Sunday, April 13, 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014

From the Archives

I was going through my old negatives to enter some pictures in a contest, and found some others that didn't make the cut, but still caught my eye.

Here are two:

This is Butch, who worked as Cy Twombly's assistant in Lexington for many years, arranging supplies, generally helping out and even, he says, sometimes preparing the canvases and painting background onto them.  I made the picture in Twombly's studio shortly after the artist died.  Butch kindly allowed me to interview him for a story for WDBJ, when I worked there.  I was strictly forbidden to make pictures of the studio itself, but Butch let me film the interview against one of the walls, and then make some stills of him.

Those marks?  That's paint from the canvas, which was tacked to the wall as Twombly worked.

This is from the same roll of Kodak BW400CN.  (I have had a real love affair with that film, especially when I could afford to get it easily processed at the local WalMart.)  It shows children leaving a summer program -- Kids' University in Buena Vista -- after the final day's show and art display.  It oddly caught my eye as I went through my pictures.  Why?

These were shot with a Leica, probably an M3 (though I didn't keep detailed enough notes) and my 28mm f/2.8.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Come to the Dark Side

Another in the Roanoke landscapes ...

I begin to have some concern that I need to branch out a bit, but I find I am limited by opportunity and time.  I would have to travel some way out of my way in to work to find some other, Roanoke-area landmarks, and I really don't feel like coming in early to use that time.  Also, there's only so many places available (and reasonably lit) at 4 am.

However, as the day goes on, it does become occasionally convenient to have the camera to hand.

Today we had Vikings and ancient Irish on the show.  It all somehow tied in to St. Patrick's Day and the anniversary of a 1,000-year-old battle between the two ... or maybe it was just because both groups were going to be in the parade Saturday.

Anyway, they were admiring each other's weapons, and another one of those moments (the Decisive Moment?) struck while I was in a good position ...

Monday, March 10, 2014

So ... What Up?

Retired Biology Professor Cleve Hickman points out the location of his cabin on an aerial view of House Mountain.
He shot the picture himself after he bought the cabin, some 40 years ago.

I do still need to do the wedding day pictures to go with my other post, but that would be incredibly time consuming.  It's coming, though.

In the meantime, there's this, a picture from a project that is not mine, but that of my wife.  I tagged along to help as she filmed for a documentary on the people who have lived and live now on House Mountain, a significant landmark adjacent to Lexington.

I like to think it has a somewhat National Geographic feel to it.

On another tack, I continue to search for moments and places to do nighttime landscapes of Roanoke as I drive in to work.  This morning I shot this ...

Not as clean, detached and cool as the others I have done, though it does have a kind of "After Midnight" aspect, with the empty cafe table and dark shadows. 

This is how the photographic process works.  There are times when something falls into your lap: Prof. Hickman simply plopped that picture on the table next to his window to see it better, but accidentally placed himself in perfect light and a perfect position for me.  Other times, it just doesn't seem to come together.  You see something, and you work at it, but there isn't that satisfying instant when you look through the lens and say to yourself: "That's it!  That's perfect!  Please don't move."  I think I worked the nighttime image too hard, wanting it to become something I could sense but not capture.

Maybe tomorrow ...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Once Upon A Time

I was in the Soviet Union in 1990, just before its breakup.  We traveled to Moscow and then-Leningrad, as well as Kiev and Odessa.  It was an interesting time (in retrospect, perhaps in the sense of the Chinese proverb).  New, independent political organizations were springing up everywhere, and I had brought a wide range of cameras -- including my broadcast-quality TV camera and gear -- to catch it all.

In Leningrad, we went to the first meeting of Democratic Russia, a new pro-democracy umbrella group, where we spoke with a largely unknown KGB officer turned pro-democracy advocate, Oleg Kalugin.  In Moscow, we met with the young leader of a group who recommended the public simply form a new government regardless of the old, Communist state.  "Well, what about the current government?" we asked.  "What are you going to do about them?"  He waved the thought away dismissively.  "Ignore them."

In Kiev, with Ukraine still a province under the Moscow government, we found a large protest in the city's central square.

Mostly young people and students had taken to camping out there -- driving, as near as I could tell, tent pegs in through the seems between the huge paving blocks to set up shelter.  Fortunately, the fellow working as our translator was friends with the fellow who was "head of security" at the protest, and the rope barrier that contained the massive campsite was lifted to admit us.

I made a number of pictures there, but these are the prints I found the other day in my box of negatives.  I know there's at least one more: a portrait made of a Gulag survivor, wearing a prison uniform, in front of his tent as he spoke with us. 

Later, we visited the offices of Rukh, an early independent political group.  Access to these groups was quite free -- something one finds in times of great change like this.  In later years, as organizations become more formalized and people rise into more official positions of leadership, both in their parties and government, availability becomes more difficult and rare.

The above is a picture of one of the Rukh activists.  It was a time when non-Communist symbols began to come out from under the shadows.  I saw -- and bought -- pins in Moscow with the old (white, blue and red) Russian flag and the double-headed czarist eagle.  This man's belt buckle, he said, was his grandfather's, issued to him by the old, czarist army.

And this, here for no other reason than I like the picture (it was my Christmas card that year), is a scene from a show performed for the benefit of the group I was with at a kindergarten in Odessa.

Everything was shot, if I recall correctly, on a Canon F1 with Tri-X film, except for the picture of the little girl.  That was done with color negative (probably Kodacolor 400).

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


St. Patrick Catholic Church
Lexington, Virginia
2 February 2014

Shot on a Nikon D80 with a 17-55 mm f/2.8 lens, and processed through Photoshop.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


A few posts back, I pondered on how I would photograph a wedding.

First of all, I don't really do that.  Wedding photography, like architectural photography or fine portraiture or any other specialty, is just that: special.  The people who work in that area have developed skills and techniques and reflexes to produce the best possible results.  Now, most reasonably experienced photographers can do any of those things competently, but one should go to the guy who does something all the time -- and is the thing he chose to do -- to get it done right.

All the same, I have done a couple of weddings.  Once, many years ago, it was for an extremely budget-strapped colleague at UPI.  More recently, it was truly the only wedding present I could afford for a friend.

In the end, because she knew who I was and what my work was, I'm pretty proud of the product, as I shot it the way I wanted with the gear I wanted to use ...

Another thing that worked for this was that the subjects were friends, meaning they were used to me shooting all the time, including the dinner on the first night as everyone arrived.

And then there was the rehearsal, in the field at a nature center where the bride worked at the time.

A quiet moment for the bride before practicing the march in.

Flower girls and ring bearer.

And finally that night, the rehearsal dinner at a favorite club of the couple.

NEXT: The Wedding Day, preparation and ceremony.