Saturday, December 12, 2009

Watch your Feet! ( Introspection ain't so great)

I was wandering up the Brown’s mountain trail immersed in some obsessive thinking stimulated by work. Hands in pockets, looking down, vaguely recognizing anything, I saw this small patch of unevenly lit leaf and dirt, and snapped a shot.

My introversion is really more like an empty room where someone has left the television on, and it’s running a commercial for an anti-depressant. The thinking turned out to be pointless, as, by the time I got to work the next day, all the elements I had reflected on had been “shaked, rattled, and rolled” into a different configuration.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Auction, Crumpton Maryland, and the Bunny

The picture above is from Crumpton Auction, at the time a very interesting large auction held mid-week on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. To my surprise, I found that a local antique dealer in Charlottesville still does send a truck down to the Auction.

There is a lot to see in this photo. The most puzzling element is the large Dali-like painting in the back. I have no idea what the story might have been, but I was not able to find anything documenting this image as one of his. If it had been titled, it would have to have been “Women Contemplating Cruise Ship.” Then there are a few portraits of unknown folks, and lamps galore, including one of the Buddha with a power cord wrapped around it. No bulb socket visible on Buddha, so all of him must have glowed.

Crumpton had it all back then, including farm related items. That included small livestock in one section, such as chickens, rabbits. There were some students from Washington College (how I ended up in Chestertown Md. in the first place) with me, and one decided a rabbit was going to be saved from becoming someone’s dinner. She took the rabbit home, but it became an issue where she shared an apartment, as rabbits tend to smell, unless you are very vigilant with their living quarters. So, a week later the rabbit was released into the wilds of Chestertown, where it might have done fine. The next day there was an unusual 2 foot snow storm. I only mention this as it is sometimes a characteristic of well-meaning, best laid plans.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

My View at Work

Click picture for larger view

Ah “work.” In many cases, work is where we spend our lives, although “spending” is an odd way to think of it. Time spends itself. I’ve noticed it spends itself at different rates too.

This is my work computer, outfitted with dual lizards, a mystery plastic prism I found in a pile of trash, and my most favorite picture of a famous person. Marilyn Monroe, no makeup, looks friendly. She stares at me, looking a trifle amused. I’m not a fan of the glamour version of her, but this photo shows another side. I need these props to humanize work.

I worked part of the day with a researcher interested in getting a short video about hydraulic concrete edited. He never seemed to notice any of the props, or perhaps he was being polite.

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Alley, Bible, and Weed

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 of Charlottesville, 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.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Arts Ensemble of Chicago at Cabell Hall

The Arts Ensemble of Chicago played Old Cabell Hall at the University of Virginia many years ago. Malachi Favors, the bassist pictured here, passed away in 2004. I’ve seen many unusual acts at Cabell Hall. UVA’s music department has booked many great players over the years. Often the artists are also there to do hands on classes with the music students.
It was an impressive layout of instruments (see picture below) and tympani played a major part.

At times it was a wave or wall of sound, some of the loudest unamplified playing I think I’ve ever heard. Lester Bowie seemed to be taking a leading role on trumpet, front and center. Unlike the rest of the band he was dressed in a white lab coat, as though he had wandered over from the UVA Hospital. Malachi and the others were in what seemed like very non-traditional African inspired dress, although it tended to the avant guard also. One or two pieces in the concert were quite different, tonal, and melodious, with a quiet dynamic.
The only seats left when I got there were in the balcony, so I took some photos with a 35mm camera and mirror telephoto by using the wooden rail around the balcony as a tripod. It was transparency film, 400 ASA, but still not enough in the low light. The exposures were ¼ second. Malachi is a bit abstract, although one unmoving string on the bass seems in tight focus. I like it anyway in that it captures the energy he was applying to his playing.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Saigon Cafe-Hot Tea

Click above image for a larger view

Our favorite Vietnamese Restaurant in Charlottesville, Saigon Cafe, with the required drink in hand, hot tea.
This is an example of how a completely unsharp image can still convey a mood. The lack of detail somehow enhances the experience of the color and the shapes.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Clock Shop - Charlottesville - Time Passing

This was taken through the window of The Clock Shop of Virginia (closed on Saturdays), caddy corner to where the Charlottesville City Market is held. The shop has been here as long as I have lived here. The display case is like a small museum of different clock designs, from antique, to modern (as in what was modern in the 50-70’s).

Time remains one of the most mysterious of concepts to me. The clock implies a structured, measurable property, yet psychological time seldom has that characteristic. If an event is charged with enough emotion, it may never seem far away at all.

The Clock Shop has seen some time pass by, and you can feel in a different time while browsing its collection. That display case has little to do with sales; it’s a display of eras via clock design elements.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Chair, Guitar, Woods

When I first moved to Charlottesville, I lived in a rental by the edge of thick woods, just off of Route 29, south. I had a few old chairs bought at an antique store and I would bring them out to the jungle and play guitar, or read. I took a photograph of the woods and the chair (you can see a book on it) using my old Graphic press camera and 4X5 Tri-X film. It was overgrown with wisteria and other vines, so whatever light that could get through tended to form beams lighting up areas of the forest floor. The book in this case was “The Joyful Wisdom” by F. Nietzsche, which is also pictured here; .

Monday, September 7, 2009

End of the Internet

I got lost behind the failed Landmark Hotel project and came to the dead end of the Internet. Well, the MapQuest part anyway. Does this mean the Google has finally taken over the known universe?

Since the Landmark Hotel is unfinished and failed, the front door is not much better.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Postcard from Prison

The Postcard from Hell?

I’ve been buying old postcards for years in various “antique” shops. There is one shop in particular, that picks up goods from estate sales, that frequently has old postcards that are unused. I then use them. Today I found one while quickly looking through a pile of several hundred of them. One that I grabbed in passing seemed to be of an old stone room with painting on the inside walls.
After doing the usual Google search for the text on the front of the card (it has “Oct 13 1907” written on the back with no other message. Never sent), it turned out to be the dungeon of Ludovico Sforza, il Moro, Duke of Milan, the prisoner of Louis XII, who spend 10 years in there “until death released him.” Quote from “A handbook for Travelers in France.” He was an artist whose work you might have seen while taking European history in high school. This is an image by Leonardo da Vinci . The Lady was one of Sudovic's lovers. Even the ermine looks like royalty.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

High Tension

Click above for a larger image.

This is a night photograph of the bottom of the high-tension tower that’s not nearly far enough from my house on Locust Ave. It s a shame there was nothing in the photo that gives the scale of the tower.

It was a seven minute exposure, lit mostly by the headlights of cars passing. I did use a flashlight to add some light to the first ten feet or so of the column. It’s a bit hard to factor in the effect of headlights on exposure. Luckily, being negative film, there is lots of latitude on the high side of the exposure scale.

The camera was set up right across the road from the tower. The road was well traveled, and, I did have a car stop right in front of the camera, out of curiosity. I'm so used to this happening I have a black “letter size” piece of cardboard in my hand to cover the lens when somebody stops right in front. They want to know what I’m doing, I do my best to explain it, (I’m not even sure myself) and they usually drive away.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Event at the Bridge Progressive Art Initiative

Click above for a larger image.

This is a photograph of a very small garage on North 1st street in Charlottesville. I had just come back from taking a few photos near the McGuffey Art Center, and noticed that this space was hosting an event. I’ve happened across at least one other event here. During one of the few snow storms of last winter I was biking back from Preston Ave. and noticed the garage was open. There were a few people who had finished up hanging a “mobile” of jars with various items in them. They were hung over a map of Charlottesville, indicating the location of the contents of each jar. I guess it was a Mobile Geolocation device : >.

I sat down on the side of the wall on Lee Park with a small group of others. Having missed the first act, the next was a mix of poetry and singing using a tape looping device, although the device was digital. Tape loops thankfully are no longer with us.

It was a well done short piece. I had the camera (the Rapid Omega 6X7 with 58 mm lens) so I dropped it in place on the tripod and took one exposure.

I’ve attended a number of events at the Bridge, and even had my own photo night there last year. The Bridge and its projects (which are many) has been a real boon for Charlottesville, providing show space and lots of entertainment. One particularly interesting event was about producing audio for radio. It was presented along with a few other nights of presentations involving just sound. The best feature of Bridge presentations is the audience interaction, which is really encouraged.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

West Main Street - Garage

Almost everyone in Charlottesville refers to the City as composed of different parts. I suppose this is typical of most places, and, in the case of Charlottesville, the parts have changed over the years. When I first moved here the “Corner” (the buildings on University Ave., opposite UVA) was where much of the music venues were, and also where most of the night life happened. The music scene began to bleed into West Main Street, with Trax-Max and the Mine Shaft, and it bled further down the street with Starr Hill. Eventually the Downtown Mall became what it was intended to be many years ago, and now it has the two largest venues in town.
All the time West Main was something in between something. While it was a “part” of Charlottesville, it was more of a connector. If you walk the length, you’ll see it go from upscale near the corner, to empty spaces, and “seen better days” buildings. This is where I photographed some structures. They’ve been empty for a while. As can be the case; the lights on, but nobody’s at home. Case in point, below.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Unseen Corner, Rt. 12, Avon, N. C.

Click on the picture for a larger view.

Much of our current environment becomes invisible to us over time. Like a virus that we’ve built up immunity to, we simply don’t “bother” seeing it anymore. This can lead to some odd decisions in infrastructure placement and appearance. Cartoonist R. Crumb went through a period of drawing power poles, wires, and the huge (dangerous) hanging transformers above our heads. Most European countries ban overhead power hardware, so these places look oddly bare to us when we first travel there.

The current photo is a corner on highway 12 in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The block behind this corner is a stretch of beach houses owned by one realty company. Their “branding” is to have some alternating white and red bougainvilleas on each corner of Rt. 12, which essentially is the only major road on this very thin strip of land. The traffic light control box was planted in the middle of this set of bougainvilleas, which appear cloudy/smoky due to their moving in the high wind during the time exposure. The box at the top of the frame is the remote control interface. This is the “hurricane evacuation route” and so probably requires immediate remote control during evacuations. No one “sees” this corner, so several cars and trucks stopped in the middle of the road (it was late and traffic was sparse) to ask what I was taking a picture of. None of my answers seems to satisfy, although they drove off after a comment or two, or a guffaw.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Charlottesville Mall - Photographs and Fantasies

For a set of more Mall night shots, click here.

A doorway on Second Street, off the Downtown Mall. It may appear to be the utility entrance to a cineplex, but there is evidence that other forces and laws are in effect. I've taken a series of color night photographs of the C-Ville Mall at Night.

In fact, I never took anything other than black and white in night setting for years. I had fallen into an orthodoxy that many night photographers follow. The condensed version of that; color film can't produce "true" colors under available light in typical night situation. Almost all outdoor lighting is some odd combination of mercury vapor, or fluorescent, or one of the newer technologies. These are some of the things that drive astronomers nuts and also has made the historic McCormick Observatory less useful as a research tool. Light pollution is one of the major problems for astronomers, and also means that very few people have really seen how impressive a clear, un-light-polluted, night sky really is.

Shifting back to photography, arguing the validity of color representation in a typical night lit scene is a lost cause. Our brains make adjustments based on our almost instinctive knowledge of the daylight colors of objects. Film, or sensors in digital cameras, have their own spin, but we soon make that part of our habit of "seeing."

I find that what I get from shooting color (negative) film at night is "interesting." Sometimes a color that is technically "wrong" is a surprising discovery.
Here are a few more examples, all linked to larger versions, click here

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Walk up Brown's Mountain, Charlottesville, Va.

We were doing our walk up Brown’s Mountain, although this time we were walking without talking. It became much easier to get immersed in the sound environment, and I began to listen with enough intent to quiet my thinking to some degree.

We came across a pileated woodpecker, at least we heard it, and after some walking, the trail went by the dead tree it was working on. It fell silent and shifted to another tree until it knew we had continued. As we climbed up the mountain trail, the woodpecker could be heard all the way to the top. Sound is remarkably able to indicate direction, and as the trail twisted upward, the woodpeckers sound gave an immediate indication of our winding upward path.

The tree cover is in full Spring mode, so the sun poked through, sending beams down to the forest floor. It reminded me of theatrical spot lights, the beams illuminating areas of detail on the forest floor. Some of the areas brought me to a halt to take a better look. I ended up taking a photo of a leaf that had some water sitting in it. No clue as to ‘why.’

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Gone but back now . . . .

Well, I'm an infrequent blogger, which is supposed to be the kiss-o-death for click-throughs, traffic, etc. Eventually nobody reads your blog and soon you dry up and blow away in the next stiff wind.
In any event, if "you" happen to be still reading, I ran off and became re-acquainted with my guitar. It is and old Ovation I bought from Boe's Strings ages ago when I had signed up for one of the Guitar Craft classes.
I was playing it in the "heathen tuning," which may just be appropriate for me. I also was playing with a Zoom digital recorder, and I ended up with an mp3 to share. Its short. My repertoire is mighty small lately as I rarely get around to giving the guitar my time. This is the classic "over popped and plucked" method I've been perfecting, ahem. There's a sigh towards the end. It was someone stuck with reading in the multi-use studio (the living room) and they simply passed out with excitement. Here it is

Friday, May 29, 2009

Unseen Ventilator - Omni Hotel Charlottesville

Click above for a larger image (new window)

In keeping with my observations of selective vision, I have a photograph of the massive air conditioner that feeds the Omni Hotel. It’s on a street that forks right where the Vinegar Hill Theatre is. It now has the Charlottesville Running Store and a few other offices on it. On the other side of the street is the large air-conditioning unit that feeds air to the fishes checked in for the night. Ok, it’s not an aquarium.

I stood out there with my camera for about an hour and I was almost entirely unnoticed by passerby’s. Pretty much no one looks at the blank wall, loading dock, and gigantic life support machine that fill that side of the street. No one also looks/notices the miles of wire hung from poles, and the huge (surely fatal if they fell on anyone) transformers that hang from poles overhead.

If an American travels to Europe, where overhead wires are buried in many places, he’ll feel something is missing, although it might not occur to him what it is for a while. Then he’ll look up to see unobstructed sky in places, and realize the wires and transformers are missing.

Anyway, here’s the largely invisible Ventilator/Thing. Take a look next time. It’s huge, you can climb up the ladder and see all the way to the ice park.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Asylum Street Spankers in C-Ville Again

The Asylum Street Spankers played at Charlottesville's Outback Lodge last week. This is one of my favorite music acts, which specializes in a mix of older songs which lean toward the obscene/naughty, and plenty of their own songs which are both obscene (in a healthy way) and really funny. They played this time without Christina Marrs, who is out on maternity leave.She has a myspace space page . And a few other links Leaf Blower, Holy Holy
Miss Christina and the songs and vibe she brings.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Live Oak

This is a dirt driveway through the live oaks, at the end of a paved road on the Sound side of Avon, N.C. I had been wandering on the paved road, which has some very old graveyards on it, when I saw the dirt road snaking away through the trees. I felt almost compelled to follow it, but it was a private driveway. This was one of the largest groups of the oaks I had seen.

Live oaks stay green all winter (they are also called evergreen oaks), and were once used for building parts of boat hulls. Getting a straight plank from a live oak is not easy, so they were generally used for large structural parts.

The next photo is from Cumberland Island, and Island that’s been settled by people as far back as local written history goes, and farther than that, based on archeological evidence. Most of it is now part of the National Park system. This is just over the inside dune on the ocean side, where there is a NPS campground entirely under live oaks like these. The live oaks and the campground go up to the dune facing the ocean, and stop. It’s interesting coming in from the beach. You walk down the open beach, climb a wooden boardwalk over the dune and down into the oak grove.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Charlottesville Mall and the Landmark Hotel

There it is, a tall reminder of the project "in negotiation," due to what usually happens when the bank account goes south for the winter.

While I was setting up to take the picture, I had to explain all this to some curious out-of-towners, assuring them that the building would be finished/used eventually.

In the mean time; perhaps drape it in a sheet and show movies on it? Asheville N.C. does outside free movies in the summer. They’re usually silent flicks with a live pianist providing support. And there are some small orchestral groups that specialize in providing music for “silents.”

Another idea; cover it with a giant rendering of what would be seen if the building was not there at all. With the Mall itself all repaired that “building” is going to begin to stand out.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won't stay there. ~Clarence W. Hall

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Chalottesville Downtown Mall Story

The "bag lady" and the other silhouettes on the Charlottesville Mall have stayed put during the recent re-bricking. Things look pretty grim in the above photo, but today it was sunny, warm, and the City had paid a good jazz band to play. So, in spite of the unfinished spots, there was quite a bit of activity.

The following story happened about a month back;

It was about the first warm day and it was sunny at the end of the Downtown Mall, by the Bus station. The Vendors were there with their gear, but it was, for the most part, wool caps and other winter items. I had taken the afternoon off from work and had secured a Washington Post, and found a spot on one of the small benches in front of the City Building.

It wasn’t long before an older man sat down on the bench to the left of mine. He started up a conversation, asking me how old I was. I was having some trouble understanding him, and had to ask him to repeat what he said. His voice was gravelly and weak, but I had decided to hear him out so I kept asking him to repeat things when I hadn’t heard them.

He had been conscripted into the army during the last part of senior high school, as World War II had gone on for a while, and the army was short of fresh troops. He went directly into a rushed basic training. The food at the camp was being cooked by German POW’s, as many had been brought to the U.S. to take on jobs that would normally be done by our own troops. It was the troop shortage problem again.

He was put on a boat, but it took a number of months to make it to France. This was a time when the German submarines were far too effective in attacks on vessels. So, the soldiers were anxious to go ashore. He said that by the time his platoon arrived, the war was being waged elsewhere. By that point the Germans were decimated, and soldiers had tried to blend in and run. All he did was guard duty, night after night.

Towards 4 a.m. on a guard duty, on a very cold night, he was startled when he heard a distinct “click” right behind him. He turned around to see a German, in uniform, pointing his gun towards the ground. The sound was his uncocking the gun. He turned and simply walked away. The story teller said he had plenty of time to shoot him if he had wanted to, since the German was making his way across a muddy open field. But, he saw no point in it.

It was interesting. Since this had sort of cropped up at the end of a longer, wandering narrative, I instinctively felt that it was a true story.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Fred Frith and Evelyn Glennie

Last year Fred Frith and Evelyn Glennie were resident artists for the UVA Music Department. I missed the concert they did together, but caught Mr. Frith and the UVA Music Students in their concert.

That was a very unusual night in itself. It was evident that students were encouraged to bring improvised instruments. One table appeared to consist of guitar effect pedals, with no instrument as a source. The artifacts of the pedals were the source. The stage was filled with students. There were music stands too, but I think that large areas of time were assigned to pure improvisation. On the other hand, the introduction and ending of the piece was carefully followed from a written score.

Mr. Frith used mostly electric guitars which were either played directly, or bowed with both gut and “electronic” bows. After a while, he slowly moved away from the stage and was gone until the end of the piece, where he once again joined with the others. It was an entertaining performance, and the students appeared to really enjoy the experimentation.

Just recently I decided to look into Evelyn Glennie, and was amazed by some of this percussionist’s accomplishments. What was even more startling was that she became deaf at age 12. After searching a bit, I found some examples of her playing and a lecture she gave for TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design). I’ve included the You Tube material and link to the TED lecture. The TED lecture, where she explains how she learned to listen with her body, is remarkable.

Fred Frith and Evelyn Glennie, from 2007

The TED lecture;

And here's another piece done by Fred Frith/ Iva Bittová/ Pavel Fajt "Morning Song" (1989) . An electronic alarm clock is used as an instrument.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bending a Note

You’re going to find below a series of photographs that are called “Bending a Note.” The important fact about these photographs is that they were taken on film, with no assistance or post processing via software. They were taken before such software was available.

The effects are done via time exposure and the stealing and retooling of a technique from scientific photography called “optical scanning micrography.” In this case, a thin slit of light is directed across the lens point of view at exactly the point of sharp focus. A time exposure is started, and the subject is moved slowly through the slit of light. In other words, instead of scanning the light across the subject, the subject is moved (“scanned”) through the thin light plane. The light plane is entirely within the depth of field of the lens. Another odd effect of this technique is that long subjects have no perspective distortion. Since all parts of the subject are the same distance from the lens when exposed to the slit of light, the rear of the specimen is not smaller, because it is not farther away. Are you’re eyes crossed yet? They should be.

The most difficult part of doing this on a larger scale was generating the thin sheet of light. I used two slide projectors, one on each side of the subject, each with a slide taped with metallic tape, with about an 1/8 inch slit in the center for light to pass through. By carefully positioning the projectors, a sheet of light about .25 inches thick was thrown, the flat side of which faced the projector lens. After opening the shutter of the camera for a time exposure I walked toward the lens with a guitar in my hand. Any motion that isn’t directly towards the lens causes distortion, a very useful feature to my mind. So, by now I’ve unclearly explained everything.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

La Taza Coffee House, Belmont, Charlottesville

Click above to see a larger image

This was taken from the front of Fitzgerald Tire’s towards “downtown Belmont, in Charlottesville. A car drove through during the time exposure, and the headlights left a streak of light leading from downtown Belmont past the La Taza Coffee House.
I took this using a wide angle camera intended for architectural photography, a Plaubel Makina Pro Shift. It uses 120/220 roll film, and the lens can be shifted for perspective correction. The film was Kodak Portra 160nc, which is a low contrast color negative film, and more importantly, was on sale at the time. The exposure was two minutes at F-16. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, don’t worry about it.