I will simply say this. The world remembers the horrors that Hitler subjected the Jews and homosexuals to during WWII. Sadly, it is easy for people to forget; to become susceptible to the voices of the haters. We must all be watchful that no strong, but violent leader is ever able to again cause us to pass laws that discriminate; that close our borders; that diminishes or eliminates our constitutional human rights and protections of those rights. This is more important today than ever before.
I have been busy traveling and dealing with illness and have not written in this blog for at least six months. I am going to try to do better in 2017.
I visited Savannah, Georgia in December 2016. This is a beautiful and very historic city in America's South. If you have the opportunity, I encourage you to visit this city. There are great museams, wonderful places to eat, and an amazing river front with ocean traveling ships to experience. The stately old homes, gardens and wrought iron fences and decorative applications on the houses are truely works of art and not to be missed.
Paula Deen has left her mark on Southern cooking and her restaurant still feeds thousands of visitors every year. But, if you visit, try to get into Mrs. Wilks boarding house for lunch. It's an experience you will never forget. This is the very best in Southern cooking, served family style.
Sometimes you don't want or need a large meal. Exciting quality and innovative food can be just as appealing. Visit Wright Square and the cafe that is right across the street. The Wright Square cafe is located at 21 West York Street.
On our visit, Gary J. Hall (the owner) served up soup, sandwiches and chocolates of the very best quality. Sandwiches are made with interesting breads and high quality meats and cheeses.
Do you enjoy photography as a hobby? Like to travel? Let's go to Florida!
There are other good reasons to go to Florida, but I love to photograph wildlife in Florida. In Florida that means birds and alligators, but mostly birds.
This egret was found on Sanibel Island. The island is in the Florida gulf and it is beautiful. If you go, try to stay on the island for several days. Driving onto and off of the island can be a slow grind. Nice hotels, resorts and good food are available on Sanibel. A large portion of the island is set aside as a wildlife preserve.
This Great Blue Heron was photographed along the Florida coast not too far from Fort Meyers beach. The one below was captured in the same general area.
The aligator below was photographed in Florida. I can't remember the location, but probably in the Everglades.
In the Saint Augustine area on the Eastern coast of Florida, there is a natural nesting area that is full of birds because the aligators protect the nests from predators.
This Snowy Egret was photographed in the rain. It looked almost as miserable as I felt!
Tri-color herons nesting; I took the photo as one of the pair stood up from sitting on the eggs.
Roseate Spoonbills in the trees above the wetlands. It can be challenging to get photos of spoonbills as they are not as common. These are large, beautiful birds.
The Egret above made me think of a punk teenager!
This Wood Stork was bringing nesting material for a nest. The one below was standing tall almost as if on guard.
These egret chicks are awating food.
Close-up of a roseate spoonbill preening.
More snowy egrets in the nesting area.
The brown pelicans are seen often and in areas where people are present, like boating areas, parks, and even residential areas with ponds and small lakes.
Here is a Great Blue Heron in evening light in the Everglades.
This is a Anhinga drying it's wings in a tree in the Everglades.
There are other great locations in Florida. The Corkscrew sanctuary in Southern Florida at the Northern edge of the everglades is a very interesting place to photograph birds.
Nikon also offers a high-quality point and shoot This is a tough category. I think you have two options. Buy new and there are limited (but good choices) or buy used and suddenly there are lots of options.
At this price you should be able to move into a camera with a substantially larger sensor and very good quality lense (oe lenses). However, keep in mind that many of these cameras use interchangeable lenses. You will spend more if you become interested in adding a couple of lenses.
Canon offers the T5i and the T6 in this price range. You might like the Canon SL1, a smaller and lighter SLR body that uses the same series of lenses that the T5i or T6 cameras use. All three of these cameras are excellent. I would recommend the SL1 or the T5i. These cameras have a large sensor and Canon lenses are very good.
Nikon offers the D3300 and D5300 models in this price range. The D3300 is designed to be easy to use and is ideal for a first-time SLR camera user. The D5300 adds the ability to send images across WIFI to a computer or tablet. Both are excellent cameras with very good line-up of lenses to choose from.
Nikon also offers a high quality point and shoot camera. It is smaller and has a sensor that is bigger than most cameras of this type and provides a built-in 24-85mm lense that lets a lot of light in. This is the Nikon DL24-85 model and it will allow you to take photos in a wide range of lighting conditions.
Fujifilm offers the X-A2 model. While this is a decent camera with a three to one zoom lense and a large sensor and the capability to take excellent photos, I do not recommend it very strongly. That is because it has no viewfinder and the lense is fairly slow (it will work great in good light - not quite as well in low light). If this won't bother you it takes very nice photos in good light.
Sony offers the a6000 camera. This is an excellent camera (so long as you do not intend to buy several additional lenses for it). It comes with a three to one zoom lense and there is one additional affordable quality lense (a 55-210mm zoom). Which is probably all you would really ever need. Other lenses are very expensive for this model. Now, that said - I highly recommend this camera. I believe it to be the best model in this price range (Nikon would agrue, but I like the Sony a6000 over any Nikon under $600.00).
The Panasonic ZS100 (in silver) is just under $600.00. This is a very good camera. It has a medium sized sensor and a ten to one zoom lense. Photo quality is excellent. This is a point and shoot type camera (no changing lenses). The size is nice - not quite pocket size, but still very small and light.
The Panasonic GM-5 is a small camera with the ability to change lenses. It uses a four thirds sensor (which is bigger than medium and provides excellent quality images). This model has a viewfinder and is easy to carry and use. Good all around camera.
The DMC-G6 is a similar camera (to the GM-5) but is larger for someone who wants a camera with some size to it (can be easier to hold for some people). This is a almost great camera that uses the four thirds sensor.
In memorium ...
Many people have experienced one of those teachers who jolted them out of complacency; out of coasting along doing the minimum required; igniting a passion that lasts a lifetime. I know who did that for me. My mentor and my inspiration - William (Bill) G. Ward.
Bill Ward took over the print Journalism program (part of the overall Mass Communications Department at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, Illinois in the late 1960's. He reimagined the entire print journalism program and had the reworked courses in place when I attended the university in 1971. I was critiqued, encouraged, and pushed to write better, to photograph better and to design and layout magazine and newspaper pages throughout my time in the journalism program by Bill Ward. He guided a small team of us students to create two or three issues of a semi-annual magazine for SIU students. He encouraged me to work on the student newspaper.
I graduated in 1974 with confidence in my ability to produce meaningful photographs and clear, informative reporting.
These are a few of the photographs that have survived more than 40 years from the classwork I did - assigned, directed, and pushed by Bill Ward. I owe a lot to his efforts for my photography today. Bill Ward almost made it to age 86. He and I were still exchanging poetry and photographs with each other right up to his death.
I have recently returned from the deserts of the American Southwest and from Cuba. It has been a busy period with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and two photographic trips. I also presented a talk at our local public library on techniques for taking interesting photographs on vacation trips.
I have not written in this blog for a while and I am sorry for the long, dry period.
Since it has been a long time since my last blog about photographic equipment, I decided to tackle the subject again. It is a good idea because there have been many new cameras come into the market place.
Because this web site has a travel photography focus, I want to begin with cameras for travel or vacation photography.
Cameras for travel/vacation photography
The least expensive cameras still offer some good choices.
Let's start with Canon. Their powershot ELPH 350 or 360 models are small (pocket-sized) and have the smallest sensor that goes into digital cameras. However, these two models offer 12X optical zoom and easy operation. Photo quality is good, but not great. You will need to use frlash in low light.
Fujifilm model XQ2. This camera is small (pocket-sized) with a fast 4X zoom lens. The reason to look at this camera is that the lens lets a lot of light get into the camera. Even though it has the smallest sensor size, photo quality is a bit better than the Canon above. There will be more situations where you can get good photos without using flash.
Nikon Coolpix S9900. Again, this model has the small sensor, but it offers an incredible 30X optical zoom on a camera that you can easily take with you (it is pocket-sized, for jackets/purses) even though it might not fit your shirt pocket. In this price range, none of the cameras have a viewfinder. You probably can make this camera work for you, but you will need to use flash when in low light situations. I like this camera to a point, but I think Nikon has tried to put too much in this model. Trying to get sharp photos at the highest zoom is very difficult. You must hold the camera steady and that can be hard to do without a viewfinder. If you stay within the 1 to 15X zoom range, you may be happy with this model.
Olympus SZ-15. This camera is much like the others in this group. It has the small sensor, 24X zoom and is small enough to be considered a pocket camera. Photo quality is good (comparable to the Canon models) so long as you are careful to hold the camera steady at the long end of the zoom range. This camera has a sophisticated operating system and is fun to use. The problem with this model is the user manual. It can be difficult to read and understand.
Panasonic Lumix ZS40. This camera has much in common with the other models in this group (small sensor, pocket-sized, ease of use). However, it rises above the others as it has a viewfinder and a lens designed by the Leica company. I find this camera even easier to get good photos with because the viewfinder allows you to see what you are shooting even in the hardest lighting conditions. It also allows you to hold the camera up to your eye, making it much easier to hold the camera steady. The 30X zoom range on this camera is actually useable! Photo quality may not be great, but it is better than the other cameras in this group.
Samsung WB350F. This camera has the small sensor and a 21X zoom lens. Photo quality is good and you can transfer your photos via WiFi. The lens is fast enough to use in a wide range of lighting conditions. I like this model a lot, if it had a viewfinder it would be an outstanding camera. As it is it's pretty good.
Sony WX 350 or WX 500 models. Both of these cameras use the small sensor and have a 20X zoom lens. They do not have a viewfinder. Photo quality is good, but not great. These will fit in a shirt pocket.
The best over-all camera in this group is the Panasonic ZS40.
The next step down would be the Samsung and the Olympus models. You might want to consider the Sony WX500 as well.
The Sony HX90V uses the small sensor, has a 30X zoom and no viewfinder. Despite that, the Zeiss lens is of good quality and the photos from this camera are better than those from the WX 500.
The Panasonic Lumix LF1 has a bit larger sensor, a viewfinder, and a Leica 7X zoom lens. The resulting photos are better than good - approaching great! This is still a small pocket-sized camera. Highly recommended.
Samsung NX mini is a small camera with a large sensor. It has a 3X zoom lens, but the photo quality is excellent (approaching great). It does not, however, have a viewfinder. That is disappointing.
Olympus offers a camera in this price range with interchangeable lenses. The PEN E-PL7 is a smallish camera with a large sensor and several lenses that will fit on the camera. Additional lens will add to the cost. Unfortunately, this camera does not have a viewfinder. Photo quality is very good.
The Nikon P340 is a nice-sized camera (not pocket sized) that has a slightly larger sensor and a 5X zoom lens with a viewfinder. Photo quality is very good.
The Canon G16 is comparable to the Nikon P340 with a viewfinder, and a 5X zoom lens. Photo quality is also very good.
The best overall camera in this group is the Panasonic LF1. Either the Nikon P340 or the Canon G16 would be my next choice.
My next blog will continue with more expensive cameras.
It is important that I state up front that I had a very successful career working for the United States Government in the Defense Department.
However, all citizens should know that our government is only as good or bad as the people we elect and the departments we allow to operate. Our government is not a secret operation. Our government has a history of doing the right thing.
Nearly every major improvement in human rights and human dignity; nearly every freedom we have are the results of national laws providing equality for all American citizens.
It has not been easy. We had to fight to win the right to vote for women. A civil war was fought to abolish slavery and provide freedom for black citizens. And even then, a 100 year struggle took place to wipe out prejudoce, mis-treatment, and in-equality for our black citizens.
So just as I am proud of the government of our United States of America, I also understand that mistakes have happened. One of the bleak periods in our history took place after World War Two. The House Committee for Un-American Activities was (and still is) an embarassment of the US Government that we should all be ashamed of.
The ball started rolling during the war, when official paranoia grabbed some of our national leaders and we locked up Japanese people living in America in detainment camps.
The internment of Japanese Americans in the United States was the forced relocation and incarceration during World War II of between 110,000 and 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry who lived on the Pacific coast in camps in the interior of the country. Sixty-two percent of the internees were United States citizens. President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the incarceration shortly after Imperial Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.
Incarceration was applied unequally due to differing population concentrations and, more importantly, state and regional politics: more than 110,000 Japanese Americans, nearly all who lived on the West Coast, were forced into interior camps, but in Hawaii, where the 150,000-plus Japanese Americans comprised over one-third of the population, 1,200 to 1,800 were interned. The interment has been determined to have resulted more from racism in the West Coast rather than any military danger posed by Japanese Americans.
In 1980, under mounting pressure from the Japanese American Citizens League and redress organizations, President Jimmy Carter opened an investigation to determine whether the decision to put Japanese Americans into internment camps had been justified by the government. He appointed the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) to investigate the camps. The Commission's report, titled Personal Justice Denied, found little evidence of Japanese disloyalty at the time and, concluding the incarceration had been the product of racism, recommended that the government pay reparations to the survivors. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act, which apologized for the internment on behalf of the U.S. government and authorized a payment of $20,000 to each individual camp survivor. The legislation admitted that government actions were based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership." The U.S. government eventually disbursed more than $1.6 billion in reparations to 82,219 Japanese Americans who had been interned and their heirs.
National paranoia also struck some of our national leaders as "blacklisting" became popular.
The first systematic Hollywood blacklist was instituted on November 25, 1947, the day after ten writers and directors were cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to testify to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. A group of studio executives, acting under the aegis of the Motion Picture Association of America, fired the artists—the so-called Hollywood Ten—and made what has become known as the Waldorf Statement.
On June 22, 1950, a pamphlet entitled Red Channels was published. Focused on the field of broadcasting, it identified 151 entertainment industry professionals in the context of "Red Fascists and their sympathizers." Soon most of those named, along with a host of other artists, were barred from employment in most of the entertainment field.
The blacklist lasted until 1960, when Dalton Trumbo, a Communist Party member from 1943 to 1948 and member of the Hollywood Ten, was credited as the screenwriter of the highly successful film Exodus, and later publicly acknowledged by actor Kirk Douglas for the movie Spartacus. A number of those blacklisted, however, were barred from work in their professions for years afterward.
One of the leaders most often associated with this paranoia is Senator Joe McCarthy. Joseph Raymond "Joe" McCarthy (November 14, 1908 – May 2, 1957) was an American politician who served as a Republican U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957. Beginning in 1950, McCarthy became the most visible public face of a period in which Cold War tensions fueled fears of widespread Communist subversion. He was noted for making claims that there were large numbers of Communists and Soviet spies and sympathizers inside the United States federal government and elsewhere. Ultimately, his tactics and inability to substantiate his claims led him to be censured by the United States Senate.
I have a strong interest in the unionization of America and the folk music and protest movement associated with the formation of unions and increasing the political awareness of private citizens in America. And just as Hollywood suffered under the "red scare" some folk musicians suffered as well. Pete Seeger was one of them.
From the 1940s through the early 1970s, the US government spied on singer-songwriter Pete Seeger because of his political views and associations. According to documents in Seeger's extensive FBI file—which runs to nearly 1,800 pages (with 90 pages withheld) and was obtained by Mother Jones under the Freedom of Information Act—the bureau's initial interest in Seeger was triggered in 1943 after Seeger, as an Army private, wrote a letter protesting a proposal to deport all Japanese American citizens and residents when World War II ended.
Seeger, a champion of folk music and progressive causes—and the writer, performer, or promoter of now-classic songs, including as "If I Had a Hammer," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?," Turn! Turn! Turn!," "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine," "Goodnight, Irene," and "This Land Is Your Land"—was a member of the Communist Party for several years in the 1940s, as he subsequently acknowledged.
The Seeger investigation apparently petered out after he was transferred to an airfield in Texas. But Seeger was not sent abroad as an aviation mechanic. Instead, he did become part of the Army division responsible for entertaining the troops. In the summer of 1944, he shipped off to the Pacific Theater, and he sang his way through the rest of the war.
Pete Seeger remained an FBI target for many years after the war. In the early 1950s, Seeger was a member of the Weavers folk group, as it became a national act with a string of hits. The group sold an estimated 4 million singles and albums. But as the Weaver reached this height, Seeger became the target of the blacklist banning entertainers suspected of Communist Party ties. A Senate committee investigated the Weavers. The demand for Weavers shows diminished.
In 1955, Seeger was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Asked if he was a communist, Seeger defiantly replied, "I am not going to answer any questions as to my associations, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs or how I voted in any election or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked." He did not plead the Fifth Amendment.
The congressmen running the commie-hunting committee were not pleased. In 1957, Seeger was cited for contempt of Congress for not answering the questions about his political associations. Four years later, after much legal wrangling, he was found guilty after a three-day trial. Seeger was sentenced to a year in prison. He remained free on bail, and a year later, the conviction was overturned when a federal appeals court determined the original indictment had been defective. After that, the Justice Department dropped the case.
While his FBI file gathered dust, he received numerous honors. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972. President Bill Clinton in 1994 awarded him the National Medal of Arts. Seeger entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, as an early influencer. He won Grammy awards. He performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during an inaugural concert for President Barack Obama.
Seeger was 94 years old when he died. His wide-ranging impact on popular culture, music, and politics had survived all the efforts—behind closed doors and in the public—to brand him a subversive and an enemy of freedom. This was seven decades after he first became a target of government snoops merely because he was upset about a racist and unconstitutional idea and, as a private citizen, wrote a letter about it.
These mistakes are corrected as reasonable people realize they have been made. The lesson here is that wrong-minded people can cause bad things to happen and our freedoms can suffer. However, I believe that right wins out over wrong in the long run.
As Woody Guthrie (a friend to Pete Seeger) sang - This land was made for you and me!
On a recent visit to Poland we spent time in Warsaw. The old town was completely destroyed on orders from Hitler because of the Polish Uprising in 1944.
On the positive side, the people of Warsaw demanded that the original city be rebuilt. It was a major undertaking and took most of a decade to accomplish. The new version of the original walled city is remarkable in that it is very close to the original city; rebuilt using photographs, people's memories, drawings, and old technical documents.
It is an amazing achievement.
We also visited Auschwitz and Birkenau which were German Nazi prisoner of war camps during WWII. It is not a pleasant experience to see these camps which are maintained as memorials to those who suffered here. But they serve as important reminders of the savage cruelty that organized groups of people are capable of. New generations must be made aware.
The world must never forget; the world cannot allow such brutalities to occur again.
The intent of Auschwitz was not a death camp. At least at first, it was a holding center and a work camp. Both Jews and Polish political prisoners were brought to Auschwitz by rail. The Birkenau camp was built to be a mass murder death camp. Prisoners were sent to Birkenau from Auschwitz to be killed.
This is Birkenau, the death camp. After the Nazi's became good at efficient murder and cremation, huge showers (gas delivery systems) and cremation stations were built here. Prisoners (mostly Jews) were sent here from Auschwitz to be killed. Approximately two million Jews were killed at Birkenau (and other camps). Some polish and Soviet political prisoners were killed and some gypsies were also killed (exact numbers are not known).
I am sickened by the things that happened at these camps. I did not enjoy my visit, but I felt it necessary to see this for myself. The truth of what the Nazi's tried to do here is awful, but everyone should be aware. This must never happen again.
I have enjoying manipulating some of my photographs into paintings. It's fun and they exhibit an interesting look. Let's start with a succulent plant.
Then the Live Oak trees in Louisiana made a perfect subject for this treatment.
A big ball of red blooms provided the inspiration for this one.
This colorful leaf worked nicely.
I like this painting of an old house in the woods.
These berries actually look like they were painted.
Look at all the detail in the white bloom.
This rabbit is a perfect subject for a painting. The littloe guy was not afraid to be painted.
It really brought these flowers to life.
Notice how well it works on water. What a relaxing, peaceful scene - I'd like to go back.
These Clematis bloom at my house.
Kathy and I took off for Port Huron and the St. Clair river on Saturday. We live near one of the most used and very intriguing Great Lakes transportation links and seldom see it or even think about it.
A visit to the Maritime Center at Vantage Point in Port Huron was an interesting and enjoyable way to learn a bit more about the freighters that routinely transport products between the Great Lakes and surrounding communities.
The Maritime Center in Port Huron provides a place to view freighters, offers snacks, excellent ice cream and information. Workers announce the freighters and provide information about the ship, it's cargo and it's destination. Computerized data about freighters, approximate time they will pass the viewing platform, and other interesting information is sent to a large LCD screen for viewing by visitors. There are benches and tables so you can view the freighters in comfort. Restrooms are available in the building.
Not far away from the Maritime Center, the oldest lighthouse in Michigan proudly stands along the St. Clair river. The Fort Gratiot lighthouse is in Port Huron and has been carefully maintained. The day we were there a wedding was taking place.
If you visit Port Huron, you will find other attractions as well. A trolley tour of the city is inexpensive and great fun. There are many interesting old homes to see and several old buildings still are in use today. And it is a great place to start a visit to our neighbor, Canada.
Experienced photographer who has used Canon equipment for several years. I use Photo Shop Elements to finalize my images.
Enjoying the Cliffs of Moher - Ireland
This blog will be primarily about photography since that is one of my strong interests. I may sometimes go off topic if I feel strongly about some news or event.