Honk if you own a camera and it works. Honk twice if you know how it works and some of your pictures are good enough to hang in frames!

I rarely bother to write about the same thing twice in a day, but this is bugging me. It must be, because I’ve written about it before and probably will again.

Photography is not about inner beauty. Photography is about an image captured and displayed to be viewed. 

I am a photographer. Not a professional, just a pretty good (enthusiastic) amateur. I don’t do photography with the precision of some people, but I do a pretty good job — most of the time.

I do two things well: landscapes and casual portraits. If you let me, I can probably find a few flattering angles at which to take your picture that will not make you feel like screaming and running from the room in horror.

As the years have progressed and I have aged, so have my friends. Where once you could just point and shoot, photographs taken of older people require a little more intelligent use of processing tools. A little softness for skin. Gentler lighting. And a certain kindness in figuring out what people want to see.

I know photographers love the wrinkles and folds of old skin. We also love photographing rusted old trucks and falling down buildings. Old things are more interesting to shoot. But friends are not “old things” and we don’t take their pictures because we want to capture that gravelly roughness of what was once their treasured skin.

We want their pictures because we care about them. We see them as special. We know their humor, their wit, their kindness. We have laughed and cried together. We know that little twitch in the lip means they are trying not to laugh … and we know they don’t want to smile because they don’t like the way their teeth look. They do funny things with their heads so the wattles or double-chins won’t show.

Is it vain? Well maybe it is, but I don’t see anyone running around in a hair shirt, either. We’ve all got a little vanity in us and there’s nothing wrong with it. If you are packed with inner beauty, a nice picture won’t erase it.

Most grownups don’t like they way they look in pictures. We also don’t like the way we sound when we’ve been recorded and are sometimes horrified that other people have to listen to that awful voice — yet somehow, everyone does and no one minds. The same with how we look. Our friends love us and they see us with love.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Which is why selfies are such an awful idea for adults. Selfies are not portraits. They are shot too close. They distort your face, broaden your nose and make your lips look blown up. Selfies emphasize the texture of skin which may have been perfect once, but time has had its way. Super closeups deepen wrinkles and enhance the folds on your neck. They even make your hands look wrinkled and worn — even if they actually don’t look that way. They make everyone look lumpy and double-chinned. We may have liver spots, but is that how we want to show ourselves to the immediate universe? Really? WHY?

The camera lens is a cold thing. It sees what it sees and dumps the information on a sensor. A photographer sees through the lens and makes other choices. I look at my friends and see the smile, the sparkle, the laughter. How they talk with their hands. How their faces change when they are animated in conversation. Those are the pictures I want.

We all need a friend with a camera who likes us enough to see us and capture the spark that makes us so lovable. Photography is not about hidden beauty. Save the hidden stuff for your writing and intimate talks with friends and loved ones.

Photography is about what things look like. But a good photograph show much more than that. It will see past the skin and catch a  special something. We are more than skin hanging on a bony frame. This is also why I so dislike people with no experience or talent selling themselves as photographers. It diminishes those of us who have spent dozens of years learning how to take pictures that are more than whatever landed on the sensor.

And if those pictures of you don’t come out well? That’s what DELETE is for. With digital cameras, we can take millions of pictures. Free. If we can take fifty pictures of an interesting tree, what’s wrong with taking a couple of dozen of our best friend?

The whole issue baffles me, mainly because I don’t know why it is an issue at all. If you own a camera and you know how to use it … go shooting with a friend. Take pictures. Keep taking them until you have a few in hand that makes both of you light up with pleasure.


I read a lot about inner beauty. I notice it most when someone posts a particularly terrible selfie on Facebook. They look dreadful. Haggard. Sickly. It is a bad picture. Typically, the subject didn’t bother to put on a clean shirt or comb his hair. Not even a smile. Direct from cell phone to social media. Yuck.

You need an awful lot of inner beauty to overcome looking that bad. Not to worry. Everyone will write to tell him or her that “You are beautiful inside.” This is how, in modern America, you tell someone they look like shit outside.

I’m not against interior beauty, though frankly, I’m not clear what being beautiful inside means. I know if the people who take those terrible pictures would make a minimal effort to not look like crap in their own selfie, they would need much less reassurance of their interior superiority. You can look good outside without diminishing your endogenous pulchritude.

With two Scotties – NOT a selfie!

Is there something wrong with looking good in a photo? I swear people take those dreary pictures on purpose, as if to make a point about “inner beauty” being more important than the outside stuff.

I don’t get it. If Garry takes pictures of me I don’t like, I delete them. If I take pictures of Garry he doesn’t like, I delete them — even if I think they are pretty good. No one needs to look ugly in photographs or even feel they look ugly in a picture. Your inner beauty can shine without bad photographs. Really, no kidding.

What is inner beauty? Does it require a repulsive exterior as a sort of bizarre contrast? If you’re really unsightly to gaze upon, you must (therefore) be beautiful inside? It’s okay to use makeup or shave the stubble. You can comb your hair. Put on a nice sweater? And maybe — if nothing else — smile?

Also NOT a selfie

About “inner beauty,” I declare I want to be inwardly beautiful like all the cool people seem to be. Generally, my inner beauty means a functional digestion. A heart that beats regularly. Not pouring boiling on my hand while draining the pasta.

Much like outer beauty, the inner stuff is over-rated. Maybe I just don’t get the whole inner beauty thing. To me, inner beauty would be a properly functioning body. This is not automatic in my life. There are many days where nothing about me seems to work.

Do you know how hard it is to find a picture of inner beauty?

I believe there are many worthy aspects of personality which lack any visual reference. Intelligence. Understanding. Empathy. Humor. Wit. The ability to talk and listen. None of this stuff reflects in the mirror and whether or not it could be considered “inner beauty” is a matter of debate. Maybe beauty is simply the wrong word for it.

Back to inner beauty. What is that? Do I have it? Can I get more on Amazon? My inner beauty is tired and needs a lift.

Beauty is a fragile thing.

For what it’s worth, if I like you, you are beautiful. I see everyone I like as attractive — and people I don’t like as ugly. I once had a really unattractive boyfriend who I didn’t know was considered ugly until my girlfriends felt they needed to tell me. I was surprised. I didn’t see it. They probably thought I was ugly too.

What I know for sure? At least smile for the picture. Comb your hair (or run you fingers through it). You don’t need to look your best — but you also don’t need to look your worst. Inner beauty will never overcome bad photography.


Our first boat was a disaster. One bad experience after another. One large repair bill after another. It’s amazing we continued boating. But we got another boat and we’ve been enthusiastic boaters ever since.

In 2001, Tom and I bought the ten-year old boat we affectionately nicknamed “The Titanic”. It was a 27 foot Carver Santiago power boat. The boat was named “Patron,” after its previous owners, Pat and Ron. We never changed the name and according to boating superstition, that could have been the reason for our bad luck with the boat. (Boaters are very superstitious).

The one good trip we had with the boat, fortunately, was the first. We had to pick the boat up in Massachusetts and drive it back to our home marina in Stratford, Connecticut. We had taken a required boater safety course but had never actually driven a boat. For some reason, we thought it would be a good idea to make our maiden voyage a 122-mile trip. In March! We were wearing ski gear to stay warm. It should have been an eight-hour drive. It turned out to be more than eleven.

Tom’s brother came down to help us on our maiden nautical voyage. All the boaters we talked to on the trip asked us if we had insurance and if we had Sea Tow, the boater’s equivalent of AAA. We couldn’t understand why everyone kept asking us those questions. Now we do. Experienced boaters knew that doing that trip in one day was totally crazy! Especially with novice boaters.

We set off from Massachusetts in sunny but cold weather, and calm seas. The first few hours were fine. We were pleased with how well we were doing. Then we hit Long Island Sound and the seas got rough. Very rough. The boat was rocking,d rolling, and banging down hard after each wave. We were being bounced and flung around like rag dolls. It was scary and unpleasant, to say the least.

Kitchen and living area

The second half of the trip took twice as long as the first. It got dark. Now we were navigating into our home marina at night. We had no idea where we were.

At one point, we ended up in just a few feet of water, which is not good. Tom decided it was time to call it quits. He announced that we were pulling into the first marina we saw. Our car was at the Brewer Marina, but he didn’t care. We were docking NOW! Believe it or not, we landed at the right marina, on our assigned dock. Victory! We did it! What great luck!

And then our luck changed. On Tom’s next rip, he ran aground and broke a battery post, which killed the battery. Two fishermen in a small boat towed Tom to a public dock. He called me, I picked him up, we bought a new battery and the boat made it home.

Next time out, Tom thought the auxiliary gas tank was full and opened it up. It was empty and this caused the boat to go dead in the water. Tom got acquainted with Sea Tow’s services. They were wonderful and helped Tom figure out what was wrong over the phone. He filled the auxiliary tank and all was well again.

Kitchen and living area with dining table

Then came the coup de grâce. We took a trip to Essex, Connecticut on the Connecticut River. Tom was pulling on a line at the marina and it broke, flinging Tom into the water. He lost his sunglasses and his lucky boating hat. More bad juju. I told you boaters are superstitious.

On the way home, a stick got caught in the propeller and the boat started acting wonky. Tom was anxious to get back home quickly to fix the problem, so he took a shortcut – and ran aground. At full speed.

Here’s where the expensive damage came in. Both propellers were damaged. Tom replaced one and took the boat out to test it. Unbeknownst to him, the oil pan under the engine was rusted out. Running aground caused the oil to drain out of it. The oil gauge should have told Tom that there was a problem. But it had never worked right, either. When it registered ‘no oil pressure’, Tom assumed it was wrong — and ignored it. When he ran the engine, the engine seized. And died. The entire engine had to be replaced. which cost as much as the original price of the boat.

This repair was so major and took so long, our boat was out of the water for most of the boating season. Friends teased us that we didn’t really have a boat. So when we had guests, we started entertaining them on the boat – which was sitting in the parking lot at the marina. At least we still had a water view.

Sofa (and bed) in stern of boat plus view of small deck

Tom loved to say that the only difference between our boat and the Titanic (other than the fact that we never actually sank) was that the Titanic had a live band and we had a cassette player. Most of our problems were not actually the boat’s fault. They were stupid Captain’s tricks made by an inexperienced boater.

But the boat felt cursed to us. So that fall, while we were waiting for the second engine to be installed, we sold the boat, now in pristine condition.

In 2003 we bought another ten-year old boat, this time a 32-foot Carver Aft-Cabin Motor Yacht. We named the boat ‘Second Chance’ since we were giving boating a second chance. Also, we had just gotten married and we felt we were each other’s second chance as well.

Second Chance

We loved this boat and took wonderful trips with it, usually with our two dogs and often with other boating friends. We spent time in a beautiful cove in Port Jefferson, Long Island, NY. We traveled to Montauk, NY, Block Island, RI and Martha’s Vineyard, MA. We went back to the Connecticut River many times.

We had no problems with this boat except that our gas tanks were small and our range was very limited. So in 2008, we upgraded again to our current boat. This is our dream boat. It’s a 40 foot Carver Aft-Cabin. It was ten years old when we got it but it was in great shape and was immaculate. We named this one ‘Serenity’, after the spaceship in Tom’s favorite TV show and movie, ‘Firefly’.

This is our last boat. It’s incredibly comfortable to live on for a week or so at a time. It’s great to entertain on for as many as twelve people. It’s been a wonderful ‘vacation home’ for us, as well as a way to travel around and ‘sight-see’. We often spend time on the boat at the marina, which can be a very friendly and social place.

This is our current boat, Serenity

Tom spends almost every day on the boat for six months of the year. He just loves it. It’s his happy place. He goes into withdrawal when we have to take the boat out of the water in November. He counts the days until it goes back in the water in May.

Tom on the dock in the winter, waiting for boating season to start again

So despite our inauspicious beginning as boaters, we have made boating an important and cherished part of our lives.