Monday, May 29, 2023

Memorial Day: more than a long holiday weekend

Today is Memorial Day. For many, it's merely the end of a long holiday weekend. For others, it's a time of reflection and an opportunity to say thank you to the men and women who have fought to protect us.

Living in Philadelphia, America's birthplace, I am surrounded by history, landmarks, monuments, and many important places well described in our history books. While you're reading my column this morning, I'm likely returning home from Washington Square, one of William Penn’s original five squares, where I will have stood in a moment of silence with many others, recognizing the sacrifice made by so many unnamed and unsung heroes of America's past.

I will have have stood at the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier, and its eternal flame perpetually illuminating it, guarded by a bronze statue of America's first President, George Washington.

Washington Square, originally a potter’s field for burying the poor and indigent, is the final resting place for as many as 5,000 unknown Revolutionary War soldiers. John Adams, shortly after walking through the Square in April, 1777, wrote to his wife Abigail, saying in part,

I have spent an hour this morning in the Congregation of the dead. I took a walk into the “Potter's Field,” a burying ground between the new stone prison and the hospital, and I never in my whole life was affected with so much melancholy. The graves of the soldiers, who have been buried, in this ground, from the hospital and bettering-house, during the course of last summer, fall and winter, dead of the small pox and camp diseases, are enough to make the heart of stone to melt away!

As a photographer, I have been privileged to visit many battlefields, at home and abroad, on which our service men and women gave their lives for our freedom. I've visited the blue-green waters of Pearl Harbor, and the shores and fields of Normandy. I’ve visited battlefields of the U.S. Revolution where we defeated a British despot, and of the U.S. Civil War where we fought, too often, brother against brother.

The pain and misery and courage of those who fought there remains palpable to this day.

In my sojourns, among the most moving experiences I’ve had, were my visits to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and Omaha Beach, Normandy, France.

At the Arizona Memorial in Hawaii, seeing the oil slick atop the USS Arizona, I shook my head in silence. At the Omaha Beach cemetery, staring at row after row of stark white markers, far too numerous to count, in my mind's eye, I heard my wife's uncle's account of the harrowing test of death and survival in the terrible hours after dawn on Omaha Beach, a mere sliver of sand, so beautiful and serene today.

If you’re a student of history, and we all should be, if you have a chance to visit these battlefields, don’t miss the opportunity. Both locations should be on every American's bucket list.

Upon your arrival at the Pearl Harbor visitor center you'll notice an almost party atmosphere. Hundreds of people are taking in the exhibits, and purchasing souvenirs at the gift shop.

Once you’re on the launch taking you to the Arizona Memorial, the mood quickly changes. By the time each person takes their first step on to the Arizona Memorial, sitting atop the eponymous battleship, only hushed voices, even from children, break the silence. As you peer down to the oil slick below, made by the fuel oil still seeping out of the Arizona’s tanks, you’re struck by the realization that the ship remains the final resting place for much of its crew.

When you park at Omaha Beach, you can't see beach, the memorial, or the cemetery. Leaving the lot, you enter the memorial grounds and walk to the edge of a cliff. The English Channel, almost 100 miles wide at that point, stretches out before you, and below is the narrow slice of sand, which became known as Omaha Beach. Standing in the footsteps of the German army, high above the beach, you immediately understand how difficult it was for the American soldiers to break through the German position. You understand why the beach became a brutal killing field.

Then you walk to the left. Before you, lays row after row after row of white markers; Latin crosses and Stars of David. The rows of markers go all the way to the horizon. There are 9,387 American soldiers, men and women, buried there. Even those who have seen hundreds of images of the cemetery, are jolted when finally standing on the bluff above the beach with the unending rows of grave markers before them. As visitors first see the grave markers, all conversation stops. Slowly, those who have come to pay their respects, some bringing flowers or photos or a small stone to lay on a marker, walk among graves in silence, broken only by families speaking of longing and sacrifice.

I hope that at some time during the holiday you have taken time to say “Thank you,” and recognize the contributions of countless men and women who gave their lives for your safety and freedom.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Happy New Year 2022 - Update your copyright notice!

I hope it's a happy and healthy year for you!


Welcome to 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic is seeing unprecedented infection rates and among the unvaccinated extremely high levels of hospitalizations, ventilator usage and deaths. If you've been following my articles and columns in various publications, especially at Travelers United, you know I've had little time to write about much else, during the second year of the 21st Century Pandemic.”

Unfortunately, due to the Omicron variant, the holiday upsurge of COVID-19 infections likely won't begin to subside until the end of January, at the earliest. This seems like deja vu, doesn't it?

While we have the means to bring the pandemic under control, though likely not end it, unfortunately political misjudgment and ballot greed, plus cult-like conspiracy group think have replaced scientifically obtained determinations and commonsense, with junk and pseudo science for tens of millions in the U.S. and more across the globe. As I'm writing this first NSL Photography Blog article for 2022, more than 291 million have been infected by the COVID-19 virus, with more than 5.4 million succumbing to it, across the globe.

If you're not already doing so, please protect yourselves and your family. It's commonsense. It's ethical. It's moral. Mask up! Social distance! Avoid crowds and crowded spaces, particularly indoors where aerosolized virus is deadly! Don't touch your face, especially your mouth, nose and eyes, before you wash your hands! Wash your hands frequency, for at least 20 seconds, with soap and water, not missing the area between your fingers and don't forget your thumbs! If you can't wash, use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol!

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Photographing fireworks on New Years in cold climates

July 4th fireworks in PhiladelphiaNew Years comes this Saturday, and with it, across much of the U.S. like across much of the globe, that means fireworks displays. In much of the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia, that also means cold weather.

Photographing fireworks takes planning and knowledge at anytime, but cold weather makes photographing fireworks even more challenging as we have to contend with both the cold which will sap the strength strength of your battery and can cause condensation to form on and in your camera and lens. Dressing for cold weather can also make it more difficult to handle your camera.

Here are my tips for photographing fireworks in cold weather.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Beware: a new study shows that tobacco smoke and vaping aerosols kill eye cells

A new study shows that smoking potentially damages the eyes more than anyone thought, as smoking can kill the eye's corneal cells.

Graphic: Anatomy of the Human EyeTobacco use has been scientifically linked as a cause of heart disease, stroke, chronic pulmonary disease and lung cancer. The data on smoking and those diseases is undeniable. The deadly health effects of tobacco have been well known since 1964, when Luther L. Terry, M.D., then Surgeon General of the U.S., released the first report of the Surgeon General's Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health.

In addition to those diseases, smoking can impair human color vision acuity, an extremely serious problem for photographers and visual artists.

This past September, Scientific Reports, an online peer-reviewed journal published by Nature Portfolio, published a new study about smoking and vision. “Cigarette smoke extract and heated tobacco products promote ferritin cleavage and iron accumulation in human corneal epithelial cells,” by Wataru Otsu, PhD, DVM, et. al. from the Gifu Pharmaceutical University, Gifu, Japan. The study details the alarming problem that cigarette smoke and baked tobacco aerosols from vaping devices can kill the eye's corneal cells.

Even without this new information, for photographers and visual artists or for anyone who needs their eyes in top working order, we already knew that the effects of smoking on vision is frightening.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

If you're in the U.S., did you reset your clocks to standard time, but forgot to reset your camera's clock?

Clock in Musee d'Orsay in Paris, France

If your location in the U.S. changed from Daylight Time to Standard Time this past Sunday, you need to remember to change the clock in your cameras too. If you didn't remember, you can change it today.

To change your camera's clock to Standard Time, set it back one hour, or if it has a Daylight Time adjustment, turn it off.

On Sunday, November 7, 2021, most, but not all of the U.S. switched from Daylight Time to Standard Time. Some parts of the U.S., including Arizona, except for the Navajo Nation within the state, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands never switch to Daylight Time. They stick to Standard Time throughout the year.

The switch between Daylight and Standard time isn't universal among nations across the globe. More than 100 countries never change to Daylight Time and of the countries that make the switch, many do it on different dates than the U.S.

Travelers in Mexico are often confused by the back and forth disposition of the swap between Daylight and Standard time there. That's because Mexican border cities near the U.S. generally keep their clocks synchronized with the U.S. to reduce confusion, but if you travel further into Mexico, you quickly find that most of Mexico resets their clocks in April and October, not March and November, as is done in the U.S.

The time of day in the U.S. could become more disparate in the future.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Making great fall foliage images: surprising tips for success

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum impoundment pond in fall.

Too often when photographers think about fall foliage photographs, they're guilty of target fixation.

They're only thinking of photographing fall foliage colors in rolling hills, vast fields and grasslands, solely in rural areas or parks, in bright sunlight and blue skies. While no one can deny that fall foliage images in those areas and conditions can be magnificent, there are many other locations and conditions than can produce equally or even richer photographs of fall foliage.

As autumn leaves change color and slowly fall, photographers need to expand their vision to the wide variety of photographic opportunities that are available to them. Scenes that include ponds or lakes like my image above, that include reflections of the green red, yellow and orange colors in the water can greatly enhance the fall seasonal feeling we look to obtain in fall foliage photographs.

Other opportunities to create these images with their intense colors can be found in rain and morning mists and fog, in urban areas, town centers, small villages, farms and in both landscapes and close-ups. Fall foliage photographic opportunities are virtually everywhere we find deciduous trees, trees that shed their leaves annually.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

A guide for group wildlife walks and hikes to increase everyone's enjoyment

Adult Bald Eagle at the Conowingo DamWhile there are times that photographing wildlife is a solitary activity, personally I also love photographing wildlife on walks and hikes with friends, or on organized bird, butterfly, plant or wildflower walks or on a wildlife photowalk. They're all great ways of seeing wildlife in action in the natural world. They give me a chance to capture images and videos of living nature while in great company.

Much of the reason those “walks” appeal to me is they have a major social aspect. They give everyone on them a chance to be with old friends or maybe meet new friends. They give many of us a chance to help others improve their wildlife knowledge, viewing and identification skills, while learning from them too. For me, they are also opportunities to help others improve their photography both technically and artistically and perhaps have them help me grow in those ways too.

For the uninitiated, much of the lore about wildlife walks and hikes from years ago doesn't reflect what they're like and can be like today. They're no longer staid, silent hikes with everyone in safari khaki, or camouflage, outfitted with backpacks filled with birding and other ID books galore. While good walking or hiking shoes are still preferred, almost any kind of casual, personal clothing is more than acceptable.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

16 Easy ways to give your Independence Day fireworks photos pizzazz!

Whether using a Mirrorless camera, DSLR or Smartphone, you can make great fireworks photos, if you follow these easy to use suggestions.

Philadelphia Museum of Art, July 4th FireworksIn the U.S., Sunday is July 4, Independence Day. The nation's second president, John Adams, is in large part responsible for how it's celebrated. In his July 3, 1776 letter to Abigail, his wife, he said that the day should be celebrated “with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

The Pennsylvania Evening Post stated that in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777, “The evening closed with the ring of bells and at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks (which began and concluded with thirteen rockets) on the Commons and the city was beautifully illuminated.”

Fireworks are extremely bright and persist for a few seconds, typically against an almost black background. Focus and particularly the exposure settings for fireworks' photos aren't straight-forward. If you're in the U.S. this week, here are my fireworks' photography tips for digital cameras and smartphones.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

MoMA is startlingly trying to use your photos for free, forever!

Fotoclubismo Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964 MoMA ExhibitionThe Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City is soliciting photographers to join the MoMA Photo Club and submit photos to MoMA in honor of their new exhibition, Fotoclubismo Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946–1964. To add to the exhibition, MoMA is challenging photographers to “get outside and get creative” and participate in their new photo club by submitting photos to it.

They explain that every month they'll have a new challenge for photographers to submit new photos to the club. In their image solicitation, MoMA states,

“Share your own Abstractions from Nature—take a closer look at the world around you. How can you photograph something familiar in nature from a new perspective? Try zooming in; make it hard to guess what it is you’re capturing. Notice textures, search for new shapes, and play with angles.”

They follow saying,

“We can’t wait to see what you make. Share your photos with us using #MoMAPhotoClub. Select photos will be featured on our social channels, the MoMA website, and on digital screens in select New York City subways.”

If it's enticing to you to have your images featured on MoMA social media sites, their website and other publicly available locations, you better continue reading on the MoMA Photo Club page, past the video. You don't want to miss their critical statement about MoMA's rights to your photos submitted to MoMA.