Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Getting By With Less and the Value of Fit For Purpose

A Monk Donates Excess Sticky Rice to Young Boy
Luang Prabang, Lao People's Democratic Republic
As we approach the last few days and the crescendo of this year's Christmas shopping season, I have been reflecting upon recent events and past experiences that, for me, puts the whole commercialization of this season into a different perspective.

One year ago, my wife and I made a return visit to Laos, more specifically the former royal capital of Luang Prabang.  We had gone there to document the celebration of Hmong New Years in early December.  I have previously written about the journey but there were some scenes which I photographed which made a strong impression upon me.  The photograph above is one of them.

Each morning, the Monks go out early from their Wats and walk along prescribed routes.  They are carrying their their alms bowl in which people will place donations of food for the Monks.  The morning walks are called "Bin Tha Bat" and the the act of making offerings of food to the Monks is called "Tak Bat".

Luang Prabang is a tourist destination and the street where our hotel, actually more like a B&B, was located is used by many of the high priced resorts that are located outside of the central district.  Early in the morning you can hear and see vehicles of all types discharging tourists on the south side of the street where they set up on woven reed mats, sahts, awaiting the arrival of the Monks.  Even though there can be as many as 30 to 40 Monks passing by, the Monks are far surpassed in numbers by the tourists as well as local people wishing to make merit by making offerings of food to the Monks.

The alms bowls are rather large and the Monks are allowed to eat only one or two meals a day by noon.  The number of meals is set forth by the order to which the Monk belongs.  No matter the case, a filled alms bowl is too much food for two meals let alone one meal and I am referrring to a Westerner's capacity to eat.  Monks are not allowed to store food or to cook so there is an excess food problem.

A Monk does not cover his bowl when he deems that he has just enough food for his meal(s) for to do so would be to deny some people the opportunity to earn merit by offering food.  When the bowl is filled, the Monk covers the bowl.  In Thailand, the excess food is made available to the people after the Monks have eaten.  Typically in the smaller villages, the people who brought  food to the Wat for the Monks, will sit down and eat the surplus food as the Monks eat.  It has a festive air and a nice social gathering for all involved.  In the larger towns and cities, poor people will go to the Wats to be fed after the Monks have taken their food to eat.  Any food remaining is fed to the Wat dogs and cats.

In Luang Prabang, as the photo shows, the Monks periodically as they walk along their route, will stop and give some of their excess food to young children who are either waiting along the route or tagging along with the Monks.  This act is good for all parties involved; the Monks have the food that they need, the people are able to make merit, and poor people obtain food for their families.

The photo above is not a new photo and has been posted on this blogsite before.  But as people often say in Thailand:  "It is same same but different".  "Same same" in that it is the photograph that I had used before.  Different?  It is different in the way that I post processed the original file.  The original photograph had a dark and very distinct shadow around the boy as well as around the clump of sticky rice that is on its way into the boy's plastic basket.  When I first posted the photograph, I had used Photoshop Elements 7.0 to eliminate the harsh shadows that I believe were a distraction from the tone of the photograph that I wanted to convey.  For this revision of the photograph I used different techniques that I learned over the Internet to eliminate the distractions in the photograph to, in my opinion, better convey the spirit of that moment.

Since that time, I have received notification of a new version of Photoshop Elements - Photoshop Elements 10.0.  Oh my gosh three versions more advanced than what I have and I am using!  I was also considering getting a full version of Photoshop.  A full version of Photoshop would cost me around $700 - OUCH!!  However IF I were a student or even a teacher, I could buy the program for around $179.   ????  Don't ask me why but that is how Adobe has decided to market their software - great if you are a student or a teacher; terrible if you are not.  In my research as to how I might obtain a copy of the latest version of Photoshop for a great deal less than $700, I came under the impression that if  I knew what I was doing in Photoshop Elements 7.0, I could do the things that I NEEDED to do and could do with the full current version of the $700 program - just not as easily or quickly.  The big thing was the ability to use a mask on the photograph.  A mask greatly facilitates the manipulation of a great variety of effects and adjustments to an original photograph.

Three weeks ago, I found a free plugin on the Internet that provided for the easy as well as effective creation and use of a mask in PSE7.  Someone with the knowledge and skill had created a program that made the creation of a mask quite easy.  More importantly that person had the generosity to share with others their work.  I now have an essential tool for free to edit some of my photographs.  For more traditional portrait type work and glamour photography masks are essential tools for producing a finished product.  My documentary style of photography will remain unchanged but for my development of traditional portrait and glamour styles, I will be utilizing the mask.

I no longer am considering the need to purchase either the full Adobe Photoshop product or the latest version of Photoshop Elements.  My old program and the training to use it that I have found on the Internet is all that I really NEED.  It is sort of like a car ... a faster, sleeker, and more technically advanced vehicle would be nice.  There is no denying that.  It would make an impression on family and neighbors but it would not serve my needs of grocery shopping, taking my parents on their errands, or picking up my wife at the airport any better and definitely not any cheaper than the 7 year old car that I have now.

Lately, I have been able to see my wife and my Thai grandson on the webcam over the Internet.  Part of the ritual involves my grandson, Peelawat, showing me either his toys or his clothes.  He is just as pleased with all of them.  Peelawat is an ethnic Lao Loum child.  He does not have all that many toys.  In fact at one time he was playing with peanut shells as a substitution for toy cars.  He is now going to school with the assistance of Duang and I.  We pay for his school and there is no limit to the joy we have in seeing or hearing of his enthusiasm each morning as he heads off to school.  My wife had to leave school after four years to work in the rice fields for the family.  Her children were fed each morning at the Wat in the city.  We can make a difference in Peelawat's life; not in the number or type of toys or clothes that he has but in ensuring that he has food as well as the opportunity to obtain a good education.  We hope that he has the opportunity to be all that he can be or that he chooses to be.

Today, through Facebook, I received a kind note from a former teacher of mine.  She has read some of my blogs and remarked that I have seen more of the world than most of my teachers.  She shared the link to my blog and I was impressed that she is still teaching others after all these years.  Since I have returned to America, I have spoken with three of my former teachers.  I am pleased that I can "pay forward" the tools and passion that they instilled in me years ago by writing and photographing some of the places and people that I encounter.  In sharing my experiences and observations with other, I see myself as commencing to pay back some of my debt to them as well as all the other past and present teachers in my life.  Although some of us do not have the certificates or collect a paycheck for teaching, we are all teachers in some way.  We through our words and deeds instruct those about us and around us.  We decide the subject matter as well as the perspective that our teachings will have. It is a power that is often misunderstood and sometimes abused.

Ok.  This blog has now dealt with Christmas shopping, Monks, Photoshop Elements, grandchildren, and teachers.  What is it all about?  What does it all mean?  No, I have not started drinking Christmas cheer too much or even already.  These things have a common thread of "getting by (not buy) with less and the value of fit for purpose"

Many people will work themselves into a frenzy or go more into debt looking for the "perfect" gift this week.  Perfect most likely being defined as expensive and impressive either in quality or quantity.  Materialism and commercialism dictate so much of our behavior here in Western world and it is never so more apparent than during the Christmas Season.

The truth of the matter is that these gifts are more likely than not will be excessive and not fit for purpose.  What is the purpose of a gift?  Is it to impress,  iintimidate, or humble the recipitant?  Or is a gift merely an expression of love, appreciation, or respect.  Is a whispered "I love you" any less valuable, sincere or meaningful than "I love you" flashed across a stadium scoreboard?

Today's expensive gift will soon become blasse and perhaps forgotten while the gift that we all want remains cherished and valuable for all of time.

The gift that we all want and cherish is to have others share of themselves with us.  Be it sharing resources, caring for the physical or emotional needs, or teaching through instruction or by example the gift is always fit for purpose.  The purpose is to let others know that they matter, we care for them, we respect them, and that they can make a difference in this world.  It truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

I have learned this from all my teachers past and present.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Revolutionary Thanksgiving - Celebration of Independence

Freshly Prepared Thanksgiving Food At Jabez Smith House, Groton

I am spending my first Thanksgiving holiday in many years in the USA.  I am spending my first Thanksgiving of many many more years with my parents in their home.

Whether I was in Algeria, Malaysia, Thailand, Canada, Brasil, or Vietnam, I always managed to celebrate this special holiday.  There is something about celebrating that has a universal appeal and relevance no matter where in the world that you find yourself.  It is a holiday that transcends national sensitivities.

Ham, Chickens, and Corn on the Cob Over An Open Wood Fire

Recently I attended a local event here in Groton.  The event was a "Revolutionary Thanksgiving" and was held at the Jabez Smith House.  Participants reenacted a traditional late 18th century holiday celebration complete with traditional foods and methods of cooking.  The participants are ordinary people who have a passion for American Colonial history.  They dress and re-enact daily early American life at special events throughout the year.  I had first encountered some of them at the event which recognized the 230th anniversary of the Fort Griswold Massacre also known as the Battle of Groton Heights.  Besides dressing, and demonstrating skills from the past, the people are a source of information regarding daily colonial life.  It is always nice to see young children at these living history events.  It is an opportunity for them to see some of what they read about in schools.  In this area besides these events there is Mystic Seaport and Old Sturbridge Village where history comes alive.

Documenting the event and listening to the reading of personal diaries from Colonists as well as French soldiers who had come to assist them in the War of Independence, I could not help but be impressed with the self sufficiency of the people.  During that age, men were more of "jacks of all trades" rather than the specialists that we have evolved into today.  A man was a hunter, fisherman, carpenter, farmer, tailor, as well as doctor to ensure his and his family's survival. Women were also fully engaged in multi-tasking with activities such as sewing, weaving, cooking, gardening, helping with the farming and caring for the animals, as well as educating the children. The women also were involved in doctoring and preparing medicinal herbs for the family's use. In Colonial times there was little time to be bored.

Today it is all too easy to rely upon others for our safety, welfare and comfort.  Yes we need to rely upon the knowledge and skills of others for many things.  However, it is often too convenient and the path of least resistance to place our blind trust and welfare in the hands of the others - often misguided.

The financial collapse of so many prominent investment firms in recent years as well as swindles like that perpetrated by Bernie Madoff should lead us to question just how smart these "experts" are or were.  I have always handle my own investments and done acceptable.  I have made spectacular returns but then again I have not been swindled or wiped out like MF Global.  The point is that today with the wealth of resources available to us on the Internet, we should never blindly accept and follow the advise of financial "experts".  If you don't understand it from your own research or understand from the advice of an "expert", you should not invest in it.

The same is true with Doctors.  When I was younger, all Doctors were held in unquestionable esteem - an air often cultivated by the Doctors themselves.  Having lived overseas, you learn to question and evaluate the advise that the doctors give you.  It is important to realize that WE are our own Primary Health Care Provider.  In our culture, doctors only fix what is wrong with us once something happens.  It is our responsibility to prevent that something from happening in the first place.  I know a woman who was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis by the best doctor at the best hospital in an upper class city in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Through a fortunate circumstance she ended up in a third world country where she contacted Amoebic Dysentery.  She was given standard medication for the dysentery and soon noticed that her colitis symptoms had disappeared.  Research into her travelling companion, "The Merck Manual" strongly suggested to her that she had "Antibiotic Induced Colitis".  Interesting enough the medicine for curing Amoebic Dysentery is the same for Antibiotic Induced Colitis.  The doctor in California was notified of the possible misdiagnosis but stood his ground and stated that the Ulcerative Colitis would return.  Fifteen years later she is still awaiting the return of the Ulcerative Colitis and she no longer takes a prophylactic antibiotic prior to dental work.  I am certain that had she remained under the care of the experts she would now be dealing with the ravishes caused by prescribed steroid treatment for Ulcerative Colitis.

The aforementioned can also be said with dealings with lawyers.  Do not just take their advice without first doing your own research and asking yourself as well testing their advice to determine if it makes sense - for YOU.  For you - yes because in the end you will have to live with the results and consequences of their work along with their advice that you take.  They will earn their fee and move on to more clients.  You will live with the results for the rest of your life.  back in Thailand a vast majority of issues between people are dealt with directly rather than acquiring the services of a lawyer.  Matters such as purchasing land, homes, automobile accidents, divorces, and name changes are handled by the involved parties with the appropriate government agencies merely recording and maintaining documents related the resolution as in the matter of real estate, divorces, and name changes.

This week I had the "experience" of dealing with technical support related to my computer VOIP service.  As people sometimes reply if they are involved in a relationship, "It's complicated".  A long time ago I had Internet service through SBC =, a spin off at the time of AT&T.  Like the theory of the Universe that it expanded at the time of the Big Bang and will eventually contract, SBC merged into AT&T once again.  AT&T developed a special working relationship with Yahoo which lead me to use Yahoo Messenger. Yahoo Messenger developed a premium service called Yahoo Voice - Phone Out which allowed me to call phone numbers from my computer at very good rates i.e. call cell phones in Thailand for $0.10 USD a minute rather than around $8.00 a minute using a traditional land line in the USA.  I have forgotten which came first, remember I wrote that it was complicated, but two things happened AT&T and Yahoo stopped their special working relationship and the servicing of Yahoo Voice - Phone Out was taken over by a company named Jajah.  Jajah was recently taken over by Telefonica something or other - just to show how complicated finding someone responsible has become in the tech world.  Any how, life was good using Yahoo Voice - Phone Out.  For the past six months I had been getting messages that I had an outdated version of Yahoo Messenger.  I ignored it until earlier this week when I succumbed to the fear that I might be missing out on something - foolish me or perhaps greedy me.  I downloaded the latest version of Yahoo Messenger and promptly lost access to my Voic-Phone Out Account.  I sought help through the programs and kept getting into FAQ that answered nothing close to my personal problem.  I tried AT&T and got referred to Yahoo.  I decided to call Yahoo support on the phone and after punching some numbers and waiting, found out that they do not do support over the phone.  I ended up contacting Jajah "Live Chat" support.  At first over texting they tried to pawn me off with my problem to AT&T.  I spent a great deal of time in a painful noxious texting ordeal going over my problem with a rep to the point that I thought that I was dealing with either a robot or a computer.  It was obvious that we were going through a standard troubleshooting routine oblivious to any statements that I had previous conveyed to the rep.  Some of her solutions recommended had absolutely nothing to do with my problem.  I thanked her for "help" and got away from her.  I did some more Internet research and found serious issues with Jajah support for the past three years.  Undeterred I contacted support via Live Chat once again - guess who?  Yep it was Zoe once again.  Luckily or rather more indicative of her consciousness she did not seem aware of my previous comment that "I am sure that you may be a nice person but you are absolutely of no help to me. I am signing off"  Well we started down the same road once again - after awhile I just hung up.  I tried a couple of things on my own to no avail.  I went back to tech support and got a man who was more on the ball.  I never suspected that he was either a robot or a computer.  He gave me a possible solution which in the process of implementing required me to shutdown and restart my computer thereby losing contact with him.  His solution did not work so I contacted tech support once again only to get a third "expert".  We went down the same path as the previous times and had no success.  After 7-1/2 hours dealing with Jajah tech support the last rep wrote that he could not solve the problem and that he would refer the problem to their "Software Engineers" and that I could expect an email from them within 24 hours (110 hours ago).  I have yet to get that email. I found a website that would solve my problem for $48.  It appeared to have been a Yahoo website but I am not sure - I was having trouble seeing through my rage at that point.  I was sure not going to pay Yahoo a penny let alone $48 to solve a problem with their software which I had upgraded to at their request.  I also did not like the fact that only after you wrote about your problem did you find out that it was a pay for solution site.  Flustered that I could no longer cheaply call my wife back in Thailand, I did what we should all do , I voted with my feet and pocket book - I went and set up an account with Skype.  In less than 30 minutes, I was on the phone with Duang and able to make unlimited calls around the world for the next three months - cost?  Around $39 for the three months. I was still left with the issue of almost $20 remaining in my Yahoo Voice- Phone Out account.  After cooling off for a couple of days I decided to try to solve the problem on my own.  From the Tech "Experts" it had been determined that I still had a valid account but for some reason my new version of Messenger did not connect or recognize the account.  I decided to go to the library and see what happened if I logged on to Yahoo Messenger from a different machine - Voila (There it is) I was able to access my Voice account from the library through an even older version of Messenger than when I started this fiasco.  I went home optimistic that I could solve the problem.  I uninstalled Yahoo Messenger like I had done at least 8 times previously as instructed by the "experts".  However this time I was not going to rely on the software to remove it for me.  I went into my hidden files and removed all folders associated with either Yahoo, AT&T, and Yahoo.  I then used Norton 360 Premium to clean up my registry file - sure enough it found 65 lines of code associated with Yahoo even though it had been uninstalled automatically.  Only then did I upload the latest version of Yahoo Messenger.  To my delight, it recognized and accessed my Yahoo Voice - Phone Out account.  My point being is that we have the ability to solve our own problems most of the time.  We need to trust in ourselves and not blindly follow those who are called "experts"  "Experts" are like any tool, they can be used by us to achieve a goal but on their own they can not resolve our issues.  We have to take the responsibility and live with the consequences to solve our problems.

So on this American Thanksgiving in 2011 let's reflect upon all that we have been blessed with and let's strive to be more self sufficient in our lives just as our ancestors were during the Revolutionary Thanksgivings.  Let's all be especially grateful for our ability to think for ourselves and to make our own decisions - truly blessings to be appreciated and used every day.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Every Picture Tells More Than One Story

It is difficult to grasp that it has been a month since I last wrote anything of real substance on this blog.  Time has flown by and I have been extremely busy.  In the past two months some interesting events have occurred and as is often the case in "Allen's World" there is a common thread connecting them and which is also applicable to the outside world.

Recently I sold two prints from my gallery of photographs documenting a journey to Laos.  In thanking GD of Arizona for their support I wrote: "They say that every picture tells a story.  I actually believe that every picture tells more than one story dependent upon one's perspective and experience"  I attached a copy of the blog entry that was associated with the two prints that he purchased.  The blog entry was my story that the pictures told to me.  This story, my story, would go along to his story related to the photographs.

Photographs are like facts in that they create a reality for each one of us, a reality that is defined by our individual perspectives, experiences, and bias.

I take photographs back in Asia of people, places and things that are interesting to me, - different from what I am accustomed to.  To the people that I photograph, they consider themselves to be ordinary people doing ordinary things but, to them, it is me who is exotic and interesting.  It is all is just a matter of perspective and experience - for all of us.

Photographs like facts can be manipulated and processed to achieve a desired effect or perceived sense of reality.

Interpretation of photographs just as with facts is highly subjective and greatly impacted by our prejudices; prejudices that can be either good or bad.

I recently signed up for a seminar about glamour photography.  In Southeast Asia I never have a problem in finding and photographing "... extraordinary people doing ordinary things."  Here in America, it is not so easy.  People in the United States are more suspicious of being photographed and in general greatly more paranoid of their children being photographed.  Just as I respect the cultural mores of SE Asia, I respect the culture here in the USA and greatly restrain my photographic activities.

However the difficulties of photographing willing subjects here has not lead me to pack up my camera and put it away in the closet.  I have decided to take advantage of resources readily available here in the USA to better educate myself regarding photography.  My hope is to increase and improve my skills in taking MY photographs.  I want to better understand and be more familiar with the tools as well as techniques to better capture my visions to share with others.  I don't want to learn how to and I definitely do not want to take other people's photographs.  As I have written before - one Ansel Adams is enough and one Anne Geddes is most likely one too many - I don't need or desire to take "their" photographs or photographs like theirs.

One area that I would like to become educated with is the use of studio lighting.  In late September, I rented an equipped photography studio to take photographs of my wife.  It was an opportunity for me to experiment with studio lighting.  It was a very educational afternoon and I am still post processing the 1200+ photographs from that session.

I signed up for the Glamour Phototgraphy Seminar given by a well known photographer in order to learn more about the use and control of studio lighting as well as to gain more experience in taking the types of photographs that I would like of my wife.  Although I do not intend to become a studio photographer, I believe the knowledge and experience will enhance my documentary portraits that I typically take while on location in SE Asia.

Due to circumstances beyond his control, the photographer was unable to give the seminar as originally scheduled.  Wishing to demonstrate to the people that signed up and paid for the seminar that he was a real as well as honest person, he offered to meet us at the home of his friend for a day of photography discussion and shooting of a Playboy model - all at no extra cost to the seminar participants.  At the informal gathering, we all would decide when to reschedule the original seminar.

Well the informal gathering was quite an event.  We met at the home of a prominent Boston photographer.  The Boston photographer has 75 magazine covers to his credit and has covered every Presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter.  All six of us strangers were welcomed into his home as if we were all old friends from university.  He was occupied preparing for a fashion shoot later that day, so we went downstairs to his kitchen area.

Our glamour photographer spent the morning and early afternoon in a free, open and animated discussion with us regarding many aspects of glamour photography.  After lunch, which he graciously paid for, we returned to his friend's home.  The Boston photographer created some time to spend with us in his office.  Spending time with him was very informative.  He openly shared his experiences as well as techniques with us.  We learned many details behind some of his pictures that we had seen on covers of magazines.  Some of the facts that amazed me were how little time he has to take the photographs of important people - some people he has only 5 minutes to take their photograph at a location determined by the subject - i.e. in the Board Room, at the Mall, in the office.  He had better fortune with the renowned actor, Anthony Hopkins - 20 minutes at the photographer's home.  I had always assumed that most of these wonderful portraits that grace publications were studio shots which lasted 1 to 2 hours.  As it turns out these photographs were taken under conditions and circumstances that I am all too familiar with.

The photographs, in general, were not taken with 1, 2, 3, or even more studio strobe lights.  Most of the photographs were taken with speedlites, what we used to commonly refer to as "flash guns".  The difference, and oh what a difference there is, between his photographs and the ones that most people take is that he does not have his speedlite mounted on his camera, he utilizes more than one speedlite, and he uses a knowledgeable assistant to position reflectors or speedlites to get the appropriate light.

Appropriate light?  There are two types of light involved in photography; soft light and hard light.  Just as facts can depict and create a perceived reality, so can light.  Soft light creates low contrast portraits with soft edged shadows and conceals blemishes.  Soft light is created by large light sources.  The closer that a light source is to a subject the softer it light becomes.  Soft light is very complimentary to the female face and form.  In the natural world the sun creates soft light on an overcast day or in the very late afternoon during the "golden hour".  The light is diffused and flattering.

Hard light on the other hand, like some facts, can accentuate the features and blemishes in a photograph.  To a certain degree hard light is more typically used in male portraits.  Hard light is created by a small light source at a further distance from the subject.  In the natural world the sun creates hard light on a clear day during the middle of the day.  The light is sharp and focused which often makes it not very flattering.

Facts just like lighting can be used, manipulated, or modified to influence our perceptions and experiences.  The subject or object of our attention is what it is but through the skillful exploitation of light or even facts, people's perceptions and sense of reality or "truth" can be greatly influenced.

During our time together in Boston, we got to take photographs of a Playboy model.  This was a new experience for me.  She is a professional model.  Unfortunately, she did not provide Model Releases and asked that we not share our photographs because of her current employment.

She is a very attractive young woman but more importantly she is a very skilled model.  For our photography session, we did not go to any specialized studio.  For our photo shoot, we did not have 2, 3, 4 or more studio lights. We used on studio strobe with a large soft box attached to it.  The photographs were taken downstairs of the Boston photographer's South Boston apartment.  We utilized a seamless paper background behind the model with a single chair or no chair at all.  Many of our photographs were actually poses in the apartment back doorway leading out to a small garden area along with parking.  The lesson learned here was that you don't necessarily have to have an exotic location or sophisticated equipment to take excellent photographs. The Boston photographer stressed that often in photography you have to make do with what you have.  The skill and art of the photographer is to communicate his vision  with the environment and circumstances that he is faced with for the shot.

We were very fortunate to have a professional model to work with on that afternoon.  With very little direction, she worked to provide us with interesting opportunities.  I informed her during one of my sessions that I wanted to focus on her eyes and lips.  Yes, it is absolutely true - when photographing a model in lingerie - I was focused on her eyes and lips.  That was my vision of her.  Of course I saw other things but at that moment my vision was of her yes and lips.  She listened to me and focused on what I wanted to accentuate in my photos.  The shots came out great and it all seemed quite easy.

Being a professional model, in addition to being comfortable posing in front of a camera she also had a very good understanding of makeup.  In reviewing my shots I was very impressed with her makeup.  However during post processing of her shots as well as shots that I have taken of my wife, it was very apparent the effect of light has on a person's complexion.

First of all I am not aware of any adult who has a perfect complexion.  We all have some degree of blemishes, spots of different colored pigmentation, and "character" or "smile" lines commonly referred to as WRINKLES.  To a certain extent these identifiers can be minimized with the proper application of makeup.  Soft light is also of great benefit to minimize and obscure these details.  On the other hand, hard light can accentuate these details as well as highlighting any efforts that were made through the use of makeup to eliminate them.  Facts can also be used to obscure or influence our sense of reality - hard facts can cast a disparaging light on a person if not tempered by additional soft or more flattering facts.  The person remains the same in both lights but our sense of realty regarding them is heavily influenced by the balance between hard and soft facts.  We react to the facts from our personal perspective and experience to create our own "truth".

During the Playboy Model shoot some of the light accentuated blemishes to her complexion.  It was the same model with the same makeup as before but with the different light, the photographs were not flattering at all.  Well, the photographs did end up being flattering in the end - through the use of post processing software such as Adobe Photoshop Elements to remove offending details.

Last Sunday I attended a historical recreation of a Revolutionary War Thanksgiving.  As part of the celebration an authority on the French involvement in the Revolutionary War read excerpts from contemporary diaries from both sides.  When the French first arrived in the Colonies they were not very welcomed.  The Colonists did not have much experience with Frenchmen.  The view who knew of Frenchmen their experience was from that of being adversaries during the French and Indian Wars - wars that the Colonists and British Army fought against the French and their Native American allies.  At the onset of the Revolutionary War, Great Britain attempted to split the developing alliance between the Colonists and French by capitalizing on old prejudices and fears. However, once the Colonists actually had the opportunity to meet, socialize, and do business with the French, they realized a new reality - the French were not like their fears and prejudices had lead them to believe.  For their part the French diaries are filled with the praises of the people and lands of the colonies.  The Frenchmen wrote of wonders and marvels that were all so strange and different to them but ordinary to the Colonists.

So I find myself often doing when I write of life in Isaan; writing of wonders and marvels that are all so strange and different to me but common everyday life to the Lao Loum people.

 To the extent that I can provide a glimpse into the life, culture, and beliefs of Southeast Asia to give a different perspective to the readers of my blog and viewers of my photographs, I am pleased to provide facts that will allow others to form their own reality.

I will always remember that every picture tells more than one story and that facts only tell part of the story - until all the facts are known and their context understood, the story is not complete.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A New Gallery Is Available for Viewing

A new gallery, "Two Funerals and An Exorcism" is now available for viewing on my photography website

The gallery is related to a previous blog that I wrote with the same name.

They say that every picture tells a story.  I think that every picture tells several stories  - but that will be the subject of my next blog entry.  However to learn more about Buddhist funeral rituals or more specifically the Lao Loum peoples funeral rituals, you can refer to these blog entries.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A New Photo Gallery Is Available

After three months, I have finally gotten around to posting a gallery of photographs of the Blue Angels Flight Demonstration at Quonset Point, Rhode Island at the end of June celebrating 100 years of Naval Aviation.  Although I had written a blog on the day and included several photographs, the attached gallery of 55 photographs includes many not part of the blog.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Breaking Up Is Hard To Do"; Breaking In Can Be Very Difficult, Too

In this blog I strive to share and document my experiences, experiences that others most likely have not had or will ave the opportunity to experience for themselves.

Living back in America has not eliminated my experiences but the types of experiences has definitely changed.

Last Sunday was no exception.  In 1962, Neil Sedaka recorded a song, "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do", which became a big hit, a smash recording.  Last Sunday I had the opportunity to do something that I suspect that many people have not done too many times or done recently.  Last Sunday I got to break into a car.

Neil Sedaka sang about the difficulties of breaking up a personal relationship.  I am going to write about the unexpected difficulties in breaking into a car.

A young woman had locked her purse and car key in her car.  She was at work and miles from her home.  Her second set of keys were in Hawaii.  She had called and determined that it would cost $100 for a locksmith to come and unlock the car.  I asked her if she knew what it would cost to replace a window on the car.  I had a side window replaced in 2002 when I lived in Curitiba, Brasil for $35.  Well as the saying goes "That was then and this is now.  That was there, and this is here", she checked and the estimated cost to replace a side window was $200.

She asked me to break into her car.  I went out and checked the car.  The keys were laying face up on the driver's seat.  The "Unlock" button on the key was facing up so tantalizing close to us.  I inspected the window and door frame in search of a crack or seam where I could insert a wire coat hanger or flat piece of metal strapping.  It did not look very promising.  I had seen rubber wedges utilized on the top of car windows to create some access for a "Slim Jim" to be inserted to open the door.  For this car such a technique would not work.  Inserting a wedge would only press the window more tightly against the metal frame on the other side of the window.  That same metal frame extended well below the top of the window there by requiring a wire coat hanger or a Slim Jim to be bent 180 degrees to get inside of the car - something that I was not sure would be possible.  This was a moot point because we had neither a wire coat hanger or a Slim Jim.

I got a bright idea of perhaps disconnecting the battery in hopes that it would disarm the lock and security system.  It may or may not have been a great idea, I was not able to find out.  To open the front hood of the car, you had to first release it from inside of the car.

The car owner made an informed decision for me to break a side window of the car.  I was confident that I could do that.  I was given a small hammer with a metal shaft.  I struck the window with a strong blow.  The hammer bounced off window without leaving a mark on the glass.  I repeatedly struck the window with the hammer with ever increasing force.  Each blow had the same effect - bounced off the window and left no marks on the glass.  I ceased my efforts with the hammer when my last strike bent the hammer head 90 degrees on the shaft.  The hammer was broken but the glass was unblemished.

I next tried breaking into the car using a tire iron.  I was able to generate more force with the tire iron but the end result was the same; the window was unblemished and intact.

I did a little thinking, and decided that I needed a more pointed object to break the window.  I found a large pruning shear and plunged the sharp point three times into the glass.  The result of my efforts was to bend the tip of the shear 180 degrees with the window remaining just as I had found it at the start.

I was now getting angry as well as somewhat embarrassed.  I was determined to prevail.  My masculine pride demanded that I succeed.  I had an audience of three women, one of them being my wife who believes that I can do anything, expecting me to break into the car.  Failure was not an option.

I found a 5 foot long 18 pound steel digging bar that had a chiseled point.  I raised the bar and thrust it into the window.  The window deflected as the heavy bar bounced off of it.  The car window remained in tact.  I joked with the woman about was she sure that the window was not bullet proof glass.  I had noticed that there was a Marine Corps Base Hawaii sticker on the windshield so I decided to make a joke about the car being specially prepared. My joke had no effect upon her tears and distress.  I thrust bar once again with greater force but with the same result.  On my third attempt with some rage behind my thrust, the car window finally shattered.  Mission accomplished!

Finally succeeding in breaching the window, I reflected upon the difficulty of breaking automobile glass today.  My efforts of the day reinforced the need to use seat belts.  I remarked to the others how much force some one's head must exert on a windshield to break the glass.  It is a force that I would not want to experience or have any one else experience.

I also thought about being trapped underwater in a car.  I have seen movies where someone escaped from their submersed vehicle by kicking out the side window.  I am not going to say it is not possible but I do believe that if it is possible the person must of had some martial arts training and skills that the vast majority of people do not have.

I even had thoughts about coming upon the scene of a burning car with locked doors and unconscious victim.  How could the victim be rescued?

All that thinking and exertions of the afternoon, convinced me of the need to purchase and have readily available in our vehicle a rescue device for breaking car windows.  The device is a very small hammer like device with a special tip which allows a window to be broken with a relatively small blow.  Many of these devices also have a means for cutting seat belts.

The devices cost around $7 to 20 dollars and are available many places as well as through Amazon.

Breaking in can be difficult, but not if you have and use the appropriate safety device.

Be safe, but also always be prepared

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Let's Not Forget

Events in life can sometimes be thought of as rivers.  Just as with rivers events have creative as well as destructive influences on people far removed from the source.  Just as with rivers, events are difficult to control and often times efforts to control them have far reaching negative impacts well beyond our imagination.

Three events this past holiday weekend have created a confluence in "Allen's World".  These events have converged and reinforced in me a common theme and reaffirmed the importance of history.

The first event, which I have already written about was the commemoration of the Battle of Groton Heights which is also known as the Fort Griswold Massacre.  On September 6, 1781, a local man, Benedict Arnold of Norwich, CT lead the British raid on New London, CT.  The attacking force of 1,700 regular British Army soldiers was opposed at Groton's Fort Griswold by 164 citizen soldiers.  In the end, the colonists lost the battle with casualties of 85 killed and 60 wounded.

Some 230 years ago common people; farmers, merchants, tradesmen rose to the challenge, left their families to defend their cause with many never to return to their loved ones.

The second event, also a far away event but in distance rather than in time, was a phone call from my oldest son.  He called to inform me that his 24 year old brother-in-law was in the ICU of the hospital fighting for his life after a four story fall on September 3rd. It was shocking to learn that someone so young and healthy was so quickly in life threatening circumstances.  No one had expected it.

The third event was having a former teacher befriend me on Facebook.  I had been one of her students 50 years ago.  It was a reconnection to my past.  It is an opportunity for me to show her the impact and influence that she has made upon my life from her doing her job so many years ago.  Just as events mold and shape our world so do people to our lives.  I have expressed gratitude in general for the education that I received in the Groton public schools.  However, I have yet to personally demonstrate my appreciation on a personal level to one of the teachers that helped to motivate me and give me some of the tools to use later in my life.  I now have an unexpected opportunity.  However I do have some trepidation that my former English teacher may start to hand out grades on these blog entries.

This coming week also marks the tenth anniversary of the 9-11 terror attacks.  I have written of that day before.  My perspective on that day is a little different than that of many of my friends in that I was living in Brasil.  Much of what I experienced of that time was through BBC International television.  However in the aftermath of that horrible day I was struck by a couple of things.  The first were the final calls from victims in the buildings and planes to their loved ones, the final good byes, and the last words that they felt compelled to express.  The other thing were the countless stories of remorse of survivors of the victims of how they had not kissed them or told the victims how much they were loved or how much they meant to them that day.  The victims had gone off about their lives just as any other day.  Just as any other day they were expected to return home.  Things that needed to be said or should have been said were reserved for a later time; a time that never arrived for so many people.

I remember that in the time after the tragedy of 9-11, we all were more appreciative of each other.  We all held our loved ones closer and dearer to ourselves.  I suspect that we were also much more expressive of our feelings and emotions regarding each other.

Over the passage of time, for many of us, old habits have reestablished themselves.  We may not kiss our loved ones every morning upon waking.  We delay telling someone how much they mean to us or how much we appreciate them because we expect there will be tomorrow or some other day to do it.  But there will always be a September 3, September 6, or a September 11 for someone and no tomorrow for them.  There will be no later time to say or do what should or could be done today.

As we approach the tenth anniversary of 9-11, let's not forget to tell those around us how much we love them, how much they have impacted our life, and how much we appreciate them being in our life.

Monday, September 5, 2011

History Re-Written?

Last Saturday, 3 September 2011, was a special day in Groton, Connecticut.  The commemoration of the 230th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Griswold, sometimes referred to as the Massacre of Fort Griswold, was held.  I will be writing a more detailed blog on this event later.

As part of the festivities, people from throughout Connecticut and Rhode Island came to Fort Griswold State Park to participate in reenactments of colonial period military and civilian activities.  Just as their are people who join Renaissance, American Civil War or Medival re-enactment organizations, here in New England there are American Revolutionary War groups representing American Patriots, British, Hessian, and French soldiers.

These people bring to life our history and make history more interesting to especially small children.  Surprisingly even old history buffs such as me end up learning or seeing something new.

Could He REALLY Be Who I Think He Is?

Well Saturday was somewhat of a shock for me.  I was wandering around taking photographs of the various participants when I came upon a group of "British" soldiers from Rhode Island.  I immediately recognized one of the soldiers for he is one of my favorite heroes.  Although I had studied history four years in high school and even four years of college, I was amazed to see "The Little Corporal", The Sacred Emperor Napolean Boneparte in a British uniform!

Never in all my classes or any of the books that I have read was there any mention that Napolean had fought in the American Revolution.  He had fought in the French Revolution but it was actually against the rebels.  He had served in the French Army and never as a "Redcoat".

Napolean?  In the British Army?
I asked the British Sergeant if he was aware that one of his men was perhaps the Emporer Napolean.  He seemed astounded at the possibility.  As for "Napolean" he claimed that he did not have any French blood in him.  He claimed to be of German, Irish, and Italian extraction.  "Hmmmm" I thought to myself; "Napolean was actually from Corsica which is part of Italy".  This soldier was showing some deftness typical of statesmen.  He denied being French but said he was descended from Italians all the while not admitting he was from Corsica.  I did not have the time to fully investigate but there appeared to be a conspiracy here.  I will perhaps leave it to Glenn Beck and others to pursue this further.

As we engaged in small talk, I noticed that the soldier appeared to relax and let down his guard ... or rather placed his hand inside of his tunic, an all too familiar posture for the man known to be "Napolean Boneparte".

Perhaps this was all a coincidence.  Perhaps this was a case of mistaken identity. Or perhaps some sinister forces are truly trying to rewrite history.

No matter the truth, it was a great day as well as quite a bit of fun.

Rest well and lay in peace. Mon Emperor, ; where ever you are.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour In Galilee (Rhode Island)
Duang and I have been in the USA for seven months now.  Caring for my parents takes up most of our time but on occasions we do get out for a few hours.  I am not able to take as many or the types of photographs that I prefer back in Southeast Asia.  Here in the USA people are more sensitive and suspicious of having their photograph taken; and even more so of photographs of their children!  Back in Thailand and Laos, people are honored to have you take their photograph and even more so photographs of their children.   Up until around 1999, the vast majority of my photographs were of landscapes and animals with perhaps as little as 5% being of people.  Now, outside of the USA, 90% of my photos are of people.

Saturday, Duang and I drove over to the Washington County Fair in nearby Rhode Island.  I wanted Duang to experience a quasi-rural county fair.  I brought along my camera gear in anticipation and hopes of getting some photographs.  The Fair was nice but after about two hours, Duang was a little intimidated by the amount of people and was tired.  I had taken only 6 pictures and was quite conscious that the few people that I would consider photographing were not all that willing to be subjects.  Undeterred we moved on to Plan "B".

On previous trips to the area, we had toured some of the areas that I had frequented during my years at the University of Rhode Island but we had yet to spend any time at the local fishing villages.  Plan "B" was to drive down to Galilee, have some dinner, and take some photographs during the "Golden Hour" which is sometimes referred to as the "Magic Hour"  If I could not take photographs of interesting people, I would fall back on to what I used to shoot ... landscapes and work on some portraits of my willing model Duang.

The "Golden Hour" is roughly the time just after the sun rises in the morning or the time just before the sun sets in the evening.  It is at this time that the sun is low on the horizon which produces a much softer and more diffuse light than the midday sun.  During the "Golden Hour", shadows are not as dark or as sharp as during the other times of the day.  The light is also warmer with more of a reddish hue.  This time is also a time when magic can occur.

Nossa Senhora do Carmo By Day, Ouro Preto, Brasil
The strongest example of the magic that I have experienced occurred in Ouro Preto (Black Gold), Brasil in November 2000.  Ouro Preto is a colonial mining town located in the state of Minas Gerais.  It is the location where gold was first discovered in Brasil. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Center.  It is a beautiful and fascinating place to visit and even more so; to photograph.
The center of town is dominated by many large colonial structures one of them being the church, Igreja Nossa Senhora do Carmo.  The church is covered in stucco which like the concrete structures of Asia develops an unattractive "patina" of soot, smoke, mold and mildew making the buildings a dull light grey with streaks of black if they have not been recently power washed.  It is what it is.  However it can be at times marvelous especially during the "Golden Hour" when everything is magically transformed.

Igreja Senhora do Carmo During the "Golden Hour"

I had been walking about the city all afternoon long with my wife when we were headed into the center of town to have dinner before grabbing a taxi to our possada on the outskirts of town.  Walking the streets of Ouro Preto can be a challenge.  The town is very hilly, some of the streets are quite steep, and many of the streets are cobble stoned.  Along with the elevation of 1,100 meters (3,400 ft) and heat, these factors all contribute to tiring you out.  As we were crossing over a small stone bridge during the "Golden Hour" just prior to making our way up to the city center, I saw Nossa Senhora do Carmo unlike anytime before during our stay.  It was completely bathed in gold - golden light.  It was awesome.  Since my wife was tired I had her sit on a bench placed on the bridge, while I hustled up the steep street to get a better perspective for photographing the sight.  I ended up taking 7 pictures.  Seven pictures?  At the time I was shooting film so I was much more prudent in the number of photos that I took than today with my digital cameras.  After taking the seven shots, I excitedly returned to where my wife was waiting.  I described how beautiful the scene was and when I turned around to point out the golden scene, the light was already gone.  My "Igreja D'Ouro" (Church of Gold) had transformed with the dying of the light into a cold drab bluish grey building.  The entire metamorphosis from a light grey black streaked building to a golden shrine and then to a cold drab bluish grey structure had taken about 15 minutes.  Although the magical time is referred to as the "Golden Hour" it is not exactly an hour because of location and locale.  Because Ouro Preto is closer to the equator and because it is so hilly, the magic lasts much less than an hour.

"Igreja d'Ouro"

Eleven years later back in the USA, I had no expectations of capturing the magic of Ouro Preto but I was looking forward to seeing what could be made from the "Golden Hour" in Galilee, Rhode Island.  Like most places and all people, a great deal has changed in the 40 years since I left the area.

Where fishing boats used to command center stage in the center of the port, the two Block Island ferries, one traditional and the other high speed, dominate the port as well as surrounding land.  George's Restaurant is still at the mouth of the port serving up their famous chowder and fritters along with other seafood fare.  The restaurant is much larger than I remember and I am certain that wait staff are children and grandchildren of the staff that I was familiar with.  A great surprise was despite the cost increases, the food was better than I remembered and the best clam fritters that we have had since we arrived in America.

After our dinner we drove down to the edge of town where the fishing boats now are docked.  It was around 6:50 PM and it was a perfect time.  Other than a few people boarding charter vessels for night fishing excursions, we had the docks to ourselves and the sea gulls.  There was no one around to tell us what we could not do.  There was no one around to look out for us and to question our intentions or motives.

Duang and I walked along the various docks enjoying the sights and smells of a working fish dock.  I took some photos of moored boats and other things.  As in Brasil the "Golden Hour" was also a "Magic Hour".  The low sun was transforming ordinary things into extraordinary sights.  The diffuse warm light enhances the colors and textures.  I took some photographs of  a pile of fishing gear on the dock - a mundane subject if under the harsh light of the afternoon sun but very interesting under the soft light.

Duang was enjoying the moment by taking her own photographs with her camera.  We were on the dock that service boats with ice when I got the idea to take some portraits of Duang, my always willing model.  With the limited opportunities to take my documentary style photographs of people, I have been looking into learning more about studio lighting for portraits.  I have researched renting a studio and studio lighting as well as attending a class related to studio lighting hopefully in the near future.

In some aspects the available light on the dock in Galilee was the type of light photographers work to create in the studio artificially.  I decided to try some techniques out, after all it was free and I enjoy photographing Duang.

Duang In Galilee ... Galilee, Rhode Island
Duang On The Dock Of the Bay, Galilee
Duang Enjoying the "Golden Hour"
We spent 25 minutes photographing and enjoying the summer evening.  Around 7:15 PM the light quality was diminishing rapidly.  It was time to head on home.

It Is All About the Light
Our afternoon out had worked out very well.  Just as often the case is in life, things did not go as we had hoped or expected.  Just as in life we adapted and made the most of the opportunities that did present themselves.

In photography, we are all presented with the opportunities and magic of the "Golden Hour".  If you can get outside, it is there for you everyday and for free.  You may not be able to take the exact photographs that you typically do, but you can learn to broaden your perspectives and enlarge your focus - a worthwhile endeavor and pleasant way to spend any evening.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Now Showing ...

Sawasdee Thai International Restaurant, Groton CT
It is now official and available for viewing ... the first public display of some of my photographs.

Seven of my photographs, selected by the restaurant owner, are now on display at the Sawasdee Thai International Restaurant, 764 Long Hill Road, Groton CT in the Groton Plaza Shopping Center and will remain there for six months.

The frames, backboards, acrylic, and mats arrived on Thursday afternoon from Documounts in Portland, Oregon.  I was extremely impressed with the packaging of the items that I had ordered for this exhibit. All items were well protected and arrived in pristine condition.

Duang assisted me in assembling the metal frames, and mounting the photographs, which had arrived the previous week from Adorama in New York City.  The afternoon went by quickly as we assembled three sides of the metal frames, attached the selected photograph to the black archival mat, removed the paper backing from both sides of the standard acrylic sheet, inserted the acrylic sheet into the frame followed by the matted photograph and then the archival foam board before finally installing the last piece of the frame along with mounting hardware - all the while ensuring that no fingerprints or debris were captured in the process.

"Bent At The Waist" 2009
12"x18", Black Mat, Black Metal Frame

"Lao Loum Labor" 2008
12"x8",  Black Mat, Black Metal Frame

"Duangchan and Family Planting Rice" 2009
12"x18", Black Mat, Black Metal Frame

"Ma Jon and Mother" 2006
12"x8", Black Mat, Black Metal Frame

"Garlic Harvesters of Ban Huai Phueng" 2009
12"x8", Black Mat, Black Metal Frame

"Isaan Songkran Fun" 2010
12"x8", Black Mat, Black Metal Frame

"Ubon Ratchathani Dancers In the Rain" 2010
12"x8", Black Mat, Black Metal Frame

Yesterday afternoon, between the lunch and dinner servings, Duang and I brought the framed works to the Sawasdee Thai International Restaurant to show to Tai, the owner to ensure that the works were acceptable.  She was very pleased and wanted me to hang the photos right then and there.  I drove back to my parent's home to gather the tools to hang the photos ... tape measure, framing square, plumb bob and line, hammer and level.  Walking back into the restaurant with the tools, I felt like I was back in my old days as an apprentice pipefitter some 44 years ago.

I had previously made a scale drawing of the available space and had developed a layout for the photographs so the task at hand was to locate the points for hanging each frame on the wall.  Once again Duang was most helpful and supportive in assisting me to complete the task.  We were both very happy with the end result.  The owners and staff at the restaurant were very pleased also and complimentary.  The display meets the goal of Thai life - "Good for you.  Good for me".

I have a public venue to share and perhaps sell some of my work.  The restaurant has a complimentary addition to their decor.

After hanging the photographs, we returned home to make dinner for my parents.  We then returned to the restaurant to have an intimate dinner - just the two of us; a rare and most welcomed occurrence for us.  Naturally we selected the table across from the photo display.  The food, as always, was excellent.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Photography Exhibit Update

"Bent At The Waist"

A while back, actually almost 3-1/2 months ago, I wrote about being inspired as well as encouraged to develop a photography exhibit of some of my work.  I have not given up on that endeavor and I have been busy developing and redefining my original concept.

A local business has offered me some space to display some of my photographs and to handle any sales that may arise.

The prints have been selected and the prints arrived two days ago.  Frames and other mounting materials have been ordered and through the power of the Internet I am able to track their progress across the USA for a scheduled 5 August delivery.

I have been using in New York City for several years for prints as well as my other photography equipment needs.  I have never been disappointed with their products or service.  I have even had them ship items to me in Thailand.  The prints that arrived the other day were sharp and correctly colored just as all the other prints that I have ordered over the years.

Only recently I have gotten into mounting and framing of my photographs.  After researching suppliers on the Internet, I selected for my supplies.  Documounts has an extensive selection of frames, mats, and supplies required to display photographs.  Like Adorama, you are given a tracking number for your shipment.  I found that the pricing from Documounts to be very good and their customer service to be excellent.

This will be the first public display of my work and the process has been a learning experience.  Developing an exhibit, albeit a small exhibit, requires a great deal of work.

Based upon the three books that I have produced, I have developed a style for displaying my photographs.  As in my books, the photographs will be surrounded by a black mat.  The displayed photographs will be placed in black metal narrow frames to avoid distracting from the photograph as well as for economical considerations. Separate labels will be mounted below each of the framed photographs.  The labels mirror the style utilized in my books; black background, yellow lettered captions, and white lettering for information.

Prior to producing labels, I had to give a name to each piece of work and determine a price for the work.  Developing a price for your work can be quite daunting,  Photography discussion groups on the web are filled with people asking for help to price their work.  Fortunately I have had plenty of experience in pricing work related to construction projects so I did not have to seek assistance. However I did some research on what other people were charging for similar photographs and evaluated those prices against my wants and needs to develop my pricing.
Labels Created In Photoshop Elements

With names and prices determined, it was time to develop the individual labels.  I had read on the Internet that one person produced their labels using Photoshop.  I decided to try and make my labels out of Photoshop Elements, a watered down $100 version of the $600 Photoshop software program.  Using Photoshop Elements, I was able to create individual 1.5 inch high by 3.5 inch wide labels.  I created a jpeg file to print three labels per 4 inch by 6 print.  When all the labels were completed, I uploaded the files to a flash drive, drove to a nearby CVS Pharmacy, and printed the photographs on a Kodak Kiosk.  In five minutes I had my prints and was ready to move on to the next step of the process.

The 4x6 prints were glued to 3/16"  thick foam board using Scotch Craft Stick.  After allowing the glue to thoroughly dry, I cut the individual 1-1/2" x 3-1/2" labels using a metal straight edge and an Exacto knife.  The edges of the foam board labels were painted with black acrylic craft paint.  After the paint was dry, two small circles of double edged sticky foam were affixed to each label to complete the process of making individual labels for each displayed photograph.

The next order of business was to design the layout for the display.  This required taking measurements of the space and drafting a scaled drawing to develop the arrangement for the photographs.  Either through dumb luck, beginner's luck or Divine intervention, the layout was rather easy as well as symmetric - and more importantly fit the available space!

Discussion groups on the Internet are filled with tales of anger, disappointment, and betrayal regarding people doing business.  The standard question that is sent in response to the initial posting is usually along the lines of "What does the contract say?"  invariably the original poster acknowledges that there was no formal contract.  Having dealt with many claims and a few of construction lawsuits over the years, I understand how important and helpful a contract can be when conducting business.  I am hoping to avoid a personal tale of woe so it was back to the Internet to research contracts and consignment agreements.  Once the research was completed, I developed a proposed contract for the exhibit that is intended to meet the needs and concerns of both parties involved.

It appears that the exhibit will be set up by the middle of August.  I will announce the location when it is available for viewing.

In the mean time I have made a submittal to a local gallery involving my original concept for an exhibition.

Monday, July 18, 2011

URI LXA Reunion

Giving Credit and A Tribute to My Own Ones

Yesterday, Duang and I enjoyed a very special day; a day spent with some of my fraternity brothers, their wives, and some of our special friends from our days at the University of Rhode Island.  I had not seen many of the people since 1971.  Through the technology of the Internet I have reestablished contact with some of them through FaceBook but such interactions are rather restrictive as well as limited.

It was through FaceBook that I discovered that many of my fraternity brothers were reuniting for the weekend.  Yesterday I received the details and drove over to Rhode Island to become reacquainted with people with whom I share a common experience.

This morning as I reflect upon the friendship of yesterday and the bonds established 44 years ago, I am reminded of similar feelings from a previous visit back to America a couple years ago.  Just as then ...
I would like to share one of my favorite (I have many) songs that seems to summarize my emotions and thoughts so well regarding this reunion. Although I am not Irish, the words and thoughts of this song are meaningful and applicable to me and I believe to everyone. I found the lyrics on tp://

Artist: Van Morrison

Album: Irish Heartbeat

Title: Irish Heartbeat

"Oh won't you stay

Stay a while with your own ones

Don't ever stray

Stray so far from your own ones

'cause the world is so cold

Dont care nothing for your soul

That you share with your own ones

Don't rush away

Rush away from your own ones

Just one more day

One more day with your own ones

'cause the world is so cold

Don't care nothing bout your soul

That you share with your own ones

There's a stranger

And he's standing at your door

Might be your best friend, might be your brother

You may never know

I'm going back

Going back to my own ones

Come back to talk

Talk a while with my own ones

'cause the world is so cold

Don't care nothing 'bout your soul

You share with your own ones

Oh won't you stay

One more day with your own ones

Don't rush away

Rush away from your own ones

This old world is so cold,

Don't care nothing for your soul

You share with your own ones"

I came back this time to be with my own ones - some of my friends from a distant past and a far away land of my youth.  More importantly, Duang was able to meet some of the people that influenced me and we had shared our youth together.

I was surprised and very pleased with the caring and camaraderie that I shared with some of my old friends yesterday. Some friends, I had last seen and spoke with during my last year of college back in Rhode Island in 1971.

Despite the lengthy physical separation, the bonds of our shared experiences during the four years at the university survived the years and tribulations of our individual lives. Although we physically changed a great deal, spiritually it was as if we were reunited after only a short semester break. Some people say or perhaps they wrote that making friends in New England is very difficult but that when you do make a friend, you have a friend for life.  Yesterday was truly a testimony to that fact.
I am not so sure that it true that New Englanders are not friendly - it just might be that they are suspicious!  However I know it to be true that a New England friend is a friend for life. There is no need to call, write, or visit often. The friendship is kept and maintained in the heart as well as in the soul.

Life is surprising and can not always be explained. Often it is best to accept and enjoy its richness for what it is. Yesterday was such a time for all of us - a time to celebrate and share our individual lives and the common experience of living.

"Oh won't you stay

One more day with your own ones

Don't rush away

Rush away from your own ones ..."

Duang and I stayed late into the evening as if trying to make the day last even longer, or to bask in the warmth of the day's camaraderie a while longer.  But duties and responsibilities remain so we had to leave.

However, it is through this blog and the Internet that I hope to continue to talk to and to be with my own ones.

I leave proud and happy to have seen and talked with my own ones once again.  Although the world in America has grown old and is experiencing serious economic hardships, their friendship as well as camaraderie survives and prevails. I am a richer person for the friendship, affection, and love of my own ones. I give them credit and I pay them tribute - "Thank You".

I am sure that you too share the wealth of your "own ones".  It is one of the treasures of life.


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