Monday, November 29, 2010

The Statue of Liberty Never Looked Finer

The Statue of Liberty
My wife and I visited the Statue of Liberty over the Thanksgiving holiday. Even though I grew up just outside New York city, I had never visited Liberty Island before. We reserved tickets on-line the previous evening and boarded the first Ferry ride at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. It was a spectacular day - not a cloud in the sky and very little haze.

As the ferry approached Liberty Island, I went up to the top deck to take unobstructed photos. Being morning, the sun was low in the sky providing an excellent directional light on to statue. The ferry does a great job of coming in close to the island at a slow pace, and then circling the front of the island to provide views of the statue from both sides. I stopped taking photos as the ferry got close to the dock, and then realized you could see both the Statue of Liberty and the New York City skyline together - a very nice Kodak moment.
The Statue of Liberty and the New York City skyline.

On Liberty Island
Close up of the hand holding the torch of the Statue of Liberty.

After departing the ferry, we walked around the front of the statue. It was great fun to zero in on parts of the statue as opposed to whole thing. The picture at the top of this article was my favorite. By only seeing a part of her arm, you  get the sense that Miss Liberty is really stretching her arm very hard to hold up the torch as high as possible. When you see more of the arm, it doesn't give that same impression. A good lesson of what cropping can do.

View From the Pedestal

After taking in the statue from all the vantage points on the island, we entered the pedestal. In there is a very nice museum taking you through the history of the statue, including early sculpted renditions as well as showing the process how the artisans translated the final design into copper sheets. Quite an undertaking because each section had to have a wooden negative mold produced which the artisan then used to shape the copper sheet. After the museum, it was up 154 steps to highest point on the pedestal. We could not go up to the crown because those tickets are reserved on-line and were gone long before we contemplated visiting the Statue of Liberty. This is the closest you can get to the outside of the statue and is where I took the picture from below of the hand holding the torch. I have always marveled at how well this part of the sculpture was executed. Miss Libery's grip on the torch is firm, but not too tight. I think this impression is formed because her fore finger is not wrapped around the handle but is instead resting on the underside of the torch platform. Go find a picture of her right hand and see for yourself.

Sillouette of the back of the Statue of Liberty with the sun over the torch.
The Sillouette

As we walked around the back of the pedestal I took a picture of the shadow of the statue stretched along the ground. It occured to me that this also presented an opportunity to take a sillouette picture of the statue from behind with the sun placed directly over the torch. So I quickly ran down the stairs and to the back of the island, and snapped off a series of photos with the sun back lighting the statue. The best photo is shown here. The sun flare is completely natural - no Photoshop work involved at all. After I got home, I was curious to see if others had executed this same shot. A quick search on the Internet showed several variations, but the closest one I saw exposed the shot differently so you could see the torch itself with the sun brightly shining through the railing.

The Teapot

The little girl exclaimed "Mommy! Why is she holding a teapot?"
The best comment of the day came from a little girl my wife overheard as we were walking around the base of the statue. She said "Mommy! Why is she holding a teapot?" We both looked up and, lo and behold, but doesn't the flame of the torch look like a tea pot?! Wow, from the mouth's of babes... I could only imagine how Frederic Barholdi would have reacted upon revealing the statue for all to see for the first time and then some child asking him why the lady was holding a teapot. Ha!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New England Patriots Face Off Against the Super Bowl Champion New Orlean Saints in Training Camp

Tuesday, August 10, 2010
I attended the New England Patriots training camp session today at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA. For those who may not know, the Patriots open up their training facility to the public for free during training camp season (click here for a detailed schedule). A good number of people show up to watch, but the facility is plenty large enough to easily accommodate everyone. I can't remember having an easier time driving into the stadium for an event. We parked literally right next to the stadium and the practice field. Again, just to emphasize, this was a free event so there was no charge for parking.


A ton of vendors were set up along the path to get to the training field, but their sales pitches weren't too onerous. Several had offers to exchange contact information for a chance to win some Patriot tickets - not a bad deal. The Patriots also had food vendors set up with the usual stadium fare for sale.


The Venue

The Patriots have a set of stands set up along one sideline that spans the full length of one of the practice fields. They are not too tall. Probably similar in height to what a visitor's stands would be at a high school football game. To complete the scene they had vendors hawking food and drinks throughout the stands all day, so you didn't have to leave your seat to get something. In addition to the stands, people sat on a grassy hill area located in one of the end zones.
Since it was open seating, everything was very relaxed with people moving about to get a better of view of something that piqued their interest. As you can imagine, the entire field was being used for a wide variety of drills simultaneously. There were plenty of uniformed police and Patriot security in the area, but, thankfully, there wasn't much need for them.

The Amazing Wes Welker

Once I found my seat, I settled in to watching the offense. My favorite drill was the passing drill. It was great to be able to concentrate on how the receivers ran their patterns - how well they entered and exited their breaks, gaging their speed, and seeing how the quarterbacks anticipated the receiver's moves. This drill amped up considerably when the Saints defensive halfbacks came in to defend the Patriots. The biggest roar from the crowd came when Wes Welker made a multiple cut/stop move to create significant separation from the defender and then caught one of his patented passes from Brady over the middle. VERY impressive, especially considering what happened to Wes's knee eight months ago. He looked good enough to play in a game. Simply remarkable

Tom Brady connected on one very long (60+ yard) pass play to Randy Moss who got behind two defenders (see photo) - the biggest play of the day.

Just as you see during the games, Randy and Tom were always together. It seemed as though everytime I found one of them in the camera viewfinder there was the other one right beside. Tom has often said that he enjoys Randy as a teamate and one would certainly believe that after watching them at practice.


6'0" 209 lbs

I don't know why, but Drew Brees appeared to be VERY small compared to everyone else on the field. Is he really six feet tall? I kept doubting myself that it was really him who was running the first-string offense (the pre-season jerseys don't have names on them). I wasn't completely satisfied until I got the chance to review the photos at home (see photo above).

Autograph Session

Towards the end of the scrimmage, all at once the entire crowd in the stands moved to the first row. I got up looking for what must have been Tom Brady approaching the crowd, but that was not to be. What I learned was that everyone was anticipating the players coming over to sign autographs at the end of the practice session. Indeed, at least half of dozen players came by to sign autographs. I thought this was really great. Laurence Maroney and Brandon Meriweather were among the stars who came over. Even Reggie Bush swung by to sign autographs. However, practice wasn't over. This was when the third-stringers took the field, but absolutely nobody was paying attention to them. I felt kinda sad for them, but I wound up ingoring them just like everyone else as I was vying for a great shot of one of the stars. It certainly reminds you that this is a star-driven game. Check out more photos at

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Exploding Nikon Lens

Friday, July 15, 2010
I never expected to see this.
While hiking the Hi-Cannon Trail up to the top of Cannon Mountain in the Franconia Notch region of the New Hampshire White Mountains, my camera swung around and caught a thick, dead branch right in the middle of my Nikkor 18-200mm zoom lens. I've hiked with my Nikon camera equipment all my life, from the Grand Canyon to Glacier National Park to the Czech Republic, and I've occassionally knocked the equipment around - but that's precisely why I love Nikon equipment: It's built to last. But this time the sound I heard was very different from the normal ping's you hear when the equipment hits something.


The Crescent Roll Sound

The best description I can ascribe to the sound I heard (and felt) was that it reminded me of when you pop open a container of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. I looked down at the camera, and, to my horror, I saw something that I never dreamed that I would ever see: The zoom lens was popped open right in the middle (see photo above). Yikes! This was NOT good.

The outside of the lens was just fine - there wasn't even a mark on the barrel of the lens indicating where the contact with the log occurred. Not a scratch much less a dent. The glass was absolutely perfect too. However, there it was. A completely useless, very expensive, high-quality lens exposing its inner workings to me.


What Was The Cause?

I suspect what probably happened was that there was a micro-fracture or defect within the lens that left it vulnerable to the perfect strike causing it to completely fail and spring open when it impacted the log. If true, I probably could have hit the lens in other places multiple times and never have seen this catastrophic failure (in fact, I'm sure I banged the lens around plenty of times before this particular incident occurred).


Before and After

Just to make sure to highlight what happened to the lens, I took a photo with the broken lens next to a new one so you can see the differences (see second photo).


Can It Be Fixed?

When I went to the store to purchase a replacement lens the salesman thought the broken lens was repairable, but he wasn't sure for how much. I do wonder how much Nikon would charge because overall the lens is in great shape (it's only two years old). You can see from the last photograph that the glass is in beautiful shape as is the rest of the lens body. As I said earlier, there was no outwardly sign that the lens took any blow whatsoever when it popped open. I'll have to do a little research, but it might be a good idea to put the lens up for sale and let someone else send it in for repair. In the end, they may wind up with a great lens at an unbelievable price.
Anyone else have any lens horror stories to share? Please post them here. I look forward to the dialog.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Scott Sigler ANCESTOR Book Reading in Cambridge, MA

Friday, June 25, 2010
I finally got the chance to meet the Future Dark Overload (FDO) himself, Scott Sigler (, in person at Pandemonium Books & Games ( on Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010, where he was doing a reading from his latest novel, ANCESTOR. I video taped the event and posted it on YouTube.

There are several video segments to view. All tolled, the reading and question & answer session lasted almost 70 minutes. This meant chopping the video up into 10-minute chunks to adhere to the YouTube time constraints. After producing the seven (7) segment project, I realized that not everyone may want to sit through the whole thing, so I edited the event down to 10 minutes. This summary video contains a condensed version of the reading and the signing, but none of the question and answer period.

For the intro and outro, I used the pre- and post-roll video Scott Sigler produced for the ANCESTOR video contest ( The challenge was to modify the video to remove the references to the contest and insert text referencing the book tour. I pulled the footage into After Effects and overlayed the new text to cover the original text. It's not nearly as clean as the original, but it's only on screen for a short time so I think it works quite well.

I did have moments of trepidation as I edited Scott's reading. I kept thinking that he might not approve of what I kept in the video -- that he would have edited it differently based on his desire to communicate certain things to the viewer. I hope Scott approves!

 The final bonus of the evening was having Scott sign my copies of ANCESTOR -- both my new one and the original published in soft cover many years ago by Dragon Moon Press ( After the reading, everyone headed over to Tommy Doyles in Cambridge ( for beers.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Digital Display Video Loop Installed at PGA Center for Advanced Dentistry

Friday, June 11, 2010
We recently installed a 28-minute video loop in the PGA Center for Advanced Dentistry, the dentist office of Dr. Jay Ajmo, ( located in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Dr. Ajmo has a state-of-the art facilty with dual 42" displays located in each exam room. However, Dr. Ajmo felt the displays were being under utilized. Their primary function was to display patient x-rays - a huge improvement over the ancient way of placing the x-rays up against a fluorescent backlight. With the computer and digital display, Dr. Ajmo could readily zoom in and point out areas of interest to the patient.

Taking Advantage of the Technology
However, the time used by Dr. Ajmo's team to display x-rays to the patient was almost negligiable compared to the time the displays were available. Thus they created PowerPoint(tm) presentation to run continously on the display, but it was not very engaging. It would also be interrupted all the time whenever the computer was used to do something else. Patients would often request that the photo of someone's teeth be removed from the screen after staring at it for fifteen minutes! The solution we proposed was to develop a customized video loop for Dr. Ajmo.

Personalized Commercial

We sat down with Dr. Ajmo to discuss the scope of the video, and we sketched out the topics that he wanted to present to his patients. There were to obvious patient success stories, but we also wanted to take the opportunity to educate his patients to avoid having the video come across as a pushy commercial. Thus, we developed segments that show the consequences of non-treatment, the close tie between good dental health and your overall body health, and many treatment options, including the unique IV-sedation that Dr. Ajmo offers.

The final production is a 28-minute video loop that takes Dr. Ajmo's patients on a journey. It makes extensive use of text and graphic effects to keep the viewer's attention without being over the top. Each individual segment in the loop is kept under 2 minutes to make sure the information on the screen is always fresh. That way something new is always just around the corner in case any particular topic is not interesting for the viewer. Similarly, we felt it was important to make the video loop long so it would only repeat once during a patient's visit.

The patient stories make use of direct quotes from the patients themselves to help personalize the story to the viewer. Someone who can relate to a situation is more likely to stay engaged with the story and be receptive to absorb the treatment options performed. We then close the stories with strong visuals of how the patient looks post-treatment.

The overall look of the video was kept clean and bright to promote a fresh, positive sensation to the viewer. The animations to communicate the treatment options and consequences of non-treatment were also designed to be simple and clean. We also included a soft-sell call to action for the patients throughout the video to think about referring friends and family to Dr. Ajmo's office for dental treatment.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Trade Show Video on Display at the International Microwave Symposium

A video I produced for UltraSource (, one of the most advanced thin film circuit and interconnect manufacturers, is running in their trade show booth at the 2010 International Microwave Symposium ( The video was designed to complement the marketing message throughout the booth by focusing in on customer challenges, the UltraSource solutions and the benefits those solutions provide.

You can see the full video under the "Trade Show" section of our website's portfolio page (

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow at the Beacon Theater December 11, 1975

Monday, May 17, 2010

I just learned from a close friend that Ronnie James Dio died yesterday ( How sad. He was a favorite rock and roll front man of mine. Excellent rock voice. Good song writer.

Back in the 70's I was a huge Deep Purple fan, so when Ritchie Blackmore left the group to form Rainbow, my friends and I were all over their debut album. Then, as luck would have it, we scored great seats to see their United States debut performance at the Beacon Theater in New York City. We had first row seats in the balcony. I brought my Dad's trusty Pentax and two lenses, and a couple of rolls of film.

Lessons Learned

At this show I was still an amateur with regards to shooting concerts. The light meter in the camera was never right because it would always be averaging all that blackness surrounding the subject. It took several shows of mistakes before I built up the proper knowledge, and confidence, to set the exposure correctly for a given film speed. So, at this show, I had a ton of shots that were exposed brilliantly, but were very blurry. I could have easily rested the long lens right on the balcony rail, but I don't think I did that given the results.
The opening act was Argent. A completely forgettable performance - even the extended performance of their one great hit, "Hold Your Head Up," was a yawner. The crowd just wanted to see Rainbow.
I loved Rainbow's staging. From the iconic rainbow arc of lights framing the stage, the backdrop of the painting from their debut album, and Blackmore's dual stacks of Marshall amplifiers, it was just what you would want a rock and roll show to look like. I always wondered what the tape recorder was used for behind Blackmore.

 I was astonished to find that an audio recording of this performance is available on the web. It was indeed quite a kick to listen to it after all these years. I had remembered that the show had a great, long rocking song which was new at the time. I later summized it to be "Stargazer" from their second album, but I really didn't know until I saw the set list for concert which confirmed it. How cool! I also remembered and was impressed by Cozy Powell playing to the "1812 Overture" during his drum solo. I thought that was a clever innovation for the time.

Blackmore did not throw his Strat in the air at the end of the show or smash it, but it was a great performance. A few years later I saw Rainbow again at the Capital Theater in New Jersey. There Blackmore did toss his guitar very high in the air - and I got photos of it. I'll post those photos in a future blog post.