the babbitt and the bromide

I was exploring these backstreets when I came across three middle-aged guys who were in a scuffle that was fast turning into a fight. This was very unusual because up until now I had never seen anything unpleasant at all in China at all.

So what to do? I walked up to the guys and patted one of them on the back and in a very jovial tone said:
"Hello. How are you? How's the folks? What's new? I'm great. That's good. Ha ha - knock wood. Well well. That's life. What do you know? Hows the wife? Gota fly. Oh my. Ta ta. Au revoir. Goodbye!"
The three men stopped scuffling and looked at me dumbfounded. As I walked away they began laughing together no doubt at this strange Englishman was they must have thought was a complete idiot. But at least the fight had stopped—so mission accomplished!

As for the lines I recited, I suspect the guys did not speak English so likely the only word they understood was "hello," but the words actually came from "The Babbitt and the Bromide" performed by Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly and I even did my best to imitate Fred and Gene when reciting them, including my own version of their dance as I waltzed away!

forbidden freedom

I found this scene one of the most difficult in Auschwitz II, the view from the window of the ‘death barrack’ where women prisoners selected by the SS as unfit for further work awaited a time to be scheduled for one of the gas chambers. The wait sometimes took several days and no food or water was provided to these prisoners during that time—many died here before they got to the gas chambers.

All this remembering though is no good unless we ask how, why, and then on the basis of that say ‘never again.’ And as I have said before I am not sure that we have answered those questions adequately.


You probably already know that I like portrait photography more than anything else, so when the kids rollerblading with their moms and dads opposite the apartment I was staying in China asked for their photos to be taken, I was happy to oblige. I will be taking prints of these shots back for the kids on my next trip to China later this year.


This guy is called "James" in English but in Chinese is called 刘俊羽. This is a good name and as far as I can make out it means a person who is handsom and has a good future ahead of him, all of which is clearly true.

afternoon nap

From early in the morning until late at night these guys are working, so you can’t really blame this chap for having an afternoon nap.

numchuck kid

Grain is for film images what noise is to digital images. Both occur with faster film or higher ISO used in low light. The only difference is that grain is considered artistic because of its even nature but noise is not because it tends to be blotchy. In this low light shot I tried to cover the noise with artificial grain – I did not really pull it off – but I like the shot so I am posting it.

This is a girl in China practicing with her Numchucks – just don’t get in her way okay!

UPDATE: Sadly, Nicole, the girl in this photo passed away from leukemia about about 18-months after this photo was taken.Will never forget you Nicole - you fought to the end!

four men and a bike

I didn’t quite get the pan right on this shot – the panned camera moved at a slightly different rate to the guys on the bike – so they are a bit blurry (ideally only the background should be blurry). But never-the-less, I liked the photo so I posted it.

ancient wall

A shot of a wall in Egypt next to the desert. This shot was taken with the Canon 5D.

The 5D images have a nice silky and film like quality and great colour. Each time I post one of these images I miss my old Canon 5D, but I don’t miss the poor service I got from Canon nor the Canon ergonomics. The Nikon ergonomics are better for the quick and spontaneous shooting that at times characterizes my approach and I also find the images crisper and sharper (although a little more digital in appearance than Canon). As well, Nikon is robust. This winter I dropped my D300 with my 17-55 f/2.8 lens onto a concrete path. I said to my friend who looked shocked at the time, “it’s okay it’s a Nikon.” And to my surprise it was okay.

But back to this picture — it is an ancient wall in Egypt - I hope you enjoy the scene and the silky and film like look.

desert expedition

To bring a little variety to my recent posts, I thought I would post a few older shots. Here is one from this time last year.