Word and Image

Archive for June, 2012

Verrazano Narrows Bridge

This bridge connects Staten Island to Brooklyn. For a while it was one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. It was finished in the ’60. Before that three bridges connected Staten Island to New Jersey. In fact the island is closer to Jersey than New York City. The island became part of New York in after the winner of a row boat race around the island turned out to be from New York. Until the mid ‘70’s there were still farms on the island. Now it’s all about the biggest house you can build on the smallest plot of land. It’s a shame about the lack of urban planning. Meanwhile this aerial shot was taken after I became fast friends with Charlie, a former NYPD helicopter pilot and American Airlines pilot. He took me up in his Bell 47, MASH helicopter and we toured NYC. It was the first of many adventures. You can see the rain on the bubble in the lower right. Charlie was really doing me a big favor. He hates to fly in the rain. It gets the gears all gunky. But he had promised and we were going no matter what. It’s a view unlike anything else. And I have to say it’s about the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

Brain Bucket

This is my PA Don. We’ve worked together for about 24 years. As with all things brain, folks have a fascination with the head and it’s precious contents. So someone gave him a bicycle helmet with a brain decal. As you can see it’s called a brain bucket. The actual truth is that if you fall hard enough this bit of Styrofoam will not save you. A colleague was found by the roadside and had sustained a career ending subdural hematoma. In my opinion the helmet is better than nothing at all but a serious concussion will still be a problem no matter what you wear.

Ski Bob

At one point my brother owned a powerboat. We went up the Hudson River near West Point. He called it ‘ski Bob’ and it was a banana type floatation device that you rode behind the boat. This was the only time we did this. The kids climbed on board and we towed them at high speed. To their credit they stayed on the ski Bob and didn’t fall. I had a little concern for pollution. GE had been cleaning PCB’s from the river somewhere up here. But no real harm was in play. It’s another time and memory, which I didn’t know we would never revisit. As I have said elsewhere, it’s not the best of pictures, but it’s a precious anchor for a cherished memory. We all had a great time that day.

Hot Air Balloon

I’ve shot hot air balloons before. This was one of my first encounters. Lisa had seen an advertisement for the Long Island balloon festival air show and we drove to  Brookhaven Airport with the kids. Several days earlier Lisa had been exposed to poison ivy in her gardening. She had never been affected before. But now she had weeping skin lesions on her arms and was quite distressed by the itching. She had covered her arms in moist gauze. The lesions were popping out in places she had not been exposed, such as her belly. Ever the good mom, we arrived at the airport. Seeing the balloons was cool. We had to wait around until sunset for the launching. At the time I was not yet aware that balloons launched at sunrise and sunset when the winds were most favorable. Catching the inflation with hot gas now filling the balloon is one of the most dangerous times. There are no rules so the teams allow photographers/spectators to get up close. As I said it’s dramatic. But the real memory was the heroic effort by Lisa to wait with the kids and myself until sunset. The poison ivy was really itching and uncomfortable. We departed with the crowd leaving the airport. As we passed an empty barrel of ice water that had held soda earlier, Lisa plunged her arms into the ice up to her elbows to get relief. I did not get that picture, but the memory is still vivid.

African Daisy

After you plant and look at the same flowers year after year, you yearn for something different. But the heat, and water requirements limit some of your choices. And I especially don’t like to have flowers get leggy and stop blossoming halfway through the summer. African daisies are different. You don’t just see them everywhere. Although after I planted them they don’t seem so rare any longer. But meanwhile they are intense and colorful. And unlike African honey bees, this flower is not dangerouse.


I was an avid container gardener on our Manhattan deck for a number of years. We had some daisies that were spectacular. I took plenty of shots to document the results. I’m glad I did. In recent years circumstances have kept me from planting. But boy was it spectacular once upon a time.



Rene Magritte comes to mind in this surreal photo staged by Lisa. We were at Orient Point waiting to put our friends on the ferry to New London. I admit that this was staged and posed at Lisa’s request. Sometimes my friends will cooperate with silly requests. So Bob and Kevin posed along with me looking out to sea on a rock beach.


This has also been a favorite shot of mine. I have thousands of images of the Southampton Indian Powwow. They sort of grow and accumulate with digital images being so easy to make. But this shot still stands out after all the others. It’s among my five star edits. Who knows what the smile means. Private joke or what?

Grandma Lila and Aunt Audrey

I’ve been working in random order, cleaning out the folder of pictures I’ve been holding to post. It turns out that this shot in Southampton, Long Island fits with my post yesterday. Lisa took this shot. We on a bench resting on the display furniture in front of the local store when the elements just came together with Lisa’s mom and dear Aunt Audrey. I have always liked this shot.


We were on one of our annual fall trips in the Berkshires. The kids were riding bikes and we stopped by the roadside to play around on the haystacks. The kids clambered up and I shot some great pictures. We made this trip several times and often coordinated the trip with a real estate hunt. We almost settled on a couple homes but ultimately chose Long Island. These trips were memorable for me. I hope the kids had as good a time as I did.

St Tropez

I’m too lazy today to search the database so I say this is early morning breakfast in St Tropez and I’m sticking with the story. We were on a budget traveling from Barcelona to Rome. We would stop each night and find accommodations. I preferred the adventure of not working with a plan. That turned out to be a problem sometimes. But on this early morning stroll around the harbor, we passed this open air café. I snapped this shot and the rest is ‘history.’

Living Large

Touchdown. First shot. Dining room, kitchen. Everything I brought is in these three bags.

Five Bedroom Villa

Ok! Everyone asked where I would live when I arrived in Jeddah. I had been told that I would be living in a five bedroom villa in a walled compound. It is known locally as the Andalus compound. It has high walls, about twelve feet with a security gate manned 24 hours a day. There is a pool, sauna, basketball court which doubles as a soccer court, lounge, and internet café. I have a villa that was reserved for me since my visit last December. That means it’s been empty awaiting my arrival. I’ll discuss more about that in a future post. Yup! Five, count ‘em, five bedrooms! What does a single guy do in all that space on two levels? And, I am coming from a fairly spacious four bedroom apartment in Manhattan. So far I just peeked into three bedrooms but haven’t been in them. One bedroom has a TV set up and is a den/sitting room. The master bedroom has a king bed and giant walk-in closet. There are four TV’s but no microwave or vacuum. I have a washer/dryer and an ironing board (no iron). There are dishes but no pots to cook with. Most of the minor technicalities have been solved. I now have an iron, two giant Dutch ovens as pots. I will have to find my own microwave. Drat! So far without reliable transportation, I haven’t been able to find the local home goods store. It will wait. Meanwhile I eat out frequently. Restaurant eating is relatively inexpensive. I can’t ever be dehydrated. Everywhere I go, someone is offering me bottled water.

Hereafter follow the Saudi adventure in my blog Imaged Event. (See the sidebar.)

Living room, high ceilings, rug, heavy curtains, flat screen TV

The Stanley Cup Finals!?!

King bed, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, of course

Master bath, no towel, no shower 24 hrs, air dry? No prob.

Live Long and Prosper

For a while, I will post to all three of my blogs regarding Saudi Arabia. My secret/insanity/mid life crisis will be now be revealed. I realize that I won’t live past one hundred. What fun would it be to say that I had lived in one place all my life? After letting you all know of my initial cultural shock and adjustment, I will continue the Saudi adventure on the Imaged Event blog, for which my posting has been fairly quiet. Like a diary I will provide observations of life and living in a foreign country. I am sympathetic but not so good on the empathetic side. My  experience is giving me a new perspective as someone who is no longer language (English) proficient in learning how to adjust to different customs, food, and culture. I arrived on June 3, 2012, but have delayed posting until I have been in country long enough to get my bearings. My time zones remain completely discombobulated. To repeat, Photo Back Story will chronicle my photographic experience and Imaged Event will transition to my Suadi experience.

Today’s image is of the King. He is old and in poor health according to sources. His heirs apparent have both died and the line of succession is being determined. This seemed like a good place to start.


Father’s Day. And a happy one to all fathers. This was shot by my wife hours before I departed to the airport for my Middle East journey. I bet you can’t see the tension. My daughter is at this moment in Namibia or close to a safe arrival. We had about 4 or 5 last suppers. This happened to be a late lunch. We were to meet my brother also but he couldn’t find a legal parking spot. Hey, it’s New York on Saturday afternoon. This is about as far as the kids would go. My daughter felt too emotional to go to the airport and my son had other plans cooking. We got one more shot an hour later when my brother arrived to take a last family photo. Reunions will be less frequent from here on. It’s a good shot to be able to refer to if homesickness strikes. After this I am about out of procrastination and will have to start the posts about my Middle East adventure. At the moment I’ve got a lot of prose not necessarily connected to pictures. So there’s a bit of editing. Plus, I will simultaneously post to two blogs and then transition my Saudi experience to the other blog while keeping this blog for my general photography.

Oh, the restaurant we are standing in front is a southern barbecue place so that I can get pulled pork. There is no pork product in Saudi, so this is my last chance to indulge for a while. No alcohol either, but I don’t drink…. or smoke.


Yes, one leg on the rail, the river below, and a crosswind, what risk makes you cringe? It’s one of those spontaneous moments. Afterward when everything is ok, you smile. Or if he falls, you wonder why. And then the question that arises is why did you take the picture. You should have warned the kid. Fatherhood, sometimes you can’t win, but you surely can’t beat it.


Under the George Washington Bridge. On my last day in New York, the kids and I rode our bikes to the GW Bridge. It was my last outdoor bike ride for now. As part of our ongoing silliness project, the kids ‘jumped’ in front of the Little Red Lighthouse. It took a few tries to get this one. I had a Canon G11 with the usual fractional timed shutter delay. You’d be surprised but a jump doesn’t last but a moment and to get both kids in the air was more challenging than I expected. Anyway, I got the shot. Since then I have gone to the other side of the globe and Julia will land in Africa in a couple hours. This is a memorable moment on many planes.


They are native to Long Island. Say that it means that this flower grows in the environment and likes the summers hot and dry. With a minimum of care they still thrive when other plants wilt. And they are colorful, almost fluorescent. Singly or in bunches daylilies are always an easy subject. They are summer on Long Island to me.

Blue Wall

Well I suppose it’s turquoise really. Rockland, Maine, the Lobster Festival parade day. I was walking with my friend Bob to the Coast Guard store before the parade. I think he wanted to buy socks. Go figure. There was this wall with milkweed [it’s what I call it] asking me to photograph it. I don’t think I paused but for a mere instant. Sometimes you take a shot and know it’s a good one even as it transfers to the memory card. I didn’t take another shot or experiment. We were on a mission to the store. My daughter loved this enough to have it framed.


This plant just appeared in our garden bed on Long Island. I didn’t know it’s name at that point. Then I watered it. The initial spray from a hose sitting in the sun on a hot day is hot water. So I cooked the plant and killed it. I never made that mistake again. But we never had these flowers again either.

NYC Subway

For a while now New York City has tried to make the subway a bit less drab and dreary. There is still a lot of noise, unnatural smells, garbage, and rats. But it is a bit better. Really! There are rules about photography too. This is after 9/11. They always announce that large packages and bags are subject to random inspection. I’ve never seen it happen. And people are about photographing with iPhones and cameras. Still, I’m sensitive to avoiding official hassle. I was on my way to Coney Island for the Mermaid parade. Since my camera is always at the ready in my bag, I pulled it out, shot this, and replaced my camera in about a second. There’s something to be said for improving the subway experience.


Looking at this image I keep thinking of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. As I said the balloons launch from a park. The balloon trailers are parked side by side but far enough apart not to get entangled. From a certain perspective it looks as though everyone is on top of one another. As the balloons begin to fill in the glow of sunset light it’s a feast of photo ops. Thank goodness for memory cards with large capacities. What I didn’t realize at the time is that I would not return to see this event again.

Balloon Launch

So the balloon pilots meet to discuss the weather conditions especially the wind. The winds are most favorable in the evening and at dawn. Once the winds are determined to be within safe limits, the signal for launch is given. For about 30 minutes there is a frenzy of activity, as everyone seems to race to launch before the winds change. It makes for a lot of interesting photos.

Balloon Reflection

I only got one chance to photograph the annual balloon festival in Lewiston, Maine. But since I lived in the area I could get to the venue any time the balloons launched. I had left the launch park and was driving to work along the river. I could see a balloon drifting above the trees. Yes, I wasn’t looking where I was driving. But traffic was sparse. I jumped out of the car in time to catch this image. Morning fog was lifting off the mirror calm river and the basket just about to touch down. The balloon pilots liked to do this to impress. I was duly impressed and got the shot.

Lobster Day

For a while when I lived in Maine I would keep an eye out for any photo ops. This was January 1, 2008. They have an annual Lobster Day dip in the ocean. It’s the Atlantic. It’s cold. No, I mean really freezing. I’m there in my North Face jacket, hood pulled up, hands in my pockets, camera warm against my chest, and freezing parts of my anatomy we won’t discuss. Folks were out in bikinis and all sorts of outfits as though it were a hot July day at the beach. I filmed them. They ran into the ocean and then ran out again. Crazy. Just remember it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.