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Archive for December, 2011

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Stirring Up the Leaves

You need patience when shooting film. You must wait until the film is developed before you know which (if any) of your images were successful. I love it when I develop a roll of film, scan the negatives and discover keepers.

Click to enlarge

I took this picture of Maddy and Livvy, sitting on the curb, playing with the leaves, back in November. The occasion was a party at Sue’s for the twins’ third birthday. The girls were too busy with the leaves to pay attention to me and I captured the moment with a nice candid.

My camera that day was my Bessaflex with the 50mm screw mount Takumar lens attached. I love the 50mm focal length and this lens is premium glass. I think of this camera/lens combination as a poor man’s Leica. The lens dates back to the early 1970s when Pentax was in direct competition with Zeiss. If you were to buy a new lens of this quality today it would cost you well over $1,000. It’s a great people lens and I find the 50mm focal length perfect for candid shots of kids.

The film was Tri-X, still a great film even after Kodak has changed the emulsion a few times over the years.

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You might do a double take when you see the first photograph. Are you looking in a mirror or are the girls twins?

Say hello to Maddy and Livvy, our three year old twin granddaughters. The occasion was a Christmas concert at the local grade school. Two of our older granddaughters, Sara and Emily are in the school choir. They were scheduled next. Maddy, in the background, standing on her chair, conducts the school band. Her performance was stellar. Livvy was only standing for a minute, probably because Maddy was standing.

Here’s a shot of the band for context. These kids were pretty good too.

The photos were shot with my Bessaflex and 50mm Takumar screw mount lens. The film was Tri-X @ ISO 1,250 — no flash.

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Stories have been a fascination all my life. When I was a kid I read constantly. Story time, when the teacher would read to us, was my favorite part of the school day. I enjoy good stories, read nearly every day and can’t imagine life without books.

There would be times when I thought to myself. “I wish I could write stories.” I never did. I’d think I didn’t know how, was afraid to try, didn’t have the time or some other excuse. A few years ago I made up my mind that I was going to write creative fiction. Maybe I’d start tomorrow, the day after or next week. I’d tell myself “John, you can do this, you can write stories.”

Well, I finally did it. Two weeks ago (give or take a day) I kicked my butt, hunkered down and wrote the first draft of a short story titled “An Emerald Ring.” Nine drafts later, the story is finished and here’s the opening paragraph:

“Aunt Nellie never missed a chance to be the center of attention even if she had to drop dead in the middle of dinner to get it. What had been an ordinary Sunday dinner suddenly became Aunt Nellie’s last supper when, fork halfway to her mouth, the old girl fell over stone cold dead, face down in her mashed potatoes.”

Have I tempted you? Not to worry, you can download the complete story, An Emerald Ring (right click on the link and save to your system) with my compliments.  After you’ve read the story, please stop by and leave your comments.

I offer the story as a pdf file and recommend you download to your computer and print it out for a professionally typeset four page copy. Open the file with your pdf reader (probably Adobe reader) and select print. Of course you can read the story on screen if you like.

“An Emerald Ring” isn’t the end of the story, simply a stop on my journey as a creative writer. I’ll be working on my next story as soon as I figure out what that story will be. Maybe I’ll discover what that is as I write. And I plan to write a series for The Aware Writer describing my journey as I wrote “An Emerald Ring.” Enjoy and do come back and comment.

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Wishing all of you, my friends who come to visit (and your families), a Christmas season filled with peace and love. Thank you all for your kind words, for enriching my life and for the opportunity to share our passions for photography, writing and life itself with each other. You’re the best.

Merry Christmas from John

This photo was taken in 1947. The kid in the short pants sitting by the Christmas tree is me when I was a wee lad of three. I scanned this image from an old B&W photo about a month ago. I restored it, cropping it a bit to get rid of the worst damage around the edges and cleaning up the rest. Then I adjusted the tones (using curves) and gave it a sepia tint to warm it up and inject a touch of nostalgia along with the magic of a child’s Christmas. Kudos to the family photographer, whoever it was.

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New Section —  Photo Books – where you can download a free copy of Saigon 1966: Volume One – Black & White, the ebook version (pdf).

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Two good things about my Christmas spent in Vietnam in 1966: When any of us received a care package from home we shared and I didn’t have to shovel snow. Phila., my home town, had a massive snowstorm on Christmas Eve that year. We, on the other hand worried about sunburn (among other things).

Merry Christmas from Vietnam 1966

Here’s a shot of three of the guys in our outfit digging into a Christmas care package someone received from home. Did I mention that we always shared? I converted this scan from an old color slide because I prefer the B&W version.

Merry Christmas to all and please share. Speaking of sharing,  I added a new tab to the Aware Writer this evening Photo Books  where you can download a free copy of Saigon 1966: Volume One – Black & White, the ebook version (pdf).

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Once again, I scoured my archives for old images that reflected the spirit of the Christmas season. Today’s photos were taken on Christmas Eve, ten years ago with my now obsolete 2 megapixel Olympus digicam.


Nearly everyone in the neighborhood participated. We all lined our driveways and walks with candles inside white paper bags and lit them at an agreed upon time on Christmas Eve back in 2001. It made a lovely scene. Here’s a shot of our home that I made from the sidewalk.


Here’s another, closer view of the same subject. I probably used the zoom lens on the camera to move closer. I remember using a tripod and the EXIF data confirms my memory. The shutter speed was two full seconds.

I couldn’t decide which of these images I liked best so I offer both.

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