What you can’t see

Here is a photo looking west just after sunset a few days ago. Here are a few things you cannot see:

It had just snowed. There were a few inches on the ground–not fluffy or soft but malleable enough to walk through. No crust, no ice. It had fallen off the trees but the fields were covered.

It was cold. A breeze blew. The line of short trees, oaks and ashes and buckthorn, blocked the wind coming from the south. On the south side of that hedge, pull your collar up and your hat down.

Jupiter hung in the sky. When I took this photo I intended to capture it between the lower layers of clouds. The bright dot contrasted with the dark clouds. I called it stunning.

I was smacking a lollipop, a strawberry Dum-Dum. That thing was tasty. That thing did me right. Flavors are powerful and we do not always have them to help remember a scene. I had one for this scene.

I was walking the dogs. Usually my wife does this. I go with her at times, and of course if she is not around the task falls to me. I took them out solo on this day. But just after I captured this image, she came around the row of spruces and joined us. Even after many years of marriage it makes me smile to see her. Every time.

I was wearing boots. I love the basic boots I can slip on and wander outside. The condition of the fields is so varied that I often am reminded how great they are. Whether there is snow or standing water or mud or rain or burrs or ticks, they protect and serve.

I headed back to the house after this. It got dark. We settled in for the night. The solstice was about to arrive. Now it has. We are headed to longer days. These are the days of hope in the year. I find it harder to cling to that hope these days. An afternoon like this, however, certainly helps.

Photo Deconstruction

I let my son handle the camera for the first time yesterday.  He has seen me use it, and his sister.  He has see lots of photos.  So he has a basic understanding of what to do and of what makes a good photo.  But could he take a good one?  His sister has managed to take some winners.  So I had high hopes. Here is his very first one, and what I make of it:

The Boy's First Go at the Camera

The Boy's First Go at the Camera

First, notice that he did his best to aim at what he identifies as me.  He did cut off the top of my head.  Well, OK, he pretty much beheaded me.  But he is not tall.  He is a kid.  He looks at my torso more than at my face anyway.  So I think he was going for what he wanted to capture.

Notice as well the framing.  He didn’t place me in the center of the frame. I am off to the side.  In this way, he is able to include some of the background to give the subject some context. Smart kid, that.  The mail waiting to go out, the uncapped water bottle, the clock on the wall–all are clues to what this scene is about.

Notice as well the dorky sweater.  It was cold in the morning and I tossed that thick baby on to keep from getting chilled.  But by taking the photo when I am wearing it he will have some fuel to rib his old man down the road.  “Look at that dorky sweater!” he will proclaim.  “You were/are so uncool.”

You may be able to tell as well that the focus is soft.  He was going for a warm look.  As I said, it was cool in the house, so the slightly less than sharp focus lends a somewhat homey quality, makes it feel warmer.

So he got it all right.  He took a video later in the day, when his sister got off the bus.  That was a hoot.  He’s got potential.  Do we have a filmmaker in the future?  Or a photojournalist? Or maybe just someone who knows how use a camera?  Time will tell, eh?

New Camera

I got a new camera, finally, today.  I ordered it on August 22nd from Amazon.  If I signed up for some service I did not want, they would have shipped it within two days.  That free shipping apparently comes with a price now.  It arrived by UPS while I was off working and I found it on the porch when I got home.  Unfortunately I had no time to really check it out.  I opened it and took a photo and set it back on the counter.  Then I worked for a while more before picking my daughter up from school, taking her to the dentist, and then picking up my son.  Then we had dinner to make and dishes to wash and now it just about bed time.  I’ll get to the experimenting soon.

In the meantime here is the photo I snapped this afternoon:

max Zoom with the New Camera

Max Zoom with the New Camera

Compare this to a photo I took this afternoon with the old camera:

Max Zoom with the Old Camera

Max Zoom with the Old Camera

The color isn’t the same since I took the photos several hours apart.  But you can get a sense of the quality of the photo as well as the ability to capture things far away.  I look forward to playing some more.

A Little Contrast

Perry Schmidt, 1918

Perry Schmidt, 1918

This is a photo of my grandfather when he was three years old.  My grandmother gave this to me a while back when she moved out of her place into an assisted living facility.  He would have been 94 this year, were he still alive.  This photograph was taken in Connecticut.  It is a great photograph in terms of composition, especially considering how expensive such pictures were at the time, and how few might have been taken to get this shot.

I am sure they did not have many photographs.  Some may be hanging around somewhere and some may have been lost over time but, nonetheless, the family’s collection was likely small.  When I managed to migrate all the photographs from our old computer to this new one, there were over 8,000 to move.  I knew we had a lot, but I was still mighty surprised to see that number.  We have hundreds of photographs of our children.

There is a great contrast here in terms of what the world was like for my grandfather and what it is like for my children. I give my daughter the camera and she takes 50 photos.  Half of those might be good enough to consider keeping, and maybe ten we might call good.  There is little extra cost to taking all those pics.  Even when I was a kid one had to load film and then develop it just to see what came out.  That could happen the same day but not instantly, and it cost.  I am sure no one would have given my young grandfather the camera to take pictures of the chickens.

Moreover, I pulled out this photo from its clear envelope, scanned it, and now can send it around the world to thousands of people if I want.  I can print copies at home.  It really is such a different world than the world of that three year old boy.

The other thing to note is the chickens.  When this photograph was taken, if a family wanted to eat chicken, someone went outside and caught one, then killed it, plucked it, took out its innards and cleaned it before cooking it.  I think of how connected my grandfather’s family was to their food.  That many people are choosing to have gardens these days, or to raise chickens, is news, but then it was how people ate.

The interesting thing here, or I should say the really interesting thing, is that we are much more connected our photographs than our food.  We take photographs with our telephones but have no idea where our food comes from.  We can manipulate colors and edit out the goofy guy in the background, right at home after dinner, but most of us have no idea how to pluck a chicken, or even what it ate when it lived its confined life, or that it had a confined life, and most of us don’t want to know.  We seem to want to be distanced from our food.

Imagine this brief conversation:

Hey where’d that photo of Sam in Pete’s Mustang come from?

Oh, Jill sent it to me from her Blackberry.

Hey, where did those blackberries come from?  I mean really come from?

I don’t know.  Argentina?  Chile?  Somewhere far away.

My grandfather and his family would have been a tad confused back when those chickens were prancing about.

Crocuses, a Camera and Late Driving

I managed to fit in a run today in the middle of the day.  I was working from home but I had worked a 12-hour day yesterday and I figured it was cool to take a couple hours to play.  I ran eleven miles, which I haven’t done in several weeks.  I was tuckered by the time I got back.  I did manage, however, to have a productive work day.

I was overdressed, of course.  It is easy to be so this time of year.  The temperature was 48 degrees and it was windy.  Tights?  A windbreaker?  Could I get away with shorts?  I ended up with tights and a windbreaker, just to be safe.  I had to shed around mile three.  Putting in writing that I wore tights sounds a little foofy.  Tights?  I think of silky dresses when I hear see the word tights.  It is one thing to say it alound but it looks, well, too dainty or something.  But whatever, I wore tights.  Black ones.

I saw flowers.  I had seen coltsfoot recently.  That is the always the first flower of spring.  I saw that in a number of places today.  In some spots it was clustered.  But then I saw crocuses.  Our crocuses are green, but hardly out of the ground.  These were on a hill, in the sun, by the road, and showing off.  At one point I smelled some kind of sweet flowery smell.  It smelled like lilacs but it couldn’t have been lilacs.  It is way too early.  But then, I thought it was early for crocuses.

Once again I wished I had a camera with me.  I have been pondering a new digital point and shoot for a while now.  If I had had a camera with me today I would have captured some of the early spring blooms.  I have been thinking about one of those Olympus jobbers that are waterproof and shockproof.  That is the kind of camera that would do well on a long run.  And wouldn’t it make this blog better, if it were easy to post pics?

In a little while I need to take off.  A friend is coming to visit for a few days.  His flight, like pretty much all flights to Burlington International Airport, comes in about 10:00 PM.  Not many flights arrive at that airport at, say, 4:00 or 5:00.  They arrive at 10:00 or 11:00.  If they are on time.  He called when he stopped for a connection.  It looks like he will be on time.

I will make a stop at the supermarket on the way.  You know, pick up some bread and beer and butter.  B things.  Maybe I will get some beans while I’m at it.  And maybe some ice cream, a flavor that starts with…

Criminy, I’m going to be up too late, and I’m getting loopy already.  Who’s idea was it to run far and work hard and stay up late all in the same day?  It will be chilly by the time I get out of here.  But I won’t be wearing any tights.  Unless I can find that dress with the crocuses on it.  If I do, I’ll make sure to take a picture and post it here next time.  But I’ll probably just go with jeans.