Thursday, February 21, 2008


Clouds obscured most of the lunar eclipse last night.

I got a few shots as the Earth's shadow began to creep across the moon's surface but this was one of the few in which it did not appear as if it was just a dark cloud blocking the moonlight.

John McQuiston Photograph

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

You Say You Want an Evolution

It's only 2008 yet Florida may be putting itself way ahead of the curve by endorsing the teaching of evolution as science in state schools. Radical thinking, I know. And probably a terrible idea as this column by Carl Hiaasen in the Miami Herald hilariously explains.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Better Than a Sharp Stick in the Eye...

Photo Copyright 2008 John McQuiston
...but not by much!

I covered the state high school wrestling finals yesterday. Before the finals they stage the third and fifth place matches. I brought my still camera and snapped off a few shots of that. Fortunately, my paying job did not depend on my ability to shoot the stills. The arena was too dark for me to get most of the action shots in focus. I also struggled to frame the shots well. But I think it helped me shoot the video better. I'll know that for sure when I load it into my computer later.

The kid who had his opponent's fingers in his eyes went on to dominate his match and managed to see the medal he won.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Mom's Flowers

My parents live about 30 miles from me. Close enough that I can visit whenever I want. Far enough that I can stay home whenever I don't. My mother usually keeps flowers around the house, which make good target practice for shooting photographs.

Yes, it may be a wee bit pretentious of me to put the copyright symbol on my pictures but it's good practice in case I get lucky enough to shoot one that someone might judge worth stealing.


Photograph Copyright 2008 John McQuiston
Photograph © John McQuiston

I've taken a few days off. My brother's in town and we're hanging out, eating too much, slacking off my workouts and taking pictures. The one above is from Clearwater Beach. We had taken Gulf Boulevard, which hugs the coast along the Gulf of Mexico, up from Treasure Island in St. Petersburg to Clearwater.

Photograph Copyright 2008 James McQuiston
There I am on Treasure Island, whose beach is close to a quarter mile wide. We had never been there and we were surprised at how empty it was. There had been clouds earlier in the day and maybe that scared people off. That was fine with me.

Photograph Copyright 2008 John McQuiston
Jim contemplates a swim.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Snook Haven

We've shot part of another story for A Gulf Coast Journal. That's the program hosted by Jack Perkins that airs on Tampa's PBS affiliate, WEDU. The story is about dulcimer players. They had a jamboree at an out-of-the-way place in Venice called Snook Haven.

It's built around a restaurant and includes a stage for musical acts, a boat ramp into the Myakka River, a gift shop and some cabins for overnight stays. It's not quite right to call it "off the beaten path" because the dirt road you drive to get there is well worn. But you're back in the boonies and the place advertises itself as a taste of Old Florida.

Snook Haven also reminds you with many signs that it is a restaurant and that you're not to eat food you bought elsewhere on the grounds. Our $7 chicken sandwiches probably didn't have $7 worth of chicken sandwich in them but cameraman Carlos Albores, soundman Mark Perfetti and I agreed that they hit the spot.

Below is a Flash slide show of pictures I took with my point-and-shoot Canon Power Shot. I don't feel comfortable bringing my SLR on jobs because WEDU is not paying me to take pictures, though they'll use one in their monthly magazine on the page that details what's coming up on that month's Journal.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Super Sunday

I was in the bathroom when I heard my brother yell, "touchdown!" The Giants had just scored to take the lead with 40 seconds left in Super Bowl XLII. The mighty Patriots, undefeated and supposedly unbeatable, suddenly faced a shocking loss in the game expected to cap off their perfect season.

Instead it proved that karma really can come around to bite you in the back.

I normally root for excellence. No pro sports franchise had achieved more of it in one season than New England. But all season the Patriots' arrogant and classless coach Bill Belichick practically begged for the humbling that the Giants finally handed him. How fitting that it happened on the biggest stage in American sports.

I didn't care that much. I wanted the Giants to win but I had accepted the conventional wisdom that they likely would not. Games interest me but the older I get the less willing I am to let their outcomes affect my happiness. It was enough for me to have the game on while I edited photographs I had taken earlier in the day (see the posts below with results of the efforts) and hung out with my brother Jim at my parents' house.

Both Jim and my father seemed to have more at stake. Every Giants failure would spark an eruption of expletives. No credit went to the Patriots. Their good plays happened not because of what they did, only what New York did not. It is the typical McQuiston mindset that nothing ever just happens to us. We always do something to earn our misfortunes. Everything was the Giants' fault.

Perhaps Freud would have something to say about our rooting so ardently for a team that was supposed to lose, something about how, in doing so, we sought reinforcement of our inferiority. But Freud's not saying much these days. He's dead.

And so is the Patriots perfect season. It surprised me, though. I thought Tom Brady's touchdown drive would go down in Super Bowl lore as the game winner, not the one Eli Manning engineered in reply.

It capped off a good day for me. We had chamber of commerce weather - sunny and around 80 degrees - I played my guitar, worked out, took some good pictures, spent time with my family, enjoyed a fine dinner (Jim can cook!) and watched New England get its just desserts.

Super Sunday, indeed.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Photograph Copyright 2008 John McQuistonAfter my side trip to the Field of Flags (see post below), I continued to my original destination: The USF Botanical Garden. It's not the fanciest or biggest floral collection around but admission is free and it's not far out of the way on the drive to my parents' house where I was going to have dinner and watch the Super Bowl.

I had shot there once before and went back this time specifically to capture shots of the butterfly garden's headline inhabitants. Or suffer terrible sunburn in the attempt. Butterflies don't often stop to pose for pictures. They flit and flutter about from one flower to the next. Following them is impossible. All you can do is pick a spot and wait for them to come to you. When one does, you can't get too particular about the framing. You focus and snap the shot. That's usually all you get. A couple of times, though, they stayed still long enough for me to try to compose a shot.

Here's a slide show (your browser must be Flash enabled):

Field of Flags

Photograph Copyright 2008 John McQuiston
I was driving to the University of South Florida in Tampa to take pictures in its botanical garden when I passed the biggest collection of American flags I had ever seen. The First United Church had planted its grounds with flags for each U.S. service member who has died in Iraq or Afghanistan. A sign invited visitors to tour the grounds. It even had maps indicating which flags honored which service members.

Here is a brief Flash slide show:

Friday, February 01, 2008


I ate my first donut of 2008 this morning. The closest thing to junk food I'd had in January were granola bars and applesauce. Sticklers will contend that granola bars are junk food but I bought the granola bars on a 2-for-1 sale and studies have shown that discounted foods have less sugar and fewer calories than their full-priced counterparts. You can look it up.

I have no excuse for the applesauce. That's why I'm not claiming I went all of January junk food free. That's OK, though, for two reasons. One, I had a light holiday eating season so I didn't didn't have a lot of gastrointestinal atonement to do. Second, because I kept the resolution that I did make: I worked out every single day in January.

This makes three years in a row on that one. Thank you.

So I deserved a donut, don't you think? Conveniently enough, the boss brought a box to the office. The first bite was heaven -- soft and sweet and chewy. Then ten minutes later I felt like hell. It was like I'd swallowed a rock!

Sunk by one donut! You have to understand: When I was a teenager, I could eat half a dozen without blinking. OK, maybe a couple of blinks but only if you looked closely. And not just plain ones or regular glazed ones. I mean the full strength jelly, custard and creme filled ones. I don't even like jelly or custard donuts but they went down so fast I didn't have time to complain.

And now that I'm a home owner who's had to do some minor drywall repair I realize that the stuff that fills "creme-filled" donuts is just sugar-sweetened spackling compound. You can look that up, too.

One thing you probably can't do any more is find me at a donut shop. That's not a new resolution. That's just me learning my limitations.