Coffee, Books and Magazines

I was at a Barnes & Noble bookstore recently. I stopped by their coffee shop where they serve Starbucks coffee. The coffee shop looks strikingly like Starbucks yet the servers are quick to tell you that it’s “Barnes & Noble coffee shop” and they just serve Starbucks. Ok.

Anyway, that’s not the point of this article. The point is to ask you my friends…do you still read books? Β I mean do you read real books, magazines, newspapers? I’m not talking about the internet or e-books on your tablet, I’m talking about real physical, touchable books.

Because if you don’t or have stopped reading “real” books, you are not alone. I have to admit, I’m with you. I haven’t read a real book in years. I’ve even stopped reading magazines.

I know what you’re thinking. You say…”Goddamit, I’m tired of people like you saying the internet is not real!” Oh no friend, I’m not saying that. The internet IS real! That is, until your battery or power supply run out 😊

Anyway yeah, so recently when I found myself with a little time to kill, I stepped into Barnes & Noble, got my coffee and sat down with a couple of magazines and books. Wow, I was transported back in time.

In the early 1990s to the mid 2000s, that was my ritual and I loved it. There was nothing I looked forward to more than getting my coffee (hot or iced, didn’t matter) and hanging out in the bookstore for hours.

The first thing I would do was to check the photography magazines for the latest equipment reviews. Sure I knew the majority of the reviews were veiled marketing schemes but it didn’t matter. I loved seeing and reading about the gear.

Next I would move on to the book section. Here I would dive into books with photos from famous and not so famous photographers. Street, nature, art, it didn’t matter. If it was good, I loved it. I could appreciate it. I found inspiration in seeing the photos, especially in large or coffee table sized books.

Somewhere in the mid 2000s this ritual ended. The internet was now my main source of reading and information. Sure, I’d stop by Barnes & Noble for a quick glance every now and then, but the magic was no longer there. I was pretty much in and out in minutes. The internet had given me all I needed and more.

But the other day when I had the chance to sit down for while with these books and magazines, I felt that magic once more. As I sipped my coffee, I said to myself what a shame it would be if this store closed down.

I give Barnes & Noble credit for surving as long as they have in the modern world of Amazon. I also give them credit for allowing us to just hang out there and browse. Back in the day that wasn’t always the policy with many stores. But it works for them too because the longer you’re there, the more likely you may, and I stressΒ mayΒ just buy something from them.

I know they closed down many stores and have had to resort to selling all sort of odd items, but they are keeping real books and magazines alive, despite struggling to do so.

It’s a bittersweet thing I know; the less books we have, the more trees we save. I get it. I’m all for saving the environment. But I think we can compromise somewhere. Real physical books are a good thing, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Anyway, I have to admit that I’m just as guilty as many of you when it comes to the fact that I haven’t bought a book or magazine in ages. I’m guilty of going to the store and just browsing. I do buy their coffee as a way of paying the price of admission just like you buy something to use the bathroom in a store πŸ™‚

But it’s not enough I know. So this weekend, I did leave Barnes & Noble with a book and a couple of magazines. I don’t want to preach to you so I’ll ask you to try this, especially you photo bugs…go into that bookstore, buy your coffee and grab a couple of good reads.

If you feel the magic, support your local bookstore whether it’s Barnes or anybody else. If you don’t buy their books, then buy their coffee, buy their calendars, buy their trinkets. Buy their Nooks (the old Barnes & Noble tablet). Heck, buy their crannies too! 😊

Whatever you can do to keep these awesome places alive!

PS: I must say it was sad not to see Popular Photography on the stands anymore. Truly the end of an era.

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Photo Of The Day: “The Girls Of Summer”

So today is the last official day of summer here in the states. The year is two thirds over. Sometimes I wish I were in fifth grade again when summer seemed a lot longer. Then again though, the school year back then seemed torturously long, so I’m not sure I would want to go back to fifth grade! Anyway, I’m lucky to have summer all year round with these two 😘

The above photo was taken with a Sigma SD Quattro mirrorless and 30mm f/1.4 Sigma Art lens. The photo was cropped, but still full sized and you can see that by double clicking the image. Check the baby’s eyelashes to see how the camera does on resolution. 

I have to admit the SD Quattro was not on my shopping list this year and even if it was I’d go for the SD Quattro H which is the larger sensor APS-H version.

However, as I’ve mentioned before, the cameras always seem to come to me! I spotted the camera while searching for something else. The product was in like new condition and the price was more than half off brand new. Couldn’t resist!

The 30mm f/1.4 Sigma Art lens I already have. I’ve  had this lens in different mounts over the years and it’s one of my favorites. On the SD Quattro with its APS-C sized sensor, it’s more like a 50mm normal lens and I’ve always been a fan of the good old “boring” 50mm perspective.

I’ll have more to say about the camera in future postings. Let’s just say if you’re familiar with Sigma cameras at all, then this is pure Sigma. That is, great IQ but with a few operational warts. At full price, I’d have to think about it, but at the price I got it for…deal! πŸ™‚

I don’t get cameras sent to me for review and I don’t get any kickbacks so the only way I can get these cameras is to buy, use, and sell. Most of the time, I have to sell. So far it’s too early for me to tell if the Sigma is a keeper. In a way, that last statement says a lot about how far we’ve come. I mean, ten years ago, a Sigma like this would be a keeper for sure. Today though with the choices we have, the choice is not so easy now is it?

Hope you all had a great summer and see you in the fall (which is like today haha).

Take care, Sam. 

Note: I’m ashamed to admit I’m having trouble with my computer again! Time to upgrade I guess. As such I’ve been posting from my phone and wouldn’t you know it, out of the computer problems there is a side benefit. From my phone, I’m able to now post larger pics to enhance your viewing experience. Thank you the readers for your visits, thank WordPress for the platform, and thank the iPhone for the liberation! πŸ™‚

Photo Of The Day: “No Photo”


What’s a surefire way to get people to notice something you apparently don’t want them to photograph? Just put a “No Photo” sign on it! 😊

Now I don’t know if the owner of this store really doesn’t want people to photograph this or if it’s a great marketing scheme but it sure did get my attention!

Listen, I respect their wishes and I assume this means “no photos” from inside but when you’re outside on the streets, everything’s fair game. I think that’s one of the golden rules of street photography right? Of course there are exceptions.

Anyway, if it makes anybody feel better, I took a shot and walked away, still not interested in buying these things 😊

Note: This photo was shot using a Fuji X10 in New York’s Chinatown. The X10 is a nice little camera but I was never really interested in it as I have an X100. However, I got this one for $40 bucks because there was supposedly something wrong with it. What that is I don’t know because the camera takes great pics and is much better than I would have thought!

Celebrating Ten Years Of Zoe

My first born just turned ten and I can hardly believe it! It seemed like yesterday when it was 2007 and we brought her home from the hospital.

Note: Most of these photos can now be seen in larger sizes by double clicking on them.

“Milk” 2007. Canon EOS 5D Classic, EF 50mm f/1.8

I’ve always said that time is moving too fast for me, but I really think having children speeds it up even faster.

It’s a bittersweet feeling that I’m sure many of you can relate to. You’re happy and thankful that they’re growing up strong, smart and healthy. At the same time, you still want to hold on to them being your baby, even if they have way outgrown that baby stage.

“Pink Ducky” 2007. Canon EOS 5D Classic, EF 50mm f/1.8 lens

The one thing I don’t hear many people mention when talking about their kids getting older is the fact that as they grow older, so do we the parents. You see the gray hairs growing in and your youth slipping away. This to me is the bittersweet part. I think it’s because I still feel like a kid myself, yet I know I am not…or am I? πŸ˜ƒπŸ‘ΆπŸ»

The first ten years of Zoe’s life brought many profound changes transforming a baby to a young girl. The next ten years will change her from a young girl to a young woman and turn her dad into old man 😒

“First Thanksgiving” 2007. Canon EOS 5D, EF 50mm f/1.8

“The Eye” 2008. Canon EOS 5D Classic, Hasselblad 110mm f/2 Zeiss Planar via adapter.

Oh I’m getting ahead of myself now! Ok let’s cherish the moment! Please allow me today to share with you some of my favorite images of Zoe from the past ten years, using and testing many different cameras and lenses along the way. Most I used for a short time, then sold. Many I wished I had kept, at least for a little while longer 😘

“Silent Night” 2008. Nikon D2X, Voigtlander 125mm f2.5 Apo Lanthar

The best fringe benefit about having a kid as far as I’m concerned is justifying your gear purchases because you’re capturing precious memories of your children and that is priceless! 😊

Happy 10th Birthday Zoe!!

“Q-Tip” 2008. Norita 66 Medium Format camera, 80mm f/2 Noritar, Kodak Portra 400 film.

“The Giant Slayer” 2009. Yasica A TLR, Tri-X 400 in T-Max developer.

“Zoe’s Portrait” 2012. Leica R8, 80mm f/1.4 Summilux-R, film unrecorded.

“End Of Summer” 2012. Bronica RF645, 65mm f/4 Zenzanon, Kodak T-Max 400 in T-Max developer.

“Center Of My Universe” 2012. Ricoh GRD 8.1mp digital camera

“Jump” 2013. Sony A99, Rokinon 35m f/1.4

Bonus Shot…

“Kiss” 2017. Sigma SD Quattro, 30mm f/1.4 Sigma Art lens

Thoughts On The iPhone X: iPhone Overload?

“Anticipation Over” 2016. Apple iPhone 6s Plus

The wait is over. This week Apple announced its highly anticipated iPhone 8 and the iPhone X, the tenth anniversary model of the now legendary iPhone series. Head over to Apple’s website if you are interested in all the technical details. Let’s face it some of you gadgeteers are interested!

While everything sounds good, I don’t think I’m getting one. Well, not until the next round of phones come out and the 8 and X go on sale haha. The key technological selling points…Face ID, Augmented Reality, and moving emojis? What the heck are these things?!

Come on man, I just got used to the Touch ID and it’s good enough for me, and I didn’t even know I needed it! I don’t need my phone to recognize my face. Or maybe I do? πŸ™‚

Apple is very good on selling us technology we never knew we needed or even wanted. The Augmented Reality feature sounds like something that will transform my world into a fantasy/cartoon experience. Let me tell you something Apple, my world is already a cartoonish fantasy! Why would we need or want this?Β Yes, I’m sure once we see how cool it is, we won’t live without it.

No disrespect to Apple, I think they are a great company and I don’t really blame them for trying to enhance our virtual experience. It just seems to me that we are experiencing technology overload. Electronics have gotten so good, on our phones, our cameras, our gadgets that now companies are just coming up with things that we never needed to “wow” us into buying. And it’s not just Apple, it’s everyone!

Camera companies are doing the same thing, overloading these cameras with stuff we never knew we needed. Today’s high end digital cameras are really super computers that just happen to take pictures.

The best thing about the iPhone X? I think it’s the “X.” I mean, come one, everyone knows adding an “X” to your product always makes it like a hundred times cooler and more desirable! That “X” sells baby! Just look at the Fuji “X” series. Or the Nikon D1X, D2X, D3X. Or how about a Hasselblad X-Pan? Or a Panasonic LX? Or a Canon G1X? You get the drift?

Finally, the moving emojis? Come on man! A talking poop emoji? Ok, maybe this I need πŸ™‚

 

Photo Of The Day: “Generations”

For your Throwback Thursday, here’s a shot from 2008, shot with a Leica R8 and 90mm f/2 Summicron-R on Kodak BW400CN chromogenic film.

Friends, it’s hard for me to believe that very soon the little baby in that photo will be ten years old! Man, let me tell you, I think time marches on much faster when you have children. I never thought I had it in me to be a father and I don’t mean just making babies. I mean trying to be a good father and a good example for your children. I hope I’m doing a good job with it, but I’ll have to ask her πŸ™‚

Cherish the day and don’t let it past too fast!

Reflections On 9/11

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A set of photos I took of the World Trade Center site. At left is the site about a week after the 9/11 attacks, smoke still coming out of the site. The photo was taken with an Olympus C-3000 3mp digital camera. At center is a shot from a Hudson River cruise, taken in the mid 90’s, probably with a Nikon or Canon film SLR. At right, is a photo of the 9/11 tribute lights taken in 2004, shot with a Canon EOS-1D 4.1mp DSLR and EF 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 wide angle lens.

So today marks the sixteenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks that changed America and indeed the world forever.

I can hardly believe it’s been sixteen years, it felt like yesterday. To give you some context of the timeframe, sixteen years before 2001 was 1985. Now that feels old, doesn’t it?!

It’s not my intention to revisit in complete detail, the tragic events of that day. Β We all know by now what happened on that fateful day.

I would just like to give you a personal recollection of that day in 2001. Before I go further, I would like to say that I think we should all take a moment of silence to remember the victims of this horrific attack.

Note: I uploaded some of these photos from my phone and for some reason they do not seem proportional, but you can click on the photos to see a larger image. The second image, which is the one of my Dad on top of the South Tower I think is particularly impactful in the larger size version.

THAT MORNING

On September 11, 2001, my only plan was to go to work as usual. At that time, I was living in in Westchester County, a suburb of NYC.

My shift was 12pm to 8pm, which was perfect for me as a night owl. I woke up that morning just a little before 11am. As you know, by then everything had happened but of course I didn’t know that yet.

I got my morning bowl of cereal and turned on the television. As soon as the tv came on, I saw what seemed to be some kind of breaking news. I saw a reporter speaking with urgency. I saw the captions “World Trade Center attacked and destroyed.”

I remember thinking what is this? What do they mean “attacked and destroyed?” I turned the channel to see what was on the other stations. This time, I saw what seemed to be a cloud of smoke over all of lower Manhattan.
I was in shock. Then I remembered that my Mom had gone downtown for something to do with her application for American citizenship. Somehow, I thought this appointment was supposed to take place in or near the World Trade Center.

I tried calling my brother who was living downtown. I could not get through, there was a disruption in telephone service. I tried calling my Dad, no service again. Mom did not carry a cell phone at that time. If you remember, cell phone service was just becoming big but not everyone had one. It was a good six years later that the iPhone was be introduced.

I was wrecked with worry. I used to smoke and I must have been chain smoking that morning from all the anxiety.

Finally, I got a call through to my Dad. He told me he had heard from my mother and that she was alright and so was my brother. I was so overwhelmed with relief that I broke down and cried over the phone. I just couldn’t help it.

Any New Yorker will tell you, this attack was very personal and it hit us hard and straight to the heart.

“Nothing Last Forever.” 1996. Dad standing on the top of the South Tower, seemingly quite uncomfortable! I can tell you, personally it was a bit scary up there, but then again I’m afraid of heights! Photo shot with a Canon EOS A2E and EF 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 II. Film unrecorded. Today, the Twin Towers are gone and Dad is gone. A sad reminder that nothing last forever. God Bless.

THE FOLLOWING DAYS AND WEEKS

The days following 9/11/01 were some of the most depressing that I could remember. Especially in New York, things were eerily quiet. I remember how calm and quiet things were, and it was so unlike NYC. I think everyone was shocked, scared, and even worried about what happened and what might happen next.

I used to go downtown often. I took classes downtown and used to walk around at night with my camera.

After the 9/11 attacks, I felt compelled to go down and see for myself what was left. There was no rational reason and it wasn’t just mere curiosity. As someone who grew up in NYC, I just felt compelled to go down, almost like visiting a loved one.

For maybe a week or two, they restricted access to Ground Zero, but I remember that I was able to get close enough to see the remnants of the once mighty Twin Towers. It was such a sad sight to see the rubble and still smoldering smoke coming from where the towers once stood.

There was ash all over lower Manhattan, almost like a volcano had errupted or something. Those were some sad days in America.

CAMERA TIME MACHINE

I’m putting this in for my fellow camera nuts, just because I know this is what would be most interesting for you guys πŸ™‚

Taking a ride in the “Time Machine” I recall my two main cameras at the time were the mighty Nikon F100 film camera, paired with a nifty fifty 50mm f/1.8 AF-D Nikkor and an Olympus C-3000 digital point and shoot that I got in 1999.

At that time digital a new niche that was just coming into focus, but still not yet taken very seriously by die-hard photographers. Flash forward to 2016 and now film is the old niche and digital is the mainstay.

I sold that F100 (have another one now) but I still have that C-3000 which I kept because it’s my first ever digital camera.

IN CLOSING

Sixteen years on, one could do a lot of analysis on what happened that day on September 11th of 2001.

My personal feeling is that it should have never happened. Had the folks in charge of our security been paying attention, it should’ve never happened. Of course, it’s easier to say in hindsight, I admit.

I’ve heard that the attacks were a way to drive the US Military out of the Middle East or draw America into a war thinking the USA would quickly withdraw as they did in Vietnam. If so, it backfired big time because as far as I can see, America is going to be there for a good long time and it’s a direct result of the 9/11 attacks.

I could understand the grievances on both sides, but there’s never a good excuse to go and kill thousands of innocent people.

Now we have long, drawn out war. Thousands of lives lost on both sides. Was it worth it? No I don’t think so. War is never worth it. But it’s not surprising. If everyone were loving each other the world would be a better place, but then again, that place wouldn’t be on Earth. I suppose that would be heaven.

I miss seeing the Twin Towers that I grew up with. I admit that they weren’t the prettiest buildings in the world. In fact, at times they seemed downright scary, but I miss them. I used to see them every day on the train to high school, going into Brooklyn. I photographed them many times over the years. I marveled at them, but never fully appreciated them till they were gone. Isn’t that the way it always is? They say “You don’t know what you got until it’s gone” and they are right! Now I feel honored that I have been inside and even up on the roof of these legendary buildings.

The Freedom Tower is the new icon of NYC and a symbol of the city and the country’s resilience to rise from the ashes of the tragic events of September 11th 2001. Photo taken with the 16mp Ricoh GR in 2015. I have yet to do a review of this camera!

I’m not a big fan of the new Freedom Tower, I don’t think it has the same visual impact but maybe it just takes some getting used to.Β In fact, I have adjusted to seeing it and in its own way, it is becoming an iconic sight. I wished they had rebuilt the Twin Towers to be duplicates of the ones we lost, but I know for many reasons why they couldn’t, wouldn’t do that.

Sixteen years later, I think it’s clear that America and the American people are very resilient. This hit home and those who remember this day, we will not ever forget it. The Freedom Tower is a symbol of that resilience. As horrific as the events of 9/11/01 were, people went on with their lives and they will continue doing so. You can knock down buildings, but you can’t kill the American spirit.

Anyway, I could write a whole book on this, but today please take a moment to reflect on the innocent people who suffered that day and their families who suffer to this day. Whatever you believe, when you put yourself in the shoes of what these people went through, it’s hard to imagine their pain. God Bless them, and God Bless America.