Volvo 544 exiting the same hedgerow it entered 19 years ago. 


Last week we said goodbye to our old friend the Marble Car. After sitting in our neighbor’s backyard for nearly two decades, the 1964 Volvo 544 Sport was relocated to New Paltz, NY. This was the second vintage car to leave our block after another neighbor, Gus, parted with his 1952 Dodge.



The Marble Car had been the centerpiece of many backyard get togethers and subject or background element in hundreds of photographs both digital and analog. It was the perfect subject, quirky and eccentric yet patient and reliable.
I photographed the car many times using film at first, then transitioning to digital as my gear evolved. It was a go to subject when testing a new camera whether it be a Hasselblad H4, 8×10 Deardorff or pinhole camera made from an ice cream bucket. 



It belonged to our neighbors, John and Sandy. The idea came to them after watching an Art Car documentary, “Wild Wheels,” by Harrod Blank. They found the Volvo in Delaware and began collecting marbles, many purchased on eBay, others donated by friends. The marbles were attached to the body with clear silicone caulk.

Scott, of Jenkintown Auto, New Paltz, N.Y.


While it was sad to see it go we take consolation in the fact that it’s new owner Scott, of Jenkintown Auto will restore it to it’s former glory.

I had the pleasure of meeting Scott and helping him and John to push it out of the yard and onto the trailer that would transport it to Upstate New York. We look forward to seeing the Volvo again, even if only in pictures and with or without marbles.

Detail, right rear fender.


Steering wheel and dash through rear window.


Lightning bolt detail.
Wynn behind the wheel.

Pinhole photograph taken with ice cream bucket.
Ethel the Easter Egger, Ameraucana    

“Winter’s coming.” The days are short and though temperatures have been higher than normal, it’s

still chilly outside. Assignments have slowed to a trickle and the beekeeper project is on hold till

spring. With the exception of the occasional iPhone photo I really haven’t been shooting much. That

 began to change yesterday after my son sent me a text asking if I could make some new photographs

 for his Manayunk Farm website.

With temperatures in the 40’s and partly sunny skies, I spent a few hours following our eight hens

 around the backyard. We like to let them free range during the day as long as someone is home to

 chase off the occasional hawk or fox  and to close up the coop at dusk. We never have to worry about

 rounding them up, they rise with the dawn and roost at sunset, we only need to remember to lock the

 doors at night in case a racoon or opossum decides to pay a visit.  

Thing Two, Buff Orpington, exiting the Hen House after laying an egg.      

After a long dry spell our hens have begun laying again, thanks to increasingly longer days and the

string of LED lights draped through the coop. There is a direct correlation between amount of light

and egg laying.  Now, we get seven or eight eggs per day. We fry them, boil and bake them and

what we can’t use we give to neighbors.




A Buff Orpington and Swedish Flower Hen at the feeder.

From a photographic standpoint there are less hours of daylight in winter but all the light is usable,

even at mid-day, as the sun travels across the sky at a lower angle. The day was an even mix of 

bright sun and partly cloudy so some of the photos were contrasty with sharp shadows while others

where soft and diffuse. 


I think one the most important aspects of photographing animals is to get down to their level which 

often means laying down on the ground.

Read other posts about our experience as urban chicken keepers.
The Chicken and the Queen of Hearts





Close-up from Berlin Wall Memorial
Framed in a rusty, steel shadowbox are the black and white portraits of people who lost their lives attempting to cross the wall from East to West Germany. Their names, birth and death dates are indelibly etched into the steel beneath each recessed compartment. The portraits are covered in glass in which you can view your own reflection, as if to ask us to put ourselves in their place. Roses had been placed above each name in a gesture of remembrance. Some compartments had only names and dates while others were covered with metal plates as it is inevitable more victims will be added as their stories are discovered. While 130 victims are present on the wall I moved in close to better capture each likeness.

This photo was one of my entries to the 2015 ASMPhilly Focus book. This year’s theme was “Faces.” When I made the image I couldn’t help but wonder who these people were and after learning it would be published, I felt obligated to do some research. Here are some of their stories. Keep them in mind whenever you hear politicians talk about building Walls.

Heinz Jercha 

Heinz Jercha, Had fled East Germany before the Wall was built.  A butcher by trade, he lived in West Berlin with his wife and daughter. Jercha joined a group who helped people to escape after the Wall had been built.  He assisted in the digging of a tunnel and then in escorting dozens of escapees to the West. On March 27th, 1962, after successfully leading an elderly couple through the tunnel Jercha returned to assist a young college student, the friend of two students he had assisted earlier. This time when Jercha exited the passageway Stasi agents were waiting for him and ordered him to surrender, but Jercha turned and ran. The commandos opened fire and Jercha was struck in the chest by a ricochet bullet but managed to crawl back through the tunnel. Despite evading capture, he died from his wound a short time later. His last words were “Those swine shot me.”  Documents released by the Stasi after reunification revealed that a friend of the  assistance group had been an informant.

Axel Hannemann 


–> Seventeen year old, Axel Hannemann   Jumped from a bridge onto a barge that had cleared customs control and was heading for the West.  The ship captain had seen him jump and refused to take Hannemann with him, instead he stopped the ship and notified the border guards. Hannemann jumped into the Spree River and attempted to swim to the West Berlin riverbank. Two border guards opened fire and just a few meters from his goal Hanneman sustained a fatal shot to the head. In a note left for his parents and siblings he wrote, “I have no other choice. I’ll explain my reasons to you when I have made it. but for now I can say that I have done nothing wrong.”

–> Born in the Soviet sector Siegfried Noffke had moved to West Berlin before the border was closed. His girlfriend Hannelore, lived on the Eastern side of the border. Hannelore became pregnant and Noffke returned to marry her after their son was born.  It is likely they assumed Hannelore and the baby would be permitted to move to the Western side of the city after the wedding but East Berlin authorities refused to grant them exit permits. When the border was suddenly closed they found themselves, separated. Over the next year they could only occasionally see and speak to each other at the newly erected wall. Siegfried and Hannelore were one of many couples that had been separated. Siegfried met another West Berliner who was in the same situation and told him of a tunnel escape project and invited him to join so they could both get their wives and children to the West.  Not aware that her brother was a Stasi informant one of the women planning to escape told him of the tunnel project. Her brother was even present when the tunnel was opened, helping to break through a basement wall. When Noffeke and the others emerged from the tunnel the Stasi were waiting for them. Despite the fact that the Stasi only intended to arrest the tunnel builders one of Stasi men became rattled and began shooting. Noffke and another man where hit. Despite being shot Noffke was interrogated on the spot so as to squeeze a confession from him. Noffke died on the way to the hospital. He was 22 years old. His wife Hannelore and other East Berliners who were planning to escape were arrested and received sentences anywhere from one to nine years in prison. 

The Man in the Cap

Separated from relatives in the West, Ernst Mundt had ridden his bicycle from his apartment to the Sophien cemetery which was situated on the border. When his path was blocked by barbwire he abandoned his bicycle and climbed on top of the cemetery wall despite the fact that it was covered in shards of glass. As he walked the length of the wall toward the border, guards ordered him to get down. Mundt relpied, “I won’t get down, I am on duty. “A warning shot was fired but Mundt continued toward the border. A second shot struck Mundt. His body fell between the gravestones in the cemetery but his cap landed on the West side of the wall. The guard that fired the shots was awarded a medal and the border guards were commended for removing Mundt’s body before Press from the West could arrive. Thirty years later when facing charges, the guard claimed he was only following orders.

Otfried Reck

 Otfried Reck, known as Otti to to his friends, served a sixteen month sentence in a youth prison for being part of a group protesting the border fortifications. Three months after his release he and a childhood friend Gerd, followed underground railroad tracks, known as the “cellar line,” to a ventilation shaft where they hoped to climb up, pry loose a metal grate and jump a train to the West. A border guard heard them trying to remove the grate and reported it to his superiors and a search party was sent out. For whatever reason Otfried and Gerd abandon their escape attempt but were pursued as the fled. They ran to a nearby skating rink that was a popular hang-out for the local youth. A border guard fired at them striking Reck in the back. He died three hours later in the hospital. He was 17 years old. He wanted to be an opera singer.

Philipp Held

 Philipp Held, a nineteen year old electrician and engineering student, lived with mother in West Berlin. Philipp’s mother did not approve of his girlfriend and tensions rose between them. Philipp and his girlfriend, Barbel, drove to the town of Helmstedt in East Berlin, where Barbel had grown up before fleeing with her mother to the West and where her father still lived. When they reached the border they announced their desire to resettle in the East and were registered as a “new arrival” and a “repatriate.” Both Philipp and Barbel had a hard time adjusting to life in East Berlin and the reception from Barbel’s relatives was not as warm as they had hoped. After a short time they decided to return to the West. As she was still a  a minor, Barbel applied for an exit visa  to return to her family but Phillip, who had vocational training, was of full age and had willingly left the capitalist West, it was unlikely he would be granted an exit visa. At the same time East Germany instituted a draft. It was likely he would be conscripted to serve in the National People’s Army after which there would be no hope of returning to the West. Philipp decided to escape. Only Barbel and Philipp’s landlord new his intentions. When a few days passed and the they had not heard from him they assumed his attempt had been successful. Held’s body was found floating in the Spree River several days later. According to East Berlin police no bullet wounds were found and it was assumed he had drowned.

Horst Frank

Nineteen year old Horst Frank, a gardener by trade, and a childhood friend, Detlev waited for the cover of darkness to attempt their escape. Equipped with wire cutters they cut through the interior wall and entered into the eighty meter wide border strip. Rather than running as quickly as possible they crawled on the ground slowly to avoid being noticed by border guards. Their cautious approach allowed them to successfully avoid a trip wire that would have sounded an alarm. Four hours later, Detlev had reached the last fence when he heard shots. looking back he could see that Frank had become entangled in barbed wire. Detlev made it safely through the fence and onto the Western side of the border but Frank had been hit by three gunshots and died a few hours after being pulled from the barbed wire. Detlev later stated his reason for escaping was to meet his biological Father who lived in the West. It is thought Frank’s reason for the attempted escape was to avoid being conscripted into the National People’s Army. His Military Summons was one of the few things he had on him when he died.

Erna Kelm

On July 11th, 1962, a fisherman noticed the body of a woman floating in the Havel River and notified the police. She was identified as 53 year old Erna Kelm by her East German identification card hidden in her sock. Because Kelm was wearing a life jacket under her clothes authorities came to the conclusion she had drowned trying to escape by swimming across the border which ran through the middle of the river. Kelm had lived in the West before the Wall was built working as a nurse’s aid in a children’s home for refugees. She he later moved back to the East German town of Sacrow because she missed her children. Kelm was one of eight women who died trying to escape to the West.

Peter Fechter

Eighteen year old Peter Fechter a bricklayer by trade, became friends with Helmut Kulbeik. also Eighteen who worked for the same company. Both teens had been thinking about fleeing for a long time but neither had devised an escape plan. One day while wandering about they noticed a old building that had once been a woodworking shop, it’s back windows extended almost to the Wall. On August 17th, 1962 while on a lunch break they decided not to return to the job site but to investigate the building instead. They removed their shoes so as not make any noise and made their way to the back of the building where they found a storage room window that had not been bricked shut.  When the boys heard voices they were afraid they had been discovered and both jumped out of the open window and ran in their socks to the Wall which was only a few meters away. When the first shots were fired Helmut jumped to the top of the wall and forced himself through the barbed wire but Fechter was struck in the hip as he climbed. He fell backwards and began leaning on a Wall support. Despite the fact that Fechter had given up, rather than arresting him, the guards continued to fire until he collapsed to the ground. Fechter began screaming for help but East German guards ducked as by now West German guards were pointing their guns at them. West German guards threw him bandages but were afraid to climb over the wall fearing they would be shot at too. The arrival of the West German police, photographers and film crews made the East German guards even more apprehensive to retrieve the injured fugitive. After fifty minutes Fechter’s screaming stopped. Film footage and still photos of Fechter dying were broadcast around the world and became a symbol of the inhumanity of the East German border regime.


–> 19 year old Hans-Dieter Wesa and 18 year old Adolf B. served together as transport police


officers in Leipzig before being transferred to Berlin to serve as border guards. Both were

Hans-Dieter Wesa

assigned to a “Ghost Station,” a Bahn station where trains passed but did not stop. As they were already acquainted conversation came easily and Adolf thought Hans was joking when he said his sister (who lived in the West) would be surprised when he showed up. Adolf considered Hans to be a reliable comrade but became suspicious after Hans left to turn on lights on the other side of the track and disappeared.  Adolf went looking for him and saw Wesa had just climbed over the border fence and was on the Western side. After Wesa ignored his comrade’s order to come back Adolf fired at Wesa six times. Wesa was struck in the thigh and fell to the ground. Adolf ran up to the fence and fired another six shots killing Wesa. In 1990 charges where brought against Adolf but before he could be tried he took his own life. 

Late afternoon on Sand Beach, Acadia National Park, Maine


The time finally came, we knew it would but we tried not to dwell on it, that time when your only child goes off to college and leaves you and your spouse alone for the first time in nearly two decades. 
It wasn’t a given, Wynn wanted to study industrial design and there are several good schools right here in Philadelphia that offer it. I suppose I always imagined he’d go to one of the local schools and live at home for at least the next few years but Wynn wanted to go to RISD and damn if he didn’t get accepted! 
Reid Beach State Park
Move in day was Sept. 6th so we decided to spend a week visiting our friends Peter and Meagan and their sons Dae and Noah who live in Maine and another week camping in Acadia National Park then move Wynn into his dorm room in Providence, RI on our way back home.


We were joined in Maine by our friends Marlene and Stephen and their son Louis and daughter Maureen who live in Germany. We had visited them last summer spending time in Freiberg, visiting Berlin and then riding bicycles to the town of Usedom on the Baltic Sea.
Pete had introduced us to Marlene and Stephan over twenty years ago when we all lived in West Philadelphia.  Wynn and Louis were born just a few months apart and had played together when they were toddlers. Marlene, Stephan and Louis moved backed to Germany after Marlene was offered a position at The University of Freiberg.


Echo Lake, Acadia National Park

We would spend the first week at Pete’s, making day trips that would include hanging out at local beaches, shopping and dining in the nearby town of Bath, visiting Pete’s mother Natalie, who lives by the Kennebec River and taking a ferry to the island of Vinalhaven. Then we packed the van and headed north to Acadia.


It was a scenic, three-hour drive from Woolwich to Acadia where we would pitch our tents at the Blackwoods campground. Each day consisted of hiking one of the many trails followed by a swim in the cold water of the Atlantic off  Sand Beach or in the slightly warmer water of Echo Lake which is located on what the locals call “The Quite Side” of the Island.  


First day at RISD 
The last leg our journey involved driving to Providence and helping Wynn set up his dorm room and assemble his bicycle before attending the official RISD welcome for first year students held in the historic First Baptist Church. There were several speakers including President Rosanne Somerson who at the close of her remarks told us to meet our son or daughter on the lawn for ice cream, then tell them goodbye, adding “They are ours now.”


It’s only been three weeks since we dropped Wynn off and so far so good. He seems to like it there and it sounds like they’re keeping him pretty busy. He is even considering joining the RISD cycling team. He calls or texts everyday, let’s see how long that lasts, and we will be going up to visit in October for Parent’s weekend.
I had a dream last week where I was working the backyard and I heard him call out “Hey!” and I turned to see him walking up the steps from the street so yeah, I guessI miss him.
 I console myself with fact that Wynn is where he wants to be and doing what he wants to do. I also know he will fit right in with all the other artsy, fartsy weirdos at RISD. I also remember the words of a friend who is also the parent of a son who went away to college, “With summer break, spring break and all the holidays they’ll still be home six months of the year anyway.”


First Day at RISD, Courtyard outside the dorm. 


Oh and did I mention Wynn left us with several hundred thousand honeybees and eight chickens?  
If you have had a son or daughter go off to college, or are a student away from home for the first time leave a comment and let me know how you dealt, or are dealing with the transition. 


Beekeepers in both North America and Europe are experiencing high rates of overwintering losses.  The reason for this steep decline in bee population, which has become known as Colony Collapse Disorder, remains the subject of much debate. Some factors being considered are pesticides, especially neonicotinoids, infections caused by Varroa and Acarapis mites, loss of habitat, malnutrition, climate change, genetics and poor beekeeping practices. It’s likely there is no one culprit responsible for CCD but that it is a combination of several or all of these factors that lead to severely weakened hives.


–> Regardless of the cause beekeepers need to replenish their apiaries.  The most common method is to buy what’s known as a “package” from a beekeeping supply house. A package is a small wooden box with mesh sides that contains somewhere between 8 and 12 thousand bees along with an inverted can of sugar water and a queen bee in a small wooden cage. The worker bees are not related to the queen so she must be quarantined for a few days until the worker bees accept her, which is not always the case. It is possible the workers will kill her and make their own queen.


Aside from the expense of buying packages, usually around $100 each there is the queen issue. While the worker bees may have been raised locally, packaged queens are raised in the South or in California in order for suppliers to have mated queens ready for shipping in the early Spring. This raises questions about the ability of the queen and her offspring to adapt to cooler climates. There is also the possibility that if you didn’t get your order in earlier enough there may not be enough packages to go around.

The Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild, of which I am a member (full disclosure) decided to take matters into their own hands by establishing The Flat Rock Apiary, named after the Flat Rock Dam located on the nearby Schuylkill river. The apiary is an experimental Nuc rearing program. Nuc, short for nucleus, is a small colony of bees placed in a small hive with a new queen. The hope is that the colonies will grow allowing Guild members to replenish their dead hives with locally raised bees.



On Saturday May 5th several Guild members met at the apiary to install the 15 packages of carniolans. Thanks to Norris, for making the drive to Mann Lake in Wilkes-Barre to pick up the bees. I volunteered to take photographs for use on the Guilds web site and social media while my son Wynn helped to install the bees.




Mid-day light is not ideal for photography especially when your subjects are wearing white beekeeper suits, but if that’s when the action is taking place you have to deal with it. Fortunately there were large fluffy clouds that would occasionally diffuse the harsh sunlight. I used a flash in the hotshoe to fill in faces that were covered my dark veils. High speed sync allowed me to achieve shallower depth of field than if I had to stick with my camera’s maximum sync speed of 1/200 of a second.


The project was made possible by Whole Foods Market Callowhill and the Folks who shopped there on the 5% Day on March 5th.
Slide Tower by Carsten Holler

Founded by Willi and Erika Fehlbaum, Vitra began making office furniture in 1957 licensing the rights to the Herman Miller collection, primarily the designs of Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson and Verner Panton. Today Vitra’s product line has expanded to include furniture for homes and public spaces and include designs by Alexander Girard Jean Prouvé, Antonio Citterio, Jasper Morrison, Alberto Meda, Maarten van Severen, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Hella Jongerius and Barber Osgerby.

Before entering the Design Museum we decided to take the Vitra Campus Architecture Tour. While not all inclusive here are some of my favorite photos from the tour.


 Designed by Carsten Holler combining an observation deck a clock tower and enclosed spiral slide the tower is both architecture and art. Visitors can climb the open staircase to the observation deck for a panoramic view of the Campus and surrounding area then descend using the 38 meter long, covered spiral slide. The tower is 30 meters high topped with a round, illuminated clock face 6 meters in diameter.

Factory Building, SANNA architects

Designed by Japanese architects SANAA and completed in 2012, the Vitrashop Factory Building is oval shaped making it easier for large trucks (lorries) to maneuver. The building is two semi-circular concrete shells that are connected. The outer shell is  rippled acrylic giving it a curtain like appearance. There is an underground garage for employees with 240 parking spaces. There are numerous skylights in the roof to reduce the need for artificial illumination.

Furniture assembly, Vitrashop Factory    


Vitra Design Museum, Frank Gehry 1989

Designed to house Vitra’s collection of chairs and furniture for display to the public, Frank Gehry’s deconstructionist building consists of multiple towers, ramps and cubes each designed according to function and lighting. It is Frank Gehry’s first European building. The museum was established as an independent foundation dedication to research and popularization of architecture and design.

Dome, Richard Buckminster Fuller

During WWII Richard Buckminster Fuller designed a geodesic dome to house army troops and shelter wounded and refugess. The building was able to be assembled and dis-assembled quickly due to the plug-in aluminum tubes that formed the frame. This particular dome was used as a car showroom in Detroit then was bought at auction by Rolf Fehlbaum in 2000 and erected at the Vitra Campus where it is used as an exhibition and event space. 

Airstream Kiosk 1968/2011  

  Discovered in Nevada by a scout, this 20 ft. 1968 “Globetrotter” was purchased and shipped to Germany for restoration. It was purchased by Vitra in 2011 and converted into a food kiosk.

Petrol Station, Jean Prouve 1953/2003

Designed in 1953 by Jean Prouve and his brother Henry this aluminum building was the first mass produced filling station. It was built for Mobiloil Socony-Vacuum. It’s modular construction is of prefabricated aluminum components and sheeting with circular cut outs. The structure and wall components are clearly differentiated by a contrasting color scheme. Like Prouve’s table designs his buildings adhere to tectonic principles in the design process.

Fire Station, Zaha Hadid,1993     

After a fire in 1981 Vitra decided to build a fire station of their own. Made of colorless poured concrete and void of right angles the Fire Station is the first building complex designed by Zaha Hadid. There are spaces for fire engines, changing rooms and showers as well as conference room and kitchen. The fire brigade was later disbanded in favor of protection by both the Weil and Basel fire services.

Balancing Tools, Claes Oldenberg & Coosje van Bruggen, 1984  

 Balancing Tools was a gift to Willi Fehlbaum, Vitra’s founder, from his children on his 70th birthday. Erected between the main road and the Vitra campus, they are the tools of the furniture maker.

As I mentioned before this post is not an all inclusive, just some of the images I was able to make given the constraints of a group tour, weather, time and the fact that this was a family vacation.  

For my next post we’ll take a look at some of the furniture inside the museum. 
Other posts from our trip to Germany







–> –>

November 9th 2014 marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The 96 mile long , 12 foot high concrete barrier completely surrounded The German Democratic Republic (East Berlin), cutting it off not only from West Germany but the rest of Europe as well.  The GDR called it an “Anti-Fascist Rampart” to protect them from negative influences of Western capitalism and culture but it’s true purpose was to stem the mass exodus from East to West in the post war period between 1949 and 1961.
 It began August 12th 1961 as a barbed wire fence and in the days that followed a wall of concrete block was erected complete with sentry towers, searchlights, machine guns and mine fields. Without warning as many as 50,000 families were separated.


Just one year after the construction of the wall two East German men attempted to scale the wall, the first successfully climbed over while his friend was shot and left to bleed to death. It’s still not known how many people died trying to cross the wall as East Germany kept it a closely guarded secret. The numbers have continued to climb since reunification to an estimated 1,100. Some were shot, others killed by landmines and boobytraps, some drown trying cross the Elbe River or the Baltic Sea, others died of heart attacks during the escape. A baby died after its parents gave it sleeping pills to keep it quiet during the crossing.
 Other escape attempts were more successful. Most were simply run as fast as you can and scale the wall hoping there were no mines and that the Sentries could not shoot one of their countrymen. Others escaped in hand dug tunnels or swam or floated on air mattresses till they reached Denmark. The most unusual escapes came in September of 1979 when 8 people flew to freedom in a homemade hot air balloon.  14 people, including 11 children, escaped in a refrigerated truck, hiding under the carcasses of slaughtered pigs being exported to the West.
In 1989 as communist governments began to crumble the borders were opened between East and West Germany. The wall was so despised that all but a small section of the wall was destroyed.


Kristoph Silver Laced Wyandotte

We should have figured it out earlier. The chick’s large size and aggressive behavior toward the other chicks were early clues, but we had ordered from a reputable supplier who we assumed had the experience to sex the chicks accurately. Then one morning it became blatantly obvious. Wynonna stretched out her neck and let out a loud “ert-er-ert-er-errrrrr.” Yep, we had us a rooster.


We changed its name to Kristoph and began to weight the pros and cons of having a rooster in the flock. On the plus side he helped to kept the flock from straying too far; he rounded them into the coop in the evening and sounded an alarm when cats or dogs came onto the property or when a hawk flew overhead. The down side was the potential to disturb the neighbors with his crowing and the unrelenting chasing and mounting of the hens. He is an adolescent after all.

As with most animals chicken mating is anything but gentle and Kristoph was having his way with all of the hens but he was particularly fond of one of our older hens, Ethel. Ethel bore the wounds of repeated mountings and had to be separated from Kristoph and the others to heal both physically and mentally.

We posted on the local chicken keepers Facebook page offering Kristoph free to a good home. There were no takers. Jokingly, I offered him to the cable salesman that appeared at our door. He said he wasn’t interested but his grandfather had a farm and would be happy to take such a fine looking bird. He said he would be back the following evening to pick him up.  Of course he never showed up.

The decision was made that Kristoph was going to be “what’s for dinner.” It would be our first time butchering a chicken and naturally we were a little apprehensive but felt it would be an important lesson in our education as urban farmers.

I am a chicken keeper only by association. I enjoy the chickens and help with their care and feeding but my responsibility only goes so far. My wife and son would carry out the sentence. I was to be nothing more than a documentarian.
When the day came, as preparations were being made I slipped off into the nearby easement to play with my chainsaw. I was a few cuts into an old log when my son appeared at the woodpile. “Dad, are you going to take pictures? He asked. We had talked about it the day before. I said I would but now that it was actually going to happen I was reluctant but I decided that if my son was actually going to do the deed the least I could do was document it.
As new urban farmers this would be an important rite of passage for all of us, thou more so for Kristoph than for us. I had photographed uncomfortable situations before, things like surgeries, anatomy classes with cadavers and rescue dogs covered with ticks. I had dealt with these situations by placing a camera between myself, and what was taking place in front of me. I would have to do the same now.

I put down the chainsaw and headed to my office to get a camera. It was at the last minute I decided to shoot video rather than stills. The video can be seen below. Though you may be tempted to hit the pause button please watch it to the end.

  Killing Kristoph from Addison Geary on Vimeo.


This past August we took a family vacation to visit friends in Freiberg, Germany. Nestled in the Black Forest, Freiburg is one of the greenest cities in the world thanks to its tram system, cycle paths, solar paneled rooftops, wind turbines and the shared commitment of its citizens to live eco-friendly lives. With over 2000 hours of sunshine per year Freiburg is the warmest and sunniest city in Germany.
Freiburg is a walkable city   

Founded in 1120 Freiburg was strategically located on the trade route between the Mediterranean Sea and the North Sea and The Rhine and Danube rivers.By the 1300’s silver mines in Mount Schauinsland made it one of the richest cities in Germany.

During the Middle Ages Count Egino II increased taxes and reduced freedoms to which the citizens responded by knocking down his castle with a catapult. In 1457 the University of Freiberg,was established making it one of the oldest Universities in Germany.

Progressive legal reforms were ratified during a Reichstag held in Freiburgh under Emperor Maximillian I. In the 1500’s Freiburg decided not to take part in the Reformation and remained Catholic.

The Black Plague claimed 25% of the cities population. Belief in Witchcraft leads to witch hunts and burnings.
During the Thirty Years War Freiburg belonged to the Austrians, the French, The Swedish and the Spanish before once again returning to the German Confederacy.

 In 1940 the Nazis order the deportation of 350 Jewish citizens of Freiburg most of whom died in Auschwitz. In 1940 the Luftwaffe mistakenly bombed Freiburg and then in 1944 The British Royal Air Force finished the job. The City was rebuilt according to its original plan.

Today Freiburg is know for its university, green technology, high tech companies, tourism and wine making. The surrounding Black Forests offer excellent skiing, hiking and mountain biking.

View of Cathedral Square from the top of the Munster   

 No trip to Freiburg is complete without a visit to the Munster in the center of town. Construction of
the cathedral was begun around 1200 in Romanesque style then in 1230 continued in the Gothic style and was completed in 1330. Miraculously the cathedral survived the bombings of World War II. You can climb to the top or the 116 meter tower. The accent can be crowded and at times claustrophobic but the view from the top is worth it. After your safely back on the ground stroll the open air market where you can buy food, wine and crafts.

Many thanks to our gracious hosts Marlene, Stephan, Louis and Maureen for not only opening their home to us but for acting as travel agents, tour guides and interpreters. We hope you see you all again Soon!

Laurel Hill Cemetery presents the  1964 horror classic “Carnival of Souls”  as part of their Cinema in the Cemetery series. ISO 3200, 1/25th at f/4 using Canon 24-105 f/4 IS

The following is based on the premise that we will not be using flash of any kind. No on-camera flash, no off-camera flash, no bounce flash, no pop-up flash, no flash of any kind. Our objective is to be as discrete as possible so as not to interrupt the event that is taking place in front of us.  We will not be using a tripod as we will want to remain mobile and to be able to react as quickly as possible to what is happening around us.


About ISO:

Today’s digital cameras offer much better performance at high ISO’s than cameras from even a few years ago but just because you can shoot at ISO 128,000 doesn’t mean you should. The higher the ISO the more noise will be visible in your images.
Noise is electronic signal interference that manifests itself as random red, green, blue and sometimes white specks in your image. The higher  the ISO the greater the noise will be. The same principle applies when shooting film only instead of noise there would be an increase in grain. While film grain can be aesthetically pleasing noise rarely is.  Noise can be reduced in post processing but reduce the noise and you also reduce  sharpness, increase the sharpness and the noise will return.
It is best to avoid noise in the first place by using the lowest ISO possible. ISO selection is the most important consideration when shooting RAW. Unlike exposure and color balance, which can be corrected after the fact, once you have made an exposure at a specific ISO the level of noise is what it is.  Exactly what is an acceptable level of noise is subjective.


Try photographing a multicolored object like a vase of flowers. Make the first
exposure at ISO 100, the next at 200, the next at 400, keep doubling the ISO until you have reached your camera’s maximum sensitivity. Download the images and view each at 100% then decide for yourself how much noise you can live with.
After you have chosen an ISO your next consideration should be what lens shall I use?  For low light shooting chances are that unless it’s your only lens you won’t be using the kit lens that came with your camera. Kit lenses are slightly wide to slightly telephoto lenses with variable maximum aperture, usually something like 3.5-5.6. A better choice would be a fast prime lens in the 35 to 85 mm range. They typically have maximum apertures between 1.4 and 2.8. Not only will they allow you to shoot at a higher shutter speed but they will make your viewfinder brighter for ease of composition as well as aid in focusing whether using manual or auto focus. Remember that when shooting in low light even one extra shutter speed can make the difference between a sharp photo and one that is unusable due to camera shake. 

Shutter Speed:

Keep in mind the general rule of thumb for selecting a hand hold able shutter speed is 1/fl , fl being the focal length of the lens. If you are using a 28mm lens you should be able to get acceptably sharp photos using a shutter speed of 1/30th, if you are using a 50mm lens, 1/60th second and so on.



Another option is to use an IS or VR lens. IS is Canon’s designation for it’s series of Image Stabilization lenses and VR is Nikon’s designation, which stands for Vibration Reduction. Other manufactures offer something similar but call it something else. Basically these lenses incorporate floating elements or in Sony’s case, a floating sensor, which helps to reduce camera shake. Many new mirrorless cameras have in body image stabilization. Most claim the ability to hand hold the camera at three or four shutter speeds lower than without it. Take advantage of this new technology, it really works, but keep in mind that while it greatly reduces camera shake it does nothing to stop subject motion.
Now that we have selected a lens and an ISO the next thing we might consider is which shooting mode to use. Since we are in a low light situation and hand holding the camera we want to use the highest shutter speed possible. Set your camera to aperture priority and choose your maximum aperture, the camera will select the fastest shutter speed  for your aperture, ISO combination.

Hold Steady:

Now we are ready to begin shooting. Lets concentrate on holding the camera. We are looking for three points of contact with the camera. The first being our left hand as we cradle the bottom of the camera and lens with an open palm, using our thumb and middle or forefinger to work the aperture, focus or zoom ring depending on your


camera/lens combination. The second point of contact is our left elbow pressed against our chest. The third point of contact is the camera’s eyepiece pressed against our eyebrow. Stand with one foot in front of the other to prevent swaying forward and back.  Take a deep breath, exhale and press the shutter button when your chest is at rest. Look around you and find something to lean on, a wall a tree, a utility pole. Rest your elbows on a sturdy surface like a tabletop. Sit down and rest your elbows on your knees. Lye down on the floor or on the ground, well you get the idea, utilize any sturdy surface to help steady the camera.


Spray & Pray:

Another technique that works well in low light shooting at impossibly slow shutter speeds is “Spray and Pray.” Set your camera to its highest frame rate and shoot in bursts of three to twelve or more frames.  The slower your shutter speed the more frames you should shoot. Chances are the first and last frames will exhibit camera shake but odds are one or more somewhere in between, will be sharp. You’ll be surprised at how low you can go and still get sharp photos.

2 More Tips:

Still not enough? Your photographing black cats break-dancing in a coalmine by candlelight? Here are two more techniques to try as a last ditch effort. Set your exposure compensation to -1. Yes, you will be underexposing every image by one stop but that can be recovered in processing. This will allow you to shoot at one higher shutter speed and as I said before that can make all the difference.
 The next thing you can try is setting your camera to Auto ISO,  I know, it sounds like heresy but as I said before learn to let technology work for you. Both of these techniques will increase noise but there are times when content trumps technical considerations like when you come upon black cats brake dancing in a coalmine which I’m sure will go viral on Facebook!