Happy Fountain Pen Day!

A day late on my site. Om got it to me at a reasonable time. But, I didn’t wander thoroughly through the day’s email till late, So, here it is at 2AM:

Today is “the first Friday in November,” which is officially Fountain Pen Day. As we fountain pen nerds like to call it, the idea of NPD started in 2012 to celebrate fountain pens. I have often written about the benefits of writing with a pen or a pencil, but for me, nothing beats a fountain pen. If you have never had the pleasure of writing with a fountain pen, then today might be a good day to start your journey into a slow, deliberate, and organic approach to writing.

In a previous post, I explained why:

Computers have a unique way of making us writers a bit mentally lazy — indulging in a stream of consciousness writing. One doesn’t take the extra few minutes to think about what one is going to write or think about the missing pieces and how they all fit together It is, perhaps, because, we can cut, paste and modify with relative ease. We are constantly in “draft” mode and any addition and subtraction of words is nothing more than a mere act of readjustment. In comparison, writing with a fountain pen brings a different kind of rigor — forcing you to slow down, think, visualize and compose the story before committing it to paper.

There are many other benefits of writing with pens on paper. I understand, this is a dying method of writing, what with pencils and iPads. But still, experience the joy of a beautiful nib gliding on amazing quality paper, laying a beautiful blue, purple, or any other shade of fountain pen ink. I am biased towards turquoise and lavender inks. I have a fondness for handcrafted pens from Japan and lately have become a fan of Ranga Pens, an artisanal brand based in India.

Happy Fountain Pen Day!

Happy Fountain Pen Day, Om…

NM monsoon season brings out all our wildflowers


Common Yarrow

Bandelier National Monument will change the park visitor center hours from 9 AM to 4:30 PM to 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM on August 1, 2021. Good summer rains have produced a massive wildflower bloom in Bandelier’s high country that should last for at least several more weeks…

Abundant moisture in the parks high country has created the perfect conditions for a wildflower bonanza. Hiking trails such as Cerro Grande and Alamo Boundary are the best places to see a wide assortment of moisture loving blooms including mariposa lilies, harebells, and shooting stars. Cerro Grande starts on Highway 4, is approximately 2 ¼ miles each way and climbs 1200 feet in elevation. Alamo Boundary Trail is located on Forest Service Road 289 (Dome Road) and is about 1.5 miles one way but relatively level. Alamo Boundary Trail connects with the Coyote Call Trail on the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Both trailheads have small parking areas, so it is best to arrive early in the morning. Afternoon thunderstorms should also be a consideration when planning any hikes. Acting Superintendent Dennis Milligan reminds visitors to look for flowers. “Feel free to enjoy and photograph them but don’t pick them. They need to remain in place so all visitors can enjoy their beauty.”

RTFA for charges, regulations. I’ve been in Bandelier in seasons like the one we’re experiencing, this year. It’s glorious.

Wildflowers are burgeoning all over northern New Mexico, this year. I’m constantly distracted on my daily exercise walks by flowers I’ve not seen in a few decades.

A Reuters photographer at Trump’s failed coup attempt

Leah Millis, a senior photographer for Reuters, was one of the journalists capturing events on the ground. She took over 1,000 photos that day, including a striking shot of the Capitol’s exterior. At dusk, a police flash-bang munition went off, casting a warm orange glow on the facade and silhouetting rioters with unfurled Trump flags on the platform below—the same platform used for inaugurations. At that moment, Millis clicked her shutter

Millis started her day at around 11 a.m. ET on the east side of the Capitol, where protesters gathered in the morning. But after receiving a message that rioters were attempting to breach the west side a few hours later, she ran to document the scene, afraid that police would block it off and she wouldn’t get access…

Millis recalls hearing the crowd “chanting some kind of encouragement and realized they were probably breaking into the doors.” She climbed onto some of the scaffolding that’s set up for Inauguration Day to see what was going on. “That’s when I saw them battling with the police for an extended period of time,” she says. “It wasn’t until a different force showed up that they started firing flash-bangs and tear gas to actually disperse the crowd. And that’s what that photo is. The flash-bang going off.”

Great photo. Dangerous opportunity. Just like working around gangs and gangsters, photographers covering Trump’s Republican Party now run the risk of their gear smashed…and personal attacks.

A visual reinterpretation of self

By OM MALIK

As someone who lives in the grays, I immensely appreciate a cold rainy weekend in San Francisco. This morning, I made myself a nice cup of tea and sat down on the writing table with my iPad, hoping to spend time reading some articles and catching up on books that have slowly started to pile up on the bed-stand. For some odd reason, I began to look at some of my older photos. I had edited them over the past twelve months.

As I flipped through the gigantic photoshop files, it felt as if I was looking at the work of someone else. I felt assaulted by the colors — even though I had stripped out the extraneous as much as I could. It is not as if I don’t enjoy a beautiful sunset or a glorious sunrise. It is not that I don’t enjoy the pinks, mauve, and gentle oranges over the breaking waves of the Pacific. However, when it comes to the visual interpretation of these same landscapes, I can’t help wrinkling my proverbial nose as if the color was a piece of rotting vegetation?

How did I end up here? Why? I often ask myself.

I always enjoy Om’s musings. Whether the topic is writing about the technical machinery that seems to be cranking full speed in his neck of the prairie…or photography…he’s just about always addressing something of interest to me.

I’m not the dedicated photographer I have been in decades past; but, my interest has never waned. Om’s style and commentary always finds the heart of whatever values he examines.

Smartphones have more eyes watching police brutality

This was in 2014

The ability of smartphones to capture and broadcast shocking images in real-time has increasingly focused attention on a longstanding problem of police brutality in America. Here’s a look at why smartphones were needed to bring attention to the problem, along with Apple’s complex role in both supporting police and in drawing attention to underlying problems in conduct among police officers.

Decent quick history of policing. And, then, the development of “camera-phones” as a function of cell-phones…and what that now brings to the public eye.

Black-and-White and all the colors


adamtetzloff.com

Photographer Alex Harsley and his 4th Street Photo Gallery, in New York’s East Village, are having their long-overdue moment – one for which Harsley has prepared for decades. Curators and collectors are stopping by; so are TV channels and podcast producers.

” For years, Harsley, 81, sat in the sunbathed storefront of his word-of-mouth wunderkammer. Now you can find him in the back, still nudging the photo and art worlds forward, just as he has done for the past 47 years since he founded the nonprofit gallery that he has single-handedly sustained…

” Draped among the photographer’s prints today are his bellows, analog and digital cameras, each representing an era of photo technology, along with a wooden camera reflecting Harsley’s sense of humour. There are canisters of 777 developer, GE flashcubes and bins of prints to leaf through and purchase. The darkroom now accommodates digital printers…

” His observational, often narrative images straddle without contradiction fine-art and street photography. They capture the lyricism and humanity of urban life, and black urban life in particular – visual love poems in which the threshold between photographer and subject seems to dissolve. He is a master printer. He is also a noted experimental video and multimedia maker who shot the seminal video “Phat Free” for artist David Hammons, capturing him kicking a metal bucket down East Village streets. (The video was the highlight of the 1997 Whitney Biennial.) If Harsley’s photos mirror his heart, his complex videos mirror his “elastic” mind.

I know I was there at least once in the 1970’s. Didn’t meet Alex Harsley…as well as I remember. I remember loving his photos – especially scenes in the city [yes, the Mingus set, as well]. Never lived in New York. Never wanted to. Still, I spent a fair piece of erratic time there from the middle 1950’s on.

I remember his photo of Lewis Michaux’s National Memorial African Bookstore because that was someplace I visited probably every 3rd or 4th trip to The City. A street corner right by that shop was where I first heard Malcolm X all natty dread on a step ladder telling a lot of truth to folks. Standing there with my friend, Daniel, he picked us out, black-and-white, signifying nothing special but what still could be. Even then.

RTFA, Truly enjoyment knowing something that touched me briefly in passing so long ago – stayed around and grew like a tree standing by the water.

Photography and our Civil War


Click to enlargeGettysburg

❝ While photographs of earlier conflicts do exist, the American Civil War is considered the first major conflict to be extensively photographed. Not only did intrepid photographers venture onto the fields of battle, but those very images were then widely displayed and sold in ever larger quantities nationwide.

Photographers such as Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner, and Timothy O’Sullivan found enthusiastic audiences for their images as America’s interests were piqued by the shockingly realistic medium. For the first time in history, citizens on the home front could view the actual carnage of far away battlefields. Civil War photographs stripped away much of the Victorian-era romance around warfare.

❝ Photography during the Civil War, especially for those who ventured out to the battlefields with their cameras, was a difficult and time consuming process. Photographers had to carry all of their heavy equipment, including their darkroom, by wagon. They also had to be prepared to process cumbersome light-sensitive images in cramped wagons.

Today pictures are taken and stored digitally, but in 1861, the newest technology was wet-plate photography, a process in which an image is captured on chemically coated pieces of plate glass. This was a complicated process done exclusively by photographic professionals…

❝ While photography of the 1860’s would seem primitive by the technological standards of today, many of the famous Civil War photographers of the day were producing sophisticated three-dimensional images or “stereo views.” These stereo view images proved to be extremely popular among Americans and a highly effective medium for displaying life-like images…

With these advancements in photographic technology, the Civil War became a true watershed moment in the history of photography. The iconic photos of the American Civil War would not only directly affect how the war was viewed from the home front, but it would also inspire future combat photographers who would take their cameras to the trenches of Flanders, the black sands of Iwo Jima, the steaming jungles of Vietnam, and the deserts of Afghanistan.

RTFA for techniques and technology. Photography brought a new dimension to recording history. hopefully, it continues to bring new dimensions into understanding politics and war.

Pic of the day – Finding my lens, Om Malik


Click to enlargeOm Malik

My recent visit to Faroe Islands turned out to be life changing in more ways than I had thought. The first break through came on the second night of the trip and it has allowed me to focus on what matters, and why some tools work for some people and some don’t. It has had a remarkable impact on how I make photos. Here is how it happened.

After a long day two, I came back to the hotel and downloaded my photos to the laptop, only to find many of them were unsatisfactory. I had been using the (24mm – equivalent on full frame) 16mm f/1.4 Fuji wide angle lens. Many of the vistas that looked great when standing at the top of the hill, felt so much less inspiring when viewed on the desktop screen. They looked flat and lacked the three dimensional feeling I aspire to in my photos and other creative efforts. I felt discouraged, because of what seemed like white noise. The puffin photos weren’t good either and despite walking to the very edge of the cliff and lying in cold and wet grass for a while to capture the moment. (A handful made the final cut, but frankly I could and should have done better.)

Later in the evening, Dan Rubin, who is one of the instructors at the f8workshops, and I ended up talking about the day’s work and my frustration with the pictures. Dan suggested that perhaps what I like is to shoot is tighter and highly isolated views. He pointed out that I feel so happy with photos I make with my 50mm focal length lens. His suggestion: switch to the f2/50mm full time and use it not only as my general purpose lens but also for travel and landscape photography.

Forget about the wider views and instead focus on composition and strive to find ways to make photos that give the feeling of wide sweeping vistas and vastness, but leave that to a viewer’s imagination. You don’t have to put it all there in order to engage the viewer. And just like that, it all clicked in place.

RTFA to continue this voyage of discovery – or even better, wander over to Om’s site and wander back in time through photos and feelings about his trip to the Faroes.