Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Museum & Tangerines

Mabel Watson Payne already knows a lot about elephants and about monkeys from books and zoos, so she was ready to spot them on Tuesday afternoon at the Asian Art Museum. We knew that when we got back for dinner later, her parents would be asking what we had seen, so it was my job to take a few elephant/monkey pictures that would help us to make a good report.

There had been a plan to have our snack in the museum cafe, but in the end we spent too much time looking at things and the cafe was closing by the time we got down there. So instead we had some tangerines on a granite bench out in front of the building. Mabel thought that was great fun, but then that is her singular gift – to make anything and everything into great fun.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Museum & Levis

It was cold outside this afternoon. Mabel Watson Payne and I decided to go to the Asian Art Museum where we could have an adventure out in the world while staying warm. I believe we had just as much fun as at the playground. Mabel wore the Levi's her own mother wore in the 1970s (as documented here), having just grown into them. According to the big leather label above the back pocket, the waist and inseam each measure 13 inches.

At present there are stickers all around the Indian galleries by Pixar artist Sanjay Patel to make people aware of the special Maharaja show down on the main floor. Suddenly I am in a position to notice to what an extent the museum has gone out of its way to make itself welcoming to children, including babies.

Was still using my old camera when chasing this child today. I would not want to try her as a subject with the new camera for the first few times without another adult to help, because I wouldn't have enough attention to divide between her safety and amusement on the one hand and photo settings on the other.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Old Lamp Bases

Here are a couple of modest photographs, details from two 50s lamp bases. I picked them as subjects because I wanted to photograph things with a lot of texture in low light. And I wanted to do this to see if I could apply some of the magic photo balancing conjuration that Tom Upton, the Photo Trainer, explained to me with such clarity yesterday in Palo Alto. So these pictures proved to me that I actually independently could find working balances for the three big adjustments that have to be chosen and set in order to shoot manual photos (ISO, aperture, and shutter speed) – I had not been at all sure that I'd be able to reconstruct the familiarity with the controls that I'd started to feel yesterday.

I asked Tom if serious photographers were taking notes after they shot every frame, because they always knew the shutter speeds and f-stops of every photo they'd ever taken. It must have been a real effort for this guy not to laugh as he patiently explained to me that all that information (and much else besides) is part of the digital file that is your digital photograph. So I give him great credit for not openly making me feel stupid, but I still was far from sure that I'd be able to locate the information when it came to real photos taken by me myself unobserved and unassisted.

Therefore I can report (with some pride) that the dancing lady above was shot at 1/20 of a second with an aperture of f/5 and ISO of 1600. The ceramic rhomboids were shot for 1/2 second with an aperture of f/9 and ISO of 1600. I was trying to make two similar-looking pictures, one with a faster shutter speed and wider aperture, the other with a slower shutter-speed and narrower aperture. I was not afraid to "crank up the ISO" as Mr. PhotoTrainer ardently encouraged.

Ektachrome poem

Coloring Song

I'd like
a life

of cobalt
blue, very

dark, very
deep blue.

What does
this mean,

what does
it mean?

Nothing at
all, nothing

at all.
And you?

from Thread / by Michael Palmer
New York : New Directions, 2011

Blue ektachrome image source is here

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Ektachrome is a brand name owned by Kodak for a range of transparency, still, and motion picture films ... Ektachrome has a distinctive look that became familiar to many readers of National Geographic, which used it extensively for color photographs for decades in settings where Kodachrome was too slow.
I copied this definition from Wikipedia, but it still left me wondering exactly what Ektachrome's "distinctive look" actually looked like. There is, however, a Flickr group exclusively devoted to Ektachrome, and from that source I drew these examples (which I like individually, but am still not persuaded they hang together visually in anything like the same unmistakable way that Kodachrome images do).

This Ektachrome duck is for Mabel Watson Payne, in honor of her partiality at this time in her life for ducks. She has two bath tub ducks, stickers that are ducks, stuffed ducks, ducks printed on socks, a counting card with a duck family, and several books about ducks or including ducks. When she needs to pronounce "tur-tle" she says it slowly and carefully because it is a difficult word to say, but the word "duck" comes out loud and easy.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fully Manual

So, here I am at last doing my puny best to adjust both aperture and shutter speed on the new camera SIMULTANEOUSLY (and thus control both lighting and focus) solely by means of the various buttons and dials provided. Every time I twist or poke something, a fresh array of digital numerals appears. And it is my job to interpret and calibrate these (although their significance remains largely a matter of mystery and guesswork).

But I wouldn't even probably be this ambitious if I were not booked to spend tomorrow afternoon in Palo Alto for the sake of a training session with a real photographer, who will (alas) inevitably expect me to know a great deal more about the digital SLR world than I really do.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Unseen Mabel

A couple of years ago I wrote about a clever publication called Unseen Vogue. It was a coffee table fashion book of shots taken for British Vogue by famous photographers of famous models in gowns by famous couturiers, but none of the pictures had been published at the time they were taken because they were rejected in favor of other shots. Enterprising souls at Conde Nast dug through the archives and put together something great and original out of material that had been sitting around doing nothing for decades.

My analogy is already beginning to wear thin though, because the pictures gathered together here of Mabel Watson Payne at Huntington Park were only rejected yesterday. I chose other shots taken at the same time (Thursday afternoon) in preference to these, and the preferred ones went up last night. But then today I looked again at all these un-preferred ones (equally full of the neon-glowing presence of my angel-granddaughter like some Visiting Fairy from Another & Better Planet). So now here they are and I have done the right thing and I feel better.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

February & Huntington Park

My afternoon visit with Mabel Watson Payne and the Daddy was warm and sunny. Definitely a spring day rather than a winter day and we ventured up to Huntington Park for that reason, because it is so often cold, exposed on its hilltop to many blasts of maritime wind and other chill factors. Mabel was still waking up from her nap in the picture above. But a few minutes later at the playground she had regained her usual passion and purpose.

Every Wednesday Mabel has been going to story time at the public library and borrowing books to bring home. Winding down at home while Daddy made dinner, she showed me this newly borrowed surrealistic one about very clean and sprightly snowmen.

I took along the old camera and not the new camera for this occasion because Chasing The Baby is a more advanced form of photography than I feel absolutely prepared to tackle yet with the new camera.