Looping

Sometimes it feels as though we are going in loops or circles. No matter how fast or slow we end up exactly where we started. This can be a source of satisfaction or frustration depending on how you look at the world.

I always seem out of sync with the rest of the working world and out of the loop when I am at work. I always seem to be running in circles and not getting very far.

I’ve been working with my Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash camera this week and taking photos around the neighborhood each day. I’m not sure my efforts will produce any great works of art but I do get to poke around and think about composition for a few minutes each day.

It rained last night and it looks like it is going to rain again this afternoon or evening. I drove through the park on the way home from the airport this morning but nothing caught my eye there. Then I took the dog for a walk and took a couple of iPhone photos. I guess I should get outside and look for today’s BHF photo before it starts raining again.

Yesterday after lunch I got the idea to take some photos of rain puddles so I will probably try looking for another good one today.

The photos are from my April trip to Memphis, TN.

Running Of The Pigs

On Wednesday afternoons a certain event takes place that shocks some people, amazes some and disgusts others. In Pamplona, Spain they have the running of the bulls but here in the Central West End we have the delivery of the pigs. The pigs don’t actually run because they have been butchered and split down the middle. The boys from the farm do the running and run the pigs past you while you are eating your lunch. Yesterday they ran the pigs down the sidewalk past the patrons at Wildflower and the chef over there had a cow. Hey it’s all food. That protest was what apparently stopped the second half of the pig from coming past our table on the sidewalk in front of the Brasserie, where the pigs are being delivered. The first time I saw the pig delivery I was eating salad in the dining room. “Was that a pig that just went by?”

The weather was perfect yesterday so we rode our bicycles to lunch and looked for condos that are for sale in our neighborhood. Our old house in the suburbs is for sale again and at an asking price that is less than what we sold it for. I guess our timing was right for once in our lives. Everything around here is expensive, especially condos with the amount of space we would like. We are looking at a few more today but I am afraid they are out of our price range.

The other thing I wanted to say was to check your camera settings between shots. I had been taking photos in the dark the night before so my ISO was set to 2000. That caused the first few photos I took to be way overexposed. Settings can get moved inadvertently as well so check and double check. You never know when a once in a lifetime shot will come by. Be ready.

Four Twenty

I was told today that 4-20 had a specific meaning in some circles. That was news to an old fart like me that worked for a living during the seventies. Anyway, we ended up visiting several restaurants today with the idea of doing some sort of review but by the end of the fourth one I was pretty much done for the day. I had a lot of fun visiting all of them and I was my usual annoying self, sticking my camera in places where it didn’t belong and scaring the wits out of a few employees who couldn’t figure out what we were up to.

I liked these posters on the ceiling above the bar at Sanctuaria.

Guerrillero Heroico” is one of the most famous images of all time and several versions are plastered around the restaurant. At Sanctuaria they seemed to have some sort of communist theme going on so I started ranting about coming back and photographing everything with a communist camera or at least my Imperial twin lens reflex like the one that was once owned by Lee Harvey Oswald. I’m not sure I understood what the whole idea was about but there seemed to be a lot of references to original sin and pleasures of the flesh thrown in along with the communist manifesto. The tapas were very good so I was happy.

One of the servers told me that the restrooms were unisex so I got into a debate about why I hate that term. At least the place is clean but I did leave the toilet seat up just for the fun of it. Besides the posters on the ceiling there is some interesting art scattered around the interior and an inviting terrace outdoors. It’s an interesting place for sure and the staff is great.

Colorful Madrid

More walking about in Madrid with interesting subjects around every corner. I’m not sure if it is better to wander around endlessly or to sit in one place and wait for the world to pass by instead.

The weather was perfect on our trip and I almost wish I had brought along a flash unit and my heavy 2.8 zoom lens. On the other hand I might have been just as happy with one of my old roll film cameras like the Brownie Hawkeye or the Agfa Jsoly.

As they say, the best camera is the one you have with you but I always long for the one that is not. I shot a lot of photos with my 12-24 zoom lens and cropped the images later. That way I could take photos on the fly with reasonable depth of field and not have to worry about composition until after the fact. It’s not the best way to take photos but I did get some shots that I would not have any other way.

The Nikon D300 has a rather loud shutter so it’s not always easy to be stealthy when taking photos but as long as you keep moving no one seems to notice most of the time.  The biggest issue is with contrasty light and that is why it would be better to pick a good spot with great light and wait for interesting subjects to come to you.

Unfortunately when you are on a short trip you never feel like you can sit for very long and are usually on the move going somewhere to see something else. The camera bag seems to get heavier by the minute and your muscles begin to protest. At that point I begin to envy the people taking photos with their camera phones and point & shoot compact cameras.

There is always some sort of trade between camera size and quality though it’s better to get something rather than nothing. For the most part time seems to be the limiting factor in getting good photos. Usually you will arrive at the wrong time of day, month or year and find yourself being rushed to the point of overlooking the best compositions in order to get to your next destination. Meanwhile other tourists happily snap blurry photos of themselves in front of famous landmarks to show the people back at home. I’m not complaining though, well not much anyway. It’s the nature of the game and what makes it endlessly interesting to take photographs. I love going places where I have never been and seeing things that are new to me.

I also took my 70-210 /4-5.6 D lens, which is ok for stationary subjects but is way too slow for fast walking Spaniards in the waning light of the evening. It’s not the fastest focusing lens either at least not for moving targets. I could have cranked up the ISO higher but at some point everything starts looking like mush or even grainy mush.

Always Look Both Ways

Always look both ways before crossing the street. That’s basic advice that I learned at an early age. You can take away many things from me but as long as I have the memory of Spain in the springtime I will be happy. This week a big volcano in Iceland is spewing ash into the sky and has stopped all the air travel in Central Europe. It’s a good thing we went the week before and enjoyed clear blue skies while we were there.

Our trips are always too short and it seems that we never get to do and see all that we want to. The guidebooks are full of recommendations and ratings about where to go and what to see. Even though we had planned to go to Spain for the last year or so, we didn’t do a whole lot of research for this trip. We just went and looked around. That’s probably not the best way to maximize your time but thanks to my day job I am completely fed up with efficiency ratings and performance metrics. I just wanted to go and live for a week like a real human being again so I strolled around Madrid taking lots of bad and blurry photos under harsh light and pretended to be a carefree kid. I also got some photographs that I like a lot.

The week before we left I had the flu and the aftermath still lingered. I decided to put up with the discomfort and get on with life even though I didn’t have much of an appetite when we left. Just getting to Spain takes a day (and night) and coming home Debbie found out it could take several days when we ended up on separate flights out of Madrid. That was not so much fun and we didn’t get a chance to talk about all the things we had done and seen until she got home a couple of days later.

Madrid is a very clean city with an army of public workers going around picking up trash and cleaning the streets. I heard that there is very high unemployment in Madrid but there also seemed to be a lot of construction and public works projects going on in the part of the city where we spent much of our time. One day we went to the Palace and toured the opulent rooms inside. No one lives there now, it’s just for ceremonies and special events. No photographs are allowed inside the palace and the stern looking guards are quick to pounce on anyone who looks as though they might even be thinking about taking a snapshot of the throne room. You would need a tripod to do it justice anyway because the lighting stinks. We also went to the art museum to see the paintings by Goya and other artists. The museum is full of dark, depressing images of a crucified Jesus, looking as if he had just been to an all night fraternity party. I guess those paintings where more in demand than uplifting resurrection paintings or the second coming compositions. It’s funny to me that the holy family always takes on the features of the artist’s patrons but I guess that’s to be expected. The holy family looks Spanish in Spain and Italian in Italy. An American painter would probably have Jesus wearing a John Wayne cowboy hat and toting a Winchester rifle.

It’s people in the flesh that I have come to see and I was not disappointed. If only I had know how to say, “Stand still!” in Spanish. Everyone seems to move with purpose in the city. Only the retired men walk slowly with hands clasped behind their backs.

Memphis Blues

A sample of the neon signs on Beal Street in Memphis. I have photographed these all before but it was a perfect night and taking photographs is what I do. I didn’t have my tripod with me this time so these are all hand held shots. The weather was perfect and  I had a good time just wandering from one end of the street to the other taking photos even though its been done thousands of times already.

You can click on the thumbnails to see the complete image on a separate page. I know that’s sort of clunky but it works.