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Doug's bookshelf: read

AntwerpWarsaw BikiniIcelandHow the Soldier Repairs the GramophoneThe Original of LauraBrief Interviews with Hideous Men

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Time Since Reboot

  • 1097 days, 2 hours, 52 minutes, 53 seconds ago

WIR: On-The-Road, Northeast Tennessee

Portfolio Additions

  

Anonymous Post | ISO 6400, 1/160, f/1.4, 24mm | Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED | Crestwood North, Birmingham, AL USA | Feb 12, 2014 19:34 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

By Any Other Name | ISO 400, 1/160, f/8, 105mm | Nikon D800, Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8 | Crestwood North, Birmingham, AL USA | Feb 12, 2014 16:18 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Snow Falling on 53rd Street | ISO 4500, 1/160, f/1.4, 24mm | Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED | Crestwood North, Birmingham, AL USA | Feb 12, 2014 19:31 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

.     .     .

This week’s additions are from 2014’s second Birmingham snow day, and mostly represent some experimentation on my part.  The rose is, I think, a dried bouquet from our wedding.  Having an unplanned afternoon at home, I was playing around with my SB-700 flash.  This was indirectly lit and featured an amber flash filter.  The lens was my treasured little macro, manual focus 105mm that I bought used off of eBay.  The other two are from later than evening when the snow was falling heavily and feature the new 24mm f/1.4.  The street/streetlamp photo was taken from an almost ground level position.  The flakes in front of the lamp make for an interesting effect – and the opportunity to see that street in that condition does not pose itself often.  The “Anonymous Post” picture is the only one I’m somewhat proud of from an artistic point of view.  I love this look, and have taken several portraits of Leslie like this – with the light source directly behind the subject.  Add to that the shallow focus turning the snowflakes into little light points… I really do like how this turned out.  The title is a reference to the ambiguity of this wooden post’s purpose in our front yard.  No idea what it was ever used for.  

.     .     .

This was the first business trip of the year – to extreme northeastern Tennessee.  Not much to look at.  The view from my hotel room was of a funeral home.  My traveling companion was blessed with the vista of the sprawling Eastman chemical plant belching fire and smoke into the air.  (I make fun, but with a longer lens I probably could have gotten some good, industrial photographs from that vantage point.)

The only photographs came from our last day of the trip, where we made the 2-hour commute down to Knoxville for the flight out the following morning.  There’s a little downtown market district that is actually kind of cute and funky.  The Tomato Head and Cafe 4 are establishments I can recommend if you have the misfortune of finding yourself in Knoxville.  

The final phase of my travel-photo-post-and-sync trial run will commence today when I upload the Knoxville shots to the travel laptop, rate them, sync them to the home server, and then download the new library to the main computer tonight or tomorrow.  Editing from the road worked out pretty well.  

This week I’m in the office before heading out to St. Petersburg, FL for business trip number two.  More actual posts to follow, I would expect.  The past week was a little sparse in the ‘do I have anything interesting to say’ department.

Week in Review: Feb 17 – Feb 23, 2014

Portfolio Additions

    

Observatory | ISO 100, 1/80, f/4.5, 24mm | Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED | Griffith Park Observatory, Los Angeles, CA USA | Jan 4, 2014 18:50 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Out & Out | ISO 180, 1/60, f/1.4, 24mm | Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED | Griffith Park Observatory, Los Angeles, CA USA | Jan 4, 2014 19:11 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Los Angeles 1.10 | ISO 100, 1/60, f/1.4, 85mm | Nikon D800, AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF | Westwood Village Memorial Park, Los Angeles, CA USA | Jan 5, 2014 18:29 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

Los Angeles 1.14 | ISO 100, 1/100, f/1.4, 85mm | Nikon D800, AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF | Westwood Village Memorial Park, Los Angeles, CA USA | Jan 5, 2014 18:49 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

McCracken House, 2/12/14 | ISO 6400, 1/100, f/1.4, 24mm | Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED | Crestwood North, Birmingham, AL USA | Feb 12, 2014 19:32 | © DRS 2014, (cc) by-nc-nd

.     .     .

The final Los Angeles photographs.  I told you one was going to be really depressing.  The little airplane toy on the child’s grave got to me a little, but that’s what I need to be on the lookout for – images that move me.  The two from the observatory turned out really well.  I like the symmetry of the building shot.  And there was something that compelled me to take the shallow focus photo of the observation camera pointed out toward the LA sunset.  

Pictures of Alabama houses in the snow are a dime a dozen this year, but I couldn’t help posting at least one.  This was more a proof of concept for me than anything – those concepts being 1) don’t be afraid to shoot in the elements (I bought a $6 ‘camera condom’ from Amazon to keep the majority of my gear dry, but really – I can’t be scared to get out and get the shot in less-than-ideal conditions, within reason), and 2) don’t be afraid to bump up the ISO to get low-light shots.  Low-light capacity has vastly improved in modern digital cameras.  The only illumination here is from streetlamps and the reflections off the snow.  At ISO 6400 there is noticable noise, especially in the sky.  But it isn’t unusable, it doesn’t detract from the image, and it’s much better than not trying to make a picture at all.

G. W. McCracken was the first owner of our house, built between 1927-1930.  Once we complete some planned external renovations this year, I’m going to apply to have it listed on the Jefferson County historical register and make the name official.  Whenever there’s a strange noise in the night, we attribute it to “old Mr. McCracken.”  

.     .     .

Tomorrow I head off to Kingsport, Tennessee for a week.  This will be the first business trip of the year – and I hope to make the time I have to myself in the evenings a little more productive than they’ve been in the past.  The camera will travel with me, along with a couple of lenses, the light laptop, and a few books.  I’m bad about zoning out and browsing the internet in my hotel room after a working day.  What I would like to do is use that time to be MORE productive than I am at home due to there being fewer distractions.  We shall see.  

All Secrets Sleep in Winter Clothes

I almost didn’t make it to the show of the season.  If not for Leslie noticing a friend’s facebook status and asking “hey – is the Neutral Milk Hotel show tonight?” I would have completely forgotten about it.  It has been a busy few weeks.  To miss this show, however, would have been a disaster.  Thankfully, we had enough time to finish our meal, run home and let the dogs out, and make it to Iron City as the doors were opening.  Grabbed a spot at the side of the stage where I had a level, clear view of the performance, leaned against the barrier, watched the people crowd into the sold-out theatre, and took in the opening act – fellow Elephant 6 artists, Elf Power.  Neutral Milk Hotel probably went on about 9:30 or so and played for a good 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

It’s difficult to convey how meaningful this show was to those of us who are familiar with and treasure Jeff Mangum’s music.  My wife stood by and observed, and could tell that people were very into what they were hearing, but she had no frame of reference.  To try and write about it in a way that would make the significance understood to someone who hadn’t spent the last fifteen years listening to NMH is a futile exercise.  The band name is ridiculous, and their definitive work is an Anne Frank themed concept album full of brassy, carnival-esque instrumentation and surreal, nonsensical lyrics.  How do you explain that to someone and have them not look at you like you’ve lost your mind and/or all musical taste?

There is not a way to do that, because the appeal is not a universal appeal.  It is personal.  All I can attempt to do (and I will only do it here, and very briefly, because it is pointless) is explain what it meant and means to me.  That at the tail end of the 1990’s and into the early 2000’s my musical tastes were expanding into new territories.  It was a time of long nighttime drives, alone, with music blaring on the radio for hours.  It was a time of private uncertainty.  Tragedies, some enormous and some extremely trivial.  Abrupt changes of life’s direction.  Intense longing; sometimes intense loneliness.  For some reason, that was the time that was the most influential on who I am now.  For better or worse.  And the only reason I mention any of this now is that during that time there was a soundtrack, and part of that soundtrack was Neutral Milk Hotel.

Jeff Mangum wrote and released two albums worth of material – On Avery Island and In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.  Then Jeff disappeared.  (Slate had a great article in 2008 about the reasons behind Jeff’s breakdown and withdrawal from performing and recording… well worth a read.)  For nearly fifteen years, fans of his music were left to ponder the fact that they likely had as good a chance to hear John Lennon performing “Imagine” live at Radio City Music Hall as they did to hear Neutral Milk Hotel play again – let alone release any new material.  And so in their, and in my, radios, cd and mp3 players, Aeroplane spun over and over again.

There are very few albums that I’m willing to call “perfect” – records that you can just drop the needle anywhere and be blown away by the music, the lyrics, the originality, etc, etc.  In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is one of those albums.  Somehow the dark, deeply plaintive, unsettling vocals and the rollicking, almost recklessly amateurish rush of melody and noise, works – it all just works, and it is infectiously sing-along-able.  And it is all there is.  AeroplaneOn Avery Island, a couple of EPs and some b-quality live recordings are all we had for years upon years.  And what was meaningful and deep and/or fun became nostalgia – a reminder of a time gone by and ourselves as we were once.

And so, anyway, if you don’t have that perspective there’s no record or show review in the world that can impart those feelings to you.  But that made last night’s show meaningful too.  The damn thing sold out back in May in less than an hour.  A whole theatre space filled with people – my aging Gen X demographic, for the most part – who felt the same way about the band and about Jeff’s music as I did.  Who were here to experience something that we thought we’d never get to see in person:  Jeff Mangum, who for some reason decided he was ready to play some shows again, on stage playing songs we all knew by heart.  I quipped last night that it was like a religious experience.  That’s hyperbolic, but take a packed house dancing, cheering, and singing every word of every song at the top of their lungs along with the band they’ve been spinning for a decade and a half to themselves, and how would you describe it?  For a couple of hours, we were getting to experience a dialogue rather than a one-sided, closed conversation.  It was fantastic.

Jeff’s voice is as strong as it ever was (and it was the only way to tell it was really him – because he’s sporting shaggy hair and a beard that falls about mid-chest; he looks the part of someone who’s been in hiding for years), and the band was energetic and spot-on.  They played Aeroplane almost in its entirety (even the instrumentals, which were perfect… I think the only song they didn’t play was “Communist’s Daughter”).  The rest of the set was from Avery Island and a couple of b-side and EP tracks.  They closed the encore with “Engine.”  My longtime favorite song, “Holland, 1945,” was the second song of the night, but I think my favorite performance of the evening was “Oh, Comely.”  Jeff played and sang it mostly solo, and when he hit the chorus he had a couple thousand backing vocalists keeping perfect time with him.  There was something about that that was just amazing.  The crowd was stellar.  No catcalls or drunkenly yelled requests.  The only yelling from the audience were smatterings of “thank you” and “we missed you.”

Indeed.  Now is it too much to hope for Jeff getting the itch to write a new record?  Nah.  For now, this is enough.  I’m glad my wife checked her phone last night.  I would have been crushed had I missed out on this one.

PVP#6: Remainders

Thank you for your attention.  Much more to come.

Lamp Softly

ISO 800, 1/60 sec @ f/4.0, 50mm
Nikon D90  |  AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D
53rd Street South – Birmingham, Alabama USA 
November 2, 2009  11:35 PM 
© DRS 2013,
(CC) by-nc-nd

Staring

ISO 400, 1/1600 sec @ f/5.6, 150mm
Nikon D90  |  AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II 
Destin Harbor – Destin, Florida USA 
February 7, 2010  11:54 AM
© DRS 2013,
(cc) by-nc-nd

Triptych

ISO 800, 1/500 sec @ f/5.6, 200mm
Nikon D90  |  AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II 
The Fly – New Orleans, Louisiana USA 
January 8, 2012  5:16 PM
© DRS 2013,
(cc) by-nc-nd

Caribbean

ISO 200, 1/200 sec @ f/14, 18mm
Nikon D90  |  AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II 
Seven Mile Beach – Negril, Jamaica 
June 12, 2012  9:00 AM
© DRS 2013,
(cc) by-nc-nd

Blsm2

ISO 100, 1/2000 sec @ f/2.8, 105mm
Nikon D800  |  Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8 
University of South Carolina – Columbia, South Carolina USA
March 14, 2013  12:40 PM
© DRS 2013,
(cc) by-nc-nd

Wx Delay

ISO 720, 1/60 sec @ f/5.6, 112mm
Nikon D800  |  Nikon AF Zoom-Nikkor 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED 
BHM Shuttlesworth Int’l Airport – Birmingham, Alabama USA
July 21, 2013  5:49 PM
© DRS 2013,
(cc) by-nc-nd

South Southwest

ISO 100, 1/500 sec @ f/5.6, 200mm
Nikon D800  |  Nikon AF Zoom-Nikkor 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED 
BHM Shuttlesworth Int’l Airport – Birmingham, Alabama USA
July 25, 2013  9:30 AM
© DRS 2013,
(cc) by-nc-nd

PVP#5: Nice Pairs

New York:

Walk

ISO 6400, 1/200 sec @ f/5.6, 200mm
Nikon D90  |  AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II 
Times Square – New York, New York USA 
July 4, 2009  11:24 PM
© DRS 2013,
(cc) by-nc-nd

Across the River to the Jersey Side

ISO 200, 1/400 sec @ f/10, 50mm
Nikon D90  |  AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D
Top of the Rock – New York, New York USA 
May 30, 2010  4:31 PM 
© DRS 2013,
(CC) by-nc-nd

From Florida:

Black Creek Interior

ISO 800, 1/30 sec @ f/3.5, 18mm
Nikon D90  |  AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II 
Boathouse – Black Creek, Florida USA
August 15, 2009  5:56 PM
© DRS 2013,
(cc) by-nc-nd

Black Creek Exterior

ISO 280, 1/125 sec @ f/5.6, 18mm
Nikon D90  |  AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II 
Black Creek Lodge – Black Creek, Florida USA 
August 15, 2009  6:24 PM
© DRS 2013,
(cc) by-nc-nd

From Birmingham:

Underpass

ISO 400, 1/100 sec @ f/5.0, 18mm
Nikon D90  |  AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II 
20th Street – Birmingham, Alabama USA 
September 12, 2009  11:35 AM
© DRS 2013,
(cc) by-nc-nd

3rd Avenue North

ISO 1600, 1/20 sec @ f/3.5, 18mm
Nikon D90  |  AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II 
3rd Ave. N. – Birmingham, Alabama USA 
September 26, 2009  9:54 PM
© DRS 2013,
(cc) by-nc-nd

From Albuquerque:

Liftoff

ISO 200, 1/250 sec @ f/8.0, 18mm
Nikon D90  |  AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II 
Balloon Fiesta Park – Albuquerque, New Mexico USA 
October 1, 2011  6:59 AM
© DRS 2013,
(cc) by-nc-nd

Punctuation

ISO 400, 1/400 sec @ f/5.0, 62mm
Nikon D90  |  AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II 
Balloon Fiesta Park – Albuquerque, New Mexico USA
October 1, 2011  6:35 AM
© DRS 2013,
(cc) by-nc-nd

Smooch

ISO 640, 1/60 sec @ f/4.5, 150mm
Nikon D800  |  Sigma 70.0-300.0mm f/4.0-5.6
2nd Ave. N. – Birmingham, Alabama USA
August 10, 2013  5:10 PM
© DRS 2013,
(cc) by-nc-nd