A Year in Photos

Photography, fiction, and personal essays form my three primary creative outlets. For this blog's first 18 months, I used it primarily for photography. As I've returned to creative writing, I'll use this blog for fiction, too. Sometimes, when reality needs to be discussed more than truth, I write personal essays.

This blog will continue to showcase as many above-average photos as I can muster. Hopefully my written work will be as good or better than the visual. Whichever drew you here -- photographs or fiction, I hope you enjoy both.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Found Photos Friday: 1960s Americana 6

This first shot, from Chicago, may actually be a much later shot than the ones below from Tucson.





Without sarcasm, I like this guy's shirts. I'd wear this shirt, and basically every other shirt he has in these slides.








Thursday, October 24, 2013

Found Photos Friday: 1960s Americana 5

I'm including this and the next photo not because they're particularly good but because I've actually seen these buildings with my own eyes. I think they're in Rockford, Illinois, but I'm not sure and in checking my files from that business trip I couldn't find any photos of the buildings. But I definitely recall walking around and behind this first building as part of a real estate inspection.










I like the ideas of world's fairs. And I like seeing photos from them. Typically, some are good and others not. I don't much care for the one above, but like the one below.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Found Photos Friday: 1960s Americana 4

These first two shots are, I think, from Joliet. The house style looks like Joliet, West Chicago, and other similar-vintage suburbs to me. Were I driving a two-door Thunderbird back then, I would be proud of it, too, and taking my photo next to, inside, and on top of it. In the last case, I may elect to just wear a bathing suit.











This collection actually, I think, spans the most time of any of the five groupings. I picked these images because they all show homes and classic cars. To my eyes, it all looks like Illinois. I also have the advantage of having shots that show each of the cars' license plates and they're all from Illinois.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Found Photos Friday: 1960s Americana 3

As I scanned these images and processed them for color correction, I noticed one person prevalent in many shots. The slides seem to follow him as he ages, moves westward, marries, and then they simply stop. I like to think that someone in his family has the rest and appreciates what a treasure they are. All I know about these slides is that they likely came from an estate sale. So, like the casino in the first picture and shoreline in the last, in all probability all the people in these slides are also gone. In fact, with the exception of only a few buildings and the geography in some of the latter images, everything these slides record is gone -- the people, cars, buildings, and arguably the way of life the generations in the slides were accustomed to.

As I write this, Congress is debating the country's finances. In short, a small number of exceedingly wealthy people who will draw a government paycheck will soon make decisions that have real-world ramifications for tens of thousands of government employees, companies that support the government, and companies that support those companies. Furloughs, lay-offs, and reductions in general detriment individual livelihoods and foster socio-economic class-spanning economic instability. Perhaps many of these types of struggles didn't make it to the whitewashed history text books McGraw Hill fed us throughout school, but I don't know that politicians played Russian roulette with the financial well being of the masses as willingly as they do today. And these photos reflect a way of life bred of financial security and stability.











What better to represent the ephemera we live in daily than flowers -- ephemera made manifest.



This photo can actually be closely dated. This was in with some other Beverly Shores shots and was, I believe, the result of the 1954 Lake Michigan Seiche.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Morgan Fire Hike, Four of Four

To close this week's look at the Morgan Fire burn scar, here are some plants that fared well, are coming back quickly, and a bird that seems to be doing just fine. I was surprised that I saw no less life on this hike than I normally do -- lizards, birds, and numerous healthy plants.

I'm of the mind, and always have been, that fires are an important part of the natural cycle and should be controlled as they approach inhabited areas. However, fires in open spaces and wilderness remove fuel, provide opportunities for new life, and help restore an area. Yes, the side of Mount Diablo will be ugly for a year, maybe less. But that ugliness will yield to greener plant life next year, new growth which sequesters more carbon dioxide than old growth, and improved animal habitats.



A shrub protected by a rocky outcropping.



Grasses returning to a heavily burned area.



Macro of new grass.



I think this is a scrub jay, and it was doing just fine.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Morgan Fire Hike, Three of Four

I was curious about how the fire damage would look in infrared. I expected it to be extra black (it was) and the foliage to appear even whiter than normal (some did and some didn't.) I have a few infrared filters. Actually, they're visible-light cut filters that remove all light wavelengths below a certain point. With my K-7, the 720 nanometer filters work the best. These images were all taken with the 720 filter on and at apertures between f11 and f16. This led to exposure times up to 30 seconds, capturing cloud movement -- exactly the effect I wanted.


The Mount Diablo summit (observatory on the right peak). The darker area to the middle-left is part of the burn scar.


This tree's base and half f the needles burned in the fire. Those that remained were mixed between burned (brown) and healthy (green.) All the remaining needles reflected infrared light in the same manner, making the damaged and healthy needles hard to detect in this image. This shows that the infrared images with dark areas indicate heavier fire damage where more foliage was removed by the fire.



Here's the side of North Peak. The dark area is the burn scar; most of what remains there are charred, defoliated trees and shrubs. Note that the infrared images also allow much deeper shots that visible light. Infrared light blasts through pollution, haze, and ultraviolet light diffraction. Note mountains in the far background -- they're something like eighty miles away, I think.



I found that I really like the 77mm FA Limited for infrared photography. It lends itself well to sharp, deep-field images.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Morgan Fire Hike, Two of Four

In addition to my two FA Limited lenses, I brought my Sigma 50mm macro lens. This lens performs pretty well on the K-7 and in general is a very nice lens. Mosses growing on the trees along the path showed various levels of burn damage from total to partial and none. What surprised me most about the fire damage was that I expected it to be complete. However, even in areas of substantial damage the fire left some patches of plant life untouched. In some cases rocky outcrops appeared to protect them or divert the fire. In others, no clear reason for the fire's mercy existed.



Moss burned in the core but untouched on the fringes.



A closer detail of moss that survived the fire in relatively good condition.



This infrared shot shows moss completely burned by the fire, the black and twisted char clinging to its host tree's bark.



Only a foot tall, this sapling seemed to fare rather well considering the rest of the area. On Thursday we'll see more signs of the area's life returning fairly quickly.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Morgan Fire Hike, One of Four

Last weekend I trekked about a mile into the Morgan Fire burn scar. I drove up Mount Diablo and hiked from the summit down the Summit Trail toward North Peak. This afforded some good views of the burn area. As an added bonus, it's tarantula season so there should be some big spiders coming out of their nests soon.


On the drive up, the burn scar begins to emerge at about 15,500 feet. From the road, the damage's extent is somewhat visible. Here there's a hard break where the fire simply ended, and a lot of tilled ground, indicating a fire line.


The dark, burned area, here exhibits exaggerated darkness because of a cloud's shadow. That side of the mountain, though, is basically charcoal.


The fire moved up this slope, singing the bushes and leaving a macabre chaos of black, tangled arms reaching upward as if for escape.


Here the fire's extent is slightly more visible with darker, fire-damaged areas along North Peak's base.

A Year in Photos: Week Forty-one

This week on A Year in Photos, I'm going to break format a bit and spend the whole week on a single day's worth of photos. On September 8th the Morgan Fire started near my home. It lasted six days and burned more than 3,000 acres.  To recognize how quickly the firemen contained and eliminated the fire, this week's photos will all be from my first hike into the area last weekend. I wanted to see the damage's extent and find out if life was returning. So this week we'll:

Look up at some burned trees (with some general shots of the burn scar),


get uncomfortably close to some smoldered moss (and other macro-type shots),


see the burn damage in infrared (with a visible-light cut filter),


check out some birds (and other signs of life),


turn some people to stone in part 2 (of 12!) of the 1960s Americana Found Photos Friday series.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Found Photos Friday: 1960s Americana 2

A number of weeks ago I posted some videos in an entry titled 1960s Americana 1. These 8mm videos came with about 400 slides, unorganized, and covering what appears to be almost 30 years of family history. The photos include Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Beverly Shores, Indiana; suburban Chicago, Illinois (it looks like Joliet to me, but I'm not sure); and Tucson, Arizona. The images include family reunions, holidays, weddings, a son going off to Vietnam (most likely), and many people repeated throughout the images.

In the coming weeks I'll post five at a time and try to keep the images together and of the same vintage, progressing forward in time as the weeks also progress. This week's images appear to be of similar vintage, on similar film, in similar slide mounts, and with similar age damage to the slides. In the photos where the people look like marble statues, that happened because of the slide color degradation due to age. It's a new effect for me and one that I find jarring, visually off-putting, and amazing.


This is actually my favorite shot in the whole collection.



Person turned to stone by age. And Medusa.





I find this one especially strange because of the stone angel in the background. It looks basically the same as the people.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Classic Cars, Medium Format

After my Japan trip and some much-needed recovery time, I took in a classic car show in Port Costa, California, with my Pentax 6X7. I had just, a couple nights before, picked up the 135mm close-up lens (it's called a macro lens, officially, but only magnifies to 1:4 in-lens, making it a close-up lens). So this was a great chance to try it out. I brought slow film (which I've found I like for digitizing but not darkroom printing because the grain is too small to focus on with a grain focuser.)


The 6X7, any time I take it out, garners some attention. So I bought a T-shirt with a print of the 6X7 on it to wear when I use the 6X7 in the future.
The 105mm proves, here, that it's just a fantastic lens.


The 6X7 weighs so much that two weekends ago after a five-hour walk with it around the Castle Air Museum (those photos will come later this year or early next), my back was sore for six days. I'm also, in related news, a wimp.
One of my first shots with the 135, I was surprised to see how much it compresses the for- and background.


Because the 6X7 doesn't require cropping to fit 8X10 prints, the entire negative can be enlarged. Unlike 6X4.5 formats, such as the Hassleblad and many other cameras, this provides a lot of image efficiency and creates a higher effective lens resolution. That said, the 6X7 lenses are lpmm for lpmm basically as good as Hassleblad and Zeiss lenses.
The 55mm, at f3.5, provides a nice, shallow focal plane and exaggerated depth perception.


The Canon F-1 had the most components of any system camera ever made. The Nikon F line has the most professional film cameras in the line. The Pentax 6X7, however, takes far better pictures than either because of the negative size alone. To put it in perspective, if a 35mm frame were 8.6 megapixels (2,400 X 3,600 pixels for 24mm X 36mm) then a 6X7 image would compare to a 42 megapixel image (6,000 X 7,000 pixels for 60mm X 70mm.) So medium format captures much greater detail and tonal range.
The 55mm proves that it's very good for subject isolation.


Modern DSLRs cram tinier pixels into the same sensor size with each new version. This leads to reduced image quality at many of the smaller apertures. Also, this actually leads, to my eyes, to reduced tonality and color range. I suspect that each pixels records color data less truly.
Again the 55mm, the lens I use the most in my 6X7 kit.


Rendering in ways I can only (and often) describe as cinematic, the 55mm f3.5 captures light better and more nicely than any other lens I own. The 31mm and 77mm FA Limiteds may be sharper and more contrasty, but the 55mm seems to just grab light and direct it efficiently and attractively.


I shot this inside, hand-held, and 1/8th or 1/4 of a second, I forget which. Note that in the window there's some faint tree detail. The dark shadows here to faint tree detail represent more than nine spaces on the exposure index scale. Tmax 100 -- it's taken a long time for me to get used to it and to say I like it, but I do. I still prefer Plus-X 125, but that film is quickly disappearing and not to be found in medium format at all any more.


Another photo, not an enlargement from above.

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