Thanks to the
despicable invention miracle of Facebook, I have been noting the recent and inexorable parade of classmates’ birthdays. Like millions of others I type in the obligatory, “Happy Birthday, your name here!”. A somewhat heartfelt gesture and momentary delay of my second swig of coffee. Actually, birthday wishes are deeply ingrained in my morning routine of finding ways to avoid doing actual work. After all, if there are no birthdays on which to comment I must find another 5-second avoidance activity to fill the gap. Come to think of it, it practically ruins my day. This is why I never follow through on threats to drop Facebook. I’d have to do more actual work. (To all my friends and relatives to whom I have recently wished a Facebook happy birthday, it was a heartfelt gesture. No, really, seriously. Ah, hell.)
I digress. So as we stare down the barrel of our 56th such celebration I can’t help but wonder what life was like back then (or way WAY back then as my kids would say). This happens once a year, and I really have no control over it. I do Google image searches (I’m too ADD to read the content) and click on whatever catches my eye. This usually elicits a bevy of Holy shit! responses. This year I have the urge to share those Holy shit! findings. Sorry.
The world was, shall we say, a bit nuclear obsessed in 1957. The U.S. detonated multiple nuclear bombs in the Nevada desert and even brought in Marines for a little live-action training. Many of these blasts were within 65 miles of Las Vegas, which in that great American free-enterprise tradition created . . .
. . . Atomic Blast Weekends in Las Vegas! (Note mushroom cloud in background). Yes, you too could pay premium rates for a room facing the test grounds on a scheduled blast weekend! Radioactive fallout worries? Wimps. Go to the Jersey Shore if you can’t take a little radioactivity.
But wait! It gets better. America had a “Miss Atomic Bomb” in 1957! Her name was Lee Merlin, a Copa Room showgirl complete with cotton mushroom-cloud bathing suit. Hah! Take that Soviet Union! You may have conducted 4 atmospheric nuclear tests in April alone, but our Miss Atomic Bomb was surely better than any furry-hatted Kremlin babe.
On a side note and as a photographer, I really appreciate the camera angle and use of perspective in this photo. I mean, not only is “Miss Atomic Bomb” much more shapely and beautiful than anything the communists could conjure up, but she is apparently 300 feet tall and designed to strike fear into the hearts of every living Bolshevik. Take that, comrades!
Speaking of beautiful women (this is where I switch over to saying “beautiful women” instead of “babes”, lest my wife point out the error of my ways), just like today they were used to sell cars back in 1957. Except, you know, with more clothes on. A lot more clothes on. And pantyhose. And goofy poses. Come to think of it, what the hell?
On April 13th (Hi Denise!) the US Postal Service temporarily halted Saturday deliveries because of . . . wait for it . . . lack of funds! On April 15th Congress appropriated $41 million (hah! chump change) and Saturday delivery was restored. And who says history doesn’t repeat itself? In the words of Yogi Berra (who was still with the Yankees in 1957), “It’s deja vu all over again.”
In 1957 the schools in a place called Little Rock were desegregated. As we all know (or should know), President Eisenhower sent several thousand National Guard soldiers to Little Rock to assist the kind citizens of Arkansas in complying with federal law.
But in other news, Elvis decided to renovate Graceland and installed this metal music gate. Because, why not? When you’re Elvis, it’s what you do.
Speaking of music and 1957, these guys were in a band. It was called The Quarrymen. Anyone else think McCartney looks like Alfalfa from The Little Rascals?
And some guy named Ted Geisel published a book. One that thankfully was the beginning of the end of the excruciating “See Spot run” method of teaching reading.
But we were still a cranky nation because of things like this.
So we held parades in Washington D.C. to show that we had things that could fly, too.
And because we were really afraid of this . . .
. . . and of looking like this cheerful bunch . . .
. . . the House Un-American Activities Committee held the author of this play in contempt of Congress for not ratting out his friends. But he probably didn’t notice . . .
. . . because he was married to this woman at the time. I mean, God bless America! Amiright men?
But all’s well that ends well because we had a new toy called “The Pluto Platter”! Of course those heathens in 1958 ruined it by rebranding it as the “Frisbee”. But we 57′ers know the real name.
Happy Birthday, (your name here!) to everyone else born in that golden year of 1957! The good ol’ days? I’m not so sure. And Holy shit!, do I feel old . . .
Hula-Hoop Girl braved the cold wind this morning and did her thing in Penn Square, downtown Lancaster. This was my first sighting of HHG this year. It is not uncommon to see her set up pretty much anywhere in the city. Music, hula-hooping, awesome smile, and just pure pleasantness. As a by-stander said this morning, “Hula-Hoop Girl rocks!”
Good friend Joe Devoy tells me that Hula-Hoop Girl will be putting on her show at Tellus 360 in the near future. There is a whole lot more to Lancaster than outlet malls and all-you-can-eat restaurants along Route 30. Get yourself into the city on the first sunny and warm spring day. Hula-Hoop Girl and the street musicians make it a pleasure!
The migration is underway as thousands of snow geese are on the lake at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area on the Lancaster -Lebanon border here in Pennsylvania. I stopped by yesterday for a few hours. The numbers of snow geese should continue to climb for at least a couple more weeks. The Tundra Swans are still on the lake too.
(Above) Location: Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. Two snow geese do a fly-by over the lake. Beautiful, powerful-looking birds.
(Above) Location: Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. The start of thousands of snow geese going aloft. They fly around above the lake and then settle back down after a minute or so. Sometimes it appears to happen for no reason. Other times it happens when a bald eagle or some other predator flies nearby. It’s an awesome and noisy sight to behold.
(Above) Location: Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. Tundra Swans fly over the lake.
(Above) Location: Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. Two Tundra Swans fly overhead.
(Above) Location: Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. Snow Geese flying above the lake.
(Above) Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. Back on the lake — some in the water, some standing on the ice.
Yesterday was a relatively mild Saturday with soft sunlight, thanks to some high wispy clouds. I decided to hop into the car for the forty-minute drive up to Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. I had heard from other photographers that the Tundra Swans and a handful of Snow Geese had already arrived. Given the warm lighting conditions I hoped to capture a few shots of the beautiful Tundra Swans. A bonus was when four Canadian Geese flew close by, angled nicely toward the late afternoon sun. I was able to track them and capture four frames before they disappeared behind some trees. Common compared to the Tundra Swans, Canadian Geese are nonetheless beautiful birds, especially in flight.
Last year I complained about the year-end penchant for “best of” lists, and then promptly offered my own 2011 photo favorites. Without beating that dead horse again, here are my favorites from 2012. Some are (I believe) strong images. Others simply conjure up a strong memory — what I like to call “the backstory”. Thanks once again to all who followed my posts and commented on my photos this year. May you have the happiest and most blessed of holiday seasons!
(Above) For those of us who are Penn State alumni and fans, the year started under a cloud of scandal and daily revelations — each seemingly worse than the last. The blue & white sky grew darker in January with the passing of Joe Paterno. I took a day off to go to the memorial service. The image above is just one of many captured that day.
(Above) Between mid-February and early March tens of thousands of waterfowl stop and rest at the Middle Creek Wildlife Refuge each year on their way back to Arctic nesting grounds. Disappointed in the Snow Geese photos captured one particular February morning, this image of Tundra Swans made the pre-dawn trip worthwhile.
(Above) Every Friday between noon and 1 p.m. a street preacher loudly delivers his message from Penn Square in Lancaster City. Any form of communication needs both a sender and a receiver. Capturing both in a single shot made this image a keeper.
(Above) I love to photograph kids because they in turn love to have their pictures taken. This little girl was part of a large crowd at Central Market on an unusually warm March day. She was content to lick her lollipop and watch me take photos from about 30 feet away. She never flinched when I pointed the camera her way.
(Above) In April, Melanie asked me what I wanted to do on my birthday. I chose to visit Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. An exceptional place for photographers or anyone interested in historical sites, we spent an entire afternoon there while I easily took over 300 photos. I’m already anxious to go back next year. This is a view of a dilapidated wing of the prison. Each door represents a cell where a single inmate was housed. The solitary existence encouraged repentance of sinful ways, or so thought the Quaker-influenced administrators.
(Above) A peak into one of the solitary cells at Eastern State Penitentiary.
(Above) In May friends of ours asked me to volunteer my photography skills for a fundraiser to benefit Rafiki Africa. I spent much of the time photographing the 5K race and awards ceremony. In between official duties, however, I took advantage of the time to photograph these young dancers.
(Above) As I mentioned earlier, children tend to like to be photographed. This young man certainly did.
(Above) May was also a good month for the music scene in Lancaster. This image was captured on Music Friday. I spent a good deal of time on my computer bringing out the ornate detail on this saxophone. Melanie liked it well enough to have a gallery print made and it now hangs in our living room.
(Above) Earlier in the same evening of the saxophone photograph I was enjoying the guitar riffs by this guy. These are five sequential shots captured within a span of ten to fifteen seconds. I call it The Agony & The Ecstasy of a Lead Guitar Player.
(Above) For whatever reason, June and July were photographically barren months for me. I managed to grab some decent shots of daylilies outside of a local church.
(Above) I broke out of the summer photography drought to the tune of 1,655 photos in August, thanks almost entirely to a twenty-day trip to Alaska. This was a learning trip through a wonderful non-profit organization called New Community Project. It was a no-frills and physically demanding trip. (I loved it). The trip started out touring Kenai Fjords National Park via boat. The Alaskan coastline is spectacular.
(Above) And the sea life was equally spectacular, as well as a bit noisy.
(Above) The second leg of our trip to Denali National Park turned out to be equally beautiful. We got out and hiked a lot. My recommendation? Get off the tour buses and off the deck chairs and get close to the land. You’ll never regret it . . . as long as you stay far away from the grizzlies.
(Above) Another mountain shot from Denali National Park. I love when there are small breaks in the clouds that provide spotlighting like this.
(Above) Vistas in Denali are awe-inspiring, but there is beauty underfoot too. These grasses covered with early morning dew were too good for any photographer to pass up.
(Above) But the real reason most people travel to Denali is for the wildlife, whether it be ground squirrels near a river bed . . .
(Above) . . .or Dall Sheep on a mountain top. I love this photo as a stand alone image, but it is even more meaningful to me considering that we hiked about four miles (much of it uphill) to get to this location.
(Above) The third leg of our trip — and by far the most unusual and rewarding — was to a native Alaskan village above the Arctic Circle, called Arctic Village. The people who live there and who hosted us are called the Gwich’in. They live in the single most remote location in the western hemisphere, a 300 mile flight from Fairbanks, with the nearest road 150 miles away. The land is ruggedly beautiful; the weather ranges from comfortable in the summer to brutal in the winter. Our hosts were Charlie and Marion Swaney. This is the view from their front porch in August.
(Above) And this is the view from the banks of the nearby Chandalar River. The land you see across the river is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
(Above) This is Charlie Swaney, our host. An outdoorsman supreme, advocate for the Gwich’in way of life, and all around great guy. Charlie welcomed us into his home (or in Melanie’s and my case gave us a nice piece of tundra to pitch our tent on) and he taught us more than I ever thought I’d know about the caribou herds on which his people depend.
(Above) This is Marion Swaney. Charlie’s wife, camp boss, and our host too. She has lived in Arctic Village her entire life, along with approximately 140 other Gwich’in.
(Above) This is Charlie’s grandson, Little Charlie. He only stopped by for a few minutes, but once again showed a child’s interest in my camera.
(Above) And this is Derek, Charlie and Marion’s nieces child. Derek was a constant at the Swaney home and came along with us to the hunting camp. He was my little buddy for much of our stay there, and I somehow found myself giving him lots of piggy-back rides whenever we hiked uphill. Derek was a big part of the reason that I lost 8 pounds in twenty days despite eating a high calorie diet!
(Above) Speaking of hunting camp . . . this was the view when we got there.
(Above) And this was the view when the sun was setting around midnight. Those mountains are part of the Brooks Range in the Wildlife Refuge.
(Above) One of the highlights of our arctic trip was when we did a fairly long, arduous hike into ANWR and up the side of a mountain. Here you see Melanie taking in the view with her camera. The day was also a highlight for Charlie because he spotted a small group of 25 or so caribou on a neighboring ridge — the first caribou sighting of the season. Caribou mean sustenance to Charlie’s people.
(Above) The arctic is a land of water, spruce, mountains, and vastness. It is not a place for novices to walk around without a guide. We were all happy to stay with Charlie, even if keeping his pace was exhausting.
(Above) One of the surprises in Arctic Village was meeting this young lady, a college intern from New York named Madeleine. She was an assistant to Sarah James, an activist village elder. This photo was taken inside a historical Episcopal Church on a chilly August day.
(Above) By September we had returned to the lower 48 and I was wandering around Lancaster City once again. Turning the corner onto Prince Street I spotted this meditating woman near the upscale Prince Street Cafe. The juxtaposition between the meditator and the khaki-and-blazer cafe patron (who I believe is actually one of our county’s commissioners) was too good to pass up.
(Above) On that same day I was sitting and listening to this man play his native flutes outside of Central Market. When this young girl and her family (out of view) stopped to listen too, the image was obvious. Sometimes you just sit there and the photos come to you.
(Above) Later in September — at another Music Friday event — I ran across this young woman named Ali Taylor. She has a big time voice and a fledgling music career. You can hear a song or two here.
(Above) The same evening I photographed Ali, this band was playing on the main stage. I never saw “the eye” inside the trumpet until I downloaded the photos later. Serendipity.
(Above) In October we drove across Pennsylvania to Erie to visit a friend. We took a few extra hours to visit a state park and see the great lake. The cloudy conditions actually made the foliage “pop” in this photo.
(Above) And of course Melanie had scoped out all the lighthouses on the shores of Lake Erie. So here is a nod to my wife and her love of lighthouses.
(Above) The last “keeper” of the year came at the end of October, in our own backyard. Although the color version is nice too, I find that the form of the flower and the background fence boards work better in black and white.
So there you have it, three dozen of my favorites from 2012. I hope you have enjoyed them too. Thanks for looking! Peace out.
As my friend Rob reminded me, I haven’t posted anything here for a while. I’ve been doing a lot of photography work — and even had a couple of my photos selected for a 2013 regional calendar — but there’s no doubt I’ve neglected Photoriety. So if hurricane Sandy doesn’t bring the power down (it’s raining sort of sideways at the moment) I’ll pick up on one of the highlights of our trip to Arctic Village, namely our visit to the Gwich’in summer hunting camp.
Hunting camp was a 4 to 5 mile hike “up mountain” to a plateau overlooking the valley where the Chandalar river separates Gwich’in land from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and a couple of miles below the peak of the mountain on which we camped. It is a breathtaking view as well as a breath-taking climb, and our visit to hunting camp was one of the primary reasons that I lost 8 pounds in twenty days. That I shed those pounds despite eating half a dozen of Marion’s stolen-recipe biscuits is testament to the level of exertion. Four of us did twenty miles in a twenty-four hour period. If that sounds self-congratulatory, well . . . I guess it is. I don’t think I can ever thank David Radcliff enough for challenging me both physically and mentally on this trip. I’ve shed a total of 30 pounds in the last ten months, and if I ever start to put them back on I’ll just go on another New Community Project trip. As David says, “No charge for the weight-loss program.”
So here are photos from our treks to and around hunting camp.
(Above) Several of our group head up mountain. The Gwich’in hauled food and gear up to camp on ATVs for us, although Melanie and I decided to carry our gear up on our backs (part of the challenge). Gotta say, my wife is quite a trooper.
(Above) We didn’t leave for camp until evening and arrived after 9:00 p.m., although there was still plenty of light left in the day. The colors and scenery were exceptional, but I had to wait several minutes for my heart rate to come down before I could take this photo. It was markedly cooler up here than down at the village. That point was driven home the next morning when I stripped down to my skivvies and washed up in a nearby stream. Now that was breath-taking!
(Above) The log pole structure served as our kitchen area. The plastic sheeting is used to enclose the structure and smoke / cure caribou meat during hunting season. Thin strips of meat are suspended on the poles while a small fire burns below. This sheeting was no longer usable, so before we left we tore it down and took it back to the village for disposal. Ground squirrels in particular will sometimes attempt to eat the plastic, with fatal results.
(Above) The only other “permanent” structure was this canvass sidewall tent where our Gwich’in hosts Marion, Marie, Derek, and Deena slept. Here Melanie stands near the tent for a little shelter from the cold wind.
(Above) Melanie photographs out toward ANWR while we wait for the food and kitchen supplies to arrive. It was approaching 10 p.m., we had hiked 4 to 5 miles up mountain, and hadn’t had dinner yet. Photography was a good distraction from hunger!
(Above) Nay Quoy accompanied us up to camp and slept about 100 feet uphill from the main structure. His job? Keep an eye out for any approaching bear. Two years earlier, Marion had shot and killed a grizzly that was circling camp and acting aggressive. Nay Quoy was quite at home sleeping out doors. He made a nice little “nest” in the tundra grass, curled up, and covered his snout with his long bushy tail. I suspect that sleeping in 30 degree temperatures is a piece of cake for the dogs in Arctic Village.
(Above) After dinner we were treated to a midnight sunset. These mountains are part of the Brooks Range in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Melanie and I were exhausted, but would not have missed this show for anything . . .
(Above) The next morning Derek was up and ready to go. He followed me down to the stream when I fetched water, which provided me with the opportunity to carry both the water and Derek back up the hill. It was just the beginning of a rigorous day.
(Above) Marion Swaney got a fire going in the morning and made a pot of “cowboy coffee” — pot, water, grounds. Filters? We don’t need no stinkin’ filters! The coffee was delicious and, thankfully, hot. Spit out the grounds or chew on them — your choice.
(Above) We took two hikes that day — a four mile round trip hike to the top of the ridge and back in the morning, and then a 12 mile round trip hike to another mountain overlooking Old John Lake in the afternoon / evening. The morning hike provided us with this view of Arctic Village and the Brooks Range mountains in the distance.
(Above) No grizzlies, only ground squirrels on our morning hike.
(Above) On the afternoon / evening hike, Jim, David, Judith, and I were treated to more spectacular high-elevation scenery. We were well above tree line for most of this hike, and we were glad for the cooler temperatures considering all the climbing we were doing.
(Above) David (holding camera), Jim, and Judith on the peak overlooking Old John Lake. It was a spectacular 360-degree vista. We ate some power bars and trail mix and got ready for the six miles (mostly downhill) back.
(Above) Jim – carrying the rifle — follows David and Judith on the trail back toward hunting camp. After 16 miles in one day, I’m sure my friends all slept as well as I did that night!
I have put together a book of selected black & white images from the past 25 years. You can see an online version here. There is a “View Fullscreen” option in the lower right hand corner that makes it easier to view.
I hope you enjoy the preview!