Monday, September 24, 2007

The $1,400 Mistake

Hello, and welcome to 1972.

Well that was my approach anyway. I wanted a good zoom lens, but as Beaver Cleaver might have put it, "Lenses are kind of expensive and junk." Gee whiz, Beav. You're right, you little goof.

"Quit bein' such a creep" he'd no doubt retort, and skip off to go toss the football around.

And I'd be there trying to take picture of it, except I didn't spend four figures on one of them fancy-ass lenses that it seems everyone else on the sideline owns (and "Leave It To Beaver" was totally NOT set in 1972.)

Nope. I went to the cutout bin and, for $75, pulled out Old Ironsides here.

Their lenses have ultra-fast autofocus. They have built-in gyroscopic stabilizers to reduce camera shake. They have electronic aperture control. They're impressively huge. They're impressively sharp. They're incredibly expensive. And they seem to be everywhere.

I went out to take a sunset picture and for Christ's sake, that dude's even got one. It's just laying on the rock there.

Cripes. Wish I had that lens so I could take a nice sunset picture. My lens is only good enough to take pictures of people taking nice pictures.

Right. Old Ironsides doesn't autofocus. There's nothing electronic in it. It won't even let my camera use its own light meter. It doesn't even let my camera know that it's attached. It weighs like five pounds and just sits there like the load that is Eddie Haskell. It doesn't do anything I don't take the time to make it do. I have to actually set my focus and exposure and then click away.

Oh, right - and not only does my $75 lens NOT autofocus... also doesn't zoom. or out.

Yup. Doesn't take much to make Old Ironsides look like a complete waste of money.

Except sometimes it works.

...and when it does, the reward is twice as sweet.

Especially when you get a look at a picture taken through one of those $1,400 lenses and see that , hey sure, maybe it's horribly framed, but it's also totally out of focus.

Hell, at least mine is only a $75 mistake.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


I was looking for some twisty roads to take the scoot on and I thought of the Adirondacks. I did an Internet search for "Adirondack motorcycle roads" and I found a link.

The closest one I found that I could do and still make it back home within my short window of time was on a short section of Rt 374, just outside of Plattsburgh. Dannemora, in fact.

I thought about this. Before long, it wasn't much about riding on a twisty road. All of us here on this side have looked across the lake plenty of times and seen all those lights behind Plattsburgh. Maybe it's time to finally go see that place for real. So off on the scoot I went.

Grand Isle ferry to Plattsburgh. About a 25 minute ride to reach the ferry. Maybe less. Total ferry time was probably 20 minutes from ticket to drive-off.
Drive ten minutes into Plattsburgh, pass under the "Georiga Pacific Welcomes You To Plattsburgh" sign, and hang a right. You'll be on 374 in less than one minute.
In 13 long, boring, and thoroughly disappointing (though I guess a little reassuring, considering the destination) miles...
(Seriously? This is in the Adirondacks?! Come ON!)'ll reach New York's largest and third oldest prison; the infamous Dannemora, technically known as "Clinton Correctional Facility".
Really? Right up against the main road like that? You wouldn't think they'd have a setup where you could just, I don't know, like maybe throw rocks at the prisoners or whatever. Maybe an M80 or similar. I don't know. Just spitballing here. Hey, spitballs would be funny and really aggravating.

The town of Dannemora was originally established as a mining community (iron) and the prison was built to use convicts as laborers for that industry.

So there it is. This is where all those lights are coming from. This is where people sit and rot their lives away.

Well, this part, too.
Hell of a place to just leave your keys hanging out the back like that.

But then, maybe that's just enough razor wire to hold them in.
I get the feeling that this is where the phrase "Man, they ain't kiddin' around" comes from. I believe they may have ordered the "Not Kidding Around" razor wire package. Okay, we're gonna need three rolls up the side, one that sits on top, and three down the other side. Closer look even shows some kind of long razor spirals that go to the ground. Right. $335 for 25 sq. ft. of that stuff.

Here's another one of the big wall from the other end.
I like the way that it's a big time prison with small town feel. "We got the Piggly Wiggly over here. A cute little store right there called 'Bloomers', the bank, that block is the prison, and..." Actually, the prison sits in full view of Dannemora Ford, which is down there just past the wall and on your right.

Dannemora is swarming with lots of dark vans and SUV's that are mostly unmarked. Me stopping to take pictures... I don't know - there's just kind of a vibe going around that makes you feel like it isn't a great, great idea.

But here's one with the service door open...
...and the ultra-vigilant guard. And hey, look! More razor wire inside. Sure, what the hell. Along the street wall, you can just see the arch that used to be the main entrance. It's since been filled in. And check it out - those are parking meters. I read that it gets pretty busy on weekends. You have to register with and be requested by a prisoner first, so you can't just pop in on someone, but visiting hours are 9-3 every day. Still, you really don't want a ticket out in front of this place, eh?

In 2004, someone figured out a way to declare the NY death penalty unconstitutional, claiming that it showed a bias toward the plaintiff in sentencing deadlocked cases. Because of that, there are supposedly only two prisoners in the State of New York on death row. One of them is here, in the "Unit for Condemned Persons". He sits in a 7'x9' cell, 23 hours a day, goes out (in handcuffs) for one hour of exercise, and he gets a shower three times a week. And lots of people read about things like that, but... well here it actually is.

Which, I guess, is why I went here. Can't imagine rotting your life away like prisoners do, but I know it happens. I have no sympathy for the convicts (the guilty ones, that is.) But as often as I (or anyone I know, for that matter) may have invoked the phrase "rot in prison", well... You haven't really captured the true spirit of that phrase until you've stood this close to a prison and said it (and no, you can't say it from any closer because of a little thing called "irony. ")

But hey, when you kill five Wendy's employees in Queens and use a mildly retarded guy as your accomplice, you can wait out your lethal injection in a place like this, too.

Alright. Prison is real. What about that twisty road I read about?
Um, no. How about just a big 'ol hill with a few very slight bends? Ugh. Damn Internet.

But on a clear day, there's a real nice view to see here. I
was here on a hazy day... I hacked the contrast in Photoshop just so you / I could sort of see what the view should look like.
Right. Then I split. I did see this on the way back though...
Parked. On the ferry. Hands at still locked at 11 and 1. Dock nowhere in sight. Looks like "I took the ferry to Grand Isle today" has a slightly different meaning for her. I mean, everybody says that, but how many of us have ever captured the true spirit of...

Ah, forget it.