An Anniversary

 

I don’t associate April 15th as Tax Day. In 1979 it was my last day at WPGH TV & last “Full-Time” job. The date brings memories of my career as an Independent Freelancer.

01a04/15/79 marks the beginning of a journey I look back on with much gratitude. There are hundred’s of people that motivated, influenced & mentored me along the way. However, nobody had the longevity & impact as Jerry Hughes. Since the early 80’s his examples of professionalism taught me things that you can’t learn from a book or a training video. When I bought my 1st camera his example & advice about being an Owner/Operator lead me on a path I never dreamed possible living in Pittsburgh.

01b When I bought this Varicam in I remember a feeling of satisfaction knowing I was the 1st Independent HD Owner/Operator in Western PA. My career began when expansion of video production went beyond the programing for 4 networks & their local affiliates. 25 years later purchasing a camera that hurdled low resolution, & shallow contrast of the previous technology was a wonderful, but expensive, improvement. The end of poor quality video was going bye-bye & I was helping my clients escort it out the door.

02When the project had the proper planning, tools & people I was able to utilize what HD could do. On this documentary, I had explained to the lead horseman I needed his riding party to react in the pool of light. After about a 70-yard slow gallop downstream towards me they stopped on a dime & nailed it! That was a very good day at work. We made lots of nice pictures. Mark Bussler Producer/Director Horses of Gettysburg.

02aGetting the client what they wanted & needed was always my motivation. Sometimes that meant hauling a dolly to the top of a power plant facility. The backdrop was an excellent idea. However, we needed 3 more grips to haul the gear. Today small sliders/rails would give more movement to the shot & only weigh about 25% & cost much less. End Client IBEW International via a production company from Denver.

03In the early 80’s doing instant replay at local live sporting events was about 1/3 of my time. By the end of my career, it became about half. A fortunate connection with CBS Sports in 1986 opened a door that lead to live television opportunities I had dreamed about. Thinking back about doing 30 years of NFL & 13 Super Bowls I still need to pinch myself. Live TV is a unique process with fun tools & talented people. The reward of working with some of the best in the business is when it all comes together as “One Room”. I never knew being a slomologist was a career path. NEP SS CBS mobile unit.

98811_D1339BCrop.jpgI learned early on that all shows are big…some just have a whole lot more people. Crew shots from Super Bowls are like a Where’s Waldo puzzle. I will buy you lunch if you can ID me. While the people in the picture bring back memories, knowing that the photographer was John Filo adds another significant layer. Yea that kid from Western PA who is a fellow Kent State Alumni & won a Pulitzer. 2007 CBS Super Bowl

06 There is a correlation between the size of the show & the amount of cable. From my perspective, all shows are basically the same. Remote TV is a 3 part job. #1 Set it up. #2 Do the job. #3 Tear it down. Not unlike a circus, it’s a traveling roadshow. For big shows, the amount of equipment & wires increases for parts 1 & 2. Glamor & Show Business aren’t words I use together. 05The interconnectivity of multiple TV trucks creates technical opportunities & endless variables of data, audio, video, graphics, communication & monitoring.  Fortunately, connecting this was not my job. Some know the needs of their department. Only a very few know the entire workflow. I would disconnect only after double confirmation we were clear from NY.

07 copyAfter the show is when you find out who is really part of your crew. I believe early in my career I was given opportunities because I was good at wrapping cables. It is a sign of someone willing to do all 3 parts of the job. I had an advantage because at 14 I learned “over & under” when practicing ring buoy toss on my lifeguard test. It seemed like I had wrapped enough cable to make it to the moon. In reality, it is likely closer to the distance from Pittsburgh to Salt Lake City.

09I had a number of “close encounters” but usually wasn’t enticed to engage “talent”. When I heard Charles Kuralt was visiting our venue at the Lillehammer Olympics, I couldn’t resist asking him for a picture. When I told him I was humbled that our last names were together in the CBS phone book he gave a good laugh & remarked I had top billing over him. I am indeed biased but the 2 icons of telling stories on TV during my youth were Walter & Charles. Thanks for setting examples worth watching.

10I loved my work but…the packing, unpacking, set-up, tear-down & repeat of all of this gear took a toll I no longer felt like paying. This is a typical load of gear, minus the camera for an ENG job. Retirement is good. I’m beholding to many, I miss the people but I do not miss my old toys or the travel.

10a Albertville Meribel Olympic Flame 1992I really only have 1 nagging regret from my career. I never traveled with anything more than a mediocre still camera. I strived to be as light-weight as possible in packing & never wanted to carry a SLR. Oh well, I got a few so-so captures but I have amazing memories. Albertville 1992.

Unknown Motivation

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This gas station on a busy corner recently shut down. I’m not sure what motivated me to stop & take pictures but felt I should. As I was snapping away my mind swirled in many different directions. Why should I document something which is no longer there?

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Having been an “Independent Freelancer” for 36 years I feel an affinity with self-reliant entrepreneurs. I try my best to support “owner-operated” business but I drove by by this business thousands of times without stopping as I witnessed the slow decay.  I felt sad for the final outcome of all the hours & hard work put into it. Nothing lasts forever but decades of dedication & sweat are not seen in these photographs.

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My emotions were varied as I snapped the shutter. This Texaco station has been here since just after I was born. It’s age mirrored mine. Progress & time have had an impact on this enterprise. I have also experienced the aging process of time but fortunately do not feel as worn down as this place & feel I still have something left to offer.

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One of the few positive thoughts that came into my mind were that society is entering an age where gas station are becoming relics of the past as we evolve to electric powered cars. Might this someday be as obsolete as a hitching post?

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I’m somber but recognized the many factors leading to its demise. The trend now is for corporate owned facilities with dozens or fueling pumps. The owners, who function as CEO’s of businesses with hundreds of stations, are almost completely removed from contact with their customers. There is indeed value in big operations. However, by forcing mom & pop places to close the benefits of large businesses is soured.

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These types of businesses used to be a one-stop-shop for your automotive needs. Service on cars has evolved with specialty fast oil changes becoming the place for limited maintenance. Meanwhile “service needed” indicators in cars prompt owners to seek out dealers’ service centers. The 2 bay service garage has a very hard time competing.07

They tried emulating the large facilities by selling cigarettes, lottery tickets, propane & candy. However, mega stations with numerous pumps are like mini-markets & have fast food. The Full Service this place offered was for the car not the person driving.

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The local auto repair shop was part of the community. The owner of the place we had our family car serviced at went to High School with my father. When I bought my 1st car guess where I took it for service. The local mechanic also provided experienced opinions when buying a used or new vehicle. While efficiency and productivity may be worthy goals I feel they often come at the cost of personal interaction. Change is indeed inevitable & can have benefits. But we need to notice what has been lost.

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These photos are not my best. The rambling of this blog is a result of not understanding a clear motivation to make this a subject. However, I do recognizing the value of documenting change in the world I live in via my photography & my thoughts.

Humans give narrative to an image

People are one of my favorite subjects to shoot. Across many genres they add impact to a frame in many different ways.

01When I do street photography I try to remember to look up. Often the 2nd story adds to the sense of place. The 3 windows with the fire escape by themselves is not a compelling image. But, add clothes hanging & a woman looking out the middle opening & the image now has a story-line. In this case the street below is an assumed part of the scene because of the direction of her gaze & the upward angle of the shot.

02I had taken a few shots of the sunset from the cliff overlooking the Pacific & I was considering walking down a steep the path to explore lower perspectives. As I was visually trying to find the path down to the beach to determine how challenging it would be I noticed a surfer that was calling it a day. The wave on the shore with the setting sun in the upper corner is an OK image. The silhouette of the surfer in the lower left provides a context to all of the elements.

03If you are aware of Bresson, puddles invoke inspiration from a master. When I saw the woman with the red coat I couldn’t help my self. Unlike Bresson capturing THE Moment by snapping a single shot I put the camera in burst mode and captured 7. With this shot my motivation was good but poor execution.

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The rain also offers interesting fashion/costume opportunities. What I like most is how the polka-dot pants match the raincoat. If you have never done it I highly recommend street photography in the rain. Just find an over hang for cover and keep your eyes open.

new05I really should never comment on fashion but… First of all, the umbrella is cliché but sets the environment. Second, the sweater, scarf, vest, bag & torn jeans are a strong set of elements. The kicker for me is the flowers on the umbrella are a complete juxtaposition to her clothes. I also like the fact that the most of the facial figures are hidden.

06Graduation was outside rain or shine. Others in my family watched on closed circuit & from a window. Dad was in the elements with his daughter. I am sure the alumni matching jackets, shirts & ties would have been a “cute” moment as they walked in. However once they were in their assigned seats “Bill Class of 63” became my only good shot of the day excluding images of Lauren. Scanning the venue I remember thinking “Shouldn’t all of these smart people get out of the rain?” Traditions can be kinda weird.

07 copyMy folder of people shots has a sub-folder of people on phones. I was walking around the balcony of the Carnegie Galleries and this out of place sculpture got my attention. Titled “Alone in the Crowd” by Nicole Eisenman it is surrounded by traditional roman figures. By choice I shun smart phones. I do recognize they are versatile & valuable tools. I try not to judge people using them but many people have taken themselves out of the reality of time & place to a tiny little screen. The world is a big place.

08 copyI also have a sub-folder in people called people taking pictures. Lots I could say about this shot but I’ll only comment that she is doing an excellent job with lighting, angle of the camera & background.

09 ShoppingOne of the great experiences of travel is that sometimes it transports your eyes back in time. Both times I visited the Balkins I felt like I was in the 40’s or 50’s or at least what I imagined them to be. When I saw this woman it immediately made me think of an Aunt that had worked at Kaufman’s in downtown Pittsburgh for almost 50 years. For a few people the hat can make the person as well as the person making the hat.

10 copy copyThe nature of street musicians is that they seek attention. Acknowledging this they can also be models. You should also acknowledge they are trying to make some cash!

11If you do enough street photography your bound to see some grit. In these types of situations be very aware of your parameter. I think it is important to document the human condition with photography including all of the bruises and scars.

12 copyI don’t have a People sub-folder for this shot except it is double filed in the Signs folder.

IMG_1687 copyI have begun an Ink sub-folder recently. This may evolve into a territory to explore further. One of the reasons I enjoy photographing people is that, even just a tight shot of a photographer tattoo on someones leg creates an image ripe for a story.

 

 

 

 

Natural Available Light

 

The variety of natural/available light motivates me to look at a scene in different ways. The diversity of lighting characteristics provides interesting perspectives on subjects I may otherwise not have noticed. Technically I have no problem with high ISO further expanding scenes I see & try to capture.

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Shadows have an important role across all genres. This window accent in late afternoon light provided a wonderful display of contoured shadows. I have worked with this as a B/W image but I prefer the subtle hues in the original.

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The back-light was coming in from the barn door & with assistance from the drops of moisture it provided another layer of texture to a simple subject. When I first walked into the space the light is what got my attention. I then searched for a subject. There are many ways back-light can impact an image. With the proper position it can separate, add strength, create a mood or accent the subject.

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A personal preference for floral images is a background that supports the primary composition without conflict. This can be frustratingly hard when I am trying to isolate the beauty of a single flower. In a situation where back-light is the dominant source, backgrounds usually have less light & I can easily reduce the depth of field letting the background become soft forms, diffused shadows & muted colors.

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Overcast & rainy can be a good time to get waterfalls if you crank up the ISO. This is 5K f29 at 1/60. The reflective falling water is the natural bright component but much of the atmosphere is in the shadows. This hike was one of the few times I regretted not having my tripod to use for a long exposure. Fortunately I had good foul weather gear.

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When doing street photography I listen for street musicians because they add layers to the scene. A septet of musicians on a corner is hard to miss. I think the trombone player recognized the need to lower himself for me to see the entire band. For just a moment I was in sync with their tune. The strong available light on the BG wall was over-blow but Photoshop, even with a jpg original, was helpful. The noise/grain isn’t a distraction in my eyes. ISO12800 may seem ridiculous but it was the setting I needed to capture this NOLA moment. In my mind, if I had had to set up fill flash the intimacy would have been gone.

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Landscape photography requires a commitment of getting on location for early am light that I don’t have. However flat light of mid-day, clouds & reflections can result in some nice captures. To integrate reflections in the frame I explore different perspectives & angles. At times examining the direction of light & reflections is a lot like walking around a pool table to find the best shot. This shot is just off of Rt 120 North Meadow of Yosemite.

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Sunset fits my lifestyle more than sunrise. Give me a Ferris wheel, a sunset, an American Flag & water to work with & I will find an image. If only their had been a gull in the upper right. The Puget Sound/Seattle area is a place I would enjoy exploring more.08
The soft diffused light on the only bright part of the frame pulls your attention to her somber face. While the color of her coat, her posture & the background hint of melancholy, the umbrella helps frame her face & also adds an element of structure into the scene. The unseen factor is that it was taken in Liverpool England, which has a reputation for dreary weather.

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This is where I say I Love Digital. When I walked into this tobacco-drying shed in Vinales Cuba I immediately was captivated by the harsh tropical sunlight reflecting off of the deep brown dirt floor. After 1 year of experimentation I understood the advantages of RAW & was comfortable with the low light capabilities of my camera. This is exactly what my eyes saw. Being able to almost immediately capture it was very rewarding. The entire environment offered numerous possibilities but I was drawn to the faces of people.

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I was still just getting used to the camera in 2014 & only shooting jpg. On a trip outside of Sarajevo I saw a fog-bow, which is a less common cousin to a rainbow. The very subtle color gradations can be seen with close examination. Working with this image motivated me to further explore the digital capabilities of my camera & Photoshop.

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I have indeed had moments when I wished I had equipment & experience with fill flash. I also have recognized missed opportunities because the tripod was in the trunk. However, I have learned that Natural Light is a challenging motivation in how I approach many of my subjects. Recognizing subjects & styles of photography I enjoy has been helpful to whatever improvement I’ve had in the past 8 years.

Head in the clouds

During the last 10 years of my career the amount of air travel was a big motivator for retirement. In the past 2 years I’ve only made 2 trips by plane. However, I do miss the occasional inspiring view from above. I see a few photogs doing nice work with drones but I have zero motivation to buy one.

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Shadows are always a part of the story in a photograph. Sometimes the shade of the subject is all that is needed in the frame. I like the context this image can add to a story as either a beginning an end or even a transition.

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Moments of solace when looking out the window were one of the few benefits of becoming A Million Miler. Not only is this a nice moment in time it is a nice moment in space. The winglet silhouette & the edge light on the wing define the perspective. The position of the Cheshire moon in relationship to all of the other components especially the town below provides depth. The glow of the sunset on the horizon of the entire atmosphere is almost impossible to see from the ground.

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A perk of all the travel was upgrades. The title of this is Coming Home in 4F! My brothers & sisters flying every week will understand. Some travelers may prefer the more visually dramatic approach into PIT that brings them over downtown. I preferred coming in from the West where the view allowed you to see the more a more rural environment. Seeing the waning of winter as spring is on the cusp, is always a wonderful sight.

04
I never had any desire to pilot a plane. However, I thought it would be neat to drive one around on the tarmac.

05
On the 54th Floor in DTW the fireworks from a barge on the river below me provided a very unique vantage point. Sparkling explosions displayed almost at eye level was something I never expected to see. Being able to add foreground building on the side of the frame & having Windsor Canada, as background provided a wonderful balance.

06
Being able to work with talented professionals was a big thrill of my career. Flying with Cherokee Helicopters for a Kenny Chesney Concert was fantastic!!! His craft was designed for stability & he had the eye of a photographer. The best shots were when I pointed the camera & he flew the helicopter. The client was happy with the shots we got.  However, the best shot didn’t fit the format of the show. On a test flight in the early afternoon Cherokee came down the Monongahela, over the Ft. Pitt Bridge & dropped down to approach Heinz field. The rivers around Point Park were filled with boats.

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Inspired by the work of David Burnett & Leni Riefenstahl I saw an opportunity at a track & field event to float a person in the air. It also happened to be a personal best pole vault for the athlete. I consider this an example of preparing to be lucky. OBTW I respect the art of her work but can’t condone her collaboration with The Third Reich. Your reputation is elevated or, in Leni’s case, destroyed by those you associate with.

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Miami sure has changed since I first saw it on the Jackie Gleason Show. Unfortunately this aerial image now creates a sense of significant concern when I look at it. With the seas rising & the potential of more powerful storms the risk & the downside to everything in this image is a nightmare. We must listen to the power of nature.09 copy
8 years after Katrina the Louisiana lowlands coast appears recovered from what the storm had done. On final to MSY from about 8K feet I couldn’t help but reflect on the big picture of how powerful nature can be. Seeing the world from the window of a silver tube provided me with a view that reinforced my perspective on the importance of doing my best to respect the environment. We have impacted the climate & we must take responsibility to do better. OBTW later on in that trip human error caused the lights to go out in the Super Bowl. We can’t control everything!

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This is one of my favorite pictures where the sky is a subject. The simplicity of a fragile bubble floating with the contrails of a plane miles above dissecting it is a perfect example of chance. The dual reflections are of the sun by the peak of the Washington Monument. Photo credit Jessica Kuntz. Her view of the world is one I respect.

A cure for cabin fever

Since I am not a fan of winter I have little motivation in outside activities when the weather is cold. However, my camera inspires me to get out of the house.

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Opportunities the weather provides inspired me to put on a few layers & head outside in an attempt to capture the environment. One thing about cold weather I do enjoy is it makes me feel alive. My senses are more attuned to the world around me because so many routine things are different. The iconic Bell Tower of Chautauqua Institution shrouded in winter fog is the result of a few degrees of temperature difference between the air & the frozen lake. The atmosphere muffled the voice of the clocks bells while the frozen lake reflected their chimes. The overcast sky reinforced a mood of solitude.

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A challenge of doing photography in the snow is choosing subjects where the weather is either a primary or supporting character in the frame. In some cases the overall lack of color enhances the scene. I have been envisioning options on how the Allegheny Observatory, with its unique shape, could be shot. Initially I thought the domed shape would be emphasized, as other subjects were almost monochrome. However the tree, still with some leaves on it, provided a complementary form & with hint of chroma.

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Living just North of the 40th meridian, snow is not uncommon but it isn’t a constant element of winter. In my minds eye this snow-covered house takes me to a place further north where snows of winter are constant till the spring thaw. It also conjures a place of warmth to escape the cold. When you can capture the environment you can influence the viewers mood.

04 I love Pittsburgh’s many quirks. This is s favorite. Having cleared the public street of snow, the effort of a persons labor is “claimed” as a parking place by simply putting a chair in the space. While some may see this as taking something that doesn’t belong to them, most respect the work of others & don’t park there. That is pure Pittsburgh.

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I gave up fishing almost 50 years ago & have never contemplated ice fishing. In search of some interesting shots & talking to the fishermen about their sport I took a stroll on a bay I normally enjoy from my boat. What struck me after I left the shore was the sense of community the huts created. I also noticed that just like the diversity of boats used for fishing in the summer their was a wide variety of tents or shelters. I really enjoyed walking around this neighborhood.

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Not surprising ice fishing is something for a father & son to enjoy together. This dad hadn’t been ice fishing since he was in Cub Scouts. With his sons in Cub Scouts he decided it would be a good way to spend time together. They were having a grand time.

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The reward of this fisherman is more than what is on the end of his line. He is with friends who have been close for much of their lives. The camaraderie is more important than the catch. The device in the lower right of the frame is a sonar device, showing the depth of the water & movement of the fish. Just like any hobby or sport, toys make the activity more engaging. When I asked why they choose this particular spot I was told they had studied contours of the lake bottom on the internet and got GPS coordinates before coming onto the ice.

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For some, the solitude of nature & escaping the routine of daily life is reason enough to drill a hole in the ice & drop a line in the cold water. On this day with bright sunshine I set my exposure at 1 stop brighter using a center weighted weighted zone. When I had first read about this technique it seemed counter-productive until I better understood the process of how the camera interprets the scene.

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About a mile away from the village of fishermen I saw a familiar yet out of place shape. With the same sail rigging as kite-boarding on water you can snow board on ice. I would love to have a young back & knees to try kite-boarding but I have no desire to try the winter version of this sport. Water is soft…ice is hard.

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My first impression when I saw this person on a bike was why? But after watching him for a while with fat boy tires on his bike I said why not? He was paired with the novice kite-snow-boarder providing support & advice. This enabled him to keep up with his friend as the wind blew him away.

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The beauty of Nature can mask the dangers. Over 1 dozen barges broke away from their moorings on the Ohio River & came to rest on the Emsworth Dam. The powerful flow of the water holds these 300 ton steel flatboats against the structure. This then provides a place for ice to build up creating problems to the locks, which are critical to the movement of river traffic. When I see things like this my mind immediately goes to the workers who are responsible for solving the problem. Largely taken for granted The Army Corps of Engineers provides an important service to all of us. BE SAFE!

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.

03Kids on porch railing copy copy

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.

05Jean Yoklic

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.

06 Baby.1.300

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.

08 Philepina&Gottlieb Glausser father adolph copy

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.

10 Pre Casino UNK subjectstweaked

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.