Summer photo workshop, Stowe

There have been a few changes around here, which I may write about at some point, or that possibly could result in my finally retiring from from the blogging business (not that this site has ever generated any income, that was never my intent) altogether.

I had the chance to take part in a photo workshop at Stowe this week, it was led by Brian and Emily of Ember Photography. This was a similar in format to a previous workshop I attended in late December 2008, also at Stowe, that was held in brutal winter weather (images from that frigid day here). This session was held on a humid, hazy summer day -- a pretty rare event, in this cool wet summer -- at the top of Mt. Mansfield.

The instruction and advice -- dictated by the interests and abilities of the group -- was quite basic, I've noted (and not just at this event), that a good percentage of those who purchase DSLRs, seemingly don't read camera manuals, or make a concerted effort to figure out the device's capabilities... Oh well, to each their own, and it was good to spend a day out with the camera, I think my opportunities for this in the next six months or so, will be quite limited.

Antennas and crowds: The top of the mountain does not feel like wilderness.

Trying to capture tiny wildflowers growing on the rocks - without much success.

It was a hazy summer day with relatively low visibility from the top of the mountain.

Wildflowers growing on a ski trail lower down the slopes.

Wild strawberries were flourishing.

I snapped this when I got home -- blue skies have been a rare sight this summer.

The three images above were taken with a 28 mm manual focus lens (Kmart brand, though nicely made), I noticed that on a bright day and stopped down to f/8 it is sharper than other lenses that I have -- when I can get the focus right.


Lamoille County Field Days

Just a few images from the 2009 Lamoille County Field Days, Johnson, Vermont, a setting I found to be very far removed from suburban Chittenden County or even Waterbury, which is dominated by some large local employers and where farming has almost entirely died out.

I faked my way into the house-pulling arena (which was not open to the public) by carrying my camera and looking like I was someone important or official, perhaps I should print up a 'Midnight Modern Conversation' press pass for use in these sorts of circumstances. Alas, I did not have a long fast lens and the lighting was tricky, but this image does convey a small sense of the size and power of these impressive animals.

Old tractors on display.

A different kind of horsepower: Dirt flew and engines roared during the truck pull, which attracted a large crowd. Regardless of the state of the domestic auto industry, there were no Toyotas or Nissans in evidence.

Eight dollars admission (plus $1 parking) included free rides on the midway, although I did not partake.

The start of fair season is a sign that summer - which seems to have never really arrived, warm, sunny days have been few and far between - is sliding by, it will not be too long before faint signs of autumn's approach become evident.


Green shoots, of a sort

I could write a blog post about the continuing tailspin of the Vermont economy and the massive -- but not at all surprising -- collateral damage (story here) to the state government's finances: "I told you so," or something similar. I did write here (May 18th) referring to the state budget debate, that:
...I feel like I am being lied to and that unpleasant truths are not being spoken out loud.
Harsh, but in light of how things are playing out, I stand by my words -- which isn't always true of what shows up here.

It's been a rather gloomy, gray summer, perhaps less heavy rain than last summer's deluge, but characterized by many dark, showery days and temperatures running below normal, the weather has caused problems for agricultural operations large and small. I have some tomatoes in containers and the lack of warm, sunny days has not been good for the plants. The forecast, however, for the next week is at least somewhat optimistic, so maybe things will start to ripen up.

The damp weather, however, is condusive to spreading a fungus (potato blight, cause of the Irish potato famine) that quickly devastates the plants and the disease is apparently becoming endemic in the Northeast (NYT story here) -- so it is touch and go if these plants will even survive until the end of the season.

Similiar to many other situations in my life, I try and be at least slightly optimistic -- even though I know that viewed coldly, objectively, rationally, the prognosis probably isn't very good.


Montreal, Vieux-Port at night

I could have gone to see another Cirque de Soleil performance on a recent trip to Montreal, but I chose to wander through the Old Port with my camera instead. It was twilight and I used an old, cheap, plastic manual focus 50mm f/1.9 lens (the fastest lens I have) for these images, many of which were taken wide open.

My Pentax K100D Super is a pretty awesome low light camera and it worked surprisingly well as night came on in the city. It was somewhat of a challenge to work with only one, not very wide, fixed focal length lens, but the exercise does makes one think about composition instead of just reflexively zooming in and out -- most images have minor cropping and sharpening, that's about it for post processing.

Holga girl: Right before I took this, she snapped a photo of the street performer with a plastic Holga camera.

The performance: juggling fire in the square in front of Montreal's Hotel de Ville.

Sunset on the quays by the river.

Streets and alleyways as night fell.

A couple of architectural images, not the best lens setup for this sort of thing.

In a very dark bar, pushing the camera to the limit.


Three years, one month, three days: The blog abides, and I guess I take comfort in that*

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun. -- Ecclesiastes 1:9
'An Emblematic Print on the South Sea' by William Hogarth

I write of a time of soaring enthusiasms followed by crushing disappointments, frivolity, bubbles, crashes, and fears of national bankruptcy: not the squalor of the present age, but Great Britain in 1720. A tip of the proverbial hat to William Hogarth, inspiration for the title of this blog -- though, if I was starting a similar project now, I think I would be partial to "Diogenes' Lantern".

I let Memorial Day 2009 slide by without pausing to mark the anniversary of this site, which was inauspiciously launched at the end of May 2006. Much has changed since then, and one of the minor little themes running through the various postings here, is that keeping this blog going, is both pointless and burdensome, but for an unfathomable combination of reasons, I persist, despite of two factors:
  • This site is more likely to be detrimental, than helpful, to my off-again, on-again, job search. I fear that any prospective employer that stumbled onto it, would likely conclude that the author is a neurotic person with an unhealthy degree of self-absorption, or something similar.
  • Blogging is passé in the age of twitter, texting, Facebook, etc.; and traffic -- never substantial to begin with -- has declined with the rise of the new instant gratification social networking sites. In a partial attempt to combat this trend I have created a personal twitter account that I use mostly use to promote new blog postings -- with limited success.
Anyhow, assuming that I can figure out a way to stay solvent in the coming year, I imagine that I will keep this site alive in some form or fashion, using it as my own little online soapbox to publish photos, commentary on events of local import, stories of my misadventures on bikes and skis, encounters with wildlife, etc. I know what shows up here is by definition unimportant, but so long as Google (perhaps not feeling as omniscient and infinitely wealthy in these recessionary times) gives me some free server space to work with, I'll keep it going. In a chaotic time with a host of vast macroeconomic forces (most not of my own making) arrayed against me it is a slender thread to hang onto as I try to stay afloat.

*A Big Lebowksi reference: "The Dude abides. I don't know about you but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' he's out there."