Garry came back from the deli with news. Lance and Betsy have sold the place and are retiring. Someone else is taking over.

Quaker Deli and its friendly and generous owners were among the very first people to welcome us to the valley more than 16 years ago. Until we got our feet under us and began to know our way around, it was a required stop in our daily rounds. They make great sandwiches and sell quality cold cuts. And they always know how we like it sliced.


But time has had its way with them, as it does with us all. It’s what happens nowadays to almost all “mom and pop” shops. In this case, it’s not a lack of business. It’s simple tiredness. The kids don’t want the business. Mom and pop don’t want to spend all their remaining years on their feet. So, they sell.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if only whoever takes over the place would keep it as what it is … a place to pick up a few necessities without going into town. Where you can buy a great lunch, made for you. Buy a lottery ticket or whatever. Most of the new owners of these shops are immigrant families. They see a small business as a ticket to the Dream of America.


They don’t mind the long hours and hard work. But they don’t necessarily maintain the place in any way that resembles how it was. They go more heavily into higher volume, bigger profit items — like lottery tickets and cigarettes. They stop selling food and making sandwiches. This has happened to every little deli or mini grocery sold since we’ve lived in the Blackstone Valley. If it happens here, we will have to go into town for everything. The last convenience store will be gone.

I have heard over and over again that mom and pop stores are disappearing because we don’t support them, but that’s not necessarily true. It may be true sometimes, in some places. In this case, Lance and Betsey have plenty of business, maybe more than they can comfortably handle. All the truckers stop there to buy lunch. It’s the only place at this end of town where you can get an emergency supply of eggs or half-and-half.

The problem is that — not unreasonably — their kids have different dreams. They don’t want to run the family deli. They want a job where they can sit at a desk and go home without worrying about the business.


Small business are nonstop work. Buying, selling, bookkeeping. Ordering supplies. Tracking sales and figuring out what you should buy in greater or less quantity … or just stop selling entirely. The shop may be closed, but there’s always work to be done. I’m sorry to see them leaving and we will miss them very much. But I understand. I couldn’t do it.

Among many other reasons, this is why we need immigrants. They will happily do the jobs we can’t or won’t do. Think about that the next time you begin to rail against newcomers to our shores.

Do you want that job? Could you do it? Would you?


Cee’s Compose Yourself Lesson: #24 Black and White: Post Editing

These are difficult for me to do because I don’t use the same process all the time or even most of the time. I don’t use Lightroom at all. I use a variety of filters by NIK and Topaz with Photoshop as the supporting application. How I transform photographs from color to black & white depends on the picture. There are a lot of ways to do it and they all give good results.

All of these pictures are new. It was the only way I thought I might actually remember what I did. It’s been a few hours and I’m beginning to forget. I’d better get to it!


#1: Boats in their moorings

This is the original shot. In color, unprocessed and  uncropped, the two boats across the water are burned out.

Even so, I liked the angularity of the composition as well as the strong contrast between the water, sky, and boats. I also liked the reflection of the boats on the surface of the water.

I thought it might be interesting to translate the shot to black & white.


A lot of processing later, I found I could not recover the detail in the burned out boats, so I decided to go in a different direction. I used Topaz Adjust to increase contrast and generally correct the exposure settings. I ran it through Topaz Clean using the “Crisp Collection using the Crisp Edge Boost” setting. This reduced detail, making the picture more geometrical. Finally, I used NIK’s Silver Efex Pro in the “Underexposed” setting  to transform it to black & white. I brightened it a bit, added a green filter to darken the water, sky and subtly increase overall contrast.

# 2: The Crop


One of our neighbors is a farmer. He invited me to drop by and take a few pictures before harvest time. In color, the original (unedited, unprocessed) photograph is not very interesting. I thought going to monochrome might improve it.

I ran Topaz Adjust, adding contrast and detail. I tried desaturating it to black & white, but didn’t like the result. I applied Topaz Adjust then went to NIK Silver Efex Pro. I used the “017 Full Spectrum” filter in dark sepia with additional dark sepia toning and a rose filter.


#3: The Clubhouse by Night


This night shot of the marina clubhouse was almost monochrome anyway. I straightened it, used Topaz Adjust to sharpen, add detail, and desaturate it to monochrome. I then ran it through Topaz Clean “Cartoon Detailed” to make it a bit more “unearthly.” An easy conversion.


#4: Leaves on the Deck

I liked this one in color, but wondered what I could do with it in monochrome. After all, it’s mostly about light and shadow with a lot of texture. The color is almost incidental.


I used Topaz Adjust to add detail, turn down the bright and raise the contrast. Not much. Barely 5%, but that was enough. I then used the Color Saturation slider to remove the color, and the green color slider to add a bit of color back into the leaves. The result is interesting.  I like both versions.


I used three different cameras for the pictures. Only the last one of the deck was taken with my “good” lens. The others were one of my Panasonic Lumix super-zoom cameras. I always reduce published pictures to 72 dpi because of storage considerations. I know it would be nice to see a higher definition picture, but storage is expensive.

So, there you go. I don’t know if I’ve answered the call on this challenge. I admit — I’m not a particularly disciplined photographer. It’s my hobby. When it stops being fun, I’ll stop taking pictures.