Archive for August, 2008

All hail me

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

In the last eighteen hours on flickr, it has been suggested that I am (A) god, (B) dead, or (C), a sentient webscript. Disappointingly, none have suggested that I am all of the above.

Update: I am also food.

In the Dark with All the Pretty Lights

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008


I woke up at 3AM this morning, and couldn’t get back to sleep. I went through my morning ablutions, and pounded the “j” key through my feeds in google reader, and reviewed new posts to my flickr groups since I’d gone to bed. That left me with whole hours to kill before I could plausibly catch a bus to work.

This would have been a great time to have an all-night (or at least open early) eatery, but, bizarrely, there’s almost nothing in the way of food and caffeine in walking distance that opens until, like, 6:30AM. I live a block away from a gigantic university — where are these kids going at 4:00AM to satisfy their munches?

Well, whatever. I ignored my lack of food and caffeine and set about making some images. Then, when Peet’s finally opened at 6:30, I set about starting the editing process, while I still had the somewhat manic mindset. In my sleep-deprived state, I got pretty experimental, in two main areas — specular highlights (I don’t normally set out with them in mind) and a rejection of realistic white balance. Some of the results were quite interesting.

Descending Angel

This is probably my favorite of the group. I like the symbolism, both of the cruciform/angelic inverted figure and also of the sulphur-yellow-and-scorched colors of the carport. I particularly like all of that when embodied in that most mundane of all vehicular storage areas.

Keep The Fire Burning

This is the First Church of Christ, Scientist. It’s an awesome, wonderful building, that looks less like a Christian church than it does like Elrond’s townhouse. I’ve seldom had much luck photographing it, probably mostly because I have crappy instincts when it comes to architectural photography. This shot doesn’t highlight the bizarre design motifs of the building, but relies instead on light and shadow and leading lines — photographic fundamentals.


I don’t entirely know whether or not I like this image. It is a good example of an image dominated by specular highlights (something I’d been meaning to create on purpose, rather than by accident, following a thread in the D40/xD60 club group. And beyond that, it’s also an interesting image in terms of the positioning of the tip of the vine inside the specular highlight — a nifty effect, which makes for a surreal image that has a certain appeal. But it does not fall within what Minor White referred to as the “thin red line of uniqueness to the man,” meaning that it doesn’t seem like an image of mine.


This image, made after the sun had started attempting to rise through the mist and clouds, feel more like my own, although I could not tell you why. It was made through a fogged window toward part of a string of lights, which were not on, with other lights, which were on, in the background, contributing an oddly streaky set of specular highlights.

35mm f/1.4 AIS Before Dawn – a set on Flickr

So, people seem to like this image

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Flickr is weird. I’ve had nine images make it to Explore, and they are pretty gosh darn random. None of them are among my nine best images, and a couple of them are downright awful. The most recent addition falls somewhere in the middle of the range:


There are many ways in which this image could be better; mainly, if I’d had my tripod or monopod with me, I could have gotten a substantially sharper image without having to deal with the risk of oversharpening. I could also do without the off-beige background (the wall of the building where I work). : )

The image succeeds on two levels: one, the composition is good. This was just good fortune for me, although one must also have some kind of eye to see compositional good fortune when it hits you in the face. Two, it contains a hummingbird. Hummingbirds seldom sit still long, so clearly identifiable hummingbirds in pictures have a certain novelty about them, I guess…

But the main thing, I think, that qualifies it to be a good image on flickr, is that it while it has marked flaws when viewed at large size, it makes a really frickin’ awesome thumbnail. Which I can only suppose is why, in like a day of online existnce, it received 225 views and 51 favorites.

The internet is a strange place…

I Blame Minor White

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008



Cross of Weeds:

Cross of Weeds



I admit, the first too are far more literal (or, rather, symbolically obvious) than most of White’s stuff…. : )

35mm f/1.4 AIS

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

Crossed Leaves

A thing of beauty. My first non-non-AI manual lens. It will replace my 35mm f/2 O and 50mm f/1.4 S for regular carrying purposes, and will probably be the lens most often on my camera when I’m not looking for birds.

35mm f/1.4 AIS

Rørslett says that this lens

Its imaging capacity quickly increases when the aperture is set to f/2.8 and peak performance is reached between f/4 and f/5.6. In this quite narrow range it produces tremendously sharp images. To illustrate its imaging potential: In the peak range it is possible to discern objects that actually measure <1 mm within a recorded area of 5 by 8 m. You'll need at least 40X magnification to observe these tiny details on the film, but they certainly are there . This shows the unbelievable level of detail that can be resolved on film by this lens!

Which is one of the reasons I bought it — because my 35mm f/2 O, especially when shooting at f/2-f/2.8, is a bit soft, especially when thinking about film enlargement, rather than digital, where sharpening is simple and fast.

But while that’s part of the lens’s appeal and a big part of why I bought it, so far, I just haven’t been able to stop shooting at f/1.4. Sharpness, shmarpness, look at this:

35mm f/1.4 Test Shots

And this:

35mm f/1.4 Test Shots

Woo! Sharpness is overrated. Bokeh is where it’s at!

Of course, neither sharp focus nor soft focus nor great or little depth of field in and of themselves are enough to make a photograph worthwhile. But it’s good to have these tools when you need them, and this lens definitely expands my toolkit.

I’ll try to bust out the tripod and do some test shots comparing this lens with the 35mm f/2. I already tried this last night, but I had my tripod set up too close to a TV, and I wound up with crazy flare from the TV, affecting the 35mm f/2 considerably. I was able to determine (from some handheld tests that aren’t conclusive for sharpness) that the f/1.4 AIS is about 1/2-2/3 of a stop faster than the 35mm f/2 when shooting at f/2. This is doubtless attributable to the lack of multicoatings on the 35mm f/2.

SFMOMA apparently sucks donkey balls

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Thomas Hawk has pretty much just dissuaded me from ever visiting SF MOMA in the future:

Recently I blogged about my excitement regarding the San Francisco MOMA’s decision to begin allowing photography in their permanent collection after years of maintaining a closed no photography policy. Directly because of this change in policy, I decided to purchase a family membership in order to support the museum, both with my artistic energy and financially. I was excited to begin spending regular time exploring and documenting the museum.

Unfortunately, I should have known better than to really believe that the San Francisco MOMA was serious about opening up the art and architecture entrusted to them to the general public.

Thomas Hawk’s Digital Connection

Minor White: The Eye that Shapes

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

Minor White: The Eye That Shapes (Peter Bunnell)

Score! Been looking for a copy of this for ages.

Don’t ask me to tell you how much I paid for it. I bought it from the fourth-floor Moe’s sanctum sanctorum, where when you buy a book, they print you out an invoice, not a receipt. They also have a pretty hard time making change and zipping flies. Seriously, it’s a whole different universe of books. : )

Minor White is a photographer who really interests me, in part because he’s one of the greats of all time, in part because he’s a photographer who is strongly interested in the connection between photography and modes of religious experience, and in part because he is frequently identified as a “Zen” photographer, which I’m pretty sure is hogwash. (Based on everything I’ve read by and about him, he is defined far more by the I-Though modality of Western mysticism than he is by Zen, although he was certainly aware of Zen and had an interest in it.)

Anywho, this makes White interesting and an interesting problem, but finding primary or even secondary material on him can be a bit tricky, so I’m always happy when I my hands on more of the puzzle.

Librarything Entry