Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Night in the City

On the second to last night of 2013, Nigel, George, Dudley and I took a photo trek to San Francisco. We began with dinner at The Cliff House, moved on from there to an area near Fort Point with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, then to the Palace of Fine Arts, and finally to the Embarcadero. The second photograph shows the intrepid three in action. "Action" may not be an appropriate term since the photos are taken at slow shutter speeds, anywhere from 30 seconds to 15, depending on the available light. Wind was a problem, and I discovered that a number of the shots were blurry as a result of movement during the exposure. I used the Sony A7 with two lenses;  the 18-70 kit lens and the Tamron 10-18 with reduced pixels. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Sharks vs Ducks

Last night, I attended my first San Jose Sharks game in about ten years. It was also the first time I have stayed an entire game, usually being quite content to slip out after the second quarter the only other two times I have been. The problem is, I just don't understand the game well enough for it to be that enjoyable. I also have trouble following the puck around the rink. So, I used the experience to continue to practice with the Sony A7. I remembered that taking pictures in snow requires about a 1 to 2 stop exposure compensation because of the whiteness factor, in this case, ice. There is a huge brightness difference between the surface and the background that has to be accounted for. There's also the matter of nailing focus with the glass and net in the way. Third, there's the speed of the game. I was shooting at 1/200th of a second to keep the ISO down to reasonable limits. Most of these photographs are between 1000 and 3200 and I didn't use any noise reduction. Pretty impressive performance. Thanks to Nigel for inviting me and to Dave for the tickets.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Portrait of the Week # 6

This was taken in New York City in 2007 when my wife and I were on our way to Connecticut to visit her daughter Jenny up at Fairfield University. I suppose I could have cropped this photograph even more, but I wanted her to be on the right side of the frame to give her some room to "breathe."

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Classic Albums on Vinyl # 3

It's sort of hard to call this a "classic" album because it was never intended for general release. It's called "The Official Live Bootleg" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, recorded December 12th, 1976. It is on ABC/Shelter Records and has one side  consisting only of four songs. I was with my music director friend, Dana Jang, at a small club in Palo Alto, either the Keystone or Sophie's, I can't remember. It was, as I recall, an invited guest only concert and I got an autographed copy from my friend Genarro Rippo, who was their sound man at the time. The band played a rather short set but I knew from the first note that these guys were the real deal. Clockwise, the autographs are Mike Campbell, guitar, Ron Blair, bass, Benmont Tench, keyboards, Stan Lynch, drums, and Tom Petty, lead vocals and guitar.

Lemon Tree Very Pretty...

Yes, I realize that the middle picture is not a lemon tree, but I like red, green, and blue so I included the berries which are about two feet away from the lemon tree in our front yard. These pictures are mostly an excuse to do some shooting with the Sony A7. Even with the kit lens, I was able to get nice bokeh just by zooming in a little bit and using a wide aperture. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Classic Albums on Vinyl #2

The Beatles' "Yesterday And Today" was released on vinyl in 1966, a compilation of tracks from the British albums "Help" and "Rubber Soul" which had not been included on their US counterparts. Capitol Records objected to the cover photo with the dolls and cuts of meat, commonly referred to as the "Butcher Cover" album, and replaced it with a benign photograph of the four Beatles standing around and sitting on a steamer trunk. When I bought my copy, I could see another cover underneath and so set about taking it off with a damp, warm dishcloth. I was partially successful, but succeeded in greatly reducing the album's future value, something I was clearly not thinking of when I did it. I also have a stereo version, a rarity in 1966 when mono ruled, and a web site called Collector's Corner says that the stereo versions of the pressings are worth 10 times more, although I'm not sure if the Apple Records version I have applies. There was a sealed "second state butcher cover" listed on EBay for $23,000! Yikes! I don't know if it sold, however. Album cover photograph taken with the Sony A7.

The Caribbean at Christmas

It was almost a year ago that we took a Caribbean cruise just after Christmas and through New Year's. With the chilly weather around here, I began to think of the warm weather we had the entire time. The top photo is in Antigua, looking down on Saint John's Harbour. Before dinner one evening, we visited the Martini Bar where we were treated to the pouring skills of one of the bartenders who poured eight drinks out of the shakers while standing on top of the bar. Very impressive! The bottom photograph is in Saint Lucia where a very precocious young lady struck a pose as soon as she saw the camera. Photographs taken with the Sony NEX 7 and RX 100.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Portrait of the Week # 5

This portrait is of Sofia Blanc, one of my colleagues at school and a good friend of my wife as well. She is from Chile, where she is currently spending the Christmas holidays with her daughter. She is shown here in her classroom where she teaches Spanish. This portrait was made for our school magazine, Progress, although I'm not sure this is the one they picked. Taken with my new Sony A7 and kit lens.

Classic Albums on Vinyl

As a former vinyl junkie, I collected a number of hard-to-find LPs over the years. I'm still a huge music fan, but have sold out and now buy CDs. Record companies occasionally released albums to radio stations only, and the Nils Lofgren record, "Back It Up, Nils Lofgren Live, An Authorized Bootleg" was on my must-have list for a few years before I picked up a copy at a record swap meet for the then princely sum of $20.00. It still sounds great today, although I have a digitized version on my iPod. I have retired my turntable but am thinking I might have to resurrect it to listen to some of these older gems. I won't attempt to review this recording because of the futility in trying to get someone to understand what it sounds like...that's what "Dancing To Sculpture" means. Photograph of the cover taken with the Sony A7 and kit lens.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Portrait of the Week #4

This portrait was the brainchild of Evan Pasion, the larger of the two gentlemen. It hangs in his classroom where scores of kids have no idea what it is spoofing. That's too bad, but there's lots of stuff they have no idea about, despite being generally very pleasant people to be around. We took this in our terrific Mac lab where our Graphic Arts and Photography classes are taught. Thanks to Tom for setting up the lighting and providing an atmosphere of collaboration and collegiality. Also thanks to Evan for buying me the shirt and sunglasses, neither of which I have worn again, but I appreciate the thought. Photograph taken with the Nikon D90.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Dave Mason, Rio Theater, Santa Cruz, CA, 12/14/2013

Last night, December 14th, my friend George and drove over the hill to Santa Cruz to meet two other friends to take in the Dave Mason concert at the Rio Theater. The last time I saw Dave, he had a full head of hair, as did I, but that was then. The show was a preparation of sorts for his up-coming East Coast tour of many of Traffic's songs, of which Mason was a member for a couple of years in the late 60's. He wrote the hit "Feelin' Alright" off their second album, but left the band over "creative differences" soon after. Since Dave didn't sing many of the Traffic songs, his versions of them last night were somewhat lacking as he left the vocal duties to his keyboard player. His guitar and vocals on his own material was as sharp as ever, and the sold-out house was enthusiastic after a somewhat lukewarm beginning. Mason even asked the audience at one point, "This is Saturday night, isn't it?" Overall, a good evening with good friends. All photographs taken with the Sony RX100 at 3200 ISO at 125th of a second.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

I work in a very special place among great people and with wonderful kids, none of whom were invited to our annual Christmas party held yesterday in the "Educator's Center" or faculty lounge as I prefer to call it. In a departure from tradition, Mike Mitchell, Tim Houlihan, and Bill Delaney (top photo) took it upon themselves to throw it after school rather than the administration hosting it in the school cafeteria at night. Nice call guys! It was a beautiful, brisk December afternoon and a grand time was had by everyone in attendance. May all who skipped the affair find large lumps of coal in your stockings! (except for our hard-working coaches who had no choice) The culmination of the party was the famous "reverse raffle." Many priceless gifts were given out, an example of which may be seen at bottom. The final prize awarded to one fortunate soul is a DAY OFF FROM SCHOOL! Congrats Emily (we all hate you!). A special thanks to Chris Volta (photo #2) who barbequed his incredible tri-tip with the secret seasoning out on the patio behind the faculty room, Shuggs helping and Dave watching. Photo #3 shows three of my favorite colleagues, Kathryn, Lesley, and Meighan, Father Tony Mancuso relaxing, and then our intrepid trio of men's volleyball coaches, Mike, Big and Tall (Evan), and Jonah. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


This is one of the creatures that my wife collects. I forget what they're called, but they're made in Mexico in Oaxaca. I took this just fooling around around the house, trying to find something to photograph with the new Sony A7 and kit 28-70 lens. Nice color, background nicely out of focus, and reasonably sharp. So far, so good.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Portrait of the Week #3

This week my selection is my wife, Margaret, sitting in Camogli, Italy, with the harbor reflected in her glasses. We were enjoying a beverage and some of the snacks that accompany every drink order. Shot with the Sony NEX 7.

Football with the Sony A7

The top three photographs were taken with the new Sony A7 at 3600 ISO. No noise reduction was applied to any of the pictures. The last shot of athletic director Michael Pilawski was taken with the Sony NEX 7 and run through Define from Nik. The low-light capability of the larger sensor camera is evident. The top photograph is of head coach Greg Calcagno before kickoff. Nice season, Greg!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

New Toy

It's not really in the Christmas spirit to buy myself something, but when my local camera store, Keeble and Shuchat in Palo Alto, had a sale this weekend, what's a guy to do? This is the brand-new Sony A7, a full-frame camera in a very small package, not really too much bigger than my trusty NEX7. Since I've only taken about six pictures with it, I can't say too much about it yet, but I'm anxious to give it a thorough workout very soon. I'll probably try it tonight at a football game in pretty poor light and see what it can do. Until then.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Book of Mormon

Last night, November 31st, we went with our friends Nigel and Sue and Rick and Jeanette to San Francisco to see the very popular Book of Mormon. I am not, to put it mildly, a fan of musicals, but this one is an exception. I was laughing for over two straight hours. It is not a production for the easily offended, as many reviews have pointed out, especially if you take religion seriously, but I didn't see anyone walk out. The third photograph shows the stage door where we waited briefly for Nic Rouleau, our good friends' son, who has the lead and is an incredibly accomplished singer, actor, and dancer. It was amazing to me just how fast the cast gets out of the theater and on their way. After another month in San Francisco, Nic returns to Broadway with the same production. All photographs taken with the Sony RX 100.

Portrait of the Week # 2

This is number two in a series of portraits. Brendon is an art teacher at our high school and one of the teachers I shot for our parent/alumni magazine. He is pictured here in his classroom working on a clay creation before it goes to the kiln. I had to go back more than once to get a photograph that worked, so thanks for your patience, Brendon. Sony NEX 7 with the Sigma 30 mm lens.