Detail of Old Town Hall in Salem, Massachusetts
The Friendship of Salem, docked at Derby's Wharf in Salem Maritime National Historic Site
Detail of Old Town Hall in Salem, Massachusetts
The Friendship of Salem, docked at Derby's Wharf in Salem Maritime National Historic Site
Welcome to Portsmouth Brewery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The wet concrete floors, the big metal tanks, the rubber hoses snaking everywhere -- it reminds me of Grandpa Kittell's old dairy farm. I offer that as a compliment.
Memorial Bridge is one of the connections between New Hampshire and Maine over the Piscataqua River. It is a big, foreboding, industrial, post-apocalyptic, rust-flecked beauty.
Friends, I have seen the weird. And the weird is surfing in New Hampshire. This actually happened. I did not Photoshop some California dudes onto a gloomy New England day. I'm pretty sure the Eighth Amendment prohibits that.
I like living in Lowell. I really do. But I'm accustomed to living here now and I rarely look around. The buildings are less... exotic. I mean, they're not strange or different anymore, or otherwise worthy of notice. Each building, each street, each canal is now just an unnoticed landmark on my way to and from work or the grocery store or the train station. What a shame.
I suffer from a disease known as localitis.
This disease is not terminal. If the person who has contracted the disease can not cure himself simply by concentrating more, then external remedies are required. Specifically, entertaining a visitor often does the trick.
My cousin David stopped by today. Hooray. So I showed him around a little, walked up and down the canals, went to the museums. Most of the remaining textile mills are in good shape. The rest had already burned down, fell down, or were knocked down years ago. There are a few along the Hamilton Canal that look like scenes from a post-apocalyptic movie.
I live at Boott Mills, which is the center of Lowell National Historical Park. (Hooray for the National Park Service.) That is, I basically live in a museum. I look out my window, boom, there's a museum. But I had never visited the museum itself. Without standing up from the couch, I can see the museum out of my window. Is that laziness? Not exactly. I like having something nearby that I haven't explored yet -- something to look forward to.
I visited the museum today. Inside the Boott Cotton Mills museum they have one floor of working looms. It's an interesting touch -- not just static machines on display behind a sheet of glass, but the real machines still being driven by water power, still spinning cotton thread into textiles. Below are a few pictures and a video of the action on the first floor.
Loom at Boott Cotton Mills from Kirk Kittell on Vimeo.
Last week, I took a flash business trip to Tewksbury, a Massachusetts suburb tucked halfway between Boston and the New Hampshire border. Selected photos are posted on Flickr.
As it turns out, I had four free hours before my flight was scheduled to leave from Boston. Naturally, in a strange place, I was going to try to make the most of it. One of my favorite things about the northeast is the American history that is represented there. The place I really wanted to find was Concord, location of the first battle of the Revolutionary War.
I wish I had picked up that map at the rental car office. Or maybe I'm glad I didn't.
I couldn't find the battlefield, which I now know is Minute Man National Historical Park. But, on the road into Concord, I learned that this is the home of Walden Pond, where Henry David Thoreau wrote Walden.
I was seated by the shore of a small pond, about a mile and a half south of the village of Concord and somewhat higher than it, in the midst of an extensive wood between that town and Lincoln, and about two miles south of that our only field known to fame, Concord Battle Ground; but I was so low in the woods that the opposite shore, half a mile off, like the rest, covered with wood, was my most distant horizon.
--Chapter 2, "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For"
I bought Walden in Missoula, Montana, as I was passing through on my way from Mojave back to Illinois. I tried to read it once, failed after about 50 pages. Tried to read it again, maybe 20 pages this time. Gave up. It's one of those classics that you understand you're supposed to read for some reason or another, but why? It's clunky and Thoreau is pompous. I put the book away and forgot it.
Sometime in spring 2006, I picked it up again. This time it was different. I flew through it this time. Thoreau was still pompous and stuffy, but I followed the thread of the story more than the way it was told. I packed the book with me when I went to France, finished it there in Strasbourg, then performed what I consider to be the greatest compliment: I gave the book away to someone so that they could read it. (Natalie, did you finish it?)
Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it. We need the tonic of wildness—to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder-cloud, and the rain which lasts three weeks and produces freshets. We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander.
--Chapter 17, "Spring"
Someone asked me what Walden was about. I told her it was about eliminating the junk that we quietly shovel onto ourselves every day. Thoreau went to Walden to figure out what unnecessary weight was hanging around all of our necks. There's a ton of it. You don't see it because it's familiar. You don't feel it because you don't remember what you felt like without it.
I've had my time alone in the desert and in other places, albeit in shifts. It's good to get away if you can manage it. But, on the other hand, it's good to look into those away places through a window like Walden, instead of wandering out there ourselves. Not all of our load can be dropped responsibly in order to get away to the outskirts. You don't need to get away to have perspective.
Read Walden. I recommend it. You won't agree with all of it, but it's a welcome change in perspective; in that regard, you need it.
I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one. It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves. I had not lived there a week before my feet wore a path from my door to the pond-side; and though it is five or six years since I trod it, it is still quite distinct.
--Chapter 18, "Conclusion"
Mike, I offer those last lines from Walden to you as an explanation for why Ed Abbey could -- needed to -- transform from Ed of The Desert to Ed of The City. Maybe you need to step outside of the frame to appreciate what lies within it.
Pursuant to a previous post, "Photo Backup Scheme," I've settled on a scheme for editing the EXIF data in my digital photos (and sometime in the not-near future, my scanned film photos). The changes I make to EXIF data in my digital photos falls into three categories: (1) corrections; (2) identifying information; and (3) geodata.
Before I go on, don't ask me why I do this. OK, I'll tell you: it's a sickness, a compulsion. These photos go further in telling my story than I do, so I want them to be correct. And I expect them to survive long after I'm dead, so want them to explain themselves without me. Yeah. Weird. Kirk Kittell: caveat emptor.
I use two tools to modify EXIF data:
The first thing I do before editing photos in ExifTool is create an edit folder within the album of interest. The photos that I want to modify go into the edit folder, and I run the ExifTool command on the entire folder. It's much easier to do this than to work with individual photos. Also, if I screw up editing the EXIF data, it's easier to undo the effects if I've just edited a subset of photos instead of the whole album.
(1) Corrections. The only corrections I make are to time. My first digital camera was sensitive when it ran out of batteries. If I pulled the batteries out to charge them, the camera would demand to have its time reset when I reinserted them. I didn't always do this; I know this because some of my photos were apparently stamped as being taken in January 2004, almost a year before I got the camera, a Kodak CX7530 Zoom.
Each camera has its own set of native EXIF data, specific to the brand, sometimes further specific to the model (e.g., here is the list of Kodak tags). To fix the dates on the Kodak CX7530, I'd run this command:
exiftool "-DateTimeOriginal+=0:0:0 0:0:0" "-CreateDate+=0:0:0 0:0:0" "-YearCreated=0" "-MonthDayCreated=00:00" edit
DateTimeOriginal and CreateDate are general EXIF tags; YearCreated and MonthDayCreated are specific to Kodak.
(2) Identifying Information. Simply, I add information that identifies me as the owner, a general description of the photo, and copyright information.
exiftool "-Copyright=Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0" "-OwnerName=Kirk Kittell, http://kirkkittell.com" "-SerialNumber=0000000000" -UserComment="Saguaro National Park, Arizona" edit
Also, I learned from Patty Hankins that if someone uses your photo without permission, it helps to be able to identify it, which is why I've included the serial number.
(3) Geodata. Geotagger is very handy for this. Geotagger works with Google Earth: open Google Earth; center the view where the photo was taken; drag the subject photo into Geotagger; Geotagger adds latitude and longitude geodata to the digital photo.
If I take a photo from a plane window -- which happens sometimes -- I also add the altitude (in meters, which is the standard) via ExifTool.
exiftool -GPSAltitude=5000 edit
OK, how do I figure the altitude? I use bbTracker on my phone. bbTracker logs the GPS data on my BlackBerry 8310. If I take a photo out of the window, I make a note on the corresponding point in the track.
Hey, this is a late post on this topic, but it's not like I'm running a high traffic site here. Here are my photos for Project 365 from a week ago. Tomorrow I'll post photos from this week, thus completing a manipulation of space-time by separating a week by a day. Or whathaveyou.
Note: The inside of The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie is more interesting than the side, which is shown here.
Yeah. I cook. Not particularly well, but good enough for a guy living on his own.
All in a Day's Work
For Johnson Space Center's Safety and Total Health Day, there were a number of booths and demonstrations, including this one by Clear Lake Kuk Sool Won. I think I'd like martial arts such as this. But. I don't think I'll be in the area long enough to really get into the groove.
In the Dark
The best from Shiner -- give it a try.
Outside Mission Control
Detail from above the entranceway to Mission Control Center at Johnson Space Center.
This is an elegant little sculpture -- and by little I mean huge -- by Pablo Serrano sitting in front of University of Houston-Clear Lake
I'm obsessed with the idea of how to backup the digital life that I've strewn across the internet and also accumulated on my laptop. Last year -- and I suppose this year also, if I turned it on -- my laptop was dying. When I was at ISU in France in summer 2006, I fell asleep on my laptop and busted the adapter. After two years with a power adapter borrowed from a European computer, the cord melted, sparks flew, etc. Naturally, I blame the French.
How to back up photos has taken the bulk of my archival brainpower. If my laptop died, the worst possible scenario is that all of my digital photos that weren't burned onto CDs would be annilihated. It would be selfishly devastating. Maybe that sort of thing doesn't keep you up at night, but I worry about it. It's not the loss of property that worries me -- it's the loss of history that worries me. What I've seen is what I've become. I'd like you and others to see it as well, if only out of my own narcissistic tendencies (i.e., please tell me my photos are amazing).
The system I've developed for myself goes as follows. The basic idea is to (1) keep the whole of the photos in multiple places so they can't be destroyed in a single oops moment; (2) put the best out there where others can enjoy them.
1) photos.kirkkittell.com. All of the digital photos that I've ever taken are backed up online at photos.kirkkittell.com. You can't see them all. For every set that I add to Flickr, I unlock the corresponding album on photos.kirkkittell.com. There are a lot of junk photos there; there's a reason they weren't all added to Flickr. The photos are all open for rating, so perhaps the cream will eventually rise to the top. Or not. I don't care. The purpose of photos.kirkkittell.com is solely backup, not entertainment.
2) Flickr. I try to add only my most interesting photos to my Flickr account. The truth is: the more photos there are, the fewer you will see. Too many is overwhelming. That's why the number of photos in my Flickr account is decreasing even though I'm adding new photos every week. I'm separating the chaff, which will still be visible at photos.kirkkittell.com.
3) Panoramio. I really like Panoramio, though it is not as full-featured as Flickr. Panoramio is cool because you geotag your photos, and if they're selected by the staff, they show up in Google Earth. As a geophile, I enjoy scanning the Panoramio layer in Google Earth, getting a feel for what the places actually look like.
4) Panoramas. (Not to be confused with Panoramio.) For years, I've been taking shots that I later wanted to stitch together into panoramas. Finally, in October, I discovered hugin to do this. And I've been on a roll since then: see my panoramas on Flickr.
That said, I've been working slowly through my old photos. It's a long process. My goal is to process one album of photos every week. At this rate, it will probably be a year, maybe two, before I finish. It takes time to add tags, descriptions, geographic locations where the photos were snapped, etc. Some of this is easy: editing the information on Flickr; some of this is difficult: editing the EXIF data on the photos.
So far, I've completed three albums this year:
|Big Bend National Park, 26-28 January 2005
|Guadalupe Mountains National Park, 28-29 January 2005
|Saguaro National Park, 30 January 2005
Conclusion: "Yes! I am inveenceeble!"
Postscript: Hey, Ben, the next album out of the showroom will be for you: life in Mojave.
This week, I focused on taking 15 second exposures for my Project 365 photos. Some of them turned out pretty good -- I like "The Tower" and "New World." It would be a lot easier if I owned a tripod; instead, most of these photos are shot from ground level with my camera propped on my bag. The long exposures have a cool effect on the scenery -- especially when there are clouds in the background.
(Secretly, I really like the "Hurricane Freezer" shot.)
This is my favorite shot out of the week's long exposures. This shot, on the corner of Clear Lake, never looks so interesting in the daylight.
Upper Bay Golden Brick Road
Taken on Upper Bay Road. It looks like sand, but it's the effect of the yellow lights on the street.
These are remnants of my Hurricane Ike preparations: water stored in milk jugs in the freezer.
Twenty-five straight days of Project 365 and no sign of slowing down yet...
Building 1, NASA Johnson Space Center
My name is Kirk and I am addicted to making panoramas such as this. Look at this photo in full resolution. You can practically read the things on the desks. (Just kidding, Security.)
Nassau Bay Villa
Sea green building; sunrise sherbet orange; soft twilight blue.
Clear Lake at Night
Testing long exposures on Clear Lake at night. Or: freaking out the neighbors.
Clear Lake Never Looked So Good
I suppose calling it Murky Brown Lake didn't have the same sort of charm.
Put this on your list of things not to screw with.
Sometimes you get the urge to spin around with your coffee and take a photo of it? Totally normal, amiright?