The Marathon ... sort of

The Twin Cities Marathon was last Sunday. It's a great event and over the last few years my brother-in-law has run which gives us a lot of good reason to get out and attend. Not only that but, we're the pit crew. We drive the course through all the neighborhoods to meet up with Steve about every five miles ... seven of us. In a Dodge Caravan. It's fun stuff.

This year was no different. I usually get some nice event pictures, the obligatory group shot of the "crew" and of the tortured soul of my brother-in-law. But, that's not what I'm here to talk to you about ... what I really want to talk about are the interesting things we saw along the way ...

The race begins in downtown Minneapolis and so the first stop, five miles from the start, is Lake Calhoun. We get there usually around 7:45 am. The first competitors get there just around 8:30. So, there's some time to get a few shots of the ambiance.



Once we got to the runners my favorite feature of the day turned out to be the footwear. Until Converse got their hands on some colored canvas, shoes were pretty much white when I was a kid.




We made our way through south Minneapolis to the Lake Nikomis neighborhood (our third stop) where we ran across a few interesting things. We had parked the car and were making our way to mile fourteen when we ran across this chair. It was just sitting out by the curb in front of, I assume, the owner's house. Perhaps it was used for gardening, hard to tell ... but here it was on display, right in the front yard. In fact, on the easement between the curb and the sidewalk. It was quaint, simple, curious. Definitely something that needed to be recorded.

But, that wasn't all. We were walking back to the car when we turned up this alley shortcut and ran into this great looking MGB ... bright yellow, mint condition. My guess ... a 1972. I had a black '67 when I was in high school but this one was in spectacular shape!


Over by the river we cut across at mile twenty-one. In Saint Paul, the Lake Street bridge had this view to offer.



This Marathon thing is actually pretty cool, lasts about as long as a football game, that is if you're following someone that can run the damn thing in just over three hours and finishes up at a big gathering in front of the State Capitol Building.


We got there about ten minutes before Steve crossed the finish line. The sky had been working up a threat most of the morning but held off until I got this shot of the Quadriga. Then it started to rain ... that was cool, we were done.


Quintessential Majesty

Generally speaking, I'm an animal lover but, rarely photograph them unless my dog happens to be the only subject available. I did however, get a couple of shots that I really liked. This is Dakota. He's my sister's dog and a beautiful one at that! A Siberian Husky would be my guess ... docile, affable, just a great dog.

While strolling past Lake LaVerne the swans are always a marvelous attraction. This one was preening its feathers showing off his wing. For as long as I can remember this little lake in front of the Iowa State Memorial Union has been populated with two swans ... 1959 would be my first recollection of them: Lancelot & Elaine.


Alma Mater ... All My Matter

Was back home in Ames this last weekend on the ISU Campus ... one of my favorite places to photograph. Howe Hall, College of Design were all targets.

Engineering: Howe Hall

College of Design: Atrium of the King Pavilion


I was really taken with the new King Pavilion at the College of Design. The spaces there are loosely defined by screens separating the class spaces and in the center was an atrium for lecture, presentation and discussion that was literally nothing more that a smooth concrete floor with a shit-load of chairs on wheels. A class can take any form that it wants. Move and flow with presenters, mix, formalize, and morph into a completely different character with the next set of students ... it's great!

College of Design: Atrium chair changing color

Song in Autumn

This is most definitely autumn. And despite the cliche, there is music to be found in the trees. My mom has a small maple tree in her backyard that gets hit with some awesome light early in the morning. Here's a product of that complete with two eighth notes right off the page of Nature's newest symphony.
eighth notes
If you don't see the notes, click on the image which will take you to Flickr, wave your magic cursor (that's mouse talk for pointer) and see the embedded note.


Hello! Anybody!?!

Something I ran across a couple of weeks ago has been stewing my grey-matter quite a bit. It's a project, a gift, an inspiration, a great idea. Jeremy Cowart, a professional photographer working out of Nashville conceived of a project called "Help-Portrait." It's for all photographers and I've been thinking a great deal about participating ... check it out:

Have any of you heard about this, thought about this? Are you sitting on the fence, like me? Pass the word and let's start making some connections. Let me know!

Follow on Twitter.
Follow on Facebook.


Stop This Immediately

Dear Fellow Photographers,

Please don't do this anymore. "What do you mean," you ask? You know exactly what I mean. Don't take pictures of models in this pose. Don't! Just don't. It's not attractive. It's not comely. It's not sophisticated. It's not classy, chic or elegant and it's absent of any intended attitude or refinement. It doesn't do anything for the model and shouldn't be in your portfolio or the model's for that matter. It scares me that Flickr is loaded with this pose. Where did it come from? Who started it all? Do I know them? Is there legal action we could take?

Models, if you find yourself doing this pose, stop! Photographers, if you see models posing like this, don't click the shutter. If you get one by mistake, I forgive you but, get rid of it. Photographers, if you're making your models pose in this pose, stop and models refuse!

Thank you
Committee to Get Rid of This Pose

Disclaimer: The opinion expressed in this post is not about the technical qualities of image production including lighting, exposure, or post processing. It is not meant to challenge the integrity of any photographer's art or craft or model's talent and abilities. It has only to do with the unfortunate use of the following described pose: hand on knee, hand on hip, shoulder forward, contorted (nobody stands like that!). Should you have a counter-opinion you may express it in a comment or feel free to keep it to yourself. This post is offered as is and implies no binding obligation to follow its advice. It's intention represents nothing more than promoting the concept of ending the making of images of said pose and models posing in said pose.

A special and sincere thank you to the photographers whose images illustrated the pose perfectly.


Portrait Night

Well ... it was Portrait Night the other night. I'm not sure what the inspiration was; probably the combination of wanting to try a little different technique and being tired of sitting around and waiting.

Our house has been in flux a little lately. Lots of stuff going on and the traditional spaces just aren't available for doing a portrait shoot. So, I grabbed all my stuff, draped my old backdrop over the fence in the backyard and set up.

I had gotten a small, square soft-box (20" x 20") for a hot shoe flash a while ago and haven't had much of a chance to use it. I've also seen Joe McNally use a strobe below the subject and bounce it up off a gold reflector ... adding some warmth and softening the light.


That's what I did - my setup consisted of an SB800 shot into the soft-box positioned camera left, 45 off subject but feathered forward slightly. I have a 42" lite disc with a gold side that I laid down in front of my imaginary subject and bounced an SB600 into the gold reflector and presumably into the face of my ... ahem ... model. Now ... who's gonna be the model?

You know you live in a good neighborhood when you can go across the street and solicit a body for portraits 'cuz they're not doing anything but waiting for their pizza to arrive. Duke and Paul came over. They're actually neighbors, too, sharing a driveway and both are great subjects. Paul's a web guy and Duke's into repos.


This was about 9:00pm so we were just seeing the last rays of sunlight. I didn't expect any ambient light for the shots so eliminated it with the exposure settings. I set up the camera thusly: ISO 100, Manual Mode, 1/250 @ f/9, WB = Flash. BTW, I'm using my trusty 18-70mm DX EIEIO.

Then I chimped in the flash power settings (SB800 @ 1/8 power & SB600 @ 1/16 power). Actually, before the boys came over my wife helped me get the initial setup and Karlyn actually sat for a shot.


Although, not quite as enthusiastically as I might have hoped. Still got a nice shot, though.

I really liked working with the soft-box; completely different light control versus the shoot-through umbrella. Not necessarily better; umbrellas definitely have a great place in my photographic arsenal but, different. Controlling the direction and spill is what's great about the soft-box.

The reflector on the ground below the subject is a really nice effect that adds some needed warmth without looking "filter-ish" and "post-processy." It added some welcome light up underneath Duke's cap and opened up his face and eyes. Nice touch. Thanks for the idea, Joe!


Just a couple of notes ...

There are a couple of resources that I use quite a bit that I want to share with you. Strobist is a really great resource for a lot of information. If you’ve never been there, it’s a “Must Bookmark” for every photographer that has ventured passed ambient light – ie. Using a flash of any sort. It’s a blog hosted by David Hobby.

Anyway, I was reading Strobist the other day and ran across the following video on Street Portraiture which I found very interesting. It demonstrates the relationship between man and photography with amazing clarity and a profound spirit. It was actually published at Wired.com, Strobist embedded it on their site and now I, here, to share most conveniently with you.

Actually, I’ve been interested in finding an excuse for embedding video as a resource on my blog and this seemed like a fitting start. So, enjoy!

Another resource that I’ve been using lately is called DTown TV, the Weekly Show for Nikon DSLR Users. It is hosted by Scott Kelby (of National Association of Photoshop Professionals fame) and Matt Kloskowski (of Adobe Lightroom Killer Tips fame). Both are famous for their photography and share much of their experience in their blogs, DVD’s, books and in videos on DTown. They have currently published 22 episodes all of which are worth a click. Find them here. You can subscribe to DTown in iTunes and download the episodes as video podcasts as well. I’d embed one of their videos but they seem to be less accommodating … no embed link.


A Wedding Now & Then

Now, I've never actually witnessed a wedding in the Sculpture Garden and they may not book or even allow weddings to be performed there ... being a well-trafficked attraction. But, plenty of people get married elsewhere and make the trip to the garden on their special day to capture their memories in this unique landscape.

Little did Claes Oldenburg expect his cherry to be so copiously embedded in the American matrimonial memory or spraying out the top of some poor schmuck's head while grasping the only person who could share the experience with the same abandon.

Weddings over the last forty years have become more about getting the groom's tuxedo for free by increasing the size of the wedding party than celebrating a ritual steeped in tradition. Weddings were really ugly in the seventies. I don't know if it was the hair, the powdered blue ruffle themes or the bell-bottom tuxedo pants but, they were really ugly. I'm not so sure they've tamed down since then although they seem to have become more like a mixed drink that has sat at the bar too long.

Anyway, I saw this couple getting their wedding portraits done that had a much more modest sense of what they'd just done. It may be because they were young, it may be because they've struggled as a minority, it may be because they were catholic, but I hope it was because they have a little more respect than the rest of us. They certainly possessed the dignity.

bride & groom

I chose to process these in black and white. That was the way my parent's wedding was filmed back in 1955. There was something special about that time in photography. For many were again a first, maybe second generation of immigrants looking to prolong the dream ... classic, traditional, respectful. And those are the qualities I saw in these young people and their wedding party.

pretty in pink

The boys gathered around the cutest girl, her dress a fuchsia cotton. She played the part of Nature's inspiration with an ease only innocence and youth could perform. She was perfectly sweet and they were perfectly engaged.

they're so young

The groomsmen uncomfortably pocketed their hands and shuffled about wishing there was something to do, hoping to win their own girl and awkwardly maturing in front of the camera.

Normally, I'm not much for nostalgia ... romance maybe, but I'd rather the pendulum swung back and cherry-picked the things done well and avoided most of the fashions.


Summer's Half Full

Actually, Summer's half over. But, optimistically still seems half under ... er ... half, well ... there's still half of it left. I haven't taken the time to blog lately which is not my intention. I just seem to be changing the focus of the blog from a technical discovery blog to more of a self indulgent exchange. I'm sure it will evolve into something else entirely as time marches.

I had a nice afternoon, yesterday. Went on my own photo-walk and ran across some interesting things I thought I'd share: an interesting guy with an interesting beard and hat, a model wearing a bridal gown, a young boy feeding the ducks, a nice lunch and some red shoes. All in a day's walk.

My first stop was at Parade Park where there was a festival celebrating bike-riding. I gathered that the main theme was dress up in costume, ride your bike over, listen to some live music, get drunk, eat some over-priced food and generally show-off. All to support bike-riding. I suppose versus other modes of transportation.

hat & beard

This guy was the first interesting character I encountered and I got a nice shot. Although my favorite shot was the red shoes. I couldn't image riding a bicycle with these shoes and I'm not sure how she might even walk to the event in them but, they offered a great photo op.

red shoes

Parade Park is right next to the Sculpture Garden which was a-buzz with activity. Perhaps from the festival but, usually it is busy on a nice Saturday afternoon. There I saw this young boy feeding the ducks and a woman in a bridal gown.

Feed the ducks

This young boy was with his family who seemed to be taking a picnic break from the bike-riding festival. He was obviously dressed for the celebration and delightfully distracted from his surroundings by the wildlife.

bride model ... model bride

As it turned out ... this bride met with a couple of photographers and a groom at the north arbor of the garden for a photo shoot. I happened to catch her on her way. She was intent on her mission, had the gown under control but struggled a little with her heals in the soft grass ... very focused.

The most interesting encounter occurred when I stopped in at a favorite restaurant (really more of a deli or bistro) and had lunch. I took some time making my choice at the counter, purchased my food and sat at a table next to the window ... I'm thinking, what beautiful light! I've got to get a picture of lunch. So, I snap a few shots (50mm f/1.4 set at f/4).

nice lunch

At this point I was approached by an employee, I can only assume she was the manager that day, who asked what I was taking pictures of. I thought I was pretty straight-forward with her explaining that I was taking a picture of my lunch. She asked, "Why?"

My response was that I'm an amateur photog that simply sees a nice image in front of them. To which she replied, "I'm not that gullible."

"I'm not that gullible." Now, what do you say to that!?!

The conversation ended with me offering to delete the images if she was uncomfortable but she said, "I want you to stay just stop taking pictures of our food." At this point it wasn't worth making any further issue but I had to think that the $20 I just paid for the food would rightfully make it mine and not theirs. I could have gotten it to go and photographed it to my delight without interruption anywhere else.

I can only imagine what she was really afraid of and I suppose she's in a position where she might feel the need to protect the proprietary rights of her employer however, I could be someone who was interested in promoting her business, too.

I could blog about D'Amico's restaurant in Golden Valley, tell my readers how wonderful the food is, that they should try to get there and experience the patio, drink free refills of the house wines and especially have one of the molasses cookies which are to die for!

But, I don't blog about restaurants. I'm an amateur photographer who photographs interesting things.


After Photography

The other day, I was reading a blog post titled After Photography on Chase Jarvis' blog which inspired me to comment.

The posting conveyed the release of a new book by NYU photography professor, Fred Ritchin, titled, After Photography, which explores the democratization and manipulation of photography via digital cameras and computers.

I don't know anything about this book. I've never held it, seen it in the stores, or even read it. But, I see the democratization of photography happening and I have seen ridiculous scenarios involving image manipulation on CSI.

After I blurted out my comment I took pause to consider what I had said and why. I was surprised that most of the previous comments centered around the feeling of infringement photographers felt with talented image manipulators ... PhotoShop'ers.

And the photographers felt put out that Nikon and Canon (as well as others like Apple, Nokia, etc.) dared put easy-to-use cameras in the hands of mere amateurs! They're giving our secrets away! Nobody's gonna want us photographers (present and would-be) to take pictures!

I would have hoped to find someone commenting on an article Chase posted early last month The Secret to Success in Photography reminding others that success is being "Undeniably Good" which would fend off even some of the most fervent amateurs. Or comment on the responsibility that comes with journalistic image making. How much can someone trust you to truthfully depict a newsworthy event? Are you showing an otherwise unknowledgeable public an accurate story with your images or violating the trust they have no choice but to give you, the image-maker?

That's a question of reputation that only you can build for yourself! A thousand amateurs will always be questioned about their integrity because they have no reputation. Build yourself the best you can. Be undeniably good and you won't have to bitch about those damn camera manufacturers and their customers muscling in on your territory.

Then, all we'll have to work on is the photo-editors and photo-buyers hoping they have the integrity we aspire to build for yourselves.

Winter Is Back

It's been a long time since we've had a "Minnesota Winter" here in Minnesota. That may sound strange because every time you talk with someone from somewhere else they always ask if it's cold here or comment that, "It must be cold up there." We get comments like that year round. But, we really haven't had a "Minnesota Winter" here since about 1983. That's a quarter of a century of diminishing reputation, waning integrity, forgotten folklore, melting celebrity!

Now that the economy is in the crapper, we have the snow and still can't sell the snowmobiles! Oh well, those who have snowmobiles can use them without excessive transport.

I was at Lyons Park today and there were a lot of people riding the hill.





Note: Don't forget to overexpose your images 1 to 2 stops when shooting in the snow. See my post Snow White and the 2 Stop Overexposure.

i shoot nikon