A question with no answer


20120702-145000.jpg I rarely take pictures of children unless they accidentally get into the shot, but I made an exception because the jet of water looked interesting, and the joyful little girl enhanced the image.  I love that the water looks like a question mark, or a seahorse, which I’m sure she did not see, but it looks as though she is thrilled that a seahorse made of water appeared in front of her.

Aside from having a part-way decent exposure to work from, this took hours of work.  Adding contrast, dodging and burning and adding saturation in some places and removing in others.  HOURS.  This is not the kind of work I see myself doing long-term, but once in a while, you have to capture iconic moments, which this is, and the practice and experience of editing accumulates and pays back over time.  Wasted? Not a second of it.

Sun worshipper

20120702-135423.jpg Yes, I love a good pair of sunglasses. Aside from fashion reasons, I can’t see my hand in front of my face in bright sunlight without a pair of shades. On my way out the door, iPhone in hand, I reached for a pair of sunnies and saw a great picture [snap].

With an outrageous boost to the contrast, the pic was ready to go. There are reflective elements, strong graphics, and just a hint of abstraction.

The exuberance of water

20120702-115257.jpg Although it’s just a statue in a fountain, it looks so triumphant over the elements, emerging from the briny depths, perhaps rejected by Neptune … glad to be breathing through nostrils instead of gills … in any case, it makes for a great chance to play with pictures of water.  You never get tired of the many shapes that water assumes, and the endless play of light on it. I, clearly, never do.

Checking it out

20120701-122749.jpg At the supermarket, waiting for an endless check-out process (I’m so impatient) I took advantage of the time to pop over to the next unused lane, where there was a perfect opportunity to take a self-portrait in the reflections of the fancy bar code reader.  Love the many reflections that this device provides, including those of its own interior.  Nice metaphor there 🙂

Remember when supermarket checkers had to read a price off your item, and then enter the amount in a cash register with little buttons?  And someone had to use a sticker gun to label each can of creamed corn or baking powder in the entire store.  Perhaps people bought less food in those days? Because it seems as though it would take about 20 minutes to get one cart of groceries checked out, not even including all the time arguing about whether or not the customer was overcharged for the maple syrup.

All in all, I’m satisfied that we are better off in this day and age, thanks to the miracles of precision optics, like the above device.

How-to: blur a background

A bit of technique:  sometimes people remark that with an iPhone, you can’t get the depth of field effects that you can using aperature priority with a DLSR.  Well, you can.  Sort of, using post-processing.  There are also camera apps that do similar things, but here is an example of how I cleaned up a snapshot to make it look like an aperature-priority photo.

The simple snapshot had a person in the background right over the subject’s shoulder, which was distracting and spoiled the shot, so I cropped it, and then used PaintFX to selectively blur the background.  I used a stylus to only touch the areas to be blurred.  Then, because color photos often look characterless to me, I used a split-tone filter, which also makes the blurring look more natural.







Dancer of the dance

20120629-141728.jpg  This is Shiva, the dancer in a circle of fire.  As the Lord of Dance, Shiva performs the tandava, the dance in which the universe is created, maintained, and dissolved. The surrounding flames represent the manifest universe.

The symbolism reminds of T.S. Eliot’s “Burnt Norton” from the Four Quartets, one of the greatest literary works of the 20th century:

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. […] Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

And also William Gibson’s hauntingly powerful Count Zero, where the heroine finally converses with the lonely artificial intelligence:

“… your songs are sad.”
–My songs are of time and distance. The sadness is in you.  Watch my arms.  There is only the dance.  These things you treasure are shells.
“I–I knew that.  Once.”

Fantastic longings

20120629-104804.jpg The foreground image appeared on this site a few weeks ago: a lonely little girl sitting in a play-fountain.  I added the comic book display behind her here, since she looks as though she should be reading some escapist literature.  It reminds me of my own posture on many a day as a child — always with my nose in a book, squinting at a page and my mother dashing into the room yelling “it’s such a beautiful day out, what are you doing in here???” I would sigh and put the book down, or maybe sneak it outside and find a place to read somewhere under a tree.

Sundays in summer were the best though, because my father mowed the lawn, which meant that he had to go buy gas, which meant that I could tag along and buy comic books from the general store where he went to fill up the cans.  Looking back, I can’t think why this was allowed.  Among other intellectual snobberies, my mother believed that any cartoon was created by “Disney”, a word she used as an adjective to imply commercialism and lowest-common-denominator entertainment.

All of which made my own purloined moments with the X-Men and Fantastic Four that much more meaningful to me.

– The Daily Grunge

This is not a trick

20120702-115124.jpg This is actually one of the simplest pictures I’ve posted in weeks. It is merely a reflection of myself on a little shopping expedition, reflected in the window of an Anthropologie store. I always swing by their stores because they have the most amazing constructions of artwork: fantastical sculptures made from thousands of nailed-together books; paper in unbelievably complex structures like the one above.

Since it was a spiral, of course I needed a picture, and I was not really caring about the reflection.  But since I was outlined so clearly, due to a strangely strong light, I couldn’t resist.  Slight boost to the contrast and a crop.  My usual edits.  No tricks. Love this. And of course, it combines two of my more favored subjects:  reflectivity AND spirals. The possibilities are endless.  I’m beginning to think that there are more spirals around us then we are aware of, although I’ve gotten to where I can’t swing a Jimmy Choo handbag without hitting a spiral. Wasp nests would probably be excellent spiralistic photographic subjects: the intricate chambers and tunnels, the layers, the textures.

If your intrepid photographer stumbles upon such an object, unoccupied of course, you shall see the results here.