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by Peter Wine

Thursday, July 16, 2009 - Dayton OH

As we talk about today being the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, I was thinking about what I was doing at the (historically) more important  time of the moon landing.  

Though both were important parts to the mission; and as Apollo 1, Space Shuttle Challenger and Space Shuttle Columbia proved, liftoff and landing can be darn dangerous; in this case, for all the right reasons, it's the landing that we remember.

(insert joke about Wayback machine here)

I was a 13 year old kid from Ohio, at a summer camp in Canada, so I wasn't able to see as much as I might have at home, but I remember getting up in the middle of the night, and everyone in camp gathered around this TV.  I don't remember what size it was, but I remember we all watched it as if our lives depended on it.

Right there in glorious (fuzzy) black & white we watched as a human first set foot on a place beyond the Earth.

Perhaps, because I was young, and didn't have all that much to compare it to, I wasn't as amazed as some of the adults.

Or perhaps because I was young, and had been following the space program closely, it didn't seem as incredible as it would later on. 

It seemed more like the natural progression of things.

I mean, I was very happy that things went well and all, and you couldn't have gotten me away from the TV right then, but not having grown up with Buck Rogers and all that (I was more into science than science fiction.  To the point that I started watching Star Trek in season three because I previously thought it was about Hollywood Stars.)  But it wasn't the "I can't believe they did that" feeling I heard from others. 

It was a fantastic achievement, and the beginning (or so I thought) of a big colony and a stepping stone to Mars and beyond. 

It was later on that I came to appreciate the dangers of the mission, and how they were within 10 seconds (some say as little as seven) of colossal failure, live on TV as the Lunar Lander either crashed into the moon, or ran out of fuel and...

I wonder now, had something awful happened, would we have given up?  Would we have fired off Apollo 12 and tried again?  

I mean the computing power aboard that Lunar Lander would be dwarfed by many cell phones today.  And that's why Neil Armstrong landed on the moon in manual mode.  The computer was in overload mode.  (Say that three times fast.)

Thank goodness they were all safe and got to have the big parade in New York City.

Years later, as we celebrated the 100th anniversary of powered flight at Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, I got to see both Neil Armstrong and fellow Astronaut John Glenn, (detailed here) and listen to them talk about aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright.  

It was wonderful, but to paraphrase Neil Armstrong on that July 20, 2003, ' 40 years?'


Sunday, July 5, 2009 - Dayton OH

Before I start the serious discussion of photography and fireworks, let me say happy birthday to the United States of America, and to two special people.  Our son Chuck, who was killed in 1999 (and is likely watching the fireworks from above) and whose birthday we remember on July 1st, and our granddaughter Miranda, who just moved to Atlanta, Georgia with her mom, who was born July 2nd.  

First, let me say I love fireworks.  I really do.  I am not so fond of the crowds, and having to walk a couple of miles to see them in person anymore.  It's more fun, of course, to see them in person, and I do still enjoy that, but this year I decided to take in fireworks on TV instead.

If you've come here looking for a tutorial on how to photograph fireworks, you're missing the point.  There are dozens of places all over the web to get instruction on how to shoot fireworks, and most are pretty good.  (I've read quite a few over the years.)  To me, how I shoot them, depends on the look I'm going for.  Last year I thought I'd be cool and took pictures of fireworks with three cameras (or was it four?) at the same time.   I was not impressed with the results.  Though I got some photos I liked, I didn't get any that were as good as I'd hoped.  

No, today I'm going to talk about fireworks on TV.  A subject that I have some experience with, and is also close to my heart.

I think fireworks appeal to everybody, but there is something about fireworks that just naturally causes people to grab a camera and start shooting.  Whether that's good or bad is for someone else to debate.

Last night on TV, there were two shows featuring fireworks.  One from New York, and the other from Washington, D.C.

I guess it was nice to be able to watch the same display as those in New York (which I watched live) at the same time they were happening.  Perhaps because I've worked in New York a couple of times, I felt a connection to the display there, and it might have felt as though I was there  in the audience watching.

But it didn't.  It felt as though I was watching a director who wanted to show off.  I have been a TV director (small scale, of course) and when I edit video from an event that had two (or more) cameras, I act as a director when I choose which one of them to show in the video.

Because live is not the best way to view fireworks on TV.  Let me explain why. 

When you watch fireworks in person, how often do you move around?  You pick a spot and stay there, right?  But when you watch on TV, (or at least the show from New York I watched last night) you were moving all over the place.

There was a camera with the wide angle shot.  A camera with the close-up of the fireworks so they'd fill the screen.  A camera in a blimp (or somewhere else looking down on the whole thing.)  And a camera on the crane that moved back and forth, showing the people as they watched the fireworks.

The problem is it was live.

The director wasn't sure where the fireworks would go off, or how long they would stay in the air, or any of that.  So, you'd watch from this spot for a few seconds and then move to another shot, and then another and then sweep along the crowd, and then... 

There didn't appear to be a lot of "why" connected with each shot.  It felt that since they spent $40,000 on the blasted blimp in the sky, by golly they'd get their money's worth in shots. 

They'd show a wide shot for a long time, when I would have liked to see a close up of the patterns.  (Yep, patterns.  There were squares and circles, and all sorts of stuff.  They even made a smiley face in fireworks.  Pretty cool.)

The switching between long and close, moving and not moving cameras, high and low angles.  It all seemed so... forced.  As if the director felt that the movement of the cameras or the switching between cameras was needed to maintain viewer interest.  

I mean, we're not watching someone give an econ 101 lecture, here.  They're FIREWORKS!  They are already full of movement and excitement.

On the other hand, if had been on tape, then the director would be able to look at each of the cameras RESULTS for each set of fireworks, and choose the view looked the best for that set.  

But how many people would watch a fireworks show on July 5th?  

Yep, and that's why they do it live.  And put us into the whirlwind that is modern TV watching.

On the other hand, photos of fireworks get looked at a lot on July 5th, because for some reason it's ok to look at pictures the next day, but not video.  Perhaps there just isn't time to watch the whole thing, so nobody offers it. 

Look at the newspaper web sites that offer video.  See anything offering the fireworks?  How about the TV stations web sites?  If you're lucky they might include some fireworks video in the report from the 11pm news, but that's about it.

Perhaps it's that the show organizers won't permit the display to be shown in their entirety.  

Or maybe it's just the way it's always been with fireworks, and people are stuck in that rut.

But I'm hoping that one day, perhaps even next year, someone will come to me and say, "We'd like you to make a really special fireworks video to be broadcast or put onto a DVD.  Maybe both!"  Then I'll be able to set up two or three cameras, and have the camera operators record the event.  Then sit back and decide based on quality which camera shots to use. 


Friday, June 26, 2009 - Dayton OH

Trying to make some kind of sense of what's been going on the last few days.  Perhaps this will help.

In the words of N. Scott Trimble, on "You see, Ed M HAD to die first, so the other two could get announced. "HHHEEEERRRREEESSS.....""

I can relate to both types of death, though. 

Ed and Farrah both died from illness that was a known thing before they passed, as my mother did.  It is in some way a relief that their pain is ending.

MJ was more like my son who was stabbed. They died suddenly and the shock factor was higher.

But the death of my mother and son will always be an 'almost healed' wound. 

Ed, Farrah and MJ; though I'll miss their contribution to my life, will fade from memory, to be refreshed from time to time as an anniversary of their birth or death comes around.

May they all rest in peace.


Thursday, June 25, 2009 - Dayton OH

Worked this afternoon on a wedding video as I heard the beginning of what would become a media tsunami.  

This morning, we heard about the passing of poster and TV icon Farrah Fawcett from a long battle with cancer.  

This afternoon, comes the shocking news that Michael Jackson is rushed to the hospital in full cardiac arrest, followed by the news of his death.

The problems in Jackson's private life tended to overshadow his accomplishments in the last few years, but his "Thriller" album will be a music milestone that is close to impossible to rival.  With 46 million plus worldwide sales, it's easy to understand the wall-to-wall coverage on the news channels, and it's reported to have slowed down the Internet to a crawl as people tried to find out Jackson's current status.

My primary memory of Michael Jackson was his music, but having seen his movie, 'Captain EO' at Disneyland many years ago, I will remember that fondly as well.

It was (I think) the late '70s, and I was a DJ at the NCO (non-commissioned officer) club at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.  

It was a unique environment.  I played music on Thursday nights from 8-11 pm.  It was the disco era, and this club was different.  If they liked a song, they'd pack the dance floor.  If they didn't like a song, they would ALL sit down.  And you thought Simon was mean on American Idol.

In order to have fewer chances for rejection, I sometimes would stretch out a song to ridiculous lengths.  It wasn't uncommon to play a song for 10 or 20 minutes using two copies of the disco single because they had an instrumental bridge and things that made it possible to 'make your own version' if you were so inclined.  (Later I'd use computers to do this more effectively.) 

The one I remember most has always been Michael Jackson's 'Don't Stop ('Til You Get Enough) from the Off The Wall album.  Before the album was released, they released the single, as I recall.  

Back then, they would release a 45 RPM single as a tease to an album, so that when the album was released, you'd know there was at least one hit on it.  Ahhh, vinyl.  But I digress.

I typically used the disco single, but for reasons I can't recall now, I didn't have one from Don't Stop.  I had two 45 RPM singles.  

In order to extend a song this way:

I would play a minute or two from one disc, then switch to the other copy.  In order for this to work, I would fine a 'mix point,' then hold the record in place until the time was right.  Then I'd release the 'new one' slide the fader on the mixer to the that turntable and repeat the process until either I got tired of it (and with a single that only had a couple of mix points and only lasted a couple of minutes) it was a constant flurry of movement around the turntables.

You've heard of scratch mixing?  I think that started when someone was doing something like this and forgot to turn the volume down, and it started 'scratching' on the air.  So, of course the reply was, "I meant to do that."  And a new style was born.  But who really knows.  

The problem with doing this with 45 RPM records, though was the use of an adaptor.  Because when you're holding the needle in place on a record (so you can let it go and it will start where you want it to) puts a lot of stress on the junction between the 45 and the adaptor.  

Every once in a while the record slips under the adaptor just as you're about to switch and the mix goes south.  I was lucky, and didn't have that happen often.  Of course, I didn't use many 45 RPM records, either.

Anyway, the night I remember most, was one where the crowd was really jumpy, and rather than try out new songs, I played Don't Stop ('Til You Get Enough) for about an hour.  Yep, using just two 45 RPM records, and the shakey adaptors, I swapped back and forth between them a WHOLE BUNCH of times.  (How many?  Dunno.  But the song was around 4:33, and the 'mix point' was at about the three minute mark as I recall.  You do the math.)

Point is, most anyone who has spent any time in a nightclub, gone to a wedding reception, school dance or oodles of other events has likely had their own Michael Jackson memory today.

As a DJ, Jackson's music was certainly in the go-to category as much as any other.  When you were having a slow time on the dance floor, a Jackson tune was kind of a generation crossing, sure thing.  


Saturday, May 25, 2009 - Dayton OH

'Watching' the second round of the U.S. Open today on NBC TV while I do some organizational work in the office.

It's been notable mostly for the amount of rain.  So much so that they stopped play on Thursday in the morning because many of the greens were under water.  By Friday morning things were drying out a bit, and many golfers were able to play from early morning until dark.

Today, they watched a storm system, 'the size of the state of Ohio' move through and were worried it would stop play again.  But it rained for a couple of hours and though it was tough to play, they didn't have to stop at all.  All of the really heavy storm activity seemed to get close to the part of New York where the course was, and dissipate.  

As a result, they have finished the second round for everybody (normally done on Friday) and will start the third round today at 5:30.

So between 4:45 pm (when the last live coverage ended) until 5:30, NBC is going to run tape from early this morning.  Tape that has not been aired yet today. Thing is, we already will know whether the people involved blasted themselves out of contention (only the top 60 golfers - or those that are tied with the 60th player*) but we haven't seen how it happened, except for the 'big guys' like Tiger Woods..


Good for me, though, since this way I won't have to pay as close of attention, stopping only when someone does something really special.

The end of the live coverage gave an example of the other thing they are doing. Some of the last people on the course are what are called local qualifiers. People who played at a variety of courses around the country (including the NCR Country Club in Dayton) and didn't do all that well the first round, so got stuck at the end of the list for round two. They likely have no idea that they are being broadcast live to a few million of their closest friends. 

A player was at +5, and if he chipped in (hit it in from just off of the green to go into the cup) he would make the cut with a birdie, moving to +4 (the cut line.) He was in the 18 inch tall grass and hits the ground and the ball does NOT move perceptibly. He knows that he is now above the cut line and won't get to play round three and four (and has no chance of winning.) But he still has to finish the hole. Rather than trying to hit it again toward the hole, he knocks it down into the bunker (sand trap,) takes maybe 10 seconds to look at the shot and hits the ball. It goes up onto the green, and right into the cup. 

It's that kind of drama that makes the telecast interesting as much as whether Tiger or Phil will win. 

Like baseball, though, it's a bunch of action spread over a very long time, so it's hard for most people to get into the game. Kinda like chess. (And just as mental at times, too.)

* if the 60th golfer had boogied the last hole he played, and gone to five +5, then everybody that was at +5 would be allowed to continue as well. Guess who was rooting against him making that last putt?


Monday, May 25, 2009 - Dayton OH

Memorial Day 2009...

The battle for freedom and liberty is a daily struggle, with some battlefields more obvious than others. 

It's the obvious ones that we remember: D-Day, Omaha Beach, Pearl Harbor. But sometimes it's the little things that can make all the difference.

Like the battle inside between whether to stay home or go out and serve your country, or whether to stand up for someone who has been mistreated in your town.

By themselves, people are somewhat frail, but we've proven over and over that as a country we can be a powerful force for good around the world.

It's on Decoration Day, now called Memorial Day, that we put faces to those that gave their lives as part of that powerful force, and thank them for their sacrifice.

Here's some photos from the Lebanon, Ohio Memorial Day Parade.


Friday, April 17, 2009 - Dayton OH

A new look on the web site!

I'm hoping you have noticed by now that I've been doing a bit of streamlining on the web site.

Sure, I've thought about taking a few weeks and doing a complete re-do, but I've been just busy enough with other projects to not have time to devote to a long term project that requires a lot of concentration.

The intent is to preserve the content that's been available, but to make it a little less cluttered on the home page, and I think I've done that.

One of these days, I get around to the portfolio page, too.  (As much as I like some of the photos in the archive, I realize that not all of each set deserve to be in a portfolio that people will judge as my 'finest' work.

As a result, I realize that some will judge my work on what's here, and that's ok, as well.

If you have any comments on the redesign, let me know!


Wednesday, April 8, 2009 - Dayton OH

I'm not sure why, but twice in the last few days I've responded to people in various places about the newspaper business.

Today, it was because a media person said that you can't charge for news, as it happens all the time, right in front of you.

Well, I couldn't let it go unanswered, so even though I don't work for a newspaper, I sent the person an email:  (in the interest of full-disclosure, of course, I am a 'contributing photographer' for the Dayton Daily News and other media outlets but I don't work there, and don't have 'inside' knowledge) 

News outlets don't charge for news, they charge for access to the results of reporting of the news.

There are bloggers that will tell you what they SAW for nothing. Great, if that person is telling you about something you care about (and you know about their blog.)

There are bloggers that will tell you what they THINK for nothing. Great, if that person is someone whose opinion you care about, and you know where to look.

That's fine.

What a person is willing to pay for is not news, it's being able to find out about things that are going on (news) that the person WANTS to know about, without having to be in all the places that news happens.

A person is not willing to pay another person $100 to sit in the local council meeting and find out what happened, but they might be willing to pay 10 cents to read a synopsis of what happened. And another 10 cents to get more detailed info.

If 1,000 people are willing to pay 10 or 20 cents for that information, then you have a reason to sit there and report on that meeting, then spend the time to compile your notes into readable form.

The same thing goes for the county administration meeting, the state senate hearings, the protesters at the mall, the book's author at the store, the (fill in the blank with something you care about that others may not.)

In other words, since you can't be in all places at once, you hire people to be there for you on a limited basis. That's what a newspaper subscription is. 

For many years, the cost of that subscription was subsidized by the use of the classified ad section of newspapers. This profit center has been all but eliminated in many papers because of online classifieds like CraigsList that offer classifieds for free.

[note:  another part of the original comment was that a newspaper had raised the price of their paper]

Do I think that the newspapers are right in raising their prices at a time when circulation is down? That's their choice.  Perhaps they have already tried a big sale, the way traditional retailers do.  Dunno.

But another business may well start up in those cities that will cater to those who want news online, and are willing to pay for getting it. They'll think their cost of doing business will be reduced from the newspaper because they don't have to buy ink, paper, printing presses, trucks, gasoline for the trucks and such overhead.

The new business will still have to buy stuff for photographers and reporters to use, and office stuff to get the news online. But that's a cost of newspapers as well.

However, the new business will also have to spend a lot of money on advertising, so that people might know about their online news gathering operation. It will take a while for the marketing to become effective, and get enough people to look at the web site and attract advertisers.  In other words, it will take deep pockets to do it right, just like supporting a print operation.

In the meantime, smart newspaper and radio/TV organizations will develop their online business, and be ready to respond to the desires and demands of the community. 

Some local newspapers are already doing well, mostly because they provide content online or in print (or both) that isn't available via other sources. They also have another name. Survivors.


Monday, April 6, 2009 - Dayton OH

Warning!  The following entry contains tech-talk of a photographic kind.  If you don't understand it, hang in there.  There will be another post soon.

I knew that I had a big event to shoot this past weekend, and while generally I enjoy shooting with a Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 and Canon 70-200 f/2.8 combo, this weekend I wanted a bit more. 

But the amount I was to receive for this assignment was still, well, small, so I couldn't just go out and buy stuff.  

So I made a compromise. I rented the Canon EF-S 17-85 IS f/4 - 5.6.  I might have preferred the Canon 24-105 IS f/4, but I needed something I could afford to buy a lot sooner. It was more of a test drive.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that the focus at times was REALLY slow (when you get less light in, it takes more work, I understand that...) and there were times I was really frustrated with how long it took to focus. 

However, the problems were outweighed at the event I was shooting by the ability of the IS lens to help get shots that (without a tripod, and they are hard to carry around at a gala) would be all but impossible in the shutter range I was shooting. 

I've heard people say that I should be able to get sharp focus at 1/60 on a short lens (like say the 17-50 2.8) But that hasn't been my experience.  Maybe I'm getting shaky in my old age.  :-)

This weekend, I felt that I was able to let go of some technical concerns I've been carrying around recently, and concentrate a little more on what was happening.  

It felt good.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009 - Dayton OH

In addition to being April Fools Day for the rest of you, today is a little different for my sister, so I'm going to start by saying, 'Happy Birthday Sarah!'  I'd sing, but then you'd have to... 

For the last few days, I've been thinking about the newspaper business.  It's come up a couple of times on the forums I visit, and I thought I'd share my opinion on the whole thing.  

Lots of people think that it was newspapers putting their content online for free that is doing them the most harm, since why pay when you can get it for free.

That is in part true, of course. That did reduce some of the demand for content.

However, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Craigslist and the 'instant classified' did more financial harm to newspapers over time.

While ad revenue in the rest of the paper did decline, and that hurt; I suspect the lost of an entire section of advertising hurt more.

Our local paper went from what I'd estimate to be 10-20 pages of classifieds on a given day, to now where today's classified section is four (yes, 4) pages.

My neighbor said he may be dropping his subscription because the paper stopped covering the sporting information that was his main purpose for getting a daily paper.

He's told me that for most things he wants information on, it says, 'see our web site.' So for him, it's why pay when the information I REALLY WANT is online for free.

So the newspaper is doing two things to cut their own throat. 1) put info that a customer wants online for free and 2) take the info that a customer wants out of the printed edition.

One good thing that's happened is that the newspaper's printed edition has the local stories in the first section, and a small second section with national news.

So there is hope.

As an afterthought...

Long ago, when Napster was being sued by the record labels for 'sharing' music, I was surprised that there was no response by the record labels offering tunes for purchase.

They held fast to the idea of, 'if you want our music, buy the tape, buy the CD or buy the LP,' until the 'sharing' phenomenon was entrenched.

It took a lot of work to overcome the idea of 'free' music, and get people to start buying music online.

But they did start buying music online.

Imagine what things might look like for newspapers (or news publishing companies, since that what they really are) if they had begun selling their content when they first went online, instead of giving it away.

Not selling an article for dollars, but rather pay for today, weekly or monthy access to all content.

Even today, I wonder if a newspaper's web site were to offer the entire newspaper, in PDF format, if that would make a difference.

It would be free to print subscribers, or a reduced fee to online only subscribers. (Which is completely fair, because the delivery cost is almost nil compared to the print edition.)

In the next few years, I suspect something like the Kindle(r) will be available at cost that most consumers can afford (in the same way that the cost of satellite TV service equipment has dropped, or been absorbed) and this business model will be standard.

How many newspapers will be left when that happens?

Harder to tell.


October 4, 2008 - Dayton, OH

Hmmm, has it really been a year since I updated the blog?  "Yikes," I said to myself this morning, when I went to add a new entry.

Anyway, I was making a comment on Rod Mar's blog, "The Best Seat in the House," and realized that it would make a good blog entry for me as well.  (Or, to put it another way, I realized it was a really long comment.)

Rod was talking about his falling victim to 'the homecoming curse.'  

What's that, you ask?

Seems that when he shoots a homecoming game for the Seattle Times this year, not only does the team lose, but it goes down in flames, crumples up and... well you  get the idea.  In the three games he's photographed this year, the visitors have scored 99 points.  The homecoming teams only 18.  Ouch.

I have only shot one game, and it was me that was rusty, the homecoming team won 35-14

In fact, they did so well on defense that I had trouble getting a good offense shot of the opposing team. (I try to include a similar number of shots of each team in the Dayton Daily News online gallery.)

And the 70-200 with a 1.4 telextender just wasn't getting it done in the dark, so I felt pretty bad about the shots I did get.

I know that it's not the camera and all that, but using a 1D (that's the original - from 2001 version) on anything over 800 ISO is asking for trouble, but anything less than 1600 ISO and I was asking for a black box instead of a photo.

I was SO wishing I had that Nikon D3 about then.

Well, look for yourself.

And that's one of the better ones. You should see the ones I left on the cutting room floor.  Well, actually, you shouldn't.  That's why they're on the floor.  

Last season I created a monopod adaptor for flash units, but it wasn't working all that well for this game. I hadn't used it, or even really tested it out this season when I got the call to shoot the action in this game. (I've been asked to do a "You've Been Spotted" feature more often this year. And looking at these photos, I guess I know why. :-)

I was going to try it out again the next week, but ended up at a Jason Aldean concert instead. With Eric Durrance and Lady Antebellum opening, it was a nice night.  Except for the rude person who didn't understand why I was taking pictures, and didn't understand why I was trying to move behind him.  

Hint:  if you look at this photo, you'll see why.  I was trying to get the guitar off of the poor fellows head.  But that's life.  I got out of his way before he got too angry.  I guess he also didn't understand that I get to take pictures for three songs, and he gets to watch the rest of the show while I'm outside sending the pictures to the newspaper.

And I know he didn't understand that I had a problem with the camera.  The shutter on the Canon 1D died (I originally thought it was the battery... I'd shoot and the camera would shut down.) 

I would take the battery out, put it back in, and the camera started back up.  Then I'd take a picture and the camera would shut down.  The photos had a bunch of lines through it, so I suspected something was wrong.  I figured it was because the battery died, and after the batteries were recharged all would be good again.  

I should have known better though.  The batteries had been fully charged at the start of the show, and I'd taken more pictures than this without problems before.  When I got home, and fully recharged the batteries it did the same thing, so I knew it was dead.

I ended up shooting the concert with the Canon 350D (digital rebel XT) which was standing in for the 30D.  It's at home with a blown shutter. Hmmm, I'm noticing a trend here.  Looks like Canon will be a getting package this week.

Even with the nice optics of the Canon 70-200, the poor 350D was having all kinds of trouble focusing.  And that's why you use the pro cameras in the first place.  



Sunday, July 29, 2007 - Dayton OH

There are times that you don't realize how much time has passed until you have something to measure it against.

Sadly, this time the measurement came in the form of another air show tragedy, this time in Dayton.

On Saturday, July 28, 2007, pilot Jim LeRoy crashed while performing at the Vectren Dayton Air Show. Here's my first hand account:

"I couldn't believe it had happened."

Those are the words of photographer Peter Wine when talking about the crash of veteran pilot Jim LeRoy at the Vectren Dayton Air Show Saturday afternoon.

Although I am a freelance photographer who frequently works on assignment for the Dayton Daily News, I was at the show today on my own, gathering 'stock photos' to supply future requests from publishers, and for publication on my  web site.

That all changed around 2:30 p.m. as Jim LeRoy's Bulldog failed to finish a maneuver during his second performance of the day.

I was in the 'media center' at the show, and because I was not on assignment, I was not on the 'front lines' which meant there were other photographers at the fence that separated us from the flight line. Though no more than three feet high, in the moments following the crash it felt at times as if it were ten or twenty feet high. 

I fought emotions for several moments about whether to try and cross the fence. There were several people on the other side of the fence, so I went to the place where the carts come and go. 

They had closed the gap in the fence and wouldn't let me get out onto the grass where I would have a clearer view of the crash site, so I went back to the closest point in the media area and continued to shoot until we were ordered to leave and go to the Expo Center at the airport.

There was no reason given, but speculation was heard that we would be meeting with the NTSB or airport officials to discover what we knew about the crash. I began to fear they would try to confiscate my digital film, and thought about my various options.

On the one hand, I would certainly like to aid the effort to find out what happened, but on the other I didn't want to lose control of whatever might be of value to the Dayton Daily News.

It turned out to be simply a press conference, and we waited around 90 minutes for it to start. The NTSB never did show up.

Because of the location of the 'media center,' which is really just an area with a tent at the far end of the flight line, I was pretty far away from the crash scene. Without really high-powered lenses, I could only see so much detail with the camera to my eye, and in the view screen moments later. 

Also, because the area next to the 'media center' had tables with umbrellas close to the fence, it was difficult for anyone not next to the fence to see down the flight line at all. Even those at the corner had a limited view, as the fence appeared to go away from the flight line, putting all those umbrellas in our view, and not much else.

From the 'media center' we could barely see 'show center,' a spot near the announcer, and the words, "and now, from the left..." became something to dread as that meant that we would be unable to see the aircraft until after they came out from behind the umbrellas.  

In fact, the only time I saw announcer Rob Reider was Sunday morning, as he stopped by the 'media center' looking for someone.  I remember Rob from the 50/50 club, where he appeared with host Bob Braun.  I don't know if he was on the show when Ruth Lyons was doing the show or not.  (That was a long time ago.)  He did a good job in a really tough situation, advising people to stay calm, and to have children look away from the flight line.

I was watching and taking pictures as LeRoy performed, though it was hard to see at times because of the smoke near the ground put out by their planes.  

So when LeRoy went into what turned out to be his last dive I was taking pictures, but when he got close to the ground, the umbrellas and people began to block my view and he appeared to go into the smoke at the bottom of an arc.  And I was thinking (or hoping) that he was skimming along the ground and would soon come up above the umbrellas.

But he never came up out of the crowd, and I knew that something was wrong, even though I was sure that I hadn't gotten it recorded in the camera. That's when I had that awful, sinking feeling. Jim LeRoy had not pulled out of the dive completely, he had crashed.

It was the moment that everyone who attends any air show in the world does not want to witness. I've been to the Dayton Air Show often over the years, both as a spectator and as part of the media. 

In the years that I have been covering the show as a photographer I always hope to get publishable pictures, but I've always said that I hope to get the best shot of the planes performing, and never want to see a crash, regardless of how good the picture might be.  I don't know of any photographer who hopes to see a crash, the way that some (appear) to go to hockey games to watch the fights during the game.

However, the reality is that what happens at an air show crash needs to be documented. In order for others to understand what occurred, whether they were at the show or not, people will want to see what happened. Some for morbid enjoyment I suppose, but I suspect there are people that have a hard time believing they saw what they saw and need to be sure that someone else saw it, too.

And then there is the investigation into the crash. What a tough job that must be. Knowing that the pilot died following the crash, they have to go through what's left of the plane to find clues that might help another pilot avoid a similar fate. 

During the press conference following the crash, Capt Elizabeth Kreft, the Air Force Thunderbird Public Affairs Officer announced they wouldn't fly on Saturday. "We're a family in this air show community, and we know almost everyone that performs at every air show."

Today that family is grieving. 


Monday, April 23, 2007 - Dayton OHLt. Cmdr. Kevin J. Davis stands in his plane at the 2006 Vectren Dayton Air Show.  Click here to see more highlights.

As you may have heard by now, Lt. Cmdr. Kevin J. Davis was killed in a crash at an air show in South Carolina on Saturday, April 21st.

Lt. Cmdr. Davis was here in Dayton last year at the Vectren Dayton Air show, and although I didn't meet him, he was the pilot who took Dayton Daily News photographer (now interim chief photographer) Ty Greenlees up for a ride (which you can see here.)  

It is a natural tendency for folks to start talking about how dangerous air shows are when something like this happens, but the reality is anyone can be injured (or even killed) when working, no matter what job they do.  You can be hurt in a car crash on the way to work, or going to the store, or whatever else you do. 

There is no possible way to be 100% safe at all times.  (Even if you stay in your house all the time, someone else could crash their car into your house...)  When you have the level of professionalism of the pilots at an air show the chances are that nothing unusual will happen at a show.UD students Mary Lynch from St. Louis, and Tyler Griesenbrock, from Columbus at Carillon Historical Park Saturday afternoon.  (Click here for more)

So, let's say a prayer for Lt. Cmdr. Davis, and the whole Blue Angels team.  

I was out shooting some folks enjoying the spring-like weather this weekend (finally!) between assignments, and while some went into the Dayton Daily News web site, others were just a bit soft in the focus (I hate when that happens) but I wanted to say "Hi" to them anyway.

Pictured here are UD students Mary Lynch from St. Louis, and Tyler Griesenbrock, from Columbus at Carillon Historical Park Saturday afternoon, April 21st.

Click on the picture to see more of the folks that I found enjoying a nice sunny spring day in the Miami Valley. What a nice change from a week or so back, when it was snowing! (I can say they were enjoying it, because this is a blog, not a news story.  Though if they didn't enjoy being in the sun, I'd think they'd stay home, right?)

Oh, and I did some other shooting this weekend, but the pictures are embargoed until they run in the paper (one this Thursday - the 26th, the other sometime in May.)


Wednesday, April 18, 2007 - Dayton, OH

Well, this week has been mostly paperwork, but I've also gotten a little shooting in.  

I've been using the Tamron 17-50 EFS (which means it only works on some digital cameras, like the Canon 30D and Canon 350D I work with) for a while now, and am pretty impressed with it.

The only real problem I have is that it operates in reverse compared to Canon lenses.  I can hear some of you out there saying, "Huh?"

Here's what I mean.  Lets say that you have the lens at the wide angle setting (17mm) and want to zoom in to the tight setting (50mm.)  You twist the zoom ring to the right (clockwise.)  

On Canon lenses, you twist to the left (counter-clockwise) to zoom in, and so when you switch between Canon's 70-200 long zoom, and the Tamron 17-50 wide angle zoom (as I do a lot on many assignments) you can sometimes go the wrong way, and it can cause a shot to be missed.  

So why not just buy the Canon lens?  (Canon makes a 17-55 EFS lens.)  Cost! The Canon is around $1200, and the Tamron was around $500.  As I have heard (and read on the Internet) that the Tamron is just as sharp as the Canon, I took the plunge.

I took the full two weeks (allowed for return by the store) to decide whether to keep it.  

Had I had the money, I think I might tested it against the Canon, but I didn't (and still don't) so I've kept it and used it happily.  It's great having the wide zoom on one body, and the long zoom on the other.

So this week, I've started taking pictures of my Promaster 17-35 zoom.  It was nice to have, and actually I'm still debating whether to keep it as a back up.  But...

Stay tuned, I'll let you know what I decide. 


Monday, April 16, 2007 - Dayton OH

I was in Centerville (Ohio) last night, to photograph Art Schlichter (former OSU and NFL football player) speaking at a church on his battle against compulsive gambling.  

I was there not so much to take pictures of Art speaking (though of course I did that, too,) as to see his interaction with those that came to hear him speak.

I talked to some folks (though I didn't write the story, Tom Beyerlein did that) and included their thoughts in the captions.  It's at times like this that I remember why I'm a photographer, not a writer.

It's not that I can't write.  I've written several articles that I'm proud of over the years.  It's more that I can't take notes very fast, and feel rather conspicuous when people in line are moving around me, while I'm getting information someone after I take their picture.  (Unlike an event photographer, getting the name of the folks in my pictures is quite important.  Just ask the page editor.)

Then I look at the pictures later, and realize it was all worth it, as I'm able to help share what happened.

Sunday, April 15, 2007 - Dayton OH

Thanks to Strobist I've discovered a site called Technorati, which is a gathering spot for bloggists, which I guess I am, since I have a blog, not withstanding the fact that I haven't made an entry since I got back from Las Vegas last year.  I'll work on that... (Here's my Technorati Profile.)

I have been quite busy with the Dayton Daily News (last night I shot Katt Williams at the Nutter Center.  He's a comedian raised in Dayton, who's now is on HBO and movies and such.) 

It's nice to be busy, but together with some video that I'm working on for a client (Hi, Ron!) in Columbus (golf outing sample) it's been quite hectic at times, and it's been hard enough to try and keep the home page updated, and the blog has suffered.

I hope to do better, but pulling myself away from Strobist will be a challenge.


Sunday, May 21, 2006 - Las Vegas NV

This just in...

We're DONE!

We had planned to clean up the garage, which we were using as a temporary workshop at 6:00 am today, and the public was to be let in for the first time at 9:00 am.

Paul got a call as we were heading out to the strip, that the plan had been changed a bit.  It seems that the Bedllagio decided that the garage needed to be cleaned up Saturday night, rather than Sunday morning.

So, they sent over a crew to 'help.'  Well, since they weren't familiar with Paul's style, and how things are stored, he went back to supervise.  (For instance, Annette's people are in boxes that at first glance are similar to giant pizza boxes.)

So, as I was getting ready for bed, I got a note that read, 


The job is done!


I'm not kidding!

Sleep in!"

Well, to me sleep in meant getting up at 6:00 instead of being at work at 6:00, but that's because I wanted to have a few minutes 'alone' with the railroad, before they let the crowd in at 9:00.

I also was going to get a chance to find out what was on the signs that the crowd was looking at on the 'other' side of the velvet ropes.  Maybe even get a photo of one, looking out onto the now almost finished railroad (there are still several days of detail work by the hotel crews... lighting - which they can only do at night - and such things.)

However, another surprise!  When I got to the conservatory, the velvet ropes were gone!  There were people already going through the railroad!  How cool, yet cruel!

Since the last of the plants and flowers were added to the the area in front of the g-scale Bellagio after we left last night, this is the first time the crew that helped create this has seen it looking 'complete.'

So I spent a while taking pictures.  Lots of pictures.  But I haven't yet had a chance to look at them.  That will come on Monday, after I'm back in Dayton.  Today is a day to enjoy Las Vegas for the final time.

I took a chance at the 2 cent slots, and guess what?  Yep, the $2.00 has been returned to the Bellagio.  I went over to the 'one-armed bandits' a total of four times during the week we were here, and dropped a total of $10.  Wow, I'm sure they're holding their breath waiting for ME to come back, huh?  I'll bet (oh, there's that word again) that it didn't even cover the electric on the trains for a second.  Sorry guys.  Maybe I'll have more money next time.  

The odd thing is, walking is a way of life for the crew, (given that it's a 10 minute walk to the cafeteria to eat, or return to the conservatory from the cafeteria,) and yet today several of us went out on the strip to "walk around." 

After my photo session with the trains this morning, I returned to the hotel room to transfer the pictures to the computer (and get space for more pictures.)

On the way back, I stopped at the Mandalay Bay hotel, and walked back to the Bellagio, enjoying the sights on the way.  So I've been about 1.5 miles in two of the four directions from the Bellagio.  It doesn't seem like much when you think of how big Las Vegas really is.  

The area where the Bellagio sits, is considered to be the South Strip.  It's a fairly dense area (meaning a lot of buildings in a small space, with many high rise buildings,) compared to the North Strip, which is older.

One of the local business shows today was talking about this, and commented that the lake outside the Bellagio would one day be filled in, or otherwise used better.  I hope not.  The Bellagio dancing fountain is really something to see. 

Although I didn't get a chance to meet him, I understand the designer of the fountain was here this weekend, working on the g-scale version of the fountain that sits in the pond in front of the g-scale Bellagio.

I think we got out there a bit late on Saturday night to photograph it, though, and the lights on the water are likely brighter than the surrounding area.  It's a better video, or better yet in person thing, and people are always waiting for the next show.  (Sometimes, like today, there are high winds that prevent the show.  I was hoping to catch a show during the day for a picture, but they didn't have a single show as of 5:00 pm.)

Word is that one couple was quite unhappy about 12:05 am a few days ago, when the found out that the last show was at midnight.  It really is that good, and is a highlight of anyone's trip to Las Vegas.

Just don't forget to stop inside to see the conservatory, and the garden railroad. 

I'll have more to say later, but gotta go to the airport right now...


Saturday, May 20, 2006 - Las Vegas NV

It's funny how time is sometimes very fluid, isn't it?  It wasn't until later in the day when it really hit me what day of the week it was.  

But, we'll talk about that later.

It's gotten to be a bit of a routine... I get up, write about yesterday, then head off to the Bellagio for breakfast, and begin work.

But today was different when I arrived at the railroad.  You could sense that people had a different feeling about the project.  The major work was done, and we're mainly working out the details.  Because this is, after all, a conservatory, they have a staff that cares for plants all the time.  

This meant for us, that we didn't do as much plant movement as we have at other sites.  So my day was spent finalizing the Bellagio sign's location with Brian (Busse) when we first arrived, then looking around for things that weren't 'quite right.'  As they were brought into the conservatory, the plants had their tags removed, but every once in a while, the string didn't come all the way off.  When I saw one of those strings, I made sure they went away.

To be honest, right now everything is blending together.  I moved from one project to another as needed, and I think it would take hypnosis or something to be able to recall everything.

One thing that stands out, however, is the trains.  At one time or another, I saw all of them running except a small track in the corner.  Since not all of the trains had been brought out, it's also possible that another train was tested there, and moved to another track.  

And the trains were not running all day, as people often had them stopped to do detail work around the tracks.  Most of the detail work involved Annette's people.  There are boxes of people that get put out, and they really help to bring the railroad to life.

After we did as much as we could, it was suggested that we go out for a celebratory margarita, at Margaritaville. 

That's when it hit us that it was Saturday night.  On the way, we stopped to watch the dancing fountains.  (There is a smaller, less dancing version inside, in front of the g-scale Bellagio.)

Wow, were there a lot of people!  The lines for taxis were VERY long, and as we walked to Margaritaville, it was obvious it was a big night.

When we got there, I realized I was quite tired, and since I don't drink much anyway, I wasn't in the mood for a cocktail, so I headed back to the hotel.  But I'm glad I went along, since I got a bunch of pictures of life after dark on the strip.  (That's so cool to say...)

Anyway, it's time for the shuttle again, and I'm off to take some final pictures, before I head back to Dayton on Monday morning.  (Flying through Denver's airport for the first time.  That should be fun, too!)


Friday, May 19, 2006 - Las Vegas NV

I think that everyone looks forward to Friday, even if your schedule is different than the workers who made weekends the 'happening time.'

Looking around the conservatory today, you can see a real sense of energy that wasn't here yesterday.  It's not that people are working harder, because they've worked REALLY hard all week.

It's not that it's Friday, because after a while, the days kind of run together on a job like this.  There is no weekend when we're on the road.  We work until it's done, then go home to relax.

No, the energy is coming from PROGRESS!  

You look around, and everywhere you see progress.  There are plants being brought in on carts that have 3 shelves.  And there are lots of plant carts!

We've begun to bring in the buildings for placement.

The electronic sign in one of the g-scale Bellagio buildings, has been installed, tested and works GREAT!

Everywhere you look, you see signs that it's all coming together.

Part of the energy may come from relief.  

You see, we're working with a mixed crew.  Many of the people working this job have never worked with Paul before, so they don't know what to expect.  They don't have the reference of having seen a project that looks like a bunch of sticks (the cedar mountains,) suddenly turn into a beautiful garden railroad.

Sure, they've seen pictures of other railroads that Paul has completed, so they knew it could be done, but there's just something that happens when it starts happening before your eyes.  

Call it magic, karma, or just a sense of 'pride.'  But it's obvious to me that it's contagious.

I'd love to give you a moment by moment description of what I did today, but really it's not that simple.

Sometimes things stick out in the memory, like working with Brian to install the electronic sign.  (Ok, I held the building steady, while he did the work.  But still I was there, right?)  

Paul came around the corner of the section we were working in when it was done, and we turned it on, and Paul's eyes just lit up!  "That's neat!," he said.  

The next thing you know, there's a crowd around us, and people ooh, and ahhh.  Then it's back to work for everyone.  But you can feel the energy.

The building was on a corner, and though you could see it from the 'crowd area,' it wasn't as visible as Brian wanted it, so later in the day, we moved it so the crowd could get a good look.  (Since some of them may have to leave before we get done, and they can get a close up look.)

As soon as we did, the flashes started, as people got pictures to take home.   

The sign is a bit of a departure for Applied Imagination, as a hallmark of Paul's work is that it's made of natural materials.  

The houses are covered with bark or leaves, acorns and twigs.  The details of a building could be a cut piece of cinnamon, or something more exotic.  But they are all natural.

This electronic sign is not, but it's special.  It is a g-scale version of the giant display that's outside, by the highway.  In fact, it's running the same thing they see outside, so anyone who's gone by the Bellagio will recognize it.

The sign is blended into a building that is, you guessed it, made of natural materials.  

Most of the day, though, is spent just doing things that need to be done.  When we complete a task, such as adding more cedar to the framework the track sits on, we find another project that needs to be done.  

Sometimes it's obvious that someone needs help, and we jump in to help.  

Other times we ask Paul what project has priority, and get to work on it.

Because there are a bunch of us, when I complete a task, and go looking for a new project; or when I go to lunch; or go for a water break there is usually a bit of oohing and ahhing on the way.  

Each minute, it seems now, we're making progress, and it feels good.

Brian and I did make a stop on the way back from breakfast today, to get a picture of what I call the 'chocolate factory.'

It's really 'Jean-Philippe Patisserie,' a store in the Bellagio.  This is a French pastry shop, and I walk by it every time we go to a break these days.  They have a chocolate fountain that is simply amazing.  Chocolate pours, slides in a ribbon, and just looks SO GOOD!  

Before we go back on Monday, I must stop in and have a taste!


Thursday, May 18, 2006 - Las Vegas NV

First, Happy Birthday to EDY!

Wow!  The buildings are starting to appear, and trains are starting to run!

It's always a highlight of an installation when the first train runs.  It's a tangible marker of the progress that sometimes seems elusive.  When we arrived this morning, there were two trains running on the tracks suspended in the Banyan tree.

I hope that the folks here enjoy them half as much as I do.  It is the looks on the faces as people watch that is part of the 'secret payoff' of this job.  When a job is done in an area that's out of the way until we're done, we just do our work and the people show up at the end.

But here, there are always people watching, studying, trying to figure out what's going to happen next, and such.  Some will take pictures; some grab a quick glance while they hurry by; some will just stand and watch for several minutes.

If you've ever seen a movie opening, you have an idea what the scene looks like.  There are the red velvet ropes strung from gold post to gold post across the area where we are working.  There is a crowd of people behind the rope, hoping to catch of glimpse of what's going on.  There were a couple of people here earlier who had seen Paul's work at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, and wanted to say hi.  How cool is that?  

Well, Paul has been on the Today Show a couple of times (at least,) so I guess he is kind of famous, right?

Anyway, they also have people stationed at the intersection of the walkways to help with crowd control.  Really!  At times, there are so many people moving, that they have to stop traffic for us when we bring in a long trestle piece, or a pile of cedar on a cart.  

And we moved a lot of cedar yesterday.  Paul uses cedar to create mountains, much the way a painter creates a backdrop in a painting, then adds details until the work is finished.  This entire project has a lot more in common with a painting than a skyscraper.

One of the things that the folks that insisted on the two twelve hour shifts didn't quite understand is that this is more art than rocket science.  It needs Paul's guidance to look the way Paul wants it to.  This has meant that Paul is here a lot, and has been sleeping very little.  

It's not that us workers don't know what we're doing, and have to be told how to do everything, it's an artistic thing.  For any given spot, there could be ten ways to do something.  When needed, we can make an educated guess, and often Paul will come by and say, "that looks great."  Sometimes, he wanted one of the other nine ways.  Sometimes, he'll make a change from the way he said to do it, because it just doesn't look right when looked at from a certain angle.  That's art! 

A blueprint shows certain things.  But as the parts evolve into a whole, and the details are filled in, it's how the details are filled in (the shape of a cedar mountain, the placement of a tree in a spot, how much - or how little - of the trains can be seen at any given spot) that make the difference in how the final product works together. 

We've now got all of the track sections in place, and the big push is on to get the cedar walls complete, so we can start bringing in plants and mulch and stuff.

While I don't quite consider myself an artist, I was able to help out placing the cedar boards to make the mountains.  (To all of those teachers from grade school that said I used to make mountains out of molehills, I guess it was just practice for making mountains from cedar, huh?)

I'll give you an idea of what the boards look like.  A mill gets in a bunch of cedar trees.  They like to use cedar in furniture, to make cedar chests or whatever.  They like the inside of the trees, and don't use the part with bark on it.  So they get to a certain point when cutting the trees, and stop.  

The planks that have bark are saved for Paul's crew to pick up, and for this job, we sent over a semi-truck and brought it to Las Vegas.

The magic happens when the boards are put together.  Paul has certain standards on how walls are made, but gives direction for details of how a specific area wants to look.  (To set a mental tone in the viewer, or frame a scene, to be a backdrop for the waterfall, or...)  That's the artist thing coming out again!

It's an interactive process as the plan comes to life.

When the wall is complete in one area, another crew comes along and adds detail to the wall (and fill in places where the boards didn't quite come together, because of a knot or something) and the finished product is a lot more than the sum of the parts.

There were a lot of things going on today that didn't involve us at all.  They have water tubes that are placed in the Banyan tree, and a young lady spent most of the day with her headphones on, listening and watching as she programmed the water tubes to 'dance' to the music.

What's a water tube?  Imagine a plastic tube about the size of a penny in diameter.  Now take the tube and create a large arch.  Now run water through the tube.  NOW, take the tube away, and watch the water BE the tube.

When the water is running, all you can see is what appears to be a tube shaped into an arch.  It's when the water is turned off, and the 'tube' is pulled into the ground that you go, "Wow!  That was water!"

Then, the water is turned on and off rapidly, and you'll see little 'pieces of tube' following the arch pattern with spaces of an inch or two in between.  It's really something you have to see to understand, I guess.   But you can watch it for a long time if you're not careful.  (Like our trains!)

The Banyan tree area also got another resident; one that will stay for a while (no, I'm not talking about the bird that was flying through the conservatory, I suspect he'll be gone very soon.)  It's the Applied Imagination interpretation of the United States Capitol building.  

First created for use in the U.S. Botanical Garden last fall, it is being borrowed during the off-season, along with the Jefferson Memorial building, and a few others we talked about yesterday.  

Well, back to the Bellagio!


Wednesday, May 17, 2006 - Las Vegas NV

One thing that's different about this project is that we are working in shifts.

Normally, the crew arrives in the morning, works all day, goes back to the hotel and the place looks about the same when we get back.

On this project, though, there are always new things to see when we arrive in the morning, because the night crews (we have 4 staggered shifts, two more or less overlap to provide continuity) keep just as busy as we do during the day.

Not only did they get the cable support under the Banyan tree track we put up yesterday, but they raised and got cable support under the other track through the tree as well.  Yea!  It's really nice to see so much progress.

And speaking of progress, have I told you there are four areas where we're putting trains?  Yep, the Banyan tree area is the same width as the other three, though.  

Imagine a football field... the 50 yard line divides the area in half, then you divide one half of the field into thirds.  Now give the center section just a bit more space, and the two sides a bit less space.  On each line of one of the thirds, and the 50 yard line, there is a sidewalk.  That's pretty much the layout here.  

For reference, there is the left side area, the center area, the right side area and the (Banyan) tree area.  If you were on the middle of the mythical 50 yard line, the Banyan tree would be behind you, the center area in front of you, and the left and right side areas would be, well, left and right.

Well, the night crew also brought several of the track sections from the parking garage to the right side area, so this place is starting to look like a future garden railroad!

We've got supports under the track on the right side area now, which raise the track a foot or two off the ground.  This will allow is to get some depth to the railroad, as some plants will be at ground level, some will be at track level and some will be above track level.

As the day progressed, we started bringing in track sections to the left side area, and raised some more bridges.  These bridges are part of the track that is about ten feet above the ground, and carry one of the trains from the left side area through the center area, to the right side area.

Paul likes to create a three dimensional railroad.  Many times with model trains, you'll stand in a spot and look at the trains go by.  Sometimes, you can move around to see different angles.

With Paul's railroads, the trains are everywhere.  You look up, and there's a train over your head, crossing a bridge or traveling in the mountains.  You look down, and there's a train going through a village.  Because each of the buildings created by Applied Imagination are unique, there is always the element of 'how did they DO that?" when you look around.  

The buildings are created from natural materials, so there might be an acorn at the end of a small stick.  Why?  Well, it could be a railing on a large building, or perhaps a radio antenna.  Or maybe... 

To me, a big part of the magic of one of Paul's railroads happens back in Alexandria, Kentucky; home of the workshop.

It's there that the buildings are created.  Sometimes they say they find pieces that look like things, and have to wait to use them, and sometimes they'll have to look for things (like an acorn) that looks like something they need right away.

It's a matter of seeing things in nature (like the slice of an orange that was the top of a doorway, to simulate the window above the door) and seeing what they could be, instead of just what they are.

Hmmm.  I better stop now, and call Edy (my wife.)  It's her birthday as I write this (a day behind, of course.)

I wish I could be there to take her to dinner, but it will have to wait a few days.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006 - Las Vegas NV

The night crew was busy!  

Brian Busse and I are on the same schedule, so we tend to work on projects together, and yesterday a project we started was to create 20 ten foot stands to support the tracks as we add more realistic support around the railroad.  (The typical trestles, or mountains around the track)  The stands we make are then hidden in the mountain or replaced by trestles.

Robert and the night crew had created several of these the night before for another area, and some of these supports were now in place in one of the four areas where trains will be running, and some of the track was ten feet off the ground!  

The only track off the ground so far is the track on the bridge section that we put up yesterday, and the 15' x 40' (or so) area where one of the mountains are being created.

When you were young, did you create paper mache'?  What Paul's crew does is similar:  they create a framework and cover it with pieces of cedar.  When they get done, and the plants are in place, you get the feeling of a mountain in back or under the trains.

This is the highest mountain yet created by Applied Imagination.  It will simulate the Grand Canyon.

Paul is not trying to create a scale model version of the country, just give you a feel of things you see.  Also included is a reflecting pool, with a g-scale version of the U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument at each end.  

Building placement is far off on our horizon, though.  We're now just creating the framework where the buildings and things will go.

There are four areas where trains will be running.  We now have track in two of them.  Progress! 

In many places we create garden railroads, the ground is already there, and sometimes so is the garden.  We just weave the tracks through the garden, and find (or create) places for the buildings to go.

Here, they have to bring in the ground.  They bring in dirt in tubs, which forms the 'ground level.'  Why?  From my observation it appears to provide them with a lot of flexibility.  If they have a display that needs dirt, they can provide it, but if they have a display that doesn't, they can take the containers and move them out for a while.  It also (I suspect) makes it possible to use fresh potting soil every once in a while.

A big job yesterday was elevating the track that runs though the Banyan tree.  Using more supports created the night before, we propped up piece after piece of the track.  This Banyan tree was brought in and looks very much alive until you get up close.  (Most likely) because of the root structure, they couldn't transplant it, so they cut it out of where it was and brought it to the Bellagio.  

The conservatory area is surrounded by shops and restaurants, so people are constantly walking around (and will be walking through when we get done.)  Part of the conservatory is below sidewalk level.  You can go down about five steps to a walkway that winds around the and through the many branches of the Banyan tree.

The g-scale railroad track weaves around the branches in two sections (meaning there will be two trains running,)  about ten feet above the walkway path, which is about eye level on the sidewalk level.   (I'll need to check that again.  I haven't been on the shop level much.)

We were able to get temporary supports under the larger of the two tracks.  Later, the night crew will (we hope) be able to get cables suspended from the ceiling (about 30 feet above) that will allow the track to remain supported, but be less visible, so the track will appear to hover (like magic!) in the tree.

If they have time, they'll try to (at least) get temporary supports 

One of the trains will have a camera on-board, so you can watch the view the g-scale engineer has as the train moves along the track.


Monday, May 15, 2006 - Las Vegas NV

One of the things you need on a job with Paul is patience.  Another is flexibility.  Why?  Because things don't always go as planned.

I'm sure you've heard the saying, "Out with the old, in with the new."  Well, the old wasn't quite all out when we arrived, and Monday morning I arrived to find we couldn't yet get our things into the conservatory to begin work.

Hey, we're flexible!  Paul said, "take a walk to the Venetian." We thought it was a short trip, but it turned out to be a long, no make that LONG walk.

Once there, we got to see the gondolas carrying passengers through the canals, under bridges and of course, the singing gondoliers.  I suspect it is the artificial sky, which is really a ceiling with a very realistic re-creation of the sky, but the gondoliers are pretty loud.  Good, but loud when you're up close.  Step back a few feet, and the crowd noise and the singing blend together in a good way.

Have I mentioned that this is my first trip to Las Vegas?  Yep.  It is day three of my ten day trip, and I have so far managed to stay away from one of the things that attracts people, the gaming.

It's not a matter of my being against gambling or anything (after all a trip to the gas station is a gamble these days, right?  Do I fill up tonight, or wait until the price goes down in the morning?  Should I fill up tonight before the price goes up by 30 cents in the morning?  That, my friend, is gambling.  But it doesn't have the potential payoff you find here.)

It's just that I've been busy doing all the other things there are to do here, I haven't done more than go through the casino areas.  Maybe tomorrow.

Anyway, we got back from our 'excursion,' and one of the areas we'll be filling with trains was ready to go.  So we were able to get the track sections in the garage and bring them to their place in the spotlight.  No, really!

I know you're out there thinking, "oh, sure.  You're in Las Vegas, so you think of spotlights and TV shows."

But there really are lots of spotlights in the Bellagio's conservatory, so many in fact, I didn't have time to count them.  (I got to more than 30, and gave up.)  They have spotlights, and they have natural light through the glass ceiling also.  So this is one place that will have a multiple personality.

Paul has done other garden railroads that have been seen both during the day, and at night.  Some are most often seen during the day, and only sometimes at night, but this is special.

During the day, it will look a lot like other garden railroads Paul has created.  G-scale trains, moving through beautiful gardens, past cool buildings and transforming everyone into a wide-eyed child.

During the night, we'll have ALL of that, plus the spotlights will add a whole new level of "OOOH! and "AAAH." 

I can't wait.

The rest of the day very routine... grab stuff from here, put it there, cut up wood, get ready to elevate the track around the conservatory.  (Some of the track will be more than 10 feet off the ground.)

The biggest thing today was the raising of the big bridge.  I don't have measurements yet, but it's huge.  The towers took four people to move, and we even used a small crane to help get them in place. 

Well, more later, it's time to get on the shuttle to the Bellagio! 


Sunday, May 14, 2006 - Las Vegas NV

Our first work day was a very warm one, indeed.  When we landed last night, the pilot said that the outside temperature was about 199, then changed it to 95.

Let me tell you it fell like 199 when we walked out of the cool plane towards the airport terminal.  But then we got inside the terminal and it was cool again.

Today, we didn't get so lucky.  Most of what needed to be done was outside of the Bellagio, so we didn't get the nice coolness.  First, the crew that started at 4am began unloading the semi-trailer that held all the model buildings, and take them into the parking garage (where a special holding area had been created.)  

If you are not yet familiar with G-scale trains, perhaps I should explain a bit.  The average train car in G-scale is about the size of a loaf of bread, some are even bigger.  

So the buildings can be large also.  Some of the buildings are small cabins, which are about a foot square, others (like the Applied Imagination version of the Bellagio) can be two or three feet square.

The buildings add a lot to the railroad, and are works of art by themselves.  I say that as an outsider, since the buildings are created in Paul's workshop in Alexandria, Kentucky by skilled artisans.  There are about a dozen that were made specifically for this show, and others that were taken from storage from seasonal exhibits (like the one at the United States Botanical Garden in Washington, D.C.)     

The G-scale version of the Washington Monument is taller than I am (5 foot, 10 inches.)  That should give you an idea of how big these buildings are.  But the material around the buildings and the trains keep everything looking right.  

People will be walking around parts of this railroad, and through other parts of it.  When it's done, it will all work together to be an experience not soon forgotten.

I got there to help out about 10am.  My normal shift will be 11 am to 11 pm, but today was a bit different.  The first thing to be done was get all the supplies off the trucks, since the trucks were needed elsewhere.

So we all gathered our strength and began taking piles of 2x4's, 2x6s, 1x6s and much more stuff from the big truck to the smaller truck that would fit into the garage.  

The clearance inside the garage was about 4 or 5 inches above the top of the truck.  Unfortunately, one of the crew forgot about the low ceiling while we were unloading in the garage and smacked his head on the ceiling.  OUCH!  He was able to survive the day, but did ask for some headache medicine.  

Paul Busse and Applied Imagination are behind the magical transformation of many parts of America.  Paul has created garden railroads in New York City (The New York Botanical Garden's Holiday Garden & Train Show,) Chicago (The Chicago Botanical Garden's Jr. Railroad, and the 2005 Chicago Flower Show,) Atlanta (Atlanta Botanical Garden,) Columbus, Ohio (Huntington Bank's downtown lobby,) Philadelphia (Morris Arboretum and Franklin Institute,) the State Fair of Texas in Dallas and more.

I am simply a hired hand.  I do what Paul tells me to, but since I have been working on and off with Paul since October of 2000, I have an idea of what needs to be done.

We found out that the area we're building the garden railroad in was still occupied.  They were not quite done removing the pretty giant flowers, butterflies and dragonflies from the conservatory.

Instead of the usual daily food allowance, I found out that we're going to use the employee cafeteria in the Bellagio.  How cool is that?  Great food, and it's open 24x7, so we don't have to stop work to eat a certain time.

They also set up three coolers with water and cola drinks.  With the temperature outside the hotel starting at 82, and rising to near 100, that's been quite helpful. 

We took all the buildings and cleaned them up, fixed any problems that developed during travel and started to lay out the track sections in the parking garage.  

It's one thing to use a map and figure out where things are, and design the tracks to avoid fixed trees and such things.  It's another to actually put the track 10 feet off the ground (suspended in places with cables, supported from the ground in other places.)  

So, Paul took a couple of us into the conservatory to look at the Banyan tree, where the track is going to be.  WOW!  That's going to be a challenge.

We also brought in a bunch of vine material to enhance the track that goes through the tree.  Now you may be thinking of vines in the thin vines you have in your back yard.  NOPE!  These are thick vines, and average 1.5 to 3 inches in diameter.  

The vines are not straight, of course, they are twisty and we try to make them look interesting, but still as though they have been growing for years, and have intertwined themselves around the train tracks.  They add a lot of character.

We also put tape on the ground (well, the grid work where the track will be) in another section of the conservatory.  This is where they are going to put giant redwood trees that are being brought in.

It was a good first day, and brings us closer to the construction phase.


Saturday, May 13, 2006 - Las Vegas NV

Well, I guess I'm not so hot on air travel anymore.  

Local trips, and special occasions, OH YEAH!, but as a mode of transport, not so much.

The problem started earlier in the week, I suspect, as the weather began to change.  When you have a sinus infection, these changes are more noticeable, regardless of whether you're inside or out.

This year, I also past the half century mark, so I can now divide my life into halves.  I've been noticing this sinus problem more in the second half than when I was growing up.  All this talk about Dayton being 'sinus valley' or something completely baffled me, because I felt fine.

Then I got older.  Once I passed 30, I think, is when the sinus thing got more obvious.  Some years it gets better, some worse, but always, you can tell when a front is moving in because your head starts to pound in the morning.  Hey, if I was a drinker, I'd say it's a hangover.  But I don't drink.

No matter.  A little stinking headache (or a big pounding headache) is not going to spoil my first trip to "Vegas."  

We arrived via "TED."  Signs all over Chicago's O'Hare Airport said "Thanks for flying TED."  It made me feel a little like I was in an episode of "The Flintstones," and TED was a flying dinosaur or something.

Anyway, the trip was mostly uneventful.  From Dayton to Chicago, I had a window seat, and was able to watch the ground only at the airports.  

The entire route we were either in, or above the clouds.  For a person whose primary joy in flying is to see how cool things look from the air, this was not an interesting flight.  

Last year, when Paul flew me to Dallas to help with the creation of four garden railroads at the State Fair of Texas, the flight was wonderful.  I took over 100 pictures, and went "ohhh," and "wow" a lot.  

This time, I went "aw shucks" a lot.  (Well, something like that.)

The flight from Chicago to Las Vegas was worse.  We were cruising at about 36,000 feet, topping out at 38,000 feet, and it really caused a headache that I haven't yet gotten rid of.  

I did enjoy the salad that wife Edy made before I left (much better than the $5.00 'snacks' on TED, I think.)  Thanks, and have a happy Mother's Day!

But they showed a movie.  King Kong.  Now, I'm no rocket scientist (that's my friend Frank.  He used to work on the Space Shuttle, and give talks about it at an event in Florida called "Sun & Fun" every spring.)  

But it didn't take long to figure out that a movie that's three hours long in theatres, on a flight that's three hours and twenty minutes long, had a few parts taken out.  It must have been the good parts.

The admit they tampered with it, right at the beginning, but try and make you think it's to adjust to a tiny little airplane screen.

Let's just say I'd have been happier flying at 15,000 feet, and being able to have a nice big window to look out of, than I was watching King Kong.

I found out last night that most days we'll be working in two shifts building the garden railroad at the Bellagio.  My shift will be 11 am to 11 pm.   But today, we have stuff to unload from the trucks, so we all start at 9am.

We're actually staying, not at the Bellagio, but the Marriott Residence Inn.  It's about 2.5 miles from the Bellagio.  Why here?  Because it seems there's a BIG convention in town.  A Wi-Fi convention.  (Paul and Margaret were supposed to stay in the Bellagio, but the convention bumped them to another property.  It must be a big convention.)

I wonder what kind of badge they'll wear.  Maybe something with a lot of cut wires, to make a space for their name.  

For those that don't speak computer, wi-fi is a way that computers connect to the Internet without wires.  Dayton has a free wi-fi set up in downtown.  (Did you know that???)  I've used it to file pictures from a story I was covering, and it's pretty neat.  (I'd provide a teen-age translation, but don't know for sure what it is.)

So far, I haven't taken a picture, but that will change VERY soon.  I kept the camera in the bag until we got to the hotel.  But, watch out tomorrow.

I'll be carrying a loaded camera.  It should be fun.

Oh, and to all those with low will power:  I passed up EVERY gambling device in the airport.  I'm saving my $3.00 for the Bellagio.  (Hey, if you're gonna lose money, you might as well lose it were they pay you to show up, right.?)

Oh, and as to flying, you can bet I'll still be anxious to cover the Dayton Air Show this summer!  


Monday, May 1, 2006 - Dayton OH   

Having a web page or two (or five,) you'd think I would have started this a while back.

I guess it's just a matter of WHY to have a blog. I have a blog at my stock photo site because it comes with my account, and I feel that I ought to say something, so people don't think I missed it.

I have a couple of hobby web sites I maintain for garden railroad clubs in Ohio. ( and If you don't know what a garden railroad is, you've got a whole lotta fun to catch up on. 

The most popular hobby (so I hear) is gardening. I suspect that's because it can be as easy or as complex as you want it to be. It's also something the whole family can participate in.

I think you can say the same thing about model railroads. Ok, some people think that because it involves more than one scale, that garden railroads don't count as a model railroad, but THAT is not a discussion you're likely to find here.

I am fortunate to work from time to time with Paul Busse and Applied Imagination when he goes out on the road. His workshop is a bit to far to commute to, and there are people who don't like to take the buildings, bridges and other things they create at the workshop and put them together on location. What a great deal!

I am a freelance photographer who works from time to time with the Dayton Daily News so you're likely to see just about anything mentioned here.

I'm also part of the Dayton Visual Arts Center, so you might here that come up now and then.

I also have my business website, but that's for, well, business, and though there will be some overlap, since I don't have much a life otherwise, this blog will try to stay away from duplication of what's on the other sites.  (But we know how to create hyperlinks...)

I got back from Columbus last night, and will have more info on that trip shortly.  I also found out last night that a friend of mine may have sold his condo.  It's only been on the market 4 days!  Yep, it's quite a condo.  It has a garden railroad in back, which the new owner doesn't plan to use, but want to keep as a garden.  (So there is hope...)

This page will be most active while I'm on the road with Paul Busse, if we have Internet access.  

Well, I gotta go and edit a few hundred thousand pictures from the weekend, and then there's the video of Amy's wedding video to be edited for Ron in Columbus.  (If you noticed a connection with the trip, you're only half right.  Same person, different video.  He shoots, I edit.  What a deal!  We also do railroad and golf videos, just ask!)


(The -30- is a separator from my early days in radio.  The AP copy would come across with -30- in between stories, so you'd know when to stop reading, or when to rip the paper, since it came on a long roll off of the teletype machine.  One day we may discuss that if you want.  You'll see one at the bottom of each entry.)


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