Coan River, Virginia
Deale, Maryland, 25 May 2020 I missed Friday's post... I spent the day in final prep for taking the boat to Deale, and had one of my mercifully rare, and mercifully short, periods of complete dippyness in the middle of the day. At moments like that I leave important things behind, and sometimes recover them and sometimes don't. It's supremely embarassing and has potential for much worse. Supposing it was my phone or wallet? When I was in my twenties I twice left my address book in phone booths... (That statement dates a person! One of the reasons we always had change in our pockets was to make phone calls.) But, by afternoon, preparations for the Big Boat Trip were mostly done. Engines started at 6:15 on Saturday morning, and the Mad Hatteras began it's perilous journey downriver.
Perilous? I was deeply nervous. I've been boating since 1995, but not continuously, and this boat is a new combination of precious, big, and vulnerable, and I've just been through serveral years when I haven't been boating at all. Two days and 140 miles on, safely docked in Deale, I'm feeling much more confident, and this boat is feeling like a living vehicle, something much more than the comfortable home on the water that it's been for us over the last year.
Downriver, Washington Channel I captured this three frame panorama with my phone just before we set out, and the morning just got more and more beautiful as we passed the War College and Alexandria on the way south. No pictures, as I felt I should be highly concentrated on driving the boat and left my cameras below. But it was a grand day on the water. The lead photo is a four frame infrared panorama from the end of the day, after we'd tied up in the Coan River Marina, a wonderful place run by friends of ours in Lottsburg, Virginia. Then, morning gossip, relatively late start, and then the nervy run out the impossibly narrow, twisty, and shallow channel out into the mouth of the Potomac and then a relatively fast and straight run up Chesapeake Bay and in to the merely improbably narrow, twisty, and shallow channel to Rodback Creek and this marina and boatyard. With luck, the boat will be lifted out of the water and set on supports on land (on the hard, as boaters say) tomorrow and the work will begin.
Washington DC, 18 May 2020 Nothing photographic today. I've been working on the boat, since the waterways of Maryland have opened up and she's going to Deale for out-of-water heavy maintenance next weekend. So, prepping for a two day trip down the Potomac and up the Chesapeake and then a minimum of two weeks of disarray in our lives as our home is elsewhere and inaccessible for living. But then, we should be set for a year or two, and confident in the vehicle so that it will get much more boating use going forward.
I've done another series on the Pandemic Café in color with the wide Zeiss lens, but haven't yet worked on them aside from filing. In a day or two...
Pandemic Café 2
Washington DC, 15 May 2020 It's the Ides of May, and it's been a pretty quiet photographic week for me. I've gone back to the Pandemic Café, but this photo is from my visit just over a week ago. Now ready for prime time, since I've patched the lower left corner. In the process learned a new Photoshop trick. The patch should be invisible, at least at this resolution...
Washington DC, 11 May 2020 It's hard to be anything but topical at the moment. Here's a picture I took yesterday, right on the land side of the waterfront where I live. It's very similar to another panorama I took from the same vantage point on 24 January. Similarly deserted, but the earlier picture showed a cold, grey, weekday morning during the deadest retail period of the year, and this one was taken in the middle of very pleasant afternoon on a May Sunday. This fashionable, trendy waterfront development should be packed. Which would be a bad idea in the middle of the pandemic! But, half of the restaurants are closed, the other half are serving takeout only, and retail is limited to the essential, that is the drugstore with the pharmacy counter. And it's heavily patrolled to enforce social distancing. When I was finishing up with the Pandemic Café photo below I was asked to move along by a police officer. When I was taking the photos than make up today's extreme 180° panorama (fourteen frames!) the restauranteur from the hotel to the side of this terrace shooed me away. And rather sharply. And it really angered me.
So, I'm not immune to the growing cabin fever, though I had the sense to keep my temper and politely leave, especially since it was clear that the space was blocked off, though it wasn't actually posted for no tresspassing. One of my friends found this Australian article, We have begun the dreaded third quarter of isolation, about the effects of isolation on people's social connection, based to research into places like Antartica and outer space. It's a bit sobering. Doubly so, since the subjects knew, often to the minute, how long they were going to isolated. We've no idea how long this is going to last... Especially given the growing tendency to civil disobedience, which may very well push the line in the graph sharply upwards again. I had my worst time last week, and in spite of my sharp grumpiness yesterday, feel able to hunker down with Julee for a good while longer. This will be complicated by the boat work, but we'll work hard to keep ourselves safe and not be part of the problem.
The Pandemic Café
Washington DC, 8 May 2020 It remains very quiet, as it should. Some things are opening up, boating in Maryland, for example, so two weeks from now we'll take the boat down the Potomac and up the Chesapeake to a boatyard for heavy, and rather overdue, maintenance. Up on the seawall here at the Washington Channel the drugstore is open, some restaurants are marginally open, only for take out, and the other businesses are closed. Security is out in force, and maintenance continues, but obviously not enough! Weeds are growng through the cracks in the paving blocks on the water side, most aggressively here in a roped off restaurant seating area.
Washington DC, 4 May 2020 A quiet weekend for photography, but sometimes the pictures come to you. This is a shot of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and U.S. Navy Blue Angels acrobatic teams from the top deck of our boat on Saturday. An odd event given the real needs of the moment, but beyond impressive.
Sunlit Washington Channel in Infrared
Washington DC, 1 May 2020 Like everyone, my horizon is currently very close to me, since I'm heeding the stay-at-home orders of the DMV (District, Maryland, Virginia). At the beginning of the year I'd had every intention of taking my photographic project up and down the East Coast of the United States between Washington DC, New Jersey, New York City, and New England in the late winter and through spring and summer. Now, with the Covid-19, I am pretty much limited to where I can walk while maintaining appropriate distance from my fellow humans. I'm lucky that I live in sight of wonderful public spaces! The photo shows my view from the aft deck of the boat across the Washington Channel to East Potomac Park from the middle of last week. A two frame panorama in infrared.
I'm as weary of this situation as anyone, but also very cautious about it. I don't get the sense that this is at all well understood, and given the slaughter we've already gone through in the last month I'm not chomping at the bit to push my horizon further out. I would like to be travelling more, even around the city and to the suburbs, but there is, fortunately, plenty for me here inside the circle of my present horizon, and thanks to modern telecomms I'm not feeling disconnected to my friends and family across the globe.
Black Mountain, Vermont
Washington DC, 27 April 2020 I'd promised more recent photos, but they will wait, as it's not everyday that I post a new gallery on this website, in this case my Infrared Trees page. It's been hanging fire for a while, but finally up... I feel it includes some of my strongest work. Please take a look!
Bouddha Neighborhood Panorama, Detail
Washington DC, 24 April 2020 I was looking for a date, in this case my arrival in Nepal. For me, the easiest way to find a date of that sort is to go trolling through my photos since I file them by date and location. I took this one from the hotel room at sunset of my first day in Kathmandu, 29 July 2015. It's the Tibetan quarter of the city, grown up around the white dome to the left, the Bouddhanath, which I visited and photographed many times in the next three and a half years, even when I lived all the way across town to the south. My first day, but I still think I caught something of the spirit of the place. I was was more than delighted to be there, and not disappointed as that chapter rolled out!
So I thought I'd take a break today from the mostly black and white infrared photos I've been taking within walking distance of the boat here in Washington and post something historical and more colorful. I'll come back to more recent photos next week.
Washington DC, 20 April 2020 Julee and I are very lucky that we're sheltering from the Covid-19 pandemic in a place that's pretty, and where it's possible and reasonable to take a walk. One can't go anywhere since some areas were closed to limit crowds. Some remain closed, like the recreation piers, or have tightly controlled access, like the Fish Market. And, our Wharf is patrolled by police to make sure people don't congregate, even in small numbers at safe distances. I get it, since poeple can be really mindless even in situations like this, and we're again lucky that we have the docks of the club to congregate on. At safe distances!
Tree, Potomac Park
This is series of photos from the walk Julee and I took to and through Potomac Park on the 6th. A great afternoon for infrared, brightly sunny and completely clear. The top photo is Julee in her odd, but very effective Kathmandu mask. We both had real N-95 masks before any of this began, not for germs, but for the smog of the Kathmandu Valley when we lived there. Mine is cloth, but very fitted, with a pocket for the serious filter. The next photo above is a classic Laurence shot of a backlit tree, in this case a three frame vertical sitched panorama, to cover the lack of a wide angle lens.
Pandemic Seung And we met our friend Seung, who was out on her wheeled constitutional! Not a complete surprise, as she has wheels and spends a lot of time in Potomac Park. She stopped and talked to us, maintaining (of course!) appropriate social distance and protection. So two odd, masked, infrared portraits in one day!
Washington Channel No. 3, 6 April 2020 We walked to Potomac Park via the Tidal Basin, and back via the 14th Street Bridge. I took a series of panoramas as we crossed, with the Fish Market and the Wharf to the left, and East Potomac Park to the right. Beyond the existing buildings you can see the cranes of the construction site where the last third of the Wharf Development is being built.
Wharf Waterfront in Infrared And here's the shot from the bridge as we approached the mainland, looking from the Fish Market in the foreground along the waterfront walk, nearly deserted in this time of pandemic. This is a three frame vertical panorama. I have a horizontal panorama which is quite striking, but the inky shadow areas rather overwhelm the picture. They can be lightened, but it takes some fiddly work on the raw images in conversion for the best results. And time...
Under the Bridge I'll finish off with a simple portait of the weeds under the 14th Street Bridge from the bike and pedestrian ramp as we were approaching home. I'm often very happy with the simple photos!
We're six weeks in since the original social distancing recommendations, which were coming on as I left for Florida and got more and more draconian as government and people realized the need. Forty thousand Americans have died in the pandemic, and it surely would have been much, much worse if we'd tried carrying on as usual. It is beginning to chafe, but forty thousand is a big number already, and many of those people will be sorely missed by their associates. We'll have to dig in, be strong, and hold the line. Interesting that we go so easily to military language.
Washington DC, 17 April 2020 It's been an odd week photographically and artistically. First, I was brought up rather brutally to the fact that one's skill can be immense, almost supernaturally so, and that doesn't mean that you're making meaningful art. I'd better be clear that this didn't come up in the context of my own work, which would, of course, have been devastating! But I had an echo of something that happened to me at university in one of my serious and intense photo classes. One of the other students was doing western landscapes with a 4X5 view camera and Ektachrome, very much in the great tradition of Adams, Bullock, and the Westons. Technically perfect... It wasn't until the night of the last class when a number of the students went out to drink and talk that I got drunk enough to say what I actually thought, which was "They're beautiful but they're boring!" The guy was quite right in looking at me and saying "It would have been useful if you'd said that in class!", but I'd had no idea how I might have said anything to really help him towards more interesting photographs. I could see there was something missing, but no clue what it was or how to get it. I still have no idea, at least not directly.
One has to work, keep the best, file away the rest, be open to the ineffable, be mindful, improve one's technique (it is really important, just not for and by itself) and feel as deeply as possible. The epidsode did get me thinking about beauty and truth in the context of 19th century art. After some noodling around I ended up reading John Ruskin on the Pre-Raphaelites, which threw some light in the corners. Brilliant thinker, but also a wildly neurotic Victorian crank! I'll keep following the precepts of the first sentence as best I can in my own pursuit of artistic truth, which may not be quite the same thing as logical or historical truth. Language can be a slippery thing...
And, I spent a good chunk of yesterday through my photos from 6 April, thinking they'd be the subject of today's post. The 6th was a good day and there are a lot of credible pictures, and a lot of processing, between the fact that they're infrared (all infrared photos have to be processed) and the fact that there were a whole series of panoramas taken from the Fourteenth Street Bridge, all of which had to be stitched before choosing the best. By mid-afternoon, I was going google-eyed, and the last panorama I stitched had a real problem with delicate separated highlights blowing out into featureless white. Not a new problem, and something I need to work on. (Technique does matter!) In any case, a good moment to take a break from the task at hand.
So, today's photo is something else, a part of an infrared panorama that I took of Monet's pond in Giverny, between Paris and Normandy, two and a half years ago. That was a real pilgrimage for me, since I'd grown up with one of his big glorious paintings of water lilies from this garden. It's in San Francisco's Legion of Honor, a big museum with an emphasis on the French. There is some really great art in San Francisco, but it's not the crazy thick on the ground that you get in New York or Chicago. So, the most sublime pieces stand out even more.
Washington DC, 14 April 2020 A bit of a between-the-regular-posts P.S. here, since things were approaching dire when I posted yesterday morning. It did rain, about six inches over the course of ten hours or so, but, while we got wind, it wasn't the kind of intense or gusty we'd be warned to expect. And no tornados! I took the picture a bit before noon, and we had bright sunlight. Mind, half an hour later we had tinkly hail... We had a very odd afternoon, as the patches of cloud raced overhead and sometimes rained on us (though not like early in the morning) led and followed by patches of clear sky and sun, often with strange light when it was dark and light both. All over by late afternoon when I went to bail out the dinghy, which is why I know there was at least six inches of precipitation.
Sunset Watching, Washington Channel
Sunset, Washington Channel
Washington DC, 13 April 2020 These pictures were taken a week ago, on a wonderfully mild evening at the end of the dock where Julee and I keep our boat and live. One of the reasons we make our home here is this wonderful group of people, this community. I think boaters tend to coalesce, but liveaboard boaters in the same marina coalesce even more, and liveaboard boaters in a self organized, self governing community like the Capital Yacht Club coalesce even more than that. And it's a generally smart and sensible bunch! Someone came up with the term "6 at 6", that is to say gather on the dock in the evening with drinks to be together, but maintaining the safe six foot (two meter) distancing the Covid-19 plague requires. You'll note the maintenance in the top photo, except for the two on the right who form what the doctors and epidemiologists are calling a "pod", that is people who form a household and are socially close with each other, but socially distant from others. Like Julee and I... The second photo is, of course, the sunset we are all admiring. This is really a pretty special place.
Last night was like this as well, but we also spent time during the afternoon preparing for today's weather, which was forecast as winds up to fifty miles an hour (Oh my!) with a tornado watch (Oh my!). I feel like I'm living in John Fogerty Times as exemplified by the Creedence song Bad Moon Rising. The Plague is the background to everything right now, and it also "looks like we're in for nasty weather". We spent the afternoon clearing the decks (literally), getting the dinghy to a safer spot, and laying out extra lines in case of need when the boat gets blown about. I don't, however, "fear rivers over flowing" since I've experienced that many times already on this waterfront. So far it's been more Rhythm of the Falling Rain, but the rain is getting heavier, and the day is young.
I may get more photographically oriented in my next post. The 6th was a great day photographically. Julee and I walked to Hains Point again (via the Tidal Basin, deserted now that the cherry trees are green, so one can walk along the water). The light was great, and I fired the shutter on my infrared camera 108 times. A number of panorama parts, so it's not quite that many photographs... I've been processing images for days and I'm very happy with them. More on this anon!
Washington DC, 10 April 2020 Very changeable spring weather on the Washington Channel. Here's a photo I took last weekend when it was stormy. The crow is very decorative on my neighbor's boat, don't you think? He'd been flitting back and forth between the back of our boat and this one, cawing insistently. We've been cycling between stormy and bright, hot and cool all week. Early yesterday morning it rained heavily, by ten it was beautiful, bright, blue, sunny, and still. It remained sunny but the wind picked up and blew fiercely and is still blowing fiercely, tossing our boat around to great creaking of docklines. Blustery...
By Tuesday our Wharf neighborhood was open again, but remained and remains very quiet. The Fish Market was still closed, but a regulated snake line between metal street barriers had been set up. Today, Friday, the Wharf has not recovered its former quietness. It's quieter than that, very deserted, though there are a thin handful of people out. Well, it's cold and windy today and the two recreation piers are closed so there's less to draw people in. The Fish Market is still closed and there are unfriendly police and DC national guardsment in front of it who really had nothing to say but "It's Closed!" in a tone that combined exasperated mother ("Because I said it's closed!") with something rather darker.
I did the weekly shopping this morning and the grocery stores were quite civilized, little crowding and much courtesy, though I did at times feel like shouting "Wear your face mask properly! Or dont bother! It should cover the mouth and the nose!" We're set for necessities for a while, and everyone in our little marina is busy with their boat projects this chilly spring day.
Washington DC, 5 April 2020
This is Monday's post, but I actually wrote it and posted it on Sunday.
Early in the morning: It's sunny, a few high clouds, very pretty, and dead quiet on the Washington Waterfront. Not surprising early Sunday morning, but I tend to think that it's going to be pretty close to dead quiet all through the morning, afternoon, and evening, and that is not normal for this neighborhood on a pleasant spring weekend day. This is a blog on a photo site, and I have some time ago settled on blogging only on photography but at this point the Covid-19 pandemic is so intrusive that it's gone beyond the more casual mentions I've made of it as background. It's now the background, middle ground, and foreground of everyone's life.
I'm both relatively exposed and relatively protected.
On the exposed side, I'm not over sixty-five, but I'm close, and consider myself in a high risk group for age. Worse, my lungs were wrecked by growing up in a family of heavy smokers, and a good part of that time in what was then the most polluted place on the planet, in Mexico City. And, later in life, I was grabbed by chronic allergies. Today, how could I tell if I had Covid-19? I'm always a little scratchy around the throat and drippy about the nasal passages. I could have a mild case of the novel coronavirus and never know. On the other hand the possibility that an infection would get completely out of hand seems very real to me, and even more real to my loving Julee.
On the protected side, I'm retired on a pension and don't need to go out to make money nor worry about the loss of income if I can't. Julee works at home for an international NGO. While the funding that pays her is always uncertain, for the moment she has work and an income. So, our daily routine hasn't changed all that much. I work on my photography, I work on this old boat... Julee works on early childhood development. That work has pivoted very much to the pandemic in the last weeks, but she's keeping the same hours.
What has changed is our interaction with the wide world. Things had gotten very quiet in Washington by the time I got back from the delivery trip, and they got quieter still last Wednesday when the local govenors (Maryland and Virginia) and the Mayor of Washington DC amped up their guidance to requirement and ordered the population to stay at home across the board. Along the DC Waterfront at the Wharf where we live there was a scattering of people out, acting very properly, maintaining distance and interacting only with those that appeared to be family. But there's always a subset that don't quite get the message... The historic Fish Market remained open. Hey, it sells food, which is and has to be allowed, and it was fine through the week... Then on Saturday word must have gotten out that this was a traditional public space and a traditional high point for Washingtonians that people could still go to. And they went. And, at the end of the day the DC Government shut the whole operation down.
And, for good measure, the entire Wharf development where we live... When I looked out this morning and started writing this blog entry it was completely deserted. I thought people had begun to figure it out, but it's enforcement. There's a line of police tape at Maine Avenue with actual police at the entrances to the Wharf and the Fish Market backing it up. Julee and I took one of our careful, socially distant, walks this morning and we got in and out on the simple explanation that we live here, but it was a little nerve wracking, and I expect that the non-residents were being politely turned away. The Wharf management has further blocked the two recreation piers. Damn!
And yes, I talked to Maryland's Natural Resources Police (they take care of the water, including the entire Potomac south of Washington) on Friday, after the last post, and was told that no boats should be on the water, with certain specific exceptions which didn't appear to obviously cover me. So no trip to Herrington Harbour for heavy maintenance this month. Herrington was very understanding, and will reschedule with me once the dust settles. Just as well as taking and keeping the boat there would have involved a fair bit of travel beyond the delivery itself, which is just what the governor of every state and jurisdiction on the east coast wants us to avoid.
So we're here, mostly within our own neighborhood, mostly within our home, until further notice, like much of the world. I called it right when thinking about it a month ago. I registered some uneasiness to the captain on the delivery trip and he first thought I was worried about the health risk, and was at pains to reassure me that three guys overwhelmingly isolated on a boat weren't in much danger, which I think was true. But that wasn't it. I was concerned that things would get out of hand very suddenly and all transportation would be shut down, trains and boats and planes, to quote the old song, and that I would be trapped somewhere in the waterways of the South away from Julee. Transportation in the U.S. hasn't, even now, shut down completely, but I don't think it was a silly fear. An American friend in Nepal emailed me asking for advice while I was on the trip. (My last job I was the U.S. Consul in Kathmandu.) I wrote back that evening saying that they needed to decide very quickly what part of the world they wanted to be in, and get there as expeditiously as possible. It was already too late. Nepal shut down the borders and the airports that night. The Embassy has since arranged for a couple of charters and gotten about five hundred Americans at least as far as Dulles Airport in Virginia, but my friend considered the risks of nearly twenty hours in a metal tube with two hundred and fifty random compatriots and has stayed put. I think I would have moved a week or two earlier.
So here we are, all over the sensible world, sheltering in place. A lot of people are in much greater distress that we are, being actually sick (perhaps very sick), having lost livelihoods, been stranded far from home, or, in some cases, isolated with people they don't like. Julee and I are not dealing with any of that, which is a real blessing. I try to keep this site free of politics, but since I've already written a goodly essay that has nothing to do with photography, I have to say this: I really wish our political leaders had used the time when this was coming wisely, and hadn't denied and dithered until they had no choice but to act. This could have been so much easier if we'd geared up sooner, lives could have been saved, and the way forward as a nation and as humanity so much more clear. I think anger will be a useful emotion going forward.
Parrish Sky, Washington Channel
Washington DC, 3 April 2020 Another example of my versions of Monet's haystacks. The weather and the light is always different, so even though I'm taking pictures of the same view, they're not completely repetitive... I'm honoring Maxfield Parrish in the title of this seven frame-180 degree panorama of the Washington Channel taken from the end of my dock because of the clouds, particularly the pink mountainous ones at the left. Parrish painted in what we photographers call super saturated colors, but sometimes those really are the colors of nature. There is no manipulation in the colors of this photo. Straight from the camera!
I took this photo five days ago. Washington was already very quiet as people hunkered down and stayed home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and spaced themselves out when they were in public. It seems a long time ago. In the last forty-eight hours all three of the local jurisdictions (the District of Columbia (DC), Virginia, and Maryland) have amped up their restrictions on going out. We weren't going out much but were going to take the boat to long planned and long delayed heavy maintenance down river and up the Chesapeake. But the govenor of Maryland has banned boating... Maintenance may be further delayed. I do have months of projects on the boat that I can do here with the boat in the water...
Also doing some catchup maintenance on this site. Everything prior to 1 January on this blog page has been archived to the blog archive page. (Where else?) I've also cleaned up some of the formatting on my page on infrared photography. I'm always impressed at how many times I can proof read a piece and still have errors left over for future proofings...
Tidal Basin Police Tape
Washington DC, 30 April 2020 What an odd homecoming! We're living in the age of Covid-19 and it's hard for people to take it as seriously as they should. These are the iconic cherry trees at the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial a bit less than a week after the peak of their bloom, usually a time of festival, celebration, and large crowds of locals and tourists viewing the blossoms. This year crowds were sparse, then people starting coming in numbers in spite of the risk. It began to get out of hand, to the point where the city government closed streets and then walled off the tidal basin itself. I went prepared to turn around and leave if there were numbers of people out, but there weren't. The police were out in force, being very specific about where one was allowed to walk. Not along the edge of the Tidal Basin, as you can see! So Julee and I skirted the area and walked out through East Potomac Park towards Hains Point, where I took the photo below. As you can see, many petals had already fallen, but the blooms were still full and beautiful.
Potomac Park Cherry Blossoms
Elizabeth River Wake
Elizabeth River Lift Bridge, Norfolk
Washington DC, 27 March 2020 Not quite the end of journey, but close, close. Both these infrared panoramas were taken as we were closing in on our transit of Norfolk, Virginia, and I find it interesting that there's only about fifteen miles between them, from a canal through a forest to a path across a harbor that is a major base for the U.S. Navy and a serious hub of the heaviest industry. They build nuclear aircraft carriers only a little way off of the path we took through Norfolk to Hampton where we spent the last night of the journey. Then a passage up the Chesapeake to Solomon's Island, very fast at first, and then a bit more cautiously as the open water got bouncier. That night I was home on my own boat in Washington DC.
I'm a bit behind on the posts, and a little uncertain as to whether to continue to lag or catch up expeditiously. Washington is very quiet under the Covid-19 public health interdict, but I've been out photographing the waning cherry blossoms in this time of plague.
Large Utilitarian Objects, Moorehead City
Hampton, Virginia, 23 March 2020 Grabbed this three frame infrared panorama in Moorehead City last Friday as we were, for the fourth time, waiting for a bridge to open in front of us. The last three delays weren't at all bad, once a bridge that opened only on the hour, once a bridge that opened only on the half hour, and, this time, a working railway bridge serving the port where the railway operations took precedence over the small boat maritime operations. This bridge is actually normally open, but down in front of us while a locomotive was shuttled across it by another locomotive.
The first bridge to delay us was the real kicker. It wasn't just the day and a half we spent behind it, but the fact that that day and a half has delayed this part of the trip and we're in weather that would have otherwise have been behind us.
It's a bit like the movies... We're travelling over the map, quite literally, as we're using a variety of navigation aids that use moving maps. Unfortunately, unlike the movies, this isn't a device to make the travel happen more quickly. Fortunately, this is pretty amazing travel and worth the time. Here's a little picture of them all in use while we're driving the video game, as Captain Scott puts it. The first screen is my iPad, the second one on the wheel is Scott's much newer iPad, and then the little Garmin unit on top and the much larger Garmin unit in the panel. We use them all, and constantly check against reality, because after all the actual current location of the channel markers and the actual current depth of the water is what matters, isn't it?
We're laid over today because it's blown up a storm and this isn't a boat to be out on that kind of weather. Then... Either a day to the Washburn's Boat Yard on the Chesapeake, or two days to Washington, depending on how Maryland handles Covid-19 over the next forty eight hours. If Washburn's closes there will be no point in taking the boat there for shakedown maintenance, and the boat will go to it's home port and return to Washburn's later when the pandemic allows.
Swansboro, North Carolina, 20 March 2020 I'm still headed up the East Coast of the United States on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) in a small motor yacht with my friends Scott (the delivery captain) and Mike. There are wrecked boats all along this route. This is hurricane country... Usually the wrecks are little pleasure boats. One imagines that they were kept at a non-commercial dock avoiding the requirement for insurance, and that the owner who couldn't afford insurance also wouldn't be able to afford salvage when the big winds blew their boat ashore. I'm not sure what the think of a commercial boat like this one, which had to have insurance, but this kind of wreck is less common. This shot is a two frame horizonatal panorama.
We spent the day before yesterday in trapped behind this bridge in North Myrtle Beach. It was broken and wouldn't swing open... Lost a day and a bit more while we waited for the repairs to be made and slipped by the first thing in the morning after the mechanics were through. We understand it broke again after we were past...
I started this blog entry in the morning before we set off on the day's run, but at the very moment of this writing we're en route through Moorehead City, North Carolina. I'm not at all sure I'm going to be able to post to my Friday schedule since I don't know what kind of internet access I'll have this evening. We stayed at the city dock in Swansboro, and they didn't even pretend. The marina we were at the night before pretended, but weak signals and glitchyness overwlemend any possibility of actually logging in. And I don't pay AT&T enough to use my phone as a hot spot...
Unlike foggy yesterday this morning dawned clear and blue, with just enough cloud to make the sky interesting. Relatively open waters too, so we're getting opportunities to run fast and make better time.
Bridge at Beaufort
Charleston, South Carolina, 16 March 2020 This was the night before last, as were continued northwards. It's another shot of a waterway and a bridge, but waterways and bridges are fairly common and typical sights in the Lowcountry and I think it's one of the better shots from this stretch of the voyage on the MV Argentum. It's a four frame panorama assembled from photos I took with my phone. I've a lot of infrared shots from the days on the water, but they're not coming out quite as well as I'd hoped...
At Jeckyll Island
At Sea, MV Argentum, 13 March 2020 As of this morning, I'm two days up the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) from Jacksonville, departing from Savannah, Georgia this morning. It's not exactly being "At Sea", but "On Twisty Little Inland Waterways" doesn't have quite the same ring in a header. This picture shows our little boat the Argentum (to be renamed when the owner can get a paint specialist to polish the current name off the stern) at dock at the Jeckyll Island Marina early yesterday morning. It's Infrared, of course, and a nine frame horizontal panorama.
Sailboat, ICW Yesterday was an interesting day as we wended our way through the Georgia Lowcountry. This really is low, fractal land. You can see boats far away apparently ghosting along on the ground but really in a small channel between the marsh grasses. This photo is less mysterious, a boat we met along the way, sky and clouds above, water and refections below.
It will take me several days to work through all of today's photos and which ones are really ready for prime time, but of course I'm still in motion and will be taking another set of photos tomorrow, and the next, and the next... So it will be a while before I work through them all! I am glad I'm crew rather than running my own boat. This way I've the time to think and take photos along the way.
Sunday Morning Coffee, National Airport
In Transit, 9 March 2020 I've not cancelled my trip in the face of Covid-19, mostly because I have friends counting on me. But, captain and crew of the boat under delivery will be keeping a close eye on the news as we come up the The Ditch, as the Intra-Coastal Waterway is sometimes known. I have decided it would be wise to travel a little lighter, so I've left the camera bag and tripod behind, and am travelling with my minimum photo kit. A Canon EOS 5D Mark III, modified for infrared, Canon EOS R for color, both with the odd-but-very-sharp Canon F2.8 40mm pancake lens, a Zeiss 25mm for wider framing, if and when I take the time to change lenses instead of shooting a panorama (though I do sometimes shoot panoramas with with the 25mm), and a bag of batteries with their charger. It's not really light, but it's a lot lighter than the bag, which is home to three camera bodies and about ten lenses, including the massive 100-400mm zoom that looks like Rey could use it to shoot down a tie fighter. I don't use that one very often, but when one needs a fast long lens, nothing else will do! The corners contain all kinds of smaller accessories and add ons which add bulk and weight.
The truth is, the bag is a bit of a tool to limit the kit. With very few exceptions, if it doesn't fit in the bag, it's not part of my photographic life. This makes it possible to put everything I need in one place, and I can just grab the bag, with the tripod as needed, with the flash bag as needed, and go. Most of the time I need a lot less, and here I am on an adventure with that a lot less. And I'm glad the cameras are getting smaller!
Washington DC, 6 March 2020 It really is a wintry snapshot, grabbed on the fly a couple of days ago. The day before that Julee had badly pulled a muscle in her leg at gym and we'd wedged open an appointment that morning with our orthopedic surgeon, just in case it was one of those injuries that turns out to require immediate attention. Fortunately no, this one will heal on it's own, given due respect, and is amenable to mild exercise like hobbling carefully down the seawall to the falafel joint for lunch.
It's getting non-photographically busy. Monday I'll fly down to Jacksonville, Florida and join a boat on a delivery trip up the Intracoastal Waterway towards Washington. This is the protected inland passage that runs inside the barrier islands of the east coast of the U.S., taking advantage of every twisty river and and watery straight, linked as necessary by cuts and dredged channels. I've never done this and am really looking forward to it! I am taking the full photo kit, including tripod, and we'll see what comes of that.
Sadly, I'll miss my French class next week...
Théodore Rousseau in the National Gallery of Art
Washington DC, 2 March 2020 I'm studying French... It's been a while, and Julee and I wanted to brush up, so we went to the Alliance Française above Dupont Circle and tested. I did pretty well and got tracked into the level 4 classes, which are serious lecture courses, but in French. So I'm studying French painting, specifically, <Le réalisme and le naturalisme>, Nineteenth Century art movements, in opposition to Romanticism and before Impressionism. (Note we anglophones capitalize our movements!) I'm not quite sure what to make of these labels, especially after my Sunday visit to the National Art Gallery here in Washington where I made a focussed run past paintings from the Barbizon school. From 2020 the divide between the romantics and the naturalists doesn"t seem so very sharp. And, interestingly, the English Wikipedia article on realism addresses realistic figurative painting from all epochs, while the French Wikipedia article on réalisme is about the France-focused mid Nineteenth century movement that is the subject of my class...
Panoramic Landscape near the River Moselle by Théodore Rousseau (from the web) Here is Rousseau's big little panorama itself. I saw it first online, and thought it was going to be bigger than it is. Of course, it was painted on location, so limited in size to what Rousseau could carry, especially what he could carry in terms of a fresh wet painting when he was finished. And I don't know how much paint and canvas he could afford! It's currently part of a temporary exhibit called True to Nature: Open-Air Painting in Europe, 1780–1870, three rooms full of small easel paintings done on location, many of which are quite stunning, full of sunlight and warmth.
Today I'm feeling pretty clear about what I saw and felt yesterday in the museum, but I left deeply discombobulated. First, I had one of those artistic panics. "What does this all mean? What makes a piece of art good? How does that apply to me?..." The truth is I don't know, and I'm not sure it's safe for me to enquire too closely! Second, the art history divide I feel isn't between the French realists and what came before, it's between them and what came after, specifically impressionism, modern art, abstract art. It's clear to me that I belong to and am a part of that world, even if the vast majority of my work is as figurative as Rousseau's painting of the Moselle Valley. The painting that really grabbed me yesterday was Paul Cézanne's portrait of his father, which I rushed past while looking for older paintings. It's totally figurative (I'm sure you'd immediately recognize the man if you met him) and full of light, but the brush strokes are completely original, non-"realistic", and the setting is abstracted. The perspective of the armchair is really off, which can't have been an accident given Cézanne's training and skill. And, interestingly in opposition to the Rousseau piece, it's a lot bigger than one expects, over six feet tall. Among other things the subject of the portrait owned a bank and Cézanne never had to worry about the cost of materials.
In the end, I'm not sure it pays to think too much about schools and styles. I study the photographers and artists of the past and present, sometimes quite closely, but in the end I'm going to go where the muse takes me, inside or outside of a particular school or style. What else can you do if you want to feel the holy fire?
Hong Kong From MacDonnel Road, HDR
Washington DC, 28 February 2020 So, this is the rebuilt version of the Hong Kong cityscape I posted last Friday. I assembled it with updated and commercial versions of both the High Dynamic Range (HDR) and the panoramic stitching software. It's a very different beast! On the unequivocally plus side, the stitching (via the PTGui program) is seamless and completely clean. (I had one small bit of ghosting in the sky, but that was an artifact of the HDR process, and very easily fixed in Photoshop.) On the other hand the HDR combination (using Aurora HDR) went a very different direction, and I'v been spending the last couple of days thinking about that. The previous version was moody and blue. This version is relentlessly bright and sunny. But, it was a bright and sunny day! Perhaps not relentlessly so, but you can see the sharp very shadow on the red building.
I'd had the image of the blue dark version in my mind for a number of years, so this bright pinker version actually took me aback, and I had to think about it. It's growing on me! It's really crisp, and in truth Hong Kong is a city with a lot of pink in it, so it's actually more realistic, although it has that pop-y HDR look. I'm happy, though I reserve the right to continue working on the image!
Tidal Basin, Pre-Spring Day
Washington DC, 24 February 2020 Yesterday was warm, over sixty degrees Fahrenheit by my measure. (I keep a swimming pool thermometer tied to the rail of the boat to check air and water temperatures.) Unseasonably warm, but I think you could say that of our entire winter. Julee and I left the Wharf and walked around the Tidal Basin, and I took this photo from the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. The trees of all kinds are beginning to bud out this last week of February.
Hong Kong From MacDonnel Road, HDR
Washington DC, 21 February 2020 This is the last of the three High Dynamic Range (HDR) images I'm happy with. Though, I'm not as happy with this one. I think it's a really striking image, and I like it, although I'm not usually in the typical HDR photographic world of exagerated colors. On that scale it's modest, but it's still on that scale. The problem is that it's also a stitched panorama (double technical!) and it contains a pretty bad mis-stitch on the round building with the pie section missing. It doesn't look round here, does it? And there are breaks in the lines of the brickwork. At the time I took and assembled it (2012) I was still fairly new with panoramas and didn't know how to fix it. It's still complex, since I should really recreate the HDR and the panorama in my newer, commercial, versions of the two applications, and see where it goes from there. One can often improve on even strong photos over time as one's skills improve, but I still think the last couple of photos are ready for prime time, while this one isn't.
The picture was taken from the roof of our apartment building on MacDonnell Road. I took a lot of pictures, in all seasons, all weathers, and all times of day from this spot.
Washington DC, 17 February 2020 Following on from last Friday's post, this is the other HDR image from Linda's that makes me happy. Now that I've pulled it and posted it I note the it was actually taken the same day as the window pictured below. A Good Day, photographically!
Washington DC, 14 February 2020 The furnace fan is repaired, and I've wended my way back down south. I broke up my trip with an overnight stay at my Aunt Linda's. She has a place in Brooklyn that is one of those amazing artist's spaces, built sometime long ago as a small factory and now reconfigured to house several families of varying degrees of intimacy. Some are tenants, in completely separate apartments, living separate lives, and some are actual family (though that can be complex!) living around the large space that was the old factory floor. It is small for a factory (tiny, actually, but a century ago a tiny factory in a U.S. city was a very viable economic unit) but it's huge for a living room, though, like all American homes, most of the family life takes place in the kitchen. I'm very lucky indeed to be welcome there.
I was lying in the sofa bed at one end of the living room, which is my spot there, and looking up at the street windows and I was reminded of the photo above, which I took of those very windows on another visit eight years ago. I was experimenting with High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography at the time, looking for a way to deal with very contrasty photos, the shadowy abyss of a Hong Kong street between tall buildings, with bright blue sky visible above, for example. Here I was just playing/experimenting, but I like the results a lot. It's not "realistic" photography, but not all photography needs to be realistic, even for this disciple of Group F64. What really mattered to them (and to me) is that the processes used be inherently photographic, rather than painterly. And, as always with me, this image is straight from the camera, even if highly manipulated in terms of tones and colors. This picture was taken after midnight with a tripod for long exposures. The light comes from entirely from the street lights.
I just started to go off on an explanation of the process, but it gets highly technical rather quickly! At some point I'll write an HDR technical page to go along with my technical IR page and my prospective page on panoramas for anyone genuinely interested.
Danny Chau of Chau Digital in Hong Kong taught me the real solution to the shadows and bright light problem in digital (really counterintuitive to those of us brought up on film photography) so I didn't pursue HDR very long, but it has its own interesting aesthetic. And I find it interesting that two of the three HDR photos I'm really happy with were taken in this house, within a couple of days of each other. I think I'll post the other one on Monday...