Searching for the Summit:

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It was my first experience visiting the Beahive a wonderful collaborative workspace for professionals in a renovated 1907 Bell Telephone building where Producer, Nelson Conde supported by Creative Director, Crystal Anderson and Nathan Garcia used the first-floor loft as the stage for the return of “Fluidic Duo” to Beacon.

The contemporary realism works of artist Penny Dell added a richness to the loft’s exposed brick walls. The controlled charcoal drawings flowed with the music and offered a framework of deep texture balanced by soft muted lines.

I was leaning back into the couch with my eyes half closed.  Ross Pederson had just taken the duos lead setting the path on drums.  The guy is a composer, arranger and one the hottest drummers in New York.  But he gets this killer grin like he is setting the last pitch on Everest for all of us to tie into. Tap, tap, and tap the last titanium pinion is going into the ice.

I open my eyes and there is that evil grin and he has now incorporated the vertical metal pipe on the brick wall as part of his drum kit. Chris Crocco just holds the neck of his jazz guitar a little tighter but does not open his eyes.  He’s been there before and knows that his partner never takes the easy way to the top.

It was the second journey in the second set and my eyes grew tighter, I could hear Crocco’s guitar speaking just to me like all good jazz does.  It’s personal; the voice is never soothing but thoughtful.  Never mind the other forty people who filled the intimate room at the Beacon Beahive some looking up to the heavens; some, eyes closed looking down; hands and feet lightly taping.  They’re on their own.

Looking at Crocco’s face, eyes closed, he is lost.  Not on the musical path set by his friend, but deep in the depths of the music.

I’ve seen it before while covering the performances of B.B. King while he coaxed Lucille along for a ride.  There was Charlie Daniels on the fiddle with “Carolina Dreams” some where under that hat, with eyes closed, the bow caressed the strings. My favorite was Willie Nelson lost in a deep “Georgia on my Mind” trance helping Trigger, his guitar, find a solo voice.

Many have called Crocco’s music organic in nature, something that takes on a life of its own, a living entity. When playing with Pederson, it’s also something that can’t be duplicated; there is no arrangement; no written notes; only searching a path for a musical summit.

Searching for the kids

I accompanied a friend, John Fasulo, on his quest to locate three subjects of a photograph he had taken some thirty-six years ago in Canaan, Connecticut.  The image was taken around 1974 of three boys playing on a caboose outside the Canaan Railroad Station.  The photograph reaffirms the art of discovery and the innocents of youth.  So does the search.

John’s photograph can’t help but bring back memories of a simpler time when milk was delivered in bottles and children could still play tag in their neighborhood at dusk. Heck in some towns the milkman had a key to the back door and put it in the refrigerator for the owners. Ours just opened a small door that could be reached from a kitchen cupboard.

John’s research led to the local insurance agent who in his youth had played on the wooden deck of the rail station and had scampered the height of the water tower.  It’s what kids do in a small town.  He knew instantly that the photograph was of two brothers and their best friend that were a year or so older than he. This was later confirmed by his wife and a few more relatives.

We slid into one of the six booths at the Collin’s Diner across from the old rail depot where a small sign under the window noted that if busy, you would be asked to move to one of the 17 vacant stools at the counter, saving the booths for a party of four.

“Go ahead and just push the seat back!  No, use your rear and push the seat back if you need more room!”  I blanked out…Mom?  But peeking through one eye, it was the waitress giving me a realty check with that same impish smile that likely dated back to the diners opening day.

The 1941 national historic landmark diner has been the subject of articles in Yankee Magazine, New York Times and the, Boston Globe. It was picture perfect in realist painter Ralph Goings work “Collin’s Diner”.

“That looks like John Marshall, brothers, Chris and Peter Clark.  Peter lives just up the road and you take the road that drops down to the right” said the waitress reaching for the photograph.

“There use to be an old still up there.  It’s where I took my first drink.  It was grappa” reminisced the older woman at the counter. 

At a time when age, experience, craftsmanship seem to have little worth in today’s workplace. It feels good to know after three decades John found his kids and seven decades later the Collin’s still offers the same bacon, cheeseburger, fries, coke; a place for the locals to think about the simpler times.  Just a place where they remember your name.

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Portraits: LOCATION, Location, location

Good photography has more to do with background than it does with subject content. But yet many of us give the environment that we put our subjects in the least amount of consideration.  This is most evident in portrait photography.

If you enjoy taking portraits of family and friends take the time to put a little research in possible locations where you live.  Two pieces of equipment are needed, a pencil and paper notebook (I have about ten years worth of 3”x6” pocket planners that are killer for this.).  Keep these in your car at all times and take note of that old brick wall covered by vines; that crumbling wood water tower on the edge of the orchard;  that cool dark and seedy ally behind the hair stylist.

Treat your subject with respect and like your family and don’t give too much direction a bit of a light heart goes a long way.

No trespassing! Ask for permission first, you would be amazed at how kind and helpful people can be once they know you want to take photograph. Understand your rights about shooting on public property which means parks, exterior of city libraries, etc.

Take the time to note the direction of your background and where the light may fall.  When is the best time to make your photograph?  Keep checking back with the seasons.  That ok path near the creek in the summer may not have luster until autumn.

It’s more important to carry a small camera than to get bogged down by equipment that sits in the home closet.  I carry a small Panasonic DCM-TZ3 because of its Leica lens and 10x optical zoom.

Remember that photography is about passion and not your equipment or technical skill.  It is also not about being visually lucky…it’s about making your own luck by being prepared!

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Mack’s Hideaway:

Mack’s Hideaway

I don’t know Mack, never had the pleasure of meeting the man, but I have had ample time to enjoy his cabin tucked a stick throw from the road that starts where my driveway ends.

For some reason Mack either took, or was given the smallest of the three cabins.  The yellow autumn leaves cling to the small flat roof.  It has one room with double weathered doors to welcome the summer’s warmth.  A man or woman really needs little more.

The window of the door has been replaced twice where I’ve seen the black and white tabby climb through.  The clean glass appears out of place on the old structure.

I often wonder if Mack’s place was really a hideaway, or a place to be found.

I’ve thought about asking the neighbors about Mack but decided that I would rather have the twisted cedar shingles speak for him…I’ll miss those conversations.

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Breakneck Ridge:

After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.

-Nelson Mandela-

Breakneck ridge is found on the eastside of the Hudson River just a bit north of the community of Cold Springs, NY and across the river from Storm King.

The start of the trail is apply named, and is; and probably has; as it starts at a 45 degree climb which quickly turn into a 60 degree in some locations before getting to the first plateau with awesome views of the river and adorned with wind-tattered American and POW flags.

I tried not to let the scampering of six year-olds and seventy-six year-olds who left me choking on dust and dodging small rocks detour my focus.  I did however feel under dressed in a pair of jeans and old wool shirt as it seems anything “Columbia” was the fashion of the day…ohhhh and a couple of those aluminum walking sticks.  What ever happened to just cutting a hunk of tree limb?