It’s hard to believe we’re not that far from waking up to a scene like this. The older I get the more conscious I am of time and how quickly it passes. Our lives get divvied up into little compartments or lists that pay homage to the ticking clock: Things that need to be done, things that are almost done, things that may never get done. As time slips by the last group on this list begins to buzz, like an alarm that gets louder when it’s ignored. Call it your Bucket List or your Wish List, it’s the handful of things you dream about doing when your mind wanders from the things we’re trying to accomplish. The trips we didn’t take, the projects we never finished, the relationships we let go. We all have them, these things we fantasize about, the unfinished business we haven’t done for one reason or another: No time. No resources. No balls.
The wisdom of age has helped me accept that everything I’ve dreamed about doing is not going to come to fruition. I know that rubs against the common belief that we can accomplish everything we set out to do, but sometimes it’s good to be left wanting. After all, desire is what dreams are made of.
This is my 400th post!
It’s seldom that I blog about people. Being a bit of a recluse, I don’t think talking about others is my forte. But today I’m going to break out of that mold and try my damnedest to say something nice about someone I’ve never met. Last night as my husband and I were eating dinner a special program appeared in the slot that’s normally reserved for Jeopardy! Disappointed, my husband started to flip through the channels, searching for something to watch (another Seinfeld rerun … again?) as the special program ran in the small view box. As I watched, I began to realize the special was about a dearly beloved Connecticut meteorologist, Dr. Mel. Had he died? What was going on? I told my husband to put the special on and we proceeded to watch as we ate.
I’ve been living in some part of New England all my life. I settled in Connecticut somewhere in the late 70’s and have been here ever since. To say I’ve grown accustomed to the ups and downs of New England weather should go without mention except for one minor little detail: I haven’t. I used to joke with my siblings and friends that the first sign of “old age” was to start every conversation with an assessment of the day’s (or week’s and month’s) weather. If that’s still a barometer of where I am in my life journey then consider me old, because my fascination (and frustration) with the weather has grown exponentially with age.
When I first moved to Connecticut there was a young(ish) meteorologist who presented the nightly weather with uncanny accuracy. He was a tad geeky, a major criteria for any weatherman, but always optimistic and full of good cheer. It takes a special kind of talent to predict another week of rain (or snow or heatwave) and sound encouraging and upbeat at the same time. But Mel Goldstein had that ability, and his even-Steven, happy-go-lucky temperament wasn’t fake. At first I made fun of him and his goofy grin, how he always smiled as he delivered yet another gloomy report. But as time wore on I began to realize his love for his job was sincere, and his concern for the anonymous mass of people who made up his audience was indeed genuine.
As news and weather reports began to evolve into the frantic, hyperbole that we typically see today, Dr. Mel continued to deliver his message in a calm, conversational tone of voice. He was matter-of-fact, but serious when the need arose, and never gave way to the kind of excessive hype and sensationalism so commonly seen now. That’s not to say Dr. Mel didn’t get excited about his job; he did. In fact, he practically oozed enthusiasm and excitement about even the most ordinary weather. But he didn’t use his forecasts as a platform to win station ratings or popularity contests. He took his job seriously, but was always willing to take a back seat to other important events of the time.
As the special played on I got a glimpse at the many different sides of a man I only knew as the weather reporter. Mel, the husband, father, co-worker, mentor, educator, musician and patient was every bit as caring and gregarious as the man who shared my living room every night. He had an infectious zest for everything he did and his desire to help and encourage others knew no bounds. While he often came across as nerdy and brainy (he admittedly was), he put 110% of his best effort into every assignment, every project he did. When Dr. Mel was sent to report on location he didn’t just look happy to be there, he looked THRILLED …. because he was!
I knew Dr. Mel had been sick for many years, but his drive to keep delivering his weather reports often disguised the seriousness of his illness. By the time I evolved into a weather nerd myself, Dr Mel was gravely ill and battling cancer. I didn’t expect he would live … I don’t think anyone did. But he survived. And where many would have quit their job, wallowed in misery or tried to work their way down their Bucket List, Dr Mel soldered on with his customary optimism and joy. The illness took it’s toll and Dr. Mel aged horribly in the short span of several years. But appearances aside, you never would have known how sick he was. He had the same gusto and charm as always because that’s just who Dr. Mel was. He was Mr. (well, Dr.) Happy To Be Alive!
Dr. Mel never “officially” retired until this fall, and even then he continued to file his personal reports and forecasts. Why? Why would someone who probably had no real need for monetary compensation keep working right up until the day they die? I think it was because we were Dr. Mel’s Bucket List. That’s right. Dr. Mel truly loved what he did so much that he never dreamed of a day when his job might be done.
God broke the mold when He made Dr. Mel. Today, weather reporters masquerade as actors and actresses. They “land planes” as they gesture toward maps they don’t glance at and they hype every event in hopes that we’ll sit glued to our TV instead of our computers. (Yeah, right) They’ve had boob jobs, nose jobs, hair plugs and dental veneers, but their concern for their audience is about as authentic as their Barbie and Ken doll looks. This new breed of forecaster tries to forge a connection with their viewers by babbling at us 24/7 instead of simply reporting the facts and supporting data with clarity and precision. The chances of a meteorologist like Dr. Mel ever getting in front of a camera today is slim to none. Apparently, authenticity is taboo.
I’ll miss Dr. Mel and his nerdy, goofy smile. I’ll miss the gentle, humble Renaissance man who had the natural ability to influence a whole generation of viewers and weather enthusiasts without really trying, but mostly I’ll miss him because he was a truly fantastic human being.
Goodnight, Dr. Mel.
I messed around a bit more with the HDR. For me, it’s not so much the settings that are confounding, but the saving/resizing/converting into a format that I can post here. I’m so computer illiterate that I get far too bogged down in that end of things, more so than the actual processing. That kinda takes the fun out of it. It takes me ten or fifteen minutes to actually process the photo, then half a day to figure out how to save it and get it into a reproducible file format! There’s gotta be an easier way, I just haven’t figured it out yet!
But I digress. Above, another one of my attempts to tinker with HDR. Below is one of the original pictures that I merged, the lightest exposure of the series. I’ve tried to use the HDR program to bring out some of the finer details of this winter scene without making the picture look too surreal.
Jan 16, 2011. 5:40 PM EST.
Canon EOS 7D
ISO: 100, 22mm, 1/15 sec, 1/60 sec, 1/30 sec, f/18
Lens: Tamron 10-24mm
I was searching for a clearing to shoot the sunset at Bashan Lake when I spied these snow covered boats through the trees. I couldn’t get any closer and I was penned in on both sides, but I decided to try a couple of shots anyway. Most of the homes on this lake are seasonal and are closed up for the winter, but I didn’t feel comfortable trespassing on private property. I might get a better shot later in the winter if some of the snow that’s blocking the way melts, but for now this will have to do.
Jan 16, 2011. 5:12 PM. EST.
Canon EOS 7D
ISO: 100, 135mm, 1/13 sec, f/22.
Lens: Canon EF-S18-135mm 3.5-5.6 IS
Lightroom 3: Brightness/contrast adj.
I live in an area fondly referred to as the Connecticut River Valley. I never really thought about that very much until I started taking pictures. In a nutshell, it means that no matter where I go, the sun is going to rise or set behind a ridge. And that means the sunrise or sunset is always going to be better in a spot where I’m not. I don’t live in a place that’s surrounded by flat, wide, expansive vistas. Instead, the landscape is craggy and littered with power lines and dense woods. It’s enormously frustrating to know there’s a gorgeous sunrise or sunset forming on the horizon, but you’re powerless to get someplace where you can shoot it.
This picture was taken at Bashan Lake. The opposite side of the lake has provided some stunning sunrise photos, but on this side of the lake the road is slightly higher. I thought it would be a good place to capture a sunset. Wrong. In many places houses, trees or power lines blocked the view and when I finally found a suitable place to shoot, the sun dropped like a rock behind the opposite ridge. I caught some nice shadows and a bit of orange glow, but I could tell that was the end of the show. Normally, I follow the golden rule that you “don’t pack until it’s black,” but it was very cold and I had a few errands to run. I loaded up my car, drove out the narrow lake road and proceeded back toward my neighborhood, all the while glancing over my left shoulder at the bright crimson glow just over the horizon. My car finally crested a steep rise and I got a five second view of a stunning sunset. I groaned.
Countless mornings I’ve sat right in my office and watched the most gorgeous sunrises, but I know from past experience that, short of pointing my camera directly at the sky, I don’t have a chance in hell of capturing them. I’ve heard it said that the best photos are usually taken just a ten or fifteen minute drive from your own house, but I’m thinking maybe that rule doesn’t apply here, or at least not if you’re hoping to capture a nice landscape. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about this. Either I’m going to have to get up a lot earlier and drive a lot farther to get the kind of sunrises I want, or I’m going to have to learn to deal with the frustration of being disappointed a lot.
Jan. 16, 2011. 5:27 PM. EST.
Canon EOS 7D
ISO: 100, 19mm, 1/15 sec, f/22.
Lens: Tamron SP 10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 DiII
Lightroom 3: Minor brightness, contrast adjustment.
I’ve been thinking I should go back to this spot and try to get some pictures now that the seasons have changed … then I remember how cold I was the morning I took this photo. Big storm coming in later tonight so I guess I won’t get there first thing tomorrow. Might try to do it soon though.
Oct 22, 2010. 6:46 AM. EST.
Canon EOS 7D
ISO: 400, 21mm, 1/5 sec. f/13
Lens: Canon EF-S18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
These are some of the first pictures I shot when I got my camera. I took an introductory DSLR class to learn the basics about my camera, and these photos were part of a series I shot for the assignment on shutter speed. Moving water is a great subject to shoot to experiment with shutter speed, but as I soon discovered it’s not as easy as just setting the buttons and firing away.
I made lots of mistakes here, the first being that this photo was taken smack dab in the middle of a bright sunny afternoon. Yup, I didn’t realize how hard I was making this on myself by shooting this type of scene at the worst possible time of day. Second, although I had borrowed an inexpensive tripod, there wasn’t a safe way to use it without standing in the middle of a very dangerous intersection. So I was forced to get a little creative. I had to climb up a steep embankment, which meant I was forced to shoot through some tree branches. I did my best to compose the scene, but it was very challenging. (Not to mention all the broken glass on the ground!) I wasn’t thrilled about the rusty guardrail and I had hoped to reduce the amount of the road showing in the foreground too. But a house right next to the reservoir was under construction and the debris from that project further limited my options. I jockeyed around on my cramped perch and tried to compose my photo without capturing all the unflattering objects in my surroundings. Unfortunately, the only lens I owned at the time was an 85mm f/1.8. It’s a great lens, but given the limitations of this setting it wasn’t the best lens for these pictures. I really couldn’t have picked a more difficult scene to shoot if I’d tried. It was not the best fit for my equipment or my level of experience, but I was bound and determined to make it work! So with a little ingenuity and a lot of swearing, I walked away with a very nice series of pictures that show how shutter speed affects moving water. This picture on top was right about in the middle of that series …. some of the motion was a little blurred, but it wasn’t as soft as the pictures with lower shutter speeds, as the second photo shows.
Even though this setting was very difficult to shoot, I promised myself I would come back in the fall and try to capture a better picture. I thought it would be beautiful when the leaves started to turn and I was especially drawn to the little shed that sat so precariously on the edge of the falls. I drove by the reservoir a few more times as the summer progressed, but I continued to hold out for the fall foliage. Finally the leaves began to get some color, so one morning when I thought the sky would be just right I decided it was time to try my hand at this scene again. In the months that had passed I’d learned a bit more about some of the things that had been such a challenge the first time I shot this scene. I’d also acquired a lens that was better suited to this setting.
I packed up my gear and headed over to the reservoir. As I drove the short distance I thought about how I would try to compose the picture and I was deeply lost in my thoughts as I rounded the bend that led to the falls. As a turned the corner I was shocked by the scene that lay before me! Heavy equipment lined both sides of the road and I had to slow to a crawl to carefully navigate my way past the now-dry falls. Orange barriers, yellow excavators and a bright blue Port-O-Potty blocked the view and the little shed that once sat beside the precipice was totally gone! I was heartbroken. I had no idea the reservoir had been slated for renovation and had I known I would have returned to take pictures before the work started. I have no idea what the plan is, or if the little shack will be placed back on the site. It’s doubtful. Sadly, “New and Improved” often means the removal of anything old.
So I’m glad I took this series of pictures. They’re not perfect and they don’t have the colorful background I’d hoped to get, but they have character!
July 28, 2010
2:59 PM. EST.
Canon EOS 7D
85mm, 1/20 sec (top photo), 1/8 sec (2nd photo), f/22, ISO 100.
Lens: Canon EF USM 85mm f/1.8
I tend to be a loner. Perhaps that’s why certain settings have such an appeal to me. Like this, an early sunrise on a seasonal lake that has “closed” for the winter.
Early morning sunrise on a lake.