Big Bertha's Adventures

Random Object Wednesday: A tribute to a father.

This week’s Random Object Wednesday is provided by Claudia Spano.  Read her bio by clicking here.  This piece is a tribute to her father, Nate Spano, whom she deeply misses.  Her father was a musician — he played the drums and harmonica and we’ll see that the items she contributed reflect his interests.  He played with several bands including Frank Sacci’s Big Band.  I hope you enjoy this labor of love.

Claudia and I made arrangements to meet last week so she could provide her random objects.

She explained that while she hasn’t known me that long—she trusts me with these very special items.  I, of course, was worried about being entrusted with this great responsibility.  She brought out a bag and unwrapped the items.  She explained them to me and mentioned how it was especially nice that her blog feature would be this month—November—because it marks 1 year since her father passed away.  (November 27, 2012.)

I assured her I’d take good care of the items and carefully transported them home. 

This was a hard photo shoot to begin—I didn’t know where or how to start.  It was a weekend long journey that included a trip to an art supply store for some special paper to use as a backdrop, a trip to an antique store for some sheet music and last, a trip to a couple Half Price Bookstores for some old records.  Have you ever tried to buy records lately?  Not as easy to find these days but certainly a fun mission!

Let’s take a look at the items.  Drum roll please….

Here’s the first item– a Hohner Special 20 Harmonica.  I don’t know anything about harmonicas so I visited the Hohner website. The harmonicas are handmade in Germany and this particular model is designed not to swell or crack.  Harmonicas are available in different keys– I think this harmonica is in the key of C.  There is a C in the top right corner.

Big Bertha's Adventures

Big Bertha's Adventures

Not satisfied with the papyrus background in the first photo or the banana leaves in the second photo, I decided sheet music was necessary.  I made a trip to my favorite antique store in downtown McKinney.  I asked the owner for sheet music and she asked me if there was something specific I wanted.  I looked at her puzzled.  I had no idea what I wanted– I figured I know it when I see it.  While she went to another room to gather the sheet music her husband and I talked.  I explained why I need the sheet music– a friend gave me items to photograph that belonged to her father.  He listened and replied, ‘wow, I’m not sure my kids would do that for me!’ By this time his wife returned with a stack of music for me to forage through.  A few dollars later I left with a small stack of music– love songs and other pieces that caught my eye.  It seemed fitting for the photo shoot.

Big Bertha's Adventures

I also incorporated a dried rose into the scene below.  Admittedly, I took some creative liberties in this photo shoot with the selection of music.  Does the music below work with a harmonica?  I have no idea– but the sentiment is touching.

Big Bertha's Adventures

The photo below was taken with Big Bertha.  (Canon EOS 5D Mark II).  I was drawn to the sheet music — I liked the typography and the lyrics of the song.

Big Bertha's Adventures

Another sample below using Big Bertha.

Big Bertha's Adventures

The next item Claudia provided was a drum ornament shown below.

Big Bertha's Adventures

The final item Claudia provided… her father’s drum sticks.  It was an interesting challenge to get the different sized items into a photo.  But it got easier as I grew closer to the objects.  You’ll see what I mean in the next photos.

Big Bertha's Adventures

Still not satisfied with my sheet music idea I brainstormed with my friend Tore.  I explained to him that Claudia learned to dance with her father to the song, In the Mood.  That’s when Tore and I had that ‘duh’ moment.  My quest for Glenn Miller’s record featuring In the Mood began.  I had no idea how I’d incorporate the album into the shoot I just knew this blog post could not be published without this necessary detail.  Besides, it’s also one of my favorite songs.

The search for the record began at Half Price Books, which is my new favorite place– especially their flagship store on Northwest Highway.  They are open 7 days a week until 11 pm.  Now that is handy!

There are those moments when you take a photo and you know it’s “the one” – at least by my standards.  I had been taking dozens and dozens… no.. probably 25 here … 50 there… 25 here… nothing excited me until this shot.  Technically, I never looked at any of the photos until I got “the one” below.  I even announced it to a friend– “I have the shot.  The rest is now gravy.”  This was a great relief of pressure too!

This shot incorporates all three objects Claudia provided plus the elusive Glenn Miller album.

Big Bertha's Adventures

Another angle and with the harmonica in its red case.  I like the splash of color the red adds to the shot.

Big Bertha's Adventures

I was so engrossed with the front of the album I almost forgot there was a back.

Big Bertha's Adventures

At the time I was on my grand mission for Glenn Miller’s album, I ended up at two Half Price Bookstores.  I found a second album as a backup plan if I didn’t like the first option.  Both albums make good backdrops to the drum ornament.

Big Bertha's Adventures

A close-up of the drum sticks.

Big Bertha's Adventures

I thought it would be fun to show the entire scene below so you can get perspective on the set-up.

Big Bertha's Adventures

Here’s the same scene only zoomed out even more.  Hopefully it gives you new appreciation for the shots that are zoomed in!

Big Bertha's Adventures

For the last shot I cleared all the space and brought in a heavenly blue sky.

Big Bertha's Adventures

I never met the man nor can my simple piece do justice so I have included some article links I found while researching Nate Spano.  

Nate and Connie Spano celebrate 25th wedding anniversary, 1993.
Photo of Nate and Connie Spano of Lowville at a craft fair in 1994.

Cameras used:  Canon G11, Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Date:  November 2013


  • As with any project or task that is important, take your time.  You might not be inspired at first but eventually the inspiration will come.
  • Remember that Half Price Bookstores is open late!  It’s a great resource for those purchases you have to make at the 11th hour.  🙂
  • Don’t be afraid to zoom in (or out) when taking photos.  What looks great zoomed in might look quite messy when photographed at a distance, so experiment!

3 thoughts on “Random Object Wednesday: A tribute to a father.

  1. I especially like the photo with the red harmonica case. What caught my eye was the drum “floating” in the sky. It is as if he is saying, “Everything is alright”.

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