2015—Times Square

Sue and I saw two Broadway shows while we were in New York City. We saw our first production, a last minute decision to see a revival of The King and I at Lincoln Center, on Saturday evening. Our last minute seats were just a couple of rows away from the stage that moved toward us covering the orchestra pit. It was sensational. On Sunday afternoon, we saw Kinky Boots at the Al Hirschfeld Theater on 45th St. What a fun, colorful, uplifting show! We emerged from the theater into Times Square at dusk. We both agreed that we’d seen Times Square, with no desire to return unless it was to see another marvelous Broadway show.

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2015—West 10th Street

On Sunday morning as we strolled through Greenwich Village on our way to a restaurant where my nephew had made reservations for brunch, one of my Sisters-in-law spotted a huge sign looming over the corner of a century old brick townhouse at the corner of W. 10th Street and 7th Avenue: Restaurant BOBO Bar & Garden the sign proclaimed. We all chuckled and of course I stopped to take a photo to send off to Cody, Bobo’s bird sitter while I’m gone. After a few minutes, Michael descended the stairs, allegedly to look at the menu. When he emerged a few minutes later he told us he’d ‘cancelled’ the reservations at the other restaurant and we’d be eating at Bobo’s. Turns out, Bobo’s was our destination the entire time. He’s taking some classes at NYU which is just a couple of blocks from Bobo’s in Greenwich Village and he’d scouted it out before we even arrived in NYC. Bobo’s is a great restaurant with delicious food and fun staff. We ate on the rooftop garden and they’re eagerly awaiting a portrait of my own Bobo that I promised to send them. By the way, Bobo, in Greenwich Village Speak, is an abbreviated form of the words bourgeois and bohemian and refers to the fusion of these two very different cultures; apparently ‘bobos’ are successors to the yuppies.

In the first shot, Pam, Sue, and Sonia pose in front of Bobo’s. The second shot is a view down 7th Ave. from Bobo’s to One World Trade Center.

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2015— Entertainment NYC Style

On Saturday, we spent the day wandering the streets and observing the sights in NYC with visits to the World Trade Center site, China Town, and Little Italy. Non traditional street entertainment opportunities abounded, including a “pole dancer” on the subway train as we traveled downtown, a troupe of talented acrobatic street dancers who grabbed passersby to join in the entertainment, and a group of Chinese musicians whose Eastern music sounded very traditionally Chinese. We enjoyed watching these three shows for “donations” totally less than $10.

Sue and I visited Lincoln Center Saturday evening for some rather more traditional fare, the musical The King and I which was just as entertaining but at a substantially greater financial output.

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 2015—Take The “A” Train

Pope mania was everywhere in NYC Friday with tens of thousands of people descending on the various venues around the city. We’d seen the preparations at Central Park Thursday, so we chose to go in the opposite direction to avoid the madness. After breakfast, we stopped in at Milano Market on Broadway and bought some deli sandwiches and wine, then we hopped the “A” train to escape the crowds. The “A” train took us to the Cloisters on the northern tip of Manhattan. I think I could almost hear Duke Ellington tickling the ivories as we swayed on the subway tracks. After touring the Cloisters and seeing its fascinating collection that includes the 15th century Unicorn Tapestries, we walked to nearby Inwood Hill Park and we had a very late afternoon picnic on the lawn in view of the Henry Hudson Bridge. By the time we returned to our neighborhood, we’d registered another 15,746 steps, 7 miles.

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2015—Lady Liberty

What a day in New York City! We started the day with breakfast at Tom’s Restaurant, just a few blocks away from where we’re staying. It’s the restaurant made famous in Seinfeld where the Seinfeld characters spent much of their time. Michael joined us there and then he showed us how to buy metro tickets and we took our first subway ride. At noon, we boarded the Circle Line Tour Boat for a trip around Manhattan Island.

After the boat tour, we spent much of the rest of the day trying to avoid the Pope! We encountered preparations for the Pope’s visit everywhere and when we went to rendezvous with Sonia who works at the Frick Museum on 70th St. at 5th Avenue, we found blocks of 5th Ave barricaded and what appeared to be every law enforcement officer in the burough of Manhattan lining the roadway because the Pope was scheduled to pass by following mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on his way to where he was staying in NYC, about a block away from the Frick. We did finally manage to cross 5th Avenue and tour the Frick and its unbelievable collection of master paintings. What a treat to stand so close to stunning works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Hals, Turner, Manet, Goya, van Eyck, and seemingly countless others I’ve admired for decades. We finished the day at Pasha, a Turkish restaurant on the Upper West Side. By the time we got home, my Fitbit had registered 20,542 steps, almost 9 and a half miles. This was a surprising distance because we also took two subway rides, a 2 and 1/2 hour boat ride, and two cab rides along the way.

Despite taking lots of photos, for me the standout sight of the trip was The Statue of Libery. She is quite awesome.

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2015—Four Twenty-Five RSD

My two sisters-in-law, Pam and Sue, and I arrived in NYC Wednesday morning for a six day visit with my nephew Michael and his wife Sonia in Manhattan. We rented an apartment through AirBnB and are quite happy with our lovely accommodations on the 16th floor at Four Twenty-five Riverside Drive, overlooking the Hudson River complete with its own doorman and with views of the George Washington Bridge and, yes, even Grants Tomb. You bet your life it took us a few tries before we managed to guess who actually is buried in Grant’s Tomb. (N.B. Unless you grew up watching Groucho Marx on TV, don’t give my Grant’s Tomb comment a second thought.)

With the three hour time difference, we felt as if we’d flown all night long and with little sleep. Our Bloody Marys for breakfast on the second leg of our flight to JFK perked us up a bit. We were very glad we opted to book a limo ride from the airport and our driver deposited us in front of 425 Riverside Dr. less than an hour after we landed. A brief misunderstanding with the doorman about why we were there was quickly resolved and we settled into our lodgings. Michael arrived and escorted us back to his apartment with a quick tour of the neighborhood and some much needed sustenance. We walked home from Michael’s mid afternoon and we all three promptly fell asleep.

Here is our friendly doorman at 425RSD (note his cap), the view from our apartment, and a closeup view of Grant’s Tomb as we passed it on the way to Michael’s.

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2015—Behind Bars

Tuesday morning while I watched some lesser goldfinches bathing in the fountain, the female Anna’s hummingbird dive bombed them and they escaped to the safety of the shrubs. I was sitting just a few feet away from the fountain and realized that a garden ornament next to the fountain obstructed my view but I didn’t want to move it or move myself because I knew the hummer probably wouldn’t return. So, I practiced manually fine tuning my focus so that the bird, not the garden ornament in front, or the leaves behind, was in focus. The hummer stayed low behind the rusty bars but I managed to succeed with a few shots. I was hand holding the 80-400mm lens and I was pleased to overcome, at least on this day, one of my problems with auto focus that locks on an object near a moving target instead of the target. When I first turned a ring on the lens to focus, I mistakenly twisted the focal length ring instead of the focus ring so I took these shots at 390mm instead of 400mm. Fine tuning my focus in wildlife shots is something I really need to practice. Well, that and keeping the subject out of dead center.

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2015—Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Big Bertha got her chance to try out the Zenelli gimbal head but not before I made more adjustments to ensure a firm hold by the quick release mechanism. The quick release plates on the 80-400mm lens and the 600mm lens are slightly different in width. After satisfying myself that I had made the proper adjustments to keep BB safely on the tripod, I carried the setup into the backyard just to continue familiarizing myself with the new equipment. There really isn’t much out there to photograph with the long lens but at least I can start getting a feel for its use until I get a chance to go out into the field with it. I noticed that, as with the 80-400mm lens, reaching over top of the gimbal head to hold the lens steady as I have been instructed by Moose Peterson to do when using a long lens on a tripod, was just a bit awkward. I told myself it would get better with practice. Returning to the house, I noticed a telephone message from one of my photography friends, Richard. He congratulated me on my new gimbal head having seen the photo in my blog post yesterday and then suggested that I try mounting the lens so the gimbal is on the right. That way, it wouldn’t be in the way when I placed my hand atop the lens to steady it. Well, duh! Remounting entailed simply turning the gimbal head 180°. As this post is titled, “stupid is as stupid does,” Forrest Gump was certainly right about me! Here is the new setup with the 600mm lens on the D7100. Using the new freedom I have now to steady the lens without fighting the gimbal head, I took a photo with BB of a fluffed up dove sitting on the fence with just a touch of late afternoon sun creating a little bit of a rim light on its feathers. Piece of cake . . . or maybe a box of chocolates! After all, as it turned out, there was something to photograph in my backyard with the long lens. Just goes to show you, you never know what you’re gonna get.

Thank you, Richard.

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2015—Gimbal Head Test Shots

My Zenelli’s gimbal head arrived Monday afternoon. I was overwhelmed by it, not having ever used one and not knowing how to use one because I didn’t pay attention to those on my bird photography workshop outings who were using gimbal heads…that would be everyone but me. So far, I haven’t tried attaching Big Bertha. I wanted to be able to understand how this tripod head works so that I could be reasonably assured that I wouldn’t dump Big Bertha over a cliff or something equally horrifying. I finally got up the courage to assemble the gimbal head (assembly involved inserting one piece into another with Arca-Swiss profiles—the equivalent of dove tails in wood working) and I even managed to follow the directions written in fractured English by its Italian manufacturer to adjust the tension on the quick release plate mechanism, although I have to admit I thought they had made up the phrase “grub screw” and wracked my brain about what they might have meant to say. However, the drawings showed me where the “grub screw” was and what I needed to do with it so I didn’t really need to know what they meant. After I had everything adjusted to my satisfaction on the gimbal head, my curiosity got the better of me so I Googled it (thank you, Google) and discovered that there really is something called a “grub screw!” It is a headless screw with a slot or hexagonal indent cut into it for making fine adjustments. They meant what they said.

I attached my 80-400mm lens to the gimbal head. Everything held up perfectly. Then I attached my Nikon D7100 to the lens. Still perfect. I picked up the tripod with the gimbal head, camera and lens attached and walked outside to the center of my patio and gimbaled the heck out of things. I wasn’t expecting any birds to come but I heard one of the hummers expressing his dissatisfaction with my presence near the feeder so I aimed there. I was able to track the hummer fairly well but the gimbal head gives a different feel to the operation of the camera so it is something I’ll have to practice. After a few shots of the hummer at the feeder, I realized my ISO was too low for the overcast and unexpectedly damp conditions so I finally upped it to 1600 to get a decent shutter speed. I managed to get a couple of shots that I liked. They’re not tack sharp but I’ll work on that.

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2015—Artist’s Workshop

When I was in Santa Rosa Saturday, my friend Honora and I visited Fulton’s Crossing, an industrial artisan center that provides workshop space to local artists, crafters and makers of visual and functional art. There were some interesting pieces of furniture that tempted me and some of the art work and sculptures were intriguing but I was stopped dead in my tracks when we came across a workshop empty of people but filled with chaos and energy.

I couldn’t tell what kind of creations this artisan makes but whatever they are, they are created in the midst of colorful, textural chaos. The light was perfect; it revealed bright colors and deep shadows, and there were pools of light from the skylight above. The disorderly mishmash of seemingly unrelated items covered every inch of the work table and the surrounding surfaces. Tools, ladders, brooms, rags, boxes, even a butane torch and a can of acetone, a rather dangerous juxtaposition, given the volatility of acetone. The back of the workshop features a wooden barn type door set into a wall made of rusted corrugated metal with windows on either side. I took a couple dozen shots in the workshop, including closeups of the door and windows but my favorite shots showed the entire scene.

I loved the original photos I took of this place but decided to edit my favorite in Topaz Impressions using one of its chiaroscuro filters that played up the light and dark places in the photograph and added just enough of a painterly look. I could imagine Salvador Dalí or Pablo Picasso or another avant guard artist emerging through the door at the back of the workshop.

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2015—When I Grow Up . . .

. . . I want to be a fireman and ride in a big red firetruck so shiny I can see my reflection in it! When I took the shot, I wondered what the fireman and the little boy were peering at so intently. After all, this part of the firetruck didn’t have ladders or hoses or anything that might grab a child’s imagination. When I reviewed my photos, I realized that the little boy was staring with amazement at his own distorted reflection in the shiny chrome bumper.

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2015—Night Train

I travel Elverta Road from my house to Hwy. 99 and take the same route home again often but in almost 25 years, I have not encountered a train at the rail road crossing just beyond Levee Road. I had begun to wonder if the track was still in use but Saturday evening as I returned from a quick trip to Santa Rosa and I approached the crossing, the lights began to flash red, the crossing guards lowered, and a freight train rumbled past at high speed. I guess I just haven’t been there at the right time. I grabbed my camera (this is why I always carry it with me) and took a few shots. It’s fascinating to me that at the slow shutter speed, the train’s wheels don’t show at all but the cars show as blurred streaks. I took this shot at ISO 1000, f/2.8, shutter speed, 1/5 second, focal length 48mm. I processed the shot in Perfect Effects 9 adding both a grunge layer and an HDR layer.

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2015—Hometown Heroes

Sacramento pride was on display Friday as we honored our newest hometown heroes with a parade up Capitol Mall and a presentation on the west steps of the Capitol to the delight and approval of the thousands who attended. The three young men from Sacramento, Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone, and Alek Skarlatos, thwarted a terrorist attack on a high speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris in August and were awarded France’s highest recognition, the Legion of Honour for their heroic efforts that probably saved hundreds of lives. I took a personal interest in the parade because I met Anthony Sadler and his father at Sacramento International Airport when I flew home from Arizona last week. I first heard he was on the flight before we took off because the flight attendants were excited about a “celebrity” passenger and when I asked, was told it was Anthony. I felt immediately safer on the trip home. I introduced myself to Anthony and his father at baggage claim, thanking Anthony for his courage and telling him I felt safe knowing he was on board. What a polite, humble, and well spoken young man Anthony is. I told his father that he should be proud for raising such a fine young man. Anthony’s father just beamed.

On Friday, I spent a couple of hours milling with the crowd in front of the Capitol and talked with some of them. I joined one of the yearbook photographers from Del Campo High School where two of the young heroes attended; he had talked to the security detail and was told where their cars would be stopping. We secured a prime viewing spot on Tenth Street directly behind one of the Sacramento City Bicycle Police Officers so we knew we’d be right where they would be getting out of their cars; at least that’s what we thought.

As vintage parade cars ferried family members and the mayor to the spot, we were smug that we would have prime viewing. As the three young men approached, we realized they were on a large float that had been prepared for the parade. The float stopped well away from us and by the time they arrived on foot at the walkway to the Capitol steps, surrounded by security and parade personnel, our view was quite diminished. But, as they approached, confetti shot from huge guns filling the sky with white flecks and causing the crowd to cheer and wave the small American flags that were distributed.

Jackie Greene, another home town boy, flew into town for a couple of hours just to perform a fabulous rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. It was fun to join the adoring crowd cheering and whooping as the young men were introduced and honored first by the French Consulate from San Francisco, then by both houses of the California legislature, the County of Sacramento, and the City of Sacramento. Mayor Kevin Johnson presented each young hero with a key to the city. It gave me a chance to practice some photojournalism photography, or, PJ as my camera club refers to it.

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2015—Mournful

One morning while I was sitting in the backyard at Melinda’s house in Arizona last week, a black and brown butterfly flitted around the butterfly bush. Both Melinda and I chased it for a while. I managed to capture a couple of decent shots and I was curious about what this small butterfly might be. A review of the lengthy list of Arizona butterflies I found on-line narrowed it down to a type of skipper, then a type of duskywing skipper, and finally I found a similar one called a Mournful Duskywing Skipper.

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