Old Photos Revisited

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February 2011 – Olympus Stylus 410 Point & Shoot

Going through the archives this morning – while looking for a photo to use on my Facebook wall, I came across this 2011 picture of my son playing pool.

There was no special reason for the capture, other than to get a picture of him.  I never intended to make “something artsy.”  What I ended up with however was unexpected and looked kind of cool, showing the track of his shot in slow motion.  The whole scene was captured in half a second, with a simple hand-held 4MP point & shoot camera purchased off Craigslist for $35:

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At the time this Olympus Stylus 410 was my only digital camera; my higher-end Olympus C4040 had died in 2009 and this one was procured to fill the void until I could find something better.  The pictures taken with the 410 weren’t the best quality, but they were something.  It documented our family times, and was always reliable.  I did have plenty of film cameras, but it was pretty hard to beat the convenience of this little silver bullet.  The camera itself was small, light, and still handy to have around for pictures that don’t need to be 850 Magoogapixels (we still have it, and it still works).  A couple months later I bought a Canon Powershot S70, and then replaced them both with a Canon 20D DSLR a year later.

The pictures taken with the Stylus 410 were mostly forgotten.

But because I’m a visual guy, I could never completely leave them alone.  The picture I ended up posting on Facebook this morning was taken on the same vacation with the same point & shoot, depicting an ocean scene at sundown that cleaned up pretty well using simple editing tools. It was testament to what I’ve learned about post editing in the last couple years, as I was able to use some tricks I didn’t know about back then.  Composition also makes a huge difference, even with point & shoot photos.  The results were so satisfying in fact, that I revisited the rest of the file folder from February 2011 to see if I could work some edits into another photo.

This billiards shot popped out at me.

In its original format, the colors were overly warm – due to the indoor lighting and slow shutter speed.  But the ball track and the existence of one red ball in the middle drew me in.  Although it was a big fuzzy and discolored, the image to me was still compelling.  Making it black & white would have been too simple and, quite frankly, would take delicate detail out of the image.  No, a “toning” was needed.  So I clarified the picture a bit, then added some contrast and vignetting, before cooling off the colors and desaturating it just a tad.  The resulting work was more interesting than the original:

Ball Track

Same shot edited and filtered

I love going through the older stuff.

Often I find images I had forgotten about or discarded mentally due to the image quality. Sometimes, not all times, I can edit them using my current skill levels and make something decent out of them. Others remain untouched longer, possibly waiting for better tools or better skills. The key is to always learn and always have fun!

Pigga Pardon?

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Me and my Dad – 1968

My Dad doesn’t hear that well.

For my entire childhood – if he didn’t quite understand what was said – his response was always “Pigga Pardon?” The response was normal to me, and I knew what it meant, even if objectively it didn’t make a lick of sense.

It wasn’t until years later that I figured out he was asking “Beg Your Pardon?” instead.

Turns out I am the one who doesn’t hear that well!

Uncle Doug

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Born in 1944 with polio, my Uncle Doug beat it only to get Muscular Dystrophy later on.

Despite the obvious physical struggle he endured, Doug was a stellar case study in using what he had to accomplish more than people thought he could.  He did as much as possible on his own, stopping at the point of his physical abilities. In an era when “people of his kind” spent their lives in special homes, he was creative, a writer, an artist, and college student at the University of Minnesota. Even the act of starting a simple Bible study in his apartment led his caregiver to Christ; that man went on to become a dynamic pastor in the Midwest.

Doug died in 1970 when his 26-year old body could no longer handle the disease.

During his life he surprised us, inspired us, and showed us all that giving up on yourself – and what you can do – is just a load of crap. I miss him and that spirit every single day.

Christmas 1972 Photo Brings Many Memories

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One photo, so many memories. Scanned this slide from Christmas 1972, showing sister Karen sporting her killer Poncho. My suit jacket was shinier than Wayne Newton’s Atomic White Teeth.

I love the hand-made Wise Men statues and the wicker chair in the background.

This was taken at our home in Preston WA, which is east of Seattle on I-90 by 20-odd miles. The Christmas ornaments were styrofoam balls covered with shiny threads that ran from top to bottom all the way around. They actually looked pretty cool. On the mantle are 1972-73 school pictures, plus art pieces from Alaska, Japan, and Africa.

Looking closer at the photo I see something that triggered a lot of memories from that time. Below the mantle is the console TV where I watched the ABC 6 O’Clock News with Harry Reasoner and Howard K. Smith; they are still the image of network nightly news in my mind. I have vivid TV memories from the time, of black & white news footage showing B-52s dropping bombs – payload after payload. I also remember the network would tally up the daily death and injury tolls from Vietnam at the end of the broadcast. Being eight-years old, I didn’t really have a grasp on what the war was all about. I just knew it was a sad part of the news. One day I asked my Mom why it seemed like the injured numbers were always higher than the numbers of those who died. She just shook her head and never answered. I suppose she didn’t know how to answer a 2nd grader’s question, but was probably disgusted that either one was happening or reported for all to see.

I can understand that now as an adult.

On January 27, 1973 – roughly a month from the time this picture was taken – I was playing in the backyard. My Dad walked quietly across the street to the church and rang the steeple bell several times, to mark a Cease Fire in the Vietnam War.

Happy Saint Lucy’s Day

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While my ancestry compiles equal parts of many European countries, the heritage I associate with most is the Swedish side.

There isn’t any particular reason; I’m just as English, or German, or Danish, or Norwegian as I am Swedish. But there is something about that Northern land that attracts me. It’s funny too, because I don’t think I would ever be mistaken for a Swede.

Growing up, my parents gathered my sisters and me on their bed early on the morning of December 13th for Saint Lucy’s Day; a Sicilian girl who was martyred in 304 AD for helping the poor, Saint Lucy’s message of selfless giving somehow grabbed hold of Northern and Eastern Europe – where celebrating in her honor is a very big thing. Festivals of light and ceremony are conducted in the dark days of December, tying Catholic traditions to Pagan customs during the twelve days of Christmas. Processions, often led by one girl in a white robe wearing a crown of candles, wind through the streets or halls of the cold European nights. It is quite a spectacle.

To celebrate in our house, my Mom would bring a tray of coffee, juice, and breakfast buns – made from scratch – with some candles to our early morning gathering. The buns – flavored with cardamom and a bit of orange peel – were made in many shapes including beards, stars of David, curly cues and even horse carts. Each one was also adorned with raisins to puncuate the shapes. We would eat and talk, then get ready for school. Santa Lucia was something we always celebrated, going back to the days we lived in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. My parents and I continued to gather after each of my sisters moved away to college. Eventually, one December 13th during high school,in 1980 or 81, I didn’t want to do it anymore and left the house early. The morning gatherings ended after that.

I feel guilty for storming out that day, because it seems like I single-handedly ended a family tradition.

Thinking back I have no idea why I left. But I know now how special this family tradition was, and I had walked out on something great. Over time I never forgot Saint Lucy’s Day. Randomly through the years sister Karen would start singing the Santa Lucia Song at Christmas. The buns would also make appearances from time to time as well. Oddly I seemed to be the only one in my circle of friends who knew anything about it. Even the stunning Mrs. Clark had never heard of Saint Lucy and, to be quite honest, I myself knew little about where the tradition came from. But thanks to the power of the Internet, I was able to find out all I needed to know about this festival of light, and the one girl who started it all.

And I vowed to never storm out on this family tradition again.

Last year I asked my Mom to make some Santa Lucia buns, so I could share them with my family on December 13th (pictured above). She was more than happy to. This year she caught me before I could call.  The rolls are as good as I remember them being, sweet and very slightly tangy from the orange. The taste brings me back to those cold December mornings when our family would gather on the parents’ bed and eat these buns with each other. It’s a wonderful feeling. In my research I discovered that the “American Way” to celebrate Santa Lucia is to have coffee and cookies at the fireplace hearth by candle light.

I much prefer my Mom’s rolls over cookies 🙂

Long Lasting Art Supplies

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So I bought an assortment of Tombo brush pens back between 1995 and 1997. They are actually combo pens: brush on one side and stubby pen tip on the other.  Very versatile, very colorful.  I used them heavily for a couple years and then stashed them. A week ago I found them in a drawer and thought to myself, “These might come in handy for the postcards I draw.” But after nearly two decades would they work?

Yep…they do!

I almost didn’t believe when I saw the color flowing off the brush like I have purchased them yesterday.  With all the dried-up ballpoint pens I have laying around the house, it’s sure nice to have some quality art gear.  Is this a thumbs up for Tombo art pens?

Yep…sure is!

Under The Surface

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Sometimes reality is hidden, ever so faintly, under a veil of quiet solace.  Maybe that reality is good.  Maybe that reality is something which should remain hidden.  It might bring comfort. Or cause shame.  What’s below the skin is a compilation of mind, body, and past experience.

What’s your reality?

Photo: Canon Rebel G film SLR with 28-90mm lens – April 2012