Sometimes abstract just makes sense


I forget sometimes not all photographs have to be of “something” in order to be interesting.  Shapes alone can intrigue the viewer, revealing positive as well as negative space.  The unusual begs a longer glance, a lingering view to bring context and realization.  Repeating patterns, small and large, offer a sense of rhythm, implying an underlying order and meaning.  Do we look to understand or simply to wonder?

Frank Lloyd Wright church

We are fans of the organic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, the way his designs fit and compliment the setting where they are constructed.  Although known for his design of residences and offices, Wright did design several churches.  One of the more interesting designs is near Milwaukee and we were fortunate this past weekend to have the opportunity to tour and hear about it..


This is the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, one of the last designs Wright created before his death.  Although a seemingly odd look for a church, it is faithful to Orthodox symbols – the dome and cross.


The floor of the church is in the shape of a cross.  From the back this image looks to the altar, the vertical section.  From side to side in the image is the horizontal of the cross.  Covering this is the dome.


Wright enjoyed playing with shape to create spaces that draw your eyes from small spaces to larger ones.  Sitting in the lower part of the church you feel intimate.  Coming to the upper part you get the full sense of the space under the dome.  The upper area can seat twice the number of people as the lower, but you don’t realize that until you take the spiral stairs to the upper area.  The light pipes just under the edge of the dome spread the outside light across the ceiling, creating a vista that gives a sense of expansive sky.


Typical of Wright designed buildings, all details were carefully created by him to fit into the overall sense of place.  These light fixtures in the lower level mimic the cross design in an inverted dome.


In the arches supporting the dome, open spaces intended to bring in outside light, there are stained glass representations of religious figures.

We’ve visited several of Wright’s buildings around the country, including his two residences in Wisconsin and Arizona.  The most interesting thing about walking through a Wright structure is the modern and yet timeless aspects of it, regardless of its age.  This church was completed in 1961, a fairly new building of this type.  Yet it could have been erected last week and in another 50 years will probably still feel that way.

It’s great to see genius manifested.

Wintery weather

There are more cloudy days in a year around here than sunny, making photography interesting if you’re into bright colors and blue skies.  So you take what you get.  And in winter that means shapes, forms, composition and tones.

Dark and light make up the winter world.  Nature provides the edges, defining one part of the world from another.  And the edges change.  You can go back to the same place every day and find something new.

Water’s relationship to winter is always fascinating.  Moving it creates surfaces and borders that wax and wane as solid fights liquid for supremacy, always with temperature as an ally for one or the other.  The flowing stream supplies a source of freezing material at the shore, gradually building up a new edge that is then eroded away by the moving water.  Today a solid sheet stretching from the ground over the creek, tomorrow a sinuous knife edge being sharpened each moment by its liquid parent.


The frozen lake, until recently a source of nourishment for the trees on the edge, now a surface holding back its liquid from the bare branches.  The white frame of the sky and ice surrounding the tendrils of limbs waiting for the thaw.


What’s by the road?


I was reading a comment by a photographer who said much of his work represented scenes he caught out of the corner of his eye while driving around.  It appealed to me and how I behave while out with my camera.  As much as I would like to have a destination in mind and a composition waiting for me there, much of my outdoor photography is just driving around.  Looking for interesting things, objects, scenes.  Places where I can stop, get out and wander around, working the scene that had caught my attention.

Usually it’s simple things, not grand landscapes.  After some shooting – getting the muscle memory going again – I start looking.  And then I really start seeing.  What is the relationship among the objects?  What is the light doing to them?  What are the shadows telling me?

I enjoy taking time to really see things we generally drive by and ignore.  The textures of nature affected by man’s action.  The symmetry, intentional and not, of how the land is used and what it produces.  The way we make the land into our own.

Computer, well done

You know how we make fun of the accuracy of information found on the web?  Recently I got caught up in a thing that ultimately surprised me while increasing my appreciation for people out there with too much time on their hands.

My Macbook Pro (2008 model) just conked out on me one evening.  One minute it was working, the next – dead.  I tried all the reset procedures I could find online but nothing seemed to give it the urge to recover.  Finally took it to the Genius Bar at the local Apple store and a really nice young lady ran it through some of their diagnostics and offered an answer.  The logic board is probably gone.  That was the bad news; the good news is the hard drive was intact and operating, and she showed me a way to off-load all my data to an external drive without having the logic board actually function.

So, I have my data but a non-operational laptop.  Do I buy a new one (well, a newer refurbished one), get this one fixed (expensive) or just give up having a laptop (my photo processing done in my Mac Pro desktop)?  I decided to browse some sites to see how other people dealt with this quandary.

The consensus seemed to be bake the logic board in an oven.

Yes, the first site where I read that was met with chuckles.  Then it started showing up on other sites, actual Mac sites I respect.  And it seemed several people had performed this culinary/computer operation with success.  And there were a couple of really nice descriptions (with pictures!) of how to disassemble this model Macbook Pro in order to remove the logic board.  Who knew people were taking their laptops apart and bragging about it online?

Really, what did I have to lose?  I’ve always enjoyed seeing what’s inside stuff and it might just fix my problem.

Which it did.  Yes, I now have a recovered Macbook that runs just like it did before.  Crazy, I know, but one explanation seems to make sense.

Laptops go through significant thermal cycles, with the innards getting hot, then cooling down, then getting hot again.  Those little fans you hear running apparently don’t actually move enough air to cool down the insides, just enough to keep it from setting your lap on fire.  As a result of all this thermal cycling (and tossing the laptop around from desk to backpack to countertop, etc.) the solder joints on the chips can get brittle and actually separate.  With this the chips lose connection to important parts of the computer and it just shuts down.  Yeah, that sort of sounds like it makes sense.  But what about the baking thing?

Putting the logic board in an oven for a brief time softens the solder just enough to fill in any cracks interfering with the connection and returns it to a more flexible state.  The key is apparently exposing it to just enough heat to soften the solder and then letting it cool undisturbed so the solder solidifies in place without spreading between connections and causing a short-circuit.

So, it works and I add my happy voice to all those other brave souls who have dismantled their Macbooks and baked the insides.

One caveat mentioned is this fix probably won’t last forever, meaning another baking session or complete breakdown of the board.  Still, I’m getting a little more life out of it and I’ve learned one of those cool internet things – one you simply have to try to believe.