Monthly Archives: February 2011

Not One Thing Straight

Curio shop, Del Ray, Alexandria, VA

This place embodies the term ‘eccentric.’ I wish the large version were big enough so that you could read all the little signs on the door.

There is every evidence of a singular personality behind this place of business. There may even be a touch of madness. Yet somehow, this store has persisted, and its proprietor has maintained a presence in the world.

Abbie

At Adega, Silver Spring, MD

So, here’s where the we find out how the lens works for portraits. We’re in a wine bar, the light is execrable. (And by that I mean, specifically, that there isn’t much of it, and what little there is is 3 different color temperatures: purple, green, and yellow, to be precise.)

How bad is it? Really bad. The ISO is 1600, I’m shooting at 1/80, wide open. I’ve turned on the “face recognition” function, hoping the camera can keep focus on a face in the gloom better than I can. I shot a few frames entirely convinced I would get nothing usable.

Surprise! The shot is stable and remarkably sharp considering the circumstances. I’m also stunned by how well the color balance held up under these conditions. A nice thick slather of post, and by gum, it’s a usable document.

I’ve read complaints that this lens doesn’t open up wide enough to separate the subject sufficiently from the environment. The way I see it, the bokeh on this lens is appealing enough that I don’t care if the background doesn’t completely dissolve away. Besides, at this focal length, any wider aperture and your depth of field is going to be all of about a centimeter and a half.

Some Buds

Tulip magnolia buds, I think. | Click to view larger.

If you’re going to have a picture where almost nothing is in focus, I’m telling you: you want it to be out of focus the Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm f/2.8 way.

Kindness

Please go read this now: Four Reasons to be Nice to People.

The Right Way Lost

Sculpture of Dante Alighieri, Meridian Park, Washington, DC

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
ché la diritta via era smarrita.

Midway down life’s road
I found myself in a dark woods
Where the right way was erased.

When I first encountered the Inferno in college, I thought it was the most beautiful poetry I’d ever heard. I read the Italian stanzas out loud while skimming the prosaic translation on the opposing pages, a kind of printed subtitle. (I had the sound of the language in my ear from having lived in Italy for nearly a year as a child.)

Having made it to my own middle-age, his words are even more piercing:

Ahi quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura
esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte
che nel pensier rinova la paura!

How can I say what a hard thing
It was, that wild wood, how bitter and harsh—
Just thinking of it brings back the fear.

Dante needed a poet-guide, a mentor, someone to help him get through Hell. Don’t we all?

Memory & Promise

Dried flower.

Here’s the remains of a season past holding the seeds of a season to come. I try to be mindful that everything that looks like an ending may also be a beginning.

I’d also like to tip my hat to Amazon, who sent me a replacement lens post-haste—even before I returned the original—and made it incredibly easy (and free!) to effect the exchange. Truly superior customer service.

Initial tests with the new lens suggest that its OIS function isn’t markedly different to the first. It may simply be that this lens design does not either allow for or make use of heavy-duty stabilization. If that’s the case, so be it. I will make the necessary adjustments in favor of faster shutter speeds, and continue to enjoy the other qualities that make this lens so wonderful.

Stairs

Steps in Georgetown

As I‘ve mentioned before, I used to be a militant photographic fundamentalist.*

  1. THOU SHALT NOT CROP.
  2. THOU SHALT HAVE NO PHOTOSHOP FILTERS BEFORE ME.
  3. THOU SHALT NOT RETOUCH AWAY UNFORTUNATE OBJECTS OR OTHER BLEMISHES.
  4. THOU SHALT NOT USE NEWFANGLED TECHNIQUES SUCH AS HDR.
  5. THOU SHALT ACKNOWLEDGE IMAGE STABILIZATION AS A TOOL OF THE DEVIL.
  6. LIKEWISE AUTOFOCUS.
  7. VIDEO IS THE MEDIUM OF UNBELIEVERS, THOU SHALT NOT BOW DOWN BEFORE MOVING IMAGES.
  8. NOISE IS GRAIN AND GRAIN IS UNCLEAN. THOU SHALT NEVER EXCEED ISO 400 EQUIVALENT.
  9. IF THY IMAGE CAN BE IMPROVED BY ADDING SATURATION OR VIBRANCE THOU ART DOING IT WRONG.
  10. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO COVER UP THY FAILURE TO GET A SHARP IMAGE TO BEGIN WITH BY APPLYING SHARPENING. THE LORD THY GOD CAN TELL.

Now, I prefer to think of these as “The Ten Suggestions.” And I mostly honor them in the breach rather than the observance.

Here’s the unmunged photo as it came out of the camera, through Aperture via RAW:

I think we can all agree: yuck.

Now here’s the adjusted, tweaked, best-I-could do photographic version:

Steps in Georgetown, DC

I imagine that many of you will prefer this example to the one featured at the top of the post, and in the Gallery. The third is more contrasty, has more detail, and is “clearer.”

All that is true, but I prefer the highly-munged version because, for me, it comes closer to the feeling evoked in me by those stairs, that ironwork, the varieties of brick and the bare tree branches. I wanted something looser, less documentary and more… well, I suppose, “aspirational.” (Not the right word, probably.)

If I weren’t currently pining for the Côte d’Azur, perhaps I would prefer the straight-up version too.

*Exaggeration.


A Year Ago: Steampunk Vines

Georgetown, Washington DCI’m not sure whether I’ll be able to post…
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Hungry for Color

Granny Smith apple

Starving for it, really.

I looked back over the last few weeks of posts and realized that they are almost all monochrome. Lots of shades of brown.

I am feeling downright desperate for hot colors, bright sunshine, and the whirl of people outdoors. I want to smell flowers on the air. I want to be somewhere unfamiliar with all my senses wide open.

Under Wraps

Covered scaffolding, Georgetown, DC

Wrinkly and a little worse for wear, covering a scaffolding that’s there to support either repair or demolition (it’s hard to say which), this wrapper feels familiar to me.

I like its shiny bravery for all that.


A Year Ago: What February Feels Like

Dried leaves on a vine.I’m going to Albuquerque on Thursday evening…
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Waiting for Spring

Two girls on the boardwalk.

As I write this, the ever-popular “wintry mix” is falling from the sky. I think I’ll move to Sri Lanka.


A Year Ago: Strange Light

Reflected sunlight, Arlington, VAHere’s another example of reflected light illuminating the mundane…
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