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 a 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









Friday, August 7

So I Got This Problem...

Nature

The house teeters up there, its hope simultaneously resting behind boulders piled against the nature of the North Atlantic, and a cardboard sign against the nature of humans. But I wonder: isn’t the latter intended to protect the structure from the whims of taxpayers who erected the former?
.
How fragile security seems when looked at from behind a pile of rocks that won’t alter the nature of climate, nor signs that can't change the nature of humans.
.
The morning after a stormy night my Canon 7D's wide angle 10-22mm  found some steps rising from Corporation Beach in E. Dennis, Massachusetts on the bay side of Cape Cod. There's so much color smoldering to life at sunrise... Maybe too much? Perhaps this palette shrink-wraps reality behind a romantic patina that distracts us away from life's harshness? Maybe colors are the tools of poets and cynics while monochrome is a tool of realists and skeptics?
.
Or maybe this is just a house perched atop a dune? :-)

***

But that's not the problem in the title of this post. Well over a half century ago I started thinking about palette and photography. That meant struggling with all sorts of color theory and its aesthetics. The thing is that down deep I like a lot of chrome. I mean I want it cranked up to 11 on a dial that goes to 10! And now, thanks to technology, I can twirl that dial all the way... WHIP!

Looking back, you'll see a few recent posts here that got monochromed... FWUUUP! The sound of color sucked away to reveal the haunting underlayerment of feeling. But monochrome's a false choice in most cases. Kicking away everything but 50 shades of gray... Well, that'll make for a hot commercial novel, but the power of my original narrative here, in this image... Isn't best served by sheering away the color fabric, is it?

I've found that full-on color grabs attention, but it's like deep cleavage, y'know? It serves a certain, um, function, but it's hard to get the audience to look in your eye...

So I've got this problem... How to overcome an addiction to chromo-blasting? Wall space is so scarce. Without a story arc, there's no reason to return to an image... It has no aura. No wonder... And art without wonder is merely craft. If I can't get something new from an image each time I return to it, well, I don't want to live with it. Won't give it a piece of that scarce wall space.

As you climb the stairs to my office, the walls and the landing are filled with photographs wonderfully lit by indirect sun light. Some are mine, others are by resonant minds that make me VERY careful which of mine I dare hang near them. Increasingly I've found that the work which endures has the color cranked down to six or seven. Yet, first-time visitors invariably are drawn to pulsating color.

Okay, I should please myself, forget others. But that would wall off learning and growth. Nope, not a good idea. Any suggestions? As you scroll backward in this blog, look how blatant the image colors are. But would you... could you... live with those neon palettes?

What therapy do they do at a rehab for color addiction?Thoughts?

***

Here's the just-before-sunrise-original...


Monday, August 3

Hair Apparent

Me • August, 1976 • Ektachrome
Still rooting among the hoard I found a few posts back.

That's Pickle with me ... Or maybe, that's me with Pickle. She was my buddy, a Wheaten Terrier who used to greet me at night by leaping into my arms. Why "Pickle"? Well we named the puppy Dahlia after the flower which got shortened to Dally. And Dilly goes with Dally, right? And Dill's short for Dilly... So... in weeks she became "Pickle".  Obvious?

As for the cowboy up there... I think that shirt's stuffed among the dust rags. But the hair's not quite the same. I was still a redhead back then, today it's browner and my ears are back in the sun. And... and I wonder where that guy went, and what thoughts and memories he hid when he left?

Pickle died at 15. Even though my latest buddy Rocco's a great dog... I look there at the old girl and feel a tear swell. Because.... well... she was... Swell.

If there ain't dogs there... It ain't heaven.

Sunday, August 2

The Great Swamp of Forgot

Me... Circa. 1972? Agfachrome

The last post was about the Wolverine F2D film to digital converter and a trove of thousands of old slides. This one was an Agfachrome image - most were - it was my favorite color palette. But Agfa, unlike Kodak, did not date-mark their slide mounts. Grumble.

Susan Sontag in her haunting book, On Photography, mused that photographs tend to skip their traces... that regardless of what the artist intended and even described in captions, that time would quickly erase those comments, thoughts, and feelings leaving interpretation entirely up to the viewer.

Someone else wrote that the artist's intent entirely disappeared upon releasing an image into the wild. At the extreme, the least important voice at the moment of viewing, is the artist's. Which brings me to this happy portrait of me up there. I have no data, nor memory to help me with this, not even who pushed the button. 

Art reminds me of what I never saw. Imagination fills in the spaces between the images my brain stores away. The past is sort of in there along with a whole lot of fiction that changes, sinks, floats, and swells every time I poke at it.

Take this slide I plucked from the trove discussed in the last post. That’s not me - but it was – back in the early 70s. When? Where? Why? Dunno. It looks like that guy in the image composed the thing, jumped into the frame and let someone else (who?) trigger the shutter. Am I carrying around any part of what filled that fella’s thoughts and feelings?

Ever heard the term ‘reconsolidation’? It seems to mean that we re-write memories each  time we access them. In a way, memories are works in progress – both perpetual yet ephemeral. We shape the facts to write our story. Is that why memory dims as it matures? Which brings me to this happy portrait of me up there. I have no data, nor memory to help me with this, not even who must have held my camera for the shot. So what was this moment up there all about? There's a great sense of place in that frame without giving any hint about where that place was... or is... or... 

Clue: I've never been anywhere near Ceylon. Well, we went to Eastern Turkey a couple of years ago, and I guess that's on the Asian continent, huh? But this image contains a "Ted" who faded into history thirty or forty years back. Hell, faded? Disappeared into The Great Swamp of Forgot is what happened.

Yet, there's something about the clatter, and clash of color, shape, and form in this moment that's  maybe better than it ever was?

This image is the only evidence of that moment. It's only reality. The camera stopped time in sharp focus, but my memory does neither of those things. 

Does yours? 





Friday, July 31

North Atlantic 1972

Jack, Maine, August, 1972

Irresistible versus immovable.

They were boxed in the attic closet. Thousands of slides along with color and B&W negatives. First time I'd brought them into the light in maybe twenty years. I need the room so I've got to toss the stuff that's tumbled into the black hole of obsolescence. So many dozen Kodak carousels. Each holding 140 slides. I pulled out an E-Z view illuminated slide sorter. You know, a slanted plastic sheet that holds about a 36 shot roll of slides in front of a light? 

So I went to B&Hs website and found the Wolverine, F2D Super Plas Film to Digital Converter... $99 delivered. The wolverine will convert slides mounted or unmounted, B&W or color negatives, and 16mm or Super 8 film to JPGs on either a flash card or through USB onto my hard drive.Problem is the Wolverine F2D takes the film one frame at a time - manually. 

The monitor on the F2D is about the size of the a camera's LCD, and it's very contrasty. However it has the ability to vary the exposure of a copy by ±2 stops, with s similar ability to vary the exposure of each of the RGB channels by the same about. Since color film seems to fade into either magenta, or blue... these controls allow me to restore (or enhance) some of the original color dynamics during the copying process. A scan takes three seconds. 

Back then I shot either a Nikon FTn or a Nikormat FTn through one or another of seven lenses capped with the dozens of filters I owned.  Unfortunately I have no idea which of the possible combinations went into the recipe that cooked up any image... Like this one.

My friend Jack Ricard was right up against the cliff face that stopped the massive waves. Judging by the slides around this image, this was a stormy morning with the winds coming ashore behind the slabs of water. 

Looking at this instant I've recalled the way the ground shuddered as the wave's fist slammed into those rocks. Jack, some forty years ago was roiled by both the explosion of froth and the gale. 

I've not talked with Jack in over thirty years. Jobs and moves have done what the North Atlantic couldn't  - swept us apart. But here's this memory from a box sealed by obsolescence. A window back to a morning when we were young friends. Now we're neither. 

Some memories though are irresistible and immovable. 
.



Friday, July 17

Chary

Girl Scout, Mityana, Uganda 8/14
A white man
Pointed a
Long lens at
Her....

Which made the
Girl scout.... chary.

A friend asked me how to create original moody backgrounds for portraits. This was the product of a tutorial  exercise I did for her using a candid image of a lovely, but suspicious girl scout I met in Mityana, Uganda and captured through my Canon 7D through its EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens, hand held. The post was done as  usual in PS 4 with custom background and textures. I mention my skin color since we were the only folks sporting that hue for perhaps fifty miles around us. It is very possible that this girl may have seen no more than a handful of us in our white flesh, outside of Hollywood videos that were everywhere.

Friday, July 10

Rights


George Washington sculpture found at Valley Forge, Pa. 

I read today about an unintended consequence of a recent Supreme Court decision which extended constitutional protection to gay marriage. It seems that insurance companies are refusing liability coverage to churches. Some time ago, a  bakery refused to participate in a gay wedding and was sued for damages and pain and suffering. The court awarded the plaintiffs tens of thousands of dollars,  bankrupting the small company owned by Christians. There are apparently a couple of suits pending against churches which have denied facilities and services to other gay couples. Defense costs alone will cost the churches many thousands of dollars, even if they are successful. If on the other hand they lose, well, they are being sued for hundreds of thousands since the aggrieved parties are charging personal damages as a result of their psychological distress. Frightened by these liabilities, insurance companies are backing away from any participation in those situations. 

Other conundrums over rights are popping like kernels in hot oil. Cities which have extended rights to undocumented immigrants, look to have accepted a liability for the actions of those they seek to protect. That clash of rights is most dramatically represented by a tragedy in San Fransisco where a recently released alien with a considerable felony record killed  a young tourist. The woman's family will undoubtedly bring a large civil suit against the city. 

In many communities, police who are increasingly fearful of prosecution for making instantaneous decisions in life threatening situations, are increasingly avoiding those situations. And murder rates are exploding. So the rights of the police are clashing with those who expect a right of security in their streets and homes

Some states have quietly provided sexual reassignment surgery to children as young as fifteen, without informing their parents. The state's have extended rights to children that  conflict with traditional rights of parents. Meanwhile, there are women who are worried about finding themselves  in the confines of ladies  rooms confronting large male-born-persons who have declared a different gender.

In many places older couples will leave their homes this summer since they are unable to pay the increase in school taxes necessitated by an influx of largely undocumented immigrants who have been granted a right to tax supported education. Simultaneously the senior citizen's children have lost income as a result of off-shoring of jobs in many cases, or a decrease in working hours in other cases as a result of the Affordable Health Care Act's redefining part-time work as 29 as opposed to 39 hours a week, forcing employers to reassign a quarter of their work hours. 

Scarce collegiate seats are now assigned to reinforce the rights of subsidized reparations to a range of protected groups, displacing many in the non-protected population to access both by limiting the seats available to them while inflating the unsubsidized tuition costs they must bear. 

It has become policy to tax labor and subsidize machines. So mandated minimum wage increases, along with various leave, and compensation laws - which are a sales tax to employers on labor -  are increasingly leading to the automation of jobs, which of course impose a 100% tax upon those displaced, while holding down wages across the board.  

While work is taxed, unemployment is subsidized in extended welfare and social security disability rights. Of course those with productivity high enough to retain the higher paid minimum wage jobs are gainers. So those who claim a right to a living wage then, are clashing with those who claim a right to employment

Okay, I can go on and on... Rights are slamming against each other at the fastest pace in my long lifetime. Some will go away, because, rights are what we can defend. Or have defended... Usually by burley men with guns

And the largest percentages of native born Americans in the nation's history tell pollsters that they would abandon their citizenships if they could. With micro cultures clashing over claims to rights, this was a sedated 4th of July

Tuesday, July 7

Belfast Gunsmog

Belfast, Northern Ireland • Royal Avenue • April 2013
Royal Avenue • Belfast • Northern Ireland • April 2013
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It's said that the Europa is the most bombed hotel in history. Belfast was  once Ireland's money machine. Which is why the Brits held onto it and its neighboring counties when the Irish Republic seceded in 1946.
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Since the 1950s though– – like blooms in winter – shipbuilding, textiles, tobacco traders, and  the region's heavy manufacturing shriveled. Even without The Troubles world economics would have sucked them  away... Ahhh but The Troubles.
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From the early 1800s through the Good Friday Agreement of  April 10, 1998, violence between the occupiers and the occupied gashed the Ulster counties leaving Royal Avenue blood-spocked and gnarled by bullets and bombs.
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The Irish and British fight over this Northern hunk of the island terrified investors who fed the economics that vacuumed at the region's industries.
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Peering up above Royal Avenue in center-city Belfast the sky was smokey with what? A memory of gun-smoke steeped smog... And squinting into the yellow haze I muttered, "_Gunsmog!_" the stuff stained the Northern Irish heavens.
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Then I panned down to the rebuilt Greek columns on the Hotel Europa, and coughed.

Monday, July 6

A Snapshot


Are all images fictional? Okay, maybe not snapshots. Perhaps they are the only virginal captures of reality? Or at least past reality? Maybe the phone-grab clicked off with as little pre-processing thought aren't the imagining of an artist? After all, all art is fiction, right? 

Wikipedia defines fiction: "Fiction is content, primarily a narrative, that is made from imagination, in addition to, or rather than, from history or fact."Dictionary.com defines it: "The act of feigning, inventing, or imagining."Websters.com says that fiction is:  "Something invented by the imagination or feigned."

Say you move around a subject to avoid some background annoyance, a telephone pole, annoying single, wires... Or you move to include Uncle Joe, intriguing signage, or maybe the Acropolis behind Mom. It's called point of view, right? POV. Have you feigned, invented, or imagined some "improvement" which is to say imposing your ideas or feelings on reality. Now, how about DOF... depth of field. You crank open a lens to compress away a background into a bokeh-glimmering setting. Then what about cranking out the zoom to crop away things inconsistent with your idea or feeling of the moment? Screw on a polarizing filter to create a dynamic range invisible to the human eye? Then twist down the camera speed to capture a blur in say a waterfall that's not captured by the human retina? 

Now, what about lighting? If you stab through the gloom with a flash, or by goosing the ISO to peer into gloom where a person cannot possibly see. Now NONE OF THESSE TECHNIQUES involve post processing. I can add to the list, can't you? I mean just the choice of lens, camera body, or tripod support imposes the artist's imagination upon the image. 

And what about pre-processing? Makeup (which are pigments of the imagination)?  Costume? Set design? Or travel to a specific location at a specific time of day/season, etc.? Forget the post processing upon Caitlyn Jenner's iconic Vanity Fair cover, howzabout any of Annie Leibovitz's "portraits"? Again, ignoring the post processing on her work, her budgets for; set, wardrobe, hair, cosmetology, and cast (human and animal) are all focused upon pre-processing... processing before the various things I discussed up above that happen consequent with the shutter getting snapped. 

Now, let me get to the image up there... That 1950 Pontiac parked menacingly in the night in front of ... In front of... What? What's it mean? A snapshot it ain't, right? Or well, is it? How does it differ from the snapshot that's preprocessed, processed consequent to the shutter click, and then post processed through some software either in the camera, or by a software that 'enhances' the dynamic range or cropping at the click of a button? 

Up there I've posted a concept that's layered together from pieces of my imagination. Which leads me to wonder ... And you thought I"d never get to the point right?... Are all images inherently manipulative? Look, it is not the degree of manipulation which makes an image fiction. Just as you can't be a little bit pregnant, you can't be a little bit fictional. 

So, welcome to the most honestly named photo blog on the internet :-) Right?





Saturday, June 20

Swan... Um... Egret Lake

Okay, I stalked her. Poked my 300mm lens through the leaves to her secret spot across the lagoon. She preened and primped... Maybe unaware of me... Maybe figuring the water was wide enough to keep a lurking human an easy take-off away.

They call ponds and lakes, lagoons in Sea Pines Plantation on Hilton Head island where South Carolina - almost Georgia - summer wetted down the air. If you're outdoors, southern seacoast's grow humidity thicker than the syrup folks pour over breakfast grits. And the heat keeps the air hotter than the bikinis make their beaches.

It's where lots of gin mixes with even more tonic as afternoons commit muscles to low gear. It's when the smarter birds find secret spot to digest their morning breakfasts and recharge for a twilight wade back into the lagoons, oh... and into wherever people were stupid enough to stock coy ponds.


So that gal up there wasn't about to let me get her to do anything unladylike. Which is why I'd mistaken her glowing-white body for a swan and figured that I'd be able to create a post called, "Swan Lake". Wrong... It's actually "Egret Lagoon" where the big birds prowl among alligators for fun and profit.

And so, realizing the story wasn't about swans I figured I'd find me an egret at work in the marshes to work into a painting that captured an impression of both the bird, its hunting, and the POP! of southern American summer color.

A day or so after I invaded the privacy of that beauty up above... I found this guy working his way slow as suitor on a first date toward his prize. And once again my Canon 7D's EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens did its job. Which is a capture that I couldn't have made years ago without a tripod. But the combination of image stabilizers and the camera's processors let me grab tight hold of the moment. Which, thanks to a lot of PhotoShop processing combined with the melding of a number of layers of AlienSkin's SnapArt filtering and texturing, I was able to make my concept visual.

Hot, huh? 

Monday, June 15

Saturday, June 13

Summer's Started

Down in Hilton Head, SC last week. Summer comes to Dixie with an early muscle, especially in the Low Country... along the the Atlantic Coast. Hilton Head Island's shaped like a running shoe and we stay very near it's flat instep. Once a bog, it's flat and canal-irrigated to draw the brackish water back to the sea. If the ground's not everywhere as damp as once-upon-a-time the air's still wetter than a stoop-laborer's back And twice as thick. Mid-day's are for beaches, pools, and air-conditioned spots cluttered with books and adult beverages.

Bike Shed

Out back we store ... Well, have you noticed that the word "shed" is double entendre? As a noun, it's a place where we keep stuff. As a verb it's the act of discarding. A bike shed sort of promises both of those things. And this flat island teases you into believing that you'll shed the vacation belt-lime baggage if you''ll peddle your bike from the shed. Getit? In a way, nothing says island summer like this lazy morning image of those backsides poking out and teasing me to wrap my fat legs around their fat saddles. And yeah, why not, huh?

Jungle Glade

To circle the jungle between me and the sea. And the way it dares me to leave the bike and wander trails that wind somewhere. Which I almost did except a snake rolled and wriggled out of those leaves there to the lower right and coiled blink-fast onto the trail and then off into that underbrush. So much for the dare... Back to the biking... When, just to my right,  I heard water plop down from the bike-path's bank and jerking around I saw...

Primordial Lurk

this thing and peddled like hell away, parked, and tip-toed back, my Canon 7D with it's 70-300mm lens cranked all the way out. Through which... I watched it, it watched me, I focused, shot, and backed way up. After gasping a bunch, I went back and kept shooting while it lay there watching, only its eyes flicked, the rest of that body flat... still... cocked... and stinking up the thick swampy air. You know the word, fetid? Yeah, now imagine this thing's breath and you've got a match.

Night Watch

Oh yeah... Wildlife thinking reminds me that I probably forgot to post this wild herd I captured in Uganda's Queen Elizabeth Park. Okay, that was last summer and there are crocs, not gators in Africa so the segue's kind of hard to explain. Hmmmm... But these pix are all summery, right? RIGHT! So it's a theme :-)









Monday, June 8

Life Winds

He leaned
Againt the
Morning breeze of
Life.





Commuting with day-break-chilled shoulders near work 5 miles west of  Mityana, Uganda. Captured through my Canon's EFS 17-85mm (f4-5.6) glass. Processed in my imagination with PS4. It rained early that August morning and this road was puddled and its vegetation bowed. Most roads in Uganda are surfaced with a thick red clay and well maintained to rid them of pot holes. They're probably easier on the feet, ankles, and knees of walkers than cement or macadam. Good thing, walking's normal for thousands we saw. 
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It's side-effect is the shaping of trim, strong people trudging into life's wind. 

Monday, June 1

Three River In The Night

Way above the Three Rivers of Pittsburg there's elegant dining behind a crystal wall... It's been there since the 1930s and 40s when Sinatra fronted the Dorsey Band up in the night-time sky with Steel City glimmering out to the horizon.


So okay so far... but.. Well. That's when Fred and Ginger were whirling through platinum and night dust... And Those evenings glimmered like diamonds on a princess's tiara. 


Hell, we can do color now with the ease of decorking champaign. So why remove it? And yet... sometimes a color-ectomy glides into a space where my emotions are so much differently receptive. Why izzat? Thoughts? Feelings? 

BTW... See that point down there? That's the hotel where Rita and I held our wedding reception 47 years ago tonight. Seems like yesterday. 


Monday, May 18

Skeptical Lady



Yep, she's skeptical, but not cynical.

There's a difference you know. The Skeptic is looking for sufficient proof, the cynic can never find enough proof. I'm a skeptic... Like her.

She's from Mityana, Uganda. So are her friends. I hope she liked me as much as I enjoyed meeting her. Either way, it was an important moment for me.

I like my Canon 7d with that EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens clicked on. With the image stabilizer it's easily hand-held and sharper than the razor I used this morning. I've always admired platinum prints. They have a glowing presence that captures imagination like epoxy. Look at the tonal range platinum creates. Haunting, huh? 

I processed this to print LARGE! It's about three feet on the horizontal edge. And so crisp you can see me in those catchlights in her eyes. Click on this image and let me know what you think... Or feel. 

Saturday, May 16

3 Farmers' Daughters


Girl Scouts of Uganda. In the village of Mityana. Beautiful farmers' daughters gather with their families at twilight. In the middle of rich farmland, the town's in the south central part of the country about 50 miles west of Kampala.



Almost all of Uganda's elevated well above sea level, So even though the town's about 25 miles north of the equator it's almost 4,000 feet high so it's 3,500 folks may need blankets and coats at night and tee shirts during the day. The village is a central place, equidistant from its circle of farms and their families. I've written before... Ugandans are physically fit and attractive people. The kids are charming and anxious to be photographed. 

Once again I framed these girls through my 7D's EFS 70-300mm late on an August Saturday. Have you ever used Polaroid large-format film? Its colors actually felt thick. Amazingly, AlienSkin's Exposure 7 can mimic my memories. It's as if Eposure's's poured a syrup of glowing colors, like molasses, over a waffle.





Thursday, May 7

God Is Love Realty and Take Away

Mityana Road, Kampala, Uganda Wakiso, Central Region

This is a cool compound along the Mityana Road, Kampala, in Uganda's Wakiso, Central Region. That's a carpet of yellow cobbed-corn there on the center right. The produce store on the left's selling fresh veggies. Behind it is a take-out restaurant. And off to the right a tavern. See the silver cistern water tank there on the left side roof. Clean fresh water's a challenge throughout the country but there's wonderful rainfall in this lush green country, so a water-catcher like that's a gem.

I lack sufficient knowledge about the country to know why rain catching cisterns aren't more common throughout the Uganda. Instead, struggling against dangerously polluted bogs, ditches, streams and rivers, tens of thousands of people walk miles each day to fill then carry large yellow plastic water tanks to and from municipal wells. And yet it rains almost every day, and much more often during the semi annual rainy seasons characterized by sustained deluges. 

Isn't the color of the real estate building striking? Bold, primary painted commercial buildings pop up  about each tenth of a mile or even more often along the highway. Many are painted by national companies to serve as sort of billboards, their colors... red, yellow, blue...and etc. are synonymous with the company logos. They add powerful energy to trips. 

When I grabbed the original of this image, it was like an artist's sketch. I knew I wanted to develop it much like a painter. Which I've done now, months later, here in my studio. So much of Uganda feels the way scenes must have felt to the impressionists of the early 20th century. 

Impressionism is an interesting word eh? What artist is not fueled by impressions? What else is there?


Geek Stuff: Captured the base with my Canon EOS 7D through its EFM 17-16mm zoom glass. Then brought my concept to life in PS4 coupled with AleinSkin's Exposure 7 to ignite the dynamic range and finally used the powerful overlay tools in AlienSkin's SnapArt's oil brushes.