In Transit, 1 December 2023 I keep my negatives and vintage prints in Gloucester. It's a large body of work, and there's much in it that I'm very proud of. (And of course, much that is trite or no more than personal documents, but that's true of most any body of work!) This photo comes from my second wind as a photographer. My first wind was the work I did as a teenager, mostly using a motley, but very good, stable of borrowed cameras. That never really tailed off, but was supercharged the second or third year I was a student at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Looking back, I'm not even sure how or why.
I fell in with the photographic subset of the aristic sorts at UCSC. I think it was through a housemate of mine, who got interested, took a course with the wonderful Norman Locks, and introduced me to the group. I used the cash wedding present from my parents to choose and buy the first camera I chose for myself, rather than one that was borrowed or given to me, and allied myself with one of the esthetics of the time, images captured on the fly, 35mm Tri-X black and white film from Kodak, Brovira cold toned photo paper from Agfa, sometimes warmed a bit with selenium toner. And there I stayed for a happy decade or so, organizing my life around the art. (My third wind came much later, in Vietnam, but that's another story for another post.)
These two are part of the in photo group. I had great respect for their work and learned all I could from them. I felt myself their peer (or at least catching up quickly) in the art of photography but was a bit intimidated by them as people. They were so tough and self assured! The further one, seated on the arm of the chair, had hopped freights and ridden the rails all the way across the country, like a Depression era hobo. Whoa! I wasn't that tough, nor that imaginative. (I'm much tougher now, even in my later sixties, but also much wiser!)
I definitely see the roots of my present photography in many of the photos I took then, but this one is a little different. I don't take nearly as many serious photos of people as I used to. Partly I've a lifetime of my family making excuses for me ("Oh, don't mind Laurence, he's always taking pictures of everyone!"...) but mostly the ethics of using people's images have changed. We didn't ask, unless we were working indoors (legally one is fair game if one is in public) and we never asked each other because we were all always taking pictures of each other or using each other as models. That may have been assumed to be okay in the '80s, but it's definitely problematic today. With the exception of the nudes I'm not going to bury my photos of the time, but I don't now work with quite that abandon.
This image is scanned from the large (8X10 inch) proof print I made at the time. I'd been thinking of it recently, and ran across it while looking for something else, and was happy I could throw it on the flatnbed scanner and get it digitalized. Might there be some more detail in the shadows? Maybe... At some point I'll track down the negative, make the best scan I can off of that with the film scanner, and see how much better I might be able to make it. But it's not at all bad as is, and it's a pretty good representation of a lovely moment of intimacy between a couple of close friends.
Spiky Alien Plant Portrait
West Swanzey, New Hampshire, 26 November 2023 This little plant has been very good to me. How many times have I posted pictures of it on this blog? (Five, including this time.) In infrared and bright sunlight and shadow it's very photogenic, isn't it?
Fittingly for Thanksgiving week in America, I'm with family, Julee's parents and sister, and her sister's husband.
Washington DC, 17 November 2023 An Arizono photo from my trip last year. Unlike the most recent trip I took a lot of serious pictures. This is an infrared portrait of a delightful clump of cacti in the Desert Botoanical Garden.
Washington DC, 10 October 2023 A random visitor to the Boboli Gardens behind the Pitti Palace in Florence last month. I don't know the model, but I couldn't resist... Infrared, but otherwise a very straight photo!
We're back from Arizona. I feel like we've buried my sister. Not literally... For one thing, my family cremates. But, emotionally, that's how it feels to me. The initial round of business has been done, and we've had a very nice, albeit very small, event for the immediate family. There's a lot still to do, of course, but that would be true even if we'd had a trip to a cemetery. It's a very strange time for me. There's a lot of grief, of course, but also big periods when I just feel extremely odd, and as if there is something big is missing, which is appropriate, because something (someone!) is missing, and will always be missing going forward. I'll adjust, but haven't yet.
This was the first time I've been to Arizona, and didn't need my big cameras to do serious photography. I took them, but used them very little, mostly for record shots.
Phoenix, Arizona, 3 November 2023 Reaching back a bit today, to Julee's and my last day in Canada in July just before we drove out of New Brunswick and into Maine.
We're in Phoenix today because my sister had a respiratory crisis a couple of days ago and died in the ICU on Wednesday afternoon. Her son and I have a lot to do, and everyone is in mourning.
The Arno From the Ponte Vecchio
In Transit, 27 October 2023 I'm being a little cadgey about where I actually am when I'm travelling, a habit from many years in the world of diplomats, spies, and potential malefactors... But, we're no longer in Italy and Julee and I have had a truly wonderful visit, spent really quality time with dear friends from my last years in the State Department and from my high school years in Mexico City so long ago. And quality time with the magnificent art and architecture of the Renaissance, and a lot of delicious food... And of course many, many photos. I'm okay if some or many are souvenirs and post card shots, but I try to make every one as good as possible. The shot above is a three frame stitched panorama. This was a lucky day for weather and the sky. A couple of days later it rained deluges on us and we got quite wet, in spite of buying and umbrella from a sudden hawker for five Euro. One takes advantage of the light and the sky when they're good!
At Milan's Duomo
Milan, Italy, 20 October 2023 On the road again, and not, this time, for a family emergency. Julee and I have planned this trip forever, very specifically because we have dear friends in Milan, and they have been so kind as to put us up in their downtown apartment. I've captured hundreds of frames in both color and infrared, and three of the infrared frames make up this vertical stitched panorama. (As always, easier for me to stitch than to carry and swap out a wide lens on the fly.) This is the wild gothic-but-not-gothic pastry of Milan Cathedral, or Duomo, in Italian. Lots of tourism, lots of photography, some time for post processing, only a little time to write it all up, though I have a lot to say. Maybe by next week...
Washington DC, 13 October 2023 The Phoenix that overlays The Great Sonoran Desert. A different kind of place. Big skies, even in the city! I took this with my cell phone. It's a three frame panorama of the sunset looking along Dunlap Street in the Sunnyside neighborhood, close to where my family lives.
My sister had her shoulder replacement surgery on Wednesday, and it seems to have gone well...
Scorpion by Kallan Kent Morrow
Phoenix, Arizona, 6 October 2023 My nephew and his family live in the Sonoran Desert. Mind, their corner of the Sonoran Desert is thoroughly overlaid by the American city of Phoenix, but it's the Sonoran Desert for all that, and one of the things that comes with the Sonoran Desert is scorpions. Since Kallan has children and pets he goes out into his back yard at night on a regular basis and hunts scorpions, for safety. It's surprisingly easy, because, it turns out, scorpions are extremely fluorescent, so easily findable with an ultraviolet flashlight. Yes, such things exist and are amazingly cheap. He shot this picture of a doomed arachnid with his cell phone when he was out on a hunt a few evenings ago.
I'm happy to report that my sister is better. Shoulder surgery schedule for next week...
Phoenix, Arizona, 29 September 2023 Change of scenery: I'm still in Phoenix while the medical issues resolve. Fortunately, there are photos to be had, even if the moments have to be stolen from the back and forth of caring for my sister and supporting her family. Here's a five frame infrared panorama of the pending sunrise over the Phoenix Mountain Reserve from the street in front of the family home where I'm staying, taken the day before yesterday, pre-dawn as I was getting ready to find breakfast and visit my sister.
Phoenix, Arizona, 22 September 2023 The third of the panoramas from the wonderful day of photography on 2 September. This is from the deck of the wonderful Talise Restaurant on Lobster Cove, looking towards the mouth of the Annisquam River between the Island of Cape Ann and Wingaersheek Beach on the mainland. It's a seven frame infrared panorama.
Sudden trip to the Southwest to help take care of my big sister, who's had a fall. I'm not sure I'll be doing any photography on this trip, though (of course!) I brought my cameras.
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 15 September 2023 It was a great day for photography! In the morning, breakfast at Talise in Annisquam and a panorama of the anchoring field in Lobster Cove. Then, in the middle of the day at the Methodist summer camp, which gave me another set of panoramas, including the one I posted lasted week. And, in the evening, we went to Woodman's in Essex. (It was my father-in-law's birthday so there was a lot of eating out!) Woodman's always has line for dinner during the season, and while we were waiting I slipped across Main Street and captured this image. Happy time!
There's still a bit of big wooden boat building in Essex. The pinkie schooner Ardelle was built within sight of where I was standing when taking the seven frames that make up this infrared panorama. I had somehow gotten the idea that the USS Essex, one of the first six frigates of the U.S. Navy was built in Essex, and was intemperate enough to say that to a local a few weeks ago. But I was wrong. The Essex was built in Salem, not far away, but not here. Mind, Essex County incudes the whole northeast corner of Massachusetts, including Salem, Gloucester, and the Town of Essex, and it turns out the ship was named for the larger unit, being built with money raised by subscription in Salem and Essex County.
Washington DC, 8 September 2023 A quiet afternoon at a Methodist summer camp in the North Shore of Massachusetts, taken just over a week ago. Julee's family has been associated with this place for four generations, and it's special to her, and, quite frankly, it's just plain special, even if one is not Methodist. All the people who were here as adults when she was little are her aunts and uncles, regardless of the lack of blood ties. While the people in her generation don't refer to each other as cousins that's their emotional meaning to each other.
An infrared panorama, stitched from six individual photos from my converted Canon R.
Low Tide at Stacy Boulevard
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 1 September 2023 Sudden Art! This morning Julee invited me on a morning walk before she started work, so I grabbed my camera bag and we droved down to Stacy Boulevard on the waterfront of Gloucester's Outer Harbor. Here's one result of the stroll! I'm feeling a bit professional, in that I captured these images at 7:00am and here at 10:00am they've been downloaded, processed, stitched, and I'm in the middle of posting the resulting image. Fast work, that would beat the deadline for a newspaper. This one is singular because the tide is so low. The effects of Hurricane Idalia? I have seen such before, twenty five years ago when a hurricane swept twenty feet of water out of the Potomac.
Infrared, of course, and a five frame stitched panorama. Given my recent picture of Yarmouth Sound (below!) I have to admit I seem to be building a portfolio of infrared panoramas of harbor approaches with single boats in the middle...
Portrait of Laurence Kent Jones by Anonymous
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 25 August 2023 It's a pretty striking image, isn't it? Found Art, for sure, as it's a diagnostic X-ray of my mouth taken as part of a routine periodic dental exam. But I find interesting because it is striking and beautiful, albeit in a rather disturbing way. (Hey, not all art is easy!) I also found it interesting because it's an inside out panorama, taken with a specialised low dose x-ray device. You can see my spine twice, at each edge of the picture, from different sides! As anyone can tell from this site I'm very big on panoramic photography, and find this use of it and the inversion fascinating.
X-rays as Art have a long, but thin, history. I have a wonderful book, Dr. Dain L. Tasker that collects a whole series of beautiful x-ray images of flowers and plants taken by a pioneer radiologist. You can see some of his work here. It's really lovely. Two notes: First, he didn't have to worry about overdosing his subject with radiation. Second, interestingly, he disavowed extreme skill with the x-rays, saying that what was required for making such images was abiding patience and a knowledge of flowers and their habits. I've worked in stereo (3D) photography at different times, and I have for years been fascinated with the possibility of a stereo x-ray portrait of a person, which I mentioned to my dentist as I was talking about this image. I'm not sure he was all that taken with the concept, but he was polite... This morning I got curious and asked Larry and Sergey (founders of Google) about it. Turns out it is a thing, though not a big thing, both because it's hard to do (x-ray imaging doesn't involve cameras, so you can't make the stereo pairs by moving or doubling up on the camera setup), and, secondly, it's problematic dosing someone with radiation for art. Or even Art... It is done using weird and arcane techniques, for diagnostic purposes. I'm glad I'm not the only person to have thought of it.
I offered the dental paramedic photo credit for this post, but they refused it, partly, perhaps, because they had trouble thinking of the image as art, and partly, perhaps, because they didn't want to go public even in this low key way. But they did give me permission to publish!
Point Forchu Beach and Rock
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 18 August 2023 I had a good afternoon on Cape Forchu between the views of the Sound, the tidal pools, and the beaches. This one is one of the beach shots.
I really like working with sand. It's so granular... The photo is infrared and I bumped up the contrast a lot to give it graphic interest.
Swanzey, New Hampshire, 11 August 2023 A panorama from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, taken on our recent trip to the province. I really like the little fishing boat coming out of the fog bank. We'd landed from the car ferry from Bar Harbor, Maine, the day before, ghosting through this very channel, the Yarmouth Sound, on our way to the harbor. It had been foggy then too. (Yarmouthians we talked to said it's recently been much foggier than usual, with the fog lasting all day.) I took this four frame infrared panorama with my back to the Cape Forchu lighthouse.
Patan Durbar Square, Last Day
Washington DC, 4 August 2023 Recently, for random reasons, I needed to know when I moved to Washington DC. Five years ago? Four? (It turns out to be right about in the middle.) I name and file my photos by date, so when I need a date it's generally easiest to scroll through the pictures and pick it up that way. The arrival in DC is, of course, very shortly after the departure from Kathmandu. These photos were taken on a short walk from our apartment near Patan Durbar square as we were in the final moments before the cab arrived to take us to the airport. The big temple to the right of center is the Vishwanath, sacred to Shiva. The building to the left of center isn't a temple at all, but a part of the public space. It's a raised and covered platform where people can sit. I never sat there because I'm a stiff westerner who has trouble sitting on the floor, but I really appreciate the spirit of it! We lived only a couple of blocks from this point, and I took the photo to the left walking back to our apartment at Ombahal Chowk. Not a bad closing image to an important part of our life.
Curtains, St John
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 30 July 2023 Just back from a long swing around the southern half of Nova Scotia, starting from a drive off the Bar Harbor Maine ferry in Yarmouth, driving up to Halifax, then across to the neck that attaches almost-an-island Nova Scotia to the mainland, and down along the coast of the Province of New Brunsick and State of Maine. A charming road trip, hung on research into my mother's history. She was born in Halifax in 1917, departed for the U.S. under what have turned out to be unclear circumstances a little less than a year later. She left a raft of related and unrelated mysteries behind her when she died at 78 (young, but she smoked like a chimney) in 1996. I now have a much clearer image of her family history, but the mysteries themselves remain firmly in place.
The photo is the window of our lodging in St John, New Brunswick, our last overnight in Canada on our way south. I've made a lot of images of windows and light and shadow over the years, but I like windows and light and shadow and can also credibly claim that no two windows are exactly alike, and that even the same window changes with the light and the lack thereof.
Rust Island Wetland
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 21 July 2023 A shot of one of the marshy branchs of the Annisquam River, a four frame infrared panorama, taken from a favorite place on the Gloucester mainland.
In Transit, 14 July 2023 My apologies for running the picture from 12 May again. But it's not really the same picture... When I had the earlier version displayed on the big graphics art monitor some time ago I noticed the horizon wasn't level. Off by very little, maybe half a dozen pixels or a bit more, but enough to notice at big sizes. This is a print that I want to print large and have a product that I could conceivably sell, and such a thing needs to be as perfect as possible. I figured the best quality would come from starting over, restitching the 5 frames and adjusting the horizon to straight and level at that stage. But then I have the very fiddly and unfamiliar work of lightening the Capital to stand out from the background all over again. Sigh! I wasn't sure that I remembered much of the technique, and certainly remembered how hard it had been to figure it out and get it to work properly. So I dithered, easy to do as I had a lot else on my mind. Last night I pointedly ignored all that, and set to work. I did have to relearn but it was a lot easier the second time around, and I did half the work last night and rest this morning, and it wasn't even that stressful. I just looked into ordering a proof print from Printique...
Washington DC, 7 July 2023 A postcard shot, but I respect postcard photography. Photographic postcards predated the wide use of color film, but when I think of postcards I think of the racks of bright, happy, Kodachrome or Ektachrome images for sale in stores all over America and much of the world mid 20th Century. This one is a little muted, but captures the moment a couple of weeks ago for me. It's the outer harbor in Gloucester looking south over Massachussets Bay. Downtown Boston is behind the little squall in the middle. On a clear day one could (just) see the tall buildings on the horizon.
Hanger Deck and Hong Kong
In Transit, 30 June 2023 An expensive week of home ownership in Gloucester, though Julee and I are very happy with the new door and the really effective tradespeople who put it in. Now it's coming up the 4th of July, the big, big, Summer holiday in America, in Washington DC, and at the Capital Yacht Club. So, as the Commodore I'm on the train from Boston to the Capital to support the activities of the Club and the staff and members who will be there over the weekend.
I was trolling through my pictures of Hong Kong at night and ran across this one from July 2012. Hong Kong is a liberty port for the U.S. Navy, and when I was the ACS (American Citizens Services) Chief at the Consulate General (not, in spite of all the Hong Kong based action movies you may have seen, the U.S. Embassy, which is in Beijing) there, the nuclear powered aircraft carrier U.S.S. George Washington would show up from time to time, sometimes with its screening cruisers. All kinds of interesting stories about those weeks, but the relevant one is that the Navy would always host a formal reception on the hanger deck (below the flight deck) and, because of my position, I always got an invitation. And I always went because it was so much fun, and hey, when in my life am I ever again going to get to hang out on one of the biggest machines mankind has ever built, walking around the supersonic aircraft eating the Navy's really excellent fried spicy cheese sticks?
The photo is a shot out of one of the elevator openings looking across the harbor to Kowloon and Hong Kong Central in the distance, my fellow guests in silhouette. An elevator in this case being a platform big enough to move aforementioned supersonic aircraft between decks. A two frame stitched panorama to get it all in. I'm a little sorry I didn't take my big camera for the best quality, but it's still a nice illustration of a very interesting moment.
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 23 June 2023 Another shot from the wonderful afternoon on Four Mile Run, this time a three shot vertical panorama. What's not to love about backlit infrared trees?
Four Mile Run
Washington DC, 16 June 2023 A bit of nature, occupying the space between suburbia and a little downtown area. My mechanic's shop is on Four Mile Run Drive in Green Valley, suburbia, although the street itself is very commercial. It parallels Four Mile Run , and on the other side of the run (which is the local term for a little stream) is Shirlington, very downtown, at least for the suburbs of Northern Virginia. Among many other charming things, Shirlington is home to the Signature Theater, one of the great small professional venues that help make life in the Washington Metro Area so interesting.
While I was getting the oil changed and the tires rotated last week I walked in to Shirlington for coffee while I waited, crossing Four Mile Run itself on a little pedestrian bridge. I took some photos from the bridge with my cell phone, but thought it was really a great infrared view. Sadly, I didn't have my camera bag with me, but the following day the sun was out so I went back and took a lot of photos. So far this is the winner. It's a fifteen frame infrared panorama, made up of three rows of photos. So it's very wide, and rather square...
P.S. The significant negotiations I mentioned last week? That turned our really well. I'm relieved and very happy.
Washington DC, 9 June 2023 Once again the wrong hobby has taken over my life. This has been a hard week to be the Commodore (club president) of a medium/large yacht club. We're in the midst of fairly significant contract negotiations. It's a real club, not a business, and yet we have to do so much business to run it...
I am being a bit facetious in my use of the word "hobby". I think my internal word for my photography is "calling", and rnnning my club, hard as it is (and sometimes mundane!) would also be a calling. I do love this place!
But the most important calling doesn't quite dissappear. This week's photo was taken a couple of weeks ago in Shirlington, Virginia, while I was waiting for my repair shop to finish routine maintenance on the car. I took a single shot of this view with my phone. It's a bit bland in color, but rendered into black and white and slightly tweaked for aligned and perspective in Photophop I think it's rather striking.
The Wharf, Phase 2
Washington DC, 2 June 2023 This may be the last version of this particular photo, as the Wharf development on the Washington Channel where Julee and I live, is substantially complete. Not all the store spaces are finished out, but, as you can see, the buildings are complete and occupied, and the marina is filling up. I took this ten frame stitched panoramic infrared photo the day before yesterday, when the weather compelled me to jump in the dinghy and motor over to the other side of the channel to shoot a number of photos and panoramas in the clear afternoon light.
Alexandria's Big Sky
Washington DC, 27 May 2023 Big skies aren't just out west, though you do need a fair bit of flat to give the sky a chance to be expansive. And what is flatter than a calm, broad river? I took this six frame panorama with my phone from the Water Taxi (the Potomac ferry system that serves the river between Georgetown and Smoot's Cove) on my way home from National Harbor three weeks ago, pulling out of Alexandria, Virginia, on the west bank of the Potomac.
It's still busy! Details on request.
Night Food, Hong Kong
Washington DC, 19 May 2023 It's been a busy week... Tomorrow's the Blessing of the Fleet, and I hope to get my boat out for the first time in the Boating Season for the parade. So, I've spent some time in boat inspection and prep, and experimental rolling (starting and running) of the engines. And some time running the Club. And, some time reworking the photo from last week, which, when I looked at it again had a horizon that was slightly, but visibly, out of level, and slightly bowed. Can't have that, so I'm rebuilding it from scratch.
So, once again, I go to the backlist for the week's photo. This is one of my favorite night shots of Hong Kong, taken in 2011, when Julee and I were out. This street restaurant is half a block off the escalators between Central and Mid-Levels on Hong Kong Island. You can see the escalator itself in the background. We ate here often, and ate and drank in this neighborhood oftener. I shot this with my Canon S95 pocket camera, a machine I respect more and more as I look over these night shots.
Washington DC, 12 May 2023 I skpped a week. Not at all intentionally, but my day hobby (running a yacht club!) overwhelmed me. We're in the midst of negotiating a new dock services contract, and since that is a big deal, and fraught, I got distracted. Then it was Wednesday, and I figured that I might as well wait until Friday for my next post. But, the next day I was able to put it all aside for a morning, work on my photos, and get this one ready for prime time.
This is one of the pictures I took from the top of the Washington Monument at the end of January. This one is a five frame infrared panorama looking east down the mall and it's double row of museums to the Capitol and beyond and out. The reason it wasn't ready for prime time earlier is that the Capitol and its dome were such a middle grey that they dissapeared into the background. Can't have that, especially as it's the center of this compositon. Solution? Well, it involved working with layers, which are stacked images within the Photoshop program. In this case starting with identical copies of the same panorama, and alternately linking them together (so they didn't get out of alignment) and delinking them so they could be edited separately, making one a bit lighter to make the city look sunnier, and making the other much lighter, then re-stacking them in the right order and erasing pixels on the darker one so the lighter pixels on the other showed through. Then collapsing the layers together for a fixed image and more compact image file. That way the dome and wings of the Capitol could be much whiter, and stand out, even in small versions of the picture. Some people are Photoshop naturals, but if all this sounds complex and anything but intuitive you and I are in the same camp! This morning's work was my sixth time trying to figure this out... Success, and some level of satisfaction for the learning and the accomplishment.
Taj Mahal Closeup
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 28 April 2023 I have to admit, at least to myself, (and why not to the whole world?) that it's been a hard, thin, few weeks photographically. Once again I'm highly distracted, first by major work on the boat, and now with major contract negotiations at the yacht club I head. Sigh! The boat work has been very good. We now have two working heads (bathrooms) and the aft two thirds of the boat are emptied of parts and storage and set up for gracious living. We have room, we can have guests! The club stuff? I'll leave that to that side...
So, I thought I'd reach back into the archives for this week's post. I made this very large stitched panorama of the Taj Mahal seven years ago during my first leave after taking over the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu. I'd been working for months running a large operation with no deputy, and when the calvary arrived I took two weeks off in India with Julee and spent most of them really ill as the stress relieved. Enjoyed myself and took good pictures though! And it was a great turning point because I'd just read the book Image Clarity, and was figuring out how to give these kind of shots the look I wanted.
This one hasn't been shown before because there was a missing corner that the many individual photos that make up the big image didn't cover. I'm a better at Photoshop than I was then and last night I spent a bit of time trying to patch it by cutting and pasting nearby sky, not at all successfully, and then just smearing the nearby sky into that corner using the smudge tool. All good! Though I still wish I were better at Photoshop!
Gloucester, MA, 22 April 2023 A very odd end to the week. Missed my Friday blog post deadline, and spent Saturday on highway I-95 to Gloucester.
The photo is classic Tidal Basin cherry blossoms, a few weeks ago, and a few blocks from the boat in Washington DC. Not terribly original of me, though I didn't go for the postcard sunny day, blue sky, or framing the Jefferson Memorial in blooms. Years ago I took a similar photo of the blossoms. It was a wetter, rainy-er day, and the image had an amazing energetic pathos. Absolutely gorgeous when seen in the slide viewer, but it was in the last days of Kodachrome when Kodak had real trouble with quality control. Scanned and bigger it was very disapointing... I should have abandoned Kodachrome long before I did, but it's all moot in this digital age.
Tree Shadow Snapshot
Washington DC, 14 April 2023 No one should be surprised that I love shadows, reflections, negative space, and all the real world manifestations of light (or lack of light) that real object make that are not themselve real objects. Have to be careful, since shadows and such are real too, though they're not themselves objects...
I've been taking a lot of these sidewalk (and other sorts of) of shadows recently with my phone, which probably puts them in the snapshot category, though it's perfectly possible to make gallery quality images with the current generation of smart phones. This one started in color and was converted to black and white.
Washington DC, 7 April 2023 My other shot of infrared backlit Jamaican tree folliage. This one is my current screensaver, so it's safe to say that I like it...
Washington DC, 31 March 2023 Another shot from that lovely day on the north coast of Jamaica. Backlit infrared foliage is a bit of a trope for me, but the pictures present, so what can I do?
I had a busy week in the technology of photography. Cosina has recently come out with a modern 40mm lens in a Leica M mount, easily adapted to the Canon R bodies I'm using. They're physically tiny, so, lighter, easier to pack, and so on, and I really don't mind focussing by hand. In fact, I think that's kinda cool. So, I ordered one from B&H Photo in New York to try it out. Sadly, like the classic Leica 40mm Summicron I tried some years ago, not quite as sharp as the dirt cheap 40mm Canon lenses that I use daily. Sigh! One of the reasons for giving B&H my business is their unconditional return policy...
Wilks Bay, Jamaica
In Transit, 24 March 2023 Julee and I will be home in Washington late in the day. A business trip... Really! But Julee's business, not mine. The NGO she works has a project that's coming to an end after a good long run, and they had a closeout ceremony yesterday, with Julee attending as the Senior Person From Headquarters. Neither of us had ever been to Jamaica, so it made sense for me to tag along and for us to go early and do some straight tourism over the weekend before Julee went to work. She's splitting her time during the day going into the country office and working online from the hotel room, very much as she works online from the salon of our boat here in Washington. The photo is an infrared four frame panorama from the little family run resort where we spent the most delightful time between our arrival and Julee launching her work week. Many photos taken, and quite a few worth a second look!
Technically this picture continues to press me on the issues surrounding the new 16mm extreme wide angle that I acquired not so long ago. It's nothing like as straightforward as I originally thought...
Spiky Alien Plant Looks for Love
In Transit, 17 March 2023 So, the bloom on the little succulent bloomed and grew, and grew, until it became quite the erection. Sadly no other plants of the same species on the boat, and probably a great shortage of whatever small indigenous insect this kind of plant relies on to have sex and procreate. I'm suddenly very curious as to what kind of succulent this really is, and what part of the world it came from...
I once tried to ID the birds in the environment around the boat. I put some effort into it, consulting birding web sites and paying the best attention I could, but when I went to a real expert I'd gotten ten out of ten wrong. I'm not sure I could better with plants, so I'd want to go straight to a real expert. But where to find one? The National Arboretum?
The photo is infrared, slightly skewed in Photoshop to straighten it out. This may be my last portrait of this wonderful plant, but who knows?
P.S. (2023 03-21) So I dug, and I think I know what, if not who, the Spiky Alien Plant is. Haworthiopsis attenuata seems to fit the bill. It's native to the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Hawarthiopsis in honor of the British botanist and entomologist Adrian Hardy Haworth (1767–1833). He seems to have specialized in the study of moths and shrimp, so I've no idea why a whole genus of wonderful Spiky Alien Plants is named after him. Also don't know why this species is attenuated, as that really is the meaning of Latin "attenuata".
Washington DC, 10 March 2023 From the same time period and the same neighborhood as last week's picture, below. I may be posting a lot of these Hong Kong night pictures over the next bit, as I'm trolling through my files and finding my old favorites. Once I'm done, the collection may well be worth a gallery of its own. Julee and I were simply out in Kowloon, and I had my pocket camera in my pocket. (These days I have a newish phone with good integrated cameras but I'm not sure they're as good as the Canon S95 I was using that night.) The wonderful woman in the center was a complete surprise. I was shooting the restaurant and street corner behind her, very aware of the lovely texture of the backlit paving stones and tiles, and concentrating very hard on holding the camera steady enough in the low light to get a sharp image with the long exposure necessary. I didn't even see her until I looked at the photos afterwards. I can't say very much about her. Her clothing indicates a religious avocation to me but I may be reading too much into it, being a foreigner both to South China and to East Asian religious traditions. Julee thinks she's simply a hippie.
Seafood in Ya Ma Tei
Washingtion DC, 3 March 2023 A bit over ten years ago in Hong Kong, a city with the most vibrant street life and the most vibrant night life. Sometimes both at once! This is a wonderful corner in Kowloon three MTR stops from the Star Ferry terminal and the Peninsula Hotel. A four frame panorama of a corner restaurant that came together in spite of being full of life and movement. We ate here fairly often, and it was certainly a place we took our visitors.
Spiky Alien Plant Seeks Same
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 24 February 2023 It's not the first time I've posted a picture of this particular plant. Julee bought it in Rockport, Massachusetts three or four years ago and it's been a part of our boat life since. It's been repotted twice, most recently because it seemed ill and unhappy. Julee took it to the experts running the Capital Yacht Club Garden Committee, who turned out to be truly expert, advising that the poor thing was being heavily overwatered. So, depotted, sad yellow leaves stripped off, left naked rooted for a week to dry out, and repotted in dried soil. Seems to have made the plant so happy that it's putting out a flowering organ, which makes it look even more alien than usual, hence the title.
"Seeks same" tracks with common language in personal and housing ads from my youth. The photo's infrared, taken with the little used, but essential, 50mm F2.5 macro lens, Canon's sharpest at any distance, and capable of focussing down to a fraction of an inch. Limited depth of field this close, but that just adds to the sense of mystery...
I posted earlier photos of this plant on 16 December 2022 (not so long ago) and 27 November 2020.
Washington DC, 17 February 2023 A souvenir of last week's trip to Jersey, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. It's the front of the domesticated little factory that is home to Aunt Linda and her peeps. Picture taken with the color camera about ten at night, the streetlight casting the shadows of the winter-bare tree limbs on the brick. Reduced to black and white by a more sophisticated technique than simply desaturating the raw file which has been my go-to method in both infrared and color up to the moment.
Brooklyn, 10 February 2023 It's striking, but I'm not sure it's really ready for prime time. It's another shot from the Washington Monument, an infrared, five shot, stitched panorama. This one is looking south from the Monument, so, shooting into the sun. I can probably fix the reflection from the glass of the window (which shows up here as an area of lower contrast) but I'm not sure there's any cure for the blown out clouds. Crop them out? Still, it's a striking image. Maybe with more work...
I'm in Brooklyn tonight, with Aunt Linda. I came for the Edward Hopper exhibit at the Whitney, but on the drive up from Washington scouted for pictures in New Jersey. I've long thought to do a homage to Andreas Feininger's extreme telephoto shots of Manhattan, most especially from behind the Jersey Palisades. I've found (I think!) one of his locations near the Teterboro Airport, but of course it's changed a lot in the last 75 years. Early days on this project, early days.
Washington DC, 3 February 2023 Sometimes you don't have to travel that far... Last Friday Julee and I walked over to the Washington Monument. I'd been to the top before, maybe as a child, and definitely as a recent college graduate doing my "look for America" trip in a 1959 VW camper van that was old even then. But Julee had never been and it seemed time, especially as she was taking the morning off after a hectic week of Global Education Directing. These days you have to reserve a spot online to go to the top, but it's winter, so that is easy. Partially cloudy day, so also partially sunny. Of course I took my cameras.
One has to shoot through thick glass that has a certain ammount of bird poop on it, so not the easiest conditions for getting sharp images. This one of the Elipse, the White House, and points beyond is ready for prime time. The others still need some work. Shooting towards the river I picked up some reflection off the window glass that wrecked local contrast but can probably be fixed, and the Capitol in the shot down the mall needs to be brightened to make it stand out a bit. Just learned how to use layers and masks to do that in the online course mentioned below, but haven't put the time and experiment into it yet. Maybe that will be next week's image.
Washington DC, 27 January 2023 From the trip to Arizona in October. Julee, my sister, and I spent the day at the Desert Botanical Garden the the southeast of Phoenix and I took a lot of pictures of the plants, many intimate portraits like this one. Cacti look so good in infrared! I'm still processing photos from the trip and will eventually set up a gallery on this website just for it.
This week I've been studying Photoshop, the monster program used for editing images, especially photos. I started out editing in GIMP, an open source program (free!) that I found quite intuitive, but switched to Photoshop about ten years ago on the advice (strongly worded command) of master photo printer Danny Chau, who told me that all photographers and printers used Photoshop, and that I needed to be fully in that world. Danny's skills are so high, and he taught me so much I had to listen. But, it's been hard. Photoshop is huge, complex, and, for me, not intuitive at all. I've wanted to take classes for years, but the in person classes are very expensive and generally in other cities. So it never happened, and I stumbled along, Googling procedures and generally being very frustrated at the bland instructions to use a tool without telling which of the various menu trees a particular tool was buried in. Or which mode let one use a tool and which left one looking at a grayed out menu item that seemed permanently disabled. So, on the advice of photo web master Ken Rockwell I'm taking an online course from Phil Steele. It's helping! Actually helping a lot. Steele doesn't do the kind of photography I do, but the tools and methods are completely relevant.
The Whaler, Davenport
Washington DC, 20 January 2023 I mentioned this picture in my 8 January post. It's the other strong photo that I took while sitting at the bar in Davenport, California, drinkng beer with my photography prof, Norman Locks. When he saw the display prints a couple of weeks later he said "You made that art while we were just sitting there?" I didn't respond very coherently, and he, being kind, made it clear that he was joshing me. I'm not sure that it's quite as strong as the picture of the table and chairs, but I still like it. Davenport's main feature at the time was the Lone Star Cement Plant (sitting on top of a lime quarry) and the tiny town had a definite working class vibe. The Whaler was a delightfully gritty dive. The plant shut down in 2010 and these days the Davenport's vibe is very New Age. The last time I visited, the site of the bar was a nice sandwich shop.
Looking closely at the scan of the negative brings up a lot of technical questions for me. It's a very high resolution scan, so the grain of the film is clearly visible on enlargement. Nothing wrong with that! Those of us shooting high speed film (and Tri-X at ASA 400 definitely counted) accepted grain as a feature, not a bug. (Or went to slower film or bigger negatives, or both...) More compelling is the issue of spotting. One always had little white spots on the print, dust that settled on the negative during printing. One minimized them by keeping a clean darkroom and carefully dusting the negative in the carrier before printing, but there was always some visible in the finished print. So, one took one's set of Marshall's Photo Oils, mixed up a little batch to match the color of the silver in the print, and painted out the white spots by hand with a very fine 000 Kolinsky sable brush. It was fiddly work, and a large print could take a while, but, like grain, it was accepted as part of the process. It made the print look a lot better because the eye didn't catch on those white spots that weren't part of the image. There's an equivalent tool in Photoshop called the Spot Healing Brush Tool. The icon is a little bandaid! It's still fiddly work, though not nearly as fiddly. Done for this picture.
On the emotional side, I had an epiphany a couple of days ago. To quote from my journal: "I need to get to the point where running CYC (The Capital Yacht Club) is a 20 hour/week job. Not including meetings and emergencies... Even so, that would do a lot to ease my life. Five days a week, four hours a day in the afternoon so that I'm not tempted to just keep working on Club stuff after lunch. Do boat stuff, photo stuff, lounge around, in the morning. This thought gives me some peace!" And it's working out. As you'll note I'm not late with my post this week.
Washington DC, 15 January 2023 Once again I'm having trouble keeping up with my blog! I'm not all over the place the way I was last week, but life continues to be crazy busy and pulling me in a lot of directions.
This week's photo isn't terribly serious, which is why it's untitled. It's a test shot for a new lens. I wouldn't normally talk a lot about the equipment, since the equipment isn't the art, but it is what we use to make the art. It's not determinative, but it does matter, just as the quality and qualities of paint matter to that kind of artist. In the last six months the contents of my daily camera bag have changed considerably. Towards the end of last year I sent my Canon R to Lifepixel for conversion, retiring the Canon 5D Mark III I hade been using for infrared. Then, I bought the top of the line current generation camera, a Canon R5, for my color work. So now I have two cameras in my daily use bag of the same generation, and can think in terms of using the R lenes that will fit both my cameras, instead of the last generation EF lenses without adapters on the 5D and with adaptors on the R. I'll continue to use the 40mm EF pancake lenses, each with its own adaptor on the two cameras, because they're really good lenses, and because I like the slightly shorter than "normal" focal length. There isn't (yet?) an equivalent in the R lineup.
But for other lenses I could update. It wouldn't be worthwhile for longer telephoto lenses. I have a 100mm in the daily use bag, but I rarely use it, and it's fine for when I do. I have a monstrous 100mm to 400mm zoom in the big camera bag that I haven't used for years, but it stays because I have used it, and will probably use it this summer for a specific project. Nothing else will do for some kinds of photos. But on the short, wide angled, side I do make use of the other lens I have in the bag. Some years ago I gave up the wide angle Canon 20mm lens, becase it was soft in the corners and replaced it with a 25mm Zeiss lens which was sharp all the way across. But, the 25mm vs 20mm was a compromise for me and the lens is quite big and heavy. Also that lens is pure manual focus. Not a big issue, but an issue nonetheless.
In the last couple of years Canon has been introducing new lenses for the R lineup, and one of them is a 16mm ultra-wide rectilinear (that is, straight lines in reality remain straight in the photo) lens. It's tiny, inexpensive, and well reviewed. So when Julee gave me an equipment gift cert for Christmas I bought one. And of course, tested it so I could send it back to BH Photo within the 30 day trial window should it be wanting. But, as you can see, it's not wanting, either in color, or here, in infrared. All very interesting! Camera optics is very mature tech, but we're in the middle of a quiet revolution. I'm not expert, but I think there are three things going on.
One, super computers are getting more and more super, so the calculations needed to design lenses can be more and more complex and sophisticated.
Two, aspheric lens elements became affordable. Traditionally, the surfaces of a lens element (the individual lenses that are combined to make the camera lens, or things like telescopes and microscopes) had to have surfaces that were spherical, because that manufacturing process was what was affordable. In the nineties, camera lenses with aspherical lenses started to become available, but they were special things for special situations and very expensive. This lens was formulated and marketed to journalists shooting film at night who couldn't, as we do now, simply dial up the sensitivity and accept the extra electronic noise. Over ten thousand dollars, even now, and only good on short flanged cameras, which didn't include any of the single lens reflexes a journalist might use in their daily work any time between the '60s and very recently. I suspect that, aside from the world of wealthy collectors, these lenses were sold to large news organizations like AP or Reuters, who mated them to the appropriate Leica camera and checked them out to their photographers for specific assignments when nothing else would get the picture. In the digital age there are easier ways to work in the dark. Then, in the early teens, more normal and more reasonably priced camera lenses with aspheric lens elements started to become available. The ones that interested me were the small (weirdly tiny!) reasonably priced and very sharp 40mm full frame lenses, first from Cosina, then from Canon, which I use for my every day lenses.
The third item in this evolution is the advent of full frame mirrorless cameras. Full frame because the image sensor is a big 24x36mm in area, the same size as the normal 35mm film frame. Mirrorless because they handle like SLRs (single lens reflexes) but they don't have or need the equipment for direct viewing through the takeing lens. No mirrors in the camera bodies nor pentaprisms on top, so they're a lot smaller. All of the big camera companies are making and marketing them, and they seem to be the wave of the future. I'm sold! What's relevant to this increasing long blog post is that, like the rangefinder Leicas, the distance between the lens flange and the image sensor is very short, shorter, actually than the old Leicas. For some arcane (beyond me!) reason it's easier to design a good lens if the distance from the rear element of the lens to the image plane is smaller.
So, with all three of those running at the same time, we have a generation of new lenses coming to market that are really sharp, very small and usable, and very, very affordable. In contrast, Nikon had an extreme wide angle lens in its catalogue in the '70s, 80's and '90s, a 13mm, F5.6, compared to my new 16mm F2.8. So my new lens is not quite as wide, but is much faster. Note that the Nikon lens was known as Holy Grail because no one had ever seen one. They existed, but were as big as a grapefruit and comfortably more expensive than the average new car at the time. Only about 300 of them were made and sold over the course of three decades. They occsionally come on to the second hand market, in good condition, because even if they did get used when new, they didn't get used very much, and then gently and carefully. Even used they still cost more than the average new car. Very much the thing for wealthy collectors! I very sincerly wish them the joy of 'em. The little Canon 16mm lens gives me 95% of the functionality of that lens, and cost just about $300, brand new, sales tax included. It's a different world.
Bar Table, Davenport
Washington DC, 8 January 2023 Well, I'm at least a day late with my Friday blog post, and I've got at least six major threads of thought going througn my mind which is making it hard for me to relax and sleep. Two or three to do with the Capital Yacht Club, two or three to do with other things, and a couple to do with photography. Hard to keep one's mind functioning when it's bopping around like that!
The photo dates from 1980 and is classic Canon F, Kodak Tri-X work. My photo class at the University of California at Santa Cruz took an excursion to Davenport, twelve miles up the coast, where the Santa Cruz mountains and the ocean begin to pinch the flat land to almost nothing. It's very cliff-y, with a vulnerable road to San Francisco that was built mostly to provide employment during the depression. I was sitting at the bar drinking beer with the prof, and turned around and took this picture and another of the neon beer ad in the window, both of which I'm still very happy with forty years later. Scanned from the negative.
Sunday now, and the mind is much calmer, though all the open questions are still open...