October 31, 2006

Danny Goldfield's NYC Children

I love NPR. Rarely does a day go by that I can't find something endlessly interesting on the NPR website. Like today. I stumbled upon an article on photographer Danny Goldfield's latest project "NY Children" in which he takes photographs of children who live in NYC but who came from other countries around the world.

If you'd like more details on this, read the article and listen to NPR broadcast. I love NPR broadcasts!

By the way, an interesting tidbit, when Danny started this project, he wasn't even a photographer ... yet!

October 30, 2006

A Perfect Autumn Breakfast

There's something you should know! :) I'm not a cook! The fanciest meals I've made include spaghetti (with DelMonte tomatoes), scrambled or sunny-side-up eggs, the simplest of fried rice, and instant grits. And so imagine how excited I was that my second attempt (the first one was a few years ago) at baking pumpkin bread (using Williams-Sonoma's Spiced Pecan Pumpkin Bread mix) turned out well!

Well = nothing burned ... everything's edible! :)

It's amazing how good the pumpkin bread is considering it comes from a ready-made mixture, to which I only had to add a stick of butter, a cup of water, and 2 eggs! Total cooking time is between 50 minutes to an hour. And voila ... delicious!

Homemade pumpkin bread is one of the hundreds of reasons why I love fall so much!

October 25, 2006

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Another brilliant photographer who refused to ever crop his photographs. Amazing!

NPR article/interview of Henri Cartier-Bresson.

BBC News article announcing Henri Cartier-Bresson's death in August 2004. A sad day for us all. :(

October 24, 2006

Edward Weston

Edward Weston never cropped his pictures. Can you believe it?!

Found a great NPR article on Mr. Weston.

Also, the National Gallery of Art (one of my most favorite museums) currently displays a few of Mr. Weston's photographs in this compelling exhibit: The Streets of New York: American Photographs from the Collection, 1938-1958. I just went there a couple of days ago during lunch and had my breath taken away. No photography was allowed in that exhibit, and so I couldn't document anything to share with you here. Oh well. If you're in DC between now and January 15, 2007, this is a must-see exhibit. And the best part is ... it's FREE! Don't you just love DC?!

October 23, 2006

Do What You Like, Like What You Do

A lady from a tee-shirt store in Nantucket gave me a print-out of this inspiring article on the two brothers who started the Life Is Good t-shirt company. I'm sure you've heard of it! I love their motto ... "do what you like, like what you do." Much easier said than done. But I guess ... it is possible. Isn't it? For the lucky few ... that is.

Great read!

October 20, 2006

Vineyard's Best

I'm spending a few days on beautiful Martha's Vineyard and wish that I'm an islander instead of just a vacationer. :) Will upload some pics when I get home.

Meanwhile, just want to post the list of Vineyard's Best from Martha's Vineyard Magazine. We refer to this list quite a bit being an island's visitor.

Best of the Vineyard

Introduction by Geoff Currier

Interviews by Tom Dresser

Each July, Martha's Vineyard Magazine polls a group of profoundly knowledgeable voters to find out which businesses on the Island are the very best at what they do. This year we canvassed our subscribers and those who purchased the magazine at a newsstand. Over the fall, winter, and spring, we received some 400 ballots, so the list doesn't get more definitive or Vineyard-specific than this one. (Look for the 2007 Best of the Vineyard ballot in the August edition of the magazine and on line at www.mvmagazine.com.)

We've been conducting this vote for a few years now, and that put us in mind of history: What would we receive, we wondered, if we asked the winning companies to open their scrapbooks and send us pictures and mementos from the earliest days of their enterprises? Tom Dresser, our reporter for the Best of the Vineyard section this year, came into the office with a fine collection of Vineyard artifacts and stories. Just have a look.

(Note: The second name is usually the runner-up, and in some cases there's a tie.)


Past and Presents
42 Main Street, Edgartown. 508-627-6686.
37 Main Street, Edgartown. 508-627-3992.

Tisbury Antiques
339 State Road, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-8333.


The Granary Gallery
636 Old County Road, West Tisbury. 508-693-0455.

The Christina Gallery
32 North Water Street, Edgartown. 508-627-8794.


Cars Unlimited
North Line Road, Edgartown. 508-693-6544.

Courtesy Motors
9 Beach Road, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-5010.


Coop's Bait and Tackle
147 West Tisbury Road, Edgartown. 508-627-3909.

Dick's Bait Shop
New York Avenue, Oak Bluffs. 508-693-7669.


Woodland Market, State Road, Tisbury. 508-693-1079.
1 Lake Street, Oak Bluffs. 508-696-6890.
33 Winter Street, Edgartown. 508-627-7029.

The Scottish Bakehouse
977 State Road, Tisbury. 508-693-6633.


Martha's Vineyard Co-operative Bank
Main office: 40 South Main Street, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-0161.
Branches in Oak Bluffs and West Tisbury.

Dukes County Savings Bank
Branches in Chilmark (508-645-3811), Edgartown (508-627-4266 and 9966),
Oak Bluffs (508-696-9355), Tisbury (508-693-2666), and West Tisbury (508-693-3232).


The Newes from America
23 Kelley Street, Edgartown. 508-627-4397.

Offshore Ale Company
30 Kennebec Avenue, Oak Bluffs. 508-693-2626.


Hob Knob Inn
128 Main Street, Edgartown. 508-627-9510.


Thorncroft Inn
460 Main Street, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-3333.


Martha's Bike Rentals
Five Corners, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-6593.

Anderson's Bike Rentals
23 Circuit Avenue Extension, Oak Bluffs. 508-693-9346.


Bunch of Grapes
44 Main Street, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-2291.

Edgartown Books
44 Main Street, Edgartown. 508-627-8463.


ArtCliff Diner
39 Beach Road, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-1224.

Linda Jean's Restaurant
25 Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs. 508-693-4093.


Offshore Ale Company
30 Kennebec Avenue, Oak Bluffs. 508-693-2626.

The Wharf Pub and Restaurant
Lower Main Street, Edgartown. 508-627-9966.


Chilmark Chocolates
State Road, Chilmark. 508-645-3013.

Ice Cream and Candy Bazaar
5 Dock Street, Edgartown. 508-627-8735.


Fella Caters
P.O. Box 1413, Vineyard Haven MA 02568. 508-693-1572.

V. Jaime Hamlin and Sons
71 Lake Street, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-6313.


The Net Result
79 Beach Road, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-6071.

Home Port Restaurant
North Road, Menemsha. 508-645-2679.


Bill Smith's MV Clambake
Edgartown. 508-627-8809. RUNNER-UP

Fella Caters
P.O. Box 1413, Vineyard Haven MA 02568. 508-693-1572.


22 Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs. 508-693-8819.


41 Main Street, Edgartown. 508-627-5254.

8 Main Street, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-0047.
33 Main Street, Edgartown. 508-627-4700.


The Green Room
71 Main Street, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-6888.

Laughing Bear
33 Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs. 508-693-9342.


Mocha Mott's
10 Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs. 508-696-1922.
15 Main Street, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-3155.

Espresso Love
17 Church Street, Edgartown. 508-627-9211.


Woodland Market, State Road, Tisbury. 508-693-1079.
1 Lake Street, Oak Bluffs. 508-696-6890.
33 Winter Street, Edgartown. 508-627-7029.

Menemsha Deli
24 Basin Road, Menemsha. 508-645-9902.


Sweet Life Café
63 Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs. 508-696-0200.

Lambert's Cove Inn and Restaurant
Off Lambert's Cove Road, West Tisbury. 508-693-2298.


Sandy's Fish and Chips
At John's Fish Market, State Road, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-1220.

The Newes from America
23 Kelley Street, Edgartown. 508-627-4397.


The Net Result
Tisbury Marketplace, Beach Road, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-6071.

Edgartown Seafood
138 Cooke Street, Edgartown. 508-627-3791.


Skipper Party Boat
On the bulkhead, across from the Island Queen, Oak Bluffs. 508-693-1238.


Vineyard Tennis Center, Workout and Spa
22 Airport Road, West Tisbury. 508-696-8000.


Mansion House Health Club and Spa
9 Main Street, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-2200.


Donaroma's Nursery and Landscape Services
271 Upper Main Street, Edgartown. 508-627-8366.


Morrice Florist
149 State Road, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-0392.


Giordano's Restaurant
107 Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs. 508-693-0184.

29 Basin Road, Menemsha. 508-645-9239.


Donaroma's Nursery and Landscape Services
271 Upper Main Street, Edgartown. 508-627-8366.

Vineyard Gardens
484 State Road, West Tisbury. 508-693-8512.


Rainy Day
66 Main Street, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-1830.

Willoughby Essentials
12 North Water Street, Edgartown. 508-627-3369.


12 North Water Street, Edgartown. 508-627-3853.

223 Upper Main Street, Edgartown. 508-627-7066.


Shirley's Hardware
374 State Road, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-3070.

H.N. Hinckley and Sons, Inc./Ace Hardware
27 Beach Road, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-0075.


Vineyard Decorators
Martha's Vineyard Airport. 508-693-9197.

Island Home Furnishings
412 State Road, Tisbury. 508-693-6665.


Harbor View Hotel
131 North Water Street, Edgartown. 508-627-7000.

Mansion House
9 Main Street, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-2200.


Ben and Bill's
Chocolate Emporium, 20 A Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs.

Mad Martha's
20 Union Street, Vineyard Haven.
12 Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs.
7 North Water Street, Edgartown.


CB Stark Jewelers
53 Main Street, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-2284.
27 North Water Street, Edgartown. 508-627-1260.

51 Main Street, Edgartown. 508-627-8306.
34 Main Street, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-5465.


Landscope Landscape Construction
MV Business Park, 16 A Street, Edgartown. 508-696-8812.

Donaroma's Nursery and Landscape Services
271 Upper Main Street, Edgartown. 508-627-8366.


Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish
johnnyhoyandthebluefish.com. 508-696-3007.

P.O. Box 2223, Vineyard Haven MA 02568. 508-693-1291.


Slice of Life
50 Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs. 508-693-3838.

Linda Jean's Restaurant
25 Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs. 508-693-4093.


Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary
Off the Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road, Edgartown. 508-627-4850.


The Hot Tin Roof
Closed, but see our feature story on the early days.


Jim's Package Store
27 Lake Avenue, Oak Bluffs. 508-693-0236.

Our Market
2 East Chop Drive, Oak Bluffs. 508-693-3000.


Giordano's Restaurant
107 Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs. 508-693-0184.

Lattanzi's Pizzeria
Post Office Square, Edgartown. 508-627-9084.


If we told you, we'd be killed.


190 Upper Main Street, Edgartown. 508-627-8489.

Louis' Tisbury Café and Take Out
250 State Road, Tisbury. 508-693-3255.


Coldwell Banker / Landmarks Real Estate
15 Church Street, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-6866.
55 Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs. 508-696-8266.

Island Real Estate
107 Beach Road, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-4800.


Home Port Restaurant
North Road, Menemsha. 508-645-2679.

The Square Rigger
At the Triangle, Edgartown. 508-627-9968.


8 Main Street, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-0047.

Petunia's Shoes
37 Main Street, Edgartown. 508-627-7505.


Morning Glory Farm
100 Meshacket Road, Edgartown. 508-627-9003.

West Tisbury farmer's Market
Grange Hall, West Tisbury. (Wednesdays and Saturdays.)


Coach House, Harbor View Hotel
131 North Water Street, Edgartown. 508-627-7000.

Farm Neck Golf Club Café
1 Farm Neck Way, off County Road, Oak Bluffs. 508-693-3560.


256 Edgartown–Vineyard, Haven Road, Edgartown. 1-800-281-4462.

Mario's Taxi
3 James Way, West Tisbury. 508-693-8399.


The Black Dog
11 Water Street, Vineyard Haven. 508-696-8182.
37 Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs. 508-696-9826.
Lower Main Street, Edgartown. 508-627-3360.

Menemsha Blues
2 Basin Road, Menemsha. 508-645-3800.
36 Water Street, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-9599.


Island Entertainment
395 State Road, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-7441.

Hollywood Video
244 Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road, Edgartown. 508-627-3533.

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October 17, 2006

Autumn in Boston

Finally! We are in Boston today, staying at a hotel in Cambridge near Harvard Square. Of course, there's always the choice of staying somewhere downtown Boston, but that would mean I wouldn't be near all my beloved stately bookstores in Cambridge. There are ... it seems ... hundreds of bookstores in Cambridge! There's even a pamphlet for a bookstore tour all within walking distance of Harvard Square. How's that for a booklover haven?!

After all that talk about Cambridge, this picture was actually taken in Faneuil Hall when we were there shopping and having lunch this afternoon. Go figure!

I love Boston! So ... more on Boston later when I have a bit more time to blog. :)

October 16, 2006

Hyannis Harbor

Being on the Cape again was a dream came true for me! We arrived in Hyannis in the late afternoon before sunset and the last ferry to Nantucket didn't arrive for at least another hour or so. Perfect opportunity to get a hot steaming cup of Dunkin' Donut coffee and walk around the harbor soaking in the fresh air and peaceful scenery.

Not wanting to get on the island too late, we opted to take the fast Hy-Line ferry rather than the much slower (albeit also much cheaper) Steamship Authority ferry. We also decided to dock our car in the parking lot in Hyannis instead of taking it over with us to the island to save some money and also because Nantucket is small enough to discover on bikes. Martha's Vineyard however will be another story!

So ... the coffee was delicious and kept my hands warm. The sunset and harbor were a welcome retreat from a busy weekend in Boston.

Will upload more pics from Nantucket soon!

October 15, 2006

hot cakes & coffee

We've always heard ... "never ever ever skip breakfast!" ... right?! So we started our day out this morning with a yummy breakfast at McD's using a few coupons my friend's mom had collected recently. If you, like me, prefer smooth and not-too-strong coffee, then you'll like McD's coffee. It's the best after Dunkin' Donuts' and Panera's! McD's hot cakes & sausages are perennial favorites of mine too! They constantly set the bar for a good old-fashioned breakfast!

Now ... it's time to take a long walk ... better yet ... a good run! But ... alas ... we need to head North soon before the leaves start to all fall off. So I'll have to save the walk for another day. :)

October 14, 2006

Road Trip Into Fall

It's not fall until we do one of our annual road trips to New England. This year, without much planning, we took off on a beautiful sunny day heading north to Massachusetts.

All I could think of while munching on potato chips crossing the Delaware Memorial Bridge was ... how good life is when you're traveling and on holiday!

More pictures to come! I'm back-posting ... so many things to do. So little time!

October 9, 2006

Annie Leibowitz - A Photographer's Life 1990-2005

I woke up this morning to Matt Lauer's interview of Annie Leibowitz on her new book A Photographer's Life 1990-2005. A very personal book to the photographer since it includes many of her intimate family photographs as well as her famous celebrity portraits. After watching the interview, I decided to google Ms. Leibowitz. Below is a recent Newsweek article on her and her new book.


Through Her Lens
By Cathleen McGuigan
Newsweek - October 2, 2006

Annie Leibovitz is tired and nursing a cold, and she' s just flown back to New York on the red-eye from Los Angeles, where she spent two days shooting Angelina Jolie for Vogue. Like so many of her photo sessions, there was nothing simple about it. "I talked with Angelina before the shoot," says Leibovitz, who's famous for her preparation. "She felt like she was coming back from having the baby and she felt very sexy and ready to go." Jolie, a pilot, suggested shooting on an old airfield near the desert, with motorcycles and small planes among the props. (She flew herself to the location and the next day, Brad Pitt buzzed up in his plane.) They also spent a day shooting in the dunes near Death Valley, where the mercury hit 104, and the wind whipped so hard that everyone was peppered with sand. There were 50 people on the set, and racks of clothes from the New York spring collections to be tried and styled. It was as if Leibovitz were directing a small movie.

Even for America's foremost celebrity photographer, it's been a busy couple of months—starting with the interruption of her August vacation to shoot that elusive Hollywood infant, Suri Cruise, for the cover of Vanity Fair. You might think, after a career spent photographing divas and presidents, that taking pictures of a cute little baby would be a ... snap. But no. "It's very hard when the baby is that small," says Leibovitz. "It's being held by the parents all the time. It's not really connecting to anything else." She spent the better part of two weeks capturing 3-month-old Suri's waking moments with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, at Cruise's homes in L.A. and Telluride, Colo. Though Leibovitz had less control over her tiny subject than she's used to, she did manage to direct the now ubiquitous cover shot of Suri, inspired by Linda McCartney's famous picture of Paul with their firstborn wrapped in his jacket—which she calls "one of my favorite pictures of a father holding a baby."

A nice homage—but it's usually Leibovitz who's inventing the iconic shot. What other contemporary photographer has produced as many indelible images of American pop culture? You know these pictures, from Whoopi Goldberg in the milk bath, to a nude and very pregnant Demi Moore, to the most famous picture of all: John Lennon, bare as a baby, curled around Yoko Ono, taken hours before he was killed. (The American Society of Magazine Editors recently voted the Lennon and Moore covers, which graced Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair respectively, the No. 1 and 2 magazine images of the past 40 years.) Leibovitz has become the master of the highly theatrical portrait, carefully staged in elaborate settings with witty props—pictures that have often come to define the image of her sitters.

While manipulating this world of polished glamour, Leibovitz has mostly remained hidden; the camera, she has said, is a protection. Now, in a surprising new collection of her work, "A Photographer's Life: 1990-2005," Leibovitz, 56, is getting personal. Interspersed among the famous subjects are pictures of her extended family (she is one of six siblings), her own three young children and the person she was closest to for that decade and a half—the late writer and critic Susan Sontag. Here's a photographer with an uncanny knack for getting people to take off their clothes, finally going naked herself—not just literally, but in throwing open a window on her private life. Her fans may be astonished both by the range of the work and the unstudied, everyday quality of some of the images—a family day at the beach, a newborn in the delivery room. She occasionally presents a grid of four pictures from the same sequence—some shots even out of focus—to show us a sliver of life on the move, rather than a moment of frozen perfection. "It's so much more than what a single picture can say," she maintains—a notion that's the antithesis of what the great French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson famously called "the decisive moment."

What may be the most controversial aspect of Leibovitz's book is the intimate pictures from her relationship with Sontag, and particularly the painful images of the writer when she was seriously ill with cancer. The two first met in the late '80s, when Leibovitz photographed her for a book jacket. They never lived together, though they each had an apartment within view of the other's. But their many trips—to Paris, Venice, Capri, the Nile, the ruins of Petra in Jordan—are recorded here. Sontag, the author of the award-winning book of criticism "On Photography," wasn't easy on Leibovitz: "She thought I was good—and that I could be better. And I wanted to be a better photographer. She sort of raised the bar and made me feel I needed to take control." Because of Sontag, Leibowitz went to Sarajevo during the Bosnian war, where she shot such powerful pictures as that of a child's bike lying in a road smeared with blood. But Sontag also loved pop culture. When Tina Brown, then editor of Vanity Fair, seemed to hesitate over printing the pregnant Demi Moore pictures, Sontag called her to say how great they were. "Susan was so entrenched in life, I couldn't keep up with her," says Leibovitz. "She was just bigger than everything."

Sitting in her Greenwich Village office, wearing jeans and sneakers, Leibovitz explains how Sontag's death in December 2004—followed only weeks later by the death of Leibovitz's father—propelled her to make this book. "It totally came out of a moment," she says. "I had already done some looking at photographs of Susan—that was very hard—for a little memorial book. I had never taken the time to see what I had, really." She would weep and pin the pictures up on the long walls of an old barn at her country place in upstate New York. "And then, I got very excited, trying to look from 1990 to 2005, as if Susan was standing behind me." Leibovitz tears up and reaches for a box of tissues.

She struggled over whether to publish the few photos from Sontag's last weeks of life. "They are very tough pictures," she says. "People have said it's important to publish them because so much is masked from us about what the end really is." Leibovitz starts to choke up again. "I think Susan would really be proud of those pictures—but she's dead. Now if she were alive, she would not want them published. It's really a difference. It's really strange." Later, collecting her thoughts, she says, "I've been through everything mentally and emotionally, and I'm very comfortable with them. This book is me."

Most powerful may be the image of Sontag in death, a photograph that evokes a 19th-century memento mori. In counterpoint are the pictures of Leibovitz's own children. She gave birth as a single mother to her daughter Sarah just after 9/11. Then, a few months after Sontag and Leibovitz's father died, her twin girls were born, via a surrogate mother. She named one Susan and the other Samuelle, after her dad. "I saw my life with Susan, my life with my family, I saw the birth of my children," she recalls of looking at all the pictures together. "I was mesmerized by the personal stuff. I just loved it."

Leibovitz's book also provides a comprehensive view of the public side of a photographer of legendary ambition and tenacity. Her well-known subjects describe her as a perfectionist who will do almost anything to get the picture she wants. "She has this kind of burning focus," says Roseanne Cash, who's been photographed by Leibovitz several times—once on a beach in Maine in December when it was 3 degrees below zero. "She arrives at a shoot with all these people," says Mikhail Baryshnikov. "It's very intense—absolutely intense!" If time allowed, Leibovitz would spend two or three days around a portrait subject first, just getting ideas. Despite the meticulous planning, the perfect image can come out of the blue. Take Leibovitz's Jack Nicholson picture. Whenever she was busy setting up a shot inside his Mulholland Drive house, he'd disappear out back to drive golf balls—and that became the photograph. And believe it or not, she didn't intend to shoot Bill Gates at his computer—but it was where she found him when he wandered away from her lights.

It may be her perfectionism that makes Leibovitz question her own work. "I'm not a great studio portraitist," she says in the book's introduction. That accolade she reserves for such photographers as Richard Avedon. "His work is a great reminder about trying to be simple and strong," she says. Avedon knew how to talk to his subjects and "get them animated, or thinking about anything but having their picture taken."

Leibovitz, on the other hand, likes to look rather than converse. "I'm still learning how to make the portrait more alive," she says. Early in her career—she started working for Rolling Stone back when it was based in San Francisco—she might spend days or weeks on the road with a band, taking pictures behind the scenes; but the more formal shots for the magazine's cover were different. "It wasn't like life as it was happening—my portraits started to feel like after the decisive moment," she says, laughing. "I made myself feel a little better by saying it's the studied moment." As her magazine work has become more elaborate, Leibovitz seems to long for the feeling of reportage. "It would be nice once in a while to do some Life Magazine real-world imagery instead of making it up all the time," she says. She cites a favorite recent shoot with Anderson Cooper in New Orleans after Katrina. "I do work for one of the largest magazine conglomerates in the world [Condé Nast, publisher of Vanity Fair and Vogue], and they have an agenda for me," she notes. "I'm trying to work within that and still try to do good work." In the end, what matters to her most is not any individual picture. "I've always thought the strength of my work has been in the body of the work."

Thanks to that success as a documentarian of our culture, Leibovitz has had the means to become a serious collector of photographs—by Robert Frank, Nan Goldin and of course Avedon. But the very first photograph she bought was by Cartier-Bresson, the famous image "On the Banks of the Marne." Yes, it's a beautiful composition—a decisive moment. But it also reflects what's perhaps an ideal for a photographer so associated with the artifice of celebrity: a picture of an anonymous family on a riverbank, having a picnic. What it looks like most is life as it's happening.

With Jac Chebatoris

"A Photographer's Life: 1990-2005" By Annie Leibovitz. To be published by Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. © 2006 by Annie Leibovitz.

October 8, 2006


Found this great NYT article on Picasa, written in 2005, but still ... it's quite helpful! Also, listen to this New York Institute podcast on Picasa.

Mondays are hard, but I figure if we talk photography, it wouldn't be too bad!


January 20, 2005

New Ways to Manage Your Photos


Correction Appended

IF you're not already aware that 2004 was the Year of the Digital Camera, here are a few clues. It was the year that Kodak stopped making film cameras, the year that digicams were even more popular holiday gifts than DVD players, and the year that three professional photographers I know each decided, with much grumbling, to buy a digital camera - just to see what all the fuss is about.

And if this month is any indication, 2005 will be the Year of the Software to Organize the Pictures You Took With Your Digital Camera.

This week alone, two companies are releasing versions of popular photo-organizing programs: from Apple comes iPhoto 5 for the Macintosh. From Google (yes, Google) comes Picasa 2, for Windows 98 and later. These two programs are very similar in design, features, visual effects and a bend-over-backward effort to keep things simple.

IPhoto is part of Apple's new iLife '05 suite, which also includes iMovie (for video editing), GarageBand (recording studio in a box), iDVD (designing DVD menu screens and burning discs) and iTunes (a music jukebox, which is still a free download). The whole package costs $80 (even if, alas, you bought the previous version). ILife also comes free with every new Mac.

Picasa 2, on the other hand, is completely free. Not free as in "time-limited tryout," not free as in "ads in the margins," not free as in "you will be assimilated into our mailing list," but really, truly, no-strings-attached free. You can download it right now from http://www.picasa.com/. (So how does Google plan to make money from Picasa, whose pre-Google version cost $30? The company says that will come later. Google does promise, however, not to get everybody hooked on Picasa and then turn around and start charging or taking away features.)

If you've never used iPhoto or Picasa, you're in for a treat. These are elegant, visual, nearly effortless programs. Your photos appear like slides on a giant scrolling light table, at any size you like. Both programs handle every conceivable photo file format, including the RAW files preferred by hard-core shutterbugs, and even digital movies.

You double-click on a photo to edit it, and to find out where the programmers have been putting much of their effort. IPhoto has always offered quick-fix buttons like Rotate, Crop and Brightness. But now you can summon a floating palette filled with sliders for geekier things like color temperature, exposure and saturation. You see the changes in the photo itself - still visible behind the see-through adjustment panel - in real time. (Advanced shutterbugs should note that iPhoto and Picasa 2 now have a live color histogram - a graph of the photo's three underlying color layers. It's so similarly designed that you have to wonder if Apple and Google sent spies to each other's labs.)

This is all welcome stuff. But the editing tools in Picasa 2 are much more powerful, not to mention easy to use, deliciously visual and even witty. For example, nestled among the usual quick-fix buttons (Auto Contrast, Auto Color and so on) is a button called "I'm Feeling Lucky." The wording comes, of course, from a similar button on the Google search page, and in this context, its meaning is clear: "I don't care which parameters you tweak, just make this picture look better." As with iPhoto's Enhance button, the resulting improvements are often astonishing. (Picasa makes the changes look even more magical because it animates the edit, making your photo cross-dissolve from Before to After.)

Both programs are now capable of straightening a photo, too - for example, where the horizon line isn't quite parallel to the edge of the picture. Just rotating the photo isn't good enough; that would make the image sit askew in its rectangle, introducing skinny blank triangles at the corners. So both programs subtly enlarge the photo as you turn it, just enough to eliminate the gaps.

(IPhoto and Picasa always apply your editing to a copy of the original photo. Months or years later, you can rewind the photo until it looks exactly the way it came from the camera. That's a safety net worth its weight in gold, but it's also a hard-disk glutton; over time, you generate hundreds of duplicates - edited and original.)

Now, one huge advantage of digital photos is that you can do so many things with them: turn them into slide shows or desktop pictures, export them as Web-page galleries, send them (in scaled-down form) by e-mail, order prints by mail, and so on. Both programs excel in this department. Picasa's sharing tools go the extra mile by providing tight integration with Google's other recent software acquisitions, like Blogger (a Web-log kit) and Hello (instant photo sharing). And Picasa lets you order your prints from a choice of companies (Kodak, Wal-Mart and so on).

IPhoto 5, on the other hand, expands what was already a blockbuster feature: the ability to design and order a gorgeous, hardbound coffee-table gift book with just a couple of clicks ($30 for 20 pages). You can now specify double-sided pages, softcover books and a choice of three booklet sizes. For example, the little wallet-size booklets (3.5 by 2.6 inches; $12 for a matching set of three) are fun to carry around, hand out as party favors or drop in the mail. (Picasa offers no such built-in feature. It does, however, let you upload your photos to Shutterfly, a Web site that offers similar, though more limited, book options.)

Picasa and iPhoto can each create a double-clickable file that fills the lucky recipient's computer screen with a musical slide show - a terrific distribution method. IPhoto 5 even gives you control over the timing and transitions of individual slides - and, in conjunction with iDVD, can save the result as a spectacular DVD that your admirers can play on their TV sets.

Picasa's standout features are its simplicity, smoothness and speed. Whereas iPhoto 5 can accommodate about 20,000 photos per library before it starts bogging down - for the true digicam fanatic, that's about one afternoon's shooting at Disney World - Picasa handily juggles 250,000 photos without breaking a sweat.

Unfortunately, Picasa tracks your picture files right where they are, in their existing folders on your hard drive (rather than storing them in its own database, as iPhoto does). That approach makes sense until you want to organize these photos into thematic groupings - virtual folders, in other words.

In iPhoto, you click a + button to create a virtual folder, then drag pictures into it. (You can even create folders within these folders.) But Picasa's virtual folders appear in the same panel as the list of folders on your hard drive, and creating a new one involves using a pop-up menu elsewhere on the screen. Picasa is one of the world's least confusing pieces of software, but this aspect of it is a humdinger.

Now, Picasa 2 and iPhoto 5 don't really compete with each other, since each requires a different operating system. No, the company that should really be sweating right about now is Adobe, whose Photoshop Elements 3.0 (for Mac and Windows) is only a few months old. It, too, is a terrific piece of software, but it's much bigger, more powerful and more complex; in addition to all the iPhoto-Picasa-type features, it can do things like keep track of offline photos (those on your CD's, not on the computer), superimpose text on your photos, stitch together pictures into a panorama, and so on. But Elements costs $85 online, which is quite a bit more than free.

In a world of software that's so bloated it actually intimidates you, the polish and grace of programs like Picasa and iPhoto are a breath of fresh air. Here's hoping that 2006 will be the Year of More Programs Just Like These Two.

E-mail: Pogue@nytimes.com

Correction: January 28, 2005, Friday:

The State of the Art column in Circuits on Jan. 20, about Google's Picasa 2 photo editing software, misstated the amount of hard-disk space consumed in regular use of the program. When a photo is altered, the software creates only a small file with editing information. It does not duplicate the entire image.

October 4, 2006

Food Photography

Next to my love of food (spicy ones especially), is my love of food photography! Good thing they go hand-in-hand! First, you take pictures of the scrumptious dish, then you gobble it up! Life is good! :O)

Just found an excellent food photography article on Lou Manna from Shutterbug. Though published in 2004, it's not at all dated and makes great reading!


Lou Manna: Photos Good Enough to Eat
Lynne Eodice, February, 2004, Shutterbug Magazine

New York-based food photographer Lou Manna discusses shooting trends: “The old style of photographing food involved lots of props, edge-to-edge sharpness, dramatic, shadowy light and was shot from a high angle. On the other hand, today’s food photography is about brighter, less-contrasty lighting, shallow depth of field, less food and fewer props.” He’s a great authority on this, as one who’s photographed delectable dishes for over 28 years for publications like Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Wine Enthusiast, and The New York Times, as well as working with such renowned chefs as Michael Lomonaco, Pierre Franey, Emeril Lagasse, and Jacques Torres. His work also appears in over 30 cookbooks, including Dessert Circus, The Four Star Kitchen, and Grilling for Dummies.

Engineering to Photojournalism
He recounts one of his fondest memories at the age of eight, “When I took pictures of a beautiful tree covered with snow with my Brownie camera.” Manna grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where he took photography classes, became president of the photo club, and shot pictures for the yearbook at Xaverian Catholic High School. “I liked the whole process of taking pictures,” he recalls. In addition to photography, he studied video, filmmaking, art history, and had a passion for languages.

After high school, Manna attended Stony Brook University, where he majored in electrical engineering and studied photography as a sideline. He became staff photographer and photo editor of Statesman, the school newspaper, as well as facilities manager for the school’s darkroom. “I amassed quite a portfolio from my newspaper pictures,” he says. During his first year of college, he started shooting for local papers like Smithtown News and Three Village Herald. “This is what changed my mind—and my major—to communications.” Although he made “literally $5 per picture,” he got paid for something he loved to do. In those days, he says, he hardly got any sleep as he worked in the darkroom at night, then delivered the resulting prints to various newspapers and took classes by day.

After graduating in 1976, Manna discovered that engineering jobs were difficult to come by, and “the idea of being behind a desk designing circuit boards didn’t appeal to me. I love people.” He took his portfolio around to various publications, and eventually showed his images to the photo editor of The New York Times. According to Manna, he was in the right place at the right time as this newspaper was changing from being a more-literary journal, and they loved his work. “I walked out of there with my first assignment—to photograph a 100-year-old man playing a bagpipe on the beach with his dog by his side.” As time went on, he became what was known as a “personality photographer” at the paper.

One assignment involved taking pictures at a little girl’s funeral. “I had tears in my eyes from grief as I was shooting the photos—I felt the moment,” he recalls. One of these images appeared on the front page of The New York Times. Richard Avedon called the newspaper and commented that it was the best front page shot he had ever seen, and requested a signed print from Manna.

A Delicious Specialty
He “fell into food photography” when his early New York Times assignments took him to the home of food critic and writer Craig Claiborne in the Hamptons. Manna was commuting from his studio in Commack, Long Island, to work in the Hamptons and Manhattan. He was sent to Claiborne’s home to shoot food and to work with influential chefs, like Pierre Franey. As he spoke fluent French (and professes to be a good cook to boot), “I started getting other food-related jobs.”

Altogether, Manna worked for The New York Times for about 15 years. He often contributed to the Sunday magazine, shooting food, people and lifestyles. He also free-lanced and built his own photo business during this time. Today, food photography has become his special niche. His impressive client list includes General Foods, Kraft, Pillsbury, Planters, Corningware, National Yogurt Council, Tabasco, T-Fal and Krinos. He’s also been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel internationally. “I’ve seen palaces, dungeons, wealth and poverty.” (He once co-piloted a small plane to Vermont to photograph Argentine actor Fernando Lamas’ daughter’s wedding.)

Manna has worked from a variety of studio locations, including his current site in the Flatiron district of Manhattan, which has recently undergone extensive remodeling. This studio has a large, state-of-the-art kitchen in which Manna plans to hold client parties, in addition to using it for his food photography.

Digital Visionary
He became involved with digital technology early on, which he attributes to his electrical engineering background in college, and the fact that he’s a self-proclaimed “gadget freak.” At one time, he shot with 35mm, medium and large-format cameras. During the ’80s, he hooked up a TV monitor to his video camera, which was placed next to his still camera, for instant feedback from his clients. Now, he does this digitally.

In 1990, he took classes in Adobe Photoshop. He states, “I was a visionary and saw digital photography as the future of the industry over 10 years ago.” During the early ’90s, he began using the first Kodak DCS digital camera series, and moved on to a Nikon E2 in 1995 (a 1.3-megapixel digital model that cost approximately $13,000). The E2 had “full-lens coverage with a digital chip,” and Manna used it extensively in his work. Nonetheless, he found that the early digital models operated too slowly for his quick style of shooting, “and they didn’t have the quality of current digital models.”

Today, he relies exclusively on Olympus digital cameras, beginning with the E-10 and E-20 models. Both cameras offered video live feed, which enabled him to show clients and chefs images on a television screen, “a more interactive approach to photography.” And now, he’s using the Olympus E-1 digital SLR with its interchangeable lens system. He loves the digital chip on the E-1, and enjoys the ultrasonic cleaning system, “which shakes dust off the camera’s CCD—it’s great to use a camera that cleans itself.” He’s also excited about Olympus’ Global Service Support, which was introduced with the E-1. “I’m thrilled about this, being a world traveler and professional photographer,” he comments.

Tricks of the Trade: Five Tips for Shooting Food Like a Pro
Manna has taught food photography for years to students of the French Culinary Institute and many other professional groups. Thus, he’s produced a brochure as a teaching aid, which includes some of the following tips:

1. Food Prep
Manna (or his stylists) use brushes with light cooking oil to add shine to food or vegetables. Likewise, using a spritzer bottle with glycerine and water on glass surfaces like bottles and glasses adds droplets. “I also use hand-carved, plastic ice cubes when shooting beverages.” Elmer’s Glue is used instead of milk in cereal shots, as it keeps cereal from getting soggy over the course of a photo shoot. To create “ice cream” that won’t melt under hot lights, Manna shares this recipe: confectionary sugar, mashed potatoes, Fleishman’s margarine, and light corn syrup, shaped with an ice cream scooper. If you’re preparing food to be photographed, Manna advises, “Undercooking usually works best for better-looking food. Overcooking dries it out too much for photography.”

2. Lenses
Photographers who want to shoot food are advised to have a variety of lenses in a wide-angle, normal or telephoto range, depending on the desired result. A macro lens—or one with close-focusing capability—is a must, according to Manna. He often shoots with a telephoto lens to get that “in your face” look, to compress distance, and to give a shallow depth of field. He uses a wide-angle lens when he wants deliberate distortion.

3. Lighting
“Whatever you do, don’t use on-camera or direct flash,” Manna points out. “Diffuse light somehow.” Lighting sources can include sunlight, window light, or some type of off-camera flash, such as studio umbrellas, grid spots, or softboxes. He suggests using reflectors, foil, or mirrors to bounce light back on the subject. Manna uses mirrors in varying sizes to bounce light into a reflective surface, such as a small mirror for one pea on up to a large mirror for a group of subjects.

4. Props
These days, fewer props are used for food photography than in the past, says Manna. They tend to be smaller, more lightweight, and in lighter, more pastel shades. Manna sometimes uses food elements as props. When shooting a table setting, he says, silverware and glassware are simpler, with solid or textured napkins. He also uses textured wood or paper backgrounds.

5. Composition

The old trend of food photography involved shooting from a high angle. Not so today, Manna points out. He shoots from low angles, and uses shallow depth of field to throw the background out of focus, which isolates his main subject. As the viewer’s eye is attracted to the brightest object in a photo, Manna purposely places darker colors near the edges of a composition. For visual flow, he arranges his compositions in a circular manner so that the eye stays within the frame.

To see more of Lou Manna’s work, visit http://www.loumanna.com/.

October 3, 2006

Daisy Smiles

Kathleen Kelly: I love daisies.
Joe Fox: You told me.
Kathleen Kelly: They're so friendly. Don't you think daisies are the friendliest flower?

From one of my all-time favorite movies!

Soundtrack: The Cranberries Dreams

October 2, 2006

The Last Sonata

Started when I was 7, grudgingly at first because truly ... what does a 7-y.o. really know about what's good for her? Soon enough though ... I was so glad my mom went with me to all those piano recitals because ... to live without music would be very sad.

As an adult ... I don't play as much any more. Life's moving so fast. And there never seems to be enough time for the little things that count.

And it's all about the little things.

Moonlight Sonata.