I’ve been reading (and looking) at a lot of books and pictures lately. I was inspired to go out with nothing but prime lenses and just take pictures of what’s around me. Sooner or later this pandemic will be under control and life will be back to some sort of normalcy. I am struck by how photographers like Diane Arbus and Don McCullin, who took very different types of pictures in very different types of environments captured the humanity of the world they were in. There is dignity in all of us, no matter what our plight and circumstances may be. So last Saturday afternoon, I just went out and took pictures of the world around me. I think that every once in a while, we just need to see the world and remember what it is that makes it whole. Not the grand things. Just every day things.
This is about a book about a beautiful lady. Beautiful pictures of a beautiful woman. Decades ago, when I was still in college, I happened to turn the channel and watched a young lady with so much poise, so much charm glide so elegantly across the small screen. The lady was Audrey Hepburn. The movie was Roman Holiday. They say that your love for something starts with something small. I think that in that day, in my small room with that small tv set, my love for movies was born. I feel lucky that the movie that first piqued my interest is a classic that today remains, for me, one of my favorite movies of all time. Who couldn’t love that luminous actress with those soulful eyes? Who could not love Audrey Hepburn? And heck, Gregory Peck wasn’t bad either. And Eddie Albert, in a fantastic supporting role. And who can forget Rome, after watching the princess and the newspaperman speed through its streets in that Vespa scooter. It’s strange to remember that what made them happy was doing ordinary things together. Just enjoying what life has to offer.
And one of the joys that life has to offer, at least to me, is reading books. The pandemic has given me a chance to go through my library and get rid of books, Kondo style, that have never given me pleasure. Perhaps if I actually read them, but no. I thought I would trim the fat, so to speak, but I bought “Always Audrey” and I was hooked. Yes, I sold a lot of my unread books, but I ended up buying a lot more books. Mostly books on photographers and their photographs. Some books on how to become a better photographer. Though in truth, I really cherish looking through the pictures in the books I purchased. Discovering new places, new people, new things. Learning about life through the eyes of others.
All these wonders unfolded because like the movie she starred in, Audrey Hepburn got me hooked. “Always Audrey” is a fantastic book. It’s a book about a beautiful woman. It’s a book about six photographers who were extremely gifted in what they did. And how the same person can be so different when seen through a different person’s eyes. Truly a magnificent book to own.
Sometimes, I wish that fashion photography would just be simply showing something beautiful as beautifully as you can. There are many photographers who have done that and though they’ve all done the same thing, they did it differently. There is artistry in simplicity.
I watched the Audrey Hepburn documentary on Amazon Prime. And it struck me how beautiful those eyes were. And how those eyes were windows to something even more beautiful. A beautiful soul.
A few years after graduating from college, I saw Audrey Hepburn being interviewed after returning from Somalia, on a mission for UNICEF. I didn’t pay much attention to it. She had gotten older and now she had time for her causes. I realize now how callous that view was. She was older and she had time to do anything she wanted. And what she wanted to do was go around the world, to give voice to those that didn’t have a voice. To bring attention to the famine, to the hunger, to the suffering of the people of Somalia. A great human tragedy. And the world was largely ignoring it. And there was Miss Hepburn. Showing the world that we can be better. We don’t have to watch the suffering. That we can all try to make this world better.
And the words she said ring so true to me. “I don’t believe in collective guilt. I believe in collective responsibility.”
Truly, those eyes were windows to a beautiful soul.
Nothing spectacular. Just a few images of things that one can expect to see this time of the year (January) at Huntley Meadows, a local wildlife refuge in suburban Alexandria, Virginia. It’s a great place for a walk and for sightseeing.
Almost the same time in the morning as the other day, but boy, a little bit of light make a BIG bit of difference.
It seems that way, at Huntley Meadows. At least in wintertime. The warblers are harder to find, the wading birds are much more plentiful. And once in a while, an unexpected guest. The clapper trail has left everyone buzzing about. And today was a good day to get a picture of this skittish bird.
And some of the other birds floating about.
And a warbler. Or something like it.
I finally had the chance to visit Huntley Meadows after a few weeks of not having the time to do so. It is a familiar place, but every day brings a different experience. Today, it was a river otter swimming in the first pond. And then, a surprise.
It was early in the morning, on an overcast January day. Haven’t seen this one before.
Between the rain and the clouds near the horizon, I almost missed taking a picture of Jupiter and Saturn at conjunction. Well, I did miss it, but here are the two planets, eighth days after the conjunction. You can barely make out Saturn’s rings. The Sony 200-600mm zoom is a great lens, even wide open.
As the day winds down, I turn the TV on and sit transfixed. Mesmerized by the colors and the beauty of the latest Pixar movie – Soul. What can I say. This is another masterpiece from the geniuses at Pixar. This film has so many levels that I think it will take dozens of viewings before I even begin to digest the messages that the movie has to say. The most important thing that it brings to my mind, however, is that we as people waste so much time thinking that things can be so much better that we forget how to live life. It isn’t the glories, the heights of fame and success that defines a person. It’s how we live with our family, how we live in our community. How we touch the ones we love and the people around us. We live a life and we forget that every moment is special. I needed this reminder today. I need to remember this message every day. We obsess and work hard to get somewhere and then when we get there, it often feels like a disappointment. There is an emptiness, a feeling that we must have missed something. What we miss is the part of life that makes it worth living. Being alive means looking around, taking a breath, and watching the world around us. Whether it is in the company of others or in our quiet corner of the house, life is around us. In the warmth of the early morning sun. In the cold stare of Orion as he marches in the winter sky. Life is everywhere. Each step forward, backward, sideways takes us somewhere new. Each step is an opportunity to give meaning to the lives of others. And in so doing, give meaning to our own lives.
No, not the great movie with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. Just leaves, decaying, in the middle of autumn.
Just something different. Topaz Labs has been running a special sale on their products (a complete bundle) for a large discount. The sale is ending today. I don’t use all the products in their catalog, but the two that I use, I use all the time. Two of the best Photoshop plugins that I have ever used are Sharpen AI and De Noise AI from Topaz Labs. The link below will give you a discount if you choose to purchase any of the products. And give me a little bit in return.
I can’t vouch for the other products I don’t use, but I can heartily recommend the two products that I do use. Topaz Sharpen AI and De Noise AI are indispensable tools in my workflow. They are class leading.
I did try Mask AI but I didn’t purchase it – I don’t do a lot of masking so I can use other tools to do that task, if I need to. I don’t upscale often, so I don’t use GigaPixel AI. JPEG to Raw AI? Never used it. I’d like to try their video enhancer product, but it takes a lot of compute power to work. In the end, you buy the tools that you use.
Topaz gives you a lifetime license to use their products but you only have a one year window where you can get upgrades for the product. While your license to use the product does not expire, your ability to download and install updates to the product you purchase expires after a year. I was upset when they changed their pricing model, but at least it is not subscription based and you get to use their product for perpetuity. I ended up buying an additional license to use the two products for another year. The upgrades are worth it, even though the version of the products that I had before renewing were already good. In the end, software companies should sell good products at a good price. Topaz, in my use case, sells products that are invaluable to the work I do. Of course, as with everything else, YMMV.