Petey Blues

•April 4, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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This week an old friend released his latest musical compositions/performances on itunes.  I urge you to go there and look up Pete Cummings and download ‘Petey Blues’.  I have been listening to Pete for many years and as I used to say when fame had not yet reached its fickle hand in Pete’s direction,
“The thing about being a musician is that time only helps to hone the craft and adds the experiences that create the art.  It’s not like an athlete whose physical prowess wanes. The true artist adds each life lesson to the repertoire of his soul!”

Pete is a true artist!

I have never endorsed or tried to sell something on this blog…until now!

Download this work so that maybe it will lead to the possibility of more of Pete’s music being shared with the world!!!!

…But first and foremost,  so that you may enjoy the artistry of Peter T Cummings…

Petey Blues©PeterTCummings

 

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Here’s a little history…

In 1966, I was a young, studious, Brylcreem-ed member of Mrs. Crowder’s 5th grade class.  Funny how you look back and THEN realize what a great time it was.  The Beatles had come to America and the world was changing.  We hadn’t yet envisioned Woodstock, Viet-Nam, The Summer of Love,  Apollo moon landings, computers or cell phones, but something was definitely in the air!
One day Mrs. Crowder introduced a ‘new’ kid.  He had lived in Hendersonville before moving with his family to Miami for a few years, but he was new to me.  As it happened, she placed him in the desk right in front of mine and from that point, further unforeseen world changes started on their swerving, accelerating roll to the future.
That new student was Peter T. Cummings.

Pete and I became friends.
We have sustained that friendship through these years.

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While in high school, I spent most afternoons with Pete, Skip Mitchell, Abram Richman and a cast of various other ‘characters’ who were creating music….Great music…original music.
Real music  created because they couldn’t help but create it!

When Pete decided he wanted to try his hand at ‘lead’ guitar, he started teaching me the rhythm guitar parts of his songs.  The first song I ever learned to play on the guitar was a Cummings/Richman song.  I still have that hand-written chart.

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When I was 20 years old, I was in L.A., for some un-remembered reason, when I got a call from Pete.   At the time, Pete was playing in one of the ‘front’ bands for Elvis Presley.  Pete said, “Hey. We’re going to Vegas for 10 days with Elvis. You wanna go?” As I mentioned, I was 20, and in L.A., and I heard those magic words, “You wanna go?”….. AND, I was 20… so what could I say….?
Uh…..Yeah!!!
I won’t go into the stories from the 9 days I spent there,  (or Pete’s tour of Japan with Tanya Tucker or his years with The Oak Ridge Boys)  but Pete and I also, at the time, played in an eclectic, somewhat electric, original, Rock-and-Roll ‘garage’ band. We all (the band, The Zipcats) lived together in a turn-of-the-century farm house in Adolphus, KY. Many was the time that Pete would get a call summoning him to Los Angeles, or Memphis, because Elvis wanted everybody to take karate lessons, or just hang out.
The Zipcats would have to wait…the King was calling.!

Pete has some great stories about his days with Elvis…things that no one else has told, or experienced.  A few of his recollections are on YouTube in a series called
“Uncle Pete”
(filmed by Pete’s nephew, Zack Wilson)

Maybe,
If some of us ‘prod’ strongly enough, Pete and Zack will produce a few more of these…hint, hint…
I hope so, because these are inside stories of a piece of Americana.
Who else in the world… in history… had an Elvis?
And how many of us actually got to know him?

Pete, for one!

Again,
itunes store
Pete Cummings
Petey Blues

 

Petey Blues 2©PeterTCummings

Buy it!… enjoy it!…and come back for more!

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A Horse of a Different Color

•March 25, 2014 • 2 Comments

One of the many endearing qualities of digital photography is the ability to almost instantly see a color image presented in monochrome, or Black & White.   Sometimes a simple click…or two…okay…12….of the computer can totally change the visual dynamics and therefore the ‘feel’ of an image.  At times, merely viewing an image in Black & White will point out areas of adjustment that might enhance the color version.  At other times it becomes an arresting revelation!

With film the photographer had to make that choice before shooting because we would either use color film or B&W film.  Granted, with the proper equipment, which was expensive and hard to come by, a color image could be converted, but not readily.  It would be considerably easier now due to the cost and  accessibility of film scanners.

This image gave me no choice because the camera was loaded with Black & White Infrared film, though I don’t think color would have done anything but detract from the already subtle ghost ship that appeared through the fog for a matter of seconds. (And depending on your monitor, you may not see the ship at all.  I have one home computer that absolutely refuses to show the 3-masted schooner.  Maybe it IS a ghost ship!)

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I have always loved B&W photography and I don’t know if it’s because of the visual dynamics or a sense of nostalgia for what all photography used to be.  Some will claim that B&W is more ‘pure’.  I read a comment recently from a photographer who claimed to only shoot black and white because it was “more natural”.  I’m not sure that’s exactly what he meant because unless he was born color-blind, there’s very little that’s ‘natural’ about it at all… appealing, in some cases, yes, but natural?

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Recently, a blog that I follow by Australian photographer Leanne Cole  is featuring posts called “Monochrome Madness Challenge” every Tuesday, in an effort to showcase the Black & White images of photographers from around the world, and as a place for them/us to share personal techniques for B&W conversion, which are as diverse as the photographers themselves.

I am showing a few comparisons of images that were captured in color but that I think work equally, if not better, in Black & White.  As with all photography, my interpretation of an image is somewhat independent of the viewer’s interpretation, although the techniques involved in capturing the image and then in the post-processing will inevitably influence the interpretation somewhat.

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The following 4 shots were taken with Black & White conversions in mind as they were to be the production/kitchen action segment of a cookbook that would feature the ‘plates’ in color.

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The photo of Chef Timmins instructing his apprentices becomes much more dramatic in Black & White. ( You may notice that I also added some Gaussian blur to further draw attention to the chef….and I also added a ‘toque blanche’ to the one apprentice in front who had removed his just before this was exposed…!!)

Black & White was a satisfying surprise after this session.  As usual, I did a quick conversion, liked what I saw and further tweaked the Black & White process.  I still have a hard time deciding which I like better, but I’m leaning towards the monochrome version. It seems to draw more attention to the face and hands without the color of the blouse and earring vying for attention.

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I had Black & White in my mind’s eye from the conception of this shoot with Daniel, based on the photography of George Hurrell.   The B&W treatment smooths out what are very slight distractions in the color version and also is a much more ‘classic’ look.

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This color version of the wind turbines is pretty much straight out of the camera.  Obviously the B&W presents a much more dynamic photo by allowing for an increase in contrast and expansion of the tonal range.

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This is a photo that I intended to shoot in color with a 4×5 View camera, but in my testing phase I ran out of 4×5 color Polaroids and shot it with a Black & White Polaroid. I knew that this was the look and feel that I wanted. I think this may have been the beginning of when I decided to look at all images in Black & White, just in case.

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There are as many styles of artistic expression as there are people producing them and as many ways of interpreting it as there are viewers.  I enjoy, no, maybe crave the opportunity to ‘revisit’ my photos on the chance that possibly I just didn’t ‘see it right’ the first time.

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Bowling In the Rain

•March 17, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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Sometimes it rains and it’s cold and you just have to come up with something to do.  I was sitting with my second…or third… cup of coffee and happened to catch sight of a bowl that has been sitting on a sideboard for several years, but the diffused light through the shades sent me to  pick up the camera.  Might as well sit in front of the computer on a rainy day, what!?

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I mean…..

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I liked the lines and it was something to occupy a rainy day…that didn’t involve a vacuum cleaner, or laundry, or taxes…!!!

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

•March 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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This is a ‘re-do’ of a previous post, with a few changes and additions…. the lead-in picture was not included in the original post.  This photo was used as the wrap-around dust jacket for the book.  They almost rejected the image because they thought that I had moved buildings and mountains around in post-processing, but when I showed the exact spot from which I shot this, it became an, “oh…never mind” situation…

Grab a cup of coffee…this might take a minute…

These photos were taken on a ‘road trip’  ostensibly to record as many sporting events as possible at an exclusive private prep/boarding school during “Parents’ Weekend” in a delightful, small Pennsylvania town with a wonderfully colorful history.

(They had me at ‘Jimmy Stewart went to high school here’!)

My assignment was to cover Football, Cross-country, boys and girls Soccer, Swimming, Lacrosse, Tiddly-Winks, (not really, but they do participate in 28 sports…)

…whatever I could find that was happening at this bastion of athletics and learning.

A brief synopsis would include that this institution had produced some 54 Olympians, ( 9 Gold medal winners), 4 Medal-of-Honor recipients, a Nobel prize laureate in Physics, literary notables (…ever read The Black Stallion ?, amongst others…), 7 Rhodes scholars, 2 Academy awards, governors, ambassadors, television producers, a President’s son (Coolidge) etc…..

and at least one President of a South American nation.

So, my assignment was to capture the camaraderie,…the Pride…the youthful spirit…sportsmanship…tradition… along with the action, for a ‘coffee-table’ book to entice prospective students and to inspire patrons.

Nobody said anything about the rain…

the incessant rain…

the four days of rain….

from dawn till dusk….

and from dusk till dawn.

Oh, I managed to photograph football, field hockey, cross-country, boys and girls soccer, swimming…

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I shot from a golf cart…

Or while under an umbrella…

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sometimes with a fill flash protected by a white  plastic grocery sack…which also doubled as a diffuser (I still haven’t figured out what happened to my Zero candy bar, but I appreciated the plastic bag and used it above and beyond mere ‘recycling’)CrossCountry  A lr

I shot…and shot, and slogged around in the mire,

and after 3 days I thought,

“I’ve got NOTHING! How can I justify my spent time?”

(And… “Do cameras get moldy?”)

I have already been excessively ‘wordy’ so I’ll try to keep from making a short story long…    (too late, right?!)

During one of the particularly nasty days as I was shooting archival materials in the upper floor of the school library overlooking the grounds and chapel, I beseechingly peered from an upper window, praying for sunlight to cast some illumination for the grinding, albeit water-logged competition on the various fields of athletic endeavor….

and begging for a reprieve, I mused aloud,

“I have this picture in my head of 10 or 12 students with school umbrellas, meandering up the serpentine walk towards the chapel.”

Now, here’s the most important part of this story.

The archivist, Jay,

(who was providing me with some incredible memorabilia. They have a 16 inch diameter ball of string that a student in the ‘30s created using the collected strings that were tied around his 4 years of dry-cleaning packages. His family told the school, “We don’t know what to do with it, so now it’s YOURS!”)

Anyway, Jay simply said,

” Well,… if you see it in your mind, you should probably just do it!”

I’m sorry but I feel the need to repeat those words.

“…if you see it in your mind, you should probably just do it!”

Simple, succinct, and motivational in a way that’s beyond what I am usually capable of convincing myself….(read “The War of Art” for a further explanation of the Resistance that has formerly entrapped me…And still tries to grab for my attention.)

I gathered the umbrellas from the bookstore, requisitioned walkie-talkies from Security and stopped every student I came across and asked them to show up at the location right after the chapel service…and “…bring your friends! You’ll all be in The book!”  I was, more than once, looked at ‘askance’, so I asked twice as many students as I actually needed, trying to cover my bases.

First, chapel .

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Rainy outside, no problem, relax, enjoy the quiet dignity…the ‘inner’ light…

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Then, when I stepped outside, had I been in a movie I would have heard the angel choir heralding the brilliant sunshine…..

My prayers had been answ………?

Wait a minute…..the sun comes out NOW…?!

After I planned on the rain?

And where are the students?

No rain, no students, no photo, or at least not the one that I had imagined…

I lined up the umbrellas on the sidewalk and waited.

Two girls finally showed up and I decided I would just move them around via walkie-talkie and do multiple exposures to be layered together in post-production.

One girl said, “We’ll go to the cafeteria and bring some people.” And off they ran…as the clouds began swirling back around.

I’m thinking, “I’ll never see them again!!!”

But, they came back with friends in tow and a grand ten minutes before they all had to again disperse.  (Most of them mumbling, “Now what…? What are we doing?  My parents are waiting for me…”)  I handed one girl a walkie-talkie and ran up the stairs to where the camera was already set up and locked in.

The sun disappeared  and I was able to produce the photo that I had envisioned, and was even able to add a little homage to Cartier-Bresson via …well, see for yourself…

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Immediately after we had finished, the Sun broke through ‘for good’ and I shot and shot and shot until there was no more light,

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and then I shot the dark..

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Moral of the story:

I dunno,

“Good things come to those who wait” ?

“Be careful what you wish for” ?

“Play the hand that you are dealt”?

or maybe it’s the one I remember hearing from the neighborhood boys before I even started school…

“If at first you don’t succeed,

Keep on sucking till you do suc-ceed!”

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Zombie Turkey Apocalypse

•March 6, 2014 • 1 Comment

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Yesterday, while scouting for locations for a music video I was, for the most part, the only person wandering around in Edwin and Percy Warner Parks. I was surprised at the amount of ice that the hills had endured during the last couple of days.  I couldn’t even travel the entire upper trail because of trees down.

Then I came upon a flock of wild turkeys.  Not a terribly big deal…they are around here all the time. But…. I caught a glimpse of this guy and did a double-take… What the…?

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I swung the car around and pulled out a zoom lens so I could see exactly what the deal was…

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I don’t know exactly where this arrow passed through but it either missed all vital organs or….

This is a turkey zombie…!!!!

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He didn’t seem to think anything about it…probably thinks it’s cool because it makes all the chicks faint!

I’m not sure what could be done about this.  I did notice a Park Ranger scoping out the situation so I hope they can find some way of convincing Tom to sit still for a moment while they help him out!

Lots of pretty ‘stuff’ in the woods.

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“Going My Way”

•February 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

DSC_4782-bwEvery once in a while I get a call from an art director who has seen some of my work and would like for me to adapt the same sort of ‘feel’ of a photograph to their client’s needs.  It is especially gratifying when the feel is from an image or group of images that I have done for myself, outside of someone else’s direction.  That happened with this series.

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Based on the portraiture I did of Daniel Collins, I was asked to somewhat replicate the dramatic lighting used on his pictures for a recruitment campaign for St Matthew’s School.  They had interviewed the students, faculty, alumni, etc., and would pair the pictures with the relevant quotes.

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I converted my versions to black and white, because…well…because I wanted to…

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This is one of my favorites.  I kept expecting Bing Crosby or Spencer Tracy to stroll into the room….

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(BTW… “Going My Way” the title of this post, was one of  Bing Crosby’s ‘Priest’  movies…  8 Academy Awards  in 1944…)

Seemed like a fitting title, no?

…The Root of the Matter

•February 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Or…Meet the Beets…

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We just returned from Hollywood where my daughter (more here) graduated from her two year dance conservatory program at AMDA.  The senior show was excellent!  The commencement ceremony was an inspiration provided in a speech by Jason Alexander  (George Costanza on Seinfeld…amongst many other roles) . More on that, later.  Funny, entertaining, enlightening and encouraging…

When in Hollywood, I always try to make my Sunday morning rounds of the Hollywood Farmer’s Market.  I know where I would be every Sunday if this is where I lived.  Wonderful produce and good ‘eats’. (Particularly the Corn Maiden tamales…my fave…BBQ chicken, red onion, cilantro, and smoked gouda cheese…!!!)

People producing things and trading the fruits of their labors for the fruits of someone else’s labor…  Funny how that works!

Being particularly fond of beets and other root vegetables and also the many varieties of mushrooms that I somehow don’t see at my neighborhood Kroger, I can find every staple that I need at these stands. (I don’t mean to disparage greens by leaving them out, ‘coz you know…“It’s Not Easy Being Green”

And there are plenty of varieties of greens there.

These are ‘Candy-stripe’ and ‘Golden’ beets and purple carrots.  I should have photographed the Forest Nameko and Chanterelle mushrooms, but…uh….well…they were sauteed and eaten fairly quickly…!

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I just found out that up until the 17th century, almost all carrots were of the purple variety.  The orange carrot was a Dutch innovation.

Carrots 4For some reason, that last statement reminded me of the  Amboy Dukes song “Why Is a Carrot More Orange Than an Orange?” from their 1968 album “Journey To The Center of the Mind”….Hey…I can’t help it…there’s a lot of trivial stuff in here…For those of you who missed the ’60s, that is a fairly typical question for that ‘mind-expanding’ era…as opposed to now when the pertinent (?)…  maybe I should say ‘pervasive’…. question is something like,

“Will Justin Bieber ever be a bad enough boy to attract one of the Kardashian girls?”  Oh well…times change….oh, there’s another song

So, here is the ‘photographically’ raw produce.  I  wanted to experiment with color before I added these colors to a salad….

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I’ll have to say that these purple carrots certainly appeal to my photographic ‘dark side’.

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The candy stripe, or Chioggia beet is actually even ‘earthier’, yet sweeter, than the common red beet, as is the golden beet.  2/3 of the beets that are consumed come in a can, so many people have …uh…less than stellar experiences with beets, and rightfully so. I think most people remember them as the red thing on your school lunchroom plate that you didn’t eat and tried your best not to drop on your clothes…unless you wanted to get out of class by claiming some sort of injury….hey…I’m not condoning that or suggesting that it ever happened…!

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Fresh? They are unique, to say the least.  Roasting brings out the flavor and sweetness, but sliced raw with a squirt of lemon juice or an aged balsamic vinegar and some ground pepper…? Yeah

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Next time I’m in Hollywood on a Sunday I am going to get as many varieties of mushrooms as I can carry back in my suitcase….and that I can afford!  They tried to sell me some truffles, which I would have gladly taken, but those things are so expensive, I was afraid I might get mugged on my way back to the hotel!

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