American Dish


Would it date me too much to say that I remember the day when all we had was black & white TV with rabbit ears?

I teach a computer literacy class on the side so my head has been full of cloud computing, digital threats and social media. So maybe it should come as no surprise that I reacted to all this high tech with a low-tech response. I used my humble Holga to snap a double-exposure of a satellite dish and a large flag I saw hanging from the side of a local business.

In the midst of all our digital precision, here’s to a little analog unpredictability! ;)

Exposure Data: Fuji Superia ISO 400, f/11, 1/100

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Thrift Shop Cameras


This past weekend we drove to Bennington, Vermont to get some film developed at a local lab. But we also visited the local thrift stores. And I found some amazing things.

Specifically I found an old film SLR, a Mamiya/Sekor MSX 500 with two different prime lenses; and a Polaroid Impulse SE instant camera (one of those with a sonar-based auto-focus), both in working order albeit with some scratches and grit that needed cleaning. All in all, I paid less than twenty dollars for all of it! My lomograph gallery will shortly be augmented with the addition of these old-timers. 

Don’t underestimate the value of thrift shops. Some of the things you’ll find will truly amaze you.

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Old Caboose

On our recent Vermont trip, we ate at a wonderful restaurant converted from a Victorian-era train station. And outside was a prime piece of local color: an old caboose resting on a rail fragment, possibly a remnant of the very line that ran past the depot in the old days.

And since an aged machine calls out for a sense of its own history, I applied a few Topaz filters in post-processing to bring the viewer back in time.

Topaz Adjust is probably the filter I make the most use of outside of Photoshop’s standard effects. If you’re interested in checking it out for yourself, click the link in the sidebar to find out more.

Exposure Data: ISO 100, f/13, 1/100

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Back Alley

The Twilit Lens is often billed as “From the Corner of Your Eye.” That was literally the case with this shot. This past Saturday, my assistant literally had to call my attention to something I might have walked right past: this amazing view down a side alley.

The USA is far too young to have the true concept of deep architectural age such as we see in the magnificent cathedrals and neolithic ruins of the Old World. But nevertheless there seemed a profound and thoughtful quietness in this scene, as if the buildings were waiting for something. Time seemed frozen, for not a speck stirred within these borders. Our footsteps and the snap of our shutters seemed an injection of life into the solitude of stone.

Exposure Data: ISO 1250, f/22, 1/80

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Thinking Statue + Spark Cropped

If my readers will recall, I first picked up my Lensbaby Spark back in January, and it’s since become part of my standard kit. Of course I’d heard the stories long before about how Lensbaby has strong brand loyalty and how photographers gush about the creative options it gives you. So I decided to try it.

Now, the better part of a year later, I find myself growing equally loyal. One of the challenges of making great photographs is to bring as much attention to your subject as possible. The combination of the “sweet spot” and the bokeh created by the Spark does it in a very natural way. Besides, working that little concertina-like bellows makes my photography even more hands-on than usual. In short, it’s a lot of fun!

It’s available for purchase on Amazon at Lensbaby Spark for Canon

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Ruined Butterfly

Not long ago my fiance found a butterfly in a parking lot. It had expired and was fluttering like a leaf in the wake of passing cars. Her heart went out to it, but she also knew I would want to see it. After she brought it home lying on some tissue paper, I sat looking at it and thinking how similar it was to many buildings I’d photographed: intricate and beautiful yet eaten away by the relentless elements and time.

Using a mag-lite for backlighting and some coarse cloth to help diffuse it, I set my camera to aperture priority and took a fairly long exposure to bring out the delicate wings. A little adjustment in Photoshop was used to to tweak the colors.

Exposure Data: ISO 100, f/5, 1/5

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Vanguard Tripod and Coal Cellar

The funny thing about ruins is how… well… “ruinous” they are. Sometimes they are so run down that a photographer might fear for her safety if she enters too deeply in.

This abandoned coal cellar is a prime example. Set amid a ghost town in the middle of a national park, this place looked about ready to collapse at any moment. And yet the sunlight shining in was so interesting, I knew I would kick myself if I failed to get the shot. That’s why I was glad I’d brought along a very special tripod.

The Vanguard Alta Pro, available from Amazon by clicking Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT Aluminum Alloy Tripod Legs with Multi-Angle Central Column System, allows for the detaching of the central post and reattaching it at an oblique angle. For the above shot, this meant that the camera could peek into the cellar while I remained outside. A wireless shutter release completed the ensemble and allowed for a shot that still provokes my thoughts today.

Never forget to observe safety first when exploring these haunting old buildings.

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