Archive for October, 2013

The Wall Street Journal and the Retina IIa

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 28, 2013 by wordsandpixels

Sixty-five years ago, an intrepid soldier put on his hiking boots and — thankfully for a different reason — slogged through the mud, the rain and the cold for an historic Georgia-to-Maine, record-setting adventure. Earl Shaffer was the first person to hike the 2,100 mile Appalachian Trail from end to end.

The author near Newfound Gap, Appalachian Trail, at mile 260.8 (photo by Gary Mintier).

The author near Newfound Gap, Mile 260.8 Appalachian Trail (photo by Gary Mintier).

One of his critical pieces of gear was his camera.

Considered today as laughably heavy for AT hiking, his camera, now also sixty-five years old, was a Kodak Retina IIa 35mm rangefinder. It took 35mm film, of course, and Shaffer fed it a steady diet of slide film to capture the details.

I recently celebrated my sixty-fifth birthday by replicating that hike, with a similar camera but with Earl’s enthusiasm. My friend, muse and client, Karen Larsen, editor and founder of “Good Old Boat” magazine, sent me a copy of “Encore,” the Wall Street Journal’s magazine aimed at 50-plus year old readers with a “hint, hint” note. I called the editor, Glenn Ruffenach, and told him of my planned footpath travails. My cell phone rang, literally, when I was stream-side, filling my water bottles. Mr. Ruffenach thought it was a story which WSJ readers would find both inspiring as well as educational.

This article was the result.

The real hero of this story? My little Retina.


Gnashing Teeth, WordPress, Computers….

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on October 16, 2013 by wordsandpixels

IMG_1685As readers of this blog know, I have been very fortunate to be allowed to teach a course entitled “Shoot Film!” at Westchester Community College.

So I wanted to change my blog appearance. I wanted to remove a bio-like front page and have users go straight to the blog. Simple, right?

Wrong. When you went to you got the dreaded “404 Not Found” error.

A lot of searching, Googling, checking boxes, etc., etc., resulted in only frustration. How can I fix this? Hmmm. I kept reading. I kept searching. Finally, there it was. The answer. Go in to your blog site, the advice said, make a few changes, and make sure you save those changes. Ninety-nine out of one hundred times that will do the trick.

It did. I think. I hope. This, as they say, is a test. It is only a test. In the event of an emergency you will….well, you get the idea.

Here goes.

The accompanying photograph, incidentally, shows my youngest son Zach, who teaches earth and physical science at John Jay Middle School in Northern Westchester, at work on my computer. He doesn’t suffer from the same brain short circuits as does his dad. When he wants to use technology to help teach, a few quick keystrokes and, voila!, it’s done.

Baby boomers aren’t that fortunate.

New Hampshire

Posted in Uncategorized on October 12, 2013 by wordsandpixels

A quick Facebook(c) like comment. We had an earthquake yesterday! a very moving experience!

New Media….New Blogging…..New Netflix

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 10, 2013 by wordsandpixels

One of my hobbies is ham radio. As most of you undoubtedly know, ham radio is a discipline enabling like-minded individuals to talk to each other without wires, over the airwaves, in a manner with foundations firmly rooted in the early twentieth century.

People always seem surprised that ham radio still exists. “Hasn’t the Internet replaced ham radio?” they ask. The answer is no. When the electricity fails, as demonstrated recently by hurricane Sandy, hams came to the rescue, helping by providing reliable emergency communications. Thousand of people are helped directly by ham radio.


The author (call sign N2GEM) and his ham station. He still uses Morse Code.

The author (call sign N2GEM) and his ham station. He still uses Morse Code.

Although ham radio never went away, it has changed, evolved and grown. One example is Morse Code, thought by many to have gone by the wayside after seeing too many spy movies about WW II. Morse Code used to be a requirement you had to demonstrate in order to pass the ham radio examination. When, after a fiery and lengthy debate, it was dropped from the test, you would think interest would have waned or even entirely disappeared.

Would it it surprise you to learn that Morse Code is more popular today than ever before in its history? It is.

I digress down this path to bring our attention to changes in media. Not all have been good, of course. But neither have all been bad. Newspapers may be withering like dried grapes on the vine but blogs are more popular than ever. Network television and it’s audience has been slowly and steadily declining. Venues like Netflix have discovered an eager and profitable environment.

Photography has inexorably changed. Technology enables anyone to pick up a camera and produce acceptable images. Sadly, most of those images never leave the iPhone or hard drive. They never get printed by hand so that the resulting 16×20 hangs proudly on the wall. What we do with so-called New Media is up to us.

Whether the image is made by binary code or silver salts residing on an acetate backing, it is the heart and soul of the photographer which will impact us most profoundly. Case in point is a recent book published of Pete Turnley’s photography. Mike Johnston critiqued it in a recent blog posting of “The Online Photographer.”¬†Due to a mention in “The New York Times,” the book has already sold more than a third of its press run. Now that’s¬†getting off the hard drive and into people’s lives. Thanks, Pete, for creating the book and thanks, Mike, for bringing it to our attention.


Hiking down a different trail…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on October 8, 2013 by wordsandpixels

As I discovered this past spring, sometimes you don’t — or can’t — hike the trail you originally started. When I had to quit after four hundred miles, I felt defeated. But it didn’t take too many friends and fellow hikers to say, “You what? You hiked four HUNDRED miles? Wow! That’s amazing.”

Glass half empty versus half full kind of thing, I guess.

The AT's first thru-hiker, Earl Shaffer, with his trusty Retina.

The AT’s first thru-hiker, Earl Shaffer, in 1948 with his trusty Retina, also 65 years old.

So now it gives me great pleasure to say the blog is taking a turn and hiking down a different trail. That trail is the world of film photography. That’s right. The stuff that sometimes has sprockets running along the sides of it. Or a notch in the upper right hand corner of a sheet of 4×5. The stuff that — unlike bits and bytes — you can hold in your hand.

In spite of the overwhelming preponderance of digital imagery, it turns out I’m not alone. Many photographers like to backpedal technologically and practice photography as it was practiced in the 1920’s, 1960’s or even on the cusp of the digital age, the 1990’s. For some, it’s an artistic thing. For others, a gear head thing. But no one will deny that for many reasons, film photography is fun.

It also helps that our local community college — Westchester Community College — has given me the go-ahead to teach a course entitled “Shoot Film!” for the Spring 2014 semester. During the ten weeks of the course’s duration, we’ll explore some film history, some film technology, shoot the breeze about which film cameras are favorites and why, etc., etc., etc.

So if it pleases you, enjoy the new WordsandPixels direction. Sign up for regular updates. Tell your friends about it. Send in comment and thoughts. It’s YOUR venue for film photography (alongside many other fine blogs like TOP, APUG,, etc.). As always, comments, questions, even rambling rants are welcome.