Archive for June, 2009

Royal Ascot

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

RoyalAscot08-3400.jpgLast week, the biggest event here in the Ascot area–indeed, one of the big calendar events for the entire country–took place. Royal Ascot is a colorful, fascinating, and bizarrely British annual happening. It started as a horse race, but it got bigger.

The royals have always been keen on horses. They’ve always had a lot of acreage in the area of Windsor, so back in the early 18th century, they built a race track within a carriage ride of Windsor.

The track in Ascot has races and other events all year, but none are as famous or formal as the Royal Ascot week. The queen arrives every day in her carriage (belief is that half the trip is in a Range Rover), which crosses the length of the final part of the race track, and then she and her entourage walk up to the royal enclosure. The strict dress code of the royal enclosure has an impact on the entire event. Even the cameramen wear top hat and tails.

The pictures on my web site gallery are from ladies day last year. This is the Thursday event that includes the most outlandish hats and shoes. Royal Ascot is a place to see and be seen.

To be honest, I hardly saw a horse when we spent the day there last year. The people are a lot more interesting than the horses. It brings out the entire spectrum of English society, from the posh to the potted.

Most of the local cabbies try to avoid the event because they want to keep the back of their cars clean. When Royal Ascot is taking place, we follow the lead of our neighbors and stay off the roads.

That 70s Show

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Heiser_Bay09-21.jpg.jpgIn the summer of 2006, my parents renovated the basement of the house they moved into the day after my June 1978 high school graduation. I was given strict instructions to remove ANYthing that I wanted to keep. In addition to my much beloved HO scale race cars, I found a slightly musty cardboard Kodak photo paper box. It contained a stack of contact prints and negatives from pictures I’d taken from 1976-1978.

My English and European friends aren’t fully aware of how sophisticated many of the extra-curricular activities are at an American high school. In addition to sports and music, journalism is also considered and important activity, participation in which can not only lead to a career, but it also helps develop citizens who are well prepared to participate in a democracy. Bay High, my high school in Bay Village, Ohio, has traditionally had a strong journalism program. When I was in school, we not only had a very competent yearbook, we also had a multi-page newspaper, printed on newsprint by a printer on a weekly basis.

Starting my junior year (11 grade), yearbook adviser Judy Coolidge decided that Bay High was going to have the best yearbook in the country. She chose and motivated an editorial staff of talented juniors and seniors, and set them to work over the summer to develop a theme and to choose a layout. They chose to name the yearbook “The Whole Bay Catalog”, as a pastiche of Stewart Brand’s “Whole Earth Catalog.” My senior year of High School, the yearbook was entitled “Where Do You Go To Find.” Planning went into great detail on the chapters, pages, and even page design (‘magazine layout’). Although there was always opportunity to squeeze in good shots, much of my work for the yearbook consisted of pictures taken to order, to fit into the pre-planned spreads on specific topics. It was a fantastic experience, and 30 years later, I still enjoy photography, but have never found anything as photographically purposeful and challenging as being part of the journalistic team that turned out 2 of the US’ top-10 yearbooks.

Finding a cache of negatives from such a fun and interesting part of my life was a thrill. These are not just souvenirs of my teen years–this is an important body of creative work. I crawled out of the crawlspace, and spent the next several hours poking through the negatives and prints. It was obvious that they had suffered a bit from their lack of care. I went out the next day to buy an archival storage box and acid-free envelopes, and spent another couple hours taking the negatives out of the cheap and yellowing office envelopes that I’d ‘temporarily’ used when I was a kid, placing the negatives into carefully labeled envelopes. When I was done, my archival storage box was almost full. I counted close to 2600 images.

Most of my favorite shots were there, including some that I’d won prizes for. Unfortunately, some were missing, including a couple that were very important to me. There were also a lot of pictures that I’d taken just for fun, or for practice, including color shots of hockey, baseball and tennis. In some cases, I’ve got contact prints without negatives, and those pictures can be recovered, although the quality is low.

Over a three year period of time, I’ve been laboriously scanning, restoring, and uploading the pictures to a web site. In early 2007, I first unveiled 600 pictures on a commercial photo sharing web site (pbase). During the following several years, I continued to restore and upload photos, sending email about the new additions to a growing list of almost 100 former students, parents and teachers. The lion’s share of the photos were done by the summer of 2008 for 20 minute slideshow for our 30th reunion. There are still some photos that have never been seen–mostly several hundred pictures of hockey. I’m finishing those up now, and uploading them to a gallery on my new, PERMANENT web site–this one.

Update 2013:

Most, but not all of these images have been scanned, some have been Photoshopped, and at least all the hockey images, and what other sports images I have, are uploaded. There are still more to go, and as I upload them, I’ll put a notice on the Secret Bay Village page on Facebook.

When we moved back to the USA from England, I found another stash of negatives that I’d forgotten about. It contained all the favorites I’d been missing, Middle School shots, and even what I remembered as my earliest image, taken with a Brownie box camera at the Cleveland Zoo in 1969.  Another blog post describing my last high school shoot, which pictures I don’t believe anybody at BHS ever saw (but they will want to see) can be found at Who’s YOUR Daddy?

A page of some of my favorite high school images, for those who don’t want to wade through several thousand photos.

A small but hopefully growing set of photos from Bay Middle School (many more yet to be scanned from the second stash, including the long missing photos of Asylum).

Gumby Salutes the Flag

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

A typical scene in Fort Myers Beach.  Video by Jay G. Heiser