Thursday, June 29, 2006

Getting Wise With A Not So Wide Lens

Problem: my compact digital camera at its widest end is only equivalent to a 35mm wide angle lens in the 35mm film format. It wasn’t wide enough to include the eagle on top of the monument and its reflection in the puddle, despite the vertical composition.

Of course, I could have backed up, making room for both the top of the monument and the puddle –- and end up losing the reflection which could be only be seen at one spot. What I needed was a wider lens, something equivalent to a 28mm in the 35mm film format.

So I hauled along my old Canon SLR and took a few shots with a 28mm, no problem getting both key subjects in the same frame. But until I get that film processed, I don’t know if I have nailed the shot. I did manual exposures and while I did bracket exposures, I still could be off enough so that the shot doesn’t work.

Anyway, I wanted a digital image. I have to admit that I’m spoiled by the quicker turnaround with a digital camera. Check the viewfinder; if its looks like crap, erase it. Then make a thorough check at home on my computer monitor.

Now I could run out and buy a digital camera with a wider lens –- but that would involve winning the lottery. There are lots of things I could do with a less restrictive budget. I still have film from last summer stored in my refrigerator, waiting to see the final light of day. It’ll get processed, just like the last roll I took, budget permitting.

So I make do with what I have. Last evening I made my third trip to the monument, trying to catch the juxtaposition between the eagle and its reflection just before complete nightfall. While adjusting the camera on my tripod, inspiration hit me. Screw traditional composition. Tilt the frame and make it fit the scene.

As you can see, some photographers obsess, always searching for an answer. Three trips might be excessive to you, but at least I’ve got a shot that’s a lot better than what I did before. Not perfect; just better.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Plattsburgh, NY: The Mecca Of Wit

Downtown. Late evening.

It had stopped raining for a while. I noticed that a puddle was reflecting the image of the eagle atop MacDonough Monument. So I set up my tripod, trying to catch that image with my digital camera.

“Hey, take a picture of this!”

I glanced over as a car drove by. A passenger had his arm extended from the window, a middle-finger salute.

What repartee. Such local wit keeps me on my toes mentally, sharpening my intellect.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Drop Zone Watch: Day 6

Image taken Monday, June 26, 2006; 5:00 PM.

I’m sick of crappy photos.

I’m referring to the subject matter, not the quality of the final image. Years ago when I first moved to Plattsburgh, I had to learn quickly to watch my step, especially at night. While growing up in the countryside, I never encountered as much animal feces as I did in this so-called city.

I never expected the city to be completely clean 24/7. But you know there’s a problem when a local person was recently quoted in the newspaper that he found New York City to be freer of dogshit than Plattsburgh.

I thought I would be wrapping up this Drop Zone Watch series with a final shot of the rain washing away the crap. Instead, to my disgust, I found some fresh bowwow brownies.

Apparently the same dog –- or maybe another one –- thinks the spot I have been photographing is set aside for defecating. After all, it’s typical animal behavior. If no one picks up a mess, then the dog must assume it’s OK to crap again on top of the original packages.

It’s just like litter. If a person walks down a street strewn with bits of trash, why should he be motivated to throw his candy bar wrapper in a can? If no one else cares, why should he?

What I call the drop zone should be cleaned up, maybe with some bleach diluted in a bucket of water. No, I don’t expect the sidewalk to be disinfected to the point one could eat off it. But the bleach smell would probably discourage more dogs from shitting in the same spot.

But, nature, not human intervention, will wash away the dogshit during the next few days of rain.

Is that why Plattsburgh residents pay taxes? To let nature, in the forms of rain and wind, keep the city clean?

Higher taxes. Less service.

Aren’t you tired of the crap?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Sunday Evening Stroll: Street Stuff

There's nothing like a casual walk around the semi-diseased heart of downtown Plattsburgh. There are all sorts of little treasures to be discovered at your feet.

Is this horse trying to quit cigarette smoking?

Looks like Donald Duck is kicking the nicotine habit by indulging in his sweet tooth. At least it hasn't been proven that Fruit Loops cereal causes cancer...

Over at the intersection of Protection Alley and Marion Street, I encountered the remains of a wild party.

For some reason this guy didn't make it home. He appears to be the kind of partier who ends up being the last to leave.

Drop Zone Watch: Day 5

Image taken Sunday, June 25, 2006; 6:49 PM.

Like dust in the wind...

At least the flies aren't buzzing around. Even they are disgusted with this mess.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Drop Zone Watch: Day 4

Image taken Saturday, June 24, 2006 at 5:00 PM.

And thanks to the hot summer sun, fossilization begins.

Plattsburgh’s motto: If you ignore a problem long enough, it might dry up and blow away.

ID The Mystery Object

Is it a post 9/11 high-tech bird feeder?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Global Goofiness

With my restricted budget I can't afford a fish-eye lens. But sometimes I can find a substitute, in this case a chrome-finished motorcycle helmet.

And thanks to Photoshop, I can cut out a circular section to create a global effect.

Hey, Buddy, Need A Sneaker?

How about a pair of gloves or a towel? Or how about a rusting bicycle? (Cable cutters required.)

On second thought, maybe you shouldn't disturb this installation. Maybe it's an art piece entitled "Abandonment: The Spirit of Downtown."

Drop Zone Watch: Day 3

Image taken Friday, June 23, 2006; 2:20 PM.

Any bets this stuff will be hanging around for the weekend to be enjoyed by visitors to our fair city? Remember: Take Pride, Plattsburgh.

(Did the Public Works Department start their weekend a day early?)

Glass Block Abstract

There's a large bay window in the public library composed of glass blocks. Over the years a few of the textured blocks have broken, replaced with translucent ones. The newer blocks act like crude lenses, forming all sorts of abstract patterns, depending upon the changing lighting conditions and subject matter outside.

If you're puzzling out what formed this image, it appears that an orange car was parked near the library, caught in the light rays of the glass block lens. Those “eyes” are its wheels.

To me it looks like a big alien bug hit a spaceship windshield.

Drop Zone Watch: Day 2

Image taken Thursday, June 22, 2006; 3:53 PM.

Looks like someone stepped on a couple of the special "packages."

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Window Of Opportunity

There’s a vast yellow wall with only one small window. Sometimes I take a few shots of that wall, seeking an image that shows the aloneness of the window.

Downtown Drop Zone

Are you in a hurry? Need to ship off a package? Is your dog ready to deliver his own packages? Then save time by using the special drop zone in downtown Plattsburgh.

And don’t forget to tell your friends about the scatological splendor that Plattsburgh offers.

Downtown Plattsburgh: Yours To Explore… And To Excrete On.

Before & After

At last! There's at least one property owner who realized his hedge has been obstructing the sidewalk. Thanks!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Keeping An Eye On (Small) Things

For three days I kept checking on a house owned by friends who were away on a short break. My main responsibility was their Yorkshire Terrier who can be a handful if she doesn’t know you.

But after the second day she didn’t bark at me. She must have realized that I was there for her benefit, conducting my three vital roles: Provider of Food, Supplier of Water, and Changer of Newspaper.

I would spend some time with her just so you would have some company and help to break up the day while her owners were absent. By the last day she became so accustomed to me that she went out on the side porch to take a nap.

When she curled up next to a row of sneakers, I realized how small she was. So I took a few shots, trying to show how tiny and vulnerable she appeared while sleeping.

Also during my house watch, a reflection on the kitchen sink faucet caught my eye. Apparently a mean mutant mite, red with anger, had been keeping an eye on me from the windowsill.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Bon Appetit, Ant

More sidewalk trash. Right on main street, near the newspaper building. Apparently someone didn’t enjoy their bottle of iced tea and had to smash it on the concrete. After hitting the sidewalk, the neckless bottle bounced or rolled into the grass median.

At least a black ant appreciated the residue.

Don’t forget: as some of us trash this planet, there are those patiently waiting to take over. Superior size doesn’t matter when you don’t have the intelligence to go with it.

Not All Thumbs – Flag Spoon

I attended a Polish banquet sponsored by the local arts center, once again volunteering my photographic semi-expertise. The banquet was part of the center’s ethnic theme night series. Of course, appropriate flags hung from the wall.

I noticed that the spoon at my setting made an interesting curved mirror, reflecting the Polish flag hanging near the table. So I carefully composed with my compact digital camera and took a shot, planning to move in closer with succeeding images. Depth of field – the area that is in focus – becomes very shallow when shooting close up with relatively low light. The only light in the room came from chandeliers way up on the ceiling and the windows across the room. It was overcast outside, evening time, so the sunlight wasn’t that strong.

I moved in closer. Besides a shallow depth of field, the other factor was that the tiniest movement could blur the image. When working so close, the greater magnification can make an almost imperceptible shake obvious. I had to make sure the table was stable – and that I wasn’t shaking the camera when I squeezed off the shot. I’m not that steady handholding a camera. While I did achieve a fairly sharp shot, part of my hand and the camera appeared in the spoon as a weird blob.

With the small screen on the camera, the shot looked OK, but after I transferred the file to my computer and checked it on the screen, there was a damn thumblike blob. But as I’ve mentioned before, I usually take extra shots to increase the odds that I've nailed the image.

I had two more shots I had taken later, using a different angle. As you can see, I kept that distracting shape out of the image. Then again, maybe some people like weird blobs.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

More Reflections: Lost Sunglasses

After the sun made an overdue return, I was able to grab a few more images with one of my photographic obsessions, reflections. There’s an entrance down the street for a grade school; I noticed a pair of sunglasses hanging on the fence, waiting for the owner to return the next day.

I shot a few images in the afternoon, then came back in the evening for a few more. Some people wonder why a photographer takes so many shots. Well, changing lighting conditions is one reason. Another is capturing the subject at the right angle, trying to get the best composition. Also, making sure you’ve nailed the shot. Since I was focusing so close with my little Canon digital camera, I had to make sure that the image in the sunglasses was sharp, not the background. Of course, a few shots missed the mark, the background in focus with the glasses out of focus.

So if you’re with a photographer and he seems to be taking a while to image his subject, give the guy some time. An extra minute can make the difference between a lousy image and a good one.

Plattsy: Twig Twitchy

Plattsy sez: “Hi-a-yo-yo, kids. See what's sticking out of my ear? No, it isn’t the latest in body piercing. I was walking down a sidewalk, minding my own business, when I slipped on some dogshit. OK, that was bad, but I fell against an untrimmed hedge overhanging the sidewalk, right on my ear, and now look at me. A twig went right through. I was able to snap off one side and get free, but I still have this memento.

“Hey, mayor! You promised three years ago to get all the hedges trimmed so they wouldn’t be blocking the sidewalks. You care, don’t you? Or are you too busy packing your bags, getting ready to take off for your new job when the word comes from Albany?

“Of course, mayor, you never really go out on a limb with your promises, do you? You bark, never bite, just hedging your bets, hoping that whatever you say doesn’t leaf an impression on anyone’s memory. Albany, the City of Broken Promises, should be a good fit for you, right up your tree.

“And when I get this twig removed, you’ll find it won’t be right up your tree, but somewhere else. And my clown hammer will make sure it fits.”

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Sun Is Back

After too many rainy days, the daystar returned –- appropriately on Sun-day.

I have a few rainy day photos, but for now I’ll post these colorful sun-slanted images.

It’s supposed to be more or less sunny for the next few days. Maybe the increased hours of daylight will motivate me to write more. After the long, gray winter, I need to recharge like a human solar cell.

And for those who may be unaware, let me mention my web-site that's loaded with writing and photography: I use this blog for shorter works.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Reflections In The Hood

I'm always on the lookout for eye-catching reflections. Someone was working on his car the other day, the dark hood propped straight up. I asked the driver if it was OK if I took a few shots. He was a bit puzzled by my request, but said it was alright. I didn't want to start shooting and have the driver wonder what kind of loon was imaging his car's hood.

Even when the hood was closed, it still created interesting effects, the lined surface creating double images depending upon the angle.

Night Clouds

I was walking around the other night when I noticed some low-hanging white clouds drifting in the sky. Since the rain was holding off for a while, I went home, grabbed my digital camera and tripod, and did a few time exposures.

I kept looking over my shoulder, expecting a city patrol car to show up, a police officer asking me what I was doing. But I shot away, trying different angles and exposure times. No police. Apparently they had real crimes to deal with that night.

Gee, I almost felt lonesome.


Plattsy: Street Art Critic

Plattsy sez: "Hey, where's all the dogshit on Clinton Street? Did all the rain wash it away? Or did the college students moving out take their craphounds with them? Hey, I'm not complaining. Because I can enjoy all the great street art provided by local artistes.

"Try this impressive display of banana split splat. This gut-wrenching work evinces how some waste the milk of human kindness. It's cherry, not cheery.

"And how about this ode to an onion? The layers of meaning. It just brings tears to my eyes. I just can't peel away from this photo image.

"So don't forget to enjoy the street art always on display in downtown Plattsburgh. And for those who say this ain't art, I say: Rubbish!"