Class Assignment: Finals Week

The photo editor of the college paper sent me out to get some photos of last-minute cramming during finals. I tried the college library but couldn’t find anyone studying. Really?

My deadline was nearing and it just didn’t seem to be going very well until I went upstairs to the library in the Student Union. Surely, there would be students immersed in their books? Highlighters highlighting?

Well, no so I shot what I saw; the photo editor liked it and put it on the front page of the student paper.

Fortunately, there were no repercussions from the subjects in said photo. We were more genteel in those days.

This is another example of a photo that needed a lot more work, but we were limited to what we could do: blow the dust off, play with exposure time in the lab, dodge and burn a little during exposure time. Photoshop didn’t exist then. Neither did PCs for that matter.

Next assignment: let’s see if I can improve these three photos.

Class Assignment: Informal Portrait

I hadn’t had much luck finding a good subject for the informal portrait. Things just weren’t working. So instead, I was trying to take a few photos of my clarinet (not for this assignment, of course) when my friend Dan came in. He asked if he could borrow the instrument for a few minutes and I handed it to him.

I had no idea he could play it but this guy was good. Really good. Way better that me, for sure.

I asked if he would pose for a few photos of him playing, which were nice but not what I needed. Finally, I asked if he’d just pose with the clarinet and I got this photo.

This photo, like most of them from college, were certainly not close to a professional quality. So it seems appropriate to use this photo and the others to finally start to learn Photoshop.

Class Assignment: Illustrate a Poem

I have a lot of old photos and negatives. A lot. Tons. Gazillions. Most of them are not very good, so I’m culling the herd this winter. I hung on to a few black and white photos from my photojournalism classes because I just couldn’t let them go. And lucky you, I’m going to post three of my old class assignments here this week.

This is, dust marks included, the result of two separate exposures on a single sheet of photo paper. Sandwiching the negatives just didn’t work.


People riding trains are nice
they offer magazines
and chocolate-covered cherries,
the details you want most to know
about their recent operations.
If I’d been riding home to you
I could have listened with both ears
but I was on my way away.

Across from me
there was a girl crying
(long, silent tears)
while an old man held her hand.

It was only a little while ago you said,
Take the seat by the window,
you’ll see more.

I filled the seat beside me
with my coat and books.
I’m antisocial without you.
I’m antiworld and people too.

Sometimes I think
I’ll never ride a train again.
At least not away.

— Rod McKeun

Come together. Please?

Part of the World Trade Center tower retrieved after 9/11

During this cocktail of misinformation and pandemic, I am stunned by how ill-informed so many people are. How can women who remind me so much of our neighbors when I was growing up, believe so many conspiracy theories?

That might be the easiest question to answer: the women of my childhood were well informed. The Internet and cable television did not exist then. We basically all read the same newspapers and listened to one of three news broadcasts on television. And no, the news was not propaganda. It was a competitive market, which actually raised the level of journalism.

The current women I see distrust the local news and newspapers, and instead, feed on ludicrous, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. How do you debunk a negative when someone has been programmed to believe only that negative?

So let’s look back a few more years: specifically to September 11, 2000. Even now, I think most of us can agree that the terrorist attacks against the United States were horrendous.

Well planned and executed, they threw the country into–if not chaos–then what? Edginess? Fear? And then resolve.

Since two of the four airplanes took off from Logan Airport in Boston at the time, and since I lived a mere 18 miles from the airport, it all became personal to me. Those fall days following the attacks were wonderful New England Fall days. The beautiful weather belied the truth, and maybe we needed that.

I would go to bed at night and listen to the jets flying above my home. Logan Airport was closed to all commercial flights, so I knew these were military planes protecting the border. I’d like to say that I felt safer, but I remember one nightmare where I was outside on a beautiful day and caught unprepared for an approaching atomic bomb. In my dream, I dropped to my knees as the blast hit us. The flash was overwhelming. Was I dead?

No, but I was troubled, and relieved, to wake up and realize that this particular atrocity was a dream.

I know the current events are, however much they seem like a nightmare, not a dream. And I’m not at all sure how we return to reality.

The lot that got away

Is that an Interstate Highway I see before me??

Some time ago, around the time that I was optimistic enough to think I could pack up and move to Vermont and still somehow support myself, I found this vacant lot for sale. The fact that it was affordable should have tipped me off.

It was a wooded lot (as advertised) but it was a wooded lot:

  • On the end of a private gravel path. The future owners of the house next door used the lot as a driving range. This made my dog very happy — not to be hit by incoming golf balls, but in finding about three dozen of them where our living room would have been.
  • Above but still next to (I mean really, really next to) Interstate I-89.

On a brighter note, the architect I spoke with was very cool.

Let’s give thanks

Photo credit:

Let’s see: Thanksgiving is over and Christmas looms ahead as the pandemic rages on. What are we giving thanks for?

We just have to be creative thinkers. Sometimes you have to be grateful for what you don’t have any more.

If you, like me, are watching a lot of television and are annoyed by the repetitive commercials — mostly by automobile and insurance companies — I do have a little good news: The Medicare enrollment period ends on December 7th!

That means the insurance companies can pack up their commercials for another year. This doesn’t exactly mean the peace comes to our valley, but it does mean that we don’t have to listen to all those pitches for a few months. Goodbye Joe Namath, United Healthgroup, Humana, Aetna, et al.

Phil Swift has never looked so good.