So long ago
…way back in 2018. Merry Christmas to all!
Jules was pregnant and ready to have my first grandchild on my side of the family. Oh boy! A California Christmas. It was no white Christmas but it was unforgettable. Surfing. Fireworks. Christmas lights.
Santa makes the season unmistakable. It’s a lifetime ago. Jules has two kids. Things have changed so much in so many ways. I made an ornament. Colleen’s suggestion and idea brought to fruition. Now we gotta find more wood blocks for the grandkids. It’s been a nice few years since this one.
All the best to you and yours on this holiday.
Once upon a time
Once upon a time Amelia, the dove, hatched a clutch of eggs in Jule”s window box. Several more generations of eggs followed and hatched. Imagine, it was 5 floor up in NYC, hardly the place to raise a family of doves. Several years later there was a reunion of the extended dove family on my 6th floor deck – one time only. It was poignant and priceless!
I have seen Gates, a one-time art installation in Central Park. I flew over the Verraznno Bridge during the NYC Marathon. I got to shoot at the US Open. I have been to Patriot Day in Boston. Why did the turkey(s) cross the road? Um, I don’t know either. Puffins??! Cute?! I got seasick three times unsuccessfully never seeing the birds, before I got this shot. The dragon – New Orleans – mardi gras, I was there to see the warehouse housing the trappings of the celebration. Walter Mitty had nothing on me.
Just about anything will do
Fireworks! I have shot them for many a year, in many a year, even in the rain. I evolved. Pointing a camera at the sky will only get you so far. I got the 411 late. You need a tripod. But, you also need a long exposure. Three seconds or so will get you bursts of fireworks trailing in the night sky. It’s a bit more dramatic. You are committed. There’s not enough time to switch around techniques; the show is fleeting. This year – I hadn’t shot fireworks in many years, and with a new camera no less – I attended fireworks with the family. They were casual viewers for whom any burst of fire was a treat. Therefore, I was out of position by more than a mile – sitting by a road side with traffic, lights, and with houses and trees in my horizon. Plus, fireworks vary depending upon the budget. Home bought (fireworks) stuff – don’t bother. This stuff? It was too low on the horizon and did not have much variation, imagination, or pop. Oh well, fireworks is fireworks. But, once upon a time I shot them from my deck in Manhattan and saw the Macy’s annual big doo. It doesn’t get much better than that. I did not caption: Macy’s; Maine (hand held); beach. You will know the beach shot by the trees. Lemon? Make lemonade. Colleen was thrilled to see my pics. She’s so kind to me. For you: tripod, long exposure – ISO 600, f8, manual, 3 seconds; start there and adjust on the fly.
… without fireworks, heresy! Random. It’s great to have a good database. 2009. I was in Maine. I really didn’t know how to shoot fireworks back then. Now I know. Long exposure – 2-3 seconds to get the trails. My goal today? Some fireworks. It will be subdued this year. Corona virus. There are a lot of private fireworks being sold and shot. We just won’t gather in the millions to see Macy’s.
4th of July. Fireworks. Gotta have some. They do a fireworks display around Delaware. We have not been. Too busy and don’t want to hassle the crowd. It’s not that crowded. But when two cars is enough to make a traffic jam….it is a bit crowded in the summer. I searched out some fireworks images. I’ve posted the same before. Technical tip: use a tripod and use an exposure of about 3-4 seconds at around f16. It’s a lot better than handheld and 1/30 sec. Practice and review. Digital gives you instant feedback. It’s another fun skill to master. Lazy? I just went back and got the most recent images I put 3 star upon.
I know where I was
Fireworks. I’m a whole lot better taking pics of fireworks. I learned to do it right somewhere around 2009. I learned the basics. Use a tripod! You can hand hold too. That would be because the light/glow of fireworks is good enough to shoot at 1/30 sec. But you are much better on a tripod with 3 sec exposures. This slide was from 2000, the millennium in NYC. It was done in three locations that year: Hudson River, East River, and Statue of Liberty. This pic shows the water tower in front of the Hudson right by the Intrepid (air craft carrier). It’s my pic. It’s far from perfect. It’s dramatic enough. And I would have been happy. But I now know a different standard. The first 30+ years I thought I was good. Then I read that I could improve. It’s in my skill set now. I just gotta find some fireworks.
With digital it’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax. I did these handheld because I was not prepared for fireworks in California on the beach in December. Ok! Lemons? Lemondade! I used the Canon point and shoot. Video is something I never look at again. There were plenty of failures. But digital processors do so much. I got passable shots. I could do better with a tripod. But I was not willing to buy one on short notice.
Fireworks for Christmas!
Manhattan Beach does their annual firework display at Xmas. They don’t compete with the neighboring beach community that does it in July. It’s a very large beach. You have to get a good seat. And so we did. The traffic was horrible. But we were already parked. I guess that was the limiting factor.
We sat alone with no one nearby and had the best seats in the house. It was chilly! And I got fireworks! Next July I’ll look for fireworks images. For now we got some great ones. How do you know he’s going up? He was. I suggested it would be easier to pull than push. But the image? It could be more likely he’s going downhill with the stroller…except he’s not.
On the technical side: I shot the fireworks handheld. This meant I could not use an extended exposure. Ideally: Use a tripod. Set the shutter speed to 3-4 seconds. Adjust your ISO and aperture accordingly. You get sharp trails of light and even multiple bursts. Handheld? Hey, it works too if you set up correctly. It’s what I did when I started. It’s not what I’d do now. But one adapts to the conditions provided. No, it’s not worth buying a tripod special for this occasion. I’m not OCD. Ha!
In The News
A bomber and his bomb went off in a spot close to where I live and work. In fact, the bomb went off within hours, maybe less, after I passed by the area in the middle of the night. If I say minutes someone will pull my ticket and make me come home…
I have a knack for being close to news happening. Currently based in the Middle East, I have raised lots of concern from people who care about me. And those people know I live life on the edge and am not risk averse. That said, I have been safe. I have never felt in danger. More crime happened near or to me in New York City.
Recent events (last night) – namely a bombing close to me has raised concern from a lot of people. So I suppose it is apropos to post and reassure you. To start you have to know that I am wired a bit differently than most people. I’ve been to lots of places and done lots of things. I’ve been in or close to news stories before. I’ve been mentioned in the New York Times: Once for winning the hurdle event in the Manhattan Borough track championship. (Hey! I digress! It’s my blog.) And the second was more extended coverage of a neurosurgeon who operated on the wrong side of the brain. (No comment) He is the sentinel case that triggered “Time Out” in the operating room. (How’s that for being in history.) Hey! I was on the sports page before I ever knew or read a sports page! The other story is sad, sad and someone died.
I’m gonna make this story long and convoluted. Bear with me, it’s entertaining (or not) for sure. To start, I take pictures of everything. And to be sure, I have more than 200, 000 digital images alone. They are spread across a myriad of devices and on multiply redundant hard drives. So to find anything is a feat of memory and ingenuity. I know I have taken a shot (a picture, silly) of the bomb site. Find it?! It took all of about 30 minutes. I knew that I did it quietly. No one should be seen to appear to case the American Embassy. And after searching, voila! I have actually shown and commented on the security to friends in a slide presentation back in 2014. Who knew these nondescript photos would be handy someday later on.
Back to risk – When I first visited Jeddah to interview for a job, I was taken to a wealthy residence to dive. I don’t dive. I did not have lessons yet. So, I snorkeled. My three companions went diving. I stayed on the surface with a point and shoot camera just playing with the fish. Peaceful. Calm. Tropical. Nice. My snorkel stood up and out like a flag. The passing coast guard patrol boat immediately swung around to investigate and then tried to arrest me. Without a worry in the world and without a shred of guilt in my heart, I was completely nonplussed. What followed was a mess that should have warned me. (But of course not…) The officer actually tried to pull me into the boat. I knew better than to be separated from the group without a translator. And besides there is no way to climb into a patrol boat without a ladder. They asked me to climb up on the outboard and in. Nope, not happening!
They sent me to shore. The adjoining villas are all walled from each other. I was motioned to the end of the wall and facing the ocean I could see around the wall to the neighbors place. I was greeted by the caretaker and his two AK-47 armed guards. Now it was serious. But at least no one was shooting. The other three divers soon emerged. As they swam to the surface you could see their bubble trail left to right from the neighbor’s water to the villa we were diving from. Aha! Trespassing! And not in just anyone’s water, it was the prince of terrorism’s palace we had transgressed. Well, they did it; remember, I was snorkeling (in bounds).
This prince was famous for stamping out terrorism years. It was bad politics and bad for business. So the story goes: he offered $1million dollar bounty on any terrorist. And the story continues, that people turned in their sons and brothers. Peace or relative peace followed.
So? We were suspicious assassins swimming in his water. It’s not his water. Certainly the fish do not recognize borders! But here we were. And then we were hauled off to the coast guard station for twelve hours! They knew right away that we were innocent. But the paperwork! took 12! hours. A very nice office wrote out, by hand, in careful perfect Arabic script a report for each of us. Three would be identical copies but he wrote out each separately and painstakingly. After all how long does it take to write? You can’t make this stuff up. Someone from the hospital actually had to come and vouch for my orthopedic surgeon host and me. (Later we found out the CEO’s father and the coast guard’s general were friends and we’d have been free fast. Who knew?) Afterward, like Alice’s Restaurant, we all shook hands, and took the phone number of the lieutenant just in case we were ever in a jam again.
The order of the blue thumb – you don’t sign documents in Jeddah. You leave your thumb print. So each of us had to attest to our guilt – what me?! – by inking our thumb at every statement the officer wrote. That was a lot of thumb prints. Not one – a lot! And then no alcohol to wipe the ink off…. So, you see? I actually came back to work in this crazy place six months later. Don’t ask. The orthopedic surgeon and I are good friends now. He never asked.
So two days ago on July 3rd I was called. Routine. I get calls for emergencies all the time. A recently retired orthopedic surgeon was in the hospital ER with subdural hematomas right and left side. I was going to do the operation the next day but was persuaded to operate in the night because his neurological was not entirely stable. It’s Ramadan. They fast all day. Break fast is at 7:10pm. So everyone did that first. At 10:30pm they called me to come on in to the OR. I had been napping after breakfast. Everything was ready to go. And at 11:23pm I joked to the anesthesiologist, “We’ll be done before midnight. I want to finish the within the same day I start.” Hey! At that hour… His nephew was in the room with us. He’s a house doctor in the orthopedic department. And the son was in the waiting room. He’s a general surgery intern with us. Even with a discerning hovering audience, everything went well.
I left and drove home safely and quietly. There are two ways to go. You pass by the American Embassy on the right of left. Hail Street is the local route. Andalus Road is a highway, of sorts, that passes the American Embassy to the left. Right or left, it depends on time of day and traffic. In the middle of the night, Andalus is faster of course. And I always go the fastest way home. Missed by that much, maybe an hour or so, because my assistant passed this way home too. He was about an hour or so behind me. He found all the streets blocked. Within the hour I was called about another emergency, but, I did not have to return to the hospital. Close! Some poor kid had his motorcycle hit by a car…or he hit the car. Either way, he did not need surgery though he was in a coma. Sadly, they often ride fast without helmets. No one knew of the bombing at the time. (And they close off roads all the time for passing motorcades carrying royalty.)
In 2004, the US Embassy was attacked and nine Filipino’s lost their lives. After that the embassy walls were reinforced. (Curiously the Iranian embassy is only minutes away.) A double wall of concrete with barbed wire was installed right into the street. The two-way street became one-way and traffic always moves slowly past. (They think nothing to just block off a street permanently.) To the right side there is a parking lot where the bomb supposedly detonated. A mosque is there on the corner. A large hospital sits to the right as well. The cousin to my hospital’s CEO owns Fakeeh Hospital and competes with us. Guards from within and without are there. It is the beginning of the entrance to enter the embassy grounds.
Across the street are the Saudi security forces in plain sight with uniforms and weapons at the ready. There is a pick-up truck with a mounted machine gun. My curiosity was raised to see whether the machine gun was ready to go. It appears that the ammo is not loaded up for immediate firing. No one sits in the gun mount anyway. But, this was what prompted me to sneak a pic and scope out the extent of vigilance. You cannot be 100% vigilant if nothing ever happens. You get complacent. I was wondering and gauging complacency. I guess they are pretty vigilant and less complacent. No one was seriously injured. The bomber was seen long before he got close to the embassy.
Bottom line: I know the site. And I passed by within a very short time before it took place. And, I very nearly passed by again for another patient emergency. Close, but no cigar? Close is for horseshoes? Better to be lucky than good. Good means fast and I finished and left before trouble occurred. It was July 4th – was it fireworks gone bad…? Bad jokes, all…. Go figure. The prince of terror may have more work to do again. Yes, my kids and everyone close knows I am ok. Thank you to all of you who noticed. It looks like there were fireworks here and, fortunately, I missed them.
4th of July
It’s a great view from my apartment when they fire the Macy’s show from the Hudson. Most year’s it’s been on the East River. What I never knew was the technique. After reading a few pointers, I found out that a long exposure is the way to go. So I use f12 and 3-5 seconds. I’m on a tripod and changing the exposure constantly. In this case there are no rules. Meanwhile, Happy 4th.
In the time before I knew how to shoot fireworks with a camera, this was one of my edits in 2000. To cap the festivities in New York Harbor, there was fireworks display sponsored courtesy of Macy’s. I wangled a position somewhere. I believe that it was some high perch in a friend’s apartment looking downtown toward the Statue of Liberty. I handheld the camera and got this shot. Technically I would probably do better today. But in fireworks, I have come to believe, there are no rules.
Literally. I’ve lived in midtown west for about 30 years now. The neighborhood is best known as Hell’s Kitchen, now called Clinton. It was rough and tumble and the ‘Westies’ were known here. The neighborhood was already better when we moved here. There was low level crime, some drug sales and prostitution.
One time, a guy who lived in the neighborhood robbed my car on Thanksgiving night. I had just brought my kids upstairs and returned to find him rifling my glove compartment. He had a weapon (knife) but I only chased him from my car. Later he had a stolen car radio and was sitting in the park. So I called in the theft to the police. He later complained to me that I was making things hard for him. I asked him to return the things from my glove compartment and he offered to sell them to me. Weird.
Prostitution was another issue. When we first lived here, you could see girls and women of all sizes and shapes standing on the block. And one night as I had to go over to the ER on a call, there was a jeep rocking. On the driver’s and passenger’s side of the vehicle were two couples… well you can imagine. The girls were just leaning into the windows.
Back to my point, in all the years that I have lived here, I have never heard a live round of gunfire. I know it is described as a fire cracker going off. It is definitely unlike the movies. So three shots rang out Sunday (Easter) night. There was some shouting but not too much. I immediately thought gunshots, but then dismissed it. The street was completely quiet. My son never noticed a thing.
Several minutes later I heard sirens. They approached but seemed to pass on the avenue and no sirens came down my block. Five minutes later I looked out the window to see two parked police cars facing the wrong way on our one way street. Another vehicle with flashing lights was at the head of the block. Flashlights were scouring the street presumably for evidence. Indeed there had been a shooting. No body or at least no ambulance was in attendance.
What’s noticeable is that the police turned down our block silently. The goal was to surprise and possibly capture the perpetrators. Usually there is the blare of sirens and flashing lights whenever anything happens. Perhaps it’s just the fire department. In a city this size I doubt I will find out what the shooting was about. And as I stood looking from my window, there was really no one I could see peering from their window to see what/who was shot. A mystery.
A Wild and Crazy Night (Part 2)
While the bright lights of the fire trucks were still spinning, thunder began. Lisa looked up and asked if it had started to rain. The sky was cloudless. That could only mean fireworks. Cutting back through the apartment I found fireworks being set off over the Intrepid Air Space Museum on the Hudson River. No time for a tripod, I got some shots bracing my camera against the fence. All of this happened within a twenty-minute span. Some things you can’t make up.