February 29, 2012

Photo of the day: 128

Filed under: Photo of the day, Photography — paul davis @ 7:54 am

The pampa grass in Jim and Madelyn’s yard fascinates in all seasons. This was first light Saturday, with my head and camera stuck right into the plant, focused with the macro lens on its inner state.

Sunrise over the ridge, easter-egging the sky, diffusing back-lightedly.

If I could dress like this, I would.

If I could work wood as surely as the maker of grass lines these stalks, I would.

Solar flare and delicious gradient–light to dark to light.

A calibration of how hard the light was at sunrise.

Giving up the pampas, I crawl through our front yard. I spotted a goose feather catching backlight. This was on the way to it. Just regular old yard grass.

I guess it’s a day of lined textures and stern shadows.

February 24, 2012

Photo of the day: 127

Filed under: Uncategorized — paul davis @ 4:55 pm

The frosted bejeweled fence last Sunday provoked me to make several exposures, marching up the f-stops to take what was only a hint of “more fence” (in the photo I posted two days ago) to the realm of “yep, lots more fence.” When you look out from our back window the fence seems ephemeral. From this POV you feel the weight of steel hanging, enclosing, preventing, declaring.

An unusual form of solar flare, peeking over the crossbar.

Sun dots, blue marsh.

These two hues will stick with me as the color of Missouri winter.

Backlight might be my favorite light.

There are many things the camera lens does not do as well as the human eye and the image processor behind it–big skies, sunsets, a full moon–and then there are the little things the lens can find that we peeps pass by without notice. My best subjects are less than an inch high.

One of those plants that has been interesting in every season. Soon I’ll discover what its blooms look like in new birth.

These last two are scenes our eye can never sort out. I can’t even look for the image with my naked eye. I have to search through the lens at a wild array of choices, imagine what will happen if only a few of the shapes stand out, then skinny the depth of field until only those shapes are selected. Nine times out of ten I get it wrong.

February 23, 2012

Photo of the day: 126

Filed under: Uncategorized — paul davis @ 7:53 am

Sunday afternoon I was trying to shoot through the surface of water in the drainage ditch, with a strong bright sky throwing down a foiling reflection. I dug out a polarizing filter I bought years ago to try to cut the light glint that comes off the textured brush strokes of Jeanne’s oil paintings. The filter was the wrong diameter for my macro lens, but nestled beside it was a blue filter–don’t know where that came from–maybe my sister-in-law Gail, who gave me a stash of very cool old lenses last summer. On my way to trying the blue filter on the drainage ditch, I passed by our blue spruce. Hmmm. A blue filter makes blue subjects almost white.

These images are straight-out-of-camera, but I always quiver a little when I say that. You can manipulate images infinitely in the camera–in fact your making of photos is nothing but manipulation of images. Choice of focus, depth of field, exposure level, and motion blur are all manipulations, as are framing and perspective. Any digital camera can emphasize one part of the color spectrum over another, as did film before that. The act of walking out the door with the camera is motivated by intent to move, arrange, operate, or control one’s environment, one’s audience, or one’s own inquiet mind.

So I wouldn’t get all uppity about refraining from manipulation “after the fact.” There is no point at which there is a fact, in fact.

The blue filter didn’t help with the water surface. So here I am claiming it as a virtue. If only you had a really bright screen, you’d see a lovely blue overwash in the upper left, then a purple blaze below that, then the blooming ditch scum lit as if from heavens below. That’s what I thought when I was editing it in the Mac lab, anyway. On my laptop, it looks like a drainage ditch with an obscuring reflection–the sort of photo the processing lab used to throw away to spare you embarrassment.

More blue filter effect. Jeanne’s been going on lately about the divinity of the creative process in itself, apart from any product. Her creative process is long–days or weeks. Her product is commensurately long, too–years or decades, for a painting framed, purchased, and hung. My process is over in a flash, if all it is is the aiming of the camera, setting of the dials, and release of the shutter. And my product lasts as long as you look at it here. But I think she’s right. So I include in my process the morning walk to work through deep leaves and slanted light, with no camera in hand……wax eloquent here, you get the point.

One of that pantheon of leaves I have admired and framed while entreed, here entombed–yet still a leaf.

Blue berries turned silver.

“I hear pig found your conscience…resist not…” (Funny pages in the drainage ditch, becoming nourishment.)

And a last strangely decolored stalk of grass, in the wind, “unmanipulated,” for what it’s worth.

February 22, 2012

Photo of the day: 125

Filed under: Uncategorized — paul davis @ 8:14 am

Last weekend in KCMO, the usual haunts at sunset Saturday and daybreak Sunday. These grasses in their tailored stripes dance their own dance. I don’t maneuver them–this one circled without touching, and I circled it without touching. It was outdoors, in a little breeze, with a white plank fence behind it.

It’s two, but seems to be one, until it isn’t.

The shadings and gradations of the backdrop are so fine…they almost make me understand the abstracted arts.

Sunrise was firing us. The frost appears out of the air a few minutes before the sun, it flares its crystals, and turns to lensing drops.

The “us” would be the fence and me.

Our little pond, low three feet through the summer and fall, has resurrected and now overruns.

You almost lose track of the manmade.


The chorus.

Drainage ditch, doing what it does.

They conspire.

Three twinings (man, vine, spider).

February 15, 2012

Photo of the day: 124

Filed under: Uncategorized — paul davis @ 8:10 am

Yellow rose with purple fringes indirectly lit by snow and sky.

Hope you like flowers.

Cuz that’s what we got.

Lots and lots o’ flowers.

Not a huge amount of post processing or lighting gimmickry. On this one I popped a flash directly under the bloom to see if I could get layers of light filtering differentially through the petals. It’s a creamy yellow rose in real life.

The colors on this are straight-out-of-camera. I used a touch of high-pass filter to sharpen the veins on the foreground leaf slightly.

This photo was the first one to come off the camera, looking just like this. I groaned…it was going to be a good day.

And this was the last. No man can fair a curve like this.

Makes you love flowers…or crave potato chips.

I feel I should throw in what was going on outside…in case the estrogen bath is too much for the real men. There: death and dismemberment. You can relax.

Potato chips and sherbet. Still, these are the colors the flower brought to the show.

Roses do have pointy parts.

Running out of stuff to say about translucent riotous feathery hued bursting………..



February 11, 2012

Photo of the day: 123 (One last time to Ohando, Kenya)

Filed under: Uncategorized — paul davis @ 11:18 am

It’s the last of my Ohando, Kenya, photos today.

I said “my photos.” I can’t have meant that. I was there, I looked through the lens, I remember the moment very well. And I see now that the people in these photos have something to communicate–I can see it, I “captured” that moment, I play some part. But I don’t know the smallest part of what they communicate. And I surely own no part of it.

They look away.

February 10, 2012

Photo of the day: 122

Filed under: Uncategorized — paul davis @ 7:43 am

Two days after the ice fog I was at a friend’s house for dinner. Anticipating sunset, I arrived early, knocked faintly on the front door, then grabbed my camera and headed for the fencerow. Good light can’t be spent in greetings.

At the golden hour the air dances with light. Looking through the lens I forget to breathe.

There’s a whistle that blows over the town of Lamoni at 7, noon, and 6. It has done so all of my life, twenty something years of it lived under that horn. A whistle that blows three times a day, every day, is certainly a semaphore. It denotes. It has meaning, of ritual if nothing else. And I don’t know what the meaning of this particular semaphore is. I haven’t asked, haven’t thought to ask. Does anyone talk about it? Has there been a conversation about why 7, noon, and 6? The times have changed in 53 years, but not these times. Surely some body talks about it, decides that these are still the right times, at least. Does this body know what the horn means? Does it mean the same thing it always has meant? Is it important that we be informed?

A blast furnace of a sunset, a moon a day before full, they signal, too. No body decides when to raise them, no body has conferred on the meaning they wish to send.

It’s up to us, who stand under the sign, to decide.

The barbs are newer on this fence, the steel still sharp.

The posts go nicely to rust, though.

The grass grows through, finds its way through steel. The grass will win.

The light’s going the other way in this one–it’s behind me. Changes everything.


And the other direction again.

Another shot where the colors of the fence are the colors of the air.

Photo of the day: 121

Filed under: Uncategorized — paul davis @ 7:00 am

The moon one day before full. I was walking home from my office at the library and turned back to see the moon about a half hour past what would have been a gorgeous shot.

I used it anyway, in lamentation.

The reason I had my camera in hand that evening was that the morning had been full of ice fog crystals. I left my house at 7 to walk the ten minutes to the campus, ran back for the camera, then ran back twice more for lens changes. Ten minutes became an hour, and a thrifty hour at that. If I’d had a tripod I could have made some nice deep crystal exposures.

Had to settle for longer shots. Pattern. Mood.


Close as I could get–the macro lens opens only to f2.8, and the light was really low, so everything I tried with it I threw away. My 50 opens to f1.4, which is four times as much light as 2.8. There’s a reason why people pay four times as much money for a lens with only two-thirds of an f-stop more. A Nikon 85 f1.8=$425, 85 1.4=$1850.

One last shot from the walk home that evening. The colors in the fence post are present exactly in the air around the fence post. Love it when that happens.

February 8, 2012

Photo of the day: 120 (More Ohando, Kenya)

Filed under: Uncategorized — paul davis @ 12:02 pm

In my journal for the trip to Kisumu and Ohando, I wrote, “There were about 75 people in the small brick, tin-roofed building. Four or five women spent the morning preparing lunch of ugali (nshima), rice, beans, and chicken for the crowd. They cooked over two open wood fires on the floor of an adjoining building, bent 170 degrees at the waist to stir and chop in pans on the floor. Wood smoke billowed out the windows and under the eaves. When you see these photos, you are going to understand that this is a meal you eat gratefully.”

That’s the ugali (what it’s called depends on the country you’re in–in other places it’s nshima) in the big loaves. It’s ground maize and water, paddled into toothsomeness. You pull off a chunk, form it into a spoon-like shape, and use it to dish whatever else you’re eating into your mouth. I like it.

The lady in the background is holding the nshima paddle. You need to know that I reduced the smokiness of these pictures about threefold in Photoshop, so you could make out some detail.

The dog wandered into the kitchen, to the comment of no one. There’s a funny spot of light on the cook’s backside, raying through a hole in the roof.

Do you see that she’s soaked through her blouse with the effort?

Lunch is ready to be served.

Smoke rolled out the windows all morning.

Meanwhile, in the classroom next door, light filtered in through the open doors and windows.

There were women and men in the classes in about equal number, almost exclusively on opposite sides of the aisle.

This lady was one of the few who sat on the men’s side–the right.

…which might have given her a headache.

Another exception.

And a third.

While outside the grandmas were holding babies.

Or fetching things down the path.

Or managing operations under the tree.

February 7, 2012

Photo of the day: 119 (Ohando)

Filed under: Uncategorized — paul davis @ 8:07 am

Continuing the looking directly into the lens theme, from Ohando, Kenya.

The grasp of his little brother makes a difference in how you read his face, doesn’t it?

What you need to know is that these people were cracking up at every moment as they were assembling for their somber portrait.

I never tired of the standing-at-attention-for-the-photo moment.

…and the ensuing run-to-catch-your-sisters.

Another lady who slayed me with her laughter.

I wasn’t short of words this morning…but the eloquence of the people in these photos…

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