Sunday, November 8, 2015

Photographs Don't Lie. Or Do They?

Recently when I was in Port Aransas on a rainy day, I decided to take the ferry over to the mainland and drive over to Ingleside. I have been on that road before but it was a long time ago. I thought I might find something to photograph in the drizzly rain. In Ingleside I saw a sign that said Ingleside by the Bay. I turned left on it thinking I might get a shot of Port Aransas from the other side of the Bay. For about ten minutes there was no sign of the Bay just the road through the wonderful wind twisted oak trees. And then, there was a sign pointing to the right, Ingleside by the Bay. I turned right and I was in a little community about four streets deep rising from the water's edge of a little inlet and maybe a three-fourths of a mile long until the streets ended at the bay front that faced Port Aransas.

The street I was on ended at this sign. Ingleside Beach Club. I did a double take. Beach Club? Sand and a couple of covered picnic tables. I'm sure the overcast sky had some influence on me but I was thinking what a sad excuse for a Beach Club. I pulled over and stopped the car and I made several pictures of the sign and the picnic table. I had to capture this sad scene. I put the camera up and got back in the car and as soon as I turned left, I saw another building inside of the fence but about the equivalent of two blocks away. As I drove toward it, I saw posts for volley ball nets and space for parking and a pier. As you have probably guessed by now the building I saw was the Club House. It wasn't grand but it was nice. I stopped again and closed my eyes and I could see families fishing from the pier, playing volleyball, horse shoes, picnicking, eating on the veranda, New Year's Eve Parties in the Club House, Fourth of July cookouts, wedding receptions. This was not a sad place, it was a place where families made wonderful memories.

If I only showed you the image above and I had not given the whole story, would that image be the truth about the Ingleside Beach Club? I didn't Photoshop anything in or out of the picture. It is a "true" picture.

Ever since I made this image I've been thinking about it and this week I saw an article in Shutterbug about six professional photographers who were assigned to make a portrait of the same man but each of them were given a different story about the man and they had 10 minutes to make their portrait. At the end all six of the photographs were hung and the differences in the portraits were astonishing. The way the man was posed and light was used was highly influenced by what was in the photographer's mind from what they had been told.

Now I can think back to how I was feeling the day I made this image and why I had to stop the car and take this shot. For me it confirms what the article is saying, "The photograph is shaped more by the person behind the camera than what is in front of it."

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Different Halloween

I innocently went into town last night with my camera and a bag of candy. It was Halloween and I was remembering all of the Halloweens when Ned and I made reservations for dinner and after dinner went to the San Francisco Hotel and sat in the bar where we could see out the door. The first few years there would be a few children who painted their faces or wore a costume that they probably also wore in the Locos parade. They were out looking for candy from the gringos. Sometimes it would be three or four boys about seven to eleven years old running in a pack. Or it might be an older sister shepherding her siblings and that might include a wide-eyed three year old on her first Halloween adventure. So cute. A few of the groups would notice us sitting inside the bar having a margarita and they would rush in holding out their plastic grocery bags for candy afraid that the management would rush them back out before they got their treat. We wanted to talk to them but all they wanted to say was 'hola' and 'gracias' and run back out to collect more goodies.

Then we started to see a few adults who were on their way to a party dressed in Victorian costumes with painted skeleton faces. But basically the Jardin was maybe a bit more crowded than most nights but not much.

Well, friends, things have changed and changed more than I realized. Now there are any number of Calaca events. Calaca is a colloquial Mexican Spanish name for skeleton or skull and you see it used mostly during events for the Mexican Day of the Dead festivals. Here in San Miguel it has turned into a three day holiday of events that are mostly initiated by the gringos. That is not to say that the Mexicans don't participate as well because I saw a lot of school children and young people wearing the calaca makeup but the gringos do seem to having a great time with the costumes and parties.

As I said, I innocently went into town about 5 PM expecting last night to be about the kids and candy. The Jardin was already very crowded. I can't imagine what it was like by 7 PM. I didn't stay. I walked on out to Fabrica Aurora for their art event. Surely if the Jardin was that full of people the Fabrica would not be so crowded. I was wrong again. It, too, was packed with people and Calacas. I had a great time wandering from studio to studio, looking at the art and stopping along the way to talk with friends.

Just about the time I decided that I better try to get a cab and head back across town I met my foto friend, Sally. She was ready to leave as well and invited me to join her for dinner at Don Lupe Grill with some other people that I knew. It was a fun Halloween but very different than what I expected.

In some ways I'm sad about the changes that are happening around Day of the Dead. As I thought about it after I got home last night I also remembered that I had gone to the cemetery yesterday morning and the traditional things were starting to happen. Trucks were coming in loaded with flowers, food and flower venders were setting up their tents. Families were starting to clean graves and repaint the names on the tombstones. Families were greeting friends and walking with each other to their family gravesites. The vendors of the sugar skulls and little animals are set up in town, the bakeries are baking the traditional bread and families are getting ready to make their home altars to honor and remember their loved ones.

So, in a sense, the Calaca festivals are like another layer on the traditional celebration of Day of the Dead. And I think I like the Calacas better than the connotation that Halloween has of haunted houses, malevolent ghosts and goblins who are sinister. The Calacas who walk among us in San Miguel, although they do remind us of death, are not evil spirits who are out to do us harm. Well, no harm unless we have one to many drinks with them at the festival.

I'm working on an altar for Ned. Yes, I have the tequila bottle sitting on it. I still need to buy some Snickers. I can't have him dropping by and not have Snickers for him. Snickers and tequila. That was my Ned.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Photographs from Sicily

Finally I have it. My book about my trip to Sicily in May. It is a 137 page Blurb book designed via the book module in Adobe Lightroom. Now those of you who do not have Lightroom and don't plan to make a book with it, may want to jump right to the end of this blog entry if you just want to see the book and not clutter your mind with Lightroom stuff you are not going to use.

 If you have Lightroom, you really should explore making a book. I'm not saying that because it is easy because there is a learning curve. And the book module does have limitations. I would like more templates from which to choose. I would like an easier way to add pages of text that would flow from one page to the next. I would like that the text didn't disappear when you change the template. And, of course, I wish the cost of one Blurb book wasn't so expensive. On the other hand, I haven't found another source that is cheaper and offers the color management that I've had with Blurb.

I care a lot about color management. I want what I see on  my screen to be the same as what my printer produces or what shows up in my books. Blurb is pretty much spot on with color and I am always watching my histogram to be sure that I do not have any clipping of the whites or blacks so that I also control the contrast.

Another thing I like about using Lightroom is that I can work with my RAW images and if one image needs a bit of adjustment to make it work better with its  two-page spread partner, it is no problem. Just jump back to the develop module and make the adjustment. When you go back to the book module the image is there with the adjustment. It really does make it easier to not have to worry about making the image a certain size JPG to fit an image window, not to worry about margins, gutters and cut lines. I mean, you are aware of them but the module does a good job of managing them for you. I've done a couple of books as PDF's outside of Blurb and it was a lot of work figuring all those measurements out. They made nice e-books on Issuu but I have a lot of MB's on my hard disk with the RAW images, the PS layered images and then the flattened and sized images that finally went into the books.

The Lightroom book module has been working for me but I have a couple of more complex books in mind. Now that I've cut my teeth, so to speak, on making a book, I may be ready to take on a more sophisticated design program.

Here is the link, if you would like to see my book, Sicily.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Transitory Life

A few things have happened recently to friends that remind me that we are mortal and life is transitory. I don't think people in their 40's, 50's think too much about the transitory part but when you get to be my age you think about it. I'm not saying that you spend your days worrying about dying but when you have lost a spouse and dear friends, you wonder about what is going to happen. About how you are going to get from living to being dead. I know that sounds weird. Still, I don't know anyone who wants to suffer or their families to suffer with them through a long illness where there is no chance of recovery.

I recently read Atul Gawande's book, On Being Mortal; Medicine and What Matters in the End. Gawande is a surgeon and has written several books about medicine. He also writes about medical issues in the NewYorker Magazine. Gawande apparently has struggled in his own medical practice on how to handle patients when he knows that medicine can not heal them. He wrote this book after his Father, also a surgeon, died from a rare form of cancer and as Gawande was with his Father through his illness, he saw medicine from the standpoint of the patient and his family.

The book is about the end of our lives and how to manage when our body begins to fail us. He writes about assisted living and nursing homes and why many elderly people are not happy living in these facilities. It is because they lose control of their lives in order that their families feel they are safe and the facility can operate efficiently. Losing control of when you want to get up in the morning, eat, take a bath, watch TV and  giving up privacy is hard to accept no matter if you are old and your body is failing.

The last half of the book about medical care in the last part of life brought back memories of so many doctor visits with Ned as we negotiated his last months.

Gawande writes:
“The simple view is that medicine exists to fight death and disease, and that is, of course, its most basic task. Death is the enemy. But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually, it wins. And, in a war that you cannot win, you don't want a general who fights to the point of total annihilation. You don't want Custer. You want Robert E. Lee, someone who knew how to fight for territory when he could and how to surrender when he couldn't, someone who understood that the damage is greatest if all you do is fight to the bitter end.”  
Fighting to the bitter end, Ned's last couple of months were overwhelming with visits to specialist who couldn't help, radiation that left him even more exhausted and more tests.

How do we find the right doctors that do not keep offering medical procedures that may prolong life but make it impossible for us to live our last days as we want, a doctor who can help us understand what is happening, ask us what is important and coach us through rational choices.

I think this is a great book for those of us who are in the "third age" as we call it here in Mexico but also it is a good book for our adult children to read as well.

The image of the bottles that once held medicines and potions is from the Port Aransas project.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sicilian Cooking

While I was in Sicily I had some good meals but overall I thought that there was more potential in the dish than the preparation presented. In the restaurants where I ate, I never had the feeling that there was a chef who was taking the traditional recipes and ingredients and re-interpreting them for today's taste such as we see with some of the innovative chef's in Mexico. 

Sicily is an island so you would think lots of fresh seafood but just about every menu was limited to swordfish, tuna, octopus, squid and prawns. I was surprised because when we were in fish markets there was a wide variety of fish, most of which I didn't recognize from the Italian name nor from the look but certainly more varied than the menus reflected. There was always a dish prepared with squid ink. I tried a risotto in squid ink garnished with a marvelous Sicilian ricotta cheese. It was delicious but so filling that I probably only ate one-third of it.

Another thing about Sicily is that the country has been occupied by so many other countries that I expected more Middle Eastern  and African dishes. There were some items on the menus that included meats with fruits and nuts and if there were others they have been incorporated into our international cuisine to such an extent that I didn't recognize them as different.  

Always on the menu were two salads. One was mostly lettuce with grated carrots, maybe tomatoes and olives. The other might include arugula and romaine lettuce with grated carrots, tomatoes, olives, corn and maybe another vegetable or two. The corn in the salad kind of suprised me but it was good. One day in a Sicilian restaurant in San Miguel I had a salad with oranges and olives and I don't remember what else but when I found an orange salad in Sicily, I ordered it. I was disappointed. It had slices of orange not wedges of orange and lots of olive oil but not a dressing.

I kept thinking about the orange salad and when I went to the Saturday organic market last week and I saw fennel and arugula I knew that I was going to make an orange salad. When I got home I looked up recipes for fennel, arugula and orange salads and found several. So the picture is my version of the salad with a dressing of orange and lemon juice, olive oil, a bit of diced garlic, a 1/4 teaspoon of mustard over fennel, arugala, onion, olive and orange wedges. It was good.    

I'd like to have a Sicilian cookbook and I've been to Amazon to look for one. There are a lot of them but before I buy one I want to be able to at least look at the Table of Contents so see what is going to be included. 

Does anyone have a recommendation for a Sicilian Cookbook?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

My Dad

My Dad, my sister Margaret and me. This morning I went looking for a picture of my Dad. I found this old negative, all silvered and scratched. So blurry that I'm surprised that the scan turned out as well as it did. I'm not sure of the year except it was in the 1940's. But that is okay, I still have so many pictures of him in my mind. He would have been 99 years old but he passed away in 1984. He was a quiet man and not very demonstrative but there was never any doubt in my mind that he loved me. I doubt he could have imagined all the places I would go or the things I would do but I know he was always proud of me.

There are other special Dads in my life. Ned who was a good role model for our boys. Now Mike and Doug are Dads and doing a good job with their boys.

Happy Father's Day.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Home Office

This week Houzz, the on-line architecture and design newsletter, ran a section that they called 95 Deskscape Dazzlers. Oh my but some of them were so beautiful with flowers, lamps, art work. I looked at all 95 and really liked the look of about sixty percent of them. But after I got through the dazzle, I started being practical.

A piece of art work behind the desk would be nice but a big monitor would cover it up.
Most of the desks were too small to open a laptop and also have any reference materials open.
Where would you put a printer or scanner or backup hard drive?
Where do you hide modems, speakers and phones?
Where do you store files?
How can you stare at a monitor for several hours when it faces a window?

I do like beautiful things but I'm a practical woman. I think I'll give up the idea of a deskscape and settle for a work bench.