Monday, December 31, 2007

Year End In St. Louis

2007 has been a good photographic year. I took a terrific week-long workshop in portrait photography, snapped pictures over a good sample of China.and started the St. Louis Daily Photo Blog on March 22. In just over nine months, there have been 293 posts (with a little help from my son and daughter) and had 16,683 visits from 108 countries. The blog has been much more work than I realized at the beginning but it has been a good discipline.

I have enjoyed seeing the excellent work of my colleagues all over the world and thank you for your comments. In 2008, I hope to explore St. Louis more deeply with my camera. There will be travel shots from London, Puerto Rico and, if The Force is with me, Nepal. To end this year, today's picture is an iconic view of downtown with the Arch and Mississippi River. Keep your images coming.

TOMORROW: January Theme day - Picture (or perhaps pictures) of the year. But what year?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Holiday Crowds at the Metropolitan Museum

New York is thrilling but when I try to drive there, I'm often glad I live in St. Louis now. My wife and I drove in on Saturday to see what museums we could hit. There was a 45 minute backup at the Lincoln Tunnel and the huge Port Authority garage on the Manhattan side was full. I drove up 10th Avenue, across the park at 86th Street, and - incroyable! - there was space at the Metropolitan Museum garage. We wanted to see the Age of Rembrandt show so in we went.

The Met is always packed around holidays. I've seen the entry line over two blocks long down 5th Avenue during Christmas week. Not quite that bad yesterday. In the Rembrandt show, the crowd oogled Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer, which smashed all art price records when the Met bought it in 1961.

The man below was sketching in the Greco-Roman sculpture hall when we arrived and still at it when we left. Dedication. And, it appears, life imitating art. Or the other way around.

TOMORROW: Ring out the old, one way or another.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Toward Times Square

Walking back towards the restaurant, where we left some of the group at the bar. This was shot looking down Broadway from W. 55th Street toward Times Square. Even this many blocks to the north, it glows with energy. It is as if I stuck my finger in an amazingly pleasant electric socket.

TOMORROW: Tourists contemplating Aristotle contemplating a bust of Homer

Friday, December 28, 2007

I'm Home

The whole family left my sister's house in New Jersey for dinner in New York Thursday night, a great Cuban restaurant on 8th Avenue near W. 56th Street. After dinner, we walked to Rockefeller Center. This is the main entrance to Radio City Music Hall on 6th Avenue.

It was exhilarating. This city is my native land. I spent my childhood and adolescence here before leaving for college in St. Louis. There is no place like it on earth (right, Olivier?). I am home.

TOMORROW: It might be Brooklyn. It might be Manhattan. I haven't decided yet. Anybody have a preference?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thursday Arch Series

Hi from Ridgewood, New Jersey, in the suburbs of New York City. My sister has a big house so my wife and I, my brother and other sister, with an assortment of young adult kids, are here to party for a few days. Into NYC tonight for dinner, camera at the ready.

For today, we leave you with a Lensbaby photo of the Arch at sunset. This great little toy makes the realit
y of vision ambiguous.

TOMORROW: Change of Plan - Report From The Big Apple

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Broadway to Broadway

A dreamy farewell to Broadway in The Lou for a few days as my wife, Chicago's U "R" Us and I fly Newark today for a get-together of my side of the family in northern New Jersey. There will doubtlessly be expeditions into New York City, cameras blazing and the Lensbaby making the big city even crazier. We hope to meet NYC's Ming the Merciless for photos and food while we're there. The results could be interesting.

TOMORROW: Thursday Arch Series

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Timothy Leary Did Not Spike the Eggnog

Merry Christmas from St. Louis, where the Salvation Army's Tree of Lights lights up Kiener Plaza downtown. All of us in the Strangetastes household wish you a happy and healthy new year, with the vision to see your city in new ways. Having a Lensbaby won't hurt. We look forward to seeing your photographs of towns large and small all around the world.

TOMORROW: Broadway to Broadway

Monday, December 24, 2007


We had our family Christmas dinner and gift exchange on Saturday night because my daughter and her husband left for Houston Sunday to see his family. I must have been good all year and Santa must have checked his list twice because I got a Lensbaby! Lensbabies are crazy special-effects lenses for SLR cameras (film or digital). They are built on a small bellows and have a "sweet spot" of focus in the center, becoming progressively more blurred toward the edges. The tube is flexible, so you can move the sharp zone out of the center of the image, effectively bending the area of focus and distortion. You have to look at their web site to really understand.

I shot this near sunset downtown. Likely many more to come.

TOMORROW: Merry Christmas from St. Louis, with a little optical distortion

Sunday, December 23, 2007


We haven't had a Christmas tree in years and years. For as long as I can remember, we've been in the air or on the road to see family in Kansas or New Jersey on December 26, so why leave the fire hazard at home, dessicating in the dry winter air? We are a close family but not sentimental. (Erma Bombeck said that happiness is when the kids leave home and the dog dies.)

So, can the Tastes family make an arboreal gesture? I went up to Art Hill and took some pictures of Placebo by Roxy Paine, a bare, stainless steel tree beside the art museum. Very elegant, very cool and makes its own twinkling lights. Big family gift exchange and dinner Saturday night before one division splits for Houston to see in-laws on Sunday. Our family is generous but did I score a good one.

TOMORROW: What a great gift for a photographer

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Cold Sculpture

I live in a suburb of St. Louis called Webster Groves. It was incorporated in its present boundaries 113 years ago, so it's old by local standards. Where two main avenues join in a V, a small park contains an unusual sculpture called Back Flip. It was controversial when it was installed. A World War I memorial was there. The city relocated it to another park to restore it and give it a better location, much to the rage of the Daughters of the American Revolution. A lot of people think the sculpture is ugly. I like it a lot. It is cheerful, stimulating, and looks particularly good in white stockings.

TOMORROW: Definitely not a Christmas tree

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thursday Arch Series

Most of my Thursday Arch photos are abstract. A few are scenic. However, the Arch lives in the center of a city and on a very big river. Conditions are not always pleasant. This picture shows the Arch and the levee of the Mississippi on a hard winter day.

The river level is very low, as you can see from the broad area of open pavement and brick. During our great flood of 1989, the water level was three-quarters up the floodwall on the left.

There was freezing rain falling when I took this picture and droplets kept getting on the front of the lens. I used the picture anyway because I thought it added something to the bleak quality of the image.

TOMORROW: There's a penguin on the television! Well, sort of. There is a penguin and it is on something. It won't explode, though.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Polarizing Issues

After shooting the sledders on Art Hill, I walked over to the St. Louis Zoo, a short distance away. It's one of the very best in the United States. The zoo was quiet and covered in snow. It's open every day of the year but there were few visitors on a chilly December afternoon. I hoped that the cold weather animals would come out to play.

There was one lonely polar bear. He or she (I am not an expert in these matters) paced up and down, looking quite forlorn. During the time I watched, the bear became bored and sleepy, eventually setting down in a snow-comforter for a nap. I felt sorry for it. Most of our zoo has been transformed, with animals in spacious areas resembling their natural environments. Not so for this claustrophobic enclosure. No tundra or ice floes anywhere in sight.



TOMORROW: Thursday Arch series (but not the usual kind)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


My reaction to this bit of athleticism on Art Hill was to push the shutter button. My middle-aged reaction time would not let me to dare to snowboard. The young man on the board grabbed some air; I grabbed an image. What I got will last longer. To each their own.

TOMORROW: Sort of a seasonal picture.*

( * Applies only to residents of Northern Hemisphere at latitudes higher than the Tropic of Cancer. Your results may vary.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Gravity + Low Coefficient of Friction + Temperature < O C. = Fun

We got some more snow Saturday night. Sunday dawned colder, cloudless and without wind. By mid-day the temperature was just below freezing, ideal conditions to bring the crowds out to Art Hill for some sliding. Everybody had fun, including the photographers.

By the way, in the second photo yesterday, I was standing at the center of the far end of the water, looking back toward the hill.

TOMORROW: For every action, there is an equal and opposite...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Standing Guard In The Cold

We finally got some snow. At the top of Art Hill, two sentinels keep watch over the sledders below. It wasn't such a great day for sledding. The snow wasn't deep enough to cover the top of all the grass and it turned to drizzle by mid-day.

These two do appear like guards on the hilltop. The thought made me notice something about the statue of St. Louie. He's looking to the left. That's a theme in some Euro-American sculpture, Michaelangelo's David being the best known example. A statue of a heroic figure looks for danger to the left because the right is protected by God. The saint-king's sword in the form of a cross, held in his right hand, takes the idea further. The snowman, not knowing any better, stares straight ahead, searching the horizon for hot chocolate.

TOMORROW: Now That's A Lot Better

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Tum Ta Tum Tum

Okay, I admit we're a little desperate for material after two weeks of damp and gray, plus new dimensions in overwork. But anyway, here's a gee-whiz fact: did you know that Tums, the ubiquitous stomach antacid, is made in downtown St. Louis? The factory is right across the street from the baseball stadium. You might want to stop for a factory tour after nine innings of ballpark food.

We are supposed to get our first significant show of the season from the wee hours on Saturday. If the roads are drivable, I'll be out with my camera, documenting St. Louisans pathetic attempts to cope with winter weather. And maybe a few of them having fun.

TOMORROW: In the cold, they stand guard over St. Louis.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Bad Taste On So Many Levels

Hooters is an American restaurant chain (now in many other countries) that trades on sex and horrible things to put in your mouth. Their motto, "delightfully tacky yet unrefined" may suggest candor but it is all quite cynical. The wait staff, the Hooters Girls, are buxom young women who wear tee shirts and shorts as tight as tight can be and patronize the patrons with Mae West eyelash flutters and blue collar innuendo. (Miss West, by the way, was a philosopher of some note. For example, see here.)

The things they offer to put in your mouth cannot be called food - see both sides of the menu here and here. Their web site doesn't even bother with nutritional information. Even Hardee's, condemned to hell by the American Heart Association, manages that much.

I have eaten at Hooter's only once. This restaurant opened in downtown St. Louis about a year ago. A colleague and I were both at our offices on Saturday morning. The restaurant was having it's shakedown run before an official opening on Monday. A manager was out on the street offering free lunch to passers-by. What could be wrong with free lunch? Everything, maybe. The, uh, girls were as much on display as the burgers and Budweiser. Frankly, it was embarrassing. The fried something-or-other was inedible. We left, and that was enough for this incarnation.

TOMORROW: Tum Ta Tum Yum

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thursday Arch Series

Notice the child's face in the window. He or she is in the Arch's observation deck at the apex, almost 200 m above me on the ground. Fun with telephoto lenses, in this case a Canon EF 100-400 mm f 1.45-5.6 L IS. Geez, that's a lot of numbers and letters just to identify a lens.

TOMORROW: Bad taste on so many levels

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Forest Park In Winter

We have not seen the sun in St. Louis in nearly two weeks. No immediate prospects, either. Fortunately, it has not been very cold. We will get some snow but it's not a big deal here most years.

Gray, leafless December creates its own quiet beauty in Forest Park. Colors are muted and subtle. There are few people and cars in the way of your view. The park is hushed and often quite lovely.

TOMORROW: Thursday Arch series

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Wicked, Wicked City

Wicked is a Broadway show now on its n-th visit to the grandiose Fox Theater in St. Louis. The Fox is reputed to be in a tie with its twin in Detroit as the second largest theater in the US. Radio City Music Hall in NYC is the biggest. Anyway, I hear it's the back story of the witches of Oz before Dorothy and Toto showed up to spoil a good deal. (I am proud that I have a sister-in-law named Dorothy from Kansas, but think of the limited choices of Halloween costume. I am also very proud of the fact that I have a brother-in-law named Melvin on each side of the family. Top that.)

I shot this from a pedestrian bridge over the highway while I was taking yesterday's pictures. The buildings in the background are downtown. The big one on the right is the United States Court House, which obscures the view of the Arch from the highway approaching from the west. Bad idea. The telephone and electric wires are a photographer's bane. These wires are underground downtown and the newer suburbs but up on poles everywhere else. They often blow over in winter ice storms and our summer mega-thunderstorms, cutting off service to hundreds of thousands of people.

I thought about re-shooting this on a sunny afternoon. However, it's been so dreary here for so long I've begun to suspect that I really live in England and should give up hope.

TOMORROW: Winter Park (no, not Colorado)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Demolition Derby

St. Louis is drifting into two years of traffic hell. On January 2, the Missouri Highway department is closing a long stretch of the main east-west highway (US 40 - I 64) between the two principal north-south arteries (I 270 and I 170) for complete rebuilding. A year later, that section will reopen and another stretch, from the inner suburbs to the center of the city proper, will be sealed off for a year of reconstruction. Our city isn't that big and our traffic has never been like that of New York or LA, Tokyo or Shanghai, but this could create bloody chaos. By our standards, anyway.

For mysterious reasons, the Highway Department is replacing many of the bridges over the affected highway before the road is shut down, not during the construction. This weekend, our engineering geniuses closed US 40 - I 64 at Kingshighway, a major north-south boulevard in the city, while they tore down the old overpass. A new one was just finished, right beside it. It was the most colorful thing going on during another day of freezing rain.

By the way, this demolition is just a half mile / 1 km from the site of the ice skating rink in yesterday's post.

TOMORROW: Wicked, Wicked City

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Santa On Skates

Problem: what can you shoot for your blog when there's been a cold drizzle for a week and the city looks like the outside of a haggis? I look through the weekly "What's On" section of our Thursday newspaper for ideas. There it was, in small print at the bottom of a column: Steinberg Skating Rink, Saturday 1 to 3 PM - Skating with Santa. Bingo. Photographer's treasure.

Santa saw me taking pictures and came over to the rail to pose with this beautiful little girl. I got chatting with her mother and Santa himself. They asked for my card (every photographer needs a couple of sets of Moo Cards, great mini-cards with an assortment of your pictures on one side). When he saw my card, Santa told me his last name was the same as mine - a not unheard of Irish surname but not very common (think of an Australian actor). I asked him his first name. Exactly the same as my father's. Creeped me out.
But then I went to a great Hanukkah party last night. It brought me back around.

Steel Jaws Of Destruction

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Cold Center

The Boys of Summer have left. On a wet, cold December day, the crowds wearing red are gone from Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. A lone pedestrian shuffles through the rain. From this point on Clark Avenue, you can almost see down to the playing field, but not quite. You have to pay to do that.

TOMORROW: Santa On Skates! Or, the return of gratuitous cuteness.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Geese Play Through

What do geese do when they don't have the common sense to have flown south by December? They can always go out and shoot a few holes of golf, like this twosome on one of the courses in Forest Park. From my point of view, golfing itself may represent a lack of common sense. Mark Twain described it as "a good walk spoiled." Your opinion may differ.

And speaking of Forest Park, our National Public Radio had a lovely audio postcard on the news Thursday night about Steinberg Skating Rink, one of the largest outdoor rinks in the US. It's been a St. Louis winter landmark for 50 years. You can listen to the story here.

TOMORROW: Cold Center

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thursday Arch Series

It's not all pretty. The Arch is in a city and cities have a hard side. The gray, damp sky of an autumn afternoon is not flattering but the picture shows how the monument dominates our city center. But then there are people in the St, Louis suburbs who never see it except on television. I feel lucky that I get to see it every day.

TOMORROW: Geese Play Through

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

In Memoriam

I was walking around Forest Park in a cold rain last weekend, trying to keep my camera from getting soaked. Near the Grand Basin at the bottom of Art Hill, I came upon a grove of newly-planted flowering trees. I saw that each had a small white card. They indicated that the trees were planted as a memorial to someone. This one reads:

This Forest Pansy Redbud Tree
is dedicated to the memory of
Rebecca June Quiggle
at the request of (five couples named)

Forest Park Forever
Dedicated Fall 2007

Forest Park Forever is the name of the foundation that has raised millions of dollars to restore and improve our city's jewel. There were perhaps a dozen of these young trees in the area.

TOMORROW: Thursday Arch Series

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Dedicated and Free

On a gray, cold autumn day, the Saint Louis Art Museum is a good place to warm your aesthetic senses. It's motto is inscribed in stone over the entrance: Dedicated To Art and Free to All. And it is - it get special tax support and has no admission charge except for special touring exhibits. This banner suggests that it is favored by delicate ladies with very good nutrition.

By the way, that picture of the museum on their home page looks like I might have taken it. I wonder if they owe me something.

TOMORROW: In Memoriam

Monday, December 3, 2007

You Might Be Lost But You Have Good Company

Gizmos-r-us these days, and I love gizmos. Our homes, offices, cars and bodies are loaded with whiz-bang electronic devices. My car came with a navigation system and satellite radio. When I bought it, I wondered if I was ever going to use this stuff. Turns out I use them frequently. Like the nav system: if you know St. Louis, you can figure our that I took this shot while parked in the same block as the downtown White Castle, an auspicious location. I'm a classical music fan and the local radio station of that genre bites, so I love XM Satellite Radio. I cruise down the Interstate listening to favorite opera arias without commercial interruption.

TOMORROW: Dedicated And Free

Sunday, December 2, 2007

From The Cutting Room Floor: Bridges That Didn't Make It, No. 1

I took a number of pictures of bridges around town before thinking of the off beat idea for yesterday's theme day. Let's look at a few while I shoot some new material. This is a foot bridge over a pond in Forest Park in late afternoon.

Early evening update: well, it seems that this idea has gone down like the proverbial lead balloon. I think we'll change tactics, so . . .

TOMORROW: Lost, But In Good Company

Saturday, December 1, 2007

CDPB Monthly Theme Day - Bridges

The staff here at STL CDPB obviously has a problem with authority. We can't follow direct orders, so when theme day rolls around we refuse to take the matter literally. Those of you who have seen some of our previous theme day posts (like October 1, August 1 and July 1) know what we mean.

This month, we have an exciting contest for you. There are three elements of this photo pertaining to the theme of bridges. The first person to post a comment correctly identifying all of them wins a fabulous prize, a print of your choice of any picture from the annals of this blog or our Flickr site, made specially for you on a whiz-bang Epson Stylus Photo R2400 inkjet. Persons related to the photographer by blood or marriage or employed by our advertising or marketing agencies are not eligible. They can have a print any time they want.

Mid-afternoon Saturday update: some commenters have come awfully close but no one has got all three parts exactly right yet.

These City Daily Photo Blogs are trying to cross something to get from one place to another:

Boston (MA), USA - San Diego (CA), USA - Stayton (OR), USA - New York City (NY), USA - Portland (OR), USA - Montego Bay, Jamaica - Inverness (IL), USA - Singapore, Singapore - Stockholm, Sweden - Setúbal, Portugal - Brussels, Belgium - Phoenix (AZ), USA - Seattle (WA), USA - Hyde, UK - Manila, Philippines - Fort Lauderdale (FL), USA - London, England - Austin (TX), USA - Toulouse, France - Weston (FL), USA - Sesimbra, Portugal - Selma (AL), USA - Silver Spring (MD), USA - Saarbrücken, Germany - Cleveland (OH), USA - Crystal Lake (IL), USA - American Fork (UT), USA - Seoul, South Korea - Kyoto, Japan - Tokyo, Japan - Norwich (Norfolk), UK - North Bay (ON), Canada - Arradon, France - Paderborn, Germany - Durban, South Africa - Philadelphia (PA), USA - Cypress (TX), USA - Cottage Grove (MN), USA - Prague, Czech Republic - Portland (OR), USA - Greenville (SC), USA - Boston (MA), USA - Port Angeles (WA), USA - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Wichita (Ks), USA - Saint Paul (MN), USA - Petaling Jaya (Selangor), Malaysia - Grenoble, France - New York City (NY), USA - Nottingham, UK - Hobart (Tasmania), Australia - Arlington (VA), USA - Minneapolis (MN), USA - Miami (FL), USA - Cheltenham, UK - Albuquerque (NM), USA - Saratoga Spgs. (NY), USA - Las Vegas (NV), USA - Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina - Nashville (TN), USA - Toruń, Poland - New Orleans (LA), USA - Port Elizabeth, South Africa - Melbourne, Australia - Moscow, Russia - Trujillo, Peru - Château-Gontier, France - Quincy (MA), USA - Melbourne, Australia - Port Vila, Vanuatu - Joplin (MO), USA - Bellefonte (PA), USA - Brookville (OH), USA - Chateaubriant, France - Chandler (AZ), USA - Stavanger, Norway - Baziège, France - Auckland, New Zealand - Wellington, New Zealand - Ocean Township (NJ), USA - Subang Jaya (Selangor), Malaysia - Detroit (MI), USA - Riga, Latvia - Nelson, New Zealand - Budapest, Hungary - Cape Town, South Africa - Sydney, Australia - Dunedin (FL), USA - Sofia, Bulgaria - Radonvilliers, France - Turin, Italy - Montpellier, France - Kansas City (MO), USA - Minneapolis (MN), USA - Haninge, Sweden - Wailea (HI), USA - Lubbock (TX), USA - Rabaul, Papua New Guinea - Terrell (TX), USA - Mexico City, Mexico - Saint-Petersburg, Russian Federation - Budapest, Hungary - Montréal (QC), Canada - Sharon (CT), USA - Le Guilvinec, France - Jefferson City (MO), USA - Saigon, Vietnam - London, UK - Crepy-en-Valois, France - Orlando (FL), USA - Maple Ridge (BC), Canada - Paris, France - Mainz, Germany - Newcastle (NSW), Australia - Wassenaar (ZH), Netherlands - Menton, France - Monte Carlo, Monaco - Darmstadt, Germany - Naples (FL), USA - Torino, Italy - Saint Louis (MO), USA - Bogor, Indonesia - The Hague, Netherlands