“Lovely clams! Wonderful clams!”

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Gorgeous cirrus uncinus (“curly hooks”) clouds – sometimes called mares’ tails – over the Essex Salt Marsh in Massachusetts adjacent to Route 133. I took this picture on a hot day in July and it was oddly pleasing to know that’s snow falling at 25 or 30,000 feet.

The Essex marsh is part of the 20,000-acre Great Marsh that extends from Cape Ann in Massachusetts north into New Hampshire (map at the link). The nest platform just visible at the lower left of the top photo is one of a few dozen set up in the Great Marsh for ospreys. The shot below, which I took in April 2012, shows mom and pop (one high, one low) getting some grub for the two chicks in the nest. The year after I took that photo, the Greenbelt conservation trust set up their OspreyCam next to this platform for a few years, later moving it to another nest in Gloucester.

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Ospreys are cool, but marsh wildlife is not my chief interest at that location, nor are esoteric clouds.

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I’ll probably be internally hearing the Vikings from the Monty Python Spam sketch singing the title of this post for the rest of the day now, but I don’t mind too much.

Strange times, odd scenes

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This 1850 photograph, taken a year after the peak of the California Gold Rush, shows just some of the hundreds of ships from countries all over the world that had been abandoned in and around San Francisco Bay as passengers and crews alike joined the rush. The photo shows part of the not very large Yerba Buena Cove; more than 800 ships lay derelict in that cove alone. In the several years following this photo, the cove was entirely reclaimed with landfill and it’s where a good portion of downtown San Francisco is now around the foot of Market Street. The wood from many of these ships was recycled to make buildings and furniture, but some sank in place, got buried during the reclamation, and are still occasionally found today underneath new construction.


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As with most gold and silver rushes, relatively few individuals made a lot of money finding the shiny stuff. Because of the extreme tonnages of earth and water movement required after the brief initial somewhat easy pickings, large commercial enterprises took over most of the effort and profit within months, often hiring solo prospectors – almost all of them rank amateurs, remember – who were finding little or no gold and quickly becoming desperate. They weren’t paid well, which made it difficult if not impossible to save up for passage back home. A decade after the California Gold Rush, even Mark Twain tried and failed miserably at the Comstock (silver) Lode in Virginia City, Nevada, later documenting the mortification in his fantastic 600-page travelogue of the West, Roughing It (links to a sample from the book). The great majority of individuals who did make a bundle were the shrewd women and men who supplied hotel and boarding house rooms, hot meals, prospecting tools, and camping gear to the pipe dreamers – at prices commensurate with the times.

“How much is this hyar pickaxe?”
“Depends – how much you got?”

I think it’s almost a certainty that the value of all those ships in San Francisco Bay far exceeded the total riches found by their crews. One can only imagine their thousands of stories of lives changed forever.

Old inkjet prints never die, they just fade away

While showing dinner guests around my place last week, I noticed that all the 8×12″ photos that I have up in the kitchen and bathroom had taken on a distinctly aqua/turquoise tint, meaning they had lost a fair amount of their original red component in the years since I printed them – around 2003, I think.

I took all of the originals with the first digital camera I owned, a Kodak DC280 with a measly 2 megapixel picture size, so they’re not ideal for enlarging, but they still look pretty good from a foot or two away. These days, I have some good quality coated 11×14″ presentation paper from Epson that I can trim down to the 8×12″ clip frame size, not to mention a better printer with hardier ink, so I reprinted them all yesterday and brought out the big paper slicer to make quick and accurate work of the trimming. I also added to the bathroom the panorama I stitched together with Hugin from a series of three photos I took of the Golden Gate Bridge with the DC280. You can click on the galleries below to see the original photos and the newly-printed copies in situ.

For those with enquiring minds, dinner was my fortified version of Comfort Diner meatloaf, Julia Child’s Purée de pommes de terre a l’ail from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1, and carrot coins slowly braised in butter, glazed with a touch of brown sugar, then garnished with their close cousin parsley. I hadn’t tried braising carrots in butter before, but I certainly will again. They retained good texture long after the same time simmering in water would have turned them to mush, and they were decadently rich.

For some reason, the thumbnail of the first shot here looks normal on my Galaxy Tab A but appears fuzzy in Firefox on my desktop, as if WordPress is using an inappropriate resize for the mosaic. In any case, the image looks okay if you click on it.

Freshly reprinted and back up on the walls:

Hallway update

I added a new 12×36″ enlargement to my refreshed hallway gallery today, a 1:3 aspect ratio crop of a high-resolution scan of the photo of the first flight of the Wright Flyer on 17 December 1903 at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.

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Orville is piloting and that’s Wilbur at the wingtip. John Daniels, one of the five witnesses to the flight, took the photograph with Orville’s pre-positioned camera – so awed by what he saw that he almost forgot to squeeze the bulb to capture this image on the 5×7″ glass plate negative.

From the Flyer to the Apollo 16 Lunar Module Orion above it was a span of just sixty-eight years and four months.

The full-size first flight image from the Library of Congress can be found here – be aware that it’s 27MB.

Edited to add: The comments here include a discussion in some detail of the soon-to-be-released film “First Man” and HBO’s 12-part 1998 series “From the Earth to the Moon”.

Posters and framing on the cheap

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Last weekend, I refreshed the pictures in my upstairs hallway, the new ones shown above. As a frame of reference, the photo shows an area of about 7×3 feet. For about a hundred dollars total, I was able to get three 16×20″ prints and one 12×36″ panorama of high-resolution Apollo-era photographs from Shutterfly and mount them in the best borderless clip frames available.

There was a time when I did my own picture mounting on foam board and framing using mail-order Nielsen #11 frame pieces and locally-sourced, custom-cut sheet glass (I never attempted matting), but these days I most often use clip frames – good ones, that is – because they’re easier, they look clean and classy, and they’re a lot cheaper than professional framing or even DIY Nielsens. The last picture I had mounted, double-matted, and framed, the “Clipper at the Gate” shown below, cost me well north of US$200 – and that didn’t include the signed print, which I had purchased several years previously. Don’t get me wrong – the framing and matting is well-done and quite attractive, but I have a lot of drawings, paintings, and photos on my walls and I am well south of a millionaire.

I was able to get those four hallway prints done both well and on the cheap thanks to four things:

  • In recent years, the negatives from the Apollo programme have been scanned with better equipment and at much higher resolution, which allows for nice-looking enlargements – not the case with the low-res images previously available. In the case of the three-foot-wide print, someone stitched together a 10,000-pixel-wide image from a panorama photo series Charlie Duke took during Apollo 16.
  • The recently completed Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project used current technology to produce, from the data on hundreds of carefully preserved original 1960s magtapes, awe-inspiring photos far beyond the resolution and quality NASA could produce fifty years ago. The top middle picture in the hallway is an oblique photo of Copernicus from 150 miles south of the crater that was taken by chance during a “let’s move the film forward a bit” housekeeping task on Lunar Orbiter 2.
  • A plethora of discounts, including 40% or 50% off sales that Shutterfly runs every week or two, periodic Visa Checkout deals (US$25 off the next order), and even $25 Shutterfly credits that Best Buy includes with many hard drive purchases means you can easily get prints in these bigger sizes for $12-$16 each. That’s cheap for high quality large prints.
  • Massachusetts-based Quadro Frames, which I’ve used for many years, produces the highest quality borderless clip frames I’ve seen; other, more widely-available types are mostly flimsy and ill-fitting. 16×20″ frames from Quadro are US$12.50 and it’s $20 for 12×36″. Each frame is precisely fashioned and includes a sturdy, non-bending backing board with perfectly cut, strong clip channels on the back, pristine and perfectly clear PET plastic glazing panels with peel-off protective sheets on both sides (or glass panels for just $3 more), and more than enough clips that slip into the back channel with a satisfying firm snap. Even their care in shipping to guarantee safe arrival is the best possible: I always think, “Wow, just look at that” when I open boxes from them. For some of my orders, I’ll wager it’s taken them half an hour or more to pack the materials so fastidiously. It’s a good example of corporate responsibility and pride in doing things right.

Here are the source photographs I uploaded to Shutterfly for the hallway prints. You can pause the slideshow and right-click to view and/or save any image at its full size.

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I also got these three enlarged to 16×20″ and they’re up elsewhere in the house:

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Wallpaper image number 3,209

I have plenty of pictures in my high-resolution desktop background and lock screen slideshow rotation – 3,209 photos and 2.7GB to date – but I’m always adding more, confirming that I’m a rather visually-oriented person. This latest addition is Sergio Tapiro Velasco’s 2017 NatGeo Travel Photography contest winner of Volcán de Colima in Mexico.

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Almost as good as Carlos Gutierrez’s photo of Chaitén in Chile back in May 2008:

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Here are some more images from my wallpapers folder – several taken by me. Click on any one to enter the gallery, then there’s a “View full size” button for each picture at the lower right, which you may have to scroll down to see.

Nice view

In the course of decluttering, I came across lots of photos I took during flights on “Bomber” Bob Richardson’s B-17F “Kathleen” and the National Warplane Museum’s B-17G “Fuddy Duddy” many years ago. I never had a large scan of one of the nicer panoramic shots – only the small one in that linked article – so I just scanned one of the 3½x5″ prints at high DPI.

I took this photo from the bombardier’s seat in the nose of the B-17F as we were departing Buffalo Niagara Airport and turning away from Lake Erie on our way back to the museum at Geneseo, New York, 60 miles east. Click on it for a 1920-wide version – then F11 will give you the full effect in most browsers.

New digs

We moved our offices into a new building a couple towns away this week, and I ended up with a substantially larger office – “All the more to decorate” thought I, rubbing my hands. A gallery of my new digs is below. I haven’t decided yet how to fill out one wall, but the other walls are pretty much as I want them. I still see trees and greenery out my window (two windows, actually), thank goodness, and there are wild turkeys at the new place, too.

In the process, I finally got around to having my William Phillips “Clipper at the Gate” limited print framed at this little shop, and it came out pretty spiffy, with the frame and matting matched to the bluish silver of the aircraft, the deep blue of the water, and the red of the Golden Gate Bridge (actually called International orange) and the wing stripes. The aircraft is the Boeing B-314 flying boat, in this case the Pan American Airways California Clipper, NC-18602, which made regular runs between San Francisco and Hawaii – a nineteen-hour leg – before continuing to farther destinations.

Only twelve B-314s were produced by Boeing, all for Pan Am, but it was – and still is – considered the acme of flying boat technology. The initial six had a range of 3,500 miles with fuel capacity of 4,200 gallons and the second group of six could travel 5,200 miles with 5,400 gallons, both variants far exceeding the range of other aircraft of the day. Travel on the clippers was strictly deluxe, with ticket prices comparable to Concorde’s and meals catered by top-notch hotels.

The B-314 model on my desk, in the same 1:200 scale as the B-17 and B-747, is also of NC-18602. The “Fly to South Sea Isles” poster is a high quality limited edition reproduction of a 1930s Pan Am poster that was made about twenty years ago [some weeks after writing this, I found my Hansa Editions print was actually produced thirty years ago]. An original copy of the 1938 George Lawler poster – not the original painting, just a poster – recently sold for US$20,000 at auction, where the listing read:

One of the most iconic and desirable of all the early Pan Am flying boat posters, this image of the Boeing 314 Flying Clipper landing in a tropical lagoon captured, and continues to capture, the imagination of travelers. The location shown on the poster is an imaginary composite of several renowned bays throughout the South Pacific. It has been speculated that the view is Tahiti, Pago Pago and/or Diamond Head, however, the physical characteristics depicted do not coincide with the actual geography of any of these islands. Lawler most likely worked from photographs to derive a fantasy collage of a location infused with realistic details from various islands. It is rare to find this poster with text. We have found only two other examples at auction.

Edited to add: After I included this auction description, I did some research because the mountains in the poster seemed awfully familiar to me, and I now think Lawler had a specific place in mind when he designed that poster. The details here: https://finleyquality.net/flying-to-a-specific-south-sea-isle/

The tail end of the gallery shows in detail some of the photos and items on display. I had 16×20 prints made of the three high resolution Apollo photographs – done beautifully by Shutterfly and Snapfish, I’ll add. Of the three drawings of mine on the wall, just one, the woman holding a newborn Bengal kitten, is my original pencil drawing – the other two are from high resolution scans I made before presenting the original drawings to their subjects.

Click on any image to enter the gallery, and from there you can view a 1920-wide version of any photo by clicking this at the lower right (you may need to scroll down to see it):


The Butterfly Place

My friend and I visited The Butterfly Place on Monday and left with a boatload of photos after wandering around in a leisurely fashion for 90 minutes. They have butterflies from every continent except the obvious one – a mite too chilly there. The best of my photos are below, presented in the order I took them. I’ve identified a few of the butterflies in the captions, and you can find many of the other names on their web site here.

All of these photos are 1920 x 1440, about half their original resolution. The only editing other than resizing that I did was some cropping on a handful and Photoshop’s auto-tone on most. Auto-tone automatically adjusts exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks, and it’s usually the first thing I do to photos imported from my camera. It’s almost never a bad idea.

Click on any thumbnail below to enter the gallery, where you’ll see medium-sized images. To see or save any particular image in full size, click on this at the lower right – you may need to scroll down to see it:

A brief panoramic video of the flight area is at the end of this post.

The invention of pastels

I’m thinking it may have occurred on the coast of Maine, where I took these photos last month when I visited York Beach for my company’s annual user group conference. Click any of these for a 1024×768 version.

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Five years ago, the first night in York featured a beautiful moonlit salmon sky, and I took this picture:

P1020045dI had consistently good food while there this year, most notably at the Union Bluff Hotel. At the scheduled dinner for all, the choices were filet mignon, lobster, and baked chicken. I had the filet since I was planning lobster and fried clams at other places, and the steak was perfectly rare and buttery tender, with well-made garlic mashed potatoes whose garlic had obviously been roasted or braised – a pleasant surprise for me, since most restaurants simply toss in a handful of chopped raw garlic and call it a day.

The restaurant also had a tasty self-serve appetizer table at the dinner that featured several types of crackers with real and quite delicious charcuterie and what I think were locally made cheeses. Even the baked goods the hotel provided for breaks during the conference were of surprisingly high quality, including real butter croissants and two varieties of cookies still warm from the oven (!).

I went to St. Joe’s Coffee a few miles from the hotel for Americanos and breakfast the two mornings I was there. I like that place because they keep the lighting dim, perfect for 6:30 in the morning when you haven’t yet had any coffee, and you can watch them preparing the folded mini-omelette for the breakfast sandwich. Dunkin’ Donuts execs would probably say, “What? We’re pretty sure that’s not how you make an egg sandwich.”

The last night I was there, I visited this place in Ogunquit for dinner in the bar. I had clam chowder, fried oysters, truffled lobster en croute, and a sparkling pear martini. It wasn’t all that expensive; I think I would have paid about 50% more for this south of the Massachusetts border.

Next day, I paused on the way back to the office to take a few pictures of Nubble Light, then stopped for fried clams at Bob’s Clam Hut at the border in Kittery. Delicious.


Note: In an effort to keep this post about Maine entirely positive, I decided not to mention this recent story at all.