Charlotte at Night

Feb 13, 2012 in Photography

wpid-roofs-icon-2012-02-13-15-32.jpgYesterday evening was about the first chance this winter to take some snowy pictures. And, it being evening and all, an opportunity to continue my quest to take after dark pictures. I was meeting with Cindy later on in Charlotte to discuss the new features to the Day Rides, now called Impromptu Rides, web site, and so went over a little earlier armed with camera and tripod.

I’ve taken pictures there a few times before. It has a certain scenic appeal. I first hiked around the lighthouse and the (defunct?) train station and then up to the pier. There I saw that the snow and the dark clouds inspired photographic inspiration upon another couple of photographers as well. There is something about the snow, the fading natural light and the emerging streetlight.

You’ll find the photos on Flickr. As part of its move to iCloud, Apple is phasing out the MobileME photo gallery I had been using. Which reminds me that I have till June to through the blog posts and fix what will become dead links to photo albums…

Early Morning Photo Excursion

Dec 06, 2011 in Photography

wpid-Floating-2011-12-6-20-15.jpgOn my morning commute to work I drive down Empire Boulevard in Webster toward the 590 highway. It goes past Irondequoit Bay. If the light is right, that is often a beautiful sight making me think to bring tripod plus camera and stop to record this for posterity.

Not having done much photographic activity since the Boston trip except for the occasional iPhone picture the need to take the camera out has been slowly rising the last few weeks. The recent weekends became decision moments between bike rides and photo trips. As the weather has been pretty amazing for November the bicycle won until this Sunday. And even then it was a close call, the lure of a bike ride strongly calling because recently there has been someone making the bike rides even more fun.

As this blog post demonstrates the camera won for this morning. I set the alarm for 6 and managed to get out of the door a little after seven, in time for the 7:25 am sunrise. I wanted to try two locations: the south or bottom-end of the bay, and the northern part. The south location would give me the sun in the back stroking over the bay; the other providing the opportunity for back light. I decided to shoot in that order.

Another motivation to go shoot pictures has been my lens baby. I got it many weeks ago but – except for some quick indoor shots – hadn’t played with it yet. A lens baby has a twistable front section so that you can move the focal point around and at an angle to the camera. Wonderful distortions are the result.

The lens baby photos are taken in Tryon Park in Rochester. Many trails cross through the park; mountain bike routes labeled like ski slopes are. Even the green trails still looked tricky to me. The blue and red trails are certainly above my MTB skill level.

In the gallery you’ll find the outcome of my getting up before the sun.

Of chip cards, family and friends

Sep 07, 2011 in Life

wpid-handlebars-2011-09-7-16-46.jpgI was back in The Netherlands for the first time in two years. Chance to see family and friends again, and to meander through my favorite city.

The meandering included use of the public transport and that required getting used to and obtaining an OV-chipcard (public transport chip card). Trains, trams, buses now all use the same payment system: a chip card you load with funds and then wave in front of a reader as you enter (check in) and leave (check out) the vehicle. Yvonne sent me an email with instructions beforehand and I also browsed the Dutch Public Transport web site. It seemed reasonably straightforward with the most tricky part being to remember to check out when leaving the train, bus or tram.

I flew into Schiphol (aka Amsterdam Airport) which has a train station: the place to obtain the card. There are several machines where you can buy and load a card. As at least one improvement over earlier visits these machines now accept credit cards in addition to a Dutch bank pass. Using the touch screen I indicated I wanted to buy an anonymous OV-chipcard (a named one can be automatically reloaded via your bank account but for that you need to live in the country), inserted my credit card and out came my very own OV-chipcard! Except, it didn’t yet have any funds on it. Why this is a separate transaction, I don’t know. A card without a balance is pretty much useless. Anyways, added 20 euros to the card which should be sufficient for the travel planned for the week. Proudly holding my card high in the air I descended upon the track where the train to Amsterdam Centraal will be departing from. Found the pole with the card reader to check in, waved the card in front and I got a red light and a short message that check in failed. Hmmm…. No further explanation…

Luckily, several train conductors stood around doing nothing (with this automated system what role/job do they still have?) and asked why my new card wouldn’t work. The lady said I needed to assign to first or second class for train travel. Why didn’t the machine ask this when I bought the card? She shrugged her shoulders. How do I do this, I asked? I have to go to the ticket desk. The machines do not provide this function. Alright, back on the escalator and standing in line for the next agent at the ticket counter. He held my card in front of a reader, tapped on his keyboard and I was all set. Back to the track to wait for the next train.

Friday afternoon I hiked up and down the Nieuwendijk, Kalverstraat, Bloemenmarkt, surrounding streets and canals to collect presents. During the running around I thought of a little photo assignment: taking pictures of what Amsterdammers to do to and with their bicycles. They make phone calls, send and check text messages, haul groceries and small children around, walk the dog and much more. Check the photo gallery for yourself of how to use your bicycle in Amsterdam like an Amsterdammer. This also represented an opportunity to try out the photography workflow using my iPad instead of the MacBook.

Saturday was birthday day for my dad and Wouter, the oldest son of my oldest sister, Marja. Yvonne and I first brunched at the Koffieketel before taking the tram to the Muntplein to obtain the last needed present. It was a hot and humid day. We took a break at Cafe De Jaren to cool off. We were tempted to text the family to come and celebrate here rather than us having to get back out in the hot weather… At the parental home in Amsterdam-Noord my 6 year old nephew politely accepted his present and put it down next to him. After a little while, his grandma asked him: “Aren’t you going to open your present?”
“No,“ he answers, “I’ll do it later. It’s too hot.”
Priceless!

It’s more or less tradition that we go to my dad’s favorite Chinese restaurant for dinner. Since a few months he has a Canta, basically a narrow two-seater with a moped engine for disabled and elderly people. These are allowed to ride on bike paths and park on the pavement. I asked my dad if he was going to drive. He was and I went with him. My first time in a Canta! I recorded the experience. Can you enjoy my Amsterdam accent!


One of the nice things about the restaurant is that they know our dad very well and keep an eye on him. The seating arrangement didn’t work out as intended and I used the excuse of a toilet break to effectuate a little reshuffling of the chairs. We generally had good fun and amusing dinner conversation. Wouter and Marina leave a little earlier because Lennart was getting tired. But for a 9 month old baby he did extremely well! After dinner we said goodbye to my dad and I promised to come by Monday afternoon.

Also tradition is that Yvonne and I end up at Cafe Kale after a parental visit. It was finally cooling down making it even more relaxing to sit on Cafe Kale’s terrace and watch the Amsterdam nightlife flow by.

wpid-wouter-eric-2011-09-7-16-46.jpgMonday evening I met with my friends. I hadn’t seen Wouter in about five years and Leon perhaps even longer. Wouter sat already at the bar when I walked in. He recognized me before I recognized him. He’s all gray! And a tad, just a tad, heavier. Eric still looked like the schoolboy of many years ago, Gero and Leon hadn’t changed much either. Cafe Kale delighted me by having mussels on the menu. We chatted about cycling, technology, life, the universe and everything.

Charlotte Beach by night

Nov 20, 2009 in Photography

charlotte.jpgOi, this is not easy.

Last Sunday I went to Charlotte Beach and the pier with tripod and camera in tow to take night images. One puts one’s camera on the tripod, points the contraption in the general direction desired and pushes the button causing the selected scene to be recorded for eternity’s sake. Award-winning photography awaits in one’s future surely.

I came back with 40 or so images and edited them down to the seven you’ll find in the gallery. Last winter I spent an evening on RIT’s campus with more or less the same success rate. Well, success. I think the images I posted are not necessarily bad but there’s not the wow factor I saw on the camera’s display after clicking the shutter. Some more practice and maybe some reading up and polishing the technique are required.

Take a look at this example and this one from Flickr’s Night Images group: if nothing else the sky is black…

The Ballad of Brad

Nov 09, 2009 in Photography

soduspoint.jpgFor a few days I was thinking that I hadn’t fed the beast that is Flickr but what to take pictures of?

Yesterday it was beautiful warm autumn weather – perfect for cycling but I wasn’t in the mood. Instead I decided to drive to Sodus Point and see if inspiration would strike. I arrived there mid-afternoon, parked the car in the village ready to wander around. A group of motorbikers had just gotten here as well breaking for lunch it seemed. All of middle age or a little more they did their best to look fierce and severe. Seeing a female rider in a pink Harley Davidson leather jacket, I suspected that in reality they’re very likely just cuddly teddybears. Nice bikes though especially the one in bright green, a color that worked really well in the low stroking sunlight.

I walked to the end of the village where the road loops back surprised to see that there’s a free lot there. Great view over Sodus Bay towards Charles Point. Amazing that nobody built here yet – the rest of the shoreline is filled up.

From here I strolled on to the beach park and to the lighthouse at the end of the pier. There were a few fishermen and women giving it a try but both the fish and the anglers appeared just content with a lazy autumn afternoon. Back along the pier to the beach there was a group of young people sitting and chatting in the sand.

One of them called out to me: “Did you take a picture of that dead bird?”
I shook my head: “No.”
“That would be really cool though?”
I smiled back and wandered on.

A hundred yards further up I turned around strolling back. The group were now tossing a football around. The guy who called out earlier was picking up a bottle from their circle of bags and towels, looked up and I asked what I was taking photos of. I had just taken a picture of a footprint in the sand:
“Look down,” I pointed, “see how the light strokes over it. That’s beautiful.”
“Can I see?”
“Sure.” I showed him the photo on the camera’s display.
“I didn’t mean to intrude. My name is Brad. I am just curious.”
“No problem. My name is Onno. Nice to meet you.”
“You do this often?” Brad asked gesturing with his hand holding that bottle.
“Yeah, it’s fun to do.”
“I wish I had a good camera. My dad has one. My brother paints. Do you paint?”
“No, I have no skills in that department.”
I ask if he lives here. He does. “Must get busy here in summer?” I asked.
“Yeah, it does, but then at night when it is all quiet and you can walk out on the beach and see all the stars then it is pretty good.”
“Want a sip?” Brad offered, holding out the Captain Morgan rum bottle. He had worked his way through a quarter of it.
“No, thanks, that’s a little too strong for me,” I smiled, “I hope you’re not finishing that bottle all by yourself. Share some with your friends.”
“Yeah, I will. If they deserve it,” Brad grinned.
“Do you smoke? We have some weed?” was his next proposal.
“No, don’t smoke either.”
“So, you don’t drink and smoke, just wander around taking pictures?”
“Yep, that’s it.”
“Well, that’s cool. I like that!”

We shook hands and I walked on. A few seconds later Brad called me back, running over with his cell phone in hand:
“Wait, I have to show you this picture I took during a storm!”
He fiddled with the phone bringing up the image on the display. It was actually a very nice photo, certainly considering it’s taken with a cell phone, showing the dark clouds, waves crushing against the pier, the lighthouse in the distance with its beam on. And I told him so. We said our goodbyes once again.

I walked back to the boulevard to get back to the village. The sun was just hovering over the village turning all yellow and red. At the side of the parking lot there was a small sheriff’s office. The sheriff in bulletproof vest and gun on hip came out of the office just as I walked by, holding a camera like me, stepping onto the rocks at the shore of the bay like me, taking sunset photos just like me. If the strong arm of the law has the time and motivation to notice beautiful sunsets and take pictures of it then not all is bad in the world.

Getting back to the car I exchanged the camera bag for my Kindle. It’s time for some serious food. When I walked through the village earlier I noticed a bar/restaurant called Captain Jack. It seemed deserving of further inspection. I sat myself down at the bar, bartender Patrick poring me a cold one and handed me the menu which features a broad selection of burgers and the likes. Being surrounded by all this water I felt fish was more in order. I was hoping to find items on the menu that would resemble the crab shack scene from “A Few Good Men” – the interior was close enough – but had to settle for Fish Fry instead. An elderly couple arrived at the bar to my left. There was only one stool there but another empty one to my right so I offered to scoot over. The gentleman declined, said he preferred to stand. After my dinner arrived I looked around the bar noticing that there were a few couples with the woman sitting in the bar stool and the man standing (hovering?) diagonally behind her. Perhaps that’s the proper custom here?

The couple to my right left and just as I was finishing my fish Brad sat down next to me. We shook hands once more. He was in the company of a woman in her forties whom he introduced to me and Patrick the Bartender as his mom. Brad ordered beer and shots, toasting each other these went down. Brad appeared impressively sober after working on that rum bottle earlier. They started chatting, his mom gently chiding him for letting opportunities slip away.

I called for the check, gathered up Kindle and coat and departed to drive back to Rochester pleased with the harvest to feed Flickr with.

The pictures are in the gallery.

Those Magnificent Men in their Racing Machines

Aug 10, 2009 in Photography

watkinsglen1.jpgOn Friday I trekked southeast to the Watkins Glen racetrack to catch the first day of a 3-day weekend NASCAR racing event. First I swung by Hahn Photographic to pick up that wonderful anti-vibration Nikon zoom lens. Except perhaps for Formula One I don’t care much about car racing and it saw more as a fun photographic exercise.

I made it to the Watkins Glen village by about noon so first had lunch, walked around the town a bit and then drove the final 4 miles to the track switching the Mini Cooper engine to the Sport setting as warm-up for the afternoon and evening. While your ticket is scanned and checked only once in order to get on the grounds, there’s security at the entrance to each of the stands who want to look in your bag. Executing my plan to shoot from many different places and angles around the track this meant that my backpack was checked about 12 times. This got a little tedious after the third check. Curiously this seemed to mean that they didn’t care – from a security point of view – what happened on the camp grounds, the pit areas and vending areas.

watkinsglen21.jpgWalking around I was amazed to see that many families apparently follow the racing circus around in their campers. Some even built their own stands around the course; a few quite elaborate. I guess there worse ways to spend one’s summer. As a racing course I like Watkins Glen. Similar to European circuits it has right turns as well as left turns.

Much of the pit area was open to the public. This was fun as it allowed you to see many of the teams working hard on the cars. In the afternoon the area also hosted a driver autograph session. Guess which team table was by far the busiest…?

Pictures in the gallery.

Some photographic history

Aug 03, 2009 in Life

My RBC cycling buddy, Gary, just returned from his cycling trip in the Pyrenees kindly posting his pictures online. Eighteen, twenty years ago Wouter and I did a cycling vacation in that same area. Admiring Gary’s photos unleashed nostalgic feelings and so I went searching for my pics from that vacation. Very sadly I couldn’t find them – Wouter, if you’re reading this: do you still have them? – but the search action did turn up other photos that had faded from memory. With your indulgence I like to share a few and the stories behind them.

mary-jc-onno2.jpgIn this photo from right to left Jan Christiaan van Winkel (JC for short), Mary Sullivan and me. I believe this is May 1990 or 1991. JC and I went on vacation together to the US. First visiting Mary here in Montvale, New Jersey. We all three worked for KPMG Peat Marwick at the time – JC and I at the software engineering group in the The Netherlands, Mary at the group in Montvale. This is on the balcony of Mary’s apartment. She was hosting a Kentucky Derby party. Of course, it needed to be explained to us what the Kentucky Derby was. This was around the same time that I tried to join a software project for KPMG in Montvale and move to the US. This led to month long stays at the Marriott in Montvale and all my furniture in storage in Holland but not the intended permanent relocation. After six months of uncertainty I bailed out. Mary was with Peat Marwick’s mainframe audit group and she lived through the 70-ies and 80-ies heydays travelling everywhere keeping IBM and other mainframes running. Great stories!

chris-jc-onno2.jpgFrom Montvale JC and I flew to the west coast to spend time with Chris Borton (left in the picture). Chris was the son of an American father and Dutch mother. The year before he interned with us in The Netherlands on a Rotary scholarship. Chris is quite possibly the smartest and tireless person I have ever met. While in Amsterdam with us, I experienced him as a truly excellent programmer, he studied at the University of Amsterdam, he played violin, he did folk dancing, he founded a software company with two friends, he spoke Dutch and German, he rode his bike and had time for a girl friend. Yes, sadly, past tense. A few years after our visit Chris was diagnosed with leukemia and passed away shortly after at age 31. The evening before his death he and Joan married. His family established a memorial scholarship fund in his memory. I am still grateful that Chris together with his brother Benjamin stayed with me in England the year before.

leon-onno2.jpgLeon and I on our recumbent cycling vacation in the summer of 1992. We rented these two M5’s and camped along the Belgium coast into Normandy and back. These bikes were extremely fast on the flat roads and declines. But if the road went the other direction, uphill that is, oy, not so easy. The climb to Blanc Nez in France, man, that hurt. We got much attention with the ‘bents. Especially in France. Car drivers, others, would react so enthusiastically to seeing us ride these contraptions that it still amazes me no accidents happened. Every day during the trip I expected to hear a loud bang behind us of a passing car hitting a tree after staring at us. This vacation also featured Leon writing daily postcards to Anneke whom had stolen his heart just before our trip. The Belgium and French coast is mussels area. So every other day Leon and I would conquer buckets of the shelled animals. When I was back in Amsterdam Yvonne and Huub invited me for dinner. “Oh, ” thought my sister, “he likes mussels so much. That’s what we’ll make him tonight!”

ronald-onno2.jpgIn April of 1997 Ronald and Petra stayed with me in Cupertino, California. I had just moved to the US for Apple in January who then laid me off in March. I was busy interviewing with Sun during Ronald and Petra’s vacation. We rented three motorcycles for the weekend. Zaheda joined on the backseat of mine and we rode from San Francisco north over the Golden Gate bridge along Highway 1 and land inward to the Santa Rosa area where this picture was taken. On the way back to San Francisco, Petra’s (or was it Ronald’s) bike broke down. Ronald and I pushed all the buttons, shook the bike, kicked the tires. Didn’t fix it so it was clearly broken. We asked at a farmhouse near to where the bike had come to a stop if we could make a phone call and agreed with the rental company and the farmer that we could leave the bike there. And so we carried on on two bikes. Before you get alarmed, we did wear helmets, gloves and jackets when riding. This picture was just posing outside the motel.

Sunday Afternoon Walk in Rochester

Jul 27, 2009 in Photography

fadedsigns.jpgI had originally planned for a bike ride today but decided for a different form of exercise: take the camera for a random walk through Rochester. Starting out I didn’t have a particular theme in mind however one came up while walking: faded wall signs. To me this is a very American city thing: painted advertisements and billboards on the side of buildings.

Didn’t have a specific route other than walk in a loop through downtown. I started down East Ave and almost immediately had second thoughts about not bringing a rain coat or umbrella: ahead the clouds looked ominous and soon the first drops came down. It didn’t seem to push through though, nothing like Saturday’s downpour, the big trees along the avenue giving good shelter. Coming up to Alexander Street the rain was a bit more serious – what better excuse than to slip into Murphy’s Law for a little break? Must say hi to Mark, after all!

It cleared up, I crossed Main Street and came to the St Paul area. Several buildings here with these beautiful, old, fading signs. Of course this is not the most thriving area of town which is why there are these older buildings with the fading paint. Although, a number of these old warehouses are being converted to apartments and lofts so some revival of the area is upcoming. I was quite pleased to notice that the renovators have left many of the signs intact as you can see in the pictures.

While off-topic for the theme – or at least I suspect they would object to the fading aspect – a group of women on the terrasse of a wine bar on St Paul’s asked me to take their picture, apparently celebrating a college reunion. One asked if I was Canadian. That was a first: Scottish, Irish, Scandinavian, yes but not Canadian yet, eh? I fulfilled the request and carried on via Andrews Street eventually crossing over the Corn Hill area.

Passing Main Street again I saw another scene that’s quite American to me: a diner, news boxes, pay phones and the “Main St” sign all together! Along the river, crossing at Ford Street, right on Monroe taking a picture of the theater. An oddity and sadness at the same time. Such a characteristic building it housed a sex shop until recently, since then bought by Ride Aid and it’s unclear what they’ll do with it. In a perfect world it would restored and put back into function for the community ala the Little Theater.

Back on Park Avenue finally took a photo I have wanted to shoot for a long time: of one of the buildings with the nuclear shelter sign. Such a fantastic leftover of the 50-ies and the cold war. Always reminds me of my basic military training in The Netherlands regarding nuclear attacks: if you saw a very bright white flash you were supposed to (quickly) lie face down covering any exposed skin like your hands under your body. Of course the moment you see that flash any burning of exposed skin happens at that same moment so the lying down… not making much difference… always had great temptation then to engage in a happy debate with the sergeant on the merits of these instructions (I may have fallen for that temptation once or twice).

As ever: accompanying photos in the gallery.

The First Photo

Oct 25, 2008 in Photography

firstphoto2.jpgToday Hahn Photographic kindly assisted me in obtaining a new camera replacing the one I let so clumsily fall off the tripod a week ago. It’s a lovely Nikon D90 with twice as many pixels than the D70, much less noise at higher ISO values, movie mode and seeing the size of the manual a ton of other new stuff I have yet no idea of. Onno Junior patiently posed for the first picture. This shot was taken with Rachel’s lens that was on the old camera when it so rudely met the ground and it appears to have survived that event just fine.

The D90 takes SD cards instead of Compactflash, something that Steve at Hahn’s very timely reminded me of and at 13 megapixels a shot it seemed useful to get a larger SD card than the one I had. Otherwise a few pictures and the card would be full. Love it so far. The one little irk is that MacOS X does not yet support the D90’s raw format and so until Apple gets around issuing an update (hurry up!) the workflow consists of Nikon Transfer -> Nikon ViewNX -> transfer to JPEG -> iPhoto. By the way, the 4GB SanDIsk SD card I bought came with its own tiny USB reader – very handy since Rachel took my reader to the wedding today. The camera has a GPS capability. Definitely something worth fiddling with to geotag the photos and all that.

That’s it. Bye. Must take more pictures.

The Last Photo

Oct 19, 2008 in Photography

lastone.jpgYesterday my camera met its maker. Well, more precisely, it met with the pavement in a rather abrupt manner falling off the tripod from 5 feet high. This was the picture I had taken just seconds before the camera attempted flight.

It was a wonderful autumn afternoon yesterday: a little chilly and the sun low in the sky. Perfect opportunity to go for a walk through the neighborhood and take pictures of trees, leaves and other views of interest. All was going well until I came to this building on Main Street in the vicinity of Village Gate. The camera landed hard on its back. The lens tore most of the lens mount off the camera. I collected all the tiny little screws that attach the mount to the camera body. At home I managed to screw it back together. The light meter still works and the camera pretends to take pictures (shutter goes off when presses the release) but it doesn’t record on the card and the LCD panel on the back stays black and dead. The body lost some plastic at the bottom right so there’s probably light leaking in anyways.

Maybe I’ll take it to Hahn to have him take a look but very likely it will join the display of old, retired cameras. And so the question rises, a new Nikon or switch to Canon? I have a few Nikon lenses (I like my fisheye a lot) but then the colors from Rachel’s Canon are stunning although I won’t spend anywhere near a 5D price point.

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