Meet Alan Goldstein, Photographer

By: Susan W. Smith

Volume 16, Issue 8, August 2021

“Small world” stories in the Thousand Islands can take you in many directions. This time, it took me from Cape Vincent, NY, to Sugar Land (Houston) Texas, to Springfield, Virginia, and then right back to Watertown and Potsdam, NY. In July 2021, we published Anna, the Mystery Ship by Stephen Shay. The day after publishing, we discovered that Alan Goldstein should have received credit for the beautiful header photograph.

I fixed the credit, and that same day, I had a phone call with Cary Brick. I mentioned my mistake, and Cary, who is a lifelong Thousand Islander and TI Life contributor, said, "I've known Alan since elementary school in the 1950's in Watertown, and have followed his professional work for decades. He is a legend in his field in the US Navy. He is an awesome lens artist; his work is consistently vibrant and, as is the case of many great photographers, his lens creativity produces works of art. That art is not only "eye candy"--- it actually 'speaks' to those who are fortunate enough to study it. His work belongs in!"

It took no time before I met Alan online and I learned of yet another North Country superstar.

Alan Goldstein with camera in hand.

Alan grew up in Watertown, and is a proud alumnus of the State University of New York (SUNY), Potsdam. As he said, there was a slight problem in South Asia in 1968, and he, like so many young men, chose to join up after graduation! The Air Force was his choice, but the recruiting office was closed that day. However, the Navy recruiter met him in the hall (with coffee cup in one hand and a cigar in the other), and soon after, he found himself at the Navy’s Recruit Training (Boot Camp).

He rose in ranks and, thanks to working for the Watertown Daily Times and founding the SUNY Radio Station in university, he served 11 years as an enlisted Navy Journalist, subsequently was commissioned as an Administrative Officer, and then changed to Public Affairs Officer, retiring in 1994 as a Lieutenant Commander.

After ending his 26-year career, one of his past Pentagon bosses suggested he join the Federal Government, but the paper explaining the job was hard to understand. He asked a neighbor to look and soon realized that his new role would be in an area he knew little about – something called IT or Information Technology.

It was 1994, and web pages were starting to appear on the World Wide Web. Alan recognized the simple fact that text alone on a page was not going to do the job. He hunted down and purchased software called Corel Draw. (Aside: a Canadian software company, based in Ottawa, Ontario) and he was so pleased because the software included a graphic for the masthead of the US Navy's official website. It was a beautiful navy ship – but there was a technical problem – the ship was the HMCS Assiniboine – a ship of the Royal Canadian Navy. He soon used the new software to put a United States Ship front and center!

Alan Goldstein spent the rest of his career explaining, "The Word Wide Web allows us to speak directly to our constituents, without being filtered through another media."

And the photography?

Alan explained, "My interest was born of a friendship with a high school science teacher who taught me how to develop black-and-white film. I did some photography for my job with the Watertown Daily Times and SUNY. Before Navy recruit training in October 1968, I drove to California and back, and took a very inexpensive 35mm camera and shot slides of my travels. For the next couple decades, I continued to shoot slides of travels and my family."

Alan went on to explain, “As the creator and webmaster of the U.S. Navy’s official website, I had an assistant whose husband was a Nikon representative, and he offered me the chance to use Nikon's new digital SLR camera to film their wedding. It was love at first click. Since then, I've upgraded through six models of Nikon DSLRs. I've been a member of the Northern Virginia Photographic Society since 2012. Through speakers, training sessions, and monthly competitions at the Society, I learned more about all aspects of the art, and my photography has improved."

"Bandit", a female bald eagle, snatches her quarry from the James River, Varina, Va. On 7 September 2016, I went on a boat trip with a guide to photograph these eagles. Of course, I wanted to get one capturing a fish..
I've been called a birder and I really love to photograph birds. I consider owls almost the holy grail of bird photography because they’re usually so difficult to find. I photographed this youngster at a place called Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve in Alexandria, Va., on 10 June this year. Dyke Marsh is about six miles south of Washington, D.C., along the Potomac River. This owl just sat there and I made about 90 images of him.
One day, I happened to notice how certain fasteners reminded me of buildings; so I took a group of them, shot the basic shot, converted it to monochrome, added in a shot of the moon I had made earlier, and then with a plug-in added the water. The image won an award at the Northern Virginia Photographic Society (NVPS). I made this image 27 February 2016.
Since I live around 10 miles from Arlington National Cemetery, I will sometimes go there to capture what I hope will be an emotional image. I found this image almost immediately as I came in to the cemetery from Fort Myer. You will note that a tree grows around the gravestone of a Civil War veteran from New York state. I found this in Section 13 of Arlington National Cemetery on 18 December 2015. It was awarded a First Place in the NVPS Monthly Competition.
Of course, you know this light. My good friend, Jack Woodward, with whom I've been friends since 7th grade, took me on a boat ride around the islands one evening and this view captured my fancy. This was awarded a First Place in the NVPS monthly competition.
After seeing some of the beautiful photos local photographers have made of this North Country landmark, I just had to get one in the winter (I have many other photos I've made in summer and fall.) I made this shot with my drone on 10 February 2020, even though my camera was acting up. I drove up here from Springfield, Va. – 477 miles, 7½ hours – just for this image.

So there we are  -  Cape Vincent to Texas, to Virginia, and right back to Watertown, and Potsdam NY. Sometimes, making a mistake has its advantages and meeting Alan Goldstein is one of them. We look forward to his visiting more often and of course, sharing what he finds through his lens.

By Susan W. Smith, Editor, TI Life.

See: Alan Goldstein's Flickr page at  

Posted in: Volume 16, Issue 8, August 2021, Photography

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