Monday, December 31

Pole Watching

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This is Spoletto, Italy. See that pole? See the work they' ve done to simultaneously preserve and expose it? It's from about the fifth century. Which is the only reason that they went to all of this trouble. It sits in a virtually inaccessible alleyway.

I wonder how many things we preserve simply because they are old. Hell, I wonder if I am preserved because of nothing more? But I digress.

At what point does the age of something justify its preservation? How old must a column become before folks say.. "Nope, can't cover that one up." I'm down with keeping stuff around, you should see my office. Worse yet, you should see my cellar. But.. but... When are we pleased that the trashman cometh?

BTW, that column's dinged, cracked, and scratched up. As the new year is set to begin wonder what purpose does the column's preservation serve? Anyone?

THOUGHT
If we each lived 100 years and one of us died on the day another was born...
Then we stand only twenty deep from this column up there in that image.
Do you realize how small twenty lifetimes are?
Imagine a theater filled with only twenty people.
Imagine that you passed just twenty cars a day.
Imagine that You came upon the supermarket when it held only twenty shoppers.

We are amazed at Roman antiquity, and yet it is perhaps just some twenty people away.
Twenty is not very much of anything, um, unless we are talking about hundred thousand euro notes...

Sunday, December 30

Rot Is Change

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It’s my experience here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania that physical change of the city seems to be heavily obstructed at one end. While its physical properties can regress as they deteriorate, they cannot progress as a result of a lack of significant resources on the one hand and on the other a lack of useful consensus on how or where to apply the resources which exist…

Innovation is blocked by noisy political honkers who create such din over anything new that supporters flee and the general population drive their moving vans to the suburbs. I got a similar feeling in Gandolpho when I recently visited that Italian town. Vast hunks of former glory lie rotting in the way of improvements which could make the day-to-day lives of people at the least less irksome.

I wonder when the obstructionists gain the most weight on the see-saw of history? Leaving optimists at best with few opportunities to seize and instead with only dreams of change slowly. A thing worth remembering: Rot is change.

Saturday, December 29

Move On, Okay?

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"Walk Around Him" the sign says. Well sort of.
On a lot of days, I'd like to have a sign like that.
Something that keeps the traffic of life moving, but around me.
Wonder where you buy one?

Friday, December 28

Little Shot - Pittsburgh at Seventh

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In most towns you're a big shot towering over the little guys. In most towns when your sinewy, durable, and flashy - they get out of your way. In most towns you stand above the crowd, even look down upon most.

But not in the BIG TOWN. Not in the cities with major league teams, symphonies, and ballets. Not in the cities which drove America to greatness. Not where metals met finance all tempered in white hot Bessemer cauldrons. You've left most towns Baby... here in the port city you're cute, perhaps charming. Yeah, you get noticed, even hold your ground. But here you share even the smallest spotlights. In BIG TOWN you're not even part of the skyline.

Yeah, in most towns at your size you'd be a big shot, here in the canyons, your shot's a lot more little.

Thursday, December 27

City Sidewalks

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Like the fiber in a tapestry the artist and the city are wound tight. In Pittsburgh each glimmers inextricably.

It's odd that cities and artists need one another when the functions they perform seem so different. Which I suppose explain why artists revile so much of urban life, longing for an imagined peace in the "natural" ways of the countryside. And why cities dismiss the artists' bitching, whining, and longing for a better place as so much pretentious prattle.

I like urban tensions, I think they attract my lens the way trailer parks attract cyclones.

---

GEEK STUFF: Downtown Pittsburgh, PA. Canon EOS 20D, 12/26/07:2:45 pm: Lens 10-22mm, Focal Length: 10mm, Exp 1/125@f/7.1, ISO 400, Metering Mode: pattern, Exposure bias 0, Camera RAW

Wednesday, December 26

Knurdle Of Locks

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As I ran through the sidewalk tunnel on the right in this image I noticed something odd. At first I was preoccupied in trying to get the shot of the bridge. But then, I walked back to the tunnel entrance to examine the handrails more closely. And as you can see in the picture above, there were glowing pods in the doorway. See them? Looking closer, here’s what I saw.

Odd? Bizarre?

“What the hell?” I muttered and a voice from behind me said, “You don’t know do you?”

She was smiling at me: A gorgeous blonde in a running suit.

“Um, I’ve got no idea.”

“There’s a legend. No one’s sure where or quite when it started,” she said pleasantly in a New Jersey twang.

“And it involves these locks?”

“Uh-huh,” she fingered the set, testing them, clinking them together. “There are those who believe that if you leave behind a lock that sometime in your life you will return to Florence to unfasten it.”

“There are so many who believe it?”

“More than you can imagine. I saw the police on Friday morning cutting these banisters free.”

“Wow, it’s Sunday morning you mean?”

“Yeah,” she jangled the one cluster and nodded to a larger bunch on the companion railing to her right.” These are from the rest of Friday and yesterday. They grow like barnacles, there are signs all over the city banning them… it drives the cops nuts,” she dropped the locks and started to jog through the tunnel.

“Thanks for the explanation. Um, what part of Jersey you from?”

“Jersey?” She laughed, her voice echoing in the tunnel, “Never been to the States. I’m a Swede.”

----

Note to follow the Mano A Mano series


As many of you may recall I visited Italy during the first two weeks of October staying the first week in Rome and then for a week in Florence where I met up with Andreas Manessinger for a Mano-A-Mano photo-shoot at sunrise on October 7 starting at the famed Duomo and working our way toward this astonishing Ponte Vecchio bridge (yes I know that is redundant). You can begin this Italian adventure chronologically by clicking here and working your way quickly forward. Of course your thoughts and feelings mean a whole lot so feel free to wade in at any or every point.

Or if you prefer click on the appropriate keywords at the bottom of this page. Clicking on Mano-A-Mano will bring you to the images in the series I did with Andreas which I've so far posted. Enjoy....And For a review of my Florence images click here.

Tuesday, December 25

Sympathy Panes

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Through the windows children point.
Through the panes their pains
Of denied sugary cremés
The reflections of a season so near
So far... behind glass.

Monday, December 24

Sunday, December 23

If The Fates Allow

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Unsurprisingly this image drew some polar responses when I posted it on a number of forums yesterday. It also drew an astonishing number of viewers relative to the number of responses it generated. I wonder what that means?

I have some thoughts about this image:

1. The title might be insensitive. But I wonder if this sort of image Is a screed or a scripture? Is this what happens when nuance disappears? Does the word, "propaganda" spring to mind? Or is your first thought, "compassion"? This image is not subtle, it forces you to review something other than the craftsmanship or aesthetics. No responder on any forum.... and this is very unusual... commented on the palette, the symmetry, the composition, or some photographic element that should or should not be there.
2. This picture was not taken in North America. That's important since so much of the rest of the world enjoys thinking that North America is a place that went from barbarism to decadence without ever passing through civilization. This is a normal scene on the streets of many cities outside of North America but not, as far as my experience tells me, here.
3. It is possible that this person is a con-artist. It is possible that this person is part of a ring of people who are sent out onto the street each morning by "managers" who use them as some sort of human signs, as compassion triggers, and that the handlers actually collect most of the money. It is possible that this is a form of extortion against cities and people who are quite compassionate but that these handlers hope to humiliate them to tourists by displays like this.
4. It is possible that this babushka wearing, skirted person is a burly man.
5. Speaking of craft. I wanted to suggest "bustle" here along with an essential lack of urban impersonality. I wanted to express motion, and crowds and a clear cityscape. And of course I wanted to reinforce the pathos which the figure is enacting.
6. One morning before sunup I came upon a group of tough looking guys in pricey leather jackets arranging these beggar people on the streets. Concern for my immediate health kept me fro taking pictures of them as they barked orders at the beggars placing them carefully into pathetic poses and dropping their tiny tin cans into just the right positions to complete the tableaus. Their language was not Italian neither was it French or Spanish. I'm guessing the tough guys grab a big piece of whatever people donate to these figures. I'm guessing that most Italians are aware of what's going on. Why it's tolerated, I have no idea.

It is also probable that at this time of year this image is an iconic voice for a significant number of people who face the same Christmas spirit as the rest of us. It's with that probability in mind... that I posted it.

Comments?

Saturday, December 22

Friday, December 21

Sienna #2: Hot

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"Why not select the life that would be most helpful, as long as it is not too false?" - Gary Alan Fine in Everyday Genius.

There are times when we try trial wrappings. You know the daring haircut, the edgy outfit.... even the right pair of sunglasses. We get a chance to select a life for ourselves. Try it on. See if it helps us . Sometimes we see to it that every detail reinforces the look, the feeling, the person we want to try on. And as long as we can unbutton, unzip, re-dye, and kick out of the thing if it doesn't work - hey, it's kind of fun, no?

Thursday, December 20

Sienna #1: Tortura

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Sienna in most of its places is more city-fied than New York, or Rome. What do I mean by that? Look at this image. See the sky? See the trees? The clouds? See nature all around?

Nope, they're not there. Sienna grows 380 degrees around you. Look up and the buildings seem to merge. Look right and left and they seem to melt down upon themselves. Look down and there's no trace of the earth which has forced the city builders to form such difficult stone skins around them. In a way Sienna seems to be a cast of city poured over then worked into the rock and dirt and hills. Of course San Francisco's like that but its boulevards and streets are so wide that there's a view of earth or sea in one direction or another. And there are trees everywhere.

Not here. I took this picture at 1:25 on a sunny afternoon. The shell beneath your feet is itself feet deep. Thousands of years of building over building has created a kind of magnificient hive. I like cities. I live in a city that's about the size of Sienna. But while visiting this place is amazing, living there... that would be hard as the steep streets that bind it to its mountain.

Wednesday, December 19

Florence #22: Plugged!


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What's this plugging up? Why plug it like this? That was a big effort, right? But look at the arch that's still exposed. That was a big effort as well, right? And to plug the portal but not the arch... a bigger effort yet. Hmmmm.....

Someone recently wondered to me whether a desire is the same as a right. Because if there is a desire to plug up a channel of communication, is there also a right to do it? I guess it sort of depends, huh? Upon whether the person who has the desire, also has a gun. Or at least a big guy who's got a gun... backing him up. You got enough big guys and you can plug up almost anything, and leave the evidence of your work tauntingly behind. A lot like this stoppered doorway and its ancient arch.

Yep, makes you wonder what was so important to plug, eh?

Tuesday, December 18

Florence #21: Masques

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We like to change ourselves. Here in America there's outrage over the medical addition of bodily bulk of baseball players. The outrage is being reported on 24 hour news channels by anchor girls through lips packed with chemically enhanced bulk, set in faces tightened by medically enhanced surgeries, sitting atop the medically enhanced bulk of twin, um... installations.

Okay... okay... when male athletes add bodily bulk to enhance their economic power, that's such a baaaaaad example to youth that they need to be fired, ruined, reviled, and jailed. Meantime when Miss Universe alumni become starlets, newsbabes, or denizens of single bars... that's ... that's... Well that's simply the result of the healthy example of Barbi dolls. Right?

It is so confusing. But people like to change themselves. We like masques. Costumes. Fantasy. As long as the changers aren't hiding behind steroid disguises, right?

Monday, December 17

Florence #21: The Odeon Corner

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Here are two lamps on the same corner of a 17th century building. Each is also a sign. Each is also a classic representation of an elegant period. On the left is a lamp that's been designed as a sign. On the right is a sign thats been designed as a lamp. Each is making a cultural statement. They're quite busy both individually and together, almost a visual cacophony. As if two creative people had simultaneously brought their open palms down upon different spots on a piano's keyboard. Two creative people who had nothing other than creativity in common.

The effect is like an eye maze as it makes us run our vision around the separate ideas trying to understand why they were meant to fit against that structure. How their messages might compliment one another. How our minds can exit this puzzle with some orderly conclusion. Is there an idea at this corner? Are there two ideas? Can they mesh? Where is the harmony between the art of the 1730s and the 1930s? And why is it so damned intriguing?

Florence is like that. Forgetting its history, it's intriguing to unravel its present meaning. And to listen to its images.

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GEEK STUFF: Canon EOS 20D, 10/7/07, 11:55 AM: Lens 17-85mm, Focal Length: 66mm, Exp 1/60@f/8, ISO 400, Metering Mode: Average, Exposure bias 0, Camera RAW

Sunday, December 16

Florence #20: Instructive or Entertaining?

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What's the difference between a guiding light and a monument? Florence brought that distinction to mind as I walked among ancient things that were in everyday use. Here for example is the interior of a Medici Family mansion's off-street portico. It was a great roofed room with one wall open to the street so that carriages could drive right in and deposit their passengers out of the elements. The carefully preserved details are still rich and elegant. But do they lead us to a better place, or tell us of a past moment? Are they a harbinger or a memory? Is it all romantically fuzzy because we can see it affecting our future? Or our fairy tales?

Saturday, December 15

Longing


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"In all species other than man, when an animal reaches puberty, it is all that it will ever be.... Only in man is puberty just the beginning... Puberty does not provide man, as it does other animals, with all that he needs to leave behind to others of his kind." - Allan Bloom in The Closing Of The American Mind.

I guess Bloom's philosophy's had the greatest impact upon my life. Or perhaps he merely turned into words ideas that already informed the way I live. Dunno about the chicken egg thingee. See, Freud, who has dominated so much thought about who and what we are and why we behave as we do, didn't agree with Bloom at all. He saw only one focus for humans, the same one that animals have. I don't buy that. See this girl on the right here? See her longing for something beautiful in the darkness? See how we have more than one peak that's accompanied by intense pleasure? See how we can reach beyond the drives of pubescent puppets?

Or not... After all... Wudda I know? Eh?

- - -

From the looks of this image, I seem to be able to control Photoshop in ways that let me express some ideas. I'm not sure whether everything's fixed, but for now at least - I can still show some of the thoughts and feelings I found in the streets of Florence. Whew....

Friday, December 14

Another AARGH!

I'm frustrated. Cannot get Photoshop to behave. Could my Macs have acquired a virus? Busy day and only a little time to devote to fixing the thing. Holiday party tonight. Ah... the life of a community pillar socialite.... so demanding, but you all know that, right?

Unfortunately reality is intruding upon the virtual and I've not found time to tackle my problem here. Big storm expected here tomorrow, which should give me the quiet hours I need to finally tackle this thing. Is Adobe open for tech support on Saturdays? Hope so....

Thursday, December 13

A Mess

AAARGH! Over two hours on the phone with Adobe. They do not know what is wrong with my Photoshop CS3! Same problems as yesterday.

1. Created a stack of layers on my G4. Some were adjustment layers, some not. Each had a mask. Of the six or so in the stack, five used blend modes. When I flattened them, I lost a significant amount of dynamic range. No matter what I did, if I flattened a blend mode layer onto something else it happened.
2. Moved thePSD file to my MacBookPro and opened CS3 on that. Same problem.
3. Imported the file into CS2 on the MacBookPro... same problem.
4. Opened the file in CS2 on my G4 - same problem.
5. Duplicated the file... same problem.
6. Rebooted all the machines.... Same problem.
7. Blend modes will not seem to flatten with other layers without BIG loss in dynamic range.

Cannot work in Photoshop tonight. No image. Bummer. Will work on this tomorrow. Probably no posting for a bit.

Adobe couldn't figure it out. They tried a vast number of things. Screwed up my G4. Will have to reset everything. They finally got disconnected and did not call back. Bummer.

I am off to read a book.

G'night.

Wednesday, December 12

Can You Hear The Tenor Sax?

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This isn't my day.

1. The internet at the office was repeatedly down.
2. A mystery bug developed in Photoshop so that today's image would not reproduce appropriately necessitating a lot of work arounds...
3. Apple's Mac.Com which is frequently little more than a hobby business of theirs, was once again not operating so that the image was not posted properly. You may or may not be able to see it here. If not, come back later and they will eventually get around to resetting their storage area where this video fill is stored.

Sigh... Good night....

Tuesday, December 11

St. James

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As Christmas nears, collectors have begun to ask me to prepare prints to their specs for gifts. How flattering, eh? A long time ago I posted an image of the steeple of St. James Episcopal Church, one of the four most historic towers in Lancaster. Someone asked me about it, and then wondered if I'd done any other images of that structure. Well, yeah... last Spring, just after a storm, it looked like this.



For those of you who might have missed the original post... let me repost it here.... okay? You decide which would look best on your wall, eh? I like them both. But then, I could be a hair prejudiced, eh?

Monday, December 10

Cousin Freddy

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The notorious G. Gordon Liddy once told a friend,
"I ask every attractive woman I meet for a kiss."
"Whoa, Gordon. You must get a lot of slaps."
"Well yeah.... but I get a lot of kisses."

Sunday, December 9

Snapshot Of Bill

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Thought I'd post a few snapshots from the luncheon following my cousin Joe's funeral last Friday (See yesterday's group shot). It's right to start with my cousin Bill, since he is Joe's oldest brother. My family will judge whether this captures him fittingly. No, I imagine he'll make that call. Once upon a time Bill and his wife Gerry lived with my family at 1620 Westmoreland, an interim terminal which alll living Byrne memories were filtered through. A lot of years later I lived with them and their daughters Amy and Lisa in Bogotå.

Yeah, I call him Billy. When he comes to a family mix: he's Billy and I'm Teddy. It's the only place where the Y's are a natural part of our names. It's a familiar that coats us when we walk through that door into a place crammed with our memories.

I wonder what sort of emotions a snapshot expresses? I wonder whether it carries mine, Billy's, or the many which his family bring to this image? Perhaps they are a swirl of all of them and those that grand, and great grandchildren might filter this picture through. Perhaps one or another of them will leave their reactions in a comment? Or not. It's a private thing, eh?


***

My cousin Bill Manson passed away on April 11, 2009. We will miss him physically, we cannot shake his legacy, and of course, we never will want to.

Saturday, December 8

Family Help!

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Okay Byrne descendants. Here is the family portrait - December 8, 2007. And here is what you have do to find a nice large blow up without those annoying numbers.

Send me an email to mailted@mac.com

I need your name
Your email address
Your mailing address
Your telephone number
And your best guess at who everyone in this photograph is by number.... Along with whatever email addresses you might have so I can send them directions to the photos as well. Um, make sure that children are related to parents, K?

And of course any comments you'd like to add by clicking on "Comments" below... Hey, that'd be distinctly cool.

I shall return a web address of a super secret web place where you can find this portrait and other pix from Joe's funeral dinner held yesterday at the Flourtown CC. Thanks

To all of my other visitors from around the world... Here's a cherished family moment... Maybe some of you can pick me out? What I'm holding's probably a clue, eh?

Ted

Friday, December 7

Florence 17 • Ponte Vecchio 3

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Photographers are separated from their subjects by a machine. It's the job of the photographer to overcome that separation. Not to just make the machine an extension of his or her body. No... no... it is not a prosthetic device when it is working best. Think about how musicians have the same challenge. Great musicians don't merely incorporate their instrument into their arms or fingers. Nope... They incorporate it into their feelings. Their ideas. Their minds. Which is exactly what I see those photographers I most admire accomplishing. Some call that voice. They speak uniquely through their machines. You are part of their mood.

I'm trying to do that. Long ago I mastered the machine as completely as any musician who can sight read. What I am now continually trying to do is beyond that. Sight reading is rote reading. Now... now... how to understand something I feel about say, the Ponte Vecchio in the sunrise, and then letting you know precisely that?

Isn't that so much easier said than done? Here's the question... Do I have to tell you what I felt about this place at that moment, or, when you look at these images... have I already told you?

Thursday, December 6

Florence 16 • Ponte Vecchio 2

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If you read yesterday's post you knew I faced a choice.

I decided to dart straight ahead through the pedestrian tunnel, almost running I broke through the other end... and whipped about to see this: The ancient Ponte Vecchio in the full explosion of the first morning sun.

CLICK!

Wednesday, December 5

Florence 15 • Ponte Vecchio 1

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The Medici family, the richest people on earth at the time were the massive drivers behind Rennaisance Florence. Here I finally approach the wonderful Ponte Vecchio, the old bridge. Turn right at this corner and you cross that span. Go through the walkway-tunnel and your arrive at the Uffizi Gallery. As I've mentioned before, it's now home to one of the world's greatest collections of art. But it was originally one of two the most massive Medicci palaces. The other, the Pitti Palace was on the other side of the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio was built to join the two.

I arrived at this corner early on October 7 as the sun peeked over a crack of the Uffizi you can see on the left. This was the morning when Andreas Manessinger and I were into our Mano-A-Mano shoot and here I had to make a decision. Go right and onto the Ponte Vecchio, go through the tunnel in front of us here and go up river to capture the bridge looking east with the sun at my back, or go backward and capture the grand structure shadowed in the rising sun. Since I arrived the evening before, I'd never been in this place before and the sun was rising rapidly. What to do? Could I possibly match Andreas's expertise and experience with this site? Hmmm: At least I'd arrived first, he was nowhere to be seen.....

---


As many of you may recall I visited Italy during the first two weeks of October staying the first week in Rome and then for a week in Florence where I met up with Andreas Manessinger for a Mano-A-Mano photoshoot at sunrise on October 7 starting at the famed Duomo and working our way toward the astonishing Ponte Vecchio bridge (yes I know that is redundant). You can begin this Italian adventure chronologically by clicking here and working your way quickly forward. Of course your thoughts and feelings mean a whole lot so feel free to wade in at any or every point.

Or if you prefer click on the appropriate keywords below. Clicking on Mano-A-Mano will bring you to my images from the series I did with Andreas which I've so far posted. Enjoy....

Tuesday, December 4

Florence 14 - Bridge View

<- Click here
There are photographic critics who are troubled over the way photographs beautify anything. Whether it's a trash dump, a tenement hovel, a pig, or some body fluid, photographs seem to turn them into objects of enjoyment. The Marxists used to call that the "photographic effect". And they worried that without words photographs so glamorized life that it was impossible to rally followers to protest or action against the system. Photographs were of very little revolutionary value to them unless the accompanying words could save the picture. Make it into something seedy. Make it capable of arousing contention in the viewer.

So an image like this one across one of the bridges which join the two halves of Florence which the Arno river create... an image like this makes the prosperity of Florence too attractive for them. Too nice, lovely, pretty - when they find prosperity a distraction from the need to revolutionize. Oh well, maybe you can dream up a caption that will turn this into some kind of political weapon, to me it's a lovely renaissance bridge in the first glow of morning. My problem, eh?
___

As many of you may recall I visited Italy during the first two weeks of October staying the first week in Rome and then for a week in Florence where I met up with Andreas Manessinger for a Mano-A-Mano photoshoot at sunrise on October 7 starting at the famed Duomo and working our way toward the astonishing Ponte Vecchio bridge (yes I know that is redundant). You can begin this Italian adventure chronologically by clicking here and working your way quickly forward. Of course your thoughts and feelings mean a whole lot so feel free to wade in at any or every point.

Or if you prefer click on the appropriate keywords below. Clicking on Mano-A-Mano will bring you to my images from the series I did with Andreas which I've so far posted. Enjoy....

Monday, December 3

My Cousin Joe

<- Click here
When I last spoke with my cousin Joe Manson early in November, he was leaving for the airport to go to Miami where, he explained, he was going to work with his sister Maryrose to handle a family problem.In searching the net a few moments ago I discovered that his sister, my cousin, Maryrose died on November 5th.

Joe either knew nothing of Maryrose's illness, or chose to keep their secret. Perhaps it was sudden. He must have been at her side at the end. I was searching the net tonight because last evening one of Joe's daughters called me to explain that on Saturday evening, her dad passed away from cancer. I am very sad. I loved them both, but Joe was much closer to my age so I knew him better. I am told he was lucid to the end, and indeed he'd written copious notes that directed his own funeral. Apparently he planned it for next Saturday, but he neglected to recall that Saturday is a Holy day, hence the Catholic parish church he served as a deacon is fully available only on Friday.

Joe and his wonderful family live just outside of Philadelphia, and this gap of ninety miles has let us lose regular track of one another. I shall miss knowing he was near. He was a blessed friend to my parents when I lived in New England stopping in almost every other day. As a CPA, he handled their finances. He did for them much that I wish I could have. He was always available for advice... Now I wish I'd called upon it more often. There aren't an abundance of very solid people in my world, solidity is something so damned precious and when a piece of it slips... Even a piece that you neglected, yet counted upon... Things become shakier. Damn... It did not seem to be his turn. Others on our line of cousins are older. Others have had more happy days with their grandkids. If you believe in God, you probably wonder why such a good guy wasn't given more of that.

But perhaps God himself grows lonely for solidity,eh?

Take care....

Ted

BTW... I took Rocco out for an adventure a couple of weekends back along the Conestoga River as it flows past Lancaster. This mystically regenerating tree against the color and promise of fall and that endless river felt so hopeful even at a time when things seem to be shutting down for awhile. I recalled it when I thought of Joe and the flow of family memories which continually regenerate and pass along as colorful bits for those who wait downstream.

Sunday, December 2

Florence 12 • Duomo 2• Tunnel Morning


<- Click here
Sprinkled about the Renaissance City of Florence are tunneled sidewalks. As I'm facing into this one, the Duomo's piazza is to my right and behind me. This is attached to a building at one end and the pathway will eventually lead through streets down to the Arno River. This is a public way. Look at the grandeur. Even in the first lights of morning it hints at the depths of the artistic wealth of this city. How many of us take a walk like this to the office, eh?

Incidentally, this is part of my Mano-A-Mano shoot with Andreas. What's that, look below.

---

As many of you may recall I visited Italy during the first two weeks of October staying the first week in Rome and then for a week in Florence where I met up with Andreas Manessinger for a Mano-A-Mano photoshoot at sunrise on October 7 starting at the famed Duomo and working our way toward the astonishing Ponte Vecchio bridge (yes I know that is redundant). You can begin this Italian adventure chronologically by clicking here and working your way quickly forward. Of course your thoughts and feelings mean a whole lot so feel free to wade in at any or every point.

Or if you prefer click on the appropriate keywords below. Clicking on Mano-A-Mano will bring you to my images from the series I did with Andreas which I've so far posted. Enjoy....

Saturday, December 1

Home In Lancaster - A December Fall

<- Click here

You know, with all that I can control as a photographic artist - it's maybe the most critical thing which I cannot.

Your mood.

Your mood can forgive a ghastly image, or turn a masterpiece to dung. So I've got to take a range of moods for granted and figure out some way to pierce through as many different sets of feelings as possible. It's a burden that every creative artist carries about. Just as a novelist or playwright has to find ways to get the audience to suspend disbelief - we've got to find techniques to get our viewers to suspend their very lives for the instants they view our work.

I wonder if the best technique is distraction? Just as baseball pitchers have their change-ups, we've got to have curves, sliders, fast... even spit balls ready to lob in front of our unsuspecting visitors, or else a sameness of craft excellence will allow all of life's distractions to overcome whatever we hope the viewer will feel. Sometimes we not only need a unique voice... but a loud one as well.

---

As I look at the images of friends from all over the world, I am struck with the fact that the leaves on the trees around here are still close to full color. And while we've had one or two freezing nights, the city has protected its foliage from the worst. Tonight a snowstorm... or a slush storm's... expected to flow in. So in the grey of a pre-storm evening I went out back just after sunset and grabbed some of the last colors of fall. Fall on December 1st. There's the pure color in the opening triptych and here's a tad less abstraction. Incidentally the zooms and blurs were preprocessing enhancements all done in camera.

Enjoy... perhaps I'll return to Italy tomorrow night.

Friday, November 30

2007 Award Winner: Florence 11: Sunrise Melody

Note: Accepted as one of the finest Travel Images of 2007 for Canon POTN Book to be published in the Fall of 2008.

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Henri Cartier-Bresson wrote that to take photographs is, "to find the structure of the world – to revel in the pure pleasure of form, and to disclose that in all this chaos, there is order."

Which I suppose is why we hunt the radiant vista?

Of course Cartier-Bresson would have dismissed this image out of hand since he thought that color was the provence of the painter and that the photographer must only investigate a monochrome world. Pity, while he may have grasped the words about sunrise over the Arno River in Florence – he'd have missed the melody.

Thursday, November 29

She Wants It

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So? Will she be chilly in this, um, sports car convertable?

We don't have these on the streets of Lancaster.

We don't have the cars either.

Wednesday, November 28

Florence 10: What's The Opposite Of Twilight

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See how the minutes before dawn are where history’s attic lives?

It’s when you find the boundaries between what has happened and what will.

While the normal person isn’t entirely aware of all of life’s sub themes and boundaries:
• it’s a specific human quirk
• to imagine mystery
• into that crack between night and morning.

See how it’s an instant when you can feel Florence’s memories

• either come out or scurry away.


By the way, we call the sweet light between day and night, twilight. What do we call the sweet light between night and day? Anyone know?

Tuesday, November 27

Florence 9: Street Worker

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Too sweet not to capture as she stood there working the street.

Monday, November 26

Florence8: Duomo 1

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Did you ever wonder would happen if time was tidal?

I wondered that as I worked on this image. Does it show?

Here's the first of my contributions to the Duomo series that Andreas and I worked upon on the morning of October 7 as the sun slowly formed over Florence.

Sunday, November 25

Florence 7: Living Concurrently

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Pretend you're a detective and look at this picture for clues. Come on Sherlock, what do you see?

Okay: Storefronts? And the buildings look old? And what else? A sign on the building? What's it say?

It reads "Passo Carrabile" under the Commune Di Firenze red circle with a slash. Now look at the curb. See the cutout in front of the doorway where the three wheeled truck's parked? Do you get what's going on here? That truck's parked inside of the store. You go in there, you walk around the truck. But it's an elegant shop! You realize how quickly city codes in the US would make all of that illegal? In the United States we may enjoy the past, but we don't honor it. Our codes not only make adaptive use like this illegal, we cannot even build glorious antique buildings today. No wonder everything looks dropped from a cookie cutter!

That sign means that you can't park in front of that cutout: That this is a driveway.

In Florence in particular, and Italy in general - they have learned to adopt antiquities, and to adapt to their peculiarities. In a lot of ways these are the shops which Leonardo visited, and in a lot of ways the simply aren't the same. Built in maybe the fifteenth century, that facade may actually cover up an ancient Roman wall. Yet behind it are electrical and forced air ducts. The places have modern plumbing and sewage. And this store has even found a way to compete with the traffic crunch of downtown modern Florence.

Florence morphs.

NOTE: To follow the thread of this October 2007 Italian visit from its first post start by clicking here to goto October 7th, and work forward.

Saturday, November 24

Florence 6: Crinkled Vista

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And this is the view from the great room window of our apartments in Florence at sunset. That's the Arno River which, as a result of a drought, is running somewhat low. There are gypsy-type people living beneath that bridge on this side of the river. They are invisible to people from the up-market eighteenth century buildings that line this side of the Arno.

There's an oddity to this image. It is not a panorama that's been stitched together from multiple images. But, note the middle of the bridge. The way that it's been built created a distinct fold or crinkle which was reinforced by its reflection. I tried to minimize that peculiarity, but it leaps out at me whenever I look at this image.

Now, let me tell you that our facilities and hosts throughout this two week tour were terrific and their facilities wonderful in every incidental. In a week or so, I'll list their websites, addresses and other contact information. I hope, if you are planning a Rome or Florence trip, that you'll consider either or both of them.

Friday, November 23

Florence 5: Andreas And The Duomo

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Pisa, Sienna, Rome, & Florence seemed to quite hate one another throughout the history of the Italian states. They were rivals both on the battlefields and in their architecture with each vying to build the grandest cathedral, or duomo. By the mid 1200s, Sienna and Pisa had won - a fact that grated at the increasingly prosperous Florence. It motivated them to replace their crumbling nine hundred year old church of Santa Reparata with what for centuries was to become the grandest cathedral ever seen - the Basillica di Santa Maria del Flore: Il Duomo. Designed in 1296 the last touches to its facade were completed in 1897 - some six hundred years later! Its massive shape, capped by the largest masonry dome ever constructed, looms over Florence.

While Andreas Manessinger had visited Florence before this morning of October 7 it was my first full day in the city. As you may recall, we agreed to meet at Il Duomo for a picture shoot at dawn. Beginning there, we then decided to work our way down some five blocks to the Uffizi Gallery and to the wonderful Ponte Vecchio bridge which sits just beyond it. As you can see, Andreas works with a tripod while I prefer handheld shooting. Consequently I tend to move much more swiftly and travelled through the ancient streets ahead of my friend.

BTW: See those doors to the left of Andreas in the lower picture? Those are the famed Gates Of Paradise entry to the Duomo's baptistry which were originally made from gold in 1440 by Lorenzo Ghiberti..

Thursday, November 22

Florence 4: “LOOK! Look there. See?”

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Photography has a unique power in its ability to point. Some even say that it’s what photographers in snapshots, advertising, photojournalism, wedding, fashion – even fine art photography – in its every use they say it is what we do best. The lens has the ability to focus attention upon a child’s giggle, the tear of a bride’s mother, blood on the sidewalk, or a vivid personal idea about how sunrise coats a great river like The Arno as it wends through Florence.

“See that?” The picture asks? And we not only see it, but through the mind and feelings of the guy or gal who pulled the trigger.

And when we realize that it’s part of the role of photographers to point, we begin to understand that it is also our right.

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I'm in an odd mood this Thanksgiving Day. I'm lost for the right word. Sometime yesterday afternoon my stomach went crampy from the visit of a virus. So after a sleepless night, I'm taking calmatives and listening to Barbara Carroll albums. Under those dual influences plus this holiday reverie - Lancaster seems both connected to everything, and adrift on its own. Is there a word for that? The morning on the Arno a few weeks ago seems like this morning. I can hear a bicycle's bell and quiet scooters. Oddly, the Arno, just below my camera, flowed silent between the walls that hold back its capricious floods.

YAWN! It's a good evening to meditate on things that make both Rita and I thankful. Happy Thanksgiving world.

Wednesday, November 21

Florence 3: Metal Heads

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Crowds begin to form at around sunrise. They queue up outside of the medieval palace and office building for the Medici – which is now the Uffizi Gallery home of one of the world’s greatest art collections. Scalpers sell reserved tickets to people who will frequently wait five hours in line.

I don’t know how many of these metal headed guys were scattered around Florence last month. There were two nearby to the crowds waiting here outside of the Uffizi, and later in the afternoon I found two more some distance away.

You know photographers have a lot in common with sculptors. Unlike, say painters or poets who start with nothing and then build up an idea – sculptors and photographers start with large hunks and then whittle stuff away. Alfred Stieglitz almost a century ago wrote about how photographers, “… depict life in scraps and fragments.” And we do it frequently, he went on, by preserving a sense of setting for our subjects while using the picture’s edge to slice off whatever distracts from our mood.

GEEK STUFF: Canon EOS 20D, 10/7/07, 9:21 AM: Lens 17-85mm, Focal Length: 26mm, Exp 1/15@f/4.5, ISO 100, Metering Mode: Average, Exposure bias -1, Camera RAW

Tuesday, November 20

Florence 2: Mike's Coming, Right?

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To a short term visitor, Florence is as much a swirl of moods as it is hard stuff, like stones, glass, hills, and paint. There are phantoms here of great emotions that you can sense even at a typical street corner aglow in the morning’s first light.

It seems to me that a painter forms a feeling while a photographer reveals one. It’s not just the difference in our impliments but we have an enormously diverse set of materials to work with. Here, I had the feeling that Michelangelo could just strut around that corner to the left on his way to release David from a large piece of marble.

Monday, November 19

2007 Award Winner: Florence & The Manessinger Challenge

Note: The window scene below has been accepted as one of the world's finest Still Life images of 2007 for Canon POTN Book to be published in the Fall of 2008.

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Add Florence to its suburbs and you’ll tote up about 600,000 mostly Italian people the others being Albanian, Romanian, German, Chinese, and North African. They live at the epicenter of Renaissance art history. You can’t toss a rock in this city for fear of smashing some important sculpture or defacing a significant 15th or 16th century building. Florence emanates what the Western World calls elegance. As a partner with Milan, the city is home to legendary fashion creators. And its shops are branded with names like Ferragamo, Prada, Cavalli, and Chanel. Just to the north and north-west the textile industries continue to roll out some of the world’s finest fabrics.
Florence, or Firenze as it is called by Italians, is such a huge warehouse of art works by the historic masters that a firestorm or another catastrophic flood of the River Arno (which bisects the city) could wreak havoc upon the world’s greatest Renaissance treasures.

Artistically, Florence is overwhelming. For art it is our attic, our basement, and our garage. With only a week to spend, it quickly became apparent that we could do little more than take in the facades, visit some shops and look at the very highlights. But even then, I came away feeling as if I had merely seen, rather than come to know of any this astonishingly large - little place.

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Mano-A-Mano

On Saturday, October 6th, world renowned fine art photographer Andreas Manessinger
drove down from his perch in Vienna to dine with me, and to accept my challenge to a single morning of photography the following sunrise starting at the façade and campanile of Santa Maria del Fiore, the city’s most imposing structure, popularly called The Duomo!

Sometime between 6:30 and 7 am on October 7th we met and decided to start at the campanile and work our way through the medieval winding streets toward the uncanny Ponte Vecchio some five blocks to the east. Andreas has already posted one image from that beautiful morning (there was a spectacular moon followed by a breathtaking golden sunrise), as have I. You will find Andreas’ image and a description on his blogsite posted as “Photo 359 – the Magic Cloud” On or about October 9th (which, BTW includes an image of me at work – showing Andreas’ very good taste, heh, heh, heh). But we have yet to see the depth of that shoot. He has not shared his with me, nor vice-versa. In fact, I have not looked at it, and will open the cards this week as I begin to sort through my Firenze images. Now the question is, how to best show our results in one place?

Suggestions?

Sunday, November 18

Roman Security

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There's so much beauty in Rome, particularly in its details. Here's one that I found strangely unusual.

In the United States you will rarely walk city streets where the windows are barred or shuttered. A friend from the Albian Hills told me that an Italian is uncomfortable living like we do, namely behind thin panes of glass. So when you walk through Italian cities the unprotected, naked, window at night is an oddity. Yet when they occur, cut into those ancient walls, and backlit so that they seem like jewel boxes - they glimmer and glow like beacons of warmth.

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Tomorrow I'll leave Rome for a while and crack open my first Florentine camera card. BTW, if you're curious I shoot only in RAW (a memory-hungry photo format). I try to backup every night to either my iPod and/or my MacBookPro. Unfortunately I needed the latter to access the former and my MacBook crashed the second day we were in Florence. So from there on I carefully preserved four gig flash cards, eventually filling eight of them. In toto, I took about 55 Gigs of pictures. It was good that I chose to backup my cards on both the laptop AND the iPod. The iPod preserved most of the Rome images.

Oddly, after we got home a day or so after I transferred everything from the iPod to my desktop and to an external drive... the iPod crashed and needed to be sent off to Apple where they erased (re-formatted) the drive. In retrospect, I was quite close to a catastrophic failure.

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NOTE: You may often find in-depth descriptions of this Italian visit (October 1-14, 2007) among the comments-section below both as I add onto them and as you prompt my memory. I'll try to restrict my thoughts exclusively to today's image here on the home page and enlarge upon them in the comments attachments to a day’s posting as the discussions unravel. To follow the thread chronologically and the comments start at here October 7th and work forward.

Saturday, November 17

SPQR • Nature's Pencil

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Fox Talbot, the great 19th century photographer called a camera, "The Pencil Of Nature." I like that a lot. I look at my Flash Cards the way my artist friends view their sketch books. That's what I do, photo-sketches of moments that I can later fill out with ideas and feelings. The camera's storage is a sort of notepad from which I can pluck story lines and narrative arcs.

Increasingly I'm uninterested in the photos which come out of my camera. I see why they've named the process which stores the most information, "Camera Raw". Yes... yes.. Like this idea of an old guy chasing a young guy across the piazza which fronts The Pantheon, the oldest existing temple still used on a daily basis in the city of Rome, it is much more as I want it to be now that I have enhanced the raw image which I brought home.

To my left is a large fountain designed by Giacomo della Porta. Behind that is a McDonald's. There were perhaps six or seven hundred people milling around the piazza and fountain the evening I snapped this picture. Right behind me is the Pantheon rebuilt in its current form around 125AD. In fact the pizza's been filled most nights for well over 2.000 years. Which probably explains why it looks as if it could do with a coat of paint. Most of Rome could. The present mayor seems unconcerned with grafitti and litter. Rome is seedy. As you'll see when I finally crack open my Florence pictures next week, other cities have considerable more self respect. Odd, since the monuments and antiquities of Rome form perhaps the world's single greates tourist attraction. Oh, maybe the decay contributes some charm but you would think they would groom the golden goose, eh?

Friday, November 16

Titles - Spoleto 5

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Okay, let me stop for a moment here and look into the backroom to discuss some of the business of image collecting.

If you're an artist, photographer or not, or if you're a collector reading this blog you are out of wall space, right? So, what to do when you've created or discovered a new series that excites you? It's not so much that you want to show it off to others, althought this is as much a performing art as acting... but that you want to live with it. To enjoy it. To discover its subtlties, tones, ideas and feelings. These represent moments which have the potential of informing you about a lot of things.

What to do with twenty or thirty new images?

I'm thinking about creating one of those books that Apple lets me make. But they give me very little room for text. As you can see, text is almost as important to me as the image. Still, I'd like to see the images by themselves. Large. Oh well, if the book it the only way, then maybe it needs some text on the images here and there just to create useful divisions.

Which brings me to this image. As you know, when an image is used in a commercial publication, it normally needs air. By that I mean it needs room for the insertion of copy. I have taken commercial work for so many years that I automatically take a number of images with a lot of air. Frequently areas which cannot be cropped away, but if they are not filled they become negative space which pulls the visitor's eye away from the important message of the shot.

Here's an example. I really liked this image and this scene. It's a small corner of a very public place in Spoleto, which I'm certain everyone who knows the city will recognize. It balances the old and new, plus reveals the way some of this city seems stilled, not in the 1500s but in the 1950s. I think I caught that well in this scene,but the air unbalances the image. It is an identifier, don't you think? It calls out for a copy block of some sort where I've placed the title to make this a natural divider in a book. Comments?

Thursday, November 15

Using Beauty Up - Spoleto 4

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Have you noticed how you can use beauty up?

Remember the song that thrilled you? The lusty photo spread that made you, um, twitch? Do you recall the movie, book, sunrise, vista - even the thought or idea: the things that made you go, "Whoa!' when they first happened to you? Then as you returned, gradually wore off? Think of that glorious sunset over the mountains with the mists cutting the air and a bird lazily twirling against majestic clouds. Think of the explosive color palette, and the shapes and shadows at play against one another. And yes, you can recall that picture. In fact it looks so much like a picture, a photograph in your mind, that the difference between reality and pictures fade. And the pictures, so easily accessed from your memories are actually clichés. Almost... almost... corny.

See, we use beauty up. Like some sort of drug, we need novel new injections to keep going, "Whoa!" But even if the new injections are magnificent, they have to be increasingly novel,different. If not, we feel nothing, or less and less. I guess that's programmed into us to keep us striving, eh? Searching for the new? Of course the new needn't be better. Photography's been going through a dirty cigarette butt period in our great museums. Running out of sufficiently novel beauty, curators settled upon the ugly as an alternative way to coax out a "Whoa!"

It used to be that technique alone would lead to images that demonstrated such virtuosity that people would be continually impressed. But now technical perfection comes with the camera. If you can point them, you can create pictures sharp enough to cut leather - with more contrast than a day in the life of Britney Spears.

So increasingly, instead of the repeated spectacle,many photographers who are still searching for awe in beauty are hunting for the little shot. The nice, elegant moment to reflect the human condition. They're looking for warm patterns, satisfying shapes, and comforting compositions. Scenes that just maybe show two men who oddly mirror one another in a walk through a warm park on a fall day. Compositions which perhaps balance the fragility of life and light against the massiviness of history. They're replacing the "Whoa!" for an "Uh-Huh" of identification with a moment in the viewer's mind that's simultaneously identifiable and comfortable.

Given everything going on in the average life, comfortable... now that's a nice place to be, huh?

Whoa!

Wednesday, November 14

Spoleto 3

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Have y'ever noticed how music, poetry, novels, films - and so many art forms have one thing in common. The author determines how the idea and feelings will unfold for the audience. You start at the beginning, and unless you leave, you end at the end. The entire work is made senseless if you skip about. But with still photography, it's the viewer who's in control. She can linger as long as he wants (see how I satisfied the political correctness police with that last sentence?).

But I digress.

In so many art forms the artist creates a time flow. But still photographers freeze an instant that happened so quickly that no one could be aware. The human mind does not process ideas as quickly as our cameras do. In fact I can sieze a group of moments each wrenched from different times and sites. And I can combine them all at once. In one place like I've done here. I can do it so that they compliment one another in communicating what I feel or think about a person, a fact, a place, or presence. And the viewer can take over from there, pulling out a meaning that he sees or she feels. Photographs empower not only the photographer, but the viewer. Cool, eh?