Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Obit watch: October 26, 2016.

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Bob Hoover, possibly the greatest pilot ever, has passed away at the age of 94.

I don’t think that statement is hyperbole, though I suspect I might get arguments from some people.

Even General Yeager, perhaps the most famous test pilot of his generation, was humbled by Mr. Hoover, describing him in the foreword to Mr. Hoover’s 1996 autobiography, “Forever Flying,” as “the greatest pilot I ever saw.”
The World War II hero Jimmy Doolittle, an aviation pioneer of an earlier generation, called Mr. Hoover “the greatest stick-and-rudder man that ever lived.”

“Well, if he was such a hot stick, why wasn’t he the one who broke the sound barrier?” Answer: because he got crosswise with his superiors for doing some unauthorized low-level flying, so they put him in the chase plane for Yeager. When Chuck freakin’ Yeager says, “I want you to have my back on this one”, well…there’s your sign.

“Nazis?” Yes:

As a pilot with the 52nd Fighter Group, based in Corsica, Mr. Hoover, a lieutenant, flew 58 successful missions before his Spitfire fighter was shot down by the Luftwaffe in February 1944. He spent 16 months in Stalag Luft I, a prisoner of war camp in Germany reserved for Allied pilots.
Mr. Hoover and a friend escaped from the camp in the chaotic final days of the war, according to his memoir. Commandeering an aircraft from a deserted Nazi base, they flew it to freedom in the newly liberated Netherlands, only to be chased by pitchfork-wielding Dutch farmers enraged by the plane’s German markings.

He went on to become a hugely popular performer on the air show circuit:

Mr. Hoover’s trademark maneuver on the show circuit was a death-defying plunge with both engines cut off; he would use the hurtling momentum to pull the plane up into a loop at the last possible moment.
But his stunts were not foolhardy. Each involved painstaking preparation and rational calculation of risk. “A great many former friends of mine are no longer with us simply because they cut their margins too close,” he once said.

I regret that I never saw him perform: somehow, it just never seemed that he came anywhere near me in Texas. (There’s video of part of his routine on the NYT page.)

I did read, and liked, Forever Flying. There’s a story in there that I sometimes pull out and tell to younger technicians who have messed up and feel bad about it.

The story goes: Mr. Hoover was flying back from an airshow and stopped to have his plane refueled. He took off again, and very shortly after takeoff, the engines quit. By dint of superior airmanship, he managed to land the plane: nobody on board was killed or even injured, but the plane was pretty much a total loss.

When Mr. Hoover removed the gas cap, he found out what the problem was: as I recall, the guy who filled the plane put in the wrong type of fuel. (I want to say he put in jet fuel instead of aviation gasoline, but don’t quote me on that: I don’t have the book in front of me.)

So Mr. Hoover hikes back to the airfield, and the guy who filled up the plane is staring off into the distance looking like the whole world has come down on him. Because he realizes he screwed up Bob Hoover’s plane.

And Mr. Hoover comes over, puts his arm around the guy, and says, “Son, I just want you to know: nobody was hurt. The plane got bent, but we can replace that. I have another plane coming in tomorrow morning, and when it gets here, I want you to be the one who puts fuel in it…

…because I know you’re never going to make that mistake again.”

By all accounts I’ve read and heard, he was a pretty kind gentleman, too. 94 is a good run, but the world is still a smaller, lesser place today.

Random notes: June 24, 2016.

Friday, June 24th, 2016

The Baltimore Sun recalls a time when terrapin was “the signature delicacy of Maryland cuisine”.

(Linked here because: my favorite chapter in The Old Man and the Boy is towards the end, where the Old Man takes The Boy up to his friend’s in Maryland. They stop off along the way and have a proper meal of canvasback duck, terrapin stew, and various kinds of “iced tea” – this being at the height of Prohibition. So, yeah, I have a vague desire to try terrapin stew sometime.)

I intended to link this earlier in the week, but forgot until the On Taking Pictures podcast reminded me: 20×24 Studio is closing down “by the end of next year”.

The significance of this is that 20×24 is the home of the largest Polaroid camera ever made:

The camera, the 20-inch-by-24-inch Polaroid, was born as a kind of industrial stunt. Five of the wooden behemoths, weighing more than 200 pounds each and sitting atop a quartet of gurney wheels, were made in the late 1970s at the request of Edwin H. Land, the company’s founder, to demonstrate the quality of his large-format film. But the cameras found their true home in the art world, taken up by painters like Chuck Close and Robert Rauschenberg and photographers like William Wegman, David Levinthal and Mary Ellen Mark to make instant images that had the size and presence of sculpture.

But Polaroid no longer produces instant film: the company bought “hundreds of cases” of the 20×24 film, and hoped to reverse engineer it:

“I’ve been doing this for 40 years now, and I understand the importance of the history maybe better than anyone else,” said Mr. Reuter, who is also a photographer and filmmaker. “But there is a time when things have to come to an end. These are not materials that were designed to last indefinitely, and the investment to keep making them would be huge, multimillions.”

20×24 Studio.

Pavel Dmitrichenko is hoping to rebuild his ballet career, after being out of the dance scene for about two and a half years.

Why was he out? Injury? No, actually, he was in prison.

And why was he in prison? He was convicted of plotting the acid attack against Bolshoi Ballet director Sergei Filin.

Mr. Dmitrichenko now labels the whole affair pure fiction. It was all a plot, he said, by Mr. Filin and his allies in the Bolshoi to remove him from the scene because he was vocal about their corrupt practices and would not be intimidated.
The revisions spill out in dizzying, not to say implausible, succession: He never spoke to Mr. Zarutsky about Mr. Filin. He denied that he admitted as much in court. Ms. Vorontsova was not his girlfriend. He even raises doubts that there was any acid attack since Mr. Filin has little noticeable scaring and can drive, despite the seeming lack of an iris in one eye that he keeps hidden behind sunglasses.

It’s not the bullet that kills you…

Friday, June 3rd, 2016

…it’s an allergic reaction to the sulfa drugs they were giving you to manage infection, this being in the days before modern antibiotics.

At least, that’s what a medical professional of my acquaintance told me yesterday; this is not a theory I had heard previously, but I trust this person implicitly. It seems like the one thing we know about the death of the Kingfish is how little we really do know.


For example, this may not be a bullet hole at all: it may be just “an imperfection in the marble”, according to that article I linked yesterday. I’m not sure I agree with their police work there, Lou. It looks awfully strange to be just an imperfection in the marble. But on the other hand, it also seems to be in a strange spot for a bullet hole. If you’re facing the pillar, I’d say it is roughly at a 270 degree angle from the front, almost around to the back side. Maybe someone trying to hide could have been hit there? Maybe it is a hole, but from a bodyguard’s gun?



Expanded context:



One more.

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

I was going to crop and enhance this, but I imported it into Shotwell, took a look at it…and I’m actually kind of happy with the way it came out, unenhanced and uncropped.


Louisiana’s Old State Capitol, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This is distinct from the new State Capitol, which is where Huey was actually shot (more on that later) but the gun and bullets on on exhibit in the old one.

Taken with the little Nikon Coolpix S6500.

Random gun geekery.

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

Also: a historical note, suitable for use in schools.

Taken with the iPhone camera, cropped a little, and enhanced in Shotwell:


I like the use of the word “supposedly” there, but that’s another discussion for when I have more time.

And don’t forget who else used an FN 1910.


A little more context on Weiss, Guerre, and the bullets, along with a lot of the assassination mythology, here.

The ex-presidents are Pez dispensers!

Saturday, January 2nd, 2016

Found at Blood Bath and Beyond, and also available from Amazon: Presidents of The United States Volume 8 – Pez Limited Edition Collectible Gift Set.


A better view with some of the packaging removed:


Seriously. How did I live this long without a Richard Nixon Pez dispenser?


All I need now is Lyndon Johnson (who is in Volume 7) and I can do my own remake of Point Break.


(Well, okay, technically, I guess I would also need a Gary Busey Pez dispenser and maybe a Keanu Reeves one, too.)

(“The part of Keanu Reeves is being played by a tongue depressor.”)

(And I should probably get Volume 3 as well, because who doesn’t need Millard Fillmore to go with their Richard Nixon?)

Have you ever said to yourself…

Monday, June 29th, 2015

…”Self, I wonder what it’s like to take photos with a three foot long, 36 pound, $180,000, 1,200mm camera lens?”

Don’t even think about taking a selfie. It will not focus on anything closer than about 46 feet.

I wish this had been a better article. It really doesn’t talk as much about the actual process of shooting with the lens as I’d like, and I’m not all that impressed with two out of three of the photos. But I still think it’s worth linking, even if it doesn’t push all of my photo geek buttons.

(Also, this is a used lens. For the record, and because I’m a Nikon guy, here’s their “equivalent” lens.)

After action report: Spokane, WA.

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

The Smith and Wesson Collector’s Association annual symposium was in Spokane this year.


I’ll be your huckleberry…

Friday, June 5th, 2015


…cheesecake, that is.

I’m on the road, so expect sporadic updates. I would say that I’m in an undisclosed location, but it turns out my hotel is within a very short walk of a certain university. I didn’t plan it that way (it also happens to be the convention hotel), but it does amuse me how this worked out.

One more photo. I took this last night, after I finished dinner and while I was waiting for the hotel shuttle.


Ironic or not?

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

“Ironic or not?” is a game I used to play with one of my cow orkers at Four Letter Computer Corporation.

During the Great Bobblehead Scandal of 2012, I bought a John Wilkes Booth bobblehead.

I had it on my desk at work until this morning, when I accidentally knocked it onto the floor and…


Yes, Booth broke his ankles. Much like the actual John Wilkes Booth did when he got his foot tangled in the bunting while leaping out of the presidential box at Ford’s Theater.

(Or maybe he broke his leg. Or maybe he didn’t break anything at all in the leap, but his horse injured him later. I’m a little dubious about that story; the evidence for that seems to be “he didn’t run like he had a broken leg”. Well, maybe, but given that he’d just killed the president and was fleeing the scene, adrenaline may have done a great job of hiding a broken leg.)

What really kind of totes my goat is that Booth fell maybe three feet (if that) onto a carpeted office floor. Note to self: don’t buy stuff from “The Bobblehead LLC”.

Ironic or not? Before you answer…

After action report: Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Monday, November 17th, 2014

I’ve sort of hinted at this, but now the full story can be told.

Mike the Musicologist and I went on a road trip to Oklahoma the weekend of November 8th.


Na na na na na na na….

Sunday, November 16th, 2014








(USS Batfish home page.)