Posted in Uncategorized on November 23, 2015 by wordsandpixels

A Moving Story

We recently moved from an apartment overlooking the Hudson River in Yonkers, NYIMG_4126 to a tiny 1880’s quarryman’s house overlooking the river of the same name, in Malden On Hudson, NY. Malden was once a middle-class town housing workers in the stone business. Bluestone and granite were shipped down the Erie Canal and hence to New York City, where they were used to pave the streets. In the 19th century about 250 folks lived there, and that number is about the same today. For those 250 people, however, there were roughly 14 riverside saloons. (I guess we know what those hard-working, rough-hewn men considered a priority.)

Malden is a suburb of historic Saugerties, New York, home to artists, musicians and even an annual Garlic Festival. The town is about one hundred miles north of Yonkers as the crow flies. Another way of looking at it is that it would take about two days to make the trip in a good old boat. Half the time you’d be heading into the North wind and Southbound current and lucky to be making three knots; other times you’re foaming along with a bone in your teeth, with an SOG of maybe 14 knots, the wind and current at your back. Two days is entirely do-able under most circumstances.IMG_4148

To make a long story short, we mailed a few postcards (yes, slower than the Internet, but maybe more effective) to people we knew, including, of course, my editor friend Karen Larson at Good Old Boat. In fact, I pointed out that since our house was a few hundred feet from the river, she and Jerry could simply drop anchor, row ashore in the dink, and be grilling hamburgers within half an hour. On the postcard was a photo I took of Gazelle_cover“Gazelle,” a 42-foot junk-rigged schooner with whom friends and colleagues know I’m irrationally in love. One of those friends who received the postcard was veterinarian, photographer and good friend Warren Kaplan. He wrote back thusly:


Got your postcard. Thanks. LOVE the photo. Julie wants to know where you were when you shot it. Helicopter? What were the circumstances of the shot? Really a good one!

(Sent from my iPhone)

Here was my response:

Warren & Julie,

That photo was one of the better ones, taken from a bo’sun’s chair up the mizzen mast, from of a series I did for TIME magazine. It was a cover story on the then-growing trend of people living aboard sailboats, often couples like Lynn and Larry Pardy, who sailed the world footloose and supposedly fancy-free. 

TIME’s Picture Editor, John Durniak, a wonderful, multi-talented man, assigned two photographers to cover the story. One, and I apologize but I forget who it was, photographed the Westsail 32 (affectionately known as the “Wetsnail 32” and made popular by Ferenc Mate in his series of books on yacht construction and maintenance). The other (yours truly) had the pleasure of meeting with and photographing the innovative yacht designer Tom Colvin. His centerpiece design was a boat that I ultimately fell in love with, the 32-foot junk-rigged steel schooner, “Gazelle.” That boat could take you anywhere in the world under any conditions, easily and safely. Yes, in light airs she moved oh so slowly, but she eventually got where you needed to go. You just needed patience. It turned out the piece was fairly successful, measured by the reader mail generated. In fact, my wife Ann and I came close to buying a “Gazelle” design back in the 80’s.

Postscript to the story: there were two photos up for cover consideration. One was the one in color on the postcard I sent you, the best out of perhaps 5,000 Kodachromes and Ektachromes shot while covering the story. The other was of the Westail 32, shot by the OTHER photographer, whatshisname. At the time the article was published, TIME’s art director was shopping for a boat. You’ll never guess which of the two he chose?  

As a wise philosopher once pointed out, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Or something like that.

Best regards to you and Julie,







PhotoPlus Expo – Chapter II: Getting the Most out of Trade Shows

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on October 27, 2015 by wordsandpixels

When you walk into a large trade show such as PhotoPlus Expo, you’re assaulted with overwhelming sights, sounds and yes, even smells (New York hot dogs!). Giant exhibitions from companies like Canon, Nikon or Epson epsondominate the floor and vie for the viewer’s attention. Hundreds of smaller booths are displaying wares ranging from products to books to educational experiences — and everything in between. Where do you even begin?

Well, there are a couple of ways to tackle these shows. One is to travel in a very pre-planned direction i.e. north, south, east and west, until you’ve covered the entire floor. The other is more serendipitous. In this approach you simple bounce from one interesting booth to another, in a kind of random pattern. Sort of like a ping-pong ball. Incidentally, there’s a nice wrap-up of the show at Check it out.

sigmaHowever you do it, a day (or, heaven forbid, even two or three) can reap rich rewards.

There are seminars. There are product demos. There are opportunities to shoot live models. You can have your cameras cleaned, updated, evaluated and even sold if you wish! There are tons of exhibitions of inspiring and educational You will meet fellow photographers walking the aisles, in the same manner as you, with whom you will exchange ideas, observations and discoveries.

We thought it would be helpful to pass along some of the more interesting highlights we found. They are in no particular order (think ping-pong ball).

One innovative young camera bag designer, Ryan Cope ( showed us a brilliant backpack style camera bag that is as much at home in the office as it is in the Grand Tetons. Rocky Nook, Inc., book publishers, displayed a small but useful library of books on technique and artistry that’s guaranteedgallery to get your creative juices flowing. Yishai Shapir put on a short but powerful demo of on-the-go portrait lighting. You’ll never have an excuse to blame your results on “…but I only had one flash!”

Our old friend Peter Waisnor from Tenba explained to us how “Quiet Velcro” made opening and closing one of their new bags “stealthy” so when you’re covering an opera people don’t scowl at you. Tenba, of course, has been dishing out a huge variety of bags holding everything from subminiature cameras to huge computer displays. Well worth checking out. Another buddy from the historic archive department was Matt Hill, who among other things offers a series of workshops in night photography at National Parks around the United States.

The Josephine Herrick Project provides free photography programs using cameras as transformational tools to give a voice to all people. Very worthwhile! Check them out at Miriam Leuchter, editor of American Photo magazine was at the show, providing portfolio reviews (as were many others). There were dozens of galleries showing photographers works, but we kept coming back to Epson’s for the richness and variety of content.

cell phoneThe above are but a small sampling of the scores of photographers, writers, educators, editors, manufacturer’s reps, distributors, and friends we ran into at the show. We wore off a little shoe leather but gained so much in the end. See you at the next show!

PhotoPlus Expo – Chapter I: New Technology/Old Technology, the Smartphone

Posted in Trade Shows with tags , , , , , , , on October 23, 2015 by wordsandpixels

I was having lunch with my editor, Alison Duncan, at, and we were discussing how the one of the long-running site’s purposes is to help readers decide what camera to take on which assignment. Sounds simple, right?

Not so fast! Do you take your standard DSLR? How about that new digital P&S you just HAD to have? Or maybe that old film beater TLR you actually used back in the Pleistocene era? Or, surprise of surprises, how about that camera you always have with you, the ubiquitous smart phone?

Which brings us to the currently running “Broadway” hit show: PhotoPlus Expo. My good friend and neighbor, woodworker Gus Pedersen and I decided to drop in and see the latest technological cornucopia of products, pick up some educational content and in short have a good time meeting photographers, students, educators and industry colleagues alike.

After jostling through the crowds for some time, getting my three Fuji XE-1 cameras professionally cleaned and updated, meeting about a gazillion old friends and colleagues, and even consuming a gastrointestinal challenge in the Javits Center cafeteria, who should we happen to stumble upon but Ben Zajeski, president of Ben was surrounded by a throng of excited photographers, oohing and ahhing like grandparents at a baby’s family gathering. There, in the middle of the melee, was my friend Gus!
Gus at PhotoPlus Expo
“Yo, what ARE you buying, I asked?”

“You gotta see this, Gary,” he said, and motioned me to join him at the counter.

It wasn’t too long before even this ossified brain figured out what all the excitement was about, and for good reason. Ben had designed a simple, but incredibly well thought-out accessory for your smartphone. It is in fact a small pistol grip and case, allowing you to comfortably hold your phone/aka digital camera for long periods of time. No fatigue. No shaking caused by cramped muscles. No fiddling with small, cramped, hard-to-see screen buttons.

You simply snap in your phone, turn on the Bluetooth setting, start the “GRIP&SHOOT” app, and after making sure the Bluetooth is paired up with your phone, you start shooting! We found it truly amazing, especially with increasingly popular video (“Ready, quiet on the set! Action!” you bellow).

Included in the package was the Shooter Case for the iPhone 5, a similar case for the iPhone 4S, what Ben calls “JawZ,” to hold any phone or case, the Bluetooth Smart Grip, Grip Adapter, Carrying Pouch and Wrist Lanyard. His incredibly well-made (in the U.S., incidentally) product fits just about any smartphone out there, including iPhones, Androids, iPad minis, etc. It’s available in black or white.

The price on his Web site is just under $100, but at the show he was selling them $10 cheaper. Need I tell you this was the best $90 I spent on photography in a long while? Need I tell you that Ben was selling them like hotcakes? He was writing up orders as fast as his fingers could fly across the keyboard! People were walking away with their new tech toy and a smile on their faces, because this little piece of technology makes it easy to do what my editor and I were discussing: it puts the smart phone more into the category of a camera, with the ease of use that these phones should have had all along.

Photojournalism, house organs and the kid…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 7, 2015 by wordsandpixels

Flushing, NY — April, 1963 — I walked cautiously, full of fear; the steel I-beam beneath my feet was only about a foot wide. Underneath the I-beam lay 360 feet of nothingness. You looked down and your stomach filled with butterflies and your head spun around until you were dizzy. Yesterday, a steelworker fell to his death. I didn’t see him fall but I heard — and felt — the dull thud of his body hitting the dirt earth.

I am atop the mess of girders, cables and cement that will become Shea Stadium, a $24.5 million, 55,300-seat baseball stadium in Flushing, New York. I am here because a friend of my father advised me that if I wanted to earn some money — a lot of money it turned out — the way to do that was to take pictures and write articles about various products being to used to construct or make the stadium come to life. It turned out to be like shooting fish in a barrel. Fun. Creative. That experience was to set the stage for the rest of my career.

There are many definitions for the word photojournalist. One is a photographer who shoots photo essays for magazines like LIFE, LOOK, or NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC. But since the former two are out of business and the third was just sold to Rupert Murdoch, perhaps we ought to look elsewhere for our definition. So maybe it’s a photographer who tells story with his or her pictures. That works. In my case, I can add the ability to write stories to accompany your pictures. Thanks to my father. He taught me to write, take pictures and sail. All useful skills. He also taught be how to paint houses and boats, but that’s another story.

The reason I’m telling you this story is, in 1963, every company that made a product also published at least one magazine. Some published more than one. Some, like IBM, published magazines (theirs was called “THINK”) that rivaled LIFE and LOOK for art direction, writing and quality of photojournalism. There were so many magazines that a man named Con Gebbie published a catalogue of them. You guessed it; my father introduced me to Mr. Gebbie.

“Kid,” he explained, “it’s real simple. Find yourself a big construction project and get someone to write you a letter of introduction. Now go down and take some general pictures of the overall project. Write what we call a ‘boilerplate’ story about who, why, what, when and where of the project. Now take some specific pictures of the manufacturer’s products. Write captions for all the photos, and write a letter to the editor of the company magazine, which is called a house organ. Put everything in an envelope and mail it to the editor. I guarantee that most editors will pay you good money for your hard work.”

“You’re kidding, right?” was all I could muster for an answer.

“Nope. Take my word for it. It works,” was his answer, and it was all I needed to get going.

When I got to the construction site, the general contractor gave me a hardhat and told me not to hurt myself. Over the course of that summer I took pictures of every product I could find. U.S. Steel. Goodyear tires. Caterpillar tractors. Even Sloan urinals. MamiyaI used a Mamiya C2 camera to take those pictures; it was a beater 120 roll film twin-lens-reflex with interchangeable lenses. I had three: a 65mm wide angle, an 80 mm normal, and a 180mm telephoto.

I was fortunate to meet a really helpful guy whose job it was to take x-rays of the steel welds. He had a van outfitted with a complete darkroom to process the x-ray film. We became fast friends and the passenger seat in his van became by office, my home away from home. It was also a great place to get out of the hot sun.

Every night I would go to my real home on Long Island, in the darkroom built by my dad and me, and develop the film I shot and make the prints to send the editors. I would stay up late at night typing captions for the photos and letters to the editors to sell the story.

Mr. Gebbie was right. Those editors welcomed the fruits of my labor. In the course of that spring, summer and fall I earned over $7,000. Before you reach for your calculator let me tell you that’s about $50,000 in today’s dollars. Not bad for a 15-year old kid from Bayside, Long Island, New York.

Although I thanked Mr. Gebbie with a letter and a phone call, those thanks paled next to the long-term effect he had on my career as a photojournalist. And the photojournalism of 2015 may be light years away from that of 1963, but the art of story telling is not.

The author at “Dinoland” in 1964, at the New York World’s Fair.

The author at “Dinoland” in 1964, at the New York World’s Fair.

The following summer I worked as a photojournalist for the Sinclair Oil Company, at the New York World’s Fair. More about that in the next installment.


Flying high…

Posted in Uncategorized on October 3, 2015 by wordsandpixels
Nathaniel Miller, DP, and client before aerial shoot.

Nathaniel Miller, DP, and client before aerial shoot.

Somewhere over Indiana, altitude 32,000 feet, or about 10,000 meters — October 2, 2015 — I haven’t flown by myself in years. I am headed, solo, to Los Angeles, California, aboard United Airlines Flight 1535, to visit my son Nathaniel, his wife Jenn, and their soon-to-be one year old daughter Posey. The weather was grey and stormy as we took off and for the first hour of flight but now the clouds have given way to blue skies and crisp sunlight bathes the 757.

My iPhone is playing a song from “The Traveling Wilbury’s” album, causing me to reminisce about the day, many years ago, when Nathaniel, as a teenager, helped a team of colleagues and me build the first of many iterations of television studios at The New York Stock Exchange. Financial news had been around for years, but live television from the floor of a financial institution such as the Big Board was about to debut. Those were heady times.

Nathaniel went on to college, where he studied film and video production. The college he attended was SUNY Plattsburgh, one of the coldest campuses in the world. Somehow he endured the cold winters, reveled in climbing the nearby Adirondack peaks and overall grew into a talented and caring young man. He worked at a local video production company, where he got his chops in the arduous, painstaking art of film and video editing.

He grew emotionally and intellectually. At home, a lengthy divorce of his mom and dad had taken its toll, and Nathaniel needed to muster all his emotional resources to overcome it and become the person who he soon was to become. Friends and family alike grew to give him the respect and love he so deserved.

While working in Atlanta on “The Vampire Diaries,” he met and married Wisconsin-born Jenn Nelson. They gave birth to little Posey on October 3, 2014. In the past year, Nathaniel and Jenn saved enough money to enable him to turn down all but the choicest “DP” (“Director of Photography”) assignments. Their timing couldn’t have been better. This year, in short order, producers, directors and writers began requesting Nathaniel Miller as their DP. His career took off like the proverbial Atlas rocket.

If these words read like a mushy love letter, so be it. I am bursting with one of those seven deadly sins — pride — like any father. But it’s like the moment when you take the training wheels off the bicycle and watch your child ride down the road. It’s a rich, emotional moment.

Congratulations, Nathaniel. Hugs and kisses, Jenn. And Posey…happy birthday to one lucky girl.

Nathaniel, Posey and Jenn on the pier at Venice, CA

Nathaniel, Posey and Jenn on the pier at Venice, CA


The Cat’s Meow (OT)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 18, 2015 by wordsandpixels

As we’re getting ready for the transition between city mice and country mice (Yonkers NY to the Catskill Mountains) we’re all too aware of the most difficult part of the transition. No, not wrapping fine stemware in tissue paper. No, not packing the old 4×5 Speed Graphic so the film holders don’t get broken. No, not prepping the delicate ham radio equipment so it doesn’t get trashed enroute.

The most difficult part of the move is going to be making the transition for our three cats, Elvis, Mary and Amelia, as painless as possible. AmeliaThese cats, not having grown up with our five sons as did the previous feline administration, are skittish even on a good day. So it will be interesting to see what is the best solution. Sticking them in the engine compartment to stay warm (no, don’t reach for the phone to call the ASPCA — just kidding)? IMG_1996Putting them in old cardboard boxes? Hmmm. That’s a possibility. Or rounding them up and putting them all in a big cage, one designed for 100 pound dogs. Now THAT sounds better!

P.S. Elvis hasn’t been photographed with iPhone so I can’t lay my hands on a decent picture of him.

P.P.S. Elvis got his name because we got him from the pound on the birthday of the king of rock and roll.

Talking Techie — Part II

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 16, 2015 by wordsandpixels

OK, OK. You know who you are. We saw you smiling.

There’s so much talk these days about the iPhone 6S, Or is it 7? Or maybe 8?

Well, just for giggles, we took a photo (yes, I know, I used my iPhone’s built in camera) of the “latest technology” from the year I was born (plus or minus a few years :-).

IMG_3109 (1)

Wanna think about something? The so-called “new technology” pictured here made people fearful. Fearful of someone stealing secrets from their phone conversations. Fearful of getting caught out in the proverbial thunderstorm and not being able to call 911 (yeah, they didn’t have 911 in those days, just checking if you’re paying attention!)Fearful about…well, you get the idea. Every time new technology is introduced, people get afraid.

Every summer I helped out my grandpa and grandma on their farm in Bellefontaine, OH. And one of my tasks was to feed the sheep at some ungodly hour, like 0400 hours. What did Robin Williams say in “Good Morning, Vietnam?” (“What does the “oh” stand for in 0400? Oh. My. Gawd”

RIP, Robin. We’ll make sure technology doesn’t screw things up too badly for the next generation. Especially for the sheep…err, people.

More 1948 technology, Hastings, New York, September 2015.