It was the millennium. I figured it was the millennium, century, decade, and year in 2000. This won’t happen for a very long time. We were out on Long Island. Lisa wanted to be in the city early. She was worried about the crowds and traffic. We listened to NPR on the way in and I recall it was Car Talk. Arriving home in the early afternoon I decided to bring the kids a couple blocks over to Times Square. They were celebrating each and every hour as New Year’s occurred in another time zone around the world. So there we were the three of us. Toward midnight it would become wall to wall mass humanity hysterically awaiting the magical ball to drop. Here we were at ground zero earlier in the day. Yup, Times Square on New Year’s eve!! … and at the millenium!
I suppose I have to revisit my trips to the US Tennis Open. I store my slide collection in a set of custom-made drawers. I have more than 100k. That would be a lot of drawers. Anyway we had a party and Manny Milan, a senior Sports Illustrated photographer, was there with his wife. Our wives worked together. Mine mentioned that I had a lot of slides and Manny was pretty impressed by my storage solution. This led to an invitation from Manny for me to attend the US Open. I had a Sports Illustrated ID and wandered the grounds shooting the ‘semis’ and ‘finals.’ I learned a lot. First of all most all of the serious sports guys are shooting Canon. Nikon is in the minority. Forget equipment. It ‘s about getting the shot. That is generally defined as getting that image where the ball, racquet, and player are in the same frame. And it’s even better if it’s just the players face, racquet, and ball. Try this a few times. You think motor drive will do it. No! You will miss just about every time. Things are just moving too fast. And try to focus. So I learned to pre-focus and to time when to press the shutter. (Go ahead, get the ball just coming off the racquet!) And for all that you only got the image a small percentage of the time. And then there are the classic positions. Shooting from the baseline you want a face on view with the ball in the frame. From the sideline there is another goal. And the same can be said for being high in the stands with a full view of both players and the entire court. Time of day…. And so it goes. With digital cameras the images are taken off the memory cards and uploaded online even as the match is being played. Then there are the images that will not show up anywhere in the media. I will be discrete and not name names. At the baseline there is the ‘dugout.’ It is an area at the level of the players’ feet where photographers sit and shoot. The assigned seating is like a pecking order of importance. I got a back row view. I’m nobody. The male photographer in front of me nudged his female colleague as he showed her his LCD. She gave him a disgusted look. I couldn’t see the near court player nor could I see his image. I just stuck my camera up and out, fired off a couple images, and took a look at what there was to see. I have to laugh. It’s almost pornographic. A thong, and the pants are pretty much transparent (presumably sweat). But what puzzled me were the suspenders holding up the thong. Anyway this image would never get published. It no doubt falls in the outtake bin. By the way she’s still playing.
You always remember the things that were hard to accomplish. This was a tough event for me. I had seen a poster or post card many years ago when we visited Maine on a bicycle trip. But I had never had an opportunity to see the birds. And it turns out that it is not easy. I read about a couple of places you could go to see puffins. On one boat trip you never got close enough to see more than a dot in your telephoto lens. That was no good at all. Then there was a boat trip out of Machias. It is way the hell up near the Canadian border and you really really have to want to be there. The boat goes out early in the morning and it doesn’t guarantee a landing on the island in bad weather. Twice!! Twice I made the six hour drive from my location in southern Maine. And twice I was unable to get any shots. The seas were too rough. I learned that as long as the boat was headed out and moving straight it was no problem for motion sickness. As soon as the boat stops, it begins to rock and roll with the waves, and then shortly afterward I feed the fish. It happened twice. And I paid good money to lose my breakfast. Third time is a charm, right? Yes! We got on the island. You have to go into a blind, which is setup to minimally impact on disturbing the birds. And of course I had neglected to bring my big telephoto along. Sometimes you just can’t win. But with what I had along, I filled up a memory card. I stayed until they pulled me out of the blind. Everyone was long done. I had just waited so long to get this opportunity it seemed a shame to not savor the moment. The action was in the birds flying. It’s not hard to get lots of images of puffins standing around looking cute. I got them flying around thanks to Manny who showed me the technique of applying actions sports photography to flying puffins. There’s always a shot you don’t get. That would be an image of a puffin holding fish in its mouth. No, there will not be a fourth trip.
I haven’t seen snow in a while. With any luck I won’t see any for a while more. I won’t forget what it looks or feels like. But there was a very good photographic day back in 2008 in Maine. There weren’t too many images but they remind me of the quiet and peace of falling snow. Sound is muted. The winds blow and the ice crystals gently tap against the window. There is a freshness over everything like a new coat of paint.
This was also the Florida vacation that was so cold, it snowed and I had to wear my winter jacket on the beach. Naturally everyone turned on their electric heaters and the power on the island went out. The kids sleep with a light on. Lisa was taking steroids because of no-seeums (bug) bites. We were in different rooms each with a kid. Around 3AM I awoke in the complete pitch dark to heard Lisa softly moan, “Oh my God. I’m blind (from the meds/bites).” I didn’t realize at the time that she was having an idiosyncratic reaction to the steroids. She blames me to this day for making her crazy.
The tale of Xmas stockings goes this way. We had no chimney. But Santa arrived and brought the kids something for their stocking. He didn’t wrap them. And we left cookies – another story – on a plate for Santa. On Xmas morning, the kids would rush upstairs and examine their stockings first. I’d get photos and video. It was a close quarters narrow space because we hung the stockings on the stairway bannister. We never spoke of when the kids stopped believing in Santa. Really! They were in their twenties. Finally I asked when the moment came to them that there was no Santa… probably around the age of six? Well, they laughed sheepishly and told us they didn’t want to disappoint us. Too bad the spell was broken because that was the last year we did stockings. Oh the cookies… every year I had to eat the cookies and leave some crumbs so the kids would think Santa ate them. By the time Xmas eve comes you are pretty stuffed and even eating one more cookie is a chore.
I’ll mention one more anecdote. One year we were on Captiva Island on Christmas eve. Our flight was due to return that night. Rather than put together Christmas on December 25 we decided to tell the kids that Christmas was the next day 12/26. So on Christmas day we didn’t turn on a radio or the television and we actually pulled it off. The family came on 12/26; we all celebrated. I had taped Christmas music from the radio (the station played carols for 24 hours on 12/25). No one was the wiser. There was only a bad moment when the pilot on Christmas eve called out on the PA that he saw a man, a sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer outside the jet window. In reply to Julia’s question Lisa responded, “Santa has so many places to go, he’s getting a head start. I didn’t spill until the kids were past twenty.
This tradition ended pretty fast. For a while, every year Lisa would assemble a gingerbread house. It took her a few tries to work out construction issues. She wanted it all natural without any non-edible support. Believe me when I say that there were issues. When the kids were old enough they were the decorators. We’d have all manner of candy to apply. Though some people preserve the house and display it year after year, we ate ours in gleeful destruction. Then Lisa decided it was too much to do every year and we stopped.
There was a tendency to overdo the Christmas gifts in our house. It must have been a childhood compensatory thing. It means that there is ‘cleanup.’ Jane and David took it in another direction. It looked like they were having more fun with the wrapping than the gifts. As the commercial states, “It’s priceless.”
We always had a live cut tree since Lisa and I have been together. She told me her dad made a tree from cardboard once when she was little. Money being what it is, he said it just didn’t seem right to spend money on a dead tree. It’s another thing you do to correct things in your childhood. The kids always put the ornaments onto the tree. Initially it was just the ones you couldn’t break. Later on we still had to put the delicate ones above the height that the young nephews could reach. And finally with grown children we didn’t put up a tree at all last year. We went to my sister in law. …all grown up.
I came to the sport late in life. I had skied once in college. I nearly froze some precious anatomy that day. I tried again when I was a grown-up and about froze that same anatomy. But this time it stuck. It then became my mission to teach the family. There was the time Lisa threw her skis in my direction. She swore I was trying to kill her as she stalked across the mountain to safety. Nothing is more frustrating than to carry your gear and struggle with your kids’ gear. It doesn’t matter that kids gear is small. It’s still awkward and cumbersome. You always think you need a couple more arms. And just when you get to where you’re about to put their skis on, someone says, “Dad. I gotta go.”
This brings me to another point. If you teach you kids when they’re young, they know no fear. They are too low to the ground to really get hurt if they fall. The next thing was to ski out west. So we soon were in Deer Valley, Utah. After a week of doing A’s on the baby hill, the kids objected to more lessons. I readily agreed but told them they would have to ski with me. I wasn’t great but I was on the blue trails. Out west the blues are equal to eastern blacks. They are equally steep just wider out west. I know I was nuts because people kept taking pictures of the kids, especially David, because they were so small. Really, when I think of it David was just barely walking.
One last anecdote – Lisa decided on one President’s day that we should go skiing. We went to Shawnee a small hill in Pennsylvania. How small? …Small enough that the parking lot was at the top of the hill. We got the last pairs of kids rentals. They were so beat up the plastic was all peeling. And on the mountain other kids were whizzing out of control and grabbing the nearest adult in order to stop. It was chaos. The finale was that David took a tumble down the metal staircase of the lodge. It was about 8 steps and a fair sized fall. I watched him tumble head over heel. He landed at the bottom and didn’t move. No harm, he had been dressed in so many layers the padding had completely protected him. I was horrified. We’ve never talked about it. I just picked him up relieved that he was not damaged and not even crying.
I skied with the kids a year ago. They are both better than me now. It does make me proud. I had better sense than to challenge K27 at Hunter when it was just a series of icy moguls. They both (survived) did it. No one told mom.
Well, I started a remembrance of John a couple years ago so I guess I will continue. The thing is that I never was too good at calling him on his birthday these past few years. It didn’t mean that I didn’t care. It’s a guy thing. We didn’t need to always speak to know that we cared for one another. If there were ever a need, we were always there for each other. In looking over the choices I picked two pictures. The first is from the porch of our house on 15 Southgate Road in Elkins, West Virginia. It’s undated but I would estimate that I was 10 or 11. How quaint! We’re wearing tie and jacket. And we all have short hair. Mom cut it every two weeks. John and I were so thin then that mom took to giving us some terrible tasting dietary supplement we called ‘Jecqueline’ (sp). That try didn’t last long and we all grew up without being too thin.
In the second photo you see the three brothers a good deal older and with kids of our own, (mine and John’s shown here). John’s house was near a tire park and the kids liked to play there. If you notice Julia, you will realize that she’s the only girl on my side of the family. And David turns out to be the only boy on Lisa’s side. I remind everyone that Lisa’s side would call and ask about ‘the boy’ and it was clear whom they meant.
Catching a fish is a bit of an art. My brother was an avid fisherman. We all have little secrets. John would get a new fishing rod each year and catch a fish to baptize the rod. In many ways his hobby was like my photography. I’m not buying a new camera every year. But I have not hesitated to get new equipment if I could justify the need. Ahh… that’s the stuff of another story. I actually purchased two point and shoots this summer when I lost my primary underwater camera. The first replacement just stopped working. Repair time would be unknown and uncertain. As it turns out it was about two weeks. But it was during a critical 10 day period during which I did about 20 dives and shot nearly 2000 images (after discards). I justified the emergency replacement as an essential expense to keep diving. Darn! That little point and shoot is really good in low light and it’s very light in the pocket. And now there’s a backup to the backup. Make sense?
Well on to my story today. It’s not a good image by any means. I was busy trying to white balance and missed getting a decent image. (Note to myself – get an image, then try to get something better, but at least get something on the memory card before you start getting cute.) We paused by some coral. Farid was looking underneath and poking his hand inside with his gloved finger. Have I told you not to touch anything on the reef? It just invites something to bite you back. Well, he poked and he raised the silt and generally clouded everything up. Wissam was looking over my left shoulder as I puzzled over what had Farid’s attention. Then he reached in and pulled out a rather large fish. He held it firmly and we watched as it changed from green to white in color. I didn’t know they do that. Here I was fumbling to get an image. He let the fish go and I was a loser. I hope Farid doesn’t ask me how the shot came out. This is the third time I’ve seen someone catch a fish barehanded. I’m so impressed.
As for me I have reasonable skill as a photographer. I am just the exact opposite as a fisherman. I can’t catch a fish if you put it on the hook and told me to start reeling. Which brings me to another curious thought. We constantly see people fishing from the pier as we enter to dive. I’ve been tempted to put a big fish on their hook. But it would mean catching one with your bare hand which I’m not prepared to do.
What to they have in common? David spent time in both universities. And that’s where I spent my money. It’s funny because I got essentially the same shot in different years. I got the task of dropping him off freshman year. He had a room that was painted cinder block with high windows and reminded me of prison more than a dorm. His roommate first semester never appeared (probably made bail). David got straight A’s and departed a year later. I know that I thought he looked pretty alone when I left him in his Spartan dorm room. Two things I will add. We shopped for some furniture and we managed to wrestle a recliner into the rental car. And the other chair was a webbed rocking lawn chair. I don’t think he was really lonesome. We had lunch in a diner the first day he arrived. Our waitress sat down in our booth. She was a sophomore and gave David her number if he needed help. After she left he whispered, “Dad, She was in our space.” I got a laugh out of that.
The most terrifying conversation I overheard: “David. You have to graduate (this June).” His mother said this to him about a month before graduation. Thank goodness he finished in four years. Ouch! It cost enough as is.
I was corresponding about skateboard photos recently. My own experience as usual was opportunistic. David went through a phase where he tried to master the board. Naturally I took the pictures. No broken bones… either of us. He’s actually pretty good in this picture. I was really not much of a stop action sports photographer yet. That would come when I had a chance to shoot the US Tennis Open a few years later. Meanwhile I had the awareness to try to catch the critical moment. I’d probably try for a different shot now. Still, this wasn’t too bad. David gave up the sport shortly afterward.
Haircuts for kids can be a bit traumatic. In NYC there are specialists. In one place we went the barber chairs were carousel horses and well … you know what. It was just inconvenient to get there and Lisa tried the old Italian barbers on 9th Avenue. They didn’t want to cut David’s hair. They just didn’t care too much for squirmy kids. David was a champ, never moved, and they grew to like him. And they didn’t really mind kids because there was always a lollipop afterwards. Julia always went along with Lisa and David so she was invited to a lollipop as well. One day many haircuts later I took David by himself. David received the customary lollipop. And the barber handed him one for his absent sister. He promptly stuck both into his mouth. In answer to my question he replied. “I have to eat them both before I get home and Julia sees.” Julia never did find out and it remained our secret.
David had been away for about a year and a half working in Argentina. We visited once. His apartment had a rooftop pool and spa. He lived quite well and had become acquainted with many people in his neighborhood. I was impressed. We did not stay in his apartment when we visited. Shall we say that he was not an excellent housekeeper and leave it at that. In the spring of 2011 it was Lisa’s big graduation. Julia was home once again. We had heard from David. He had quit his job in January and was traveling through South America without a specific return date. Julia decided to throw a surprise graduation party. And indeed it was a surprise. Lisa was clueless. I did the funding. On the day of the party I had gone down to the lobby to let some guests into the building. There at the elevator was a stranger kissing one of my friends. Then I realized it was David! Well his grandmother was thrilled. We hid him away as the ultimate surprise. Julia had Lisa downtown in a spa morning. Just like surprises go, Lisa was thoroughly surprised.
I went through a big photographic journey starting in 2009, which coincided with my kids’ journeys. Lisa and I were invited to wedding in Peru. Lisa decided to invite the kids along but not to the wedding. David had graduated and had not found a job in about a year at home. Julia and David were soon added to the wedding guests. And then David dropped his bomb. He would stay in South America, travel around, and then find a job in Argentina. Lisa nearly fainted with the news. I wasn’t sure he’d last there. And besides there are bandits and they kidnap Americans. Ha ha! It was nerve wracking when we left David in Lima and left to return to New York. Within a year Julia was on her African adventure teaching in Namibia for a year. I like to say that my kids were not on the same continent nor were they even in the same hemisphere for a while. The derivative was that we had to visit both kids and I ended up traveling to South America and Africa. Lisa did a stint in a children’s village in Tanzania. This ultimately left me with the realization that if you only live once, take life and live it, hence my journey to the Middle East.
I’m still diving. The water is still in the 80’s. For those of you in the snow and sleet of winter…my regrets. This image was taken during a night dive. The shrimp is about the size of your thumbnail. It’s small! And it’s shy! The tip I got was from master photographer who said they were there to begin with. You look under the coral and look for something reflecting back your flashlight beam. Once you see two glowing eyes, shove your camera in there and shoot. The shrimp are not hanging around to get their picture taken. They move. And you can’t see to shoot because you have your hand under a coral to get the camera close enough for a decent magnified exposure. You are really just in a ‘shoot and pray’ mode. The photographers with the big rig – macro domes, wide-angle lenses, and articulated armed flashes – probably have a better percentage of success. But as always the trick is to find these guys first. I have several images and someday I’ll get a better one. If you look closely you can see the eyes and six legs plus two long antennae. The creature is not even enough to make a mouthful.
It constantly amazes me how well the camera processor/sensor can analyze a scene and get a decent exposure. Basically I’m lazy. I don’t want to be twirling a lot of dials and adjusting shutter, ISO, and aperture. So the camera does the work and I compose and try to crop in camera as the image is taken. You could never do this with film. And you never had a chance to make instant corrections. Immediate feedback has made things so much easier. I will also admit that I am not shooting raw.
I’m saddled with slow shutter speed, image stabilization, high ISO, and a cropped image. You can see the movement blur. All in all I consider this a satisfactory grab shot. The beauty of auto focus is that you really do just point and shoot. In truth this is what I have come to know as street photography. I’d rather not tangle with folks who don’t want their picture taken. So I just shoot from the hip. This opens up a whole discussion on whether it is proper to just shoot like this. It is in fact permissible in a public space. My kids would rather that I didn’t do this and risk harm to myself. I’m just discrete and haven’t run into any problems so far. Hey, he was a cute kid.
They turned on the fountain late today. It is a worthy addition to the landscape scene. If you look carefully up and to the left of the plume, there is a small white dot. It’s the evening star. Which one I do not know. The internet does not identify it reliably. No, it’s not an artifact or dust. And once again the camera sensor was able to expose for this and keep the scene exposed evenly. Film could never have done this for me. Oh, and if you get a passing bird into your shot, it’s an added bonus.
There aren’t too many landmarks here in Jeddah. The fountain has a listing. It’s about one of five. They are building the world’s tallest flagpole nearby. Currently this has caused major traffic slow downs because the traffic circle is inconveniently located. In an area without a really tall building around there is also a plan to erect the tallest building. I can hardly wait.
There is a uniform dress code. Women must always wear an abaya in public. And that abaya shall be black. For the most part men wear white. For kids anything goes. All I keep thinking about is how Julia melted when she wore her abaya while visiting me in March. She literally melted inside the black (and she’s no witch). The weather is a lot better now. It’s almost pleasant in the evening. The downside is that the sunset is early and soon it will be dark at 5PM just like home.
I have to get a new wallet. Mine smells from all the perfume and cologne. It gets on the money and my wallet and even my scrubs have a scent. You pretty much have to wear something to cover the scent of wearing a black abaya or long sleeve thobe in 100 degree weather and no where to hide. I’d just like to have my wallet not be scented when I get back to NY. Most natives consider me barbaric for declining any supplemental scent.