Crown and Eagle: A Mill Resurrected

The Crown and Eagle mills were built by Robert Rogerson between 1823 to 1827 and are listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Crown and Eagle, across the bridge.

A few years ago, it was converted into affordable housing units for the elderly, disabled, and others that fit income guidelines. Which is pretty neat.

I’ve wanted to shoot some pictures there for a while. Today seemed as good a day as any. I got some really good stuff, but won’t get to editing it until tomorrow. I’m too tired to do more than a few “samples” tonight. Garry shot some nice pictures too.

Lilies on the small canal

It was an exceptionally bright day and the light played strange tricks with my camera and on our eyes. Both Garry and I were having a lot of trouble seeing either through the viewfinder or on the LCD. The light was so very bright and right in our faces.

I got lucky and the light streaked interestingly, creating some unusual effects that are completely natural. I wish I could reproduce them … but right now, they are officially a happy accident. More tomorrow. We will have to revisit this scene in a couple of weeks when the trees have changed. I think it will be amazing.

Sun streaks by Crown and Eagle central canal

You would certainly never guess that this was anything but luxury housing. It is as high-end as this kind of housing could be.

Because it is in Uxbridge, the project is riddled by scandal, accusations of graft, corruption, flipping, excessive and unreported profits, vanishing money … the usual litany of “local business as usual.”

That being said, the resurrected Crown and Eagle is beautiful.

Crown and Eagle main tower. It appears to be the moon over the building but I think it’s a distortion of light.

After we finished taking our pictures,  I thought “gee, I wouldn’t mind living here.” Except for all that graft and corruption … and hey, this is Uxbridge. We expect nothing less.

Big Gears On the Old Canal

It’s been a while since we visited the canal. Last night we realized that summer was running out on us and if we wanted to get some pictures, we needed to go out and shoot.

Gears for the locks. Weeds are beginning to grow there now. Until recently, they were maintained, but times are hard and money is tight.

Until recently, these mechanisms were maintained and cared for, but now, weeds are growing and leaves are gathering. The economy affects things at many levels. Maintaining historical places is not a high priority when resources are scarce. Historical sites are particularly vulnerable to losing funding when the economy is weak.

Another view of the big gears. This is the biggest of the many locks on the river.

I wanted to take a wide view of these gears, but there is no place to stand without being in danger of falling into the canal. The water is too polluted for me to risk that, though the water is probably quite pleasantly warm this time of year.

Big gear for the big canal locks.

Olympus PEN E-PL1


Olympus PEN E-PL1 12.3MP Live MOS Micro Four Thirds Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Zuiko Digital Zoom Lens 

Even though Olympus has brought out several new cameras since I bought my E-P3 less than a year ago, I still keep one of these as my “spare” and back up camera. I got it a few years ago when my big Canon became too much to handle … and I have never for a minute regretted it.

The pictures I get from it are as good as ever. It isn’t as fast as the newer PENs, but it’s a fine camera and if I had no other camera at all, this one would do the job.

The Olympus PEN E-PL1 is an excellent camera for most purposes. You can purchase one from Adorama, new including the lens for $259, less than many good point and shoot cameras. They are a fine piece of equipment, either as a back-up camera or alternative to a full-size DSLRs, or as a compact, high-quality all around camera for anyone. It’s also the perfect step up for someone who’d like to make the move from a point and shoot to something more flexible and sophisticated.

For me, it was love at first touch. The moment I got my hands on this sweet baby, I knew I’d found my camera. I was sorry I had spent all that money on the BIG Cannon (sic), but the Canon went to my granddaughter who takes great photographs herself, so I guess it all worked out they way it was supposed to.

It is fast. It focuses fast. It recycles quickly. It has a nice speedy multiple-shot burst, though not as fast as the bigger camera. The anti-shake is built into the camera, not the lens. This is an Olympus feature  — all the PEN cameras have it — so any lens that fits the cameras has anti-shake, even if it isn’t an Olympus lens. This is a fine thing for shaky old me. It is lightweight, easy on my wrists. The lens retracts to keep the camera even more compact.

The “kit” lens is as good as any lens I’ve got. Manual or auto focus, it’s just fine. The 2X factor on the camera means the effective lens is 28 – 84, a nice range for normal shooting and portraits. I have a 40 – 140 telephoto too, but I rarely use it. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just seems that most of the pictures I want to take are wide, close, or portrait. I rarely want a long lens.

It packs up almost as small as a point and shoot, but takes better pictures. Great color and you can get a pretty good selections of lenses, prime, telephoto, wide-angle. As a bonus, Panasonic micro 4/3 lenses are interchangeable with Olympus lenses, so you have additional choices.

It shoots RAW, RAW + JPG, and all the variations on a theme of JPG.

The controls are simple. The manual with which it comes is, unfortunately, awful. There is a PL-1 for Dummies book available from Amazon and it is terrific. It explains everything clearly, with pictures, and will help you enormously. I highly recommend it.

English: Olympus PEN E-PL1
Olympus PEN E-PL1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I-Auto is really smart. They all say they are, but this really is. It will literally find a face in the crowd. It is great for photographing my doll collection because it finds all the doll’s faces and performs color correction without any assist from me, even using flash. Amazing. It doesn’t have a built-in viewfinder, but I bought the electronic one that attaches to the hot shoe/utility port.

Surprisingly, I mostly use the LCD screen, which is big and bright. I’m surprised. I thought I’d use the viewfinder but as an eyeglass wearer, it’s just easier to use the screen. I could have save the money and gotten an extra lens if I’d known.

Lots of “scene” modes and art filters to choose from … and everything is easy to access. You don’t have to navigate though layers of menus. Most of the functions you use are on top where you can easily find them. The controls fit in my hands.

The camera feels solid and well-built and biggest shock? The kit lens is great! I did get a longer telephoto, but rarely use it. The prices of the lenses range from quite modest to wow, but that’s true of most good cameras.

In short, this is a great little camera and about the most camera you can get for the money.I’ve had mine for more than two years and it has never failed me.

The “Olympus Pen E-PL1 for Dummies”  is a must if you are new to this kind of camera. I’m not a camera dummy by any means, but a quick look at the info in this book made me realize that if I wanted to get the most from my camera, I needed instructions that made sense. The book has the information I need; the manual doesn’t.

You will need the software that comes with the camera if you plan to shoot RAW. It’s pretty useful for handling batches of photos not only for RAW conversion, but for batch renaming, re-sizing, formatting, and so on. You tell it what you want it to do, and then it does it, whether it’s 1 or 1000 pictures. It doesn’t require monitoring, either. However, there are no instructions on exactly how it works, so it may take you a little fiddling to figure it out. It’s not difficult and once you get the hang of it, it’s surprisingly useful and will work on JPGs from any camera. Only the ORF format for RAW, however, which is Olympus’ unique format. I believe Corel reads it too, but Photoshop so far doesn’t, at least not my version. Maybe newer versions read it.

Overall, it’s a great camera at a great price. Not the fanciest on the market, but for pure ease of use, price for value, convenient size, I think it’s the winner: the most, best camera for your money.


Getting Personal


Today a friend asked me how, in photographs, I was willing to reveal parts of my life that many consider too private to share: my office, our bedroom, our personal world. I hadn’t even thought about it until she asked. I had been entirely focused on the picture and the light. For me, it was a visual challenge; whether or not it was intimate never entered my mind.

But that got me to thinking. The willingness to stand naked in front of strangers, in front of the whole world, is at the core of being an artist. If you can’t let the world see you, warts and all, you won’t create things that feel “true” in the deepest sense of the word.

Once upon a time, I was young and trying to write fiction. Although I was good at many kinds of writing, my fiction was always flat. I never understood exactly what was wrong with it, but I knew it wasn’t good. Nonetheless, I persisted in endlessly submitting material to editors in hopes that someone would like one of my stories enough to publish it.

One day, an editor took the time to tell me what she felt was the problem with my writing.

“You write,” she said, “As if you are afraid your mother is going to read it.”

Talk about stunned. She had hit the nail on the head. I really was afraid my mother would read it. Literally. Moreover, I was afraid I’d tell a truth that would hurt someone’s feelings or reveal something intimate about myself that I didn’t want known. Despite knowing my fear of emotionally exposing myself was blocking my ability to write the way I wanted to, I couldn’t change. Only after my mother and brother had passed did I finally write something truly honest.

When people tell you to write about what you know, they don’t merely mean that you should write about places and things that are familiar. They mean that you should draw on your own life, your own experiences and feelings, because from that well will come your best work.

I never wrote a great novel and I never will. It turns out that you need more than a knack for words and dialogue to write fiction. You also need the ability to develop a plot and characters, an ability I lack. I do know that every good piece of work I’ve done, whether a photograph or writing, sprang from genuine passion. You can’t fake it. You’ve got to feel it.