Corning Museum of Glass

Fern Green Tower

David’s and my photos combined:

The Art of Glass

My photo set as thumbnails, or a full-scale slideshow.

David’s Multiply entry:

Trip to Corning

David mentioned that his local pilot’s association was having a fly-out to Elmira-Corning airport to the visit the onsite warplane museum, but we should visit the Corning Museum of Glass instead. When he first told me about this place, I was intrigued — I love glass art, and I’m a borderline museum geek. Let’s go!

Waking up relatively early for a Saturday morning, we made our way to Cherry Ridge, making a pitstop at Radio Shack to get a cable that will hook up my iPod to the Tri-Pacer’s intercom system. Previously, I’d been in my own little music world with the headset over my earphones, getting David to nudge me in the thigh whenever he wanted to say something to me, but it was time to share the tunes. He managed to find the right connectors, and we were on our way again.

At Cherry Ridge, the climate was clear and COLD. FRIGID, even. The Wimpy West Coaster (that would be me) holed up in the car with the heater at full blast while David dragged the Tri-Pacer out of the hangar.

“Wake me when you’re ready, OK?” I motioned, making myself comfy.

Meanwhile, David went through the pre-flight inspection:

  1. drain the sumps on the fuel tanks
  2. check oil
  3. check brake fluid
  4. walk-around inspection to check (in part):
    • hinges
    • control cables
    • condition of fabric
    • antennaes
    • tires
    • brakes
    • propeller
    • etc…

(That’s the outside inspection; there’s an interior inspection as well.)

I had the heater on so high, I was nearly asleep when David tapped on the glass to fetch me. He knows he’ll get his comeuppance once I learn how to fly and he’ll sit in the car in the subzero temperatures while I pre-flight the plane. For now, he’s letting it slide because he knows I’m just being a cold-weather chicken.


We were a bit worried the plane wouldn’t start, since it was the coldest temperature David’s ever experienced with the Tri-Pacer. It was -8 or -10C (13 or 14F) on the ground, and it had been six days since our last excursion. Our alternative method for getting the plane started was a pre-heat, David said, something which most of the other small planes have to do. In fact, a little earlier, a guy in the next hangar was trying to jump start his plane from a pickup truck, and while they were cranking the engine, they had a carburetor fire and David ran out of the hangar like a bat out of hell to the car to grab his fire extinguisher! I had no idea what was happening, so when I saw him race around the corner towards me, I thought he was on fire! Luckily, they were able to put out the blaze promptly without his assistance, which is a bit scary despite the fact that this is a common hazard of jump starting a plane!

Two engine cranks and two sighs of relief later, the Tri-Pacer started — good ol’ bird — and we rumbled down to the runway. We would’ve left the ground accompanied by Nina Simone if it weren’t such an aural conflict with air traffic control. In the end, we had to abandon the iPod intercom because we couldn’t control the intercom volume interfering with radio communication. Ah well… I suppose installing a state-of-the-art stereo system in the Tri-Pacer cabin is rather out of the question, too…

The flight to Elmira-Corning started out in sunshine, but it was shortly replaced by low cloud. As we climbed, the temperature fell, reaching a toe-numbing -18C!! Normally, the Tri-Pacer pumps enough heat into the cabin to cook my feet and I end up shedding clothing, but not this time — I could see my breath!! I should’ve put on my wool gloves and coat, but I thought I could tough it out this time — not be such a whinge — and shivered the rest of the way to Elmira-Corning…

… which turned out to be just over an hour, exactly what David’s GPS predicted. It’s 82 nautical miles from Cherry Ridge, or about 95 miles (153 kms). Elmira-Corning turned out to be a larger airport than I’d expected, and we recognised some of the parked planes belonging to pilots at Cherry Ridge. They’re probably also the ones who took the airport’s courtesy cars, because we ended up having to rent one to get to the glass museum!

The car rental was PRICEY, but worth it. The Corning Museum of Glass, newly renovated in 2000 (it took 6 years!), has amassed a collection comprising historical artifacts, masterpieces, and innovative designs ranging from the opulent to the eclectic. It is truly comprehensive — there are quite literally thousands of objects carefully arranged in contemporary galleries, and it takes hours to see them all properly.

Photographing glass art is a challenge. For one thing, most of them, for the exception of the very large pieces (at least one of them was alarmed, we discovered), are encased in glass displays. I didn’t ask, but I suspect that aside from protecting them from breakage, the glass cases are probably sealed fairly airtight so the items don’t get covered in dust, either. Herein lie the challenges:

Reflections. Everywhere. Trying to take photos without reflections from the lights on the glass cases is difficult, so that means trying lots of different angles. The last thing I want is a photo of a glass object obscured by a pane of glass with points of light bouncing off it, or worse — a shadow or silhouette of me taking a photo of it in the corner. Finding good angles for each object is time-consuming, and sometimes I just had to give up.

  1. Too far for macro, too close for zoom. Taking a good macro photo means getting the lens within a couple of inches, which is sometimes impossible with a pane of glass in the way. The alternative is standing further away and using the zoom, but the increased distance from the glass case adds the unwanted reflections of light so the camera can’t focus at all. What I ended up having to do was take more photos of the objects on the outer part of the display, closer to the glass.
  2. Too much light/too little light. The placement of objects in the display cases are arranged for viewing at a certain height, and sometimes the best angle was from below, which meant I was shooting upinto the light… argh! Sometimes I just couldn’t position myself properly to capture the object in the best light because I’m too short!I was using David’s camera and not my own because mine is in the shop — one of the menu buttons isn’t working. I like David’s camera, but I really miss my vari-angle screen!! The vari-angle screen is extremely useful for taking shots at odd angles. Being short, I often use my camera by holding my arm high to get a shot and tilting the screen down so I can frame it.

Anyway, challenges aside, I managed to get a lot of decent shots at the museum. There is so much beauty in glass art that I want to photograph EVERYTHING in sight. Light is so integral to the art that no two macro photographs of a well-lit glass piece could look exactly the same unless they were unmoved and the light source precisely in the same place each time. You move, and you see something different. Glass art is remarkable in so many ways: it’s liquid yet solid, it can be colourless like water or filled with colour, it can take on vastly different forms, textures, shapes and purposes. Its versatility is limitless.

All good things must come to an end, and eventually we were reminded to clear the galleries. I bought a few things in the glass shop downstairs, and we took our rental car through the town of Corning in search for food. Does food taste better when you’re hungry??? I certainly thought so, and I wanted to devour everything on the menu at the brick-oven restaurant we settled on. The French onion soup and smoked salmon (on a cedar plank, YUM) salad was scrumptious, but it wasn’t enough — I attacked David’s pizza, too. I even flirted with the idea of trying out their dessert pizza — baked apples and cinnamon on a pastry swirled with mascarpone cheese. Somebody stop me!!!

A stomach full of food kept me warm on the return flight, but I threw on a hat and gloves and kept my coat on for good measure. It was starting to snow, and the weather was chasing us. The air traffic controller at Elmira-Corning gave us clearance for takeoff, and I will say it is — without a doubt — an altogether different experience in a small plane than it is in a jumbo jet to take off at night when you know you’re flying in snow. Time was of the essence to beat the worsening conditions, and I observed as David kept in constant communication with air traffic controllers all the way home. Meanwhile, I watched the tiny lights of cars along the highways (how I imagine white blood cells coursing through the body), the clusters of houses, the winter wonderland that was upstate New York. We had a tailwind, so we were able to get back to Cherry Ridge in about 40 minutes, without a peep from me about needing a bathroom or being cold… (where are the hot towels? my kosher vegetarian meal? my reading light? my in-flight magazine???)

David never comments in his Multiply journal about his passengers, but I’m really not that bad as passengers go. As long as Fielding Airlines gives me my frequent flyer credit, I’ll keep flying the friendly Fielding skies.