An afternoon at Chianti Cashmere Goat Farm in Radda in Chianti

Shortly before heading off to Italy for a trip this past autumn, we caught an episode of Dream of Italy, on PBS, which focused on Chianti. Featured in this episode was Chianti Cashmere Goat Farm. A goat farm run by a vet from America named Nora Kravis, right in Radda in Chianti. I forget if we had already settled on Radda in Chianti as a stop at that point, but being animal lovers (and appreciators of hand-crafted cashmere wearables) there was no way we were missing an opportunity to visit Nora and her goats.

After a quick email exchange with Nora, we were set up to visit the farm for lunch and a tour.

Rolling hills of Chianti, Italy
Fog burning off of the hills of Chianti

We spent the morning of driving around the rolling hills of Chianti, and then headed to the farm for our 11.30 appointment. Just two minutes outside of town is the near-hidden dirt road that winds through the woods and releases you onto the farm.

Chianti Cashmere goat farm

We were greeted by Nora, and given an overview on how cashmere is made (I had no idea what goes into it), and then it was a tour of the grounds and some goat feeding action. Continue reading “An afternoon at Chianti Cashmere Goat Farm in Radda in Chianti”

Don Kelley Band at Robert’s Western World, Nashville

If I learned anything from two recent trips to Nashville it’s that Robert’s Western World is the best damned bar on Lower Broadway. While that little strip is filled with bars with bands, Robert’s is the only one that books bands that play only traditional country music. You simply cannot go wrong walking into Robert’s. At too many other places, you might hear a band cranking out covers of Tom Petty (not that there’s anything wrong with Tom Petty), but not at Robert’s. Only country here.

At the behest of a lovely couple from Louisiana that we met during a recent trip, we made sure we caught Don Kelley and his band. And boy am I glad we did.

Don Kelley Band at Robert's Western World Nashville
Robert’s Western World. Nashville, TN

As far as I can tell, Don Kelley gets some of the best players in Nashville to play these gigs. We were utterly blown away by the musicianship of Porter McClister on guitar, “Slick” Joe Fick on the big bass, and a great drummer whose name unfortunately escapes me John Radford on the drums.

And it’s not just the musicianship. The showmanship is top notch. These guys are entertaining and high-energy as all get out. I get the impression Don Kelley runs a tight ship and knows how to keep his guys and the audience going. The professionalism is evident at every turn, and became evident right out of the gate: there was no loud noodling up coming from the stage as they set up. Just four guys methodically plugging in and quietly tuning up. And then, *BOOM!* The show starts. Damn near knocked my tits off at the first note. Continue reading “Don Kelley Band at Robert’s Western World, Nashville”

8th Grade Basketball: West Milford @ Ridgewood, NJ

This past Saturday, my friend contacted me to let me know that her son’s basketball team (The West Milford Wildcats) was going to be in my neck of the woods, playing my hometown team (Ridgewood Hoop Club). Driving 4 minutes to hang out with friends and take some shots of the game sounded a lot better than cleaning out the basement, a plan that quickly disappeared into the ether.

Shooting sports is a blast, but not without its challenges. Especially indoors sports. The lighting in gyms is universally awful. First of all, it’s quite dark (if you don’t believe me, spend some time in a gym in the middle of the day, and then walk outside…you’ll be squinting because it’s so much brighter!).  The players are moving blazingly fast, so you’re stuck shooting at high ISOs so you can get a quick shutter speed to stop the motion blur. Second, the lights almost always have a yellowish or greenish tint, which wreaks havoc on anything that has skin. At this particular gym, I was blessed, I mean cursed, with sunlight streaming through windows and doors, mixed with the yellow/green indoor lights, leading to images that have a wide variety of color tones in the shot.

But with a little patience, and a decent amount of post-processing, you can get a images few that that capture the moment, although they will not be qualifying for any Sports Illustrated spreads.

Saturday’s game was a scrimmage, so there weren’t any winners or losers (and I didn’t have to feel bad that I wasn’t rooting for my home town). But these kids played like it was the Super Bowl, or whatever the basketball equivalent is. I was shocked at how many baskets were being made, the speed of the kids, and the heights to which they jumped. Lots of jumping. A very exciting game, and I’d highly recommend checking out your local teams at some point.

Here are a few images.


Veterans Day Ceremony 2016 in Ridgewood, NJ

American Legion Post 53 sponsors a Veterans Day ceremony every year in Memorial Park at Van Neste Square in Ridgewood, NJ. It’s a well-attended event and something I look forward to attending whenever possible.

This year, the ceremony honored those who served in the Gulf War. As always, American Legion Commander Bob Paoli served some moving and thought-provoking words. Several speakers, including Ridgewood Mayor Susan Knudsen, shared some words and thoughts with a crowd which included veterans from our Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard, along with families, students, citizens and veterans.

Of course I took some photos to remember the day, and hopefully do a bit to honor those who have served.



Donut still life (well, sort of)

I’m just getting into still life photography. There are completely different challenges to still life, as opposed to performance, family, or headshot photography. On the plus side, you don’t need any people to play.

In this case, all I needed was that stale donut from yesterday, which I pulled out of the garbage. Sure, I was going to get the shot set up and run out for a fresh donut, but then I figured “Why?” So you’re looking at a stale donut that was pulled from the garbage.

Food photography is nothing new to me, but typically the dishes are sitting still. Nice and easy. One light, maybe some whiteboard to bounce the light, and done. Here, though, I wanted to capture the sprinkles (or “jimmies,” as my wife inexplicably refers to them…must be a North Jersey thing) in motion. And that turned out to be the most challenging part.

And let’s be clear: it’s not really “still life” if I’m dropping jimmies on the thing, ya know? But for me, it falls under the still life category more than those things I usually shoot (other than food, which as I said, usually stays still).

While we typically say that a flash will “freeze the action,” that’s not exactly true. A flash’s power is directly related to how long it fires. So if you are firing on full power, the flash is on for a relatively long time. And when that’s the case, those little moving “jimmies” will show some motion blur. So I had to trigger the flash at about 1/128th power. This, of course, meant that there wasn’t enough light for a decent exposure.

Rather than raise the ISO and introduce unwanted noise, I simply added another flash. And then another, as it turned out. The three flashes, all camera left, produced enough light (all at 1/128th power of course) to freeze the falling “jimmies” as they fell.  The set-up was a mishmash of a softbox, a Rogue Flashbender, and a bare flash aiming up with the bounce card pulled out. And then a piece of whiteboard camera right to bounce some light onto the right side of the donut for fill.

This was a proof-of-concept shoot, as I was curious what it would take to basically pull it off. Next time I pay more attention to how I’m dropping those jimmies, and perhaps get rid of some that had already hit the deck in front of the donut. But really, there’s no such thing as too many jimmies.

I should add that I didn’t eat the donut…as far as you know.

donut largedonut BTSBehind the scenes. What a mess!

Lilacs in New Jersey in springtime

As some background on this one, I will state that my mother-in-law’s (that’s “Ruth” to you) favorite flower is the lilac. This is undeniably the case, evidenced by how she walked down the aisle with her husband some 70 years ago holding a bunch of these fragrant beauties.

Fast forward countless decades, and Ruth brought to my wife and me a lilac bush some years back to plant in our yard after we bought our home, and joked that we’d “always remember” her when we see it. We fondly refer to it as “Ruth’s bush,” which, depending on how immature your sense of humor is, might make you giggle. Before you judge, I’ve got a story about an 88-year-old Ruth making a joke about the product Black Betty (“For the Hair Down There”) that had us laughing to the point of tears which I may share later. The lesson? You’re never too old or mature to work blue, or be silly.

Well ANYway, it’s huge now (Ruth’s bush), and it’s that time of year, and the thing is going absolutely nuts with brilliant blossoms.

I grabbed a few blossoms today before the crazy and angry New Jersey rain came in out of nowhere and pummeled the darned thing.

And then I took a few shots. I’m thinking of framing this one and presenting it to the old gal, so she knows we appreciate her kind gesture, and she knows we love these wonderful gifts that grace our yard every spring.

The little I know about flower photography still far exceeds what I know about flower arrangements, I found out quickly, as I stared endlessly and mindlessly, and poked and man-handled these surprisingly delicate matrices of bee food. If you know how to arrange flowers, by all means please reach out to me and give a guy some help.

I should add that the pot in this photo is most likely Ruth’s, and is probably older than me. Yet another nice gift from a thoughtful woman.

still life flowers-034-Edit-3