Friday, November 20

Cicero @ Trinity

Cicero by Scheemaker  c. 1750 • Trinity College Library, Dublin

It was around 1750 when Cicero was imagined in a marble block under Peter Scheemakers' chisel. And since then Cicero's sat among what eventually grew to just over 50 busts of many of the dead white men whose writings surround them in the library of Trinity college, Dublin. Or at least they do for the moment. Whether they will remain among the 100s of thousands of similar writings of DWMs in this ancient collection is dependent upon the passions of a cultural revolution raging upon western campuses. 

We're at an inflection point. It's factual that these works form a base  that defined Western Civilization. Notice that I've used the past tense there? Which gets me back to that word... inflection. It's sort of paradoxical that this debate is now spread to the campus of Ireland's most distinguished University. Why? This was the island where monks tediously repaired and transcribed the West's oldest thoughts. Footsteps away from this great library hall sits the Book Of Kells, the oldest illuminated Bible in existence: Which is also rumored to be the work of a handful of DWM. Well, there's controversy over the W, so maybe that will save it from the pyre? 

How much longer will Cicero overlook the library's students? Maybe this image of mine is a pre-rubble record? Wouldn't it have been great to have at images like this from say the great library of Alexandria before savages intent upon pillaging and debasing ancient thought put it to the torch? Imagine images from the library or Ephesus, or even from the great libraries of 20th century China that were ravished and looted during their Cultural Revolution? 


Saturday, November 14

Eye - Lash Nostalgia

Samantha At 3

I remember TriX. You? I remember pushing it in a custom hot developer brew to 1,200 ASA and beyond to grab three, four, even five stops along with contrast baggage in a grainy snowstorm. Then hunting for the softest paper or the lowest Polycontrast Filter... Pushing the print through a Bessler diffusion enlarger. Burning in its highlights, holding back shadows... Lots of hand action - Waving like a magician between the lens and paper frame. Every image was a one-off - irreproducible. If a client wanted multiple copies, well, that was a challenge.

Paper was cheap. So was my time. I'd spend an orange-lamp night to leave one 11X14" matte print hanging to air-dry till morning. Now? 

Oh well, look at Sami's eyelashes up there, huh? She was three years old last Christmas (2014) evening, glowing from single-bulb lamplight across the room with a TV monitor doing the fill. Now I scalpel away the color, and crop it. Maybe diddle with the dynamic range some in Photoshop... A half hour job to make a hugely reproducible image. 

I'm writing a December article for our magazines. It's about something that will happen in 2025. One at a time, I'm discussing economic, social, and cultural possibilities with a bunch of experts. Everyone has a different take. And it occurs to me that we've enjoyed a wonderful photographic party over my life. My biggest regret just now is that there can be... will be... Unimaginable parties that I'm going to miss. 

Somehow it makes me nostalgic... For the Sami-future that will happen almost in the blink of her mile long eyelash... Sigh... 

Friday, November 6

Masks Edit Reality

Image & Likeness?

Just outside of New York's Whitney Museum sat a table. You know, a street merchant parked a van and on this cold January day back in 2011 he'd unfolded an aluminum surface filled with African wood carvings. They weren't cheap.

Not In The Whitney
Perhaps it was the color, but this yellow guy grabbed my lens. You know how you collect images that whisper to you, but you can't quite hear their words? For years now, like a tune that worms through my brain but won't go away, I've wondered about this one. We live three houses down from The Lancaster Museum of Art and I wander through each new exhibit, frequently several times. This month the show is Masks Of Mexico. So, the other day in the shower it occurred to me that masks edit reality! Wow, an epiphany. But that's what those Mexican masks specifically did. The wearers assumed new identities and entered obscure feelings. They became a cast in stories, some ancient, others spontaneous.
Most Mexican and African mask-stories are deeply spiritual linked to legends of gods.  So I said to myself, "Self... If as the Western Holy Book claims that we are made in His image and likeness, then studying what we do must be a tipoff about what He does... Y'think?"

And since He rested on the seventh day... Well we sure know a lot about the night before Sunday, huh? And maybe why He really needed the rest. 

Monday, September 28

The Water's Colored: Sunrise Near Osterville, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Just before the sun rose over Cape Cod colors almost became neon. The Cape's about water, and the palette seemed washed onto the frame with soft brushes. Alone on that bridge I felt as if I ought to have a tripod, canvas, and a large tin of watercolor pigment. 

Watercolors have a cellophane transparency as they wash across one another and sink into paper. The thing about this medium that really resonates with me is the lack of detail when colors are well diluted. I stood there and watched an abstract come to life along this back-lit tidal channel. About a quarter mile down the road to my right there's a tiny port where a fishing boat motor dieseled to life and the scent of sizzling bacon mixed with salty air. 

I hand-held five shots with my Canon 7D through an EF-S 10-22mm (f3.5-4.5) at 10mm. then merged the them into a pano in PS4. Then I sucked out the color in a layer processed in Topaz B&W Effects 2. Then I worked the color range back in from a layer I processed in Alien Skin's Exposure X starting with Kodachrome II then shifting it warmer. Each region of the merged layers was carefully processed in PS4 to bring the dynamic range into a dreamy mood. Then I worked the merged frame in AlienSkin's Snap Art4: Water Color, carefully laying in the brush strokes. Sometimes people ask how much time I expend in a final image like this. This one took about 11 hours to replicate how I felt standing on this narrow Osterville bridge at sunrise on a cool September Tuesday morning. 

Can you feel the breeze in your face?

Friday, September 25

Once You've seen one elephant...

Queen Elizabeth Park, Uganda

I guess I'm not a wildlife photographer.

See this guy (or gal, I didn't really ask)? He was meandering toward our bus that idled on a road. Why does the elephant cross the road? He didn't seem interested in the question and I wondered if he get annoyed to have to walk around us. This was not a baby. He shoulders were maybe ten or more feet high. You ever seen one of these in the wild? It's different from a zoo. In this park we're in the locked box. Actually the park is a great big locked box. Most of the world knows the story of Cecil the Zimbabwean lion shot by a Minnesota dentist,right? That kill was legal since it happened just outside of a wild game park. Meaning that these animals can free-range as long as they stay behind the reservation's fences. And that differs from a zoo, how?

It's said that Dr. Teeth had ordered up an elephant for the next day, but the guides couldn't deliver. My guides said that animals who leave this park will get killed. Seems they annoy farmers who routinely poison them. In fact, farmers who live inside the park are killing lions and have killed off the hyenas for the same reason.

Uganda is in the equatorial heart of Africa where I imagined beasts like this roaming through dense jungles. Even though my business took us over a lot of the country, I never saw a jungle. And outside of the parks the animal life was about the same as here in Lancaster County. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. There ain't many buffalo, moose, or bear free-ranging around our farmland or cities. Can't recall the last time anyone got bit by a poisonous snake, or even by a cranky 'coon. People are kind of anti-social animals.

But anyway, now I have hundreds of pictures of big game - so, what do I do with them? I didn't need to fly for twenty hours to see pictures like this one. They're everywhere. So I've got an idle inventory in a world without a demand. Okay, so here's an elephant ambling toward a road.

Big Deal!                                

Tuesday, September 22

Ordinary Late Summer Afternoon

8 Blocks From City Center • Lancaster, PA • September 2015

There are still dirt streets in Lancaster. This scene's unchanged since these small carriage houses were mildly converted for autos in the early 1920s, Here's where middle class working people keep vehicles. That's what this is. What it isn't is any sort of formal garden or the rigorous creation of inspired architects. But isn't it beautiful?

Once again, it's the ordinary detritus of humans. There's no graffiti here, nor is there any garbage or trash strewn about. The buildings are coated in protective paint. the vegetation's manicured by use. Yet isn't it beautiful? 

This is a public alleyway where I bike occasionally. Anyone can abuse it. They don't. Why? Because neighbors won't allow it. Users won't allow it. Is it policed? Uh-huh, but not by the police. Is it secure? Uh-huh, but not by security forces. Conscience is an endoskeleton. Police are an exoskeleton, along with schools, courts, legislators, and churches. The more a society shares one internal culture the less any of the institutions police from outside.  Political "freedom" is checked internally or externally. Freedom - in every useful way- is what culture allows. 

Culture trumps everything. 

The charm of this summer moment is the result of what conscience won't allow. It's what the stone looks like when the ugly stuff gets sculpted away. Isn't it beautiful? 

Wednesday, September 16

Don't Drink And Thrive

Wall • W. Chestnut & N. Queen St. • Lancaster, Pa
This board is gone now. I don't mean the ad, I mean the board, the installation... The whatever-you-call-it that holds the message. Which doesn't surprise me since this is like an alley and the traffic on the street to the left up there is one way... Toward the camera! Meaning that city traffic would see it only in rear view mirrors... So... Backward. And there are no lights on the thing. 

Why would anyone have spent the money to erect it? Why would anyone purchase its space? What goes through the minds of people who make decisions to spend money? Since this is a marketing decision, perhaps they advertisers were merely told that they were getting space on a board in the very heart of Lancaster's downtown? Maybe that's the way the owners promoted this thing? 

But if you'd rented its space, then later tried to find it from your car, well, do 'de expression, PizzedOff spring to mind? A friend of mine recently bought that building and he's turning it into a posh series of down-town condos. I wonder if he has plans to paint this wall? But then again, like that billboard, I'm not sure anyone will care. You?

Saturday, September 12

What's the Magic?

Nauset Light (1877) • Cape Cod, MA
Nauset Light (1877), Barnstable, Mass, Cape Cod - United States

Once upon a time, - boys and girls - Nauset Light was a key part of the Global Positioning System. And from 1877 on,  if you were near Barnstable on the North Atlantic at night... it was a part of the Cape Cod 8-lighthouse Positioning System.

Today's GPS is a disruptive tech. It made this cone at daybreak only pretty. It's been decommissioned and the keeper's house was given, along with the light, to a preservation society.

It's one of the East Coast's least photographed lights, and hard to find sitting smack in the middle of a neighborhood of cottages that grew around it.

Now, here's the question... Why the hell do we feel driven to make images of these things? They were public utilities. So are dumpsters and fire hydrants. Have you got many dumpster/hydrant pix? Okay, maybe it's a supply/demand thing? Not as many lighthouses around... Does that explain it? If that's the reason, well then why don't we picture every old bridge? Or municipal hall? Or ... you get the, um, picture, right?

And yet... yet... I don't care what sort of art you're into, you gotta' admit that the itch to do something with a lighthouse tingles-right? What's the magic?

Here's what late summer looks like in Nauset through my Canon 7D's  EFS 70-300mm lens after I poke and sculpt it in PS4. And here's why people buy homes on Cape Cod and others travel so far to vacation here, or on the nearby islands. For a quarter of a century we lived in New England... And even thirty years later, as I sit here in Lancaster County tonight... I feel its tug.

BTW... How's this look on your monitor? Too dark?

Friday, September 11

The Prospect of Fall

Daily Specials 6-Noon

Here's the incredibly shrinking Prospect Diner. A once-once-upon-a-time stop for railroad workers before and after each shift. Ditto millworkwers, and before the interstate... truckers and intra-city commuters. This street was once the Conestoga Trail where covered wagons picked up in Conestoga began their way to the Rockies. Until the 1950s, this street was the Lincoln Highway... America's first transcontinental  path between the seas.

Now? The mills and railroad yards have closed. Back behind those cornfields PA Route 30's a divided east-west expressway. Standing here you can hear the song of its tires - a melody of growth. And each decade the Prospect Diner's shrunk its menu and hours. 

Fall's come to the Prospect Diner framing a poignant detritus of change. It's a cooling ember of a dead fire.

Sunday, September 6

Escape: Pepto To Quench Peptic

The Lone Tree
Pebble Beach, California
Six weeks ago my wife Rita had her knee replaced. A bit before  I moved my office from the Business2Business Magazines HQ, here to our home. Four, or so weeks ago, my buddy Rocco-The-Dog died. Last week we bought a new pup. During this, Rita's sister and brother-in-law came for a five day visit.

And, of course, the monthly magazines I edit came out on schedule on the first of this month. Life went peptic...

Photography's my baking soda: Pepto to quench life's peptic waves. It can be smoothed into the slower moments, massaging at angst and melancholy. This art stuff's is angst processor, dialing it down, or sometimes blotting it out.

Anxiety's tentacles can't hold onto feelings focused on say, the Lone Tree that clings to its Pebble Beach rock cropping into the Pacific. For at least the hour, or so, that I visited this place my mind-muscles floated free of the churning world so I could return to it with stress cranked way down.

I'm not whining. Rita's recovering wonderfully. This knee now matches the other she received a decade ago and its already improved her mobility and comfort exquisitely. I still ache for Rocco's company, but little Musser's fun and filling the void.

Here's Musser yesterday... All 9 weeks of him.
Okay, I found time in moments when the winds were quieter over the past five or so weeks to escape into my images, but didn't open minutes to think about the comments visitors left here below, nor have I responded to mail. That all wanted me to think, and while thinking's totally exciting, the swirl of these weeks demanded time to turn off thought and excitement and to wallow in the Pepto of places like Pebble Beach, y'know?

But... I'm baaaaaack! There's more time to refocus and to have the energy to think as well as feel. Still, it's a blessing isn't it to have this art narcotic ready when we need to mellow away for a bit, and crank down life's peptic volume?

Wednesday, September 2

Summer Meat

Backyard city bloom • Late Summer 2015

Look at this fella. Then go find a slab of raw steak. Heft them in your mind. Squeeze their bulk. Okay, the steak'll drip something, this thing probably won't. Probably.

Here's a man's flower. Muscular, burley, fisty.... Nothing delicate here. Smash this into some face and it'll welt, huh? This'd damage a butcher's scale.

I like that. A flower that a hammer might not damage... Easily.

It's a guy thing.

Wednesday, August 26

Dos Vecinos

These young guys live around the corner. They've been friends for years. Best buddies since they came to Lancaster six years ago, maybe a little longer.

Come the first fall breeze they'll pull out their parkas. Most of a lifetime in the Gulf's blue water islands leaves their buffers to chill not quite as hefty as mine, or other North Eastern lifers.

But while the afternoon sun thickens my body-motor oils, it perks the energy of these fellas. Last week while the August heat melted me into a park bench, I watched them kicking their futball. They kidded me puddling in the hot, humid, hazy high-summer. It was revenge for my giggles at their early Fall and late Spring parkas.

Odd isn't it that heat is a byproduct of solar energy, right? So why's it suck mine away? I've got a buddy who wonders since heat rises, why not vacation on Mt. Everest? After all we think of the Caribbean being "down south" right? So how come with that heat rising thing...  it's colder up here? :-)

One thing though about the afternoon summer sun... it channels the golden tones of the renaissance masters particularly when it glow-coats Latin skin-tone patinas. A lot of my friends despise image gathering in the afternoon glare. Okay, I like the blue hours around sunrise, and the red moments at sunset... but since necessity's forced me a zillion times into the midday sun, I've found that today's; RAW imaging, super-sharp laser-coated lenses, and pre & post processing power've opened all sorts of opportunities to sculpt the high and low key moments of hot contrast.

Okay, it's harsh light for wide angle landscapes, but that just demands we're more careful. I understood that this was going to be a low key portrait. That's what I metered. Consequently the shadows smothered away background distractions. Yeah, you can do that with bokeh. But contrast is an alternative tool, right? Besides, it's not the impenetrable shadows that cause us to reject mid-day imagery as too harsh... It's the transitions... Soften them and... well see the results up there? Noon-time softness that makes personalities dance.

You agree?

Saturday, August 22

Bourbon St. • 1968

Still diving through the slide trove I found a couple of weeks back. They're coming out at random: Like the way miners find veins with explosives? Except for Kodak Carousel projector rings that were ordered, the rest are a jumble... memories smooshed together with the melange of Bingo balls in one of those tumblers. And like them, I reach in and pluck a moment out... Some ignite memory lights in wherever my brain stores things. 

Others seem to be part of someone else's life entirely. 

But here... here... Of course is our New Orleans honeymoon... Yep... Yep... I was there with Rita... Uh-huh... But this image? This instant? The colors faded away from the slide... and I cannot find them in my memory's storage bins. Why was the street so deserted? Was it too early for people? It was the first week of June so Summer'd happened way down there in Dixie. Maybe this was midday and only visitors like us were sufficiently weird to be out in the sun?

For sure it wasn't nighttime. Nope, nights in the Latin Quarter are NEVER this empty. Night's an open sluice gate on this street... Where people just keep on flowing like the ancient river a couple of blocks away. 

We've gone back to this creole place a few times. Even after the flood, this part of town's still a honkey-tonk constant. It's good that some things don't change in a world that's nothing but. Still, it's a city that's so culturally and climatically foreign that living there'd kill me. 

Up here in the north, the circus used to come to town every couple of years. They did that because customers wanted the break between visits. New kids had to grow into a appetite, and old appetites had to be resuscitated... Time allows both of those things. Both for the novelty of traveling circuses and traveling to circuses, like New Orleans. 

Monday, August 17

Rocco Has Left The Building

My buddy Rocco was born May 5, 2004. Last May the vets found a mass growing in his left chest and recommended it be reviewed in August. He began coughing last Monday which got him a trip to the doctor.

Rocco Byrne 5/5/04-8/14/15
Comparing new x-rays with this from May... The doctors seemed startled that he was still alive! They gave him maybe a week to live and suggested I quickly consider euthanasia.

Words escaped Rita and I.  Doggies, like Autumn, lack a happy ending. But both are so richly wonderful...

Rocky's Autumn's ended Friday. But at least until last weekend he was virtually symptom free. We walked every day since Spring... He picked our routes around Lancaster, always winding to our doorstep... He was  a great little city guy - my best buddy.

Rocky was a Lhassa Apso, 25 pounds of furry affection.
I'm remembering when he' d first moved in, a tiny visitor then but already guarding his very favorite place at the foot of the bed. He was about twelve pounds and glad to escape the farm where he was surrounded by sisters who stole his food. It took months till he realized that meals were his, and that he could graze leisurely, usually eating half at dinner time, and finishing each night before bedtime.

Last Sunday was the first time he passed on his second course of food before bed. Monday he stopped eating his goodies. And then completely stopped eating.

Monday the doctor wondered if I thought it was time to end his dis-comfort. But Rita's just had her knee replaced and she's recovering from that pain. When I left with Rocco last Monday morning, we both believed he'd merely gotten something stuck in his throat - the first symptom of anything unusual. No way I could go home without our guy. And while he coughed some, his spirits seemed normal so I had to bring our buddy home to say goodbye. Which we did until Friday morning... August 14th at 11.

Putting a dog down... When they live to trust us and will trust us even as their little eyes cloud and close for a last sleep is: Well, I've been there before with my doggie friends. As the doctor's administered the drug, I've asked, "Give me your paw..." And we've held on... held on... And Friday I asked  Rocco for his paw, and I got it with all of his trust as he closed his eyes and cuddled to his final rest... closely in my arms.

DAMN THIS IS MAUDLIN!!! Yeah, Rocco's just a dog. But Damn It! If there ain't dogs there... IT AIN"T HEAVEN. I want him to live. He couldn't and I could see the puzzle in his slowly closing eyes...To get the sleep that evaded him as his chest obstruction caused his breathing to grow labored.

He knew, even as he drifted off that I wanted something, but he couldn't figure out how to give it to me. That's what dogs do, they give. You know what? I hope I gave him just a tiny bit of what his eleven years added to our lives.

Rocco's left the building, at least physically. But he's still all around the house. I just can't seem to find him.

May 2015 • Hilton Head

Last May we visited Hilton Head over the Memorial Day weekend. Our little city fella liked adventures that left him off the leash to sit on the back step and peer into the early morning glow. Maybe he saw the rainbow bridge where furry friends wait, tails thumping, for us to join them? Maybe... Maybe Rocco, that thing newly growing in his breast last Spring, understood that he was older than his years. Older than me in relation to the end? Maybe. And when I think of Rocky - perhaps waiting up there on his glowing bridge -  and its much that I do for the moment... It's a nice maybe, huh?

I'm Lucky to have loved him

Aug. 13, 2015 • Rocco's Last Adventure