A Walk to Northern Liberties from South Philadelphia

One of the best ways to see Philadelphia is to walk it. Here are some pictures I took on a stroll to Northern Liberties from my own neighborhood in South Philadelphia.

Spring’s Blossoms

Every Spring for a week or so, the flowering trees in Philadelphia burst into bloom all over the city.

The view from my bedroom window

Everywhere you look, the trees are showing off their blossoms like they’re in a competition to see who can be the showiest.

The party lasts about a week and then it’s over. Enjoy it while you can.

Want to see more? Check here and here.

A Winter’s Day

Winter dumped a load on the East coast this week. I’m glad I didn’t have to be anywhere. Still, it’s fun to go out and explore.

One of my favourite murals is a snow scene!

A little South Philly humor. I have yet to meet a poop fairy.
Local basketball court under snow
Bob’s garden is closed for the winter and turtle is fast asleep in the heated Koi pond dreaming about sunny days ahead.

Happy Thanksgiving

Boris chows down!
Stay safe this holiday season

Mushrooms and Fairys

I’ve been seeing crops of mushrooms sprouting up in the city everywhere I go. They look like little fairy worlds to me.    Makes me want to reread The Blue Fairy Book.  You too?  You can download it on Project Gutenburg.

Cats, Cups and Cutters

This week, I went with a friend to feed the cats who live in the feral cat colonies along the Delaware River in South Philadelphia.
There’s a lot of disagreement on how to deal with these feral cats.
People dump they cats by the river to fend for themselves. A cadre of dedicated volunteers trap and spay the cats, feed them and provide shelter. The cats are grateful but being ferals, they are not approachable and will probably live out their lives in the colony unless they are trapped when they are very young and can acclimate themselves to living with a human family.
And now for the cutters part-a shipment from wish.com. Can’t wait to try the cloud cutters.




And some mugs in the pottery studio. Getting back into the swing of things.
If you are interested in cat rescue but don’t have time time or resources to volunteer or foster a cat, you can still help. Press here to donate to the Stray Cat Relief Fund.

Happy Holidays

A Christmas Eve post this year.

Some pictures from around my neighborhood.

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Isgro’s Pastries.  A South Philadelphia institution.  Cranking out the cannolis since 1904!

And back by popular demand, guest blogger Boris tells the story of how the Tabby got its “M”.

 

 

Cheap and Easy Photography Studio

And I really mean cheap and easy.  OK, not free.   I did have to buy some plastic place mats on Amazon. But I got 12 for $18.00 which leaves plenty left over to use as place mats and as traveling work surfaces for polymer.  That, packing tape and white card  stock which I had (you could use printer paper too) and I was all set.

1PlasticPlacemats

I have one of those cloth photo tents like this one  and they are great for taking pictures of vases and bigger items.    But it’s big and unwieldy in my studio and I actually had to watch a video on how to fold it and get it back into its storage bag.    I wanted a smaller photo cube for jewelry and similarly sized items.   I could have bought something, but could not find the size I wanted.  It seems like these things come in two sizes:  tiny and enormous.

That meant making one.  I didn’t want to have to buy special paper.  I didn’t want to have to find the right size box and saw the sides out of it.  When I was finished taking pictures,  I wanted to stow the box in a drawer or on a bookshelf.  So here’s what I came up with:

2Placemat photo setupHere’s the photo setup.  I cut the place mats to size with scissors and used packing tape to make this triptych-like screen.  4open

Here’s the set up with white paper behind the triptych under it.  You can use paper and the other mats to make any kind of configuration you like.  Just tape them together.  You can put the lights anywhere to get the effect you want.  The light I am using here is nothing fancy.  It’s an LED desk lamp I bought at Five Below and it uses three AA batteries which means you can move it anywhere and not be fighting with wires.  You can get something similar on Amazon here.  Don’t pay more than $5.00 per lamp.  They’re great for traveling to which is why I originally bought them.   And don’t think you need to buy  lights if you already have something you can use.

 

So, how do the pictures look?  Let’s see.

Shooting Earrings

Here’s a setup to shoot a pair of bronze clay earrings suspended on a piece of floral wire.

The image on the left is unlit.  I used the lamp on the image on the right.  I didn’t use any photo editing software.

Here are the same images Gimped.  Click on the images a couple of times to view them full size.  Gimp is a free open-source image editor that I have used for years.  It can do anything you want.  Did I mention that it’s free?

3Folded up

This is the photo studio folded up and ready to be put away.  It hardly takes up any room at all.  If you need something bigger,  just tape on another mat or two.  If you want something smaller, cut one down.

Here’s another idea.  The plastic drawers in this storage unit are also made of translucent plastic.  Before I started using the place mats,  I got some pretty good shots using empty drawers. Plastic drawers

1Tassel on box

Here’s a tassel I laid on one of the empty drawers.  You don’t have use a place mat on the drawer like I did; simply turn it over if the underside is free from markings.  You can try putting your small, battery-operated lamps inside or outside the drawer.  Experiment.

 

2Tassel on Box closeup

Here’s a shot of the tassel with some light from the battery-operated lamp.  Not too bad.  One of the great things about these photo setups is that they are small and cheap enough to take outside into the natural light where you should be able to get some pretty good results.  Experiment!  And don’t forget to have fun.

 

 

 

Home Organizing Tips and My Old Camera

I spent today cleaning out old paperwork and files that were taking up precious space in my small home.   I work fast.  I am not one to get sentimental about old tax returns or even the copy of my marriage license that I found buried in a file.  And I didn’t find any pictures to take me back to my (not so) wild youth.  No cat pictures either (except a blurry Polaroid of my Bridge Kitty Pooky sitting by our old rowing machine.  I don’t know why I kept it.)

I have learned some things about home organization in the past few weeks.  Tools, boxes and bags that are supposed to help you stay organized are no good if they have nooks and crannies where things can hide.  That’s why I spent three years wondering where my miter  vise and  the wedge to my ring clamp were hiding.   They were under my nose the whole time, secreted in one of these.  And some things are so big (I tossed this behemoth after I had emptied it) that it’s easer to store  the things they contain in a drawer and have done with it.  Enough of that.

My cleaning out trip down memory lane didn’t stall due to sentimentality  until I stumbled on my first digital camera hidden on a shelf behind some books.  (Fortunately  for me, I was almost finished purging, so the discovery didn’t derail  my good intentions.)

My first digital camera  was a  Fuji Fine Pix 2800   It only had 2 megapixels but it also had 6X optical zoom which was unheard of for a budget camera in those days (2002). And it took beautiful pictures although the files were small and not really suitable for print media.

Here are some of the pictures I found on the huge  Smart Media  cards used with the camera:

 

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ClaspMakingBeadSwapBarcelona Cat

I took some new pictures of a project I am working out to see if  the camera still functioned:

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I would keep the camera for web-based photography, but I  like the flexibility that larger files give.  So, I will erase all the media cards, find a spare card reader (the big media cards won’t fit into a standard computer slot) and donate the camera to a thrift shop.

 

Bye old friend!

Beyond The Words: Robin Hiteshew’s Portraits of Irish Writers

 

It was 1989 and my friend Robin Hiteshew asked if I wanted to attend a poetry reading by Seamus Heaney at Swarthmore College.  I was familiar enough Heaney’s work to jump at the chance.  Later I got to meet him, but was too shy to do anything but mumble and shake his hand.

 

 

Thirty years later, at the opening of his show, “Portraits of Irish Writers” Robin compared  a photo portrait of Heaney he took during that visit to Swarthmore with one he took almost a decade later in Cambridge where Heaney was teaching at Harvard.  In the first photo,  a slightly disheveled Heaney struck a casual pose under a tree on the Swarthmore campus.  In the second picture, Heaney was wearing a tailored jacket  “Look,” said Robin pointing to the first picture, “his trousers are rolled.  That’s before he won the Nobel prize and the game got more serious.”

Robin Hiteshew has been photographing Irish writers (and musicians) for more than forty years and it has been a labor of love.  His portraits are personal and revealing in a way that is truly beyond the words.   And he has a story to go with each one.

Robin’s new show, “Beyond the Words: Portraits of Irish Writers” will run until June 26 at the McNichol Gallery which is located in the Thomas A. Bruder, Jr. Life Center at  Neumann University. Admission is free.  For directions, press here.