Saturday, December 26, 2009

Nick Cutsumpas and White Plains Basketball

I went to go see a close family friend, Nick Cutsumpas, play basketball in a high school basketball tournament. Nick is the captain and starting point guard for White Plains High School. I had gone with my Uncle Lloyd to see him play earlier in the week and he played well. Tonight was not a pretty game but White Plains managed a 46-44 win at the Westchester County Center.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tufted Titmouse

Nikon D300, Nikon 70-200mm at 200mm, 1/250 at f/4.

As the weather has dropped into the teens, more and more birds have been eating from the bird feeder in my father's backyard. Yesterday, I took the photo above right after a morning workout. I noticed two cardinals at the feeder and snapped a few shots of them, but the photo of the tufted titmouse above was the best of the bunch.

I used a long focal length (200mm) with a large aperture (f/4) to create the great bokeh, or background blur. This is important because the background tree branches were too distracting and therefore needed to be blurred to emphasize the bird and feeder in the foreground. To get this effect use a low f-stop, such as f/3.5 or f/4. The lower the f number and the farther away you are from the subject, the more blurry the background will become. If I had used a small aperture (large f number), such as f/14, the trees and background would also have been in focus (creating the opposite effect and no bokeh).

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Leaving Chicago

It's only natural to think highly of people when they are far away or no longer in your life. The things that bothered you fade and you begin thinking, "Hey, he wasn't such a bad guy. I kind of liked him. I hope he's doing well."

The same applies to the neighborhoods and cities where you have lived. You drive away thinking about the people who you were fortunate to know and deeply thankful for the close relationships you have made. So as I packed up and left Chicago today I began thinking about the people I'd be leaving behind. I also thought of the fond memories over the last four years, such as those below...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tough Weekend in Ann Arbor for Football and Firefighters

Growing up in the era of the Fab Five, Michigan has always seemed to me as an eviable school to attend with its mix of great sports and academics. Then you see the football stadium, known as "The Big House," and the crowd of 110,000 makes you feel quite insignificant. At the same time, it is an awesome spectacle to witness. It also gave me a good excuse to visit my good college friend Lee Higgins in Ann Arbor for the weekend.

The last time I had seen Lee was at his wedding, and now he had a giant one-year-old baby, Taylor, and a two-year-old dog, Chase. Taylor is a happy-go-lucky baby that is very photogenic as you can see below.

So was The Big House. The thing that struck me about the stadium was that even from the top you still had a good view of the field; you didn't need binoculars like some large stadiums. The design was genius. The stands went right up to the sidelines and endzones. There was no wasted space between rows either.

Unfortunately, Michigan was outclassed by a solid Penn State team and lost 35-10. The second half was cold and rainy, and we were happy when it ended. Ann Arbor was a pretty college town with the leaves at their most brilliant shades of red, yellow, and orange. It reminded me of New England. The nightlife was nothing special for a Saturday night, maybe that was due to the loss. On the way home I saw seven or eight firetruckers with their lights on parked near the main strip. I told Lee to pull over. An old building that once had Pinball machines was still smoking. It was likely arson, and some dorm rooms next door were ruined in the blaze.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Three Men We Should All Be Thanking

From left to right, Charles Kao, Willard Boyle, and George Smith, won the Nobel Prize in Physics yesterday for their work that led to digital cameras and fiber-optic cables. (Reuters and NAE)

Now that digital photography and the Internet are a daily part of most people's lives, it is only natural to thank the inventors of this revolutionary technology: Willard Boyle, George Smith, and Charles Kao. These three scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics yesterday for their work back in the 1960s.

Bell Lab researchers Willard Boyle, left, and George Smith, invented what would become the charge-coupled device, CCD, in a discussion of less than an hour in 1969. (Associated Press)

Since I am a photographer, I will first give a brief story on Willard Boyle and George Smith. In 1969, these scientists were trying to develop new memory chips for data storage. Boyle was working on something he called a PicturePhone. One day they met in Boyle's office in Murray Hill, N.J., and discussed ideas. In less than an hour they came up with an idea for an image sensor that could turn light into digital data. Within a week they had built a prototype of a CCD, or charge-coupled device. This device eliminated the need for photographers and videographers to capture footage on film. Acting like a camera's eye, a CCD gathers and reads light onto a grid of electronic pixels that can be transferred to computers and televisions. The CCD is used in today's digital cameras and Hubble Space Telescope.

Graphic of how a CCD, or the eye of a camera (also known as a sensor), turns light into electronic signals that can be viewed on computer and television screens. (Source: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences)

Charles Kao, who received half of the $1.4 million in prize money awarded to the scientists, helped make fiber-optic cables usable for the modern phone and data traffic, and the circulatory system of the Internet. In 1966, Kao made a discovery that let light travel over great distances using optical glass fibers. Light can carry a lot more data than microwaves or radio waves. At the time, impurities in the glass fibers absorbed much of the light. While working in Harlow, England, Kao developed a way to get rid of the impurities. Today optical fibers transfer words, sounds, and images around the world in a split second. If we were to unravel all of the glass fibers that wind around the globe, we would get a single thread over one billion kilometers long – which is enough to encircle the globe more than 25,000 times – and is increasing by thousands of kilometers every hour.

Charles Kao works on an early experiment with fiber optics at the Standard Telecommunications Laboratory in the U.K. in the 1960s. (European Pressphoto Agency)

Artistic view of global communication. (Source: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences)

(Source: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Boxing Hall of Fame

Having read about many of the former boxing champions, I knew that they often trained in upstate New York in order to escape the everyday distractions just before a fight. I never expected to see all these champions on my drive back from Vermont to Chicago. It was late afternoon while I was driving down Route 90, between Rome and Syracuse (N.Y.), when I spotted a sign for the Boxing Hall of Fame. At first I thought it was a mistake since the location seemed so remote. I decided to pull of the exit to see for myself.

I parked across the street from the building in Canastota, N.Y., and as I walked toward the building a man greeted me and told me that the hall of fame had just closed for the day. It was 5:05 p.m. He suggested I come back tomorrow. I told him I couldn't because I was driving across country to Chicago. He then told me to follow him.

He introduced me to Ed, the Boxing Hall of Fame director.
"Are you a big boxing fan?" Ed asked.
"Yes," I said.
"Who is your favorite fighter?"

His question caught me off guard (no pun intended). There are too many great fighters to name just one. I was tongued-tied for a few seconds. Ed started naming some great fighters and I chimed in and my mind fell back at ease and all the great fighters and writers I had read came back to me. Now that I had Ed's respect, he told me that the museum was closed, but that he would give me a private tour. I was ecstatic. Inside there was a collection of plaques, gloves, robes, and other vestiges from these great boxers' past. The fighters ranged from the 1800s pioneers to the modern pros, everyone from John L. Sullivan to Joe Walcott to Mike Tyson. I was really impressed with the two other workers at the hall of fame who knew about W.C. Heinz, whose plaque hung on the wall for decades of prose about fighters such as Rocky Graziano and Floyd Patterson.

We then walked into another room where the actual ring stood from the first Ali-Frazier fight in Madison Square Garden. At the time, it was deemed the Fight of the Century by promoters. There were lots of rare photos, many of them signed, displayed for visitors. Ed picked some of them up and showed me the price tags. I was surprised. It seemed like these items shouldn't be for sale, especially ones signed by dead boxers, such as Alexis Arg├╝ello. Nevertheless, the tour was a special treat, and I plan on returning in June for the annual induction weekend.

Carmen Basilio, left, jokes around with Mickey Mantle. Basilio was born in Canastota, N.Y., and autographed this photo.

Upstate New York

Driving back from Huntington, Vt., I crossed Lake Champlain on the Fort Ticonderoga Ferry. About 16 cars fit on a small ferry that looked like a big raft. Since it moves via an underwater cable, it feels like the world around you is moving while the ferry is sitting still.

Farther along, I stopped my car next to a beautiful lake in upstate New York and snapped these photos below. Scenery in Vermont and New York are breathtaking this time of the year.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pete and Emily

Peter Land is one of the best people I know... and if he wasn't a Red Sox fan he would probably the best.

Pete's family and my family used to meet every summer in Nantucket just after the school year ended. Although it was only a week together, it was the most fun I had each year. We played wiffle ball, rode bikes to Downyflake, flew model rockets and kites, sang songs in the backseat about Madaket Beach, waited for the "mother of all waves," and plotted against our parents. These were some of my best childhood memories.

There have been countless other great memories we've had, from going to the Final Four to the America East title game to the Land Grant to RBI Baseball. Everything somehow becomes memorable hanging out with Pete. Unfortunately, he is accident prone and has been on the receiving end of my shenanigans many times. In fact, I thought I was going to injure Pete when he leapfrogged me on the dance floor at his wedding. With that aside, it was a fun outdoor ceremony and the entire weekend reflected the type of people Pete and Emily are. They are the type of people that this world needs more of and I am honored to be friends with them.