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University of Kentucky Art Museum

The UK art museum has a large exhibit of photographs by the late Ralph Eugene Meatyard, something that probably has never happened before.  Meatyard had a strange way of seeing the world and his photographs show that.

They are loosely divided into groupings such as his mask photos, interiors, exteriors, and the doll photographs.  I found the exhibit very enjoyable, if you are used to only enjoying landscape or waterfall photographs, these may not be for your.  With an open mind about art photography, however, they show an approach that is refreshingly different.

Meatyard was a member of the Lexington Camera Club way back when the camera club movement was popular and thriving.

Grumpy before coffee (lens test)

Grumpy before coffee (lens test)

I’ve been testing out the Canon 55-250 IS STM lens for awhile and I’ve neglected to give a review of any kind.  In short, this is an amazing lens considering the selling price point and the value that it gives.  The focal length of 55-250 is very convenient and gives a range that allows much creativity and versatility in every day shooting, in fact I find that I leave it mounted on the SL1 for much of the time.  An added bonus is the close focusing ability of the STM lenses allows a lot of versatility in shooting flora and still life objects.

I suppose this is considered an entry level lens but the sharpness and stabilization is pretty impressive in my opinion.  In the above shot, using my standard subject for lens shots, the 35mm equivalent of 280mm was shot at 1/60th of a second with the onboard camera flash.  In the old days, you would have to be very careful even at 1/125th of a second but this lens easily gives 3 stops of hand holding advantage in low light with nice focusing ability.  Center sharpness seems very good to me, but to tell you the truth I put much more value on how convenient a product is to use.  This lens is largely plastic and that seems to work as an advantage as I can put it in a fanny pack or carry it mounted on the small camera for the entire day without hardly ever noticing it.  The build quality seems very nice even if it is of plastic design.  On Amazon, it has more than 100 reviews with a 4.8 out of 5 average, so most folks seem to feel the same.

I’m sure there will be others who see the plastic mount and the lack of heft to the lens and think otherwise but I can’t imagine an overall more convenient lens for a general walk-around or vacation application on Canon crop body cameras.

 

 “…they may be lost and just applying
all the usual rules of thumb to something
that is not a thumb.”

(source not recorded)

This and that from February

This and that from February

I thought I’d break the silence by mentioning a few things that I’ve read or viewed.

Searching for Edward Hopper is a really nice photobook by Rodger Kingston. I have not bought the physical book but the online version is really nice.  Edward Hopper is one of my most favorite artists and I find myself shooting a lot of similar scenes, as well as similar settings if they only would have a human in them.

I’ve discovered that Steve Martin is a great writer.  Yes, that same Steve Martin who is the comedian as well as a banjo player.  I read Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company, both appealed to me very much with the last one having a bit better reviews on Amazon.   If you enjoy character driven stories rather than plot driven, then I’m sure you will like either one. In The Pleasure of My Company, the character has some mental challenges that I think all of us can identify with.  He lives his life largely as a bystander, watching from the window and battling his internal demons.  He is instantly likable, so much so that you hate to see the short novella end.  But end it does and in a satisfying way.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the book The 40’s: The Story of a Decade.  This is a compilation of stories from The New Yorker Magazine from that era.  For the section on WWII, the reporters were told to write in plain conversational tones and to tell how it felt to be there. The stories are amazing in how it transports you to that era.  You get to feel what it was like to be in Paris when the Germans were closing in.  What it felt like to be on a landing craft and waiting for the invasion to happen.  Probably one of the more captivating chapters is the story of the people who experienced the atomic bombs in Japan.  It takes you right there to the day, how it felt, what happened.  Such as the only surviving doctor in a hospital where 10,000 patients suddenly show up.  Imagine that.  We never heard these stories in school.

I read the short story Yours by Mary Robison.  This is only $1.99 on the Kindle and really is just a short story sold under the Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading Books as edition 11.  You should read it very slow, it goes quickly but stays with you.  Quite simply, it is a story of one evening. I couldn’t recommend it to everyone but it makes me want to read her other books.

I read the Carpet People a couple months ago then was sad to hear of author Terry Pratchett’s death just a few days ago.  It was a wonderful book, just long enough to be a nice read. It was one of his earlier books, published in 1971 and written when he was only 17. Another story that makes me want to read more from the author.

 “…inside every old person is a young person
wondering what happened.”

― Terry Pratchett

 

 

The eyes have it, 2013

The eyes have it, 2013

Portsmouth, Ohio 2013

I watched the very interesting documentary on the photographer Saul Leiter recently, actually ended up watching twice during the rental period and really wish I had just bought it.  This type of documentary would be something I could call an “end of life” movie, where they take an elderly artist and remember his life.  In comparison to others such as the movie on Bill Cunningham or Julius Schullman , this one was more of a character study of Leiter himself.  I thought it was a great movie, some critics thought otherwise but the take away point is that you will get a good deal of information about Leiter and his art as well as a sense of what type of human being Leiter was.  You should seek elsewhere, though, to know more about his life and art in depth as this film is more like spending the day with Leiter and getting to know him on a personal level.

Leiter spent his working life shooting fashion for the likes of Harper’s Bazaar but yet has become famous for this sidewalk photography of New York City.  He lived in the same neighborhood for 60 years and from the appearance of the piles of boxes and photographs, he was not very good at organization or money management.  At one point, he is shuffling around looking for something and mumbles he really wasn’t cut out for all of this business.

Leiter was a pack-rat, owning two apartments (of which he ended up owning 2 after inheriting from his long term companion after her death).  The film is shot inside these apartments as well as rambling along the sidewalk of the neighborhood while shooting with digicams and discussing all aspects of life.    He died soon after the movie was finished.  Apparently he had few friends and avoided publicity.

 I think Picasso once said that he wanted to use green in a painting but
since he didn’t have it he used red. Perfection is not something I admire.
A touch of confusion is a desirable ingredient.

Saul Leiter

 

 

Hatti Beasly\’s

Hatti Beasly\'s

Portsmouth, Ohio

You just gotta love a restaurant with a name like Hatti Beasly\’s.  We spent the morning here recently and had some great coffee and conversation, enjoying the very good service and the nice relaxing environment created within the coffee shop.  Unlike a lot of chain coffee shops,  Hatti Beasly\’s gives you quite a lot of elbow room and has a good number of tables of different sizes to choose from.  On our morning visit, we practically had the place to ourselves for quite a long time as most seemed to be using the drive-thru until the lunch crowd appeared and filled up nearly every table.  It\’s only a breakfast and lunch place so I\’ve tucked it onto my to-do-list for a lunch visit sometime soon.

Here is the Urban Spoon page.

 

 

Sunday morning coffee and book discussion

Sunday morning coffee and book discussion

We had a good discussion about the nice book by Gregory Heisler called 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer\’s Photographer, available on Amazon.  It\’s a really nice book , quite easy to recommend because of the excellent photographs of well known individuals with good bit of story and writing about each one.   Heisler\’s style is what made the discussion very interesting, his use of subject placement on some of the photographs can bring about spirited conversations.  For instance, the portrait of Gorbachev is a portrait-oriented shot with his head down about 1/2  from the top, rather than being the convention 1/3 from the top (seen here)  Of course, we discussed and argued this point for awhile, I rather liked it which brought out the question "Is something good if it is only different?" to which I responded "Is something good because it is shot the same way time and time again?"  Then there were several portraits that used excessive blur, which I rather liked such as this wonderful shot.  (my apologies if these links will not work, or eventually quit working.  I\’m having a bad track record with links)

The photograph of  Arafat also caused us to pause, the pose presents the subject in a slouched position with a tired but inquisitive look on his face.  It is a very likeable photograph but the question about why the slouched position was allowed is very mysterious.  I found a nice video on David Hobby\’s Strobist website that talks about this wonderful photograph, you can see it here (go about half-way down for the video, or else jump to You Tube here.).  I always love the back-story and this photo has a nice one.

The photograph we were looking at above was exceptional, to say the least. The book tells the story, some about technique, and some about the cameras (which often are film and large format).  I think most photographers would enjoy it.

I use a lot of warm toning to just the shadows of most of my black and white shots anymore but the one today also has some very light green toning to the highlights, if you use Lightroom the value is 128 with 8% saturation with the shadows being a value of 42 with 12% saturation- the mixing slider being centered at 0.    It\’s purely personal taste but I find I like a b&w photo to have a warm tone to the darker areas with the highlights being neutral but this one was an interesting variation.

 

 

with a good book in front of the fire at Carter Caves

with a good book in front of the fire at Carter Caves

We had our first pretty snow today, quite early.  We took a drive out to Carter Caves today and spent some time in front of the lodge fire reading a bit about photography, the book above was mentioned yesterday.  

About a year ago I wrote a book review for our local camera club on another book,  Chris Orwig\’s Visual Poetry.  Amazon has it here for about $32 now and around $14 for a good used copy with shipping.  I thought I\’d reproduce the review again here, since winter gives us a bit of downtime for study.   Orwig is an instructor at the Brooks Institute of Photography and a popular online and offline writer/lecturer/teacher.   This is not an instruction book like Vincent Versace would write with 21 steps to a good picture, this is more heavy on artistic tips and inspiration and lean on technique.  A  different refreshing mix than found in some other books.

The book is laid out in 3 sections:  the first being a "getting started" section about general topics of learning to see, creativity, and creative techniques.  The 2nd section hit specific photographic genres:  Portraits, Kids & Families, Weddings, Travel, Action & Outdoors, and Found objects.  The last section is the shortest, being about camera gear and a brief chapter on the path to becoming a professional.
 
I do best with structure and charts in a book but the structure of the chapters isn\’t that obvious with this one, but it does have a defined layout.  Most chapters of the middle section (the one I believe most of the OVCC would find more valuable) uses a layout of:  Inspiration, Practical Tips, Gear, Workshop Assignments, and a Guest Speaker section that highlights well known photographers.

A good example is the section on Portraits, as we have that coming up next in January. You\’ll find  ample stories told about accomplished photographers and their ideas on creativity, with probably the best one being  about the necessity of taking risks with your photography, by taking a chance.  The example is Yousuf Karsh who pulled Churchill\’s cigar out of his mouth before snapping the portrait of his face with the resulting anger and because of that, we have that wonderful glaring war-time portrait of Churchill that energized the British people.   I\’ll have to remember that the next time Mike Adkins stops the car in the middle of the road and sets up his tripod, often risks will yield a good shot.

Under the Practical Tips section, it is a blend of creative approaches with basic instruction.    Orwig really does give some rock solid advice, such as:

  • -Look around the frame before snapping the photo, minimize distractions. 
  • -Take the shot and get it out of your system, then take 3 steps forward to your subject and take one close up. 
  • -Walk away and look back and take another photograph. 
  • -Use a shallow depth of field. 
  • -Get the nearest eye sharp, that is the one that counts. 
  • -Shoot high, shoot low. 
  • -Take the camera out of the bag before you arrive and you will get more and better photographs because of not having to break the ice by introducing the camera during the session. 
  •  -Have your subject look at the ground, exhale, then look at the camera for the shot and the face will be relaxed. 

Well, you get the idea.  All great common sense things that we may not have thought about.

Now for the subjective opinion, would I recommend the book?   Most definitely yes, with reservations about who is asking.   We are accustomed to web-page designs and this book will take some study, you can\’t just fly through it as it is fairly lecture-like in the approach, as compared to Tom Ang\’s Master Class in Photography (also at Amazon)  that is laid out nearly like a multimedia web page with colorful charts and boxes.    I suggest underlining and marking up the book as you go along, then review the sections later by looking for your markups.   You have to also be able to mesh ideas from a book into your approach to photography, something not easy to do.  Tyson Smith once mentioned at a club meeting that tutorials, books, and seminars teach us things that seems to go into another part of the brain and we forget to use them when bringing the camera to the eye.  That\’s the task with art inspiration from a book.  

There has always been the idea there is sort of a magical formula to a good photograph.  That an accomplished so-in-so can tell you how to improve your photography.  This book takes a different approach, that your photographs lie within you but you can bring them out yourself with a bit of coaching, much like writing poetry or music.  Maybe that will work, my head is full of other people\’s voices when I take a picture.  I hear Willis Cook say to get away from the crowd and go around the side and back of the subject.  I hear Joe motioning to try this different camera angle.  See Mike stopping in the middle of the road to not miss the shot.  See Mike H noticing the details like a cap on a fireplace mantle or the juxtaposition of a manikin in an alleyway.  So, I think I\’ll get my $30 worth out of the book just for the one idea of shooting then taking several steps forward to shoot again, I think that\’s a voice that will stick in my brain.

 

Bridge at Charleston, from the highway

Bridge at Charleston, from the highway

Charleston, West Virginia

I used the time in Charleston to explore for a new restaurant.  Mike has the duties of dropping off and picking up grandkids from school, so there wasn\’t a lot of time to wander around.  I have long wanted to try out South Hills Market & Cafe and Mike knew the roads of the area, making it work into our quick trip.  The Cafe is  small and located in a strip mall, for once it resembled what I had in my mind all along.  Urbanspoon gives it 87% thumbs up on 336 votes which is a pretty good score.  When using online sources like this, you come to realize that the number of votes is much more important, for instance a 97% score on 30 votes may just mean the owner has gotten all his friends or "fanboys" to plug in votes.  So South Hills Market had a pretty fair score considering the numbers.

The cafe is one of those restaurants that is more deeper than wide in dimension.  I had heard there were only a half dozen tables but there were more than that, perhaps a dozen or so.  I hold the opinion that any meal will be more enjoyable when you sit at a bar- often you get more chances to ask questions or engage in conversation with the staff that adds interest to the place.  So we were happy to find two seats at the small bar (more of a lunch counter than a liquor bar, though you are facing a nice selection of bourbons, etc) , then an excellent waiter appeared who did not mind to be stopped often for information about the food and the business. 

We started off with the  sweet corn madelines with honey butter, which were delicately flavored cornmeal cakes (cornbread) that was quite good.  We ordered up two sandwiches (it was lunch) and skipped the sides in place of the really nice and flavorful beef and white bean soup. The side dishes were not your traditional offerings, I saw a selection of house prepared pasta salads and a very interesting looking artichoke salad, all of which I forgot to make much a note of in terms of names or ingredients since we were most interested in a bowl of hot soup on a wet and blustery day.   Our waiter filled us in on the most popular lunch sandwiches and so we decided to split the Ham & Brie and Larry\’s Reuben sandwiches.  That was a good choice as the ham & brie sandwich was very lightly flavored while the Reuben had a good punch to it, giving a nice contrast between the two.  The ham & brie was so delicate in flavor, I think I would have preferred to have some roasted tomatoes added to it (such as this recipe), so you might give that a try as I saw roasted tomatoes on the burger list options.  I really enjoyed the lunch, both for the food, the atmosphere, and the conversation with both Mike and the staff.

Here is the link to the Urbanspoon page, as well as a link to the restaurant page.  I think you\’ll enjoy your visit there.   For my next trip, I think I\’ll try the cheeseburger.  Where else in our area can you find goat cheese to build your burger with?

Seth Godin\’s blog today speaks about the difference between persistence and tenacity.   Persistence is choosing a direction and keeping at it again and again until it works.  I believe this was once the very best route to take, you would analyze the situation and the facts presented to you and then make a decision.  No need to review it as it was the best decision you could make.  As he explains,  tenacity is using new data to chart new avenues of direction,  new pathways, new ways to achieve a goal.  In modern times, it seems like tenacity is the only way to go.  Your "best" decision cannot be the defining and ending moment to chart your direction in business or life as the situation changes more rapidly than before and the facts are more and more available.  Decisions and directions must match the changing situation.   The difference between these two approaches to life may define the slim line between stalemate or success.  His example is the persistence of telemarketers versus the tenacity of Nike.  You choose.

 

Lights, camera, action!

Lights, camera, action!

Flatwoods, Kentucky

Some friends of mine recently ordered a lighting outfit and I was invited over to ‘open the box’. I’ve found that standing really close to such an event will give nearly, but not quite, the same rush as buying the toys yourself. The sticker shock is a lot better, though. I shot this picture with my fisheye lens right after we put up the lights and were trying to figure out the wireless gizmo.

Recently watched ‘An Unfinished Life’ starring Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman.  A typical down-on-your-luck story with an ending of redemption, we liked it very much. Critics only gave it a B- or two-star rating, but it has terrific scenery and I liked the story. Redford and Freeman work well in their roles and, in my opinion, are the real reason to watch it.

 

Leaves, 2006

Leaves, 2006

Central Park
Ashland, Kentucky

With a giftcard from my former coworkers, I bought a photography book called ‘William Eggleston’s Guide’. The book has maybe 50 color full sized photographs in it, being shot in the late 60s and early 70s. Eggleston had a show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York that is considered a landmark event by many folks. Color photography, up until that time, was not seriously considered to be an art form by many. My understanding is that these photographs are a selection from this show.

The photographs are interesting in that they make me consider what is a good photograph and what isn’t. There are a few that really grab me such as the tricycle photograph that is on the cover. For the most part, though, I think I like the book however I don’t like the photographs. A better explanation might be the example of some photobloggers whom I really enjoy going back through weeks of their work but rarely do I enjoy seeing their individual images. Like my friend David says, we best understand things when they are told through stories and I think our portfolios and galleries are a form of story telling even if they are only pictures of old buildings and leaves on the ground.

 

 

Miss Behavin’

Miss Behavin\'

National Museum of the United States Air Force
Dayton, Ohio

I haven’t been outside much for the past 10 days, so I’ll keep in touch by posting another one from the Air Force Museum road-trip. I was very interested in the custom painting that the crew did to each of the aircraft. You might say they made the airplane their own, although sometimes the message was a bit gruesome.

While the photography has suffered lately, the movie watching has taken a leap forward. If you keep an open mind to fairly non-traditional story-lines & plot, then I can recommend a couple of them to you. At the very least, you’ll find these movies different since both of them remind me of small independent films.

Broken Flowers is a film by Jim Jarmusch and stars Bill Murray. Murray’s Don Johnston is a lifelong bachelor but finds himself in a situation where he re-examines his past relationships by visiting old girlfriends. There’s a plot here, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that the plot is the main part of the movie. It’s very much a character study and I believe what I will get out of the movie may be different than you. Murray is fantastic in the part, playing the silent, contemplative character in a way that is award winning in my book. I have to say that the ending is very much non-traditional, in my opinion, and reminds me how I felt after watching The Conversation for the first time. It leaves you sitting in your chair and thinking (or else shouting ‘What!’)

The 2nd movie is Garden State written by and staring Zach Braff (who also stars in the TV show Scrubs). Shot in just a few weeks, it seems more like an independent film and a bit rougher than Broken Flowers but in a way that makes it interesting. This film is about a fellow who has been away for years and returns home for the funeral of his mother. He’s lived his whole life in an emotionless cloud of medication and the film revolves around the rediscovery of feelings. Unlike Broken Flowers, the ending is both soothing and predictable, something you’ll either appreciate or not, depending on your taste in movies.

 

 

Hickies Hamburger Inn

Hickies Hamburger Inn

Portsmouth, OH

If you have followed this site very long, you probably know that I’m always on the lookout for those out-of-the-way small restaurants where the locals find great food. I also love a good cheeseburger, so Hickies Hamburger Inn was a treasure to find. It’s a small place that’s one of your typical diners that used to be found in just about every town, but now are being squeezed out by McDs and company. Hickies seems to be thriving, though. We arrived during a very busy time for them and took one of the few tables still available.

The wait staff seemed to be exceptional. Our waitress, pictured above, was asked my usual question that every new place gets- a variation of ‘What’s the most popular items?’ This question stumps a lot of folks, but not our waitress. She rattled off several combinations and I took the 2 double cheeseburgers, fries, and a Diet Coke.

The burgers are similar in size to White Castle, but that’s where it stops. These things are mighty tasty and when you consider the atmosphere of the restaurant, it is quite worth a special trip for lunch or dinner.

You’ll find the restaurant on U.S. 52 at Porsmouth, Ohio.