Category Archives: Photography

Repost: Our two most popular photo posts


For some odd reason, of the many of our own photographs we’ve posted, two images draw esnl readers back time and again, so we decided to repost both.

Our first and most popular image was original posted 19 January 2012, along with an essay:

The view from the gunfighter’s seat

Nikon D300 16 January 2011, 20mm, 1/250 sec, f4.5

Nikon D300 16 January 2011, 20mm, 1/250 sec, f4.5

Two phrases from the days of the Old West still resonate in modern speech. The first, of course is “Shotgun!,” the call made when claiming the front seat next to the driver.

The term originates from the days when folks traveled by stagecoach. When passing through dangerous country or when the stage contained a valuable cargo, an armed, shotgun-toting guard as assigned to sit up top on the bench beside the driver.

The other term, less well known, is “the gunfighter’s seat.” It’s the chair in the corner of the room farthest from and facing the door. Its name comes from its preference by ever-vigilant armed men who lived in daily expectation of violent confrontations with other armed men.

Sitting in the gunfighter’s seat gives a panoramic view of everyone in and entering the room.

We snapped this shot the other day while waiting for a friend at a local tavern. The Stetson belongs to esnl. Appropriate to our theme, it’s the Gun Club model.

Back in the 1970s, we had a friend who’d been a Los Angeles Police officer before signing up with the Central Intelligence Agency, then retiring to take a job in private security in the corporate sector.

We took him to a nice little French restaurant in Santa Monica, and planted our posterior in the gunfighter’s seat, which left him, the former cop and spook, seated facing the corner of the room.

We talked a few minutes, and then he stopped. His eyes lit up, followed by a grin, then a quick shake of his head. Then he fixed me with a bemused smile and intense gaze, followed by a laugh as he shook his head again.

“Brenneman, you son of a bitch, you did it on purpose!” He didn’t have to say what “it” was. I’d put him in the one seat in a crowded room certain to make to make him the most uncomfortable.

I smiled. He nodded.

We’ve always picked the gunfighter’s seat, a lesson our children quickly learned, sometimes to our disadvantage, as when they prankishly plant themselves in our chair of preference, forcing us into the blind seat because they know it’ll bug us, just as it did our ex-spook friend so many years before.

The journalist and the gunfighter

In many ways, the mindset of a journalist shares many traits with the gunfighter of yore, most particularly a peculiar sort of hypervigilance, attuned to changes and anomalies in the environment.

Because of our life circumstances, we’re particularly attuned to environmental changes and out-of-the-ordinary events.

We’d like to think that we turned what might have been a handicap into an asset, as is the case of many of the best journalists we’ve met during the course of the decades we spent behind first a lens and a typewriter, and later, a lens and a word processor [what an infelicitous pair of words].

Some of the best journalists are misfits. Why else would smart, perceptive people work at a craft where they earn much less than they might had they opted for law, medicine, business, or countless other “careers”? We suspect a lot of good reporters heard the same phrase we heard from our mother more than once: “Why a reporter? You could’ve been a doctor!”

Journalism, at least for us, is a calling, an engagement with the world that evokes the fullest possible use of our abilities, knowledge, and experience, turning an innate and potentially enervating vigilance into a positive force engaged, hopefully, for the benefit of the larger community.

But such is life in the Gunfighter’s Seat.

And the second image, originally posted 18 January 2012. . .

Isle of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice

Shot from the Bridge of Sighs [Ponte dei Sospiri] on a cloudy summer day. Folks aren’t supposed to take cameras into the Doge’s Palace, but the staff was gracious enough to let me take my camera so long as I didn’t shoot interiors. Lord Byron gave it a name, poetically describing the last gasps of prisoners marched through its artful enclosure to the prison across the canal.The church with the dome and spectacular Romanesque facade is Andrea Palladio’s 16th Century Church of San Giorgio Maggiore.

To see the photo full size, go to the original post and click on the image, since WordPress no longer offers that option on newer posts:

29 August 2006, Nikon D70, 38mm, ISO 320, 1/2000 sec, f4.2

29 August 2006, Nikon D70, 38mm, ISO 320, 1/2000 sec, f4.2

Here’s a romantic addition to the original post from the Wikipedia entry on the bridge:

The enclosed bridge is made of white limestone and has windows with stone bars. It passes over the Rio di Palazzo and connects the New Prison (Prigioni Nuove) to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. It was designed by Antonio Contino (whose uncle Antonio da Ponte had designed the Rialto Bridge) and was built in 1600.

The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. The bridge name, given by Lord Byron as a translation from the Italian “Ponte dei sospiri” in the 19th century, comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells. In reality, the days of inquisitions and summary executions were over by the time the bridge was built and the cells under the palace roof were occupied mostly by small-time criminals. In addition, little could be seen from inside the Bridge due to the stone grills covering the windows.

A local legend says that lovers will be granted eternal love and bliss if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the Bridge of Sighs as the bells of St Mark’s Campanile toll.

esnl favorite Abby Martin arrested in Philly


First, the event:

Abby Martin arrested in Philadelphia for “disorderly conduct.” Tweeted by her colleague, Mike Prysner.

Abby Martin arrested in Philadelphia for “disorderly conduct.” Tweeted by her colleague, Mike Prysner.

We’ve been following the career of teleSUR English journalist Abby Martin ever since she hosted her own show of Berkeley Community Television, the city’s public access channel.

She moved on to RT America, hosting Breaking the Set, a weekly half-hour show we often included in esnl posts, then moved on to teleSUR where she hosts The Empire Files, also featured frequently here at esnl.

And now she’s been initiated into a rite of passage that sometimes comes to reporters out to cover a story: Folks with badges denying you access and threatening arrest.

What hapopened next, from teleSUR English:

Abby Martin, host of “Empire Files,” was released by police on Monday after a violent arrest while covering DNC protests for teleSUR, but says that many more wait to be processed after “mass marches, mass protests and mass arrests and detentions,” despite police reports that no arrests have been made at the DNC.

Martin was on her way to a “Democracy Spring” event where there were reports of civil disobedience and arrests being made. The police had closed off all streets surrounding the action.

The police stopped them and told them to leave the area. As they were complying and leaving the area, another police officer grabbed Martin, twisted her arm, tore her dress and arrested her for “disorderly conduct.” Three cops “aggressively manhandled me,” she said, before throwing her in a police van and driving her to an elementary school to be processed alongside many protesters that had participated in the Democracy Spring action and others.

“I was just trying to accept my fate and how unreal what was happening was,” said Martin. “I just kept thinking about what people go through” in aggressive arrests every day in the U.S.

“It’s just really stunning to go through that experience and to know that this is what police do to people every day in this country.”

Democracy Now! has more on the event she was covering:

Outside the convention center, protests continued for a second day. At least 50 people were briefly taken into custody by police during a mass sit-in outside the convention center Monday. The demonstration dubbed “Democracy Spring” was protesting against the big influence of corporate money in politics. At least one journalist was arrested attempting to cover the protest. Police arrested TeleSUR journalist Abby Martin as she tried to access the blocked-off area.

Finally, another Mike Prysner Tweet with Martin after her release:

When the mass paparazzi instinct turns lethal


The invention of the cell phone [thanks, Hedy Lamar] and the decision to use it to house first still, then moving image cameras, complete with sound capability, have transformed daily life.

Throw in the Internet and the rise of viral videos and still images made each of us all vigilant for opportunities for images to share, both free and for profit.

As Benedict Evans, trend analyst for the Silicon Valley investment bankers at Andreessen Horowitz noted last year, “more photos will be taken this year than were taken on film in the entire history of the analogue [film] camera business.”

While this technology enables us to creative a documentary record unparalleled in human history, the omnipresence of the camera plus the egoistic drive to assert olur being in the world can lead to mishaps, especially when we all turn paparazzi simultaneously when presented with an irresistible image.

We’ve heard of lethal selfie accidents, when folks seeking to self-immortalize end up proving self mortality.

But then there the time times when the same drive leads to death of the object of our visual obsession.

From the Associated Press:

A mountain goat in Alaska jumped into the ocean to get away from crowds snapping its picture, and the animal drowned when it couldn’t get back to land because of the crush of people on shore.

Alaska State Troopers say it’s imperative to give animals adequate space. That didn’t happen Saturday in downtown Seward, and troopers say in an online post that it “resulted in a wild animal dying for no cause.”

It comes amid a series of incidents of people getting too close to wildlife, including tourists in Yellowstone National Park who picked up a bison calf they thought was abandoned. It had to be euthanized.

 In Alaska, troopers got a call about people harassing the goat and another about a large group following it onto the breakwater rocks.

There’s a reason they call Paris the ‘City of Light’


BLOG Paris

From NASA’s Earth Observatory, where you can find a much larger version of the image, a stunning look at Paris at night:

Around local midnight, astronauts aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of Paris, often referred to as the “City of Light.” The second image below is a close-up drawn from the same photo.

The pattern of the street grid dominates at night, providing a completely different set of visual features from those visible during the day. For instance, the winding Seine River is a main visual cue by day, but here the thin black line of the river is hard to detect until you focus on the strong meanders and the street lights on both banks.

The brightest boulevard in the dense network of streets is the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, the historical axis of the city, as designed in the 17th century. Every year on Bastille Day (July 14), the largest military parade in Europe processes down the Champs Élysées, reviewed by the President of the Republic. This grand avenue joins the royal Palace of the Tuileries—whose gardens appear as a dark rectangle on the river—to the star-like meeting place of eleven major boulevards at the Arc de Triomphe. This famous plaza is also referred to as the Étoile, or “star.”.

Astronaut photograph ISS043-E-93480 was acquired on April 8, 2015, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 400 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 43 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by M. Justin Wilkinson, Texas State University, Jacobs Contract at NASA-JSC.

The neighborhood giant also wears a halo


Auroras on Jupiter

Auroras on Jupiter

The largest planet in our solar system, the one known for its bright, bright spot, also has a big, bright halo.

From NASA’s HubbleSite:

Astronomers are using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to study auroras — stunning light shows in a planet’s atmosphere — on the poles of the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter. This observation program is supported by measurements made by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, currently on its way to Jupiter.

Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, is best known for its colorful storms, the most famous being the Great Red Spot. Now astronomers have focused on another beautiful feature of the planet, using the ultraviolet capabilities of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

The extraordinary vivid glows shown in the new observations are known as auroras. They are created when high-energy particles enter a planet’s atmosphere near its magnetic poles and collide with atoms of gas. As well as producing beautiful images, this program aims to determine how various components of Jupiter’s auroras respond to different conditions in the solar wind, a stream of charged particles ejected from the sun.

This observation program is perfectly timed as NASA’s Juno spacecraft is currently in the solar wind near Jupiter and will enter the orbit of the planet in early July 2016. While Hubble is observing and measuring the auroras on Jupiter, Juno is measuring the properties of the solar wind itself — a perfect collaboration between a telescope and a space probe.

“These auroras are very dramatic and among the most active I have ever seen,” said Jonathan Nichols from the University of Leicester, UK, and principal investigator of the study. “It almost seems as if Jupiter is throwing a fireworks party for the imminent arrival of Juno.”

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Sign of the times: Yes, it really is a street sign


BLOG Sign

And it’s painted on streets in Basel, Switzerland, the result of pressure on police [in German] to regulate the activities of the 30 to 50 of the city’s prostitutes who chose to solicit customers on the streets rather than the approach taken by the 650 or so other sex workers who either solicit in bars or through advertisements posted in bars.

That dotted line represents the limits beyond which they will be arrested and charged or soliciting boulevardiers out for a good time.

Police report that the overwhelming majority of sex workers are Eastern Europeans, leading police to adopt an icon rather than a written notice.

California burning, images captured from space


While Donald Trump insists that California’s near-epochal drought is but a myth, it ain’t necessarily so.

Indeed, the state is tinder dry.

From NASA’s Earth Observatory:

BLOG Cal fire

More form NASA:

A wildfire burning northeast of Bakersfield, California, is the state’s largest so far in 2016, according to news reports. It has also been called the season’s a most destructive fire. As of June 27, the Erskine fire had scorched 18,368 hectares (45,388 acres), destroyed at least 250 structures, and was responsible for at least two deaths.

The top image shows the region at 3:34 a.m. Pacific Time on June 26, 2016. It was acquired with the day-night band (DNB) of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite. The DNB can detect relatively dim signals such as city lights and reflected moonlight. In this case it also shows the glow of wildfire.

The second image shows the fire later that same day. This natural-color image was acquired with the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Red outlines indicate hot spots where MODIS detected warm surface temperatures associated with fires. Winds carried smoke from the fire northward.

The fire first ignited on June 23 due to a yet-unknown cause. On the date these images were acquired, the fire had burned 17,588 hectares (43,460 acres). As of June 27, the fire was 40 percent contained and continued to pose a threat to structures.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, above normal fire potential is expected to expand into the Sierras and central coast region of California as summer progresses. According to the outlook: “The highest potential may be over the Sierra Foothills where a severe, multiyear drought has exacted a toll on the vegetation of the area.”

And there will be more to come, thanks to a massive die-off of California’s pine, fir, and cedar forests.

From United Press International:

California’s climate has always been hospitable to fire – it comes with the territory. But add five years of drought, a bark beetle blight killing trees by the millions and rising temperatures, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

“We are seeing the compounded effects of climate change that includes five consecutive years of drought and rising mean temperatures across the West – last year was the hottest year on record,” said Janet Upton, deputy director of communications at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “All that is trending to a more flammable California.”

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service reported that 26 million trees had died in six counties in the southern Sierra Nevada since October. Adding in an estimated 40 million dead trees counted since October 2010, it brings the statewide tree mortality to at least 66 million in less than six years.

High rates of tree mortality are being driven by bark beetles in combination with the state’s drought. Like fire, bark beetles are a natural part of the state’s ecology and a way for nature to weed out the weak and keep forests healthy. But when the trees suffer from drought, they no longer have their natural defense mechanism to fight off bark beetles. “Trees draw up moisture and push the beetle out,” said Upton. “With the drought, they couldn’t draw the moisture needed to do that.” And that has led to a bark beetle explosion – to epidemic levels.

Hardest hit so far has been the southern Sierra. “We identified six high-hazard counties and now we’ve added four more,” said Upton. The bark beetle blight is marching to the north.