Motivation from Unknown Photographers

Those with more than a casual interest in photography know about Adams, Bresson, Libeowitz & other widely recognized photographers. Their images & words have inspired me. However, these images, from unknown photographers, have also motivated me. Of the many old family photos I scanned, few had dates & fewer had names. They have prompted me to try to do a better job of documenting the images I take.

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This may be one of the oldest images of The Bemus Point Stow Ferry. I can say with a high degree of certainty this was taken between 1917, the year my grandparents honeymooned & ‘27. The current Ferry was christened in ‘28. An unknown photographer documented a piece of history.  It began operation in 1811 & has seen the evolution of our society. I’ve watched it all my life & now I volunteer as a pilot on summer weekends.

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The woman with the hat is my fathers mother Anna Schaefer Kuntz. The middle of the 3 younger women is Ethel Kuntz. I believe the other 2 are my aunts. I’m guessing one of dads other sisters took the pictures likely taken in the late 1940’s or early 50’s. I don’t think it was intended to document style but it does. The man on the other side of the fence is a compelling component. I have no idea why they are wearing tags.

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Whoever the photog was knew classic portraiture or just got lucky. The sloping lines of the children’s heights parallel the roof-line & the support column anchors the frame. I’m almost certain the tallest is my mom at about 9 making it 1931. I wish I knew who the other kids were to share this image with their families. I do know the front porch this photo was taken on.

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This is another example of the classic ascending heights. My mother-in-law, Jean Yoklic Benson, is the tallest one giving the camera her full attention. From head to toe all 5 brothers & sisters are unique. The subject is intended to be the group but the girl in the window steals my attention. I’m told the photog was a roaming man with a camera trying to make a living doing family photos. Circa 1930.

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This wedding portrait of Jean Yoklic Benson & her husband Don is typical of the 40’s.  The original was OK but lacked balance of tones & details. This image had a large learning curve of both B/W & HDR. As my mother-in-law made wedding dresses for others I had to find a way to blend the train of her gown with their wonderful smiles. I knew B/W was challenging, but the experimenting to get this result was tremendous.

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This is the oldest image from my family archive with a name. From late 1898 or early 1899 this is Anna B Parkhurst my mothers mother. I have debated about spending the time repairing the damage. The face is only slightly distorted & I see little added value to the image without the damage. As I worked on balancing the tones I realized I was working with light that was over 118 years old.

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This is me & my father Delton. In so many ways he was a great example of how to live your life. We are visiting his mom, dad & sister on Feronia St. It isn’t Christmas because that is the corner where the tree always was. However, from the way I’m dressed it’s easy to see its wintertime. I always loved that TV.

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Meet Philepina & Gotlieb Glausser my great-great grandparents. This is likely the oldest image I have but I have no clues as to the date or location. Their crossed arms tell me they were a strong pair. I have no documentation but this is the duo that came from Germany sometime around 1880. Does the mustache look familiar to anyone? I think I got my thick hair from my mom’s side of the family. I’m glad they chose to name me Jay instead of either of the elder males on my moms side.

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This image was taken between 1917 & ‘30 before the Bemus Casino was built. The boat is a rental from Norton’s Boat Livery. I am grateful I have photographs of family & friends at Chautauqua. However, it is disappointing nobody documented the identity of these people. Few of the 100’s of images I have indicate the date & only a few have any names. If you’ve read to this point please begin documenting your own personal photos of family & friend. You kids, grand kids & great-great grandchildren will thank you.

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Tomorrow, I could walk to the exact spot where this photo was taken. This is my mother Mellvinia Glausser at age 14. She is sitting in the front yard of the lakeside cottage her parents rented. As I begin my family’s 2nd century on the shores of Lake Chautauqua the photos instill a sense of gratitude, humility & connectivity to those that came before me.

Looking Back for Tomorrows Goals

 

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I begin 2018 looking back & evaluating how my perspective of photography has evolved. Any capture by a camera immediately becomes a document of history. This image of my grandfather relaxing on the porch in Stow connects me with a man I barley knew but am deeply indebted to. It reinforced the connections a photograph can create. Operating the Bemus Point Stow Ferry I ran into a son of one of my fathers fishing pals Dr. Robert Schmalz Jr. He shared this image which was taken before I was born.

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A highlights of ‘17 was this image taking 3rd place in The Eddie Adams Show. It’s an honor to have any connection with this influential photojournalist. From the moment I snapped the shutter in Sarajevo in 2014, I knew I captured the character of the subjects. To have it recognized in a juried competition was very satisfying. The endless diversity of people & the human condition on streets are subjects that still motivate me.

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I’ve got comfortable with the ethics of editing my images that don’t touch on journalism or documentary. I still have the goal of capturing what my eyes see. HDR, can assist in adding details our eyes see but camera sensors can’t. I still believe over-saturated HDR  lacks an “actuality aesthetic”. Other images I’ve edited made me realize there is a 2nd opportunity to tell a story. A wildly over-exposed shot became a B/W image I’m happy with. A slightly out of focus image was manipulated into a frame capturing the moment I was after. OBTW I realize it’s in focus or not but I also remember Bresson said… “Sharpness is a bourgeois concept.”

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Although I doubted I would take my enthusiasm for photography into the world of printing, I did. I learned printing, matting & framing require different perspectives. The image on the left was cropped for the web. To get a well-proportioned print & ensure a solid presentation hanging on a wall I went back & included more of the original shot on the right. Is it an improvement? It depends on if you are looking at the print hanging on the wall or the screen of your desktop. Obviously my PS work has improved.

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I enjoy spectacular landscape photography & I enjoy the opportunity to experience impressive vistas. However, I’ve discovered I don’t have the kind of dedication to this particular genre to take it to another level. I will still wander with my camera, however I will try to improve my photography skills with other subjects.

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Part of my family’s history,as well as my own, is connected to Chautauqua Lake. When I saw the Steamship Replica the Chautauqua Belle along the port side of The Bemus Point Stow Ferry I was transported to an earlier time when few other vessels on the water had mechanical power. In the months ahead I may try some Photoshop wizardry on this shot. Too bad I’m not really a wizard.

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It has been almost 1 year since my trip to Cuba. The process of sorting/editing my images was a terrific opportunity for reflection on my abilities. It encouraged me to look forward to what I will do with photography. I’m hoping to cultivate connections for a showing of 15 or so of my portraits of Cuban People. A recent review I got from Lens Culture said my work “had incredible humanism in the portraits of Cuban people.” I liked that. The reviewer also said that, after looking at my blog, a book is something I should start working on. I don’t think that is going to happen.

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My own opinion of my sailing images is they are just slightly better than mediocre. That however will not stop me from pursuing this challenging subject I really enjoy. I’m in the planning stages of a trip to Newport RI to catch the 65 foot Volvo Racing beasts in May. Anybody care to join me???

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I also would like to further develop a portfolio of dance photography. Dancers have balance, form, color, The Moment, texture & space. What better subject for a camera. They blend emotions & athleticism into statuesque animation for our eyes.  Any connections in this area would also be appreciated. Happy New Year.

 

 

Capturing the Moment in Sports

 

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The thrill of my career doing instant replay for live sporting telecasts was when I could take the footage of terrific camera operators & get it into the show.  Now with my still camera, sporting events are wonderful challenges to capture a story. Photojournalists are charged with getting the winning moment. I look for moments highlighting the sport, the athlete or capturing an interesting moment. It isn’t just winners who display emotions but many competitors have dramatic expressions. Panning the subjects adds the feeling of motion to this frame. I took the opportunity of the multiple laps in this race to find the best shutter speed to get the effect I was looking for.

02       Indeed racing sailboats is a competitive sport. However, my appreciation is the challenge the sailors have with harnessing the wind. Images that show the unseen force has on the sails highlights the beauty of the boat design. There are diverse styles of sailboats as well as “points of sail” which define how they move in relation to the wind. For sailors it is an ever-changing juggle of physics, geometry & nature. For photogs finding the balance of lighting & background with a subject with 360-degree options can be frustrating.

03Athletes talk about “space & time”. In this image of the Pittsburgh Rugby Club one opponent is flatfooted & one is changing direction as the ball carrier has full stride very much in control of space. Often in sports where numerous players are interacting, my favorite images involves multiple players. Close-ups have personal drama, but the nature of the sport can be best shown in shots where 2, 3 or more individuals are involved.

04 copyDuring my career I had the privilege of being places few individuals were allowed. I did my job in a professional manner & respected athletes & the fans. Working for NJ Devils, my responsibilities didn’t involve the game. I found hockey tremendously difficult with the speed, the obstacles & constant change of direction. I was always impressed with how Marty Brodeur acted in practice, in the locker room & after the game.  So I chose him to concentrate my on.  Also, he stayed basically in 1 position. I admire his concentration as Evgeni Malkin is ready to pounce on a chance to get the puck past him.

05One of the ancillary advantages of photography is you give your own images a title. I call this one is “Pass the Ketchup Please.” After the pros morning skate a group of hockey enthusiasts would frequently take the ice. I called them the AHL the Afternoon Hockey League. If the title makes you smile it is a good thing.

06 copyI just recently discovered this fascinating activity. A combination of surfing, sailing, wind surfing, wake-boarding, snowboarding & hang-gliding, I would describe it as dancing with the wind on water. Initially I was disappointed that my position on a cliff overlooking the water was so far away I couldn’t get tight shots of the athletes as they launched themselves into the air. I then realized that the wider shot, which included the sail, was the best way to illustrate this sport.

06aSometimes a moment catapults your mind back to an image without warning. As a pack approached an early turn during the 1500 I was looking at getting a group shot of the runners. Although I didn’t see, or capture, what caused the fall, I reacted to the mishap. Moments after snapping my shutter the iconic Sports Illustrated image of Mary Decker on the ground during the 1984 Olympics flooded my memory. I now follow David Burnett who took that shot. His legacy of work is very impressive and inspiring.

07I just bought a 28mm & was looking for a subject to tune my eyes to this prime lens. It was afternoon in late fall with the sun low in the sky. I drove by a skate park & saw young men on boards. I observed them doing tricks to determine a good position. Most positions had terrible backgrounds. In the bottom of the bowl there were no distractions. I also noticed the shadow of the lip on the curved bowl.  I waited until this skater, & his shadow, were in the right position. Gravity is a subtle subject in this picture.

08Crew in competition or practice displays power, grace & symmetry. In my mind, this image as the 8 “Boys in the Boat” still working together as they end their workout on the Charles River represents the teamwork necessary for this sport. The boat had carried them gliding across the water. Now, they carry their shell to the boathouse.

11I was watching these students with envy on a beautiful fall afternoon. The Tech Dinghies are not the most beautiful boats on the water but they have a charm all their own. When I realized newbies were getting experience on the water I saw the potential for this encounter. I think the lesson for both boats was “Be aware of all that is around you!” Also good advice for a photog!

12 FinalI’m not a photojournalist & many of my images aren’t intended to document life so I’ve become ethically comfortable with editing my images. I’ve also learned my comfort zone with PS tools. I especially like how I can manipulate a shot with shortcomings into an acceptable image. I was slow in recognizing the opportunity of this position on a balcony until the last heat. The focus is off but I did capture/freeze “The Moment” I was looking for and altered it enough to make it a respectable shot of what my minds eye envisioned.

Museums are good exercise for your eyes

 

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I know I can  find inspiration at museums & galleries. As a bonus, the environments are relaxing. I always ask, “Is non-flash photography permitted?”  Some on-loan exhibits don’t permit photos. A shortcoming with my minds eye is being attracted by form. Space in many museums offers opportunities for me to focus on a wider perspective. At the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh I recognized the depth, verticals & lighting on the walls were inviting components. The panoramic cropping accents the artwork.

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At gallery exhibits of photographers I’m reminded of the responsibility of documenting history with my camera. This show at The Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh legend Tennie Harris, who chronicled 5 decades of life in the city starting in the mid 30’s, was fantastic. Visitors could watch a projected slide show or scroll thru his work on a desktop computer screen. I choose to examine the matted prints, which allowed you to observe in a single glance the diversity of his subjects. There are many things about his career that are inspiring but his nickname of “One Shot” is especially humbling.

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Not technical a museum or gallery the Mirogoj Cemetery In Zagreb Croatia has interesting similarities. It was overcast, cold & damp on the December day I visited which added to the sensual experience. The lighting in hallway of family mausoleums gave interesting depth while the arched columns balanced & framed the various lines. The grouping & number of exact tombstones in the section of those killed in the Croatian-Bosnian War in the mid 90’s hit a deep level of emotion.

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All serious photographers understand lighting. Some that have studied illumination will recognize Renaissance Masters using chiaroscuro style to give 3D modeling to subjects. Joos van Cleve’s 1528 work of “Saint Jerome In His Study” is worth examining closely. Since I’m attracted to the light from windows, this single source natural light is especially appealing. I chuckle at the unlit candle since some art of the Renaissance used oil lamps, candles & fire as key light in the painting. Fogg Museum Harvard.

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The walking tour of “The Road to Berlin” was a well though out multi-media exhibit at the WWII Museum in New Orleans. The diversity of relics, uniquely projected film, photographs, audio and personal memoirs was well worth the time. I was especially impressed with “camouflage” shadows on the floor.

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This graffiti of 1 or more US solders during the war is a very basic. It became synonymous with the American GI in Europe. Then, to use today’s description, the image went viral after the war ended. Sometime little details catch my eye.

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The use of interactive displays for visitors to read & experience is common in more modern facilities. Usually these exhibits are not conducive to getting people shots. Here, at the National Museum of African American History, I found a good perspective to get this portrait. Occasionally, primary illumination from below can make for a nice portrait.

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As you walk thru the exhibit, the paths areas are dark. Some exhibits are back-lit turning the visitors into a parade of silhouettes. The newest Smithsonian Museum has done some very good photo restoration as part of their tour.

09Often you find surprises at a museum. Made for the International Correspondents School in Scranton PA this Edison recorder is in better condition than any of the other 5 or 6 I’ve seen. Finding it at Museo Provincial in Camguey made me scratch my head. It would be interesting to find out the legacy of how this remarkable invention to record/playback sound ended up in a Cuban museum. Decades after this technology was invented I made a good part of my career recording & playing back audio WITH pictures.  Sometimes I slowed it down!

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Some places with historical significance are still used for what they were built for & are active tributes. The Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta is one of those places. I could imagine Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the pulpit. Unfortunately the camera can’t capture inspiration to the soul. However, sitting in those pews I had a powerful sense of purpose.

12I have admiration for capturing “The Moment” in dance. This exhibit at the August Wilson Center drew me in on many levels. The story behind the showing was inspirational. Mother & daughter Jill & Joy-Marie Thompson choreographed a tribute to historic images of influential dancers. They worked with the highly respected photographer specializing in dance Rachel Neville. The space, lighting & images with white backgrounds on walls of white are an amazing display of art, collaboration & talent. Of course…never avoid the opportunity to put red in the frame.

Mature Motivation aka Life Lessons

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To paraphrase Janis Joplin…Failure is just another word for nothing left to learn. My primary project in my seasonal wood shop was to use the remaining 100-year-old beams removed from the original cottage & make an outdoor bench showcasing the beauty of  recycled lumber. Making rustic furniture with recycled wood is much better than just adding to the landfills. It’s a small step but rewarding. I also like the idea of extending the history of what a tree created. The imperfections in the wood also provide a balance to my limited woodworking experience & skills.

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My motivational inspiration came from a graphical representation of the mathematical symbol of Pi. The basic symbol is from the Greek alphabet but many artistic licenses have been taken to this form. In addition, the purity of it’s never ending sequence without a pattern is fascinating. When I fist saw this particular form my minds eye envisioned a comfortable bench to set beside the Mini-Meadow I’ve been cultivating.

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I visualized the bench with 4 primary pieces on each end. Using enlargements of the symbol as templates I adjusted the patterns to fit the limitations of a 7-inch wide beam. By my calculations I had about 20% more board feet than needed. It gave some room for error but not a whole lot. The rough cuts of the first pieces were very encouraging. I was pleased with the beauty of the grain on the century old pieces.

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As I was beginning to work on some of the more challenging parts I ran into an unexpected problem. At first I dismissed some of the imperfections in the beams as flaws that would provide character. In reality it became a design-changing dilemma.

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I hadn’t expected the beams to be rotten. Beams I had used a few years ago for a dinning room table was fine. These were not. At first it seemed like the rot was not in areas that would experience stress so I still had hope. The basic form that motivated me would be preserved. Initially, I used wood glue to repair & keep structural integrity.

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As I cut more of the primary pieces I found lots more rot & realized I would need to attempt/inject some more serious repairs. It is always worthwhile to make a plan before you start. The Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared” was an early & valuable lesson. As I got older, especially in my Freelance Career, I navigated challenges with a mantra of “Making It Up as You Go Along.” Even, when following your plan you encounter unexpected challenges & must adjust.

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Filler, putty & even Bondo for Wood made the beautiful old lumber into a Frankenstein creation. I realized I would have to put some “lipstick on this pig” to cover the problems. I adjusted my plans & decided to paint the bench hiding the ugly patches made. At least the design would still be there even if I couldn’t highlight the pure color & grain.

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I anticipated proportions of the basic sections would need to be tweaked. Before I assembled what I had cut I staged the 4 primary pieces. I saw it would require more than just a tweak. The basic concept was still good. But, for a functional bench, adjustments to the design proportions would need to be made.

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Using an old bench side for scale I saw that I was close but the shortcomings of the Pi Bench were pretty extreme. I didn’t have enough lumber to re-cut so I procrastinated & pondered for a while. I’ve learned patience has value.

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It might be maturity or a twist on being stubborn but I refused to abandon my idea. I went ahead & assembled 3 pieces for one side. I liked the form but realized continuing to make what I had into a bench would be disappointing on many levels. I know myself well enough that if I moved forward with the bench,  every time I looked at the finished work I would see flaws & compromises I made. My plans had become a failure.

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I told a neighbor about my mistakes & he said to call it practice. Making lemonade out of lemons now became a reference for my next step. These simple & memorable phrases can be helpful. I had learned a lot from the process, the problems I encountered & design errors. That simple nomenclature adjustment did change my perspective. I decided to use what I had cut & make a plant stand!

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Now when I look at what I made I don’t see mistakes & problems. I see a decisions that made the best out of a bad situation. I also see the next steps in learning how to take a good idea & bring it to completion. Instead of a Pi bench I came up with something else. I call it the Practice Stand.

A Confluence of Motivations

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Our road-trip took us to The White Mountains, Camden ME & Acadia National Park. Although landscape photography isn’t high on my list of motivational genres, I enjoy experiencing the dynamics of nature. Understanding weather, the suns position & atmosphere is crucial to capturing a memorable image. After we returned, I went to a Climate Reality Training conference. The presentations about changing weather patterns linked to destructive storms grabbed my attention. Mother Nature is giving  clues to the damage we are doing to our atmosphere. In preparing this posting I realized a transition in my perspective that shifts my motivation. I may not become a nature photographer but I’m going to advocate for eliminating fossil fuels to help preserve the natural world.

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At Climate Training I learned the atmosphere that supports life is only 6 miles deep. In that very thin layer we’ve been putting 33 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year for way to long. Looking at the pristine beauty of Acadia National Park our thin atmosphere doesn’t look like it has problems. That may be part of the challenge. We all must realize how urgent it is that we switch to green energy sources like wind & solar.

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One of my motivations with a camera is the challenge some subjects provide. The skittishness of chippys fits this category. Their home in the forest is not at immediate risk from climate change. Until drought becomes a pattern. Then wild fires will become a threat. Long-standing patterns of the Jet Stream in North American & around the world are changing. Static weather has become common & can lead to drought or floods in places where we rarely see these extremes. The agriculture community, which keeps eyes on the weather, is watching those shifting patterns & recognizes the need to evolve.

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The small tidal ports along the coast of Maine are jewels. The tighter constriction of landmasses in the northern latitudes results in severe tidal changes in these areas. Routinely, 8-foot tides are a part of the NE coastal community. This rugged coastline is not anywhere near the risk as communities in lower latitude with flatter land. Rising temperatures are melting ice that will bring life threatening conditions to many coastal areas around the world. Sea levels are rising & the circulation of our enormous oceans is being impacted. Fishermen, who depend on the ocean for their livelihood, realize these changes will have a negative impact on our food supply.

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Grabbing the power of the wind in your sails is a wonderful experience. The unseen energy is to be respected. But, it is a force we can harness on the land. Building wind turbines is an industry we can further develop creating jobs & careers. A simple day-sail on the Gulf of Maine gave first hand exposure to some simple parts of the solution. The sun warmed the body & the wind carried us across the waves. When you are on a sailboat some of the answers to renewable energy are right in your face.

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With my mind & eye in the viewfinder I was looking for the perfect composition. Initially, I was annoyed by the solar panels. I now see the solar panels as part of a dramatic story. The Curtis Island Light was built in 1835 & likely used whale oil for its beacon. Now solar power illuminates the path to a safe harbor. Change is inevitable for societies to advance.

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The sun does amazing things if you take the time to observe. Capturing this classic fall reflection was the luck of being in a great spot at the right time with perfect weather. I learned that in a 24 hr period the sun puts enough energy onto the earth to power everything for a year. I have come to better harness the sunlight in my photography & I have learned about the challenges of a changing climate. I think I am in the right place at the right time with advocacy for sustainable energy.

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The left face of that hill is what I climbed to take image #2. These old knees go slow but they do still go. It is an excellent trail for younger climbers that can safely scamper up a rocky path. It might also be an analogy for my journey with the Climate Reality Corps.

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Water is a subject I enjoy incorporating in my pictures. I also enjoy landscaping with rocks so this perspective of Jordon Pond was a real magnet for me. As I was marveling at the lack of development my appreciation for our National Parks was rejuvenated. They are inspiring parts of our country. After the Climate Conference, I realized these places are being impacted by a warming climate. The changes happening to glaciers are far removed from most of our lives. However, these cathedrals to nature could also suffer. Fortunately there is hope with new opportunities to harness renewable & stop adding tons of carbon into our world. The inspiration provide from nature motivates me.

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As always, never pass up the opportunity to include red in the frame or it the blog. I highly recommend visiting the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Located in Boothbay there are almost 300 acres that will inspire meaningful connections with nature.

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In life, timing is an interesting thing. The training immediately after Acadia lead me to examine my own perspective & put a variety of pieces into place. Although I am not a devoted landscape photog, I enjoy the natural world. The roots go back to the Boy Scouts. Appreciation of boating/sailing is part of my Chautauqua Lake DNA. Still photography inspired a career in video and now I have returned to stills. Like everyone else I can’t tell you where the path of my future will take me. However, I do know a confluence of motivations will help me to focus on a sustainable energy future.

This is my 14th & final…for now…posting about Cuba.

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The one word that I would use to describe my experience traveling in Cuba is compelling. As I hoped, the opportunities for photography were everything I expected. My plan was to immerse myself, albeit briefly, with people to gain a perspective & document their way of life. The narrow glance I observed was insightful & rewarding. Somewhat unexpectedly I opened a window to personal introspection that will resonate with me for a long time.

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My decision to avoid Havana was helpful in minimizing cliché images & experiences. The smaller cities were more open to personal interaction. With few exceptions I easily engaged people with just a smile. In conversations thru my interpreter, politics was seldom a topic. My curiosity eclipsed any preconceived ideas I had about their day-to-day lives.

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I saw typical differences between young & old, city & rural, men & women even professional vs blue collar. What surprised me was a disparity of standards of living. Communism in Cuba is far from the theory Marx had advocated. I didn’t witness anything I would describe as poverty or affluence. However, I saw a comfortable cohabitation between those with more opportunities & a more comfortable way of life than others. I also recognized a discrepancy with access to & use of technology. Most of the digital divide coincided with age.

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Cuba has the natural resources of climate, beaches & tropical waters that attract tourists. Since the mid 90’s non-US tourism has provided a significant percentage of hard currency to the economy. The Cuban government owns most hotels. There are a few International chains but uncertainty has stalled investment. I find it difficult to believe that trinkets, restaurants & service jobs to the tourist industry can provide both a long term & broad based impact on the overall economic well being of the people. This is especially true if the government continues to keep restrictive oversight on commerce.

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The topography of the Cuba is diverse. Their are 9 UNESCO sites, 8 National Parks & 7 Biosphere reserves in this nation roughly the size of PA. I only took time to briefly explore 1 Bio reserve, which was impressive. There are numerous examples or environmental programs including organic & self-sustain farming. I got the impression many of these were out of necessity rather than altruism. However, the one dominant fact is that surrounded by water, it is easy for the government to control access on & off the island.

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The majority of people I interacted with have only known life under Communism. Some challenges they face have roots that go further back than 3 generations since the revolution. The Cuban people are far from illiterate or in ill health. Education & health care have been priorities of the Castro brothers & now economic reform has become a goal of Raul. Change is happening. However, over the past 5-10 years the pace is faster than it has been the precious 4 decades.

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For many Cubans on meager pensions & low paying government jobs their lives are Spartan. Food is rationed at Bodegas at subsidized prices with proportions determined by age & gender. I visited Orlando Zayas, my guides’ grandfather, in his 400 sq foot apartment. The space fronts a busy street & he rents a few square feet to enterprising merchants. He is content & fortunate that family lives close & visit frequently. He enjoys watching baseball & complained that boxers today were nowhere near as good as Joe Louis or Kid Chocolate. Talking about his life he said, “Communism does not work”.

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My primary goal was to photograph individuals & document their lifestyles. Generalizations can be dangerous but I can confidently say I was warmly greeted buy a population that is easygoing, resilient & enjoys life. Lacking commodities we take for granted Cubans make the best out of the situation they are in…even if they have to bend a few rules. Daily life is simpler & slower. Personal interaction is routine. No doubt there are problems but the people I met were upbeat. When I asked what made people so happy I was told, “We laugh at our problems so we have lots to laugh about”.

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I believe an individual’s work ethic is a reflection on their character. I saw many examples of confidence, problem solving, & a resourcefulness to work with what they have without complaining. Although the tempo of work isn’t equivalent to our expectations, Cubans have few distractions & a persistence to get the job done. They are proud of the work they do with their hands & find happiness in their accomplishments not their possessions. I have deep respect for what Cubans have archived with only the basic resources.

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The elements of culture are common. Art, music, literature, religion, food, architecture & fashion are things I observe when I travel. The details of these expressions make people & places unique. I have had very little exposure to Latin American. The rich culture of Cuba was a wonderful new vista. I observed a flair for painting that was cultivated after the revolution when national schools of art were created. In contrast to the many examples of architectural decay, the diverse art was a peak into the bright light of the soul of the people. In a society with few outlets for expression I sensed a passion in their demeanor for artistic freedom.

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Children give us examples of how we can enjoy life & accomplish more when we cooperate with each other. When I observed children I thought about my friend Mark Zinnoni. His mother fled Cuba’s oppression & he wasn’t happy I was going there because he felt it diminished the possibility of freeing Cubans from oppressive Communist rule. I respected his opinion & looked forward to sharing what I saw & experienced when I returned. Unfortunately he passed away before I departed. I like to think he would have enjoyed my perspective of the Cuban people. Amid the hardships there is a joy for life & hope for the future…emotion & optimism that were part of Mark’s character.

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Like most people when I read or hear about a place it is impossible have a deep understanding. Our perspectives, no matter how broad, lack the important element of a personal connection. Although many individuals I only met briefly, they will be a touchstone to my understanding of our neighbors. During my trip I was formed a deeper relationship with my guide Lidear. On my last night there he invited me to his “humble home with his family for a simple dinner.” For me it was an honor & a wonderful epilogue to my trip. As hurricane Irma was striking Cuba it was him and his family that were in my thoughts. I wish nothing but the best for him, his family & the people of Cuba whom I now know just a little bit better. I hope that my blog postings have opened the curtain just a bit to allow you to see the Humans of Cuba.

I would greatly appreciate any feedback or comments on this or any of my postings about Cuba.

The content of these postings are based upon my observations, conversations with my guide, interviews with people interpreted by my guide & interactions I had with people I met. Any mistakes are entirely mine with no intention to mislead.