US Flag on the Port Bolivar Ferry

US Flag on the Port Bolivar Ferry

What is Memorial Day?

Memorial Day is a day set aside to honor all members of the US military that have died in service.

Not hailing from the US, I have to say I was initially confused about the meaning of Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. In England, where I grew up, we recognized (celebrated is the wrong word) Armistice/Remembrance Day, long since relegated from November 11th to the closest Sunday.

In the US, Memorial Day has been recognized since 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War. The last Monday in May was only officially set as an holiday in 1971.

Memorial Day also serves to mark the unofficial first day of summer and the start of grilling or barbecue season. About 18,000 people get injured and about 5 die each year from grilling related injuries. If you’re firing up your grill today, please be careful. Never light a gas grill with a match and be careful with the lighter fluid if you’re using charcoal. And, though it may be obvious, never use gasoline or diesel to jump start a charcoal grill!

So what is Veteran’s Day then?

Veteran’s Day was co-opted from Armistice Day on November 11th as a day to honor all who have served in the military. As the last of the ‘dough boys’ generation has passed on there are still plenty of veterans who have served both in times of conflict and peace to preserve our freedoms. Unlike Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day is not an official holiday in the US.

The US Flag photo

I took this photo on my birthday a few years back while riding the Bolivar Ferry ‘Robert C. Lanier’ from Port Bolivar to Galveston. Bob Lanier, former three-term Mayor of Houston was himself a veteran having served as an officer in the United States Navy.

Photo Recipe

I took the photo hand-held, one of a burst sequence as I tried to capture the flag billowing in the breeze. In the original crop I had the staff vertical but I rotated the image to make the stripes of the flag horizontal as I thought that improved the composition.

Single layer processed through Lightroom CC, Photomatix 4.2, and Photoshop CC

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Dawn at Badwater, Death Valley

Dawn at Badwater, Death Valley

Dawn at Badwater

A few wisps of cloud hung in the air to the North but to the South there was zip, nada, nothing; just a clear, blue, cloudless sky. Sunrise on the valley floor was approaching, heralded by the golden glow slowly creeping down the side of Telescope Peak and the Panamint Range off to my right. This pre-sunrise hour was silent but for the crunch of the salt underfoot and the clicking of DSLR mirrors and shutters – only one of our group was sporting a mirrorless camera.

Salt Polygons at Badwater Basin

For this photo I’d moved South of the location for my previous post and I was now South of the West Side Road where Salt Creek flows through the Devils Golf Course. The Devils Golf Course is the name given to the rough dry mud regions either side of Salt Creek visible in the photo above as the brown borders of the white salt river. Here, close by the road, the edges of the salt polygons were less pronounced though I’ve no idea why.

On my way out to Death Valley from Las Vegas I’d stopped at a Target and picked up some gardening kneepads with a neoprene pad and velcro fasteners. Those certainly helped protect my knees on the coarse salt surface!

Photo Recipe

I placed my camera low to the ground and used a wide angle lens to get this perspective, emphasizing the salt polygon in the foreground. The shot was taken a little under an hour before the sun cleared the Armagosa Range to my left.

Multiple layers processed through Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC

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Where's the best spot to photography Badwater Basin in Death Valley

Salt Polygons at Badwater Basin, Death Valley

Badwater.

The name says all you need to know about the place, Badwater. According to the GPS on this image, the elevation here is -275.6 feet. That’s 275 feet below sea level! The lowest point in North America is about 10 miles behind my right shoulder, a whole 6.4 feet lower still.

Being the lowest point, any water that does fall in this part of the desert runs into Death Valley. The only way out is evaporation and that’s what leaves this salt crust on the valley floor. As the water rushes down the sides of the valley it dissolves minerals and salts from the rock. As the water evaporates, these minerals and salts are deposited out of the solution. Any liquid left is a pretty strong brine though a small bluish fish, the Desert Valley Pupfish, has evolved to survive here.

The strange polygonal shapes of salt on the surface are created by the oozing and drying of the underlying mud layers.

Where’s the Best spot to Photograph Badwater Basin?

Most people will stop at the designated parking spot and either walk out on the boardwalk or venture out onto the salt. The challenge here is that everybody does it so the polygon shapes are all beaten down into an ice-rink like smoothness. To see the polygons from here you have to walk a long way out and the distance can be deceiving. On the flip side, on the walk back in you can see the ‘Sea Level’ sign high on the rock face above you.

I think the best spot to photography Badwater Basin is about 10 miles to the North West where the Salt Creek crosses the West Side Road. The salt crust is not as expansive here but the access by car is good and the polygons are just a few feet from the road. The salt surface is very rough. Make sure you are wearing good, closed-toe, shoes. You may also want to consider knee-pads and gloves to in order to get low to the ground as getting low to the ground emphasizes the roughness of the surface that an eye-level shot fails to do justice to.

Badwater at Dawn Photo Recipe

I took the photo above about an hour before the sun crested the Armagosa Range to my right and illuminated the spot where I was standing.

Multiple layers processed through Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC

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Better Black and White with Topaz Black and White Effects

Yamaha with Vance&Hines Silencer, Topaz Black and White Effects

This is a short article on better black and white photos with Topaz Black and White Effects.

Why Black and White?

We live in a world of color so why black and white photos? Perhaps it’s because the older among us grew up with them in the newspapers and with black and white TVs. Maybe it’s because so many images are color these days that black and white stands out from the crowd. Maybe it’s because, with the color stripped away, we get to look at the scene anew, looking at form and function uncluttered by the distractions of screaming color.

Why Topaz Black and White Effects?

I take a number of different approaches in my black and white work, sometimes doing everything in Lightroom, sometimes in Photoshop, but mostly with plugins from either TopazLabs, onOne Software or from Google (since they bought Nik).

I like the simplicity of Topaz Black and White Effects. Once installed, in Photoshop you find it in the Filters menu. For Lightroom, you also need to install either the free Fusion Express 2 or purchase their photoFXlab and then you ‘Edit In photoFXlab’. Or, you could dispense with all this and use photoFXlab as a stand-alone editor. In other words, if you don’t want to buy Photoshop or Lightroom, you can buy photoFXlab as your photo editor.

How do I use Topaz Black and White Effects?

Topaz have taken a common approach to their user interface – effects menu on the left, photo in the middle and adjustment controls on the right.

One of the features I like is the many presets available – over 200! They’re grouped in families and as you mouse over each preset a preview of your image shows what the effect does. You can select a preset and, if you don’t like it, change your mind and select a different one. I usually try to get a preset that’s about 80% of what I’m striving for.

Once I have my 80% image, I then flip over to the controls on the right where I can finely adjust contrast, exposure, try various color filters, dodge, burn, add vignettes etc. All very simple and very quick.

You can read my review of topaz Black and White Effects here.

Topaz Black and White Effects On Sale Through March 31, 2015

If you want to make better black and white photos with Topaz then there’s no better time than now! Black and White Effects is on sale through March 31, 2015. You get a 33% saving. It’s now $39.99 against the regular price of $59.99. What’s more, it’s completely risk free – download a free trial. The free version is exactly the same as the paid version but expires after 30-days.

Yamaha Motorcycle Photo Recipe

I took the photo of the Yamaha motorcycle with the Vance & Hines silencer during the Scott Kelby Photowalk in 2013. It was parked on the street in Houston that our crew ambled down.

Multiple layers in Photoshop to blur background and show (adjusted hue) color of rims.

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  • Rory o ConnellMay 25, 2015 - 10:56 am

    I love bw images due to first learning to make, develop and print bw film. Your motorcycle image does just to bw. But I still prefer film.ReplyCancel

This is the last in my series of posts on the story of the Lady Be Good.

Toner’s Diary:
MONDAY, April 12, 1943
No help yet, very (unreadable) cold nite.

Ripslinger’s Diary:
MONDAY, April 12, 1943
No entry made.

Monday April 12 was the last day that Toner made an entry in his diary and it was a single sentence. According to Walker, Toner’s diary was found in the pocket of a rolled up set of flight coveralls. Walker reports that the indications were that those of the five who survived longer had used the clothing of those who had passed to ward off the cold night temperatures. Toner makes no mention of anyone passing.

On Friday 9th, Toner had reported the five had one parachute left. They were using this to shelter from the sun during the day and it was found with the bodies, along with a life preserver that is theorized the crew brought along in the hope of using it to hold any water they might encounter. Two empty canteens were found with the bodies.

Each of the bodies were found a little distance apart that perhaps shows some reverence for those that departed. It’s not reported in the books I’ve read whether the coveralls were found by Toner’s body or elsewhere. That the coveralls were reported to be rolled up suggests that Toner wasn’t wearing them when found so either he wasn’t cold or he passed and one of the others tidied up his effects, or he was just a neat tidy guy and rolled them up himself, perhaps to protect the diary.

In the dunes, Ripslinger and Shelley also likely passed this same day. Ripslinger was found some 27 miles from the group of five and Shelley some 10 miles further. No sign has ever been found of Moore and Ripslinger made no mention of him after his entry on the Saturday of the group of three heading off alone.

When the body of Shelley was found, in his pockets they found both his billfold and Ripslinger’s, suggesting Rispslinger had passed earlier and Shelley had taken the billfold perhaps with a view to passing it to Ripslinger’s next of kin. But neither Ripslinger nor Shelley carried anything of Moore’s and there’s no way of knowing where or when Moore separated from the trio and if he was alive or dead at the time.

Shelley’s last day must have been an enormous struggle, completely on his own for probably the first time in his life with only his own thoughts for company, knowing he was all alone in this vast expanse of sand. Below is a photo of the terrain the Ripslinger, Shelley and Moore had been navigating since setting out on their own. Toner had mentioned on the Thursday that Moore, along with Adams were all gone, so I think Moore likely succumbed first of the three.

Calanscio Dunes near where the remains of the crew of the Lady Be Good were foundWhile the body of Vernon Moore has not yet been found there is an intriguing story on this page of Martinez’s site, www.ladybegood.com. The challenge with the story is the lack of detail on where the British Army convoy traversed the dunes in 1953. Certainly the body in the photo on this page is lying on sand and not gravel. What’s not clear to me on this account is whether the 80 miles refers to the width of the dunes at the crossing or the length of the journey at the crossing. We used to cross pretty much East from Sarir to our camp. Here the dunes were about 40 miles wide but the journey was considerably longer as we wound our way up and down the lines of dunes to saddles where crossing the dune lines was easier.

The body of 2nd Lieutenant John Woravka, the Bombardier, was the last of the 8 bodies to be found. He was lying on the gravel plain, about 12 miles North of the wreck of the Lady Be Good, shrouded in his parachute which had failed to open. As Walker writes, his failed parachute spared him the long drawn out ordeal of his fellow crew members. His body was also found to be less than a half-mile from the rally point where the other crew members assembled after bailing out, as determined by the pile of discarded parachute harnesses, life preservers and high-altitude clothing found at that point.

Lady Be Good - 1990-91 Under the Starboard WingThe markers left by the crew show that they followed tracks left by an Italian Army convoy of five trucks that had evacuated from Kufra oasis in 1941 escaping a Free French raid. They had followed this until they encountered crossing series of tracks determined to have been made by the British Army Long Range Desert Group in 1942 when they moved their base from Siwa to Kufra.

The photo below shows the remains of a British Army refueling dump from WWII. It’s possible that these are related to those same Long Range Desert Group operations. They were on the edge of the dunes, to the East of where the remains of Hatton and the crew were found but I took no fix on these. I think it’s safe to say they are still there now.

Where the German Army had the now famous Jerrycan for carrying spare fuel, the British Army used 4-gallon tin-plated cans, known as ‘flimsies’. Many of these were made in Egypt. These 4-gallon containers were packed in pairs in a wooden case. This was later replaced by plywood and eventually cardboard. The ones I cam across were packed in thin plywood and wire cases. The lack of robustness of the cans meant that they were effectively single use and were discarded once used. As their name attests, they often leaked which resulted in not only a loss of fuel but also an increased fire risk. By early 1942 the Long Range Desert Group had switched from using flimises to jerrycan’s captured from the Germans in fighting around Benghazi in late 1941.

British Army Below is a closer view of one of the plywood crates with a pair of flimsies. From their condition still in the crate I suspect these had leaked their contents in transit. The one in the lower left appears to have a split in it near the base. The bird resting on the frame is doomed. With no water in the vicinity, once these birds had fallen out of the air currents that carry them across the Sahara they never regained the energy required to rise to the necessary altitude to one again be carried on the wind.

British Army 4 Gallon FlimsiesNone of the flimsies in the photo below was opened from the top and most still had a wire from the crate running through the handle indicating the fuel they once carried never made it into the fuel tank of a vehicle. Note that these we made for the Shell Company.

British Army 4 Gallon Flimsies 2When we finally left the concession, we drove North through the dune valleys to the northern edge of the Calanscio Sand Sea and then we followed the edge of the dunes to the West. The drive North through the dunes from the southern edge to the northern edge took us the whole day but we all emerged together with only one major breakdown that I recall and only a couple of trucks getting bogged down in soft sand.

Close to where we emerged we came across what our ordinance maps told us was the remains of three German Army trucks destroyed in an airstrike. Among the remains was this jerrycan.

Kraftstoff 20 L = Fuel 20 litres
Feuergefährlich = flammable
1941 = year of manufacture
ABP (logo) = AMBI-BUDD Presswerk Berlin
243 = unknown – some form of series number possibly
Wehrmacht = armed forces in general, not specific to the army.

1941 JerrycanBelow is a photo of some of our convoy parked alongside the remains of the three vehicles destroyed in the airstrike. Note also how different this terrain is – gravel plain with undulating hills versus the near flat gravel plain South of the dunes.

Airstrike - 50 Years On

Airstrike - 50 Years OnBelow is a fuel drum found among the airstrike wreckage.

Logo = Mauser (Mauser made their first metal drum in 1903)
1941 = year of manufacture
Kraftstoff = Fuel
200L = 200 litres
Feuergefährlich = flammable
Heer = army

WWII German Army Fuel DrumAnd below, an unexploded WWII shell lies on the desert floor some 50-years or so after this particular conflict.

WWII Shell in Libyan DesertAs we headed West, glad that we were out of the dunes with relatively little effort, we left the Lady Be Good behind in the desert.

In 1994, the Libyan Government removed the remains of the wreck from the desert. The remains appear to have moved around a bit, spending some time at El Adem and at the time of writing in Tobruk. The intent was to display it in a more accessible setting but with the ongoing political chaos in that country, in the humid, salty Mediterranean air, she rests unceremoniously junked in a yard. While I agree with the intent, the execution and circumstances appear to have doomed the plane once more.

Below are images of Toner’s diary:

Lady Be Good - Toner

Lady Be Good - Toner

And here is Ripslinger’s:

Lady Be Good - Ripslinger

These maps are from www.ladybegood.net:

The remains of the crew members were collected by a U.S. Army Mortuary team based out of Frankfurt, Germany. A memorial service was held at the site before the bodies were removed. The image below must have been taken around sunset on February 17, 1960, judging by the shadows. I’ve not seen any reports as such but I can imagine ‘Taps’ being played and a very sombre mood.

Lady Be Good Crew Waiting To Go Home

And my final image of this series, a close-up of the serial number on the starboard tailplane.

Lady Be Good - Serial Number 124301

I have a photo book containing several of my images of the Lady Be Good available through Blurb, below:

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  • Phil JurgensenFebruary 24, 2015 - 8:26 pm

    Thank you for your writings and photos regarding the Lady Be Good.

    I suffer from dry eyes and know something of what they must have felt. Very painful and give you a terrific headache, like someone is pinching hard at the top of your nose. They go gummy and you can’t focus to see. When I feel an attack coming, I have to go and bathe my eyes in warm water. And I don’t have desert sand to contend with.ReplyCancel

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