Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Tips for Successful Flower Photography

Now that Spring is here, it's time to start getting shots of all those beautiful flowers and other plants, whether they be in your yard, in the wilderness, or at your local Botanical Gardens.  But before we start talking about how to do it, maybe it would be best to figure out exactly what type of photography you want to do.

Contemporary flower photography demands a pretty good list of gear.  You'll need a tripod, a live-view camera, a macro lens or an extension tube, a remote shutter release, a reflector, focus stacking software, a telephoto lens and a wide angle lens.  But do you really need all this stuff?  The answer lies in what type of pictures you're trying to end up with.  If you're like most photographers, you don't really know that until you start shooting, and you see a few that you like among the hundreds of shots you took.  But I think it's a better idea to at least get a notion of the end result before you even go outside.  That way, you'll save time and aggravation, in addition to ending up with kept shots that are better, and fewer wasted shots.

Most of the aforementioned gear, save the tripod, didn't exist for the first hundred years of photography.  Yet people still took beautiful pictures of beautiful plants and flowers.  Make no mistake, those shots didn't look anything like what you see today on Pinterest or in magazines.

Here's a shot from 1890, from an unknown photographer.  Its color has been added manually, probably within a month of the original shot:
Flowers, 1890
Flowers, 1890

Note how several rules of composition have been followed.  Having the subject slightly offset, using a simple background, and adding foreground interest with a blurred depth of field, were applied back then the same way they are now.

 The coloring gives it away as being vintage, but the subject could be contemporary.  Taking this shot required nothing more expensive than a tripod. (Other than the camera, of course.)

Here's a shot a friend of mine, Greg Schlack, took in 1979, using a standard 50mm lens on a 35mm camera:
Flower and Honeybee, by Greg Schlack
Greg Schlack, 1979
The color is very nice and natural, and it may take your eye a second to notice the oblivious honeybee, concentrating on his business.  Greg took the time to focus on the honeybee, as well as to move the center of the flower to the left third of the frame.  This placement does double duty, as it also allows the focal point to be in the center of the frame, yet still shift the overall interest to one side.

And here's a shot I took a couple of years ago, using the entire list of equipment from above:
I tried to accomplish some interesting lighting, but since I was so close I needed to rethink the composition rules for the flower as a whole.  This shot has a very contemporary look, and would be very appropriate for many uses.

But it may not be the type of shot you're going for.  The point is, you can go out in the field with a simple camera and some thought, and get shots that are just as good as anyone else could come up with, as long as you have a vision.

Will you be using these shots for wedding invitations that need a vintage look?  You'll be better off going for the vintage look in camera style and composition, rather than just using an Instagram filter.  That is, unless the bride-to-be is looking for "that vintage Instagram thing."

Are you trying to sell them to a magazine?  In that case, get a macro lens and start going crazy.

Now let's get into a few tips.

The Tips, for Real This Time


1. Focus Everything Manually
Using autofocus can get you into some trouble in this context, as the camera most likely won't pick the same place to focus as you would if doing it yourself.  The camera could very well focus on a blade of grass in the foreground, simply because it's trained to focus on the closest object.  Or it may focus on the wrong leaf.  This becomes very critical when shooting flowers, since the depth of field is so shallow, and focus is very hard to see on the LCD screen or through the viewfinder.  Unless you're in complete control, you won't realize your misfortune until you're back home.

Using Live View and zooming the view in all the way will assist you in focusing manually.  If you're outside, the flower will be moving even if you don't feel a breeze.  If it moves too much, use a couple of clothespins with string tied to them.  Clamp the flower stem in the slot of the clothespin so that the stem won't get damaged, and then tie the free end of the string to a more stable plant, or perhaps to a small stake you've brought with you.  Do this with two clothespins in two opposing directions, and the flower will be much more stable.  You've probably already thought of a couple other stabilizing methods, but don't damage the plant just for the sake of your shot.

2.  Remember Composition
Try not to place the flower in the very middle of the shot, unless there's a specific (rare) reason why you would want to.  Generally, the object of interest should be offset one direction or another  If you're only an inch or two away, the entire frame will be filled, as in my shot above.  In that case, you can still compose within those limitations, offsetting the center of the flower, or using light (or shadow) to frame the point of interest.

Most flower shots will be vertical, with a third or so being horizontal.  Let the subject and the intended use dictate how you should shoot.  This may make it more difficult to place the camera, but that's just the price one pays.  You may want to leave some background space above the flower for text on a wedding invitation, or frame a flower vertically that really wanted to be horizontal, leaving a lot of space at the top because you know it's for the cover of a magazine.  If you compose for the final use, the end result, with text over a blurred background for example, will look much better than a picture slapped onto an invitation with text on the blank paper.

Do whatever you want, but know why you're doing it.

For the background, of course it will be out of focus, but it may still be too distracting.  Take some extra supplies to tie back other plants, and think about taking a sheet along, to drape over unwanted things that you can't get rid of.

3.  Why Are You Shooting THIS Flower?
So you've looked over all the flowers and bushes in the location, and here's the one you've settled on.  Why?  And even more importantly, why should the viewer care?  You'll want to highlight that reason so that everyone else will know why this one's so special.  Maybe it's the way two leaves poke out away from the rest.  If so, keep those in focus, and nothing else.  It could be that the stamen look nice at an angle.  Retain that angle when shooting.  And speaking of angle, look around an entire flower before discounting it.  Interesting shapes and shadows peek out when you look from an unusual angle.  Get down on the ground and look up at the flowers, then get up on one knee and look at them at eye level.  Your shots will automatically be more interesting than if you shoot from a standing position.

4.  Take a Reflector
I generally prefer to shoot in a natural lighting environment, but that's not always possible.  Much of the flower may be in shadow, and if you don't have a reflector with you, you would pass over an otherwise great shot.  Don't let the little things deter you - you can put in some lighting by using a small to medium-sized reflector, giving the eye a very interesting focal point when the light appears to come from underneath the flower.  You don't have to use it all the time, but have one with you.

5.  Shoot With Manual Settings.
Obviously this isn't a requirement, if you're just out to have fun, or if you want to shoot two hundred flowers in a day.  In those cases, don't hassle with settings.  You should have the camera do it for you.  But when you're going out specifically to get certain shots, and you want to concentrate on a handful of flowers, you'll be better off if you take full control.  Keep the ISO low, between 50 and 250.  White balance should be at daylight (or shade, if it's overcast), and left there for the whole shoot, so that it will be predictable when you go back for postproduction.  If you're going to do any editing at all with the shot, use RAW instead of (or at least in addition to) JPEG.  You'll have much more leeway before the shot deteriorates.

Experiment with aperture.  Many people will tell you to keep it small by using a large number, like f/22, so that more of the flower is in focus at once.  I tend to go the opposite direction, keeping it wide open by selecting a small f-stop number, like f/4.5.  This will decrease depth of field, making the background more out of focus.  The advantage of doing it this way is that the eye is forced to hone in on one small detail of the flower.  But sometimes this technique requires focus stacking to get more of the subject in focus.  Focus stacking means taking many shots of the same frame, each focused on a different sliver, and then combining them later. 

As before, do it either way, but do it because you decided to for your own reasons.

Now stop reading about it, and get out there and start shooting!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Taking Pictures of 35mm Slides

Many families with members over the age of 35 have 35mm slide collections, some of them quite vast.  To keep these memories from being lost, most people send their slides out for scanning.  In doing so, you have a choice; either pay someone a tremendous amount of money to do it, or do it cheaply and have them sent overseas.  In tackling the Greg Schlack project, I didn't really find either option attractive, as there were more than 8,000 slides in the collection, and even doing it cheaply overseas would have resulted in spending more money than I was comfortable with.

So I did it myself, without a scanner.

To do it, you'll need a decent-quality (12MP or greater DSLR) 35mm digital camera, a 35mm slide projector, a macro lens, a tripod, and a couple of ND filters.  Basically, you just take a picture of each slide.  Big thanks go out to my good friend Dave for forcing me to document the process!  Here's how to do it:

1.  Set up the projector as though you're getting ready to project the slides.  You'll want to be sure the glass lenses between the bulb and the slide are clean, so you might want to clean them before you set up.  A scratch or smudge on one of the internal lenses will show in the final product as a dark blob.  Important note:  If you should happen to touch the bulb, be sure to REMOVE the bulb and clean it with alcohol.  The oils on your fingers (even a tiny amount) will cause the bulb's glass to heat up at a different rate than the clean portion, and will cause a glass blister on the bulb or even an explosion.  Either will burn out the bulb, and they're (relatively) expensive to replace.  I can tell you all that from personal experience.

2.  Remove the projector's front lens.  This procedure varies from projector to projector, but will usually entail either tilting the focus knob up, which releases the lens, or in the case of less-expensive projectors, just rotate the focus knob until it pushes the lens out. 

3.  Using a tripod, position your camera so the macro lens points down the now-empty throat of the projector.  The distance you'll need to use varies with the lens, and could be anywhere between six inches and 18 inches from where the slide will be.  Be sure to get the lens as perpendicular (and not rotated, with relation to the slide!) as you possibly can to the internal mount for the slides.  Having it off-axis will cause you to be in focus on one part of the slide, and out of focus on another part.  You'll be able to see this error easily once you get to a computer (or wherever you're viewing the final result), so just do a few to start. Another sign of failure to be perpendicular is Keystoning, a term from the silent-film projection era when projectors were pointed upwards toward the wall.  The top of the projected image was wider than the bottom.  I suggest mounting your camera normally for ease of use, but you can also mount it upside-down to avoid one extra step later, which is turning your image upside down.  More on that at the end...

3a.  If your lens will focus to a maximum distance of only a few inches while in macro mode, you won't be able to use this method, as the slide will be about five inches inside the projector, and your lens won't be small enough to get inside that assembly.

4.  The projector is bright, bright, bright!  You'll probably need to expose as fast as your camera will allow, though the final settings will depend on your distance from the light source.  I used ISO 100, F16, 1/4000, and still had to have two neutral density filters on the lens to let even less light in.  I set white balance at a little cooler than daylight, but you can adjust it later if you're shooting in RAW, which you should be for this project. 

5.  Before putting the slide tray in place (making sure that inner ring is in place also!), blow air around the slides to remove dust.  You can remove the dust in Photoshop, but doing it for a thousand slides will make you hate your life.  Blow all the way around the tray.  The advantage of the tray is that the compressed air can get around both sides of each slide during the blowing process.  This will blow the dust into the air, so also blow over the top of the tray to try to keep that same dust from settling back into the tray.  Don't go crazy - you can't get rid of all the airborne dust.

6.  Turn the projector on, set the first slide, and work with the camera to get the entire slide in the frame, at the right exposure and focus.  Some macro lenses will be better suited than others, only because of their magnification size.  I suggest using a remote shutter release.  The exposure is super fast, so you won't get a blur if you click the shutter button by hand, but it's possible you may move the camera just a bit when pressing down on the shutter, making your alignment a tad off.  But doing that isn't a requirement, just an option.

7.  Take your first picture, and set the next slide using the projector's control.  Since the projector places the next slide in exactly the same place, you shouldn't need to readjust focus for each slide.  I checked focus about every forty slides, but I'm not sure that was even necessary.  When you've done a handful, stop and take them back to the computer to look at them for dust, Keystoning, and general and off-axis focus.  If you use an image editing program, make a selection around the edges of the visual portion of the image.  Looking at those perfectly straight selection lines will tell you right away if the slide is tilted or Keystoned.  Make your camera/tripod adjustments if necessary, and try a batch again.

When you turn the projector off, make sure to leave the fan going for ten or fifteen minutes afterwards.  It's amazing how much heat builds up inside those things, and the bulb will burn out more quickly if left to cool without the fan.
For me the most time-consuming part was putting them all in carousels, so I abandoned that portion of the idea pretty quickly.  If yours are already there, then that's a huge timesaver.  Having them in carousels will also orient them partially correct for taking their picture.  The projector flips the image horizontally and vertically when projecting, so looking down the projector throat (essentially looking at the projection backwards) will reveal an image that is correctly oriented left-to-right, but is flipped vertically.  This will need to be changed at the computer in one of several ways, but the easiest is to open Windows Explorer, navigate to the directory the images are in, and select them ALL.  Then right-click, and select Rotate Image Clockwise.  (It'll take a few seconds if you have many hundreds of images.)  Then right-click again, and select the same item again.  This will rotate all your images 180 degrees.  You could also mount your camera upside down if you want, and eliminate that step.  But doing that sort of freaks my brain out when shooting, so I'd rather do it later, and use the camera like I'm used to.

Since I abandoned using the carousels, I instead used the Kodak B40 Stack Loader, which allowed me to transfer stacks of slides at once from the metal trays they're stored in.  This was much faster than loading them one by one into a carousel. I picked one up on Ebay for sixteen dollars.

If you've put your vertical slides in vertically for viewing, be aware that those will require a larger area to be photographed, so you'll want to have a compromise zoom amount to get more area than you would otherwise need.  I had all my verticals horizontal, then rotated the images that should have been vertical in a batch on the computer after the whole process was done.

As you can tell, there's some post processing work to be done on each slide, but if you've been careful about your settings, you'll be able to set up an action to do the same thing to every slide, saving you hundreds of hours of work.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

4 Tips for Travel Photography

1.  Go where people aren't.  

You'll have plenty of opportunity to shoot the standard fare that everyone else shoots.  But when you do that, find a spot where people aren't gathering, and get a shot that's fresh.  Look for something no one else is looking at.  Additionally, go to places that are more off the beaten path, to further inject your own signature into your shots.

2.  Go when people aren't.  

Having a person or two in your shot is great, to give a sense of size and scope.  But too many people are a detriment, and waiting for the crowd to thin won't always work.  Instead, go first thing in the morning or at the end of the day.  It's surprising how few people are sightseeing during those times, and you may find that the lighting is better too.  This may seem to fly in the face of something I've written before, about not caring so much about Golden Hour shots.  That advice still stands, and is separate from this advice, because you're using the time of day for two advantages - one for crowd relief, and one for lighting.  If it fits into your schedule, go ahead and do it.  If it doesn't, then turn away from the crowds and find another shot.  Simple.  You're welcome to use the light to your advantage, just don't think you're limited to only that time.

3.  Use a focal length you don't want to use.  

If you were about to shoot long, walk up to the shot instead, look left and right, and come up with something totally different than you anticipated.  If you were going wide, zoom in on something of interest.  This tip is all about shifting your perspective, trying to tell a story you wouldn't have otherwise told.

4.  Shoot life.  

When traveling we tend to concentrate on landscapes and things.  That's great!  But expand yourself into the people who live where you're going, asking them if you can take their picture while they're doing something interesting, like going on about their life.  They'll pretty much always say yes, and you'll have something more personal, that no one else on your Facebook feed will have.  I think you'll find that people will be more interested in your shots as well.

4 Lies They're Telling You About Your Photography!

With the explosion of the power of the Internet, not only is there more advice out there than you could possibly home to read in your lifetime, there will only be even more advice every dingle day.  Ten years from now, you won't even know who to believe, assuming you know that today.  Given those facts, it does seem a tad ironic that I'm going to refute that advice by giving you advice... over the Internet.

It's not my intention to make things confusing for the budding (or experienced) photographer.  The whole point of photography, at least from the perspective of the person behind the lens, is to find something magical, pleasing, or somehow moving.  To take a picture that will be memorable, for whatever reason.  To capture a special moment, and transfer that emotion to the viewer.  So whenever you read something confusing, or something that will make you stop enjoying taking pictures, ignore that piece of advice.  You've got better things to do, like treasuring the moments around you as you explore new places.  If enjoying those moments means you need to put down the camera, or even leave it at home, then do that.  The experience of being in the moment is why you're alive; don't forsake that in favor of a bunch of little pictures.

So here are some ways people are lying to you, trying to get you to fit your pictures into their tiny world:

1.  You should only take pictures during the "golden hour," which is when the sun is just a tiny bit on top of the horizon, either just before sunset, or just after sunrise.

Simply incorrect.  There's no doubt that shots can look wonderful with that light, but it depends on what you're shooting, and the look you're trying to achieve.  For example, the shot below was shot during Golden Hour:

Keystone, copyright Craig Patterson
Keystone at The Edge of Night

 I was trying to catch the lights of nighttime skiing, but still get the detail of the trees, visible only during the day.  As you can see, the shot is a disaster.  There's no contrast, no shadows, and no interest.  Here's another in the same series of ski area shots, this time from Breckenridge:

Breckenridge, copyright Craig Patterson
Breckenridge, 11:00 AM
This one was taken at about 11:00 in the morning on a cloudless day, when there were harsh shadows.  This is easily the most popular shot I've ever taken, with incredible detail, contrast, and smooth lighting even under direct sunshine.  Don't forget that even at Noon in Colorado, the Sun isn't directly overhead even in the middle of Summer, so you don't need to worry about straight overhead lighting.  Your positioning relative to the subject will make much more difference.

Golden Hour is great.  Use it when you can.  But don't ever think the rest of the day (or night) is inferior.

2.  Invest in a set of prime lenses, and zoom with your feet.

This one started because primes will generally give better image quality than zooms.  But modern zoom lenses are so good and so versatile, you simply won't see any difference unless you're printing your images really, really big.  But the larger factor in the demise of this myth is the fact that a shot done at 35mm will look completely different than the same framing at 100mm.  It's beyond my understanding why any photographer would further this ridiculous myth. Let's do an experiment:

Below is a shot of a generic SUV (my current vehicle), shot from about sixty feet away, at 120mm:
 Once I took that shot, I "zoomed with my feet" to about five feet from the car, and shot it again from the same elevation at 24mm:
 You'll notice that the two shots are radically different!  In the first shot the background has been brought into the frame by virtue of the longer lens.  We can also isolate the focus of the subject more effectively with a zoom, which may or may not be desired.  And that's what this boils down to - not that one way is inherently better than the other, but that you will need to decide what distance to pick, based on what you want out of the shot.  The 120mm shot shows the true lines of the car, and makes it fit into its surroundings better.  The 24mm shot gives the car more attitude, and draws your attention to it, even though the car takes up precisely the same width in both shots.

You want to zoom?  Do it.  Walk forward, and get a radically different shot?  Do that.  But the whole point of you making that choice is because you know the shots will be very different.  We can't pretend that walking forward or back is any substitute for zooming.

3.  Pros only use Manual Mode, so You Should Too.

In the studio, sure.  There's no reason to use anything else.  But Very few pros use Manual when doing travel, scenic, or motion shots.  When you're in the wild, conditions vary dramatically and quickly, and you'll rarely have time to experiment, or use the meter.  So instead of going completely Manual, use Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority.  Aperture Priority lets you define the depth of field by setting your own aperture, and then the camera figures out how to achieve ISO and shutter speed within your parameters.  Shutter priority, useful for reducing (or accenting) motion blur, lets you decide what shutter speed to use, and the camera figures out the rest.  Leaving the camera on full automatic (or Program, for Canon users) is often frowned upon because of the reasoning that the camera may guess wrong under certain lighting conditions.  But those exposure guesses would be wrong in both Shutter and Aperture Priority anyway, so if you're more comfortable letting the camera figure it all out, don't be afraid of that either.  You'll miss a few shots, sure.  About 3%.  So stop worrying.

4.  You should only take five lenses and two cameras on your trip.

Yes, I actually read a blog by a respected photographer who said he had lightened his kit to "just" five lenses and two cameras.  When the day comes that you're being paid to fly somewhere and shoot something, you won't need anyone to tell you what gear you need. You'll know what's required for that shoot.  But until that time, take TWO lenses AT THE MOST, and ONE camera.  Your backup camera can be your iPhone, which has a better camera than it has any right to have anyway.  Take a versatile zoom, and maybe a wide-angle.  Or even just the versatile zoom, and then you only have to deal with one lens.  Start concentrating on getting good shots, and you'll have a lot more fun.

Your mental power should be devoted to exploring for shots and enjoying your trip, not hassling with gear or waiting for light that may never come.  You can wait for that light when you're taking a trip specifically for photography.  Until then, learn to find the shot, and your future photographer self will thank you for that experience.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Greg Schlack Project

If you were in a band in Colorado in the 1980's or 1990's, you almost certainly were photographed by Greg Schlack.  If you graduated high school in Boulder during that time, or up until 2010, the chances were pretty good that Greg shot your senior pictures.

Greg lived his entire life in the house he grew up in, so he was always easy to find, and a constant fixture around Boulder for several decades.  He passed away suddenly in 2009, leaving behind a vast array of friends and clients who have missed him, his humor, and his positive disposition, tremendously.

And he left something else as well.

After his death, I was given his lifetime collection of 35mm slides.  These weren't the slides he took for clients.  These were slides he took while on his own adventures, which he had squirreled away haphazardly in shoeboxes, never brought out for anyone to see, save a mere handful of shots that he had enlarged and hung around his home.  In all, there were over 10,000 transparencies, spanning almost forty years.  Greg had begun the research into making the move to digital photography, but never got the opportunity to actually make the transition.  So his entire body of work remained in the analog realm.

What a PORTION of the collection looked like before cataloging. 
Only a handful of boxes were labeled.
I knew something needed to be done with these.  they showed not only Greg's view of life in Colorado (and around the world), but also showed a unique window into other people's lives, and showed the heart of what it was like to live in Colorado in the 70's and 80's.

I spent several weeks sorting the slides chronologically, as that seemed to be the most useful sort.  I then stored them all in slide drawers I bought through EBay, to prevent having them get scratched, dirty, and unorganized, as they had been for so many years already.  It seemed like the next logical step would be to have them sent overseas to be scanned, so I tested a couple of different companies with two hundred slides each.  I felt uncomfortable sending (potentially) so many slides around the world, but local companies would be way out of reach financially.  While not expensive on a per-slide basis, the cost would definitely add up no matter who scanned them.  I bought a scanner and tried scanning them myself, but it was cripplingly time-consuming, using over a minute per slide.  With me not sure how to proceed, the slides sat for several years.

During cataloging
Durango and Silverton RR, circa 1976
During that time, I got the idea to start a Kickstarter campaign to help pay for the scanning, then turn the slides into an experimental film about Greg.  This idea rolled around in my head for quite a while, trying to figure out how best to structure the payouts for backers, particularly regarding whether they would receive stills, copies of the DVD, director's commentary, or a combination of all the above.  Trying to get all this organized in my head before starting the campaign caused me to not start the campaign.

But then recently, while in the middle of a completely separate glass slide restoration project, I happened across a forum post that mentioned a different method of scanning.

It involved these steps:
  1. Get a slide projector and remove the lens.
  2. Using a high-quality digital camera with a macro lens, point the camera down the throat of the projector and take a picture of each slide.
Colorado Plains, 1980
It was so obvious, I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of this previously!  It had some big advantages over using a flatbed, namely quality and speed, and it would be very predictable, since the projector takes care of positioning each slide in exactly the same way.

Off to the races.  I've been able to scan 9500 slides in less than ten days, and since my mother still had our family's slide projector, the only cost was the purchase of a slide stacker, to make the loading process faster.  I had started by loading the carousel trays, which was plenty fast for the shooting process itself, but loading them and unloading them took a great deal of time.  Even though the stacker only holds forty at a time, loading it is so fast that it really doesn't matter whether it holds forty or four hundred.

I'll show more examples in Part II, which I'll post once the film is put together.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Handful of Memories from Union Station

Union Station in Denver recently opened after a three-year renovation project costing $500 million.  The new transportation hub is designed not only to be a center for travelers, but a gathering place for the neighborhood, with shops, a hotel, and restaurants.  The hub currently serves about 15,000 users a day, with that total expected to rise to 200,000 by 2030.

The new facility is impressive, and much of the old facade was retained, keeping a piece of the tradition of the station that's been in place since 1881.  Congratulations are in order to the design and working team for being able to mix the old and new.  Here are a couple of samples of what it used to look like inside:
A Wall Sconce Keeps Watch over the Public Space
A Wall Sconce Keeps Watch over the Public Space.  All of these fixtures are gone now.

The Cavernous Public Space in Union Station (Now home to shops and a common area)
The Cavernous Public Space in Union Station (Now home to shops and a common area)

Inevitably though, many things had to go.  Not least among them was the underground tunnel system that train passengers had used for a hundred years to get to the various lines without having to cross over live tracks.  Here's a view of the tunnels that I have reproduced as a one-of-a-kind aluminum print for a collector in Castle Rock:

Union Station Tunnel, Showing Tracks 2 through 8
Union Station Tunnel, Showing Tracks 2 through 8
Here are a couple more views, looking in the opposite direction:

Tunnel, Looking Toward Street Level
Tunnel, Looking Toward Street Level

Mural in Tunnel, Showing Snow Removal Train on Trestle
Mural in Tunnel, Showing Snow Removal Train on Trestle
The subway tile, deco fixtures and hand-painted mural aren't really in the style that would have been in keeping with the modernization of the building, and there wasn't enough room anyway for the new bus concourse.  Here's how the concourse, in the same space as the train tunnels, looks just before opening:

Bus Concourse (Image courtesy CBS)

If you think this looks like the airport, you're not alone.  People demand space, maneuverability, and convenience.  They don't want to be too distracted by interesting details, or historical items they may have to read to understand.  The new concourse is wonderfully utilitarian, and will be useful for far more than the old tunnel system.

But something of value was still lost.

And more than that was lost as well.  The basement used to house two giant model train layouts, the more interesting of which was built on the site of the old jail underneath the station.  After thirty-plus years of adjustment, building and maintenance, the Platte Valley & Western Model Railroad club had to move out.  Here are two of several hundred pictures I took of the HO scale layout just before dismantling:

Train Layout Detail - Vista Car in Yard
Train Layout Detail - Vista Car in Yard

Train Layout - Diesel Passes Under Trestle
Train Layout - Diesel Passes Under Trestle
I'll be contacting the current stewards of the layout, in hopes of working with them in their new space at White Fence Farms.  I'm hopeful that a collection of these photographs will be available for perusal at White Fence Farms.

Movement is inevitable.  It isn't always progress when that movement occurs, but if we can salvage some of the old in our ceaseless quest for the new, then we have to accept that we've made real progress.

All images copyright Craig Patterson, except where otherwise noted.  All rights reserved.  please contact me if you wish to use these photographs for any purpose whatsoever.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

An Idea for a Christmas Present

You're in trouble!  You need to buy something!

I suggest you slow down for a minute, and do some real thinking about what that person wants.  They've probably told you in some subtle way, though maybe you weren't listening at the time.  Instead of coming up with another bauble to buy from Amazon, why not take a picture for them, and have it framed?

Slow down again.  This won't be a picture of you, or a picture of the other person.  Instead, find something to shoot that will actually mean something to them.  You'll need to go back over some things they've said, or places you've been together, in order to find the clues.  Let me give you an example of something that happened to me, so that you can start to recognize those clues.

The History
My father passed away about 25 years ago, and my mother's been living on her own every since.  (Don't worry, she wouldn't have it any other way!)  She lives in a mountain home with an absolutely wonderful view of the Colorado High Country, and it's the last home she'll ever live in.  I grew up in that home, so I'm quite familiar with the view, and I also know how important it is to her.

Additionally, she misses my dad.  She says she''s often dreamed of the two of them on airplanes, hers just behind his, off to find their next adventure.

Those two observations didn't at first seem to be related.  But in pondering her views of her life and situation, I put together something in my head that I knew I had to shoot.  You can do the same thing.  Go back over some history you have with this person you want to create something for, and distill that history into a couple of important points.  Don't worry, you don't have to ignore the rest of who they are!  You'll have opportunities later to come up with other meaningful remembrances.  For now, just use two, and then come up with a way incorporate them into a single photograph.  It can be literal, but in my case, I constructed my desired photograph from three pictures, creating something that has never existed in real life.  But you don't need to do that!  You can use ONE picture, either somewhere outdoors, or constructed in a little free space in your apartment.  The setting doesn't matter.  What matters is the sentiment and content.

The first picture I used was a view from her house of the mountains.  The second and third were of contrails I saw as as I stood on the deck of her home.  The contrails weren't in the right place in the sky, so I needed to do some postproduction work.

Combining the three gave me this image:

Contrails in Evergreen, Colorado, with Mt. Evans in the background

It shows her and my dad, off on their next adventure as the sun sets, her just a bit behind him.  Believe me, I know this picture doesn't mean much to you, my loyal reader.  It's not supposed to.  It needs to mean something that is specific to its recipient, and I promise you, she cries every time she looks at it on her wall.  At that gave me a Merry Christmas.

Now go out there and start shooting!