Sunday, March 31, 2013

Paris in the Summer

It's Easter vacation and the school year has one more six week stretch. That naturally gets me thinking about summer, and summer for my wife and me means travel. In the summer of 2006, we took a Mediterranean cruise and finished it off with four days in Paris before heading home. I forget how beautiful Paris can be in July, especially when the sun doesn't set until about 10 pm. Nikon D50

Dubrovnik, Croatia

One of my favorite travel photographers is a guy from the East Coast named Bob Krist. I have an old VHS tape by him about travel photography. He even has to stop to change his film. Regardless of when it was made, he does offer a wealth of information about what kind of shots to make sure you come home with so that you don't bore your audience silly. So, in that vein, the top shot is a wide view from the top of the city encompassing the entirety of the place. There's a wall around Dubrovnik which can be walked in about an hour and a half. Next is a photograph establishing a "sense of place" and employing a shallow depth-of-field to isolate the subject from its background, but not so much as to make the words on the umbrellas unreadable. Next is my obligatory laundry/detail shot taken as I walked along the wall. Below that is another wide-angle showing the main drag of the city at night taken at about 1/15th of a second to suggest some movement. And last is another detail scene, also a "sense of place" shot at the harbor with "DB" for Dubrovnik on the side of this less-than seaworthy craft. Thanks Bob! The middle shot of the laundry is also for Nigel.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cannes, France, 2006

On a Mediterranean cruise in 2006 with about 16 other friends and family, we spent a day in Cannes plus a side trip to St. Paul de Vence. The top photo shows the main "plage" of Cannes, with our cruise ship in the background. Clearly, the gigantic Carnival vessel was unable to get to a dock, so we had to be boated in. Carnival is not a line I would trust right now, for obvious reasons. At the time, it seemed fine, but in retrospect, with a couple of other cruises under our belts, Carnival is like bottom feeding cruise-wise. The second picture is included to annoy my friend Nigel, and he knows why. Next is a trompe l'oeil celebrating the films of Jacques Tati. The tree is real, however. At bottom is a poster advertising Photo Fashion Week or some such thing. Photographs taken with the Nikon D50.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Baltic Summer

Our Baltic Cruise in 2010 offered a smorgasbord (pun intended) of sights and experiences. We traveled with a great group of people, and our dinners back on board at the end of the day were opportunities to share what each of us had done and seen. One of the many highlights for me was the slow trip through the Stockholm Archipelago. I rose early to spend time on deck with my friend Dudley to enjoy the meandering of the ship as it plied the waters into Stockholm. We were there about three hours before hunger took control and we headed for breakfast. Tallinn, Estonia, was interesting until other cruise ships arrived and overwhelmed the old walled city with tourists. We went back early and sat around the pool before dinner. The band in the square was entertaining and brought out dancers of varied ages. Saint Petersberg, Russia, is a must-see for all cruises headed North. We stopped for a break during our walking tour so people could buy stuff they didn't need. I sort of wanted to buy a Russian nesting doll, but refrained as I make it a point of honor never to buy tchotchkes. The day before we had flown to Moscow for the highlight of the trip. I like taking pictures of advertising in foreign countries, but Russia takes the cake. Virtually no English anywhere to be seen! Walking up to Red Square was thrilling. A tour of the Moscow subway system was next and it didn't disappoint. Just magnificent. We got an unwanted visitor on our way back to England as a passenger suffered a heart attack and had to be air-lifted back to Denmark. It took about ten tries before the chopper could hover safely over the deck to lower baskets to get the man and his wife on board. Those pilots and medical staff were real pros.

A Sense of Place and Time

When I think about what constitutes a good photograph, especially a travel photograph, two qualities stand out to me: place and time. The place part is more for the viewer while the time element is for me. Either I want the viewer to recognize where the picture was taken, at least to some degree, or I want the photograph to evoke a memory of where I was at the time and why I decided to depress the shutter. Since the vast majority of people I know have never been to Cuba, a sense of place recognition might be asking too much in these three photos. The viewer should be able to tell, however, that they were taken in a tropical climate. The twenty or so friends that I have traveled to Cuba with should instantly be able to recognize where these are. Time is harder. The top photograph brings me back to Trinidad in 2009. It was the middle of the day and I was completely drenched and exhausted after walking around the streets for a couple of hours. I couldn't move another step and asked my wife if we could just get out of the heat and stop for a beer. After that, we could stagger back to the hotel. I remember being self-conscious about the copious quantity of sweat I was emitting and feeling uncomfortable about sitting down and getting a chair wet. Once I got a beer and started to relax, I began to look out through the distinctive Trinidadian windows and watch passersby. I took a few pictures until I got a person between the bars. I also remember alternately  focusing on the bars and then the people. I like the bars in focus better. In the middle photo, in Havana, I had to be patient and wait for the boys to get out of the water, stand on the rocks, wait for the tide to swell before they jumped, and get an interesting body posture during the dive. At bottom, walking around Havana near our hotel, I decided to go in a direction I hadn't explored and discovered this park. What I distinctly remember is trying to get all eleven boys to respond to me wanting to take their picture. The three kids on the left clearly weren't as interested as the group of eight on the right. The architecture in the background instantly tells me it's Havana.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Corvallis, Oregon

Last summer, I visited my son, Jason, my daughter-in-law, Kristin, and my twin grandsons, Curtis and Davis,   at their home in Corvallis for a long weekend. Jason is what I like to call a "Francher." He and his business partners own acres of land in Corvallis and Northern California and they cultivate the land, grow a variety of crops, raise sheep, and lease some of it to other folks. The day after I arrived, it was time to mark, vaccinate, and castrate the little sheep. In about two hours, Mac was able to get close to 100 of the little fellas taken care of. I have photographs of the process but they will stay in the vault. The top photograph shows Jason in one of the seed barns; below that he is consulting with Mac about random farm/ranch stuff. In the middle, he is watering his amazingly varied organic garden in the back yard. He has a TOTALLY green thumb. The bottom three shots are of Kristin, Curtis, and Davis on the day of reckoning for the sheep. Ouch Babe!

The Old Waldorf, Part Deux

More from The Old Waldorf. Warren Zevon on 6/7/78 with a band that included guitarists Waddy Wachtel, a madman in his own right, and future and current Bruce Springsteen manager, Jon Landau, better known at that time as rock and roll critic in New York. "I have seen the future of rock and roll and its name is Bruce Springsteen" Very prophetic. Second is Gary Busey with Paul Butterfield and Rick Danko of the Band (not seen here) when Busey was hot as a result of playing Buddy Holly in the biopic. He was a mess after that success, unfortunately. Next is Blondie. I went because it was free and Dana Jang didn't want to go by himself. The second from bottom shot is of someone I really wanted to see, Procol Harum, on the comeback trail. They never really found their stride song-writing wise after about their 4th album, but I loved their early stuff and Gary Brooker, shown here, has one of the great voices in rock, in my opinion anyway. Another favorite of mine was Rockpile, who recorded only one album if memory serves. Pictured here is one of the two founders, British guitarist Dave Edmunds. The other founder was Nick Lowe, along with drummer Terry Williams and second lead guitarist, Billy Bremner, a fine singer/songwriter himself. Great songs in the English "pub rock" genre. The Old Waldorf was nowhere close to The Boarding House as far as intimacy was concerned, what with hipsters and scene-makers cluttering up the room, looking as bored as possible. If you didn't buy a ticket, you tried to look even cooler. The Boarding House wasn't a "See, be seen, be seen eating" type of place, thankfully.

The Old Waldorf, San Francisco

The Old Waldorf was a nightclub in San Francisco which opened in 1976 and closed in 1983 when Bill Graham bought it, changed the name to Wolfgang's, and moved it to Columbus Avenue. Located on Battery Street at the Embarcadero Center a block from the Embarcadero Freeway, parking and freeway access were very convenient. This is important in San Francisco. The 600 seat venue had an extremely low ceiling and it could get very smoky. The acoustics left quite a bit to be desired as the room was wider than it was long, but owner Jeffery Pollack got an incredible array of artists to play at his club. Radio people, industry insiders, movers and shakers, and scenesters were always there in abundance as Pollack comped anyone with clout. I always went with my San Jose radio buddy and college friend, Dana Jang. I occasionally did some photography work for the station where he was music director, KOME. Memorable concerts included the first American appearance of Elvis Costello, top, on 11/15/77, Graham Parker and the Rumour on 4/9/79, Dire Straits on Mark Knopfler's 30th birthday, 3/31/79 (birthday party backstage after the show), and Ian Dury, at bottom, 3/22/78, an actor, raconteur, and all-around gentleman. I basically spent the day with him and his people doing promo photography for the radio station. Great guy! Sadly passed away a number of years ago. The rest are still working and viable artists.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


One of the assignments I give to my photography students is to create a poster/still life that tells me and the rest of the class something about them. I want them to gather a selection of objects, pictures, nick-nacks, whatever it takes to let us know more about them than we knew before, arrange them as artfully as possible, light it evenly, and bring it in to class. The above photograph tells the viewer quite a bit about me, albeit only one side, but there are clues galore about approximately how old I am, where I live, my musical tastes, etc. The students generally do a good job on this project and it often reveals surprises.

Paris 2001

I'm posting these photographs not because of any artistic pretensions about them, but because I just found them after having lost track of them for many years. They were stuck on a CD in a box I hadn't looked in for who knows how long. These were taken with the Canon Powershot G1, a 3.3 megapixel camera that set me back about $800 in 2001. But it was my first digital camera and I was very taken with the technology, despite all sorts of issues. I also brought along my Rollei Prego 90 for the majority of the shots on this four day whirlwind trip. Out of camera, the pictures aren't very impressive, but I'm having fun using some newer software on a few of them. The NIK software suite is my personal favorite, especially Viveza. The middle picture shows my dinner, steak frites, and, typically for my wife, fish.

The Boarding House, Part 3

I think one must have to be pretty well-addicted to music to travel 100 miles, try to find a place to park in downtown San Francisco, and have to get up and go teach school the next morning. But I did it, a lot! The top two photographs are of the Tubes. While I did have a couple of albums, I rarely listened to them. They were much more a visual band, as should be rather apparent from the pictures. In the middle is Maria Muldaur, famous for her FM hit, "Midnight At The Oasis," but the version of that song that haunts me in my sleep is from the movie, "Waiting for Guffman" where Catherine O'Hara and Fred Willard manage to make it  cringe-inducing. Maria also seems to be having trouble keeping herself together, as it were, something of a wardrobe malfunction. Two relatively obscure acts follow. Obscure didn't bother me back then. In fact, the obscurer the better for my music snobbery knew no bounds.The record store owners in "High Fidelity" didn't have anything on me as far as snobbery was concerned. So, second from last is the British singer Terry Reid, rumored to be the first choice for Led Zeppelin's lead singer. At bottom is Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, who also ran for governor of Texas if I'm not mistaken. Not the whole band, just Kinky. The Tubes and Kinky were very funny, but I also saw some great comedy at the Boarding House. Steve Martin recorded his first three albums there, and he was hilarious! As was Martin Mull, who had an extensive television and movie career to go along with his stand-up. Mull could play an instrument and sing pretty well too. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Boarding House, Part 2

The best thing about The Boarding House for me was the intimacy. You could see someone you really liked for a very reasonable price, even accounting for inflation, and up close if you got there early. If you got there at show time, you'd be about 50 feet away if memory serves. For the most part, everyone I saw there I was seeing for the first time. At top, the Byrds reunion on February 9, 1978, featuring, from left to right, Gene Clark, David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, and Chris Hillman. Next up is Neil Young, who did an extended run there in 1978. They beefed up the lighting for this show. Below Neil is Tom Waits who I went to see mostly out of curiosity. I thought nothing of making the 50 mile each way trip on a whim back then. I wasn't enamored of Waits despite his hipster cred. I was, however, completely smitten by Emmylou Harris. She had a great band, led by the stellar English guitarist Albert Lee and other luminaries of the Nashville session scene. KSAN radio would often broadcast many of the shows, so I have a quality souvenir of some of those nights. Many of these and other shows are archived at the fantastic Wolfgang's Vault web site.