Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lunar Eclipse Images and Tips on How to Take Them

 Today is December 21, 2010. Winter Solstice. Very early this morning some of us got to witness the last total lunar eclipse of the year. I was lucky enough to have that opportunity, to watch the total lunar eclipse of December 21, 2010, as it unveiled its magic over the Jersey skies.  So, I'd like to share here a few notes I made to self based on this extraordinary experience.

 The night was long, because it was the night before the winter solstice. Therefore, the moon traveled high in the sky and I had to wait for it until I could see it from my balcony.

The night was crystal clear and dark. Unfortunately, I didn't have any landmark that I could use in the pictures, just the pitch-dark sky and some stars, here and there... maybe I SHOULD have gotten out of the house and not take the easy way out of just stepping out on the balcony. And then, again, it was cold and windy and the middle of the night... (excuses, excuses). Long story short, if you can find a good location, something that would tell the place where the image was taken, it's great; if not, just try to get stars or clouds or a moving object (like a plane) in the image.

 First things first. To shoot the lunar eclipse, I got my tripod ready. Also the longest lens that I own (and found out was not enough, not even close) my 70-200mm. [while taking the images, it crossed my mind that a 200-400mm (or longer) would be a fantastic investment if I want to keep shooting the sky at night...]

Last night was cold, so, even if you only step outside on the balcony (like I did), don't do it without coat, gloves, hood, etc. I ended up staying out in the freezing temps and wind for almost the entire duration of the total eclipse, which was a bit more than an hour. That, while already struggling to get over a cold (the exercise was worth it, though). Also, wear something comfortable. Take breaks, go inside (if possible) to warm up. You do have time. While the sun eclipse lasts only minutes, the lunar eclipse can last about an hour. During the total lunar eclipse, you get to see the Moon shadowed by the Earth. To me, it looked like a... planet from some sci-fi movie, very... round, so to speak, illuminated from the far side, just enough to enhance its 3D aspect. Also, the color is, indeed, copper-y read.

Definitely worth the freeze and lack of sleep. Hope you enjoyed your eclipse experience.
As always, thanks for visiting!

Alina Oswald

Sunday, December 12, 2010


The Flying Vampire, by Alina Oswald

"Live Stone" Vampires, by Alina Oswald

Facing the Law, by Alina Oswald
"Triptych" is a strange word, when first heard. At least that's what I thought. Triptych is a work of art made of three related sections (images, in photography), in other words, presented as one.

Because three (3) is sometimes considered a "magic" number--the so-called "charm" and also found in fairy tales--I'd like to share with you three of my triptych images:

"Facing the Law" first started as a diptych (two images instead of three)--some of them made it into my solo photography show, BACKBONE, at 32 Jones Gallery in 2008;

"Vampires as 'Live Stones'" first started as images for a show called COOL BLUE, at LITM (Love Is The Message) in Jersey City, 2009, and then it re-emerged in my vampire photography series and book, Vampire Fantasies;

"The Flying Vampire"is a 2010 creation and part of my vampire photography series; although it did not make it into the first book, Vampire Fantasies, it will sure make it into an upcoming one (I'm working on a series of vampire photography books right now)

Hope you enjoy the images.
As always, thanks for visiting.

Alina Oswald

PS: Thanks so much to my fabulously fantastic and phenomenal model! MJ, you are the best!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ozone: the multi-faceted element

I recently saw a picture of our planet with the hole in the ozone layer. It got me to think of Angels in America (one of my favorite movies, with Justin Kirk, Jeffrey Wright, Al Pacino, Meryl Streep and others) and also of Kurt Weston, and others like him who, while living with HIV/AIDS, have tried anything and everything to stay alive. Including ozone therapy. Here's a short excerpt about ozone and ozone therapy from my book, Journeys Through Darkness, a biography that follows the life and art of award-winning visual artist, Kurt Weston, as they were forever changed by his living with a life-threatening disease.

Hope you'll enjoy the read.

As always, thanks for visiting,
Alina Oswald
Author of Journeys Through Darkness

Ozone is a gas discovered in 1839 by a German scientist named Christian Friedrich Schonbein. The name “ozone” comes from the Greek “ozein,” which means “(to) smell.” Its molecule is relatively unstable and of a pale-blue color (which gives the color of our sky). Ozone is formed when ultraviolet light or an electrical discharge splits an oxygen molecule into two highly active oxygen atoms. The recombination of atomic oxygen with the oxygen molecule that follows forms the tri-molecular oxygen, called ozone. The gas has a bleach-y like smell that is sometimes felt in the air after an electrical storm or in the vicinity of electrical equipment.
A gas like ozone, with such a simple molecule, turns out to have quite some dramatic effects on life on Earth. In the higher layers of Earth’s atmosphere there is what scientists call “good ozone” because it protects life on Earth from outside ultraviolet radiations, and also people from getting skin cancers, cataracts or impaired immune systems. Closer to the Earth’s surface, where the gas comes directly in contact with human life, there is what experts call “bad ozone,” a harmful pollutant that can damage the lung tissue. This “bad ozone” is also a major constituent of smog.
Ozone can also be used in oxygenation (or oxygen) therapies—a type of alternative therapies said to cure cancer or impaired immune system related diseases. The seeds of the oxygenation therapy concepts are found in the works of William F. Koch (1885-1962), a Detroit physician, and Otto Warburg (1883-1970), a researcher and double Nobel Prize winner—once in 1931, for discovering the oxygen-transferring enzymes in cellular respiration and again in 1944, for identifying the enzymes that transfer hydrogen in metabolism.
Oxygenation therapy has many pros and cons, and the definite disapproval of the conventional medicine experts. Oxygenation therapy proponents explain it as being based on the presumption that a deficit of oxygen in the tissue (also known as hypoxia) can cause human disease and, therefore, lead to immune system’s failure to kill invading bacteria and viruses. An infusion of pure oxygen (like ozone) can restore this function of the immune system.
There are two substances usually recommended in oxygenation therapy—hydrogen peroxide and ozone. Their names determine the type of oxygenation therapy.
Originally discovered in 1818, hydrogen peroxide is a substance present in nature in trace amounts. It decomposes violently when it comes in direct contact with organic matter. Light, chemicals like carbonates, proteins or chlorides are only a few factors that can accelerate the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide. Therapy using a “food grade” (thirty-five percent) hydrogen peroxide solution suggests that patients should drink the substance, use it for brushing their teeth, for soaking in a bath with it or massaging it into their skin. Patients can also use it as douches, colonic irrigations or intravenous infusions. 
Ozone can also be used in oxygenation therapies intravenously, intramuscularly or as colonic irrigation. During the early nineties, some of its proponents advertised that ozone therapy could cure AIDS by inactivating extra-cellular HIV. And either they believed that or not, AIDS patients were willing to give it a try.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Color of AIDS

On December 1st the Empire State Building turns red, for World AIDS Day. Red. As it does on February 14th, for Valentine's Day. Red is the color of blood, and also of love. Maybe Red is trying to tell us something: that those living with HIV/AIDS need our love and understanding, not prejudice and judgment.

"Red City Lights" - Dec 1, 2010. Copyright Alina Oswald.
Here's one of the images I took this December 1, 2010, on WAD.

As always, thanks for visiting!

Alina Oswald
Author of Journeys Through Darkness

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My AIDS Journey: The Early Years--Early Eighties

The early eighties, the early AIDS years, aka "dark years,' not many remember those years, especially not today's youth. They cannot, because they were not born at that time. But others remember those years and others more should, but choose not to.

Here's an excerpt from my book, Journeys Through Darkness, a biography that reminds us why it is important not to forget about AIDS by taking us on a journey into the history of AIDS, from the early eighties to present day, through the story of Kurt Weston, an award-winning, fine art photographer.

Hope you enjoy the read. If you want to read the whole story and enjoy some of Weston's images, go to: Journeys Through Darkness.

Alina Oswald

The early eighties were the years of silent sufferings and mysterious deaths. They were the years when a lot of people just… disappeared. One day they were around, the next they were just gone, and nobody knew for sure what had happened to them. It took four years of too many silent deaths and one publicized celebrity death for AIDS to make the headlines in the U.S. It wasn’t until the disease claimed the life of a movie star, Rock Hudson, that the threat of the virus was brought home to many Americans. 
But that doesn’t mean that the first four years of loss and suffering and sickness of unknown people were forgotten. The early eighties have inspired many artists to capture the epidemic in various forms of art, from literature and Broadway shows to film and photography.
Those living in New York City at the time may remember the giant billboard posted in Times Square displaying a picture of Ronald Reagan, his face covered with purple Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions. It was a protest message capturing the Reagan Administration’s response to the AIDS issue.
Kurt Weston lived through the early days of the AIDS epidemic, when people were getting infected and having to deal with the reality that they were sick, victims of the mysterious “gay cancer,” and that there was nothing that they could do to stay alive. He had to watch helplessly how his friends were dying horrible and silent deaths, a lot of times having no idea what exactly was killing them, or how, or why. In only a few years AIDS has claimed the lives of everybody the photographer knew in Chicago. And when it didn’t claim lives, AIDS isolated and stigmatized its victims.
While many of those infected were too weak and sick to leave their beds, others were struggling to maintain some connection to the world outside their homes and their disease. Young men looking three times their age walked the streets, their faces drawn and covered with purple blotches, their emaciated bodies hunched over their canes. They were the messengers of the strange and scary disease, and living proof of its presence in the American society.
But nobody wanted to be around the disease or anybody carrying it. So, many started avoiding using public restrooms or drinking from water fountains, afraid to touch or be around people who could have the disease.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December 1, 2010: World AIDS Day--My AIDS Journey: Figuring Out the Age of AIDS

It's December 1st, 2010. It's one of the very few (if not the only) days in the year that the word AIDS is said out loud in the mainstream media. That's unfortunate, I think. But let's be positive. Let's remember those we've lost to the pandemic and help those living with the virus today, World AIDS Day (WAD), and every other day.

I've covered HIV/AIDS in writing and photography for almost a decade now. It's been and continues to be an inspiring journey. A journey I embarked on many times, with many people. One of the most memorable is award-winning visual artist Kurt Weston, with whom I've kept in touch ever since that first interview. He's a wonderful friend and mentor. Here's an excerpt from my book, JOURNEYS THROUGH DARKNESS, a biography that follows his living with AIDS and related visual loss. The excerpt is from a chapter called "Cold Warning," after one of Kurt Weston's images.

Hope you enjoy the read, and hope you remember World AIDS Day.

As always, thanks for visiting,

"Angel in Central Park," by Alina Oswald.All Rights Reserved.

“I’m not clocked down on AIDS,” Kurt Weston says talking about the age of AIDS. The pandemic made headlines in the eighties, but it may be much older. Yet, does it make any difference in how people perceive the way it has touched millions of lives?
It may be hard sometimes to realize that it all started with one genetic transformation from a monkey virus to a human one, from one chimpanzee to one human, possibly a monkey hunter in the jungles of Central Africa sometime in the late 1930s. That one mutation led to the first HIV infection, which medical professionals officially recorded in 1959.
The infected hunter, the world’s AIDS patient zero, left his village for the large cities of Africa and the opportunities they provided. The crowds and busy city nightlife attracted both the hunter and his virus, in different ways. Soon, HIV started to spread from person to person, taking over communities, cities, countries and continents, and becoming what’s known today as the global AIDS pandemic. Presently, some forty million people are infected with HIV and more than twenty million have already died of AIDS, worldwide.
The first U.S. casualties surfaced in June 1981, in Los Angeles, where doctors found a strange type of pneumonia--called Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, or PCP--in five young gay men. PCP is caused by a microorganism that occurs naturally in the lungs of people and animals. In 1981, although the medical professionals didn’t know the cause of the disease, they knew it was associated with a weakened immune system. And the cause for this impaired immunity was still a mystery. The patients died within days.  
That same summer, an article published in the New York Times announced the appearance of a rapidly fatal form of a rare cancer that doctors had found in forty-one homosexual men. A CBS newscaster also reported that a strange cancer seemed to be spreading in the gay community and that nobody knew where it came from or how it was spread. 
It was only a blip in the news, but Kurt Weston heard it as he was watching TV in his condo in Chicago. The photographer wondered if he could actually get the strange “gay cancer” and he called his friend, David, who was living in the same neighborhood. His friend had no idea about the mysterious disease threatening their community, but he agreed with Kurt that the gay cancer news was indeed scary news.
It wasn’t until a few years later that the “gay cancer” made headlines again, under a new name. In 1985 the Center of Disease Control announced that it wasn’t a (gay) cancer causing all the disease and suffering and death, but rather a virus called Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV. The CDC called the multitude of strange diseases the virus caused Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS.
In the late eighties, after David’s lover died of AIDS-related causes, Kurt reminded his friend of the CBS report from back in 1981:
    “David, do you think you have AIDS?” Kurt asked.
    “I think we all have AIDS,” David answered. 
He died the following year. He was Kurt’s first close friend to die of AIDS.