The Plan of Return

Last October, I journeyed to the Boreas Ponds, the newly-opened parcel in the Adirondack Mountains.  It was an emotional adventure for me, as it involved a five-mile hike to and from the Ponds itself.

I promised myself I would return some day and take more pictures at that peaceful, serene location.

Then life interfered.  A broken foot.  Surgery.  Recuperation.  And just when I was physically able to contemplate the journey … well, I had another break in April, the end of an eight and a half year long co-dependent relationship.  And I had to recover emotionally from that.

Continue reading “The Plan of Return”

Teri Conroy is a saint on Earth

Teri Conroy is a very good friend of mine, we met as bloggers on the old Times Union blog portal.  She operates Wunsapana Farm, a “peaceable kingdom” farm with over a dozen llamas and other agrarian creatures, and the fiber sheared from those llamas exists as high-quality fabric sold around the world.  She’s always let me visit Wunsapana Farm to photograph the llamas if I needed a llama for a Competition Season photo – heck, she once gifted me a Rolleiflex Automat MX twin-lens-reflex camera that was in her possession, so there’s that.

The other day, Teri showed all of us a side of her that we hope that, if the day ever comes, we are able to rise to that level of compassion and dedication.

Let me explain.

Continue reading “Teri Conroy is a saint on Earth”

Thank you. All of you.

A Striped Cup of Flowers. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 55mm macro lens. (c0 2016 Chuck Miller. All rights reserved.

I know it’s been a few days, and we’re all going through some changes of late…

But in those moments, setting up this new blog portal and getting everything back to what would, for me, be a semi-normal state …

I must say this to all of you.  To everybody who supported me through this move, who signed on to receive e-mail alerts from this new blog, who offered encouragement and support and counsel and comfort…

Thank you so much.  You rock like Eddie Van Halen doing an Eruption solo.

Trust me, this is a completely new road for me to travel.  I’m still getting my bearings and trying to figure out what to do and how much to do of it.

But to see all the support from everybody … the Facebook messages of encouragement, the blog posts from Roger Green and Heather Fazio and Rob Madeo and Silvia Lilly on their own personal blogs… the messages from friends of mine, letting me know that everything is going to be fine… the offers of, “Hey, I know WordPress, ask me any questions and I’ll help you out in getting your page to look great” – all of this means a lot.  It really does.  You are amazing.

In three days, I’ve acquired over 700 subscribers to this new blog.  SEVEN FREAKIN’ HUNDRED.  That’s more subscribers than I ever had at the old place.  That’s better than finding an old 1989 Upper Deck unopened foil pack, opening it and finding six Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards inside.

So where do we go from here?

Forward, obviously.  That’s the best direction anyone can travel.  Elevators don’t go sideways.

And that’s what I plan to do.  Move forward.

I’m currently waiting on the arrival of some fantastic new photography projects – including one that may indeed be a new compliment to my long-standing “Dream Window” artwork upscale series.  I’m just waiting for the finished project to arrive from the fabricator.

I just received a new photo lens in the mail yesterday – something called an Irix 15mm f/2.4 rectilinear lens.  Oh man I can NOT wait to haul this little piece of glass out to the Adirondacks on a starry night…

And this week, I’m going back to playing regular competitive team trivia.  I’ve been on the shelf for too damn long.  It’s time to get back there and play once again.  I’ve got a new place in Troy that I’m visiting tonight, and I definitely need my fix of garlic parm chicken wings at Graney’s Stout on Wednesday night.  Yeah.  This feels good.

This feels good.  It’s like when you buy a car and it has that plastic-vinyl-octane smell inside?  You know, “New Car Interior” smell.

Right now, I’m enjoying this “New Blog Interior” smell.  This is better than when Glade met Airwick and had a kid named Renuzit.

So once again… thank you all so very much.  All of you are fantastic.

And now … it’s time for me to get back to work.  I’ve got a new blog post that will go live in an hour or so.  You know the drill.  New blog every day.  I can’t change that any more than I can un-train a border collie.

Talk to you soon.

January Motivations

Step and Pivot. AGFA Clipper Special f/6.3 camera, Kodak Ektar 100 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Step and Pivot. AGFA Clipper Special f/6.3 camera, Kodak Ektar 100 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Trying to stay motivated while you’re waiting for surgery is brutal.  But I have to persevere.  There’s no other way around it.

Get up in the morning.  Write a blog post.  Then go on with my day.

And it’s tough.  I know that there’s so many issues ahead that I must counter.

But I have to distract myself.  Focus on other things.  And the rest will follow in time.

So through all the negative news I’ve received in 2016… maybe it’s time to get some positive news for 2017.

I received word from Tim Rich, the captain of my Stir Crazy trivia team, that Stir Crazy has qualified for the 2017 World Tavern Trivia championships, again in Atlantic City in the spring.  This is good news.  We came in second place among 40 teams last year.  And there’s an old saying in sports, when it comes to championships, sometimes you have to lose one to eventually win one.  So now we can focus on future goals.  Which will be lots of fun.

I also received word that Trivia Bowl XIII is scheduled for February 4 at Wolf’s 1-11 in Colonie.  Trust me, I don’t care if they have to wheel me into the restaurant on a gurney and haul me out on a body board, there’s no way anyone can stop me and my Street Academy trivia team from going in there and aiming for our third Trivia Bowl championship.

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

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

The picture you see at the top of this blog post?  Yep, I’ve renamed it “Step and Pivot.”  And it, along with the photo at right, “Faith and Frost,” have already been sent to McGreevy Pro Lab as my first two printable entries for Competition Season 2017.  Where will I enter them?  Altamont?  The Big E?  Maybe a place I haven’t won at lately, like the New York State Fair?  Maybe somewhere I haven’t won ever, like Iowa?  I don’t know.  But I have to make this work.  My photos are one of the few things that keep me going.  And a successful start to Competition Season 2017 might be one hell of a medicine.

I’m also keeping an eye out for some of the Capital District’s upcoming art shows.  I’ve submitted my entries to the Photo Center of Troy’s “Best of 2016” show, and am carefully looking through my nature photos for submissions to the Thacher Park Nature Center event.

And in May … well, if you want to see another Chuck Miller solo gallery event … you might want to consider marking down your calendars.  Just a tease…

I also have to make plans for July.  Because if all goes well, I plan to fly to Washington State and visit my son Kris for a few days.  Which should be lots of fun, I haven’t been to the Pacific Northwest in over a decade.

And a week ago, I used a gift certificate that someone gave me in a local Secret Santa exchange to buy a swank 21-pane Queen Anne window at Silver Fox Salvage.  Yep, I’ve got Dream Window construction on my mind.  Big surprise, eh?

Motivations.  For every day I have to think about this surgery, about the recovery, about my health, about my emotional state…

And no matter how many events or prevents by the regents of egregement try to stop me…

I have to keep motivated.  I have to focus on those goals of achievement and happiness.

Giving up stopped being an option years ago.

Getting up is the new option.

Hello 2017.

Give me whatever you can.

I’ve faced 2016.  You can’t be any worse than that.

The clear thought at I-787

Ugh. Rainy Saturday morning.  Normally, I take my laundry to a wash-and-fold place in Watervliet, but since their prices recently increased, I found a different wash-and-fold place in Albany at the Hannaford Plaza.  One basket of clothes later, I was on my way.

Normally I have two ways of leaving the Town and Village of Green Island to pick up I-787.  I can access I-787 through the intersection at Tibbits Avenue, or I could drive down Lower Hudson and enter I-787 through the Exit 8 on-ramp.  This time, I felt like taking the Tibbits Avenue interchange.

As I approached the intersection and waited for the light to turn green, I saw a white Honda crossover vehicle in the 787 breakdown lane.  Hmm.  Flat tire?  Out of gas?  I changed my turn signal from left to right, and when the light turned green, I pulled up behind the Honda.

“Everybody okay?  Do you need assistance?”

The driver was walking around his vehicle.  I noticed some cracks in his car’s rear fender.  “I’m okay,” he said.  Then he pointed behind me.  “That woman in the car that hit me, I don’t know…”

I looked in the rearview.  There was a Hyundai Elantra stuck in the middle lane.  Its front end was completely caved in, compressed like the bellows of an accordion.

You have no idea how fast a man with a broken foot can run.  I got over there as quick as humanly possible.

Inside the crumpled car was a woman in her mid-30’s.  She seemed unhurt, but was frantically searching through her glove box for her registration and insurance.  “Are you okay?”  I asked.  “Do you need assistance?”

“I’m stuck,” she said.  “I can’t move the car.”

I assessed the situation.  Other drivers were giving her plenty of room, driving slowly around her crumpled car.  I thought about whether the car could be pushed to the breakdown lane, but the front end was completely torn up, fluids were leaking from the engine, and car parts were strewn all over the ground.  “Stay in the car,” I said.  “I’m calling 911.”

911 on the BlackBerry.  I immediately reached a dispatcher, who patched me through to the police and to the fire department and the EMT’s.  I gave the exact location of the two-car accident.  They said help was on the way.

Flashing lights zipping up 787.  Another set of strobes coming from Tibbits Avenue.  And after making sure that the police didn’t need me for anything else, I drove away.

And all through my mind … I’m thinking.  Those drivers are going to be okay.  No matter what caused the accident … their lives may be disrupted, but in time things will get better.   Cars can be replaced.  People, not so much.  I know this first-hand.

So instead of driving to the laundromat for a Saturday morning wash-and-fold … I treated myself.  A quick stop at Colonie Center, and two brand new flannel button-down shirts from L.L. Bean are now in my wardrobe.  A nice Chuck-to-Chuck Christmas present from me to me.  A personal reward.

I’ll take care of the laundry on Sunday.

Taking stock on my clock

I’m currently trying anything and everything to take my mind off my broken foot.  I have to.  Because if I can at least focus on other things, then I can get through another day and get one day closer to healing or surgery or repair or whatever.

So I’m trying to focus on other projects, other calculations, other mental manipulations.

I have to.

Distraction has to be the better part of my mind right now.

Shoreline at Hampton Beach, N.H.  Nikon D700 camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Shoreline at Hampton Beach, N.H. Nikon D700 camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

For the past couple of days, I’ve gone through my photography archive and looked at images that I thought at the time were decent, but never really gave them much of a second thought.  Now that I have more advanced photography editing software on my computer, between Adobe Photoshop and the Nik Collection software filters, I can find something strong in these old photos.

Like the Marine Memorial at Hampton Beach, which you see above.  The statue is sillhouetted against a canopy of angry storm clouds, a wreath in her stony hands, a prayer for those at sea to all return home.

Sneakers in Schuyler Flatts. Nikon D700 camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Yeah, here’s a shot from the winter of 2012.  I remember seeing those sneakers, as they dangled on the snowy branches of a Watervliet park.  As I re-edited this photo, I thought about how I could improve on this shot.  I can wait until winter, toss a pair of my old, muddy, no-longer-fit-for-footwear sneakers on a tree branch like this, and maybe shoot with my 3D film camera and turn it into a lenticular print, what with the tree branches and dirty kicks and whatnot.

We Cut Keys.  Nikon D700 camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
We Cut Keys. Nikon D700 camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Oh yeah, and there’s this photo.

This little image was caught in February 2013, adjacent to an abandoned, condemned building on Clinton Avenue.  That little sign in the window – “WE CUT KEYS” – just below the abandoned satellite television dish – pretty much adds to the ultimate dichotomy, doesn’t it?

I wonder if the building’s still there.  I could go and see.  And maybe re-take the picture.  Or expand on this one.

I know.  I’m still trying to focus on breaking out of this malaise.  It’s almost as if 2016 has become a series of derailments, one after the other.  It’s not fair.  I know it’s not fair.

So I need to focus on other things.

Like my car, for instance.

In late June 2016, I purchased my fourth-ever car, a 2013 candy-red Chevrolet Cruze.  And I’ve slowly grown accustomed to my vehicle, which I’ve nicknamed “Dracourage,” a portmanteau of “Dragon” and “Courage.”

And as is my custom with buying cars, I don’t just pay the minimum car payment every month.  I pay extra.  I throw a few extra dollars on the car note when I can.  If a photo of mine sells, that’s on the car payment.  If I do some freelance work for a friend and they offer me some coin, it goes into the Dracourage car fund.

Yesterday, I did some calculations.  And I came up with $22.58.

$22.58 is the average per-day amount I could pay if I wanted Dracourage lien-free and loan-free on August 25, 2018 – my 55th birthday.  That would be three and a half years ahead of time, and yes it does entail a lot of will power and dedication.  Besides, what’s $22.58 a day right now?  Two tickets to a movie?  A decent sit-down white-tablecloth dinner?

Then, on my Facebook page, I received word that one of the boutique photo labs I once used – DR5, which was the only lab capable of producing images from AGFA Scala 200 B&W slide film – has relocated and is now in the testing stage of resurrecting that product and service.  Aces.

You see, I still have one sealed roll of fresh Scala (well, it expired in 2007, but B&W film can stay fresh for decades), and if I can get some stunning B&W shots of the wintery Adirondack Mountains this year… ooh those would look stellar in competition, yes they would.  Maybe a shot deep in the heart of the Adirondack Park – maybe a return to the Boreas Ponds, or possibly a recapture of the White Mountains of Vermont, or even breaking through and finding some lightly lurking, lilting luxury locked in my imagination, and setting it free by pressing a camera shutter button and whispering, “Say cheese.”

And if I keep focused on these goals … reviewing my old photos and making them better; reconsidering some of my original photo concepts and deciding how to improve on them; creating some dutiful, dynamic financial target and aiming for it like William Tell in an orchard – I can set things in motion.  I can stop focusing on my broken body and my fractured psyche.

I can do this.

I have to do this.

And if I slip and fall…

I have to get up and keep walking.

And after I walk…

Then I can run.

And when I run… I will reach those goals.

Not “if” I reach those goals.

When I reach those goals.

And I hope you’ll be there with me.

Let’s get there together.