Category Archives: Photography

Will we ever learn? I hope so…

By Jon Pine

Yesterday, for a brief moment, my depression and anger over the unfolding environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico lifted. I watched as two birds who were rescued from certain oily death were released back into the wild – gently scrubbed free of oil, nourished and nursed back to health by veterinarians with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Jon Pine

“Lucky,” a young male Northern Gannet, and a young male Brown Pelican were flown by chartered plane from Louisiana to their new home in the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge near here, in Indian River County Florida. As I watched the birds paddle out into the water and eventually take flight – after nearly a week in captivity – my heart also soared a bit, and for a moment, my faith in humanity returned. Maybe we won’t destroy ourselves and our planet in my lifetime after all.

A variety of public, private, national and local agencies were responsible for bringing these two fellows here to their new home. With so much attention paid to two little critters, perhaps we CAN muster the will necessary to change our ways and move toward a day when man-made catastrophes like this just don’t happen.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents release a Pelican that had been rescued from the oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

In a way, the story of these two birds and their new home is a perfect metaphor for the raging debate over fossil fuels versus clean energy. For your consideration: Why, of all places, were they released here? There are several answers:

For starters, the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is far from the site of the slick. It also happens to be located smack-dab at the nexus between the tropics and the subtropics – and as such is, arguably, the most biologically diverse estuary in the United States. Hundreds of species of birds, fish and mammals live here, including 15 listed as endangered or threatened.

In other words – this is Bird Heaven to these two guys. I would imagine that within hours of their release they’ve each found others of their species to hang around with, fish with, mate with, and just generally live a sludge-free existence.

"Lucky" the Northern Gannet is released into his new home.

So how did this bird heaven come to be? Glad you asked! President Theodore Roosevelt established Pelican Island as the country’s very first national wildlife refuge in 1903. Why? So glad you asked again! It has to do with fashion: At the turn of the 20th Century, birds like Pelicans and Gannets were hunted almost to extinction for their feathers – which were prized like gold to decorate ladies’ hats and other fashion accessories.

Teddy Roosevelt – a conservative Republican, by the way – recognized that something needed to be done or many species of birds would end up extinct.

Today’s conservative Republicans don’t seem to share Roosevelt’s understanding for the environment and our natural resources. Like the demand for the prized bird feathers of the early 1900s, today’s insatiable greed for oil profits threatens to doom hundreds of species of animals – this time in the Gulf of Mexico. But conservative Republicans, and a few conservative Democrats, continue to cry “Drill, baby, drill!” Even President Obama included new offshore drilling in his energy reform plan. Hopefully, he is doing some hard thinking about that right now.

What will it take for them to learn? Another exploding oil rig? It’s not far-fetched to believe that it might happen. Did you know that, in the Gulf of Mexico alone, there are more than 3,800 active oil and gas drilling operations? Do we really need more of them in such an environmentally sensitive area?

And can we agree to stop calling the Gulf oil well catastrophe a “spill”? It is a man-made underwater crude oil geyser and no one seems to know how to make it stop.

This morning as I write this, and as the oil geyser continues to spew into the Gulf, the three stooges at the center of this catastrophe – British Petroleum, TransOcean and Halliburton – will be pointing fingers of blame at each other during a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The very idea of it reminds me of the final scene in Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” where the surviving participants in a jewel heist point guns at each other, while accusations fly about who among them is the undercover cop. (Without spoiling the movie for those who haven’t seen it, suffice it to say, that scene ends very, very badly.)

There’s a corny old saying: When you point your finger at someone, your other three fingers are pointing back at you. It’s trite, but true, in this circumstance. We all should have demanded better from our leaders long ago. At the very least, demanded stringent safety regulations on ALL drilling rigs. Better yet, demanded a moratorium on offshore drilling in environmentally sensitive areas.

But better still, demand that we finally, forcefully, consistently move clearly in the direction that would eventually take us off of all fossil fuels.

If we don’t, we may run the risk of extinction, just like our feathered friends at the turn of the 20th Century.

For more photos of the wild bird release click here.

© 2010 Jon Pine

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Filed under Current events, Journalism, Photography, Politics, Posts by Jon Pine

Real Products You Can Buy, Eat, & Use

BY ROBERT SMITH

Every so often, you pass something in a store that makes you glad you live in this Land O’ Plenty, as the variety of products and services we have at our fingertips here is just another sign that, well…we love to buy and produce some pretty odd stuff.

Here’s a brief compendium of head-scratching concepts, products, and foods:

This is a brand of slider lock that’s on the door of a stall in the men’s room of a bowling center that I roll at. I shudder to think what’s on the women’s room stall door – Vag-Hida, perhaps?

What follows is a can of dog food; the full name is “Lord Of The Manor Gourmet Sliced Chicken Dinner In Gravy Dog Food.” Love this label so much, I can’t describe it; it’s as if they Googled a couple of stock images, and Viola. One of the listed ingredients is “water sufficient for processing.” I wouldn’t let my dog near this stuff on a bet from a Newfy. Available now at fine stores such as National Wholesale Liquidators!

Finally … THE most hilarious canned product EVER…some of these food items, I’ve never even heard of..oh, my lord.

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Filed under Humor, Photography, Posts by Robert Smith

Regrets and resolutions

by Jon Pine

It’s that time again – the year is winding down, a new one will start soon, and thoughts naturally settle on reflections of what was, mixed with hopes of what will be. As a self-employed photographer, the last couple of weeks of the year tend to be kind of a melancholy time for me. I’m often so busy I don’t really have a chance to get into the holiday spirit.

Jon Pine

So, Grinch-like, I start to hate the “c” word – Christmas. “Can I get it in time for Christmas?” is the standard question. I want to say, “Sure, you can have it in time for Christmas, if you ordered it two weeks ago when I told you to!”

But no, I bite my tongue, and I rush it, and work late, and drive the 60 miles to the lab to save a day on shipping, and scramble to get out-of-state orders to FedEx before it closes.

One year, I even had a woman tell me that I ruined Christmas because her order didn’t arrive on time. Never mind that she waited until the absolute last minute to order reprints from a portrait session that took place months before. And never mind that she lived in such a remote location that, unbeknownst to me, FedEx can’t get there overnight.

I ruined Christmas. That’s gotta be right up there with the meanest things you can say to a person. Sigh.

So forgive me if I’m not in the cheeriest of moods right now. For me, the holidays mean a lot of sucking up and tongue-biting – two things that really go against my nature. Which brings me to this little story:

A few years back, I found myself working on New Year’s Eve, shooting formal portraits of well-dressed, well-heeled couples at a tony Florida country club. Actually, I had already put in a full and busy day, so by the time I got out of there – shortly after midnight – I was tired, cranky, and most of all, hungry. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and that lack of sustenance was giving me a nasty headache.

So I stop off at Denny’s on the way home. After a short wait, I am seated at a booth. The only restaurant open at that hour, it starts filling up fast with booze-drenched New Year’s Eve revelers. And of course, Denny’s, in its infinite wisdom, only scheduled two waitresses to the night shift.

As I pore over the menu, I hear a raspy voice behind me start reading the menu aloud: “Oh look, the Heartland Scramble! Two scrambled eggs with bacon, country-fried potatoes, green peppers…”

When I say she read the menu, I mean she read the entire menu. Every. Single. Item. In that raspy voice, like fingernails on a chalkboard!

Every word – “Moons Over My Hammy…” – every syllable – “ham-and-egg-scram-bled-sand-wich… – began to radiate up my spine like small electrical charges. “Served with hashbrowns or French fries…”

A clearly frazzled waitress arrives with a glass of water, takes my order and bustles off to another table full of rowdies. The raspy reading continues: “You can build your own Grand Slam!  Pick any four items and make it your own…”

So I turn around and shoot her a glare that I hope will say, “Do you mind?” But she and her companion are oblivious. The raspy-voiced woman is 50-ish, a little disheveled, dressed in faded jeans and a black T-shirt with some sort of biker emblem on it. Her silent but patient companion is in his 30s, also kind of unkempt, wearing a raggedy gray hooded sweatshirt. A far cry from the ritzy couples in tuxedos and gowns that I had just photographed.

“Trailer trash,” I’m thinking, my mood darkening even further. My stomach growls. “Where is that damn waitress with my food!” I look around to see if there’s an empty table I can move to, but there isn’t. And still, she continues: “Two thick slices of our Fabulous French Toast…”

Seething, I turn around again, prepared to vent my spleen on the raspy-voiced woman and her rumpled companion, and then I notice. I see. I understand.

And I am ashamed.

The rumpled companion is blind. And the raspy-voiced woman is reading the menu to him.

As my eyes fill with tears, I suddenly realize that at that moment the raspy voice is perhaps the most beautiful sound in the world, and I can’t seem to get enough of it: “Three scrambled eggs with Cheddar cheese, two bacon strips, two sausage links…”

My food arrives, but I’m having troubling eating because of the lump in my throat. I make a New Year’s Resolution to be less quick to judge, less quick to anger. To continue biting my tongue.

Because I don’t want to be the guy who ruins New Year’s Eve.

© 2009 Jon Pine

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Mama, they’re taking my Kodachrome away

Jon Pine

Jon Pine

by Jon Pine

Another title for this piece might be, “Kodachrome: A Love Story.” (With apologies to Michael Moore).

Sigh. Sometimes progress can be bittersweet. Technology advances so quickly that we often move on to “the next great thing” so fast that we fail to fully appreciate the last great thing. It also makes you feel somewhat expendable yourself. So… yesterday.

Comes the news this month that Kodak will stop manufacturing Kodachrome, its flagship color transparency film that for nearly 75 years has captured hundreds of millions of images, some of them iconic.

Introduced in 1935, Kodachrome captured the crash of the Hindenburg in 1937, Edmund Hillary’s historic ascent of Mount Everest in the 1950s, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. It was also widely available to amateur shutterbugs, who documented less lofty events – family picnics, trips to Niagara Falls, graduations, birthdays, weddings, you name it.

So ubiquitous was this film that Simon and Garfunkel wrote a hit song about it:

Kodachrome, they give us those nice bright colors

They give us the greens of summers

Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, oh yeah

I got a Nikon camera, I love to take a photograph

Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away.

There’s truth in them thar lyrics. Long before I started shooting professionally, I was drawn to the sharp details and wonderfully rich color saturation of Kodachrome 64. My first serious camera was a Minolta SR-T 201 – a fully manual 35mm single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. I was still in high school.

Shooting slides while you’re learning photography is great for two reasons: 1. It only cost a dollar or so to process a whole roll of slides; and 2. What you see is what you shot – meaning, the slides you get back are the actual film that was in the camera. With print film, adjustments are made during the printing process to correct your exposures. But just as in life, you learn more when you can identify your mistakes.

Even mundane subjects – the family cat, my brother leaning on a tree, pumpkins lined up on the edge of the porch – seemed to “pop” when captured with Kodachrome 64. The “64” stood for 64 ASA, the film’s sensitivity rating, or “speed.” 64 ASA is on the slow side, which meant you had to have lots of light and use a relatively slow shutter speed setting. You might even need a tripod to steady the camera.

I even got fancy and experimented with Kodachrome 25. A close-up of a ladybug crawling on a sunflower. The fiery foliage of a Catskill Mountain autumn. A bushel of fresh-picked apples. You never saw such rich, vibrant colors!

Later, as a commercial photographer, when I needed to shoot a food layout with, say, a steamed lobster surrounded by fresh vegetables, I instinctively reached for the Kodachrome. Peppers were redder, eggplants purpler and cucumbers greener. I could count on that.

Sure, Photoshop in the right hands can come close. But the expediency and convenience of the digital age still leave me hollow sometimes. There is a certain comfort in knowing that a particular product will perform exactly the same way time after time. And there is comfort in knowing that product will always be around.

Today, Kodachrome accounts for less than 1 percent of Kodak’s sales. So it has been unceremoniously relegated to the dustbin of history. Even though I haven’t shot a single frame of Kodachrome (or any film, for that matter) in well over five years, it feels like a little piece of me is dying with it.

Or maybe I’m just letting my nostalgia get the better of me, as happened when I recently wandered across these two items online:

Item One:

Polaroid is re-introducing its instant-film camera. Honest to blog! And I’m not talking about their new digital camera that has a tiny printer built into it, but a modernized version of the old, boxy camera that spits out a photo that develops before your eyes. Check it:

http://www.polapremium.com/news?date=2009-10-13

After years of wrangling over the licensing of its patented instant film technology, Polaroid is poised to re-introduce the film and camera next year. Interesting tidbit I never knew before: The Polaroid Land camera was named after its inventor – Dr. Edwin H. Land. He really was a genius, creating a truly unique product that virtually everyone has owned at one time or another.

Item Two:

The ’70s rock band Cheap Trick have reunited and released a new recording, “The Latest,” which is available – believe it or not – on 8-track tape:

http://boingboing.net/2009/07/05/cheap-trick-releases.html

Who among us over 40 didn’t have one? What an odd format – four 10-minute programs – but you could play them in your car!  Now if I can just remember where I put my 8-track player… Oh yeah, I threw it out – 35 years ago!

While it’s highly unlikely that I will purchase either of these items, it’s comforting to know they will be available out there somewhere. Like me, and maybe like you, they are relics of a bygone era, stubbornly hanging in there against all the odds.

Which means there may be hope for my beloved Kodachrome after all…

© 2009 Jon Pine

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Filed under Journalism, Photography, Posts by Jon Pine