortunately I didn't take a piece of one of the old tiles and 'mis-remembered' the color so the ones I picked up are too dark and I have to return them. While there I bought a new storm door for the kitchen entrance. The door we have is a recycled one that I picked up at a local lawn sale more years ago than I can remember. It is in rough shape both from being caught in the wind more than once and from being kicked open as I was carrying Ace out to take him to the vet the day he died.

Today and/or tomorrow I have to play carpenter and install the new one. It's not as simple as taking off the old one and putting in the new one (is anything ever that simple?) because some of the door casing, which dates back to 1876 when the building was constructed, needs repair too. We also have to "kill a buffalo" today which is how Diane refers to our monthly restocking of the pantry when my pension check comes. A busy day ahead.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fall Winding Down

Our leaves are mostly down now. I've mowed over the ones in the yard once to chew them up but I'll have to do it again if the rain only stops long enough for things to dry out. With the passing of the autumn color my photo excursions are fewer until we start getting some snow. There's still subject matter available but fewer things look their best in the period between the leaves falling and the start of winter.

I have spent the last few days on a Christmas project which I can't divulge in the blog because the intended recipients are among my regular readers, at least I hope they are.

The photo here is a plant that I got from a friend's garden several years back. It didn't come up at all the 1st year after I transplanted it and I thought I had lost it. I did lose the other transplant (a different flower) that I got from Siew Hwee but this one did come up the 2nd year after I transplanted it. It comes up rather late in August and doesn't bloom until September. It seems to be quite hardy and early frosts do not affect the blooms which continue until the temperatures dip to about 20ºF. Unfortunately I don't know its name but it poses for me very nicely when most other flowers have gone by.

Addendum: I also posted this photo to the forums on Nature Photographer's Network and David Schwaegler ID'd it as a Japanese Anemone.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Last Lean-to Hike?

I participate in an ADK program where you can adopt a lean-to (that's a shelter for my Southern friends) doing clean up and routine maintenance at least twice a year. Yesterday I did my last lean-to maintenance hike of the season, perhaps the last of all. I'm thinking strongly of retiring from the adopter's program. I turn 65 next month. I had thought I'd do it for 20 years but a look at my records shows that I'm only at 17 as of now. Do I want to do this for 3 more years? I still enjoy the outings when I do them but I seem to find it harder to motivate myself to do them. There are just too many things to be done and I didn't get in all the hikes to other places that I planned for this year. The adoption papers for next year will arrive in November. I'll see how I feel then.

The top photo is looking across Heart Lake as I hiked in from Adirondack Loj. The leaves are mostly down but there was a very nice band of soft orange on the slope in the middle ground and some neat cloud wisps kissing the summit of Algonquin. Those reflections on the lake didn't hurt the view any either. The photo below is "my" lean-to, the Scott Clearing lean-to. I'm standing on rocks in the stream (Indian Pass Brook) which is just below the bottom of the photo's frame. The lean-to isn't actually at Scott Clearing which is about a 10 minute walk upstream. The clearing is an old lumbering camp from the 1800s and there are the remains of the rock dam that the lumbermen built there along with some rusting metal parts of an old cook-stove, barrel rings, etc.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A New Adirondack Photo Book

There is a new Adirondack photo book on the scene. I have to start this with a disclaimer because the author, Jim Kraus is friend, we have been out photographing together, he gave me credit in the book for technical assistance and in the back he used a casual portrait that I took of him. He also gave me a copy of the book. That said it is an excellent book of Adirondack photographs. I do have to get on his case about the waterfall on page 82 though. He never told me about that one when we were out scouting places to photograph.

Jim spent 30 years teaching recreational forestry at Paul Smiths College. During his time teaching he took many of the photos in this book to create educational slide shows. He has continued to photograph in retirement. He has lived most of his life in the Adirondacks and has a real love of the place which shows in his images. This is a great book for a quiet evening's contemplation of one of (in my opinion) the most beautiful places on the Earth. I just checked and it is in stock at Amazon and Barnes & Noble so what are you waiting for?

P.S. Disclaimer: The government is getting on the case of bloggers who endorse or favorably review things so in the interest of full disclosure, I have no connection to either Amazon or Barnes & Noble nor do I benefit from any purchase you make there. I do buy stuff from Amazon though.

P.S. to the P.S.: I meant to mention that at least two of the photos appear to have been taken from or of the author's front porch. One you can probably guess. The other might surprise you.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

All That Is Autumn Is Not Bright Color


This scene is along the road from Santa Clara to Rt. 30. When I first photographed this location it was under water and the trees which are now fallen were drowning in a beaver pond. I was shooting with film back then. At the time I was attracted to the strange colors that the needles were turning as the trees died (see below and yes, those were the real colors, not Photoshop colors). Either the D.E.C. or nature removed the beavers and their dam. The pond has dried up. Now there is meadow of browns and greys with counterpoints of blackening stumps and fallen trees. I liked the soft waves of the grass amongst the dead trees.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Snow Squall Over Indian Pass

Back to this year's photos. On Oct. 1st I was at Mountain Pond when a snow squall passed over. By the time I got to the Plains of Abraham and the Loj Rd. it was passing over Indian Pass and I managed to capture it. By being patient I caught it at a point when the Pass was clearly outlined beneath the clouds that enveloped the higher peaks on either side (Street and Nye on the right, the McIntyre Range on the left).

I began my photographic odyssey as a photojournalist and a popular saying among photographers at the time was that the key to success was "f/8 and be there". Being there when the moment is right is also a requisite for landscape photographers but we generally prefer a smaller f/stop.

P.S. If you do use a photo from this blog on your desktop, that's okay but I'd appreciate a comment letting me know that you did. Some days I feel like I'm just talking to myself here.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Another B&W

Last night I was looking through some old photos from 3 years ago. This one was shot into the sun and the combination of the mist and strong back light did bad things to the color. Ansel Adams used to talk about "pre-visualizing" an image, the notion that you had a concept of the final image in your mind before you trip the shutter. As a general rule I have to be thinking in black and white when I want to shoot black and white. It is a bit hard to explain to a non-photographer but I tend to view scenes in terms of the medium I am working in. Artists in general tend to do this. For example I found when I was working in pastel, I saw scenes as pastels.

I shot the above photo on a bright autumn morning when I was looking for fall color images. It was a failure in that regard, the light killing and/or distorting the color. Some photographers might have trashed it as a failed photo but I'm a bit of a packrat so it stayed in my archive until I looked at it last night and 're-visualized' it minus the intentions and expectations that had previously lead me to miss what was really there.

Addendum: Today I spent some more time with the photos from that chilly morning three years ago. I'm not sure why I hadn't done anything with the one below before. I had flagged it to work on but for some reason didn't get around to it at the time. This one I like in color.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Heaven... I'm in Heaven

I spent a good part of yesterday roaming some side roads around Jay, NY. I think I found heaven or at least one of its suburbs. The area has a very nice mix of open areas, farms and other human presence but is surrounded by very picturesque mountains. A river runs through town with a reproduction of the original wooden covered bridge. There is a low waterfall by the bridge. It lacks a small lake but aside from that not much unless you are one of those who can't live without a shopping center.

In the midst of taking photos one of the screws in my tripod head loosened and looseness is not a quality that is good in tripods. I went in search of some Allen wrenches only to be told there is no hardware store. All was well though. A kind gentleman at the local garage tightened it for me. In future there will be an appropriately sized wrench in my camera bag.

The photo was found on a back road but the light was poor when I first saw the scene. I set up and while waiting for the light a dog at a neighboring house began to bark then come toward me. I should note that dogs don't scare me anyway and this one, although he was growling softly (Grrr, grrr, grrr) as he approached, did not have the demeanor of a dangerous dog. I talked to him and let him sniff me before trying to pet him. Long before the light cooperated he and I were buddies.

I'll be the first to concede that the photo does not do justice to the experience of being there. Missing is the quiet, the smell of the air, a soft autumn breeze, a conversation with a couple who were out looking at real estate for their retirement and a friendly dog rolling in the grass by my tripod, all part of the experience but not recordable in a photograph. You'll have to settle for the photo.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

On The Way Home

Coming back from an errand in Jay, NY yesterday I did a bit of photography. Once again I'm posting two images. The first is a place I've been before and posted photos of before but I really like this shot so here we go again with the waterfall at the Wilmington Notch campground.

The second is also a place where I photograph frequently but I don't recall whether I've ever posted any to the blog from the Barnum Pond series. It is a place I have to go by coming home and it is often around sunset. Last night the pond was still and smooth as glass making for great reflections of the autumn color on the opposite shore and St. Regis Mt.

Addendum: If I have a special place in my heart for Barnum Pond, part of the connection is genetic. I have a photograph that my grandfather took of this same point of land just about 100 years ago. I can't help but think about grandpa whenever I stop there.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

A Pair of Black & Whites

No, not two cop cars, photos. It probably seems strange to convert a colorful autumn photo to B&W but sometimes a composition just works well or better in B&W. A friend suggested the one above. I had already thought about it and done a quick conversion using a Lightroom preset but this evening, after his prodding, I tinkered with it some more.

The one I immediately thought should be B&W when I imported the image from the camera is the one below. The color wasn't much of a factor anyway and I really liked the graphic elements which stand out better in B&W. My photographic roots are in B&W and every so often I revert to old habits.

Autumn Urgency

Fall color comes and goes quickly. If you want to see it and photograph it, you have to be there in the 1-2 week window that it peaks. I spent Thursday photographing in the Lake Placid/Wilmington area. The weather was changeable which is actually good for photography. I don't like a washout rain but occasional showers mixed with periods of sun mean that there are interesting skies. I'll post more from the 172 I took on Thursday over the next week (going back to take more photos next week too) but this one is actually 3 stitched together. Monument Falls isn't high but it is wide. I could have shot it with a wide angle lens bu that would have included more sky and foreground than I really wanted so I went with a stitched panorama instead.

Addendum: I got a note that the photo was not showing. I checked and it had disappeared for some inexplicable reason. In its place was a little grey box that I can't get rid of although I did re-download and insert the photo. Thanks for the heads up eArThworm.

Addendum to the addendum: Got rid of the box again thanks to a suggestion from eArThworm. I actually knew how to do that but was having a DUH! moment earlier.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Watercolor Show & Moose River Rd.

On Thursday I went to Old Forge to see the Annual Watercolor Exhibition at the Arts Center. The show was great as usual. It continues through Oct. 4th and I recommend it if you can get down there. On the return trip I drove through the Moose River Plains again. The autumn color varied a lot from peak in some places to just starting in others. There was some excellent color around Wakely Dam where the photo above* was taken but I'd guess peak color in general will be in about a week. Unfortunately the forecast is for rain all week starting tomorrow (Sunday 9/27). Overcast is great light for autumn color but fall rain is often accompanied by wind which knocks the leaves down. I'd like to get out at least twice more (3-4 times would make me happier) before the leaves are down.

* View across the river above Wakely Dam with Buck Mt. on the horizon.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Location, location, location

The St. Lawrence County Arts Council is hoping, planning, working toward getting an arts center in Potsdam. They have a building available for the project, an old Clarkson College (it is now a University) building on Main St. They have applied for grants to convert it to space for public use, studio rentals, etc. When I drive by the building I find myself wishing it was already a reality. I'd like a studio space in town where I could go and work on my photos two or three days/week, perhaps get back to drawing as well.

I don't just want a separate space though. I could build a studio separate from the house. I've thought of doing that in the past. What is appealing about the arts center concept is that a studio there would be surrounded by other artists whom conceivably could/would drop in occasionally or I could drop in on them. I wouldn't be working in isolation.

I am on Facebook but frankly that isn't the same. Maybe it is just a generational thing but in my mind a friend is someone you enjoy spending time with, talking with face-to-face, even lending a hand to occasionally when they have a project that requires help. People who read brief things you post on Facebook may be friends if you have a relationship beyond FB but by itself I don't really feel bonded to folks I've never met but they occasionally click on "Like" by one of my FB comments.

There was a time when friends and neighbors used to just 'drop in' on one another now and then without a formal invitation. I read a year or so ago that doing that is far less common today than it was in the past and I know it is less common in my life, both others dropping in to say "hi" to me and me dropping in on them. It seems we're all on the go or too busy (posting to FB perhaps or writing on blogs like this one?). I miss that some days. If I had that studio in a building with other studios perhaps on a limited scale we could get some of that back. That would be nice.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Keese Mill Church

A personal project of mine is to photograph unusual small Adirondack churches. The Keese Mill Presbyterian church is a favorite. I went back yesterday afternoon in hopes of photographing the interior. The key used to be on a ledge on the porch but it isn't there now and there was a sign on the door (I temporarily removed it for this photo) saying that services are being held in Lake Clear. I'd hate to see this building abandoned. It is truly unique and should be preserved. At least I can preserve photos of it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Mossy Cascade Revisited

I promised more HDR images from St. Johns but house projects have kept me from my computer today. The above waterfall HDR photo is one I made Wednesday evening after returning from my outing. After shooting the St. John's images I waited out the rain in Saranac Lake and shot a few photos under an umbrella (perhaps I'll post one of those later after I process them) then went back to Mossy Cascade to shoot some B&W film in overcast light. I also shot a few more HDR images using my Canon G10. This is one of them. By shooting in overcast I eliminated the overexposed patches on the left hand embankment (see Aug. 15th below). Not quite as dramatic a view though. This is four exposures combined, then adjusted in Photoshop.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

St. John's of the Wilderness

I believe I mentioned in my last post that I had wanted for several years to photograph the interior of St. John's. I had seen the inside once. I happened to be passing several years ago when some workmen were doing repairs but I didn't have my cameras. Yesterday I got lucky again and passed when the sexton was doing some yard work and he let me in.

The image above is three exposures combined to span the range of brightness but that was only part of the problem. The interior lighting is very warm incandescent light but the light coming through the windows was very blue from overcast daylight. If I set the white balance for the interior lights the windows were all shades of blue with very little other color. Setting the white balance for the window light turned the whole interior shades of orange. In the end I set the white balance for the interior, added a 4th layer balanced for the window light which I masked out all except for the windows. That was made more difficult by the alter cross and candles which are in front of the windows. All told I spent well over an hour doing the computer work to create the final image above. This is only one of several I shot so I have more work to do. Be sure you click on the image above to see the larger version.


Awesome day. St. Ansel of Adams was on my right shoulder. The forecast was for "occasional showers" in the morning with clearing in the afternoon. I figured on doing some mountain photography between showers and headed toward Keene Valley. As I turned the corner at Paul Smith's I thought "I really have to drive over here some Sunday during church services at St. John's of the Wilderness and find out who I need to talk to to get permission to photograph the inside". I have photographed the outside many times under all sorts of conditions but it has always been locked when I went by except one time when I did not have my cameras with me (yes, there are times I don't carry my gear). The image above is a heavily modified digital panorama (two frames) that I made with my first digital camera.

As drove by St. John's I slowed down and saw a car parked out front so I whipped into the drive. The sexton was working at the side of the church. After introducing myself I learned that he was there to try to eradicate some grubs that were destroying patches of the lawn. When I told him what I wanted to do he offered to let me in and I spent the next half hour or so happily making exposures to turn into HDR images.

It was fortunate that I had that opportunity because the "occasional showers" turned into a morning long rain that would have confined me to my truck had I not had some interior photography to do. The afternoon was as forecast and I returned to Mossy Cascade to try some more HDR exposures plus some medium format B&W under overcast conditions. I got all the shots I wanted plus some bonus photos of things I ran onto along the way. Throughout the afternoon I had overcast when I needed it and touches of sun when I needed that. Whether by pure luck or divine intervention, it was a great day. The "photo" above is a teaser. I'll post some of the others over the next few days as I complete processing them.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Charles E. Gardiner 1926-2009

Last week my father-in-law died. Charlie was a great father-in-law. If he ever had any doubts about me as a son-in-law he never voiced them to me. On the contrary he was always supportive and/or had constructive advice. He was a man with common sense and I respected his opinion.

Family was very important to Charlie. He had a phenomenal memory for family stories. It was largely his stories and the old Gardiner genealogy (written by Dr. Frederick Gardiner in 1930) that got me involved in genealogy. I remember his delight when I got him two large family tree charts for his birthday several years ago.

We only got to see Diane's parents about once a year. A couple of years ago when we visited Charlie & I went to the Canadian Warplane Museum in Hamilton. On our next visit I had planned to take him to an auto museum in Oshawa but he had been ill just prior to our visit and wasn't feeling up to it. "Next time' he said. There wasn't a next time. He will be missed.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I went to Mossy Cascade Falls yesterday to shoot some HDR experiments. For those who don't know HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography is a way of capturing a range of tones that are too broad for the gamut of your film or sensor by shooting multiple bracketed images, combining them into to an HDR image and then tonemapping (compressing) the range of tones to fit the gamut of possible tones in a print or on your computer monitor. Some people liken it to Ansel Adams Zone system for digital photography.

The advantage I see to HDR is that it can present a view that more closely approximates what the average person experiences when they visit these places. Photo nuts like me will go and shoot when the light is "right" meaning it is cloudy and could rain at any moment but most folks go these places on "nice" days when the sun is shining so the even tones with no deep shadows or bright highlights captured by us photographers don't really represent what the average person saw but neither do the photos they snap with their pocket P&S cameras because their camera can't handle the range of bright vs dark.

I recently bought software for creating and tonemapping HDR so I wanted to give it a try. I was mostly successful. I could've/should've shot at least one more frame on the underexpose side to pull the brightest highlights into gamut but it was a learning experience and mostly successful. I have a few blown highlights on the left embankment that I'm not crazy about. I'll have to go back another time and try again. Meantime this isn't a bad shot for a first try.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Today I thought I'd weed the garden path. The grass has been encroaching on the sides into the crushed stone and narrowed it by several inches on each side. 'Shouldn't take more than an hour' methought. As I was weeding the path I decided that I should pull the weeds between the flagstones at the entrance to the garden too. That proved harder since the creek stone I had used to fill the spaces between the flags had settled over the years and needed to be loosened in order to pull the weed roots. No point just breaking the weeds off. They'll just grow back. Then there were the weeds that had grown roots under the flagstones so I had to lift the flags. Of course then the creek stone got where the flags had to be put back and they had gotten filled with dirt and crushed stone from the path that had to be sifted out so I dug out the whole area, sifted and washed the stone, relaid weed block and reset the flags before putting the creek stone back between the flags. Some of the smaller stone had been lost in the sifting since my soil screen is ½" mesh and a lot of the stone was small enough to fall through with the dirt so I went to town to buy another 40# bag of yellow creek stone but they were out so I bought some crushed brick to mix with the remaining stone. That required rearranging the stone I had already filled back in in order to get a more or less even mix, but about 5 hours after I started my one hour job it was done and it looks pretty good if I do say so myself.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Health Care Debate

From today's "In 2008, U.S. health care spending is estimated to have been $2.4 trillion. It is projected to nearly double to $4.4 trillion in 2018."

So we'll be spending more than the 1.5 trillion that opponents are complaining that the proposed health care overhaul will cost over the next 10 years whether or not the health care plan President Obama wants is passed. The difference will be in how it is spent and what we get for the money.

Currently (according to some sources) 30% of all health care dollars go to insurance company overhead and profit . The CEO of United Healthcare (the largest of the health insurers) not only has a salary in the millions but has accumulated stock options of almost ¾ of a billion. Allegedly one of every 700 dollars spent on health care in the US goes into his pocket.

Many years ago I read an article in which the author said the way to get rich was to put yourself in a "gatekeeper" position, find something people need and position yourself between them and the thing they need so that you can collect a fee for letting them have it. That is what health insurance does. It adds nothing to the health care system, it simply acts as a gateway through which you must go to get health care. The health care you get is what the insurance company decides it is willing to pay for and that decision is based on preserving its profits.

Ideally an insurance system is one of shared risk, meaning that all members contribute and the money helps those who most need it. You may pay in more than you get back for many years, like the driver who has no accidents, but at the point where you do need it there are more resources available to you than you would have on your own if you were not a member of the insurance plan. That is the irony of the complaint by opponents who object to a public option on the grounds that it is socialism. The concept of shared risk though insurance is essentially socialist, a group of people looking out for each other. The only thing that makes private insurance different is that it allows the insurance company to add profit to the cost of the system and puts the decision making over who gets what benefit into the hands of those who own the company instead of people who are accountable to the insurance holders.

Personally I think it is sad that a single payer system is not one of the options on the table. According to several polls that is what most people would prefer. It would be the most economical. I often wonder if the 30% that is currently eaten up by overhead and profit would not be sufficient to cover all those who are not now covered. True, there would be overhead with a public option. Currently Medicare (a public insurance plan that covers everyone in the country that is over 65 and those who are permanently disabled) has an overhead of 3%. Putting everyone on Medicare would still save 27% ($756 billion in 2008) and that would go a long way toward covering everyone.

Addendum: A friend in Texas sent this link to a YouTube video of some Canadians commenting about the health insurance reform debate going on here in the US. As readers of this blog know I have relatives in Canada and while they have problems of distribution too, theirs are based on how to spread the services where they are needed rather than who can afford care and who can't. You may have to wait for some non-urgent services but if you need care it is there whether or not you can pay.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Last Rainbow Falls Shot(s)

Because of the extreme range of brightness I could not get this view in a single exposure so I shot six and combined them to get details in the full range of tones from the sky to the deep shadow areas at the bottom of the canyon.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Waterfall I Went For

As I said in my last post I actually went on my hike Thursday in order to photograph Rainbow Falls. I arrived later than I had planned and there was no sun at all in the narrow canyon that this falls comes over one side of. The best light for photographing this waterfall is overcast but then you have to leave out the sky or it is just a boring grey patch in the photo. Using some photographic wizardry (I don't divulge all my secrets to just anyone) I managed to get blue sky and even light on the falls.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Where I Ate Lunch

Yesterday I went hiking. I walked the West River trail on the AMR property (Ausable Club). I hadn't been in there in over a decade and had forgotten how much uphill walking was involved. To make matters worse I decided to do a side trip to Cathedral Rocks. I'd never been there so, why not? I was tempted to bail at one point but I am a stubborn cuss and did the whole loop even though it was further and more climbing than I had bargained for.

My real goal was Rainbow Falls which is by the end of Lower Ausable Lake. Because I spent so much time photographing I arrived there about 2 hours later than my original plan but the photos, which I spent some time working on today were worth it. As the title of this post suggests the picture above is where I stopped for lunch. It is a waterfall on the appropriately named "Wedge Brook". Be sure to click on it for the larger view. Perhaps tomorrow I'll post one from Rainbow Falls.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Thoughts on the Prof. Gates arrest incident.

I will start with the disclaimer that I don’t have all the facts but also observe that having been in a position of authority for investigation, one rarely has indisputable facts to work from. Based on what I’ve seen reported the incident was one of two strong wills butting heads and taken from the respective points of view, both are probably 'right' within the context of their own perspectives on the incident.

Again, having worked in a capacity of bureaucratic authority I can see where the training and procedures lead the police officer to the action he took. On the other hand he had the discretionary authority to overlook the professor’s anger over the intrusion into his home, to exercise diplomacy in the conduct of his verifying the professor’s identity and that he was in fact in his own home, not a burglar. He could have recognized that here was an older man, tired from travel, who was understandably upset and annoyed over having his right to be in his own home challenged. He chose instead to react in a strict bureaucratic way and as the President observed, that was stupid. Procedurally correct perhaps, but not necessary and stupid.

Professor is not without blame either. The police were simply responding to a report which they had no way of knowing whether was or was  not a crime. The reasonable course would have been to respect their need to verify the facts and cooperate. As the John Mellencamp song observes, “authority always wins” and while it may feel good at times to challenge authority, that too can be stupid.

The fact that one is intelligent, is a good person, a good officer, etc. does not mean that one is immune from occasionally behaving stupidly. There was some stupidity on both sides. The best solution would be for the two parties to meet, admit to acting stupidly and forgive each other for an all too common human failing.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Another Cloudy Cool Day

I spent part of yesterday and this morning working on some new window screens. It isn't urgent though. We have had only a handlful of days so far this year that we wanted windows open at all and the four screens we already had allowed for more than adequate ventilation on those days. It is 62º outside and 69º inside as I type. We'll probably fire up the pellet stove this evening to get rid of the dampness.

My evening was brightened yesterday by the one bloom on the cyclamen by the kitchen window. I shot several views of it. This is the best one.

Monday, June 29, 2009


I'll probably be on the wrong side of the fence with my liberal friends but I agree with the Supreme Court decision on the Connecticut Firemen. Before anyone leaps to the conclusion that I condone discrimination against minorities, I don't. I'm a firm beliver in civil rights and I believe the laws against discrimination were, and still are, needed. OTOH they can be carried too far.

As an illustration I'll relate an incident from my own past. After I graduated from college I intended to teach art in the public school system but I graduated just as the state universities produced a glut of teachers and I found myself searching for a non-existent job. At one point I ran onto an SBA (Small Business Administration) brochure that was promoting small business loans to individuals who had skills they could turn into a business but had resources too small to support themselves much less get a traditional loan. That was me at the time.

Per instructions in the brochure I went to my local bank and asked to speak to the loan officer who handled SBA backed loans . The loan officer listened to my proposal but said he'd never heard of this program. I showed him the brochure and he promptly called the SBA and asked about it. After a conversation with several "Uh-huh"'s and a "No" he said "Thank you" and hung up the phone. He then told me that although there was such a program and I met all the qualifications that the brochure listed, he couldn't help me because I lacked one qualification that was not in the brochure, I wasn't black.

I didn't sue. I had no money to get a lawyer and at that time, almost 40 years ago, it probably wouldn't have gone anywhere in the courts anyway. After three and half years of temporary minimum wage jobs interspersed with periods of unemployment and food stamps I finally found a steady job that I didn't like but felt lucky to get so I stuck with it until retirement 30 years later. Because of my experience though I sympathize with those firemen. If the city couldn't show that the test was actually discriminatory against minorities, those who passed should have gotten the jobs. Discrimination is discrimination no matter who it is against.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Chaumont Barrens

I went to Chaumont Barrens on Tuesday in hope of finding some Yellow Lady Slippers to photograph. Unfortunately they apparently peaked last week. I found only two quite small ones, one of which was in a clump of 4-5 that had wilted to the point of turning brown. My day was rescued however by the discovery of some Wood Lilies growing up in the midst of a dead Spreading Yew that was all silvery from being weathered. I had never seen a Wood Lily before but the Barrens is a unique environment for the North Country with several species not normally seen around here.

The Wood Lilies in this photo are all on one stem, two full blooms and a bud. The others I found were all single flowers per stem. In the past I've only gone to the Barrens when the Lady Slippers and Prairie Smoke were in bloom. I guess I should go back at other times of the year. Who knows what else I may discover.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


For several years now I've gone camping in June with a couple of fellow retirees. We spent the last two days at the Eighth Lake campground. Our site was actually on Seventh Lake just North of Inlet, NY. The DEC Eighth Lake campground straddles the space between the two lakes. John and I attempted to ride the Moose River Plains Rd. on our mountain bikes. I attempted, John succeeded. I ran out of gas after 16 miles and rode the last 6 miles with Bruce who was running support for us in his SUV. My excuse is that I am out of shape because I hadn't been exercising regularly after my gall bladder surgery but it was a pretty tough trip anyway. I'm not sure I'd have been in good enough shape even if I had been riding more this spring.

We found some Pink Lady Slippers in the woods right by our campsite. I even got a shot of one with a bee on it. Last night was a beautiful evening, clear sky that turned black with glittering stars. An owl and a loon sang us to sleep.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Bees & the Birds

Our crabapple tree is in full bloom and appears to be preparing another bumper crop of apples. That will be three years in a row. In past years it often produced only every other year. We've had milder winters in recent years though so perhaps that has something to do with it.

Not only is it a delight to look at but standing under it, the smell is wonderful. It buzzes too. The whole tree is full of bees, both bumble bees and honey bees, flitting about from blossom to blossom collecting nectar. There is no danger in standing there as they work. The bees pay no attention to me at all. They are too intent on their work.

Within days the blossoms will be gone, the ground beneath the tree white with petals, and the birds will have the tree to themselves again, a place to hide in the foliage while they work on the sunflower seeds we put out for them. Come fall I will pick the apples and give them away. I still have more jelly from last year than we can possibly eat.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Another Bloodroot Photo

I've been editing the photos I shot at Stone Valley two days ago and I think this one turned out the best of the lot. There will be no more bloodroot photos this spring as I caught them at the tail end of their blooming.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

New Series of Photographs

Recently I have been playing with some images of details that I have taken over the years. I crop them round and simplify the image to reduce the unnecessary detail. The idea is that the finished image is an object for contemplation.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Spring is Here

Time for a photo in my blog. I haven't posted a photo in for quite a while. I went out photographing this afternoon. A friend called this morning about a place we both like to go. He had been there this morning and called to tell me that there wasn't much happening there yet. Some trillium but not much else. It is at a higher altitude than here and spring gets there later. During our conversation I mentioned that I had taken a couple of photos of Bloodroot yesterday but they weren't very good and I wished I knew where to find more. Ron said there was a large patch of them by the South end of the Stone Valley Trail so off I dashed after lunch and spent the afternoon happily shooting photos of Bloodroot, Trillium and more.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Passport to Paranoia

Today I finally broke down and applied for a passport, not to go overseas but so that I would be allowed back in the US after visiting family in Canada. I've always thought of myself as being part Canadian. My maternal grandfather was from Canada, my paternal grandmother was Canadian and I married a Canadian. Half the family lives in Canada. That's a figurative half, not a numerical half. I've never actually added up the total living relatives on each side of the border because the border wasn't really important to me (or them). They're just family.

When I was working at my first job after high school I used to go to a barber whose shop was just barely in the US by the Dundee crossing in NNY. It was past the US Customs office. I'd get my haircut and pull up by the Customs on my way back past. The agent would look out the glass door, I'd point to my fresh haircut and he'd wave me through.

When I was dating my future wife I crossed into Quebec so often I got to know most of the border agents on both sides at the two crossings I used to get to Huntingdon. When I stopped they'd ask if I had any liquor or cigarettes then we'd often have a chat. Just small talk like you'd have with a neighbor you met on the street.

But as of June 1st if I want to visit relatives across the imaginary line that is the US/Canadian border I need a passport. The border agents that scrutinize my newly minted documents are wearing sidearms and there is no small talk.

It is not as if there are potentially dangerous people only on the Canadian side of the border and we have to do this to keep them out. There are dangerous people on both sides of the border (think Timothy McVeigh). At one point in our past history some of my own US ancestors were dangerous from the Canadian point of view. One of my grandfathers was a member of "the Hunters", a group that decided in 1838 to "liberate" Canada in a fiasco known as The Battle of the Windmill. Fortunately for me my grandfather missed the train to join the battle or I might never have been born.

Whenever I complain about the nuisance of the new rules I'm reminded that "9/11 changed everything" to which I respond 'Only in the minds of those who choose to see it that way'. The 9/11 attackers all had passports and visas. They did not come from Canada. Those responsible for our security knew they were in the US and knew they were dangerous people, but didn't stop them. I can't see how making all the non-dangerous people get passports makes us any more secure. It is nothing more than a bandaid on our paranoia.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


On Tuesday I'm having my gall bladder removed. It is only functioning at 29%, well below the 35-40% that is considered minimal. It's "Minor surgery" they tell me. "No big deal". Then they get into the questions. They want to know every pill you are taking. Not just the prescriptions but even vitamin pills, what dosage and what time of day you take them. They want your total medical history and then they ask if you have a living will. A will? And then they ask if you turn into a human vegetable who do you authorize to pull the plug. Okay, they don't really phrase it that way, what they asked was "If you become incapacitated, who do you authorize to make decisions for you?". Same thing but less blunt and still not very reassuring for no big deal minor surgery. It is 'ambulatory' surgery, in the hospital in the morning, out in the afternoon. I'll be glad when it is over.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Big Plans

For several years now I've been telling myself "I need to climb..." or "I need to go back to...". The list has grown while I have not been diligently whittling away at it. Last year I did climb two of the High Peaks but the 'to-do' list grew by more than 2 so I'm further in the hole. So far the list has only been in my head and thus easy to forget about. This year I'm writing it out and checking things off. Hopefully by being more organized I'll get them done. My list so far:

Mountains - Hurricane, Noonmark, Spreadeagle/Hopkins/Baxter and Algonquin. I want to be on Algonquin when the mountain azalea is in bloom. I tried last year on Marcy but the one I'd seen there 8 years earlier was no longer there. I also want to climb Rocky Peak Ridge from Rt.9N in autumn when the leaves are turned and Colden via the slide over Avalanche Pass if that is possible.

Hikes - I want to spend a long day photographing around Avalanche Lake and on the Opalescent River above Lake Colden. Another long day on the West River Trail to Rainbow Falls. I'd like to climb Pyramid and shoot a panorama of the Great Range but that is a bit of a stretch so I probably won't get to that this year. I want to photograph Wanika Falls which may get rolled into an NPT hike. I've been meaning to hike the NPT for several years but haven't. A thru-hike would be my preference but I may do a 2 part section hike, Northville to Rt.28 then Rt.28 to Lake Placid.

That's a lot for one year. When I started listing it off to Diane, she asked if she would need an appointment to see me this summer or fall. It is unlikely that I'll get to all of them but the list is going up and waiting to be checked off. Check back in late Oct./early Nov. to see how I did.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Rage Over AIG

I read in the paper that Mr. Liddy and some of his staff have received death threats over the awarding of fat bonuses to the traders who caused the crash of the company. He came out of retirement and took on the job of guiding AIG out of the mess for a token salary of $1/year. The contracts in question were not written on his watch and he told the congressional committee that he took offense at the tone of their questioning.

I sympathize with him. When I worked in unemployment insurance during the downturn of the 80s I got at least one death threat (there were others that were implied but not explicitly stated). It is unnerving to have someone tell you they will kill you if you don't do what they want and I do not for a moment condone violence as a solution. That being said, what was he thinking? My father-in-law, a very practical man, once observed that there is nothing less common than common sense and lately those in high places seem determined to prove him right.

If Mr. Liddy really didn't think it was right, if he really found it distasteful, why didn't he refuse to honor the bonus provisions and make his refusal public? Had he done that, instead of him taking the heat for this debacle, those who tried suing to enforce the contracts would be getting blasted for their audacity in demanding to be rewarded for their malfeasance. Their names would be public, the outrage would be properly directed at those who deserve it. Mr. Liddy would be held in high regard for taking an honorable, if legally tenuous, stand. Is he really so naive that he did not foresee that the taxpaying public would be outraged? Where is his common sense?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Letter Writing Campaign

This morning I heard and read in several places that AIG is about to pay out 165 million in bonuses to the managers and executives who created the mess in that company. The bonuses will be paid out of the money that we taxpayers are giving AIG to bail them out so they don't fail and take the rest of the country down with them. According to what I read the bonuses are written into these employees contracts and AIG (and thus you & I) are legally bound to pay them. Further I am given to understand that Federal attorneys have looked at said contracts and agreed that they are indeed legally binding.

When I worked for the Dept. of Labor my salary, like all public employees, was public information. Since the taxpayers now own 80% of AIG I'm asking my congressman and senators to pass a bill stating that because these AIG execs are being paid out of public funds they should, like everyone else paid from public monies, have their names and the amounts of salary and bonus they receive from us the taxpayers released as public information, available to anyone who wants it. In fact I think that the web site that the Obama administration has established to show where the stimulus plan money is going would be the perfect place to list them all. I suggest to anyone reading this that you also write your Federal representatives (and the White House while you are at it) and suggest the same. If we're stuck with rewarding them for creating this mess perhaps we can at least shame them a bit for their greed.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Getting Over the Hump

Wow, it has been over a month since I last posted anything. The doldrums of winter combined with economic doldrums are my excuse. I have had no enthusiasm for posting.

I've been reading about AIG and why we 'need' to save it from collapse. It seems that they are not just the largest insurance company in the world backing up millions of pension funds but they are diversified with fingers into all aspects of our economy. As one example the paper said that a subsidiary of AIG leases airplanes to most of the major airlines. If AIG goes broke, the subsidiary goes broke and the airlines go broke, etc. My son and daughter-in-law know about that kind of chain reaction. It wasn't many years back the (profitable) company they were working for went out of business because it was owned by a larger company that went bust and left them both out of work. It was a much smaller scale version the sort of what would happen if AIG goes down.

Diversification is a good thing if you are an investor or a small business. If one of your investments goes bad or one of your customers fails you have others to fall back on. Working in reverse however, a top down diversification of huge conglomerates apparently has the opposite effect of destroying the otherwise successful below it when the top fails. In my economically untrained opinion one of the things we should be looking at is limiting the size of companies so that none are allowed to get so big that if they fail they take the whole economy down with them.

Weatherwise Northern NY is seeing the start of the annual wrestling match between winter and spring. After a string of nights hovering around 0ºF (-18ºC) we had a couple of mild days where the high reached around 50ºF (10ºC) and then yesterday we enjoyed a mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain. Over the course of the day I got to clean ice off the windshield three times. Oh joy. I'm looking forward to green shoots pushing out of the ground.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Tax Nightmare

Last year I registered to collect NYS sales tax so that I could sell photos at art & craft fairs. The fairs are not often a money making proposition by the time you subtract the booth fees, travel expense and materials costs. I know crafts people who have spent money and 2-3 days time only to sell less than it cost. The contact with the public and their reaction to your work however can be educational. As long as I break even I figure the input makes it worthwhile. But now I'm beginning to wonder.

At the end of the  last quarter NYS switched to an on-line filing system for sales tax reports. I tried it several times only to be "locked out" and told to try again later. Several subsequent attempts were similarly unsucessful and the papers got set aside in frustration. Finally I did succeed and submitted a report that in the quarter in question I no sales and collected no taxes.

Now I have gotten a notice that because I submitted my report late I owe a $50 penalty and I must also submit proof that the $0 I owe has already been paid or send it with the penalty. If I do that late I can be assessed a $100 penalty. No wonder people think NYS is 'unfriendly to business'.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pondering A Day of Change

Tuesday, Inauguration Day 2009, was a most unusual day. It was something in the air, a mood, a sense that something ineffable had somehow shifted. Yes, there was the excitement about the first black president but it that wasn't it, that wasn't the real change. The real shift was something deeper. I remember the feeling from the '60s being similar but that was not as widespread. It was limited to a portion of the young in the US. I remember a similar feeling when the Berlin Wall came down but that too had it's limits. Yesterday the feeling was shared by people all over the world of all races, religions and nationalities. It felt like a real new beginning.

I confess that as I watched the proceedings and the celebrations I half expected them to be interrupted by a terrorist attack. Over six decades of life have taught me that there is always someone out there who is offended by others' happiness and will do whatever they can to disrupt it. I also recall how friends from the '60s turned cynical when the dreams of that era crumbled. And I know that only a bit over half the country voted for the change that happened yesterday but what I felt wasn't a political victory, it was a sense of possibility shining through all that negative history.

A line in the "Desiderata" says "...whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should." For a day, on Tuesday , it was clear.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Tradition?

At least once a winter we get a cold snap that takes us below the -20º mark. We've already had two -18º mornings in the last couple of weeks and this morning we hit the -25º mark. It actually hit -26º about 20 minutes later but I wasn't about to set up the tripod again for one more, or rather one less degree. To the extent possible, I'm staying indoors today.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Techno-Cretan? Me?

I have joined Facebook. It was not by my own initiative. I've been accepted into an art marketing seminar series that is being conducted by NYFA. They are using a secret group* (shhh! Don't tell anyone) to communicate with/among participants between monthly sessions.

I had two prior invitations to join Facebook but not being a particularly social sort I had declined until it became a requirement for this seminar series. When I signed up the original invitations popped up again and I accepted them. Shortly thereafter more requests to be friends appeared. I'm already up to 11 'friends', some of whom I actually know (as in we've met face-to-face) while others I only know via email. If I passed some of them on the street I would not recognize them. The photos people attach often don't help in that respect. Some are full length portraits squeezed into a tiny little square, some backlit or fuzzy beyond recognition and some are drawings/photos of something the person likes or relates to rather than themselves. Being either old fashioned or egotistical (you decide which) I put up a head and shoulders shot of *me*. It is a version of the same image I have on my blog page. I just used different digital filters. It's been messed with but it still looks like me, perhaps a bit better than the real me.

I can see the value of a Facebook group for something like the NYFA seminar. I don't 'get' the attraction to Facebook as a general communication medium. There's something called "The Wall" (shades of Pink Floyd?) where I and apparently any of my Facebook friends can post anything but I also have a home page where friends post stuff too. I don't get the distinction. And then there is the question of what to post. Whenever I go to Facebook it asks what am I doing right now. Well DUH! I'm checking Facebook. I could tell it what I was doing before or what I might do after but at the moment... Frankly most of my day consists of boring or routine stuff that is of no interest to anyone else. Anything I think (in an egotistical moment) might be remotely interesting to anyone else I put here in the blog.

One part of my job in DOL was to be a network admin for field offices in three counties so I'm far from being technologically challenged. OTOH I don't see the attraction to posting random thoughts and actions on line for the world at large to read. When I was growing up the way of communicating was through letters. You had to write on paper, fold it up, put it in an envelop and mail it. I do like email because it is faster and I can reach people who may not be next to their phone (I don't like talking on the phone anyway so email is a good way to escape that) but the attraction of this constantly in touch, post the trivia of your day connection escapes me. How to use Facebook is part of what the seminar will cover. Maybe I'll learn to like it. We'll see. I hope in this seminar I learn to do a better job of marketing my photos. If so, it will be worth it. 'Right now' I have doubts.

* A "secret group" apparently is one that can only be joined by invitation and can be seen only by members.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

From Pinkney #9 to 2009

We did see in 2009 last night. Diane & I were reading in bed when I looked at the clock and saw it was midnight. I wished her a happy new year with a kiss (our 43rd new year together) and we read for a bit longer before turning out the light. We didn't watch the ball drop. Crystal balls are supposed to tell the future and dropping the ball is symbolic of a blunder. I've never been able to understand why dropping a crystal ball became the way to start a new year.

In the wee hours of the morning I dreamed of driving down the Whitesville Rd. past my 1st school, Pinkney #9 (grades 1-6, fall 1950 through spring 1956). In the dream it was still there although I know the building is long gone along with "the farm" which is what we called the place we lived. We didn't farm the land though unless chickens are enough to make a farm all by themselves. As we drove by Pinkney #9 in my lucid dream* I noticed that the front door was open and someone was using the building as an antique shop. We stopped and I toured the place. It was spruced up a bit but the charred wood still showed around where we once had a chimney fire from the Round Oak stove. The outhouses were still there off either side of the woodshed, girls on the left, boys on the right. I chatted with the owner about going to school there, fetching drinking water from the spring down the road every morning, sledding in the winter and skinny dipping in the brook across the road in spring & fall. A pleasant dream of days gone.

I began the morning by cleaning the pellet stove. Our daughter phoned and in response to my sung "Happy new year to you" she replied "happy arbitrarily designated point in time" which brings up another thing I've never understood about new years. Why does the new year begin over a week after the winter solstice? Logically it should begin at the point when the cycle of days getting longer again begins. Oh well, happy arbitrarily designated point in time to one and all. May 2009 be a great year for you even if it is 10 days late relative to the Sun.

*A lucid dream is one in which you are aware that you are dreaming but continue to dream, consciously controlling the dream as it goes. It's sort of like a daydream but you are asleep.