Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Alaska, the Last Frontier

From 1983 to 1990, with a couple of summers off during those years, I coached College Summer Baseball in Anchorage, Alaska. These were magical summers for me, getting to coach some of the very best college players in the country and seeing Alaska, a place that has a very strong pull for me to this day. I have been there twenty-two times and spent more than a year of my life in baseball-related activities. The top photo is of me in 1983 standing on a glacier outside of Wasilla/Matanuska, known now as the home of Sarah Palin, about an hour outside Anchorage.The middle shot is of the river flowing through the Matanuska Valley. I really had no idea about depth of field then, so the foliage on the left is seriously out of focus. The bottom photo is from the front of the "apartment" where we stayed in 1983, located over a Mexican Restaurant with the flue from the kitchen running through the living room. The car in the foreground is typical Alaskan...dented, rusting, and generally in a sad state of disrepair. The Alaskan winters are extremely hard on vehicles. The empty street and parking lot speaks to the lack of traffic and population in Anchorage. Coming from California, the empty streets were a blessing. I would be very curious to see the state of the glacier in the top photo now, if it's even there.

New York City

There's no overt patriotism on display here, I just like these photographs. The top one was taken at the 9/11 Memorial. I like the architectural formality combined with the trees and people. Sony NEX 5n on its maiden voyage.The middle is obviously Grand Central Station, from 2007, hand-held Nikon D80. Bottom, New York subway, 2012, Sony NEX 5n. I love the couple on the right.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Man, A Plan, A Canal....Burano

Burano, Italy, 2001. I'm not a history teacher, so I really don't know all about the story of the Panama Canal. But I do teach English and I like palindromes. So I saw this guy standing in front of the purple house. What's he doing? Is he a gondolier, a cook, a maitre 'd ? Whatever he does for a living, I don't really care. I just like this picture. Nikon FM 2, slide film.

Italian Facades

Venice facade taken from the cruise ship in 2006 coming into the harbor. It's a spectacular way to come in to Venice, but probably not a good thing for the city's longevity. Dumping a couple thousand tourists all at once into Venice might be good for the economy, but as a travel experience, there are better ways to see this beautiful and sinking landmark. The middle photograph is found on the outer island of Burano in the Venice lagoon. The Casa Deo "Bepi Sua" is also a well-known house in Burano and has received a new paint job since my last visit. I can't remember where the bottom shot was taken, to be honest, but it was in 2006 as well, as the Italians had won the World Cup the night before and flags flew proudly everywhere. All photos taken with the Nikon D50.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hanoi, Vietnam 2011

Dancing is certainly a good way to get exercise, and these women, (some men too), were sweating up a storm to Zumba. I had arisen at 5 am to see my wife off to the airport and then wandered down to Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi. What a scene. These people went from about 5 to 6:30 am either before work or before the heat would make it impossible to do this much exercise outdoors. At the bottom is Hoan Kiem Lake taken in the evening with what look like lamps of some kind in the branches.  I used a Photoshop plug-in called Topaz Adjust and the Spicify filter to give a faux HDR effect. My wife hates it!

China, 2007

I found China endlessly fascinating, especially from a cultural standpoint. The top photograph was taken in Guilin in Southeastern China. I had arisen early to do some photography before it turned into a blast furnace. This was about 7:30, and right down the waterfront from our hotel, I saw this large group of people dancing to a boom box on the promenade. People get together all over China to dance because their partners won't dance with them, they're looking for Mr. Goodbar, or they just love dancing. Our guide in Xian said that many marriages are at risk because of this activity. The middle shot was taken in Xian, home of the famous and mind-blowing Terra Cotta Warriors. Bottom, on the Li River, Guilin. The two archetypes of Guilin are the karsts behind the fisherman, limestone formations found sparingly around the world, and the cormorant fishermen.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Point and Shoot in Europe

All three of these photographs were taken with the tiny Panasonic DMC-LX1, my carry-around camera on a number of trips in 2006-2008. It has an aspect ratio of 16x9, although the bottom picture has been cropped. Sometimes when it's cold, I'll have my bigger cameras in the case and a point-and-shoot in hand. That's called being lazy I suppose. The top two are from Paris in 2007, the bottom is Rome in 2006. I used the lens correction tool in Photoshop to straighten the photograph at the Louvre, and applied the structure slider in NIK Viveza to all three shots. Sometimes the structure feature brings out more noise, but these were all at ISO 64-80 so there wasn't much noise to begin with. I also added a smidgen of the Sunshine filter in NIK Colorefex to the middle shot. I also used the LX1 in restaurants to photograph food, a very touristy thing to do, but which my wife, Margaret, talked me into doing. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

2008 USA Olympic Baseball Team

In July of 2008, I got a call from one of my former baseball players, John Gall, to let me know he had been selected to play for the USA in the Bejing Olympics. He said their first workout would be at Santa Clara University in California before heading to Bejing, and that I might like to watch the workout. I didn't need much convincing as it's a fifteen minute ride from my home. The Team USA manager was Davey Johnson, now the manager of the Washington Nationals. The top photograph shows the highly-touted phenom Stephen Strasburg, still pitching for San Diego State. The bottom shot is me with John Gall after the workout. Nikon D300 with the 18-200 Nikkor.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Havana Portraits

Sometimes you find a portrait, and sometimes it finds you. While waiting to see if we could get into the Havana Boxing center, I looked across the street and saw a man gesturing to me. He saw that I had a camera and invited me and my friend Nigel to come into his home. He allowed us to photograph his living room and posed proudly in his chair in front of a poster of Fidel Castro. There were pictures of all the Cuban Revolutionary heroes on his walls, and the room was chock full of books, nicknacks, a bicycle, and other memorabilia of his life in Havana. He didn't ask for money and seemed proud he could show tourists a slice of Cuban life. The guy in the middle I met while walking alone along the Prado, a once-magnificent street leading down to the waterfront, or Malecon, but now in a sad state of disrepair, but a place I like for its crumbling architecture. We struck up a conversation and, after about ten minutes, I asked if I could take his picture. He readily agreed. I thanked him (his English was pretty good) and started to head back to the hotel. That's when the asking for money, a beer, a bar of soap began. When I go out for solo walks in Havana, I carry my camera and my room key. Nothing else for exactly that reason. I can't give something I don't have. It didn't get uncomfortable exactly, but it wasn't how I wanted our chance meeting to end. For the bottom shot, I had tried to take a photograph of this girl, but she wasn't having any of it and ducked away if I raised my camera to my eye. Our guide took us into this doorway to see the warren of apartments beyond. I turned around and there she was, framed in the door. I like the picture for a couple of reasons. The color of her dress mixes nicely with the walls behind her, including the spot of blue. I used the door as a framing device, and she's placed nicely off-center. Top and bottom, Sony  NEX7 at 1600 and 200 ISOs respectively. Middle shot, Sony NEX5n at 320 ISO.

Habana Vieja 2012

Both photographs were taken during one of my solo walkabouts around Old Havana. I'm fascinated by the myriad architectural styles. My first trip here in 2003, I was accompanied by an architect, and he described in detail what each one was. I wish I could remember what he told me! The top is a more formal composition with symmetry, vertical verticals and horizontal horizontals. I also waited for a person to walk into the frame. The bottom photo is more of a "street" shot, though I don't really like that categorization. Trying to use words to describe photography, music, or any other art form is essentially a futile exercise, but that doesn't stop people from trying. It's like Dancing to Sculpture! 

Back Portraits

I wasn't sure what to call this post. They're not really portraits, but each has a person in it. I guess they're just travel photography. The bottom photograph has a sense of place whereas the top one doesn't, unless you've been to Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy. The top photo has the fisherman dead center in the frame, while the bottom shot has the guy off center, his head almost exactly at the "rule of thirds" point. The top photograph does follow the "rule of thirds" with sky, lake, and fisherman taking up approximately a third of the picture each. I've always liked the train station picture. I just wish the guy wasn't wearing such clashing colors. Baby blue, orange, and yellow? The fan is an interesting touch I think. I like the symmetry and formality of the picture and strangely-colored guy adds the human element. Both photographs taken in 2004 with the Konica-Minolta A2, both at ISO 64. This was my 8 megapixel "bridge" camera that served me well for about three years before I got a proper SLR.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


One of the best features of all the newer Sony cameras is the Sweep Panorama mode. You have to shoot in JPEG rather than RAW, but it's still good stuff. I start left, sweep the camera to the right, and voila! The camera takes a series of shots and stitches them together in camera. Magic! Top: Havana as seen from Castel Morro. Middle: The beautiful Vinales Valley in Western Cuba taken from my hotel balcony. I sat out there for over an hour watching the scene change as the sun came up. Bottom: the baseball game at Latinoamericano Stadium in Havana between Team USA and the Cuban National team. All pictures taken with the Sony NEX 5n

Color and Geometry

Top photo from Cambodia at a temple. A monk's robe drying in the sun. 2011, Nikon D300, 18-200 Nikkor. Middle photo, Corvallis, Oregon, 2012, Sony NEX 7, f/9, 1/320. Bottom, our kitchen during the house painting. Nikon D90, f/5.6, 1/125. My wife collects wooden animals and I really like them except that their ears are always falling off.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Portraits in Cambodia

My brother Stephen told me he liked to see portraits so here are three more, all taken in the same village in Cambodia along the Mekong River in 2010. I always tell my students you can't go wrong taking photographs of older people, children and families. The Cambodians are beautiful people; warm, engaging, curious, and receptive to tourists bearing cameras. I can sometimes feel intimidated doing portraits, but was completely at ease here. I used the Nikon D90 with the 18-200 Nikkor lens.

Malecon Sunset, Havana 2009

Both of these photographs were taken in 2009 on the Malecon in Havana, the place where Habaneros go to cool off, have a drink, get cozy with a friend, socialize, swim in very dirty water, and fish. I used the Nikon D300 and the Tokina 11-16 wide angle lens. I love this lens! Even though I can still use it with an adaptor on the Sony NEX cameras I'm now using, the lens is manual focusing only. I like the tremendous depth-of-field this lens offers along with the sweeping angle of view. It's also fast, with a 2.8 maximum aperture. I'm looking forward to the release of the new Sony 10-18 sometime next month. Both of these photographs break a "rule" that it is bad technique to put the horizon in the center of the frame, but I just couldn't decide what to leave out, so I compromised. Regardless of what the "rules" say, I'm happy with both pictures.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tribute to Che

There are tributes to Che Guevara all over Cuba. This one was somewhat surprising. Walking around Trinidad, I came upon a wooden sculpture made from numerous pieces attached to the wall of a house. Up close, you can see the spaces between them. While there is virtually no advertising anywhere, there are numerous examples of revolutionary sloganeering. I find them fascinating, although to a Cuban, they are just a part of the everyday fabric of their lives.

Hamburger, Paris, 2000

I enjoy photographs that have a story attached. There's a column in Shutterbug Magazine called "Talking Pictures" that I read every month. In fact, this photograph was published in that column a few years ago. My wife and I had gotten engaged about an hour before I took this on the Pont des Arts. Walking around, I had seen this photograph all over Paris but hadn't bothered to take a picture of it. After we got engaged, it seemed to be a bit more symbolic. It also represents something about Paris. You've got a fast food advert for McDonald's, a "restaurant" that many French hate, as well as the controversial, at least for many years after it was built, Pompidou Center, with the garish colors, the inside-out construction and modern look smack dab in the middle of buildings hundreds of years old. I can't say what public opinion is now, but at the time there were a few noses pushed out of shape.


I tend to read a lot of photography blogs, many of which are concerned with "street photography." It's not my preferred genre, but I just enjoy reading about any kind of photography. There sure seem to be a lot of Leica fan boy types out there too, who seem to gravitate to street photography. I can't remember what camera I was using for these three shots taken in '97, '96, and '97 from top to bottom, but I suppose they can be classified as "street." On top is a shot taken in the Rue Mouffetard, a fantastic place full of shops, markets, restaurants and the like. I love the expressions on the faces of the people. The middle picture was taken from a bridge over the Seine. Father and son. Pretty cool. The bottom is on the Left Bank in Paris. There's the Metro, the gendarmes, the kiosk, the book store, the elegantly dressed Parisians, the leaves on the wet pavement. It's, like, totally Paris! (I spend WAY too much time around teenagers)

Monday, October 22, 2012


Ever since I read an article some time ago about looking down instead of always looking forward or up, I have found that reflections pop out at me more frequently than I would have thought. The top photograph was taken outside our hotel in Venice right where gondolas park for the night. The bottom shot is from Burano, which I have mentioned previously as one of my favorite places to photograph. Both are film: the top from 2004 and the bottom from 2001. I was using the Nikon FM2 in 2001 and the autofocus N80 in 2004. I don't think reflections need much "reflection" (sorry), so I'll end now.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Shadows and Geometry, Trinidad, Cuba

My good friend Nigel, the bloke who encouraged me to start a blog, set me up with the hows and whys, and also traveled with his wife and two other young ladies to Cuba with us, always makes fun of me for taking pictures of doors, windows, walls, and the like. Well, I'm naturally attracted to somewhat abstract forms, color, shadow, geometry, and random shapes. There doesn't have to be content per se. Nigel likes content and things that are what they seem to be. That's his engineering background rearing its head. Not necessarily an ugly head, mind you. Just a different way of looking at the world. This photo, for most people, has no sense of place. But for me, it can only be one place: Trinidad. That's because of the distinctive wrought iron framing the wood door and the distinctive colors of the walls. Sony NEX7 with Tamron 18-200.

Travel to Cuba isn't easy, from the difficulties getting in without going on a State Department sanctioned tour, to the snafus one encounters while there, to the ridiculous flight schedules out of Mexico, one must have patience. I don't have any, but thank God my wife and fellow travelers did last summer. For a photographer, the place is simply Nirvana and worth the hassle. Just when I think I've seen enough of Cuba after three trips, I start to get the itch to go back. Once it opens up to Americans, it will never be the same, so go now! Two very well-respected photographers, Peter Turnley and Richard Martin, lead photo tours there. Check them out.

The Young and the Old

If I could be really accomplished as a photographer, I believe I would like to be a portrait photographer. I rarely set out to do portraits when I travel, but always seem to come home with some pictures that stay with me. The top photograph was taken in a new city on the Yangtze River in 2008 where people were being resettled as a result of the Three Gorges Dam project. The middle photo was taken in 2011 in a village in Cambodia along the Mekong River. The bottom picture was taken in Saigon in the Reunification Palace where Vietnam War veterans were being honored. I found it somewhat ironic that a Vietnamese war veteran would willing pose for an American, but he seemed happy to comply. Nikon D80 and D90 with the 18-200 travel zoom.