Thirty-two minutes to summit a Norfolk Island Pine

Using spikes on his boots and a pole strap, Josh, with Greensavers ascends a few feet at a time, stops to cut branches within reach and climbs upward until he has cleared all branches with his chainsaw.

Using spikes on his boots and a pole strap, Josh, with Greensavers ascends a few feet at a time, stops to cut branches within reach and climbs upward until he has cleared all branches with his chainsaw.

Well, it did take longer than 32 minutes because when I caught site of Josh with Greensavers he was already about one-third of the way toward the summit of the Pacific island native.

The brum-brum-brum-brrrrrrr sound of a chainsaw is unmistakable, though at first I couldn’t seem to discern where it was coming from. On the second pass to heat my coffee, I finally discovered the activity while looking out our back door. One of our neighbors – about three houses down – was having a Norfolk Island Pine removed.

The little red dirt bike

After hearing the revved-up sound of this motor bike buzzing up and down our street, I discovered it was our new neighbor, 12-year-old Brandon. This image was made by panning the camera in sync with the the direction and speed of dirt bike.

After hearing the revved-up sound of this motor bike buzzing up and down our street, I discovered it was our new neighbor, 12-year-old Brandon. This image was made by panning the camera in sync with the the direction and speed of dirt bike.

I’m working in my digital “darkroom” one afternoon last week when I hear the revved-up sound of a small cycle engine zipping down our street. Within seconds the sound returns, but from the opposite direction and then down again, and up again, again and again.

Someone was disturbing my solace. Oh, it was not the noise, it’s that someone was kindling my curiosity right out in front of our house. I could not resist so I went out front and waited beneath the shade of the new green foliage of our giant red maple. The wait was short.

Within seconds a youngster on a small red dirt bike shot down the street for at least the dozenth time. He made a U-turn about 100 yards to my left and repeated the back and forth maneuvers until I motioned for him to stop.

The young driver pulled over and I learned his name is Brandon, he is 12 years old and he is a new neighbor on our street. We made a little small talk. He was exercising his small red dirt bike and I mentioned that I would like to make some motion photos, if it was acceptable with his parents. Within minutes he returned and told me his father approved.

I asked if he would keep doing what he was doing – very carefully – and I would try to capture him in motion by panning my camera as he passed by. It is a technique I have used over the years quite successfully to isolate fast moving objects from their backgrounds. The real trick is to use a moderately slow shutter speed and pan the camera at about the same speed as the moving object.

We are very blessed that we are on a residential street with very little traffic and we are doubly fortunate that young Brandon is a very mature, cautious and safe operator.

As the 2003 Honda XR 50 beginner dirt bike passed from my left and then right, back and forth at least thirty times, I kept trying to track it. “Again, Brandon,” I kept telling him.

Over the years I never seemed to have a problem with panning to capture race boats, athletes, bicyclist and other fast-moving objects, but this blur-of-a-dirt-bike, well that’s another story. It’s like attempting to track a gnat.

“Again, Brandon, again!”

A baseball trade: one ball for one stone

As I watched the Tampa Bay Rays play the Cuban national team in Havana today on television, I couldn't help wonder if one or more of these youngsters was playing for the Cubans this afternoon.

As I watched the Tampa Bay Rays play the Cuban national team in Havana today on television, I couldn’t help wonder if one or more of these youngsters was playing for the Cubans this afternoon.

The boys and the field were mostly a blur, when Arnold shouted at our driver to stop the van.From the side of the road on the outskirts of Havana, Cuba we watched the sandlot baseball game in progress with seven young players sharing two mitts, one well chipped bat and – a stone?

It didn’t take long before we looked at one another in disbelief and simultaneously spoke, “they don’t have a ball.” Our astonished looks quickly turned to smiles, because we had a ball. In fact, we had three baseballs. We never packed for Cuba without fitting a couple of cowhide-wrapped orbs between bottles of ibuprofen, vitamins, toothpaste, reading glasses and countless other necessities we take for granted.

Arnold bent over the seat and rummaged through one of the duffel bags for a baseball. Finding one, he rapidly peeled the shrink wrap, called out and tossed the prize toward the group of seven.

Fourteen little hands bolted upward in an attempt to catch the shiny white prize dropping from the sky. The boy in the yellow shirt snagged the flying ball and the group fell silent as they gathered close to admire the treasure cradled in their buddy’s hands. Before long the new ball was passed around where it was handled fastball style by one budding pitcher while another imitated a three-finger changeup grip.

The little men looked up, smiled and shouted their appreciation before ditching the stone and resuming their game. Three days later on our return journey from Pinar del Rio we passed the field again and the seven were still there sharing a still-white baseball.

Hands as portraits

This photograph of my mother-in-law snapping green beans on her 88th birthday, provides for a vignette photograph that speaks to her enjoyment of cooking.

This photograph of my mother-in-law snapping green beans on her 88th birthday, provides for a vignette photograph that speaks to her enjoyment of cooking.

When I was 16 years old, I was fortunate to have a part-time job working in the News Photo Department of the St. Petersburg Times. One Sunday afternoon it was particularly quiet so I took the opportunity to learn by studying photo contest entries from past years by some of the Times’ photographers.

I was nearly half-way though a waist high stack of 16″ x 20″ prints when I came across an entry from the late 1950’s of a business man’s hands signing documents. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Veteran Times’ photographer, Johnnie Evans, had captured my father’s hands and to me, they were as recognizable as any facial portrait of him would have been. And, like any good portrait should, Johnnie captured a bit about who my father was at that point in time.

After that silent lesson on a sluggish Sunday afternoon, I began to study hands and understand how they too have a way of speaking about the nature and character of people. On occasion I have had people balk when I’ve asked to make a photograph that includes their face, but I have never had anyone refuse my request to photograph their hands – yet.

Taking a break: Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise is the common name for the Strelitzia, a genus of five species of perennial plants, native to South Africa, and is featured on the reverse of their 50 cent coin.

Bird of Paradise is the common name for the Strelitzia, a genus of five species of perennial plants, native to South Africa, and is featured on the reverse of their 50 cent coin.

I don’t fancy myself as an accomplished nature photographer, yet I have always admired the beauty of nature that’s all around us. I am working at slowing down a bit to stop and smell the flowers, so to speak, and perhaps, at the same time broaden my areas of expertise.

This Bird of Paradise flower grows right outside our front door. I pass it daily, but the other day while soaking in a few rays of Florida sunlight on a break from processing images, I grabbed a camera and tripod and made time to capture its colorful beauty.

I am glad that I did. Next up are the lovely orchids that grace my studio.

Justice in the cup

Consumers and farmers benefit when growers receive sustainable prices for their crops.

Consumers and farmers benefit when growers receive sustainable prices for their crops.

I’m drinking less coffee nowadays. But, I am enjoying it much more. For a fully caffeinated coffee hound, that’s saying something.

Nearly one year ago I began a quest for a more flavorful brew. (See related post) It seemed as though I was drinking coffee more for comfort than pleasure. I started close to home with a local roaster, and their large-batch, dark offerings proved to make a better cup than commercial beans. Now it was better than anything from the grocer’s shelf and the large chain operations, but really not by much.
(more…)

A simple path to a better cup of coffee

Good coffee begins with freshly roasted beans sourced from farmers who take pride and care with their crops.

Good coffee begins with freshly roasted beans sourced from farmers who take pride and care with their crops.

It was not until I broke the glass carafe of our automatic coffee maker one Saturday morning that I discovered there was a better way to brew coffee. With that discovery also came the quest for a more flavorful cup of coffee.

Someone had given us a gift of a Melita cone with paper coffee filters. Brewing coffee this way is known as the pour over method, so I gave it a try. To my surprise our morning cup that day was better than ever. Though I have experimented with a few of other methods since, I’ve settled upon this simple way to produce a clean cup of coffee.

A little more than one year ago it seemed that the coffees we were using were lacking in flavor and I was enjoying them less. So I started exploring the world of coffees and I learned more about cultivating and roasting coffee beans. I became convinced there were better coffees available in places other than a grocer’s shelf.
(more…)

Reflection: Where have all the Pine trees gone?

As I sat near two of the lone surviving Australian Pines at Pass-A-Grille the other day, I knew it was time for what might be a final portrait before they too become a fond memory.

As I sat near two of the lone surviving Australian Pines at Pass-A-Grille the other day, I knew it was time for what might be a final portrait before they too become a fond memory.

I labored in the skin-burning Florida sun during the summer of 1964 to save enough money to purchase my first professional camera. I was preparing to start my junior year of high school making photographs for the Teen Section of the St. Petersburg Evening Independent. The part-time job would pay $15.00 a month plus all of the film I could shoot. I was enthused.

With one of my first rolls of film I made the short jaunt south from our home to Pass-A-Grille, at the southern end of St. Pete Beach. It was a simple time and there was always a beauty or two who would be flattered to model for some test shots.
(more…)

Next Page »