A Student Meets U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson. . .a short story from years ago

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Viewing the world through innocence, a youth hears a prophetic message to be remembered as an elder man. This is a short story I wrote years ago, based on a true event. The characters have changed today, but the story continues.

The Student and Ambassador Stevenson                                                             by Wilson Wyatt Jr.

The United Nations building stands as a gated oasis on the edge of New York’s East Side. It is a tall, timeless shining light with its glass exterior reflecting the busy life of people and ports below, a mix of languages and humanity.  Inside, on one of the top floors, is the U.S. Ambassador’s suite of offices.  There is a large reception area suitable for dignitaries and representatives of state from around the world.  Secretaries and assistants are clapping and shouting praise as they gather around a small, oval black and white television screen, encased in a large polished wooden credenza.

“That’s it, Adlai! Hold their feet to the fire!” one cries out.  The large room echos with jubilant cheering, like fans in Yankee Stadium.  The television screen shows an animated U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson displaying aerial photographs of missiles and warheads lining a construction site in Cuba.  The Ambassador leans into the microphone, his eyes fixed on the Russian Ambassador, who is looking away.

“Do you deny these are your Russian missiles, your atomic warheads, being assembled in Cuba, as I speak?” Ambassador Stevenson’s voice is clear and distinctive.

There is no answer. The Russian folds his arms and looks into space.

Adlai slams down both his fists on the table in front of him with an audible thud and says, “I await your answer, sir.  I will wait here until Hell freezes over.”

Cheers ring through the reception room.

“He did it,” one dignitary shouts out. “President Kennedy will be elated. He’s forcing the Russians’ hand, in front of the world.”

A tall, lanky student dressed in a navy high school blazer, tie, and gray slacks sits awkwardly on a couch across the room from the television assembly.  He tries to forge a knowledgeable appearance, fidgeting with his tie. He thumbs through a current issue of LOOK magazine, waiting for his appointment with Ambassador Stevenson.  He won a national high school essay contest, and his reward was a meeting with the Ambassador at the United Nations. He turns a page of the magazine and looks at his watch. An hour has passed.  He doesn’t understand, perhaps the secretary hasn’t told the Ambassador he’s there. He waits.

Amid the cheering, the professionally attired receptionist catches sight of the boy out of the corner of her eye. She knows he couldn’t understand.  There is another round of loud cheers.  She rises from her desk with a hint of a smile on her face and walks over to the boy.

“Mr. Young, can I get you something, perhaps a Coke-a-Cola,” she asks. “Ambassador will return soon. These days are most unusual. I’m sure he’ll tell you about it.”

The boy feels gratified. He accepts her offer of a Coke.  Moments pass slowly. There is gravity in the air, importance he has never felt before. He finishes LOOK and selects LIFE.  An ominous picture of an ICBM taking off with a fiery fury against a darkened sky fills the cover.

There were regular bomb drills at his school in Connecticut.  The alarm bell would sound, echoing through the brick halls, piercing all other sounds. The students became practiced at quickly jumping down from their chairs, sliding on the floor under their desks. They would look away from the windows and cover their eyes tightly with their hands, preventing the anticipated flash of light of an atomic blast from scorching their eyes. Their desks would be protection against broken glass from shattered windows by the first shock wave of an explosion miles away.

At first the bomb drills seemed phony in a student’s world, so far away from shores of war.  At school, there was more fear of zip guns, chains, lead pipes, and stilettos, the weapons of gangs. Later the phoniness turned into comic relief, a forced intervention from the teacher’s lessons, a time to play games under desks.

As time passed, the drills took on more meaning. Nighttime television broadcasts showed films of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and atomic blasts in the Nevada desert. President Kennedy addressed the nation from the Oval Office with news of a standoff with Russia over atomic warheads. When the drill bells rang, a shiver of fear would eat away at play.

The United Nations office of Ambassador Stevenson seems distant to the young student’s world.  The boy sits uncomfortably on the couch as the professionals watch the Ambassador perform. One of the secretaries turns off the television. The room empties as they walk back through a door down a long corridor to their offices. For a moment the large reception room contains only the boy and the receptionist. There is silence, except for the receptionist’s typewriter methodically keying letters on a page.

The silence is broken.  The two large glass entrance doors open, and a huddled group of men and women pass quickly through the room. One is shorter than the others, in the middle. He is Ambassador Stevenson, in a dark gray suit, his thin brown hair slightly disheveled around his oval balding head. He is busy talking to the others in the pack as they parade through the room and disappear down the long corridor.

The secretary rises from her chair and follows after the Ambassador with her notepad, leaving the boy alone in the room. He feels small, insignificant, and he thinks about leaving, sneaking out through the double doors. Now that his time with the Ambassador is approaching, reality sets in and words escape him.

“Mr. Young,” a voice breaks the silence. A slightly built, distinguished looking man with black hair and a mustache wearing a tailored dark suit walks up to the boy and extends his hand. “I am Mr. Adams, Ambassador’s assistant. Ambassador will see you now.”

The boy jumps up from the couch, fidgeting with his tie. Mr. Adams sees the boy is flush and uncomfortable.

“Ambassador has been looking forward to meeting you,” he says with a warm smile. “He was once a student as well, you know.”

The thought is comforting.  Mr. Adams leads the boy through the door, down to the far end of the corridor to an open door. The entrance is larger than the other doorways. A three-dimensional red, white, blue, and gold seal is fixed to the wall reading “United States of America.”

“Ambassador, I introduce you to the fine young man who won the national essay contest, Mr. David Young,” he says.

Ambassador Adlai Stevenson is facing the expansive water view from his office window. He turns with a warm smile, his eyes sparkling with energy.

“David, I’m so glad you could come. Please come in,” Ambassador Stevenson says. He offers the boy a chair, asks about his school. Then he takes off his jacket, flings it onto another chair with a casual gesture, and loosens his tie. The boy feels more comfortable.

“I have to tell you, David, I’ve had a difficult day. We live in dangerous times,” says the Ambassador.

The boy fumbles for words and asks what happened during the day.  Ambassador Stevenson gives him a brief version of the Cuban missile crisis. The boy seems to understand although his knowledge feels insufficient in the presence of the Ambassador, the way he speaks, his velvet voice, and his choice of words.

Ambassador Stevenson sits back in his chair, in a relaxed posture.

“David, as you grew up, who was your favorite king?” asks the Ambassador. The boy considered the question nervously.

“King Arthur, I suppose, in literature,” the boy says.

“Fine choice, young man,” says the Ambassador. “He was a good king, one of principle and courage. There are other kings living today, but the principles of your king will far outlive all the other kings combined.”

The boy feels elevated by the recognition of his king. The Ambassador fixes his eyes directly on the boy’s eyes. The sparkling energy disappears, displaced by a dark look of concern.

“We should not focus our fear of atomic weapons in the hands of the Russians,” the Ambassador says. “My greatest fear is atomic weapons in the hands of these other kings, dictators, and the tribal chieftains in the Middle East. It is not a matter of if they will acquire atomic weapons but when. They will buy them with oil. They will use them. That is my greatest worry for the future of the civilized world.”

“Mr. Ambassador, can I quote you for our school paper?” the boy asks.

“Yes, I wish you would,” says Ambassador Stevenson. “But you should leave out the parts about the Russians, dictators, and tribal chieftains.”

Ambassador Stevenson laughs. “Of course,” he says, “that doesn’t leave you much to write about.”

Mr. Adams enters the office and announces the next appointment.

“Remember what I said, young man,” the Ambassador says. “It is the greatest challenge of your generation.”

Ambassador Stevenson and the boy shake hands. Mr. Adams escorts him out of the office, down the long corridor, into the large reception room.  There are other men sitting huddled in one corner, speaking intensely to each other. One looks at his watch.

“May I offer you another Coke-a-Cola before you leave,” Mr. Adams asks the boy.

The boy looks at him, shaking his head no, and thanks him. He puts his hands in his pockets, lowers his head, and walks slowly out of the large double glass doors.

Photography. . .Painting with light in New York

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"City of Motion" - New York Skyline at dusk from Brooklyn

“City of Motion” – New York Skyline from Brooklyn as three boats pass on a misty evening – Click on photo for full image

You become the light, in a good portrait photograph.

“Chance favors only the prepared mind,” Louis Pasteur wrote.  Applying this wisdom to portrait photography, advance preparations for background, foreground, composition, and lighting give photographers a much better “chance” to create a great image.

This is part 2 of my summary about the Mentor Series lighting workshop in New York City this summer.  I promised some “photo tips” and an assortment of images taken with the professional models.  The primary sponsors of this specialized lighting workshop were Nikon and Popular Photography magazine, on behalf of Mentor Series (www.mentorseries.com).

The more we learn, the more we want to learn. I wanted to sharpen my lighting skills for portrait photography. The workshop objective was to refine the use of flash photography and portable lighting equipment (soft boxes, umbrellas, grids, etc.) to achieve excellent portrait photographs…indoors and outdoors. We used Nikon Speedlight flash units. The program was primarily for advanced amateurs and professionals, but the information would be helpful to all photo enthusiasts.

I am posting some of my portraits from the workshop below, followed by eight “photo tips” for aspiring photographers.  Working with experienced models was a pleasure.  I’ll also post a photo of our Mentor group in New York, at the end.  We learned from each other, as well as from three excellent Nikon Mentors: Lucas Gilman, David Tejada, and Paul Peregrine, all mentioned in my last article. A special “thank you” goes to the Mentor staff, who created a flawless workshop experience.

Nikon Mentor Lucas Gilman photographing model Rachel M. Woods

Nikon Mentor Lucas Gilman photographing model Rachel M. Woods (photo by iPhone)

My portrait of Rachael. Her professional website is www.rachelm.co.uk.

My studio portrait of Rachel. Her professional website is http://www.rachelm.co.uk. – Click on photo for full image.

Portrait of professional model Richelle Oslinker

Studio portrait of professional model Richelle Oslinker – Click on photo for full image.

Nikon Mentor David Tejada explains "Four Square" soft box lighting while photographing model Richelle Oslinker.

Nikon Mentor David Tejada explains using “Four Square” soft box lighting while photographing model Richelle Oslinker.

Portrait of professional model Andy Peeke

Studio portrait of professional model Andy Peeke – Click on photo for full image.

Outdoor portrait of professional model Christopher Rex Stone, with MetLife building in the background

Rooftop portrait of professional model Christopher Stone, with MetLife building in the background – Click on photo for full image.

Portrait of professional models Andy Mizerek and Nastasia at night with New York background, taken from Roosevelt Island.

Outdoor portrait of professional models Andy Mizerek and Nastasia at night with the Manhattan skyline in the background, taken on Roosevelt Island. – Click on photo for full image.

Outdoor portrait of professional model Nastasia at night against the Manhattan skyline, taken on Roosevelt Island.

Outdoor portrait of professional model Nastasia at night against the Manhattan skyline, taken on Roosevelt Island. – Click on photo for full image.

 

Model Andy Mizerek with background of New York skyline at dusk.

Outdoor portrait of model Andy Mizerek photographed against the New York skyline in the background, at dusk. Taken on Roosevelt Island- Click on photo for full image.

One of the keys to taking effective portraits is the choice and color tone of the background, which can make an eye-catching contrast to the clarity and natural color tones of the subject.  This is a photographer’s choice and an advantage afforded by using flash to assist ambient light. Simple changes in white balance were used to alter the background colors in the outdoor images above, in contrast to the models’ natural skin tones.

Here are eight “photo tips” I’m pleased to share:

Tip #1 – Always choose the background first. Consider the ambient (natural) light, the desired focus (or lack-of-focus), and the color tones you want in the background.

Tip #2 – Rule: shutter speed controls ambient light and motion; the aperture controls light from the flash.

Tip #3 – Therefore, the shutter speed controls the natural light of the background. Light on the subject is altered by the flash and, therefore, it is controlled by aperture.

Tip #4 – A basic principle of lighting: Exposure = Aperture + Shutter Speed + ISO.

Tip #5 – Subject lighting: The angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. Think of the three points of a triangle as:  light source – subject – camera.

Tip #6 – To blur the background of an image, use a high-speed shutter synchronization with the flash, allowing for a larger aperture, changing depth-of-field.

Tip #7 – For critical control of skin tone, use a gray card to set the camera’s white balance.

Tip #8 – “The eyes make the shot.” Paying special attention to the eyes gives intimacy to a portrait, as seen above. Catching the blink of the flash in the eyes brings life to a still photograph.

Factoid – Regardless of a camera’s advanced technology today, for every increase of 1/2000 sec. shutter speed, the camera loses some degree of light accuracy.

Our happy group of experienced photographers for the Mentor Series Lighting workshop:

Group-Photo-WEB

The value of a Mentor…immeasurable!

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New York Skyline from Roosevelt Island

New York Skyline at night from Roosevelt Island – Copyright 2013 by Wilson Wyatt                        Click on image for full view

Learning a craft opens the door to artistry. It’s true for literary and visual arts, alike. Photography is no exception. I recently experienced a Mentor Series Photography trek in New York City to learn more about flash photography for portraits. It turned out to be an eye-opening lesson about the qualities of light, like gaining a new vision of the world through a lens.

I’ve written before about the Mentor Series Photo Treks (www.mentorseries.com). They take aspiring photographers to unique locations around the globe. On this trip, 25 like-minded enthusiasts (serious amateurs and professionals) participated. The New York trek was a three-day learning venture focusing on flash photography techniques, in the studio and outdoors. Sponsored by Nikon and Popular Photography magazine, you expect the best, and Mentor delivered.

About the Mentors:

Three Nikon pro photographers, with a combined 84 years of professional experience, were our instructor-mentors.  Their work has been featured in numerous magazines, commercials, and exhibitions, worldwide. They gave each of us individual instruction, as well as helpful critiques of our images.

David Tejada (www.tejadaphoto.com), of Denver, is an amazing teacher who specializes in location photography for business and industry clients, both domestic and international. He has 30 years of professional experience. He is a master at achieving an artistic balance of lighting on the subject and background, for an outstanding image.

Lucas Gilman (www.lucasgilman.com), is an award-winning adventure photographer who grew up in the mountains of Western Colorado.  He was a winner of the American Photo Emerging Photographer Award, sponsored by Apple. While favoring natural light, he uses flash to take images beyond the ordinary.

Paul Peregrine (www.peregrinestudios.com), of Denver, is a product designer and photographer with over 40 years of experience in the business and advertising world. He is known as a problem solver for technical and logistical issues in photography. We used some of the equipment he designed.

The Mentor staff, including Michelle Cast and Erica Johnson, were instrumental in providing a flawless learning experience for all of us, regardless of changing weather conditions. A typical day of shooting started early in the morning and ended at 10 p.m.

I’ll post some portrait images after I gather releases from the professional models. Meanwhile, the photos, below, are from our lighting shoots. I’ll write more in future posts, including some great “photo tips.”

Mentor David Peregrine explains his lighting techniques.

Mentor Paul Peregrine takes readings for “quality light,” in studio.                          Click on photo for full view.

Mentor David Tejada setting up a model shoot

Mentor David Tejada explains lighting techniques for a studio model shoot.                Click on photo for full view

Mentor Lucas Gilman unloads camera gear on Roosevelt Island for outdoor shoot.

Mentor Lucas Gilman unloads camera gear on Roosevelt Island for an outdoor shoot.    Click on photo for full view

More to come…

Community of writers…helping each other grow on the Delmarva Peninsula

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Wilson Wyatt Interviewed - The Talbot Spy

Wilson Wyatt Interviewed – The Talbot Spy

Video interview, by The Talbot Spy, highlights the significance of a growing “writers’ community” across the tri-state Delmarva Peninsula. Part 2, Video link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GWoGf1Y4DI

Today’s digital age gives local writers everywhere the ability to reach a worldwide audience.  Regional borders are disappearing.  This technological phenomenon, combined with dedicated volunteers, has spawned a vibrant writer’s community across the Delmarva region of Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia.

The Eastern Shore Writers Association (ESWA), Bay to Ocean Writers Conference, new critique groups, writers’ workshops, book clubs, Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild (RBWG) and many writers’ groups are growing at a healthy pace in the region. Website www.easternshorewriters.org.

The Delmarva Review, in its sixth year as a quality literary journal, is attracting prose and poetry submissions from hundreds of writers across the U.S., far beyond regional borders. Website www.delmarvareview.com

It’s a wonderful time to be a writer.  Of course, along with opportunities for writers to reach a vastly greater readership, the Internet also gives readers more reading choices than ever before.  The quality of writing has never been more important, as readers become the discerning gatekeepers of good writing.

The strength of an active writers’ community is writers inspiring each other to improve their work, share marketing and distribution experiences, and become successful.

These and other subjects were discussed in the two video interviews by The Talbot Spy:  http://talbotspy.com/arts-2/

Interview on Talbot Spy: “Wilson Wyatt, Man of Words, Part 1”

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Wilson Wyatt, "Man of Words"

Wilson Wyatt, “Man of Words”

The strength of a writers’ community is the support it provides writers, chiefly from other writers, editors, and educators…in the forms of learning, improving, and sharing our experienced information.  We give to enrich each other.  Our rewards are immeasurable.  An example of a thriving writer’s community is on the Delmarva Peninsula, home of the Eastern Shore Writers Association, The Delmarva Review (a literary journal), the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference, critique groups, and many other organized opportunities for writers…all provided by volunteers.  This is one of the messages in Part 1 of a video interview by Talbot Spy and Spy Publications publisher, James Dissette.

You can find the interview on Talbot Spy.com, at the following link (or you can paste in your browser).

http://talbotspy.com/wilson-wyatt-promoting-eastern-shore-writers-part-1/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wilson-wyatt-promoting-eastern-shore-writers-part-1&utm_source=Talbot+Spy+Subscription&utm_campaign=53578889ad-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1a41d88584-53578889ad-290397505

Or…link to YouTubehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3Y0SfcNIJc

The value of a “writing community”…transcending borders

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Hal Wilson, of the Eastern Shore Writers Association, interviews Ron Capps in Public Radio Delmarva’s studio (WSDL, Salisbury). - Photographed by Wilson Wyatt

Hal Wilson, left, of the Eastern Shore Writers Association, interviews Ron Capps in Public Radio Delmarva’s studio (WSDL-FM, Salisbury). – Photographed by Wilson Wyatt

Several friends are currently publishing their literary work. With each, a writing community contributes to the achievement.

I think of this from time to time. Why do I volunteer to help other writers? Does a writers’ community really benefit writers?

The answers are powerful affirmations.

A writer once told me of a desire to publish more work in local publications, but opportunities were diminishing. Does that sound familiar?  I asked why he was thinking locally when he could consider a much larger universe…beyond local borders.  A little nudging, and assurances from a larger community of writers, expanded his vision and potential. His determination was fueled for the hard work to complete and publish books capable of reaching a vastly greater audience…now a major accomplishment for the author.

Another example is about a combat veteran of five wars, Ron Capps.  Parts of his story have been told in the national media and are still being unveiled.

As a very capable writer, Ron decided to use writing to apply his experiences to three new and meaningful purposes.  First, writing enabled him to face and manage the horrors of combat that were relived in his mind daily.  It was a means of confronting and healing.  Appreciating this strength, he initiated a major project to teach other combat veterans, and their families, writing techniques for their healing and expression.

He recognized the value to show the rest of the world, through veterans’ writing, that there were other costs of war we don’t think about, that aren’t reported by the daily media. Only one percent of Americans are engaged in military duty today. Combat veterans, through writing, can “bear witness” for us to comprehend the personal impact of combat and war. As a society, we can become better informed before making decisions about going to war.

This week, two of us from the Eastern Shore Writers Association, hosted  Ron at the Public Radio Delmarva station (WSDL-FM) in Salisbury, Maryland, to record a special radio segment, “The Writer’s Edition,” about his experiences and inspiration to create the Veteran’s Writing Project, veteranswriting.org.  It will air on June 28, contributing his message to a new audience.

Ron Capps also wrote a powerful personal essay that will be published in The Delmarva Review’s sixth edition, in October, expanding the reach of his story among literary readers (www.delmarvareview.com).

These stories “bear witness” to a writing community helping writers in their work while contributing something meaningful to a far greater audience.  The value of a writing community transcends us…it transcends borders.

A Choice…entertainment tonight, or poetry to inspire me for the rest of my life – Richard Blanco’s “One Today”

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I had that choice this week…one of those times to pick between the ordinary and the extraordinary.  I could have seen a good movie or a play or a show on TV.  Nothing wrong with that.  Today, entertainment is only a “click” away.

But, instead, we drove two hours to a special reading of a poem.  To hear Richard Blanco, the fifth Inaugural Poet in history, read from his personal poetry and “One Today,” the poem he wrote for the nation…at the 2013 Presidential Inauguration.  I knew this would be unique, rarely to be repeated in a small gathering, as the poet told his story.  Another emigrant making an indelible contribution to the United States.

My wife and I attended…no, we listened…at a special gathering orchestrated by The Writer’s Center, in Bethesda.  The poet, one of the Center’s former teachers, told his remarkable story.  These were the words behind the words…some of the raw history behind the music of his poetry.

Richard Blanco has been acclaimed in poetry circles, winning praise and awards, but now he is known as one of the few poets to be celebrated on the world stage.  This would be a distinctive experience, one of those times I could place delicately in my memory, offering inspiration on demand…a gift that keeps on giving.

From the ending of his poem, “One Today”

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight

of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always, always

Home, always under one sky, our sky. And always

One moon like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop

And every window, one country—all of us—

Facing the stars. Hope—a new constellation waiting

For us to map it, waiting for us to name it—together.

# # #

A special “thank you” to my friends at The Writer’s Center, “one home,” a writer’s home, for creating this personal opportunity.

Don’t Pixelate Over Pixels…photography for beginners

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I was pleased to be joined by two other photographers, Robert Lippson and Kate Mann, offering a three-day course on “Digital Photography for Beginners,” at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, in St. Michaels, Maryland.  We had some fun demystifying new technology, showing how to take advantage of the latest in digital photography, from cameras to smart phones, and everything between.

The “hands-on” course was designed for anyone wanting to improve their photography.  Like other arts or crafts, we start with the “tools.”  Instead of paints and brushes, we use a camera and lens.  Once we understand the strengths of our tools, creativity is set free. Photography is about playing with light.

Three classes (on May 10, 17, and 24) were divided between classroom discussion and shooting in the field, on the beautiful campus of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.  Offered as part of the Academy for Lifelong Learning, 30 students learned and enjoyed sharing their results. The course sold out, with a waiting list. We will consider repeating it in the future.

When photography translates a feeling from one human to another, its craft turns into art.

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Tonging for Oysters II - click on image for larger view

Tonging for Oysters II – click on image for larger view

I believe the same is true for all the arts.  There is craftsmanship, and there is art.  We struggle to master our craft, hoping to create something worthy of becoming art.  We don’t have to do that.  There is pleasure in craftsmanship.  But when artistry happens, we know something special has occurred. The creation is exhilarating, for both the artist and the audience.