Cascadilla Gorge Trail Revisited

For a long time last year the Cascadilla Gorge Trail in Ithaca was closed for trail repairs and then peripheral construction work. Today we were pleased to revisit this beautiful easy trail early enough in the day to avoid almost all other visitors. That’s remarkable given this lovely gorge cuts right through downtown Ithaca near the Cornell campus. It’s a gem right there in the middle of town.

Birthday Celebration

Fireworks, picnics, family get-togethers: it’s that time of the year for the national celebration of Lori’s birthday. If she’s not so keen on another birthday, everyone else seems to be in an extra-festive mood this year, possibly due to a rebound effect from the Covid malaise. Regardless, those of us on Lori’s periphery are reaping benefits from birthday generosity and well-wishing. Happy birthday Lori, keep ’em coming for the next several dozen years.

Chicago

Lori and I spent a (hot) week in Chicago exploring art and architecture with a Road Scholar tour. Among our impressions of Chicago compared to NYC (which we were much more familiar with):

  • Central Chicago is cleaner than NYC.
  • Chicago people are generally friendlier than their world-weary cynical NYC counterparts.
  • Chicago has noticeably less panhandling and acting out than in NYC.

Chicago has a lot of great art and architecture but, at 1/4 the population of NYC, doesn’t have quite the huge breadth of arts that NYC has. Overall and despite the usual set of big-city challenges, Chicago impressed us as a vibrant city with a long record of resilience and adaptability. We’ll no-doubt return for future visits having only sampled what Chicago has to offer.

Honey, how sweet

Lori and I joined friends & neighbors Marie and Ed for a honey tasting at the unique Honeybee Embassy at Bright Raven Farm and Apiary in Trumansburg. What a revelation! I realized I had never tasted pure raw honey before–almost everything available in grocery stores etc. is typical American hyper-processed industrial imitation often heavily infused with corn oil. Real honey without industrial chemistry and over-processing has a wonderful complex taste. The season of the year, the plants in bloom, the terroir, all contribute to a distinctive taste and texture when it isn’t blended and processed into generic honey-like substance. We tasted 6 different honeys, each with highly distinctive color, texture, and taste depending on what the bees had available for production at the time.

Besides learning what real respectfully-harvested honey tastes like, we learned a lot about honey and bees from the owners who have many years of experience and learning behind their enthusiasm for this remarkable substance and its producers. Apparently humans are still learning new things about the amazing honey bees.

Bookended Day

A day ago we enjoyed both a beautiful sunrise and interesting sunset from our expansive view to the east. The sunrise included a sun pillar (vertical shaft of light above the sun caused by atmospheric ice crystal reflections). The sunset view to the east included a sliver of light shining briefly through the shadow of the Benjamin Hill to the west and the low cloud cover overhead. Together, a nice respite from the dismal grays of the last few decades (or was it days?).

Photo and Family History

While reviewing old family photos, I was struck by one collection not only because of the age of the photos but also the representative examples of the types of photographs commonly available during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Daguerreotype

On the left in this daugerreotype is my great-great-great-grandfather James William Howe, born in 1831. (I don’t know who the gentleman on the right is.) This image was probably made sometime in the early-to-mid 1850s, which was also the time of peak popularity of daugerreotypes in the US. The image is under glass and beautifully detailed even under magnification. As with all photos using this method, the image reflects a negative view when observed at an angle and has a striking depth to it.

Tintype

The tintype or ferrotype was made on a thin sheet of steel lacquered and coated with a photosensitive material. The photos were inexpensive and fast to make so were popular at carnivals and other events. This undated photo includes two distant relatives while on vacation in Germany. The tintypes were made in a variety of standard sizes; this one is a 1/6th plate, measuring about 2.5″ X 3.5″.

Carte de Visite

The carte de visite (or CdV) was a very popular type of photo starting around 1859 in the US. It was an albumen print on paper backed with sturdier card stock. This 1877 photo of Robert Henry Julia was made just before his tragic death one year later at the age of 22. The reverse sides of the CdVs often had ornate advertising of the maker’s business and artistry.

Cabinet Card

The cabinet card introduced in the 1870s replaced CdVs and were popular through the beginning of the 20th century. They were a standard 4″ X 6″ size and, like the CdV, were albumen prints on paper mounted to a thicker cardboard. These two images are my great-great-grandmother Esther Amelia Ferris Hyatt and my great-great-grandfather Eugene Hyatt.

The photographer, Evan D. Evans, opened his business in Ithaca, NY after an 1881 fire destroyed his Corning NY business. He was highly skilled and successful, becoming Cornell University’s official photographer. We can conclude these portraits were made in Ithaca sometime between 1881 and 1894, the year of Eugene Hyatt’s death.

My New Photo Book

I recently had a photo book made by Blurb. It’s really more of a photo album dressed up as a book. There were a few motivations: put some of my favorite images in a form easily shared with friends and family; consolidate my embarrassingly-large collection of slides, transparencies, and digital images; and take a step forward with döstädning (death cleaning).

Some of the many thousands of slides from years of film photography

That last point means I want to eliminate my horde of images that were in a form nobody is likely to contend with after I permanently depart. It’s just one of many tidying projects in the queue to relieve the burden of pointless possessions and ease any future living transitions.

I’ve had a little experience making books before. A test effort using Google’s print service yielded a nice little soft-cover vacation booklet. There are few format and layout options but that means it’s very easy to use. I also made a soft-cover black and white photo book of my father’s old family images. I had a very unpleasant experience with a company whose name I won’t mention (it has the word “shutter” and a type of insect pest in the name). Trying the same book with Blurb did the trick nicely and convinced me to use their service for my new project. I’m pleased with the result.

Three printed photo books

With many options in size, layout, cover types, and papers, I designed for a hard-cover book with dust jacket, 10 X 8 inches in size. Once you’ve learned the basics of Blurb’s (sometimes primitive) BookWright program, you have a lot of flexibility for making layouts and design elements that suit your project. Order a proof copy, make final corrections and adjustments, then order as many as you need, taking care to place the order during one of their frequent promotional discount windows. You can also have them create a quality PDF version. These books are expensive, and not generally viable for bigger print distribution runs but are perfect for these one-off custom masterpieces.

I’m impressed with the print quality–almost all images, some of which pushed color boundaries, reproduced well. Blurb makes a color profile available for those who understand and can use soft-proofing in a color-managed workflow, but it’s not necessary for generally very good results.

Inside the book

The end result for me is a nice-looking book with about 200 images as an attractive photo album. All those old raw materials, prints and slides, are off to the landfill. Next up, I have a family album in the works as I digitize almost a century of family photos and slides. Copies of that book will be sent off to siblings and nieces so all have easy and organized access to visual family history.

Making your own books with modern printing technology is a worthwhile and interesting way to consolidate your art or experiences in a form that’s appealing, accessible, and likely to endure long past aging film and disorganized digital records. And it’s fun.