Monthly Archives: May 2011

Ghost Flowers

Big white blooms.

Summer apparitions.

A Year Ago: Sic Transit

Sic TransitNatural beauty is a temporal phenomenon…
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Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry, WV

I spent a few hours in Harpers Ferry on Sunday. It was bright, sunny, and very hot. Memorial Weekend brought out an American melting-pot of tourists to this scenic and historic location.

Harpers Ferry, WV

This National Historic Park is a weird mix of real town, partial re-enactment, museum, and wax works. It looks and feels a little like a movie set.

High Street, Harpers Ferry, WV

Harpers Ferry, WV

The worn steps rising to St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church are photographically irresistible. Despite my best efforts, none of the ones with people in them were any good. So instead, I went HDR-happy with the others. I’d be curious to know which of these two versions you think is most successful.

Harpers Ferry, WV

Harpers Ferry, WV

St. Peter’s is in pretty good shape. The soldier shown here was kind enough to let a few of us inside despite the large “CLOSED” sign out front.

Costumed soldier, Harpers Ferry, WV

The interior of the church is nice (and cool!), but nothing especially out of the ordinary. For that, you need to see the view that the church commands.

Harpers Ferry, WV

Not to be outdone, the Episcopal Church of St. John sits even higher on the hill than St. Peter’s. Its view is even more magnificent. If you stand in a doorway in the apse, you can see straight out a window across to the railroad and pedestrian bridge over the river to Maryland.

There’s only one problem: the place is in ruins.

Harpers Ferry, WV

The Appalachian Trail runs right through Harpers Ferry. I walked across the railroad bridge and found all sorts of outdoorsy people doing athletic, stamina-requiring things. I took that as a sign I should move on to other pursuits.

Harpers Ferry, WV

A Year Ago: Eyes to See

Iron BenchI have walked past this bench at least a couple of time a week for 17 years: let’s say, somewhere upwards of 2000 times…
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Run Away

People and dogs in park.

Time to go have some fun, or at least take a break until the idea of working on the site doesn’t cause me to break out in hives. I want to charge around with my tongue hanging out blissfully like this poodle.

Well, not quite. But you get the idea.

A Year Ago: The Edge of Decay

Tree stump with moss.Moss, mold, and mushrooms are the three Ms of organic dissolution…
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Well, I was 99% of the way to the big reveal when everything went kablooie.

I’ve been working like crazy behind the scenes for days now to get this ready. I was a few tweaks away from publishing the new goodies when all hell broke lose behind the scenes (code-wise). In a domino-effect-from-hell fashion, the work I’d carefully done cartwheeled apart into a tangled mess of ugly uselessness.

I’m now faced with the prospect of rebuilding it all. Considering what a pain in the ass it was the first time around, I can’t say I’m feeling very sanguine about that at the moment.

So I’m sorry, I can’t bring the pretty just now.

A Year Ago: Not Simple

Artwork at the Aria Casino, Las Vegas, NVThere are some common rules in photographic modernism. One of them is this: keep it simple…
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So Green

Grass and trees.

The long slow spring of cold and rain, with its endless fashion parade of flowers (mostly pink, apparently), is just about over. The temperature is now routinely rising into the 70s and 80s. The trees’ foliage is all filled in, and the other day I noticed that the magnolias are showing big fuzzy buds. Soon the maddeningly beautiful scent of those dinner-plate-sized blossoms will float on the hot humid air.

Summer is a-comin’ in. And the robin-harbinger (that little fella on the far right of this image) is out of a job.

I took this photograph because of the quality of the light, the curious formality of those four little trees, and especially because their leaves are flipped up. Summer means thunderstorms in the afternoon.

A Year Ago: Preview

This is Valkyrie, the daughter of friends Molly and Mark…
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New and mature leaves.

Shiny and new becomes old and dull.

That’s the popular script, anyway.

I’m not buying it. The mature leaves have a lovely brushed-metal sheen, the fascinating addition of contrasting green veins (who says ‘wrinkles’ are all bad?); they wear the proud badges of survival.

From the perspective of youth, oldsters seem like a different species altogether. What the bright young things don’t really understand yet is that, if they’re lucky, they’ll all grow old in good time.

A Year Ago: Add 20

Older Lady at Japanese RestaurantThis lady was sitting at the table next to us at East Restaurant…
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Sawa Sawa sparkling sake.

Have you had sparkling sake?

I tried it for the first time last night and really enjoyed it. I’m a fan of the effervescent wine category in general, provided they’re not cloyingly sweet and the bubbles aren’t too harsh. This one is 9% alcohol by volume, was served well-chilled, and went nicely with the sushi I had for dinner. With its slight, smooth sweetness and hints of honeydew, it would also make a nice aperitif.

The pretty blue 300 ml bottle cost $14, and was enough for modest servings for two.

A Year Ago: Pools

Pools of Water at Great Falls, VAOn this afternoon’s visit to Great Falls in Virginia, I didn’t take a single photograph of the rapids…
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Working on a reveal for tomorrow (or Wednesday, we’ll see how it goes). In the meantime, enjoy the dancing jello.

A Year Ago: Father & Bride

Abbie and DaveAbbie and Denis’s wedding was a lovely occasion…
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I’ve opined before that photography is principally an editorial art: one selects from the wide world just this to frame and show. It’s all about making good decisions (hence the title of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s masterwork The Decisive Moment).

There have always been multiple stages of decision-making in photography:

  1. spotting the image
  2. framing the picture (lens choice, image edges)
  3. exposure (aperture, shutter-speed, filters, and—back in the day—film)
  4. developing (darkroom or digital post-processing)
  5. editing/curating (which photographs you chose to share with others)
  6. context (where they appear—alone, in sequence, medium, environment, institution).

Digital photography has given us more choices. It’s easier and essentially free to take lots of pictures from which to select. Non-destructive editing of the RAW file gives us amazing creative freedom to experiment with different ways to render the original capture. Now everyone and her brother have access to all kinds of fancy-pants software filters with which to punch up their images. (Check out to see the popularity of “art filters” among iPhone owners. What I find fascinating is the appeal of imperfection and the patina of nostalgia; as a culture, we still value the apparently personal and handmade. Even if it’s ersatz.)

I’m all in favor of doing whatever it takes (photographically speaking) to wind up with an image you’re happy with. Sometimes that means turning all the dials to 11. For me, though, I often find it means backing away from the high-contrast, high saturation, “big finish” approach. I don’t mind if a picture doesn’t grab you by the eyeballs and yank. I’m okay with the notion that plenty of people will just slide on by without noticing that anything at all is going on. I do, however, want to reward the folks who pause to take an image in.

I chose to go quiet with this picture (above, as always, you can click it for the larger version in the Gallery). For comparison purposes, I offer this version of the unedited raw file (click it to see it larger in a new window). What choices would you have made?

Unedited image of dogwoods.

A Year Ago: Icon

Chrysler Building, ManhattanSome visual icons deserve their status…
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Spectators at Charles Town Races & Slots.

This is a rare (for me) shot-from-the-hip picture. The three gals—clearly related, don’t you agree?—in the middle of the frame were the initial draw. When I got home, I saw all sorts of stuff going around the edges that surprised and delighted me. This image seems full of narrative premises: the $20, the little girl with a speculative index in her mouth, the tattooed young man with the small child, the determined woman with the racing form.

I happened to have the Macro-Elamarit on the camera body. It wouldn’t have been my first choice (I would have been better off with a wider angle), but I continue to love the color quality that this lens produces. The skin tones are just super-duper-right-on-the-money. People who pooh-pooh this lens for portrait-taking purposes are missing out.