Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More Fall Flowers and a Treat

Taking the long route home from the library today, I went down to the Cliff Walk just to breathe salt air and feel the breeze. I noticed that the Calico Aster is up in profusion along the Walk, and stopping to get some macro shots I found the Bumble taking a break tucked back in the blossoms.

Earlier this morning I was checking out some videos on YouTube when I stumbled across a mention of a song I've loved for years, jazz tenor saxophonist Jim Pepper's "Witchi Tai To". The melody and the words are from a peyote healing chant of the Native American Church, which Pepper learned from his grandfather. I remember the song from when it first came out in 1969, and it sent chills through me. It still does; this is one powerful piece of music!

Photo & text © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Beach Walk

A Laughing Gull and his shadow on Easton's Beach this afternoon.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday Odds & Ends

I walked down to Gooseneck Cove today to put some fresh air in me and blow the cobwebs out of my head. The first thing I saw was this immature Snowy Egret fishing in the shallows. Most of the Egrets have left for the season, but there are still a few immatures around, and as a friend of mine commented: "You know kids, they do what they want!" But what I thought was at least one good sign was the fact that this guy seems to be eating his vegetables along with his fish.

And more Fall flowers. These Swamp Aster were growing next to Hazard Rd.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday Was Colorful, Too

I went down to Brenton Point today with the intention of shooting the 12-meters racing offshore, and in general to get pictures of any and all sailboats out and about on this drop-dead gorgeous Fall day. Unfortunately, none of my boat pictures turned out well enough to post. Oh well... At least I got two shots that show how colorful things are on these nice dry, crisp New England days.

These Giant Sunflowers (the "giant" comes from the size of the plants, not the blooms) were growing along one of the trails in the state park.

There were some kites in the air over Brenton Point today; not as many as there would be on a Saturday in July or August, but a few. And these two kept drifting close to each other, so I just had to get a shot.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sight & Sound - The First Signs of Autumn

The first changing Maple leaves, seen on Bellevue Ave. today.

Music: "The Wonderful Year" by Roger Eno & Kate St. John from their 1992 CD The Familiar

Photo © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Theme Thursday - Wild

Hmmm... What to do, what to do? I'm not usually considered anything approaching "a wild and crazy guy", and I don't tend to take pictures of people doing things like that. However, I do take lots of pictures of "the wild" and the "wild" things that live there. Will that do?

For instance, this Mink watching all us crazy humans on the Cliff Walk is a "wild animal". Actually, we have lots and lots of Mink around here; I've seen them around Gooseneck Cove lots of times, and even saw some Mink tracks in the snow down by the Green Bridge one Winter day. And they're the reason why the Norman Bird Sanctuary no longer keeps fancy fowl around any more; the Mink were decimating them.

And I guess you could call these Canadian Thistle blooms "wildflowers".

This storm on July 1 was certainly a wild one!

Oh, wait! I do take pictures of crazy people doing wild things! Like this surfer in the aftermath of Hurricane Bill.

And of course, if you've been reading my blog for a while now, you can pretty much figure out what my video pick for this week's theme is. Yup, Jimi at Montreux, playing a really wild version of "Wild Thing" and then burning his guitar. Rock'n'Roll wildness at its best!

So is that wild enough for you?

Photos & text © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Next Step

Okay, so I have my portfolio and other web albums up and functioning. I also have a running listing on Craig's List offering my photographic services for hire. Today I added actual product - six calendars on (and I'm sure I'll add more) on my Storefront page. My friend Flit suggested checking out last week. Thanks Flit!

It was a lot more work than I expected. There were 78 photos involved (72 calendar pages and 6 covers), and the format on the pages is such that I needed to pretty much re-crop everything. The "Calendar Wizard" is kinda slow and cranky, and I was finding it necessary to save what I was working on and then reboot my browser fairly frequently or things could get quirky. And I wish that they offered the full moons/new moons along with the holidays to be listed on the calendars. But things look good.

As I said, I put together 6 calendars: bird portraits, my bug and flower macros, black and white shots, pictures of the sea round here, pictures of the Gooseneck Cove wetlands, and Ballard Park. I'm thinking about adding a surfing calendar, although I'm looking at the option of putting together a photo book on the subject instead ( is primarily a Print On Demand publisher). But for the time being, go check out the calendars I've already created using the link above (or the one I just added in my sidebar). Hey, I'll even let you buy a calendar (or two, or three)! Meanwhile, I've included three of the calendar cover designs below. Enjoy!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hopping Around on Sunday

The day started at 8 am with a trip out to the Norman Bird Sanctuary for their every-other-Sunday bird walk. It was a long walk today, out the entrance and down Third Beach Rd. to the salt marsh behind Third Beach, and coming back by way of some trails through meadows that belong to the Sanctuary. We certainly saw lots of birds! The object of today's quest was the Marbled Godwit who has been hanging out in the salt marsh behind the parking lot at Third Beach for about three weeks now. We saw it, but I didn't get a usable photo because it was way too backlit on a very bright day. There were also lots of Tree Swallows around; they're staging for the migration south. And Goldfinches, Mockingbirds, Catbirds, etc. along the road on the way down and in the fields on the way back, as well as immature Little Blue Herons, immature and adult Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Killdeer, and a Lesser Yellowlegs (Sandpiper family) hanging out with the Godwit, all down in the salt marsh. But no pictures; they were all either out of camera range or the lighting was bad.

There were also deer. I really wanted to get a shot of a handsome young 2-point buck hanging out on the hillside across the pool in the salt marsh, but he got into the reeds and I never saw him again. But we saw a Mama and two fawns in the front yard of the house next to Sanctuary headquarters, and I managed to get a decent shot of the fawns.

We got back to Newport around 11 am and I made a beeline for Ballard Park and Gooseneck Cove. No critter shots, but I'm really pleased with these two shots of Gooseneck Cove and its salt marsh.

And that was my Sunday!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Out at Fort Adams

I went out to Fort Adams today to watch a "parade of sail" associated with this weekend's Newport International Boat Show and a week-long race series. Unfortunately that was the lamest boat parade I've ever seen! Part of the problem was we had a 20-knot wind blowing out of the NW which, while it would have made for a great, if really bumpy, race it wasn't exactly ideal conditions for parading. There were only about six boats, and none of them had their sails up. So after they returned to their berths, I aimed the camera at whatever looked interesting. While the wind may have been too much for a parade, there were some out who decided to get a good piece of that breeze and have some fun!

A nice little yawl out on Narragansett Bay. You can see how strong that breeze was; they never even bothered unfurling the mainsail!

Rose Island Lighthouse, due north from Fort Adams.

The schooner Adirondack II, giving the tourists/passengers a thrill in the stiff breeze.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, September 18, 2009

Walking a Woodland Path

Twin Ledges Trail, Ballard Park

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Theme Thursday - Over the Hill

I know it was meant well, and maybe even meant to be humorous, but I can't find any humor in this week's theme. The standard interpretation of the phrase "over the hill" is - past one's prime, out of the loop, no longer sought after, no longer "useful". Those of us who are "over the hill" don't see ourselves this way, but our youth-obsessed society does, and this has serious consequences.

I'm 56 years old. As you can see from the photo to the left (my favorite self-portrait), I have a generous amount of gray in my hair. I have 30 years of experience in retail sales, 14 of those years in supervisory/managerial positions. But I've been unemployed for 22 months, and now my unemployment benefits have been exhausted, both the initial benefits and all the available state and federal emergency extensions, and the only further help I'm eligible for is food stamps. I'm up the creek without a paddle (to use another cliché), and why? Because my age and my experience are considered a hindrance rather than an asset.

I realize I probably can't prove that, but I can point out the obvious - that in retail (my chosen field) looks are as important as personality, and even though I can get customers to relax and laugh with me, the marketing experts say that customers are younger and don't relate to gray hair. I can point to several jobs I applied for that went to young people in their twenties, just out of school, who didn't have half the qualifications for those jobs that I had. But those people were younger, and the store owners could pay them less and offer less in the way of benefits than what my experience would earn.

And I haven't been looking just in retail; I've pretty much been trolling my skill set and seeing where else I can get a job - a batch photo editor job, shipping departments (after all, I was the "shipping czar" at the Dansk Factory Outlet here for 11 years), call centers... Hell, I've even applied for dishwasher and fast-food counter jobs. With no luck.

The problem is that our society no longer respects age and experience. Once you pass 50 you're less useful, even less visible, in a society obsessed with youth and drive and speed. We who are older are backwaters in the prevailing youth culture. And to a prospective employer we not only don't fit the image he/she is trying to project, but we're automatically assumed to require more money and benefits than they can get away with offering to younger, more gullible employees. There are plenty of kids and twenty-somethings looking for a job (in RI our unemployment rate is 12.7%), and they're cheaper to maintain than us "over the hill" types.

So here I am, at the end of my resources, trying to see if I can eke anything out of any of my skills, praying that maybe my attempts at exposure for my photography will draw some income soon, and hoping that comes before I lose my internet access because I can no longer pay the bill. And all because the society to which I've been an active contributor for the last 50-some years doesn't respect, in fact doesn't even recognize the experience and skills I've accumulated in my life, all because I've become "over the hill". So no, I'm not very happy with this week's theme!

Meanwhile, I still have that internet access, and I'll take advantage of it as long as I have it. Which means I haven't forgotten the usual feature of adding pertinent videos to my Theme Thursday post. I figured this week I'd feature older artists who still make great music.

Old and in the Way was a bluegrass group in the '70s made up of members of various California rock groups of the time. The band featured Jerry Garcia (banjo & vocals), David Grisman (mandolin & vocals), Peter Rowan (guitar & vocals), Vassar Clements (fiddle), and John Kahn (bass). They reunited in 2002, with Herb Petersen replacing the late Jerry Garcia and Bryn Bright replacing the late John Kahn. The album the reunion group released in 2002 was called Old and in the Gray. This song is from that album - "Land of the Navajo" with Peter Rowan's stunning Navajo-style singing in the middle.

Of course, when we think of the "elder statesmen" in the field of music, the first name on the list is Pete Seeger, 90 years old and still going strong. Here he is in 1993 at a sprightly 74, singing with Arlo Guthrie (who's definitely into "over the hill" status himself) and leading the crowd in singing "If I Had a Hammer".

Last but not least comes Mama Africa, the late, great Miriam Makeba. We lost her last November, but she was singing literally right up to the end of her 72 years - she died of a heart attack suffered while performing in Italy. Here she is on her triumphant return to South Africa with Paul Simon's Graceland tour, singing "Jinkel E Maweni". Enjoy!

Photo & text © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sight & Sound - Tan Lines

Teva tan lines

Video: The Beach Boys - "The Warmth of the Sun"

Yeah, I guess I'm saying good-bye to Summer!

Photo © 2008 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday - Small Creatures and a Video

I decided to walk all the trails in Ballard Park today, and ended up getting some decent shots of small creatures. Below on the left is a very, very small snail on a Spotted Knapweed seed head in the Aspen Grove in the quarry meadow. Below on the right is an American Painted Lady butterfly on the Valley Trail. And the big picture below them is an Orchard Orbweaver Spider (Leucauge venusta) on the Swamp Maple Trail.

As for the video in the title... Yesterday's surfing adventure got me messing around on the web looking at other Newport surfing shots, and I stumbled across this video of the surfing at Ruggles Ave. in Hurricane Bill's aftermath. The videographer must have been there all day, because he has some shots of Ian Walsh and Justin Casey that were taken before I got there. But you know the surf was good and the word was out when two, count 'em TWO, pro surfers from Hawaii - Ian Walsh and Garrett McNamara - made the trip here to catch the action. I was especially fascinated by McNamara, who specializes in SUP (Stand Up Paddle surfing); I got some great shots of him myself that day, and they're in the web album. But I was especially happy to see homeboy Justin Casey spotlighted in this video; in fact, he's the first spotlighted surfer in the video. Justin's father Marty is an old friend of mine; he and his first wife were my first neighbors in Newport back in May of 1974. Heh, heh! I woke them up around midnight the night I moved in, my friend Marc and I hauling my 300 lb. packing crate with all my worldly belongings in it up those narrow stairs to the third floor loft apartment. Marty surf's too, so you know where his son got the bug. But Justin is just so good! He really should consider going pro. That first spotlight, with him ducking under the curl and then shooting out the end of the barrel is just outstanding! So all of my California friends who consider East Coast surfing to be for kiddies and wimps, watch this and learn better!

Photos & text © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Some Minor Surfing Action

Our current not-so-nice weather (cloudy, gloomy, with scattered periods of heavy mist and drizzle) brought some slightly higher surf with it. I went down to Ruggles Ave. to see if any of the gang were down there taking advantage. There were some folks there, and I got about 30 shots, 7 of which passed quality control. I'm posting two here, and I've added a new gallery to my surfing web album with all 7 plus the shots I got in the aftermath of Danny. Meanwhile, here are two of today's good ones.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, September 11, 2009

Theme Thursday Leaks Into Friday

In my original idea for yesterday's Theme Thursday post I had taken a more diverse approach to the theme, but when I found the Taiko videos I got enchanted all over again with the genre and dedicated the whole post to it. But in the course of searching out videos for the original idea, I came across this really great video on Mickey Hart and his Global Drum Project from National Geographic Music. I really couldn't let this one go to waste, so here's more Theme Thursday on Friday with Mickey Hart and friends. Enjoy!

Photo & text © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Theme Thursday - Rhythm

When I think of rhythm, I usually think of drums. Not that you can't make rhythm in music without percussion, but percussion is often used to make the basic rhythm of a piece of music much more complex and more rhythmic than just the straight beat. So I had a great post all planned out, with Peter Gabriel's "Rhythm of the Heat" and Mickey Hart with Zakir Hussein and all kinds of rhythmic goodies. But then I decided to add a Taiko video to the mix, and that set off all kinds of fireworks in my brain. So...

Every July we have the Black Ships Festival to celebrate native son Commodore Matthew Perry and his re-opening of Japan to contact with the West. Among the more popular events in the celebration is the Taiko Drumming Festival. Taiko is a uniquely Japanese form of ensemble percussion performance, and can be very moving. Climaxes can be very thunderous, and I've never yet come away from a taiko performance without my entire body vibrating and my feet tingling; you can often feel the ground trembling under your feet at the height of the performance. And while beating away at the drums, members of the ensemble will shout encouragement to soloists, as well as letting out with yells similar to karate practitioners letting out the pent-up energy. So there's a palpable sense of excitement in a taiko performance.

While taiko is uniquely Japanese, it migrated to the US in the late '60s and has since become very popular here as well. Drumming ensembles sprang up in the wake of the first ensemble in San Francisco, and now there are performing (and often travelling) taiko ensembles in most of the major urban areas of the US, and even some not-so-urban places; I remember seeing some ensembles here from Kentucky and New Hampshire in the past. It's great fun to watch, but it looks like an absolute blast to perform, which probably explains the widespread range of the ensembles.

One of the US's premier taiko ensembles is Soh Daiko out of New York. Here are two photos of them at one of the earlier Black Ships Festivals. These are from my pre-digital days, taken with a consumer 35 mm camera and scanned to post on my old website, so the quality isn't quite what you're used to seeing from me.

And here is Soh Daiko performing their signature finale, sinuously snaking around and between the drums, swapping out solos, and just generally raising the excitement of the performance to a high pitch.

The oldest and perhaps the best taiko ensemble in the US is the San Francisco Taiko Dojo, started in 1968 by sensei Seiichi Tanaka. They're still going strong, and sensei Tanaka is still performing and composing the ensemble's material. Here they are performing in Taiwan; this is their signature piece - "Tsunami". I've seen it in person, and my feet still tingle with the memory!

But now let's go to Japan to see what's going on in the home-base of Taiko. The world's best-known taiko ensemble is Kodo; they have their own little community on Sado Island, and they travel around the world performing. Their usual theme is peace and cultural diversity, and they make a powerful statement with their music. This is a promotional video which gives you a good idea of their range of styles and talent. Enjoy!

Photos & text © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Ethan Winer Is a Wild and Crazy Guy!

So who is this guy and why am I doing a blog post on him? Ethan Winer is a musician, songwriter, recording engineer, computer program writer, and writer of articles on audio recording. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and cat. He even has a website. And he looks like Woody Allen's younger brother, another perfect nebbish!

But looks are deceiving. This guy is pretty accomplished. Visit his website and check out his tunes page, and then look at the articles he's written for the likes of Keyboard and Electronic Musician magazines. Read his bio page and look at some of the recording studios he's designed. He's no slouch!

Still, you're probably trying to figure out why in the world I'm writing a blog post about Ethan Winer. Well, the story is actually pretty simple. About 3 years ago I came across this incredible video called A Cello Rondo featuring Ethan Winer playing all the parts - 37 cello parts! And not only the music, but filming the parts in different costumes and personas. Among classical music geeks and electronic recording studio geeks this this thing went viral. I have a copy in Quicktime™ .mov format on my hard drive. But for convenience, here's Ethan's own version on Vimeo:

A Cello Rondo from Ethan Winer on Vimeo.

Ethan wasn't done being his own one-man orchestra, though. In 2007 he put out another video - Tele-Vision, again another this-guy-plays-all-the-instruments project. A little more rock'n'roll this time, with lots of electric guitars (yeah, you get to drool over some tasty Telecasters in this video).

Tele-Vision from Ethan Winer on Vimeo.

So there you go. I did this post just to share these two incredible music videos with you, faithful reader. Enjoy!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Stuff from Sunday

I was out walking for a long time yesterday; I left the house around 7:15 am and got home around 4 pm. I must be getting picky about my shooting, though. For all that time I only took around 70 shots (last year that long an expedition would have yielded around 200 shots), and only three turned out well enough for me to like. So here are the three shots I can live with.

A Painted Lady butterfly beside Hazard Rd.

A Bumblebee bumbling around in a Bull Thistle bloom behind Fort Adams

Boats racing on Narragansett Bay, with Jamestown Harbor in the background

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, September 04, 2009

Sight & Sound - An Afternoon by the Sea

A woman painting near Brenton Point, September 4, 2009

Music: La Mer - Jeux de vagues by Claude Debussy

Photo © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Theme Thursday - Beginning

The Tarot Major Trumps cards can be seen as a depiction of the individual's journey through life. In this view, The Fool (number 0) is the traveller on the path, but the first step on that path - birth - is not the card numbered 1 (The Magician), but rather #21, The World. In the Tarot scheme of things, The World is where we start the journey, and we travel down the road toward the ultimate goal of the soul's development, #2 The High Priestess (in my own deck retitled Psyche) and #1 The Magician; these two cards represent the soul's mastery of both the spiritual and physical realms.

The card depicted at the top is my handmade deck's World card, designed some 20 years ago, and the card to the left is a computer graphic collage I put together 7 or 8 years ago when I got some ideas for a new deck done on the computer (still thinking about that one). Both incorporate strong birth symbolism, but I'm not departing from tradition very far in that idea. A look at The World card in both the Tarot of Marseilles deck (derived from early 15th or 16th Century woodcut designs) and the current standard Rider-Waite deck (designed by A.E. Waite and Pamela Coleman Smith and published by Rider Publishing in 1909) carry the same strong birth imagery.

I also added the Apollo 8 Earthrise shot to my symbolism because to me this emphasized even more the notion of beginnings and birth. For the first time in our history, humanity was able to view the Earth from an entirely new perspective; we had literally gotten outside ourselves and were able to see us from a distance. And what we learned was that as beautiful as our Earth was living in the midst of it, it was just as beautiful seen from a distance - a jewel suspended in the black of space.

In any event, The World card is all about beginnings, birth, and even rebirth (although that notion of rebirth is more rightly the territory of #13 Death - which in my deck is renamed Rebirth). It's about starting up, or getting things started. It's also about getting back to basics - the nature motif is also very strong in all versions of the card, and the female figure in the traditional decks has often been interpreted as Mother Nature. And that makes sense, too; we always start with what Mama Gaiea gave us, and we build on that. So I thought The World card would be an appropriate response to this week's "Beginning" theme.

The music I chose for this week started playing in my head as soon as I started working on this post; I was hearing John Lennon sing "(Just Like) Starting Over" the whole time I was searching for the right images and writing the text. And when I went into YouTube to find a video for the song, this charming (and bittersweet; pay attention to the ending) rendition was the first listing, and I just couldn't resist. Enjoy!

Photos & text © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Sight & Sound - Reflecting on Clouds

A reflective Gooseneck Cove, taken looking north from the Green Bridge on Ocean Drive

Music: Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" performed by Randy Scruggs from the Will the Circle Be Unbroken album

Photo © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Sight & Sound - Fading Toward Fall

A harbinger of Fall - White Wood Asters in Ballard Park

Music: "Dimming of the Day" by Richard and Linda Thompson. This song has always "felt" autumnal to me.

Photo © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger