My Problem With People

Most of my posts here and on other social media platforms are pictures of places and things: buildings, flowers, trees, birds. I find all these interesting, but I also people also interest me and I often find myself looking at a person with the same intensity as I do a flower, a tree, the sky or the water.

2019.04.03: Outside a Starbucks on the corner of Madison and East 49th. I’ve seen this woman more than once feeding birds and I’m not so sure she’s eating all that well, herself. Haven’t had occasion to be back in the City since COVID, so don’t know if she’s still there. I hope she’s well.

My cameras are always working, so I take almost as many pictures of people as I do of anything else. I seldom post these, though, because I have a problem with people: they scare me. I don’t like to approach them unless I have a good reason – and even then somewhat nervously. If I ever start a conversation with you you are probably one of two things: so incredibly interesting to me that I cannot resist or a bartender. Grateful am I that my life has been rich in both of these, but even more grateful am I for the people who have spoken to me first.

2019.08.24: Bartender (left) and Incredibly Interesting (both) and friends. Taken outside the Old Greenwich Social Club on a Saturday afternoon

I feel that, to take and post pictures of people, I would need to approach them and have some sort of conversation, if for no other reason than to ask their permission, and that scares me for several reasons. First, I don’t know how to start that conversation, it’s hard enough for me to walk up to up to a stranger and say hello, I find it impossible come out with ‘say, I’d like to take your picture if that’s okay?’ Second, I’m afraid of rejection or worse: being asked all sorts of questions about why, what am I going to do with it and if I’m some sort of weirdo (being honest, I’d have to say yes!). Finally, if people know I’m taking their pictures they’ll be less natural or want to know how I want them to sit or stand – I can’t give those sort of directions.

So the pictures I post tend to be photos of friends or people who’s faces are somehow obscured.

Everything above has been posted before, but there are pictures I’ve always felt I can’t post on either Instagram or Facebook because the people in them are recognizable. But I’ll post some of them here now because I have very few local followers here (few followers altogether) and I’m hoping that, thus, they’ll remain anonymous

2021.06.30: The Waiter Waits – Lugano, Old Greenwich, CT
2021.06.06: And the Waitress Waits – Old Greenwich Social Club
2021.06.13: Playing while the adults eat
2021.06.06: Strangers in the Park (*this one I think I instagrammed)
2021.06.11: Family Breakfast

Cameras used here were either iPhone (2019) and Olympus OM-D E Mark 5iii

Recovering From Carelessness

This morning I took a few pictures of the sun rising over an area called ‘Swamp Vue.’ To do so, I put my camera on ‘manual’ and took a few shots at different settings finally getting the shot I wanted with the aperture at f/22, the shutter speed at 1/160 sec, and the ISO at 250.

Swamp Vue

Usually, when I do this, I finish by setting the camera back to ‘auto’ before replacing the lens cap and turning the camera off. Well… I forgot to change the settings. Walking a little farther up the road I came to a bed of Chinese Roses (rosa chinesnis) and took a couple of quick pictures without paying attention to the settings. This is what I got…

When I got home later I was disappointed to say the least. Wondering whether I could rescue the shots, I transferred them to my iPad to go some quick editing with Snapseed – I figured if I could make a halfway decent job of it, I’d try a little harder later on my laptop.

I started by fiddling with the brightness, ambience, highlights and shadows; decreased the grain; then one thing followed by another. The results are passable – definitely worth spending more time on

Undressing Magnolia at Breakfast

Magnolia Blossom was lying under a tree at Pomerance Park when I met her, near the ruins of Wyndygoul, the old Seton home.

A chance encounter, almost didn’t see her, almost stepped on her actually.

I found her interesting and took her home where I set her on my desk then proceeded to ignore, and eventually forget, her as I worked.

I found her there this morning as I was getting ready to go out for my morning coffee. She was pretty much as I had left her. Though having lost some of her freshness and looking wilted, she was still attractive, interesting, still so full of colour.

I took her out to breakfast.

Alone together in the upstairs room of the coffee shop, I began to undress her.

[Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5 MarkII Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm F4.0]

56mm; f/13; 4.0s; ISO 250
20mm; f/4.3; 1/60s; ISO 400
22mm; f/4.5; 1/60s; ISO 400
70mm; f/5.5; 1/160s; ISO 1600
25mm; f/4.7; 1/60s; ISO 320
20mm; f/4.5; 1/60s; ISO 320
150mm; f/5.6; 1/160s; ISO 1600
25mm; f/4.7; 1/60s; ISO 320
150mm; f/5.6; 1/160s; ISO 1600
22mm; f/4.5; 1/60s; ISO 250
150mm; f/5.6; 1/200s; ISO 1600

all images edited in Snapseed: Cropped or expanded to 5×7 ratio; a little vignetting, detail reduction to give a soft focus look

Bon Voyeurage

Most mornings I go out for a walk. Depending on weather I try to get five to six miles in on weekdays, eight to nine on Saturdays, Sunday I rest. I carry a camera in one hand, my iPad in the other.

At the three mile mark (sometimes a little more, depending on my route) I stop at what has become my coffee ‘local’: a patisserie called Aux Delices in Riverside, Connecticut. I get there shortly after they open at Seven and and take a coffee and croissant upstairs to the usually empty dining room where I sit at my regular table reading though my copy of the internet.

As I sit, people come and go and I can’t help watching, listening and, of course, taking pictures. Most of these I never post, especially if they show their full faces, but I thought I’d put some of them here including a couple of selfies I took using the Olympus’ remote control app on my phone.

2021.03.20 – Olympus OM-D E-M5 MarkII (Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 25mm F1.8; Settings: ISO 200, F/3.5, 1/200sec)
2021.03.16 – Taken with iPad Pro back camera (as you can see from the reflection)
2021.02.26 – Olympus OM-D E-M5 MarkII (Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm F4.0-5.6, Settings: 14mm, ISO 200, f/4.5, 1/80 sec)
2021.03.24 – Taken with iPad Pro back camera
2021.04.02: Remote Selfie -Olympus OM-D E-M5 MarkII (Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm F4.0-5.6, Settings: 31mm, ISO 200, f/7.1, 1/125 sec)
2021.04.03 – At My Regular Table – Olympus OM-D E-M5 MarkII (Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm F4.0-5.6; Settings: 22mm, ISO 200, F/4.5, 1/80sec)
2021.04.05 – Olympus OM-D E-M5 MarkII (Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm F4.0-5.6; Settings: 15mm, ISO 250, F/4.1, 1/60sec)
2021.04.06 – Olympus OM-D E-M5 MarkII (Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm F4.0-5.6; Settings: 16mm, ISO 320, F/4.1, 1/60sec)
2021.03.28 – Taken with iPhone Back Camera
2021.04.02 – Taken with iPad Pro back camera

The Lost Generation (… of Shopping Carts)

I’m always curious about the shopping carts I see abandoned on sidewalks around town, many quite far from the stores they come from, but not close to anyone’s home or even a bus stop.

2020.06.09: East Putnam Avenue, Greenwich

I imagine in them a desire for travel…

New surroundings, …

2021.03.23: East Putnam Avenue, Old Greenwich

To make different friends …

2020.11.21: East Putnam Avenue, Cos Cob, CT

In the end, though, they become lost and depressed …

2021.03.01: Ferris Drive, Old Greenwich

Having found no place that fulfills whatever expectations they may have had, some seek to find their way back home

2021.03.21: Arcadia Road, Old Greenwich, CT
2021.03.01: Arcadia Rd, Old Greenwich, CT

Some wait, hoping to be found and brought back …

While others fall into a deeper depression and give up

2020.03.11: East Putnam Avenue, Riverside, CT
2021.03.20: East Putnam Avenue, Cos Cob, CT
2021.03.20: East Putnam Avenue, Old Greenwich, CT

Finding the Missing Link

When I go for my morning walks around town, I am constantly on the lookout for something to photograph. My eyes usually gravitate toward lost, discarded or misplaced things (toys, balls, gloves, bottles, etc.).

A few days ago I found a beautifully rusted chain link. It’s a little over two inches long, a quarter inch thick, and worn with a gap on one end where it must have escaped from whatever it was attached to.

2021.03.09: Finding the Missing Link (OM-D MK5ii, 36mm, f/5.2, 1/80sec, IS0 320 – iAUTO mode)

I took a picture of it on lying on the side of the road where I found it and started to walk away, but it had so captured my imagination that I went back to pick it up.

For the next few days I carried it around to with me to photograph against different backgrounds using both the OM-D and my iPhone. When using the Olympus I almost always used manual settings – or at least in aperture priority mode; with the iPhone I just hoped for the best and that Snapseed would rescue the bad shots. I hope you enjoy the results as much as I enjoyed taking and editing them.

2021.03.09: Wood and Iron (OM-D MK5ii, 18mm, f/4.2, 1/20s, IS0 400)
2021.03.09: Hitting a Brick Wall (OM-D MK5ii, 49mm, f/22, 1/20s, IS0 400)

Hanging Out in Bars

There’s no denying it: although I profess myself to be a misanthrope, I do like to occasionally spend time sitting in a bar, watching people and listening in on conversations around me.

But what I like most is to take pictures in that special light that you really only find in a bar.

2021.03.07: The Town Dock Tavern, Rye, NY (iPhone XR Back Camera, 4.25mm, f/1.8, 1/60 sec, ISO 160)

People and things just look so different inside a bar than they do in the outside world (and I’m saying this is true even before I start drinking!).

2021.03.07: AC’s Boots (iPhone XR Back Camera, 4.25mm, f/1.8, 1/30 sec, ISO 400)

This afternoon my wife and I went to the Town Dock Tavern in Rye, about ten miles from home, to visit our friend Margaret who was bartending.

2021.03.07: Who invited Basil Hayden? (I don’t know, but I asked him to stay a while) (iPhone XR Back Camera, 4.25mm, f/1.8, 1/60 sec, ISO 250)

There was only one other person there when we arrived, but soon a few regulars started coming in. The place became lively with laughter and friendly conversation.

2021.03.07: Basil Hayden, Front and Centre (Guinness on the left) (iPhone XR Back Camera, 4.25mm, f/1.8, 1/30 sec, ISO 400)

Margaret made sure we were acquainted with everyone and we felt most welcome.

2021.03.07: Margaret’s Steady Hand at the Helm at the Town Dock (iPhone XR Back Camera, 4.25mm, f/1.8, 1/30 sec, ISO 640)

We ate, we drank, we enjoyed the people, and then we remembered that tomorrow was Monday.

2021.03.07: Clam-orous Dishes! (iPhone XR Back Camera, 4.25mm, f/1.8, 1/40 sec, ISO 320)

I want to explain the picture below (also the featured image) because they look less than flattering to the people in them and I call them ‘If Hell Had Happy Hour I’ and ‘II’ because nobody looks to be having a particularly good time, but this is one of those tricks of timing where, in that one split second, everyone looks off. It’s like when you pause a video in the middle of someone talking – that most beautiful or handsome person you wanted to stare at for a while looks like the biggest doof in the world!

I guarantee, everyone was having a wonderful time, they were some of the most pleasant people I’ve ever drank with and I hope to hang with them again someday soon.

2021.03.07: If Hell Had Happy Hour I (iPhone XR Back Camera, 4.25mm, f/1.8, 1/40 sec, ISO 320)

Reflections

Like many people, I’m fascinated by the way different objects reflect light or images. Capturing this on ‘film’ hasn’t always been easy for me. Been a bit of a learning curve.

2021.02.27: Lugano Wine Bar, Old Greenwich (OM-D MKVII 15mm, f/10, 0.40000 sec, ISO 200)

A lot of times I think I’m taking a photo of what I’m seeing only to find out that either my point of view isn’t exactly the same as my camera’s or that I didn’t have the settings right and the beautiful reflection I thought I caught looks undefined or washed out. Fortunately post processing with tools such as Snapseed, GIMP, etc., can help bring out the beauty that was there in my eyes.

2021.02.28: Sunlight Reflecting on Wet Blacktop (iPhone XR Back Camera, 4.25mm, f/1.8, 1/121 sec, ISO 32 – Left is original image, Right is post processed with Snapseed )

2021.03.02: Sun Reflecting Off a Copper Table (OM-D MKVII 14mm, f/20, 1/500 sec, ISO 200)

I love the way different surfaces reflect objects and light: how very smooth surfaces (water, glass, polished marble) act like mirrors, rough and dented surfaces provide only a rough idea of the images they reflect. There’s an analogy somewhere in there for the way we think and relate our ideas to each other.

2021.03.01: The Perrot Library Reflected on Binney Park Pond, Old Greenwich, CT (OM-D MKVII 14mm, f/5.6, 1/25 sec, ISO 200)
2021.03.07: Narcissist (OM-D Mk5ii, 54mm, f/6.3, 1/400 sec, ISO 100)

Not all reflection is about light and images – sometimes a reflection is seeing something two people are doing that looks almost the same.

2021.02.27: Reflecting (OM-D MK5ii, 16mm, f/4.1, 1/15sec, ISO 1600)

Those can be the most fun to capture.

Getting to Know You…

Three weeks ago I got home to find a package at my door. I wasn’t too excited: we’ve all been experiencing a year of random packages showing up almost every day with stuff you ordered who knows when, while you were thinking god knows what, drinking scotch in the dark and surfing the internet (or is that only me?) Surprise, surprise, though: it was something I actually remembered ordering and had been looking forward to: a reconditioned Olympus OM-D E Mark 5ii with a 14-150mm lens.

2021.02.08: Shooting through a metal pipe – 10mm, f/5.6, 1/25sec, ISO 1600

I found it cheap on eBay, having gone on a search after seeing it listed as the equipment used in someone’s blog post (wish I could remember whose. I’ve gone back looking, but can’t find it. As I said, scotch in the dark and surfing the web).

I unwrapped the package, put the battery in the charger (so glad they included one, because I hadn’t thought about it) and loved forward to taking it out the next morning. Immediately I liked its look and feel: it more closely resembled the film cameras from my past – it even looked more like my old Canon AE-1 than any or my more modern Canons – its size and weight also felt great in my hand: smaller, but a little heavier than my Rebel, and … I don’t know… more fun to swing around.

2021.02.08: Jim Enters Lugano – taken using the WiFi remote (16mm, f/4.1, 1/60sec, ISO 500)

Many things on cameras are easily understood at first glance – here’s the shutter release, there’s the wheel you turn to set the picture-taking mode, here’s the button to release the lens, etc. Other things take some reading and getting used to. For example, setting for manual focus: with my Canons there’s a switch on the lens, itself; with this camera it’s software driven and I have to go into the settings menu – already, I can tell this will be a pain in the ass since I’m used to switching from auto to manual focus ‘on the fly,’ as it were.

2021.02.10: Morning at Aux Delices (14mm, f/4, 1/60sec, ISO 500)

To get to know the camera I did what I do with a lot of things: I downloaded the manual to generally ignore, but look at from time to time, and started carrying it everywhere and taking pictures, feeling my way through the different settings.

Generally I like the camera – I love the lens! – and the pictures it takes. There really are only two things I don’t like about it:

  • First, the so-called ‘super control panel.’ To me, its not so super. Perhaps this may be because it’s a reconditioned camera, but I find it hard to use the touch-screen functions. The first time I tried to select ISO setting, I tapped and tapped and tapped until I almost didn’t want to take the picture anymore. Finally I typed somewhere else, magically activating the White Balance setting, then used the arrow pad to move to the ISO setting.
  • Second, the aforementioned switching from auto to manual focus.
2021.02.11: A Bird in the Bush is Worth 1/2 A Bird in the Hand – MANUAL FOCUS MODE (150mm, f/5.6, 1/250sec, ISO 250)

The WiFi functions are fun – clunky, but fun – this being my first camera with built-in WiFi. I like the ability to transfer pictures directly to my iPad for editing instead of waiting to get to transfer from camera to laptop to iPad. I’ve also used the WiFi remote a few times.

2021.02.24: Shopping Cart Under the Bridge (15mm, f/4.1, 1/60sec, ISO 640)

All-in-all, happy with the purchase and the pictures. I sort of feel bad for my Canon, though: it’s been sitting on the shelf for the past three weeks, only getting sun a couple of times when I wanted to use a camera I was a little more comfortable with.

iPhone XR Front Camera, 2.87mm, f/2.2, 1/121sec, ISO 64

Jim – a Sad Sequel

My last post was about my friend, Jim, who didn’t like being photographed.

Jim died unexpectedly in his sleep yesterday morning.

We all say ‘unexpectedly’ about a friend’s death, but this truly was. We had lunch at our favorite coffee shop the afternoon before and had been out later that night for our usual Thursday night ‘writing workshop.’ We had a good time talking to each other and one of his favorite bartenders, Natasha.

Nothing seemed amiss. We parted happy company around 9:30. I got an email from him Friday morning at 5:20: ‘Very nice’, was all it said, referring to a couple picture I had emailed him, taken while we were out. I had taken one last picture for the series of him not liking to be photographed, not knowing, of course, that it would be the last. He had read my last post and was happy with it and, now, was truly into the small Instagram/Facebook series I had created.

2021.02.11: The Last ‘Jim Doesn’t Like Having His Picture Taken’

Jim and I have been friends for close to, if not a little longer than, four years. I think I said three years before, but I’ve found pictures dating back to 2017. We would see each other often for lunch and dinner, but over the Covid year, after my regular morning coffee shop shut down, we started meeting every day at Aux Delices. The only mornings we didn’t see each others were those days where one of us had an early call or had too late of a night out.

On those days we didn’t see each other for breakfast we would be chatting along with another friend, Nagy, throughout the day.

2020.01.21: From a recent conversation involving burritos and strippers – frankly, I don’t remember what brought those two things together.

He was good friends with my wife, Jane. My daughter, Elyse, he thought of as one of his own. We have different best friends throughout different parts of our lives and I’m glad to be able to say that he’s been my best friend these last few years.

2018.08.04: Jim, Nagy, Elyse and me

A word about this post’s ‘featured image’ – copied below. I took it this morning where Jim and I usually met for coffee. The Panama hat he gave me about two months ago from his collection of hats and baseball caps – he let me know that it was an authentic Panama hat which, actually, are not from Panama, but from Ecuador. The sunglasses came from his kitchen counter – I picked them up on my way out of his apartment yesterday. I wanted them for two reason: first, I wanted to have something of his (I know, I already have the hat, but this was something still his); second, sunglasses, are a perfect metaphor for life and friendship: they can be precious, they can protect you, they need care, and they can be lost so unexpectedly and it’s upsetting.