Pop-Up Show, Capital Yacht Club
Massachusetts, 16 August 2019 So, last weekend I had a very informal little pop-up show at my club in Washington DC. Partly I wanted to show my friends some of my recent work, partly I wanted to see it up myself, and partly I was hoping to increase my viewership. The last turned out to be hard, as it is, after all, a private club, not to mention a non-profit of the most intensely non-profitable sort. Management was nervous, so I didn't broadcast this show ahead of time, even to the Wharf community, and made no mention of sales or prices even to the people I invited individually. It may have helped make a connection or two.
A pop-up is a sudden, short term, inexpensively mounted, art show, often in places that are not usually used as gallery space. No new prints in this show! All five were already printed. All told I spent about ninety U.S. dollars on lumber and fasteners for this show, finished off a couple of cans of paint I had in stock and used construction line and whipping twine from my boat's cordage box to hang it all up. No reception, so no wine and nibbles bill... As you can see, I used black painted wooden battens and binder clips to frame and hang the works themselves. The binder clips then hung by paperclips to a series of battens bolted together to form a long rail and that in turn is hung from line strung through the false ceiling. Except for the first picture I had to hang the works away from the wall because there isn't actually a wall but a line of built in cabinets that the club staff needed to be able to get into. A bit fragile, but perfectly adequate for a four and a half day event.
Connecticut, 14 August 2019 Two things come up as I start this. First, I'm really reluctant to broadcast where I'm going. Years in fairly high profile U.S. Government service overseas. I was never so high profile as to be at particular risk, but it was drilled into us that we were also targets of opportunity, especially when targets of greater value were well protected (Once upon a time the U.S. Defense Attaché in Athens escaped a group of Greek extremists because he was a serious photographer. Really! He carried a camera everywhere and his movements were completely erratic to the observer because he was always going out of his way looking for an interesting composition and the best light, even on his walk to work. The assasins killed his very predictable deputy instead.) So, even in retirement, my mind resists telling the world where I'm going, or where I've just arrived on social media or such platforms as this blog. I write on the train from Washington to Boston, and thence to Gloucester, but I'll probably post after I lock the door behind me when I get there.
It's a great ride. Not particularly short at eight hours, but Amtrak is a lot more comfortable than a plane, the stations are easy access downtown, and one only has to stand in line once. I could wish for better food! The picture above shows my meal on the recent run from Helsinki to Tampere in central Finland. It's as good as it looks, and while one had to order at the counter, the attendant served to one's seat, at least if one were sitting in the double decked dining car. I love Amtrak, but the slick, clean, on time to the minute, with really good food and drink, Finnish VR railway system leaves me feeling a little envious. One real plus for me on this side of the pond is that this train follows very close to the water at various points, including the run though Connecticut and Rhode Island, so I get to ogle many little port districts full of interesting ships and boats.
The other thing I notice is that I'm not completely consistent about the way I tag places. Generally local place name only in the U.S., local name and country overseas. I do come at it from a U.S. prospective, but I think it's mostly a desire to be clear and transparent. I'd expect my Finnish friends to know that "Boston" is the city in the U.S., not the town in England, but I think it's kind to my other friends to say Kyrösjärvi, Finland. "Helsinki" wouldn't require the extra precision for most of my friends and I wouldn't add the country in that case. So, denying any nativist intent, I'll carry on.
Black Sand Beach, Iceland
Kyrösjärvi, Finland, 2 August 2019 Julee and I have been on the road since last Friday, the trip being hung on a logical-family event in Finland, the 60th birthday party for a pair of very dear friends. The Mid-Atlantic part of the trip grew out of Icelandair's very clever marketing of a "free" stopover in Reykjavic on the way to Helsinki. We spent four days in Iceland and a considerable sum on tourism, in spite of doing it on the cheap by camping. We travelled from campground to campground in a miniature camper van, which turns out to be A Very Big Thing in Iceland. One of these days I will have to write a little essay about the tides of tourism washing over the world and my experiences in them. Meanwhile, Iceland... What an amazing and photogenic place!
Moss Heath, Iceland
The top image was taken from the top of a sudden rising hill right on the southern coast, capped with a classic lighthouse. The second comes from later in the day, and a bit to the west in the middle of the Eldhraun Lava Field, an Icelandic national park devoted to the recent lava flow and its amazing softening cover of moss. I didn't know what to call this landscape, so my file names use my own term "moss meadow". It turns out that the proper term is "moss heath". I like "meadow" better, for the softness of the surface, but Julee disagrees because of the underlying jaggedness of the landscape. I'll concede and go with "heath". Moss Heath is a three frame stitched panorama, but otherwise these photos are not manipulated at all. These are the colors of the landscape, high afternoon in the first, and overcast evening in the second. Driving through this landscape that evening, and then the following morning on the way to Keflavik Airport I thought I could make a large project of it if I lived in Iceland, searching for the most interesting vistas of the moss heaths, and watching the weather for the most interesting light. One does have to be careful. One mustn't walk on the moss because it's actually very delicate, and one can leave long term if not permanent tracks on the landscape. We took a secondary dirt road off the main track and drove a hundred meters into the lava field, parked and walked further to view the heath, but didn't step off of the road at all.
Alexandria, Virginia to Washington DC, 21 July 2019 This will be my last technical post for a while. I've spent the last couple of weeks learning how to control the appearance of my web site depending on the size of the screen it's on, and the last two days re-configuring my blog archive page accordingly. I had started, of course, with test pages, then prototyped on my blog page. I had to go next to the blog archive page as I wanted to archive the infrared Potomac River pictures to it and couldn't until the two pages were identically configured. And, the archive page is my longest page, and so the most work to reconfigure. Good to get it done! I'm still a bit at sea on the interaction between the meta viewport command and the references to screen size that call different stylesheets depending on how wide the display is. No matter, or at least no urgency... I think the pages look good on laptop/desktop screens, smart phone screens, and the tablets in between. My design of the pages has been deliberately simple for some time to allow for scaling to different devices. I may do some tweaking in the weeks to come, but for the moment I'm satisfied and will work on getting a new page up and reconfiguring the existing pages for the new stylesheets. I might soon feel ready to take the "Under Construction" label off of my splash page...
North Shore, Massachusetts, 16 July 2019 It's been a hard couple of weeks on the coding front. I've been working on the techniques of responsive web page design and dealing with the fact that they are so badly documented on the web. There is, of course, more than one way of writing the code, but even so, none of the sources, including the web consortium's site, seem to give complete and workable instructions for any of them. I've been down more than one rabbit hole trying to follow a published technique until research showed that the published technique applied to third party software that compiled to .html or .css code, not to the code itself. Oy! Finally managed to cross reference a number of bits of information and build a test environment that loads a different format of page for phone screens, medium screens (for tablets), and larger screens (for landscape computer screens). Now for some tweaking to set a overall format for my pages that will allow for quick assembly, and then a new page or two that will show off the new work.
Muhammad Ali, Miami, Florida, 1966 by Gordon Parks From the web. On my way home from Boston, Cambridge, and Hahvahd, where the The Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African and African American Art has an exhibit of Gordon Parks photos in it's last days. Parks was one of the absolute greats of photography. His book, Poet and His Camera was everywhere when I was in my second photographic wind in my twenties, but the real gem is a volume called Moments Without Proper Names. It was rare and costly then. I would visit the copy in the Santa Cruz Public Library from time to time. His work holds! The big print of the picture of Muhammad Ali, above, is beautiful and mesmorizing, technically perfect while giving the viewer a window into the soul of the young man who was making to transition from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali, long before the tragedy of the boxer who fought too long.
Washington DC, 3 July 2019 Am I allowed to think out loud? Well, it is my own blog, but I also wonder if one can think "out loud" when one is writing quietly... Nonetheless. I've known since December the year before last that I need to optimize this web site for smaller devices, smart phones in short, or Google will ignore me. The first, easy, steps came some months ago. I stopped doing fancy text wraps around images, and now my pages are vertically and linearly organized. That looked okay on the big laptop screen, but didn't wear as well as the screen got smaller as I was still having trouble with the fact that the text was really teeny tiny on the phone screen making the pages unreadable. Then, I found the viewport command: meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0" Now isn't that intuitive! But it does change the text size depending on the size of the device screen, bigger type on smaller screens, which makes a huge difference.
But, I need to do more. First, I'm giving preference to the look of the site on phones, which detracts from the look of the site on laptops. Most of the images need to be full width on the tiny screen, but then the non-panoramic photos look a bit weak and more than a bit awkward on the big screen. I need to adjust depending on the size of the device for the best look.
The hint came (as documented in and earlier post) in Las Vegas a few months back. I spent the first couple of days of this week studying the fabled 'media' query, coding it into a couple of test pages, getting nowhere the first day and achieving success the second as shown in the picture above. It's the same page, but white on the computer and light blue on the phone. Victory! And now for some serious design decisions. Trolling the web for information and technique I'm led rather quickly back to the other issue... SEO. "Search Engine Optimization" in this context, which is mostly about Google being quite explicit about favoring sites optimized for phones. My question is, how do they know? My site is already optimized for phones, as above, but I suspect that the search algorithm hunts for explicit breakpoints for screen width in the associated style sheet rather than parsing out the fundamental design of the web site. Well, the breakpoints have to be there anyway for the best looking pages, so onwards!
So, I'm delaying the building of the next gallery page on my web site while I figure this out. Then I'll use the new technique in building it, then retrofit it to my existing pages, and then, hopefully, be ready to start doing a buncha new pages and flesh out the site to the point where I'm willing to start advertizing it widely and agressively. It's been labeled "under construction" (but with content!) for a long time...
Washington DC, 1 July 2019 Happy Canada Day! Sunny day here on the Washington Channel in Washington.
I'm being pulled in a lot of directions right now. Julee's work is in flux with the end of her association with Save the Children, and we have a couple of fixer upper homes, the permanent one in Massachusetts and the one acquired to support her work in Washington DC. I like fixing up, but there's a lot of it in my life right now, and I have to deal with some personal issues concerning follow through, most especially the one about purchasing. Buying parts is satisfying and fun, but it's often, or, perhaps, usually, the smallest part of the project in terms of the time, emotional energy, and shear drudgery involved. If not careful the parts pile up and the work doesn't get done.
But, while I can't put that aside, I want to put my photography first. So, it's Monday, the first of the month, and coming into high summer in Washington and Massachusetts both. A good day to start "going" to work... I'll work on the boat in the afternoon. I started the day by coming up to the clubhouse and measuring the second box of big prints I have with me in Washington. (I did the first box last night, but couldn't finsih for social distractions.) I'm plotting and planning a little pop-up show here at the Capital Yacht Club later in the month, and need precise sizes so that I can lay out the exhibit. As that gels I'll anounce. It's going to be low key to get back into the habit of exhibiting and give me a chance to see some of the big stuff up. Viewing mostly by appointment, since this is a private club, and I can't just open the doors. (Nor would I expect much foot traffic in this location.)
Julee and I were in Gloucester last week and I had a magic day with the infrared camera, with a truly unusual percentage of frames worth a second and then a third look. There are enough images I'm really happy with to make up a gallery on this site, rather than an extended blog entry like the one below. To that work!