I took several photos of my wife’s pink tulips. One was posted yesterday, as you may have noticed. And today I post another version. This one adopts an unusual point of view and but I remove the color. There is something a bit perverse about taking color away from a scene but black and white photographs require/allow us to see things that may be lost in the color versions. Anyway, this one has a bit of a eerie feel to it, if you ask me. But for now, I kind of like it.
If you were lured to this post because you thought you were going to see a beautiful church, I apologize. But there is something dome-like in these trees that arch over the snow-covered ground and that’s what inspired today’s title
To be honest, I posted this photo mainly so I could post a link to a short video I made a little bit after I took the picture. So you should watch it.
Where am I? The photo was taken in the “front yard” of our family cabin in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The snow was still falling when I took this and altogether we got between 10 and 12 inches. And it was beautiful. . . The video was filmed with a GoPro Hero 3 stuck to the front of a 4 wheeler. Why is the video black and white? The white balance kept shifting on me. (I’m still learning how to use a GoPro.)
This is the Minnesota state senate chamber. Though it isn’t legible in this photo, there is text in the semi-circle above the Speaker’s podium. In Latin it says, “Vox Populorum Est Vox Dei.” Translated it means “The voice of the people is the voice of God.” That’s got to be encouraging for the senators who may think that when they pass legislation, they are speaking for God.
As my loyal readers may remember, this isn’t the first photo I’ve posted of the capitol building in St. Paul. But, unlike the others, it isn’t HDR. The reason is that visitors only have access to this balcony when on a guided tour. And our tour only had a few minutes in this room.
Also, unlike my other capitol building photos, which reveal an obsession with symmetry, there is little linear symmetry in this photo. But there is unity. When I stepped into this room, I was immediately struck by all of the circles that are present. To me, the circular shapes make this room much more friendly and inviting. Was that the architect’s intent?
Though I don’t know the architect’s intent, I do know that the circle has long been a symbol of unity, wholeness and even of femininity. (Back off, Freud!). And, in some circles (pardon the pun) the circle is a symbol of God. And in writing this sentence, today’s post has made a complete circle (pun again?). God is mentioned in the first paragraph. And the last sentence ends with the word “God.” Or should I say “Deus?”
“E Pluribus Unum” is Latin for “From many, one,” which no doubt has many meanings, especially in the context of American democracy. But in this photo, the meaning is a little more literal: there is only one coin oriented and focused in such a way that it has complete meaning.
So is this photo art? Or is it a mere document? It is probably more the latter than the former, though I worked hard to get the look I present here. The focus is very specific. And the lighting was the result of considerable experimentation. Here’s my set-up
I am using a medium soft box on the left with a honeycomb grid. And to provide fill, I am using a Canon Speedlite and a snoot. A snoot is a nose-like attachment that focuses the light very precisely and in this photo helps accentuate the three dimensional properties of the coin, including the ridges and the feathers on the eagle’s wings.
The narrow depth of field allows for very interesting bokeh, both in the background and in the foreground. And for those who crave true wisdom and insight, here’s a bit of a look into the lighting:
The coins, incidentally, are Kennedy Half Dollars, vintage 1965 to 1970. That means that these coins are 40% silver and are worth much more than their 50 cent face value.
TS Eliot was wrong. Februrary, not April, is “the cruelest month.” At least for me. Yes, the days are getting longer. Yes, the temperature ocassionally soars into the high 20s. But it is often in the heart of February that what I think is SAAD (seasonal affective disorder) hits me. And I lose my will to post new photos to this blog.
So I’m posting old stuff. . . But, in the event that you haven’t meticulously looked at all four years of my posts, you’ve probably never seen some of these. So maybe they’re not old.
Here’s a photo that was taken with my Canon film camera 12 years ago. Yes, film! If you look closely, you will see white specks. Those are dust specks on the negative. And if you look closely again, you will see film grain. Holy cow!
My workflow for this photo was as follows
Visit the Como Park Conservatory in Minnesota
Take the photo
Develop the film in my makeshift darkroom
Scan the negative with my very slow high resolution film and slide scanner
Put the scanned file in a folder on my Mac
Burn the folder to a CD (yes, a CD)
Put the CD into a CD case
Put the CD case in my very crowded closet
Forget about the CD case for 12 years
Look for a shirt that fell off the hanger in my closet
Find the CD case
Forget about the shirt and everything else
Post the photo after minor retouching in Aperture
There you go. And, if you ask me, I like the photo but it’s not all that special. As if no one else ever stood here and took the exact picture. . . .
I guess I’m stuck on black and white these days. And, while this macro photograph isn’t exactly a “Wow” photo, I’m guessing it’s a closer look at a silver coin than you may have had before. This coin, by the way, was left to me by my aunt Betty of California.
I like this photo so much I may have already posted it, though I’m guessing it is a color version. Though the colors are good in the original, there is something about this soft sepia version that I like. Of course, what makes this a good portrait is the subject, who is every bit as real, pleasant and happy as this photo implies.
Incidentally, I write about this photo, as well as others, on my “Better Photography Blog.” Just click here.
This is a closer view of one of the two buildings pictured yesterday. This photo was taken right around sunrise and it occurs to me that this old building has lived to see a lot more sunrises than I have.
I asked my first year photography students recently to tell me what they thought a photographer was and Bjorn, a person whom I think has great promise, suggested that a photographer is a person who engages in time travel – that photographers have the power to take those who view their photos to a particular place in time. It was an astounding and unexpected answer. And of course, Bjorn’s answer has me thinking. . . .
I realize, for example, that while my photos allow me to do my own kind of time travel in that they help me remember things that I have seen and experienced, they also have the power to do the same for the viewer. You may have never been to this particular place, but it may remind you of similar places.
Photos like this may have another emotive power, too. It’s not hard to see the ghosts of those who lived at this farmstead. I look at this scene and can see the farmer’s wife stepping through the door to check for fresh eggs, I can see the children playing in the tall, prairie grass and I can see the farmer working the distant field with his simple tractor.
To me, this way of life exists in my imagination as I am a “city boy.” But to many South Dakotans, this life still exists. It is as real and predictable as the the South Dakota sunrise.