Saturday, August 11, 2012

Have a delicious Sunday / Abbiate una domenica deliziosa

Pasta alle vongole verace. Che delizia, che sapore.

Centro storico di Castellammare by night

The centro storico, the area within the old walls of the town makes for great night photos, especially since it's streets are so narrow that motor traffic is prohibited. This makes for pleasant walks that are safe and also very quiet. Italy is a very loud country. Everyone talks loud and the scooters with their noisy mufflers are everywhere. It is of anthropological interest that there's no word in Italian for privacy so the English one is used. There's no Italian word for stress either, for obvious reasons, so once again the English word is used and conjugated into the myriad of Italian verb tenses. An Italian would say: ho bisogno d'un poco di privacy , I need some privacy. for the verb stressare  here goes: sono molto stressato [present perfect] or ieri ero molto stressato [past perfect]. or non sapevo che questa faccenda mi stressasi cosi". [imperfect subjuntive] or ah, se non mi fossi stressato [past perfect subjunctive] or mi  sarei astressato molto [ past conditional].  These are all conjugated in the masculine gender because I am a male chauvinist, but they must also be conjugated with the feminine if the thought requires it.  There are many more tenses of course. English grammar is really a piece of cake compared to Italian. It is of note that the French would rather die than use foreign words. The result is a language poor in words and expression that is bound to wither away.

We are getting spoiled with mega pixels now.

Getty's 20 Gigapixel Olympic Image Doesn't Meet Standards of Quality

Getty-Olympics-noimage.jpgPhotographs are an incredible way to experience an event that you can't attend and the 20 gigapixel image that Getty was planning to take during the Olympic opening ceremonies would have been just that. Unfortunately, we're not going to get to see that picture.

"Due to unforeseen technical difficulties around crowd movement, Getty Images were unable to capture a suitable Gigapixel shot of the Opening Ceremony that met our high quality standards," said Getty in a statement.

That's disappointing for sure, but it's not the end. "Plans have been put in place to capture four other Gigapixel images throughout the duration of the London 2012 Olympic Games," says Getty. Just what those opportunities are wasn't revealed, but we're guessing that the closing ceremonies are in there as a contender.
As if it really makes any difference once it;s seen on a screen. Ridiculous.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Happy Saturday / Buon sabato

Shapes and forms

An interesting wat to use a camera is to photograph emphasize shapes and forms. A perfectly prosaic shot can be made into a rather interesting one. It's all in the way photographs are cropped and visualized.

The top photo was shot in Salemi last August while the two buildings were shot recently in Castellammare. while the crane was shot this past January near the town's rail road station. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Have a paceful week end / vi auguriamo ona fine di settimana pacicica

Lovely Scopello.

Quiet streets in late afternoon

On summer afternoons, the streets get sort of quiet in Castellammare. People rest up for the evening meal. Also in the summer people do not go out until very late at night,

A camera for rainy days

Never mind it's ability to be used down to 200 feet, this appears to be the ideal camera to use on wet, rainy ans stormy days, snow storms included. This is the way I used to used My Nikonos. It is also very useful on a beach. having just shot the sea castles at the local beach, I can attest to the need of a water proof camera. I was worried that salt water would hit my E PL-2 has there was a constant spraying of sea water on the sand structures to keep them mopist. I had to be very careful about any of it hitting the camera.

The ReefMaster Mini is a Dive Camera Waterproof to 200 Feet

ReefMaster.jpgThe folks at SeaLife have announced a new camera for all your underwater photography needs; the ReefMaster Mini. It's an inexpensive 9-megapixel, 'lifeproof' camera that handles depths of up to 200 feet; and does plenty to improve your underwater pictures as well. It sports automatic settings for diving and snorkeling, color correction software to remove blue hues, and a quick detachable wide-angle lens. It also gives you 30 frames per second of video at VGA resolution.

The ReefMaster mini boasts a built-in Flash designed to get color and exposure just right when you're taking your underwater photos, and a 2.4-inch LCD screen. All this for just $259.95 USD. If you need even more illumination, the ReefMaster Mini Elite kit includes Sealife's Digital Pro Flash unit and a soft travel case, however it will set you back about $610USD.
Courtesy of

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Biscotti tradizionali siciliani

I picked up these traditional Sicilian cookies at one of my two favorite bread bakeries. These were really only made during the Christmas season and have very little sugar. They are usually less dark as these were somewhat over baked. They are actually very good.

Have a wonderul Thursday / Abbiate un bellissimo giovedi'

Siena / Nikon D-200

Shot with the Sigma 12-24 F 3.6-5.6. This is the famous piazza where the palio di Siena is run each year. It is a horse race in full renaissance costumes. Very interesting as different neighborhoods represented by different color flags compete.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

More sand castles

Please bear with me as I post a few more photos from the Castelli di sabbia event.

Have a pleasant Wednesday / Abbiate un mercoledi' piacevole

Monday, August 6, 2012

Castelli di sabbia

While at the Playa beach, I was able to photograph the second annual Castelli di sabbia event. This is an open contest to make sand castles ans other sand sculptures. Some were rather nice. Actually the castle like sculptures were in the minority. Some were very complex and showed great skills and creativity. They ranged from an old Fiat 500 to the Costa Concordia that great example of Italy's uncanny ability to appear ridiculous in the eyes of the world. It was a fun event and a change from the usual beach activities.

Have a wonderful Tuesday / Vi auguriamo un meraviglioso martedi'

Thank you NASA

Curiosity Lands Safely on Mars!

The world watched anxiously in anticipation of the Curiosity landing on Mars this morning, staying up long past their bed times last night, hopeful, yet cautious that we could actually pull of the most difficult landing attempt in the history of space travel.

Curiosity represents a 2.5 Billion Dollar effort to put a new roving laboratory on Mars, with the best technology that money can buy, in order to learn more about our closest planetary neighbor and uncover it's secrets; starting with exploration of a crater that scientists think may have evidence of the building blocks needed to have once supported life.

Launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on November 26 (2012), Curiosity (which is a rover designed to be roving laboratory with an incredibly sophisticated array of sensors, cameras and much more) had to travel over 352 Million Miles before finally entering the Atmosphere of Mars this morning; traveling at over 17 times the speed of sound.

Because Curiosity is much larger and heavier than any other probe in history, getting it to the surface of Mars safely was the most ambitious project ever attempted in the history of interplanetary exploration, and because of the communications delay caused by the long distance from Mars (over 14 minutes is needed at the speed of light to receive signals from Mars), NASA knew it would have no ability to control its descent from Earth or give it any instructions to correct problems that could occur. So, the programming for the tricky landing sequence needed to be perfect, with no room for error. Many people (including some of the Scientists and Engineers that helped design it), were not sure that it could be done.

NASA often referred to this landing as 7 Minutes of Terror before it actually took place, since 7 minutes is the time needed to enter the Mars' Atmosphere, deploy a parachute to slow its descent, jettison the heat shield so that navigation radar could help guide it to its selected landing spot, deploy a jet powered backpack known as the "sky crane" and lower it safely to the ground while using complex maneuvering to rocket away after cutting the final cords to avoid colliding with it; all own its own, with no guidance from NASA after the entry in the thin Martian atmosphere until safely on the ground.

Mars-landing-2012-1.jpgAs Mission Controllers were joined by scientists, engineers and dignitaries last night after the descent started, nobody could do anything but wait to find out if man had achieved something remarkable. Then, at 1:31AM EDT this morning, the first signals came back from Curiosity that it had landed safely on Mars, with everyone watching its progress erupting in cheers and jubilation.

Mars-landing-2012-2.jpgMany watching felt an array of emotion, with smiles, tears of joy and an amazing feeling of pride, finally realizing that all of the hard work had paid off and mankind had accomplished what many thought to be impossible; landing a car size roving laboratory on Mars safely.

This Mars rover is equipped with sophisticated instruments capable of analyzing samples of soil, rocks and atmosphere and beaming results back to Earth; and it even has a laser that can target rocks from up to 23 feet away, then analyze the spectral image produced for chemical composition. But, the amazing array of cameras on board is what we're waiting to see images from; not just the low resolution images from the navigation cameras sent by Curiosity upon landing like the below image of its shadow.

Mars-landing-2012-3.jpgOver the next few days, diagnostics and mast deployment will be completed, and then we'll see higher resolution photos being beamed back from Mars, thanks to the rover's 17 on board cameras.

Mars-landing-2012-4.jpgThe mast alone features seven cameras: the Remote Micro Imager that's part of the Chemistry and Camera suite; four black-and-white Navigation Cameras (two on the left and two on the right) and two color Mast Cameras (Mastcams). The left Mastcam has a 34-millimeter lens and the right Mastcam has a 100-millimeter lens.

There is also a camera on the end of a robotic arm that is stowed known as the Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI). In addition, there are two pairs of black-and-white Hazard Avoidance Cameras in the front, another two pair mounted to the rear of the rover, (dashed arrows in the graphic) and the color Mars Descent Imager (MARDI).

We live in amazing times, and we at Steve's can't help but to be caught up in the jubilation over what mankind has accomplished with the safe landing of Curiosity on Mars, as this is an awesome feat that leaves us thinking "Wow".

The best is yet to come, as more systems and cameras on board are deployed and become functional. So, stay tuned, and Steve's will update you later this week with another article that contains more information about the cameras used by Curiosity,  as well as higher resolution color photos, once they are made available from the Curiosity's sophisticated Mast Cameras.

What can we say except WOW. Thanks again NASA.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Have a delicious week / Abbiate una settimana deliziosa

Yes have a week as delicious as these small pears I just purchased at my local super marker here. I did not go down the farmer's marked because of the scirocco that just hit and the weather is very hot andt it's accompanied by a very hot wind. What can I do.

The American front porch

For most of my life, I've been torn by a dual  love of country: a love for my Sicily and a love for my adopted country, America.
At times it causes great pain because of the cross pressure becomes hard to take. I love both of my countries dearly but I love Sicily a little more. For example I absolute love New York, it is my city and yet the only place where I really feel truly at home is Castellammare del Golfo. Never mind the ridiculously taxing bureaucracy, the totally socialized system that has turned many into clients of the paternal state, and never mind the self imposed sense of inferiority imparted by those from the north who despoiled the entire South with a special emphasis on Sicily. At the time of the so called unification of Italy,  the Kingdom of the two Sicilies was richer and even more industrialized that the north. What transpired was was a rape of Sicily, one of the richest  Italian regions and the imposition  of Piedmontese laws and customs by a royal house made up of quasi imbeciles. Is it any wonder that the great emigration occurred after this so called unification that amounted to a colonization and annexation? But history is written by the winners and  much of this reality has been hidden. Of course that data exists and thanks to many impartial non Italian historians, these facts have been known for many years. As Italy celebrated it's 150th year of unification, a lot was written and a lot of the truth
reached the surface. Nevertheless, what I find truly abhorrent is that this concomitant self imposed belief of cultural inferiority whose real cause is an externally imposed ideology by these cultural rapists. One sad result is that the Sicilian language, Italy's first literary language, even the northerners must reluctantly agree, is slowly being lost. Fewer and fewer people speak it. There is this belief
that  using it shows lack of erudition. Of course the opposite is true. It shows total lack of intellectual acumen. Enough history lesson and enough rant. The original thesis was my national duality.
Therefore as I enjoy this glorious place with it's intense colors, flavors and feelings, yet I still long for those American summers whose emblematic symbol of easy living is the shaded  front porch where cold lemonade is served so one can cool off on hot afternoons.
Ergo the photos that I'm posting.