Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ambitious resolution

Sometime in mid-November, as I looked a window or took notice of a particularly pleasant autumn scene before me, I lamented the lack of a camera nearby -- or was just flat-out lazy and didn't make the effort to walk inside or upstairs to get it.

Then, one late, quiet night at work, in the early-morning hours, I whiled away the final few minutes browsing Flickr and found myself (as I often do on such virtual strolls) inspired. Hopefully, that inspiration carries over into action, because as I've thought about it over the last few weeks, I'm excited for the potential this project could bring.

My resolution for 2009? One photo a day. Every day. Three-hundred and sixty-five new images, each taken during a different 12 a.m.-11:59 p.m. period. I know it's not a new or novel idea, but I think it's just the thing to spark my creativity and avoid the regret I feel when I see a particular scene and think, I've got to remember to come back here with the camera tomorrow, and then never do.

Ideally, I'll not only shoot at least one picture a day, but I'll post one, too. I'll give myself more leeway in the posting department; while I'll have only 24 hours to shoot a photo for a particular day, I'll allow a few days' worth to pile up if I can't get to a computer or take the time to organize the images. That may be the project's undoing, but so be it.

I understand that I won't be able to produce 365 stellar images. Not every day is going to lead to a praise-worthy shot. Maybe not every week will. But that's not the point; the aim is to see what a different scene each day leads to. I'm sure there will be more than enough days when I post a picture of the cats or a closeup of a leaf just to mark that day done. But I also expect that setting this goal will lead to some new personal discoveries in my artistic eye, method and results.

I'm excited to see what comes of it.

Here's one last 2008 picture to start things off as the snow comes down on New Year's Eve in Boston.

"Seventh St. Bridge," Pittsburgh, August 2008

When I determined this pic was my Best of 2008 -- or at least my favorite -- to post in the FlickrCentral group, I knew I'd be posting it for Photo Friday's ear-end challenge. That foresight enabled me to reach an all-time high of being the fourth person to post on a Photo Friday challenge. It's a small thing, but I was always curious as to how high I could get. I'm not sure I'll ever top it (or try to), because I usually take some time to select a photo to fit the theme. I had an advantage this time, because I knew what i wanted for this category, and I had an idea that it would be this week's challenge.

Anyway, this image is the result of always having a photographic eye and having shot thousands of photos (and read enough about the art). My wife, in-laws and I were walking back to downtown Pittsburgh from a Pirates game in August and I managed to look away from the fireworks over the ballpark to see this view, pause a moment to compose the shot, and fire off a single frame. The bridges of Pittsburgh are works of art in themselves, which could be expected from a city known for its steel production. I can't take too much credit for the technical specs (I probably had the camera set to auto, or at least shutter priority), but I do give myself kudos for not caring so much about where I was walking as I did about what I was walking past. (Casey's dad waits for no one, so if you don't keep up the pace, you'll have to jog to catch up.)

I suspect 2009 will produce enough images to make next year's choice for "best of" a bit tougher. But I'll know it's coming, so we'll see how high I can get it in the Photo Friday pecking order.

Whether or not I can look at the hundreds of images posted in "Best of 2008" is another matter.

Monday, December 29, 2008

"City Lights Books," California, September 2005

Among my resolutions for 2009: Read more books. It's not that I don't read, it's just that I read mostly magazines and newspapers and websites and not nearly enough books. I think I started two books in 2008 and finished zero (though I have three days and only a few pages in one book to at least get to 50 percent of that small sample). The problem is that I continue to buy and ask for new books, so each new acquisition just gets added to the shelf.

In 2009, I'll take them down and see what they have to say.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

"Grapes on the vine," California, September 2005

Our first stop on the Napa Valley leg of our honeymoon was Pine Ridge Winery, where we nibbled on a couple of these grapes, in their pre-wine state. Pine Ridge's post-wine product is damn good, too.

"PATH view," New Jersey, August 2008

On a hot August afternoon, I slumped down in a seat on the PATH train at the Hoboken station, awaiting the ride into New York for work. Drained, I was so exhausted I didn't bother pulling out my magazine to read. After taking a gulp of water, I looked up to see this view in front of me and was glad I had my point-and-shoot with me.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

"Bench beneath the fish," New York, March 2008

I was torn about which bench to feature, but I went with this one over a more recent image because I like the color and balance of this photo better. This is from New York's Museum of Natural History. The lighting and the shadow of the fish are my favorite aspects, but the fact that the bench remains empty on a busy weekend afternoon at the museum (not seen, obviously) says something, I think.

[Jan. 3 update: Among the chosen!]

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"Mets celebration," New York, May 2007

Several things went so right to get this image. I had my SLR and zoom lens with me on this fine May afternoon at Shea Stadium. My friends and I moved down to box seats behind home plate in the loge level for the final few innings. And as the Mets put runner after runner on base in the bottom of the ninth inning -- which began with a 5-1 Cubs lead -- I began to think that I'd better be ready with the camera if they finished their comeback.

When they did -- on a bases-loaded single by Carlos Delgado (he's No. 21 on the right). David Wright (No. 5, on the left) led the team in celebration, egging on a reserved Delgado, who had been struggling that season (and would for most of the balance of it).

I've not taken a better photo of the action at a Major League ballpark before or since. Not that I won't keep trying ...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"The lights this year," New Jersey, December 2008

I'm glad I waited to take the pictures. Instead of getting our house on a bland, cold December night, I waited until three days before Christmas and three days after our first snowfall of the season. It completes the scene.

Happy holidays!

Monday, December 22, 2008

"These subtle stars," New Jersey, December 2008

They're actually planets, of course. You're not going to see too many stars over the New Jersey Turnpike in Secaucus. The bright one at the top, near the center, is Venus. And as far as I can tell, at about 5 o'clock from that point is Jupiter, with Mercury at about 4 o'clock from Jupiter.

I'm not too concerned about how well it fits the "subtle" theme, but that phrase just stuck in my head as I was posting this photo. So that's what I called it, and that's my entry.

[*Later chosen as a favorite.*]

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Shuttle launch," Florida, March 2008

Back in March, I checked off another item on my list of life goals and attended a launch of the space shuttle in Florida. "Attended" in the sense that I saw it live -- it's hard (or at least requires plenty of advance planning) to get to any of the viewing points at Kennedy Space Center.

What was for me a pleasure trip, a photo opportunity and a vacation was -- for the astronauts aboard, engineers in Mission Control and scientists involved -- a job, a research mission, a chance to learn more about our world and the universe it inhabits by breaking the surly bonds of earth and soaring into the heavens.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"The patient pine," Wyoming, May 2006

How could the patient pine have known
The morning breeze would come,
Or humble flowers anticipate
The insect's noonday hum,-

from "The Inward Morning," Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"Great Falls on the rocks," New Jersey, February 2007

Winters in central New Jersey usually meant more snow than ice, but a few memorable winters do stand out. There was an ice storm in the early 90s that encased all the trees in clear casts, a year or two when the Navesink River froze solid enough to allow the ice boaters to come out (I'm waiting for that one again) and one January or February a few years ago when hunks of ice floated along the Hudson between Manhattan and New Jersey. I also recall one winter when a few friends and I took up an abbreviated version of pond hockey -- maybe six of us out there in our sneakers on a frozen crust not much bigger than a basketball court, if that.

So when we get a cold stretch long enough to freeze the Navesink or threaten cruise ships on the Hudson, it stands out. As does this day nearly two years ago. We were about to put in a bid on our house in Clifton, and I'd driven there to buy some train tickets for our test commute on the train. After discovering how close it is to Paterson, I brought my camera along and went up to the Great Falls of the Passaic, which I had seen once before -- with my dad on a trip to do research for my fourth-grade report on Passaic County. (We had to list our top three, from which the teacher would assign one. I wrote down Sussex and Passaic in the north and Burlington in the south, three of the farthest away from where we lived in Monmouth.)

I found the falls on a clear February day coated ice. The wind had blown the mist to the opposite rock wall, coating it in ice and creating icicles and small glaciers on the rocks. It was a fabulous find and I'll have to keep my eye on the weather this winter to see if I can catch the cataracts in suspended animation again, perhaps even more so.

"Spring Point Light," Maine, May 2008

Sitting out at the end of a jetty the length of three football fields, Spring Point Ledge Light guides ships into Portland Harbor. Exposed to the elements since it was first lit in 1897, it has become weathered over the decades. Yet it stands firm in the water through the Maine winters and the breezy summers as it has for more than a century.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Three Darlings," New Jersey, September 2005

Forgive me for being morbid during this season of cheer, but in looking for an image of three of anything, this one stuck with me. Plus, I'm excited to have hundreds of new photos uploaded now that I've gone through so many images recovered from my crashed hard drive.

I took these one afternoon when my wife and I explored the tiny Edgewater Cemetery behind our apartment. Despite talk of regular return visits and a hope of researching the history of some of the names, I never did either. I can't even tell you the name on the grave marker on the right -- I'm only assuming he or she is part of the Darling clan -- that's Daniel on the left and James in the middle. (Though there are only two Darlings listed at, I'm not sure the inscription on this third stone is legible even in person.)

I guess for a holiday theme, you could think of them as the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

"Lighthouse over the rubble, Alcatraz," September 2005

I take a lot of photos of things that are old and decrepit, but when I saw that challenge, Alcatraz is what came to mind first. It must have to do with the islands sordid past, its history as a prison and its remote location subject to the elements in harsh San Francisco Bay. Of all the things I've photographed that I've qualified as ruins, things like the Goddard Mansion in Maine and the Kruger Mansion at High Point, New Jersey, are parks and settings that soften their decrepitude. There were other Alcatraz photos I thought about but then passed over simply because they also had flowers or a view of San Francisco in the background that softened the image.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

"Trucks at dusk," Montana, May 2006

As dusk fell over I-90 on a late-spring day in 2006, my college roommate and I drove east from Bozeman, on our way to Billings for the night. The road was open beneath the big sky, a few trucks speeding in each direction. As we passed them, their radio frequencies would momentarily interrupt the signal from my iPod to the radio, and our song would cut out and a word or two of truck lingo might creep in.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

"Color becomes black and white," Wyoming, May 2006

No special effects (as in, the click of a button in Picasa) here -- this is a full-color photo of trees in Yellowstone National Park on an overcast morning. The gray sky and muted backlight render the trees black. It's similar to one of my favorite photos, taken at Oregon's Crater Lake National Park, that for the moment still only lives on film -- yet another reminder that I've got to get organized and start plugging through some of those to get them online.