Riverhead, Long Island has a short track racecourse. It’s a tight oval and the cars and drivers really mix it up. The finale is a figure eight race in which drivers are on their honor to not crash at the intersection of the ‘eight.’ Imagine, “First one to the middle has the right of way.” I’ve been to other tracks now in Maine and they don’t crash much. Mostly it’s etiquette. But here in Riverhead, it’s close quarters and none given. There was lots of rubbin’ and racing. Fenders would be bent back and then fly away. The crowd loved it.
My daughter, Julia, started playing rugby in college. There was a gorgeous new turf lacrosse field. But no, Julia wanted rugby. It was a club sport. She ran track and gave up swimming. It was a great excuse for me to get that long lens I lusted for. So I got the 80-400mm zoom. It turns out that everyone thinks that it focuses too slowly. I guess rugby is not a fast sport. Watching the first match ever on cable television to familiarize myself with the flow of the game my wife commented, “Why are all the male players wearing head gear?”
“To avoid having their ears pulled off.” I replied.
“Nooooo!” She shrieked. “Julia’s got a ponytail. “And, what about all that expensive orthodontic treatment she had?”
Julia was never seriously injured. At least, not that I’m aware. She had a few minor concussions. It was nothing. I confess that I already gave her a concussion when she was a toddler. So far so good. Well, here I am at a college rugby tournament in western New York. It was close to Niagara Falls, but Julia won’t go with me. She plays for a D3, that is Division 3 college. Thank goodness they separate the teams. Syracuse, D1, shows up and the women players are a foot taller and fifty pounds heavier. No contest. The thing about rugby is that it is best played in the mud. More mud is better and if it’s wet even better yet. And cold, yes indeed, it was definitely cold that day. How cold? The players huddled together along the sidelines for warmth. Rugby players do not get heaters. So, I got to watch lots of teams and looked for some interesting shots. I daresay the ‘tissues up your nose’ probably is right up there.
I’ve been told, that a Sports Illustrated photographer once took a spectacular photo from a helicopter looking dead on along the roadway of the Verrazano Bridge as the runners crested the apex. I’ve never seen the shot. Somehow, that vantage didn’t quite have enough detail for me. Charlie was kind enough and also excited to fly over the bridge on race day. The air space is crowed with police helicopters, so it was good that Charlie knew some of the pilots. I like this photo. Shooting from a moving platform that is moving three dimensionally, vibrating from the engine, and being buffeted by the wind, is a challenge. I used my long lens with VR setting, and shutter at 1/500 or faster. Mostly, with good light, I went to 1/2000 or faster. The shots were sharp. My metadata doesn’t tell me the shutter speed for this image.
I have had the fortunate luck to make friends with a now retired American Airlines pilot Charlie. He flies a Bell 47, “Mash,” helicopter as a hobby. I get to fly with him. Yeah! So, there’s a weekend event in Rhinebeck, New York. It’s an old-fashioned air show complete with a damsel in distress. The pilots, many of whom, fly their own biplanes, put on a show and it’s very entertaining. Charlie would give helicopter rides. And, I got to wander around, backstage as it were, and shoot to my heart’s content. Then we would have a greasy hamburger and call it a day. The biplanes are antique but serviceable. The airfield is grass. The winds can be tricky. I have never seen a crash although they tell me it has happened. On this day and in this photo, it was what I would consider to be a pretty close call. And the saying, “Any landing you walk away from is a good one.” It was never more true.
Chinese New Year. It’s a cultural thing for me. I am by heritage but not by practice, Chinese. I have been far distanced even though I’m one generation from my immigrant parents from China. Maybe it’s because I lived in West Virginia too long. Recently, that is in recent years, I got interested in attending the various parades on New York City. My first was Columbus Day… color, politicians, pageantry. I was hooked. For some reason I’ve yet to go to the Macy’s parade and seriously shoot. One year we had freezing bleacher seats on the side of 34th Street away from the TV cameras. It was so close we could see the goose bumps on all the young underdressed majorettes. Chinatown in Manhattan and Flushing both have parades on separate weekends so there are plenty of photo ops. Dragons are huge! They ward off the evil spirits. And they are associated with loud drumming and lots of firecrackers. At least that’s my simple take. Dragons of all sizes and shapes are everywhere. Lately they show up at all gatherings including the Dragon boat festival. Duh?
For a while I was an enthusiastic roof top container gardener. Ever on the lookout for something more exotic than petunias, and impatiens, I found African daisies in the garden shop. I nurtured them and photographed them all summer. I had to check because there are variations of this daisy. Yep, there’s an example on the internet. And, everything on the internet is true, right? I love the delicate central flower detail. I couldn’t find this plant every year so this was special.
I was passing through Rockland, Maine and decided to stop in Rockport. There’s a photo workshop based there. It is a quaint town. There was a craft show and I stopped to have a look. Walking to the venue, I found this door decorated for the fall. It is another of Julia’s favorites. I like the muted colors offset by the splash of orange. No photoshop was at work here. If I were a poet – harmonious.
Reggie was a Cavalier King Charles spaniel. My wife, ever the goodhearted soul, found him on a downtown Manhattan bus one rainy day. The bus driver told her that this poor dog, who looked more like a drowned rat, had run onto the bus at an earlier stop. After his route the driver was going to bring the dog to the ASPCA. Well, Lisa took the dog with her. When she tried to board the next cross-town bus she was told, “No dogs allowed.” It cost her a cab ride. Once home, she dried Reggie and thought he was sooo… cute. After she contacted the owners they responded, “Really! Cute. He’s yours.” And, that’s how we became owners of a pedigree dog who had champion bloodlines on both sides of his family. Of course this was just before Julia was born. Champion or not, I learned how to clean up after Reggie. It was very good training. As a photographer of everything and anything, here’s some advice. Never own a black dog. They just don’t photograph well. This is my favorite shot of Reggie. I just could never get the light right. The details of his face were always hidden, except this one time.
Nellie came after Reggie. We waited a good long time before we got her. Thankfully she was Blenheim color and not black and tan. I have many fine photographs of Nellie doing all manner of cute things. I have come to believe Reggie was psycho. He would chase 18 wheel trucks and always barked at airplanes. Why? He could never catch one. Still this quintessential shot, one that still resides on my cellphone screenshot, came years after Nellie came to live with our family. I simply got down on the floor. Or rather, I held the camera at floor level and snapped these shots. I will add that with bounce flash, this image works well. I have also noticed that most of the direct flash shots capture Nellie with her eyes closed. It seems that she was able to detect the flash and blinked at the critical moment. It happened too coincidentally to be mere chance.
Julia and David had just gone off to school with Lisa. I looked out over the skyline from our apartment and saw the most amazing sunrise. The air was cool enough to show steam rising from the building vents. The glow was ethereal. I grabbed my camera and shot. Slide film most likely Ektachrome 100. It’s a little soft. I labeled this dawn, city on fire. It was October 1996. Fortunately I keep a database and could look up the slide roll and frame number, roll 2241, number 02. It is the one and only time in 28 years that the atmospheric conditions were like this one special morning.
One more Maine shot. Portland Head Light is picturesque and sits in Fort Williams Park. Because of its easy accessibility many shots of the lighthouse have been taken in all lighting and weather conditions. I’ve been there to many times to count. There are several overlooks parallel to the height of the lighthouse on the cliff. And I been down below to get an image looking up the cliff. Numerous busloads of tourists disembark for ten minutes or so and rush up to the fence to have their photo taken with the lighthouse in the background. They look forward but never down. There has always been a small tidal pool at the base of the cliffs. When the wind is calm this reflection is always available and gives a much different and unique look to the mood of the lighthouse. I watch everyone rushing to get an image without pausing to appreciate the moment. Well, one definite aid to enhance the refection is a polarizing filter. It will make the lighthouse really pop from the water. Otherwise, you only have to look down to get the shot.
In my recent quest for employment, I have had to travel. Albuquerque was one stop along the trail. In the old town was a colorful graphic. Doors are one of the themes I have shot over the years. This one was quintessential southwest for me.