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 substatially 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 wasslightly), 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,w` 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 March 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 April 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 to both South China and 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. Cropped 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 Fiday 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, 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 it, 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...
Washington DC, 30 December 2022 Just got to the boat after a very 2022 Christmas. The day before we drove up to our Massachusetts home to stage for the trip to New Hampshire for the family Christmas Julee went to a small get-together, and drove a fellow partier home. She spent half an hour in a smallish metal box with wheels with them... A couple of days later they called Julee sick and positive for Covid. We weren't going to take that risk into the home of a pair of frail people in their late '70s, so we had a quiet Christmas all by ourselves in our own home. Negative on day five and day six, so we did get a little visit in just before driving back down.
The photo is a pretty straightforward portrait of the frost on the Gloucester house window during the very cold temperatures we had just before Christmas. I like pictures like this that are abstract, but not...
Gloucester, MA, 23 December 2022 A somewhat Christmas-y photo for this Christmas Eve Eve. I took it with my phone when Julee and I were at dinner at the home of our friends Tom and Mindy near Dupont Circle. We're on our way to the Norman Rockwell holiday with Julee's parents and sister. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Washington DC, 16 December 2022 I thought I should get a little cozier for this week's post and take a bit of a break from the Big Landscapes Out West. This is Julee's desk on the boat, about two weeks ago just after I got the converted-for-infrared Canon R back from Lifepixel. Succulent plants are really good in infrared, whether in the wild in Arizona or on the tabletop at home.
Washington DC, 9 December 2022 It's very abstract, isn't it? But this is exactly the way the way the rock in Mystery Valley looked, except for the fact that I made the photo with my infrared camera. The color version is rather flat...
On the purely technical side, I'm still very happy with the converted-to-infrared Canon R, and I went into my savings (my savings specifically to buy the next camera) and bought the Canon R5 for color work. It's top of the line for a full frame camera (that is, the sensor is the same size as a frame of 35mm film, conventually 24 by 36mm), with many pixels, which is not as important as it might seem, and can be misleading. More importantly, great dynamic range. One couldn't do better unless one went for one of the "medium format" cameras with larger sensors from Hassleblad, Leica, or Fuji. I don't think that's necessary, and those cameras, and the lens suites that go with them, are very expensive.
I now have two cameras that are smaller and lighter than the last generation, and are very similar in size and layout, making switching between them easy. I'm very happy with my kit right now.
Washington DC, 3 December 2022 Anothere infrared panorama from the trip to Arizona. This was taken from the deck in front of the AirBnB suite that we stayed in during the first part of the trip when we were visiting family in Phoenix proper. The Salt River Valley is very flat but has a number of these rocky hills poking up in the middle of the plain. You can see a couple of them, dark, in the photo. Our place was just high enough on the shoulder of the Saddle Rock Hills to have this wonderful oblique view. I took a lot of versions of this picture during the three days we were there as the clouds and the light changed.
Monument Valley Butte
Swanzey, New Hampshire, 25 November 2022 Another shot from the magical day in Monument and Mystery Valleys just about a month ago now. Infrared. Need I say more?
Mystery Valley Juniper
Washington DC, 18 October 2022 Another shot from the wonderful trip to Arizona, this time a three frame infrared vertical panorama. The fact that it's a stitched panorama isn't terribly important, it was just easier that switching lenses on the camera, even though I had the 25mm wide angle in the small camera bag. And safer, in that sandy, dusty desert environment. One doesn't want the risk of dust motes or worse getting into the camera while the lens is off... More to come from this trip.
The back display of the Canon D5 Mark 3 that I've been using for infrared went wonky at the beginning of or just before this trip. On that kind of camera the only way of setting exposure in infrared is through test shots, and if the screen isn't displaying properly that's much harder. So, it solidified my thinking on the next generation of cameras, and when I got back I pulled the 5D SR out of the bottom of the camera bag for visible light color work, and sent the then current color camera, a Canon R, to LifePixel for conversion to infrared. I got it back on Monday, and it's pretty slick. Here's a chatty video on the differences between the traditional Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera, and the current mirrorless models, like the R, albeit using the examples of cameras from a different manufacturer, Sony. The thing with mirrorless (which just means it's an interchangeable lens digital camera without the big moving mirror of a DSLR) is that viewing, focus, exposure settings, and the exposure itself all work off the same sensor in real time, so there are no twiddly calibarations to make all those systems play well together. With an infrared conversion of a mirrorless camera the automatic exposure system in the camera still works, focus is fundamentally synch'd, and one can see the infrared scene as one composes through the eyepiece or on the back of the camera. As I said, slick! Also, without the big mirror box, the camera can be smaller and lighter...
And, since the flange to sensor distance is so small, one can hang almost any lens ever made on a mirrorless camera. That's been much less important than I first thought, since it turns out that (except for some specific examples) the current Canon lenses are better than any ever made. I'm very happy with the 40mm Canan F2.8 pancake lenses I use for 98% of my work. They have an aspheric element (which would have been extremely exotic as recently as the '90s) and are cheap and very light and compact. What's not to love?
What's next? I'm not fully decided between keeping on with 5D SR or going with the R5. The SR is a fabulous camera, but big and heavy, and the new R5 has slightly better specs, while being as small and light as the R. Mind, I had to do very a deep dive of research before getting to the real numbers, and they're not that different. I doubt the difference would matter to most photographers. But, I do work on the edge, both in marginal light and extreme contrasts, and in making museum quality, museum sized, enlargements, so the small difference may well be visible, at least to me. Work in Progress! I'm certainly okay for the moment, as the 5D SR is fabulous, and the R5 is very expensive.
Washington DC, 11 November 2022 It's Memorial Day, so it seemed fitting that I should post this photo I took of the American Cemetery above the Normandy beaches of D-Day. This was the location for the framing device in Saving Private Ryan and it's a large installation. The Battle of Normandy went on for weeks and months after the invasion, and was very hard fought with many casualties among all of the six armies that engaged there.
I took this photo, a two frame infrared panorama, a bit over five years ago when I was visiting the beaches and battlefields with Julee and her parents. My father-in-law is a veteran of a later war, a keen student of military history and very much wanted to make the pilgrimage. It was special and very moving to stand where such a decisive defeat of the forces of fascism took place. My thoughts for everyone who fought that good fight, whether they fell or survived.
Monument Valley Floor
Washington, DC, 11 November 2022 This may be the apex photo of the flying trip out West. It's a four frame infrared panorama, taked from deep in the valley floor in the late afternoon. I think I have a really good stack of infrared photos from the trip (and at least one color panorama, taken with my phone) but this one stands out for me. I had a very busy morning (I'm writing this on Wednesday before posting on Friday) doing yacht club business, but gave the afternoon (mostly!) over to photography, process the infrared photos, and stitching the panoramas up. I think they're good but I really like this one the best. I will post some of the others over the next weeks.
In Transit, Arizona, 28 October 2022 Travel does help! Here's an infrared portrait of some cacti from Desert Botanical Garden at the edge of Phoenix, where Julee and I spent a happy afternoon with my sister and her granddaughter. I've taken a lot of photos of cacti, desert landscape, and desert cityscape over the last seven days. I feel like it's plumped up my soul, which was beginning to feel a little parched artistically. I think I'll have posts for this blog for some weeks.
I'm feeling a little embarassed that I had to do serious tourism, er, travel, to get fresh photos, but that's something of a tradition among artists of all kinds, photographers, painters, writers and poets alike. I can live with that...
Autumn Sidewalk DC
In Transit, 21 October 2022 It's Fall in DC, an odd season this year, with early chill days, followed by spiky days of what might have been called Indian Summer were they not so short and uncertain feeling, then cold again, then warm again. It feels odd, and the trees seem as confused as I, as you can see from this mix of dull colors. Off to Arizona, and perhaps some more spectalar scenery to photograph.
Untitled Test Shot
Washington DC, 15 October 2022 We're travelling next week, triggered by the fact that I haven't seen my sister in forever. I think I had a general plan to see her in the summer of 2020, but Covid 19 was gathering speed in March, and none of us were vaccinated until well into 2021. And, sensible precautions like distancing and vaccines were thin on the ground in Arizona, and my sister waved us away that following year. So now it's lated 2022, and the two years, which was already too long, has stretched to over four.
So, family visit and then tourism. We'll go to Monument Valley and The Grand Canyon. I've been to Monunment Valley but not the Grand Canyon, and Julee hasn't been to either one. So, landscape to photograph! My one trip to Monument Valley (with my sister when I was last in Arizona) turned out very well and I have hopes for this trip, from the valley floor, at the Grand Canyon, and all of northern Arizona and Route 66.
I did think it wise check the cameras out. Yesterday was absolutely blue and sunny until late afternoon (by today it's turned gloppy and wet) so I set the two cameras to infinity and shot straight into the clear sky. The image above is the color version. I was looking for dust of course, the scourge of digital photography. If there's dust on the sensor it just sits there, showing up as a dark spot in picture after picture. There is a little vibratory motor in these cameras that one can use to try and shake the dust off, but it's unclear to me how well that works, and in any case it's disabled in the infrared camera, part of the conversion surgery. The only certain solution is physical cleaning which involves special tools and fluids. Easier to do at home before setting out, therefore the testing yesterday. As you can see, no dust, so no worries!
Washington DC, 7 October 2022 Not a terribly serious photograph, perhaps, but fun. The feet belong to a professional window cleaner who is walking on the frosted glass canopy in front of my Club on the Washington Waterfront.
I don't do a lot of street photography anymore. The ethos has changed, and it's harder for me to feel good about sharing photos of recognizeable people I don't know. The real pros at that spend a lot of their contact time with their subjects doing non-photographic things, getting names and history. I read one account by a National Geographic photographer who said that his best training was doing souvenir photos at a boardwalk at an eastern U.S. beach resort because he learned to talk to his subjects. I tried once to get such a job at a beach resort on the West Coast, but was turned away because the owners judged me too shy. They cared much less about how well I took pictures.
And, of course you don't have to get a model release from an abstract light and shadow pattern on a door, or for unidentifiable feet.
Untitled (Work in Progress)
Washington DC, 30 September 2022 As promised a couple of weeks ago (see 16 September, below) I got to the Vio (a tall building of condos here at the Wharf) to see if the vantage point would be better. A friend of mine who has an apartment in the building let me in when the weather and the light was good yesterday morning. Their apartment is at the back of Sutton Square, so no joy there (though it is a very nice apartment) but he took me to the pool deck which is at the front of the building and has a good view. This infrared panorama, and the equivalent color version - not yet processed - are the results.
Hm! It is a striking image, but its value as a document is limited because the trees and the clubhouse itself block much of the views of the Capital Yacht Club docks. I'm gunning for a useful document of the time and place and Great Art. (I'm a bit tongue in cheek about the Great Art, but not completely! Working on it, working on it...) What I really need is a vantage point that's about two floors higher, and about fifteen feet in front of the extension on the building. In other words, a place that it really impossible, given my lack of a super drone that could carry and pan my big cameras, or a massive crane. Hm! Watch this space, though it might be a while.
Anisquam River Wetland
In Transit, 23 September 2022 I'm feeling very peripatetic right now, even if I'm just bopping between the two ends of the Northeast Corridor (Washington DC to just north of Boston). Both ends are home, and I should be home in Washington by this evening. Here's a little infrared panorama I captured in Gloucester a couple of days ago, wading through the underbrush next to highway 128 after it reaches the island of Cape Ann. And then waiting for gaps in clouds for the sunshine to light up my landscape.
New York City, 16 September 2022 This last Wednesday I finally got to the top of the Intercontinental Hotel with my cameras to make panaramas looking west and south over the Washington Waterfront, rather than the many than I've made from Potomac Park looking east and north of the face of the Wharf development. I took a number of sets of photos with my infrared and visible light cameras, but so far this is the only one I have stitched up, and it's a first draft.
Hm... I was thinking of this in terms of my Kathmandu Durbar Square photo, but while that was also a horizon to horizon panorama, it was from a much lower vantage point. I could (with some work) squeeze it into a rectangular photo frame. The geometry of this one doesn't seem to allow that, and the best I've been able to do thus far is this odd, irregular, lens shaped photo. It's still pretty cool, but I'm not sure it will be prime time material. I've thought about for a couple of days, and am beginning to wonder if I could do better from one of the lower apartment windows of the Vio apartment building across the square. That could be problematic. Could I talk my way into someone's apartment? Their windows on the front may not open. Wait! Checking older photos... They have balconies. Watch this space...
Stacey Boulevard Rocks
Washington DC, 9 September 2022 Another infrared photo from The Good Photo Day (30 August) in Gloucester, this one taken from the monumental (on a delightful small town New England scale) esplanade along the south side of the Outer Harbor. I've posted photos of this shore before, but when the light is this strong it's impossible to resist.
Washington DC, 2 September 2022 Following last weeks angst-y post with a happier one. I continued to go out with my cameras, and it got better. Here's an infrared portrait of the sea grasses by the side of the Blynman Cut, the short, narrow, but navigable, ditch that makes Cape Ann an island rather than a nearly detached peninsula. When the tide is high the water moves the weeds around, and when the tide drops - sometimes, in some places - the marvelous disorderly patterns remain. I have two or three score frames to play with from that walk, but this one was the one most immediately available for prime time.
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 26 August 2022 Even if the Holy Fire doesn't always burn, sometimes the intellect can carry the day. I came up to Massachusetts a day ahead of Julee's flying in from Nepal. That way I could open the house up, fire up the car, and drive down to Logan Airport in Boston and meet her at the curb. When I come to Gloucester I'm generally on foot, but whether I take the bus, the train, or the airplane, the last stage north of Boston is almost always via the MBTA Commuter Rail, Rockport Line. And, I see things from the trains that I wouldn't see any other way. It's not magic, just that the tracks run through places roads don't run through, and one is a little higher in the seat of a railway coach, so the view is better. I first saw the First Parish Cemetery from the windows of the train, even though it's a very short walk from my front door. But, the entrance from Centenial Avenue is not that obvious, while the view from the tracks is.
Coming up this time what I saw on the inland side of the tracks between Manchester and Gloucester were a series of the marshy wetlands so typical of the Northeast Coast of the U.S. Possibly photogenic. I noted, and yesterday my brain overrode my artistic sloth, and I took the car and went looking. Mind, it isn't easy to identify or get to some of these places. The Lily Pond (yes, it's called the Lily Pond, you can look it up) is right off of a little country residential loop, and there's a little bridge giving a good view. But for other spots? I had real trouble getting close. I parked by the tracks in a remote cul de sac in Manchester, and hiked about a mile down the MBTA right of way (which I'm sure is a misdemeanor, or at least frowned upon) and got a series of nice infrared frames and panoramas of the dry wetlands to either side of the track. Are they the ones I was looking for? I'm not sure. The view is different from the ground. But I'm happy with the morning's work. The photo above is a three frame infrared stitched panorama.
It is dry. We had some good rain a couple of days ago, but that was the first this summner. New England is having a severe drought, which this California boy didn't even think was possible.
Washington DC, 13 August 2022 No picture this week, just a place holder paragraph... I have been working on the sidewalk photos, but the press of other business and the complexity of Photoshop continue to bedevil me.
Work in Progress
Washington DC, 6 August 2022 This new project of working with my old negatives is going a bit slowly. In small part because I'm in Washington and my negatives and transparency scanner are in Gloucester, but mostly because the rest of my life is so busy. Running the yacht club, which should be a light, gentlemanly job, is a full time slog. No details to be given, because that would get into personalities, but oi!
But I brought my two scans with me, and have been working on them periodically. I've always thought of these photos as a pair, in good part because I've never been able to decide which one I like better. So, I thought it best to process these two as a pair, so they'd match if they were hung together. Straightforward, eh? After all they were taken within seconds of each other, same exposure, similar composition, so the tonal range of the pictures should match...
Well, first, I had to make the pictures the same size. Exactly the same size, pixel by pixel. When I scanned them I worked hard to align them in the scanner so than I wouldn't have to rotate them in software to straighten them out. I did a pretty good (though not perfect) job. The crop of a few pixels doesn't really signify, though it did mean that that I needed to crop a tiny bit closer. More of an issue is the fact that the corners of the photos are not square, because the corners of the film gate in the camera are not square. I don't know if this is an artifact of manufacturing or a design feature to keep the metal from cracking from a truly sharp corner, like the windows on an airplane. In any case, I lose a few more pixels cropping to within those radiused corners. And then, making the two pictures exactly the same size, 6772 X 4455 pixels, achieved by much twiddly work moving the edge around by hand to where I got as much of the photos in the frames as possible while equalizing their footprints. Is there an easier way to do it? Photoshop is a hugely complex program and baroque in it's approach, but I'm frankly embarrassed by how basic my skills still are.
And... I didn't notice this until I looked at my scan of the proof sheet I made in 1980, but the picture I posted last week is flipped, the mirror image of the original. Obvious, but not, as there's no writing in the photo and the composition is very close to abstract. But there's no doubt now that I've come to notice. How could that be? It took me a bit of puzzled thought. In chemical photography the camera turns the image upside down and backwards, a function of the lens projecting the image onto the film. Same in digital photography, except there's a sensor instead of film. But, in chemical photography there's a second flip when you enlarge the photo, the enlarger being a kind of inside-out camera, also with a lens. But scanners, at least the kind of flatbed scanner I'm using, don't have those sorts of lenses and they don't do the second flip, back to right way around. One has to do it in software, which I've done.
More processing next week, and I'll post the results!
In Transit, 29 July 2022 I took this picture in 1980 when I was 23. Classic camera work of the day, shooting in the streets of San Francisco with a 35mm Canon F-1, the workhourse journalist and sports camera of the day. As solid as a brick and a completely flexible system camera, so also a good camera for an artist. Then there was the film, Kodak Tri-X, one of the best emulsions ever made. I printed on Agfa Brovira photo paper, almost always on grade 3 (a little more than normally contrasty, but good for my work). Very strong tools, and a moment of peak in the history of photography.
This photo was shot in San Francisco on one of my visits from Santa Cruz, 70 miles to the south, a fast drive in my twelve year old MGB, a British sports car that was as decrepit and fragile as my camera was new and strong. I'd bought the camera with my parent's wedding gift to me earlier in the year. No way that I could have afforded it on my own! This is one of two good pictures from that roll of 35 frames. (I shot short rolls by a frame or two so that I could do a contact proof sheet on a single sheet of 8X10 photo paper.) That was a good return for any photographer and remains pretty good today, though I no longer count my photos in rolls of film to a pre-determined number of frames.
Showing this now, because I'm beginning to scan my old film, and this photo and the companion good frame from that roll, very similar to this one, is where I started. My scanner is old, the driver software provided by Epson, the manufacturer, won't work with my upgraded Mac operating system, so I've had to beat a generic program into working, which I finally did last week. Then, it seemed the scans were a bit out of focus, but switching to an aftermarket film holder appears to have fixed that. Scan to .tif files, then the new issue of processing such files, removing any color from the scanning process (Tri-X is black and white film!) and bumping up brightness and contrast. Is it as good as my prints at the time? I'm not sure... Probably not, but this is a first effort. Do I need a better scanner, better software, better skills for this? Maybe!
Washington DC, 15 July 2022 Not a very original photo, but what I'm working on at the moment. It's a color version of one of the panoramas from the end of May I posted a few weeks ago. A portrait of the Capital Yacht Club with Intercon hotel and the Vio apartments behind the clubhouse. Called "Home" because this scene in Young Frankenstein really wormed its way into my brain way back then and remains there.
I need to take this kind of picture from the other side, from the top of one of those buildings looking down on the docks. And for that I need to talk to building managers and convince 'em that I'm a Real Live Photographer and that they should give me access to their roofs so that I can ply my art from up there... So, I started working my way through this kind of photo on my computer, working from the most recent and going back, completing and formating a variety of these kinds of photos for the iPad. My ancient iPad 4 has a resoluton of 2046 X 1436. Which is, interestingly, quite a bit better than the resolution of my ancient MacBook Pro. I'm resizing the pictures to match that screen. And processing pics I hadn't yet processed... I spent a happy hour or two working on 'em. Felt the reconnection with my art, which was very sweet, even if the photos aren't terribly original.
Washington DC, 9 July 2022 Well, I felt like I had them in a row. I took this serendipidous photo of the local ducks about four months ago. It's a color photo from my phone, rendered to black and white.
Hawk, by Richard Kent Jones
Washington DC, 1 July 2022 Not one of my photographs, but it is art. In this case a doodle by my father from the early 70's. He was a fine painter and draftsman, but, like most artists, had a day job. In his case he was an international civil servant working for UNESCO, one of the specialized agencies of the United Nations. He doodled during meetings, and, being an artist, the doodles could be quite special. On occasion, fellow attendees asked if they could have the results. In most cases the doodles were abstract, but sometimes, like this one, figurative. The medium is marker on office paper, not at all intended to be archival. He mounted it on a piece of artist's board for me, and I recently ran across it while looking for something else in my papers. I think I'll frame it and hang it next to my desk in Gloucester.
Original photography is going quite slow for me right now. A lot of my brain is taken up by the troubles of being the leader of a fractious little club, and while I have some big photos shoots planned they're time and weather dependant. But, I have a huge back catalogue to play with, both the last twenty years of digital and the thousands of film negatives and slides from before that, so I'm not distressed by the pause in creative energy right now. I've been trying to scan a couple of my favorites black and white shots from the '80s, but find my old scanneer is not up to talking with my updated computer operating system. So, time for a new scanner... But how high end do I need to go? One could spend quite a lot!
Edgarton Harbor Light
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 24 June 2022 Up north again! We've been visiting dear friends in Falmouth, and taking a little side trip to Martha's Vinyard. Julee and I had never been before, and we hung the day of tourism on the locations used for the movie Jaws, which was shot on the island in 1974. We watched the film, which definitely holds up, and then went to some of the locations on our day trip. This photo is not one of those places, at least not conciously one of those places. It's just a shot of a picturesque lighthouse in a picturesque location, handled in a picturesque way.
It's infrared, of course, a straight photo otherwise, a little vignette corrected (which I learned how to do in Photoshop Camera Raw for this) picture), a little straighted, and little cropped. Interestingly, I didn't need to do the tone corrections (often the large tone corrections) that are frequently required in infrared.
Crescent Place Sidewalk
Washington DC, 17 June 2022 Washington has some surprising corners. Crescent Place off of 16th Street NW (North West) is one of them, a little neighborhood of circular streets in Kalorama following the conture of a hill rather than the grid and diagonal pattern of the rest of the city. I took this infrared shot three weeks ago when Julee and I were picking up a friend of a friend for a retirement get together. I like moody diagonals!
Opposite the Capital Yacht Club
Washington DC, 10 June 2022 A companion piece to last week's photo, taken on the same day from a different vantage point, just opposite the yacht club where Julee and I live. Our boat is just visible in this shot at this resolution but I'm not going to point it out.
This is a seven frame panorama stitched up from infrared originals.
The Wharf, Phase 1.9
Washington DC, 3 June 2022 We had a bright day with clear clouds, so I've taken another series of panoramas of my home Waterfront from the across the Washington Channel. It's not terribly original, but I make the plea that I'm also documenting the final stage of construction of the Wharf development. The buildings in this shot are substantially further along than they were since the last time I posted a version of this shot. By the end of summer the development will be done and our little neighborhood will be complete. It's been quite the ride... In a couple of months or so I'll be back across the Channel making the final record of the finished construction. The part still under construction is the Wharf's "Phase Two" hence the title hinting at ongoing work.
The photo is stitched up out of nine individual infrared images. It went together remarkably easily, given how much movement there is in the view. I had to mask out one of the two versions of the white motorboat to the left to avoid (fairly subtle) ghosting, that is to say, duplicated or incomplete objects, very much the bane of this kind of photography. I do like the fact that I've captured all kinds of water traffic, including the paddle boarders and the electric shuttle approaching the dock I'm standing on.
Washington DC, 29 May 2022 A day late on my post again, but things remain pretty busy in the little yacht club I'm running. But, I do think -- and hope -- things are getting better... At the moment the emergencies are dealt with, and while there is an amazing ammount of stuff to do, it can be planned for.
The photo is a full rainbow I shot from the dock a couple of weeks ago. I panned with my iPhone, stitched the frames up (which fixed the distortion of the very short lens I was using) then cropped it down to focus on the rainbow. It was a beautiful evening!
Washington DC, 20 May 2022 A photograph from Hong Kong, eight years ago. It's a picture made from inside a large camera with a small camera. No, really! I turned our bedroom into a camera obscura by completely covering the windows with blackout plastic and making a small hole in the plastic to project the outside scene onto the walls of the room and then taking a photo of that with my regular color camera on a tripod. Cameras actually predate photography by a couple of thousand years and they outdate the invention of ground glass lenses by a thousand years or so.
I was reminded of this photo by an interaction with my dear friend Sarah Stone who posted a piece on some egregious plagiarism on the part of the beloved Western U.S. author Wallace Stegner. It got me thinking about the use of other people's work and techniques. The idea, the technique, isn't mine. I copied it from the wonderful photographer Abelardo Morell who has published whole books of this kind of photography. Hence, "Morell's Bedroom" though it's really Julee's and my bedroom. But I wanted to be upfront about the inspiration, and from where I copied the technique. I don't think he'd mind (I've never met him, though he is, interestingly, only one degree of separation from me) as he's actually posted precise instructions on how to do this. We all learn from our predecessors, play with their techniques, emulate them, build on their work. But of course the honest acknowledge the debt, as I acknowledge Morell and other greats like Berenice Abbott and Minor White, just to name two from the bookshelves of photographers who have inspired and taught me. The greats don't mind sharing their skills. Both Abbott and White wrote and published on how to do photography in their way. I think that being upfront about the sharing and then doing more than slavishly coping the masters is what makes it interesting and ethical.
P.S. (Written on 2 June...) A couple of things have come up for me in my thinking on this. First, a week or so ago I listened to The Sistine Chapel episode of the BBC Podcast In Our Time by Melvyn Bragg. It turns out that Michelangelo and Raffael weren't good friends and peaceful rivals. They were both working in different parts of the Vatican at the same time, and Michelangelo accused Raffael of copying his work and technique. Well, artists do copy their predecessors, but in this case some of the copying appears to have happened before Michelangelo painted his version, which means that Raffael must have - fair means or foul - gotten a look at Michelangelo's studies and sketches, perhaps even his cartoons (the full sized drawings that artists used as the final models for frescos and tapestries) which does seem a bit thick. Second, the New Yorker just ran a short, thoughtful piece on Wallace Stegner and Angle of Repose by Roxana Robinson, outlining the issues in the Sands Hall article that started this all off, and adding her own thoughts on using existing material in a novel, fictional, semi- or otherwise.
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 13 May 2022 Another walk around the cemetery... Last day that Julee's parents were with us, and a little walk around the local green space seemed just the thing in the lovely sunny, clear, late afternoon. Of course I lag, because I'm taking pictures. This one is from the infrared camera.
It does seem a bit apropos this week. A dear old friend of mine died last weekend, somebody I'd been close neighbors with when I had my boat on the old D Dock of the old Capital Yacht Club. She and her husband were raising their son on the water. He was young then, and now twenty five, so it was a while ago. We were beginning to reconnect. I hate to let go...
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 6 May 2022 So, here I am at the north end of my commute. I missed last week's blog post because things got so busy (and a bit fraught) at the Capital Yacht Club. Sunday was the first Sunday in May, when the Club has a ceremonial Flag Raising to mark the beginning of our official yachting season. A big deal! The day after, Julee and I escaped to New England.
I took the photo the day before yesterday, in the very few minutes the sun had risen above the house next door and was laying this dramatic diagonal across the door. A few minutes later the sun was on the floor, and today it's overcast. Gotta seize the moment, even if it's not decisive! I straightened the photo a little and burned in (darkened) the shadowy, but slightly distracting, bookshelf behind and to the right of the door.
Washington DC, 22 April 2022 Last Sunday Julee and I went to the Aquatic Gardens in Kenilworth Park up in the Northeast quadrant of Washington. It's a little early in the year for this venue, but there can still be photo opportunities. This is one... It's infrared (of course!) and a two frame stitched panorama, but that doesn't signify, as for me it's just easier doing a stitch than to carry a wide angle lens and swap it out as I work.
It's a simple post. I'd thought of something from my photographic history that addressed the philosphy of artistic originality, but that post will require a certain amount of research, some serious writing, and learning something new in coding a website if I realize my vision for it. Perhaps next week! I am happy that even with all the time and energy required to being the elected head of my yacht club I'm still able to post original work on a regular basis.
Washington DC, 15 Apri 2022 More Savannah, this time a five frame stitched infrared panorama (a double techical photograph!) of the first square we usually came to when we walked from our rooms on East Jones Lane.
Washington DC, 8 April 2022 Savannah was laid out on these parklike squares. This is Chippewa Square, and the swashbuckling gentleman in dark relief is James Oglethorpe the founder of Georgia and of Savannah itself. Interesting gentleman... I had not read anything about his story or the founding of the colony since my autodidactic survey of American history in preparation for my O Levels in my little British high school in Mexico City. I'd quite forgotten that Georgia was a utopian experiment and not originally slave territory. Here's an article about the monument itself. It's the first picture I processed from the trip, because I sent it to Julee's parents, who are graduates of Oglethorpe University just outside of Atlanta.
East Jones Street
Washington DC, 1 April 2022 Back to Savannah for this week's blog post and photo. This is a pretty straight infrared picture of East Jones Street. I pushed the shadows a little towards the lighter end to make the photo a bit more readable, and that's about it. We stayed in an AirBnB space on East Jones Lane, the alley behind this broad street. This was taken exactly a month ago. It seems like a very long time has passed...
During Cherry Blossom Time
Washington DC, 25 March 2022 Well, 'tis the season, so Julee and I have more than once walked down to the Tidal Basin (only about fifteen minutes walk from the boat) to view the Cherry Blossoms. Of course I take my cameras... It's a little perverse shooting the cherry trees in bloom in infrared, since in infrared the foliage and the blossoms are the same white. But, I do think these photos are a little more original, more mine than anything I could shoot in color of this much photographed environment.
Penn Av, SE, at Sunset
Washington DC, 18 March 2022 I thought I was going to continue posting with Savannah pictures, or, perhaps, a commentary about travel, tourism, and crowding. But I took the pictures that make up the photo above (a five frame stitched panorama) yesterday evening, and it seemed the right photo for today.
It's very Washington DC, the view down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the Capitol, but from the SouthEast quadrant rather than NorthEast. That is, opposite the White House. A vibrant neighborhood, but much more Washington's Main Street rather than "America's Main Street" as the other side is sometimes called. I was on the terrace roof of a corner building after the rain, so it was a little damp, but not wet. I took the photos with my phone, so they're a bit noisy. Not the sharpest photos I've taken, but far from the fuzziest. A good shot of the moment, and it will do...
Branch Shadow, Savannah
Washington DC, 11 March 2022 Not, perhaps, as typically Savannah as most of my photos from that four day visit, but I like it and it's processed and ready to go. I have a lot of processing to do on the pictures I took, cleaning up the infrared RAW files into clean display photos and stitching together panorama sets. All good! I think I will end up with enough good photos to compose a new gallery for this web site. It's been a long time since I've done a new gallery, and I'm looking forward to it. But, it will be some weeks work to get through all the images...
Mercer Plot, Bonaventure
Savannah, 4 March 2022 Savannah does not disappoint... This is an infrared three frame vertical panoramic photo of the iconic American lyricist and songwriter Johnny Mercer's grave in the Bonaventure Cemetery here in Savannah. He was born and raised in this Small Southern City before heading to the Big City where he found (probably more accurately hunted down) the most amazing success and helping to define American music in the Twentieth Century.
Bonaventure is not what I expected. It's as amazing as my expectation, as photogenic, but not the way I expected. That expectation came straight out of John Barendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which is an amazing and wonderful book. But... It's not as completely non-fictional a true crime account it purports to be. In Savannah it's described as a novel. Much of it is true, I am quite sure. Historic (central, just inland from the riverfront downtown) Savannah really is the most amazing, well preserved, antebellum, town, redolent with stunning old homes and gnarly live oaks dripping with spanish moss. And, at least at the time of the writing of Barendt's book, home to wonderful excentricity. Jim Williams really did shoot and kill Danny Hansford in his Monterey Square home, The Lady Chablis really was a successful and amazing transexual vamp and performer. Joe Odom really was a beloved musical scamp... But, Odom had a darker side. And, he was gay, dying young of AIDS before the book was published. The character "Mandy", presented as Odam's lover and fianceé, was modeled on, but was not, Joe's real non-romantic companion and partner Nancy Hillis, who wrote a book of her own which I am now reading. The telling of Midnight was much skewed to hide how much of the background of the tale was the gay community, tolerated in the Savannah of the early '90s, but not so much in the broader America of the time.
As concerns Bonaventure Cemetery, I expected a grassier, more open place, particularly at the grave of Conrad Aiken, which is a long grace note in the book. The gravesite is alledged to have a view of the Wilmington River. Well you can see the water, but only in patches as you look through the scrubby mossy oaks. The cemetery isn't so much grassy as sandy, and it has a cluttered, gothic feel to it. Absolutely okay with me, but still very different from what I was expecting. And I wasn't really expecting how much a few minutes communion with Johnny Mercer would affect me. I'm still humming Skylark... All in all, it's been an wonderful visit, and I'm a bit in love with the real Savannah, cleaned up and tourist-friendly as it is. I've taken a lot of pictures, all in infrared, concentrating on the spanish moss-y live oaks that are everywhere, lining every street and filling every square in this city of squares. I expect I'll be posting a number of those pictures over the weeks to come.
Woods, Lafayette Cemetary
Washington DC, 25 February 2022 We're off to Savannah, where I'm hoping to take some wonderful pictures of Bonaventure Cemetary, among many other things and places in that picturesque city. Of course, I've no assurance I can take a better photo than the one on the cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, where I first learned of Bonaventure, but hey, I have hopes, and (as I've said before) just 'cuz Caravaggio painted still lifes doesn't mean that Cezanne can't paint them too! There is literally no place left on the surface of this planet that some other photographer, some other good photographer, hasn't gotten to first.
The photo above is a shot of another famous Southern cemetary I took several years ago when I visited New Orleans. It's not in my gallery on the trip, but I processed it for today's post.
Washington DC, 17 February 2022 Progress made, though not the way I expected. My first run was to layer a couple of the HDR images in Photoshop (there are three, one two stops over the normal exposure, one at, and one 2 stops under the normal exposure) and erase the image of the central plant in one of them, letting only the image of the plant in the other one remain, adjusting the exposure of that layer to match, flatten the layers into one image, and then to use that image as one of the trio in the final HDR sandwich.
I still had the shadow of the moved leaves. How can that be? But it was... So, I loaded the darkest (the most "underexposed") of the camera raw images into the Aurora HDR program, and let it run HDR off of that, which one can do if starting with the raw image. Then found that one can do a lot of adjustment within Aurora, so I did some, and the result is visible above.
Does any of this make sense? Probably not unless you're pretty conversant with the structure and processing of digital images! Otherwise, take my word for it, it's pretty cool, and I've learned something in working with this picture... I do think it's a better, more interesting photo, though it's a little less abstract than last week's version. A bit beyond "Work in Progress", though I might still see how much further I can take it.
Work in Progress
Washington DC, 11 January 2022 Another photo from the walk in the woods in North Carolina. I have high hopes for this one. It's infrared HDR (High Dynamic Range) so double technical. The HDR aspect gives it a lot of textiure in places like the ice in the lower half, and gives the whole photo an abstract quality. My hostess said it reminded her of a Jackson Pollock, which I took as a high complement. Pollock's drip paintings inspired a lot of amusement in the middle of the 20th century but his painting was controlled and I think the results could be mesmerizing.
But, "Work in Progress"? Well, there is a rising white plant that is the focal point, and it's blurred, because it moved during sequence of three photos that make up the final combined HDR image. Fixable? Surely, but I think it's going to involve Photoshop work with layers and local adjustments in combining the high and low exposure images with the "correctly" exposed image. It's the kind of Photoshop work where I'm weakest, so I'll be learning (or relearning) as I go.
Washington DC, 4 February 2022 As you can see from last week's byline I was in North Carolina, somewhat to the south of Washington. I was visiting some dear old friends and catching up, which was really sweet. South it may have been, but it was still winter and the second morning there I woke up to see the pond behind their home frozen over.
They're hikers, so of course they took me for a walk in the woods behind the campus of Duke University, and of course I took my cameras. It was wonderful to be in new landscape far away from the intensity of yacht club administration and politics and be able to listen to the photographic muse, who sang sweetly that morning. I think I did well on that walk. This photo is one of the products, another infrared exploration of the woods, water, and reflection.
Back in the glory days of black and white film photography (some indeterminate number of decades on either side of 1940) there was a definite artistic distinction between photographs that were described as "high key", predominately lighter and whiter in tone, and those that were "low key", like this one, predominately darker and blacker in tone. It's not a distinction I've heard made for decades, and it was probably obselete when I first heard it in the Seventies. But I was learning photography from my mother, and she learned photography in the Forties when the terms were very current. I never paid it much mind in terms of intent but I do note that my photos tended very dark all during black and white film days of my well spent youth. This photo is definitely low key... It does give me an interesting techical problem. It looks great on my graphic arts monitor, dark, but you can see into the darkness of the water. On the actual laptop screen it's too dark, unless you look at it from an angle, a bug, not a feature, of the old twisted nematic display.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 28 January 2022 A winter photo from three years ago, when we were staying on Thom Hartmann's boat while shopping for our own boat. The boat was covered with winter shrink wrap, taut translucent white plastic to keep out the wet and weather. We paid the shrink wrapper to put in a window in it to make it less claustrophobic. Here I am on the inside taking pictures of him on the outside preparing to cut a square of the white shrink wrap out and fill the hole with transparent shrink wrap.
A color photograph, rendered to black and white in the Photoshop post process.
Washington DC, 23 January 2022 Two days late on my post... Apologies! It's getting colder still (well below freezing) and the ice between our docks and the seawall is thicker than skim ice. I liked the patterns and captured the shot with my cell phone. Rendered to black and white and much post processed in Photoshop to improve contrast.
Things continue to be the wrong kind of busy at the Capital Yacht Club. A couple of days ago we had real trouble ensuring that water was drained from a from the potable water systems of a couple of our docks (something we have to do in advance of any hard freeze) and had to go through the whole process twice. Yesterday the main water valve on the other side of the marina blew up, so no water there until after the industrial plumbers do their magic, hopefully first thing Monday morning!
Washington DC, 14 January 2022 Winter continues as the temperature continues to drop... The night before last was cold, and very still, and when that happens the cold air will freeze the very surface of the water in a very thin layer, even when the water itself is well above freezing (39° the morning I took this photo). This is the slip next to ours at the Capital Yacht Club.
Meanwhile, winter has our attention.
Washington DC, 7 January 2022 We do, after all, have a winter. Eight inches of snow fell on Washington between the dark hours of the morning on the third and two o'clock that afternoon. This is the view out the front window of our boat with the snow piled on it on top of our Christmas lights, that now will have to wait until the snow is completely melted to come down. Maybe this weekend, or Monday, given that it's snowed again, and it's cold.
Washington DC, 1 January 2022 Well, Happy New Year! It's raining in Washington, but a beautiful, warm, soft, cozy, rain, and there is the most picturesaque radiation fog on the Washington Channel in front of the yacht club that is Julee's and my home in DC. I think I have some nice very wide panoramas out of the morning, but they'll need some work, and that kind of wide is hard to show well on a computer screen (and harder on a phone!) so I've posted one of the photos I took while I was walking back to our boat after having gathered the component images for the panoramas from the dock T-heads. Originally color, though not very colorful, I desaturated it and messed with the exposure and contrast to make it more readable and (maybe) better.
And next year is now this year. There is a lot going on. As before, I'm taking over as Commodore of the Capital Yacht in a about a week and a half. That will be a lot of work, and I was actually worried that it would push photography quite out of my mind (and soul!) for a while. One reason that coming home with some good pictures this morning meant so much to me. I must make the Club (yes, I've always capitalized it) the top priority because some hundreds of members of the Club and the community are relying on me, and because the instituion means a lot to many, including me. But I do want to keep working in photography, capturing images, processing them into the most beautiful pictures possible, and getting them in front of people eyes.
I'd like to have a major show in the next year or so, but that's a lot of work, and not worth doing unless I feel I can make major splash with it. My audience is getting bigger. Around sixty visitors to this site last month, versus about thirty not so long ago. Not a big number in either case, but a doubling... If I could manage that on a regular basis it wouldn't be that many years before everyone on the planet was following me. Okay, get real, Laurence, but I do want more eyeballs on my work. Marketing must also be a push for me.
And, of course, taking care of Julee, taking care of the boat and house, taking care of myself. All in The Time of Covid, which is dragging on and on. I'd also like to be travelling a little further than up and down the Northeast Corridor again. Bit by bit...
Life is so full.