Monday, August 31, 2009

At the Festival of Nations

Seen at our Festival of Nations in Tower Grove Park this weekend, as a group of Indian dancers prepared to take the stage. The lovely performers appear to include a young Lakshmi, goddess of beauty and grace, and a beatific bodhisattva, as near to enlightenment as one can get is St. Louis, Missouri. But how did Molly McGuire, there in the background, find her way into this troupe?

Electronics and jet planes have created a world unknowable to our ancestors. Here I am on Monday morning, in my office, looking out the window at the Arch. By Friday I'll be in India, if only for one night. Most of us now realize that there are no fairies and that Harry Potter is just an entertaining fiction, but this planet has become more magical that we could have ever imagined.

TOMORROW: CDP monthly theme day, BIG.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mitrata Nepal Foundation

You may have noticed the last thing on my left sidebar, promoting the Mitrata Nepal Foundation (click it!). Well, these women run the U.S. side of the operation here in St. Louis. Mitrata has a children's home and school in Kathmandu. It provides care and education to orphans and kids whose families have no means to support them in one of the world's poorest - and most beautiful and sweetest - countries. They had a table at out annual Festival of Nations this weekend, which celebrates all of the lands and cultures that contribute to our region. We will be visiting Mitrata soon.

Nepal is the only country on earth that has the creativity to break out of the rectangular flag habit. That's it in the center of the table. Mrs. C and I will arrive in Kathmandu on Saturday. She knows a little Nepalese. I can barely manage "namaste" but I can hardly wait.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Open Freeman

Read this anyway you like. Maybe it's what psychologists call a projective test.

Actually, it's a port cover on the huge Mississippi River towboat I featured a couple of weeks ago.

Friday, August 28, 2009

La Riviere

One of the best things about our new Citygarden is that when I'm out of new pix to post I can always go there and get something interesting. It's a block and a half from my office. Aristide Maillol's La Riviere is one of the works in the garden I keep coming back to. Click the link to listen to the audio clips about the works and sculptors recently added to Citygarden's web site.

A very nice invitation came my way yesterday. A few of you know that I have rheumatoid arthritis that affects my hands. The Milliken Hand Institute at Washington University School of Medicine does ingenious work keeping my fingers straight. I was over there yesterday getting my brace adjusted. They have recently painted the suite and have lots of blank wall space. The staff knows about my photography addiction and invited me to shoot a series of hand pictures to decorate the place. This could be a lot of fun.

And another 15 minutes of fame: the web site for Fodor's Travel Guides had a photo contest this summer for pix of Argentina. You could upload up to five. There were a lot of entries. I got an email yesterday that they gave two of mine honorable mention. Not in the top three places, but getting two selected was nice. I get four Fodor's travel books as a prize. The winners will be on their web site about September 15 but you can see mine now here and here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursday Arch Series

Half steel, half sky. The bright curved streak on the north leg of the Arch is the reflection of the south leg on a sunny summer day.

There is a new Arch photo
today on

Don't think there will be an Arch picture next Thursday. The day is the start of a great adventure.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Last Stop

St. Louis Union Station is now a luxury hotel, a group of restaurants and a failing tourist mall. In its day it was one of the great railroad junctions of North America. As such, it had to have a place for travelers to stay. Here's the former entrance to the Terminal Hotel. Sure, railroad stations and airports have terminals but this sounds so much like terminal disease or "terminate with extreme prejudice" (remember that phrase in Apocalypse Now?). The Terminal Hotel sounds like the roach motel - you check in but you don't check out. It's the end of the line.

TOMORROW: Thursday Arch Series and a new Arch photo on GATEWAY.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Geppetto's Hammer, Again

I hope it doesn't seem like I'm just recycling material but the more I look at it the more fascinated I become with Kindly Geppetto in Citygarden. It's made to look like the simplest toy or cartoon but there is something terribly malevolent about it. The wood carver is actually about to whack the hell out of his creation. Pinocchio aspired to become a real boy. He ain't gonna make it in this version of the tale.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hip Hop, At A Distance

This was shot at the same performance in Kiener Plaza as my August 15 post. I was sitting at the top of the little amphitheater facing the stage. The waterfall behind it invites people to splash on the steps, much like the shallow pool in Citygarden in yesterday's post. That's just so nice. Kansas City has way more fountains that St. Louis (or almost anywhere this side of Rome). It's one of the things that makes it a very pleasant place, but you can't play in them. Advantage, St. Louis.

Due to time pressure, brain freeze and, probably, the dog eating my homework, I haven't participated in theme day for a couple of months. The September theme day photo was bagged yesterday, with some help from props obtained at a fast food restaurant. So come have a look a week from tomorrow.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

In The Good Old Summertime (Citygarden)

I wonder if the people who planned Citygarden foresaw how parts of it would be used as a public swimming pool for children. The authorities clearly don't object, so perhaps this was part of the plan. It's one of the many reasons the place has become an instant hit with St. Louisans.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Portraits of St. Louis Artists: Jane Martin

I'm in Chicago on business so that's the reason for few comments on your blogs today. I'm actually working. Please believe me.

This is Jane Martin (click the link to see more of her work), one of the artists at the Soulard Art Market cooperative, where I've shown some photos. Martin had some of her paintings on display at Tomatofest. That's where this was taken. She was in a little covered tent thing on a bright day and the light was gorgeous (with the help of some fill flash). And what happy blue eyes. That's the joy of street portraiture.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Geppetto's Hammer

Similar to Wednesday's post, fooling around in Citygarden with a wide angle lens and hand-held HDR. This is another view of Tom Otterness' Kindly Geppetto. There's a front-on look at the statue in my post of July 11. This hammer-wielding puppet maker doesn't seem kindly to me.

I noticed when I was editing this picture that Geppetto is left handed. Does that mean anything? Maybe. In Renaissance iconography, the right is protected by God while the left is open to danger. That's why Michelangelo's David looks cautiously to that side, maybe for things like Geppetto.

Up to Chicago today and tomorrow on business. Unfortunately, not likely to have time for photography.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday Arch Series

An exercise: this photo has a close relative appearing today on GATEWAY. They are parts of a seven image sequence of the same subject, shot at 2/3 stop intervals from -2 stops to +2 stops. The aperture remained the same and the shutter speed varied. They were intended to become part of a seven layer HDR of the Arch. However, when I blended them in Photomatix, the sky came out with a marked box-shaped weave pattern in. It looked like fabric. Actually, it looked terrible. If any HDR experts can explain that I'd appreciate it.

So, I started playing with the individual pictures in the sequence. This one was -2 stops (ISO 100, f 6.3, 1/800 sec., spot metering). I always shoot in RAW so I could mess around with the image a lot. This is what came out.

Click to see the companion photo on GATEWAY. Which do you prefer, assuming that either one does something for you?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Let's Do The Lens Warp Again

No, not time warp, lens warp. Plus HDR for further image bending, just for fun. This view is southeast from Citygarden, through a bit of 2 Arcs X 4, 230.5 Degrees Arc X 5 by Bernar Venet. I like the rubbery look of the building on the left. It's caused by using a 17mm lens on a full frame sensor.

TOMORROW: Thursday Arch Series here and a companion image on Gateway. They are two snaps taken from a tripod in rapid succession. Same subject. Same composition. Different exposure and editing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

World Naked Bike Ride, Part 2

This picture gives some idea of what the WNBR looked like when it left Tower Grove Park and hit the street. For the locals, the group is riding north on Grand, just north of Arsenal. The Bare As You Dare slogan is evident, with some people more-or-less fully clothed and others, well, not.

This was a difficult assignment. It was too dark in the park for much light besides the flash on the foreground. The riders left the park in an area with no street lights, so I was shooting into the dark at whatever appeared to be moving. A couple of pics, like
this one, got a cool effect by using second curtain sync on the flash. It's a fun effect for night shots.

Flickr users know that you get a running count of how many people have viewed each of your photos. This set started to go up barely 36 hours ago and it's blown away the number of views of anything I've ever posted there, now almost 2,000 images. Maybe it's from people searching Flickr for the keyword naked. As they say, sex sells.

Monday, August 17, 2009

World Naked Bike Ride, St. Louis Edition

Saturday night brought the World Naked Bike Ride to The Lou. The slogan is "bare as you dare" and the cause is to protest dependence on oil. There is a good history and analysis of the event here.

The ride takes place in 70 cities. This was the second run in St. Louis.
This couple had on about the average amount of covering. (Note the woman's headlights. Uh, head...?) A few bikers wore a lot less. Now, since this is a proper town, appearing in public with the naughty bits uncovered is prohibited. Fortunately, the St. Louis Police Department forgot their night vision goggles and nobody got busted.

There is is a growing set of my pix from WNBR on Flickr here, including the naughty bits, or most of them. Note that you will not see all the photos in this set if you do not have a Flickr account or have your filter set to Safe. In accordance with Flickr's rules, any pictures showing more skin than is allowed on U.S. over-the-air television have been classified as Medium. Some people were nakeder than than others so set your filter accordingly.

I think we'll have some more of this silliness TOMORROW.

BY THE WAY, STL DPB welcomes a new St. Louis photoblog, Merry@St. Louis. It's nice to have another pair of eyes on this city. Merry and I have exchanged email but have not met. I know her husband from my work. They moved here about a year ago from upstate New York. I greatly recommend the weekly essay on his blog, St. Louis Sojourn, in which he writes lucidly about his experiences as a transplant to the Midwest.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Get Get God

Ed Box (or Boxx) is a local graffiti tagger. Some people are unhappy about what he does (see here and here). Like it or not, his stuff is often enigmatic, as in this example. The building is in the semi-barren old industrial area north of the Arch.

NOW, ABOUT THAT PHOTO CAPTION CONTEST: there were several entries. I was a little disappointed, though, because none of them were really photo captions. They were mostly things the man in the picture might be saying. My favorite, although too long to be a caption, is from local artist and friend of the blog Dan Jaboor, who submitted:
The Veginator!
All natural meat substitute
100% biodegradable!
Certified orgasmic!
Enjoy with your favorite salad!
So Dan, you're our winner. Let me know what picture you would like printed and I'll drop it off at Soulard Art Market.

TOMORROW: the World Naked Bike Ride visits St. Louis.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Home Grown Hip Hop

After shooting at Tomatofest last weekend, I went downtown to see what looked good in the late afternoon sun. Walking by Kiener Plaza, I found that a local radio station was putting on a show with young local hip hop artists. They were just kids but they were full of energy and could really sing and dance. Now, I don't know hip hop from a block of wood (except that Nelly is from St. Louis), although I can sing a fair amount of Italian opera from memory (Che gelida manina! se la lasci riscaldar. Cercar che giova? al buio non si trova.). Nevertheless, I thought these guys were a lot of fun.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Girl And Her Dog

Another shot from last weekend's Tomatofest, just doing my usual, working the crowd, asking interesting people if I could photograph them. I asked the man if I could photograph him and his dog - they were equally interesting. He said he'd rather not but I could shoot his daughter and the dog, equally cute. She told me the dog is a Boston terrier. I don't do dogs. People are enough to keep me fully occupied.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thursday Arch Series


It's amazing that St. Louis, not the most happenin' town, can produce this much color. For some reason, the last couple of Arch pix I've edited got me thinking of Terry Riley's A Rainbow In Curved Air. It fits. What pure pleasure.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

STL DPB Photo Caption Contest

This picture is, uh, so ripe with possibilities. It is someone selling locally grown produce at last weekend's Tomatofest. I don't know how to characterize it - you can imagine so many different meanings. So, I have declared it the subject of a photo caption contest. Submit your entry by comment to this post of by email to me (link to my email in my profile - click the photo of me on the left) not later than when my Saturday post goes up, +/- 11:00 GMT on 15 August 2009. The lucky winner will receive a print of the photo of their choice (autographed, if you like) from STL DPB or my Flickr site.

THE FINE PRINT: enter as often as you like. I don't care. Winner will be selected by a panel of biased judges, viz., me. Employees of St. Louis Daily Photo, its agents, lackeys and immediate members of the publisher's family may not enter the contest unless their idea is too clever to pass up. Winner will be announced in this blog's post of Sunday, 16 August, 2009. All taxes and fees are the responsibility of the winner, except I'll mail the print anywhere in the world. And, as they say in Chicago, vote early and often.

TOMORROW: Thursday Arch Series.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tom Coghill, King of Tomatofest

Seems like there's a festival of some kind going on every weekend during the summer in St. Louis. Sunday brought one of the most quirky and fun. Deep in the south side of the city proper where suburbanites fear to tread, Tom Coghill runs the very cool bar and restaurant Iron Barley. For the fifth year in a row, Coghill has sponsored Tomatofest, a celebration of the delicious fruit you should not eat while wearing white. I asked him why he did this during the worst of our August heat. Because it was his wife's idea, he told me.

This year's festival attempted to break the Guinness Book of World Records mark for the largest bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich ever. I don't know if the book will recognize it, but the one they made (before I got there, unfortunately) was 179 feet long, 16 inches wide and 3 inches deep (that's 54.56 meters by 43 cm by 7.6 cm for the rest of the world). It produced 1,092 servings. I found out the hard way that you can't eat one while driving.

The event was for the benefit Lift For Life. This started out as a weightlifting gym for inner city kids and has become a big athletic facility and a charter school, soon to provide full junior and senior high school education. I spent some time with the staff and should be over there soon to photograph their activities.

PS TO TOM, IF YOU SEE THIS: I tried to email your picture to you at the address on your web site, as we discussed. It bounced back as no such user at that domain.

TOMORROW: STL DPB photo caption contest!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Portraits of St. Louis Artists: J. C. Gray

J. C. Gray was one of the most interesting people I met during studios open house weekend. Her approach is simple, sincere and lovely: she paints what she sees and feels. She doesn't have a website. She's not on Facebook. She has no need of e-mail (she said I could send us to her daughter if I wanted to). I was almost overcome with the charm of the painting she was beginning. Gray told me that it represented how she felt when she was at her happiest as a child.

Flickr says that this is my most interesting photo of all time, and there are 1,906 of them there as of today. The results you get at this link may change. Flickr has an arcane, semi-secret algorithm for determining "interestingness." It has something to do with how many views your picture gets, who views it, groups you upload to, tags and more. Every day, they determine what they call the 500 most interesting uploads. You can see August, 2009, to date here, for example. My work has never made the list, although sometimes I look at it and think "my picture is way better than this &$#!*&%@ picture." I almost never add tags. Maybe I should start doing that. Anybody have any insights about this?

By the way, if you look through my somebody-else-said-so most interesting pictures, all the ones from Nepal were shot by my wife in February-March, 2008. I'll get my own next month.

By the by the way, it's impossible to select your own most interesting photo; it's all so subjective. However, if I had to choose one I'd pick this.

There is a new Arch photo
today on GATEWAY.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Depression-Era Civic Architecture

For decades, this building housed the federal courts in St. Louis. When the feds built this shiny new building in the next block, they gave the old one to the state. It now holds the 22nd Judicial Circuit of Missouri, the St. Louis Circuit Court. This went up as federal construction during the Depression. Like much other government architecture of the era, it has a sense of power, heaviness and bombast. Maybe that's why an HDR image suits it so well.

I think we'll go back to the artists portraits tomorrow. Maybe I could feature myself.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Life on The Mississippi: M/S Mississippi V


A short break from the local artists portraits series:

The navigable rivers of America are maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They are responsible for the channels, dredging and the complex lock and dam system. The Mississippi has 26 of them, from the northern end of St. Louis up to Minneapolis-St. Paul. The river is so flat between here and New Orleans that none are necessary.

This is the Corps' MV Mississippi V, the largest towboat on the river. Check the link for its specs. It held an open house last weekend at Lock and Dam 26 at Alton, Illinois, quite a piece of engineering by itself. When I took the picture at the top, I was standing just beyond where the two black walkways come together in the bottom picture. A crew member told me the boat could push 30 barges. Power.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Portraits of St. Louis Artists: Angela Malchionno

Angela Malchionno makes the most subtle works on and from paper, fabric and other unexpected materials. They are complex. Her statement on her web site says:
My current body of work explores the developed and undeveloped landscape as a metaphor for shifting personal identitiy. I am concerned with increasingly routinized interactions between people and what architect Sanford Kwinter describes as a neo-fordist world in which the unpredictable forces of human nature are boxed up, walled off and disregarded.
I must confess that I had never heard the term fordist, neo or otherwise, until I read this text. So I looked it up - see here. In any event, her web site has many illustrations of her work. The objects in the foreground of the photo are similar to these. They are made of bits of paint color sample cards, each pinned to a core. One can look at them for a long time.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thursday Arch Series

Back to the new Arch and downtown overlook in East St. Louis, Illinois. The image across the bottom is not a Photoshop trick. The railing at the end of the overlook has this picture in the metal (I don't know how it's done) labeling the major features across the Mississippi.

I like how this turned out. It's an HDR with much messing around with levels, contrast and sharpness. It looks a bit like an etching.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Portraits of St. Louis Artists: Paul Young

I shoot everything in color. If I want to go to black and white, I use a B&W adjustment layer in Photoshop. My first edit of this picture was in color (you can see it here). However, the more I thought about it, Paul Young and his work have such seriousness of purpose that monochrome might be more appropriate.

Young makes exquisitely detailed reproductions of old rural buildings. These are not just models; they carry the spirit of a place. A photograph cannot do justice to the craftsmanship and, I think, love involved in making them. Some of the work is so fine he has to use dental tools. You just have to see it for yourself.

TOMORROW: Thursday Arch Series

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Portraits of St. Louis Artists: Jennifer Hayes

Jennifer Hayes' painting is confrontational. Large scale, in-your face color, heavy texture; female figures never showing the face, semi-nude, clad only in minimal underwear. She's had some real success in the art market. SLeeK, the high-end steak house in the Lumiere Place casino complex, decorated the walls with her pictures. So, it's not without reason that she looks self-confident. You can see more of hew work on her web site.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Portraits of St. Louis Artists: Jay Babcock

Jay Babcock makes art that has something to say. The installation on the wall is in the shape of our state, made up of losing Missouri Lottery tickets. We talked about what this might communicate. Who buys lottery tickets, and why? A cynic once described lotteries as a tax on the stupid but it's much more complex than that. Lottery tickets buy big dreams for little money - unless you get hooked on them. You might purchase them if you have debts, little money and a lot of dissatisfaction. It is sometimes said that the chances of winning a lottery in the U.S. are less than those of being hit my lightning. Babcock asks us to contemplate this.

There is a new Arch photo

today on GATEWAY.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Concerto For The Right Hand

Maurice Ravel wrote a Piano Concerto For the Left Hand. I spotted the opposite effect during Open Studios weekend while was leaving an exhibit space on funky Cherokee Street, a strip that contains our town's (very) Little Mexico, art galleries and a socialist bakery cooperative. This impromptu sculpture was pressed into a corner. You had to play your own concert in your head.

The artists' portraits series will return tomorrow.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Portraits of St. Louis Artists: Paula Lincoln

Paula Lincoln produced some of the most unusual art I saw at Open Studios Weekend. A large white wall was covered with cut-out silhouettes, mostly black but with wood tones in the foliage at the bottom. A crow flies away from a larger-than-life man wearing a top hat. Plants cover the ground; Lincoln pointed out to me that one was foxglove. I think the plant at the left is a thistle. Like a Rorschach test, the meaning is left to the viewer's imagination. The piece reminds me of the work of Kara Walker.

TOMORROW: a musical interlude in the artists' portrait series.