Disappearing NYC Diners + Coffeeshops

Disappearing NYC Diners + Coffeeshops


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Our annual summer sabbatical this year started in NYC. Each year when we spend time in Manhattan, we try and give the kids a taste of what real New Yorkers do. Yes we are technically tourists but since NYC was our home for so many years, we can be both tourist and New Yorker all at the same time. We want our kids to be more New Yorker than typical tourist so we do our best to show them how a real New Yorker lives, how they get around town, where they eat, shop and what they complain about.

We left our hotel the first morning and started walking, not sure where but searching for a breakfast spot. Back in my day, living in Manhattan, you couldn’t walk one whole block and not pass a diner. Well we walked and walked. Ended up going up a few blocks - over a couple of avenues - back down a few blocks and finally came across a typical NY coffee shop.

 

 


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It occurred to us as we were walking with the kids that the diners were becoming a thing of the past. On the avenues, many brownstone style buildings were being replaced with more and more high rise buildings with sky rocketing rents that seemed to be inhabited by more upscale trendy restaurants. There always seemed to be a ton of tall buildings and expensive restaurants no doubt, but that NYC character is what was noticeably missing.

 

 


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For Keith and I, the diner holds a lot of history. We had our first daytime date in a diner in Midtown. (which we ended up walking by this very same day and seeing a for rent sign in the window) We had many very late night greasy bacon cheese burgers delivered (yes, pre vegetarian days!) and many mornings eating Feta Omelettes and drinking endless cups of diner coffee, meeting friends, reading the paper, just a part of every day life.

 

 


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And now here we were trying to explain to our kids why we were sad to see the diner experience fading. Over the years, I’ve sensed that the kids don’t find the diner as charming as we do. A sign of the times? But it is one of those things. Like sitting and drinking coffee in an actual cup, not counting the calories in your greasy breakfast, enjoying the personalities that worked in these diners as well as those that frequented them.

 

 


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When we returned to Phoenix after our month away, I googled the phrase “disappearing NY diners”. After all, was it just me or had anyone else noticed??? Was anyone else concerned or worried? An article in the NY Times laid it all out really well but even better was this in depth article on Grub Street that gives a history lesson on the NY diner through words and photographs.

The diner + old style coffeeshop are just an example of things dying off right in front of us. We don’t notice at first - but then when we start to look around we lament about what is gone. These spots were great equalizers. I’m sad to see them go.

John’s Coffee Shop 825 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10017

February 22, 2021 — Keith Pitts
Tell Stories + Inspire

Tell Stories + Inspire


2018-08-01_0006.jpgIsabella turned 16 this year. For every new parent out there, beware the time is fleeting. For every older parent out there you know better than we do how fast the time goes. She is beautiful inside and out, compassionate with a soft spoken kindness and intelligent with a wonderfully witty sense of humor. We love this kid so much, we couldn't be more proud of the young woman she has become and we are so excited to see what her future holds.
But (and there is always a but!) - are we doing the right job with our girls? So many thoughts are going through my mind as we raise these two young women and today's one of those days that I'm so glad Isabella and I had an impromptu conversation in the kitchen. These chats that we have always provide insight into her thought process and help me understand if some of the lessons we are trying to teach (whether subtle or not so subtle) are resonating with her.

We celebrate the changing role of women by talking about real life examples within our own circles.  Many a conversation has been had with the kids comparing the lives of our grandmothers and their friends, with my mother and MIL and with my friends, sisters and cousins and how our perspective is changing and different then the the current day reality for my girls, most is better yet oddly so much of it remains the same. But there is so much more that can be done.

This is such a big subject but such an important one with two young women growing up in our home. Yes we implore that being a strong woman is important. We try to give real life examples. We stress education, compassion, empathy, independence and self reliance. 

But what I'm questioning in myself is whether I am doing enough. Today is one of those days where I feel like I sit on the sidelines a lot. I believe in these qualities and I try to live by example but am I doing enough? For my girls and for all the other women out there? I feel like my voice should be louder. I feel like we all have lots of stories to tell, experiences to share and that maybe this will inspire my girls and this next generation of women.

What do you do to inspire young women?

 

February 22, 2021 — Keith Pitts
The I Love You Wall, Paris

The I Love You Wall, Paris

 

The I love you wall - Le Mur des Je t'aime, Paris

 The I love you wall – Le Mur des Je t’aime, Paris

 

Keith and I have been traveling together for nearly 20 years. We had cell phones back in those days, I had a Nextel (Motorola, two way radio that made my head explode as the voice of my boss could come out of nowhere at any time regardless of where I was, what time of day or what I was doing) and Keith had a Startac (still his favorite phone). Back when phones were phones, not cameras, computers, dating tools, etc. and we still had 56k dial up at home on the laptop and if we wanted to take a photo we actually had to have a camera. 

I still have distinct memories of Keith bringing his Hasselblad on our first trips together to Italy and then to Ireland. I think he may have had a Pentax 35mm (that he still uses) as well. But he was using film. Digital cameras were becoming more the norm but pros were still using film. And tourists were using a combination. But people who traveled were just taking photos, snapshots, landscapes, groups, families – the typical tourist shots.  The travelers were present, enjoying the tour, the sightseeing, the monument, the view. Traveling was more about where you were going, who you were with and what you were seeing – quite frankly it was really not about you.  


Look at all these people taking photos in front of the I love you wall in Paris!!!!!

 Look at all these people taking photos in front of the I love you wall in Paris!!!!!

 

Fast forward 20 years and it is mind blowing how travel has become all about the perfect selfie, the perfect shot for social media.  A new breed of travelers that seem to be only in it to gain followers, or to take that perfect couples shot in the perfect spot in the perfect place. People don’t seem to be present, just more concerned with their contrived, arranged, staged photo of themselves in some instagram worthy spot. 

Within a short 30 minute walk in Paris last month I couldn’t get over it. We walked through the sweet little park that contains the I LOVE YOU WALL and could not get over the quantity of folks waiting in some sort of line to take their selfie in front of the wall. Last time I visited this spot, about 6 years ago (in July as well), my kids were able to play in the playground adjacent to the wall, while my friend and I sat there ALONE and quietly chatted while NO ONE took a selfie in front of this wall.  Quite honestly I think I took one quick shot – and not with anyone in it – before we left. 

This July and it is a whole different story – because now this wall has become an instagram favorite. Trust me I love instagram more than the next guy but the travel photo has changed because of it. As my daughter and I left the park, we were walking down from Montmartre and couldn’t believe that a woman was standing at the top of a street – taking a shot with her phone, using her selfie stick, holding up traffic and nearly getting run over. What for? I guess a shot of a typical looking Paris street looking down from Montmartre – and as if she didn’t even notice the honks of horns, she stood there and posted the photo. 

We had already survived Santorini earlier in the month, which is over run with tourists that seem to be there for the Blue Dome shot in Oia trying to make it look like they are all alone on the island even though there’s about 1,000 other tourists standing just out of the shot waiting for their turn to get the exact same Santorini shot. The puckering of lips, the flip of the hair, the primping, it is exhausting just to watch. (It is apparently exhausting for the hotel + business owners in Santorini as well that have posted signs up all over “Don’t stand on the roof” Why you shouldn’t stand on private property is not common sense and there has to be a sign posted is beyond me, but we saw it happen over and over while we were there.) We asked a local why these signs were in random languages not in Greek or English – and they said that each season or two they need to change the languages because Santorini goes through different rounds of popularity with different parts of the world. This waiter told us that a couple years ago it was Japanese tourists, now it’s Russian and Chinese. Regardless of where the tourists come from it is just plain annoying. 

I happen to be a big fan of selfies, great way to get yourself into a photo and it can even be a fun perspective but I guess what I don’t like is the feeling that these travelers are missing out on the very reason to travel in the first place. 

“ONE’S DESTINATION IS NEVER A PLACE, BUT A NEW WAY OF SEEING THINGS.” -HENRY MILLER

February 22, 2021 — Keith Pitts
Travelogue:: Koufonisia, Cyclades, Greece

Travelogue:: Koufonisia, Cyclades, Greece

There are so many Greek Islands to choose from, why Koufonisia?

[Maybe that question will be easily answered through the photos or perhaps I might do a decent job of writing.]

When researching our 3 week trip to the Greece we decided in addition to Athens, we wanted to visit three islands. Santorini for a couple of nights and then we wanted to choose two other islands that we could get to from Thira (by boat) with relative ease. One of the islands needed to be off the beaten path (especially after Santorini where we knew there would be crowds) and the other could be a hybrid.

We wanted a more unique experience, less tourists, nothing overly commercial, not a party island, we wanted a more authentic Greek experience.

We narrowed it down to Folegandros, Amorgos and Koufonisia. We were going to close out with either Paros or Naxos (and decided on Paros, more on that in a later post) because we wanted to be able to fly back to Athens.

After reading an article about Koufonisia in Conde Nast Traveler, the decision was made.


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Check in at Portes Houses, Koufonisia

Check in at Portes Houses, Koufonisia

 

The water was smooth as silk crossing from Naxos to Koufonisia. The kids took dramamine as a precaution. We had read a bit about how rough this route can be with high winds and considering Seajets uses a smaller boat for this route, the kids will err on the side of caution whenever there is potential for getting seasick. Can’t blame them!

The handful of guests that disembarked were met by a driver from their hotel. Our driver from Portes Houses picked us up in an air conditioned van. We had no idea how short the drive was going to be and I personally wasn’t overly impressed as we drove away from the dock. (imagine, a dock area not being inspiring, I must have been tired!)

One glance at the stunning blue water and I was transported.

Our sweet driver who knew barely a word or two of English couldn’t have been more hospitable - along the way he showed us some beaches and gave us an idea as to what we could easily walk to from the hotel. Practically the entire island.

The check in process at the hotel was a treat. A little slow but who’s in a hurry when you are on a Greek Island? The sweet receptionist met us with a tall glass of chilled water and a powered sugar covered treat (my guess, a piece of candied honey). Exactly what we needed after a long day of travel.

The receptionist walked us to our room answering questions and suggesting restaurants. Magically our bags were neatly in place. The two bedroom “house” with a crisp island white interior contrasted perfectly with the hot pink bougainvillea wrapped terrace overlooking the calmest, bluest water off in the distance.

Immediately, we changed into our bathing suits and went by the pool, grabbed an ice cold Mythos, and jumped in. So refreshing.

Gabby yelled out to Keith and I “Do you want to see a trick?” followed by “Daddy can I have a ride?” (you can’t see the smile but it was ear to ear, how much we love this!)

Keith and I later wondered if this would be the last summer she is still a kid, wanting to splash around, do tricks and play with us in the pool. It was one of those moments that reminded us how fleeting childhood is and how much we treasure these moments with the girls.

A quick walk from the hotel into town and we stopped at the restaurant just steps from the beach in the center of town, Lefteris (Keros) Seafood Restaurant . A table was waiting with views towards the water. A carafe of Greek wine and some appetizers were immediately served. We were content.

After dinner we stopped for an adult beverage at Sorokos Bar., the oldest bar in Koufonisia.

Not hard to guess why this bar, perched on the edge of the water is one of the most popular spots on the island. Grab a comfy cushion set up on water’s edge and watch the sun set, step inside to hear the DJs beats a little closer or head upstairs for the view. Great cocktails (and since this spot is open from 10am on, you can swing by and grab a coffee and breakfast in the morning, take a swim and enjoy the same gorgeous view!)

Portes Houses is a family run boutique hotel and it really shows in the service. There are probably just a handful of people working at the hotel but you would never know that. Everything is taken care of. Especially breakfast. You preorder the evening before, make your selections and choose a time. The staff comes in and sets it up for you. Enjoying such a lovely breakfast with these views is an ideal way to start the day.

 

 


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There is no shortage of small beaches with crystal clear blue water.

A short walk in the other direction, away from town heading towards the more popular beaches and you have to stop for lunch at Finikas. Every meal ends with watermelon. Such a treat.

February 11, 2021 — Keith Pitts
Ferry from Santorini to Koufonisia

Ferry from Santorini to Koufonisia

 


Ferry from Santorini to Koufonisia, stopping in Naxos (pictured)

Ferry from Santorini to Koufonisia, stopping in Naxos (pictured below)

When we decided that the Greek Islands were our summer destination, we all agreed that Santorini was a must. But what other islands to visit?

We had almost 2 weeks in Greece and wanted to spend about 4 days in each spot (Athens was short changed, we only had 2 days as we departed).

After some research, we kept hearing about Paros and Naxos and this lesser known island of the Cyclades called Koufonisia. We loved the idea of spending some time on a small island that barely had any tourists, cars and had only one ATM in town.

Koufonisia was officially part of the itinerary. (Koufonissi in Greek)

After our few days in Santorini, we were headed from the port to Koufonisia and then onto Paros.

 

 


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We had purchased our ferry tickets online from Seajets.gr before heading to Greece.

We had been cautioned by the hotel in Koufonisia that with only one ferry per day, make sure you have tickets and whatever you do, don’t miss that ferry.

Once we survived the Santorini port and found our tiny (in comparison) ferry tucked away behind the much larger ferries, the on board porter asked us as we get on if we are traveling to Naxos, Mykonos or Koufonisia (and maybe Amorgos as well).

They put your luggage in an area labeled for your island destination. Which is helpful because at this point, we didn’t realize that we would be stopping in Naxos while the boat continued on to Mykonos.

What first seemed like an inconvenience was actually a pleasant stop. When we arrived in Naxos, we were asked to get off for about 1.5 hours (a little bit of confusion here since we had no idea when we bought the tickets that we would be getting off) while the boat made the Mykonos round trip. (as you an see looking at the sample reservation above, it says 2.25 hours but makes no mention of a stop). 


Our view of Naxos as the ferry pulled into port

Our view of Naxos as the ferry pulled into port

This stop gave us time to explore the port area of Naxos (conveniently without our luggage).

As the ferry pulls into Naxos port, you can’t help but notice the Portrara or Apollo’s gate. It was a short, maybe 10 minute walk from where the ferry pulls in. A very, very sunny and hot walk but well worth it. Stunning blue water all around, kids jumping in, adults cooling down by wading out a bit.

As you approach the ruin, but before you start walking up to it, there is a perfectly placed outdoor cafe that offers some much needed shade as well as easy access to a clean bathroom, cold Mythos. A beer never tasted so good.

The view looking back at Naxos town was breathtaking.

We had just the right amount of time to visit the ruin, have a drink and refresh. We headed back to the harbor and waited for the ferry to come back.

On to Koufonisia.

 

 

February 10, 2021 — Keith Pitts
Santorini (Athinios) Port | The Sh*t Show

Santorini (Athinios) Port | The Sh*t Show


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47 euro for the six of us to the ferry port in Santorini. We had 12 people crowded into a taxi van like sardines. Random amounts being charged as people got on. Added up the driver collected over 200 euro for 12 people to take a 15 minute taxi ride to the port. 

The upside to the overpriced ride were the views. The black lava cliffs are steep and scenic in all directions as we make our way down a never ending series of switch backs. Very far below we see the port.

The taxi driver drops us off, luggage, bags and people are everywhere. The Athinios port is full of tourists, souvenir shops, surly waiters trying to get you to stop at their overpriced cafe.

Not sure where to buy our ferry ticket. The sun is oppressive. The air is stagnant. Long lines everywhere we look. We are following along not really knowing where to go.

It’s a sweaty cattle call, no one we ask answers our question. 


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It’s a shit show, huge ferries pull into the port, throngs of people coming off, loud announcements in Greek, which ferry is ours? The impossible man at the ticket counter told everyone to head to the same gate. Apparently ALL ferries leave from Gate #4, even though the port had several ferries wide lined up side by side.

We end up in a line that we aren’t even sure is ours. Off in the distance, I noticed a sign that said Naxos-Mykonos. We were heading to Koufonisia and I imagined that the boat could only be so big. A man was holding a small Koufonisia/Seajets placard, so I jumped out of line and asked him where we should go. He directed us to a much smaller line.

Ferry dock in Santorini

Ferry dock in Santorini

It’s well past the scheduled time. The loud whistle of the ferry arriving is felt in my chest. Metal bangs against metal. Cars roll off the ship.

The kids are getting testy. I’m getting testy. I’m hot, I’m sweaty and I just want to leave.

The shit show continues, to get to our boarding area, we now have to drag our luggage through 25 parked cards, trailers and tour busses vying to get through a very overcrowded port.

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We are next in line. The salty dock works rips our tickets in half. Well he didn’t tell us not to get on the boat so I’m assuming we are good.

Can’t ask him because he doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Greek.

The last group of passengers to board, we feel rushed, dragging our bags onto the first deck.

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We stop for a minute to catch our breath.

The engines are loud, the ferry turns quickly, we don’t have our bearings, we can only gesture to one another that look of relief that we all felt. We made it.

As we take our seats, Santorini is postcard perfect behind us.

[Santorini was a little bit more crowded than we expected]

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Here is a little info taken from the Athinios Ferry Port website:

Athinios can be very crowded. Thus Santorini Port Authority suggests travelers to be there no later than 45 minutes before the ship sets sail. That is to ensure timely processing and boarding. If for any reason tourists end up being late, the ship will NOT wait for them.

Don’t confuse the ferry port with the cruise ship port

The Athinios Santorini port is the new one and serves passenger ferries and cargo. It services more than 12 million passengers a year. On the other hand, cruise ships dock at the old port of Thira of which the name is Skala. Cruise passengers seeking info about their arrival in Santorini should visit the old port’s official site at santoriniport.com

February 09, 2021 — Keith Pitts
Visiting a Concentration Camp with Kids

Visiting a Concentration Camp with Kids

The somber view of Dachau, where the buildings that the prisoners lived in used to stand.

The somber view of Dachau, where the buildings that the prisoners lived in used to stand.

 

Just the idea of a concentration camp makes most adults shudder. So why should you visit with your kids? For us it was a no-brainer. Our children were 12 and 9 and we knew we would approach it with their ages in mind. Remembering the recent historical past in an age appropriate way was our goal.

We stopped in Munich for a few days and decided as a family that we would visit Dachau. My little one’s limited understanding of the atrocities of World War II were enough to make her a little nervous.  Our 12 year old had read the Diary of Anne Frank, watched The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and several other war related movies. She had a certain fascination with the war that both Keith and I remember having at roughly the same age.

So approaching Dachau would be based on their understanding of what had transpired so many years ago. We weren’t going to over emphasize anything that would upset the kids, they didn’t need to study the horrific photos to understand the gravity of where we were.  

We exited the short train ride from Munich to Dachau and waited for the bus to take us to the camp. As the bus made its way towards the camp, my 12 year old asked if people lived this close to the camp during the war. Sadly, the answer we would find out once inside was Yes! People had lived right in this town, close to the camp. What they were told or what they were led to believe or what they chose to not believe is up for debate. But for a 12 year old to ask this question speaks volumes. How could this happen in plain sight?


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Without a strong understanding of WWII my younger one could walk through the camp without overthinking what had taken place. That might sound superficial but we didn’t need to tell her to be somber or reflective. It was a general mood the moment you walked through the gate. She understood the magnitude without needing to visually see or hear what had taken place within these walls. The rest of us listened to the walking tour through our head set, read the plaques throughout the camp and stopped to read through the incredible permanent exhibition at the memorial site. It was overwhelmingly emotional. 

An adult can not understand how this could happen. A thinking person can not begin to process these atrocities. The incredible tragedy. A child can’t even wrap their head around most of this. But a visit to this concentration camp opened a dialogue with both of our children on different levels. Learning about history, learning what led to this, how this happened and how we can insure that this never happens again is potentially one of the benefits for visiting.

We travel with our children for all sorts of reasons. There is the fun component to travel and there is a serious side. We hope that they always take away something from everywhere we visit. Regardless of how young or perhaps not well versed on a subject, there is still the ability to learn and put things into their own perspective. The true benefit of travel. 


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How to get there? A short 25 minute train ride (S2) from Munich’s Central train station (Hauptbahnhof). Once you exit the train, you will wait/board the 726 towards Saubachsiedlung to the entrance of the Memorial site. This is a regular bus that takes people around Dachau, so it does make other stops. It was pretty crowded, standing room only on the bus.

Things to know: The admission is free. The Memorial site is open 7 days a week from 9am-5pm. The audio tours are available in several languages for a nominal charge. There is a lot of walking on the tour, so wear comfortable shoes. There is a cafeteria for lunch, snacks and drinks. 

February 05, 2021 — Keith Pitts
Don’t compare yourself to other creatives. Just be you.

Don’t compare yourself to other creatives. Just be you.

(written by Keith)

Everyone seems to compare themselves to something or someone.

That’s human nature and it’s not completely bad. The take away from that sentence is not completely bad. It is mostly bad though.

Using comparisons to measure progress is fine on occasion but let’s not do it all the time. It’s like trying to lose weight and stepping on the scale EVERY day. It seems like you are never going to loose weight because of how slow it goes. God forbid you see a gain on a given day.

How does this relate to photography and creative businesses? Well, I’m glad you asked (or was that just me talking to myself?)?

You are you and you enjoy (or at least want to enjoy) your creative business.

You are not Annie Leibowitz, Ansel Adams, me or any other photographer or creative you may admire (see what I did there?).

I am not any of those people either except for me.

Create what you want for whatever reason you want and enjoy it just for what it is.

Don’t look at other people create and compare it to yours. It will only make you feel bad.

I am not saying don’t look at other peoples work, quite the opposite. Look at as many as you can stand to look at. Appreciate them for what they are.

Maybe look at them and think about how they got the shot or the compositional elements they used. Appreciate the lighting. Just don’t look at them and say that they are better than you and you will never get that good. It takes away the best part of photography and that is the enjoyment of just doing it.

I have fallen in the comparison hole on more than one occasion over the years.

I started to look around for inspiration from my contemporaries and came away deflated instead of inspired. I kept thinking that I have fallen behind and that I am not creating good and relevant work.

Mini professional depression slips in and POW! I’m unhappy and unmotivated (depression does that shit).

Luckily, I decided to go back and look at my work again to see how much I suck in comparison and guess what? I like what I see! I feel good about my work.

It reflects my personal vision. I don’t shoot like a bunch of people whose work I appreciate but thats perfectly fine. I am not them. They in turn don’t shoot like me or many others and that’s because they are being true to themselves.

Once I realized that I can appreciate great work by other people and realize I just don’t see the world that way I had another rush of happiness and productivity.

Looking at a broad cross section of photography, not just the genre that you want to shoot will bring in new ideas and expand your vision without you being aware of it. You don’t have to try to copy, it will just sink in.

Having said that of course. Definitely try to copy something if you want to. It becomes a good exercise and you will likely add your own special sauce to it that will change it to yours. 

Here’s my best analogy using a very personal example.

When I was a teenager I wanted to be a rockstar guitarist (not unique in any way). I was tall, thin and had long hair. I looked like a rockstar. I hung out with a number of friends that were good to great musicians/guitarists.

I figured I could be too and I wanted to get there quickly of course. I saved up for a really nice guitar (based on my teenage earnings selling hot pretzels and hot dogs on the streets of Manhattan) and locked myself in my room for a year.

I got pointers and lessons from friends. I read magazines and bought the Mel Bay beginner guitar book (which I hated but was the only book for beginner guitarists back then).

I was determined.

Unfortunately it didn’t come as easy as I had wanted.

I kept looking ahead and not down. I got frustrated and kept wanting to play more complicated things without ever getting good at the fundamental things and the result was I was never happy.

I gave up in frustration a year later.

I was never going to be in a band and get all the dates and swag I assumed would just be heaped on me for being a rockstar.

Fast forward to a few years ago. I watched my daughter pick up the guitar (my old one) and take lessons. It looked like so much fun to me that I felt inspired to do it all again.

She dropped it in about two months for lack of interest. I kept going. I have no timeline.

I don’t want to get more dates, I don’t want to be a rockstar, I just really enjoy holding and playing (an even just looking at) my favorite instrument.

I am never going to be Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Steve Vai or any other incredible guitarists. I may never even be particularly good.

What I will be though is happy. I do it for me and no one else.

If anyone enjoys it then that’s cool (my youngest daughter is usually my only audience and number one fan).

It’s cathartic. I have no way to fail. I do it when I want and when I can.

Photography started for me that way too. I just liked cameras and photographs. Creating photos made me happy and people started liking what I was showing them.

It derailed me becoming a doctor (to the dismay of much of my family btw) because it became such a passion.

For the record, there are a lot of doctors that play guitar and or love photography. I know some personally. It helps unwind them from a stressful career.

You can’t lose if you do something you love just because you love it.

Wherever it takes you is a personal journey.

I ended up as a professional photographer and have never once regretted not becoming a doctor.

I still love photography and look for more ways to enjoy it.

If you love the feel of a camera in your hand and want to enjoy looking photos you have created whether you share them or not (you will of course) then just keep shooting.

Pay attention to the basics and you will get better which will make you happier. Thanks for reading.

I enjoy any part I can play in making you better and happier with your creative career choice (and life).

February 04, 2021 — Keith Pitts
The Story Behind the Photo: Low Tide

The Story Behind the Photo: Low Tide

Welcome to the first in our series of The Story behind the Photo

This photo hangs oversized and solo on our dining room wall.

We have so many gorgeous photos to choose from, why this one?

The photo really resonated with us as a family so it seemed like a natural choice. 

Because of its prominent position in our home (and the sheer size) we can’t help but be reminded daily of that incredible month long trip to Bali several years ago.

What is this photo’s backstory?

Several years ago Keith decided to attend a photojournalism workshop in Bali. So of course the girls and I decided to tag along.

After spending time in Jakarta (that is the interesting first chapter of this month long trip) we made our way to Bali. Our next stop was an island off the coast of Bail called Lembongan. 

Nusa Lembongan became one of our stops because I read more than once that this special island was reminiscent of what Bali used to be before the overcrowding and mass tourism.

The boat from Bali leaves you right on the beach in the village of Jungut Batu. You jump off the small ferry, gorgeous blue water around your ankles, treading oh so carefully on spiky coral reefs that you had no idea were beneath your feet.

Immediately, we knew we should have planned to stay longer. Dirt roads, very few cars, no commercialization, no Instagram selfies, no Starbucks, no McDonald’s, no crowds of tourists. Perfection. 

Our last evening in this paradise, we decided to be dropped in the village where our ferry boat had left us when we first arrived. I remember having seen a bar stacked on top of the limestone, perched over the water. That spot looked like the place to be for a sunset drink.

As we were heading up to the Deck for that drink Keith decided to take a walk on his own.

He had noticed a number of kids playing in the water amongst the coral, seaweed peeking through, jumping on and off boats. 

He said he would meet us in a few minutes.  He walked over with his camera in hand and worked the scene. Various shots of the kids playing, high and low angles, seeing lots of good pictures but hoping for the perfect one.

Looking around seeing lots of interesting things but nothing was exactly it until this. He photographed this boy in various spots but this was the moment, the one he had been waiting for.

Everything lined up, the tide and the sun were both low, casting long sideways shadows on the exposed coral (that I had practically torn my feet on the day we arrived by ferry), the boy in motion, his reflection in the water, the haze making Mt Agung in the distance both majestic and mysterious, dozens of kites flying along the coast dotting the sky. (take a really close look in the blue area of the sky towards the top, notice the tails, the kites that seem tiny, a favorite Balinese pastime). 

Keith joined us in time for sunset. We enjoyed our drink looking over this incredible scene. Forever grateful that this photograph can take us right back to this moment.

What camera did Keith use? My favorite travel companion, outside of my wife, is my little Fuji X100S.  Is it the best camera in the world? There is no such thing. But it was perfect for me at that moment (and many others).

February 02, 2021 — Keith Pitts
Venice

Venice

Venice is one of those incredibly special places. If I had a must visit list Venice would be on it.

BUT over tourism (pre COVID) has made it a bit more challenging to find the real Venice. Which can definitely take away some of its oozing charm. 

Our last visit to Venice,  it was really important to us to stay off the beaten path. We wanted to stay in a neighborhood that felt away from the thousands and thousands of tourists that descend daily on this gem. 

We rented an apartment in Santa Croce, adjacent to the Campo San Giacomo Dell’orio. We could not have chosen better. It was the center of the social life of the neighborhood.

Depending on what time of day you pass through the square, you will see Venetians of all ages. The Campo is filled with bustling cafes, family owned restaurants, the neighborhood grocery, friends chatting on benches, kids kicking soccer balls. Nothing touristy. Exactly what we wanted.

Each evening we would take a walk for dinner, wandering through the quiet streets. On our way back one Tuesday evening, the distinctive sounds of the Argentine Tango could be heard as we entered the square. (Apparently, from May to September, every Tuesday after 9pm, Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio transforms into an open air dance floor, dozens of people spending a summer evening dancing under the stars.)

The intimate scene was mesmerizing. 

Keith recollects “I don’t know what caught my attention first, the music or the dancing”. 

You take your first shot almost immediately when something like this scene attracts your attention. You never know if you get a second chance. Once you have your first shot (which may or may not be your best shot) you are looking to make it better. 

What is his approach when he stumbles upon something screaming to be photographed? 

There are two things you can do. 1. If you know you have a great perspective, you wait for the action to line itself up in the frame. 2.  You can look around for a better angle/perspective. 

For things that aren’t moving, you walk around and find your best angle, continuously looking for these different angles. If things are moving, like these dancers, then there’s two things to worry about, your perspective and the action itself. Since you can’t control the action, you have to wait for the action to appear in the right spot at the right moment. 

In one respect a shot like this becomes harder because there are a bunch of people moving around and you can’t control what they are doing. Photographs that depend on the movement of multiple objects can be a bit of a challenge (yet sometimes they can be surprisingly easier) but they always require patience and luck. 

The best shot is the best of what you got. 

A perfect shot is when everything lines up. Equal parts luck and skill.

Skill will get you a great shot. Luck will get you a perfect shot (when movement comes into play such as this photo). 

We always have a camera on us because you never know when a great photograph will just appear. 

A reminder to always be in tune with your surroundings. 

Street photography requires similar fundamentals to hunting (for the record, we don’t hunt, just watch movies). You are looking for something, you need to be patient.  

By waiting and watching, Keith was able to create a series of photos that have good balance with a sense of motion. There is a clear foreground (the out of focus couple on the far left, with a slightly less out of focus couple to the right), several dancing couples in focus and with motion blur (everyone is moving at different speeds) in the middle ground, and one of the oldest churches in Venice and a dozen or so more people in the background.

The best photographs have depth to them; a distinct foreground, middle ground and background. The technique coupled with the intimacy of watching a private moment within a crowd is why we love this photo so much.

————

GEAR

Why is the Fuji X100S still one of our favorite travel cameras?

PROS:

This camera is easy to handhold. It’s compact, lightweight and unobtrusive. No one ever notices.

CONS:

The 3 things the Fuji might be missing to some photographers. 1. The brand allure, this isn’t a Leica. 2. The ability to change lenses. 3. The eye popping price tag (this camera is so affordable)

January 06, 2021 — Keith Pitts
The Marais, Paris

The Marais, Paris


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A short walk around The Marais in Paris and there is no shortage of street scenes to photograph. We were walking from our apartment to MUSÉE CARNAVALET – a museum of the history of Paris located just off of Rue des Francs Bourgeois (a great shopping street in the Marais) in Paris’ 3rd Arrondissement. Right before we arrived at the museum we saw this little park sandwiched in between a few buildings.

The best thing in the world about taking walks around Paris is finding these little gems. Square Georges Cain is filled with colorful long stem roses (being hand pruned by a gardner), park benches full of Parisians taking a respite from the busy city around them, a gorgeous bronze sculpture, a fountain, stone relics, trees – the perfect little spot to stop along the way.

I just love The Marais. Crooked streets, lavish squares, old world charm meets great little boutiques and cafes, pre revolutionary buildings bustling with an artistic vibe. Spending time walking around these streets gives you a feel for Paris before Haussmann, before wide avenues and the large squares that Paris is now known for.

An historic area within an historic city. From the beauty of Place des Vosges to the vibrant art scene, a coup d’oeil for the senses. And lots of great photographs along the way.

{Square Geroges Cain, Rue Payenne, 3rd Arrondissement (Metro stop: St Paul)}

December 01, 2020 — Keith Pitts