October 31, 2011

Photo of the day: 089

Filed under: Uncategorized — paul davis @ 9:48 am

I’m in the Pacific Northwest building a table for my aunt and uncle and mom and dad. It will have a top made of twin slabs of western big leaf maple with lots of curl and a live edge. I’ll post photographs of the build in progress sometime soon.

When I’m making a piece of furniture I give my whole self to it. I can see it finished before I start. It’s like the answer is there before the question is asked.

In this case I knew the space the table would occupy. I’ve been to their house many times and sat at their current table for many good meals. The big posts and beams and the copper/green/grey/umber feel of the place informed.

From Kansas City I telephoned suppliers in Bellingham, looking for slabs big enough. I was thinking four feet by nine feet by three inches thick. The second guy I talked to had a pair of slabs he’d been sitting on for a good long time, waiting for the right job. My aunt and mom went down the next day and bought them.

I flew out a week later and the next morning took a saw to them, ripping away a big twisty split and trimming them to 105 inches. It took two passes with a skilsaw and one with a handsaw to get through it. The twisty split kerwanged when I was half way through, rending itself three feet at a jump. Happily, it rended away from the blade and not into it. That stress in the slab had to go–it would have continued its potato-chipping for years to come.

Next I flattened one side of each of the slabs. They had wind of about a half inch over the nine feet, which meant a quarter inch would have to be removed from each catercorner. With slabs up to a foot wide I would have built a sled and sent them through the thickness planer. You can also solve this problem by building a flat frame around the slab and riding a router on a board over that frame until the slab is flat. It probably would have been worth the time to do that. In an antidiluvian mood, I went about it with the jointer plane I’d packed in my luggage. That would be a vittle-powered jointer plane.

An hour in, with blisters and a darkened mien appearing on the horizon, my thought was, “Electricity is your friend.”

I don’t own an electric hand plane, but Home Depot will sell you one, and my other Bellingham uncle had one to lend, even better.

Safety glasses…check. Earplugs…check. New disdain for style points…yup. Let the chips fly.

I still needed the quiet plane for smoothing over the indignities done by the WMD. With a couple of winding sticks and a very long scrap of left over formica countertop, I got the first slab flat (within a sixteenth) in seven hours.

It was 4 PM. By 5:30 I had the second one done. I was warming up to my new tailed friend, the Tasmanian devil.

The next day I talked to a shop in Bellingham with an abrasive thickness planer that could handle up to 36″ in width. Yes, they would be pleased to make the second side of each slab parallel to the first. But not until after the weekend…approximately.

I trucked the planks over, admired the shop space–light from the clerestories filtering through sawdust floating etc–considered asking for a job, went over the two slabs in anthropological detail with the foreman, and was on my way. Now what? Well, we’re going to need some wood for the base. Bellingham didn’t have any. South to my oldest and best friend in lumberyards, Crosscut Hardwoods, Seattle, by the train tracks.

I plan on three hours for any visit to Crosscut. I’d crawl there, pausing for prayer, if necessary.

On this visit, there was no 12/4 cherry in the rack marked “12/4 cherry FAS full rough.” “12/4” is the number of quarter inches the board is thick off the sawblade–twelve quarters is three. “Cherry” is American black cherry. “FAS” is “firsts and seconds” in a lumber grading system that goes FAS, #1 common, #2 common, #3A common, #3B common. “Full rough” is no thickness planing, you have to do that yourself.

“No 12/4 cherry” is no cherry at all.

That design that sprang fully realized into my head before I got on the airplane? Subject to alteration. What happens is that the answer is there before the question is asked, but once the question is asked, a different answer presents. Leading to the next question. And the next different answer. It’s completely delightful. It’s why I draw the first design on whatever card falls out of the magazine I’m reading. And do the next design while looking at the planks themselves.

What to do with no 12/4 planks to look at? Well, 12/4 is a luxury, and one I didn’t expect to have. You can make 12/4 by face gluing 8/4 and 4/4. But that seam will always be there. You can switch species to whatever there is 12/4 of. You can redesign down to 8/4. Or you can go looking for the missing 12/4. There is that sign right there that says “12/4 cherry.” What could it mean?

Guys who work at Crosscut are comically helpful, having been freed from their high-paying jobs as engineers at Boeing to stop and smell the rosewood. The guy I got was an exception. He looked for 12/4 cherry by peering into a computer screen. “Yes, we have lots of it,” he said. “By lots…?” I said. “140 board feet,” he said, “did you look where we keep it?” “Yes, that was my first stop,” I said. “Then maybe we have it but it’s just not here,” he said. I was thinking PhD Philosophy. I wanted to ask where the furloughed Boeing engineers were this morning. He arose from his screen. We were going to go look at the empty bin together. My theory was that was the only place we didn’t need to look, but Crosscut is a magical place.

The “12/4 cherry” bin remained devoid of any material substance whatever, when we looked upon it, the space-time continuum still being what it is. However, we would walk together toward the cherry…any direction from none being necessarily toward more.

October 28, 2011

Lilongwe V

Filed under: Uncategorized — paul davis @ 9:01 pm

These will be the last of the photos from Sunday morning in Lilongwe.

These dioramas with everyone doing their thing, and the presence of the photographer causing a ripple in time, slay me.

I must have taken fifty shots of this young lady leaning against the tree.

The girl in red shoes and blue dress shows up a lot.

There she is one more time.

And the drummer’s still drumming.

Young ladies holding twins. That’s all from Lilongwe.

October 27, 2011

Lilongwe IV

Filed under: Uncategorized — paul davis @ 8:34 am

After church was when the real party broke out. Everyone lined up to get out one door, so they could make a big circular greeting line outside, and these two fellers provided accompaniment.

I never got tired of babies riding on the backs of mamas. I’d like to get around that way myself, some days.

I’ll settle for a bike, though. This one can take two or three, not counting our Lord and Savior.

Show me a photographer who would not run to a sighting of a blue umbrella on a sunny day.

…or kids sitting nicely on the ochre earth…

…or arms akimbo in purple and green…


I love all of this going on…both compositionally and in real life.

More of these next time…

October 25, 2011

Lilongwe III

Filed under: Uncategorized — paul davis @ 6:59 am

More photos from the mellifluous Sector 25 congregation in Lilongwe.

That mama knows how to kiss a cheek.

Yep, this is a big congregation.

Next post: after church.

October 23, 2011

Lilongwe II

Filed under: Uncategorized — paul davis @ 7:29 am

The first photo I took inside the church in Lilongwe, Malawi, was of this little girl coming up the aisle toward me. I knew it was a going to be a good day.

I think it was Bunda Chibwe spellbinding them at this point.

My new favorite subject and her big brother.

Lots of dancing to go with the singing.

Very young girls often have a baby lashed to them. It was not a cold day, but, hey, it was November, so the stocking caps come out.

More dancing. I was always shooting into a bright window backlight…I called it a virtue.

Her mama is the lead singer.

One of my favorite shots. I don’t make a lot of people photos, but when I look at them in magazines I always look to see where the catch lights are. Those are the reflections in the subject’s eyes. Tells you everything you need to know about how the shot was lit. The catch lights in this photo are complex–all four walls had big windows of diverse shapes. You can often see the photographer in the eyes, too.

The feet.

More dancing and singing by kids.

More three-part crazy wild hair by my friend.

And more kid dancing with adults trying to sort chaos.

Really, what are you going to do?

October 21, 2011

Lilongwe I

Filed under: Uncategorized — paul davis @ 8:28 pm

I was editing photos from the trip I took a year ago to Malawi and came across a few to post here. I’ll space them over a few days.

All of these were taken during Sunday morning church services at the Sector 25 Congregation in Lilongwe, Malawi. It’s a big congregation with bunches of kids.

This was the first trip I made with a DSLR–a Canon 60D owned by the church. I shot all of these with a 50mm f1.4 lens. The sun was blasting through the windows, so I could have used the slower zoom lens, but I was very excited by shallow depth of field.

On previous trips I’d used a high definition video camera that could also shoot stills. The best thing about that camera was Icould work in total stealth mode–looking down at the viewfinder in my lap while taking candids. People assumed I was just monkeying with previous shots.

I was trying to emulate that stealth camera by holding the DSLR in my lap and letting it auto-focus. I could look down at the focus ring and see what it was selecting by the number of feet to the target.

It also seemed a little more sensitive than walking around the church service with a big black camera pasted to my eye.

But it didn’t matter where the camera was–these kids knew when the lens was pointing their way.

It did mean that the kids were usually looking down, instead of up at the adult looming over them.

And there were a few candids on the card, when I looked later.

That 60D had a pretty loud shutter release, too–maybe that’s why I got only one shot off before drawing looks.

Before taking these photos, by the way, I preached the worst sermon of my life…well, top five, anyway. The sound system was set at brain melt, with the speakers right behind my head, as if someone had done the math on maximum feedback triangulation. The translator had to ask me to repeat my first sentence four times. When he got it, he looked at me like, “You sure you want to start with that?” I wasn’t. My confidence settled around my knees. I got in and out in five minutes.

Then I went and sat in the middle of the kids, deeply grateful that they don’t listen to sermons.

October 18, 2011

Photo of the day: 088

Filed under: Uncategorized — paul davis @ 9:00 am

There are a half dozen ten-foot-tall Pampa grass arrangements along the front of Jim and Madelyn’s yard. They are always dramatic and interesting (we have four along our driveway that have never exceeded 18″ in height, and size matters), but yesterday the muted light and still winds let me capture their fall colors and shapes in a new way.

It was a feast of composition.

And a box of crayola crayons.

These are my favorite colors…I now have an answer to that question.

This bug has such looooong legs that I couldn’t fit them in the composition.

Crazy legs.

Wow on these blues and rosy browns.

What was the creator thinking?! It’s just a leaf…such extravagance.

A man-made curve, with nature doing her part to add some color.

October 15, 2011

Photo of the day: 087

Filed under: Uncategorized — paul davis @ 8:23 am

More colored leaves. Dramatic shadow of one on the other.

Evergreen needles coloring outside the lines, shot into the rising sun.

These blue flowers are still making blossoms, so late.

All of these shots so far are from Jim and Madelyn’s yard. How they are still doing flowers, I don’t know.

Nearly full moon last night. From our house, we don’t get that big orange harvest moon thing, because the ridge to the east delays our sighting of it until it is too high in the sky. But as it came over the ridge, I got an interesting artifact: a blue moon refracting inside the lens.

Another interesting lighting accident: 1.5 second wide-angle exposure toward neighbor’s house, with car approaching from right. I was kind of hoping the shutter would stay open long enough for the car’s headlights to streak across the frame, but it closed just before the car itself came into the frame. That left the glow of the headlights lighting up the road and the mailboxes. The intensity of the headlights is strongest at far right because the light first entered there, then advanced across the frame until it dies out to the left. Accidental painting with light.

October 12, 2011

Photo of the day: 086

Filed under: Uncategorized — paul davis @ 9:36 pm

Low sea of fog whispered in at dusk, as if there is a source of fog, a fog pumper somewhere. But really, the fog was just there, and then there was more, and more after that.

Next morning the fog had settled out on the leaves and branches, calming the colors.

The backdrop is green lawn and red leaves, turned to bokeh sherbet.

Same scene, tighter frame. How green and red goes to this creamy yellow is one of the reasons I keep looking through the lens.

I’m starting to like fall colors as much as spring.

Not as many spider webs. Where did they go?


October 10, 2011

Photo of the day: 085

Filed under: Uncategorized — paul davis @ 10:29 am

There’s a maple in our yard I’ve been keeping my eye on. It turned red ahead of all the others, and I’ve been waiting only for the wind to ease, hoping the leaves would still be there. Yesterday I gave up on calm and moved to make virtue out of chaos. It’s the chaos of tiny depth of field applied to randomly moving objects, so inconsequential chaos, but still.

I’m starting off with one in which some parts moved accidentally into focus, rather than out. Photographers who know what they are doing call this method, “Spray and pray.” I do that a lot.

What we’re talking about is movement, color, blur, smear, big shapes.

And sometimes just a color study.

Shooting into the rising sun.

A little composition…

…accidental composition…fun shapes, though, and strange color juxtaposition.

Variations on orange.

Just making stuff up now.

Even dying leaves cast shadows.

Decay into dark blue.

You have to be in a sort of mood to like this sort of thing. Not everyone sort of is.

Some like a little more breathing space.

A sort of glow.

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