Sunday, March 31, 2013

Rented Lens Pre-Review

Just a quick post to say I'm playing with a rented Lensbaby Composer Pro. I've been curious about the Lensbaby since they first came out but the need to manually hold the lens in focus while shooting with the early models nixed it for me. Then they came out with models that could hold focus (the Control Freak and the Composer) and I wondered if I'd use one enough to justify the cost. Time to rent one and see if it is really a useful tool for me. I have the lens for a week. Above is one of Diane's plants in bloom. Tomorrow I'll use it as part of a portrait session I'm doing. Later in the week I'll post a review and (maybe) my decision on whether I want to actually buy one.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Last Philly Post

This will round out my posts from our trip to Philadelphia for the annual flower show.  The photos in today's post are just general scenes that caught my eye in downtown Philly. Tourist shots if you will. I liked the geometry and contrast of old versus modern in the top photo. And who could resist a giant guitar?
The Gallery is set back from the street and there is a tree in the courtyard in front where there was flock of small birds. When a couple of them flew off they nearly ran into us.  
I spotted the "Hats Trimmed" sign while walking back to the convention center from Independence Park.
The last is a wall under the escalator in the conference center made of ceramic bowls, cups and spoons, the sort used in Chinese restaurants. The entire space under the escalator is filled like this, two wedge shaped walls and a rectangular one at the end. It is interesting but I can't help thinking the janitorial staff must hate it. I can't imagine what a pain it must be to keep dusted and I wonder how much stuff gets put into the bowls by people.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

The "Art" of History

I'm a history buff and one of the periods that fascinate me is the time around the American Revolution up through the War of 1812. Consequently I had to do a quick side tour of Independence National Park while in Philadelphia for the Flower Show and as a photographer I wanted to find images that somehow represent aspects of that period. The photo above was made in Carpenters' Hall. I looked up the Hall on the web and found that, despite being part of the Park, it is still owned to the present day by the Carpenters Guild, the oldest trade guild in America.

Carpenters' Hall was where the 1st Continental Congress met to discuss the colonies relations with England and eventually to declare our independence. As such it is the birthplace of the United States. The photo below is a detail of the tile floor and the one after is looking up through the staircase in the entry hall.

There are a number of historic buildings in Independence National Park and I had an opportunity to touch on only a few sites, one of which is the 2nd National Bank which appears in the photos below. Today the building serves as a gallery for portraits of the founders. I didn't have time to visit the gallery and contented myself with enjoying the edifice. One day I will have to return to tour the Park properly.

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Saturday, March 09, 2013

Philadelphia Flower Show

We went on a bus tour Thursday to the Philadelphia Flower show. From a photographer's perspective it was a bit disappointing. The lighting in the exhibit area was on the harsh side, bright lights against a black ceiling, not at all diffused like natural light in a garden would be. Ironically the lighting in the vendors area was much better (more even) but I took no photos there. Some vendors had "No Photos" signs posted and I didn't ask the others. The photo above was up high, part of a larger display of arrangements. The background is black because it is the ceiling. I managed to find a viewpoint that didn't include any of the lights behind the arrangement.
I liked the pattern in this cacti and made a closeup of it from above. The trick with this photo was keep my shadow off the cacti while shooting from above.

The arrangement below was quite spectacular and made me think of the Mad Hatter's tea party. He and the Hare should be sitting in those chairs. And where is the chair for Alice?
For the last photo today here is a detail of a garden sculpture made from copper pipe and fittings. Overall it was about 5-6' tall in the shape of an egg. Given the price of copper these days I'd hesitate to put that in my garden. Someone would be likely to cart it off to sell for scrap. If you look closely you can see someone peering through from the other side (upper right).
I have two other sets of photos I'll post over the next couple of days, one of the National Park area and some general shots of downtown Philadelphia. As always the photos are here for you to enjoy but they are copyrighted so please play nice and respect my work, don't re-post it elsewhere. If you want to share them with your friends use the Facebook sharing link (upper left of this page) or copy and paste the URL in an email to them so that they can see them here.

Friday, March 01, 2013


Earlier this week Michael Johnston (The Online Photographer) touched on the question of achieving fame as a photographer. He pointed out that even those who are famous are often known by a handful or even just one image. He suggested to become famous you needed to have and promote your "greatest hit(s)". He gave the example of Steve McCurry and his famous photo of the Afghan girl. He listed two other photographers that I didn't know and even when he posted the photos by them that he was thinking of, they didn't resonate with me. One I had never seen (or had completely forgotten) the other was familiar but unappealing and I didn't associate the photographer's name with it.

But I think Mike's onto something with the greatest hit thought. The difficulty is that one does not decide which of one's photographs is going to be a hit, others do. In order to be a hit I believe a photo has to touch something in the viewer, create an emotional response or, as Brooks Jensen of Lenswork says, tell a story. It is my experience that many people create such images, often accidentally. The reason they aren't "greatest hits"  in a wide audience is that unlike Steve McCurry's Afghan girl they don't get on the cover of a magazine, they don't get wide exposure. I suspect there are a lot of them sitting unknown in shoe boxes, family albums or hard drives. Such an example (IMO) is above. The simple gesture, the obvious pride of the dad telling his young daughter "look a the camera", a basic human experience distilled to its essence.

Not familiar with the work of Laura Currie? Don't feel bad. Very few are. She was my wife's great aunt and when she died we inherited her negatives. Now I'll be honest here, she was a seamstress, not a photographer and many of her photos are run of the mill snapshots made with a cheap box camera. She had a bad habit of tilting horizons in her landscapes but she also had momentary flashes of excellence, this photo of her brother with his first daughter being one. Ever since I first scanned it, it has stuck in my mind as firmly as any greatest hit by a truly famous photographer. So here's to Aunt Laura's greatest hit and her 15 minutes of belated fame. If you agree that it's a hit, leave a comment telling why.