My mother says that all the time.
I tried to learn how to play guitar once. I was young and I went to classes at my grammar school and then my parents sent me for a few lessons with a family friend. I had a nice new shiny acoustic guitar and I was quite excited until the first lesson comprised of “Mary Had A Little Lamb”.
What as this? I wasn’t here to learn this. Didn’t these teachers understand that I was here to be the next Jimi Hendrix? Surely Jimi never had to learn “Mary Had A Little Lamb”. That was then and this is now, and I’ve learned the hard way that even Jimi Hendrix had to start somewhere.
So when I picked up all this new gear lately I realized I was going to have a lot to learn. There’s so much that goes into photography, lighting, framing, colors, textures, it takes a lifetime to master it all… which means maybe by the time I figure it all out, I’ll be dead.
In the meantime, I’ve got to start somewhere. So since I had my backdrop system set up from the other day, I decided to play with my SB-900 flashes on slave/master mode. Mom supplied the really cool glasses and all I could find in the deli was jello mix.
I wasn’t shooting for more than anything than to learn, trial and error, a kind of “OH! So that’s how this works!” I shot on lots of different settings. I changed flash positions and settings, changed lenses, experimented for a few hours, practiced. And yes… the whole time “Mary Had A Little Lamb” was playing in my head… though I will admit it was the Stevie Ray Vaughn version.
All the shots are here…
This isn’t the first time I’ve attended the New York City Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Parade by any means. I make it a point to attend annually, not just to hone my photography skills, but to show my support and help celebrate this slice of NYC.
But this year, something was different.
Every year, the parade is a complex mix of pageantry and color, pride and happiness, with a dose of somber remembrance and social consciousnesses thrown. This year had all those things, but there was something else in the air. A wonderful look of celebration burned brightly in the eyes of every participant, as well as spectator. Just the day before the parade, the NY State Senate passed, and Governor Cuomo signed the Same Sex marriage act, joining only 5 other states that allow marriage to be based on love and not gender. It was another step forward along the path of granting all Americans equal civil rights.
I tried to capture some of this joyous attitude, as well as the pageantry and colors and all else that goes into the pride parade. My brother took the year off, enjoying to watch and not march, but a close childhood friend did pass us by, and it was great to see him so happy and celebrating the day.
Kim and I watched for a while – not only was there a lot to see, but I had new gear to play with. We finally headed home as the parade passed our spot, on it’s way towards Greenwich Village. When the crowds reach the Stonewall Inn, where the gay rights movement began over 40 years ago, the parade ends.
But maybe this is the year that won’t happen. Maybe this year even though the parade will end physically, it’s spirit will carry on, state to state, until we, as a nation, allow two people – regardless of gender – to dedicate their lives to each other. Maybe this is the year the rights we are supposed to be granted under the constitution will apply to every citizen.
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr Suess
Yesterday was Christmas all over again.
Except I was my own personal Santa and no one came down my chimney. I did, however, walk away with some pretty sweet ass presents.
To help my growing business, I made a serious gear investment, and walked away with the new Nikon D7000, a new Nikon SB900 flash and an amazing Sigma 70-200 f2.8 lens.
What do all these numbers and jargon mean to non-photographers? Umm.. I got some really awesome shit!
Yesterday there was a lot of personal stuff going on with the kiddies, so even though I physically picked up my new gear yesterday, I wasn’t able to play – I mean learn how to use it. And learn is an accurate description because the D7000 has more controls than the space shuttle, and I feel I need a PHD to master them all. The lens… that’s gonna take a heck of a lot to get used to…
So this morning, I woke bright eyed and busy tailed, my mind racing of all the places I could go and start my training. I sat there, sipping my coffee, creating a mental itinerary of all the places and things I could see, and didn’t really even hear what Kim said to me.
“What?” I asked, “You want to go to a flea market?” I said with doubt and disbelief until I remembered that yes, we were planing on heading to see our good friend Noel at her new shop “Catfight Boutique”. So, I took the new toys along and as the girls chatted, I snapped away. Nothing special, but a learning process, part of the ultimate goal of me becoming better and better.
Oh … and if you’re ever in Queens, definitely stop by Catfight Boutique, Noel’s actually got some really cool stuff.
Wikipedia defines light as the portion of electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, responsible for the sense of sight. It defines sight as the ability to interpret information and surroundings from the effects of visible light reaching the eye and color is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans to the categories called red, green, blue and others
Confusing, cold, scientific definitions which give the answers needed, but fall short in describing the feelings of lights, colors, and most of all sight. It in now way captures the essence of fireworks exploding in the sky. or the way the world seems to change when you drive past a police cruiser, lights ablaze on a dark stretch of highway – or even more so – when one pulls you over. It can’t begin to paint the picture of candles providing the sole illumination in a lover’s bedroom, the neon of the Times Square or the blinking lights of a Christmas tree, and the light up Santa half buried in the snow.
I remember being a young boy, on vacation, in a strange hotel room, waking up in the middle of the night. My parents and sister were all sleeping, but I lay in bed gazing out a gap between the curtains. There was a road outside, and every so often a car would come along, I would watch as the headlights began as two white points the distance, growing larger and larger, then once it passed the hotel, turned to two red dots which grew smaller and smaller into the distance.
Lights inside the darkness, color surrounded by blackness, and the beautiful gift of sight to bring it all to us, how does anyone even begin to describe that?
As the miles rolled under the tires and we got closer and closer, the grip around my throat got tighter. What was looming ahead of us was as big as the great outdoors and despite the fact I was driving like a low flying rocket, part of me wasn’t looking forward to reaching my destination. I tried to vocize it, and all I could manage to get out was “it sucks he won’t be there”.
Thanksgiving weekend in Stroudsburg PA could only mean one thing – Railroad Earth. The band grew out of this area and every year they come off whatever tour they’re doing, they come home. I’ve been seeing them since 2005 in the Sherman Theater, a beautiful old theater and pretty much the only venue in this isolated place in the northeast.
Every show at the Sherman has been with Bob, and in fact he looked forward to this yearly celebration in his own backyard. He’d start bugging me about it by August.
Last year Bob slipped after 9 years of sobriety and the methadone he shot stopped his heart and dropped him dead on the floor of his house, walking distance from the Sherman. It was the biggest heart I’ve ever known and his end was tragic and stupid.
His death haunted me the whole year. Its been an eventful year, to say the least, and not having Bob there for counsel has been rough. Around the summer I announced to anyone who would listen that I was going to the RRE Thanksgiving shows even if I had to walk there. Now I was going, and with every exit sign I passed I contemplated turning around.
Then Kim mentioned the sky.
Being an afternoon in late fall the sun had begun setting. It found holes in the clouds and it’s rays shot out and filled the sky with really trippy patterns. Soon the clouds on the horizon parted and the half the sky became as bright as day as the rest turned dark as night. As we drove along the clouds in the sky thinned out and long purple streaks filled the sky. I laughed because I knew it was Bob. I pictured him playing with the big dials that controlled the sun and clouds with that big goofy grin he always had when he was up to no good. As we crossed the Delaware river the sun slipped below the horizon.
Yes, Railroad Earth blew the roof off the place. Friday night they burned the place down and then on Saturday they rebuilt it only to burn it down again. Bob would have loved the shows. I had my camera, found a nice spot at the foot of the stage and shot away. Friends surrounded me, and it was so good to see them again. Over dinner before handed we toasted Bob and then danced our asses off, even Kim, who was right in the thick of it for both nights.
I have a lot of “internet friends” who I’ve met over the years, most Bob met as well, but he always had one up on me. Well she was there Saturday night, to my surprise. Haha Bob. She gave me such a great hug too.
I came away feeling, for lack of a better word, healed. The music washed over me, and when they played “Seven Story Mountain” the words really dug into me.
“Its a seven story mountain
Its a long long life ahead
Got to find a light to fill my heart again.”
That’s when I felt Bob slap me across the back of the head again.
Yes he’s gone and I’m gonna miss him until the day we meet again, but that’s not gonna be for awhile. In the meantime he’s gonna be pulling some strings to get me amazing skies and mind blowing shows. Its not about what I’ve lost, but about what I have and about all I have yet to receive.
Like next Thanksgivings RRE shows at The Sherman…
This was a weekend of gifts.
Saturday was clean out day. My parents and I are cleaning out and fixing up the basement of the house, getting a new drier, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc (To emphasize the work involved.) On Saturday morning, a dumpster was dropped in front of the house and by Saturday night, it was full. Dad served the cold beers all day, Mom took the kids out and I had a few great friends to help me accomplish the rest.
We worked through the day, and by the time we were done, my kids had returned and were finished with what they had to do in my apartment. A secret, of some sort, or at least that’s what I led them to believe. See, I turn 35 this week, and since I had my kids this weekend, we were celebrating. I got a crown to wear, pizza and beer, and some really cool presents, but the best part was that all the people I really love were there with me. Its all I really wanted for my birthday.
Sunday me and the boys headed out on a mission, we were in search of the ocean.
When Jackster and I crossed the GWB a few weeks ago, we watched the Hudson river float by, and I began to tell him about messages in bottles floating in the sea. His eyes turned big and he asked if we could do that. So Sunday morning he and I sat at the table and we wrote out notes, that gave his name, my email address, and the request to contact us when the note was found. We wrapped the bottles up in tape and drove off to Sands Point. The three of us stood on the beach and tossed the bottles we made into the current with the highest of hopes. Jack and James threw pebbles after them, and I watched them bob up and down in the waves until they had disappeared from view. I told Jack that I couldn’t see them anymore and he said “Awesome…” and went back to throwing rocks. Yeah, I know it’s a 50 50 chance they’ll ever be found, but hey, we can hope right?
We left the beach and explored the rest of the preserve – itself a gift from the original owners to the public to be enjoyed for the beauty it is. We found a nice quiet little spot on the side of a pond and the three of us played, pretended to fish and camp out. It was a beautiful gift, the gift of time alone with my boys.
I regrouped with my mom in the basement to survey the cleanup after I brought the boys back to their mother. My mom and I had already been to home depot to look at new lighting and a new dryer, and to be honest, I really just wanted to go relax. I was contemplating feigning a heart attack to get away from her when she finally said, “Here, you have this.” and handed me a dusty old metal box.In an instant, my heart stopped when I opened it. Inside was a precious gift, something I never expected to have, and something I’m still so childish about, that I have it sitting in the desk next to me, as if me being away from it would make it disappear again.
My grandfather’s camera.
It’s a Kodak Graflex and it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen simply because I know he held it in his hands, his eye looked through it.
Then she said to me “He’d be so proud of your photos.” and I couldn’t think of a thing to say.
I never met James Killeen, but my whole life I’ve been told how much I’m like him. When I took up photography the deal was complete. He was a photographer, self taught, and more talented than I could ever hope to be. I used to sit with my Grandmother and make her tell me stories of the man in the self portrait with the fedora and the smoke curls circling around his head. When the time came, I named my first born son after him in the hopes that maybe he’d be able to capture some of the essence and spirit I had only heard about in all those family stories.
So the 65 year old camera sits here now, next to my Nikon D90.
Maybe they’re sharing stories. Maybe my D90 is telling it about the day we had and the Graflex is responding, “oh yeah, that’s nothing compared to the day’s we’re gonna have.”
Until I get the Graflex working, here’s some shots from today…
A year ago, I blogged.
I remember feeling that day, as I wrote, the desire to hone my HDR skills, and to grow as an artist, so I thought I’d look back and see what the year has brought.
I’ve spent quite a few hours studying the work of the great masters Jason St. Peter, Lincoln Palmer, EasyPix, the genius Andy Hornby and the HDR magician Louis Trocciola. I’ve made notes of their techniques, the way they frame their shots, and their subject matter. I’ve exchanged emails with them, chatted, and picked their brains on the subject. I’ve learned little bits from all of them and added them into my skills. I bought what I consider to be the best HDR program on the market, Dynamic HDR by Mediachance, which in my opinion blows Photomatix out of the water. Coupled with Lightroom (which is the rock that my photography software is built on) and Photoshop, I’ve created a strong arsenal of HDR tools. My Nikon D90, which ironically, I prefer without the bracketing feature, delivers the images I take with unmatched clarity and color.
But there’s still something needed for a perfect HDR shot. I wish I could tell you what it is, but part of me feels that I’m still searching for it. Sure, I see it occasionally. The way a tree looks next to the path in the snow, or the way another path disappears into the autumn trees. A ship sitting in a river, docked along side a pier, my kids playing in the church steps or Rob delivering a power chord as he jams along with The Midnite All-Stars. I can’t even describe what it is a see, but as occasionally, when I look through my lens, I see the world in layers of light and color.
It doesn’t always work, and sometimes I make some pretty crappy HDRs, and those never see the light of day, my ratio is getting better and better.
That’s what I’ve done in the past year, lets see what happens in the next one…
Here are some of my favorite HDRs from the past 365 days…
So we took a trip up to the house to turn the water off for the winter. It was pretty damn cold and nasty, and honestly, I don’t want to know how much colder it could get. My readers know how me and the winter don’t get along.
Moose wanted company on the ride up, moral support as he calls it, and promised me exquisite autumn landscapes painted with the beautiful brushes of mother nature. He got the company, I got cold and rain.
We got to the house, did what he had to do, I’m still not sure what it was, but we poured antifreeze in the drains. The bottle promised that it would protect to -50 degrees, again, I don’t want to know how cold it gets up there.
I walked around the house and property as Moose poured the fruit punch looking stuff down the drains and took shots of the wet trees just starting to turn. Everything around me seemed to be in a weird place, balancing on the edge of summer and fall. The cold rain wasn’t heavy, just annoying. We wrapped up what we came to do, locked up and headed down the bumpy road that lead back to civilization.
“There’s a waterfall not far off the road. You wanna stop?” Moose asked. I looked out at the drizzly day and thought about it. “No.” I finally responded. “But you know what? We passed a cemetery on the way in. Can we pull over there? I know everyone thinks I have a sick thing for cemeteries, but there was tree in it that really gave the place some character.”
“Sure.” Moose responded.
A few minutes later he stopped the car and I walked across the road to the Claryville Cemetery. The rain had stopped, but the sky was still overcast and gray. I walked up to the tree I saw as we passed, and took some shots. I wandered along the roads, lost in the world of framing, light and exposure. I was snapped out of the sound of Moose’s footsteps.
“You see the dates on these things?” He asked. “They’re pretty old. 1825. 1850. 1840. 1874. They have been here a long time.” I began to notice the dates and he was right. These stones had seen many autumns underneath this big old tree. Moose and I walked around, and then headed back to the car.
“Thanks for stopping.” I said as I took a photo of the old church on the edge of the graveyard.
“No problem, kid.” Moose responded. “Hey, look at the tree in the middle of it. It’s perfect, I mean, how could we not stop?”
With the strong summer sun sneaking away into autumn, I grabbed Time Out magazine and flippd through it looking for something to do. As if the editors were aware of the situation, I found an article “Things To Do Before Summer Ends”. There on the list was a place I had heard about, but never been to, The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. I grabbed Jenn McGowan, who grabbed her daughter & friend and off we went deep into the bowels of Brooklyn.
Ok, “deep in the bowels” isn’t that accurate, but it was in Brooklyn, nestled on the side of Prospect Park. It was the first trip there for all of us, and I was amazed how I had never been to this beautiful spot in my city. Jenn and I walked around clicking away as the girls tried to find the prettiest flower for her to shoot, and the ugliest for me. (Kept them busy, didn’t it?)
We wandered the manicured gardens, which were blooming in some spots, past bloom in others. We watched the turtles in the Japaneses pond bask in the sun, and would chuckle at the rare siren or car horn in the distance. For awhile we felt we were as far from downtown Brooklyn as one could get, strolling along in a floral paradise.
The lily pads in the reflecting pools were brimming with dragonflys which danced from flower to flower. The girls raided the gift shops, and even I got a “starving artist” pin. We walked through the greenhouses, each dedicated to “dessert”, “rainforest” and “temperate”.
I’ve commented in the past that I often view taking of flowers are boring, and my mind hasn’t changed. However, no one could ever deny the absolute beauty of a delicate flower. No one could ever not be amazed at the unique detail that gets poured by mother earth into every single petal on every single flower that blooms.
We left the gardens amazed at the beauty we had just witnessed, and I was happy I found another treasure of New York City.
For my friends. I have no words. Just know I am with you during this time.
“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge – myth is more potent than history – dreams are more powerful than facts – hope always triumphs over experience – laughter is the cure for grief – love is stronger than death” – Robert Fulghum