Remembering that Great Local TV Game Show, “Pick-A-Show”

Once upon a time, back in at least the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the three major television stations in our Capital District broadcast area, WRGB-6, WTEN-10 and WAST-13 (no, those were WNYT’s earlier call letters) oftentimes produced their own five-day-a-week morning entertainment programs.  While Channel 13 had “Romper Room” (which I think every city in the United States had their own locally-produced version of this show), and WTEN had “Dialing for Dollars” (their excuse to run an old movie and call people to see if they were actually watching, if they were watching they won money), WRGB had probably the kitschiest game show I’ve ever seen – either locally or nationally.

It was called “Pick-A-Show.”  The program ran for about ten years, starting maybe in 1965 and ending around 1973 or 1974.

The program was part game show, part promotional event for the WRGB-WGY family of announcers and broadcasters and on-air talent, and it was also the chance for housewives throughout the Capital District to pick up a few extra dollars – as long as they could guess the winning answers.  And it starred David Allan, the songwriter-singer-announcer who at last report was working for WABY Radio as an on-air personality.

David Allan in front of the giant Pick-A-Show game board.  Image from The Best of Pick-A-Show, Scooter Records, 1972.
David Allan in front of the giant Pick-A-Show game board. Image from "The Best of Pick-A-Show," Scooter Records, 1972. Photo taken by Gerald Choinard.

This is most likely the only surviving image of David Allan and the giant Pick-A-Show game board, along with the giant cube of postcards and the telephone used to call contestants.

Game play was simple.  Those who wished to play Pick-A-Show sent in postcards with their names, addresses and a daytime telephone number.  Allan would reach into the bin, announce what city he would be calling, and start dialing.  The lucky caller – if he or she was home – would be asked by Allan the name of the Preview show that was announced at the start of the Pick-A-Show telecast (the “Preview show” was often an NBC primetime series like “Name of the Game” or “The Virginian” or one of the other programs WRGB, at that time an NBC affiliate, aired).  If the contestant knew the name of the preview show, then the game began.

The Pick-A-Show Game Board.  Photo from album The Best of Pick-A-Show, copyright Scooter Records, 1972.
The Pick-A-Show Game Board. Image from "The Best of Pick-A-Show," Scooter Records, 1972. Photo taken by Gerald Choinard.

If you can see the game board in the picture, you can see that on the left side of the game board are the illuminated letters W R G B.  The contestant had to guess which of the three shows on the top row of the game board had the letter “W” behind them.  Picking the “W” got the contestant five dollars, and the chance to move to the second round of play.

The second round meant choosing which of the four TV shows listed on the second row had the letter “R” behind them.  Remember, you only get two chances to find that “R”.  Finding it earns the contestant another $5.

Gameplay continues down to trying to find the letter “G” among five television shows, and the letter “B” among the bottom row of six shows.

Should a contestant get to the bottom row and successfully find the “B”, they had one chance to find the “6” behind one of six different WRGB-produced programs.  The picture I scanned wasn’t in very sharp focus, but I can make out that some of the shows listed in the “6” include such programs as “TV Tournament Time,” “Answers Please” and the “6 O’Clock News.”

The $505 amount seen in the picture was a progressive jackpot; the show would add $5 for every contestant who failed to successfully complete the game.

In addition to playing the telephone game, “Pick-A-Show” also, from time to time, had guests who were performing at the Colonie Coliseum stop by – maybe they would sing a song or make small talk with David Allan.  On occasion, several announcers and/or performers from WGY would visit the WRGB studios and entertain the viewers by singing a song or playing a guitar.

David Allan left WRGB in the mid-70’s and joined WAST-13, creating a different variation of “Pick-A-Show” with the call-in game “Pitfall.”  Same style of gameplay, in that you had to find certain prizes that were hidden behind the letters P, I, T, F, A, and LL.  Not as fun as Pick-A-Show, IMHO.

As for Pick-A-Show, I believe that all the episodes of the show were broadcast live, and I highly doubt that any episodes were ever saved to videotape.  The only evidence of the show’s existence was a 1972 record album, “The Best of Pick-A-Show,” that was produced as a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Associations of America.  The record album focuses on Allan’s humorous interactions with contestants, as well as musical performances by WRGB/WGY personalities Harry Downie and Earle Pudney, as well as a vocal number by General Electric Broadcasting President Reid L. Shaw.  Sadly, the record album has very little recorded gameplay, focusing instead on Allen’s telephone calls and the musical numbers.

Hey WRGB – maybe it’s time to have a “Retro” Week where you can bring back shows like “Pick-A-Show,” “TV Tournament Time,” “Student Spectrum,” “Teenage Barn,” “Answers Please” and “The Freddie Freihofer Show” – if not the original broadcasts, then how about creating new episodes for a few weeks?  Might be kind of fun.

Or maybe somebody in the WRGB archive might have a copy of an old episode of Pick-A-Show that could be shown on WRGB’s website?  Maybe?

Signboards, Thunderstorms, and the results of my photograph at the NYS Fair

7 in the morning.  My wife Vicki and I finally get of Albany and head to the New York State Fair in Syracuse.

Rule #1 about traveling to the NYS Fair – bring comfortable shoes.  You will be walking.  A LOT.

Rule #2 – Bring some sort of rain gear, like an umbrella.  The skies will open up without warning and you will be drenched – or, alternatively, you will be forced to seek shelter in the Poultry Barn while waiting for the dove to bring back the olive tree branch.

Still, it was a great time at the Fair, I think Vicki spent about two hours just in the miniature circus museum, taking pictures of all the various dioramas and hand-crafted circus miniatures.  We also got to see several entertaining exhibits – everything from Irish step-dancers to competitive rabbit judging.  Fun stuff.

During our stay at the Fair, Vicki kept pointing at these painted cutouts – the kind where you stick your head through the hole and someone takes your picture, with your head grafted onto a goofy painting.  “Go over there, Chuck, and put your head through the sign, I want to take a picture of you as an ear of corn.”

Yeah… that’s not going to happen.

“Go over there, Chuck, and put your head through the sign, I want to take a picture of you as a cow.”

Um… no.

“Oh, come on, Chuck, I’m not having fun if you don’t at least do this for me.”

So we’re eating lunch at the Fair (which for me actually meant chicken spiedies and poutine, items I did not normally expect to find – but am glad I did).  She asks me again to stick my head in a sign board.

“Vicki,” I replied.  “I love you, but I would be too embarrassed to do something like that.  That’s for little kids.  However, I’ll make a deal with you.  We haven’t been to the Mills Art Center yet, so here’s what I’ll agree to.  If my photo wins 3rd place, I will pose in ONE signboard.  If my photo wins 2nd place, I will pose in TWO signboards.  If by chance I won first place, I will pose in as many signboards as you have camera film.  But it’s gotta win at least third place, or I don’t go anywhere near a signboard.”

“Agreed.”

When we got to the Mills Art Center, I looked around for the picture.  All the entrants – professional, amateur, youth, color, black and white, non-traditional, painting, sculpture – were all grouped throughout the second floor of the Mills Art Center.

Somewhere my photo was on display.  But where?

“There it is!” Vicki shouted.

I looked.  And sure enough… there it was.

My shot from last season’s Premier Basketball League playoffs… with Mook Reaves putting the ball in the hoop for Rochester, while Sammy Monroe (upper left), Sam Carey (lower left) and Marlowe Currie (lower right) can only watch.

The photo was two sets over from the winning photo in that category, a picture of a frog in a green pond.

I had won a ribbon in my first photographic competition, and I was both excited and relieved.

Relieved – I say – because I saw the color of the ribbon that I had won.

I was one of ten photographs in that category to pick up Honorable Mention honors.

While the Fair gave out a ribbon for first place, two ribbons for second, and two ribbons for third, ten ribbons were bestowed on those photos that earned serious merit and consideration – the “honorable mention.”  In other words, they didn’t win, but they were so good that they deserved recognition as well.

And Honorable Mention meant one more thing for me.

I didn’t have to stick my head in any signboards whatsoever.

Still, we had a fun time at the rest of the fair – until the rains came.  We took shelter in the poultry building, where we got to watch everything from rabbits being judged and receiving their own winning ribbons, to various displays of roosters, chickens, pigeons and cavies.  Really fun stuff.  And it was great to see my wife, who has an aversion to anything that looks like an animal, happily taking pictures of all the entrants.

It was a long day, and just as we headed back to our car to drive back to Albany, the heavens opened up again and another thunderstorm pounded our trip.  We drove safely home, but there were plenty of drivers on the Thruway shoulder, hoping to ride out the storm.  One driver (heading westbound) actually was going too fast for the weather conditions, and hydroplaned his car into a guardrail.  As we were headed Eastbound, and in the opposite lane of traffic to the accident, we could not safely pull over to offer assistance; however, I gave my cell phone to Vicki and told her to dial 911, gave the 911 dispatcher the mile marker and coordinates of the accident, and that the 911 dispatcher would send help.

It was a great time at the Fair.  Today – I’m probably just going to recover from all the walking and rain.  And a bad case of fried pickle chips.  I don’t know what they fried the pickle chips with, but I think I saw a bottle of Castrol nearby the fryolator.

How hanging from a ceiling by your toenails can get an award-winning photo

Some background.

One of the companies for which I do freelance work is the Premier Basketball League.  This minor league hoops circuit has teams spread throughout the eastern United States and Canada, and it just finished its second year of operation.

Essentially my weekends while the PBL was in session required my driving to some of the teams’ home games and get action photographs that could be used by the league to promote itself.  For me, that meant jumping into my 1991 Pontiac 6000 and driving to Buffalo’s Koessler Athletic Center on the Canisius campus to photograph the Buffalo Stampede.  It meant driving to Blue Cross Arena at the Rochester Community War Memorial to get action shots of the Rochester Razorsharks.  It meant traveling to Southern New Hampshire University for games with the Manchester Millrats.  It meant driving through the winding Vermont highways to capture Vermont Frost Heaves games at either the Barre Municipal Auditorium or the Burlington Memorial Auditorium (the team had two different venues).  It meant grabbing my passport and covering games at Centre Pierre-Charbonneau for games involving the Montreal Sasquat’ch, and then traipsing up to Quebec City to see Quebec Kebs games at Pavillion de la Jeunesse.

So last March, during a playoff game at Blue Cross Arena between the Rochester Razorsharks and the Manchester Millrats, I had an idea.  Blue Cross Arena is one of those multipurpose facilities that have ceiling catwalks and scaffolding.  After clearing my request with Blue Cross Arena security, I received special one-time permission to shoot some of the playoff action from that game from the catwalk.  I aimed straight down at the basket with my Nikon D70, using an f/2.8 lens at a shutter speed of 1/500.  Among the ceiling shots I acquired was this little doozy.

Action Under the Basket - Rochester Razorsharks versus Manchester Millrats, March 2009. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Action Under the Basket - Rochester Razorsharks versus Manchester Millrats, March 2009. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Needless to say, the photo was an immediate success with the PBL.

So a few weeks ago, when I discovered that the Great New York State Fair had a photography contest exhibition as part of their lineup of contests (silly me, I thought the only contests for Fairs were prize goats and best apple pies), I decided to enter this picture.

The Fair required that the photo be blown up to 16×20 size and mounted on foamboard, so I couldn’t just send them the photo in a rolled tube.  Since the Fair offered a one-day physical “drop-off” period for entries, I drove the 2 1/2 hour drive to Syracuse, with this photograph mounted and sized to contest specifications, to drop the photo off for judging.

As I pulled into the Art Center parking lot on the State Fair campus, I saw other people pulling mounted, foam-boarded entries out of their cars for the same drop-off purpose.  The receivers inside the Art Center made sure that every entry had an accompanying postcard that could alert the entrants if their photo was accepted or rejected.  One of the receivers took each entrant’s photo entry, and simply said, “That’s a nice photo.”  “That’s a good photo.”  “What a nice photo.”

I handed the receiver my two entries – one photo was an etherial shot of Washington Park at midnight.  “That’s a nice photo,” she said, almost robotically.

I then handed her the photo you see in this blog post.

“That’s a nice – Oh my God, how did you get that shot???

When I heard that comment, at that moment … I knew this photo had a chance.

Flash forward a week later.  It’s a hot Saturday morning and I’m out trying to get the veldt that I call my lawn down to a manageable level.  The postman drops off our family mail.  Among the usual assortment of bills and junkmail and Valspak coupon booklets were the two postcards from the New York State Fair.

I sat down on my front porch steps and looked at the postcards.

My first entry, “Washington Park After Dark” – which, by the way, looks like this –

Washington Park After Dark.  Photo by Chuck Miller
Washington Park After Dark. Photo by Chuck Miller

received this postcard:

That box in the lower right is checkmarked “not accepted.”  That either means they have too many entries that look like my entry, my entry wasn’t among the top votegetters, or that I should sell my equipment and take up horticulture.  Who knows?

Meanwhile, my basketball photograph received this postcard –

Instead of “not accepted,” the card was checked “Accepted” – and also checked “WINNER!”

Winner – you mean my hanging from my toenails from the Blue Cross Arena ceiling last spring actually paid off?!?

I will spare you the grisly details of me dancing around the house like Cousin Balki in Perfect Strangers.

Unfortunately, being told you are a “winner” doesn’t mean you are told what you won.  The photography contest awards prize money and ribbons in the following breakdown – one prize for first place, two prizes for second place, two prizes for third place, and ten “Honorable Mention” awards.  So fifteen photos will receive ribbons of merit; but the top five will also receive money.

The only way I’m going to find out what I won is to essentially drive out to Syracuse, take in a day at the Fair, and see for myself.

Which is what I’m going to do this Saturday morning.  Load up the car – take my wife Vicki on a road trip – and enjoy a day at the Great New York State Fair.

Wish me luck.  I’ve never won a competitive photography award before.  So this will be my first.

My 10 favorite TV shows of 2008-09

Summer’s almost over, and I’m thinking back to the TV shows I started to watch with great anticipation, only to give up on them halfway through their broadcast runs. And other shows that I still continue to watch, whether they be intellectually stimulating or just electronic comfort food from the glass teat, as Harlan Ellison would say.
The following is a list of my ten favorite TV shows from the 2008-09 season. These were shows that I would make a concerted effort every week to watch, or DVR, or call my wife when I’m not home and ask her to set the DVR for me. I am listing them alphabetically, and if I’m missing your favorite shows on this list – well, that’s what the comments page is for.

  1. The Big Bang Theory (CBS) – Probably the only television show about geek culture that doesn’t make geek culture seem less than appealable. The adventures of Leonard, Sheldon, Raj and Wolowitz, along with their hot-but-clueless neighbor Penny, is just great television candy.
  2. Deadliest Catch (Discovery Channel) – I don’t eat crab legs that often, but I enjoy watching the camaraderie and danger of those who work on the fishing vessels Northwestern, Cornelia Marie, Wizard and Time Bandit. It’s one of my favorite “candid” reality shows.
  3. Dollhouse (FOX) – I never got into all that Josh Whedon fanboy worship (you know, the ones that are still petitioning for Firefly to return to network television), but I really got into this series about programmable people who solve problems and then get their minds erased – sort of like “Rent-A-Solution.” The storylines keep you interested throughout the run. Plus, Eliza Dushku is Death Valley hot.
  4. Flashpoint (CBS / CTV) – Yes, it’s another procedural drama from CBS, where you can’t swing a cat without hitting a CSI or an NCIS or one of their spinoffs or clones. But Flashpoint is different, in that the show itself doesn’t always have the cut-and-dry happy ending. Characters die. Characters get hurt. And for the men and women of the Strategic Response Unit, each case has after-effects that continue throughout the series run. Plus, it’s fun to play “Spot the Canadian” – even though the show downplays its Toronto location, every so often (at least once per episode) there will be a reference to a Toronto street, neighborhood, or nearby Ontario location or local doughnut/coffee shop.
  5. Friday Night Lights (NBC / Direct TV) – How much do I love this family drama about a Texas town where high school football is all the rage? Let me count the ways. It’s a great drama series, the acting and storylines are top-notch, and I deliberately avoided any spoiler alerts (as the series was first broadcast on Direct TV, which I don’t have, so I had to wait patiently for the NBC broadcasts to air). Thankfully, the series will return for at least two more seasons.  A side note – how painful is it when three of my Top 10 were on at the same date and time (Dollhouse, Flashpoint and Friday Night Lights all aired Friday nights at 9pm).  This meant I had to watch one show live (usually Flashpoint), one DVR’d (Dollhouse) and then wait for Time Warner’s On Demand to show the rebroadcast of Friday Night Lights.  Wow wee.
  6. Little Mosque on the Prairie (CBC) – I have to watch this series through imported Canadian DVD’s and YouTube postings, but it’s both hilarious and sweet. Imagine a culture-clash sitcom featuring a Muslim neighborhood in a Canadian prairie town. It sounds offensive, but when you watch the first couple of episodes you realize it’s about as offensive as an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies. And at times, just as funny!
  7. Pushing Daisies (ABC) – One day in my life, I’ll make a list of all the shows I used to love that were cut down too early in their prime – shows like Max Headroom and Dark Angel and the like. Pushing Daisies would be on that list. Whether it’s the Tim Burton-influenced visual style or the delicate but definite wordplay, this show was fantastic. Smite the knuckleheads at ABC for not giving it a decent sendoff, although I will add a caveat in that the show did at least get a wrap-up finale of some sort.
  8. United States of Tara (Showtime) – The last time I ever saw Toni Colette in anything, she was playing the frumpy teen Muriel (or was it Mariel?) in the film Muriel’s Wedding. You know, the one that was full of ABBA songs before anyone ever heard of a Mamma Mia musical. In this show, Colette runs the gamut as a person with multiple personalities, playing every personality as if they had a life of their own – and convincingly so. A really funny show with lots of nuances.
  9. The Venture Brothers (Cartoon Network / adult swim) – My favorite late-night cartoon skewers every action cartoon cliche, throws in about 50 pop culture references per episode, and is just a complete and unharnessed riot to watch.  This show has more sensibility than most current prime-time network fare.  If you haven’t caught The Venture Brothers on Cartoon Network’s late-night adult swim block, you need to do so and fast.
  10. VH1 Dating “Of Love” Shows (VH1) – You know it’s the same dang show over and over again, whether it’s Flavor Flav or Bret Michaels or one of Flavor Flav’s rejects or one of Bret Michaels’ castoffs, or whether the castoffs are competing in “I Love Money” or “Charm School” or “Tool Academy,” these human trainwreck dating shows are completely addictive and fun to watch. It’s like going to see the freak tent at the circus – see the guys with multiple tattoos and piercings! See the girls with Goodyear-inspired floatation devices! Watch as people have emotional meltdowns one day, and then are as chipper as a squirrel with a cachet of acorns the next!

There were a lot of shows I could have included on this list, but I have to catch up on DVR episodes of Lost and Fringe, and Heroes just fell off my radar (are there people on that show that DON’T have some sort of superpower?). Plus, I could have added The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (HBO), Escape to Chimp Eden (Animal Planet) and So You Think You Can Dance (FOX), but then it would have been a Top 13 and this ain’t college football, where you can have eleven teams in the Big 10.

Reminiscing about Sunoco NFL ’72

Chuck Miller reminisces about collecting football stickers that were part of a gas station premium promotion in the 1970’s.

A long time ago, back in ancient times, when gas cost less than 50c/gallon and service stations had employees that came out to your car, pumped your gasoline, wiped your windshield, checked your fluids and handed you a roadmap – yeah, I know, imagine something like that today.  But I digress…

I’m currently taking you back to 1972.  At that time, I was nine years old, and I loved watching football on TV.  At that time, Sunoco service stations offered a special promotion – fill your gas tank with Sunoco fuel, and in exchange Sunoco would give you an envelope filled with football trading stickers.  You could also purchase a sticker album, which came with various historical notes on every one of the 24 franchises in the National Football League.  It also had a swank watercolor cover that just screamed 1970’s sports art.

NFL Action 72
NFL Action '72

Of course we all collected the stickers.  And of course, we all pasted them into the above stampbook without question.  We discovered over the course of the season that there were actually more stamps than there were pages in the book; we also discovered that the stickers made great door decorations (at least until your mother caught you slapping an Archie Manning football sticker on your bedroom door and you caught trouble for it).

By comparison to today’s trading cards, complete with full-bleed photos, holographic stickers, and swatches of game-used jersey fabric, these football stickers are spartan at best.

It’s sorta hard to even see the players’ faces in these stickers, what with the full face masks of the time.

And since this was printed prior to the 1972-73 season, the biographies of each team were written before such words as “Immaculate Reception” or “Undefeated Season” or “Chad Ochocinco” became part of the football venacular.

On a personal note – This wasn’t my original copy of NFL ACTION ’72 that you see here.  I had a completed edition of this booklet, but I actually gave my first copy away as a gift to a second grade classmate whose family was going to move out of state.  Thinking I had done something noble and considerate, I told my parents when I got home of my charitable gift.

My stepfather, who had specifically filled up at Sunoco for the past four months just to help assemble that sticker book for me, was surprisingly NOT enamored with my act of giving.

It wasn’t until maybe 2007 when I bought this copy of NFL ACTION ’72 in an eBay auction.  Every so often I pull it off the shelf, look through the pages, reminisce about growing up – then I put it back on the shelf.

My Nikon camera: Weapons of Choice

An overview of how Chuck Miller went from a simple point-and-shoot camera to a powerhouse camera with a gallery of lenses.

I didn’t set out to initially learn photography.  My original camera was a Nikon CoolPix 800, which I used primarily to photograph record albums and 45’s for use in one of my record collector’s guides.  It was a down and dirty camera, and i used it as much as I could – not realizing that all I had was a glorified digital point-and-shoot camera.  The photo of the Hamilton College chapel, taken at my 15th college reunion, was shot with my Nikon CoolPix 800.

Hamilton College Chapel, Clinton, N.Y.
Hamilton College Chapel, Clinton, N.Y. Photo by Chuck Miller.

In 2005, when the Albany Patroons returned to the CBA, I started taking pictures for the team.  But my CoolPix couldn’t match up with the action shots that the newspaper photographers were achieving, so I decided to step up my game and purchase a Nikon D70 digital SLR camera.  It came with what was called the “kit” lens, and I thought I had moved into the big leagues – especially when I could get photographs of Albany’s super-slammer (and future NBA star) Jamario Moon nearly every night.

Jamario Moon dunks in a January 2006 Albany Patroons game.  Photo copyright Chuck Miller.
Jamario Moon dunks in a January 2006 Albany Patroons game. Photo copyright Chuck Miller.

It was at that point that I learned that the “kit” lens just won’t cut it in professional photography.  Shooting at F/3.5 aperture in the cavernous Washington Avenue Armory was like trying to light a cave with a firefly.

Eventually, I discovered that one could amass a decent camera lens arsenal by visiting everything from eBay to craigslist.  From eBay I acquired my first f/2.8 telephoto lens, which was sold at a discount because the previous owner had removed the rubber grip around the lens barrel and, for his own preference, wrapped the barrel in tennis racquet grip.  Yes, I have the only Nikon lens that says “Prince” on the side.

Albany Patroons Emeralds dance team, 2006.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Albany Patroons "Emeralds" dance team, 2006. Photo by Chuck Miller.

After that came my first f/1.8 85mm lens, which helped capture the action like never before.  I even added a Loreo 3-D lens, which allowed me to shoot pictures similar to the old stereopticon photographs of a century ago.  I used it for a while, and it had some fun benefits to it, but it only had two settings (F/11 and F/22), so except for shots like the one you see of the Patroons dance team, the Emeralds – I often left my Loreo in the camera bag.

In 2007, I acquired my first f/1.8 50mm “pancake” lens – it was also my first manual-focus lens, which opened for me a new avenue of photography.  See, one of the great things about using Nikon SLR cameras is that, for the most part, almost every lens ever manufactured with a Nikon “F-Mount” will be compatible with today’s camera equipment.  This meant that a lens I bought at a garage sale in Philadelphia for $20 (it was still attached to the Nikon E series film camera) was a fantastic acquisition.

Vintage McDonalds sign, The Henry Ford, Dearborn, Mich.  Photo by Chuck MIller.
Vintage McDonald's sign, The Henry Ford, Dearborn, Mich. Photo by Chuck MIller.

The other major lenses in my arsenal are Russian Kiev-Arsenal lenses.  Kiev once manufactured Hasselblad medium-format camera clones (they were so close to the real thing some people derisively called the Kiev cameras “Hasselbladskis”), but when they got into the 35mm SLR business, they made lenses that could work on Nikon equipment.  I have three Kiev lenses in my arsenal – a wideangle MIR 24-H, a 50mm f/2 Helios 81-H, and a fisheye MIR 21-H; the latter  took this photo of the vintage McDonald’s sign at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. last June.  It’s probably the best cooperation of Russian equipment and Japanese equipment since the Sino-Soviet Wars.

But after four years and everything I could possibly do with this camera, it was time to upgrade again.  Luckily for me, all my lenses would be compatible with my dream camera, a Nikon D700.  I saved and scrimped for this new camera.  I took writing assignments and photography assignments.  I sold off one of my lenses (it was an f/1.4 that just didn’t work for me), and after all that… Last July, I was able to acquire a reconditioned D700 camera from B&H Photo in New York City.

I tested my D700 almost everywhere over the summer.  I took night shots in Washington Park.  I photographed the RCA Dog at sunset.  I spent the entire day at the Altamont Fair (and got roasted like a potato chip for my efforts).  I tested different settings and exposures; I tested different lenses (some of the lenses that gave me fits with the D70 worked like hand-in-glove on the D700).

Has it worked?  You tell me.  These photos were taken with my Nikon D700 and a variety of lenses.

The Orbiter, Altamont Fair, Altamont, N.Y. Photo by Chuck Miller.
The Orbiter, Altamont Fair, Altamont, N.Y. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Poestenkill Gorge Waterfalls, Troy, N.Y.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Poestenkill Gorge Waterfalls, Troy, N.Y. Photo by Chuck Miller.
RCA His Masters Voice dog at sunset.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
RCA "His Master's Voice" dog at sunset. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Of course, I’m not done with this camera.  Not a chance in the world.  There’s so much I need to learn with it, and so much I want to accomplish with it.  Whether it’s for professional assignments, or one of my photographic “lost weekends,” where I just disappear and return a day later with photographs, like a lawn gnome, we’ll see what the future brings.

Never settle for just good enough

“Never settle for just good enough” was the mantra my high school English teacher, Roberta “Bonnie” Diefendorf, drilled into me.  And without those words, I wouldn’t be here today.

My name is Chuck Miller.  Nice to meet you.  For the past twenty years, I have achieved a reasonable amount of success as a writer and photographer.  But without Bonnie Diefendorf getting behind me and challenging me to take that extra step in my writing – to apply myself and motivate myself into accomplishing what I thought might never be within my grasp – without her help, today I might be sweeping floors or pumping gas.

That inspiration of “Never settle for just good enough” has helped me throughout my writing career.  It motivated me to take up new skills, such as photography.  And today, it has motivated me to join the Times Union family of bloggers, pundits, observers, reviewers, thinkers, dreamers and achievers.

You’ve probably seen some of my articles in the “Story of Albany” series that the Times Union is currently running.  Besides my article on the history of the Street Academy of Albany, I’ve sent the Times Union several published articles from my archive, including:

Feel free to have a good read.

I hope to share other stories, both from the past and from my current writing projects, with you in this blog.  Feel free to leave comments.  Feel free to tell your friends.

And never settle for just good enough.