Wednesday, January 30, 2013

When It pours, it pours....

Went downtown tonight with my favorite fellow blogger Joan Perry.

We attended a media event put on by Crown Royal  introducing its new Maple Finished whisky.

(Yes, my "fisheye" lens popped up again. I've been distorting images for several weeks now.)

Troy Sidle, the mixologist who held stage center, was brought in from New York City for the pouring of the new product.

And pour he did.

And mix and stir.

And shake.

We were upstairs at  Social Restaurant + Wine Bar on East Bay Street in the midst of Tweeters.

And Bloggers.

And other sorts of social media.

Tonight, though, we were on the other side of the camera and bright lights.

Video and photos were being taken everywhere and Troy was making an array of drinks with the newest flavor - Maple.

One opportunity of the evening was a chance to create your own special drink...using Crown Royal

Various ingredients were laid out so there would be a time to be creative.

We were encouraged to also come up an outrageous name for our concoction.

Prizes would be awarded for the most original.

Before that, though, the group crowded in close to the bar and made a rousing Crown Royal toast, led by Gerard Graham.

His card identifies him as "Master of Whisky."

I mentioned to Gerard I had seen an ad for the Maple finished product today on ESPN.

He explained it was being introduced all around the country, and they were a sponsor of Pardon The Interruption.

Getting support from social media seems to be a new way to supplement advertising.

Or enhance it.

This makes sense.

As a blogger, I have an audience as I move around Charleston, trying new places and posting my reactions and opinions.

I'm a consumer. Talking to other consumers.

Many sources gives diners a chance to post comments about their experience.

It used to be "if you're happy - tell others. If you're unhappy - tell me."

The intent would be to correct problems.

Keep customers happy and coming back.

Or try our newest product.

(Click on the pictures for more details.)

It was a nice mixture this evening.

An entertaining and talented bartender. A company that wants to get the word out on Facebook and Tweets and blogs.

And meeting with fellow members of this new - and exciting - media.

Hey, give it a shot.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hey, got a few seconds?

Sometimes it's just too dark to take a picture.

Some people would pop a flash but I don't care for the results of that.

I prefer natural light whenever possible.

To capture a mood.  Share what a scene really looked like.

I have been to the Footlight Players Theatre on Queen Street quite a few times but this time the stage was totally bare.

A curtain was way in the back but you could see the wings on each side of the vacant stage.

The ropes used to haul scenery flats up and down as needed were neatly coiled.

The sandbags used as ballast were idle.

They were not needed for this 10th Annual Comedy Festival show.

A single performer with a wooden stool and a microphone on a stand was all we saw.

Of course a tripod is needed to do long exposure shots and these were each 15 seconds.

A small tripod is always  screwed into the bottom of my camera so I have one available.

In this case, between shows, I placed the camera on the edge of the stage itself to shoot the wings.

Then I turned to the mural on a wall above the audience.

Made the settings and used the timer to start the exposure.

If you can use a cable release, that's good too.

The secret is to avoid shaking the camera at all.

Of course, with a digital camera you can click right away and see if you captured it.

(Click on the photo for more details.)

It helps to be in the first row to do this.

The stage was a steady brace right in front of me.

Unfortunately, the second comic decided to zero in on people in close range.

I'm getting used to being a target.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

New Blog Created For the 134 Gang....

When I retired from The Post and Courier newspaper in 2004, I was invited to join the P&C Retirees Group.

I did become a member.

It's been fun to meet quarterly (Jan/Apr/July/Oct) on the last Friday for lunch and BS sessions.

I must have missed a meeting a few years back.

Now I am the one who makes the lunch plans and sends out the meeting notices.

Memo to self: Don't miss meetings.

My first quarter or two we met at Ryan's in West Ashley.

Then, for about 5-6 years, at the grille next to the Shrine Club on Patriot's Point.

Last year that grille closed and we moved up Highway 17 to the Liberty Taproom and Grille.

Every three months I would prepare to announce the upcoming meeting.

I have learned to NOT mail the postcard until the evening of the Friday before. I forgot once a few showed up a week early.

A Friday is a Friday when you're retired.

About 60 postcards go out and 20 notices are emailed electronically.

I have watched postage climb over the years.

Wish everyone had access to computers with the joy - and ease - of email.

MUCH easier for me.

At the Liberty, the General Manager Michael Ball and our server T.J., arranged the tables the way I requested.

We have had as many as 25 show up for a quarterly lunch and as few as 7.

Retired people don't bother with RSVP so every time attendance is a surprise.

This time there were 15 of us and a few new faces were in the crowd.

One of the newcomers suggested we post some pictures of the group so other members would see what they were missing.

Not a bad idea.

I had my camera - of course - and was taking pictures.

When I got home I created a new blog for the Retirees Group. Click on the link if you want to see more.

Because the newspaper was at 134 Meeting Street for many decades, when the new plant opened further uptown, it was numbered as 134 Columbus Street.

I proposed changing the name of the retirees group to the 134 Gang and it was approved.

We actually could sing "Hail, hail, the gang's all here" if everyone showed up.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

Yes, you noticed the dreaded fisheye lens followed me to the meeting.

They were impressed.

Well, that's what they said to my face.

Thanks for stopping by.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Take THIS Lens Away From Me......


Enough already.

Yes, my new camera came with a "fisheye lens" effect.

I've never had such a lens before.

That's pretty obvious.

It's possible I have overused it. Extremely likely.

Straight lines are natural in a photograph.

Hardly, however, ever seen when using this lens effect.

Fortunately, re-reading the instructions, I see it has three settings.

"Small, Medium and Large."

I certainly have seen how the "Large" effect works.

Will experiment more with less and least of the fisheye effects.

Meanwhile, here is a view of the NEW computer that replaces the one that died completely on Christmas Eve.

You'll notice I use two monitors.

Bought a new, larger 27" screen one and offered the older, smaller one for sale.

No takers.

Then I remembered how to adjust so the two could work in tandem.

I move all the pesky - but needed - icons over to the right screen and have the full screen on the left to play with.

(Click on these distorted images to see more warped details.)

Oh, I did use the effect at Theatre 99 last night.

It was the final night of the 10th Annual Comedy Fest.

I think I have this out of my system now!

NOT Theatre 99. Not Comedy Fest.

Not Brandy Sullivan or Greg Tavares. Not even Timmy Finch.

They were the original Have Nots who started this comedy madness. Thanks!

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Working In The Garden on Saturday....

Dee, a member of my Photo Group, suggested a trip to Cypress Gardens for a Photo Walk Saturday.

"It's free to residents of Berkeley County on the 3rd Saturday," she explained.

She added we had to check in before noon for the free admission.

We set a 9 am meet up time in the parking lot.

I live in what is called Lower Berkeley County.

The Gardens are in the Upper section.

I set my alarm clock. And my GPS.

My last visit there was about 48 years ago so I certainly was overdue to go again.

Arrived in plenty of time and wore layers of warm clothing.

It had dipped to just below freezing the night before.

But, the sun was shining and a nice day was predicted.

As members arrived, I saw the variety of backpacks and their shoulder bags filled with cameras and lenses.

My new small Canon sx260HP was on my belt.

Oh, I did have my 3-year old workhorse, the Canon S90, in my jacket pocket.

I almost tripped on a log on the pathway as I read the warning sign.

At least, I think it was just a log.

Jackson, one of the members of my group, agreed he was sitting pretty on the edge of the swamp.

Later he said he was going to test a device that fits on top of his tripod to make panoramic views.

It physically moves the camera in a predetermined arc to snap a series of pictures that can be "stitched" together later to make quite a spectacular shot.

It works both side-to-side and up-and-down. Yikes.

I remember being paddled around the cypress trees over the black reflective water in a small boat.

Our then 2-year old son sat on his mother's lap and my mom also was on board.

My son Chris turns 50 the middle of this year.

Did not remember there being a Butterfly House way back then so I wandered inside.

Double doors keep the flying critters inside when people are coming and going.

It really is amazing to stand and watch them up close as they flutter around.

They land on the leaves as well as the flowers.

Maybe that's just to rest.

Signs asked us not to touch them nor attempt to "brush them off" if they land on you.

The message added "they do not bite."

After a few hours of walking some trails and enjoying the Gardens, I hopped in my car and headed for home.

I saw a belching smokestack in Bushy Park and pulled over in a safe spot off the highway.

There was a shot I wanted to try and, fortunately, I had a water bottle in the car that would work well.

I placed the plastic bottle on the roof of my car and carefully aimed my camera.

I wanted to make it appear the smoke - or steam -  was billowing from the bottle.

I think the effort worked.

The water had a delicate smoky bouquet and aftertaste.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

They Added A 4th Show....

The Blue Man Group came back to Charleston a few days ago.

Here's one of the three. Or it might be one of the others.

They basically all look alike.

And they ARE very blue.

Even their ears and lips.

(But, they don't play the Blues.)

I saw them years ago in their Chicago base theater and was blown away.

Such creativity.

Such coordination.

Such fun.

They were part of the season ticket Broadway Series at the Performing Arts Theater (PAC) and I had trouble finding a good seat.

Then they added a fourth show - a Sunday 2:00 pm matinee,

Got the 2nd row seat I wanted.

It came with a warning: plastic ponchos would be issued for the first 3 rows.

To protect us from flying paint.

And other things thrown into the audience.

 My kinda show.

Last time there at the PAC, Wanda Sykes singled me out with her  "Hey Mr. Camera man, you got your shot yet?" comment.

That was when I sat in the first row.

With no protection.

This time, you'd think Gallagher was going to smash watermelons onstage.

I figured no Blue Man would target someone in the SECOND row.

But they did roam around the hall - even walking over seat backs - and found victims, er, I mean participants, for various interactions.

A sweet young lady joined them onstage and was seated at a dining table for an interesting meal.

She was covered in a protective outfit which was fortunate as things got squishy and messy pretty quickly.

An overhead camera looked down to show us the white plates and the various items introduced as "food."

Let's just say TWINKIES are still part of this show.

The finale included giant lighted "beach balls" that were blown into the audience.

We got to reach up and push them back into the air and it was total audience activity.

Then white rolls of paper were shot from the stage.

Huge rolls of paper - like crazed TP - zoomed out, fell and enveloped the laughing crowd.

The trio called out the band, the helpers and others in the traveling show.

They all took a well-deserved bow.

Then the bright colorful lights started flashing behind them and they waved a "Thank You Charleston."

That concluded their 4th show in three days.

The crowd quickly moved to the exits but I took one look back.

The PAC staff were getting into their part of the Business called Show.

(Click on the pictures for more details.)

Of course the sign in the lobby said "No photography or recording allowed."

But I DID wait till nearly the end before I edged out my camera.

I didn't want to get thrown out too soon.

The BMG was a big hit in Charleston.

When they come back...go see them.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Just A (January) Day At The Beach...

I bought a BOGO (Buy One Get One free) coupon for a meal at Folly Beach.

Good deal until my buddy pointed out it had the be used Dec-February.

Not ideal beach weather but we got lucky yesterday.

It got up to 75 degrees, no wind and beautiful clouds.

Lunch out on the fishing pier at Locklear's Beach City Grill was delightful.

Yes I had my camera that has a fisheye lens effect.

It also has a 20x optical zoom which is new to me after 10 years of being limited to only a 3.8x zoom.

It allows me and my small digital P/S (Point and Shoot) to reach out for shots I never could make before.

I mean, you really CAN'T just step a little bit closer to a surfer while he/she is catching a wave.

The camera is so small (unlike a full-sized DSLR) that you can get away with taking street shots and people don't seem to mind.

Or they don't feel intimidated as they would with a "professional" camera stuck in their face.

I still am amused by the distortions created with the ersatz fisheye effect.

I keep my eyes open for zany ways to use it.

A colorful poster in a shop window on Center Street seemed a likely candidate.

I had rented a VW bus for a week when I lived in California.

It was NOT painted anything like this one.

Nice memory-flogger though.
A few doors up from Planet Follywood is a small Brew Pub with an unusual sign hanging out front.

It caught my attention because the place was closed and it simply stated "Nope, not open yet."

At the appointed hour, the owner stepped out, swapped the ""N" and the "Star" and we were invited inside.

The coupon that brought us out to Folly on this glorious day provided a delicious meal of fried shrimp and flounder.

Hush puppies, fries and cole slaw.

My doctor knows I eat like this very seldom (ahem).

I also believe cabbage slaw is a healthy vegetable that lowers cholesterol.

Of course I left room for dessert but I did NOT request whipped cream.

That just came with it and who am I to question a seaside chef?

That man (or woman) is a professional.

Further down the beach at the Tides Oceanfront Hotel, we stood at the bar - Blu - and sipped a draft.

Surfers were plentiful (hey, isn't Friday a work day?) and were actively riding the pretty good waves.

Several paddle boarders were added to the mix.

I thought they stuck to rivers and creeks.

But apparently they can catch a wave, tuck the paddle under their arm and hang ten.

On the tables at Blu I saw heavy, metal miniature palm trees. I suppose they held menus or napkins.

Nice touch.

Overall, it was a nice day to be at the beach.

Upper seventies temps had drawn many people out to lie in the sun.

Others were wading into the water and splashing around.

I saw a man lazily tossing a ball to his small child who swung hard with a red plastic wiffle bat.

He missed but got a hug from his dad.

Before we left and headed back to town, I had one more shot in mind.

A zoom lens lets you get really close to fidgety, wary birds.

Johnathan Livingston did not respond when I suggested he lift BOTH legs.

(Click on the pictures for more details.)

If you ever get a chance, play around with using a fisheye lens.

Do NOT take a self-portrait of your face.

Resist the temptation.

It'll distort you and people will laugh.

Even the seagulls.

I heard them.

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Monday, January 07, 2013

The NEW computer....

The new computer has been ordered.

It should arrive next week as soon as the over-worked elves put it together.

Buying just after the holiday season is less frantic. Well, maybe not up at the North Pole.

Yep, it's another DELL, not the HP I was thinking about earlier that was based solely on a bargain price.

You get what you pay for although the prices do seem to go up and down a lot. Every other day.

The Dell Inspiron 660 will come with 6GB of memory, up from the 4GB RAM I had before.

The 1TB hard drive is larger than the 650GB in my dead Dell.

I had to bob and weave to get the Windows 7 operating system. They sure are pushing the new (despised by many) Windows 8. I had to look in the "home office business" section.

The "7" is faster and more intuitive.

Hey, I need all the help I can get.

For four years I had been using Windows Vista. And people hated it too.

The good news is all of my files are intact even after the old computer pooped out on Christmas Eve.

TWO backup hard drives sit on my desk, capturing everything automatically.

One on Wednesday and one on Sunday.

Somewhere else - in case the physical computer set up is destroyed - ALL my stuff sits on a Carbonite cloud site.

Early on I realized that digital photography meant there was no negative to hold in your hand. One "crash" could take away all your photographs hence the redundant back ups.

A buddy told me of a new twist he has on shooting and developing 35mm black and white film.

In a dark area, he winds the exposed film onto a roller and puts it in a daylight developing tank. Runs through the chemicals then washes and dries the film. Sounds like how I did it back in the 1950s.

But THEN he scans the frames into his computer and does all the "darkroom magic" digitally. Mixing old school with high tech. I like it.

(Click on the pictures - and links - for more detail.)

At my age, I'm glad I'm able to enjoy using a computer.

My Smartphone is smarter than I.

I grew up with a rotary dial phone.

Hooked to the wall with a cord.

It never was misplaced or lost.

Or stolen.

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Thursday, January 03, 2013

I don't have the balls...

Guess I'm not really a dedicated bowling enthusiast.

Oh sure, I've spent time in the gutter, usually stayed in my lane and missed my share of strikes, spares and splits.

But I never bought my own bowling ball.

My game was not good enough for that very personal expense.

I'm a "house" bowler. Use what's provided and hope the hole spacing fits my hand. I also rent the funny multi- colored shoes too.

People walk into the place carrying  their own zipped bowling bag and they are cool.

I was visiting the Post and Courier building downtown and saw "The Alley" across the street at 131 Columbus Street. It's been opened a few months.

A friend told me the food is catered by Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ so I know that taste.

It would be familiar comfort food.

The really good players brag about bowling a 300 game.

If I combined the scores of two of my games, I've probably rolled at least 300.

Well, maybe add three together.

I do plan to check it out.

Maybe invite my Photography Group to bring their cameras and snap the colorful graphics.

Wonder if any of them carry a camera bag AND a bowling bag?

Oh, never sniff the shoes they hand you.

No, really!


(Click on the photos for more detail.)

The newest downtown alley.

Like the Ravenel Bridge, it has 8 lanes.

Fits right in.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A visit to my newspaper...

Once a year I go back to my newspaper.

When I worked there for eight years, I loved being part of the major news service.

 I had been hired to build and promote InfoLine, an information device that used the telephone.

I retired from The Post and Courier more than 8 years ago but always return on New Year's Eve.

That's the day they invite retirees to come by for a buffet and working staffers come downstairs to say "hi."

This time I also wandered across the hall to where the giant presses were running.

Because I go to a lot of very loud concerts,  I carry professional  ear plugs all the time.

Only one press was running so it was not too noisy.

The Moultrie News was coming off the press at a steady clip.

A conveyor takes the folded papers up, up, up to a flat transporter that moves them several hundred yards through a slot into another large room.

This is a much quieter place where pre-printed color advertising inserts are tucked by hand into the paper. Hmm, probably machines do that now.

Then they are assembled into bales, bound with wire and loaded in the back of trucks for delivery.

When the daily morning paper is being printed, there is a lot more activity and noise.

My old office was on the same floor and when the presses were all turned on for testing and fine-tuning in the afternoon, the rumble and roar could be heard and felt.

Vending machines, tables and chairs were arranged for the pressmen who kept these heavy beasts up and running.

This was in a "quiet" area but they could keep an eye on the presses through a thick glass wall as they munched lunch.

If you have never seen presses running, check and see when tours are scheduled.

School groups used to pass by my office on tour and I always wanted to rush out my door and run past them screaming "STOP THE PRESSES!"
That would have been funny.

(Click on the pictures for more details.)

If you want to see the high speed process of putting ink-on-paper, better do it soon.

Tablets, laptops, Smart phones and social networking are making it a race against time.


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