What you see is…what?

Speed makes all the difference

So they say seeing is believing.  But seeing what?  We want to believe the nature of reality is that it is perceiveable, that we can look out and see what is really there.  But what is really there?

The one dimension we think is unseeable is time.  The other three make themselves obvious with any three dimensional object, but time is perceived as the now, a unitary thing.  We can’t “see” the past or future, we simply see NOW.

Unless we have a camera.  Two shots above, one taken at 1/8th of a second, the other at 1/640th of a second.  Both of the same subject, within a minute of each other, both a NOW.

Which is the real fountain?  Photography enables us to “see” different versions by freezing time at a moment (or very short duration) and examine what’s happening.  I stared at this fountain for a bit and neither of these images was apparent to me – I saw something in between.  Yet here’s proof of a reality imperceptible to me.  So it must exist.

What else is going on around us that seeing doesn’t reveal?

What lies below

This is one of the highest suspension bridges in the world, Royal Gorge Bridge across the Arkansas River in Colorado.

It’s over 1000 feet from the bridge to the river below.  And what do you put at the bottom of a gorge like this?

A train, of course.  I wanted the motion to show through but also wanted the viewer to be able to read the train name.  Can you feel the wind rushing by?

It’s an interesting geography.  There’s this mountain ridge that has been eroded into a gorge spectacularly deep and narrow.  Yet a few miles in either direction of the bridge the land is relatively flat, as if the mountains just popped up in the middle of a prairie.  The river simply refused to budge so as the mountains rose upward the river cut into them and kept its bed at the same level.

Looking at a topo map of the area and it seems explorers literally had to climb a mountain ridge in order to peer down into the gorge, which is about the same level as the plains they climbed up from.  The West has some really strange landscapes.

And an interesting sense of humor.  Remember the bridge is over 1000 feet above the water?

Sometimes abstract just makes sense

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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..

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Winter colors

Just kidding – right now there are few colors other than the Christmas decorations remaining on the houses and streetlights.  Enough snow has melted to drop the landscape from monochrome to at least light and dark tones.  Weather is three cloudy days for every sunny one as some storm near Alaska keeps churning fronts across the Great Lakes.  I take whatever lighting I can get to practice exposure and composition.

A local park was created from an old limestone quarry and crushing site.  A few walls remain to outline the work structures that once stood on the side of the giant hole in the ground.  The easiest building material was the slabs of limestone being brought out so there are lots of lines and shapes to see, set against the organic background of trees.  A good place to play with shadows, shapes, tones and focus.

The following is a mix of digital and film – can you tell the difference?

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The first image is 4×5 sheet film, Kodak TMax 100, exposed and developed for neutral results.  The other two are digital infrared images, long exposures through a R72 filter and then processed through NIK Silver Efex Pro software.  Each has a unique look to it that appears independent of the source.  If I stare at them long enough I think I see a better gradation across the tones in the film image than the digital but that’s probably artificial due to the differences in processing methods.  The film scan contains much more information than the digital, though, so it will produce a much larger print at the same resolution as the digital.  But who prints anymore?

Structural values

I had the opportunity to visit Battle Creek, Michigan this week.  Yes, home of Kellogg’s, which is a major name throughout the town.  Walking around the city center I found some great architecture.  Two former bank towers that show the solidly built Midwestern message of trust from the early 1900’s in classic Art Deco.  And a romantic inspired train station that moved people across the state from lake to lake.

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Heritage Tower facade

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Heritage Tower

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Battle Creek Tower

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Central Michigan Railroad Depot

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Central Michigan Railroad Depot

High key winter

There’s a small village in our area that sits on the edge of a large lake.  It was a railroad town for a bit, now mostly a lake community.  I photograph around there because the lake is a nice backdrop throughout the seasons.  This time I was playing around with high key B&W images and liked the way a couple of them turned out.  A high key image is one where most of the tones are at or above middle grey.  It’s useful to set a mood or draw focal attention to specific subjects.  For these I found it opened up the shadows nicely to reveal details that might be missed by the viewer.

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These are scanned images from 35mm Kodak T-Max 100 B&W film.  I’m learning to home-process using Kodak’s Xtol developer, which is known for fine grain and dynamic range.  So far I’m liking what it produces.  Winter is a good time to practice high key because you can ignore the really white snow and cloudy skies to focus on the details and tones of just part of the image.