Thursday, December 27, 2007

Phoning Home

This is from and old 4X5 transparency I shot, many years back, as you can tell from the telephone booth. It probably looks like an outtake from the “Matrix.” The blurred figure is actually a person plus a dog. As usual with most of the summer night shots, there’s no shortage of those lush, quick growing weeds.

One of my projects of late is the update of the “archive,” which is essentially a room of stored film, prints, and some transparencies. There are only a few large format transparencies. I tended to use color negatives (shooting color was rare anyway) for large format.

I can’t help but examine the past when I’m looking through photographic records of it. It always seems that every regret was (aha, in retrospect) my own doing and undoing. In reality I’m sure I’m still doing and being undone in the present: that’s my little investment in the future: } .

This is Ektachrome, and has that color signature, although the streetlights didn’t help. Only the later version of the film rivaled Kodachrome, which had a warmer color balance.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Light Painted Flowers

Click above for a larger image

This is an example of a time exposure where the image has been made by “painting” with light. Painting may be an overstatement. I use whatever small flashlight I can find, and mute the output from it with my hand. I usually meter the flashlight using the incident dome on a light meter and set the time for one second on the meter. I then try to “paint” in a manner that doesn’t exceed a second for any one area its pointed at. It sounds complicated, but isn’t, and small errors don’t tend to show on the final image. This is best done with a negative film which will have some latitude for over-exposure. The shutter just stays open for however long it takes to paint the subject with light.
The flowers came from the Twin Oaks community which sells them at the Charlottesville City Market.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Marcia and Nancy - Chestertown, Md.

Click for a larger image

If you take photographs long enough, you end up with a past that is well documented. As you can imagine, this is a mixed blessing. Going through the negatives I have can be like re-living an experience. Memory fades, but a key element can set in motion the recollection of an event. Sometimes I find an image that surprises me, and I can recall several days that normally would have been lost forever.

This is a photo of Marcia and Nancy meeting at Ford and Mer’s farm, after having been out of touch for a while. There’s nothing remarkable about the photo, but it seems to hold a moment of time  in some way I can’t explain. 

Nancy really helped me one particular time. She let me borrow her car to go to a job interview. The newspaper I had worked on had been bought by a mega-corp, and times were grim. I got the new job and spent about three years in the Nations Capital, until I found an exit strategy. It was a change that eventually led to employment in Charlottesville. I stayed in that position until recently. Now I'm looking back somewhat amazed by the path that was followed. 

Without that accidental meeting , my path would have gone in another direction. 

“Snapped” on the spur of the moment, with Kowa Six, a square format 120 camera. Being inside a square box is a great breaker of rectangular habits, although I could not resist cropping this one.

Friday, November 23, 2007

House at Second and Water

Click above for a larger image (you can't see didly if you don't!)

There used to be an unusual structure at the corner of Second and Water, across from the Charlottesville City Market. It was a monolithic combination of a house and two businesses. Since I’ve been in Charlottesville the Barber Shop has been closed, but the tailor shop was open. I’m including a detail shot below, obviously taken around Halloween, of the window of the tailor shop.

As in the shot preceding this one, you can see another example of a towering weed of the same variety. Thanks to Lonnie’s input, I now know it’s a Paulownia Tomentosa.

The building seems to be covered with a concrete layer across the entire front. It resembles adobe.

The image was taken on a 6X9 cm. negative with a Plaubel Makina Proshift.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Really Big Weed

Click on image for a larger view

Really Big Weed

I can’t identify these huge weeds, able to crack concrete and grow in the most inhospitable of places. I come across these in my nightly wanderings. They sometimes grow to an amazing height.

This is a time exposure in an alley adjoining what was a People’s Drug store. The streaks were made by cars passing. The wall was placed there so we would not be troubled by a view.

Friday, November 16, 2007

McGuffey Art Center - Charlottesville

Click above for a larger image.

I snapped this while walking around after a snow storm. It was taken on the Pluabel Pro Shift, hand held. The film is Tri-X 120, 6X9 cm. image.

I ended up liking the image, probably because of the overcast combined with the fresh snow. The naked guy seems to be having some trouble getting his suitcase through security. They must have done some extraordinary rendition on him, since he disappeared entirely a while ago.

I suppose the McGuffey just got bored of the same old statue being there for years. I hope it wasn’t his nakedness.

But seriously, this illustrates the practicality of the “middle path,” meaning film that is scanned. This wasn’t the highest resolution of the film scanner, but the image is 35 megapixels. And if you had the urge to put the negative in an enlarger and print it on your favorite paper, that would also be an option.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Flat Iron Building, Asheville, N.C.

Click above for a larger image

Above is a photo of a square in Asheville, N. C., with the Flat Iron building on the right (6X9 cm, Tri-X). The sculpture, center left, is an upturned Flat Iron. At the time I took the photo, a woman, sitting in the handle of the iron, was singing opera to her child, who is hidden by the Iron. The Flat Iron building was inspired by the same named building in New York City, which is an unusual piece of architecture built to fit a confluence of angular streets.

I really liked Asheville. It was a bit like the Downtown in Charlottesville (in spirit), although without a large common area like the Mall in C-vlle. It has lots of Art Deco buildings, some of which are quite exotic, and surprising for a small city in the mountains of North Carolina. That’s where their unusual history comes in. It was misfortune that preserved the city.

The railroad was first built South, and then West, through the area. That made it the logical first stop for travelers going on the long route. This brought unprecedented capital and expansion. Many of the trademark buildings were built in that era. However, the railroads built other more efficient routes. Then, the Great Depression struck, and Asheville had the highest per-capita debt for a city. It chose to pay that debt, but it took 50 years.

So, these buildings stood, free of the wrecker ball and modernization. They stood long enough to become cherished examples of historic architecture.

I was getting around town by bus, and dragging a tripod and the Plaubel Pro Shift. I took this shot while waiting for the bus.

It was a summer visit, and the city had a outdoor showing of a silent movie, with live piano providing the musical score. I'd love to return and take more night shots.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Virginia Film Festival and the Klughe-Ruhe Sponsored Films

I usually stick to photographic discussions here, but I’m going to wander in a different direction with this post.

I attended the Virginia Film Festival this year. A great feature of the Festival is the discussion that follows the films. This year, one such discussion brought to light a very important human rights drama unfolding on the other side of the globe.
The speaker for the discussion after the films was Darlene Johnson. Ms. Johnson wrote and directed the first film, called “Crocodile Dreaming,” and is from the Dunghutti tribe.

Perhaps the most important theme of the film (which was a thriller to be sure, with special effects and some fairly frightening scenes) was Aboriginal identity, and how it is defined not only by tribe, but also by “skin,” which is your patrilineal heritage. The main character in Crocodile Dreaming is illegitimate, and had no skin heritage from his father’s side. Consequently, he was a bit lost in his own culture. In the film that is put right, through a ritual experience.

Here’s the connection to human rights; Ms. Johnson mentioned in passing that there was a bill recently passed by the Australian Senate that might have disturbing consequences for Aboriginal Settlements. If anyone reading this remembers the movie “Rabbit Proof Fence,” it was about that an attempt to get Aboriginal people to modernize and move to populated areas. This resulted in what was called “the Stolen Generations,” as children were separated from their parents and moved long distances to resettlement camps. Many were never able to find out who their parents were. Considering the “skin” and “tribe” elements of identity mentioned above, this was an utter loss of identity.

Upon arriving home I searched the Internet and that the new legislation is called the “Northern Territory Emergency Response Act 2007,” and was rushed through Parliament, which has been perceived as an attempt to limit discussion. While I see nothing currently about moving people from the land, there are to be more parts to the initiative released in the coming months. Land has been a point of contention between the government and Aboriginal tribes.

Margo Smith, director and curator of the Kluge-Ruhe Center, was presiding over the event and the discussion. She mentioned that there would be an informational lecture/discussion on the Legislation and its possible effects at some point in the future. I haven’t noticed this on the Center’s Calendar yet.

The lesson I learned in regards to the Virginia Film Festival: Always stay for the discussion after the film is over. If I hadn’t done it in this case I would never have appreciated the meaning of the film I had just seen.

Monday, October 22, 2007

House on Locust Avenue - Charlottesville

Click above for a larger image

Here’s a night photo of a house, the core part of which was built around 1910 on Locust Ave. May souls have passed through here, and I have known a few of them.

Night shots, time exposures; sometimes they seem to reveal something quite different. Things glow and seem to breathe light. Time exposures seem able to warp time, and night lighting makes an ordinary scene into something charged with a mysterious presence.

Years ago this was all rolling hills stretching out along the Rivanna River. Some of it was farmed and the manor house still stands, somewhat hidden in old boxwoods, on the 800 block of Locust Ave.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Parking on Water Street (Shoots, Eats, and Leaves)

Click image for a larger view . . .

Well, you’ve probably heard of the book, Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. It’s about punctuation, but that’s a somewhat unfair short explanation. When it comes to photography, the order that I do it in is; Shoots, Eats, and Leaves.

I took the above with the nifty, vintage Plaubel Pro Shift, “causing” a 6X9 Cm image. I use the term “image,” because I sometimes only think I’m taking a picture. Later, it turns out to be in focus, properly exposed, but pointless. If you’re going to experiment with what you put a frame around, it can’t help but happen sometimes.

As far as Shoots, Eats, and Leaves, I finished off a Sticks sandwich (and it was really wonderfully spicy chicken) in the time it took to expose the film for the shot above. A guy walked up and asked me what I was doing. This is across from the parking garage on Water Street in Charlottesville. I told him I was taking a picture of the unusual tree and parking lot but I wasn’t sure why. He said he played music and that he knew what I meant. That was worth a laugh, and then he was on his way. Then I left too.

This is a detail from the mid right side of the negative.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Car Series - Profile

Click image for a larger view . . .

This is another image from a drive through of the Barracks Road Shopping Center in Charlottesville. Based on the prior exposure (see last shot in the blog) I juggled the aperture versus time to capture a profile of the driver whoever that is.

I think the back ground here is provided by Bed, Bath, and Beyond (renamed by my visiting friends from Montreal as; Bed, Bath, and Behind). I had made so many passes in front of the store that some of the employees on break were getting a bit curious.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Car Series - Hit It!

Click image above for a larger view

This photo was taken last weekend, and involved fishing around for the best exposure. I had settled for F-16 for the aperture, but had been getting images that were a bit washed out, with not much color saturation. I finally settled on what appeared to be an optimal time exposure, and made some passes at some Charlottesville malls. The Barracks Road Shopping Center has the most diverse lighting, although the speed bumps are annoying.

As ordinary as the act of breathing, driving a car. We can even express emotion to other drivers by subtle and not-so-subtle maneuvers. I drive with the pack, have a guy on my back, want to flip him off, what the blinkin, hit it! That last sentence needs a "woofer." Push that pedal fool.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear

Click above for a larger view

This is the most recent of the Car Series, taken by driving slowly through a shopping center off Route 29 in Charlottesville. In this case the camera is in the image area via the reflection in the mirror, but is too dark to be seen. The passenger seat was reclined and a tripod jury-rigged so that the lens is almost even with the window ledge.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

"Drive On," a Found Negative from the Car Series

Click above for a larger image . . .

This is one of the Car Series that I haven’t shown before. I came across it while looking through my piles of negatives. It’s about the same setup (4X5, 90 mm Super Angulon {save viewpoint as a 28mm on a 35mm camera} as in Car – Rain, but the camera was mounted lower and skewed slightly. The Car Rain link also has more general information on the Car Series.
As in others, exposure was dependent on the what lit buildings I passed by. I believe this was taken over the entire length of West Main Street in Charlottesville.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Click image for a larger view

This was a time exposure with a 4X5 Graphic duct-taped (with a backup safety strap) to the hood of the car. About 5 minutes of exposure driving around a small well lit city, Charlottesville. People who pulled up next to me looked at me very suspiciously. The film was 4X5 Tri-X sheet film in a typical two sided film holder.

The environment we live in is a bit surreal, but we are utterly used to it. It takes a different way of looking just to see it the way it is.

Click here for some further photographs and information from the Car Series

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Public Sale

This is an odd shot (click the picture for a larger image). The child seems to be staring back at the viewer, as though the photo frame itself was a window. Windows work two ways, you can look out or in. Photos are generally one way, but this one has a subject staring back at the viewer.
The story is odd too. I worked on the Queen Anne Record Observer, Centreville, Md. This was also the location of the Russian Embassy’s vacation house/villa/dacha. The “public sale” pictured above was the sale of some land that had been owned by the Russian Embassy.
This photograph was taken many years ago, when Cold War sentiments were still prevalent. We’d see Russians in Centreville on odd occasions, usually overdressed for the weather. But they generally kept to themselves.
When I was researching this, I came across an article on the estate. Nice place;

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Target

Click above for a larger view

These targets showed up on a wall of the Paramount Theater (prior to its renovation) and a few other spots in Charlottesville, about 6 years ago. They are the standard targets used in the training of police officers, government agents, etc. Attempts were made to remove them, which were only partially successful.

They are disturbing to see on a gut level. It is a human target. They mean one thing; this is a violent place. Not Charlottesville in particular; everywhere.

They are used to train civilian “peace” officers to use “deadly force.” Pasting them up in public was a surprisingly direct manner of communicating. No comment was necessary. The items themselves spoke volumes.

There has been quite a shift in the way people think and behave in the last ten years or so. We are trying very hard not to see it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Montreal Museum mentioned in Boing Boing

Boing Boing just published an web article (by Xeni Jarden) on a Museum in Montreal dedicated to a family of “short stature.” The permalink is here;
I visited there about 20 years ago, while staying with friends in Montreal. The picture above is from the Son’s room (taken on Kodachrome), who evidently was born without the genetic complexities of his parents. Here is a zoomed in image of the Father and Son in a photographic hung on the wall;

The story spelled out on several wall plaques was; the original couple worked and earned money in the circus for many years. They ended up wealthy for the time, through savings and investments. They bought the house and various other properties in Montreal. The house was precisely constructed to size; beds, commodes, etc. When they had their son, they added the room in the photograph, which is scaled for his size. He was of “ordinary” height.
The main attraction to the museum (although called “Palais” in advertisements) was the rooms and the antique d├ęcor.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Newest of the Car Series

Here’s the most recent of the Car Series. Clicking will bring up a larger view. Here’s the earlier post on the thoughts behind it.

You are separated in this chamber of glass and steel, in a blanket of sounds from the stereo, watching with a certain detachment to the bumper in front of you.

Friday, July 13, 2007

All that Tweeting is driving me crazy

My Documents/My Pictures/My Head

Something else

I woke at 4 a.m. and started musing on what to do next. And then this thought appeared. The thought was; I’ve always been looking for “something else.” Whatever the situation, with self or circumstance, I always looked for the next step. Something more.

It’s a simple formula for striving. It’s almost a snippet of programming language.


my car is driving me crazy, it’s in the shop again . . .
I need this, I get it. My cars fixed, I feel good about it for a millisecond, then some other item gets loaded . . .

Just think of a bunch of beings all programmed in this manner. . . They could eat up a small planet in a short time.


Where I was, who I am, was never enough. I always needed something else. And when that something else was found, it became another starting point for seeking once again. And so on. . .

Return to Start

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

35 mm Double Exposure Film Strip

I took this set of photos using an unusual method. It was taken on TRI-X 35 mm film of friends from work, but the film was run through the camera twice. This resulted in double exposures. I didn’t expect much but mud from the experiment. But, I’ve grown to enjoy the changing expressions and the odd way the images combined. Of course, I know everyone’s story too, and the pictures reflect who they are fairly well.
I’ve split the strip into parts rather than trying to put the whole length on one line.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Shentai at the Frank IX Building - Charlottesville

Shentai - The Kindled Flame

Fire Dancer

The Unwelcome Overture

I caught “Shentai” last week, at the exquisite, nearly open-air venue called Frank IX. This was my first experience with the sort of fringe festival put on by the Zen Monkey Project, and a few other groups.
The Frank IX building is in itself an experience. It’s a really large ex-textile factory of two stories (although the second story is at least twice the height of the first) with also huge window spaces. They really are spaces as all the traces of the original windows, frames and all, are missing. No kids are allowed, which is good, considering the windows.
It’s a theatre experience more like the “fringe festival” than anything else I can think of. Think: surreal humor. There’s a way that it really adds something to Charlottesville’s art credentials.
In particular, a play (Dido vs. the Squid Monster) had a great sense of pacing, excellent acting. Very funny. The real kicker is the fire dancing at the end of the night. Hey, fire dancing is exciting by nature, but the dancers also had grace and presence.
Christian Breeden fronts some of the spectacles, and keeps a running/flaming presence going during the final conflagration.
I can only hope the performers don’t tire of this, at least for a few years.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Car - Rain


We don’t tend to picture ourselves in the actual environment we’re in. Instead, we think of ourselves in a more ideal setting, perhaps our porch, living room, perhaps hiking our favorite trail. However, if we live where the largest percentage of people do, we spend much of our time surrounded by concrete and cars. If we commute in a city, we end up spending a significant time on this earth behind the wheel.

Some time ago I started a set of pictures that I called the “Car Series.”

The concept "automobile" is so deeply ingrained in our daily consciousness that we've really lost all possibility of having a real perspective on it. In that sense it has become rather like the concept, "self." If you doubt this, remember the last time your car broke down and your mental state at the time. So that's why the car features prominently in these photos.

I had some goals in mind in using time exposures in a moving vehicle. , I wanted to capture more time than the traditional instant a still picture captures. Another photographic goal was to find a way to add more fluidity to photographic images.
There was also a pure desire to experiment. The nature of the time exposure/motion technique meant that I would not really know what had been recorded on the film until it was developed. I knew what the setup would record, but had no idea what conditions would be recorded on my particular trip through the city.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Under the Belmont Bridge - Charlottesville

Click above for a larger view

"Belmont Bridge"

This is a photograph of the underside of the Belmont Bridge, before the railroad moved to block access. Now it's fenced. That turf in view on the other side of the tracks has not changed much in the years I've lived here. That includes the older two story building visible between the pillars. Sometimes called the Beck Cohen building because of the sign on it, it is now also sporting a “for sale” sign. This was taken with a Plaubel Makina Pro-Shift 6X9 cm., on Tri-X.

The Downtown Mall had tough times long after it became pedestrian. The road was removed a long time ago, but that did not really revitalize the area. Instead there was something like a “tipping point.” Enough outdoor restaurant seating, a feeling of a secure setting, and more people at all hours, led to what it is today. Plus, Charlottesville changed from “the Hook,” (a place where you went to UVA, and then moved away, to an urban career center) to a place with enough business activity to support “a life.” Jeez, whatever that is . . . If I ever get some time off, I’ll have to look into it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Painting with Light – Outer Banks

Click on the above image for a larger view

The cottage I rent in the Outer Banks is one of the oldest cottages in the area. It won’t be there for long. It’s on an ocean front lot and the owner passed away several years ago. All the other houses around it are new and tower many stories above it. They are there so a hurricane can have something to sink its teeth into. That this is the oldest ocean front cottage attests to the wisdom of its design.

The house is surrounded by small boardwalks that are weathered. The cottage has quite a few resident toys and is obviously peopled by families with young children. The photo above was taken of a space between two walks where some shells had been arranged, probably by a child.

I’ve taken a few at this cottage using the flashlight and time exposure method mentioned in other posts. The benefits of this approach are many, such as; as many apparent light sources as desired, oblique lighting that works well for highlighting textures and the ability to paint/light selectively so there are plenty of areas that are close to the darkest tones. Click here to see a detail view of a light-painted area.

This time I tried a different approach to exposure. I estimated based on one second worth of exposure at F16, but I used a digital camera for a series of test exposures, before replacing it with a Pentax 6X7cm camera with a wide angle lens. This is a major improvement over just blindly shooting a bunch of negatives with fingers crossed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Outer Banks Grave

One of my death-related projects has been searching out unusual examples of “rites of passage.” I came across one of these while investigating old graveyards on the Outer Banks.
Although the Outer Banks (aka, Hatteras Island) has a long history (“The Lost Colony”) it hasn’t many older graveyards. One exception is the town of Avon, which has an older town center. It is surrounded by miles of the beach houses that are the heart of the local economy. Located on the Sound side of the Island, it has long been a community focused on fishing. There is a church in the town that yearly has a unique service where an empty boat is launched and prayers for "the waterman’s" safety are said. There are a number of church and private grave yards under the expansive limbs of the live oak trees.
I came across the above grave site while walking the shore road in Avon. It’s a sad story, the passing of someone young, on the verge of the first year of college. Although, it’s a wonderful display; the young man’s prized possessions, a college banner, and a more spontaneous arrangement of shells, etc. I also was struck by how the live oaks stretched over the site, as though they were putting roots into the sky.
The grief of a loved one’s passing is overwhelming. It feels like the emptiness formed by that loss sucks all the life from you. Most of these actions we take in response are made to make peace with that powerful emptiness.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Anonymous Grave - Chestertown, Md.

This marker is from the same graveyard on the Eastern Shore of Maryland that I wrote about in the post preceding this one. Like the other grave stone, this is one of a group of stones without the names of the deceased. These stones are all grouped in one area of the graveyard.
The other stone had the phrase, “Is God Love God is Love” chiseled into it. This one is cast concrete, possibly cast by digging out the shape on the ground, and pouring the concrete into it. A large bathroom tile was set into the concrete, surrounded by 13 marbles. Since this is a graveyard that had been associated with a church (closed now, with no indication of name, etc.), one wonders if there is a religious association. 13 is the number of apostles if Christ is included in the group.

A recycled bathroom tile and some marbles. crickets, and the silence that lives deeply in all of us. Our little piece of existence chipped out of, but always present, in eternity. With some concrete and found objects, here lies a real monument to something beyond names.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Is God Love? God is Love.

Looking back over the photographs I’ve taken, death seems to emerge as a theme, or perhaps just an obsession. I’m sure I’m not the only one who might feel it. Mystified. Considering walking, living, breathing, seeing; what’s up when it stops? You can answer, nothing, it all stops, etc. An answer, but we want more. This seems like a wall blocking understanding; a mystery.
Words fail. Are we self-conceiving or self creating? Or, were we formed by our interaction with others, environment, God? Gurdjieff said, somewhat facetiously, much was determined by the smell of the lozenge the midwife was sucking on when she delivered him. Regardless, we can’t conceive of not-being, and we’re likely to feel distress if we try.
“Is God Love? God is Love” is the most important of these photos to me. I spent a lot of time in that grave yard, with the chant of the crickets by day, and the grunts of the frogs by night. Most of the grave markers have no name on them, since, given time, it’s the spirit of life, not particulars, that could interest the living. These are memorials that are more real than grave stones. They’re not talking about sentimental love, they’re talking about something as ever present as light.
The detail view of the stone shows two crudely chiseled fishes on either side, swimming toward a heart in the middle. On the right corner is a hand, pointing down from above. It appears to be cut in with a simple pointed tool.
These are all Christian symbols, the fish, the hand of god. The heart is usually the sacred heart of Jesus. This is the message left, instead of a name. The names all disappear in the wind, anyway. The eyes that read this are in the same body as a beating heart.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Coffee Cup (Painting with Light)

Coffee. Is there anything better than coffee? Well, perhaps, but, never mind. The above taken with the antique Speed Graphic, with the 135mm lens. The lens was pulled out to full macro, beyond the focus track. Then it was titled forward so the near and far lip of the cup would be in focus even at F-22. Spirit courtesy of time exposure and a flashlight waved above the cup. The flashlight provided light on the cup, and the reflection in the coffee. Simple lighting!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Painting with Light

This is an example of "painting with light." There are four light sources in this photo, if you include the streak of light from the car passing in the background. I set the 4X5 Speed Graphic, with 90mm angulon lens, on F 16 after focusing on the ground glass with the lens fully opened. I then locked the shutter open. The first light applied to the scene was a powerful flash about 60 feet away to the left. I was not in the car for this exposure (I was firing the flash). Most night light sources are point sources, which can be easily imitated with flash as long as it is fairly far away from the subject. With the F stop and distance, it took five flash firings to reach the correct exposure. I hid behind bushes to give the light some shadows. I then moved to the car with a large flashlight and hid below the dashboard level in the front seat to illuminate the weeds and ground to the right of the car just outside the open door. The estimated exposure for the flashlight was 3 seconds, so I moved the flashlight back and forth accordingly. The last exposure was by the map light in the front of the car above the windshield. I metered this exposure and moved myself slightly during the exposure to leave a blurred but humanoid image. This isn’t intended as a self-portrait. It's really a photograph of you in the car, you know, you, the reader. But you didn't show, so I had to stand in.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Walter Sprouse's Birthday Party

This is a photograph from one of Walter Sprouse’s birthday parties. One day Walter just showed up at the hollow (a group of houses, and a small community, in a hollow that ran up the side of a small mountain, on Route 29 south of Charlottesville, Va.) and after introductions, started playing his banjo and singing very old songs.
It was the kind of simple music associated with the early 1900’s in the Virginia highlands. Walter’s birthday became a yearly party at the hollow, where Walter would play for hours, and everyone else would “kick back.” Walter seemed to feel quite at home with the younger folks. He had a very gentlemanly demeanor and his main interest, second to his family, was the old songs. The photo was taken with 35mm camera and Tri-x film.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Quiet Lately

While I live in Charlottesville, I have lots of connections with Virginia Tech. The connections include two members of my family, and there are many graduates of Tech where I work. In fact, many of the structural engineering studies at work are done in conjunction with engineers at Tech.
The son of family friends was one of the lucky students who survived being shot. He used his foot to block the door so the shooter couldn’t come back in after reloading. I can’t imagine recovering from just witnessing something like that. He was shot through the arm, but the bullet missed an artery, so he’s mending.
I won’t add anything more about my thinking, etc. There's enough to read on the net already. But it has caused me to refrain from the usual posting.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Anywhere But Here

I entered this combination of images in a show for "manipulated digital" sponsored by It certainly didn't win anything, but it was fun to do. I threw it together in a few hours from a old postcard I had. The photo of me was taken in my office. I used a floor lamp for the light source, and I just made sure the shadows were consistent with the postcard. "I'm ditching this so-called town!"

Saturday, April 14, 2007

My Chair in the Woods

“My Reading Chair in the Woods”

For a time I lived with two roommates in a house situated on the edge of a dense woods. It was truly cluttered with smaller, early growth trees, vines and lots of ground growth. I took to reading in the woods and had a few chairs scrounged from a junk store placed in spots on the hill above the house. Other than the chair, there was not a single man-made item in view.
After setting the book down one day, I looked at the chair and book in the mottled sun. It seemed luminous, so I brought back the trusty Speed Graphic and grabbed the image

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Two Photographic Approaches

I’m basically a ghost which has learned to post to the internet.
So, no surprise, I was haunting my usual route, down through the twisty alleys, underneath the warmly lit windows. Rounding the corner, I came across what appeared to be the “Good Book” in a window. A weed grew, in an unlikely spot, directly below. And, even though the god of art said “never center,” the god of circumstance everlasting, chose the middle path.

This would fall into the photographic category of “found art” or “street photography.” Basically, the photographer comes across something interesting and documents it. I’ve also been interested in arranging elements and then photographing them. When combined with time exposure, it is possible to imply motion in a still photograph, or compress the passage of time to a moment, as in the image below. It was a time exposure of about 2 minutes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

John Farr's Blog, FarrFeed

Photo by John Farr
One of my favorite blogs is FarrFeed (“Living Planet Mystery Tales”), written by John Farr. I’ve known John since the time we were both living in the flatlands of the Maryland Eastern Shore. John, and his wife Kathy, moved to the very non-flat lands of Taos, New Mexico. There’s quite a story behind this move, and John turned it into a book called Buffalo Lights. John’s usual discussion topics are the stories that unfold inside and outside the windows of his adobe mansion, floating above the desert.
John is an excellent photographer, and you can check out his pictures by going to his “fotofeed.” The photo above is a sample of what you’ll see.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Black Holes, Event Horizons, and recurring headaches

I’ve taken a few “self portraits” over the years. I put that in quotes because the concept is implicitly squirrelly. Where’s the self? How is it a portrait?
Stand in front of a mirror; look in the iris of your eye. It’s just black. No light escapes. No clues to the mystery. Get your camera; put it on a tripod in front of the mirror. Stand there with it. Take a picture. Now there are two (three, technically) irises. The black holes stare back. Still, no light escapes. But now you have a picture of you and your buddy.
So it’s a black hole, and we “are,” via the magic of the event horizon? Somewhere in all that blackness . . . Yes, nothing does escape.
I suggest this as an exercise worth doing. You’ll end up with an enduring portrait of mystery.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Why I shoot black and white (and color)

I got an e-mail recently that asked;

I was just wondering, why do you enjoy taking photographs in black and white? Do you like the effect is makes? Or do you think it perhaps communicates a certain message to the viewer?

I do like the effect, and by that I mean the effect of conventional black and white film printed on black and white paper. In a way, this doesn’t make much sense to someone who is getting into photography currently, unless they’ve seen some black and white prints. I started in photography when film was the only available medium for capturing still images. There is a certain look that one gets printing black and white materials. For that matter, color film also has its own unique look. However, in the case of color, that was generally a limitation, so generally, nobody emulates it in digital.
That vintage black and white look was a higher contrast, and there is a texture in the image due to the film grain. The grain could be thought of in the same way that pencil shading works in a paper drawing. There are certain qualities of the shading (grain) as it goes from a mid-tone to black.
In the digital age black and white is still around, but mostly for design or artistic reasons. Some people like to shoot character portraits in black and white because they think of the color as distracting. The subject is thought to stand out more when there is less to distract from it. I don’t necessarily agree with this. It also has to do with the type of subject, and lighting.
There are all sorts of experiments going on with color, or various color sets, especially limited ones. There’s sepia, a way of toning an image that is monochrome so that the entire tone scale is slightly brown.
So, it is a bit complicated. I’ve got one photo that consists of black, very dark brown, and a lighter brown. . It’s called a tri-tone, something invented by the printing industry. It works pretty well for the particular image.

Where I work, which is a research lab, I’m now using digital imaging exclusively. I had no choice in this particular change. The speed of digital and the reduced costs won over film. All the public relation style photos are in color, because they eventually go out for glossy brochures, or the web. Same for all the research documentation, they generally need to be in color. Sometimes they are images of materials research, and color accuracy is crucial.
I do a lot of night photographs for my own photos. There are usually street lights, which are arc lights that put out a narrow and incomplete spectrum, mostly in the green range. I use black and white for these, because the color makes a sickly green image, which is not how it looks to the eye.
So, in spite of the name on this blog, and the name on my main site, which is also Black and White Dreams ( ) I do shoot color from time to time.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Washington D.C. - An Uncomfortable Photo

This is a photograph found in the old album. Unlike the ones that were posted before, this is a photograph from hell. Actually, it says "Washington D.C.' on the bottom of the photo (same thing?). Considering the inventiveness of the photographer in other shots in the album, one wonders if this visual tension is intended. Is she having a chuckle about the typical "person in so-and-so place" photo? The subject is even made so uncomfortable by the composition that she's trying in vain to lean to correct it. The line in the sidewalk seems to be trying to lie about the vanishing point in the distance. She's squinting into the noonish sun with the usual expression that accompanies severe eye strain.

We don't know who this is, never will. If anyone can guestimate the date from the dress and shoes, drop me a note at I also don't recognize the location, although I suspect that might be the top of the Smithsonian building in the background. If so, the spot on the Mall of America could be triangulated.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

More old album photos - National Cemetery

This is a photograph found in the same family album the prior post. Condsider the humor that pervades the shots in this family album. I think the irony of the beautiful girl against the background of graves stretching off to the horizon was not lost on the photographer or subject. Neither could have quessed that some unforseen event in unloading or developing the film would cause such a perfect fade-to-black on the right side of the image.
It was 1920. The parade of non-descript graves were probably from World War One. I can't imagine how much it has expanded as the years have passed.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Family Portrait

This is a photograph found in an old album. Its a very humorus and original pose, and each person in the photo communicates some sense of their personality. This is probably the aesthetic key to portraiture. Something is communicated between the person in the picture and the viewer. Yet, it tends to be beyond words.

Notice the box camera in the foreground. I have something similar on a shelf here, a Brownie Junior 6-16, from some uncertain vintage. The one in the picture might be a senior, judging from the size difference. With two cameras on scene I suspect that this group was enamored of snapshots, which could explain the playfulness of the photograph. One tends to make eye contact with each person in the image. Each person has a certain presence, and there is some sense of connection from one time to another.