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...