Thursday, July 31, 2008

lightning strikes


turns out this was harder than i would have guessed. i have a simple camera with a substantial shutter delay. plus the thunderstorm was a little light on the thunder and lightning side. not a whole lot of either bark or bite. but once every two minutes or so a lightning bolt would splinter and illuminate the sky with a bright web. and QUICK i'd push the shutter, and then....big yawn....click. D'OH!!!! Too late!


so then i just randomly started taking pictures of the sky trying to strike lightning. no, i didn't. but i couldn't help saying that just to work that pun in there. (was that a pun? no matter. it was awful.) but the two photos above are the best of the five pictures I actually did take. unless, of course, you're into gray slates. in which case, i shot three beauties.

more with the bee theme


The original. Is that even a bee? It's awful small. Maybe a mutant bee? Maybe it's the kind of bee that has been burrowing into my ears at night. Wait, that's just from a dream. Sorry.


And its negative.

Okay, so I'm running out of photos, I fear. I hope I don't accidentally begin to post photos I've already posted because I'm now having to go back through older photos for material. I have a few more recent photos, but not many. My supply is definitely finite since I just started this photo gig in 2004. I'm not depleted yet, and I have a few recent photos yet, but I'll be lucky to make it to mid-August on new material.

And after the photos run out, then what? Dare I make a post without a photo? Is that allowed on my blog? I fear I may have to go that route. I think at that point begins my political commentary. And my restaurant reviews. And celebrity gossip (which I warn you now will focus on Natalie Portman and Keira Knightley and Cate Blanchett and Michelle Pfeiffer and the young Ingrid Bergman. Oh, and Winona Ryder. And, ahem, Johnny Depp.) And my fashion reviews. And my retelling of local county commission meetings. And my personal stories of my several alien abductions and how I tried to convince the aliens I'd be more than happy to individually select some individuals as my substitute.

I don't have time to go out and take a bunch of new ones. So be prepared to see a lot of ballet recital photos of my kids. And their birthday parties. And the kids in front of the Christmas tree. And me in the shower.

Did I just say that out loud? Drat it all, not again.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Awwww...butterflies



Awwww....I'm such a sentimental softy. Butterflies and flowers. So sweet. My house is covered with Kincaids, and on the ceiling over my bed I've painted a mural of a unicorn leaping over a rainbow. Awww...so cute.
Or is it so cute? Hmm....perhaps it's an artistic (but completely accurate) sublimation of something much more "unicorny." A theme not so much cute as colossally monumental in scope and power.
I'm just saying.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Newsflash!! BEE!!!!


I'm so sorry. I can't help it. I don't know why. I just can't help it. I need help. This is a plea for help. Make me stop.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

and i don't even have photoshop!

the original untouched photo.


black and white.



turned upside down, cropped, turned into a negative and tinted blue, until we have a technoprairie-inspired space odyssey type of image.

escalator


Saturday, July 26, 2008

two black and white portraits




Two of the nicest persons that I know. True, one of them looks like he has chains tattooed on his head, but that was my fault, not his. And even if he did have chains tattooed on his head doesn't mean he couldn't be a a lovely person. It just means he would frighten me badly. Again, my fault, not his.

underground


from shore to lake


my attempt at copying the sistine hands


I like the photo regardless of the reference. Crazy for hands. And eyeballs. I think this is going to be my new thing. Photo after photo of various people capturing this pose.

Oh, Shiny!

Friday, July 25, 2008

more vegetable talk


J.H. of South Carolina (Miss South Carolina?) posted a question about my stance on squash, and her inquiry made me realize that likely thousands if not hundreds of thousands of my readers are wringing their hands, wondering anxiously about my opinions on a variety of vegetables.

Worried most of all are my farmer friends. They know that their livelihood and therefore their prospect of remaining on land passed down through nine generations rests in the balance of my vegetable judgments.

But it’s not just farmers who are worried. My anxious readership knows no boundaries of class, race or gender. Or even literacy. Believe me, my loyal illiterate readership knows how to read a photo. (Such as the one I took above at a local Kroger.)

I don’t begrudge my readers their feelings. No one wants to be dead to me, nor can they stand the thought of being a pod person, a soulless husk with the form but without the substance or dignity of genuine human beings like myself (and about seven others).

To find out whether you are a pod person, read the following lists in which I have categorized my own preferences. If you line up with me, you're in good shape. If not....I'm sorry.

Vegetables I love:
* Potato chips
* Hamburgers with pickles
* Mushroom pizza (with Italian sausage and no mushrooms)
* Cookies made from flour (see below)

Vegetables I like:
* Red wine
* Chili (dogs)

Vegetables I like when I’m feeling a little adventurous:
* Oatmeal cookies (see above)
* Cornbread
* Toast
* Fruit

Vegetables I like when I’m feeling extremely adventurous:
* Carrot cake
* Cobb salad, heavy on the bacon, eggs and blue cheese crumbles and, oh, leave off the tomatoes and green peppers, please. Lettuce is optional.

Vegetables I will eat when the vegetable taste and texture and color are removed:
* Vegetables (see exceptions above and below)

Vegetables I tolerate if prepared especially well by a genius chef, and only while making a face like Munch’s “The Scream”:
* Zucchini

Vegetables I will put in my mouth to be polite, but then secretly spit out into a napkin:
* Eggplant

Vegetables that I refuse to eat no matter how much the chef begs me.
* Cabbage

Vegetables which should be eradicated, using lethal force if necessary.
* Okra
* Beets

Vegetables that can go to hell
* Radishes
* Turnips
* Rhubarb
* Squash
* Rhubarb pie

Prank vegetables the name of which I cannot speak or write:
* Cauliflower

Farmers, I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry. Truly. On the bright side, it just might be fun to own a hamburger stand.

For the rest of you, I wish you the best.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

here's a shocker: a bee

It wouldn't be a day on my blog, would it, if I didn't post a bee photo? I've taken so many bee photos I'm now photographing the bee children and bee grandchildren of the first bees I photographed.

sunrises, both



taken three and half years ago on my first digital. i tried to punch up the contrast in the second photo, the one with the moon and venus. but i left the first photo as it was; it was a gorgeous sunrise in the smokies. i was drinking coffee in the chilly morning air (in my barefeet, i recall) on a porch overlooking a valley and into a mountain range. one of those very very nice moments to be alive.

yo, who goes there?


Awww....ain't that a cute picture? A little whimsy now and then never hurt anyone.

Well, almost never. I would avoid it if I were doctor who had to tell an unexpecting and otherwise healthy patient that he has only twelve minutes left to live. In which case I'd just bust out some over-the-top jokes about doctors and patients. Yes, I'd go straight for slap-you-in-the-face unsubtle irony. But I'd avoid whimsy. Most def.

What's wrong with me?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

water and clouds

In Vermont.
Hands behind her back.
Textured clouds.

Thank you, Eminem


Here I go again with the guilt. And here I go again with one of this blog's recurring questions. Every form of art, and maybe even every piece of art, has its own aesthetic sensibility, no? So is it wrong to take one piece of art in one medium and try to make it one's own in one's own medium? Or is cheating? Acceptable cheating? Or is it just pure laziness? We hear sampling in music all the time, right? And let's face it: on balance we have less respect for the sampler than for the original composer.
My simple-minded way of thinking of photography is this. (Again, this is a revisited theme.) I think of photos as being either journalistic (chronicling) or arty. Obviously they can be both--or at least a journalistic photo can be visually arresting and make one think anew on a subject (how I see art in a nutshell). What I mean by chronicling is the attempt to capture a particular moment for the sake of amplifying or reinforcing or substituting it for one's own memory. I want to remember what we did on the trip and what we saw, so I take a photo of it. Which is not to say these photos are artless. One can certainly can (and should) take them with a desired effect in mind and work to make them as pleasing (or striking or meaningful, or whatever) as possible. In the division of labor in our marriage, my wife is responsible for this kind of photography.
Another impulse is to capture photos that stand alone and do not purchase their meaning from being a literal record of an event. Or if they do not stand alone, they work together largely in reference to themselves and not to a larger context. Even my photos of my monkeys come not so much from an intent to record their activities as it comes from an attempt to create an interesting photo.

Of course the lines between chronicle and art are far from clear. Consider Rembrandt's self-portraits. Their genius is (are??) amplified when they are taken as a whole, and yet their obvious unifying thread is that they track change over time of the same object. The paintings' artistry would be diminished were they not to look past themselves toward the "real" world. Right? Or perhaps not. For example, imagine that Rembrandt's paintings were not self-portraits or even portraits of someone else but rather were products purely of his imagination. Would they not be nearly as impressive and almost as revealing of genius?
At least in makes for an interesting question. In contrast, compare Rembrandt's self-portaits with Monet's haystacks. These paintings are compelling as a body of work not because we're interested in haystacks per se as much as we are are touched by their effect. In other words their value stems from the artistry itself. Even when the artist is in fact seeking representation of a subject (as Monet was), the art's genius comes not from its subject but from Monet. All genius comes from the artist, not the subject.
Or am I wrong? I could be. Picasso's Guernica means little in the absence of the real-life horrors of war. And wasn't Lincoln's literary genius amplified in the 2nd Inaugural because of the moral magnitude of his subject? Perhaps my analysis advantages "abstract" art more than necessary.
I'm not going to solve these conundrums here. Not today. Still, I did ask the questions so I should try to get back to them. I think that when a photographer is able to shift the viewer's focus away from the real-life artifact caught on film and toward what the photo has to say, then it can count as art. Even within the same medium, borrowing art can lead to original art. Think of Valesquez' portrait of the royal family in the parlor (I can't remember its name). In the background we see pre-existing paintings, but no one sees his Valesquez' painting as anything but original. Or for a more blatant and vulgarized example of borrowing within a medium, consider musical sampling. True, sampling too often substitutes for the hard work it takes to come up with an original tune, but it need not. For example, Eminem's "sample" (cover?) of Aerosmith's "Dream On" in "Sing for the Moment" is much better than the original. True, it wouldn't exist without the original, but does that mean the music from which Eminem takes his sample should somehow move me more?
Of course, all of this is moot in the absence of artistry. I don't even know what the settings on my camera mean. I just point and click and trust my intuition that there is something in what I'm looking at that makes for an interesting photo. I don't even understand photography as a craft, far less as a form of art. In fact, I'm confident that my own photographic laziness is one source of my guilt about whether I'm cheating. Were I to know more about what I'm doing, I'd have more assurance that I have contributed something new to the world.
By the way, the photo above is decidedly not art.

Monday, July 21, 2008

butterfly


Taken an exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. I felt like I was cheating, what with hundreds of butterflies flying around and landing on pretty flowers and making such easy photo opportunities. Apart from zooming in on the butterfly's head, I did not manipulate this photo--these are the original colors.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Okay, here's what I meant about the zucchinis.


Let me get this right out into the open.

I’m pro-zucchini.

I have nothing against zucchini. In fact, zucchini is part of my regular diet. Especially if we define “regular” as “irregular.” I have even been known to go to the grocery store and pay good cash monies in exchange for zucchini. Voluntarily! Heck, I’ve served it to guests, and not only to my secret enemies.

That’s right. I like zucchini.

After all, zucchini is not without its merits. True, its appeal grows the more one removes it from its natural culinary habitat, so to speak. For example, I’ve had fabulous zucchini chocolate cake and excellent zucchini bread. In all fairness to the really good vegetables, however, I don’t think it counts as a reflection on the merits of zucchini when you take the zucchini taste and texture out of the zucchini. Still I’m willing to concede that it can be quite good when served in a more traditional zucchini-centric manner.

Nothing exists in a vacuum, and when compared to other vegetables, it comes up okay. For example, zucchini c is better than cauliflower, about which I have nothing good to say. Nothing. Cauliflower is a phony food item that was probably first served as a prank.

And it’s a prank because of this. I hate to talk about this, but it needs saying. When one first rides a bicycle, one has to think through every moment. Then in the fullness of time, riding a bike becomes second-hand. A similar learning process occurs when we first started eating solid foods. Somehow or another we learn through the feel of the food in our mouths when we should swallow. (I know this is disgusting.) I don’t know exactly what that signal is and frankly I don’t want to think about it because it probably involves saliva and food consistency and the size of the food particles--but the point is that ordinarily we recognize that trigger without giving it any thought.

Cauliflower screws up that whole dynamic. You can chew and chew and chew it and yet never receive that subtle message that it’s okay to swallow. It makes every eating cauliflower like relearning how to ride the bicycle. To use a different analogy, it’s the culinary equivalent of the trick candle. Just when you thought it’s done…..uh, no.

Zucchini also fares better than radishes, which are almost always best when left uneaten. And un-harvested. And un-planted. However, I don’t view radish-eaters as the soulless walking dead that characterizes your cauliflower eater. Liking radishes is not a trait one should brag about, but I can get along with the radish eaters on a don’t ask/don’t tell basis.

Eggplant can certainly be wonderful when served just right. In which case it’s a delight to eat. A delight not only because it’s pleasant but also because it’s so rarely prepared well (or photographed well either, apparently) that eating a good eggplant dish is a nice surprise—a little like finding out the commencement speaker ended his speech within the fifteen minute timeframe.

And Okra. (Big sigh…) Let’s just put it this way, if you’re on the wrong side of the okra fence, well, I wish you well in this life. I bet every day is a long day for the okra lover, poor souls.

But back to the zucchini. In moderation, zucchini enriches one’s life. And it's always lovely to receive any heartfelt gift from a good soul. But ever since I was a child, I have had well-intended neighbors and friends stride eagerly up to me or my parents, smile as though they just won the lottery, and then thrust a big bag into our hands that’s spilling over with zucchinis. And all I’m trying to say to this person and all those like him through this blog is this: “Thank you. Yours is such a generous gift. But I’m just not worthy of so much goodness. Love is best enjoyed when shared with others, so I’m going to share a few of these fabulous tasty treats with my friends. And with my neighbors. And passers-by. And the old man who mumbles on the street corner all day. He, too, needs love.”

I hope that clarifies everything.

I’m just saying he needs love, too.



Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sharing is so nice.


I have a throbbing headache and I’m grouchy. Ordinarily I wouldn’t be so direct about what I’m about to say, but it’s been on my mind for a good long while now and I just need to let it out.

Enough with the zucchinis.

Please.


I mean COME ON!!! So you had a good zucchini crop this year and I’m just lousy with pride for you. But you had a good zucchini crop last year as well. In fact, you have you have a good zucchini crop every single year without fail. Floods. Drought. Global warming. A new ice age. It doesn’t matter. The zucchinis keep coming back year after year.

After year. After year.

I’m happy for you. In principle. But here’s what you need to know about me. I can do zucchini twice a summer. Three times tops. Hard as I may try, I'm just not cut out for an all-zucchini diet.

Yes I understand you’re an excellent human being and you like to share with others. And in the abstract that’s a good thing. But please give me just one. Or two, if you’d prefer. In which case I'll use one and pass along the other with love to someone else.

I do have a question for you: Why is it that you never have a good crop of sausage and mushroom pizza? Or chocolate chip cookies?

Now those are crops I would appreciate you sharing with me.

Because you’re so crazy about sharing, let me share right back atcha. In particular, I’d like to share some song lyrics I think you’ll enjoy: If nothing else, hopefully you’ll carry these catchy tunes with you all day. And tomorrow. And the next day. I want this to be the kind of gift that just keeps on giving.

So here we go:

The Climax Blues Band has a little something it would like to share with you:

“Since then I never look back.
It’s almost like living a dream.
And oooooooooooooooooooh, I love you.”

Harry Nilsson sings this song just for you:

“I can’t live
If living is without you
I can’t live
I cant’ give anymore
Can’t live if living is without you
I can’t give
I can’t give anymore”

You might remember this ditty by Steve Forbert back in the 70’s.

“Meet me in the middle of the day
Let me hear you say, everything’s okay
Come on out beneath the shining sun

Meet me in the middle of the night
Let me hear you say everything’s all right
Sneak on out beneath the stars and run, yeah”

And this one is a CLASSIC!!!

“if you like pina coladas
And getting caught in the rain
If you’re not into yoga
If you have half a brain
If you like making love at midnight
In the dunes on the cape
Then I’m the love that you’ve looked for
Write to me and escape”

Hey, I’m discovering that sharing is fun!!!!

Awww…if only we could hear this one together. But since we can’t, sing a line or two in my honor, would you?

“Aruba, Jamaica oooh I wanna take you
To Bermuda, Bahama come on pretty mama
Key Largo, Montego baby why don't we go

Ooo I wanna take you down to Kokomo

And who can forget this winner from my high school years?

“Just say the word
Su Su Su Sussudio

And this one came out at about the same time, too!

“Everybody have fun tonight/
Everybody wang chung tonight.”

And just in case you don’t believe I’m a giving person, let me give you this one last gift:

"We built this city, we built this city on rock and roll"


Have a great day!

And thanks for the zucchinis!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Shredded metal revealing gears.

That's a description, not the name of the art. This is an upside down and closeup photo of a wild and inspired piece of art at the Hirshhorn Museum's Sculpture Garden. I think that were I to go through the photos in this blog (I won't), I'd find several very similar compositions. I like this form: both angular and curved diagonal movement, with the eye's subject touching several if not all of the sides of the photo's frame.

West Wing of the National Gallery of Art


I.M. Pei's pryamids outside the National Gallery of Art


National Gallery of Art, East Wing

This poor guy. I waited a few minutes for some unsuspecting soul to walk into my line of sight throught these rings. And then of course I had but a second to actually catch the photo. Just so happens that this poor dude was blowing his nose.
Notice the light playing on the ceiling? I tried to capture that in the photo below.

Monday, July 14, 2008

darkened statue


justice


in black and white

Washington, D.C.

Each gold star represents one hundred American lives lost in WII.


Washington Monument as seen from the Jefferson Memorial.


Lincoln Memorial. The clouds that day, like most of the days of our trip, were dramatic.


Washington Monument as seen from the Lincoln Memorial. This is how dark it got in the day. I left this photo untouched.

My Homie


Oh Abe, how I love thee.




Let me count the ways.



Actually I don't have time for counting, Abe, but trust me--there's lots of 'em.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

alex's gift from his grandfather


thought the photo could be toned down in color and maybe given more contrast, but i decided to leave it as is. it's a strange shade of red, isn't it? mahogany, right?

Friday, July 11, 2008

the wish tree


The Hirshhorn Museum has a lovely sculpture garden of modern and contemporary art that's simply fabulous. I liked it a fair bit better than the more renowned sculpture garden of the National Gallery of Art. One of the pieces of art was Yoko Ono's "Wish Tree," which allowed for "audience" participation. The exhibit invites participants to write a wish on a small piece of paper and then hang their wish on the little dogwood tree. Periodically, the wishes are collected and sent to Yoko Ono, who then uses them for some other piece of art the specifics of which unfortunately I've forgotten. One can walk around the tree and read the wishes of folks, some signed and others unsigned. The wishes I read ranged from the ironic and witty and snarky ("I wish people would stop abusing my leaves and branches"--signed, The Tree) to the politically bitter ("I wish geo. w. bush would resign asap") to the pitiful ("I wish I had friends") to everything in between. I only read about twenty or so of these wishes (there were hundreds), but my favorite wish was so very human that I couldn't help but instantly love the person who wrote it ("I wish for delicious fat free pizza. And world peace."--Andrew.) I hear you brother Andrew, I hear you.
The wish shown above hit me in the gut when I read it. A little confessional here (too confessional?), but I think my oldest daughter sometimes feels this way. I know we cut her two sisters a little bit more slack than we do for her, and I can tell that she is keenly, if most of the time silently, aware of this disparity in treatment. We can't seem to help using a higher standard on her--and not just an age-appropriate higher standard--than we do for the others. Maybe it's a common parenting hazard for raising (rearing?) first born kids. Or maybe it just reflects our own tendencies. Both my wife and I are the last-born children and we tend to react very negatively to bossiness in any form. And let's be honest: first born kids tend to be bossy, just as latter born kids tend to be slackers (but also amusing. And charming. And downright wonderful. And nearly perfect, if we get right down to it. And certainly more modest.). Our first born child's personality is in keeping with this particular first-born tendency at least with respect to her sisters, and we constantly remind her to be more loving to her sisters. In the meantime, her littlest sister is rascally--but incredibly charmingly so--and so we latter-born parents naturally tend to cut her the most slack of all.
But the point (which I nearly lost sight of) is that my dear oldest daughter sometimes feels that she cannot live up to our expectations no matter how hard she tries. And the fact that her feelings are probably not completely delusional makes me feel like a rotten father because this girl, who we do love furiously and desperately, is such a blessing to us. She is an interesting and thoughtful and quirky (always a good thing, no?) and clever and good child--well, she's just just more of everything than we could have ever hope for in a daughter.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

the rest of her


Jeffersonian curves


Shiny AND Loud

Apparently I'm riveted by loud noises and shiny objects. While i was in D.C., I could not help but look at virtually every airplane (there were scores of them) that took that sharp southward turn over the Tidal Basin while descending to Ronald Reagan Airport. Also on that day lots of military helicopters were patrolling up and down the Potomac and over the Tidal Basin, practically skirting the water. Then at one point we saw what I thought was Marine One. Another time I saw a Chinook flying close overhead.

Cool. Shiny AND loud.

The photos I took of the helicopters were blurry. I took several photos of jets as well, as you can see above. In a few of them, the jet looked as though it was going crash into a building or monument. In the pre-9/11 world I would have published it because I would have thought it an interesting visual trick of perception. But nowadays, it just made me feel queasy. I deleted them.