AMSTERDAM THE NETHERLANDS – We’ve met up with ten friends from all over Europe who share a common bond: the are (or are married to someone who is) celebrating a major birthday right about now. With a lot of help from Maria we’ve organized ourselves to come here for three of four days to visit the Rijsmuseum , which has been closed for eleven years for renovations, and generally to have fun. Obama was here last week; thank God we weren’t because security rendered this city immobile; his photograph speaking in front of The Night Watch, the most prominent picture in the Rijsmuseum’s collection, was widely published in the US.
Anyway, enough idle chit-chat. The new surroundings have energized me so I’m suffering a bit from shutterrhea. The landscape images today are from the first few hours after my arrival, in the lovely light that inspired Vermeer. The final two images are of our group of friends in the library of the Rijsmuseum.
Day 1,626 of one photo a day for the rest of my life.
PARIS – A day of tourism. All shot with my Leica Monochrom and 50mm Summichron Asph. lens. I’ve edited post to add three more images to an already overburdened day, three images taken with my iPhone as Bob and I sampled a very, very good burger at Paris New York, an excellent burger joint (really) in Strasbourg-St Denis (a changing neighborhood in Paris that’s still mid-cycle).
On this day last year: Test. Testing focus on my then “new” Leica M4 (film!):
NEW YORK NEW YORK – You read a lot about the weather on this blog. Woody’s weather channel. what a bore. But the weather really affects me. At the core I’m an landscape photographer; in New York we happen to have an urban landscape; the weather dramatically affects how it looks. Today we had a serious snow storm. The snow turned to slush by the time it reached the ground and photographed as a medium gray sludge. Not to my liking so I pointed my camera out the windows of our apartment to give you a gallery of water tanks, obscured by the snow, on surrounding buildings. All taken with my Leica Monochrom and a135mm APO-Telyt lens.
On this dat=y one year ago: Dandy. Taken with my long-g0ne Ricoh GRD.
NEW YORK NEW YORK – I’ve been thinking about what it is to photograph landscape (whether urban or otherwise). Let me describe the experience. There comes a moment when you physically experience some remarkable aspect of the light. For me the world seems to grow quiet and I work without thinking, intuitively. Time seems suspended. I reach this state of mind on those rare occasions when the light is very special and combines with the scenery in front of me to create a heightened sense of reality. It’s good to have a camera in hand when this happens. I’m not wildly successful seeking these moments out with a tripod.
there was one of those moments this morning in the space between the Seagrams Building and the Racquet and Tennis Club.
GASPARILLA ISLAND FLORIDA – The beach club at the Gasparilla Inn provided a demonstration today by a professional sand castle builder. That’s right. A guy who makes a living on the beach making castles (or whatever) out of sand. Makes the rest of us feel like we’re kind of doing it the hard way. Given that it’s Presidents Day weekend (for those of you outside the US we used to celebrate Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays separately, which happen around now, whenever they fell; more recently Presidents Day is celebrated for both of them on a Monday in February, making a three day weekend), a Presidential theme is appropriate.
Our sand castle architect chose an image of a Purple Heart because it incorporates a silhouette of Washington. The Purple Heart is a democratic decoration: it’s given to all who are wounded or killed in action. I received one during my Marine Corps service in Vietnam. It is the only decoration received by most Marines, soldiers and sailors who are killed in action. At the start of the Gulf War I started wearing a Purple Heart lapel pin (which I continue to wear today). I can’t articulate why. It’s with some difficulty that I write these sentences. Anyway, here is the Purple Heart rendered in sand, captured with my Sony Nex-7 and a 24mm Leica Summilux lens.
On this day two years ago: Vietnam Memorial. I’ve looked back two years here (rather than my usual one) because on February 18, 2010 I photographed my shadow on the Vietnam Memorial (shooting infrared) in DC. The juxtaposition is a coincidence and I understand that it borders on the maudlin.
NEW YOK NEW YORK – This is rehearsal day for Laura and Alexander’s wedding. Thankfully I’m not serving in any official role as a photographer for the event. Wedding photograph is grueling business – I have tremendous admiration for the team that is shooting the wedding. I managed a few shots with my Panasonic GH2 at the rehearsal at St. Ignatius.
LAMU KENYA – We took a long walk in Lamu today, ending up at Anidan orphanage on the edge of the town. Anidan defied our expectations. It’s full of happy kids of all ages, 240 of them. It draws its population from the entire region. Children are orphans or abandoned or badly abused. It was started by a wealthy Spanish family that has a house in Lamu Interestingly the house is operated as a hotel, Red Pepper House, when the family is not in residence. Red Pepper House is our first choice for hotels in Lamu.
I took the Alpa with me on the walk. It’s poorly suited to photographing children – it works best on landscape and architecture – so I didn’t get any pictures of the kids that I’m proud of.
NEW PRESTON CONNECTICUT – I’ve developed a rule of thumb for landscape photography. There are rare moments when the light is absolutely magical. It may be the “golden hour” or the moment when the sun breaks through after a storm. Some days and places are better than others, but really great magic light moments are fairly rare. Here’s my rule of thumb: If you experience a magic light moment stop whatever you are doing and photograph whatever is at hand with whatever equipment you have available. Even if the subject is mundane the light transforms it – perhaps turning it into a serious statement.
After endless rain we finally had a few moments of late afternoon sun creating a brief magic moment. Fortunately I had my Alpa TC and 60 meg back in the car and managed to find a place to stop in New Preston.
NEW YORK NEW YORK – We attended a dinner sponsored by the Harvard Business School Alumni Club of New York, which named my friend of long standing, Tom Barry, as “Business Statesman of the Year”. Past recipients of this award include David Rockefeller, Felix Rohatyn, Paul Volker, Louis Gerstner, Henry Paulson and Michael Bloomberg. Tom spoke on the role that luck (the “ovarian lottery”) has played in the fortunes of the attendees – one of Tom’s recurring themes. Here’s Tom at the dinner, at the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum, taken with my Panasonic GS2 and a 20mm pancake lens.
On this date one year ago: Jim and Kelly. May 19 seems to be National Portrait Day.
WARREN CONNECITCUT – I’ve been experimenting with tilts and shifts on my Hasselblad with an HTS 1.5 tilt/shift adapter. One of the traditional reasons to tilt the lens on a view camera is to extend depth of field by tilting the focus plane; the technique is known as the Scheimpflug principle. I’ve been struggling with getting accurate focus with the HTS 1.5 so I’ve gone back to an alternative digital solution to the problem of extending depth of field, focus stacking. The idea is to take multiple images with the focus point shifted slightly from image and stack the images in specialized software to achieve an image that in focus throughout. See my post for January 4, 2011.
Here’s an image taken with my Hasselblad H4D and an HC 300 mm lens. I used the long lens to obtain compression in the image and to compose it to my taste. The 300 mm lens has shallow depth of field, even when stopped down, and there are image quality issues with stopping down to extreme levels. So I took 9 frames moving the focus plane through the image, and stacked them in Helicon Focus. The process is relatively painless as long as you have a lot of computing power. As I’ve noted previously black and white conversions from the Hasselblad are more like large format film than any other camera that I’ve used since I started with digital.
On this day one year ago: Snow drifts! How about that. Also taken with my Hasselblad. I guess this demonstrates that there are only so many landscape subject to photograph when the landscape is covered by snow. I prefer this year’s effort.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – I carried my Leica around as I went about Holiday preparations. I stopped at a costume rental place on West 38th Street to pick out costumes for a New Year’s Eve party. Here is a portion of a wall of photographs, sent to the shop by clients, showing their costumes. Of course I had the Walker Evans image Walker Evans Studio in mind.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – I spent the morning visiting galleries in Chelsea. There was a terrific Hiroshi Sugimoto installation at the Pace. Pictures of “lighting” manufactured by a telsa coil and a few of his much earlier “beyond infinity” seascapes, shown below. My largest regret in life is that I didn’t buy one of these images years ago when they were first offered at $3,500 each (well it seemed like a lot of money at the time). Here’s a link to Sugimoto’s seascapes.
I also spent some time with Elizabeth Kabler, a friend of my daughter’s and now a friend of mine, at her gallery Skylight Projects.