Saturday, April 26, 2008

Down the Rabbit Hole

(Click to enlarge, you'll never read the sign by squinting)

I don't know what to say about this picture, other than you had probably better really want those refreshments, and shouldn't be surprised if they consist of a bottle of clear liquid labeled 'DRINK ME' and a small cake with a note reading 'EAT ME' attached.

Oh, and watch your step on the way out. I'll be downstairs, where the vending machines are.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Out of the Gate

October 2007(click to enlarge)

A polo field is 300 yards long by 160 yards wide, which makes it the largest playing area in organized sports. But instead of horses on this fall afternoon we have cross country runners using it as their starting straightaway. I love shooting cross country in this park because the arrangement of the course has the start and finish within a hundred yards of each other. This means I can more or less stay in one place to shoot my runners on the starting flats, then entering the woods, and finally emerging into the sunlight for the final quarter mile. And it gives me an opportunity to make pictures like this of the entire starting field.

This is also a good example of the compression, or flattening effect that long telephoto lenses have. The runners were probably about five hundred feet away from me when I shot them through a 400mm lens, and even though the trees look like they're right at their backs, they were at least a hundred yards behind them. Exposure was 1/320 second at f6.3, ISO 1000, handheld.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Soho Windows

This was Soho in the mid-1980's, where Little Italy could still be found, before the high-end retail took over, when everything was dirty windows and dusty candy stores, with the vertical ladders of the fire escapes dropping down to the deck-plated covers of the stairs that lead to the sidewalk vaults. Before the lofts sold for millions and there were still garment factories and set shops among the bodegas and social clubs.

Foreplay Studios was one of these shops, on a corner near Sixth Avenue with jars of baby doll heads watching over the passers-by from a bullet-scarred window on Grand Street, while a plaster Donald Duck stared out over Greene Street through another set of casements. According to the sign, they made scenery for motion pictures.

June 1986

Well, not anymore, it seems. I don't know when or where they went, but they've been gone for years. Google only returns on the name with reference to paintings by two artists, which may be of the same subject, which may, indeed, be this subject, however one was only a description in a review ('...a Soho facade') but the other had a thumbnail of the painting, which looked like, well, a Soho facade. (I did a search through Google Images, but with keywords like 'foreplay' and 'studios', you can imagine the hits I got beyond the first page.) Using the street view on Google maps for this location, I see that the building has been nicely cleaned and restored, with the requisite boutique on the ground floor. The upper floors are all residential today.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


You run and push and leap with all your might

and even when you've cleared the bar

and set new limits

you still wind up flat on your ass.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Atop The Rock

February, 1986

One of my favoritest pictures, 'Southern Exposure' was taken high above midtown Manhattan at Rockefeller Center. I was walking with my friend Higgs through the lobby of the RCA building, a black marble art deco frenzy, on what seemed to us an unseasonably warm and overcast February afternoon. It was on a whim that we decided to see if the observation deck was open.

Well not only was it open, but there wasn't any line, and we had the elevator to ourselves all the way up. Two elevators, I seem to recall, both with operators. And at least one walk along a corridor near the top. Maybe a flight of stairs, too. The indirectness of the logistics was in direct proportion to the lack visitors to the site. That and, regardless of the relative warmth of the day on the ground, it was cold and damp nine hundred feet in the air, with a steady wind off the harbor. No wonder it wasn't crowded.

This is not Higgs, by the way. But this gentleman and his odd-looking friends were about the only other hardy souls up there besides us that Sunday afternoon.

These were shot on Kodak Recording Film, exposed and processed at 1600 ISO to get every bit of its pebbly grain. I used my original Pentax ME Super with a 70-200 f4-5.6 Toyo zoom lens. I've made several different sized silver prints of the skyline image; I also use it as the masthead picture for The Time Machine blog.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Tire and the Tree

Here's something I found a few years ago up in the Bronx. This was at the foot of a dead-end street near Baychester Avenue just off the Post Road. I was still driving around the Bronx for the real estate job then, and I was on this street to photograph a nearby house. As I was turning the car around at the end of the block, where the subway cut through, I spotted the tire at the base of the tree.

Looking again I realized it wasn't just at the base of the tree, it was around the trunk of the tree, completely encircling, like an Elizabethan collar, the trunk of what had to be a twenty-five foot tall maple. A tree this size would have been growing here for at least fifteen to twenty-five years, with the tire around it for most of the time. Or at least since the branches spread far enough and the trunk soared too high for anyone to drop a tire on from above.

Have a closer look. I've been there several times over the years, and have pictures from all sides, in all seasons. This is for real, no Photoshop tricks.

June 25, 2006

Sunday, April 20, 2008

More Lacrosse Action

I shot almost six hundred pictures on Friday afternoon, then spent a few hours paring the lot down to about four hundred acceptable images. The light is still a slight problem in early spring; even though it lasts longer than in the autumn, the sun is still more or less at its low winter angle, so the contrast is high and the shadows are harsh. I find that keeping the backgrounds in the midtone range helps hold the lighter colors and other highlights, whereas a light background, one with a lot of sky, for example, will lead to a loss of all highlight detail.

This was one of my favorite sequences:

Anybody know the names of these young men in the blue jerseys? Leave them in the comments section and I'll post them under their pictures.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Nothing LAX About Them

April 18, 2008

I took a busman's holiday yesterday; the sports schedule at the studio was light, so I was able to shoot the Oceanside High School JV Lacrosse team as they rolled over the Hicksville Comets, 10 to 2. One of their more interesting tactics was in fielding two sets of players, each set with the same number on their jersey. I thought this was quite clever, until it was pointed out to me that this was junior varsity, and uniforms were scarce.

And for those inquiring minds: yes, that's you-know-who, whatisname, my nephew, my godson, in the picture.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Frisbee Serendipity

I'm not sure what to say about these pictures, they're just a couple of those happy accidents that occur now and then. A coincidence of run-down batteries and a finger that's quicker than the eye. A last-minute situation change that had me first expecting free reign at a play rehearsal to suddenly needing to restrict my shooting to the extreme sides of the stage, since there would be an audience in the house.

Shooting this way, not being able to even see the action from the center of the house, meant I had to anticipate when the actor closest to me would turn in my direction, while their counterpart was still looking my way. I shoot a lot of rubbish this way, but can usually get two or three usable images if I'm careful.

April 2008

But if the flash doesn't recycle as fast as I shoot, then the shutter doesn't sync, and defaults to the exposure for the ambient light of the stage. Since I shoot ISO 320 at f8, this leads to a fairly slow shutter speed, 1/30th of a second in the case of the picture above, and 1/8 of a second for the three-handed fellow at the top.

(I should mention here my choice of a title for this entry. In the days of shooting slides, unusable pictures were known as 'frisbees' because of the way they were tossed into the waste bin. And every now and then there would be a few like these, not really good for anything, but still interesting to look at.)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Autoportrait Sunday

Cruising either of my two external hard drives is a sure way of stumbling upon some interesting pieces of my past. Here are two that I don't think I have too much to be embarrassed about...

The picture above was made sometime in the summer of 1985, probably on a Saturday afternoon, with my camera on a nearby shelf. I was posing with my arm draped over the lensboard of a Robertson process camera. This was the camera that I learned color on, where I spent three years making four-color screenings, building up my arms opening, loading and closing the eighty-pound cast iron vacuum film back.

At the far right you can see a part of one of the four xenon arc lamps that were the light source. These were positioned behind the copyboard, seen in the center, the iron frame with frosted glass where each of the four separation negatives would be mounted facing the lens. The backlit image would be projected through the lens onto film, and broken up with a halftone screen.

The distance between the copy
board and the lens could be adjusted to change the size of the final image as well; the set of rails they rode on ran nineteen feet from the outer wall of the darkroom. (This is the picture with the embarrassing detail, by the way, and no, it's not the pen clipped to my shirt.)

This next shot was made in the fall of 1985, and there ain't nothing embarrassing about it, 'cause dammit, I look cool. Leather bomber jacket, pink shirt, tight jeans, mirror shades, and that slouch. I haven't looked this cool since...since...well, since then.

That's the Long Island Sound behind me, and the sands of a Rocky Point beach under my feet. Squint with your imagination and you'll see Connecticut on the horizon. Camera was placed on the retaining wall of the bluff facing the water.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Globetrotter Girl

April 2008

I was watching her practicing this move for a few minutes before she realized anyone was looking. Not more than five years old or so, I guessed. She wasn't keeping it up well when I first spotted her, but it was apparent what she was trying to do. Most kids her age would get shy on me when they saw the camera, but this one was game when she looked my way. I motioned, she turned and spun the ball on her finger perfectly.

Twice in a row. And I think it was a regulation-sized ball, too.