FRANKFURT AM MAIN

Our Latest Adventure, by Rich Paschall

Frankfurt , Germany, or Frankfurt am Main (Frank ford at the Main), is the fifth largest city, but home to the busiest airport in the country.  This is not only because it is home to Lufthansa airline, but also because many other airlines have major presence there.  Almost 65 million passengers pass through the airport each year, making it the busiest airport in Germany and the fourth busiest in Europe.

There are many direct flights to Frankfurt from major US cities, so finding a flight at good price and transit time is possible through most of the year.  If you are visiting Germany or a neighboring country, you will want to consider this airport.  Bus and train travel around the region is quick and economical.

Frankfurt

In the past when we have headed to Strasbourg, France, we have used the Frankfurt airport for its proximity to our destination.  Only once did we stay overnight near the airport with a brief stop in the city.  We had considered the city to be just a financial center, which it is, and an industrial center.  This time we stayed longer to explore the city.

I chose an airport hotel because we could easily take the shuttle back to the airport where you can catch the train into the city.  Looking back on this choice, however, you can pick a spot in the city for the very same reason.  Transportation by train to the airport is simple because of the major train station right across from the airline terminals.   If we would do it again, I would try to stay near Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof station.

Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof

The main station in the city is a mix of old world charm and modern efficiency.  Upgrades to the rail system in recent years have upset the reputation of the German railroads always being on time, or “you can set your watch by them,” but they are still reliable and we encountered no delays.

You can stop at McDonald’s in the train station if you like, but we did not come all the way to Germany to eat in an American fast food restaurant.  Our motto for travel has been “eat local, drink local” so of course that is what we did.

Eat local, drink local

My travel companion on this trip, who is always hungry, needed a food stop when we arrived in the city. We chose a restaurant right alongside the station for convenience.  We ordered Wiener Schnitzel.  My friend is from Colombia so he has never eaten food like this.  He found it goes well with the local beverage.

Fortunately, the old world train station survives and is a good spot for pictures before you head off on your exploration of the city.  Plenty of tourists were busy taking pictures of the station and surrounding areas.  I took a picture of my friend getting a picture of himself.  “Selfies” are popular at all the tourist stops.

Selfie

Frankfurt is a unique blend of old and new.  I suppose that World War II is partly a reason for that.  Some areas of the city were heavily damaged. Somethings were restored, other areas were rebuilt. This allowed for modernization and planning that would improve the quality of life for residents and eventually tourists.

There are many good shopping districts and we made our way to one of them to see what bargains we could find. The outdoor malls our popular and we picked up some items I probably did not need.

Shopping (or selfie taking)

We also stopped by the Alte Oper (Old opera) to see the lovely old building.  It was heavily damaged in the war and carefully rebuilt through the 1970’s.  It opened again in 1981 as a concert hall.  The opera was already in a new building nearby.

The large plaza in front and along side is a nice stop for locals and tourists.  We took the necessary pictures before stopping inside.

I joined a few “friends” for an opera house picture.

Following our walk around the Opernplatz, my hungry friend needed food so we made our way to the cafe inside the opera house.  It was ornate as expected.  Aside from the modern elevator in the building, it was hard to determine which parts were damaged and restored and which parts of the building were original.

Opera cafe

Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Cologne are all larger and may hold more appeal for various reasons, but Frankfurt has a charm all its own.  With the Main River running through it and a large city forest, it is beautiful tourist stop.  If your flight takes you to Frankfurt, it would be wise to spend a night or two to see the culture and entertainment offered here.

A blend of old and new

For more pictures from our Frankfurt Adventure, jump over to Sunday Night Blog, here.

HONK IF YOU OWN A CAMERA — AND IT WORKS

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.

WHAT IS INNER BEAUTY? CAN I BUY IT ON AMAZON?

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.

SHARING MY WORLD AS WE ROLL INTO WINTER

Share Your World – January 9, 2017


Winter always surprises me. It comes every year, but it always seems sudden when it shows up and shrouds the world in white.

If you lost a bet and had to dye your hair a color of the rainbow for a week, what color would it be?  

I don’t need to lose a bet. I’m thinking about it anyway. I’d really like it shiny silver, but I don’t think that’s an option. If it were only for a week and I could change it to something less odd, I might go for dark blue with highlights. OR dark red with highlights.

Above shows my current hair color. It is also a test of my camera’s selfie function which I’ve never tried before … and illustrates how many filters I’ve acquired that improve a portrait so I can look more as I want to look — and less like the ancient crone into which I seem to be morphing.

If you could choose one word to focus on for 2017, what would it be?

HIDE! It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

What was one thing you learned last year that you added to your life?

A tree service to spray for insects and a cleaning service to get rid of the dirt! What a difference in the quality of life! Oh, and getting groceries delivered, at least the really heavy stuff so Garry doesn’t have to be the schlepper.

If life was ‘just a bowl of cherries’… which fruit other than a cherry would you be..?

A peach. Of course!

Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?  

It was only 8 inches of snow and it was a nice, light, fluffy snow that even I could push with a shovel. And while it is cold, it isn’t nearly as cold as it could be and has been. And oil is still cheap, so the house is very comfortable.

300-two-days-post-snow-09012017_test_004

I’m grateful that although Bonnie got sick, there was a doggy ER we could drive to that is open 24 hours and they are very good … and take payments. I hope we are snow-free for the next couple of weeks!

A HOW-NOT-TO GUIDE FOR SENIOR SELFIES

Two of my cameras, the Olympus PEN E-PL5 and E-PL6 have flip screens.  You can turn them 180 degrees and aim them at yourself. Advertised as “selfie-friendly,” I felt obliged to personally test the function for myself.

My results were traumatic and be forever engraved in my memory. All else may fade, but I will still shudder when I think about those hideous pictures.

72-Marilyn-by-Garry-1009_016

From this test, I reached a few conclusions that I will share with you.

THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU TAKE THAT SELFIE

A few guidelines, as it were, about who should take selfies. Who should not. Ever. Take. Selfies.

  • If you’re over 65, it’s a bad idea. On principle.
  • If you don’t own a real camera and have no idea what I’m talking about when I say “flattering angle,” “portrait lens,” or “good lighting,” selfies are a very bad idea.
  • Just because your camera (or phone) is “selfie-friendly” does not mean your face is. Have a friend take your picture. Preferably a friend who knows how to use a camera.
  • Wrinkles and selfies go together like oil and water. Actually, oil and water go together much better than wrinkles, wattles, liver spots — and selfies.
  • Your arms are too short. I don’t care who you are. Your arms are still too short. If you are over 50, you would need to be ElastiGirl (or Guy). Otherwise, your arms are too short.
  • Nothing will compensate for the bags under your eyes, the deep folds of your throat. The furrows where your chin droops. It isn’t about fat or thin. You can be young and fat and look pretty good in a selfie. You can be slender, fit, and 75 … and look like a zombie who hasn’t eaten a good brain lately.
  • Touch up tools are not enough. If the picture is awful, there’s only so far Adobe’s Healing Tools … or even the Glamour Glow filter … can take you. If the picture is horrible, touching it up will make it a touched up yet somehow, still horrible, picture.
72-Portrait-Anniversary_4
SUGGESTIONS?

If youth is a faded memory, don’t take selfies. If you cannot resist the temptation, filter the hell out of them. Whatever you’ve got in your photographer’s arsenal of touch-up tools? Use them. Liberally.

What? You don’t have photo touch-up tools? You are a senior citizen taking selfies using your mobile phone? Are you deranged?  If you are not outright traumatized, you will be at least saddened by the experience. It will make you doubt yourself.

Don’t do it. You will look bad, even if you are really attractive. The camera is cruel and it lies, no matter what anyone says. It emphasizes wrinkles, spots, flaws, fat, bags, and bald spots. It doesn’t see you with an overlay of love.

I see selfies posted on Facebook. Most are awful. I cringe when I see them. What are the people who post them thinking? I don’t need to know the individual to recognize an unflattering picture. These shots aren’t merely unflattering, they are cruel. Why would someone post a picture which makes him or her look terrible?

Selfies are usually extreme closeups — which by itself is a reason to shy away from them. Anyone who has ever worked in front of a camera will tell you: extreme closeups are for the very young. With makeup. And excellent lighting.

Everyone else? It will look like a prison intake photo in which even youth may not be enough to save the picture.

Some parameters as the first picture, but I tilted my head and remembered to add the hint of a smile.

Meanwhile, the friends of the folks in these godawful photographs tell them that their beautiful soul is shining through, another way of saying “Omigod you look horrible, but I can’t say that because it would hurt your feelings.”

I have a hot flash for you. Your beautiful soul is not shining through, but your wart with the bristly hairs is. Photographs do not capture your soul, just your image. If you need a picture of yourself and there is no one on earth you can ask to hold the camera a decent distance away, have you heard of a mirror? Step back, get some perspective. Maybe turn your head so you get rid of that “America’s Most Wanted” look. Do not use a flash.

How about some makeup? Do you own a hairbrush? Would you consider using it?

72-Selfie-New-Haircut_012916_01

Don’t wear white. If you have an unfortunate neck, wear a scarf. Jewelry can help. Earrings can work wonders.

Guys? Shave. Trim the beard. Remove the nose hairs. How about putting on something attractive? That wife-beater shirt might not be your best choice for a self-portrait.

Why do people think it’s cheating to look good for portraits? Is there some law which requires full, naked disclosure in photographs?

72-Cartoon-Garry-01082015_04

I delete ugly pictures of me, Garry, family and friends who look grotesque in pictures. I use all the tools at my disposal — filters, healing brushes, soft focus — to make the subjects of my portraits look attractive. Not necessarily young. Just nice. Because we all deserve it.

Putting your best foot forward is legal. It’s good. Try it. It will make you smile. Oh, and that’s another thing. Smile. A smile makes everybody look better.

Now, put down that cell phone. Back away. Don’t make me hurt you.

SENIOR SELFIES FOR THE PHOTO-CHALLENGED

My new camera, the Olympus PEN E-PL5 has a flip screen that you can turn 180 degrees. It is, as they say, “selfie-friendly.” Unable to resist, I took a few, just to see how it worked.

selfie in mirror January 2015
I used the a portrait lens (Olympus 45mm f1.8) and a mirror. I put on a little makeup, and brushed my hair. Put on a pair of earrings. I smoothed out some wrinkles, deleted a few spots. Put a little glow over the whole picture. Did some cropping … oh and I lowered the overall brightness.

The results were just this side of traumatic. I still shudder thinking about it. From this test, I reached some conclusions. Created a few guidelines, as it were, for selfies. Who should take them. Who should not. Ever. Take Selfies.

1. Just because your camera (or phone) is “selfie-friendly” does not mean your face is.

2. Wrinkles and selfies go together like oil and water. Actually, oil and water go together far better than wrinkles, wattles, liver spots and selfies.

3. Your arms are too short. I don’t care who you are. Your arms are still too short. If you are over 50, you would need to be ElastiGirl (or Guy). Otherwise, your arms are too short.

4. Nothing will compensate for the bags under your eyes, the deep baggy folds of your throat. Or the furrows where your chin droops. It isn’t about fat or thin. You can be young and fat and look fine in a selfie. You can be slender, fit, and 75 … and look like a zombie who hasn’t eaten a good brain lately.

5. Touch up tools are not enough. If the picture is awful, there’s only so far Adobe’s Healing Tools … or even the NIK Glamor Glow filter … can take you. If the picture is a horrible closeup, touching it up will make it a touched up yet horrible closeup.

SUGGESTIONS FOR THE PHOTOGRAPHICALLY CHALLENGED

If youth is but a faded memory, don’t take selfies. If you are not outright horrified, you will be at the very least, saddened. Don’t take them on your phone, or your camera. Unless you are one of those Hollywood people, you will look bad, even if you are actually attractive. The camera is cruel. Unforgiving. It doesn’t see you with an overlay of love.

I see the selfies posted on Facebook. Some are so awful, I cringe. What were they thinking?

I don’t even know the individual, but I do recognize an unflattering picture when I see it. It isn’t merely unflattering. It’s an extreme closeup. Anyone who has ever worked in front of a camera will tell you: extreme closeups are for the young. Everyone else? It looks like a prison intake photo. (Sometimes, even the young look pretty bad.)

Some parameters as the first picture, but I tilted my head and remembered to add the hint of a smile.

Meanwhile, the friends of the people in these godawful photographs tell them that their beautiful soul is shining through. I have a hot flash for you. Your beautiful soul is not shining through,  but your wart with the bristly hairs is. Photographs do not capture your soul, just your image.

If you need a picture of yourself and there is no one on earth you can ask to hold the camera a decent distance away, have you heard of a mirror? Step back, get some perspective. Maybe turn your head so you get rid of that “America’s Most Wanted” look. Do not use a flash.

How about some makeup? Do you own a hairbrush? Would you consider using it?

Don’t wear white in a photograph. If you have an unfortunate neck, wear a scarf. Jewelry can help. A nice pair of earrings can work wonders.

And you guys? Shave. Trim the beard. Remove  the nose hairs. How about putting on something attractive? That wife-beater shirt might not be your best choice for that portrait.

Why do people think it’s cheating to look good for portraits? Is there a law (a secret to me) which requires full, naked disclosure in photographs?

I delete ugly pictures of me, Garry, family and friends who look particularly grotesque in pictures. And I use all the tools at my disposal — filters, healing brushes, soft focus — to make the subjects of my portraits look attractive. Not necessarily young. But no one has some inherent right to get the full details of Jenny’s wrinkly neck or mottled complexion, then have it posted on social media sites so everyone can snicker at poor Jen. And trust me, they snicker. Or worse.

Putting your best foot forward is never bad. And all was right in the world.

Now, put down that cell phone. Step away. Don’t make me hurt you.


(Your Thing) for Dummies – Take a complicated subject you know more about than most people, and explain it to a friend who knows nothing about it at all.

And just in case they fix the link to today’s prompt:  Easy Fix

SELFIES – WHEN THE MAGIC DOESN’T QUITE WORK

Everyone posts their best pictures, the lucky shots, the shots we got exactly right. But what about all those shots that don’t come out quite the way we hoped?

Selfies, or any self-portrait, is by definition more difficult to do than you think, especially when you try to take it using a real portrait lens in a mirror. The smaller field of view of the longer lens means it can be difficult to actually get your face in the picture. Decapitation is common, partial decapitation frequent. Bad exposure, unfortunate facial expressions. It’s fun to try. It’s even fun to look at the failures, of which there are far more than the successes. So here are a few of the ones that didn’t quite work out as hoped.