Union Station – Washington DC

Since a couple of years now, my wife and I decided to go on road trips down the coast (we start in Boston), instead of flying to our destination(s). We just got back from our last trip that led us to Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Cape May, NJ. Since we have traveled by car quite a few times, we now have favorite places and restaurants to go to. In DC we like to go to the Food Court on the lower level of Union Station, where a wide variety of different food is offered.

The architecture of Union Station always amazes me, and the train station in our nation’s capitol is especially beautiful.

A Ski Adventure

Recently I got to go on a skiing adventure with my friend Mike in the White Mountains in New Hampshire.

Our adventure started at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center below Mt. Washington (Rt. 16). It took us a while to put all our equipment and food into two large backpacks. Starting at about 2000 ft altitude the walk at first seemed not to be too difficult, and it actually helped that the trail was covered with snow, which made walking on it a lot easier than walking over rocks like in the other seasons. The further up we went, the more difficult it became because of the altitude. The scenery also became really beautiful.

For the first time this season, it really felt like winter. So far this season, we almost had no snow at all, and it was just so beautiful to see a snow covered forest floor.

We walked further up, intersecting with other trails to Lions Head and Huntington Ravine.

The further up we went, the more beautiful it looked around us. After 2-3 hours we finally reached the Hermit Lake Shelters, the end of our hike (and beginning of the skiing adventure). We now had reached almost 4000 ft altitude.

After a lunch break with hot soup, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, and hot chocolate it was time to change our footwear over into snow boarding/ski boots. It was difficult to stay warm, because there was an ice-cold wind blowing. Water in our bottles started to freeze.

After changing over, we were read to ski/ride down the John Sherburne Ski Trail. This trail was cut by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930’s. It leads down to the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.

The Google Earth map shows Mt. Washington to the left, and our GPS trail. Rt. 16 is to the right. The altitude profile shows the start at just below 4000 ft and the bottom at just about 2000 ft.

The trail was wider than we expected and overall was not too steep. The length of the trail is about 2.3 miles. While it took us about 2.5 hours to hike up the mountain, it took about 15 min to ski down.

Here is my friend Mike near the top of the trail. The conditions were perfect, because there were about 4 in of new snow from the previous night. Because it was getting late in the afternoon when we descended, the sky had turned already colorful. What a great hike and trail!

We enjoyed this adventure a lot. Needless to say, we slept really well that night. Thank you, Mike for this great adventure.

Thanks for reading,


Excuses, excuses…

I has happened once again, camera manufacturers have announced new models at a Japanese trade show about two weeks ago (beginning of February 2012). This time it seems like the bar has been pushed very high by Nikon with the announcement of a 36 megapixel DSLR camera for about $3000. While I applaud Nikon for producing such a superb product, people are already discussing positive and negative implications. There are some that can’t wait to get their hands on this camera, whereas others are more skeptical and concerned that it may be difficult to create a computer infrastructure that can support 60-70 MB raw files.

It is great to see how far camera technology has come in the last 10-15 years, we can now take decent photos at high ISO, take bursts of images without any delays, and have enough resolution for billboard-size photos from even inexpensive lower resolution models.

The danger of new equipment is (and that is why I have named the post as such) that the lack of using the latest equipment may serve as an excuse for us why we can’t do today photographically what we should be doing.

It is so easy to get lost in the promises of manufacturers that the newly announced camera will guarantee the breakthrough we have been waiting for. And so we pre-order the new camera, hoping that it will be available for our summer trip, because then we can finally do “real” photography.

The issue I have with this approach is that by arguing that we can only do “real” work with our new equipment, we should follow what we say and discard our old work to this point, because we just claimed that it was not good, because of outdated equipment. I always like to check in photo magazines how many photos were taken with “outdated” equipment. My impression is that it is probably around 90%. It is more the exception that somebody uses the latest equipment.

If we spend all our dispensable income on new equipment, we won’t have enough money left to actually travel, or worse, we may be afraid to take the expensive camera on a trip. This would be a pity.

A long time ago, I learned that nobody can look at a photograph and determine what equipment was used to make it. I once ran a test with some friends. I had one print made from a 35 mm film scan, the other was from a digital camera file. Everybody guessed wrong, because the film scan image had higher contrast, whereas the digital camera print had less contrast. People assumed that the higher contrast photo must have come from a digital camera, because they had become conditioned that the digital camera file must look better.

Since it is difficult to discern what equipment was used, how should the photographer select equipment, and what is its role? Well, as photographers we know the limitations of our equipment. For my film cameras, I know which shutter speed I can comfortably hold by hand, and I know what film I have available. For the digital cameras, I know what the ISO limitations are for each camera, what I feel comfortable using. This ranges anywhere from ISO 320 to 6400 (max) for my current cameras.

Camera manufacturers have trained us to demand higher resolution, which is great to have, although for web use only, most modern cameras are overkill. The pitfall of higher resolution cameras is that we will need to improve our whole computer infrastructure to deal with the larger files. We should consider all these requirements before we make a decision into buying new equipment. I like to make a list with the features I would gain from a piece of equipment and then decide if it is worth the price, including secondary requirements such as updated computer hardware, additional hard drives for storage etc.

Maybe a better choice would be instead to purchase a new lens in a range that gives us a new perspective. Or some studio lighting equipment. Or a new printer. Or a plane ticket to the place we always wanted to go. Maybe that would be a better use of our money than another new DSLR or mirrorless body that gets old fast.

The photos I used here in this post are from South Natick, MA. I was on my way to a photography exhibition. I stopped when I saw the interesting church and library building. After I stopped I saw the Charles River dam below. While I had never been to this place before, I really enjoyed the sunset and clouds over the river, as well as the history at this place. It made me become more interested in the Charles River, a very winding river that merges into the Atlantic Ocean in Boston.

I was using an old Kodak DSLR from about 2003/2004 for the photos. Could you tell from looking at them? My guess is probably not. I knew the limitations of the equipment (no ISO higher than 320, very slow, etc.), but it didn’t bother me, because I used what I had available. Since I was not afraid of this camera getting stolen, it was riding with me in the trunk all day long until I needed it.

What my goal with this post is to encourage you to use what you have available and to remember that you make great photographs today. No need to wait for new equipment that will fall short. Photography is about life, about our emotions, about what we want to convey, about our feelings for a subject matter. The rest is distractions.

Recording artists did not wait for better recording equipment to become available, they performed their songs when the time was right. Today we can still enjoy recordings from several decades ago. The same is true for us, we don’t know what will be possible in a couple of decades from now. Maybe people will still enjoy printed photographs, maybe not. In the end it doesn’t matter for us today, because we need to create our artwork for today, not for the future.

What matters is that we can produce our artwork anywhere we go, and expensive new equipment may be limiting, because we may not take it in the mud, or in places where some water may sprinkle on it, which would be too unfortunate.

Thanks for reading,


How to stay photographically creative

This morning I went for my weekly walk from Lexington to Bedford (Massachusetts). This winter has been extremely mild. So far we had only a little bit of snow, which melted each time within a day or tow. To top it off, this morning was overcast. Usually I like to enjoy the morning sun rays shining through trees and vegetation. Being overcast today, I knew that there was nothing to photograph, or so it seemed at first.

After getting over my frustration, I started to pay more attention, and then I saw “my” photographs. What follows now is a collection of what stood out for me this morning.

First I noticed the poison ivy roots growing on a tree and their delicate structure and coloration.

Then there were these mushrooms growing on a dead tree that were really colorful.

Next I really liked the tree reflection on the pond. Being that it was overcast, the mood of this photo just works out fine.

Just when I thought I was done, I noticed a little stream that was more stagnant than a stream, and I enjoyed the reflections of trees and the subtle color of leftover leaves from the fall in it.

These dead leaves on the branches just reflected my feelings of exhaustion and monotony this morning.

The last image I wanted to share here is an abstract image. It is the beltway that runs around our city (Rt. 128/I-95). During rush hour traffic usually looks like this. I have and continue to spend countless hours in traffic (when I am not walking to work). Sometimes I notice that I experience getting into a daze when my commute becomes very slow and I notice when I emerge out of the “slow zone”. This photo represents to me this daze I am in when traffic is not moving at all.

While I usually like to make photos that are as sharp as possible, this one taught me that on occasion the best photo may be one that is out of focus.

Are the photos I shared here my best work? Certainly not, but it showed me that when I change my attitude I can see better what is around me.

Thanks for reading,


Cool places in Boston – Copley Square Public Library

During a Sunday afternoon walk through Boston’s Back Bay we decided to go inside the Public Library building (at Copley Square). We immediately enjoyed the marble stairwell and chandeliers.

Boston’s public library is one of the largest in the country.

On the second floor I liked the main reading area with its green lamps on the tables.

On the third floor we came across this beautifully ornate room. There was also an exhibit of American prints from different artists (etchings, lithographs, and woodcut prints) that we enjoyed a lot.

I was mostly impressed by the Mediterranean style court yard. The building was completed in 1895, and designed by a famous New York architecture firm.

Right now the court yard is empty, since we are technically in the middle of winter. I am sure this place will get busy once it gets warmer.

I would love to hear of beautiful public buildings in your city. We all have seen them from the outside, but may not have seen the inside.

A Morning at the Hudson River

Recently Kim and I went to New York City for a few days. In the past, we often went through the city on our way back to Massachusetts. This time we took the Palisades Parkway on the Western shoreline of the Hudson River. Along the parkway are frequent pull-outs. We stopped at one near the NJ/NY state line. It was a beautiful morning. I also did not know that the Western shoreline has such high cliffs.
Thanks for stopping by.


A walk in Back Bay (Boston)

Recently we went for a Sunday afternoon walk in Back Back. The light for just perfect. The photo here shows the Christian Science Church in beautiful light.

More beautiful light in Back Bay with some of the well-known buildings visible.

Finally, Trinity Church and Hancock Tower. After all these years living in Boston I don’t know any more tasteful combination of old and modern architecture.

Thanks for stopping by,


Story behind the photo: Boston Christmas Tree Lighting

The Boston Christmas Tree lighting took place on December 1st on Boston Common. It was a two hour event with different performances on stage. Just before 8pm, the tree was finally lit and fireworks went off around it.

The tree lighting has a long tradition, what I did not know was the story behind the Christmas Tree Lighting. It goes back to December 6, 1917. The world was still involved in World War I. Halifax Harbor in Nova Scotia was used a lot in these days for war-related cargo shipments to and from Europe. A French ammunition ship loaded with explosives destined for Europe exploded that day when it collided with a Norwegian ship, leading to death and destruction for countless people.

While relief trains from other cities in Nova Scotia arrived later the day of the explosion, Boston sent the first relief train the night of the explosion. While heavy snowfall delayed its arrival, it arrived on December 8th at 3am. It was the beginning of a large relief effort, that later included design of the health care system in the area. This gave Boston the reputation as (outside) city that arrived first and left last.

In 1918 the city of Halifax sent Boston a Christmas tree to express gratitude for the relief effort.

In 1971, the tradition was revived and has continued since. The Christmas tree is donated by a private party, and guidelines exist for the selection of the tree. This year’s tree is from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and the a video of the tree cutting is available on Youtube. Thank you to the Spinney family for this beautiful tree!

Trees are often donated in memory of relatives who died in the explosion.

When I learned about the history of this tradition, it reminded me that we never know how our actions can positively affect people’s lives in the future. People in Nova Scotia still remember what people from Boston did almost 100 years ago.

Thank you for stopping by, Happy Holiday Season,


Alewife Station – and Fall Crawl Day 3

Northwest of downtown Boston is Alewife Station (in Cambridge), the Northern terminus of the Red Line (yes, we got color-coded subway lines). Recently I had some extra time on my hands while waiting for the next bus…


Today is Day 3 of the Fall Crawl. Please stop by Letty at http://bellavidabyletty.blogspot.com/. Her pumpkins are just amazing.

Thanks for stopping by.