Saturday, December 12, 2009

Busman's Holiday

October 4, 2007

It's nice to be able to sit and watch someone else do what I do, especially when they're given plenty of time to set up, and have the lighting to really illuminate a crowd. So it was a couple of years ago when I was assigned to shoot team pictures on the day of the senior group shot, which was being done by an other studio. And being done very nicely, too

I normally used two lights, shooting them through transparent umbrellas, unlike in the picture above, where the lights are shooting into a reflector umbrella. Both methods have their merits, mine being a softer light spread across a wide area, and the four-light reflector method giving a sharper, more concentrated light.

So my 900 watt strobes are on stands that extend to about fifteen feet high. I'll position them about thirty feet from the bleachers, tilted slightly up, with the left one pointing slightly to the left, and the right one to the right. These units put out a lot of light, and if they were simply leveled at the subject they would be a huge hotspot in the center.

This guy's setup was quite different, as you can see. Four 900 watt units, only they're fired into reflectors. Very nice, as the four lights will cut the shadows, and the reflectors give a nice even illumination. Trouble is, you have to travel with and set up four lights every job. When the school's yearbook adviser told me he'd been setting up since 10:30 I wasn't surprised. Four lights are a lot to assemble, aim and meter for.

I got to have a busman's holiday then, sitting on the stands opposite the kids, watching the photographer and teachers seat everybody, trim the sides, and line up a seated row on the floor. When he powered up his strobes, I discovered I could trigger them with my flash, which made for a few interesting shots, like the one above.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy Birthday, Harry

It's a good thing Harry Chapin and Billy Joel never got into the habit of carpooling, or worse, following one another anywhere, or there might be two graves up on this hill. Billy somehow survives to late middle age though, while poor Harry never got past exit 40 on the Long Island Expressway one rainy summer afternoon in 1981 on his way to a concert in Eisenhower Park. I remember hearing the initial traffic reports about the accident on WLIR-FM, before we knew who it involved.

(It seems now that my memories of first hearing many of the major events of the late 1970's and early 1980's involved staring at a radio speaker. Elvis, Bing Crosby, Reagan, the Pope, the USA Olympic hockey team, the Pope. All staring at a radio speaker.)

Nassau County eventually named the theater in the park after Harry, though the Interstate Highway Commission opted to keep the designation of 'Exit 40E - Jericho Tnpke' for the highway ramp.

Harry spends his days and nights now just below the top of the highest point in Huntington Rural Cemetery, on the quiet side of the hill, insulated from the from the sound of traffic on Route 110. The hills on this part of the island form the Harbor Hill Moraine; detritus left behind by the retreating glaciers from the last ice age. Appropriately, a glacial boulder serves as his headstone, embraced by box evergreen bushes and flanked by two young pines.

The stone is covered by other stones, dozens of rocks and pebbles, left by visitors, some with painted messages, and keys, and coins. Lots of coins, and I'm sure many of the visitors to this windswept hill pull a few hits off a joint as well, before dropping off some quarters and dimes, beckoning Harry to keep the change.

December 2, 2009

Harry Chapin would have turned 67 years old today.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hilltop Markers

December 1, 2009

Huntington Rural Cemetery spreads across several hillsides along the west side of Route 110, New York Avenue, in this village on Long Island's North Shore. Names familiar to the town's commercial signs and its very streets dot the landscape, giving the grounds an air of coincidental oddness.

I think this may be the only zinc marker in this place, although I haven't covered all of the grounds. It's over seven feet tall, and was raised to the memory of Hester King, the young wife of J.M. King, who died in 1886 at the age of 33.

To those of you visiting via Taphophile Tragics, a short explanation about zinc markers is in order, as they are, to the best of my knowledge, unique to the United States.

These are hollow, metal grave markers that were manufactured by a company called Monumental Bronze, located in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on the east coast of the U.S.  They were only made for 37 years, between 1875 and 1912, and all of them came from the single foundry.  They were marketed up and down the east coast and midwest United States by sales representatives, in many designs that could be chosen from catalogs. (This was long before the Truth-in-Advertising era; though cast in zinc, they were called 'white bronze' for enhanced sales cachet.  Color-wise, they're actually closer to a light gray, or gunmetal blue.)

There were numerous advantages to using these markers: they were durable (though sometimes prone to metal fatigue in the taller examples), the bas-relief lettering is perfectly legible to this day, and convenient (the monuments had removable panels for the names of the deceased; unused panels had symbolic embossing until the space was needed).  And being made of 99% pure zinc, they wouldn't rust, and naturally repelled organic growths, so no vines or moss would ever cling to their surface.

More information about these unusual markers can be found here.
This was shot with the InfraRebel, using the 17-40L @ f4 -17mm - 1/4000 sec - ISO 400

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Seven and a Half Weeks


I only now realized that it has been just shy of two months since we've featured the cats on the blog. Conveniently I was stalking two of the little darlings just the other night. Clark was skulking around the living room and giving me the stink eye, so I followed him around for a while with the 70-200 lens opened to 2.8 with the flash pointed at the ceiling.

Molly - December 1, 2009

I captured Molly with the same set-up, except she was draped over a dining room chair under the table, so the light washed through the half-inch thick glass, giving an ever-so-slight diffusion. Because of the mixed light from the bounced flash, I decided to convert these both to black and white, which I did during the RAW processing.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fire Island Lighthouse

Fire Island looking west from the lighthouse

For the first days of December, when I should at least be wearing an unbuttoned winter coat, if not battling driving snow, I bring you a vista from the last weekend of November: Warm breezes, bright sun, and a clear view towards Democrat Point at the very western end of Fire Island, seen from the top of the lighthouse, which, for all my visits here over the years, I've never ventured to before.

Looking east towards Kismet and Saltaire

The spiral staircase with its 180 or so steps (I admit, I lost count at 120, just above the halfway point) was a test, but worth it for the vista. We were able to walk on the outside platform just below the rotating light. Above is the scene east, with the National Seashore in the foreground and Burma Road to the right.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Fifteen and a Half Months

August 6, 2008

While I make semi-regular visits to many of the locations featured here, I don't always set out to deliberately record their deterioration. In the case of Freeport's Brooklyn Water Works ruins, I've been there several times in the last few years, but I haven't always had the same goals each time. The last two or three visits I made were all infrared shoots, most of which have been posted here before. The last time I shot color there was on this muggy August afternoon in 2008.

Pictured above is the west turret. Watching the walls fall reveals the several layers of brick that make up the mostly masonry structure. The second story of the turret, in fact, has entirely lost its surface bricks, only the lower-quality and less-skillfully laid bricks remain.

November 20, 2009

In the current picture, we find the local vandals have laid a fresh coat of gibberish, but in such bright, cheerful colors that it's hard to be too annoyed about it. Historic as this site may be, no one holds any hope or dream of it being restored. I'm not even sure who owns it anymore. It's also a fairly dangerous place; the brick walls rise to heights of almost forty feet, with no real support other than elementary physics.

I like seeing what's fallen down, and what, unexpectedly hasn't. Above the ground-floor window on the left in the top picture, for instance, a temporary lintel has been placed with vertical lengths of wood shoring up the brick. On the top level, towards the middle, you can see the wood frames of two windows.

In the second picture, the lintel and other supports have disappeared, and with them more of the veneer bricks have collapsed, yet the two window frames have survived.

The eeriest part about these pictures is that when I went to the site on this afternoon I had no intention of creating a duplicate of the previous year's shot, and was more than a little shocked when I saw how exact the two pictures were.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Winter Bench

November 17, 2009

Not a lot here today. I ordered a new set of apertures for my Lensbaby, since I've managed to lose everything but the f8. I should note here that a Lensbaby aperture is a thin magnetic disc that you drop into the barrel of the lens where it is held in place above the glass with three other magnets. Without a disc in place the lens is f2.0. The seven discs in the aperture kit have holes in the center to equate 2.8. 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16 and 22. (Beyond the standard EOS mount, there is nothing normal about this lens. The metal lens cap, for example, screws on like a bottle cap.)

This was taken at f5.6, on a rather warm day for November in the northeast, at Point Lookout town park, the beach that would not die. I like the contrast split in this picture, with the dark area on top highlighting the bench and the darker bench itself leading into the lighter section. I think it draws the eye in, then moves it up and down.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Picture Day

One of my favorite parts of being a school photographer was the time I'd have before doing the senior class picture, that hour or so that I'd spend unpacking my equipment, setting up the light stands and positioning the strobes, trying for the smoothest coverage of light from side to side, without horrible reflections. The worst part is trying to meter the light in a room whose every surface is, by necessity, highly varnished.

October, 2007

The reflections in the picture above actually aren't a big concern for me, since those bleachers will be filled with warm bodies by the time my shoot begins. In fact, at this school I wound up having to remove the umbrellas and shoot with bare lights, since the gym was a windowless cavern. These bleachers are also twenty rows high, enough so that someone standing on the top row could hoist themselves into the box girders that make up the roof. Most school gyms only have twelve rows of seating at most, sometimes fifteen.

September, 2007

Since I stood on the ladder to shoot my pictures, getting a light reading from the proper angle and elevation was more important than screwing around for my own amusement. When other people's reality intrudes upon my own like this, I include them. Thus two hapless freshmen, wandering through the gym, are pressed into being stand-ins for an entire senior class.

If you're wondering about those two lines on the sides, each one is a strip of masking tape I've laid out to mark the edges of the crowd, once they get there. It's angled in, from the top row to the bottom, so the group will appear squared-off in the final picture.

Like this:

September 2007

This particular school had the largest senior class I'd ever photographed, consistently, year after year. The group above has close to 800 people in it. No big reflection problems, either, since the bleachers are made of plastic. But in each of these pictures you can see the almost mirror images in the floor.

September 2007

Outdoor shoots, however, require much less prep time, although the logistics are more critical. My worst outdoor group was at 8 AM with bleachers that faced west. I had to shoot with an ultra-wide lens from a fifteen-foot ladder almost straight down to avoid the morning sun.

By contrast, the school above has bleachers facing east, and we took the picture around eleven o'clock in the morning, optimal time. And as you can see, the customers were so pleased, they gave me a standing ovation.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Two More Towers

Time again for a 'then and now' entry, and in a first for this blog, the 'then' picture isn't a photograph, but instead is an illustrated postcard.

My sister gave me this last month, it's a C.T. Art Colortone of Chicago, published by Frank E. Cooper in New York. There's no date or copyright information on it, but the stamp square calls for a one-cent stamp, which puts it prior to 1952, which is when the post card rates went from one cent to two.

It looks like a hand-drawn illustration, but close examination of the original shows it to be more like it's a colored photograph. It may date from the early 1930's, when Jones Beach State Park first opened.

There have been some serious structural problems with the 231-foot tall water tower in the last few years; cracks appeared in the brickwork in 2007, and inspections revealed deficiencies that required the removal of the copper roof and rebuilding of the walls. The project has been going on for two years now.

I think I did pretty good with the re-creation, except for the elevation; if I were standing on the roof of the one-story snack bar building directly behind me, I'd have the perspective correct.

Oh, yeah, and maybe there could be a few people walking along the promenade.



Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Afternoon Invitational

November, 2009

Not much to really say about this, except that I'll never back down from a challenge: if it's outdoors, and encompasses at least an acre of asphalt parking lot, then it can't physically be 'closed'. There's no wall, there's no fence, there's not even any yellow tape delineating any off-limits area. There's just the sign nailed to a picnic table, one of hundreds of picnic tables dragged from the woods and arranged within the painted spaces in the far end of a parking lot, getting ready to ride out another winter.

So I'm going in...


These were taken in the main parking lot at Hempstead Lake State Park, a location I've been drawn to ever since a chance encounter on a winter's day many years ago. The pictures today
(and they were taken today, too) were made with the trusty InfraRebel. For the shallow depth of field in the first one, I used a 50mm lens at f1.4, since I only wanted the sign and the very edges of the benches in sharp focus. I really like the performance of this lens wide open; the creaminess of the bokeh, even on this 6 MP sensor, is quite special. I may need to do a self-assignment with this lens and the 5D in the near future...

The vertical shot of the tables, and this one above, are just a couple more examples of leading lines: elements of the image drawing your gaze from one point to another. This shot of the bench may be considered an extra heavy-handed example of the genre, with the painted arrow on the pavement directing the viewers eye in the desired direction.

These last two were shot with the 17-40mm f4L @ f5.6, with 1/40th of a second for the picnic tables, and 1/60th for the bench. The 17-40 has pretty much become my walk-around lens for the InfraRebel, among its other attributes, the glass is very kind to the six megapixel sensor. It gives far sharper image resolution throughout its focal range than the EF-S 17-85 does, and with a constant aperture. By the time the 17-85 has zoomed to 40mm, it's stopped down to f5, and I'd rather have a faster than a longer lens, especially for infrared work. In fact, after considering what I've written here, I've just gone into my bag and removed the 17-85 EF-S to make room for something more important, like my Lensbaby, as well as the 50mm f1.4...


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Further Left Coast

October 20, 2009

As promised, more spooky pictures from San Francisco. This is another angle on Fort Point in the fog, giving a fuller view of the bridge footing and the grounds in front of the fort itself, which resembles more a warehouse than a defensive point dating back to the mid-nineteenth century.

The next day Wayne and I were driving around Treasure Island, site of a partially abandoned naval base. The navy is long gone, and film studios and community centers have moved in, but there is plenty of military detritus clustered about. An abandoned bowling alley, rows and rows of single-story wooden barracks, their paint peeling and signs warning of asbestos. These tanks are right along the eastern shore of the island, on Avenue N near 13th Street.

To get to Treasure Island one crosses the western span of the Oakland-Bay Bridge, the double suspension bridge that leads from the city of San Francisco to Yerba Buena Island. This natural island is the half-way point in the bay on the way to Oakland. (Treasure Island is man-made, composed entirely of dredged material and fill.) The second leg is the cantilevered section of the Bay bridge, part of which suffered a collapse of the roadway in the quake of 1989. This length of the bridge is being completely replaced with a concrete causeway and cable-stayed bridge, and Wayne wanted me to see the complexity of what was actually going on.

In the picture above, the section on the left is the original bridge. You'll notice as it leads into the center of the picture, it just sort of stops, and then there's nothing. This section was cut out and slid away during the Labor Day weekend in 2009. The connection to the new viaduct (on the right) was then slid into its place.

The rest of the new causeway can be seen in the background, below the distinctive span.

We wandered around under the bridges here for about fifteen or twenty minutes, just around noontime. We were a bit surprised at the lack of security, despite the Coast Guard station checkpoint a few hundred feet behind me in this picture, we were never challenged by anyone for loitering under a major Interstate highway bridge, taking pictures, and pointing out landmarks, discussing seismic requirements, and what it might really take to knock this thing out.

Twice-Reflected Wayne - 10-21-09

Of course, we weren't driving everywhere; despite the hills, San Francisco is a very pedestrian-friendly city, especially for those with good quads. It's also a city that you want to see at a walking pace, as well, since it's easy to miss a lot of the architecture and most of the twisted characters if you spend all your time driving by.

The empty barber shop above is on Columbus Avenue, across the street from a brilliant white, triangular building, that one reflected in the glass. It has the words 'Transamerica Corporation' just above the topmost visible windows in the picture, but it's not the Transamerica Building. It points to the Transamerica Building, though. Make of that what you will. If you click on the picture for the larger version, you'll understand why I titled it what I did, as well as find out the name of the barber shop.

This one I couldn't pass up, it just looked so silly. Watching the group thread through the crowds on Fisherman's Wharf was fun, but hard to shoot with the harsh shadows. I got a better angle with this shot when they regrouped alongside one of the pier buildings.

I think Segways are cool, there's just something, I don't know, odd, about riding on something while standing upright.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Too Late for Hallowe'en

October 8, 1995

Probably the last time I carved pumpkins was when I did these two, the first Hallowe'en we spent in the new house in Long Beach. The gourds were a gift from our friends Paul and Deb; Paul taking special attention, I recall, to having them be proportionate to Sherry's and my dimensions. One tall, and one small.

A few days later I dutifully lobotomized the pair, going so far as to give even the smaller one a full set of eyebrows, and sat them out on the wall of the front porch, alongside the steps. My distant Irish cousins, these relatives from the O'Lantern branch (or vine, as the case may be) of the family, lasted there a few days, then disappeared.

October 15, 1995

Three nights of being cooked from the inside-out by candlelight must have been enough for the neighborhood raccoons, as I found the partly-eaten, semi-decomposing shells on the ground behind the shrubs several mornings later. Knowing a good before-and-after opportunity when I saw it, I arranged my future compost for one final photo session.

I printed some 5x7's of these back then; I have the diptych framed. These images are new scans from November of 2009.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Left Coast

I got to spend time in San Francisco last month, a city I have long wanted to visit, but never got to until now. We flew out on a Monday morning, Sherry had meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday. That gave us Monday afternoon to sightsee together, along with our friend Wayne, a local resident.

After dithering for far too long, I've decided that the easiest way to start was to get the classic, touristy picture out there first, then I could proceed with the usual strange stuff that I try to find in a new city.

This was taken during our last photo stop of the week. The lookout point has a wire fence to keep visitors from pitching themselves headfirst down the cliff, and the posts holding the wire are nice, thick, logs, about four inches in diameter, with theirs tops thoughtfully cut flat. Perfect for resting a camera on for a long-term exposure, in this case for six seconds at f14, ISO 400. I should have used mirror lock-up to eliminate any vibrations, though. Next time.

Wayne and I had tried for this scene during our travels the day before, only to have the fog roll in. Which was not a bad thing, in and of itself, since it gave me a couple of alternate opportunities, as we see below:

Fort Point - October 2009

The Golden Gate is an interesting bridge, and for reasons other than that it's six lanes of two-way traffic with no center divider. The arch is part of the south anchorage and allows Fort Point to continue guarding the Golden Gate, which it's done since 1853. The two structures form an eerie appearance in the late afternoon fog.

That fog also does nothing to deter the surfers that flock to these waters, either. In full wetsuits and paddles, they're able to ride some impressive swells and breakers directly under the towers. As thick as the fog seems, the day was sunny and clear just twenty minutes earlier in downtown, and probably still was.

We decided not to waste the trip to the northern point, opting to head for a bar in Sausalito instead. In all, a good decision, since we got the spooky pictures one day, and good weather the next day, when Sherry was with us.

Coming next: More of the spooky pictures! Stay tuned...


Friday, October 23, 2009

Walkway Over the Hudson

October 14, 2009

Back in the late 1970's I spent many a hazy weekend in the clear mountain air of the college town of New Paltz. For someone with no car (or drivers license even) there were three ways to get there; knowing someone with a car was the best, and most enjoyably direct. The Trailways bus was a less than enjoyably direct route, given the necessity of a trip to Manhattan and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Also, a round-trip ticket was something on the order of twenty bucks as well, making a serious dent in one's beer budget.

The third way was far less direct, but much, much cheaper. ConRail from Grand Central Station was around 12 bucks for a round trip ride, maybe less, I really don't remember. Trouble was, it only got you as far as Poughkeepsie, on the opposite shore of the Hudson. But the entrance to the Mid-Hudson bridge being only three blocks or so from the station, made hitchhiking the last twelve miles a fairly easy thing to do, often in a single ride.

More often than not I'd have to walk over the bridge before getting a ride, not a terrible thing though, since more cars were likely to stop on the far side, which has wider shoulders, and it gave me time to gaze at a wonderful abandoned relic, the Poughkeepsie Railroad bridge, a spindly-legged cantilever crossing that had only gone unused for five years when I first saw it.

Looking north from the east tower of the Mid-Hudson Bridge

There had been many a proposal for its re-use over the years, and possession changed hands more than once. In 1992 a non profit organization took over, and, with the New York State parks department, conceived and constructed a concrete surface across the span and created the Walkway Over the Hudson, a New York State Historic Park.

Looking north from the Walkway

It opened on October third as New York's newest park, as well as the longest pedestrian bridge in the world. I'm also willing to bet it's also the narrowest park in the New York state system, at least on an unofficial basis.

Original bridge girder

The walkway is twenty-five feet wide for most of the length, with two 35-foot wide sections at either end. The narrower sections allow you to see the original steel girders of the bridge, but that's all that's visible of the actual structure from the walkway itself. A square yard of glass in the flooring that would let you see down one of the towers would be a neat touch, I think, but may freak out too many people.

Sherry and I took the bikes up there about a week and a half after the opening. We started on the west side, which has a smaller parking lot that the Poughkeepsie side, but plenty of street spots. We crossed the bridge and took in the spectacular views. Absolutely gorgeous, and even higher above the river that the suspension bridge for traffic a mile downstream. We then followed a fairly well-marked route through the city streets to the entrance of that bridge, crossing it and completing a three and a half mile loop a few hundred meters on.

I'll be back in the spring, because I need to get down to the water level so I can shoot the bridge itself, from the human perspective.


Friday, October 16, 2009

EAT: The Sign

Mastic, New York - February, 1991

This bleak scene caught my eye one cold winter day in 1991, while tooling around the east end in my little black Nissan Sentra. They were the only pictures I took that day, too. Four frames, three angles of view. I probably drove over 125 miles for two horizontal, and two almost identical verticals, and I never did anything with them till now.

And of course, I only came across them while looking for something else, naturally. But what intrigued me was that I swear I've seen this sign more recently than eighteen years ago. I think it was used sometime in the last few years in the Zippy the Pinhead comic strip.

(For those of you unfamiliar, Zippy is a surrealistic daily comic strip, nothing at all like your father's Blondie. Bill Griffith, the creator, has his title character  visiting diners and bowling alleys,
interacting with various roadside icons: holding hallucinogenic conversations with Bob's Big Boy, for example. He also draws detailed scenes like the photo above, with lots of signs and power lines, for Zippy to wander through.)

This place is still open, too. I did a little Googling on the name (Jimmy's Diner, the sign is visible in one of the other frames) and tracked down the place in Mastic. Odd, since I thought for sure it was somewhere on the north shore, along route 25A. Google Maps and street view show a remodeled building on the corner, but alas, no sign. The gas station, like a lot of Getty stations here on the Island, is now a Lukoil, but the utility poles don't seem to have been replaced or moved, and they still tilt at almost the same angles.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cat Break

May 20, 2009

After three straight entries about cemeteries and an equally depressing image of urban renewal, I figured the time was right for a new cat picture. So from earlier this spring, we have Betsy.

I like the general composition of this picture, but there are a few things I would do differently, were I living in a perfect world. (You must realize that in this case, 'a perfect world' would have cats that sit still, follow direction and actually hold a pose.)

It could be sharper. Even though the lens (70-200 @ 200mm) was stopped down to f13, the focus is a bit off, because I made the focal point on the nose, rather than the eye. I also wish I hadn't cut
the top of her ear off, but she moves around so much it was hard enough keeping her in the frame. I should have zoomed out a bit to keep her entire head in the frame.

The lighting is what saves the picture for me; the way the shadows and light outline the ears and head, shaping the individual hairs and illuminating each individual whisker.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Past is a Curious Place...

Patchogue - October 5, 2009

Shipwrecks were fairly common off the south shore of Long Island during the nineteenth century, so it's not unusual to come across several headstones of victims of the same event.

The three-masted schooner Louis V. Place was wrecked off the Great South Bay during a horrific nor'easter in February of 1895. It took two days for the Life Saving Service (the forerunner to the Coast Guard) to reach the men clinging to the rigging, by that time all but two were dead. One of them, Soren Nelson, the man in the middle above, died of tetanus less than a month later.

Go back for a minute, enlarge the picture and reread the words carved in the stone. "Taken from the rigging" "Died in the rigging". Eight crewmen crawled up the ropes of the sails, in the face of a howling storm. For those of you unaware, a nor'easter is basically a hurricane that comes from the northeast in the middle of winter. They spent two days with the wind, the surf, the rain and the ice, with their woolen garments saturating and freezing, waiting for rescue.

There's an old joke that's told to see how well your audience is paying attention to you. The joke goes like this: If an airplane crashed on the exact border of New York and Pennsylvania, where would they bury the survivors?

The account of the shipwreck that I read on says the lone survivor of this disaster, Claus Stuvens, eventually went back to sea. Which would explain, I suppose, why the stone bearing his name (on the left, above) has no date of passing. It doesn't explain why there's a stone bearing his name here at all, however. He survived, right?. There's a gravestone for the ship's captain here as well, though that same account says Capt. Squires is buried in a family plot in Southhold. The past is a curious place, indeed...

July 15, 1991

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Family Reserve

Infrared and cemeteries were made for each other as far as I'm concerned. There is just no better way to convey the other-worldliness of some graveyards than with heat-influenced exposure.

July 19, 2009

Lakeview Cemetery in Patchogue, New York is one of those places I've watched evolve over the last twenty years, from completely overgrown and forsaken during the town's mid-1980's blight to the well-kept yet sparsely visited expanse it is today. There are a number of fascinating graves as well. Victims of two local shipwrecks line the main drive, and some of the largest zinc monuments that I've ever seen are here as well. I'll be detailing them in a later entry, but today I wanted to feature the shot above of a typical family reserve, with the plot marked off by a low railing held up by concrete posts.

June 5, 2009

St. John's Episcopal church is a small, wood-framed building, easily overlooked save for a white picket fence along Montauk Highway in Oakdale. This tiny building was the first church on the south shore of the Island, built in 1765 and still standing to this day on the north side of the highway. A brick footpath leads from the door through the graveyard, past the late 19th century headstones.

Again, the infrared imaging adds to the eeriness of the picture; in straight black and white the shingles of the building would blend into the darkness of the surrounding trees and grass, while here the grass and leaves make up the highlights and midtone of the picture, instead of midtone and shadow, bringing the building and path forward as the main element of the picture.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

InfraRebel LensBabies

I like to give myself special assignments sometimes, particular subjects or physical limitations. Sometimes I'll only shoot in black and white, or I'll only use the infrared camera, or more commonly, I'll limit myself to shooting with a single lens. Last week I decided to double the restrictions, and found myself wandering the boardwalk at Jones Beach with the LensBaby stuck on the InfraRebel.

Jones Beach in early fall is similar to the way it is during the other three seasons, a flat, vast expanse of windswept sand, only with fewer half-naked people than just a few weeks earlier. The sky was a slate-gray overcast, with just a tiny bit of filtered sunshine peeking through now and again. Never enough to matter, just enough to put a gleam in the shiny trim.

I've visited this snack shop before, during a more restless time in its existence. And, although it's still constrained within a snow fence, it seems whatever kind of architectural thorazine therapy it's undergone in the last two years seems to be working.

Once again we have one of my favorite subjects, those stalwart silent sentries of scenics, the cast-iron quarter-eating spyglass. Since the company that manufactures them now puts their web address on the units, I visited their site and was able to learn a bit more than I need to know about these things. For example, I always referred to them as a 'spyglass'. Well, no, according to the Tower Optical Company's FAQ's, the proper name is 'binocular viewer'. The FAQ's then go on to list another thirty-nine terms for the item, none of which, I should note, were 'spyglass'. Of course, I also think of them as mouthless aliens, which is what they look like.

October 2, 2009


Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Broadway Hotel

December 25, 1988

The building looming in the background looks like it could be part of the King's Park complex, given its abandoned appearance and the fenced-off lot filled with rubble. But this was taken several years before I ever set foot on the grounds of the north shore asylum, although, since it was the location of my first apartment, I can attest that the building was something of an asylum on its own.

This was taken in the dead-end of Edwards Boulevard, south of Broadway, with the Boardwalk to my back, in Long Beach, New York. The apartment building is 25 West Broadway, where I lived in apartment 502
from 1983-84. No ocean views, though. Of the four windows, each of my two rooms had one facing north, and one facing an airshaft.

The rubble is the remains of the Jackson Hotel, a nursing home/residence hotel razed during the initial phase of the Long Beach renaissance. A luxury high-rise rental building would rise on the site in the coming year.

This picture was a finalist in the 8th annual spring conest sponsored by Photography Forum magazine in 1989.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Inventory (Feline)

We did the annual cat inventory last night; as expected given the economy, we were unable to move any of our current stock, much to the chagrin of our CFO. (Although we did get several offers on the chair.) Nevertheless, we are still able to utilize them for our own purposes, e.g., as space heaters within the paradigm of winter sleeping arrangements, and general amusement.

From left to right: Molly, Betsy, Clark (received as new stock - spring 1999) and Legs (
refurbished - winter 2000). Click on image for larger picture.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Balloon Bottom

One more picture from the Quechee Balloon festival to carry us through the weekend. This balloon made several touches on the water before finally ascending to the cloudy skies. I was shooting with the 70-200mm lens, so I wasn't able to include more of the reflection in the water. I'd tried that type of composition earlier, with the water reflecting the full balloon, but the light was all wrong; too much glare, too many ripples in the water, and the water was too dark because of all the trees along the riverbank.

But the tighter framing here lets me capture more detail in the foliage, makes the vertical red and blue stripes become the main focus, and the rippled water with its truncated reflection is now an anchoring feature at the base of the picture.

And even though you can barely see it, the woman in the peach blouse is giving us a big smile.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Theodore Roosevelt Cage Match

At the time of his death more than ninety years ago, Theodore Roosevelt was apparently thought of as a dangerous man. I mean, why else would you surround his grave with a seven-foot high wrought-iron fence topped with spikes and a deadbolt lock on the gate? What kind of effect did he have on the villagers of Oyster Bay that they would feel the need to keep his mortal remains isolated from the rest of the cemetery?

They built the cage on the top of a hill at the back of the cemetery, far away from the sight of the road. In fact, if it weren't for all the signs pointing to Sagamore Hill, and the Theodore Roosevelt Bird Sanctuary nearby, and the big parking lot with the directions to the gravesite, you'd never know the 26th president of the United States was here at all.

May 12, 2009

Or is he? Perhaps the cage wasn't meant to symbolize the public's final and everlasting restraint of tyranny, nor was it meant to contain TR's vengeful soul or to keep his zombified remains from terrorizing the local citizenry with a big stick, as was originally reported back in 1919. Perhaps instead, it was built to keep the curious and the deranged from digging up the casket to affirm the identity of the contents; to hold the pince-nez and finger his watch chain. Maybe they'd take some dental impressions, too. If there's even a body in there, and not just a pile of rocks, which, according to a new internet theory that Theodore Roosevelt faked his own death, is what you'll find.

I like the idea of a zombie TR wandering the forests in a pair of khaki jodhpurs better, though.

(Author's Note:  Very little of the above is intended to have any historical accuracy.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sagamore Hill

An old colleague from my final days in the printing trade posted a link to Sagamore Hill on Facebook the other day. It was inevitable, I guess; his status updates were a growing compendium of TR quotes. I don't know what brought it on, either, since he's geographically much closer to Puget Sound than he is to the Long Island Sound.

But still it seemed like a good idea to me, I haven't been up that way since the spring, which I reported on in the entry Then and Now. This time around I decided to do some panoramas of the house and grounds.

September 23, 2009

As much as I love the images I get from the InfraRebel, its by-now ancient technology is frustratingly slow. The camera's buffer can only process four RAW images at a time. Shooting the eighteen frames that make up the image above took about two and a half minutes, most of that time spent with the camera to my eye, waiting for the CPU to scurry the pixels and bytes to the CF card.

The pano below, made with the 5D, took less than forty seconds to expose and process eighteen images to the card. With twice the megapixels, shooting RAW and jpeg's. It is amazing what happens in a mere two years with technology.

September 23, 2009

This is the view of the house and the hill as you see it on the drive up Cove Neck Road. The path on the left meanders into the woods, then peters out just below the pet cemetery. If you click on the picture, the larger image will show the striped awnings on the porch and upstairs windows that have been lowered against the afternoon sun.