Friday, August 29, 2014

Update: The Self-Portrait At 64.

As usual, I couldn't leave well-enough alone, so for the past weeks it's been re-work time for the self-portrait at 64.  At the bottom, you'll see what it looked like in a July post and the top photo is the painting as it is today.  Major changes include changing the direction of the light and darkening the background.  I'm also trying really hard to limit blending.  Brushstrokes are nice to see for a change! :) 

All recent work has been done from life, using a mirrored closet door, a hand-held mirror and a plumb bob.  It's been challenging at times, due to the too-strong light flooding the studio through the wall of windows, as well as, getting accurate measurements to improve the drawing.  A tiny blind spot in the center of vision of my right eye turns any attempt using it into a "best guess".   

I purchased a three-fold screen to help reduce the intense light, but even though the windows are tinted and have blinds, it's still not enough.  The ultimate solution has been to work at night, using a single lamp to achieve some semblance of the desired "Rembrandt Lighting".  Anyone who has tried painting a portrait--a "selfie", or someone else--knows how important accurate drawing is to achieving a likeness.  On the other hand, many great portraits are anything but a likeness of the subject, so there's still hope for this! :)

27 August.  I'm liking the painting more now, because it looks like a painting, yet still retains a pretty good likeness.  It's been drying for the last few days and it's time for further work.  Click on any of the photos for a close-up.

26 August.  Still struggling with everything.

 18 August.  Chalky and still needing work...lots of work.

Here is the August 9th version.  Quite a change to the lighting, among other things. 
This was the painting when it was posted on July 11th, 2014.  It's a combination of photo reference and life.  Not all bad, in my humble opinion, but the eyes were a little strange and I wanted it to be closer to what I see in a mirror rather than the camera's idea.

Couldn't end this post without a sunset and a photo or two of a dinner we had on August 21st, with our great friends Sally and Barbara.  

Barbara raising her glass, me pouring another and Michele working on dinner.

Barbara, Sally and Michele.  Michele prepared a magnificent dinner of salmon, asparagus and a cucumber salad.  Dessert was vanilla ice cream with blueberry reduction.

This group shot was taken without a flash and gives a truer sense of a candlelight dinner on the lanai.

28 August sunset.  Ah-h-h. :)))  Have a nice Labor Day Holiday!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sunsets And The Super Moon.

Some photos from the lanai the last couple of days:

This is the August 11th sunset, along with an Hawaiian Airlines jet heading for one of the other islands.

A longer view of the August 11th sunset.  The sunset colors have been truly beautiful lately.

This was taken on the morning of August 12th as the "Super Moon" was setting.  I know this doesn't make the moon look particularly super, but technically, it was a day after the actual event.  That's what I get for zooming-out to have something else in the photo. :(

Wow!!  Yeah...I know, pretty boring.  I waited patiently for one of several airliners departing from Honolulu International to cross its path, (or come close) for what would have been a much more interesting photo, but was unsuccessful.  The one aircraft that did come close did so before I was ready and I missed the shot.  After that, the moon sank lower, becoming much more difficult to see and the aircraft didn't cooperate, either.

August 12th sunset.  As the sun's path moves to the south, it's now visible setting behind the Waianae Range and before long, we'll watch it slip beneath the waves again.  A day or so ago, the local news featured a video taken which caught the "Green Flash".  Sure hope we see it again some day.

An inter-island flight departing as the sun sets.  Click on any of the photos to enlarge.

A few seconds earlier, another shot, zoomed a little.

Finally, the sun adds a golden glow to these puffy clouds .

Hope you all had a good day.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Tropical Storm Iselle, 8 August 2014

Hawaii is normally ignored by the world's meteorologists, due to her boringly perfect weather.  Thanks to El Nino, things are a bit different this year.  "Iselle", born off the west coast of Mexico, grew into a Category III hurricane at one point in its journey across the Pacific and took direct aim at the Hawaiian Islands.

Early Friday morning, she made landfall as a tropical storm, on the Big Island of Hawaii.  The storm did plenty of damage, which has likely been documented by TV crews even as I write this post.  Maui also received a lot of damage and flooding, but not as much as had been feared.  O'ahu was next in line for heavy rains and gusty winds.

Last evening was normal for people on O'ahu, as Iselle wasn't predicted to reach us until sometime in the morning.  Since Hawaii has not been hit by a hurricane since "Iniki", in 1992, all precautionary measures were taken to keep people safe.  When I got up this morning, winds were blowing hard, with even greater gusts, along with lots of rain--sometimes falling almost sideways.  I saw no downed trees or damaged buildings and our power was still on.  The Honolulu streets were mostly empty as many businesses, schools and government offices were closed.

As the morning passed, winds diminished slightly and rains became intermittent.  High tide was to occur at 2:45 PM, so I decided by one PM that it was time to venture out for a firsthand view of what Iselle had--or hadn't done and to get some photos of the predicted high and rough surf.  Join me on my tour:

On Fort Street, a pedestrian-only area, this small tree was cracked and bent-over, the first sign of damage from the winds.  Click on any of the images to enlarge. 

Along my route, a federal government building has a long hedge of hibiscus plants.  These two beautiful blossoms withstood the winds and rain in such fine shape, I had to take a picture.

At the entrance to Kaka'ako Waterfront Park, I came upon another victim of the winds.  When I arrived, the gates to the park were still closed to vehicular traffic, but anyone could walk in.

All city parks were closed as a precautionary measure, but I did find this lone fisherman casting a line into the churning water.  He hadn't caught a thing. :(

A view of the empty park and wind-blown palms.

High tide and tropical storm surge produced these breakers.  Diamond Head made it into the photo, too.

View to the northeast.  The clouds were magnificent and had probably dropped all their rain on the windward side of O'ahu.

My destination today...Point Panic.  I've posted about this body surfing spot previously.

If you look closely, you can just see a body surfer's head above the wave, to the left.  It was rockin' and rollin' pretty good this afternoon and the locals were there to enjoy the fun.

Farther away, on the east side of Kewalo Basin harbor entrance, some very talented surfers were putting on a show.

Two young surfers head toward the concrete steps leading out of the water.

A surfer at the head of the steps leading down to the water.  I don't know if he was coming in or preparing to go out.  Beyond is Kewalo Basin, one of Honolulu's smaller vessel harbors.  Those ominous looking clouds never came our way. :))

More surfing action, with Diamond Head for a background.  Sweet.

These folks make it look so easy!

Before heading for home, a shot of two very lonely looking body surfers.  I was talking to one young man about it, asking if he'd ever had a leg cramp while out there.  He had, he said, and to stop it, he told me he reached down, grabbed his foot and pushed.  Wow!  By the way, there are no lifeguards posted at Point Panic which has, thus far, kept me on shore.

On the way out of the park, I saw this downed palm frond.  As I said, O'ahu was VERY LUCKY today!

I know you must be asking...What in the world is this photo doing here?  As I continued out of the park, a police car passed by.  As it did, I could clearly hear the crack and crunch as its tires rolled over some of the many nuts in the street.  Immediately after the car crushed the tasty treats, these two birds (common Mynas) zoomed in and began to have an "early-bird" dinner.  I was amazed at how they've adapted to urban living, allowing passing vehicles to prepare their meals.

So, we were lucky this time around, though I hope the other islands recover quickly from their storm damage.  The Hawaiian Islands location on the globe has protected them for countless years, from countless storms.  In this respect, the islands mimic current thinking about our planet's place in the Solar System.  Both Hawaii and earth, exist in their own "Goldilocks Zone". 

Have a nice weekend, everyone!   

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Italy, June 2014.

Michele visited Pitigliano, Italy, during her recent "half-way round the world tour" and took some wonderful photos I thought you might enjoy.

View of Pitigliano.  Click on the photos to enlarge.  Pitigliano was the birthplace of Michele's father, who emigrated at age seven, with his mother and brother, Aldo.  Following my retirement from the navy, we lived nearby the town from autumn of 1994 until the spring of 1996.

Say "Ciao" to Anna and her two daughters, Emanuela and Claudia.  Anna was our "angel", helping us with everything from finding a place to live, to learning the language, getting a car and setting up a bank account.  She also invited us to countless wonderful lunches and dinners.   We can never thank her and husband, Mario, enough, or ever come close to repaying all the many kindnesses they bestowed upon us, making our time in Italy, "La Vita Bella".

Anna, without her "Hollywood" sunglasses.  I cropped this from another of Michele's photos and just may turn it into a painting.  The photo captures her sense of fun and that twinkle in her eyes! :)  If I can just capture her glow, strength and vitality, too...

This is Anna's husband, Mario.  He's the hardest working man in Italy and was every bit as helpful to us as Anna.  He even cooks!  Once, at a birthday party, he prepared spaghetti con aglio-olio e peperoncino (spaghetti with olive oil, fried garlic and red pepper flakes).  Nothing unusual about that, but I once made the mistake of telling him I enjoyed the heat provided by the chilly peppers.  Thank goodness the spaghetti wasn't the only item on the menu that night!  Mario added so many pepper flakes, even he was sweating as he ate a plate full with a sly grin on his face.  I could barely stand it, but kept eating, trying to pretend it was perfect.  Of course, Mario knew it wasn't true, seeing my eyes water, my nose running like an open faucet and steam and smoke coming from my mouth and ears! :)  He had almost as much fun being a prankster as Anna.

Just in case you don't believe Mario actually cooks!  And how 'bout that apron! :))  Those are mild peppers in the frying pan, where they'll be lightly cooked in olive oil and served with that great looking Tuscan bread Anna has sliced.

I'd like you to meet Wanda (pronounced, "Vonda"), Anna's sister.  She's on her balcony which has a beautiful view of the surrounding hills and homes.  Wanda and her husband, Tarziello, were also very helpful, as well as, kind and generous to us.

Anna, Emanuela, Claudia and her boyfriend, Michel, along with Michele, enjoyed lunch at La Bottega di Stigliano in Siena.  This unique market and restaurant is co-operated by Emanuela's boyfriend, Nicola Vizzarri.  In addition to cooking at the bottega, Nicola co-owns Cuoco A Domicilio, a catering company, which also offers cooking classes!  Busy man!!

 Emanuela is a professional sommelier and Director of Hospitality for the Mazzei family, winemakers in Tuscany since 1435.  Codice (Code) V is one of their many fine wines.  Here's the translation of the story of this wine:  "The result of an advanced research project, Code V embodies the most unique characteristics of the Vermentino grape from the Tirrenean coast.  This wine has a sunny character, is savory, very mineral, with a muscular structure and a refreshing dry finish, typical of this grape variety."

Before lunch, Emanuela took Michele to see this Mazzei family aging cellar.

On to lunch at La Bottega di Stigliano!  Ravioli stuffed with cheese and spinach with a walnut sauce.  Michele said it was fabulous and she knows Italian food!

Someone chose tira misu for their dessert.  Nice touch with the cocoa powder fork silhouette.:))

Emanuela and Claudia in front of a multi-tier dwelling with a beautiful garden.  Michele said this shot was to show the garden, so click on the photo for a closer view.

Seeing these photos brought back many wonderful memories of our time there.  We haven't completely given up on the idea of living in Italy, but for only a couple of months a year.  You'll be the first to know if we can work it out!! :)))  Ciao il mio amici!  

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Sunset, New Moon, "Celebrity" And USNS Mercy.

Some photos from the last few days in Paradise:

Sunset, 31 July 2014.  Click on any of the photos to enlarge.

Same sunset, a little while later.

The same night, the new moon on a beautiful evening in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Earlier on the 31st of July, another "celebrity" is ready to pick.

Finally, on August 1st, we saw the USNS Mercy, a gigantic floating hospital, passing behind the tanker, Almi Sun, on her way to Pearl Harbor as RIMPAC wraps up.  In the foreground, you can see the Coast Guard Cutter, Kukui, WLB-203.  She's a 225-foot long, Juniper-Class seagoing buoy tender.  To learn more about the Kukui, click here

Hope your summer days are filled with wonders, too.