About this blog title

I cannot tell you how many times I have shown up at events with a couple of cameras around my neck, a gadget bag full of odds & ends and a lighting kit and have been asked that question. If it happened once every few years, that would be one thing. But it happens a LOT. It's like getting pulled over by the police and he's standing there with uniform, gun, flashing lights and asking him "Are you a cop?" I would love to come back with a witty reply, such as "No, I am Jesus. Don't you recognize my beard?" However, I cannot be that rude.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ithaca Stringed Instruments Mandolin

The photos here are of Eric Aceto, luthier, owner of Ithaca Stringed Instruments in Trumansburg, N.Y. This is a mandolin that he just completed. I snapped these photos yesterday while I was there to pick up my guitar. I left my guitar with Eric last week to have the bridge re-glued and the frets leveled and crowned. My guitar is a Guild Mark V classical, built in 1984, rosewood sides & back, spruce top. The guitar has had a lot of use and a lot of wear. The work Eric did on it has made it like a new instrument. The intonation and playability are greatly improved.

I don't know Eric very well. I dropped my guitar off last week, spoke with him for probably less than a half hour. I picked it up yesterday and probably spoke with him for another half hour. But, based upon those short visits and my observations, I think the man is a genius. I was also struck by what a keen ear the man has. He tuned my guitar in seconds, and accurately. I can tune it by ear, but not anywhere close to the speed that he can. I believe that having such a keen, refined ear is what seperates a good luthier from a GREAT one. Aceto is a GREAT one.

"So much comes from the player and their attitude. If the player believes in the sound, it's there." Eric Aceto

Monday, May 28, 2012

Roof Leak Repair

I am a land lord and as such have property that needs maintenance. Today I mowwd the lawn, then I repaired a roof leak. It was at my four unit Clay st place in Watertown. The leak was around the plumbing vent pipe. The photos show how I set up a couple of ladders to make the repair. My 32 foot ladder got me up where I needed to be. Roof brackets and a plank were fastened next. Then a four foot step ladder was laid on the roof and that was my perch. I then used a whole tube of silicone to fill in the cracks, seams, and what ever. By the time it was all said and done, it was a three hour job.

Strange Winter Dreams

I am anxious to get out of here this morning for I must mow the lawns in watertown (my rental places) for it looks like rain.
I went to bed extremely tired last night. I got a solid eight hours sleep. I know it was a deep sleep because it was littered with dreams, almost night mares. They all took place in Winter and involved bodies of water. The most prominent dream took place by a partially frozen river with deep snow all about. The river banks were rather high, probably 10 or 12 feet. A man I did not recognize stepped out on the snow covered ice. One of his feet broke through and into the water. He then fell bckward and crashed though the ice and became totally submerged. I became allarmed. I wanted to save him. The current dragged hime a short distance and he stopped just below the surface. I could see him clearly. He was looking through the water at me. I wass yelling to hime to try and get his face out of the water to take a breath. His winter clothing was weighing hime down. I was also trying to look for a long stick or object to reach out to him to take a hold of. My brother M from Dallas was there. If we had a couple more people we could form a human chain to reach him. The clock is ticking. Then brother M stands with his back to the river, pinches his nose, closes his eyes and falls backwards into the river. He gets a hold of the man and successfully pulls him from the river. That was one of the scenes.
Another scene involved me as a passenger aboard a strange motorized vehicle operated by un unfamiliar man. He drove down a bank to a lake and proceeded to drive out on it. I became somewhat panicky because there were open pools of water amid the snow on the lake, so obviously it was not frozen enough to support a vehicle with two people on it. I do not recall any more of that segment. Dreams are most interesting and entertaining. But what is the significance of this one or any of them.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Robins Snag Flying Ants in Mid Air

To day was a spectacular one here in Chaumont, N.Y. At least weather wise. It was over 80 degrees F. I spent the morning doing guitar practice, made some guacamole, made some coleslaw. Then I went out and bought some tomato plants. I mowed the lawn. I dug up one of the garden beds. Then I grilled some Hoffman hot dogs and had a couple of Burning River beers. While we were eating in the back yard I noticed a Robin snag a flying insect in mid-air. That was the first time I had ever seen such an acrobatic feat performed by any bird. So I grabbed may camera & tried to catch some snaps of it.

These two photos were snapped a fraction of a second apart. I only had a 200mm lens so the image area occupied by the bird was quite small. I had to crop in tight to make them usable. Consequently the image cannot be blown up too much wothout even more loss of detail. Anyhow, I copied & pasted the two photos into the one. I used Photoshop for that.
It turns out the Robins were snagging flying ants. The sky was quite full of them. The one in the photo was crawling on my leg. I gave it a swat before I knew what it was, so, he was somewhat crippled when I took this photo.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Guitar Playing At H Lee White Marine Museum

It is Saturday morning. The sun is shining and it looks like we will have a wonderful day here in northern NY. I am teaching guitar today at Musicology in Watertown. I am also going to play a few pieces afterwards in the store. They like to feature their teachers on ocassion.
Yesterday I played guitar at the H Lee White Marine Museum's trustees reception in Oswego, NY. It was a two hour gig, 6-8:00pm. About 50 people in attendance. I used my 1984 Guild Mark V classical guitar amplified a bit with the Fishman SoloAmp 220. As these type of gigs go I was very pleased with my playing. In fact it was one of the best. I was also well received and got many compliments.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Triceratops In Long Grass

I was mowing my celebrity brother's lawn this afternoon and suddenly: CRUNCH! I struck a Triceratops that had been in the long grass for some time. I thought these creatures were extinct. Upon closer inspection I learned this one came from China in 1999. It's not a fossil. It's plastic which is made from petroleum, a fossil fuel. I find that very interesting.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dunkin Donuts Car

Look at what I saw today while driving in the North bound lane of interstate Route 81 near Syracuse. It's a Dunkin Donuts Car. I've seen the Oscar Meyer Weiner mobile but this was the first DD car I've seen. As usual I was en route to a photo shoot when I encountered this car. My camera is always at the ready so it was easy to make these "snaps". I passed the car. I then held the camera at arm's length at the passenger door window. I do not look through the view finder. I have a wide angle lens set with a small aperture, auto focus, high speed frame rate. I keep my eyes and attention on the road. I slow down a bit and the DD Car catches up to me & as it passes by me I push down on the shutter release. A dozen frames or so are taken and I am able to glean these two you see here. I of course crop them because the original framing is less than ideal. One cannot frame a photo with out looking through the view finder. These photos are strictly a record of what I encountered during a drive. To show others what I saw. Nothing artsy or profound. It is one of the ways I use photography.
I used a Nikon D300 with a 17-55mm f2.8 Nikon lens.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sunny Day

It is a nice, Sunny morning here in Northern, NY. I am teaching guitar today at Musicology. The photo presented here was taken yesterday in Oswego, NY.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Trying Out An iPad

I am typing this with e Better Half's new iPad. I hope to get one soon. The portability would be nice. The laptop is cumbersome. this, however, will take some getting used to. The small key pad. I have fat fingers. I seem to be doi g a good job. With an iPad I can go out to the garage or in the basement or anywhere out of view of the Better Half and make my blog entries or what have you. Much handier than setting up the laptop. Anyway, I am just babbling just to practice typing on e iPad. Redundant too. Hope all is well with you. Oh, it has been rainy And cool here in Chaumont, NY today.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Nikon D7000 Back Focusing Problem

It is a beautiful day here in Chaumont, N.Y. The sun is shining, there's a nice breeze blowing through the trees. Just ideal for working on the wood pile. I had this wood delivered from a man in Rodman NY. This is the third time I have bought wood from him. It is mostly cherry. I wish I could spend the rest of the day here. However, I must go photograph a couple of jobs for the Post-Standard. I also have to edit photos I took yesterday for a freelance job.

This is a self portrait of me and the wood pile I have been stacking this morning.

So here is what I
ve been up to. This past Wednesday I played a 2 hour guitar gig at the Carthage Savings and Loan. It was a wine tasting and art show fund rainsing event for the Carthage Library. A most enjoyable event. Saturday evening I attended the Syracuse Press Club awards dinner. I was recipient of a first place award in the spot news category. I got home and into bed around midnight. Sunday morning (yesterday) I drove to Cicero for the freelance job. The photos were for Discover Card. They sponsored a contest involving the Stanley Cup. The winners were from Fulton. THe event took place at an ice arena in Cicero. Anyhow, I spent the day documenting the event and taking photos of of all the Discover Card signs that were placed in the arena, the locker room, the lounge, etc. I also went to the winning family's home and photographed them with the Stanley Cup. I left the house yesterday morning at 8:15 and got home at 8:00PM. A long day. It was made more stressful than it should it have been due to the cameras I was using. They were a Nikon D700, and a Nikon D300. The biggest problem was with the D7000. It has a terrible habit of back focusing. Sometimes the simplest of images were not in focus. Most frustrating. I had to continually check & double check every photo for correct focus. Then there is the constant tweaking of exposures. I spent as much time studying the pictures on the camera's screen as I* did looking through the viewfinder to make the pictures. I'm re;living the stress as I write this! I simply cannot go into all of the details right now because my time is SHOT! Suffice it to say that the D7000 is not rerliable unless you are very diligent and constantly monitor what you are doing. Otherwise you will have more soft pictures than sharp ones. So, I had to overshoot everything yesterday which means I have a much bigger editing job than I should have as I wade through, scrutinize and delete a million unsharp photos, praying that I pull enough acceptable ones out to satisfy the client. That is no way to work.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Guild Mark V Guitar & Fishman Soloamp at Wine tasting

Yesterday I played guitar at a wine tasting/art show that took place at Carthage Federal Savings & Loan, a bank in Carthage, N.Y. I used a Guild Mark V classical guitar that I bought new in 1984. Many years ago I had a piezo electric pick up installed in it. A couple years ago I bought a Fishman Soloamp 220 which I use at gigs like the one at the bank. There were probably a hundred people there at the height of the event which ran from 5:00 to 7:00. After the first hour my playing seemed to me to have improved. I took a short break and mingled with the folks and got some positive feed back. In parrticular the two organizers of the event were p-leased with what I had to offer. A local radio personality was in attendence and spoke to me briefly. He really liked the music I played and was particularly pleased with Blue Moon. "I loved your arrangement of Bluse Moon!" he said. He went on to tell me what a favorite song of his it is and how he has recordings of many different arrangements of it. The one that I play was arranged by Laurindo Almeida. After Blue Moon I went directly in to Almeida's arrangement of Lara's Theme, better known as Somwhere My Love, the theme song from the movie Dr. Zchivago. The radio man then said " Then you played Lara's Theme and, OH!" he clasped his hands together, placed them over his heart, leaned a bit backward, his head pointed toward the cieling, his eyes rolled dreamily, "It was Heavenly." A couple of other folks mentioned how much the enjoyed Blue Moon also. Near the end of the evening, about the 3rd to last piece I played was Cancione de la Hilandera (Song of the Thread Spinner), a tremolo piece by the great Paraguayan guitarist Augustin Barrios. As I reached a climactic point about 2/3rd throgh the piece a woman came up to me (as I am playing!) and gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek and said, " Your playing is amazing!"
Then I went over to a man from the Tug Hill Winery and had a short chat that resulted in me probably playing at the winery during ine of their Thursday evening Wine Down events. So, that was good. I must be sure to follow up on that.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

226 James St., Clayton, N.Y.

This photo is of 226 James Street in Clayton, NY. It is owned by Greg & Karen Lago. Until a few weeks ago it was home to Winged Bull Studio and Teaism. I drove by there today and snapped these photos. It's really sad to me to see the change. For me it was a source of great inspiration.

I cannot help but think that the village of Clayton has been left with a void. The local art community certainly has. From my view one could not break into the local arts scene with out first walking into Winged Bull Studio and meeting Greg Lago. Greg is a wealth of information about every worthwhile artist from Buffalo to the Adirondak Mountains and beyond. And I am talking about all artists. The more obscure ones that design type faces and hand print books. If you were good at what you did and were lucky you might be one of the few to exhibit at Winged Bull. Greg would do one or two shows a year, some years none. To have a show there was an honor. I was one of the lucky few.
Greg is primarily a wood engraver and Winged Bull was his work place. When not printing his engravings he was framing pictures, sculpting wood, painting furniture, listening to great music, making coffee, engaging in the most interesting conversation. Anytime I needed a lift, whether it be psychological or to get out of a creative rut, Greg and Winged Bull would do it. You never knew what you would find when you walked in the door. It was always a visual delight. I will miss it immensely. I'll have to swing by his house in future and hope to get the same lift.

However, another thing that made Winged Bull (and Teaism) so awesome was the people that came through the place. All manner of people. The down and out folks that appeared homeless (but actually live at a half way house down the street) were greeted by Greg as warmly as a wealthy client in town for the Summer. Senator Moynihan's son was a regular visitor. The couple that owns the largest Corvette parts manufacuring plant were regulars. I saw a destitute old woman come into his studio one day wanting to sell her watch. Greg gave her some time and some money. Any other merchant would probably have sent the old gal on her way with a threat of calling the police.
And there were musicians. There were wonderful parties, terrific food, wine, beer. It just kills me to see such an institution closed. I don't have the time here to really write about just how much I loved Winged Bull Studio and Teaism and to explain to you all how magical of a place it was. It is getting late for me and I do not have the time to get into the magic that was Teaism. But let me try to be brief.
Teaism was an outdoor Summer eatery featuring terrific food by Karen Lago, wine, beer and a variety of teas. It was a tea garden. For the last three Summers I would play classical guitar there, usually on Wednesdays or Thursdays from about 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM. The setting was small, intimate, exotic. If someone were to pluck you out of your bed while you were in a deep sleep and took you to Teaism, and you had never been there before, you would awake and think you were somewhere in Europe. You would awake to a dream. A dream of fine food, drink, and music.

So, do you see my dilemma? My source of artistic inspiration has shut it's doors. I never again will sit under the shade of that little tree in Teaism's garden sipping wine and playing guitar. When I was there I was in HEAVEN!

Here is a memory for you. One Winter night Greg & I were at Winged Bull preparing to go to a party at jazz singer Sam Hopkins house (also in Clayton). Greg offered me a beer from his fridge. It was a Dundee Indian Pale Ale. This was the first IPA beer I ever had. I took one sip and was floored! I later wrote a blog entry that that was the best beer I ever drank! From that day on my beer drinking took on a whole new dimension.
Let me clarify something. Winged Bull was Greg's operation and was his artistic outlet. Teaism was wife Karen's culinary arts outlet. Teaism was located in a small, fenced in court yard behind the studio. People would come to visit Greg and check out his artwork and discover Teaism. Other people would come to Teaism for the food and discover Greg's art work. WOW! I walked i ther the first time and was BLOWN AWAY. I saw that tea garden and instantly said to myself " I must play guitar here!" It was the most PERFECT venue for what I do. Let tell you another truth. I normally charge a hundred dollars an hour to play some where with a fee of $250.00 for the first hour. (So if you want me for one hour it's gonna be $250.00 and $100.00/hr after that. Got it?) BUT, Teaism was so good for me, such a perfect fit, I played there for tips. And actually, after the first Summer I basically said to Hell with the tips. Anyone who ever ate lunch there while I was playing guitar got to hear the best I had to offer at that time in my life. I am sure that Greg & Karen do not understand why, (& I'm not sure I do), but those days playing there were priceless for me. Every afternoon was like a vacation. It was therapy. It was simply unexplainable. The Lagos have done more for me, my art, my psyche than I can express.

OK, so enough gushing. I wish things wouldn't cahnge. But thankfully I was a part of a unique Thousand Island experience and you poor Devils that never were there don't know what you missed. It's kind of like knowing Carmen D'Avino. If you didn't know him you missed out om something special. But, he is a topic for another day.

Now let me leave you with this: I love Greg's art work I was so taken by it that I made this animation video from one of his works. This was made pre-HD video so the quality is less than ideal. The guitar playing is by me.