Occasional Moments of Brilliance

Photography that is always great, and occasionally brilliant.

Posts tagged ‘history’

A Legend at the Wheel

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The RV lifestyle is a growing trend, and continues to expand in spite of economic changes. After dropping off significantly up to 2009, sales rebounded 46% in 2010 and have continued to grow. According to US News & World Report, the average RV owner is 48 years old. I had the opportunity to meet one long-time RV enthusiast who is skewing that number just a bit higher. Retired Lt. General LeRoy Manor has spent his life on the move. His travels have taken him around the world in service to a country that he loves. It all began when he left his teaching job in New York State and put on a uniform to fly P-47 fighter planes in the skies over Europe in WWII. Most recently he’s settled into spending time touring the country in RV’s.

In a warm afternoon ceremony at Lazy Days in Seffner, Fl., Fleetwood RV President John Draheim presented the general with his eighth RV. It comes as no surprise that Manor is attracted to the build quality and unique features of the American Coach line of Fleetwood RV’s, but there’s little doubt the brand also taps into his patriotic spirit.

Before setting off again on another adventure, he took a few minutes to share some of his journey. I was asked to come out and capture some of those moments.

He began pilot training with the Army Air Corps 1942, and ended up flying 72 combat missions as part of the 358th Fighter Squadron. He described flying over Normandy on D-Day and looking down at the assembled allied fleet, as “an amazing sight”. Later he flew hundreds of missions over Vietnam, served as senior military negotiator and advisor to the US Ambassador the Philippines and was commander of the US Air Force Special Operations Force. Manor is perhaps best known for commanding Operation Ivory Coast which was the 1970 attempt to rescue American POW’s held at Sơn Tây Prison, near Hanoi. While the mission didn’t return any POW’s, it did provide a morale boost and improvement in living conditions for them. After generously sharing many stories from his crystal clear memory, this decorated Air Force veteran was asked what it was like to meet the President of the United States. Having met several, Manor smiled and said “Which one?”

Lt. General Manor has traveled thousands of miles over the years, and looks to cover many more in his new American Coach.

From Dragon to Snake

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On a clear, cold Sunday afternoon I made my way to Wentworth Avenue, just south of the Loop in Chicago. I remembered as I walked, the only other time that I’d been to Chinatown. It was years ago. I was breaking in my new to me Mamiya 645AFD and I ended up shooting a couple rolls of Fuji E-6 transparency film. They turned out to be two of the, to date, less than 20 rolls I’ve put through that camera. Today the goal, and my entire perspective was quite different. I was going in to cover the Lunar New Year parade, this time through the lens of my years living in Asia. While in Korea, I often asked my friends about events in Seoul to celebrate the holiday. It turned out that during Seollal as it’s known in Korean, the city turns into a ghost town. There is a mass migration out of the city as families gather in their ancestral homes. It’s a good opportunity to photograph giant subway stations devoid of people, but not much else. This year however, I anticipated an energetic public event.

Known in China as Yuan Tan, Lunar New Year is celebrated on the second new moon after the winter solstice. The parade was part of 15 days of celebration celebrating the beginning of the year of the water snake. The snake represents the12 year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, and water comes from the five year repeating cycle of elements.

The parade itself was a lively event, and the sidewalks were packed. People cheered loudly for the Chinese themed presentations including beautiful two person lion costumes, fireworks and a long dragon, requiring several people to operate. There were also representatives from several local Chinatown cultural organizations, and seeming a bit out of place, local marching bands and of course Ronald MacDonald. After passing beneath the large archway over Wentworth Ave., the lion performers gathered around the marshall’s stage as the observers flowed in behind them for a brief closing ceremony and some fireworks. I was just looking for the parade staging area when I noticed all of the lion costume performers and a group of musicians leading a crowd down the street.

The lion costumes and dance performance comes from a legend in ancient China where a beast called a ‘nian’ would terrorize, and sometimes consume, villagers. The people soon learned that the color red, loud noises and light would frighten the creature away. Red is now seen as a symbol of good luck for the New Year. In modern times, firecrackers are in abundance and red is seen as a symbol of good luck. Gifts of money are often delivered in red envelopes, red lanterns are hung and good luck wishes are written on red paper.

The lion dancers and their accompanying musicians went through the streets performing for many local businesses. Their routine involved three bows outside, with a further performance inside to bring luck and prosperity in the coming year.

Revolutionary Times

The sound of the cannon was surprisingly loud. I’ve been to the range a few times. I had listened to the warning over the PA system. Yet I was still stunned by the boom of the 3 and 5 lbs cannon. My camera was ready and focused for the first volley but I was so shaken that I didn’t shoot a single frame.

After camping out in 18th conditions for a few days, the red coats squared off against the colonists on the green at Cantigny. The combatants seemed filled with genuine enjoyment as they engaged each other on the field. They were equally enthusiastic later as they conversed with visitors in the temporary village. Participants repaired clothing and gear, read period books, wrote letters and cooked over open flames. All the while doing demonstrations and answering questions.

It took me a moment to adjust to the feel and flow of reenacted 1700’s style warfare. The split second pause between trigger pull and the weapon firing as musket flint struck steel in particular was challenging. In addition, it was difficult to  avoid distracting background elements in the battle images.