"A Sense of Wonder at the Fire Raining Down from the Sky"The fireworks happen every year, and are always pretty much the same, but we're transfixed anyhow. To give some idea of how motionless these people were at the Shorewood Hills fireworks -- this is a 30-second time exposure and scarcely anyone moved at all.
Note: Click on map location and zoom in on satellite view to see location where photo was shot. Also, see my blog Letter from Here.(Madison Guy)
"Rediscovering Photography with My Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 Lens"View Large On Black
I finally broke down and bought the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 prime lens, and spent some time this afternoon rediscovering photography with it along the lake in Wingra Park. Many younger photographers grew up using nothing but a zoom lens, and so using a fixed focal length prime usually takes a period of adjustment and getting used to zooming with your feet instead of your hand. But I made photographs for years with a 50mm before I ever touched a zoom (because, among other things, most of the early zooms were god-awful or cost a fortune if they weren't).
Over the years, I drifted away from using prime lenses, mostly because the stuff I occasionally shot for work required the flexibility of a zoom. But putting this lens on the camera was like putting on an old shoe. It felt really comfortable and familiar (even though it's closer to shooting with an 85mm on a film camera than a 50mm). It reawakened instincts that had lain dormant for years -- composing carefully, as if it mattered; the footwork dance that somehow puts you in a direct physical relationship with your subject the way a zoom never does; thinking about the basic elements of photography such as aperture, shutter speed and depth of field. Using the depth of field preview. I had a ball.
This photograph doesn't necessarily illustrate anything unique to the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8, although it hints at its legendary sharpness and crisp colors. In fact, it probably says more about the Nikon D90's "Vivid" saturation setting than the lens I shot it with. But it does capture some of the excitement I felt on a sunny afternoon, rediscovering photography by going back to my roots and shooting the way I did a long time ago.
"December Rain on State Street"Some things are just so miserable when experienced that it's hard to see the beauty at the time. The freezing rain and high winds on a Sunday afternoon and evening in December resulted in many beautiful scenes -- if you're a camera, or maybe even the weatherproof "Forward" statue on the State Street corner of the Square. For humans, not so much, though the intrepid bicyclist seems to be managing. Me, I just clicked off a quick series from under my umbrella and hoped for the best -- and that not too much rain would blow onto my camera.(Madison Guy)
"Mushroom Cloud East of Madison"I had to pull into the Edgewood College parking lot to get a clear field of view for my iPhone. It was as if a hydrogen bomb had gone off in the distance -- and, energywise, it had. To give you some idea of the scale of this thunderhead, it was about 20 miles east of the city when the photo was taken. There's a lot of energy packed into the intensely hot, humid weather we've been having. A typical thunderstorm has about the same amount of energy as a small H-bomb. It just doesn't release it all at once.(Madison Guy)
"Summer Solstice, Belatedly"9.26.09 Update: I've moved up this old photo of mine to illustrate a blog post about the proposed $16-million in public money for tax incremental financing to support the proposed Edgewater Hotel expansion: Madison flirts with the Edifice Complex again.
Finally found the old photo I wanted to post back in June. Better late than never, maybe summer will decide to hang around a little longer. Watching the sun go down over Lake Mendota with a couple of margaritas from the Edgewater Hotel pier, Madison, WI.(Madison Guy)
"Beauty, Unfathomable Loss and the Beginning of the Forever War"I'm sitting here tonight thinking about the World Trade Center, the events of 9/11, what we lost then, and our continuing losses in the years since. The image is adapted from a now faded color photograph I took at twilight from the Staten Island Ferry in the Bicentennial summer of 1976. My color photo was pretty, but pretty is not what I think of today when I think of the World Trade Center. The twin towers haunt us now, and I was trying to evoke some of that, along with a sense of the way they both loomed and glowed in the night sky over Manhattan, two dark obelisks draped in pearls.
They were not much loved by New Yorkers when they first went up. When T and I lived there in the sixties, the towers were just a dream in the minds of David and Nelson Rockefeller -- and that's what New Yorkers mockingly called them at first. We were unhappy, too -- T had worked not far from there, and mourned the thriving neighborhood near her office that was demolished to build these monuments to Rockefeller pride. But by the time of our Bicentennial visit, the transformation was well under way, aided by the tightrope poetry of Philippe Petit and the embattled city's quest for civic pride in the "Ford to New York City: Drop Dead" years of financial crisis. I wrote about that last year in my blog Letter from Here, reflecting on Petit's walk as a symbol of both the New York spirit and all that we have lost since 9/11.
The World Trade Center was the last place in the city T and I and our daughter visited during another trip in 1980. We took those amazing elevators -- which it's impossible to recall now without thinking of what they became later -- to the rooftop observation deck, where we watched the sun set on on one of the world's great cities, lights twinkling in the lengthening shadows far below. We ate dinner at the other Windows on the World, the less expensive one in the basement, adjacent to the subway arcade, before driving out through the Holland Tunnel on the first leg of our drive back to Madison.
Six years ago, I was about to leave on a business trip to Milwaukee with several coworkers. I had heard something about a commuter plane crashing into one of the towers on the radio and called T to tell her to turn on the TV. She did, and at that moment the second plane hit. She saw the towers fall in real time, while I saw them in my mind's eye, driving through the Wisconsin countryside. I'll never forget how supernaturally beautiful it was that morning. We passed what I thought were several white swans drifting lazily in a farm pond, though perhaps they were only domestic geese -- and at that moment the woman on the radio who was providing a running narrative off the news wire started sobbing as she described the collapse of the first tower unfolding before her eyes on a studio monitor. She couldn't believe her eyes, and we couldn't believe our ears. It didn't seem possible. We arrived stunned at our meeting, and everyone sat and watched the towers collapsing, over and over.
Now, looking back, I don't know which I find the more unbelievable -- the events of 9/11, or the events since then. In the aftermath of the attack on the WTC, there was a vast, worldwide outpouring of goodwill toward America. "We are all Americans now," wrote Le Monde. We squandered that. We took our eye off the ball, let Osama Bin Laden escape and started a war in Iraq that looks as if it will go on forever, or close to it, despite last fall's election, in which the American people clearly said "Enough!" It's a hard act to follow. What do we do for an encore? Iran?
"East Washington Avenue Bridge 3"Painted in liquid gold by the light of the setting sun: Bridge over the Yahara River with bike and pedestrian paths along the river on both sides, East Washington Avenue at Thornton, Madison, WI. (Pretty nice for ducks, too.)(Madison Guy)
"Channeling Edward Hopper While Driving Home Thanksgiving Eve"Last year I blogged about the appeal to many photographers of the artist Edward Hopper, who in some ways seems like a photographer with a brush, except that he never painted from photos. I wrote of the "dreamlike, incandescent glow of urban alienation set against the encroaching darkness," in in describing one aspect of his work -- the night paintings of people seen through windows who seem isolated even when together. And then last night I almost seemed to be channeling Hopper.