Old Time Religion

I finally finished scanning the film from my Brownie Hawkeye Flash camera. The back came off the camera before the roll of film was finished and caused some interesting light leaks on about half the frames. Taking photos with fifty year old box cameras always has the potential for adventure (or disaster).

I was just glad to be out taking photos on film which I have not done for a month. It’s a different experience for a number of reasons and I think the best one may be that there is a lack of the usual frantic shutter clicking and more thinking before committing to an exposure. It just seems less hectic to me. The downside is scanning the film, though you can have that done for you fairly inexpensively if you do it at the same time that the film is processed.

I think my favorite film camera may be the Brownie I converted into a pinhole camera by replacing the lens with a scrap of aluminum from a soda can and drilling a very tiny hole in it with a sewing needle. Of course that one requires ridiculously long exposures but you can also use that to your advantage at times.

I do own one Diana plastic toy camera which has it’s own slighty different pleasures and quirks. I guess that is another danger of film cameras, once you start using them on a regular basis you seem to start bringing home a bunch of strays from thrift stores and resale shops. It begins slowly and gets progressively worse until you or someone else finally cuts you off. I never have been big on collections but there are times when you can’t help falling for some small orphaned camera and before you know it you are driving home with it. It especially hard when the little darlings can be had for a couple of wrinkled dollar bills in your pocket that would have just gone for some greasy fast food that isn’t very good for you anyway. The thing about the Brownie Hawkey Flash, is that I use it on a fairly regular basis. That’s not to say it is superior to any of my other junk store finds, I just like the way it looks and they are still fairly easy to come by so I don’t have to worrry about breaking them (well not too much). I guess you could say I have grown accustomed to the camera’s small quirks and it also tolerates most of mine. My Brownies have also started a fair share of interesting conversations when people see me using it.

Thinking In Black & White

Crossing Guard Sometimes it’s easier thinking in black & white.

It’s a lot less trouble to get things right

At times it’s better being color blind

And much less taxing on my mind

You can’t see clearly late at night

When nothing seems very bright

It’s not about a subject all the time

It’s always about chasing the light

I took this shot in passing as I walked across the street in a moving crowd of people. No time to pause or think, just react to the scene and the light. Actually I took three shots in the space of a second and I couldn’t make up my mind which one I liked the best from a compositional view. All three images had their merits but this one was the sharpest of the bunch so it got the nod. It’s a handy skill to be able to take photos on the fly without really taking aim. The truth is that the percentage of success is pretty low. The odds can be improved by shooting at a higher ISO sensitivity, fast shutter speeds and using a wide angle lens. Practice may help as well. I spent most of the day using my Tokina 12-24 zoom lens to take photographs of buildings and people. The people shots are mostly at the 24 mm end and the building photos are mostly at the 12 mm end of the zoom range.  Sometimes I walked around looking for people to include in my photos and other times I found a scene I wanted to photograph and waited for people to come and go through the frame. It seems like most people will ignore you if you stay in one spot long enough. Sometime in the afternoon I remembered being back in gradeschool and learning to use a microscope. It seems the correct method is to have both eyes open even on a single element instrument. I figured out that I could take photos with both eyes open (I’m normally left eye dominant) and keep an eye on people who might be moving into frame from my right side. This allowed me to frame a scene and then predict when the action would happen. Of course having the ability to fire off five or six frames every second also helps your odds of getting an interesting shot. Sometimes everything comes together to form an interesting image (interesting to me at least). It’s not all about luck but having luck helps.



I wanted to write in my blog today but I am running out of day and have not come up with much to say about anything. I didn’t win the lighting package from www.strobist.blogspot.com so I guess I will have to keep saving for additional flash units on my own.

I have a lot of photos to work on from my two recent trips to Chicago. Hopefully I will get caught up by the time my day off comes around again. I finally got the film developed from my Brownie Hawkeye and Sawyer’s Nomad cameras. I’m getting those photos scanned and edited at the moment and trying to work on the rest of the Chicago images as time permits. The kids are having a party tonight but I have to work. I thought about going over there after midnight but truth be told I am sort of tired.

Walking around Chicago wore me out but not as much as sitting over a computer keyboard for eight hours. I’m all aches and more aches tonight. I noticed that I managed to capture quite a few orange subjects on my recent trip. I’m not sure what that means but it was interesting. I also have a whole slug of bicycle photos to work on. I guess that means that I will take advantage of whatever tired cliche crosses my path. I think they will be of interest when viewed as a set. Maybe…

I have lots to do and very little time to do it. I hope I can manage to do at least one or two things well.

Time Gets Swept Aside


It has been eight hours since we left our apartment in the city. I am sitting at the table in the main room of a small house that is the summer home of a friend. A cool steady breeze is coming in the open windows and there is a view of the lake made better by the spring storms that came this year and cleared the tangle of branches and vines across the road.

The bead-board ceilings glow with the warmth of the diffused afternoon sun coming through the canopy of trees surrounding the house. There is a warm patina to everything that speaks of many years and many memories. There is also the quiet and unspoken promise and hope for many more to come.

I glance towards the kitchen with its collage of different cabinets added over years. They reflect the abandoned trends of past decades but find perfect contentment and order in this small summer place.

There are in fact many things here to evoke a fond past. Artifacts of lives well-lived and cherished fill the walls and spaces. They speak of relationships to be preserved like the bounty of a summer garden.

I sit here alone with the past for a moment waiting for the rest of my own tribe to arrive. We will make memories of our own in this time we spend together. There will be big breakfasts, bigger dinners, bonfires at the beach and lots of laughter. I will sing and cry, play the guitar, ride my bike, go on walks, stare at the water and the waves and count the stars at night. I will come home with new treasures and many memories.

Note: This post is from some scribbles I made back in July. In fact, all my posts this week are completely out of order. I tend to work on the most recent things first and then work my way backwards until I have run out of work to do, especially editing photos. Sometimes I don’t get everything done and when things slow down I might go back in time a month or more to things I didn’t have the time or energy for at that moment. Real time gets swept aside in a tide of thoughts and feelings leaving only the time that exists within our own individual minds. Don’t try to set your watch by it.

Weekday Weekends

Chicago, IL. August 2009.
Chicago, IL. August 2009.

The phone rings beside my bed and jars me into a state of fuzzy semi-consciousness. Up way too late last night (this morning) sorting cameras, socks, film and batteries; then up again way too early and trying to think of what I am forgetting. Daughter number four is already up and babysitting today. She has already made us breakfast, which is something I had not even considered yet. When breakfast is finished, the daughter naps on the couch while her tiny customer naps in the chair an arm’s length away.

I drive to the airport parking lot where a plump bus driver struggles to get in and out of his seat each time someone boards the bus. Other (more physically fit) people usually just sit there instead. He’s not lazy but he does like to eat. When we stop at a traffic light on the way to the terminal, a man runs up to the shuttle bus and the driver hands him a folded twenty dollar bill.

Inside the airport the lines are long but I have time to spare. The load is light on this flight and the seats next to me are empty. Once again I marvel at the wonder of leaving the ground as I always do each time I fly on an airplane. It’s a short flight with no time for a nap and soon we will be landing in another city. Scattered clouds float above green patches that resemble an old quilt from my childhood. Now the engines throttle down and the patches of green turn into suburbs with rows of homes, warehouses and shopping centers.

A simple lunch of soup and bread at the airport finally brings me into sync with the rest of the world. The soup is warm but not hot which always makes me a little disappointed. I guess I would rather be burned once in a while rather than suffer anything lukewarm. After lunch I ride the train downtown and listen to my iPod. I debate which stop to choose and eventually arrive in the financial district to chase the afternoon light to whatever subject it chooses. Find the light and the subjects will wander along.

My biggest problem today was with people who refused to wander along and would sit in one place ruining a perfect composition. That is not to say that I did not want any people in the photos but that there were people standing or sitting exactly where I wanted to take the photos from. After a long afternoon and evening Debbie called and said to meet her at the train station because we are now going to stay at the Hyatt Hotel instead of her and her room mate’s crash pad. Now as crash pads go, theirs is pretty nice with only four people. A crash pad is basically an apartment that is shared by a group of airline employees (as many as twelve people in a two bedroom apartment) who need a cheap place to stay when they forced to work away from home in order to keep their jobs, seniority and pensions.  This particular crash pad had been so thoroughly trashed (or crashed) by the previous tenants, that the landlord (Jerry) had to gut the bathroom and re-carpet the whole place. It’s nice (and mostly quiet) now but so are the King sized beds and flat screen TVs at the Hyatt, plus it’s hard to say no to a complimentary room when one is offered. In fact, it would be really rude not to accept. So we went to the Hyatt, which is massive and there were the usual clusters of loud people attending conferences at the hotel who were doing their best to pass the time by getting good and drunk before they had to get up and go to another meeting in the morning. We ate in the bar because the restaurant was closed by that time.

We had an odd room in the back corner of the hotel that was off of a circular hallway that reminded me of a set from the Star Trek Television series. The room was sort of pie-shaped and the bathroom had a shower rather than a tub. The room was nice and fairly large (and free) so I had no complaints other than it always take me a while to wind down and quit trying to find something worth watching on the big TV. We had cranked up the air conditioner before we went to dinner but it had some sort of energy saving thermostat that turned itself off before finishing the job. So we turned it on again and eventually the room cooled off and I went to sleep. There was no phone ringing in my ear in the morning so I slept until I was ready to wake up on my own.

We got out of bed, got dressed and walked over to the Intercontinental Hotel and had the expensive breakfast buffet. I was hot from walking and that was made worse by eating way too much food but you have to get your money’s worth out of that buffet.  Breakfast is served in a nice room though there are no windows and no view other than the room itself. Next to the dining area there is a library with lots of art and photography books to look at. We talked of going back downtown or to the baseball stadium but there were plenty of chores to do at home so we headed for the airport instead.

On the way to the airport we were the only passengers on the shuttle and the driver began to give us his life story and medical history. Then he happened to mention his occasional uncontrollable rage. He seemed pretty happy at the moment so we prayed to ourselves that no one cut him off or that we got stuck in traffic on the way. We arrived safely at the terminal but he was only up to chapter three of his psychiatric prison hospital memoirs and still going strong. He didn’t open the door to the bus right away and kept on talking as I gingerly stood up and moved in that direction. When we finally got off the bus I was afraid our new friend might follow us into the terminal.

At the airport there are more funny people in front of us in the security line. There was a party girl in a black evening dress (sales rep) with about a hundred cords and adaptors hanging out of her open bag. Zip it honey! Of course she gets pulled aside for a bag check, because she has a thousand bottles of beauty products in her other bag which is bursting under the load. Her exasperated look of frustration is priceless as the TSA agent pulls out one banned substance after another, all of which will have to be discarded or returned to the ticket counter to be put into checked baggage. Either way she is not making her flight. In contrast, we make the flight ahead of the one we intended to be on and will be back in St. Louis by 1 pm with plenty of time to do some laundry and to take a little nap so I can continue with my Brownie Hawkeye Flash, night photography after it gets dark.

Downtown Details

bicycles&shadowsWhen the light is good you can take a photo of just about anything and create a pleasing image. When you are tired and have blisters on your feet it adds to the challenge. I got to go to Chicago on my day off and just spent the afternoon and evening walking around downtown taking photos of whatever  caught my eye. In this case it was the light I was chasing.

I expected overcast skies and instead got sunshine and painterly clouds. I also took about half the junk out of my camera bag which made for a much lighter load. I used the 12-24 lens almost all day shooting at the wide end quite a bit. I still long for an 85mm for low light stuff though I get by with the less expensive 50mm pretty well.

I need to see if I can borrow the D90 and the 18-200 zoom with VR that the guys over at www.atomicdust.com bought recently. In an office full of gear heads it is still in pretty high demand after hours and on the weekends. After a crippling sore neck and pounding headaches during my vacation I can appreciate an all-in-one lens for walking around town.

My heavy lens is the one I use the least. It’s old and has all glass elements. It’s not even very fast but it still weighs a lot when you carry it around all day. If I had a lot of money I would probably own even heavier pro glass and complain about that too.

I have also started carrying around a flash unit more often and that along with the batteries also add weight to the bag, a Lowe Slingshot 200. I got this bag because it would limit the amount of stuff I could carry but somehow I have still managed to stuff enough in it to make a lumberjack cry. All the weight hangs on one shoulder which works very well, up to a point and I think I have gone past that point.  Don’t get me wrong, I love that bag but I have just crammed too much in it and I’m going to have to back off of that.

After having a blast shooting downtown I met my lovely assistant at the train station and we went to the Hyatt to have dinner at the Red Bar. Walking around Chicago with a heavy camera bag for eight hours is good for the appetite.

A Rush To Judgement

citygarden-aI had an interesting couple of days off, taking photographs in Chicago and here at home in St. Louis. I’m pretty worn out and have lots of stuff to keep me busy the rest of the week with sorting and editing photos. Who knows, maybe there will be a few keepers when I’m done. I was slow getting started because I had to move a bunch of stuff off my laptop in order to have enough space to edit some massive panorama shots. That’s done so all I need to do is to find some time for the rest.

I had an interesting time at the park last night dealing with a person who claimed to be the leader of a bunch of girls who were performing with lighted hula hoops. Performing is probably a bit strong because they seemed to lack any coordinated sense of direction and they arrived about an hour too late to take advantage of any good ambient lighting even though they had a photographer with them who should have known better but maybe photographer is too strong of a word also. Let’s just say he had a camera and a very large bag. I never saw him take anything out of the bag so I am forced to guess what might have been in there. Do I have a match for “Rufees” and “Duct tape?” No? Well I tried and thank you for playing our game. I don’t want to tell anyone how to work their craft but dude, how about some fill flash? I would have done things much differently for sure.

I first saw this bunch out of the corner of my eye while I was taking photos at the splash-fountain. They had on some interesting outfits that I like to refer to as Circus Hooker Chic. I shrugged and went back to what I was  doing. A minute later some blue haired women started screaming like, well like blue haired women at an Elvis concert and took off running (slowly) towards the other end of the park still screaming about a “performance.” My lovely assistant who was very bored with splash-fountain photos by this time said that a (lighted) hula hoop “performance” might be pretty photo worthy. So I picked up my kit (both of them) and headed towards the far end of the park to check it out.

The self proclaimed leader of the circus hooker hula hoopers came over and informed me that she was not comfortable having photos taken of her group.


“Yes, I’m just not comfortable with having photos taken of me and the group.”

That took just about one half of a second to hit the part of my brain that really hates being told what to do and what I can do.

Uh, you do realize that you are in a public park and eight out of ten people here are taking photos right now?

“Well yes but…”

I started (launched) into my boilerplate speech about civil rights and the constitution and who knows what else and then she said, “Well I just wanted you to know.”

I was already irritated before I got to the park though not looking for a fight. So I said, “Well I just want you to know that I am well within my rights to to photos of anything and everything that I want to in a public park.”

Fine by me, I’ll respect your wishes because in general I loath taking photos of people who don’t want to be photographed because nothing useful usually comes from it. I picked up my cameras and tripods and moved another twenty yards away to a comfortable bench to watch the big “performance” which consisted of general milling about with no coordination or choreography and not a lot of enthusiasm. I thought about polling the rest of the group to see if anyone wanted to pose for a private session. Sort of a divide and conquer or splitting the ranks move but I was frankly too tired to care about photographing unwilling subjects in poor light.

Now mind you the “group” had their own shmuck photographer with that big ass bag of who knows what, taking available light shots (it was very dark by now) using the floodlights from the sculptures I guess. No fill flash at this point though much, much later he did start using an on camera flash (lame). Very dramatic and probably pretty unflattering. The lighting in this park is pretty horrible in general before you even start to think about taking photographs.

So now I am sitting and minding my own business almost a half a football field away when a security guard comes over with another guy in tow who I figure is the father or grandfather of one of these circus hooker hula hoopers (man I love saying that). The security guard looks serious and asks if I was taking any photos of the girls.

Now I’m on fire (hey it’s been a long day) and the first thing I say (loud enough for half the park to hear) is, “Do those girls and that photographer have a commercial photography permit to take photographs in this park?

“Did they reserve the park?”

“Do they have a city license?”

I guess my thinking was that they were going to claim this was some sort of commercial copyrighted photo shoot or something to that effect to claim that no one else could take photographs.

Bam, bam, bam I hammered on that guard like nobodies business until after several minutes when I finally came up for air he said, “I just wanted to ask you if they told you that you could not take photographs in the park.”


So basically (for once) somebody was on my side, as was the other guy he had in tow, who was bragging by this time about getting the circus hooker hula hoopers photos with his special night vision camcorder. I imagine those turned out every bit as well as the official shmuck photographers efforts. We all agreed to play nice at the park and that (so far) the circus hooker hula hoop girls did not really seem as photo worthy as we had all hoped. I walked back to the other side of the park figuring the hoopers would end up there and be in my shot which they were but they still managed to keep a distance by having their photographer shoot from the wrong angle.

I’m pretty sure that some of the girls would have appreciated having their individual photos taken but I was pretty disgusted with the whole thing by then and decided I would come back some other time with my own hula hoopers and flock of assistants to do a proper job of the whole thing.

citygarden-b citygarden-c citygarden-d

So the moral of the story is not to judge people before you hear what they have to say, be nice to your daughters when they use your stuff and always agree with your lovely assistant when she suggests taking photographs of young women performers.