Sunday, July 26, 2015

"Hey, want to take a photo from backstage?"

 So, I'm at the Windjammer on a Saturday night.

Will Hoge is back in town! With his new album Small Town Dreams.

I'm there with my buddy - and my camera - and we're standing toward the back of the very crowded room.

The zoom lens lets me reach out over all the heads in front of me and I catch some good action photos of Will.

Even the drummer Brian Kilian is pounding away in this shot.

I look at it on the screen on my camera and turn to the guy standing next to me and say "Hey, whatcha think?"

He says "that's really great". Then he adds "Want to stand backstage and get a few pictures?"

He didn't have to ask twice as he led me through the dancing crowd to the staffer guarding the stage.

He speaks quietly to the man in the black t-shirt that says STAFF, points at me and I am beckoned to the four steps that lead up behind the band. WOW!

I realize I have - at best - only a few seconds so I snap off half a dozen shots.

Then,  a hand tugs on my back and I turn and go back down those same steps.

While I was up there for a few moments, I looked over at the drummer.

I also spotted Brady Beard on piano and organ.

Both of them were sweating and hard at work making the audience ecstatic with the sounds being produced .

(Frankly, I had not noticed the piano player from the front. Brady was really in the background.)

One could get used to this placement for taking photos.

The faces of the crowd told the story as they sang along with Hoge.

There have been quite a few albums and the older "goldies" were greeted with strong reactions and crowd sing-alongs during the 15-minute encore.

Who was this kind person who had the power to take me through the back stage security?

The tall, young man who liked the picture I showed him, and who then was able to give me a few moments up there with a unique view?

It was too loud for conversation but he handed me one of his CDs entitled "Luke Cunningham HEART PRESSURE." 

My nice guide had been the opener for Will Hoge tonight and I had arrived too late to see him perform.

 The "Jammer" was crowded when we arrived and the hard-working staff was serving beverages just as fast as they could.

I had noticed the big brass bell hanging over the bar on previous shows there.

Tonight it came into its own, showing clanging appreciative support, as the crowd roared its approval for song after song.

In addition to the flashing colorful lights around the room, the ultimate sign of satisfaction was when the huge red beacon on the ceiling flashed brightly and the shrill siren blared.

Back in my original spot toward the back, I saw the door that was used by Luke and the band members.

Good to know, that on a break, they could duck in for a cool few moments and maybe a quick smoke.

I also liked the logic of the wording on the sign.

Finally, my evening was complete when I saw a shark alert on the Isle of Palms.

This one, though, would not strike fear in the hearts of people.

It was merely a neon reminder of a popular beer that is served in this seaside watering hole.

And elsewhere.
(Click on the photos - and the links - for more details.)

It's rare that I get backstage or receive any special treatment.

I'm a retired newspaper guy and photographer who really loves live music.

But when it's offered, I very graciously accept  and always say "Thank you."

In this case, Thanks Luke!

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Friday, July 24, 2015

The British call it a "Windscreen."

So, riding along, as they say, minding my own business.

A large cement truck roars up the on ramp onto I-526 and cuts across my lane, speeding up.

As it passes, a hunk of its concrete - or a rock it kicked up - smashes into my windshield with a large BANG!

I flinch and slow down, hoping shards of glass will not be flying into my face.

An instant spider web of cracks sprout in front of my eyes as I pull over on the shoulder to check the damage.

 A definite hole about the size of a quarter now has blossomed in front of my eyes.

No glass dust though so my eyes were not damaged. Thank goodness for that!

The truck, churning concrete as it rolls merrily along, is long gone.

I was hoping it had one of those "How's My Driving?" messages painted on the back with an 800 number.

I certainly would have made that call. Damn!

Several years ago, I had dropped Comp & Collision coverage from the insurance policy on my 9-year old Saturn.

Lowered my premium quite a bit.

Now I would get to pay back those saved dollars.

Found the nearest GlassPro Glass Replacement and Repair shop (in Goose Creek) and called to make an appointment.

I'm retired so I chuckled when the lady said they had an opening at 8 am the next day.

We settled at 2 pm and I was right on time.

There was no wait. My car was quickly taken into the work area.

Mark Browning, an award-winning Senior Glass Technician, was working alone and covered the inside of my car with protective coverings. "The windshield being removed usually does not break into pieces, but we take no chances," Mark explained.

Instead of my sitting in the air-conditioned waiting area, I requested permission to take my camera into the shop (98 degrees) and follow along as Mark made my car "whole again."

It took about an hour of removing first the wipers,  the antenna, and then quite a few pieces on the outside and inside that surrounded the large windshield that was to be replaced.

Using an array of specialized tools and solvents, Mark stripped away the existing caulk, rubber molding and glue that held the window in place and kept it watertight.

Then he reversed the process,

He cleaned all the areas and then carefully applied new beads of rubber sealant.

I had watched all the places where the replacement glass would be adhered.

In the back of my mind, I wondered how this one guy - talented as he is - would be able to lift, move and exactly position the new glass.

You can't just get it "close, plop it down" and move it around until it fits right.

Here's where Mark uses his "helper," called Lil Buddy.

A clever device that helps make a 2-man job simple to do by a single glass specialist.

First, he checks all the measurements to set his mechanical arm in place with a strong suction cup on the driver's side window.

Then, when all the removal, cleaning, and application of new molding and adhesives has been done, he lifts the new glass and angles the extension arm into its fitting on the "Buddy."

As the link explains, this means accurate positioning and placement before the glass makes any contact with the applied glue. Ta-Dah!

Mark moves to the passenger side and eases the top (and bottom) edges securely into place.

Some blue masking tape to hold the position, removal of the device, and then Mark presses down hard and the new glass is right where it's supposed to be.

I'll be honest, at this point, I retreated to the cool waiting area as Mark retraced his steps and put the puzzle pieces back together.

Chatting with Ashley Ferguson, the Customer Service Representative, I learned the first GlassPro shop opened 20 years ago in North Charleston on Dorchester at Montague.

Since then Paul Heinauer, the President, has opened a total of 12 shops in South Carolina.

The newest are in Columbia and Greenville.

Paul is the sponsor of the "3 Degree Guarantee" weather forecasts by Rob Fowler at WCBD News 2.

Each day of a correct forecast, GlassPro adds $100 to a growing fund that goes to a local charity.

The total as of Thursday was $1500. Apparently, Paul does this with tv stations in his other markets as well.

Oh, and Senior Glass Specialist Mark Browning, good luck in this year's "Olympics."

Go for the gold!

(Click on the photos and links for additional details and information.)

Be careful out there in traffic but, if you ever need a windshield replaced for any reason, this is the place to go.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Is it "Whisky" or Whiskey?"

#Joan Perry, a fellow blogger, is well known for her excellent continuing posts on scenic Charleston and some pretty interesting events.

I was pleased that she asked me to accompany her - again - for the unveiling of new distilled spirits by Crown Royal.

Once before I had joined her when Crown Royal had held an advance tasting of its new maple flavor.

Joan has an enormous audience - and responses - to her popular blog.

Me? I write every now and then on items that interest me.

Don't get a lot of invites to fancy events so I looked forward to taking Joan downtown to the rooftop setting at Stars Restaurant Rooftop & Grill. on Upper Kings Street.

Joan had brought both of her Canon cameras: a full-size SLR and a compact one  just a bit larger than the Canonsx280HS that I carry.

We gathered on the deck and enjoyed a late afternoon breeze and an appreciated drop in the humidity.

Our host Master of Whisky Stephen Wilson quipped that on his next visit to Charleston, he would pack some short-sleeved shirts.

We were encouraged to have the bartenders concoct several cocktails made with the new Northern Harvest Rye and the hand selected Barrel.

Joan asked for the Holy City Brunch Punch, made with the Rye, Charleston Distillery Tolerance Liquor, Plantation Tea infused Honey Syrup, sweet tea and whole milk.

Yes, an afternoon shake with attitude.

Others were The Light Dimmer with maple syrup, the Wildflower Whiskey Sour and the Royal Shandy made with the Hand Selected Barrel, peach puree and topped with a Westbrook White Thai.

I decided not to get a cocktail with lots of ingredients.

The Hand-selected Barrel was new so I wanted to taste it alone rather than with additional ingredients.

Later, it was pointed out that when doing a tasting, I really should not have had even ice in it.

Asked for it on-the-rocks but the glass kept filling more while I was taking  his picture.

"No problem," I told the bartender.

A few minutes later, as Joan and I sampled our drinks at a shady table in the corner, Master Wilson announced they had prepared a room inside for the balance of the presentation.

The breeze felt good but the chance for air conditioning was even better.

My ice was melting quickly, diluting the exploratory taste I was trying for.

We all trooped inside, down a flight of stairs and entered the blissfully chilled room set up with rounds of four.

He had removed his coat but Wilson was the only one there wearing a vest.

He pointed out the three small glasses at each seat and said he would lead us through a tasting and evaluation of each one.

And he did.

We had tall glasses of iced water to clear the palate between tastes and started with their prize and long-time champ:  the familiar Crown Royal.

It had been a special blend of 50 different whiskies, developed for a king (literally) and sold in it's distinctive "royal" purple draw-string bag.

An aside was the way fans collected and sewed together those brightly-colored bags to create a variety of clothing items, seat covers and even a truck bed cover.

One person at the tasting said he was working on a cape!

Meanwhile we held the glass to our nose and inhaled the aroma. Shook it gently and from side-to-side to release more of the many spices involved in its evolution.

I followed along, slowly sipping all three pours and was pleasantly surprised by what Wilson described as its "approachability."

Others described the smoothness and, when prompted, called out the different flavors, spices and accents that were perceived.

We found that the first sample was 80-proof and the next - the Rye - was 90-proof.

As anticipated, the third raised the ante even more, to 105-proof.

About that time, I mentioned the last two were the first whiskies I had tried that made my mouth "tingle."Could not name the particular spice but I did taste some banana.

Hors d/oeuvres were passed around and the elaborate buffet prepared by Stars Chef Tyler Chavis, was opened.

Then our attention was drawn to a special cake which had been made to resemble a bottle of the new Rye.

The unanimous decision was made to cut it and pass around slices.

But, first, its existence was well-documented by the invited guests.

Joan and I had to leave so she darted around for a few more shots and then we left the group and headed to our homes.

Earlier, my windshield had been severely damaged by a rock thrown up by a passing cement truck on my drive downtown, so I drove carefully.

Tomorrow I would see what's involved in replacing a windshield, but, tonight, I was feeling good and thankful Joan had invited me to tag along.

(Click on the photos and links for details.)

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Monday, July 20, 2015

"Hot enough for you?"

What a silly question!

Unless it's a waitress asking about your cup of coffee.

Or someone fiddling with the shower controls and making adjustments.

Certainly NOT when discussing the weather.

Weather is eternal as this picture taken way back in the 60s will attest.

I was a staff photographer then for the San Diego Union-Tribune daily newspaper.

The paper encouraged its photographers to keep an eye out for feature-type photos that could run with just a caption.

My son is 3rd from the left in this shot taken in our front yard.

Yes, he was upstaged by the boy with the swim mask who had ignored my request that nobody look at the camera. Well, sure, that's the one the editor chose.

A few years earlier, he was in a different type of "hot weather" caption-only shot.

Hot weather, kids, water hoses and tiny inflatable pools were all pretty easy ways to see my photos published in the paper.

Having young children of my own meant "willing" models to capture these chilling moments.

It wasn't just weather shots.

When Chris was 3, he and I toured the San Diego Aerospace museum.

It ran as a long-caption item.

Not really a fleshed-out story, just a look at a boy in wonder, looking over a brief history of aviation.

The availability of exciting pieces of history meant I could move him around in a time warp - from a WWII Flying Tiger aircraft to a Mercury capsule suborbital spaceship like the one that carried John Glenn aloft.

The resulting story inspired some of my fellow photographer at the paper to take a hard look at their relatively idle children.

Hmm, they wondered, what setup could be used so their kid too could appear in print.

I was having a good time and my son enjoyed the new, strange surroundings his dad was showing him.

One joint effort with a fellow parent-with-a-camera was for a pre-Valentine's Day story.

The illustrations were to show his young girl in the role of Cupid, with a rubber-tipped arrow in her bow.

(The actual steel-tipped arrow was added for this shot.)

My son was to carry a large heart-shaped box of chocolates.

As I recall, he got a haircut and a new striped outfit.

In the 3-picture sequence, she sneaks up, shoots the arrow through the candy box, then hugs and tries to kiss his cheek as he squirms out of her grasp,

Sounded pretty simple but it took more than an hour to get the shots we wanted.

Here's the key shot, taken on a cool February day in Balboa Park.

As I said, using our kids in shots was not limited to just the weather.

One of the pictures taken in the Aerospace Museum showed my son giving his impression of the toothy look of a WWII Fighting Tiger airplane.

It was included in an overview full page which heralded that the camera could not laugh.

I still enjoy trying to catch scenes that raise a smile.

Or, even better, a full hearty laugh.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

Thanks for stopping by.

Sitting in front of my computer, with the AC keeping me cool, sure beats going out to take some hot weather shots.

When I show this picture of President Johnson campaigning, I often have to explain who he is.


It WAS a long time ago when I took his picture in San Diego.

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Thursday, July 09, 2015

"If you can't beat 'em..."

It has been a while since I'd been in New York and  looked down on serene Central Park.


This time I am even the Top Of The Rock at 30 Rockefeller Center.*

Before, I was up higher, on the observation deck of the Empire State building.

Now, that's behind me - literally - and it's crowded here right now on this sunny afternoon.

Tourists usually do not know that if you get very close to the glass, you can avoid reflection and glare in your pictures. Also, often the auto focus beam hits the glass instead of the scene.

But, I don't think these people are that discerning.

I mean, they are using a "Selfie Stick."

Don't try that on the roller coaster at a theme parks. Disney has outright banned them as "dangerous to others."

I have mixed feelings. Dislike seeing them at music concerts.

I often would like to be framed by an iconic background and my arm just isn't long enough.

Handing my camera to a fellow traveler in Washington, D.C. years ago in front of the White House, I learned NOT to assume everyone speaks English.
The couple figured out what I wanted though and took the shot I had pictured.

Then it was easy to understand their non-verbal wish when they handed me their camera and posed.

My older daughter surprised me with a terrific Selfie Stick for Father's Day.

I came back from traveling to NYC, Quebec and Raleigh and found the long thin box on my front porch.

The monthly meeting of my photo group was an opportunity to check it out - and its fancy Bluetooth operation - with some fellow photographers.

We are a shy bunch...yeah, right..but several agreed to pose with me.

I wanted to make sure it functioned properly with my Android phone's camera.

It does a fine job.

I used its height to "hover" over the heads of others during the meeting and am pleased with the function and the quality of the photos.

You have it either look down on you or, reverse the camera, and it's like a camera on a boom.

Well, it IS that.

You soar above the subjects, somewhat like a drone would do. A different perspective from on high.

It also can capture low angle shots without me getting down on my knees as I did in New York to get all - top to bottom - of St. Patrick's Cathedral.

New Yorkers do not even slow down to gawk when you're squatting down on the ground.

They've seen it all.

Probably thought I was just some ultra-religious guy on a quest or a mission.

Or a homeless person with a camera.

So, I probably will take along my "Steeck" for my next trip.

Sort of defeats my goal of traveling light with no additional camera bodies, an array of expensive interchangeable lenses and bulky flash equipment.

Even my tripod is a miniature one that stays attached to my small camera.

Both fit easily into a pouch on my belt that also has room for an extra memory card and several charged-up spare batteries.

All of my photo stuff fits in one hand.

A welcome relief after starting out in photography, lugging around a 4x5 Speed Graphic and a heavy fiber case.

It was filled with large format film holders and cartons of flash bulbs, with a strap cutting into your shoulder

I found there is a surprise factor too when the Steek is holding the small, thin phone camera up in the air.

It's different from standing there with a camera and aiming it at eye level.

I foresee even more candid shots.

Have to remember to check out the background...when it is behind me.

I'm used to moving my camera to eliminate telephone poles from sprouting from a subject's head.

But - case in point - I did not envision the gaudy party room table cloth cover behind me as part of the picture.


So, things are looking up and extra chins will be less of a portrait problem for me...of me.


(Click on the photos and links for more information.)

Looks like I'll be "..joinin' them" with my Selfie Steek.

Oh, here's another view of the church from above.

*30 Rockefeller Center the 1st of July ,has just been renamed "Comcast Building."

Wonder if visitors will be told they can visit "sometime between 10 am and 5 pm." as such Comcast cable appointments are done. 

That approach of having a very wide-range time targeting ties you up most of the day, of course.

It has been mentioned as one of the faults when speaking of the huge cable company.

Maybe the building will be re-named again as Xfinity to make it less obvious.

It's what they've done with cable.

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Sunday, July 05, 2015

Parlez-vous fran├žais ? Well, it depends...

 On my first trip ever to Quebec City, I knew French was the language of choice in that Province.

One instance where knowing the language was not a major requirement happened when I visited Parc de la Chute - Montmorency.

The guidebook was correct in suggesting a trip just 8 miles from downtown to see a magnificent waterfall, taller than Niagara Falls!

The Visitor Centre seemed to realize what the sound of all that rushing water would do to a person.

Nearing the falls, you hiked up stairs - with many photo opp stops - and heard the sound get louder and louder.

You soon reach a bridge that lets you look down on the fast-flowing torrents.

It's fascinating. Beautiful and powerful.

Then you look around for a bathroom.

Hmm, not way up here on the side of a mountain.

The staff at the Centre knew the look and pointed you in the right direction.

The Parc, er, I mean, Park, is well laid-out with hiking trails, picnic tables in shaded areas, and an aerial tramway system lower down.

On the other side, you can see wooden stairs that lead down to a spot almost beneath the falls.

People were down there, dampened by the spray from the falling water.

 Did not do those soggy stairs on my last day in Vieux Quebec.

Earlier in our 4-day stay, we had looked out over the St. Lawrence River and saw where the British had massed for an invasion.

The attack did not happen but there was a well-armed fort - La Citadelle - perched high on a hill with cannons aimed in all directions.

It is still an active military base and we hiked up the hill to see a 10 am changing of the guard.

They say Quebec City is a walking place. And that is true, but most of the walking seemed to be uphill. LOL.

But, travel is "broadening," so ample exercise balances out the delicious foods one finds.

This was a major Summer daily event and crowds surrounded the massive parade field as the current guard unit assembled and awaited the arrival of their replacements.

Yes. I did notice the presence of the 22nd Regiment's official mascot.

A polite, well-mannered goat.

Kept very still but was alertly eyeing the crowd.

The military band marched out and played the music needed to accomplish the changeover from one group of soldiers for another.

Both ranks were in their impressive tailored red coats, tall fuzzy black "shako" hats and ramrod straight posture.

Our visit coincided with the annual June 24 "La Fete Nationale, " the birthday of St. John the Baptist celebration, so there were bands and entertainment all around the city.

Here, by the famed historical mural, a crowd was seated for musical performances honoring the Quebec National Holiday.

We were told the celebration starts the evening of June 23, a full day of revelry including a huge bonfire on the 24th, followed by "a day of recovery" on the 25th!

(Click on the link to see views  of the mural, taken throughout the year and from many different angles.)

It is an impressive work of art and history.

Just around the corner, to the left, is a busy square, filled with shops, beautifully preserved buildings and nice dining choices.

I came a bit closer to the band that was playing and noted the young bass player.

A short, very young man, was standing on a blue plastic carton.

Slapping and plucking that upright like a seasoned pro.

I bet his parents have to help him pack it up and move it around. It's taller than he is.

There was a lot of music in the air as the annual St. Jean Baptist birth was honored.

Ceremonies of a different sort were going on back home. Including funerals.

The week before, the horrific event - now called the Charleston Massacre - happened in my hometown.

Nine black people in a Bible study class at their church were shot and killed by a white man.

Hate crime? Terrorist attack? No decisions yet but much speculation and discussion.

I saw an example of the world press ongoing coverage  and regretted my lack of proper attention in my French classes in college.

I can read a bit and catch the gist but wish I was better versed.

Television coverage was available in English and I am sure there were publications around that I could have read. A sad, sad story.

 The next day, Tuesday, was cloudy with quite a bit of rain.

But, I'm a positive frame of mind kinda guy.

I concentrated on glistening streets and parades of colorful umbrellas. Also a good time to step inside churches and museums.

No shortage of either here in Quebec.

The weather was a good twenty degrees cooler than back home and I enjoyed the break in hot, humid and hazy.

Did see several reminders of the Historic District we have in Charleston.

This sun-splashed late-afternoon view looks a lot like Second Sunday on King Street.

Well, yeah, these signs are all in French.

The variety of architecture here is amazing.

There is a juxtaposition of old and new but the zeal for preservation is obvious.

Has Mayor Riley, in his 40 years in office, done some counseling to these folks north of the border?

Looks like the two cities have some common goals.

It is startling to see modern, glass condos rising above quaint red brick Victorian structures that have stood the test of time.

This view is along Grande-Allee, several blocks of dining and drinking places - with less emphasis on food.

Sat out on a patio, sipping a beer, and watched the parade of people going by on foot and in distinctive vehicles.

Was told it was the time of School Proms.

A number of stretch limos with smiling, excited young people inside would glide past, followed by several vintage cars .

Then a motorcycle or two would rumble and roar past.

The previous night, after the rain had passed, we saw clusters of young ladies in long, flowing prom gowns.

Apparently the boys were hanging together separately or the two groups planned to meet up at the McDonalds further up this street?

We were sitting at a Casse-Crepe Breton, window table across Rue Saint-Jean, digging into a giant dessert crepe.

This shared "meal" was accompanied by large cups of hot chocolate topped with even more whipped cream.

Now I am glad of all the hills and the exercise that entails.

Eat it it off.

We came back for another meal here.

I had tried crepes before when I lived in California but these were out of sight delicious.

I see a stack of photos of things, places and people I met while in Quebec and think I'll try to simply post some without captions.

The last picture is a suggestion Mayor Riley might have overlooked if he indeed did travel to Quebec City to consult.

Notice pertinent street signs actually point out where to find the "facilities."

C'est si bon!

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