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Tubers! May 31, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Dinner with TCR, Politics and Society.
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This past Tuesday afternoon I stopped in at the Tuesday Market, a farmers’ market downtown in the little Massachusetts city of Northampton.  It’s in a cobbled courtyard behind Thorne’s Market, and it hosts a dozen farms/farmers proffering their produce and plants.  I threw Elliot on the box and went to see what might be seen.

It was cool, very much like so many other farmers’ markets I’ve been to in these parts, but perhaps a bit more up-scale – not the vendors, as they’re all of the earth, but the shoppers.  They were decidedly more urbane than most I’ve seen at these things, with clean-faced children named Dakota and Montana and Leaf.  I spied a beautiful little three year old angel with green eyes and vibrant red curls sipping a fruit smoothee and asked her parents if I might photographer her.  They proudly said “yes,” but Step Two was asking her,  and she said “no.”

So you get tubers.

Beets, carrots, radishes red and white:

Sweet, organic and ripe with the love of the gardener.

Elliot liked the beets, and demanded that I take one more shot at a 6 degree swing:

…canted to 2 and 8 o’clock.  I’m satisfied with the result.

Both of these shots are from Elliot, hand-held and unfiltered.  I’m liking E as a candid lens, though I usually shoot him on a tripod, and frequently with hand-held filters.

This market delivered a surprise which I’ll probably post next!

Spring Into Summer! May 30, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Spring’s wildflowers are the little ones which appear in the woods before the leaves unfurl and block the direct sunlight which fuels them.  They’re beautiful but transient, and I love them.

But they’re seen in the larger context as the opening act for the Girls of Summer, the wildflowers which bloom in the full light of roadsides and meadows.  In general, these are larger, heartier plants with showier blossoms, and these are what will anchor my photography for the next good while.

We’ll start with a roadside bloom of Ragged robin and buttercups along the side of route 8A in Hawley:

This might not show too well at blog-size, but it’s what my travels this day yielded.

Courtesy of Elliot, whose tilt of about three degrees gave me both the foreground and the skyline on a breezy afternoon.

Stockbridge This Evening. February 1, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
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My meanderings took me through Stockbridge this evening, a quintessential New England town with a lot of history – hell, Norman Rockwell immortalized the place in his paintings, and nothing old there hasn’t appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.  It’s about as iconic as America gets, and as intimate as such a shared experience could possibly be.

As I tooled through the central village, I caught a glimpse of a beautiful brick edifice and found a place to hang a u-turn and park.

Turns out the building was once the Town Offices:

That’s a straight-on, no trick shot from Elliot, who none the less managed to get a lot into the picture.

Now days the front of this building houses a sales room for Yankee Candle, a local purveyor of, well, you know what:

…yeah, right.  Candles.  They’re cool candles, but they’re still just candles.  That was Elliot employing his tilt-skills to get things looking rectilinear.  That’s why architectural photographers use tilt-shift lenses – they allow one to present a straight-on image without distortion, even if the photographer can’t occupy the exact spot where an image would be rendered without convergences.  Here I’m considerably below the center point of the image, so all of the vertical lines would have leaned slightly inward toward a “vanishing point” at the photo’s top, except for Elliot’s “shift” function.

Thanks, Kid.

The cool thing about “shift” lenses is that one can either negate vanishing points, or exaggerate them.  The latter choice can yield images which look dream-like to me, like this:

…a detail from the front of the building, with a good deal of “swing” (that’s left-to-right ’tilt’ of the front lens) to get it all in focus.

As I was shooting this, a young-ish lady and older man came out of the building, and the woman asked if I thought I ought to ask permission to photograph there.  No, I thought, this is a public sidewalk and a public facade.  But I inquired instead why she was asking.

Turns out the photo in that frame was taken by the older man at her side, Clemens Kalischer was his name.  He’s ninety years old, a German Jew who escaped the Holocaust by the skin of his teeth, and has his photography on permanent display at the Met, among many other esteemed venues.

I was humbled, and even more so when I accepted their invitation to the gallery at the the rear of the building.  Tears welled up in my eyes at the beauty of this man’s work, a lifetime of observing the human condition, rendered in the honesty of black and white.  See some of it here.

I’ll be back to study these masterpieces in the near future.  Plainly, I have soooooo much to learn from people like this, who go unheralded through our space and time, but none the less deserve our time and attention.

Thank you, Mr. Kalischer, for showing me the way.

Monochromes. January 7, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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I just read a magazine article about monochrome photography and thought, “That’s what that farm in Williamstown was like.”

I got out there this past Thursday, turned into an untracked driveway, looked for signs of life.

No one.

Just an array of barns and out-buildings standing dream-like in the swirling snow:

Weathered barns and decaying fences told of a former life:

So many doors, which lead to who remembers where?

And now, they’re trellises for whatever vinaceous species seek out their support:

The wood weathering, the rest rusting it’s way through the years:

And beyond their walls, the Berkshires watch it happen:

All of these are Elliot’s work, with a bit of jostling and jiggering from me.  The weather was wet and windy and I couldn’t get too fancy, but I used some hand-held filters in some of these.

The result of the ubiquitously gray palette and the flat light are all monochromes,  though only one of them is actually rendered in black and white.  I think of monochromes as photos with shallow but enticing palettes and dynamic ranges, though that last one stretches the “range” part a bit.

I really liked the way Elliot worked this day, getting both the architectural shots and the details.  I felt in control of what we were doing.

It occurred to me on the carry back to the car that I’d gotten pretty close to some of my subjects, and  I wondered about Elliot’s minimum focusing distance.  I hadn’t previously thought of him as a close-up lens, and didn’t really know how close I could get with him.

As a matter of investigation, I took this photo of a wide-board fence grown over with lichen, which will reduce it to compost in a season:

The blog doesn’t do the detail justice, but it’s pretty good at well under a foot.

This lens  continues to surprise me.  The more  I use it, the more uses I see for it.  This last photo is an example of something extra Elliot can do, as is that first shot, where I seriously restricted the plane  of sharp focus rather than trying to extend it, turning it vertically to draw the eye to the ladder and loft and softly falling snow.

For Elliot (and for me,) this was a good day.