Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Reminders...

The older I get, the more it seems I surround myself with reminders.  Depending on where I am, those reminders can be Post-It notes, things stuck on the fridge with magnets, scraps of paper with unintelligible notes scribbled on them sitting on my desk, etc. But those are not the type of reminders I was thinking of...

This is the coffee mug I use at work.  While it may seem odd that a UCF employee (and alum) would use a University of Florida-related coffee cup, this is (you guessed it) a reminder.  For nearly 12 of the 15 years (so far) I have worked for UCF, I was in the Career Services department.  Since career services departments are not football teams, all 10 state University career centers enjoyed a collaborative, non-competitive relationship. There was a time, several years ago, when we helped the UF Career Center setup their recruitment management software.  It was on that visit to Gainesville when I got this coffee cup.

Okay, blah, blah, blah work, blah blah blah.  What's my point?  Well, this coffee cup from the UF Career Center was given to me by Dr. Wayne Wallace, their director. At the time I took it home, tossed it in the cabinet with the dozen or so other coffee mugs and didn't think much of it. A few years later (which, coincidentally was a few years ago), Wayne passed away after a very brief illness. When I heard of his passing, I dug out the coffee cup and brewed a cup. Turned out that the coffee tasted exactly the same as every other cup of coffee in every other coffee mug, but I enjoyed that cup just a little more.  So, to make a long story even longer, I brought the cup in to use at work. Now, every day I have a cup of coffee and a reminder of a respected colleague who is no longer here.  And, just like the phenomenon that happened at home, I enjoy each cup just a little bit more than if it were in one of the other mugs.

No real point to make today, other than to perhaps suggest that you surround yourself with things that make you smile or mean something to you.  The world can be a dark place sometimes, and things like this can add a little bit of light when it's needed. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Fridge Magnets

A few months after my mother passed away, my father gave up traveling.  They were a traveling team, and I guess Dad just didn't want to do it on his own.  That's understandable, as my parents had been road junkies for as long as I can remember.

I still remember visiting Niagara Falls at the age of 3, and driving to Florida when I was 8.  In those days, Disney had ticket books for their rides.  Space Mountain was an E-Ticket, as I recall... Back then I-95 wasn't complete all the way through Florida, and you had to get off the Interstate and drive surface roads in some areas.  We didn't take Interstates all the time anyway, there were lots more interesting things on the back roads of America. If we never got off the Interstate, we never would have gone to Marineland, or Gatorland, or countless other bits of roadside America that are not built next to an exit ramp.

So, after my Dad stopped traveling, I tried to keep his interest in the road alive in different ways.  I'd buy him DVDs about Route 66 and National Parks, and when he started slowing down a bit I would buy him jigsaw puzzles to do, many with location themes.  On the occasions when I would travel somewhere, I started to buy him refrigerator magnets from the places I went, just so he would have a visual reminder of some of the places he and Mom had been (or not been). What else can you bring back for someone who has been damn near everywhere and already has a house full of stuff...

I was down at my Dad's house two weeks ago, packing up some of my stuff that was still there (he passed away in February).  After walking past his refrigerator a few dozen times that day, I decided to take those fridge magnets with me.  Some are at home on my refrigerator, some are now in my office (see photo above).  They are, oddly enough, not a reminder of the road for me, but rather a reminder of a life well lived.  And a man greatly missed...

No photography talk today, sorry.  just a reminder: If you're not having fun while you're out shooting, you're probably doing something wrong.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Is It Yesterday Already?

Yes indeed, here it is June 1st.  Another year going by remarkably quickly, just a little faster than the one before.  And with each passing year I seem to gain more appreciation for something that seemed like punishment as a child: Black & white...

When I was a kid, the family color TV was in the living room, and when I got a TV for my room it was black & white.  I still remember the fun times spent adjusting the rabbit ears antenna to get fuzz out of the picture, only to have it get fuzzy as soon as I let go of the antenna. Ahh, memories.  But I was thinking more about black & white photos when I decided to write this. When I was 10, 15, 20 (hell, maybe 30) years old I didn't understand why people had coffee table books of Ansel Adams photos.  With all of the amazing colors in nature, why would you want to look at it in black & white?

Well, fast forward to adulthood.  Once I started to really look at black & white (and I credit the amazing photography of Clyde Butcher with turning me into a true fan), I began to understand the magic that black & white brings with it.  I always thought one of  the hardest parts of taking photos was getting the color right, so the photo tells an accurate story.  Turns out that color is fairly easy.  Black & white is hard, because you have to use shading and light to tell the story.  A color photo engages your eyes, a black & white photo engages your mind.

I am still a novice with black & white, and I don't know if I'll ever get it right.  But it's fun trying.  And, as I say over and over, photography should be fun.  If you're not having fun when you're out shooting, you're probably doing something wrong.  Happy Black & White Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Going Topless...

No, not me (trust me).  As I was walking Cody this morning, enjoying what may be the last sub-70 degree morning until November, I thought about convertibles.  I've only had one, a Manx body dune buggy built on a 1963 VW chassis with a 40-horsepower 1200cc flat four that topped out at about 63mph.  It was a lot of fun, although hardly a practical car.

I've had the opportunity to photography many convertibles through the years.  One of the more unusual ones (for me anyway) was this '62 Lincoln Continental.
If the body style looks familiar to you but you're not sure where you've seen one before, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas while riding in one.  But that isn't what I wanted to talk about. What's so interesting to me about this car is the fact that it's a four-door convertible.  Not only that, it's got suicide doors.  That's not something you see very often, and that goes back to one of my recurring blogtography themes...

Look for the unusual. Sometimes it's right in front of you, sometimes you have to search for it, and sometimes you have to compose it. With the top up and doors closed, this white Lincoln doesn't draw much attention. But when you put the top down and open up the doors, it tells a much more interesting story. I don't believe they ever made another convertible with suicide doors, although I can't say that with 100% confidence.  I can, however, say that there have not been any other modern-era 4-door suicide-door convertibles.

Enjoy topless weather while you can, be it your car or yourself...Remember, if you're not having fun while you're out shooting, you're probably doing something wrong.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Neon Nights...

One of my favorite things from the era before I was born (besides the cars and music) is neon. One of our Noble (or inert, depending on your periodic table) gasses, neon has been used in signage since the '20's.  It really had its heyday in the '50's, when cars had fins, towns had diners and drive-in movies, and lonely dark roads were cast aglow in the light from neon signs.






The glow is what makes neon special to me.  Look at the sign above. Notice how each section has it's own distinct background color?  The green glow up top, the subtle blue glow at the bottom give this sign a warmth that you just don't get with LED or fluorescent lights. Neon signs are expensive to buy, expensive to run, and expensive to fix, but they are truly things of beauty. You don't see much neon around anymore, and that's a shame.  Sacrificing beauty for efficiency has taken away another bit of America and replaced it with Generica. 

So, what's this got to do with photography?  Not much, other than to reiterate one of my recurring themes through these blog posts: Look around for things that are interesting or different to shoot, and take a few shots. You never know what you might end up with, and you never know what might spark a new interest.  Remember, if you're not having fun when you're out shooting,then you're probably doing something wrong...

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

America...

I don't talk about politics anymore, and that has worked well for the last couple of years. But I have reflected on the "make America great again" slogan many times recently, and I have to say that whoever decided America isn't great at the moment was mistaken.  Let's go for a quick cruise...

If you've ever driven up or down I-95, or ridden in a bus, cab, tow truck or on a train that runs near it, you have seen signs for South of the Border. Yes, the heart of Americana (and thus America), just a few hundred feet into South Carolina, is a shining example of America's greatness. Loved by northerners for easy access to fireworks, and loved by southerners for its kitschiness, South of the Border represents the American dream (albeit under a giant sombrero).

How the heck does S.O.T.B. represent America's greatness, you ask? Well, ask yourself this: What other countries in the world have opportunities for entrepreneurs to build tacky gift shops, and advertise them for so many hundreds of miles that the kids are begging you to stop there and get them a t-shirt? That is a uniquely American phenomenon, and it a perfect example of what continues to make America great. If you have a dream, you can chase it here in America. Even if your dream is to sell key chains and salt and pepper shakers in Dillon, SC.  People want to come here because it is a great country, not because it used to be one...

Again, I won't get on a political bandwagon here (or anywhere else anymore), but I think America continues to be pretty great.  If someone had a slogan that said "make America even greater" I might be inclined to listen to some of his or her rhetoric. But I don't think we'll see that rolled out any time soon.  And by the way, if you've never stopped at South of the Border, you really should.  It's a fun little place, and they have been around for over 50 years. Pedro is aging better than I am...

http://www.thesouthoftheborder.com/



Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Superheroes...

It seems like there is a new superhero movie coming out almost every week these days.  They are obviously profitable or the movie makers would move on to a different subject. What really makes me sad though, is that nobody has ever made a movie about my favorite superhero.  In fact, there was a time that my favorite superhero was "America's Favorite Superhero."  Can you guess who it is?



That's right, Bud Man! There was a time when Anheuser-Bush (now owned by InBev, a Belgian mega-brewer) used Bud Man for their marketing campaigns. I remember visiting Bush Gardens on a family vacation in the '70's, and Bud Man merchandise was all over their gift shops.  In fact, I still have a Bud Man beach towel from a later visit.  The Bud Man magnet, pictured above, was on a rat rod at a local car show a few years ago.

Where is Bud Man today?  I guess he probably retired several years ago, so maybe he's playing shuffleboard at the Old Superhero home in Sarasota (or wherever it is that old superheroes retire to). The point of today's ramblings:  The Bud Man magnet was a little detail on a single car in a show with 100+ vehicles.  I would bet that I was the only one who took a photo of it that day.  Photos don't have to be iconic to be interesting. Sometimes, the little things leave a lasting impression.

Will there ever be a return of Bud Man?  My guess is no, because I'm sure in today's politically-correct world there would be something wrong with a superhero that represents a beer company. And besides, would a superhero who spoke French, Dutch, or German (the languages of Belgium) really be able to recapture the title of America's Favorite Superhero?

I guess that covers it for today.  Go out and shoot something, with your camera of course.  And remember: If you're not having fun while you're out shooting, you're probably doing something wrong...