Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Silly Lens Review Comments

The North Davidson (NoDa) area of Charlotte

We photographers all spend a certain amount of time looking over the lenses we don’t own, sort of in an “ask your doctor if this lens is right for you” way. 😉  Yesterday’s surfing took me down the rabbit hole of the recently introduced Tamron 18-300mm zoom lens. I’ve been thinking of renting a copy of this lens to evaluate its suitability as a do-everything lens for travel and wanted to check out some reviews. I was amused by a couple of the comments that seemed especially contradictory:

“Not as sharp as my Fuji lenses, but perfect for travel photos.” So…travel photos don’t need to be sharp?

“If you’re an amateur/occasional photographer maybe it won’t make much difference but if you shoot on a frequent basis, I highly recommend looking at other options.” I don’t take a lot of photos so I won’t know if the lens is good or not?

“A great Kit lens, but image quality and focus are lacking. The edges and corners are soft at most focal lengths, and it focuses poorly at the longer focal lengths, 200mm to 300mm. I was never able to get an image in focus of birds on a rock. The focus seems to be behind the subject. I even shot at 1/1000 of a second to make sure there was no camera movement. It’s a great kit and travel lens if image quality and critical focus at the higher mm lengths aren’t important to you.” Hmmmm. No.

Thoughts On Personal Opinion And Individual Choice

Sticker Shock

Kathy and I were walking through the neighborhood yesterday and passed a neighbor taking out her trash.  “Let me ask you a question,” she said as we walked by. She then proceeded to ask a question (it was related to Covid), but asked it in a way that indicated that she wasn’t looking for our opinion – she was only looking for an opportunity to tell us hers.  We listened politely for a couple of minutes, uttered a couple of pleasantries, then continued our walk. I then decided to add Covid to the list of things I don’t discuss with others, which includes religion, politics and money.

Social

A day doesn’t go by without someone posting on antisocial media that they are “quitting” something.  The latest thing is Spotify, which I think is ironic because they cite a couple of musicians – who are famous and opinionated – quitting because of some other famous and opinionated guy who they disagree with. Also ironic is these folks, some of whom had previously “quit” Facebook, post about it on Facebook. As an aside, I wonder how many of these former listeners were ad-supported listeners and never actually paid any money. Just yesterday someone announced that they were quitting Facebook and Instagram because their account was “hacked.” It probably wasn’t, but anyway…. There are plenty of reasons to actually quit Facebook, and privacy and security are two of the biggest.

Old Rockers

It is fortunate that we live in a country that allows for personal opinion and individual decisions. Personal Freedom, we call it.  Some folks carry things a bit too far, some way too far. But everyone has the ability to have their own opinion, influenced by whatever influences them and using whatever ideas and facts they are comfortable with. Where things get really sideways is when someone feels that others’ opinions should be the same as their own, and if they aren’t the others are “wrong” and feel the need to “prove” or “fix” it.

Hosed

Right and wrong is often a continuum, not just a Yay or Nay, Yes or No. There are some real extreme opinions everywhere.  I hesitate to use the words that come to mind because it would imply judgement, and I don’t wish to judge. Every position is someone’s Right and someone else’s Wrong. Suffice it to say that it is possible to find someone who you align with, regardless of where you fall on a given issue. The trick is to make it our own choice, not someone else’s that has been imposed on us.

Ball point

Since Spotify is the flavor of the week, I’ll use that example.  I am an avid listener of Spotify and use it daily. I pay for a subscription to support the company and so I can listen without advertising (I also pay for ad-free XM, Pandora and Jazz Radio – all for a fraction of what cable TV would cost).  I play Spotify on my computer, in the car and through Sonos.  I love that I can find just about any album ever made and listen to it online, for less than the cost of a CD or download each month. I even listen to a few podcasts through Spotify, (although my favorite one hasn’t posted since May 😉 ).

Dirty Book Sale

There are lots of things I don’t listen to on Spotify, and probably a lot of things I would find annoying or even offensive. But that is the case with all media.  There are even people at the NY Times and Washington Post I disagree with, but I still subscribe because overall I find value. A lot of attention is currently being focused on one person, and I know the name but have never been interested in listening.  A lot of people are fans and Spotify paid a bunch of money to carry his program, some of which comes from my subscription money. But as long as the service gives me what I want and costs a reasonable amount, I’ll stay with it. I know that a lot of musicians don’t love Spotify because they don’t care for the payment structure, so they also choose. Hopefully they can do better on their own or with Apple Music, Amazon or Tidal, but those companies aren’t exactly known as being artist-friendly either.  But they – and we – can choose.  Vote with our feet, as it were.

Two Windows, Salisbury North Carolina
For Sale or Rent
Salisbury, North Carolina

Should there be some kind of limits on content? Probably, but who gets to decide? Whose “facts” are we going to base our decisions on? There is a fine line between content moderation and censorship – anyone tasked with that role is going to have their own biases.  We already can’t agree on anything, so trying to limit content would likely just make things worse.

The Boys. Washington, North Carolina

Anyway, listen on! Be polite to your neighbors regardless of their opinions.  But have a pre-rehearsed statement that allows you to excuse yourself when the conversation gets uncomfortable.  And perhaps don’t walk through the neighborhood at 3:00 on Trash Day. That’s  the time the HOA says you can put out your can and by 3:15 half of them are out!

A Very Good Year, All In All

Welcome to Texas (Kathy’s Photo – I was driving!)

I know not everyone is able to share this sentiment, but from my perspective, 2021 was actually quite a fantastic year.  I admit that we were quite fortunate to have not faced a lot of the trials that impacted others.  Luck, circumstance, perspective and attitude make a huge difference, of course, as do flexibility and acceptance.  Kathy & I are happy, positive people with a good outlook on life, a sense of adventure, and it doesn’t take a lot to make us happy.

Evening light at Sandy Bay in Rockport, Massachusetts

What matters to us most are three things: (1) are we healthy?, (2) are our family and friends healthy and safe? and (3) can we pay the bills?  The first two have gotten a little complicated lately, but we deal. The “New Normal?”  Nah, that’s just Life.  And in the words of (Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon made famous by) Mr. Sinatra, “as funny as it may seem, some people get their kicks stompin’ on a dream. But I don’t let it, let it get me down ’cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin’ around.”

The town of Oatman, Arizona is famous for its wild burros (and tourists) roaming the streets. A Route 66 attraction.

This is not intended to be a political or philosophical post, but I think what gets a lot of people down is that they pay too much attention to shit that doesn’t affect them.  Kathy & I remain peripherally aware of current events, just enough to know what big things are happening in the world.  We spend very little time on (anti)social media, stay mindfully aware of and avoid the hysteria boobytraps that lurk there.  Yes, we’re aware of all the boogeymen (and boogeywomen?) out there, but for the most part the idiot politicians, celebrities and bazillionaires (real and imagined) have very little direct impact on our life or our happiness.  And hand wringing about things that are out of our control is pretty much pointless.  Play on!

The Motel Safari on Historic Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico

We’ve traveled, mindfully and – where necessary – carefully.  We drove over 22,000 miles, visited 12 new states, met some new friends and caught up with some long-time friends.  We even took our first cruise in nearly 2 years.  And I took over 16,000 photos – not quite as much as 2000 but almost!  Some of the precautions and protocols inspire a forehead slap or an eye roll.  But if it needs to be done to do what we want to do?  Roll with it and move on.  Complaining about it just makes you look like another idiot – not the image we want to present to the world.

The Blue Swallow Motel on Historic Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico

So anyway, I took some photos.  I don’t generally feel the need for a “My Year In Review” retrospective, but it is sometimes interesting to go back and look at what I saw and aimed my camera at.  I don’t try to a “Best Of” or even a “Favorites” post, because as we discussed on Joe’s Blog a few weeks ago, the selections tend to change every time we look.  I’ve long contended that for most people the quality of the memory is more important than the technical quality of the photograph.  Which is why you see so many cell-phone-out-of-car-window photos, selfie sticks and other various head scratchers.

The “Cadillac Ranch” near Amarillo, Texas on Historic Route 66

I chose a group of photos that show my year.  I didn’t even limit them to 21 (as in the year 2021).  Some of them are pretty good technically, some of them might even be OK artistically.  But mostly they say, I was here and this is what I did/saw/felt/experienced.  And ultimately it doesn’t get a lot better than that.

Kathy & I send our sincerest wishes to everyone for a healthy, happy, amazing and fulfilling 2022!

Night time in Rockport Harbor in Rockport, Massachusetts. Pardon the noise – ISO 12,800!
Our first view of the rocky Maine coast on Dyer Point near Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Early morning in Boothbay Harbor, Maine
The Maine coast off Ocean Point near East Boothbay, Maine
Pemaquid Point Lighthouse near Bristol, Maine.
Waiting for sunrise atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, Maine
Fall foliage along SR 112 near North Woodstock, New Hampshire. In White Mountains National Forest
White Sands National Park, New Mexico
Freezing conditions at the top of Mount Washington, New Hampshire
“Welcome to Roswell” art installation. Roswell, New Mexico
Prada Marfa is a permanent sculptural art installation by artists Elmgreen and Dragset, located 1.4 miles northwest of Valentine, Texas, just off U.S. Highway 90, and about 26 miles northwest of the city of Marfa. The installation, in the form of a freestanding building—specifically a Prada storefront—was inaugurated on October 1, 2005. The artists described the work as a “pop architectural land art project.”
Big Bend National Park in Texas
Quoddy Head Lighthouse in Maine, at the Easternmost Point in the continental US
The Very Large Array at the
National Radio Astronomy Observatory near Socorro, New Mexico
Titan Missle Museum near Tucson, Arizona
Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid, New York
The George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, on the estate of George Eastman
Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona
Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument near Coolidge, Arizona
Hoover Dam from the
Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge
over the Colorado River in Nevada
Nassau Harbour Lighthouse at the entrance to the harbor in Nassau, Bahamas
Hackberry General Store along Historic Route 66 in Hackberry, Arizona
Burma Shave sign along Historic Route 66 approaching Seligman, Arizona
Historic Route 66 in Seligman, Arizona
My very first view of the Grand Canyon. From Grand Canyon Village near the El Tovar Hotel, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Desert View Watchtower area of Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Lawrence Lowell Telescope, which was used to discover the planet Pluto at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument in Arizona
Wukoki Pueblo at Wupatki National Monument in Arizona
Twin Arrows, an abandoned roadside trading post located along I-40 in Arizona between Flagstaff and Winslow
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona
Riding the Sandia Peak Tramway to an elevation of 10,378 feet.
Christ of the Ozarks statue in Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Sunrise on the beach on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
The Narragansett Towers along Ocean Street in Narragansett, Rhode Island
Morning along the river in Mystic, Connecticut
Historic submarine “USS Nautilus” at the Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton, Connecticut
Map of US-60 through the Salt River Canyon between Show Low and Globe, Arizona

Prescience?

Breakwall in Burlington Harbor, Vermont

“Once, man turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free.  But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.

Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a man’s mind.”

Frank Herbert’s Dune, 1965

I’m currently reading the first of six books in the Dune series.  Why watch a movie when you can read a 500+ page book, right? 😉  I was particularly struck by this quote when taken in context of the world we live in today.

I started this book years ago  as a teenager and couldn’t get through the first few chapters.  It’s a different writing style than I had become accustomed to reading Asimov, Heinlein and Bradbury.  It took me a while to get into it, but now that I’m over halfway through I think I’ve gotten the hang of it.  Will I read the rest of the series?  Likely, but no rush!

The Value Of Time

Post-sunrise light at Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, Maine

“Three weeks ago, I found myself sitting on the banks of Hudson Bay, a stone’s throw from the Arctic circle, waiting for a polar bear to wake from his slumber. One can wait a long time for a polar bear to awaken. Several times, our group of photographers asked whether we should move on, and several times the answer was, “You don’t leave a bear to go look for a bear.””

Most followers of this blog are already familiar with David duChemin.  He gets a little preachy sometimes, but more often than not his words of wisdom are quite wise.  In his most recent blog post, For Stronger Photographs: More Time, he writes about the difficult but valuable need to be patient.  To take the time for something to happen.  To make the time to be in the right place for something to happen.  Its a lesson for all of us, photographers and non-photographers alike.

I’ve said numerous times that the most valuable thing I have learned from photography is that it is nearly impossible to be in the perfect spot at the perfect time.  For that to happen even once is unimaginable, but to expect it over and over again is foolish and unproductive.  There is always a better sunset, a better wave, a better expression, somewhere.  But we don’t know where or when, so the best we can do is be where we feel we need to be, or make the best of wherever we are.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not generally a patient person.  But in waiting for a cloud to cover the sun, or for a wave to crash on a rock, or for shadow to spread evenly over a waterfall, there are times when patience is rewarded.  Slow down, look around, and don’t leave a bear to go look for a bear.

Photographic Memories

Church Street Craft Festival in Waynesville, North Carolina

How many times have we seen it – a group of people taking pictures of some interesting scene or event with their phones, then showing their screens to each other as if to show off what they saw.  But did they actually see the scene itself, or are they experiencing it only through their pictures?  Will they only remember an event by looking at it on their phones?  I wonder.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota
Hudson’s Seafood, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

When our kids were growing up, back in the dark ages of film, camcorders were becoming “the thing” among cool parents.  Dads walked around school events with their “mini-cams” on their shoulder, documenting the events like a White House cameraman during a press conference.  Kathy & I resisted, preferring instead to experience the events through our eyes and remembering them in our memories.  We have still pictures, sure, but don’t have boxes and boxes of videotape that will never be watched.  But the memories are precious and remain in our minds.

Pienza, Italy

I just read an article in the New York Times titled “Is the Immediate Playback of Events Changing Children’s Memories?”  In it, the writer recalls a piano recital given by her daughter.  The writer’s mother recorded the performance on her phone, and as the mother went to replay it 30 minutes later, “When I saw my mother’s finger hovering over “play” on her phone, my daughter leaning over her shoulder, I stopped her: “You know what … let’s just let her enjoy the moment.”

Pienza, Italy

I think that sentiment applies to everyone, not just children.  Having a camera with us all the time, whether a “real” camera or a phone, causes our initial reaction to something to be an urge to photograph it instead of just looking at it and enjoying the moment.  It disconnects us instead of connecting us.

It’s an interesting article so I won’t repeat it here, other than the final paragraph:

“It’s been a week since my daughter’s performance. “I can’t believe it’s over!” she says twirling around the kitchen. She knows I have a video of the performance, but, interestingly enough, she hasn’t asked to see it, and I haven’t volunteered it. I think I’ll let us both remember it just as it was that night for now: raw and unfiltered, and from our own perspectives, perfect.”

St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy
St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy

Think about that when we spend our time composing photographs through that little viewfinder or on that little screen.  Remember to experience the world with our eyes, too.  I’ve often told people that the quality of the photograph is less important than the quality of the memory.  And that memory lives on long after the pixels are filed away on some hard drive.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy

Thoughts On Blogging – Why I Write

Abandoned buildings along a dirt road stretch of Historic Route 66 near the New Mexico-Texas border

One of the bloggers/photographers I follow is Om Malik.  He recently posted an article titled Future Of Media – A Quick Reality Check that I found interesting.

Hackberry General Store along Historic Route 66 in Hackberry, Arizona

I started my blog back when blogs were ‘cool’ as a way to share my written thoughts as well as my photographs.  More often than not, my posts were a way for me to clarify my own thoughts on a subject, rather than just writing for writing’s sake.  It sort of morphed into – for me at least – an alternative to social media.  Yeah, I’m on Facebook (sort of) and Instagram (sort of) and I have a Twitter account that I never look at.  But mostly I have this blog.  And while I appreciate every person who comes and looks, especially those who take the time to leave thoughtful comments, I would probably do it even if no one visited or commented.  I suppose it is my version of a journal, although one that anybody can read.

Twin Arrows, an abandoned roadside trading post located along I-40 in Arizona between Flagstaff and Winslow
Twin Arrows, an abandoned roadside trading post located along I-40 in Arizona between Flagstaff and Winslow
Twin Guns, an abandoned settlement along I-40 between Flagstaff and Winslow, Arizona

The passage in Malik’s post that I found especially valuable is the one where he talks – referencing still another article on the subject – about the distinction between blogging and social media:

Marc Weidenbaum, a music enthusiast and founder of Disquiet.com, expertly captures the distinction between blogs and social. “Social media expects feedback (not just comments, but likes and follows),” he writes. “Blogs are you getting your ideas down; feedback is a byproduct, not a goal.” In other words, one is a performance for an audience, while the other is highly personal, though others may end up finding it interesting. Weidenbaum also admirably points out the difference between blogs and all the suddenly ubiquitous newsletters. “And newsletters = broadcasting,” he says. “Blogging is different.”

Feedback is a byproduct, not a goal.  I don’t write for Likes or Hearts or Thumbs-up, just for me.  I post on Instagram, and while I don’t obsess over whether anyone “Likes” my photos or not, it’s nice when they do.  And a few of the people who follow my Instagram will never read my blog.  And that’s OK.

Hackberry General Store along Historic Route 66 in Hackberry, Arizona
Exhibit at the place where the original route of Route 66 crosses the Petrified Forest Road in The Painted Desert, part of Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona

Just last night I had someone tell me, “I see your photos (on Instagram) from all these far-off places but never know where you are.”  I explained that I always add the location, you just need to look at the text.  And he replied “well, I just look at the pictures, I don’t bother reading anything.”  Well, OK then.  That’s how people use social media, and that guy will never read my blog.  But I love him anyway. 🙂

“Leaning Tower of Texas” near Groom, Texas on Historic Route 66