Remember records?

A few years ago, I focused on Maine diners.  I love the design of the real old ones, hopefully I caught some of their 'flavor' in photos I took.

Since then, I've been thinking about 'projects' and one that's been kicking around in my head is Used Record Stores.  Never having been in one, I ventured to Brunswick, Maine to visit Vinyl Haven. (The name is a pun ... one of the islands off the midcoast is the lovely Vinalhaven.)

The store is owned by David Hunt. For nearly 40 years, he's been buying and selling records and equipment.  Today, if you have a cassette recorder, a Garrard turntable of a Kenwood stereo amplifier and you want it repaired (???? really?), he's your man.

Mark, the manager and a former professional musician, greeted me when I shuffled in, not sure what I would see or what sense of the place and the business I would get.  Now, I want to go back and visit a few more such stores.

Before I went to Vinyl Haven Records, I was also thinking about visiting Bull Moose, a chain of music/book/video stores that's flourished in Maine.  Some folks credit the owner's computer programming skills for devising software which greatly aids the business' inventory and supply chain. But enough biz-talk.

The benefit of going to Vinyl Haven, and then seeing pix of Bull Moose on the Web, is to realize there is a difference, even though both stores sell music.  The Moose is a retail chain.  Promotions, new releases, promotion.  Vinyl Haven is an experience born of a love of music and LPs and hifi gear from the '60s and '70s. I hope I can capture some of that flavor.

Day 4 at Maine Media Workshop

Day four with Jay Maisel ...


Jay is not a fan of what photographers call post-processing.  That’s when we take an image from our camera, wrestle it into a program like Lightroom or Photoshop, and tweak it so that the lighting is better, the con,or is better, and the composition is better. Jay would say “F-that!”  He wants photographers to concentrate on getting the shot right in the camera, when they take it.

That’s why he says pay attention to the corner, avoid the triangles, get closer, look at every square inch of the scene: get it right sooner rather than later!  Any time pushing pixels own our image is a waste of time, and at 80+ years - Jay’s time is very valuable..

One of the techniques he uses to improve the chance you’ll get it right the first time is to brackets your shirts.  You set your camera to take three shots at a time at different exposures.  The is the :”right” balance of light and speed, the second is a little lighter than ‘normal’, and the third is a little darker.  So, you push the button and you get three clicks of the shutter. (Consult your camera’s Owner’s manual for details.)

It is remarkable that this technique can have a marked impact on the colours in your shot. 

Well, whadya know?

Well, whadya know?  Jay LIKED that picture of two people eating a Red's Eats lobster roll, the picture I thought was a nothin'-burger.  

Jay liked it for its color balance, but wished I'd moved more to the left to get rid of a picnic table on the right.  He also would like not to see the umbrella pole growing out of one woman's head.  This week he's noticed things like that that I, and others as 'we', just don't see in our stuff.  Jay is adamant about 'owning every pixel and every square inch" of the shot and thinks we ought too look at our work carefully.  :)

It occurred to me today, driving up to Rockport, that I've really spent a lot of my photographic life doing street photography.  Jay said his favorite thing to do these days is street work, but his career includes great work including travel, portraits, landscapes, and so on.  

I also noticed that the name of this class I'm taking is "Light, Gesture and Color".  It is not "street photography".  So I spent this afternoon doing something other than street work - candids of people and moments.  

That means I came back tonight with pictures of boats, in the water and in dry dock; a Robert Indiana sculpture in Rockland, people walking in an alley, and a few shotsof bicycles (an inside joke for the class) and a dog.  

Jay's having small success in nudging me into new ground.

Fish in the right pond

Lesson one when you're trying to be a photographer: show only your best work.  If you show everything, hits, misses, maybes - well, you'll be like everybody else. Of course, if you're trying to be a photographer, then you should have more good ones than 'regular' people.

The point here is that yesterday, Day 2 with Jay Maisel, was a bust.  My fault.  What I've got to show at class this morning is lame.

Yesterday, after class, I went shooting along the coast of Maine, concentrating on finding people/street photographs.  First I went to a sculptor's garden, then the economically-limping downtown of Waldoboro, then onto Damariscotta and Wiscasset.

Slim pickings.  No people in the garden, no people in downtown Waldoboro (I mean, no people).  Tourists were in Damariscotta and Wiscasset.  Which doesn't mean there weren't people pictures to get. Since they were all visitors, there weren't many 'moments' - where life was happening.

Sorry to say that for my afternoon's work, in class this morning I will show a picture of two people and a dog sharing a lobster roll by the river.  Pretty damn limp.

Moral: Where you fish makes a difference in whether you catch fish.

Jay Maisel may be mellowing.

Odds are I will regret writing that headline by the end of the week.  After all, the first day of our class with Jay was pretty much all-Jay-all-the-time.  As it should be. Yesterday, Jay was showing only his own images.  Today, we will begin with him reviewing samples of work we brought as a 'portfolio'.  I doubt there will be as much laughing today as there was yesterday.

After the lecture Monday, he sent us out to shoot.  A few of us when to the Union Fair. I met a winner.


I shot her as she and her sisters and mother, Megan, were herding their oxen back to a stall.  Yes. Oxen.

Last night, Jay was the featured speaker at the Rockport Opera House.  He explained he's now working on producing a number of themed books featuring his work and travels during the past 50 years.  He showed 300 images - and we all wanted to see more.

As for today, wish me luck.

Day 1 with Jay Maisel

This morning I begin another weeklong workshop at Rockport's Maine Media Workshop.  For a week, along with about ten other photographers, I'll be studying with Jay Maisel.  This is a not-to-be-missed lifetime opportunity.

I know a couple of guys who have also studied with Jay. Their feedback is that he's tough, inspiring, demanding, fair, and a genius.

From experience, I know these workshops are intense.  At the start, they say that you've given yourself a huge gift, that for a week you will think about nothing else than being a better photographer.

I've tried to prepare for this week.  I have watched a half dozen videos featuring Maisel, seen numerous bios and profiles, and read his latest book, and begun to notice in some of my old work that I was doing a few of the things he recommends.

Wish me luck.  I'll try to post some thoughts during the week. I'll try.

Val's Drive-In, Lewiston, Maine

This small town in southwestern Maine is known for a few things.  It's the place where Sonny Liston "knocked out" Muhammed Ali. It's the home of top-ranked Bates College. And since 1974, Lewiston has been home to Val's Drive-In which still serves up burgers, shakes, and fries, delivered to your car to the accompaniment of '50's-60's music.

      '50s rock and roll, poodle skirts, and a warm summer evening.  The way life should be.

      '50s rock and roll, poodle skirts, and a warm summer evening.  The way life should be.

Last night was a busy one in Lewiston.  The annual Great Falls Balloon Festival was over by the river, drawing as many as 100,000 visitors during the weekend.  And a bunch of them stopped at Val's.

Here's what they saw.


While it's raining and cold in Virginia, it's sunny and 70 degrees in Lisbon and Spain, where we spent fourteen days.  

Lisbon is a busy, energetic port while Barcelona is grand, extravagant, boisterous and very tasty.  

In between those places, we sailed on Windstar Cruise's Wind Surf and luxuriated in a James Beard Foundation-food and gourmet travel experience.  There was much food and wine and sightseeing at Spanish ports (Ibiza, Almeria, Tarragona, Malaga, Tangier).

There was also photography.

Neither rain nor clouds nor cold will sway the tourists from their appointed rounds.

Doesn’t matter if the temperature was 42 degrees, the sky was cloudy, and it was raining.  Still the visitors were visiting.

Lafayette Square, on Pennsylvania Avenue, is where you can see the front of the White House.  

It’s behind two layers of metal crowd control racks, a short stone wall, and a ten-foot high, spike-tipped metal fence.  And don’t forget security in front of you, behind you, on buildings in front and back ... and still the visitors come.

Years ago, you used to be able to drive down Pennsylvania avenue, past the White House on the left, and wave.  Now, years later, it’s a big park and plaza. The Avenue is closed to traffic, protected by two-foot high metal traffic barriers. It’s welcoming, not overly restrictive.  But in the past two decades, it's clear something's been lost.  

The tourists are coming!

In truth, the tourists never stopped coming.  A brief walk around the Mall is a fine way to spend a few weekend hours.

The Memorial's an easy target.  Doesn't take much imagination.  Moving moments occur every 15 minutes.  Visitors with tracing paper, touching the name of their loved one. Vets gathering to remember a buddy.

Onward to the Monument.  On this low-50s day, people were flying kites, walking and playing softball.

mother daughter.jpg

Across Constitution and up 14th street, you come to the White House.  And even though it's cool, and you may be wearing gloves and a hat, the tourists pause to look at the back yard of the President. And everybody wants a picture.

There! I found my theme.