Word and Image

Archive for September, 2011

Medical Photography

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Here’s a subtle way to slip in the fact that my day job is brain surgery. As in, I am not a photographer but really the neurosurgeon. But, beginning in high school, I was a photographer first! Medical teaching was often done with a Kodak Carousel slide projector. Hence, there was a need to get visual aid materials. I started medical photography with a Nikon film camera. I shot slide film with a very limited exposure latitude. Print film does not go into a projector. Sometimes we would be able to catch frames from the operating microscope via an adapter. (more…)

San Francisco Cable Car


When I was in San Francisco many years ago, I shot this image of the iconic cable car. The Powell Mason line runs from Market over Nob Hill to Fisherman’s Wharf. The hill is steep! I have taken many photos of the cable cars all along the route. I shot this on slide film. There is no record of the camera settings. This image shows two techniques. The first is panning. The car is moving and I am moving the camera and keeping the car in focus. The effect will blur the background. The shutter speed has to be just slow enough in order to get the blur. The second technique is tilting the horizon. It adds a dynamic feel of motion. This goes against the rule that you should always keep the horizon straight. Tilting is a street photography technique that gives an edge to the image. Depending on your choice tilting right or left will give the image a different feel. Often one of them doesn’t work as an effect. You can take a straight shot a bit wide angled and then crop/tilt in post processing. Or, with digital simply experiment and shoot three images – straight, right tilt and left tilt. In addition, I have kept the area of interest in the lower third following the rule of thirds. With slide film everything has to be perfect in the frame – exposure, shutter, f-stop, blur, framing and rule of thirds. That’s a lot to juggle.

Bullfight, Seville

The last bullfight in Barcelona occurred this past weekend. The old style stadium resembles the coliseum. It was a rounded structure with multiple tiers with steep vertical seating. It was reported that there was a record crowd. But, the closure is business, because bullfighting attendance has dropped off in recent years. Jose Tomas, one of the most famous Spanish bullfighters, performed. And animal rights protesters clashed with other fans attending. Picadors prepare the bull by putting a lance in the bull’s neck to fatigue the bull and to make its head drop. Hence, the blood over the shoulders is typical. Furthermore, the bullfighter is often awarded the bull’s ears after a good exhibition. They showed this picture in the NY Times article. I wonder if the bull gets the ears of the matador if the bull should prevail. I attended a bullfight in Seville, Spain in September 1978. I bought a ticket through the front desk at the hotel. The stadium was not nearly as grandly appointed as Barcelona nor was it as well attended. There was a group of US servicemen sitting alone among the cheap seats in the bright sun. Over there you could rent a cushion to pad the hard seating. While bullfighting will no longer occur in Barcelona, the sport still continues. It remains the ultimate reality show.


Fall leaf


Maine, fall 2008. I make it a point to seek the fall foliage each year. In Maine I thought that I would find spectacular vistas and new opportunities. Traveling the state, I sought out mountains, and hillsides. I explored potential photo ops at dawn and dusk. Rain and fog added to the intensity of color. The hard part is the timing. Where and when would the color peak? It was still a guess and really no different than it has always been. The way to find out was to constantly explore and subtly you will find the drop off in image colors. This was the year I got my moose pictures. Here, I got this detail shot. The water and leaf leave little doubt as to the season. And it appeals to me as a peaceful moment rather than the end of a season.

Evolution of reflection

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This is linked to the following post, which should have been first. This is an evolution of an observation on reflections cast by polished marble on my kitchen counter. The lighting is tricky because the sidelight needs to be balanced to evenly reflect the tomatoes, as a mirror would do. The early morning light had to increase to the point where the mirror effect was achieved. Just a little photoshop was used to adjust. I couldn’t wait around till the sun was fully shining. Again I photographed at an angle. The slide show gives you alternatives. Lisa suggested that the pear was a distraction and that tomatoes might look like they were hanging on the wall otherwise. In reality I had already eaten the pear and two tomatoes.

Gallery follows



Still life. I saw this image as I walked past the kitchen counter. Lisa had stacked the tomatoes against the backsplash. I never see her do this. The early morning light was stormy and indirect. I had bought the pear a few days before and was waiting for it to ripen. Neither tripod, nor flash, nor photoshop was used. The only things harmed in this picture were the fruits, which were eaten after the photo was taken. It’s too bad because I could have done this shot better. One discarded image had the five tomatoes draped around the tomato like the fingers of a hand. The pear was out of focus. I let the camera rest on the marble countertop because it was a slow shutter. I could have dialed up the ISO but didn’t. What’s neat is the texture of the marble was not really seen in the reflection of the fruit. I like the oblique angle. It’s an image that makes one pause to look closer. I’m waiting for another stacking to shoot this better. Maybe it will become a series.

River Seine, Paris

March 1998 on the River Seine. It was spring break and we traveled with another family to visit Paris. We were on a boat ride near dusk. I shot this photo of the bridges. Little did I know that the film would capture the painted standing in the twilight and that exposure would light his canvas. I have scanned this slide and processed it in photoshop and lightroom for the best rendition. I always kept the original in case my technique improves. I still am pleased at how the image shows painting and painter on that bridge. I was lucky to capture this shot from a moving boat in low light.

Angelina, Paris

I have often spoken of a dessert that we had at Angelina’s in Paris. Debbie found it in the guidebook and there we were one fine chilly afternoon. David, of course is jumping. Julia and Lisa are in silhouette. I know the photo is slightly out of focus but you can make out the shop. They serve dessert and tea. The dessert of which I reminisce is mont blanc. It’s complicated. But, my mother loved chestnuts. I spent a lot of time peeling them as a kid. The mont blanc was heavenly. It was a meringue-covered delicacy filled with chestnut puree. I still think of it.

Bergen, Norway

Bergen, Norway. In the summer of 2000, a colleague, Harald Fodstadt asked if I would attend his 65th birthday party. My reply was, “I’d be delighted Harald. Anything for you.” He lived in Manhattan at the time but his response was, “Great! It’s in Norway in September.” So there I was on a plane to Norway in September 2000. Harald had a house in Unset in the north. Arriving at about 8AM I approached the Hertz rental counter and afterward asked for directions thinking Unset was a city. The agent said turn right and drive north. My first realization, that Norway was quaint, was upon exiting the airport and discovering the road was two ways and not divided. Unset was indeed to the north about seven hours drive. The back of the entering sign read leaving Unset. There was a single store that was closed by 5PM. I followed a passing bus and figured it would bring me to town. Alas the driver went 200 yards up the road and parked at his house. A motorist who spoke Norwegian finally understood and escorted me to Harald’s house. What an adventure! After leaving Unset, I drove to the coast to Bergen to explore the fiords. At dawn the fog had not yet lifted over the picturesque harbor.

Wildflowers, Norway

Naturally I did a lot of driving. The countryside was beautiful. I came across this field of wildflowers. The house is typical of the area and is set alone against the mountains.

Mountain Houses and Fiord, Norway

The terrain is foreboding. It looks like civilization is wrested from nature. Driving along the fiords I could see many towns with their colorful palette of walls and similar architechture. You can see snow already in the mountains above.

Haystacks, Norway

Driving south from Unset I returned to this hay field that I had seen when I came from Oslo. I’m glad I went out of my way. Each region has its own style and I found this stacking to be worth a picture.

David – Mira Flores Park Hotel -Lima, Peru

Lima, Peru. We had just had the last supper with David. In the restaurant our mood was good humored and we all made guinea pig faces. Maybe, I’ll post these pictures later. His mother and I would not see him again for about a year. And his sister, well, that’s another story entirely. In the meantime he would survive long grueling bus rides and at least two robberies. What an adventure he had making his way through many South American countries, finding his way alone, and growing up on life’s experiences. Here, just before we parted, David posed in the Mira Flores Park Hotel lobby. He looked confident and ready for his big adventure. No one, neither his mother nor David showed any of the concerns that they would later admit feeling. It turns out no one wanted to admit they were terrified of his leaving and his striking out on an unknown adventure. The only thing that I can say is, “Thank goodness for the internet and Skype!” And when David called home explaining that the youth hostel owner had given him a free phone call home, his mother inquired, “Are you in jail?”

Tango, La Boca, Buenos Aires

La Boca is a neighborhood in Buenos Aires that is famous for it’s colorfully painted buildings. It is said that the poor did not have money to buy paint so they used paint from the port’s ships. The colorful kaleidoscope is in a dangerous area if you judge from the folks who told me not to have my camera out on my shoulder. On a warm sunny day the color really pops and is all the more garish. Everything says tourist trap. Tango is the national signature dance. Here, you see tango demonstrations everywhere, from street impromptu to formal shows. On the streets of La Boca, many dancers performed exhibitions to lure tourists into sidewalk cafes. The dancers were so serious and stylish. This couple was clearly enjoying the moment.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina

When we finally visited David in Argentina, it was my second trip to South America. Remember, we visited for the wedding in Peru, where we parted from our favorite son. And yes, he would still be the favorite if there were another son. Fortunately, Julia is our favorite daughter, but she was in Africa, simultaneously, teaching. Lisa set up a trip to see some of the sights in Argentina. In retrospect it was like coming to America and traveling to Washington, Chicago and New York. Argentina is a large country. The plane flights were long and demanding. Iguazu Falls is Argentina’s comparison to Niagara Falls. But, I have never been to Niagara as you know from my rugby post. Iguazu was very large, the largest I have seen. And it was wet! Not just the falls but it was raining when we set off to visit the falls on our day and a half stay. Mostly it rained steadily and in between it poured – as in deluge. I shot this sepia processed image on the Canon G11. I let the camera do the work of converting the image. It’s not sharp because it’s raining. There’s rain everywhere. I’m soaked. We had just returned from a boat ride under the falls. Rain slickers and umbrellas were no match for that. The spray from the falls is mixed in with the steady rain. The hotel towels, which I brought were soaked so there’s rain on the cameras and lenses as well. In fact when we went into the hotel dining room for lunch, my Nikon and our two Canons were so wet, condensation could be seen behind the from lens element glass. Fortunately it was clean water and evaporated as the cameras adjusted to the cool air conditioning. I was still more than a little concerned to see the moisture collecting where I had no chance to disassemble the lenses. Otherwise, neither cameras nor lenses have given any problems since.

Sunset, Palermo, Buenos Aires

This view is from David’s apartment in Buenos Aires. He lived on the sixth floor with a view from the roof overlooking the city. He had a pool and hot tub. All of this was for so little money that I’m not permitted to reveal the truth of it. We were there to relax a bit before dinner. In Argentina no one eats before 9PM. Experimenting with the preset dial on the Canon G11, I dialed up the sunset setting. Alas, Julia discovered that the G12 no longer has this. Pow! A great sunset – saturated, glowing, and wonderful, it just showed up on the preview screen, magically like this. My Nikon D200 would compensate for the low light and color producing a low contrast washed out sky. I have subsequently realized that simply dialing up the saturation in photoshop will increase the effect to get a comparable photo on the Nikon. Still, it was a great trick on the Canon and one that I continue to use. Sunset, sunrise, what nice color you can have with little effort. I finally made use of the presets, which I have always ignored till now.

Submarino, Argentina

You know how you mess up words you hear but don’t see. Well, at least it happens to me. Like, ‘I pledge-of-allegiance’ was just a single word to me in elementary school growing up. I was pledging before I could read back then. Argentina has its own custom of serving up hot chocolate. David introduces me to it when we visited. He called it a ‘submariner’. Ok, ok, I laugh, too,  now that I checked on the spelling. Submarino is a style of using steamed miilk and then serving a chocolate bar on the side. Actually, it’s customary to serve two bars! They are dipped into the hot milk and quickly melt. It is a highly satisfying drink. We had it everywhere from the airport to the glaciers.

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires. We were stranded. One of the flights on Aerolineas Argentinas was canceled and we missed our connection. As a result we were in Buenos Aires for an unexpected layover. The airline gave us accommodations in a ‘flea bag’ hotel. No go. David called and threw out the girl staying over in his apartment and we crashed there for one night. His mother never said a word about the utter mess and chaos in his apartment. Obviously, it was the girl. It was the first evening and my first experimentation with the capabilities of the Canon G11. We got a little silly. There are many street signs, advertising posters, and graffiti displays.

Graffiti, Palermo, Buenos Aires

Graffiti is big on the streets of Buenos Aires. You see it everywhere. It is widely accepted as a form of street art. I watched a woman one-day painting an elaborate design in front of a school. In another instance I saw a man return and apply a clear coating to his graffiti artwork to protect it from rain. One shop even sold a book devoted to the graffiti artwork around Buenos Aires. There is a lot of talent and imagination. In this photo the pedestrian adds some extra interest.

Le Recoleta, Buenos Aires

It’s Good Friday. Lisa had just recovered from dengue fever symptoms. We still don’t know for sure if that was the diagnosis. There were warning signs for dengue fever all over the airport when we landed in Buenos Aires. Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. David had been ‘under the weather’ – low grade fever, malaise. No one had spoken too much the past two days. But now that they were mending, they decided to visit the large central cemetery, Le Recoleta. Eva Peron, ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,’ is buried there. Her tomb had many visitors and flowers. Wandering the pathways this image just appeared. Many of the mausoleums are in severe disrepair. Others are maintained and have glass enclosures to protect the contents and allow visitors to view the interiors. This stained glass window juxtaposed with the gray tombs and skyline. I credit Lisa with visualizing the image that I captured. By the way, it was warm and humid. The pathways were filled with pursuing mosquitoes. We never tarried long.

Glacier National Park, Argentina

Glacier National Park near El Calafate, Perito Moreno glacier. We were far inland. I don’t know why I expected glaciers to be near the coastline. Lago Argentino is large enough to be an ocean if you see it from the ground. The conditions that support glaciers are perfect in this inland area of southern Argentina. We were there two days. A boat cruise took us to see one view of the glaciers. We upgraded without spending too much and sat at the front of the boat with a glass enclosed panoramic view. It was the best first class upgrade we ever made. The second day began with  a road trip and short ferry ride to see the glaciers and to climb upon them. This panoramic was stitched together in photoshop. A single frame cannot catch the span and grandeur of the glacier. It makes you feel so small compared to some of nature’s wonders. From this park, one can see the edge of the glacier. Occasionally a large piece will break off and crash to the water breaking the silence. In the background snow falls in the mountains about 300 days per year. The snow pack compresses and eventually makes its journey to the edge. The process is slow – as in glacial. The crevasses that develop make it treacherous to climb among the ice.

Glacier Climbing

We were fortunate to sign up for a glacier trek. In the previous photo you can see the grandeur. Here you are reminded of the size and scale of the glacier. The little dots are groups of tourists at different points among the cravasses. We wore ice crampons to get around and were escorted by several guides who took care to be sure that no one fell into a crevasse. At the end we were served glacier water and typical traditional dulce de leche cookies. Click on the photo to see the people.

Glacier Trapped Boulder

On the boat cruise, we passed close to many glaciers that had calved. From afar you don’t realize the scale of the floating pieces. Here you see a boulder trapped in the ice. It probably weighs hundreds of pounds and is just suspended in the ice. This whole piece of ice floating was many times larger than our cruise ship.

Beagle Channel, Tierra del Fuego

We were delayed in arriving in Tierra del Fuego. As a result we made up for a missed cruise by booking a private boat to take us to the Beagle Channel. You only go ‘round once, eh? When you think of it, it’s also because it’s at the end of the earth and you won’t be coming this way soon again. I’m glad we went. The crew was very solicitous and they let David and Lisa drive the boat. They put David in a pirate wig and sunglasses. He loved it. David also sat at the front and let the cold salt spray cover him. Kids! The hot chocolate was very welcome. Many islands in the channel were homes to birds and seals. These are imperial cormorants. Beagle Channel was named after the ship HMS Beagle, which had Charles Darwin among its passengers. It is one of three waterways between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in the southern hemisphere. I very much like the male and female seals posing as king and queen over their domain.