Sunday, August 31

Little Chapel On The Hill

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In Siena they're building a church -the Cattedrale dell'Assunta. They've worked on it for maybe eight hundred years. It looks at least that long until they'll finish.No, probably it will never be finished in its most ambitious form. Seems that they once hoped it would be the world's largest Christian temple. So they began an attempt to more than double the size of their massive Duomo. However The Plague interrupted in the mid 1300s, killing tens of thousands and leaving Sienna a tiny town in its wake. One no longer able to mount such a massive effort. Eventually they returned to ehnancing the existing cathedral, which is the church that's still under construction today. And I'm certain that understanding it would be the lifetime work of scholars.

Not having that time... I was left with only enough moments to try to bring home a sense of awe.

Saturday, August 30

Morning Mists - NOT!

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AAARGH! I have never done this before. I posted an image here last night just after midnight. And now, in the clear light of morning... I see that it is a technical monstrosity. It is in every way inferior. I am ashamed of it. I have taken it down and trashed it. If you saw it, well it now lives only in your memory. I am doing my very best to see that it does not live in mine. AAARGH!AAARGH!AAARGH!AAARGH!AAARGH!AAARGH!AAARGH!AAARGH!AAARGH! AAARGH!!!!!!!!!

Friday, August 29

A Step Away

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Here's image fiction. Recently my friend Andreas Mannesinger blog-wondered about the legitimacy of photographic art. In an interaction with another photographer he dealt with whether photographers can actually bring their version of truth or meaning to a media which essentially just goes around copying what it sees.

Which led me to create, "A Step Farther". See the boys wending their way toward a radiant vista? See what they are about to see? And I was lucky to be there when these three iconic kids were poised upon seeing a WOW! moment. And of course, my camera acted as a kind of bucket which 'merely' scooped up these elements as opposed to what a painter might do.

See, it's argued that a poet, painter, novelist, sculptor, composer... every artist other than a photographer starts with a blank paper/canvas and fills it with his or her imagination. But a photographer, these folks insist, starts with a frame filled with an image that s/he simply stumbled upon. Hmmmmm....

Oh, by the way... These boys were playing in Musser Park at the center of Lancaster, Pennsylvania last week. Which of course was a... few... miles and months away from the magical coast of California I came upon last March. So much for the photographic artist as a bucket guy, eh?

And what are your thoughts? Are we mindless bucket wielders... or can photographers actually communicate their truth in images? Huh? Huh?

Wednesday, August 27


About Style

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IN 1885, in an introduction to Leaves Of Grass, the legendary poet Walt Whitman wrote that the writer, "Says to his art, I will not be meddlesome, I wfll not have in my writing any elegance or effect or originality to hang in the way between me and the rest like curtains. I will have nothing hang in the way, not the richest curtains. What I tell I tell for precisely what it is."

He was writing about the phenomenon of style. Whitman argued that style was an ornamental 'curtain' which distracts the viewer or obscures meaning. In a sense there are many who argue something similar about photography today. They are concerned that the new techniques of post processing come between the meaning of an image and the viewer... that they are so much distraction. But as virtually every art critic living now agrees, there is no way to strip style from statement. They are as married as skin is to a body.

Soarr is a photographic image. Notice I do not write, 'Soar is a photograph.' Why? because it is more than the photo which underlies it. Better? Here's the virgin image from the Compact Card....

That's for you to judge from the virgin image below. But certainly we'll all agree that it's different as a result of my style.

Style is the manner in which an artist presents an idea or feeling. It can be critiqued - probably should be. But style itself cannot be dismissed as a curtain. Take it away and there is no message. Whitman was wrong.

Monday, August 25

Sidney Sees

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Sidney does not see
What we see.
Instead his world is felt
Inside his mind where
Sidney repairs a future
That will be different
From what we see
When it happens.

Geek Stuff: 42nd & Broadway

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Here's 42nd Street & Broadway at 1:06 pm last wednesday. These are almost straight images from my new 40D shot full frame. I purposely aimed almost into the sun to see how the dynamic range would hold together. The camera raw processor in Photoshop CS3 automatically diddles with the histogram a touch... otherwise these are virgin images shot with my Canon 10-22mm at f9, 1/200, at 10mm.

There's lots of detail, nice contrast, hot color and plenty of dynamic range. Oh... I did use a polarizing filter which may have fed the camera flare a bit. I've got mixed emotions about filters on lenses. The engineers who designed these optics did not leave room in their equations for an additional piece of glass to be mounted micrometers in front of their lens array. So any filter will degrade... it has to. I'm always amazed by people who will buy expensive glass then mount a cheap UV filter "for protection" at the tip of the lens. How often have you scratched a lens, particularly when you use a lens shade? In fifty years of image taking I have never scratched a lens. So unless I need to add an effect, I won't use a filter.

Polarizing is an effect that needs adding. So, to get that deep color boost and flare reduction from a PF, I make the compromise. Actually the thing is doubly messed up by the way a polarizing filter works. You've got to twirl it, and that means getting finger prints on the front of the filter.. which further degrades the optics. Sigh....

All of that said, the images here are adequately sharp at 200 ISO. I still haven't mastered the metering of this new camera body, so I set the metering mode to partial for the day last Wednesday, I have to read the manual. I understand that the 40D has a true spot metering capacity which the 20D lacked. This should be a useful feature.

Okay, any comments?

Sunday, August 24

Vanishing Point

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I'm wondering whether many of the artists I admire have a novel way of seeing, or whether they see novel things. Of course, that makes me wonder just what novelty is. There are people who say that novelty is indivisible from creativity, and that creativity is indistinguishable from art.

Now we know that things get complicated by the simultaneous combination of gargantuan and tiny things together in cities. Look, take a picture of say, a majestic mountain and you limit what you present to us to the mountain, a sky, and perhaps some framing foreground. Whatever... the image is about mountain.

Now, walk around New York City and you just don't see a single mountain sitting there. It's the complexity of things that tumble into the vanishing point which make cities improbably novel. Their order comes from a disorderly jumble of stuff. I guess the pattern of a city comes from a kind of lack of pattern of objects plopped together over years by individuals.

Cities are a blurred tapestry of egos.


As requested: Here's the virgin image direct from my FlashCard. Comments anyone?

BTW: To browse my entire blog just click here.

Friday, August 22

At The Speed Of Life

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Now you know that nothing in photography is true. Or all of it is. And.. and... Is there something in between? Here's the last image from out of my old 20D. Here's the bustle inside of New York's Penn Station. It's across the street from the B&H media super store I discussed yesterday. Neither my old friend or I knew at this moment that I'd soon trade it for a 40D. So moments before we parted, the old guy let me grab this feeling of the pulse beat of one of The City's front doors. He did his job right to the end. He caught just exactly how I felt in this last pano. Can't ask for a lot more than that, right?

Thursday, August 21

Can you believe this guy?

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Yesterday I Amtrak'd up to New York City. First stop? B&H camera, right across from Penn Station. It's one of the world's largest camera stores all tricked out with video, computers, audio, and everything else that the video/audio professional community likes to cram into its toy boxes. It took me at least ninety minutes to lumber about in. Since all photographers are gear heads... well... everywhere you look feels like a ten year old's Christmas list.

So spontaneously I decided to trade in my Canon 20D for a new Canon 40D body. YIPPEEEE! And there I was with a day in New York and a new camera and... the world was bright.

Now... B&H has a sitting room right inside of the exit doorway where most folks go and un-box their new thingees. So I pulled mine out, mounted a lens, jammed in a battery and popped off a few test shots. Here's one. So... look around the room and out onto the New York street. I pulled up the test shot just now and blew it up large to test the resolution of the new camera's legendary processor when... when.... See anything odd in the photograph? Go on.... look about.

See the guy on the other side of the room? The one covering his face in exhaustion? Hmmmm.... But wait a minute, he's got a B&H bag on the floor. He's obviously just bought something so why the need for rest? Then I saw it. Can you ID the gee-gaw in his hand? I sense he's done this before and whatever it is he bought makes it even easier. No, he did not ask me for permission. And for all I know there's a picture of me on some website somewhere right now taking a picture. OF HIM!

Can you believe this guy? The nerve!

Sunday, August 17

Street People '08i

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Fred Rogers.... Better known as Mr. Rogers told of a 'sacred space' between the artist, other people, and the message they wish to hear.

I watched these two this morning and wondered if Mom was teaching or telling?

Saturday, August 16

Street People'08h

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Creation is a combination of epiphany and discovery, right? I mean that you recognize an idea or a feeling which you initially capture, then a tension kicks in between where you are and where you sense that you can go. Discovery, I am thinking, is when creation is allowed. Who allows it? Why you of course as the concept is converted to reality.

I found this kid today, inking up woodblocks and splashing herself and everyone around with thick colors.

Thursday, August 14

Hallucinations #2

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We say an artist has a voice. We say an image has an attitude. Okay, so what's the difference?

Hallucinations #1

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So what's the difference between hallucinating and fantasizing? Is a hallucination a fantasy gone quirky? I'm trolling for answers here... How does the one differ from the other? We know there can be an evil fantasy, can there be a noble hallucination?

And what does that mean for art?

Tuesday, August 12

First Friday - August, '08

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First Friday evenings in Lancaster the five blocks of N. Prince St. swirl with people. Along this strip sits the Fulton Opera home of the symphony and our Equity theater. A bit farther along is the Pennsylvania Academy Of Music and its crisp new music hall. A couple of blocks farther up, the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design's galleries are filled with shows. And among these anchors are the dozens of commercial art galleries each opening a new show on First Friday evening. The art shops have begun to spill into the cross streets with two of the most challenging: Lancaster Galleries to the South and DePaul Gallery up on the North. From Spring till Fall their are musicians and street artists all along the sidewalks. Even the office and professional buildings have opened lobbies to mount shows on First Fridays so Lancaster has turned fine art into a performing entertainment.

It's a night when restaurant reservations are impossible to get and the jazz and rock clubs get filled a little earlier with singles who come first to walk the galleries then go off to dance and drink. Which means that the crowds are all ages and family sizes. It's a carnival of art each month that kicks off around 6 or 7 and bustles till 9 or 10. There's talk of closing N. Prince Street on First Fridays but the street's a major city artery and frankly the traffic feeds the urban pulse-beat.

Much as rural and suburban living offers some peace, I don't think we'll ever give up the city's pace. I'm not a camper, hiker, fisherman, or hunter. Just never learned to like that stuff when I was young and impressionable and riding my bike around the busy streets of Philadelphia. And now I do it in Lancaster. Or walk wherever... To market... to restaurants... to the library... professional appointments... And we walk those blocks on First Fridays, getting off on the imaginings of brilliant artists, listening to wonderful music, watching the theater, and.. and... sensing that things on First Fridays all blur into an abstract art.

Sunday, August 10


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The boy he got admitted to State. It's so good that he's goin' off the farm and... Me and Birdie raised him good and we both miss her and I'm goin' to miss him and... and.. It's good he's goin' off... Real good... And... Here comes the night bus... And... good that he's goin' off...

The story is so moving. You can see that words here have ended and memories kicked in. They are still close enough to touch, but no longer close enough to talk. The father and the dog are already recalling an eight year old buddy... and the young man is wondering about tomorrow. Each of them are there together on the running board, with time running down... as it tends to do, only not quite in heartbreakingly dramatic moments that are caught so forcefully well. In moments these three will begin to build different memories.

We are treated here to a doorway into a father's sense of oncoming loss of son and perhaps his own ambitions... A son's sense of nervous expectation... And another best friend's sense that something beyond her understanding is about to happen.... Oh yes... and a doorway in time.

(SLAP!) Thanks... I needed that... I get sappy every now and then. Must be drinking too much milk.


Went off to Adamstown today. It's a Lancaster County town a few miles North of Lancaster City that's the capital of antiques. Hundreds of dealers. Thousands of pictures. Stories. Imagination. Here's an original Norman Rockwell sculpture I found in a glass case. It's theater, huh?

Saturday, August 9

Guardhouse On The Hill

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Once upon a time, up on the hill, there lived a guard house. And its keepers were Arnex and Dazie. And all day and all night for so many years they guarded. Until the orange letter came from Sacramento...

Thursday, August 7

No Reason

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I've been playing with lyricism.


Bernie Taupin.... You know him? He wrote, for example, "Philadelphia Freedom". Ahhhh.... but you thought Sir Elton John wrote that melody. And you are exactly right. Elton wrote the melody, but hid DID NOT write Philadelphia Freedom. Nope, the words... those were Taupin's. Yes, you can call it poetry. But while all lyrics are poetic, not all poetry is lyrical. Lyrics rhyme. They are percussive, and their timing slides within the melodic discipline.

So, how to do an establishing shot that is lyrical? That sets up the melody to come and with color, texture, and an array of elements the provide the coming story arc with everything it needs? Hmmmm.... What better place than Cannery Row to set the scene? And how to mix mystery, with portending (great word huh?), and sufficient ambiguity that the viewer begins creating the melody? Lyrical... get it?

Sunday, August 3

Street Shots - August '08

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Is it what the artist brings to the image, or what the viewer takes away? This is one of those great primal questions, like which edge of the scissors does the cutting.

This dude sat down, kicked off his shoes... pulled off his shirt... wrapped that towel around his neck... and... Was he waiting? Resting? Why the towel? Why the display? Shorts or briefs?

Saturday, August 2

Pew Nude

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Found her sittting in a pew last evening. So of course I took her picture. Did I ask permission? Uh, sure. Right. Of course...