Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving is a time to gorge and be thankful, to come together and weather awkward family moments, making sure no one steps on any land mine topics. This year was no different. I love my family, but so what? The holidays should be used as occasions to reaffirm bonds, but I see less and less of that. People put up their guard, put on their best face, or just ignore each other. My niece and nephew, entrenched in their teenage phase, regard adults like me as passe or unapproachable. Ironically, my puerile response is to play on my iPhone.

Everything this year felt like a rushed chore to be done and over with as quickly as possible. I left stuffed and empty. I'm not saying that the holidays should be used as "come-to-Jesus" meetings. Can you imagine what that would be like? Mostly, I'm grateful that everyone's got their health and faculties so that I have the privilege to gripe in this manner.

The best I can hope for at this stage of my life, is to hope that everyone is doing the best they can; the best they can to be happy and healthy. The best person they can be.

The best I can hope for is to do the same for myself.

And there's always room for improvement.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Travelogue 4 - Isola di Ponza, Italy (June 23 - July 4)

On the early morning of June 23, a driver picked me up at my flat just off Piazza del Popolo and drove me to the port city of Anzio. From there, I took a hydrofoil to the island of Ponza.  Ponza is one of those best kept secrets: it floats aimlessly in the Tyrrhenian Sea, just south of Rome, north of Naples. Ponza doesn't quite have the name recognition of Capri or its Greek counterpart, Santorini, but that’s just fine with me. It retains its authenticity and its tourist trappings to a minimum.

Beach Italy Ponza
Spiaggia Chiaia di Luna - Copyright Jack Aiello Photography
My family comes from Ponza. My father still lives here. According to him, the summer months still saturate the island with Italian mainlanders, but it’s a nominal price to pay when such a small island is rich with natural beauty and a history that dates back to ancient Roman times. 

Ponza Lighthouse, Jack Aiello Photography
Aerial view of the Lighthouse -
I used Long Exposure techniques to render the blue waters like smooth frosted glass
Copyright Jack Aiello Photography -
I’ve written about Ponza before.  I can blather on about its history, the people, the wonderful coastline dotted with grottos, cliffs, and the beaches whose surrounding sea waters migrate from jewel tones of green and turquoise to baby and sapphire blues.  However, in the pursuit of simplicity, I’m opting for some pics to tell you the rest of the story.

Ponza, Italy
Topography from Le Forna, the northern portion of the island rich with beautiful bays
Copyright Jack Aiello Photography -

Ponza, Italy - Main Port
The main port
Copyright Jack Aiello Photography -

Ponza, Italy - Main Port
Aerial View of the Main Port - Ponza, Italy
Copyright Jack Aiello Photography -

Jack Aiello Nature Landscape Photography
Cala Gaetano - It takes at least 200 steps to get down there.
No sandy beach, just perch on the rocks, take in the sun, and dive in those waters to cool off.
Copyright Jack Aiello Photography -

Pops and my nephew, John, enjoying an amazing seafood dinner.
Copyright Jack Aiello Photography -

Saturday, September 27, 2014

My Trip Back to Ithaca and Watkins Glen - Travelogue 5 (September 26-28)

Revisiting Ithaca and Watkins Glen has been a wonderfully satisfying experience. Driving around these local roads while playing my "Autumn Road Trip" playlist really made this even more special. When a song complements the setting, it's like a soundtrack to your life is playing out.

Most of my images are still on my Canon 5D. I'm really proud of the new batch of photos I took, but it's going to take an age processing the good ones (plus, I still have the photos from Italy to deal with).  Still, I managed some quick iPhone snapshots for a visual of this weekend's road trip. I drove and snapped pics all day today, so I'm about to hit the sheets very soon.  Good night.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Aubade by Philip Larkin - The 4am shock

When I was younger I had a fairly uneventful sleep pattern. It was simple: I would go to bed at night and right as a line, I would wake to morning light. It was as if what happened in between was none of my business.

I rarely knew what it was like to wake up prematurely in the quiet dark of 4am. But on those rare occasions that I did (and it was always in the 4am hour), an unspeakable dread would overcome me and I would feel an inconsolable sadness that I could never speak about. I didn't know how to explain it to other people and it was too disturbing to elaborate. Until I discovered the poem below. He even got the hour right.

Thank god for poets, Philip Larkin, in particular, otherwise I'd still be rambling.

One more thing: I don't sleep through the night anymore so I haven't had that feeling in years. I'm not sure if I conditioned myself to sleep in fits to avoid it, but sometimes I think that in throwing out the bad I have thrown out some of the good. But that's a discussion for another day.

I'm going out for a walk now, and breathe the Friday night air.


I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.   
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.   
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.   
Till then I see what’s really always there:   
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,   
Making all thought impossible but how   
And where and when I shall myself die.   
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse   
—The good not done, the love not given, time   
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because   
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;   
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,   
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,   
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,   
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,   
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill   
That slows each impulse down to indecision.   
Most things may never happen: this one will,   
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without   
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave   
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.   
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,   
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,   
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring   
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Travelogue 3: I Dreamed of Rome (June 19 - 23)

In the early afternoon of June 19th, I landed in Rome. No matter how much I prepare, traveling to a new destination always upends my sense of routine. With just a short plain ride, my everyday life dissolves and I find myself happily disoriented in an open town square staring at a 2,000-year-old Egyptian obelisk. At every turn I find the small differences from my other existence. Tremendous doors everywhere, churches constructed centuries ago, narrow pathways that open up to glorious piazzas. It's a dizzy teleportation trick.

Piazza del Popolo
Egyptian Obelisk at the Piazza del Popolo, Rome
There's nothing like getting lost in one of Rome's constricted walkways and streets. You snake your way around narrow streets lined with shops, going God knows where, only to be rewarded by the open sight of a tremendous piazza.  It's a sweet startle to suddenly find Piazza Navona greeting you with Bernini's fountain. My favorite experience has always been the Pantheon: life teeming all about in random patterns, people meandering in their own unworried direction, licking gelato, pointing, taking pictures, holding hands.

Pantheon, Rome
Pantheon, Rome
Rome is veined with small streets and alleyways. Follow the map loosely, but better to stumble into her secrets. Down one cobblestone street I found a bunch of quaint little storefront cafes and gelatterie; another turn I found a faceless church that just so happened to shelter three gobsmacking murals by Caravaggio. I passed Hadrian's Temple twice before I realized what it was. It remained hidden in open view, and it humbled me.

Temple of Saturn
Temple of Saturn
The Via Del Corso is a straight shot from Piazza del Popolo to Piazza Venezia. I walked that distance and even further to the Baths of Caracalla (it was madness walking that distance; the immensity of those baths, an altogether different kind of madness). Along the way: ancient ruins, abandoned antiquities naked to the elements, the restored villa of Augustus, the remains of a weather worn column or a temple.

Augustus' Villa, Interior
Augustus' Villa, Interior
The map instructed me to turn right. "It can't be here", I thought, "of all placesright next to The Gap?"  It was eroded and overgrown with impossibly tall weeds, its perimeter girded with high aluminum gates. But there it was: the Tomb of Augustus. It was one of the few places I really wanted to enter and explore despite its shambled state, but instead I had to appreciate the stinging irony of the final resting place of one of the most famous Roman emperors, baking under an ageless sun, with a clothing retailer as its neighbor.

All the ruins strewn among the modernity, Rome better than any place on earth can tell you permanence has a price, but better that than gone forever.

Either way, I still think I dreamed it.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How much for that picture in the window?

Flatiron Building - Jack Aiello
copyright © Jack Aiello 2012
Being an avid -- you might even call me a semi-pro -- photographer, you would think I nailed the business end of my image making. Truth is, I love to learn about the craft, to improve my technique at every stage of the process, but my business sense is not so sharp.

Case in point: I was recently asked by a charity to volunteer my services at an awards dinner.  I volunteered for them once before, however, this time, I politely declined informing them that my photography, though not my sole source of income, helps greatly supplement what I earn to support myself.

Another time, I was asked by my employer to aid in a beautification project. I photographed various New York City skyscrapers whose prints were to adorn a bland section of corridor leading to a frequently visited unit (I work for a medical center). In this case, I didn't charge for my work simply because I thought it was poor taste to charge my employer, for one. But that's not all. I believed in the project, it got my juices going and with proper credit due on a plaque, I would be able to share my work with all my colleagues.

There are potential clients who say that they will offer you exposure in lieu of not paying you, and I really dislike that tack, but in this case, I felt it was justified.

Still, many people don't understand the time and resources it takes a photographer to scout and research a location (especially if you're a landscape/nature photographer), compose a shot, get the right exposure, white balance, etc.  This is not to mention the cost of the equipment involved. Then there's the time spent in post processing, particularly with dynamic range prints.

I never really knew how to broach the business aspect until I read Chip Phillips' piece. More than I could better articulate, Chip's article provides a lot of practical advice on how you need to determine the worth of your own work.

What do you think?  Should I have charged my employer? Do you consider whether a company will or won't profit at all from your images as a factor before you charge or give it away? What are your negotiating tips? How do you feel about rights managed images vs. royalty free images?