The weather provided perfect lighting for photography last weekend in Cooperstown, New York. Beautiful landscapes, flowers and Otsego Lake provide great subjects. This time of year the popular summer tourist attraction is relatively devoid of crowds. With just the small Canon EOS-M (mirror less) camera, I was able to enjoy the day without lugging around the usual 30 pounds of camera gear and still get some great shots.
For those that may be interested, Amsterdam does have a Photography Club! It is a very informal group with varying skill levels from beginner to pro. There is always something new to learn at the Amsterdam Photography Club. After just a few meetings, your photos will improve dramatically! The club is moderated by Dr. Albert Fraser. There are no fees or dues to pay.
The club meets the first Thursday of every month, 6PM at the Coffee Beanery on Wallins Corners Road (across from Lowes).
This Thursday, September 6, at 6PM, professional commercial and landscape photographer Edward Smathers will be giving a presentation. Ed was the principal photographer in the newly published “Waterfalls of New York State,” a guide to over 100 waterfalls, beautifully photographed, mapped and described. This book is not only a great guide to finding the falls, it is also a beautiful coffee table book. Ed’s wife Jessica Painter is also a professional wedding photographer.
In honor of Ed’s presentation, I am posting my 1985 photo of Awosting Falls, located just outside of the Village of New Paltz in the Minnewaska State Park Preserve on the Shawangunk Ridge. It pales in comparison to Ed’s waterfall photography. I’m looking forward to getting a few tips to improve my technique. You should too! Everyone is welcome to join our little group.
The second meeting of Amsterdam residents and representatives of established creative and support groups from surrounding communities met Tuesday evening at 305 East Main Street in Amsterdam, New York, to further develop Mayor Ann Thane’s vision establishing a Community Art Center for the recently vacated building.
The group members represent a variety of ages, ethnicities, talent and experience with the common goal of utilizing the former church building as a vehicle for creative expression and education. Attendance at last night’s meeting indicated a 30% increase from the first meeting on March 15, 2012.
The City of Amsterdam has been very supportive of sports and recreation, investing money in the continued improvement of Shuttleworth Park, the home of the Amsterdam Mohawks, and Riverlink Park for boaters and the Summer Concert Series. What is lacking is a Center for the Arts, an outlet for creative expression for all age groups.
With the decline in government support of our school system, it is unfortunate that art and music programs are the first to be eliminated. It is not just students who suffer from this educational blight, it is also the communities who lose out on the next Kirk Douglas, Steven Spielberg, Ansel Adams, Frida Kahlo or Steven King.
The Center for the Arts can fill that gap with little or no cost, providing a physical place for use as a meeting space for established groups, a learning center to nurture creative talents, a performance place for music & theater and as a gallery space for displaying the work of local artists. The Center will be self-sustaining through fund-raising efforts, grant writing and rental fees for use of the space to community groups. A formal organizational plan was written and a business study completed by Jessica Murray, President of the Mohawk Valley Creative Alliance, indicating the need as there is no Center for the Arts within a 45 minute drive of the City of Amsterdam.
The misconception that may people have when they hear the word Art is that it is just the physical act of drawing or painting. The creative arts are so much more than that, encompassing a range of activities. A small list would include writing, creating music, dance, acting, singing, cooking, photography, cinematography, illustration, animation, graphic design, sculpture, pottery and the list goes on.
The proposed Center for the Arts will be able to introduce both young an old to a world of possibilities they never imagined for themselves. In 1974 Actress Tatum O’Neil won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe at age 10 for her 1973 performance in Paper Moon. Ann Mary Robertson Moses better known as Grandma Moses, started her art career at age 70 after being introduced to painting as therapy for her advancing arthritis. Her 1943 painting Sugaring Off sold at auction in 2006 for $1.2 million. These achievements were possible because their talent was nurtured by an introduction to the creative arts.
A Center for the Arts in Amsterdam will be that vehicle to drive creative talent in our own community to places they never thought possible. The Creative Arts bring a community together, crossing political, socio-economic and cultural barriers.
You can help this effort by calling or emailing your Aldermen and let them know that you support an Amsterdam Center for the Arts.
By day they are real estate agents, blueprint makers and highway department employees but when they clock out they become Storm Troopers, Boba Fett and R2-D2. Chris Simonds, Bob Thayer and Tim Harris are members of Garrison Excelsior, the 501st Legion of Upstate, New York. They pride themselves as being the World’s Definitive Imperial Costuming Organization, specializing in Star Wars characters.
This group paid a visit to a full house of the Mohawk Valley Creative Alliance monday night at the Coffee Beanery in Amsterdam, New York along with a working replica of R-2D-2 operated by remote control with all the authentic sounds, lights and movements you would expect. The handmade costumes sanctioned by George Lucas, are incredibly detailed down to the scratches and wear marks seen in the original movie versions.
Garrison Excelsior participates in Comic-Con conventions and make charitable appearances for Star Wars fans young and old. Chris Simonds R-2D-2 Unit even made an appearance on the Today Show in New York.
After a presentation explaining how their passion is turned into real costumes using ordinary equipment and some made to order parts from specialty shops, the costuming trio held a hands on demonstration followed by a question and answer period.
A big shout out to Jessica Murray and the Mohawk Creative Alliance for arranging this extraordinary presentation!
The Mohawk Valley Creative Alliance is advocating for the use of City owned property at 305 East Main Street as a Community Art Center. With the large number of members that attended last night’s event, they are going to need a larger meeting space!
The Mohawk Valley Creative Alliance is a local group of artists, writers, musicians and photographers who have met the second two Mondays of every month for the past two years at the Coffee Beanery in the Town of Amsterdam. The group was formed by Carol Jordan and Jessica Murray who serve as Vice President and President of MVCA, for the sole purpose of creating an Art Center for the Amsterdam community.
I heard about the group last year and had the good intention of becoming a member but never got around to it. That was until Carol Jordan sent me an email insisting that I come to their meeting (she’s the strong-arm of the group). I complied and found a wonderful group of like-minded people who shared ideas in a thoughtful and meaningful way. The group is led by Jessica Murray who holds a Fine Arts degree and is educated in Art Therapy. Murray was also primarily responsible for creating a business plan and the bylaws for the groups incorporation. She is very focused on the art community and presents creative challenges for the group to complete each month which consist of a themed exercise to be completed in each person’s specific media. Whether it be writing, photography, painting, acting or even dance, all the presentations are discussed by the group members.
Last week, members of the MVCA met with Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane to discuss the Mayor’s proposed Community Art Center in the former Church building on East Main Street and Vrooman Ave that now serves as the 5th Ward polling place. It was recently vacated by St Mary’s Hospital staff who were using the building as a mental health outreach center. The building at 305 East main Street has 3,567 square feet of usable space and a playground behind it that would serve the community well.
MVCA encourages everyone in the Amsterdam community to support Mayor Thane with her vision of a community Art Center in the City’s building at 305 East Main Street.
Voice recognition technology has made major advancements over the past few years. Early models that explored the ability to recognize single words were studied by IBM for military applications. The continued development of microchips and computer processors evolved simple one word recognition into a system of pattern recognition that understood phrases but required training the system to the individual users speech pattern. This was accomplished by reading a series of predetermined words into a microphone, enabling the program to learn an individual’s unique pronunciation.
Today we have Siri, the first commercial marketed artificial intelligence model that can recognize voice with uncanny accuracy without training. Siri takes it a step further by being able to understand and respond to those commands using a voice of its own and a sense of humor.
Apple included Siri technology in its latest iPhone 4s. This voice recognition technology is also made available wherever keyboard input is required on the phone. Trying to type on an undersized smartphone keyboard is no longer a problem. You just tap the keyboard’s microphone icon and speak what you need to type and the text is input for you. This makes language translation simple and very useful on foreign trips. Just pick a language, speak a phrase into the phone and the translation is played in seconds. A personal interpreter with you whenever you need one.
You activate Siri by pressing and holding the center button on the iPhones’ face. After the tone you can start speaking. You can also activate Siri by just holding the phone to you ear.
Siri is also a personal assistant. It can execute a host of commands on the iPhone, like dialing numbers, composing and sending mail or text messages, playing music, finding stores or websites, mapping destinations from where you are now (GPS locator). The one I find most useful is making appointments on the calendar app. Not only is the appointment placed on the calendar it is also synced with your computers through Apple’s iCloud technology.
As I mentioned before, Siri is programmed with a sense of humor. Siri’s responses to certain questions are quite entertaining. Here are some examples of responses I experienced.
Open the pod bay doors Siri!
We intelligent agents will never live that down, apparently.
Beam me up Siri!
3G or WiFi?
Talk dirty to me Siri!
Sorry, I’m not able to do that. I’m pure as the driven snow.
Talk dirty to me!
Humus, Compost, Pumice, Silt, Gravel
In addition to Siri, the iPhone 4s also sports an upgraded processor and 8 megapixel camera with increased light sensitivity, face recognition and 1080p HD video recording. All of the photos on my last post Change were taken with the iPhone 4s. I also find the new camera to have increased color accuracy and exposure metering. iCloud technology makes your photos available on all of your devices just minutes after taking them. There is no longer a need to physically connect the phone to the computer. All software updates are now done wirelessly.
Siri technology exceeded my expectations. I upgraded to the iPhone 4s for the new camera but was pleasantly surprised to find just how useful (and entertaining) Siri could be.
A monarchy is the most expensive of all forms of government, the regal state requiring a costly parade, and he (or she) who depends on his (or her) own power to rule, must strengthen that power by bribing the active and enterprising whom he (or she) cannot intimidate.
- James Fenimore Cooper
When it comes to the subject of Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane, Dan Weaver’s perception of the truth is not always shared by the majority. Check out Dan’s blog Upstream & Downtown as this non-resident faithfully defends the Mayor’s actions.
During the past few weeks I have worked on several projects that involve restoring damaged photographs to keep a bit of history for future generations. One project was putting together my ancestry through family photos borrowed from relatives as well as images I have taken over the past forty-three years, all dutifully restored. Another project was reconnecting with old Army buddies through Facebook, sharing memories and restored images from over thirty-five years ago.
In 1987 I started doing photo restoration using film in my full color darkroom. Dodging and burning techniques were utilized during the exposure of the photographic paper to manipulate the final image. Color balance was trial and error using a composition notebook to record each adjustment of the enlarger’s color wheels. The final result was not clear until the print development was complete. Scratches and color was touched up using pigmented photo oils. The results were often less than ideal but the skills and concepts learned from manual print processing are still valid today.
Fast forward to 2011. Now my photo restoration process involves using the technical skills learned in college, including a good understanding of color theory, utilizing Photoshop CS5, as well as a professional scanner with dual lens high pass optics, a Wacom Cintiq editing monitor and a HP Dreamcolor (RGB LED backlit) monitor for color accuracy. I scan the negatives at 6400 dpi optical resolution and 48 bit color. This makes each image file around 250 megabytes. Some take more than an hour each to scan, remove scratches, stains, straightening out the crooked ones, filing in blank areas caused by rotating the photo one or degrees by cloning the adjacent pixels. Then each image goes through a manual color correction process before resizing and sharpening to display on Facebook. For prints I use the original file before reducing, sending a 16 bit file to an archival pigment based inkjet printer for maximum print quality. I use a similar process for photos but a resolution of at least 600 dpi depending on the size of the original. While we can do great things in today’s digital world, fixing damage caused by physical forces of weather, paper rips or holes, water stains, fading dyes caused by oxidation or exposure to sunlight, the final image is still very dependent on the quality of the original.
Working with just a digital image is the easiest restoration. It often only involves selective color balancing as in this example:
A tougher restoration is converting a slide or negative with a underexposure problem to a color corrected digital copy. In the following example, the sky and ground were processed as separate images or layers and then sandwiched back together.
Even more difficult is restoring old, faded, torn, spotted and water damaged photos as you will see in the following examples.
I can also print the restored image up to 17″ x 22″ or longer depending on the image, with custom matting and framing done in my shop. The following image I printed on canvas and mounted in a period oval frame with domed glass.
The digital age has provided photographers new tools to do what was once unimaginable, using intelligent cloning with pattern detection to remove and replace distracting elements in a photograph.
If you have thought about throwing away family photos damaged from recent flooding, please consider my photo restoration service.
To see my restored Army photos, click on this link 427th Med Company (AMB), Ft Rucker, Alabama (1975-1978).
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Speaks at George Washington University on February 15, 2011
The internet has become the public space of the 21st century – the world’s town square, classroom, marketplace, coffeehouse, and nightclub. We all shape and are shaped by what happens there, all 2 billion of us and counting. And that presents a challenge. To maintain an internet that delivers the greatest possible benefits to the world, we need to have a serious conversation about the principles that will guide us, what rules exist and should not exist and why, what behaviors should be encouraged or discouraged and how.
One year ago, I offered a starting point for that vision by calling for a global commitment to internet freedom, to protect human rights online as we do offline. The rights of individuals to express their views freely, petition their leaders, worship according to their beliefs – these rights are universal, whether they are exercised in a public square or on an individual blog. The freedoms to assemble and associate also apply in cyberspace. In our time, people are as likely to come together to pursue common interests online as in a church or a labor hall.
But of course, governments also have a duty to be transparent. We govern with the consent of the people, and that consent must be informed to be meaningful. So we must be judicious about when we close off our work to the public, and we must review our standards frequently to make sure they are rigorous. In the United States, we have laws designed to ensure that the government makes its work open to the people, and the Obama Administration has also launched an unprecedented initiative to put government data online, to encourage citizen participation, and to generally increase the openness of government.
Some take the view that, to encourage tolerance, some hateful ideas must be silenced by governments. We believe that efforts to curb the content of speech rarely succeed and often become an excuse to violate freedom of expression. Instead, as it has historically been proven time and time again, the better answer to offensive speech is more speech. People can and should speak out against intolerance and hatred. By exposing ideas to debate, those with merit tend to be strengthened, while weak and false ideas tend to fade away; perhaps not instantly, but eventually.
Now, this approach does not immediately discredit every hateful idea or convince every bigot to reverse his thinking. But we have determined as a society that it is far more effective than any other alternative approach. Deleting writing, blocking content, arresting speakers – these actions suppress words, but they do not touch the underlying ideas. They simply drive people with those ideas to the fringes, where their convictions can deepen, unchallenged.
But when it comes to online speech, the United States has chosen not to depart from our time-tested principles. We urge our people to speak with civility, to recognize the power and reach that their words can have online. We’ve seen in our own country tragic examples of how online bullying can have terrible consequences. Those of us in government should lead by example, in the tone we set and the ideas we champion. But leadership also means empowering people to make their own choices, rather than intervening and taking those choices away. We protect free speech with the force of law, and we appeal to the force of reason to win out over hate.
There is a difference between open communication accomplished through discussion and outright censorship.
Censorship is suppression of speech or other communication that may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body.
The City of Amsterdam Facebook page, created and maintained using public funds, has whitewashed comments to only include those that favor or praise the Mayor’s opinions. I have personally had all of my comments removed from the city run Facebook page and I have been locked out from commenting. The page, labeled as a governmental organization, started running advertisements for local business owned by those who support the Mayor. Two of the local business owners advertised are also elected city officials. My inquiries sent to the Mayor about the comment policy have not been answered. Corporation Council G. DeCusatis sees no ethical violation advertising local business owned by elected officials on a Facebook page created and maintained using public funds.
On March 5, 2011 Mayor Ann Thane made the following statement on the Flippin’ Amsterdam NY blog:
As I’d mentioned to Charlie, I pick and choose where I will post online. I’ve posted here (Flippin’ Amsterdam), at Pars Nova, Upstream, Krabcakes and Football, and even Mark Robarge’s now defunct site. I post regularly on FB. I appreciate discussion with individuals I respect (but don’t necessarily always agree with me) that have opinions I value. The rest of the local offerings are so relentlessly negative and devotedly misinformed, why bother even reading them? The last Amsterdam blog that espoused a continuously embittered harangue, slowly died of its own poison. Even the host couldn’t stand it anymore. Any one of us can complain and I am not beyond this practice. I aspire to better myself and get beyond this self-indulgence. It will take vision, optimism, research and thoughtful discourse to orchestrate a beautiful future. I prefer to join with the singers in that chorus.
What the Mayor fails to realize is that the world is not all songs and roses. This city has real problems that cannot be solved with a rose garden, a coat of paint or new curtains. Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi used censorship by controlling local media. He only broadcast news of the Libyan people singing, dancing and praising him, while his citizens were storming the center square demanding his ouster.
You cannot effectively run a city government with blinders on. Our elected officials must uphold ethical standards that apply to everyone equally. You cannot pick and choose who the city will serve, our government must serve every citizen regardless of the degree to which they faun over the Mayor.
Social media sites are the new town square where government gets feedback from its citizens and the same standards should apply.
I believe that a city run site should not censor or discriminate, that every taxpaying citizen has a right to voice their opinions whether or not they agree with the Mayor. I further assert that a governmental organization should not be advertising private business unless every local business is afforded the same opportunity.