Par Avion

I’ve taken a bit of a break from writing – mostly to do some reading, but also because I didn’t have anything interesting to write about. I still don’t but, as that has never stopped me before and I’m done reading for a bit …

I spent some time last week packing things up at my mother’s apartment. They’re putting in new flooring (the old flooring having been ruined during Ida’s flooding) and needed the cabinets and various drawers emptied to keep the breakables from breaking and make the furniture easier to move around. I discovered two things:

First, forty-nine years of accumulated stuff is not easy to pack up in a week! A little easier in two, but not much more.

Second, and I don’t know why this interested me so much more than many other assorted photos and memorabilia: an ‘Air Mail Writing Tablet’.

Airmail, I’ve read, was discontinued in 1977, so you kind of get an idea how old this tablet is.

It is from a time where tablets didn’t run out of power, they just ran out of paper; you replaced the ink by buying a new Bic (or, perhaps, sharpening a pencil), and you sent a message by licking a stamp and placing an envelope in a box on the corner.

[Digression: You can still do all these things, except, maybe, licking the stamp since they all seem to be self-adhesive these days – I’ve tried licking one… didn’t like it.]

Unlike other writing paper, air mail paper was thinner, therefore lighter, and semi-transparent , but not quite as light and transparent as tracing paper. It was used because the cost of mailing a letter overseas, priced by the ounce, could quickly add up, especially if you had a lot to say. All our relatives were – still are – in Brasil and my mother, who didn’t write well, would dictate letters to me that sometimes took up four double-sided pages.

[Another Digression: My mother was a champion of TMI before TMI was a thing. Sometimes what she had to say could be quite embarrassing for a young me to put down on paper.]

To keep your lines straight, these tablets came with a sheet of ruled paper that you would place under the writing sheet. If you didn’t use it, you would likely start writing diagonally rather than horizontally – being left-handed, this was a big problem for me.

The internet still has a lot of airmail pads and envelopes to sell…

‘Go back in time with our Airmail Stationery Sets!’

‘Lovely white vintage onion skin paper! Totally a rare fine!’

‘We have a stash of this amazing paper and would love to share it with you. Available in two sizes’

… I’m thinking of using part of the remainder of this fifty sheets in this tablet to write a friend or two.

Up Close and Personal With a Strawberry Calix

There were a couple of strawberry calyces (caps) in the sink this morning and I got the idea that they might make for some good pictures. It’s a sunny day, so I took one of them out to the stoop where I photographed it using a macro attachment.

A bit of strawberry ‘meat’ attached to the calyx, I thought, made it look weirdly interesting.

Unbeknownst to me, an ant had come to check the cap out and popped out from behind as I was shooting.

To show some perspective, I placed a dime in a couple of the shots.

I’ll say nothing else and let the pictures speak for themselves. Hope you enjoy.

Most of the pictures were taken with the attachment on a 40-100mm zoom lens at different focal lengths, a couple with a 40mm prime. The camera set to Aperture Priority at f/22, and an ISO of 400

Profile Update Fridays

Every Friday I update my profile picture on facebook and usually add an ‘interesting’ story about it. I thought I’d share today’s update here (with some minor edits and additional pics).

2021.09.03: Profile Update Fridays – While tidying up the office, which used to be my daughter’s bedroom (and still is when she visits), the light coming in through the window was just too good to waste so…

…out comes the tripod and the remote shutter app for the Olympus and a series of selfies were taken for this update. The one here, with Brownie, was my favourite of the bunch.

Brownie has been in the family since Elyse’s age was measured in months. He has a speech impediment, but don’t call it that because it makes him angry (we just say he has an ‘accent.’)

He’s had an interesting life: he’s a computer nerd and can fix almost any problem – which works out well for his brother, Teddy, who is forever spilling chocolate milk on his keyboard; for a while he dated Cheerie, a Build-a-Bear cheerleader who moved to Florida about fifteen years ago (they’re still in touch); he’s good natured and puts up with a lot of the pranks his brother and the other stuffies pull; he – and the other stuffies – regularly goes to a summer camp run by Mister Peabody (a stuffed version of the cartoon character).

Mr Peabody is an unscrupulous dog. He uses these camps to make money off of the free labor provided by the unwitting stuffies, convincing them they’re doing crafts. He gets away with it because these camps are always on different islands outside of the United States. A few years ago he had them rolling cigars in Cuba saying they were making ‘leaf rolls’ for a made-up holiday.

My Daughter’s stuffed animals have had a much more interesting life than I ever had.

Plop!

There is a drain in our driveway that I step over every morning. I’ve never paid any attention to it until one recent morning when, as I walked over it, I heard the ‘plop’ of something falling into the water.

I thought I had dropped something into the drain. I looked in but didn’t see anything other than a mess of leaves, twigs and some water, so I walked away hoping it wasn’t anything important.

The following morning and almost every morning afterwards I would hear that ‘plop’ every time I walked over the drain and, so, of course I knew that there was something – likely a frog – living in there.

I tried several times, unsuccessfully, to sneak up on it. No matter how stealthily I approached, trying not to cast any shadows, whenever I got near enough to look in: Plop!

Today I decided to give something different a try.

Using my phone as a remote shutter release for my Olympus, I rested the camera face-down on the grate, covering it with a plastic bag because of the light rain falling

Then I walked a few feet away and waited, using the phone as a view-finder.

I waited a good fifteen minutes without any guarantee that the frog – or whatever it was – would be so obliging as to place himself where my lens was pointing. But I was rewarded for my patience with two halfway decent shots of my new neighbour.

Crop #1 of Mister Plopper
Crop #2 of Mister Plopper

The photos of the drain and setup were all taken with my iPhone X-R

The photos of the frog and interior of the drain were taken with my Olympus OM-D E-M5III using a 14-42mm lens (set on auto at 14mm)

Plastic bag courtesy The Greenwich Time. Probably the most useful thing I’ve gotten out of our local paper in some time.

I’ve Got Sunflowers on a Rainy Day

Rainy, humid morning. My initial thought was I’d slip on some waterproof shoes, a rain jacket and go stomping through Pomerance Nature Preserve but, when I opened the door and felt the oppressive, 95% humidity, I said ‘no thanks. I’ll just go early to the coffee shop.

Getting out of the car at Aux Delices I spotted the sunflowers next door at Porcelanosa and decided I could make them my subject for the day.

2021.08.19: First picture – lens fogs up just as I’m about to press the shutter release and suddenly I lose not only a clear shot, but also a bit of the focus

I ran into an unexpected problem early on: the humidity and relative heat outside the car caused my lens to fog up almost immediately when I removed the cap. The first pictures I tried to take (the one above being the first) didn’t come out so good. Patience, however, is not only a virtue but allowed me to wait until the temperatures of camera and outside evened out. Then, I was able wipe and keep the condensation off the lens and proceed.

2021.08.19: Sunflower seen from behind – after the lens cleared

Last year I had taken pictures of the sunflowers growing here using my iPhone. Today I had my Olympus with a 14-42mm lens which allowed me to get some decent shots from fairly close (about 7 inches), so I concentrated on trying to get some detail shots.

I know nothing, really, about sunflowers – or flowers in general – and, so, every time I take a close look at them I’m amazed by how otherworldly they seem…

… and by seeing something I’d never noticed before, like disk florets: the center of the sunflower pictured below is a field of flowers inside a flower! Maybe nothing new to anyone who knows anything about them, but it’s been all I can think about since I took these pictures, just adding to that otherworldly feel for me.

So, though I didn’t get to go on my usual morning walk, it wasn’t a water morning: I not only got to take some nice pictures, I got to learn something new as well!

Equipment: All pictures taken with an Olympus OM-D E-M5III (mostly set on auto) using an Olympus M.14-42mm lens at various focal lengths and edited using Snapseed on my tablet while drinking coffee.

Ordinarily I like to use aperture priority so that I can get some depth of field – for example, I would have liked to capture the church in the background in a couple of shots – but it was a bit breezy and the flowers just wouldn’t stand still for a longer exposure.

Palm of the Hand Story: A Tale of Birth and Death

With fall arriving in a little over a month, I thought I’d tell you a story about leaves. No words, just pictures – all taken this morning with my iPhone outside a coffee shop in Riverside, CT

My Mother Brings Me Back to Reality

So… A short one:

Earlier this week I was at my mother’s and I was showing her some pictures on my iPad when I came across the one below which I had posted on my Instagram account with the caption ‘Having a tropical daydream in Stamford, CT’

Honestly, I wasn’t sniffing the palm tree!

My mother takes one look at it, smacks me on the back of the head and says ‘why are you sniffing that palm tree?!? What’s wrong with you?’

Thirteen Exercises – Part 3: Four Corners

INTRODUCTION/RECAP: I recently read an article called ’13 Creative Exercises…’, yada-yada, by Todd Vorenkamp, yada-yada, link to the article at the bottom, yada-yada, this is my attempt at the third exercise. (See this post for a full explanation)

Exercise 3: Four Corners

The instructions for Exercise 3 were simple: Choose one subject and place it, where it exists, in each corner of the frame for four images.

I can already hear your sighs of relief: whew! Only four images. Sorry, I took about fifteen! Cheer up, though, I’m only going to post eight.

It took me a while to get this one done because I had hard a hard time coming up with a subject to photograph.

My reading of the instructions were that it had to be something that either couldn’t move or, at least, wasn’t going to move while I was shooting it. Okay, fine: I could do another tree or some more mushrooms, but the whole point of my doing these was to move away from that. Then, the other day, I’m walking around town (Greenwich, CT) and spotted Melvin.

The gallery opens at 10:30 yet, here is Melvin: 6:30 in the morning, impatiently checking his watch, anxious to pick up that new sculpture for his foyer.

Melvin is a statue standing in front of Cavalier Ebanks Galleries (not his real name, I named him after my late father-in-law – both solid men). Always looking at his watch as if waiting for the galleries to open, he is possibly the second version of the statue – I’m pretty sure there was a different one in front of the gallery at it’s original location before it moved three blocks up Greenwich Avenue (I remember him wearing a suit).

I cornered Melvin in the four pictures below.

Exercise Image 1 – Lower Right Corner: Looking down Greenwich Avenue
Exercise Image 2 – Upper Right Corner: Ground level, looking at the gallery storefront from the street
Exercise Image 3 – Lower Left Corner: from beneath the sidewalk bench
Exercise Image 4 – Upper Left Corner: Looking up Greenwich Avenue

So, I promised (threatened?) eight pictures. The four exercise shots plus the featured and the introductory images make six, below are two bonus shots.

Bonus Image 1: Across from Melvin is Saint Mary Church built 1900-1905 of stone cut from local quarries.
Bonus Image 2: Looking across at St. Mary’s Parish House

link to 13 Creative Exercises article on B&H:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/13-creative-exercises-for-photographers

Stumped

Taking a small break from the creativity exercises while I look for a good subject to use in Exercise 3. Meanwhile…

I paused for about fifteen minutes during my morning walk through the Mianus River State park to take pictures of a stump. I know: sounds about as exciting as… well, taking pictures of a stump, but I wanted to share them with you anyway.

This particular stump was interesting to me because, the closer I got to it, the more its top started to resemble one of those ancient villages built on the side of cliffs (my wild imagination pictured something like the dwellings in Mesa Verde).

As I thought about it I realized that, in a way, it was very much like that. Looking abandoned now, there was once quite a bit of life here: small creatures living here and mining this stump for nutrients. Perhaps some are still here, hiding during the day time from the giants walking the earth around them.

Aerial photography
Skyline
Urban canyon

Thirteen Exercises – Part 2: I Shot that Cow Ten Times

INTRODUCTION/RECAP: I recently read through ’13 Creative Exercises for Photographers’, an article by Todd Vorenkamp posted by B&H Photo Video (recently discovered a version on petapixel.com – links to both at the bottom of this post) and thought it would be interesting to go through each and bore you with the details. Today I did the second exercise.

Exercise 2: Ten of One

The instructions for this exercise were simple: Take 10 unique and/or abstract photographs of 1 small subject. For my subject I chose a small plastic cow my daughter had brought home with her from a class trip to Spain in 2007 when she was 13. Her name is Lechesia. She had been filled ice cream [from my daughter: If memory serves, it was like those cafeteria cups with half chocolate, half vanilla]. Until earlier this week, she had been sitting around our kitchen since then near the stove where it had been accumulating a veneer of cooking grease and dust ever since. (Relax, I cleaned it up a bit before starting this exercise.)

My daughter in Spain the day she got the cow [From a 7 megapixel picture (which was good stuff back then) save) that was converted to .3 megapixels when Facebook got a hold of it. Used GIMP to clean it up a bit]

Again, here’s how I cheated:

  • I will admit to taking an initial ten pictures not liking any but a couple of them and starting over again so, closer to twenty pictures (do the others count if I deleted them?)
  • Not sure if this is cheating, but for the past few days the cow has been sitting on my desk – this was before I started doing these exercises, so the cleanup and move were not premeditated. The directions, as I quoted above, were pretty spare, so I’m not sure it counts as cheating that I took the cow outside for a couple of shots.

    There’s another exercise later on (7: Portable Subject) where I’m supposed to carry an object around with me and make sure that it’s included in all my shots, but I feel this is different. My interpretation is that in this exercise the subject is the object, in the other is it’s the location.

I’m sharing all ten photos here because… well, who wouldn’t want to see ten pictures of a plastic cow? Who? (Might be you, so… oh, well, sorry!)


Image 1: Happy cows, they say, come from California. This unhappy cow came from Spain. I can’t make a blanket statement about the mental state of cows in Spain, but I’ve never seen this one smile. Ever.
Image 2: European cows tend to prefer soccer (‘Fútbol’ in Spain). When asked about the game, Lechesia, attempted to demonstrate using some large marbles I had, but it’s been so long that she got a little confused.
Image 3: No longer filled with candy, Lechesia has been using her copious stomach to store coins she finds around the house. She’s amassed a small fortune (for a cow).
Image 4: An unruly bit of hair on the top of her head. Yes, Lechesia has a cowlick.
Image 5: Lechesia often stands in front of the window, longing to go outside. I accommodate when I can
Image 6: Lechesia, like most cows, loves grazing. American lawns, however, don’t taste as good as the ones in her home country. ‘Moooooooooo!’ she says. [Moogle Translate tells me that she said ‘you’d think they’d spice it up a bit with some saffron!’]
Image 7: What makes Lechesia an extraordinary cow is her ability to climb trees. Getting down is a bit difficult, but fortunately she didn’t climb beyond my reach.
Image 8: Enjoying themselves until the cow comes home
Image 9: Lechesia enjoys art and has a collection of paintings by a famoos Russian artist and statues of eastern origins.
Image 10: Lechesia imagines what it would be like to be a Picasso painting of a sexy cow. Very nice, I think.

link to article on B&H:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/13-creative-exercises-for-photographers

link to article on petapixel.com:
https://petapixel.com/2015/07/16/13-exercises-for-photographers-that-can-help-jump-start-creativity/