Monday, July 31, 2006

Shapes & Shadows

This post could be subtitled “A Boring Sunday Afternoon At A Coffeehouse, Part 2.” As I explained in my previous post, Globular Visions, I found the café was very quiet when I showed up late yesterday. Tired of the usual distractions, I found myself searching for photographic images around the place. (As you can see, I was really bored.)

With the sun dropping in the west, I noticed that distorted shadows were forming from the strong backlighting. I even found that the lettering on the front door – giving the hours the coffeehouse was open – was being projected at one point on a back wall. With its intense colors, the coffeehouse provides an interesting background for the shadows.

Globular Visions

Late Sunday afternoon. Quiet at the coffeehouse. Bored with reading the newspaper. Bored with reading, period.

No one around. Nobody to converse with.

Options: talk to myself or take some photos. Of course, having a conversation with yourself causes others to doubt your sanity. Then again, taking strange photos of reflections, distortions, and shadows doesn’t lend a semblance of sanity, either.

For example, getting up close to a table decoration, discovering the hidden images. In this case: a purplish plastic orb.

NOTE: Only the third image, the oval shaped close-up, has been considerably changed in Photoshop. Besides cutting out the oval section, I rotated the image 180 degrees so that the upside down image within the globe was right side up. But with the other images, what you see is what I saw.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sunset Cloudscape

OK, let me redirect my eyes from the ground (as in the previous disgusting post) and look up. I do appreciate luminous clouds after the sun has set. I’m also intrigued by the contrast between manmade objects and nature’s work.

Friday, July 28, 2006

It’s Back…

Just in time for the heat wave. Someone let his dog litter the sidewalk. As previous images on this blog have shown, this spot is a favorite for canine crappers.

Note the cardboard box and the piece of plastic. I could have used the box and plastic to pick up the mess. But there’s a difference between A Good Citizen and A Big Sap. A Good Citizen picks up after his dog. A Big Sap picks up after a pig.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Obligatory Cute Wildlife Photo

As a photographer it is my duty to have at least one image such as this in my collection.

This photo was taken on a bike path that runs between Lake Champlain and the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base. I went for a walk with a friend one evening and along the way spotted young rabbits at different times.

The rabbit pictured above was the third one seen. While the other two ran off, this guy (or gal) wasn’t that shy. I kept talking to him as I pulled out my point-and-shoot digital camera, saying with a calm tone, “Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit…”

Usually wild animals take off when you reach for your camera. Or they won’t wait as you zoom, compose, get the shot set up. But this guy just stood there, watching me, as I kept calmly talking to him. I thought my friendly voice would reassure him.

Of course, maybe he just paused because he was thinking: “What’s wrong with this human? Babbling like that. What a maroon.”

The Bestest Candidate



Plattsy sez: “Yup, I’m the one that should elected ringleader of the Plattsburgh circus. Remember my name on Election Day.

“Other candidates have platforms. Well, I have a pratform! Here are two planks from it:

“FREE BALLOONS FOR THE KIDS! (Or prophylactics if they’re sexually precocious.)

“A DOG SHIT PATROL! Tired of stepping in that canine fudge on the sidewalks? Well, I know a couple of clowns who are experts at handling shovels (unlike too many overpaid city workers). If clowns can pick up after elephants, then they can surely handle anything left behind by an uncurbed pooch.

“Before he left, former Mayor Dan Stewart described one of the city events as ‘the biggest and the bestest.’ Well, if you want the biggest and the bestest, Vote For Plattsy! Don’t let amateurs do a clown’s job.”

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Problem & Solution

Problem: For proper exposure of the full moon at night, you have a use a daylight setting on your camera; the moon is that bright. Unfortunately other objects-– buildings, statues, etc.-- are usually a lot darker compared to the moon when illuminated by your average streetlight.

So what you can end up with is an overexposed moon-– completely burned out, no detail-– and an unexposed subject on the ground at the mercy of the color temperature of the manmade lighting. Also, the moon is kinda small when shooting so close to a foreground subject with a wide-angle lens. This first photo illustrates what I mean. A small, blank moon and a dimly-lit, funky-tinted statue.

Solution: Use the camera flash to illuminate the nearby object you want included in the frame. As for the moon, take advantage of a hazy night sky that cuts down the intensity of its light. Also, zoom out to the telephoto end of your camera and shoot a separate frame of the larger moon, then combine that shot with your foreground subject using a program like Photoshop.

OK, some could accuse me of “cheating.” But photography should never be touted, whether film or digital based, as the standard of “truth”-- at least when you’re trying to be artistic.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Arthur Pope Day

This Sunday, July 16th, Arthur Eli Pope will be 62 years old.

Who is Arthur Pope?, you may ask. He was the subject of the 1988 movie, Running On Empty, directed by Sidney Lumet. He’s also a son of Plattsburgh, NY.

As depicted in Running On Empty, Arthur and his wife are radical hippie types on the run from the feds. They have lived all over the US-– and by now, the world-- under various disguises. Back during the upheaval of the Vietnam War era, Arthur and Annie Pope blew up a napalm lab. They assumed the building was empty-– but they were wrong and someone was injured.

Trying to stay free, Arthur and Annie went underground, thanks to the help of their friends in the radical network. They became fugitives who couldn’t afford to make one slip about their true past.

In a key scene in the Lumet film, Arthur gets drunk one night and starts to rant about his real identity. He states that he was born in Plattsburgh, NY on July 16th, 1944.

Since Plattsburgh likes to hold celebrations to draw in visitors-– for example, the Battle Of Plattsburgh event-- I’m surprised that it hasn’t held an Arthur Pope Day every year. OK, Pope is a felon and he did make a tragic mistake, but instead of celebrating his criminal act, we could focus on both sides of the division caused by the Vietnam War.

Arthur Pope Day could be modeled after Guy Fawkes Day in the United Kingdom, complete with fireworks. For those against Pope, they could burn his effigy with a bonfire.

The pro-Pope crowd could invite Jane Fonda to speak, defending the radical ways of the 60s Era. Judd Hirsch, who portrayed Pope in the movie, could pay a visit during the event. (He’s still alive, isn’t he?)

Of course, people would have to behave and not get worked up about their differences of opinion. After all, shouting matches and fistfights will keep the tourists away. You don’t want that. Just stay focused on the one, true symbol: $.

Arthur Pope Day promises to be another great moneymaker for the city.

Friday, July 07, 2006

3rd Floor Image, 2nd Floor Problem

A sunny evening. Two days after Independence Day. Walking, looking down, up and around for any potential subjects.

On a side street there’s an apartment building with a third floor balcony facing west. The balcony is well decorated and furnished, with an American flag slowly waving in the breeze. The low sun produces an interesting shadow behind the flag.

Take out camera, wait for the breeze to position the flag just right. Spend a couple of minutes shooting. Then check the images on the LCD viewfinder.

“Hey, can I help you?”

Looking up, notice a guy staring from a second floor window. He’s angry, probably thinking that somehow the small digital camera is invading the privacy of his apartment.

I stare back at him, firmly replying: “I’m taking photographs of the flag.”

The guy is caught off guard. The flag? “Oh, OK, no problem.”

No one will stop me from imaging the American flag. They will have to pry my camera from my cold, dead hands.

The Wrong Way

It’s against the law to adhere a bumper sticker to city property such as a one-way sign. Apparently skateboarders are given special permission; after all, they have to mark their territory.

Notice in the above picture that the cars on both sides of the street are facing towards the camera. Notice how the skateboarder is speeding away from the camera, just about to jump on the sidewalk. Sidewalks, so says the law, are intended for pedestrians.

Now take a look at this second picture. See how the skateboarders have lined up on the crosswalk, ready to take off down the street? Crosswalks shouldn’t be blocked; they’re intended for pedestrians. Also note the one-way sign, the direction if its arrow. See which way the skateboarders are facing?

It seems that one of them had a tumble –- without wearing a helmet. Then again, some people don’t need protective helmets because they don’t have to be concerned about brain damage. (If you don’t have one, then don’t worry about damage.) At least he wasn’t hit by a car. Some of these guys like to zip out from the side streets without looking. Maybe one day a skater will suddenly encounter a police car –- the hard way. Then again, if the police are never around, then don’t worry about being struck by one of their cars.

One day the law will take action. I will be photographing the scofflaws on their skateboards. And once again the police will stop and ask me: “What are you doing with that camera?”

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Reflecting On Fireworks


I looked at my watch. 9:30 PM. The fireworks were starting right on time. I hadn’t counted on that. Usually the pyrotechnics were fifteen, twenty minutes late.

With camera bag slung over shoulder, I grabbed my tripod and my half-drunk cup of coffee, leaving the café. I made my way through the crowded streets, sipping my hot brew, quickly seeking a spot where I could set up and shoot. Out of nowhere: a city cop on a bicycle, shooting by me, a silent meteor. On his way to a fight down the street.


As I maneuvered down the sidewalk towards the lake, I noticed an angry woman across the street in handcuffs, yelling, surrounded by police officers. There’s something about the 4th of July that brings out the best in certain people.

I threaded my way across the bridge, sky-watchers lined up, no clear view. Eventually I went with a spot near the old railroad station; I estimated that the fireworks were now half over.

I set my tripod up near the curb, away from the others. I was using my SLR film camera; my compact digital doesn’t reproduce the color bursts that well. Using the widest setting on my zoom lens, I decided to include the crowd in the shot, the display exploding over the head lines. I preferred be closer to the action, almost under it, but this would have to do.

Manual exposure. The best way to nail the shot. But unlike a digital, I wouldn’t be getting any feedback on a LCD viewfinder to see if I had the right settings. I had to use experience, remembering how this film camera worked under low light conditions.

A few back-of-head shots, people looking up at the bursts. A few shots of fireworks only. OK, not bad, but I was still disappointed with my view.

Then I noticed a van parked near me. Reflections. I backed up a few feet and with the wide angle setting focused on the van’s hood and windshield. Maybe this otherwise mediocre spot could work to my advantage, giving me a different POV. But I would have to wait until I had the film processed, scanned, and then burned onto a CD to see if my risk paid off.

Today I came home from the one hour lab, popped the CD into my computer, and was surprised that my experiment worked. An intriguing view of the event overlooked by others. As it turns out, it was OK that the fireworks started on time and I wasn’t ready.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Plattsburgh Expands Obstacle Course For The Disabled

OK, the tables, chain and newspaper vending box were bad enough. Now they city had to add an oversized flower barrel. Imagine navigating this section of sidewalk using a walker, crutches, or a wheelchair.

Another FU to the disabled.

Take Pride, Plattsburgh.

Getting Lost In The Jungle

See this billboard? The Budweiser beer company paid an advertising company mucho bucks to come up with an eye-catching, perfectly composed image. I wonder if Budweiser thinks its ad dollars were well spent with this spot, jungle plants growing bigger and taller, blocking the view.

But with all the rainy weather, parts of Plattsburgh are being reclaimed by nature. Hedges, vines, weeds –- all laughing because no one has been around with trimmers or whackers.

Give the location depicted above another couple of months and passers-by will say, “Gee, I thought I used to see a billboard over there. And wasn’t there a sidewalk, too?”


What’s he doing?

If you aim your camera straight ahead or up into the sky, most people don’t question your activity. But when you take a shot of something right at your feet or low to the ground, people wonder what you’re up to.

Case in point: puddles.

Being stuck in the same place, day after day, makes me seek out new subjects, developing an eye for the unusual. Or maybe the strict limitation of one visual territory has made me so desperate that I’m going over the edge (mentally, not creatively). Either way, puddles have caught my eye.

Sometimes a puddle acts like a peephole into another world. On other occasions a puddle is a small mirror isolating an intriguing aspect of the greater world outside the confines of its jagged surface. There’s the juxtaposition of the sky being seen on the ground, above cutting into below.

A puddle becomes photographic when the details or patterns in its reflection produce an individual character. It’s as if the puddle has its own personality. (Or maybe not. It could be I’m just going nutso and need a vacation.)

Yesterday evening I was walking towards downtown, checking the puddles near the curb. Even though it had stopped raining, the sky was still overcast, soft gray clouds, unsettled conditions. When a reflection grabbed my attention, I would stop and shoot. At this point in my life, I don’t care if someone driving by doubts my sanity when I image a rainwater patch in the gutter.

Someone across the street –- a guy apparently with his traveling gear strapped to his back, sleeping bag, et al. –- noticed me photographing a puddle. I got a vibe from him; maybe he thought I was taking his photograph and he was upset. He walked towards me. He stopped in the street, a few feet away, talking distance. Gripping his long walking stick, he said to me:

“They killed the Super Mario Brothers. What are you going to do since they killed your director?”

At first I said nothing, just shrugged my shoulders.

He repeated himself: “What are you going to do since they killed your director?”

“I don’t know,” I said. I noticed that he was a little too far into the street; a car passed around him. “You know, you better watch out for traffic.”

I turned and kept walking.

“But what are you going to do since they killed your director?”

I said, “Don’t know,” not looking back.

I wondered where the poor guy came from. Maybe he popped out of a puddle.