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OLD RUSTY MEMORIES

Weekly Photo Challenge 

Relic - What images does “relic” conjure for you?

Photo Marilyn Armstrong - Bernat Mills

We live in a throwaway society … yet here, in the country — maybe because we have a little extra room — many people choose to keep the relics.

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Because we find old things, those rusty remembrances of our past, beautiful.

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Whether it’s the old storage shed behind the barn, the barn itself, or the old truck we drove for 20 years … they hold a lot of memories of when we also were young.

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In fact, we find old stuff … relics … fascinating. We collect them. Photograph them. Try to imagine what they might have seen in their many years on this earth.

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DROUGHT AT THE DAM

We were over at the dam yesterday. Didn’t take any pictures there, but I’m pleased to report there is a bit more water following our 4th of July rains. The dam is still dry, but the lake has filled up to about 75%. We need a couple more soakers and we’ll be okay.

LEARNING PHOTOGRAPHY FROM EISENSTADT

Alfred EisenstadtGarry and I used to vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, sharing a house on with a bunch of other people from Boston TV stations.

In the early 1990s, Garry was assigned a feature about Alfred Eisenstadt and Lois Maillou Jones, both of whom lived on the Vineyard and had been given Presidential Medals of Honor for their work. We became friends with both artists. Eisenstadt was in his early 90s, Lois Maillou Jones in her mid 80s.

I had been an admirer of Eisenstadt’s work as long as I’d been taking pictures. I shot my first roll of film on Martha’s Vineyard in 1966. I had stayed at the Menemsha Inn where (serendipity!!) Eisenstadt lived from late spring till Labor Day. Books of Eisie’s work were all over the inn. In bookcases, on tables. Most of the books featured his landscapes of Martha’s Vineyard.

I was using my first camera, a Practika with a great Zeiss 50mm lens. Great lens, but no electronic light meter. No electronic or automatic anything. It had a crank film advance.  A bare bones camera with a Zeiss lens. I had half a dozen rolls of black and white film.

It was the ideal situation for a beginner. I had to learn how to take a light reading with a handheld meter. I had to focus the lens, set the shutter speed, the f-stop, and choose the film speed – though you only had to set film speed once each time you loaded the camera.

It wasn’t a lot of settings to learn, but they were and are the essentials of photography. If you can take a light reading, set film speed (now ISO), understand shutter speed, depth of field, and see when a picture is in focus —  and you recognize a picture when you see it – you’re home free. Everything else is dessert.

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Photo by Alfred Eisenstadt

My 50 mm lens was a prime. No zoom. It was a good piece of glass and moderately fast at f2.8. No flash, either.

If I wanted a close up, I could move closer to what I was shooting. A wide shot? Go back! I learned photography in a way those who’ve only used digital cameras never will learn. Most of today’s photographers have never held a camera without auto-focus, much less taken a reading with a hand-held meter.

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe it does.

The camera was a gift from a friend who had bought a new camera. Armed with the Practika and determination, I followed Eisenstadt’s path around the Vineyard. I discovered where he’d taken each picture, figured out how he’d gotten the perspective, framed it.

I duplicated his shots down to the clump of grass behind which he’d crouched to create a foreground. I added a few twists of my own. I was winging it, but I winged well.

My first roll of film was brilliant – except the photographs were copies of Alfred Eisenstadt’s. He taught me photography by giving me foot prints to follow. By the time I was done with those first rolls of film, I had learned the fundamentals. I’m still learning.

Photo by Alfred Eisenstadt

When I actually met Alfred Eisenstadt, it was the most exciting moment of my life.

As we got to know Eisie better, I asked him to autograph his books for me. He didn’t merely autograph them. He went through each book, picture by picture.

He was in his early 90s and had forgotten many things, but remembered every picture he’d taken, including the film and camera, lens, F-stop, and most important, what he was thinking as he shot. He could remember exactly what it was about the image that grabbed his attention.

For example, the picture of the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square on VJ Day, he said he was walking around Times Square with his Nikon. When he spotted the dark of the sailor’s uniform against the white of the nurse’s dress, he knew it was what he wanted and shot. Light, contrast, composition.

We spent time with him every summer for 5 years until he passed. We were honored to be among those invited to the funeral. Although we were sad that Eisie was gone, we found things to laugh about. Knowing him was special and some memories are worth a laugh. I don’t think Eisie would have minded.

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MORNING LIGHT BREAKING THROUGH — LIKE LIFE

Frame of Mind – If you could paint your current mood onto a canvas, what would that painting look like? What would it depict?


 

Early morning. Sun coming through and the mist in the woods is lifting. Like life. misty morning 1

HOW TO TAKE A CASUAL PORTRAIT YOU WON’T HATE

The proliferation of cell phones and high-end, point and shoot cameras has made everyone think they take great pictures. For some people, it’s true or close enough for folk music. Others, not so much. Facebook is the place where I am constantly reminded of how many people take awful pictures.

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This is aimed at the photographically challenged. You know who you are.

First, let’s discuss equipment. No matter what you are using — cell phone or camera — it needs to be in working order. Clean lens, not scratched. If it’s an old cell you have dropped and doused, I feel safe saying it won’t take great pictures.

Ditto that old point and shoot camera that’s been kicking around your basement for years. Probably not going to give you the quality you seek.

If, on the other hand, you have a relatively new cell phone, maybe an iPhone 4 or better? Or by some miracle you have a real camera in working order? Or someone in your family has a camera you can borrow for a few hours?

If none of this works for you, consider giving up photography.

Okay. Moving on. You need light to take a picture. Flash is unflattering and cheap cameras need more light than expensive ones. You don’t need to know why, just take my word for it.

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This means you should take your pictures outside in natural light. During the day. But not bright sunlight or in drenching rain. You knew that, right?

Rain is bad for cameras and cell phones. It’s the whole electronics versus water thing.

Bright sunlight creates unattractive sharp shadows and burns out highlights. It means you won’t be able to see anything in the bright or in shaded parts of the picture. Nor will there be much to see in the middle. Also, it makes people look all squinty.

Bright shade or a cloudy day will do the job.

Don’t pose yourself (or anyone) staring straight into a lens close up. Shot that way, everyone looks like a criminal. Just put a number under their face and you’re in an episode of Law & Order.

Have your subject turn slightly right or left. That includes you if you’re taking a selfie. Look at the screen and see if it’s an attractive picture. If not, keep moving the subject around until you like what you see.

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Take a lot of pictures from different angles. Let your subject move around. You can move too. If you take two dozen shots and get one you truly like, you’re doing well. The more pictures you take, the more likely you are to get a few excellent ones.

When you look in the viewfinder or screen, don’t just look at your subject. Look at the background. No trash cans. No piles of rubble. You want a neutral, pleasant backdrop. Leaves, trees, grass. A wall is good too. Mostly, you want the background to not distract from the subject.

Avoid flash for portraits. It is unflattering, like full sun and for the same reasons.

If all the pictures are unflattering, unfocused, off-color, do the right thing. Delete them. No one will thank you for making them look bad. You don’t need to be a photographer to know the most important rule of people pictures:

Everyone wants to look good.

Avoid trash cans in the background. Please!

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IT’S ONLY A PAPER MOON

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Circles and Curves

Circles and curves. In the sky, on the ground and in the window.

It’s Only A Paper Moon

Lyrics by E. Y. Harburg and Billy Rose

It is only a paper moon

Sailing over a cardboard sea

But it wouldn’t be make believe

If you believed in me.

Yes, it’s only a canvas sky

Hangin’ over a muslin tree

But it wouldn’t be make believe

If you believed in me.

Without your love

It’s a honky tonk parade.

Without your love

It’s a melody played in a penny arcade.

It’s a Barnum and Bailey world

Just as phony as it can be

But it wouldn’t be make believe

If you believed in me.

Without your love

It’s a honky tonk parade

Without your love

It’s a melody played in a penny arcade.

It’s a Barnum and Bailey world

Just as phony as it can be

But it wouldn’t be make believe

If you believed in me.


 


 

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MID SUMMER FULL TILT BOOGIE

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The garden is full of lilies and roses. We even have a couple of daisies. Pink and dark red fairy roses are heavy on the bushes.

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This is it, the peak of the season. The spider wort (there isn’t much of it this year, but there are a few stems showing buds) is almost ready to flower.

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This is as good as it will be all season and I have photographic proof!

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If you look carefully, you can see the huge dead rose-bush under the day lilies which are a bit flat from the heavy rains the other day.

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A RIOT OF GREEN

We scooted over to our little piece of river yesterday.

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These were all taken on the banks of Aldrich Creek. It runs parallel the street on which we live.

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This little park is in Burriville, just over the Rhode Island border.

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A pretty piece of waterway and right now, it’s a riot of green.

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MORE ODD PHOTOGRAPHS – WEEK 19

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: Week 19

So there we are, down by the creek and everything … water, trees, grass … is green. Maybe it’s because if finally rained on the fourth. Maybe it was the terrible winter and everything is making up for last time.

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Amid all the green, two things stood out: my bright red bag in which I carry everything I might need. Including a camera and sometimes, a tablet computer and my Kindle. It is very heavy. I don’t care.

As much as anything I own is “me,” my big red tote is. I don’t remember when I changed from black bags to red. I know I was at a party trying to find my bag. All the women’s bags looked exactly the same. Every single one of them was black. They were all shoulder bags.

The next bag I bought was red. They have all been red since. And all Baggallini.

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And then there are all the posted signs. This little park is full of ecological warnings. About the fish. About not leaving litter. About what seasons are open for which activities. It’s one of the few places where you can legally fish and launch a small boat. A kayak, rowboat or canoe, nothing larger. But that would be enough to have some fun.

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I KNOW YOU CAN’T REALLY SEE IT BUT …

72-turtle-ManchaugDry_042 This is the kind of picture no one should make other people look at because you have to start off by saying, “I know you can’t really see it but …” It’s a turtle. Swimming under the water. I know you can’t really see it, but I thought it was pretty cool, so with a lot of puttering on Photoshop to make it almost visible … You’ll have to take my word for it. It’s a snapping turtle. I know because that’s the kind of turtles we have around here.

It’s swimming in the very shallow water of what was left of the pond at Manchaug a week ago. We’ve had some rain since, so I’ll see tomorrow if the situation has improved.

Garry says it looks like a blob, but it was visibly a turtle a split second before I pressed the shutter. You can’t win them all. Because you’ve been patient, I’ve included other pictures from the same day of shooting at Manchaug.

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FLAGGED FLOWERS

red white blue petunias

My favorite flower shop has come up with special baskets of red, white, and blue petunias to celebrate the 4th of July.

Red white and blue petunias

Really, it’s closer to pink, white and powder blue, but you can’t blame that on the petunias. They are mere flowers, following their pre-programmed colors. He should have tried begonias. You can at least get a real RED with begonias.

Red White Blue petunias

OUR FINAL DESINATION

Wrong TurnsWhen was the last time you got lost? Was it an enjoyable experience, or a stressful one? Tell us all about it.


It was late in the day when we rolled into Gettysburg. Tired, ready for a shower and a meal, we asked Richard our faithful GPS to take us to the nearest motel. We followed his directions carefully.

main street Gettysburg

It was our first visit to the area. Road-weary, we were too exhausted to deal with getting lost and we were (are) often lost. Diligently, we followed Richard’s directions.

After a few turns and one long straightaway, Richard announced in his loud, clear voice: “You have reached your destination!” Indeed we had, though it was not the one we had it mind.

As far as we could see lay miles of tombstones. Richard had brought us to our ultimate destination, what must have been Gettysburg’s largest modern cemetery. It stretched for miles.

Who knew our GPS had a sense of humor? We didn’t stop laughing until we finally found the EconoLodge.