Wednesday, November 14

Tuscany Glows

Bedroom Window on the Arno, Florence, Italy, Oct-2007

Sometimes I feel less like a spectator than a speculator about my feelings. You get that, right? I wind up, not so much presenting facts as representing emotions. Someone told me that speculation is a necessary condition of artistic creation. Andrew Wyeth, for example, represents ideas as feelings. His work shows misty colors that a hand-wave might swipe away... along with the moment.  

GEEK STUFF: Shot of the Arno grabbed with my Canon 60's  EFS 17-85mm lens. Hand-held at about 7:30am in the very early Fall of 2007. Processed in PS-CC and Topaz Clarity to enhance the dynamic range of the curtains. Our second floor apartment was on the Lungarno Ameriga Vespucci about 4 blocks down-stream from the Ponte Veccio. 

Sunday, October 28


Drive south along Interstate I95 and leave North Carolina. Within a quarter of a mile South of the Border appears on your left. It's a sprawling tourist trap filled with clip-joint shops, restaurants, a gas station, and assorted tourist attractions - including a large public toilet. It presents you with a battle between ticky and tacky, with tacky ahead by a nose.

The motif is sort of stereotypical Mexican... as imagined by people who don't seem to like Mexico all that much. Now I'm not a believer in the concept of La Raza. Most Latin Americans that I've met have as much European blood as me. However they are as ethnically different from my Irish ancestors as Serbo-Croatians. There is a Latin culture that's taken on unique national characteristics as you travel from nation to nation. What ties them together is Spanish.

However, ethnic cultures always seem to clash - and those clashes produce some hot sparks, even fires - right? Last week, a television news lady was fired from her network job on NBC for having a discussion which seemed to license black-face halloween costumes. Which brings me to South of the Border in South Carolina.

Here's that Pedro public toilet. So? Is "Pedro" not as ethnically insensitive as black-face costumes? The place has been around for decades -  perhaps half a century. Its designers probably consider the motif to be fun. Moreover it's thousands of miles away from the Mexican border. But... have definitions of humor changed drastically enough over the last couple of decades to pop the place's humor balloon? Is South  of the Border a racist (or at least an ethnic) dog-whistle?

Thursday, October 11


Distinguished Austrian art photographer: Andreas Mannesinger - Vienna 10/8
My friend Andreas generously gave me an entire day of his time last Fall to tour his city. It was a gorgeous, if hot, walk through the capital of European art and music history. Nowhere has  contributed more to Western thought and culture. Imagine, I had a personal guide to wander the ancient city's streets. And what a guide. Many of you visit Andreas' site where he's uploaded a stunning image daily for what? 12 years? More? If you've not grazed his work.. go on over to:

Of course with only one day to "do" Vienna - I was overwhelmed. But Andreas took me through the streets,  subways, river banks, pubs, restaurants, and historic sites that I'd never have found on my own. We even had time to relax for an hour in the university's quadrangle to sit and talk about this moment in world-time. 

This was our second chance at a photo-shoot together. Our first came when we met in Florence, Italy in 2007. Odd thing about Andreas... he doesn't age! It must be something in the Austrian water. On the streets, Austrians are handsome and intelligent people - Perhaps they hide plain and ugly folks? Nah... :-)

Saturday, September 22

Dappled Street Art

Musser Park, the Green Heart of Lancaster, sits fifty feet from our front door. It's the city's only central green space. Weather permitting, it fills with lunch-baggers, free-range kids, rallies, pick-up games, family picnics, music groups, holiday events, sunbathers, young loves or readers on benches, chess players, dog walkers: like that.

Sometimes it's where people assemble to do politics in the sunshine. Then, thousands come to learn and share beliefs. It's a civics place that allows for loud and quiet reflection. Over the last handful of decades we've renamed parks, now they're public spaces (as if they weren't before). Even among public tumult, even when hundreds or thousands of people swirl around... A man can sit in the grass, and try to figure out a moment in time. 

In Musser Park, more than sunlight dapples. 

Monday, September 10

Crystal Clarity

What's clear? Is anything doubtless? Anything? Look, there ought to be facts. Things that... are, correct? I know some deconstructionists. Literary scholars. Well, sort of. Each was once upon a time an academic... College instructors. None earned tenure. Literature departments gush green Ph.D.s into a collegiate labor market that's become a lot like the market for art. Which is to say, no market at all. Increasingly universities are contracting arts and humanities positions through attrition. So tenure-track demand has fallen below replacement levels. Supply of humanists way overwhelms demand. 

Markets require a price that will clear surpluses. Yet only a negative price will clear a market like art or deconstructionism. Meaning? Market entrants will have to give their services away or, increasingly, pay customers to take them. Now subsidies are effectively a way to pay customers to accept a product (think Tesla). And while there are significant heaps of government,  donor, or endowment subsidies to colleges and universities - they have not reached a level sufficient to clear the market (in fact they've fed the beast). Meaning? There will at first be a bulge in unemployed humanists, until eventually many leave the market, seeking to retrofit themselves to fit the demand for customers who are hiring. These are labor markets only tangentially (at best) in need of deconstructionidt scholarship.

To the market emigrants, deconstruction becomes perhaps a memory, a hobby, therapy, or a creed - maybe all. Trained to deconstruct... they do... in business, government, non-profits... in whatever port the storm's driven them. Which is different from critical or strategic thought. They are graduate critics - a lay priesthood. 

Nothing to them is clear. Subjective kicks objective's ass. 

They're trained to miss the point. They are driven by a faith in nothing. Nihilism. The critical question is: How acceptable are life options. If we take our eyes off of that for even a moment, we are at risk of allowing distractions away from the obvious. Like the numbers on a pay or assistance check... smiles on family faces... risk benefit results... Or risk benefit analysis at all. 

They are driven by a faith in nothing. Nihilism. Only to discover that hope is not a business plan. 

The GEEK STUFF?  Nothing special. Here's a grab-shot of  vessels cooling before packaging at Ireland's Waterford Glassworks. The golden light bulb cast turns mood into fact. Reflections spark the imagination. As in life, we confront each successive object through its foreground. Knowing even the nearest future through what the immediate moment permits us to know. Is reality what filters allow us to believe? Or is it crystal clear that here are three beautiful objects? Of course, beautiful's a weasel word, huh? Adjectives do that. 

Wednesday, August 29

Bernie Came To Town - 5 (End)

Here's Vermont's Democrat-Socialist Senator and 2016 Democrat Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders. He's speaking before Jess King's logo in her race as Lancaster County's Democrat candidate for Congress in November 2018. 

Pity that Senator Sanders won't come out of his shell :-)

He spoke flames to this crowd who began hot for Congressional candidate Jess King. There is nothing more American than a summer stump speech from an explosive orator who's scattered facts onto a bed of bubbling emotions. The base is entertained, informed, and cranked to a pitch to, well... pitch for anyone this guy likes. Sanders is a missionary for his ideology.

While a partisan wants to grab power for a party, an ideologue seeks to focus power narrowly toward a cause. Trump and Sanders are both ideologues and each has a base of believers. Ideologies are similar to religious doctrines. At some point unanswerable questions are satisfied by belief. I was once a progressive liberal, now - not so much.  But recollections are tickle-able.

This group's triangular shape reminded me of the famous Marine rising of the
American Flag  over  Iwo Jima toward the end of WWII. 

Yeah, the crowd tickled my golden memories of solidarity, hope, and faith. I could feel the shoulders, smiles, and heat of unknown friends crowding against me from rallies past. Here's a community of people bound by wants, needs, and desires. Do they all agree? Mostly - well maybe not the unknown sign holder up above. And who knows - if the devil is in the details - there probably are a bunch of micro disagreements among these folk. But they were making memories aligned with mine. 

There was logic here, and facts... but overall there was feeling. Maybe. by the time you're visiting this cluster of five posts, you'll know Jess King's and perhaps even Senator Sanders' futures after the November 2018 elections. Maybe you'll care. One thing's certain - this lady above, and her sister-in-Sanders/King below - will... care deeply.

Welcome to small-town-grassroots America.

POSTSCRIPT: Since I posted this series an election was held and the candidate that Bernie came to support in Lancaster - Jess King: A Democrat for Congress -was crushed by over 50,000 votes by Amish-born Congressman Lloyd Smucker in November of 2018. 

Tuesday, August 28

Bernie Came To Town - 4

So? Is Bernie Sanders controversial or mainstream? Izzit possible to be both? Who decides whether something is "controversial". To some President Trump is controversial, other find Mrs. Clinton leads their list of controversial folks. By the way, is there something wrong with being "controversial"? Is that a negative label? Miriam Webster defines controversy as, "a discussion marked especially by the expression of opposing views." And "controversial" the dictionary define as, " Of, relating to, or arousing controversy." Are these bad or even dangerous things? 

I'm going to guess about this happy mother and child that, even if she finds Senator Sanders, controversial, that she neither finds him bad, nor dangerous. Mothers rarely expose their babies to hazards. In fact, to the degree that she finds the Senator's views to be in opposition to others, they don't seem in opposition to hers. Hence - there's no controversy here. Yet, someone has defined this Senator, the present President, and the views of so many others to be controversial. Who are the labelers? 

A supporter of AFSME vigorously supports Democrat Congressional candidate Jess King.

Yessss... there are people strongly invested in Senator Sanders and Jess King's views. And frequently they represent groups to which they belong. For example the enthusiastic lady above wears a tea shirt sporting the emblem of the American Federation of State and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union which feels changes in legislation or the courts might be difficult to deal with. 

Nobody likes change. Many hopefully endorse it, yet find its disciplines uncomfortable. Hope's a fragile business plan. Now I'm not writing about trends here... Trends are like the ocean's currents that move things along in a kind of predictable way leaving lots of time for, well, assimilation to a trend's dynamics. It's when people notice changes in trends that they go like, "Huh"?

Where's Waldo? Is Democracy lost like Waldo, or has it found it's
setting among the large  audience in  Musser Park, PA?
Then they wonder where their world's going... or went. Irving Kristol, wrote "The leverage of ideas is so immense that a slight change in the intellectual climate can ... twist a familiar institution into an unrecognizable shape." Which is when people wonder, "Where's Waldo?" What's happened? 

A random grab shot of about a dozen of the thousands of faces listening to
Senator Bernie Sanders speak  in  Musser Park, Lancaster, PA. 

Political rallies can be about groups or individuals... Forests or trees. It's the trees that I like. The emotional waves that beam from faces: each telling a separate story. Here's an exercise, click on the image above then plumb each expression and let it plop you onto a story arc. I  learn the most about forests when I pay attention to the trees. 

Niccoló Machiavelli, the father of modern political science, taught his Prince, "Whoever wishes to change the government of a city to his whims and wants it to be accepted and to maintain it to everyone's satisfaction, will have to retain at least the shadow of the ancient ways, so that to the people nothing will seem to have changed although in fact the new laws are in all respects completely alien to those of the past." 

When  "reform" changes things - politicians aren't above faking a tradition when necessary. The appeal to tradition is useful both to sustain a social experiment or to destroy it. Think of the phrase so many politicians are quick to tell us when they oppose opponents of the impact of their experiments, "That's not what America is about.

Waldo is about the forrest, faces tell the story of the trees. 

Sunday, August 26

Bernie Came To Town - 3

Once I read a guy who wrote, "We regard politicians as self-interested opportunists and nothing else."

At 7am noises began for the 10am event. Sanders fans began swirling onto Musser Park's quadrangle.  The media likes contention. But most political gatherings in the U.S. are filled with happy, enthusiastic people which dials down chances for unpleasant, click-bait, stuff. So the average rally doesn't get much coverage. See this fella below? He came to hear Bernie Sanders, but happily waggled a Jess King lawn sign at me. That's the deal, Sanders is the headliner and opening act, the local Democrat candidate follows up as the main event. Point is that the campaign trail for every candidate is lined with believers and audiences who love a parade. Regardless, the price is right and most folks are in a great mood.

Speaking of signs.

Along the edge of the crowd, a critic of the Senator and the local Congressional candidate hefted his argument into the sun. It seemed to me that the lady was in kindly debate mode. Cynics say we have lost belief in politics as a source of betterment in our lives. Believers who pack into Sanders or Trump rallies haven't lost faith in politicians' interests in their dreams. 

Thursday, August 23

Bernie Came To Town - 2

And the beat goes on.

Street portraiture's a bit like fishing. I cast my lens into a pool hoping to catch a prize... Something worthwhile. There are two kinds of artistic images. The first is a question, the second an answer. Oh, ok... maybe there's a third - the image which both asks then answers. Frankly, answering questions is above my pay grade. Personally I feel that asking questions is what the best art does. Answering can too often become a polemic.

So I look for questions that each visitor to my work answers alone.

The first in this series set the tone for the questions that occurred to me on May 5th. Here's another, more will come and perhaps the entire set may contain an answer. Synergy happens when the whole becomes greater than its parts. When each sentence is a question, perhaps the impact of the essay is what Sextus Impericus invented maybe 2,200 years ago? You know, a set of questions which while each is seemingly unrelated the whole allows inductive insight?

Truth is revealed from the bottom up. Now don't get me started on "truth" - OK?

What can we conclude from this man and young woman? He wears a wedding ring. They each carry signs... His read, "America Is For All Of Us", and her's "Jess King For Congress". Each of the signs were given to early arrivers, but no one had to take them. Bernie spoke as I grabbed this image. They were rapt, nodding to his points. Can we tell more? He wears a fashionable stubble. Her ears don't appear pierced. I'm imaging that this is a father/daughter pair, their jaw and cheekbone lines suggest a familial relationship. Can you find more clues? Their expressions are serious, attentive. Awaiting Senator Sanders, they'd stood and squinted into the sizzling Spring sun for hours. 

GEEK STUFF: Same equipment as the first in this series. However the afternoon's sunny contrast pulled me to use Alien Skin's Exposure 4's powerful emulation of Kodak Ectachrome EES to take advantage of its saturated palette and low contrast. It's was a workhorse film with a tiny grain structure and reasonably wide tonal range at low ISO (ASA) settings. Plus my 300mm lens permitted a sufficiently narrow depth of field to pluck my subjects from the large crowd surrounding them.

Tuesday, August 21

Bernie Came To Town - 1

Democrat Congressional Candidate Jess King addresses a large
crowd in Lancaster's Musser Park on May 6, 2018
Last Saturday May 5th, Senator Bernie Sanders, a previous Democrat Socialist candidate for President of the U.S., arrived in Lancaster to endorse a local Democrat candidate, Jess King, for Congress. Some 2,800+ Sanders' followers joined him in Musser Park which is about 500' from my home. With press credentials hanging about my neck I did street photography of the crowd. It was a warm sunny Spring afternoon with the audience in a happy mood. Here's the first of those portraits.

Geek Stuff: Agfachrome slide film presented my favorite color palette. Thanks to Alien Skin's Exposure X3, I can approximate both that palette and its grain structure. Of course my Canon EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens was easily hand held on a Canon 7D MrkII producing needle sharp images. I guess I was, on average, about 50' from subjects - but I made no effort to hide: The park crawled with press photographers. 

Incidentally: I estimated the crowd's size at 2,800 by breaking the lead pano in this post above into 21 quadrants and meticulously counting the people in each. I then similarly analyzed two other panos I shot from different angles - angles which revealed the additional numbers to the left and right of the pano atop this posting. 

BTW, Lancaster has about 55,000 residents and Lancaster County (where few homes are more than 45 minutes from Musser Park). 

Saturday, July 7

Pennsylvania Barn #7

That's the diving/fishing dock poking into the emerald lake there to the lower right. The brown field mid-right was recently seeded for a winter crop. And in the center is the fully restored barn they've converted into a full service event site. They successfully hosted a first wedding the weekend before this series was photographed. 

If you look closely just to the left of the tree -  see the lavender covered trellis? Perfect for bridal pix from every angle - especially with the photographer's back to the barn and the pond, fences and the heart carved into the hill shown in Series 5 behind the wedding party. 

It feels like a romantic chic-flick movie set. 

Tuesday, July 3

Pennsylvania Barn Series 6

Catching up time... Thought I'd stylize these a bit... Explanation in the GEEK STUFF below

Here's the Southern Side... Or a northern view of the barn. There's a large parking lot off to the left rear with room for overflow under construction behind the fence to the right. You'll recall that there are two distinctive details to the Pennsylvania Barn. I discussed the overlay or overhang back in Series 7, well this is the other side where the construction is banked to allow ground access to the upper floor where we find those glassed access doors enter into...

This is a monster space capable of holding 750 people for parties, meetings, and weddings.This image covers only the eastern half - note how the room's constructed to allow north and south light avoiding the glare of morning and afternoon sun.  Hmmmm... and  I guess it might also host funerals? One could hold the funeral downstairs then come up here to join the family for drinks and luncheon. Or... maybe not, depends if they'll all have to caravan to a cemetery. Heck, if it's a cremation or an Irish wake, they can bring the urn and/or the coffin right on up to join in the celebration of life.

I'm really lit but that circular staircase, it's a woodworker's art! Again, everything is red oak without nails... Instead holes are drilled then wooden pegs are glued into boards. There's a loft upstairs but I wonder if gowned-women will negotiate that staircase. They've installed professionally lit makeup bays off the the left corner above with a huge-multi sinked bathroom to the right rear. There's also an ice box to keep the champaign chilled. There are lots of USB ports and charging stations along with blue tooth speakers to play favorite music from the bride's cellphone. The TV screen is on the wall behind me where I think that beyond full cable options, they've added CCTV to watch the guests arrange and congregate in the Great Room and on the grounds around the lake.

What's good for the geese is great for the ganders. Here's a fully equipped man-cave with broadcast, movie, and sports channels. There are also blue tooth speakers to allow groom to play loud music (the room's soundproofed. There's planned CCTV to watch the guests arrive, and a game box under the TV with controllers on the couch. Of course there are abundant USB outlets and charging stations. The wet bar is part of fully equipped kitchette and that's a large changing room/bathroom in the right corner. 

GEEK STUFF: Unfortunately I had to resort to paintings for these last two images since I was invited to capture the exterior at sunrise and consequently did not tote along indoor lighting. Bummer. These are all multi image panos stitched together from hand-held Canon 7D images then processed with various tools. 

Saturday, June 30

The Pennsylvania Farm Series 5

Go on back and study the 3rd in this series which I posted on June 26. See there on the lower right... behind the spring house? There's a natural spring fed green lake. This one... In the Fall...

Now look up there on the upper right. See it? There's a heart carved into the crop. Remember, this is a working farm. And in October, well, there are few more gentle places on earth. Can you envision a bride in the foreground? Some of the party lolling in the chairs... Drinks in hand? Once this was a swamp which the family dug out and created more efficient drainage into a stream. See there on the lake's right? Yep that's a diving and fishing dock. The float on the left is the drain as well. Centuries of hard work. 

And now, directly behind me here sits the restored barn. Nope, not shabby at all, huh? BTW: Look at the last post in this group... Series 4. Follow your eye to the far right about a quarter of the way down. See the chairs? Yep, there they are up above. This is a large scene, perfectly executed. 

GEEK STUFF: Yep, hand-held with my Canon 7D Mk.II through its 17-85mm glass - I captured a 3 panel pano. Then it got stitched together in PSCC-2018 where I fixed the distortion, optical range, and relative dynamics. Then I added pieces of various imaging from Topaz Clarity and finished the work with the power of Alien Skin's Exposure X3's Agfa slide film. 

Thursday, June 28

The Pennsylvania Barn Series 4

Ahah! See - there's the barn and how it fits into this scene. Told you that it looms over everything. And since this is a wide angle view, well - this still understates its mass. Anyway, look at its overbite. 

Okay, that's really an overlay, the way that the second story overhangs the space below - it's a key feature of a Pennsylvania barn. It kept farmers and animals out of the elements, and allowed wagon and truck loading and unloading as well as pulling stuff to the animal stalls up there. Easier to clean out as well. The place is huge.

GEEK STUFF: Hand-held my goto 17-85mm on the Canon 7D Mk-II. Processed with PSCC-2018 and worked with Clarity in the Topaz studio then finished with AlienSkin's Exposure X3's Technicolor - at least in spots. Really love the color density that it affects.