Return to the Boreas Ponds

I made a solemn vow last year that I would return to this peaceful hideaway one day.

And I did.  And it almost killed me.

Let me explain.

Continue reading “Return to the Boreas Ponds”


St. Joseph’s Church as a foliage fortress

It’s Sunday morning.  And I have an idea.

One of the most impressive parts of the Albany skyline is St. Joseph’s Church on Ten Broeck Street.  But if you try to photograph St. Joseph’s Church FROM Ten Broeck Street, you run into problems with photographing tall structures from the street itself – the building looks tilted, as if it will fall backwards.

St. Joseph’s Church in HDR, 2009. Photo by Chuck Miller.

And as you can see from this picture, we do not possess the Leaning Tower of St. Joseph’s.  Not really.

In 2009, I tried an experiment.  It was Christmas morning, and I got up – drove down I-787 to downtown Albany – parked near the Palace Theater-  walked back up I-787 with my tripod and my Nikon D700 and my old f/4.5 50-300 manual telephoto, and shot for about 20 minutes at St. Joseph’s Church, which was in perfect alignment.  Yeah, it was Christmas morning … and yeah, I should have stayed home and enjoyed the holiday, but I was in a very bad emotional time in my life and I needed to go drive.

I do this on occasion.  You might have noticed it if you read my blog for any reasonable period of time.

So here I am, on I-787 in 2009, and I got this picture out of the batch.

St. Joseph’s Church, Christmas morning, 2009. Nikon D700 camera, Nikkor F/4.5 50-300mm lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Okay, much better… I guess…

You know that feeling when you think you’ve created something spectacular, and then you shelve it and don’t think about it for a few years … and once you see it again, you say to yourself, “Self … you can do better than this.”

Yeah, I said that.

Said it a lot.

Okay, let’s try this one more time.

Sunday morning, 2016.

What can I do with this?

There’s some fall foliage in downtown Albany, so this might be worth a try.

People are sleeping.  It’s not like I’m going to wake anybody up while doing this.

All I need to do is just get down there, grab my camera gear, get to that spot on I-787, shoot shoot shoot, get OFF that spot on I-787, and drive home.

I figured that if I caught the morning sunrise, the warm sunshine would land on the facade of St. Joseph’s Church and cause a beautiful glow.

Um… not with the cloud cover, Miller.

Oh well.  I’m here already, may as well make the best of it.

Photos here and there.  Then down from I-787 and back home.

And after some development and a little color adjustment here and there…

I got this.

St. Joseph's Church 2016. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.
St. Joseph’s Church 2016. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Sweet tap-dancing… I got the foliage, I got the church, it looks like a foliage fortress in the foreboding fall.

I’ll take this for sure.

Put it in one of the short piles, either for Competition Season 2017 or Charity Season 2017.

And memo to self…

Come back in 2023 and try this again.  Who knows what kind of photo can be achieved with this stunt?

Everything’s more colorful in Hollywood

Yesterday, on my way home from a recent photo shoot, I kept my eyes open for more colorful fall foliage photo opportunities.

Nothing here… This piece is nice, but there’s no place to park … Private property, the no trespassing sign is nice and clear…

Oh look, there’s the Hollywood Drive-In at Averill Park.  Not as big as the Jericho Drive-In, but wow look at all that fall foliage right next to the drive-in screen.

Time to stop.

I looked around.  Nobody nearby.

I took a few shots here and there.  Nothing that really leaped out at me…

Until I returned to my car.

That vintage “Hollywood” drive-in sign.  Nice and big.  And it’s right in front of a tree that’s gradually changing colors, almost like one of those old My-T-Fine three-in-one dessert treats.

Couldn’t resist.

Capture it, Chuck.

Hollywood Foliage.  Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Hollywood Foliage. Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Nice.  Almost looks like an old-time Hollywood postcard.  This looks good.

Short pile for 2017.

And you just realize, as you go through these days.  Sometimes beauty is just around the corner, when you least expect it.

And if I’m using a Yakov Smirnoff reference…

In most places, Hollywood discovers you.

In the Capital Region … You discover Hollywood.

The return of the Nikon Df

For the past couple of months, my beloved Nikon Df camera was on the sideline, recovering from a broken shutter blade.  And while I was still able to take pictures with my film cameras, I needed my Df back.  I just do.  It’s like driving a rental car when your personal whip is in the repair shop.  Oh yeah… I remember that.

Anyway, my camera came back last week, with its new Chinese-crafted shutter housing.  And I wanted to test the camera out… I really did…

Yesterday, I woke up, grabbed the Df, and drove to the Adirondacks.  I didn’t know where my final destination would be, only that I would drive as far as I wanted, and would see where the road would take me.

It took me to Warrensburg.  Apparently there were two things going on in Warrensburg this weekend – a big town-wide garage sale, and a blanket of fog over the nearby mountains.  If I could get to the top of those mountains somehow… but I could not find any access roads to the mountain.  Oh well, maybe this side road – no, the bridge on that side road is about to collapse.  Maybe a little further down the road –


That bridge along that side road was about to collapse.  Turn the car around and get a photo of it, Miller!!

Okay.  A quick look at the settings.  Had to switch it back to manual settings.  Slap on the Vivitar 19mm f/3.8.

Get this shot, Chuck.  Don’t miss it.

Troubled Bridge Over Water. Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Troubled Bridge Over Water. Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Smooth.  If the foliage had just turned sooner… that would be perfect.

I drove a little further through Warrensburg, just looking for something worth photographing.  Something that would catch my eye.  Drove for a few miles, then turned around.  And as I rounded a corner, I saw what looked like an old house… with a few, shall we say, welcoming messages.

Welcome. Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Welcome. Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

You can click on the picture for a larger image, so that you can easily read such phrases as “Thou Shalt Not Covet,” “Thou Shalt Not Steal,” “Beware of Vandal,” “Stealing Ain’t Cheap,” and “As Ye Sew, So Shall Ye Reap.”

Well, I didn’t see a sign that said “Thou Shalt Not Take a Graven Image Of Ye Olde Building,” so yeah I snapped a few shots.

On the way back, I drove past some place called Schoon River Campground.  Maybe if it’s a campground near the Schroon River, I might be able to get some nice “reflective fall foliage” shots.  A quick stop, a request for permission to access the Schroon River (permission granted), and off I went.

Hmm… There’s a few spots here and there, the foliage hasn’t completely changed yet, but ooh here’s a funky looking tree branch.  I’ll shoot this in black and white.

The Branch. Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.
The Branch. Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Man, I’m so glad this camera is back in my arsenal.  It felt like I was buck naked without it.

Hey, maybe if I step on this mossy part of the shore, I can get a better shot of this tree branch.

Right foot.  Hmm… ground feels kinda squishy.  No big deal.

Left foot.  Hmm… ground feels kinda sticky.  Ahh, this is nothing to worry about.

Right foot.  And what I thought was a mossy shoreline was actually a soupy mud bog.  And I discovered this the second my leg sank into the mud, all the way to my kneecap.

Okay, that’s a warning.  Time to turn around – one step further, and my left leg sank into the mud.  Again, all the way up to my kneecap.

Deep breath.  You can get out of this.  Remember your Boy Scout training, Miller.

Hmm… My Boy Scout training consisted of going from campground to campground, asking the other troops if they had any left-handed screwdrivers or cans of striped paint.

Don’t worry, though.  I was able to wiggle my way out of the mud and made it home safely.  The driver’s side floorboards in my car will need a detailing, and those jeans have enough mud on them to open a day spa.

Honestly, if that was the worst thing that happened, I’m okay with it.  As far as I’m concerned, the best thing that happened was that my Nikon Df camera and I are back together.

And if these pictures I took on Sunday aren’t “competition season” worthy…

At least they’re a start.  A muddy start, but a start nonetheless.


“Scalpel… rib spreader … TORX screwdriver…”

It was early last August, and I knew something was wrong the moment the heartbeat stopped.

A quick check.  Nothing.

I tried other options.  Nothing.

Not a sound.

Not a beat.

God, no.

Please Lord, no.

With all the horrible things in my life that have turned 2016 into a big mucky mess… this can’t add to the pain.  I can’t have this happen.

And this isn’t even covered by my health insurance.  Thanks, Obama…

So if this really IS happening…

I need a specialist to save this patient.

A quick phone call.




Come on, pick up… pick up…


Good.  Allen Wade is there.  Allen is my camera tech, he’s cleaned the sensors for my Nikon digital equipment, and he’s tuned all my film cameras, from Kodak Red to Raskolnikov.

“Al,” I said… “I think my Nikon Df is dead.”

A few days later – CameraWorks is only open to the public three days a week – I dropped the Df off at CameraWorks’ Latham-based repair shop.

Allen called me later with the news.  “You’ve got a busted shutter blade.”

That's what a broken shutter blade looks like. Ugh.
That’s what a broken shutter blade looks like. Ugh.

Now this sounds serious… but it could be worse.  Although shutter blades are difficult to repair, especially on digital cameras, one can replace the mechanism with a new shutter assembly.  Allen would need to remove the entire shutter assembly inside the Df, and replace it with a new shutter component.  It would need to be a Df shutter; Nikon camera gear isn’t as interchangeable as Eli Whitney’s rifle assembly line.

All Allen needs to do is acquire the replacement shutter assembly.

Which … unfortunately … brings up another issue.

Prior to 2013, independent camera repair shops could purchase repair parts directly from Nikon.  That changed in 2013, when Nikon stopped selling a la carte camera repair parts, choosing instead to license Nikon repair work to less than two dozen “Nikon Certified” shops around the country.  Yeah, that’s like being told you cannot replace your car’s transmission at an AAMCO shop; you would need to bring it back to your dealer or to one of fifteen specialty transmission shops around the nation.

Luckily for me, Allen is a very resourceful camera repair technician.  At first, he tried to contact any of the other camera repair shops or outlets to see if they had a Nikon Df that was in a “parts only” status, that he could maybe cannibalize the shutter assembly from that camera and place it in mine.  Essentially, a shutter transplant.

No dice.

“Unless I can find that shutter for you, Chuck,” he said, “I don’t think I can repair your camera.”

And then… when all hope seemed lost…

I started puttering through eBay auction sites.  Maybe, just maybe, there’s a junked Nikon Df whose shutter assembly is still functional.

No dice.

But I did find this instead – an eBay auction for, of all things, “Original DF Shutter Group with Blade Unit component for Nikon DF.”  The repair part, new-old stock, from China.

I called Allen and told him about the shutter.  He said if I could send him the eBay link, he would order the part.

Listen, I don’t care if my Japanese camera has a Chinese shutter inside.  Have you seen the camera equipment in my possession?  I’ve got a freakin’ United Nations of photography in my apartment.  Cameras from Ukraine and from Germany and from Rochester and from Binghamton.  Interchangeable lenses from Russia and from Japan and from South Korea.  Film from Austria and from Vietnam and from Canada and from God knows where.  And if I can operate a camera that hails from the People’s Republic of Binghamton…

Now I wait.  The part had to arrive from China.  Then, once Allen got the part, he had to take my Nikon Df apart, remove the broken shutter, install the new shutter, reassemble everything, and test the results.

Oh yeah.  That sounds simple.  Now describe the infield fly rule.

Last Wednesday, Allen called me.  “Hey Chuck.”

“Please tell me you have good news,” I replied.

“We got a problem.”

Oh great.

“I took your camera apart, and I can’t put it back together again.”

Oh, just great.

“Just kidding with you, Chuck, she’s all back together and better than ever.”

Oh.  Great!

Yesterday, I picked up the camera.  Allen had it all back together again, he demonstrated a few shots to confirm that yes the camera was functioning up to spec, and he even threw in a free sensor cleaning.  “A mechanic shouldn’t put an engine in a car without at least cleaning the engine,” he said.

And THIS is why I trust CameraWorks with my camera repair work.  And so should you.

FTC DISCLAIMER: At no time did I receive any discount or additional benefit for mentioning CameraWorks or its services in this blog.  This is an unsolicited, unbiased and independent report of using CameraWorks’ services with regard to my camera equipment.  I have no material relationship to any brand or person mentioned in this post.

Recovery of the Milky Way files

Last week, after photographing the nighttime sky up in the Adirondack Mountains, I came home, popped the SD card into my computer, and – the card crashed.  I couldn’t pull any files from the disc.  In fact, the only files I was able to retrieve were a few scattered images that my computer automatically uploaded from the chip to my DropBox account.

And one of the salvaged images was a breathtaking shot of the Milky Way nebula, framed by a tree line.


Milky Way and tree line.  Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 55mm f/1.2 lens.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Milky Way and tree line. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 55mm f/1.2 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

But what about the remaining files on the disc?

Well… apparently Chuck got lucky.  I took the disc to another computer, popped the chip in, and although the machine asked if it could format the disc for me (I politely said no thanks), it did at least allow me access to the disc’s directory.  I quickly copied all the files onto a DVD.  Then I brought the DVD to my Photoshop CS6-loaded computer, and saved the DVD’s contents to my archival directory.


Because in addition to that one shot, I did attempt a panorama shot – eight or nine images along the lakeshore.  Not all of the pictures blended properly after I imported them into PhotoShop, but I was able to assemble this four-image capture.

Skyshot 4.  Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 55mm f/1.2 lens, four images stitched together.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Skyshot 4. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 55mm f/1.2 lens, four images stitched together. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Not bad… but the one image I caught before was better.

Okay, let’s pull this image out of the disc – I tried to photograph the Milky Way along the side of the highway.  No cars in sight.  Nothing.  And then, as I got ready to capture the image in what I hoped would be a nice long exposure…

I hear a car.

Then I see the headlights of the car.

Luckily, I was on the SIDE of the road and not in the MIDDLE of the road… but still…

I decided to let the car’s headlights illuminate my scenery, and…

Route 9 at night.  Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 lens.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Route 9 at night. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Yum.  I wonder how this would fit in the short pile in 2017.  Just a thought…

But I’m still liking the original shot of the Milky Way.

And after much contemplation and thought, I decided to “flip” the original color picture into a B&W construct and enter it in competition in that format.  Oh yeah, and it also gets a real name, as in The Heavens Above, The Forest Below.

The Stars Above, The Forest Below.  Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 55mm f/1.2 lens.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
The Heavens Above, The Forest Below. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 55mm f/1.2 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

And in case you’re wondering, I’m definitely entering this in competition.  Just haven’t decided where.


Maybe my computer was smarter than I thought.  Maybe it knew the one picture that would work amidst the dozens of photos I took on that cloudless, moonless night.

So let’s see how things turn out.


Beaches, birdies and bikinis

Look, I know I’ve been going on and on about my Florida vacation.  But I need to focus on it so that I’m not focusing on other things.  If you know what I mean.

And that includes the remainder of the photos from my cameras.

I spent Memorial Day at Flagler Beach, along Florida’s Central Coast.  I figured each camera I brought would provide different views of the sunshine coast.

And I started at 6:00 in the morning with my Nikon Df camera right on the shoreline, focusing along the horizon to get the sunrise off the water.

Flagler Beach sunrise
Flagler Beach Sunrise. Nkon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.


Wow.  Scuse me while I dance.

I took a few more photos, then ate some breakfast at a nearby eatery called the Funky Pelican.  I asked the server for the local morning cuisine, as I could eat bacon and eggs back home.  She recommended I try the shrimp and grits.  I’m glad she did.

I went back to the car and swapped cameras – this time pulling the Nimslo for some three-dimensional film photos.  Since there were birdies on the beach – mostly they were swiping bait from the fishermen – I waited until I could catch a bird and shoot it.

And you know by “catch” I meant photograph, and by “shoot” I meant photograph.  Right?

Oh look, there’s a little black bird on the pier.  Stay still, little black bird.

Come on, Nimslo, do your best.  Get me a shot of that little black bird.

Great shot of that little black bird on the fence posts.  That works.

Sorry, readers… for some reason, I’ve got a little blackbird on my mind.

Time for more photos.

I took a walk back onto the shore, and found a flag that warns not to swim out too far from the shore.  Hmm… what would this flag look like in a 3D construct?

Let’s find out.

How many shots do I have in the Nimslo?  One left.  Okay, I guess I could take another picture of the “no swimming” flag… then go back to the car and get more film …

Hey, wait a second.  There’s a lifeguard.  And she’s walking by.

“Scuse me.”

She looked at me.

“Is it okay if I take your picture with the ‘no swimming’ sign?”

“Um, I don’t know… I tell you what.  You can take my picture as I’m walking by it, how does that sound?”

Works for me.

One shot, Chuck.  Make it count.

Got it.  Okay, now I need to get this person’s name and have her sign a release form so I can enter this picture in competition season 2017 and …

Oh, crap.  She walked away.  Dang it.  Seven other lifeguards in red swimsuits.  No fair.

Oh well.  I may not be able to enter this photo in competition without a signed release…

But it still looks nice on the blog.

On Wednesday, I drove to Daytona Beach, checked out Daytona International Speedway – took a tour of the grounds, almost saw Danica Patrick there – and then drove over to the white sands of Daytona Beach.  For an additional $10, you can drive on the beach sand, just like the stock car drivers did in the old days – although now you must maintain a 10 mph speed limit, have your lights on (at high noon, no less) and keep one side window open while driving.

I continued forward.  Okay, Leica Green, it’s your turn to shine.

Oh look, someone built some sand castles with a little plastic pail.  Man, this feels great.  I asked the family of sunbathers next to the sandcastles if I could take a photo of the sandy artworks.  They said yes, and then handed me an iPhone so they could get in a picture as well.

“That’s a neat old camera you’ve got there,” one of the family members said to me.

“I know,” I smiled.  “It is a neat camera, isn’t it?”

Beachbuilder's dozen
Beachbuilder’s dozen. Leica M3 (double stroke), Summicron 50 lens, Kodak Ektar 100 film flipped to B&W, then selectively color to restore color to the sandpail. Photo by Chuck Miller.


I walk down the beach, and as I do, I see the lifeguard dragging that high chair to another location.

Oh yeah, you think I’m going to miss an opportunity to get a shot like this?

Silly you.

The Lifeguard at Daytona Beach. Leica M3 camera, Summicron 50 lens, Kodak Ektar 100 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.


Dang, those lifeguards at Daytona Beach are strong, aren’t they?  I’d better not joke about if this lifeguard was previously selling shoes and working in a shopping mall… #blottohumor

Back to the car, and this time I brought out the Rolleiflex.  Yes, I’m going to shoot with every camera on this trip if I can.

I still wanted to capture some ocean birds in their environment.  And unfortunately, these birds were a bit camera shy.  Although they did enjoy eating bait from various beachgoers.  And by “bait,” I mean Cheetos.  No lie.  These seagulls and pelicans and whatnot were more than happy to chomp on junk food.

I did get this shot of one bird soaking his little birdie toes in the surf.

Wade in the water
Wade in the water. Rolleiflex Automat MX camera, Fuji Velvia 100 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.


Damn that’s so peaceful and serene.  And I’m just feeling great.  Smiling like I just discovered milk chocolate.

On Thursday, I started to head home, but first I made a pit stop at St. Augustine Beach.  I picked up dozens of little beach shells for future projects.  I’m always thinking of future projects, I don’t know why…

But now it’s time to bring my Russian ultrawide Krasnogorsk FT-2 camera into the mix.  Come on, Raskolnikov, do your duty…

St Augustine long pier
Along the pier. Krasnogorsk FT-2 camera, Kodak Ektar 100 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.


Wow.  If I keep getting shots like this, I might stay in Florida and never come home.

A few steps around the beach… I grabbed the Rolleiflex and took a few more photos on the pier itself.

Gone Fishin'
Gone Fishin’. Rolleiflex Automat MX camera, Fuji Velvia 100 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.

//, of course, you know this final photo from my trip.  My final photograph, which among all my treasures from this Florida vacation, this is the one that I’m going to enter into competition.  I don’t even care that of the seven cameras I brought to this trip, this photo came from my eighth camera.

Yep.  I’ve decided that one of my entered photos in Competition Season 2016 will include my BlackBerry PRIV’s camera.

St Augustine Pier
The Pier at St. Augustine Beach. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.


I have to hold on to these great memories of my first visit to the Sunshine State.  I have to.  I need to hold on to these as tightly as possible.

I need to hold on to the memories of the good.  The fun.  The peaceful.  The serene.  The amazing.

It was my last great adventure with my 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt SS.

And of the three cars I’ve driven in my lifetime…

I’m going to miss that car most of all.