Friday, August 29, 2008

Rockville Cemetery

Rockville Cemetery sits on a large swathe of land at Ocean Avenue and Merrick Road, right on the border of Lynbrook and Rockville Centre. It dates back to the late eighteenth century, and was once a churchyard. Today it's a non-sectarian burying ground, still open, and noted for several things, among them a large eastern section of ground-level markers (with a smaller section on the western border), numerous zinc markers, and the stele (above) marking the mass graves and memorializing the victims of two great shipwrecks off the coast of Long Island in the late 1830's.

The zinc markers, I think, are my favorite finds in any cemetery. They were originally marketed as 'white bronze', and sometimes are mistakenly referred to as cast-iron. They weather well, and nothing grows on them because of the chemical reaction of zinc and organic material. It seems that families would purchase a marker and erect it with the first death. As more family members joined the reserve, the decorative panels on the other three sides would be removed and replaced with names and dates and epitaphs. Occasionally there will be granite footstones nearby.

Legend has it that many of these hollow monuments were used as drop points for bootleggers during Prohibition. Perhaps some were, once or twice, for small amounts, but the absolute bother of moving bottles in and out of the small openings makes the idea rather unlikely. If they were used at all it was more sensible that they'd be used as money drops.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tale of the Whales

The day started sunny and clear on shore, but any fisherman or sailor will tell you that such conditions will never hold true at sea, and true enough, the fog rolled in as we chugged out for a three-hour tour...

The weather never got very rough, though, the tiny ship was never tossed, and we were able to make contact with three humpbacks not long after we arrived. Foggy, Flamingo, and Willow were just finishing up a show for two other boats when we got to them, and they quite happily continued cavorting for us as the other boats went back to shore.

They know our boats pose no threat to them, so they're comfortable having us around as they feed on the plankton and krill in the water. They come to the surface in gradually increasing arcs, filtering their feed fish through their teeth. They each make several leaps, gathering food, before making a final plunge to the bottom.
They'll spend ten minutes or so on the bottom, then make their way to the surface and repeat the performance.

There are two ways for the marine biologists to identify each individual whale. All their tail markings are unique, so the patterns can act like human fingerprints, and the dorsal fins are distinctive from each other. In the top picture, for instance, the whale on the right, in the back, is Foggy, who has a serious hook. The tail above belongs to either Foggy or Willow.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More From Peggy's Cove

Peggy's Cove, a little west of Halifax, Nova Scotia, is probably the best-preserved and most well-regulated tourist town you'll ever see. I was all set for something right out of the Jersey shore, with dingy souvenir stores and custard stands, crowded streets with no place to park, and teeming humanity swarming everywhere.

Canada disappointed me in all but the last item on that list. Peggy's Cove is a beautiful fishing village with a visitor's center, an ice cream shop or two, lots of docks and boats and boathouses, acres of glacial granite extending out to the sea, and not a single skee-ball arcade or pizzeria in sight.

Just a beautiful day, and we managed to get the tail end of the good morning light. The sun was getting high and harsh; next time I want to be here much earlier, just after sunrise would be perfect. It's only a short drive from Halifax, and it would be nice to get some lighthouse shots without having sixty to a hundred and thirty people milling about.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Canadian Signage

Sherry and I took an early morning walk around the grounds of the Digby Pines after breakfast one morning. There are several well-maintained hiking trails through the woods, although I wonder how many visitors get lost, given the curious way the paths back to the main buildings are marked:

I'm thinking these were put up by the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz.

Further on, we found this even stranger notification about certain underground utilities. Or maybe not. I guess it's a work-in-progress.

We didn't have time to explore further, but I'm sure that additional searching would reveal another message, perhaps "Warning: Concrete Slab in Path".

Three Ways That Canadians are Becoming Like US

They're beginning to use stupid, trendy abbreviations in the most unlikely places.

They're encouraging gastronomic cultural aberrations from the fast food industry.

They're starting to leave graffiti and garbage on their beautiful landscapes.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Peggy's Cove Light

I have unfortunately been unable to do very much with the Nova Scotia pictures for the last few days, I'm afraid, because I've been without my computer glasses since Thursday. Doing much of anything involving the monitor requires my nose placed about three inches from its surface, and given that it's a widescreen, concentrating on more than a three-inch radius proves difficult.

But I wanted to share a few of the simpler ones to prepare, or at least one I thought would be simple until I decided to remove several common tourists from the side of the frame in order to better highlight my bride.

Peggy's Cove is a beautiful spot on a bright sunny day like this, so don't kid yourself thinking we had the place to ourselves. This place is quite literally crawling with visitors; there were at least a hundred people swarming over the rocks, regardless of the warning sign, so getting a shot of a desolate lighthouse wasn't going to happen unless I was there at sunrise. And traveling with two teenagers, good luck with that idea. So I spent half an hour deleting seven people from the right-hand side of the picture, near the door and the steps.

Nevertheless, I'm real happy with this shot, I'll clean over the rough spots before I print it.

MEGO Data: 5D - 24-105 @ 85mm, f11 - 1/1000, ISO 320. WB-Cloudy. Processed from RAW file.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sherry on the Rocks

I'm still sorting through the 850 or so pictures I took during our trip through Nova Scotia last week, but I wanted to update the blog with something, given the amount of time I've been away, so above we have Sherry exalting in the majesty of the fog atop the granite bluffs of Prim Point at the entrance to Annapolis Basin above the town of Digby, Nova Scotia.

We couldn't understand what was going on with the rocks here, which, if you enlarge the picture, will see have dark outlines around the contours of each undulating surface. In some places, the rock is scooped out to a depth of an inch or so leaving a shallow bowl. Other parts just have the dark outline, which appears to be part of the substrate, not something painted on. Anyone have any ideas?

We also stumbled upon this rusted ammo box, nestled in a rocky cradle and guarded by two weather-bleached driftwood sentries. It was a Geocache, the treasure box left for Geocachers to find at the end of their GPS-guided hunt. They don't mind if people like us just happen upon it, either, and so there's a notepad and pen inside a ziploc bag for finders to sign, and little knicknacks and charms in the box itself. We signed the book, and left a US $1 bill behind. If you'd like to find it, it's right here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Windmill at Sagamore Hill

Mondays aren't good days to visit Sagamore Hill. I know the house is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays (I think the cleaning lady comes on Tuesdays), so I was surprised to see the rangers with a group on the porch. I guess it was a private tour or some such thing. I wasn't surprised to see there were maintenance trucks all around, several parked alongside the porch.

This particular Monday past (August 11) was clouding over fast as I drove up Cove Neck Road, and as I saw the house (and trucks) on the hill I realized the light was lousy, too. But since I planned to shoot with the InfraRebel, I decided to explore scenes I usually passed over.

The windmill stands among a group of trees about a hundred feet from the house. This is usually a dark area, and it's very hard to get a good view of the tower and keep an open enough of an exposure for the trees. With the infrared camera I get not only great separation of the shadow tones, there are over half a dozen different textures in the trees, all of which would just be a dark mush in a regular photograph. This was shot with the 17-85 lens, at 17mm, so I had to do a bit of perspective correction in order for the windmill to stand straight.

Those clouds were as threatening as they looked, too. I left the park after this because the wind kept kicking up, and a little rain was coming down. The rain got steadier as I drove away, and only let up when I got to Route 25A. A few minutes later, as I was passing the Hicksville train station there was an alert on the radio about a tornado watch for the Bayville and Oyster Bay areas, as well as western Suffolk County.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Not The Holland Tunnel

September, 2007

I first looked at this scene and thought of it as an interesting streetlight/Hopperesque slice of still life. I also think it's a funny picture, since it's not really an entrance to the tunnel, but the huge ventilation tower on Washington Street. (Like all the pictures on this blog, you can click on it for a larger image.)

Fortunately for our sense of aesthetics in these paranoid and over-protective times, the design elements of the 1930's (ornate bronze, very heavy masonry over a steel skeleton, an utter lack of windows) are adequate enough for security purposes that they haven't been uglified with extra steel cladding (yet).

Addendum: August 13, 2008

I was looking through the blog tonight, just to see if I was making sense or even saying anything interesting in any of these stories, when I noticed the the two signs to the right of the door in the photo above. I clicked for the larger version of the picture, but still couldn't quite make out the sign with the circle. It was obviously the international NO symbol, but what could it be forbidding? The resolution of the web image is deliberately lousy, so I got the original out of my files, cropped and enlarged the section at the right.

Oh. Okay, let's keep this amongst ourselves, shall we?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Few More Infrared Shots

Bethpage Cemetery - Bethpage, August 2008

We've been having some really great clouds the last few days, along with the accompanying afternoon thunderstorms, of course, and the effects of the IR camera help to bring out the most in them. Infrared also helps to bring the extraordinary out of the mundane, I think. Mary Abbott's white bronze marker (below) sits in the dark shadows at the rear of the Powell cemetery in Bethpage. In a straightforward image, the scene is very dark, the tones of the marker being only slightly lighter than the surrounding foliage. But the infrared image turns shadows into highlights and induces an ethereal sense to the picture.

These were taken August 9, 2008, in the Bethpage Cemetery and the Powell Cemetery, located just south of the entrance to the Bethpage Park golf courses.

Quaker Meeting House - August 2008

Friday, August 8, 2008

Introducing the InfraRebel

Flushing Meadow

I've been working with single-lens reflex cameras for over 26 years now, and in that time I've had a chance to work with all but a few of the films and processes that interested me. The films I've shot have included Tri-X and Plus-X, of course, the two legacy black and white emulsions from Kodak. I've kvelled before on these pages over my beloved Panatomic-X, the ISO 25 b/w film so cruelly discontinued in the late 1980's, but never mentioned another 25 speed film, the virtually grainless Ektar color print film, part of a line of print films that Kodak introduced around the same time they killed Pan-X. Ektar 25 was the best color print film I ever shot, but like most of my favorite Kodak products, was discontinued within a couple of years.

Kings Park

I've shot all three flavors of Kodachrome while they were available, as well as the various consumer and professional Ektachrome emulsions in all their various speeds. Not to mention Fujifilm, print and slide (I shot Velvia back when it was just a 50 speed slide film) and a really neat, high-speed and grainy (but grainy in a good way, in a Georges Seraut pointillism way) slide film made by Agfa that clocked in at 1000 ISO, which was pretty good for 1986.

For high-speed black and white I liked Kodak Recording film, which I would push to 1600. After that left the shelves I started using Ilford’s XP film, a chromatic black and white film. Chromatic b/w is based on a color emulsion, so it produces its grayscale with color dyes, rather than silver halide crystals. This eventually became the film I bought by the brick throughout the 90’s since, as a color film, it could be processed by any minilab, and I could over- and under-expose it at any point in the roll, effectively changing the ISO speed mid-roll, which is impossible to do with conventional black and white film.

Rye Playland

I got a Polaroid Spectra when it first came out. The Spectra was the first one-piece instant film in a horizontal format. I got it mostly for the novelty of an instant camera, never having had one, but there are a number of prints from that camera I’m quite proud of. Around the same time, a friend gave me an original SX-70 that was lying around one of his closets. That then laid around one of my closets for a few years, until I put it to work. Something many people may not know is that today I have a collection of nine or ten Land cameras from the 1960’s and 70’s, including two Model 150’s in mint condition: one a complete kit with leather carrying case, instruction manual and warranty card, even the receipt from Sears, Roebuck. (I think it was for $125. In 1961. That’s around $900 today.)

A couple of things I never got around to doing were Polaroid transfers, or lifting the emulsion of the older style peel-apart films and fixing it on another substrate, like watercolor paper, Bristol board or even clear acetate. Always wanted to, just never got enough time to get all the materials together and experiment. And now I guess I never will, nor will anyone.

Rye Playland

The other thing I always wanted to try was infrared photography, but was more put off by the PITA factor and the expense. Not that the film was expensive, maybe a bit more than others in the 80’s, but not ridiculous. It was the filter that was costly, necessary, and the secondary pain in the ass. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Infrared film, if you don’t know or haven’t Wikipedia’d it yet, is sensitive to both the visible as well as the infrared light spectrum. Without a filter, infrared negatives differ from conventional negatives only in contrast, with the IR giving a flatter image, a lower contrast. Blocking most of the blue spectrum from the exposure, and thus leaving only the near-red and infrared is done with dark red filters, to block the entire blue and visible-red wavelengths requires an opaque IR 72 filter.

It’s the filter that’s the PITA and the expense. Opaque filter. Long exposure. Tripod. Composing and focusing, then putting the filter on. Did I mention that there’s no real guide for exposure times? You bracket like hell, take notes and match everything up when the negs come back. Oh, and the film has to be loaded and unloaded in total darkness, processed as soon as possible (with special development times, ergo custom processing prices) and lots of newer cameras had infrared film counters that would fog the film while it was in the camera. The film would fog itself just from common background radiation. Some older cameras weren’t light tight enough for it. And the filters cost hundreds of dollars.

Freeport, New York

But the pictures were gorgeous. And now it’s relatively easy to accomplish, though still pricy. And it enables you to take handheld IR pictures without a filter or a tripod. It’s also a modification that disables the camera from doing any other type of photography, so my original Canon Rebel was an obvious choice. While it would have been nice to have the controls and features of the 20D, I needed that as a backup for sports. It’s actually been fun using the Rebel after all these years, although I’d completely forgotten that there’s no way to select a metering mode.

Digital sensors, unlike film, see the infrared spectrum just as well as visible light; to counter this a low-pass IR filter is placed over the sensor to block the infrared spectrum. Modifying the camera entails the removal of this filter, and replacing it with an IR 72 filter. This puts the filter behind the lens and meter, enabling a photographer to hand hold, see, compose, and allow the camera’s autofocus to work. In short, a miracle: Infrared for the masses. I hope you all enjoy these as I'm enjoying making them.