Gloucester, Masschusetts, 14 May 2021 Ravenswood is a six hundred acre nature reserve and park a little way down Western Avenue/Route 127 on the way to Manchester, Salem, and points south, including Boston. Part of it is wetland with a waterlogged two plank path running through it, whence I took this infrared portraid of a clump of fiddlehead ferns. It was a good walk, lots of photos taken, and a great deal of post processing yet to come. I do find myself drawn to the damp places with a little standing water for the plants pushing through, the leaves and branches under the water, and the reflections, though those are hard to bring out in the finished photograph.
I'm sleepy this afternoon, feeling the back and forth of my own northeast shuttle between Gloucester and Washington DC. I've been up three times in the last six weeks, twice for my Covid vaccinations here while living there and now for bit of a stay with Julee. The last week has been all about U.S. and DC income taxes, alluded to below. Mailed off this morning. Next year should be a little simpler... Meanwhile, nap!
Washington DC, 7 May 2021 It is that time of year, delayed by a month in this Time of Plague. So, most of my energy there has been there this week, rather than on photography. Our taxes get simpler over time (no more foreign earned income!) but they're still complex. The big photo monitor helps a lot, since I can have multiple documents up at a time... Two pair of task glasses, the ones in front for the distance to my laptop screen and the big black ones, with real glass lenses to eliminate chromatic aberration, for critical work at the slightly longer distance to the big monitor. Aging is problematic...
Oil and Water
Washingtion DC, 30 April 2021 It's a Change of Seasons in so many ways. Here in Washington we're into what I tend to call "High Spring", that late spring/early summer period when the trees and foliage have fully leafed out, are green, green, a kind of fresh deep green, that seems to me to show a kind of vegetable power, an advance through time, if not across space. They're lush and full, and obviously getting still more lush and full, and it's now definitely warm, with days in the seventies and no further need for the electric heaters that have taken the edge off the cold during the last months. They'll be gathered up and taken to storage. Today I'm likely to blow out the pump that supplies cool river water to the air conditioning units, and test them for the need in the not too distant future.
And, boating season officially opens on Sunday. An arbitrary date, but a milestone that our club will mark with appropriate Fancy Yacht Club ceremony, summer uniforms for the officers and past officers of the club (this includes me!) and white trowsers and blazers for the yachters who attend. A bit on the theatrical side, but if one is going to have a yacht club, one should go all out for the traditional get-ups once or twice a year.
And... I got my second dose of Covid vaccine a week ago last Wednesday, meaning I'm very close to being as protected as possible from this modern plague, and, finally! I'm one of many. We're hardly out of the woods yet, and there are places -- big places -- on the planet where the news is still very bad indeed. But here we've administered scores of millions of vaccines, case loads are going down in much of the U.S., and very noticeably in Washington DC. Unlike some jurisdictions we've been cautious, but even here restrictions are begining to ease, and we're able to be more social (not just outdoors on the docks) with our friends.
So, A New Season on many levels. I'm beginning to think of taking to the field with my cameras again, and, perhaps more important, seeing what I can do to get the work out there. The commercial world of art has gone in some crazy directions in the last bit. Where the devil does a deeply traditional person like me, who wants to see his physical art (in the form of beautiful prints) fly off of his, or a gallery's, walls, and onto the walls of a buyer make of the increasingly virtual world of Non-Fungible Tokens, and things like that? How should I plot the next year as things start to open up?
Of course, this week's photo has nothing to do with any of that! It is, literally, oil on water, captured yesterday with my phone when I was walking along the dock to the gate of the Capital Yacht Club. It's not as bad as it looks... When oil or fuel spreads on water it spreads out, and out, until the sheen is only a couple of molecules thick, And, then odd refractions happen, which is what makes the colors and patterns so interesting. This sheen of oil, or possibly diesel, covered a couple of hundred square feet of water, but I doubt it was more than a tablespoon or two of spill. Also, since it's an abstracted photo anyway, I didn't feel any compunction about tweaking the heck out of it, bumping up the the contrast to make the pattern much more vivid. I didn't have to do anything to the colors! Those are real.
Yellow Flag Irises, Emerald Forest Wetland
In Transit, 23 April 2021 I feel I should walk back my statement from last week. But, while it's been very cold (and colder still in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where I spent a good chunk of the week) it's still spring. This week's photo, an infrared panorama taken in the Emerald Forest, that little patch of urban wild near the homestead in Gloucester, shows the shoots of flowering plants poking through the water of the damp part. My neighbor tells me they're Yellow Flag Irises. With a bit of disapproval, since they're an invasive species. Maybe the next time I get there with my cameras there will the proof of flowers.
What was I doing making a lightning trip to Gloucester for the second time in two weeks during a pandemic? Well, that's actually relevant. I went up for my vaccinations, since got an early offer for shots up there. I'm now through with the series, and waiting for my immune system to finish beefing up and the soreness in my arm to subside. I'm looking forward to travelling more for my photography.
Skeletal Building, Deale
Washington DC, 16 April 2021 Spring is definitely with us, with the green, green foliage showing as white in my infrared photos. I took this picture in Deale, Maryland last Wednesday, when I was out that way visiting the big boatyard across Tracys and Rockhold Creeks from where this picture was taken. I've now had my first dose of vaccine, and for the first time in a year or so I am not just carrying my cameras but agressively prepared and planning to stop for photo sessions along the way on my perambulations for ordinary business. I took the long way from Tracy's Landing, and stopped at some open woods to see if I could get a sense of the Mid-Atlantic forest into my camera. I'm still working on those, and may post one next week. This (former?) building was across the road, and I took a number of frames and panoramas (as almost always to make up for not carrying or switching to a wider lens) of it. So far this is my favorite, in spite of the boatyard visible to the right. I kind of wish I'd been able to throw a tarp with an image of infrared trees and sky over the whole thing. Many things might be possible. Ansel Adams is rumored to have painted all the rocks in Yosemite Valley Zone V middle gray...
Cherry Trees, Potomac Park
Washington DC, 9 April 2021 A little bit past peak bloom, just exactly a week ago, and almost directly across the Washington Channel from where our boat is moored. A pretty place to live! It's a three frame panorama, to the get the whole group of trees into the picture. I went over in my dinghy to take advantage of of the bright clear day and re-do the Wharf panorama of 12 February at a slightly moved advanced stage of construction, and using a wider lens for more sky and more foreground water. This photo was a welcome target of opportunity.
The work is beginning to pick up again. I've just had a period when I wasn't shooting much, and was posting older photos here to make up for the lack. This feels good! And, on Wednesday, I had a really good shot out in Deale, Maryland, which I will probably post next week.
Washington DC, 2 April 2021 It's Washington's Cherry Blossum Season again... It's oddly emotional. This time last year that I'd just gotten off the boat I'd helped deliver up the Intra-Coastal Waterway from Jacksonville, the petals were beginning to drop and the Pandemic had really taken hold of our national conciousness. It's been a wild year...
This photo is from last year, a shot grabbed on the go in our marina with my phone, and cropped down to concentrate on the graphic qualities of the boat hull and the petals floating in the shadow of boat. Today as well we're a past peak bloom, and the cherry trees are beginning to leaf out.
Wshington DC, 26 April 2021 So, I found myself having to make a lightning trip to Gloucester the first days of this week. I had to ferry stuff there, I had to ferry stuff back and along the way north I dropped the boxes of prints (see below!) off in New Jersey to be frozen. -18°F for two to three weeks should give even the hardiest silverfish some pause. Drove up on Monday, and returned on Wednesday, simply because two eight hour days on Interstate 95 by myself and back to back was a bit much.
On Tuesday I puttered around the house, and did things like paying off the fine from a speed trap in Silver Spring, Maryland. Also, my favorite ice cream parlor had just mixed up a batch of my favorite flavor (Holy Cow, and Millionaire Shortbread, for the curious) so I took an afternoon walk to mail the check and pick up dinner. Once out the front door I noted the graphic quality of the stone wall at the cemetery across the street, and hurried back to grab my big cameras. The cemetery pics were okay, but walking back I skirted the edge of the Emerald Forest, on the other side, abutting Maplewood Avenue. There is a little wetland in there, completely hidden in the other three seasons by leafy underbrush. Of course I did the right thing and waded into the brown wintry tangle of dormant plants and took pictures. I'm very happy with a couple of them. This one, of course, a three frame infrared panorama of the pool itself, and a vertical panorama showing the pool in context that I'm posting to my Facebook page. I'm amazed and delighted that there is so much wild variation in this miniature forest that occupies the space of a small block in the middle of a city.
Low Tide Beach Sand
Washington DC, 21 March 2021 A photo from the magic day on Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester last October. The light was amazing and the tide low, low. This is the inrared version of this shot. I have a very similar photo in color and I played with it for a bit some weeks ago to see if I could match the impact of this one. Rendered into black and white it was quite striking, but not quite as striking as the infrared version.
I'm a couple of days late with my Friday post this week... My life has gotten very busy and I'm beginning to feel my calendar is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. "Now, where is this task going to fit?" Photography is far from my least important activity, but this winter it's been less time sensitive than some other things. I am headed up to New Jersey tomorrow with my boxes of big prints -- wrapped in plastic to be completely sealed up -- where a dear person has lent me a corner of a commercial freezer, where they will sit for a bit, hopefully doing in any surviving silverfish. Then, the boxes, will have to come back, and be opened one by one, the photos unrolled and brushed clean, tissue paper discarded and replaced, the boxes themselves vacuumed out and corners lightly dusted with diatomaceous earth... And then re-rolled and repacked. Unpacking and repacking is a truly nervy process, because the print surfaces are so delicate. Nothing for it though. I'd love to keep them flat, but no one but a museum or a really big commercial gallery has the room for that. Or the budget for the huge print cabinets I'd need...
The Emerald Forest in Winter
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 12 March 2021 Tail end of winter now, and the Emerald Forest looks quite different than it did in the lush days of last summer, as documented in my blog post at the end of July. This photo is a lot wider than that photo, mostly to show how transparent the site is without the full foliage of the trees and underbrush, but I took it from close to the same vantage point, and you can see the same trees to the right of the frame. It's a 180° panorama stitched up from five frames taken with my cell phone. I don't have great pretensions for this photo, but I am interested in documenting the huge seasonal difference in this very small patch of land.
We're coming up on the end of winter here in Gloucester, north of Boston. Down in Washington DC I think the season may already be over, with temperatures this week above 70°F. I'm hoping for spring, in every sense, and soon!
Washington DC, 5 March 2021 It could be art, I suppose, but that wasn't the intention. It's as clear a scan as I could make of one of the Post-It labels I had on the back of one of the big prints, rolled up in the Hahnemühle paper boxes where they live between showings. It looked horrifyingly like insect damage to me, especially with some of the tissue paper used to protect the surfaces of the prints also showing holes. So far (and hoping!) I've seen no damage on the actual prints. I figured I might need some expert advice, so I scanned the label at as high a resolution as I could, against a black leatheret sheet to keep the image of the yellow paper as clear as possible, and sent the image off to a friend who works in conservation in one of the big New York museums. Some time later I got the diagnosis of silverfish . Hm... So, I'm in the middle of thinking this through, consulting with my printer, and plotting on what looks to be a very big conservation project. More on this going forward!
Washington DC, 26 February 2021 About timing! This is a photo I took on the coast of Normandy a little less than four years ago at the Pointe Du Hoc. This was a German artillery strong point, ideally situated... There is a lot of history to it so it's a big part of the tourist circuit of the Normandy battlefield. Also the views are really good, which is why the Germans were building gun emplacements there in the first place.
On the timing... I have a series of three photos. The first shows the child coming up the steps to this gun turntable. The second is this one, and by the third the child is out of frame. The timing trick is that I lowered the camera as the family approached, and as I did the child did something extraordinarily photogenic, running to the post in the middle of the mandala, leaping on it, balancing for a moment on one foot like a happy little bronze statue in the middle of the atrium of a Florentine palazzo. Only for a moment! In the second or so it took for me to get my camera back to my eye the child had lept off and was running to the left, as captured here. I still think it's a good, surreal, infrared photo, but mourn missing the more decisive moment.
Wetland and Sky, Eastern Shore
Washington DC, 19 February 2021 I'm having a little trouble gathering the week together in my thoughts. Julee needed to get away (she's the managerial Queen of Zoom and works very hard) so we gratefully accepted the loan of a cottage on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake and took enough books, food, and food for thought to keep us going for a few days. Holidays during the pandemic are a different thing. No crowds, no bars, no restaurants, and minimal shopping... A change of scene, but as self contained as possible.
So, what did I do? I did a fair bit of photography. A change of scene is always good for that, and the scene on Hooper's Island and the surrounding area is pretty good! I'm beginning to get a bit of familiarity and a real affection for the wet Eastern lowlands of the United States. The photo above is a sort of day-for-night infrared shot I got on the way home on Wednesday. (We left a bit early to beat the winter storm to our boat here in DC.)
And I read, flipping between medieval history (history is my equivalent of a trashy novel) and a couple of books on photography. I admit I've given up on From Oz to Kansas. I've learned a lot from it, but it's really dense and obscure, and I'm not sure I really trust the author. Some of what I've learned comes from my saying "Is that really true?" and going out onto the internet and digging until I figure out that, no, at least not in the way implied. So, thanks the author, but perhaps time to move on. I found a book hiding on my iPad which is turning out to be really useful, Black and White Photography, The Timeless Art of Monochrome by Michael Freeman. Interesting that I had it, as it seems to be a fairly close reworking of his The Complete Guide to Black & White Digital Photography, which I had on my bookshelf, and had read into a bit. I think the digital version is actually more useful, because, while it is also illustrated, there are fewer pictures and they're more focused on the lessons of the text. I'm finding it very helpful.
And, the last morning I was in the cottage I took a close look at my visible light camera, the Canon R, and its manual, which I also have on my iPad. This camera has been giving me fits, to be Victorian about it. I've now reminded myself how to lock the controls, so I don't reset things on the fly by brushing against the touch screen on the back of the camera. Then, the automatic focus, which was refusing to work some two thirds of the time. After some work, it became clear to me that it wasn't the camera, but the auto/manual focus button on the lens, quickly confirmed by beta swapping the lens with the (identical) lens on my infrared camera. These 40mm F2.8 lenses are very sharp, but not very expensive, so an order went out for a new one yesterday. It's not about the equipment, but the equipment matters, and if it's not working right it matters in the wrong way.
The Wharf, Phase 1.5
Washington DC, 12 February 2021 I haven't studied photographic technique as much as I'd intended, but I have been out a bit and done photography. It wasn't quite so much that the spirit moved me as it laid some guilt on me. A week ago yesterday was a really beautiful day. Quite cold, but blue and clear. The inner voice niggled me about not wasting light like that, even if the I didn't feel strongly moved... I've let a number of moments like that pass over the last couple of months, but this time I took the complete photo kit and drove across the Washington Channel to East Potomac Park and captured the images for a series of of panoramas of the Waterfront and the Wharf Development as it existed that day. I think the image above is the highlight of the session, and I'm really happy that I listened to the cricket. This is my neighborhood! The Wharf development is two thirds built (Phase One) and the construction site front and center is the final third (Phase Two). You can actually see the boat that Julee and I live on, though I'm not going to point it out.
Technically a stretch though! The panorama is nineteen frames wide, and wraps around a bit over 180˚. My go-to panorama stitching program is PTGui, which generally works very well, and is very intuitive for me. This panorama blew up in that program, and got thoroughly scrambled. And, every time I ran it, it scrambled differently... So, I restarted the whole process with another program, Autopano, which has a reputation for dealing with big panoramas. To my surprise it stitched up well on the first run, though the resulting image was bowed. I find the Autopano interface difficult, and I couldn't figure out how to unbow the image in the program, a click and drag action in PTGui. I thought to find the program manual online, only to discover the software publisher closed their doors a couple of years ago, or, rather, had their doors closed for them by the parent company, apparently just after I bought my copy... So no support! I saved the image, then figured out how to unbow the image in Photoshop. Better, but a bit more work needed. I put aside yesterday afternoon for that work.
Detail For the second go around I used a double row of images, as I'd shifted the pitch of the camera between the first set and the second because I thought I might be cutting off the top of the cranes. This way I could get more sky at the top, and more water at the bottom, and I thought that Gigapano would handle the double row, which it did without a hicup. In fact the stitching went really smoothly, and I figured out some of the obscurities of the interface along the way. No Photoshop needed except for cropping. Gigapano even smoothed out the exposure across the picture and corrected for vignetting, without being asked.
I post my photos at greatly (sometimes hugely) reduced resolution. A couple of reasons. First, the full resolution files are enormous, particularly for a large image like this one. The original TIFF file is two and a half gigabytes on disk... If I'd had storage like that on my first computer in 1985 I could have rented it out to a big data company with a mainframe. Really! Even today, if I posted images that size I'd being paying my web serving company a lot more than I'm paying them now for the priveledge of occupying so much more of their disk space, and this web site would choke the internet connection of most people looking at it. The other reason is that I don't watermark my images. My volume of sales isn't very big, but I do sell prints, and I don't want to be posting pictures sharp enough that they tempt someone to simply download them and take the files to the nearest print shop. This website and all of this content is copyright, of course, but I feel a little actual deterrence is also in order. But don't be fooled. The pictures are sharp, as you can see from the detail. Given how short and long the full panorama is... Well, if I printed it at my standard height of twenty four inches, the photo would be twenty feet long. And I think it would look very good. That's the natural habitat for a picture like this. It's hard to present on screen. Either it's very small (like here, and it will be minuscule on a smart phone screen) or you have to set it up so the viewer can scroll it. Neither is ideal or a complete view of the photo, though once I'd put it together I did look into what it would take to set it up as a scrolling image on this page. Not impossible, but more than I wanted to get into before this post!
Washington DC, 5 February 2021 Winter has come, though the weather remains very variable. I no longer have to go to previous years to post photos of wintry conditions as you can see from this photo I took at the Tidal Basin last Sunday after our day of snow on Saturday. A six frame panorama, in lieu of changing lenses, which in retrospect is rather odd, since I had the 25mm Zeiss wide angle in the bag over my shoulder, and I had to do quite of lot of masking in post production to get the branches to stitch together properly in the middle. Well, it was cold and I may have resisted juggling camera parts under those conditions. Or I may have just shot a bunch of overlapping photos as part of the picture capturing of the moment. That comes pretty naturally to me... It's bright and sunny today, and above freezing. Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog spokescreature, has predicted six more weeks of winter, which seems credible, though we're already in the race between getting colder and colder and the gradual addition of heat to the northen hemisphere as we travel away from the winter solstice.
I am still nibbling my way through From Oz to Kansas, below, though it gets very technical by page two or so. Versace started talking about something in Photoshop called "actions" which brought me up short, and lead me searching the web. They are recorded processes, that one can repeat. Don't we call them macros? Why does feel Adobe feel the need to confuse me by applying a new name to something that already exists as a fully understood and named concept in the IT world? I needed this knowledge, and it took me this long to get to because of the use of non-standard nomenclature. I also learned something fundamental about the Photoshop layers this last week. But enough of that! It's technical and quite wonky...
Washington DC, 29 January 2021 So! Starting out my study project, this week I'm reading From Oz to Kansas, which is about converting color images to black and white images. I do this all the time as I convert infrared photos (which have artifacts of visible light color in them) to black and white for consistency. But, I don't do any real processing, I just move the "saturation" slider all the way to the left when I'm processing the RAW files. I'm not unhappy with the results, although I wonder if I could do better.
Also, I do still have a crush on visible light black and white. Simple when I was shooting film, since the film itself was either fundamentally black and white (Tri-X) or color (Kodacolor or Kodachrome) while the vast perponderance of digital photo equipment is fundamentally color, and perhaps more to the point, the very file structure of a digital photo is color. One can convert, of course, and one does, and the premise of the book is that one can get superior results by working with the red, green, and blue color channels individually. Makes sense. In the film days one manipulated the colors reaching the film with filters, and the front end of making a photo. In digital, as in so much in contrast with film, there is an inversion, and one does the manipulation at the back end, in the complicated back alleys and cellers of Photoshop. More on this as I work through the book...
Work in Progress Work Space
Washington DC, 21 January 2021 It's been quite a ride. I think the last few weeks have been hard for all Americans, and for our friends worldwide, but Julee and I live about six blocks from the National Mall here in DC. We've had a particularly close experience of all the bruhaha. Exhausting!
Serious photo creation is still very much in the background of my conciousness, and may stay there for a bit while the distractions recede, the emotions settle, I get a sense of when and how much I can travel, a sense of when photo venues might become open, and so on. Thinking about it yesterday evening, and reflecting on the physical boat work I've been doing (the floodgates of focus on that opened on the day of the inauguaration) I thought that maybe it was time to step back from the art and work a bit on the technology and craft of photography. That's where my mind seems to be right now, so it would make sense to embrace it. So, I went through the boat and gathered the technical books and manuals together.
There they are on the corner of my workspace at the dinette of our boat. (When we moved aboard I set up a desk space in the main salon that Julee and I were going to share, but she's working from home now, so, properly, in full possession of that.) I'll start with one of these books, and go through it with my pencil in hand to take notes, studying it as I would an engine manual, or (back when I was a liberal arts type at university) an original book on political theory. There is still so much to learn, and a better understanding of technique will make me a better photographer, and speed and ease my work with camera and computer.
Washington Channel Dawn
Washington DC, 15 January 2021 Last June I started one of these posts with "It's hard to get away from the moment" and that's even more true now. Then, it was Covid and the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Now, of course, we have Covid, and much worse than we had it in June. And, we have, ten times bigger than BLM, the insurection of 6 January. We didn't have a front row seat (prudence required that we kept our heads down!) but we live close enough to the Mall that we heard the amplified music played before the speeches and, of course, the sirens as belated re-inforcements began to come in. A terrible day, though the processes of elective democracy held in spite of the assault. That and the aftermath have sucked a great deal of the oxygen out of the room. I'm still functioning, but I find it more than usually easier to do the physical work of maintaining and upgrading the boat rather than the mind work of writing and photography. On top of the fact that the travel (even very local travel) that keeps me photographically fresh and engaged is more difficult and frought than ever.
We had a potential exposure to Covid on the 8th, so we were locked down even more than usual while awaiting our test results. I walked, but went to no stores, did not buy my hot chocolate at the Praline Bakery, didn't even visit the boat of a friend to return a couple of wrenches. We're negative, so that's over and we've returned to the level of masked caution we'd been observing before.
And yet I've continued to take photos and process them. The three frame panorama of the dawn and radiation fog on the Washington Channel was captured three days ago using my cellphone from the clubhouse. A target of opportunity. (The best camera is the one that's with you!) But also, yet another shot of the marina where we live. Here's to a better and broader 2021!
Good Harbor Beach
Washington DC, 8 January 2021 The last two or three days in Washington have been pretty heart wrenching, so I'll put that aside in this blog, which is (mostly) dedicated to photography. I took the panorama above at the end of November, in Gloucester, at Good Harbor Beach, which is the go-to walking beach on Cape Ann. The photos that make up this three frame panorama were taken at the end of November, the last time we were in Gloucester, and perhaps the last time we'll be there for a while.
CYC, December 2020
Washington DC, 1 January 2021 Happy New Year! The photo is a panorama of the marina where Julee and I live, stitched up out of four photos I took with my phone a couple of days ago, when we had wonderful afternoon light. At the end of December we're coming into the deepest part of Winter. Many of the boats are wrapped up, and we're all hunkered down, but so far it's been a mild winter. It's cold (and was actually colder when took the picture, in spite of the sunny skies) but not freezing, and we have no freezing in the ten day forcast.
So, the Best Wishes for all of us this year! Health, calm, and prosperity! I'll be working on my photography, getting my images to a wider audience, our boat, our house, and anything I can manage to make a better world. It's all a bit ambitious, but that seems to be called for these days...
Washington DC, 26 December 2020 I'm a day late with the blog entry, but yesterday was Christmas and I was quite occupied with it, even if Julee and I were having a properly isolated Time of Plague celebration by ourselves. The boat is decorated, we had the traditional (in Julee's family) cheese and chocolate fondue on Christmas Eve, opened presents in our pajamas on Christmas morning, had a really lovely special meal in the afternoon, and spent a good deal of the day on the phone and on Zoom with family on both sides. This worked for me, and I think it worked for the family too, though I am looking forward to a more crowded celebration next year.
The photo is the third of my pictures from the recent, equally careful, trip to Saxis on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake. It's one of the interior doors of the cottage we stayed in, and old, picturesque, roughly hand built, little building from the 19th Century. Shadows of venetian blinds are nothing new in photography, but I find them appealing, and there is a lot of graphic interest in the sharpness of the wood and door knob, and the softness of the shadows themselves.
Winter Sky, Assateague
Washington DC, 18 December 2020 We got away for a bit. Julee needed a break away from the busy office that is the salon of our boat. Now we can't do normal travel in these times, so she went online and booked a whole cottage AirBnB in Saxis, Virginia, on the Eastern Shore of the Cheasapeake. We took our own food, went to no restaurants nor any bars, and were altogether isolated and safe in this Time of Plague.
We were aiming for Chincoteague, the barrier island on the Atlantic, but the prices got considerably more reasonable with a bit of distance, and Saxis is a short drive to Chincoteague and interesting on its own. For me, the interest in Chincoteague came from reading Misty of Chincoteage as a child, and knowing a little about the herd of wild ponies that lived, and still live on Assateague, on the oceanside of Chincoteague, and thus, I suppose, a barrier island to a barrier island. I'm now rereading the book, and I'm picking up a lot that went quite over my head when I was seven. We did see the wild ponies, but at a distance, and it wasn't very spectacular. Horses grazing in a field... But Assateague is now a National Wildlife Reserve and saw wonderful birds, delicious wetlands, and amazing trees, alive and dead, like the ones above.
Assateague Wetland The banner photo above is a four frame panorama I took later in the afternoon near the pony pens. This photo is an infrared three frame vertical panorama so I could get the foreground water, the middleground weeds, and the background trees into the photo without changing lenses.
Home again, and refreshed for the season. As befits the Time of Plague, we'll celebrate Christmas alone. As I've said before, we have the Winter to get through, and we're not getting sick, or getting anybody else sick. Late on the post today, but I spent my morning shag running around town for parts for my boat projects...
Thawing Washington Channel
Washington DC, 11 December 2020 It's definitely Winter, but not like this. The photo was taken a couple of years ago, when the Channel did freeze, but not very hard, and not for very long. This three frame panorama was taken the day after the pancake ice formed, and it was already melting. Last year's Winter was milder still, and the weather people are thinking this year will continue the trend. They could be wrong, of course! It has gotten cold, and we had a few flakes of snow on Wednesday morning, and the forecast indicates a bit more next week, but it didn't, and won't, stick. We'll have to see what the next three months brings us.
I've been obsessing a bit about a lovely bit of photographic music. Si La Photo est Bonne (If the Photo is Good), by the French chanteuse, Barbara. (Like a lot of French vocalists of the mid sixties, she went by a single name. I was at the end of grade school and living in Paris at the time and the whole seminal and vibrant French pop culture of the time passed right over my head. I was introduced to it years later by a flame of my middle age.) I speak a fair French, but I don't follow lyrics easily (even in English) so I didn't pay it much attention except that I liked that it was about photography. Except it isn't... It's about the attraction to bad boys: If the newspaper photo of the young perp is good... Oh well! Given that the great Johnny Hallyday had a big hit riffing on on Tennessee Williams, starting with a spoken intro that was the last lines from the French version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, anything was possible.
Chopper, Washington Channel
Washington DC, 5 December 2020 It is getting Wintry-er on the Washington Channel, with chilly rainy days interspersed with colder clear days, and wonderful golden red sunsets. There's no color in this infrared take on the sunset, but I do think it captures the cold, very-nearly-to-the-solsice feeling we have these days. The helicopter is another big aspect of life on this waterfront. The helicopter route for the District of Columbia goes almost right over our heads, with the choppers down on the deck to avoid the commercial airliners landing across the river at National Airport. Most of them follow the route to the White House heading right as you look north, or to the Pentagon, pealing off to the left, but some of them are on on the way through. We see Park Service machines, Coast Guard, and civilians that are obviously camera platforms. They don't fly through, but turn right and hover over the Mall during events. This one is in the colors of the HMX-1, the Marine helicopter unit that specializes in VIP transport. It's not the Prez, flying alone and not being one of the big Sea Kings.
Wintry Channel Here's what the scene looked like in color. This is a three frame stitched panorama. I do take a lot of photos of this stretch of water...
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 27 November 2020 My show at the The Martha Spak Gallery is something of an infrared retrospective. It's nowhere near comprehensive, of course, but it starts almost at the beginning, with Reaching Tree taken in August 2013, and includes this photo, taken just under a couple of months ago. It's been a pretty good seven years! The show has one more weekend to run and will be open the coming Saturday and Sunday from noon to five. I want everyone to go, of course! But... It's Covid time and though the gallery is a safe, masked, retail environment, I have to admit that safety is relative and that I understand when people are careful about non-necessary shopping and cultural events.
So, I've put the show online here so you can see it if you can't, or feel you shouldn't, make it in person. Please take a look!
Contrails, Capital Yacht Club
Washington DC, 20 November 2020 It's been a rather boat-y (that is to say, non-photographic) week. Monday and Tuesday I was on the road up to New England and back, buying and hauling an anchor windlass, or winch, to replace the irreparable unit I have. A rather large hunk of metal to be transporting in the back of of a small/medium SUV! And, in the last week, winter has kicked in. I know, I know, it doesn't officially start until the Winter Solstice on 21 December, but I've never had much patience with tying the seasons to the astronomical equinoxes and solstices. When it gets warm I think of spring, and when it gets cold I think of winter. Besides, aren't the solstices for dancing naked in the woods? (Maybe the old religion is more appealing during the summer solstice...)
The photo's from February, when Covid-19 was on the move, but hadn't yet gripped everyone's attention. The sky was full of people going places, and our sky in particular was full of aircraft overflying Washington from the trans-Atlantic routes on their way to the interior of North America. The day was much like today, clear, and cool. We still see contrails, but in ones and twos. It's a different world, and while we will get through this and our horizons will open up, I don't think it will be the same.
My show is coming up to its third week. The Martha Spak Gallery is open weekends, noon to five through the end of the month.
Washington DC, 13 November2020 Friday the 13th... I'm not superstitious, but it's been a funny season... We're coming into the second weekend of my show at Martha Spak Gallery, but I'm taking a posting break from that and presenting a very wide panorama I took with my phone from the deck of my boat club early in the morning a couple of days ago. I've posted pictures from this vantage point before, but like all sensible people in this Time of Plague I'm staying pretty close to home. There is value in working with the variations in light and weather and point of view. We do travel between homes, but carefully (no overnights in New York, no gallerying there, no stops along the way except one careful, masked, pause in New Jersey for fuel) and I'm sincerely wondering if even that will be limited in the weeks to come. Fortunately, this is a good environment for Julee and me should we have to hunker down even more than we're hunkered down already.
So, today, working on the mailing list and getting Mailchimp set up. I've fond that absurdly opaque... Forward!
Washington DC, 6 November 2020 A shot of Martha Spak, of Martha Spak Gallery putting my name on my show in her space! It really looks good and I'm very happy to see the work up on the wall again.
Untitled Here's a shot of some of the smaller, framed, photos going up. I did hang some of the pictures too, but I have trouble being on both sides of the camera at once. It can be done, but requires some setup and I didn't have the bandwidth on a day we were busy hanging the show.
So it's up. The doors are open weekends from noon to five, and we can open the gallery other times on request. Contact me! I will eventually document this show on this web site, but for the moment, the only way to see it will be to pay it a non-virtual visit.
Washington DC, 30 October 2020 So, Wednesday I spent the day assembling the small, framed prints for my show. The photo shows the setup on the boat's dinette table, diminishing pile of prints to the left, on top of the diminishing pile of mats, cut to size. I'm cutting the opeing on the table, fully marking the cut lines in pencil, then using the straight edge to guide the magic Logan mat cutter. It worked well, though I got tired towards the end, and didn't notice that the second to last photo had been straightened and slightly cropped, and so was slightly smaller along the long edge than the standard 2X3 ratio prints than preceeded and followed it. I had one mat to spare, and so was able to finish this part of the show.
I was going to stage the three big prints yesterday, but it rained all day, so I did inside work instead, starting on taking the web site to the next level, with pop-up signup forms for a newsletter on approprite pages and in my emails. I'm going to have to learn some more coding to get this right... A week or two of study and experiment if I'm lucky, a month or two if it turns out to be as diffucult for me, as, say, getting the text to scroll over the photo on my index page.
But, the sun just came out, and it's really pretty. Onward! There is a lot on my plate today.
Low Tide Arc
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 23 October 2020 I seem to be turning into a landscape photographer. Nothing wrong with that, but it's not the way I tended to think about myself in the art. I think I'll still resist a bit, just because I remain a photographer of opportunity, and there will always be cityscapes and seascapes, still lifes, (Of opportunity, not set up!) and pictures of people and happenings. But, in this time of Covid people and events are rare (though I did post such a photo on 15 June) and there are only so many ways of representing my corner of Washington DC, so the energy seems to be going into Gloucester, but since the Gloucester is relatively small I can claim a lot of its corners as mine.
This corner is Good Harbor Beach, something of a Gloucester institution. A walk or two is always part of our time here. This day Julee and I went at the lowest of low tides on the day after a goodly storm and the seeing was crisp and the light crystalline. Perfect F64 weather! I shot both color and infrared, but got pulled towards the infrared, as in this shot back along the sandy low tide causeway to Salt Island. I'd never before been to Salt Island before, because the tide was never low enough.
On the road to points south tomorrow. The small prints for my show should be waiting for me in the Captain's Room at the Capital Yacht Club in Washington. I'll plot and plan with Martha on Sunday, if she's in the Gallery, and in any case frame the small prints and stage the big prints over the next week.
Black Mountain, Vermont
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 16 October 2020 The show is more and more set in stone. I've ordered small prints and frames, to be sold at very, almost dissappointingly, reasonable prices, coordinated publicity with my beloved gallerist (Martha Spak of the Martha Spak Gallery) and have identified the trio of big prints to set the tone. Black Mountain, above, is one, and it will hang beside Reaching Tree, below, in the entrance to (hopefully!) pull people in. I'm not going to go into great detail about the show here and now, though when it's been up two or three weeks I'll post a gallery on it. I will say that it's titled Invisible Light because it consists entirely of infrared photos, starting with these two, which are among the very first of my infrared photos to make my heart sing, with examples from all the years since, including a little still life I took a only couple of weeks ago.
Untitled Here's an illustration I took with my cell phone while I was assembling the sample picture for Martha. As we're doing everything to cut costs, I told her I'd "cut my own mats, a skill I picked up a thousand years ago in college" which was a little disingenuous, since, while I can honestly say that I'd been taught the skill, it's a little less certain that I'd learned the skill. With the tools of the day it required real freehand precision, not my strong point. I'm happy to report that the last forty years have brought enormous progress in things like computers and cameras and hand mat cutters. The $23.85 Logan mat cutter is the most delightfully clever tool, making good results possible for the unskilled as long as they follow the process carefully. This was on the aft deck of the boat I live on, the best workbench available to me in good weather. If conditions are bad when I'm back in DC and have all the components I may have to sneak into the clubhouse to frame the rest of the show.
We'll hang the show on 4 November and it will come down on 30 November. In this Time of Plague the galley's open only on weekend afternoons, but I can open it by appointment other times for the interested. If you're in the Washington area please come by during the regular hours or contact me if you need a special viewing.
Washington DC, 9 October 2020 Well, yay! The show is on, at the Martha Spak Gallery at The Wharf in Washington DC, running from 4 November until the end of the month. With Covid, the gallery has regular hours only on weekends, but I'm hoping to get some time during the week when I can open it myself for the folks in the neighborhood. Details to be arranged over the next three weeks... The name of the show will be Invisible Light, like my first show in Kathmandu, but this time the photos will be all infrared shots. I'm really looking forward to seeing the work up again.
Reaching Tree, above, will be the keynote photo, along with Black Mountain, Vermont, both in the doorway. I'll hang a big Fewa Lake on the center island, and the rest of the show will small, framed photos. Small for me that is... The prints will be twelve by eighteen inches, framed eighteen by twenty four inches.
More as this rolls out! Once Gallerist Martha and I had agreed on presentation and pricing, I put in an order for frames, made a trip to Blick Art Materials for matts and bought them out of their entire stock of a particular weight and color of board. The frames arrived today... It should all come together in time, which is short...
Washington DC, 2 October 2020 No photo today, as I'm rather distracted. There is the bigger stuff, of course, but also I'm trying to put together a show proposal that will work for my prospective gallerist. It's an interesting balancing act between creating framed prints that are affordable, and putting up work that is technically good enough that I can be proud of it. And all dependant on materials I have to source, both from afar and from the local art store. Back to it, and more on this next week when this will have resolved one way or the other.
Washington DC, 25 September 2020 There is a real chance that I might have a gallery show towards the end of the year. I'm cautiously very excited... To that end I put together a roster of images where I thought I had big, gallery-sized, prints for the gallerist, and then went to the storage cage below The Wharf buildings to take inventory and see what was truly available. I'd been sensible enough to label most of the boxes with their contents, but until then I had no separate written inventory I could refer to. In the process I got reacquainted with older favorites. This one hung in the Siddhartha Gallery in Katmandu just over a couple of years ago. I think it really captures the feel of a late afternoon in the fall in The Valley, as one calls the high alluvial bowl that contains greater Kathmandu.
Concerning the kite, I'll quote the caption from the entry in the show page on this site: "Kite flying is a seasonal thing in Nepal, something boys and men do in the fall, and so loosely associated with the festivals of Dasain and Tihar. As one looks over the cityscape of Kathmandu in the afternoon one can usually see a couple of dozen kites in the sky. There's only one here. These are South Asian fighting kites and the pilots compete to see who can cut the strings of their opponent's kites with the strings of their own kites. Perhaps this kite is the survivor of the afternoon's combat. The photo is a three frame stitched panorama." And infrared, of course! The hanging print is about six and a half feet long, and the string of the kite is clearly visible.
It's been an odd couple of weeks since the return to Washington. It's an unsettled season, between politics and Covid. Work on photography, work on boat, and look forward to more settled days!