Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Water, Water Everywhere

We are not having dangerous flooding along the Mississippi so far this year. Still, it's pretty dramatic to look at. In the top photo, the water is usually way beyond the arches in the yellow stone part of Eads Bridge. Below is a photo from inside a garage on the street that runs along the river. The water level is normally well beyond the chain fence in the mid-ground. I haven't checked the flood forecast for a few days but if the river goes up much I'll be back this weekend.

By the way, a sure sign of spring - yesterday I had to do another of those two-hours drives for a court appearance. It was the first day in many months my windshield got bug-spattered.


TOMORROW: CDP monthly theme day, red. Think outside the box.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

La Peinture En Plein Air

Words sound so much more elegant to Americans when they are expressed in French. Just to say "painting outdoors" seems so bland. You know, you might be barbecuing outdoors or something.

Henryk Ptasiewicz was working hard en plein air when I met him, despite many interruptions from curious passers-by. I was interested by his unusual painting posture, which you can see in the phote below. He was curled up like a discus thrower, ready to spring open. When I took some telephoto shots from a distance, it was fascinating to watch his eyes dart from the subject to canvas and back again. The second picture in yesterday's post shows some of this.

If you would like to see the finished painting that Ptasiewicz was working on click here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Art Appreciation

Out trolling for pictures on Saturday. I left my office and drove past Citygarden, intending to go to the river and check the flooding (more about which later). As I passed the corner of 8th and Market, I saw a painter at an easel making an image of my fav, Eros Bendato, and the surrounding cityscape.

This bore investigation. I parked the car and introduced myself to Henryk Ptasiewicz. He was born in the north of England to Polish parents and studied art in London. I was trying to stay out of the way of his work and did not learn how he came here. His artistic statement tells us that:
My style is realistic, it came about because of the influence of the Surrealists. If you can paint the real world, then you have a chance to illustrate another one. I liked to paint things which only existed in my mind.
You may enjoy seeing some of his work here. A bit more about Ptasiewicz tomorrow.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Sun Doesn't Shine Over Forest Park

Still overcast this weekend. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, someone said. When the sky gives you weird light, make B&W HDRs.
Hey, I actually made the effort to use a tripod on this one.


Not looking good.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Post-Apocalypse Now

This kind of stuff just gets my eye. Some people might find it ugly. I think it's interesting, really interesting. This is a section of the Mississippi floodwall with a gap for access to barge operations. (The gap can be closed by a movable section of wall). There is wild, chaotic color juxtaposed against apparent desolation (but it's just river industrial operations). It kinda reminds me of paintings by Yves Tanguy.

I'm writing this at my desk late Friday afternoon. It's been a
long week. The postcard I keep here of Richard Avedon's portrait of William S. Burroughs is creeping me out. Time to go home. And Saturday?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Thursday Or Possibly Friday Arch Series

Oops. I had so much on the Official Schedule this week, especially on Wednesday, that I literally lost track of the day of the week. Oh well, life in the fast lane.
If this were Thursday, which it's not any more, you would be seeing this wonderful Thursday Arch picture in its natural habitat (but you're not). This one was shot from the north, not the side I usually work, with Eads Bridge at the bottom. Once again, a three-shot handheld HDR. So many HDR images are garish. It don't have to be that way.

Speaking of bad memory and disorganization, my friend Virginia has been bugging me not to forget the April 1 theme day, red. I'll give her red. I'll give all you comrades some red.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Park Really Isn't This Gloomy

.The last, for now, of the spooky Forest Park photos. Got to throw this up quickly. I had a court appearance yesterday a two hour drive away from St. Louis and then a business obligation last night. Sorry no comments on Wednesday. Just no free time. I'll be back to it.

TOMORROW: Thursday Arch Series. I screwed up, so it will be on Friday this week. Virginia thought at first that it was the Washington Monument.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Warning To Little Red Riding Hood

Hey LRRH - I wouldn't go down that path if I were you. There might be fierce animals with matted fur, glowing eyes and long, sharp teeth. One of them might be interested in swallowing you whole. Mmmm mmmm.

These pictures were taken in Forest Park during the same session as yesterday's post. All of them are three-image, hand-held HDRs. The middle one has a Photoshop plug-in that mimics a Holga photo. So this isn't the forest primeval. It's a city park. Just don't forget your torch and pitchfork.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Good Advice From A Bad Photography Teacher

I once took a photography workshop with a teacher the class thought was, on the whole, pretty bad. However, this person did two really good things: 1, gave us each a black cardboard slide holder (remember slides?), suggesting we go around looking at the world through that little rectangle (brilliant) and; 2, gave us an interesting perspective about shooting on gloomy days. We don't like to shoot on dark, cloudy days, do we?
Noooo, we use it. Saturated colors, soft shapes, mysterious atmospheres. So, boys and girls, get your butts out there, think, see and shoot it. Damn good advice.

So I was out in Forest Park Sunday morning shooting in chilly, dank conditions. While on an empty golf course, I saw the Chase-Park Plaza in the distance through some pines. I'd been taking 3-image HDRs, handheld, with a Canon 50D, ISO 1600, 300mm lens. Not the smartest move. When I downloaded and merged the images, I found that the result was very grainy, Well, duh. But it looked cool. So a little of this and a little of that in Photoshop and this was the result. Once again, Victor really likes it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

STL DPB's Third Anniversary

It's St. Louis Daily Photo Blog's third anniversary! Yes, thirty six months commanding St. Louis daily photobloggery (at least since Merry moved back to
Syracuse). To celebrate, I dragged out this old picture I made as an exercise when I started learning Photoshop (a process that has no end). It's been a chore to keep this up but there have been so many benefits. I've met some fascinating people, in person as well as online. My photography skills have improved and I've developed something like a style. It has made me get to know my city better. My savings are smaller because of all the lenses filters flashes books reflectors camera bodies light stands tripods ball heads diffusers bags and memory cards (begging in the the header notwithstanding). Money well spent.

Thanks to my friends, readers and commenters. Shall we go for four?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Purpose of All This Effort

Some people, like stoics and saints (and my partner's sister/paralegal) never complain. They shoulder life's burdens quietly. I think it's kinda fun to complain sometimes. You know, get it off your chest, wheedle a little sympathy. My day job is long and this blog takes up a, um, disproportionate amount of my scarce free time. Why make the effort? See above. That's what it boils down to.

I founds some new - to me - graffiti yesterday on the section of the Mississippi floodwall where it is permitted. This one seemed like a good way to note 1,096 days of an open-ended project. Which must mean that tomorrow (drumroll) is STL DPB's third anniversary! Stop by for something from the confectionary.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Death Of A Casino

Same boat as in yesterday's picture. Once a grand cruise ship of the Mississippi River, the Admiral has been moored at riverside and used as a casino for some years. Its hull is no longer seaworthy and it cannot go out on excursions. Competition from bigger, newer casinos has killed it off. It will be closed by the end of June 2010.

I'll miss the silver boat. I have good memories of riding it during my student days. I won't miss the casino. Not that I've ever been in it but I think it's terrible social policy.

And speaking of which, here's today's strip from one of my favorite comics, Pearls Before Swine:

Pearls Before Swine

TOMORROW: The purpose of all this effort.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wet Approach

Sometimes the metaphoric wind fills your proverbial sails. IMHO, this is the best picture I've made in a while. All the formal elements are working: composition, clarity, tonal range, light, sharpness, depth of field. The boat gleams, the clouds are ominous. The zig-zag lines of the rails and stairs pull the eye through areas that are not as they should be. Our colleague Victor of Gabriola Daily Photo, whose work and artistic style I respect greatly, left a one-word comment about this image on Flickr: perfect.

So I'm kinda proud of this but your reaction may vary. One person's rose is another's weed. As Robert Henri said in The Art Spirit, "Don't take me as an authority. I am simply expressing a very personal point of view. Nothing final about it. You have to settle all these matters for yourself."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thursday Arch Series

Shot from under Eads Bridge. The stone arches that support the part of the bridge on land resemble a Roman aqueduct and echo the monument nicely. Or maybe it looks like a slice of pie with a twist of orange peel thrown across it.

TOMORROW: Victor says it's perfect.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

O Parking

Happy St. Patrick's day to our Irish friends and fellow members of the Irish diaspora. I can't resist a really bad joke.

But really, you shouldn't park here. Not unless your car is amphibious. Most of the area in this picture is a driving lane atop a levee made of heavy cobblestones that gradually slopes into the river. It's used for public parking most of the year. Not this week. If the Mississippi hits the street behind the fence on the right, it's officially at flood stage. This picture was taken last Sunday afternoon. I have not had time go back and check the water level.

TOMORROW: Thursday Arch Series.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Whole Lot of Water

How much water does the Mississippi carry past St. Louis each day? I'm sure someone has calculated this but I couldn't even guess. Of course, it varies with the stage of the river and now, near flood level, the amount must be very great. That's the Martin Luther King Bridge on the left and the Eads Bridge on the right. And that is a buoy on the lower left, not some kind of fish jumping up.

One of the environmental controversies in this area is about the channelization of the great rivers. The Missouri and Mississippi are lined by high levees along much of their routes. These are meant to protect the towns and farms flanking them but, by holding the rivers back from their natural flood plains, make the inundation much worse when a levee ruptures or in places without this system. One of my occasional readers, river.relief, is an expert in this stuff. Maybe he can tell us more.

TOMORROW: a very tenuous connection to St. Patrick's Day.

Monday, March 15, 2010

River's Rising

Late winter has been wet in much of the U.S., certainly the central and upper Midwest.The northern snowpack is beginning to melt. The Mississippi is less than a meter from flood stage at St. Louis and rising.
Harry Weber's sculpture of Lewis and Clark landing on our shore is my river gauge. Clark is going blub blub blub in the muddy depths. How long can Meriwether Lewis keep his head above water? Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

German Gothic

A last stop on Gravois Avenue at St. Francis de Sales Church. It dominates the skyline of the area with its spire almost half as high as the Arch. The bulk of the neighborhood's original population was German and the church was designed in that tradition. Its great size led people to call it the Cathedral of South St. Louis, although it has no such official status.

You can read an interesting history of the church and its activities
here. As with the Bevo Mill in yesterday's post, big changes in population took parishioners away. The Archdiocese of St. Louis decided to close and possible demolish it in 2005. However, an outfit I know nothing about, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (that's a mouthful), took it over. I gather this is a conservative Catholic organization and they still do mass there in Latin. At least the building was preserved. I've never been inside. It looks gorgeous from the web site so I will have to pay a visit.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Not The Netherlands

A windmill in the heart of south St. Louis. The Bevo Mill restaurant began serving Dutch and German food at the corner of Gravois and Morganford in 1917. It was built by August A. Busch, Sr., two generations back from his descendants who sold Anheuser-Busch to the Belgian-Brazilian InBev last year. The story was that this location was half way between the A-B brewery and Grant's Farm, his country home, where President Ulysses S. Grant once lived briefly.

This was a city institution. Everybody dined there. Then the neighborhood changed, it went out of business and the building deteriorated. Last year, a high-end catering company took it over and spent a half-million dollars restoring it. It's now mostly used for wedding receptions and private functions. For most St. Louisans, the important thing is that it has been preserved.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Auto Parts

This is farther down Gravois Avenue from the disused church I had in Wednesday's post. It's still in business, though. Surprising to find a small neighborhood store of this kind still going in the face of big box competitors like AutoZone. I like the B&W version of this photo better than the color original but the building design is very attractive. The light part of the facade is white ceramic tile. The sign has yellow letters across a rich blue background and a red stripe across the bottom. You can see a color picture of it here. It's a little bit of St. Louis architectural heritage.

Two nice things happened to me this week. I got a phone call from St. Louis-area sculptor Harry Weber. Not a name I knew. Turns out Weber is the artist who created a number of works featured on this blog, including Lewis and Clark emerging from the Mississippi River under Eads Bridge. Someone is preparing a book about him and his creations, one of which is a likeness of Malcolm Martin, the lawyer whose bequest gave us the gorgeous overlook of downtown and the Arch from East St. Louis, Illinois. He said he loved my photo of the sculpture and asked permission it use it in the book. Of course! I am honored.

The other was a note from one of our newer colleagues, Lewi14 of Stuttgart, Germany. He gave the Sunshine Blog Award to a few favorites, including STL DPB. Thanks! Nice to get a pat on the back for all the work. And check out his blog - he's got some good stuff.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thursday Arch Series

The Arch gets some great lighting effects as sunset approaches. It is different in every season and kind of weather. The grand staircase that leads down to the Mississippi adds drama. The monument nearly disappears into a cloudless sky but a bit of jet contrail creates some depth.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Skyline With Recycling Center

I'm sticking with the gritty urban theme today. Like many American cities, it is not unusual here to see to see down-and-out people carrying huge plastic sacks or pushing shopping carts full of aluminum cans. This is where they go. There is a little building on the lot under the sign where the metal is weighed and a small amount of cash paid. Just another part of the urban economy.

For the locals, this is on Chouteau between Grand and Compton.

TOMORROW: Thursday Arch Series.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Start Your Own Church

I often post things that are fun or attractive about St. Louis. We have plenty of good points. Still, there are areas of the city proper that have been depopulated and become desolate. In 1950, the population of the central city was about 900,000. Over 60 years, terrible suburban sprawl, highway construction and economic and racial change in residential patterns dropped the figure to 330,000. The city is the symbolic core of the region but only a small part of the 2.6 million people in the area.

This means, of course, that a lot of interesting and sometimes historic buildings have been abandoned. Many churches have gone out of business as their congregations leaked away.
This one is at Gravois and Lemp on the near South Side. A few old churches find new lives as condos. One has been turned into a charming wedding chapel and catering business, Patty Long's 9th Street Abbey, where my daughter was married. Another has become The Black Repertory Theater. That's the exception, though. This church may be waiting for a religious entrepreneur to proclaim his or her version of Word. Or you could open a bar. They do well.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Idiotarod, Part 3

Miscellaneous pictures from The Idiotarod. Above: eyes on the prize, whatever that was. First below: the parting of the red C. I had to have that one explained to me. Last below: U.S. Marines on the move. That's some pretty good camo.

I edited a bunch more images over the weekend. Check the big set on Flickr here.

As previously mentioned, U "R" Us got the inside look at his city's version, the Chididarod. Sounds like a much wilder time than St. Louis. Our contestants didn't have to stop for at least 20 minutes at a series of bars. Great post here plus two sets on Flickr here and here.

Back to what passes for ordinary life in St. Louis tomorrow.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Idiotarod, Part 2

Saturday brought the open division of the Idiotarod to downtown St. Louis. There were 23 teams of two-footed dogs, shopping cart sleds and wild-eyed mushers. Unlike Friday, I had time to follow some of them around to a few of the ten required stops in the downtown area. There was some little stunt they had to perform at each one, like roll a frame at Flamingo Bowl. I'm not sure how all this was to be carried out since there was no staff at at least two of the checkpoints I passed, the so-called Bunny Statue across from the hockey/basketball arena and Jim Dine's Pinocchio in Citygarden.

It was hard to select the pictures for this post. I've got a growing set on Flickr. I'll probably milk the subject for another day or two.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Idiotarod

You may have heard of the Iditarod, the grueling winter dog sled race across Alaska. If that interests you, go to their web site. (I warn you, though, that the video on the home page features Sarah Palin.) This is the Idiotarod. It's an event that has been around a few American cities and spread to St. Louis this weekend. In the name of charity, people use a shopping cart for a dogsled and four team members as dogs. A fifth is the driver. They dress up and decorate the cart to a theme. The group above had a 1920's gangster thing going. Below, our public radio station, KWMU 90.7 FM, went for a NASCAR look. The whole thing was put together by The Downtown St. Louis Partnership for the benefit of Operation Food Search.

Friday's race (race for what was not clear to me) was for corporate contestants. I think there were seven or eight. Today is the open competition. Downtown St. Louis officials told me they expected twenty-odd [sic] teams. I'll be back today to shoot more merriment. Stay tuned.

OH, AND BY THE WAY, today is also the Chiditarod! Team member and world-famous Chicago photoblogger U "R" Us has weaseled his way into becoming the official volunteer photographer. Check Chicago Flair tomorrow as St. Louis and the Windy City both feature very silly people running around with shopping carts.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Along The Mississippi

No more ice in the river, no more snow on the levee. I was standing beneath the Arch looking north when I shot this. Don't fall in, kid! The current is mean.

That's Eads Birdge in the middle background, of course. Behind it is The Admiral, the great river excursion boat where all of St. Louis went for a special time back when I was in college and before. The hull has not been seaworthy for years. It's been a casino for quite a while, dying slowly now in the face of newer, bigger, glitzier neighbors. Which reminds me - yesterday, the 11th one in the STL metro area opened on the river in the southern suburbs. We're a regular little Las Vegas-on-Mississippi. Local promoters plan to market our town as a gambling destination, like the aforementioned desert illusion, Atlantic City and the Mississippi Gulf coast. Is that a good thing for the region? Tell us what you think.

TOMORROW: The Idiotarod. Not Ididerod. Idiotarod

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thursday Arch Series

In 1936, Dale Carnegie published what may have been the first popular self-help book, How To Win Friends and Influence People. He provided all sorts of tips, mostly quite sensible, and the book went on to sell 15 million copies worldwide. I, however, have a simpler suggestion. Wear a big DSLR around your neck and go to places where people congregate. Someone is bound to come up to you with a small point-n-shoot and ask, "Excuse me, please. Would you mind taking our picture?" They assume you know what you are doing.

Hopefully, you do. That's how I met Mallory, Cami and Alisha, three friends from St. Louis who were on an excursion to the Arch on Sunday afternoon. These charming young ladies had me take their picture with their camera and then let me take one with mine. Hope they like it.

TOMORROW: Along the Mississippi.

BY THE WAY, for any of you who found yesterday's post of interest, scroll down and read the text I added in the afternoon. It's a short but tender memoir by someone who knew the old building well.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pullis Bros.

This is a post on the iron fence surrounding the beautiful abandoned building below. I don't know what its original purpose was. It looks like some sort of elegant institution. The facade seems to be in good repair despite the boarded up windows. There is a fairly new sign in front that says Intercommunity Housing Association, which must have been the last occupant. Their web site still lists this address. Maybe there is something going on inside. I hope so. We have already wasted so much of our architectural heritage.

For the locals, this in on Lafayette just east of Grand, facing I 44.

TOMORROW: Thursday Arch Series.

AFTERNOON UPDATE: someone I knew way back in college reads this blog and emailed me today with the following touching story about the history of the building. I am reprinting it with her permission, names deleted.

It breaks my heart to see today's photo; that building is the former Loretto Academy, once an upscale all girls high school run by the Sisters of Loretto. The word "Loretto" was painted in the arched windows over the door. In 1957, I was a first grader at Immaculate Conception School just down the street. After school I would walk up there and take piano lessons from the nuns. There was a huge auditorium just to the left of the entry and they had an ebony Steinway baby grand, which is what I learned to play on. I still have the recital program from that year. I can still picture the interior: gleaming terazzo floors for days--
My father had two teenage cousins who went to Loretto Academy, S. and M. S. was named May Queen in 1954, and yours truly was tapped to hold the ends of the queen's impossibly long train as she floated across the lawn to crown the Blessed Mother statue. The girls all dressed in pastel formal gowns, did a Maypole dance, the whole deal. I have some b&w photos of the event. That lawn seemed so vast...! Most of the girls, including S. and M., went on to Webster College, in faraway Webster Groves, also run by the nuns. Other than the Loretto-Hilton, Webster University seems to have no connection to the Sisters of Loretto any more.

As attendance dwindled in the early 60s, the Academy closed--the nuns ran a day care for a time, but I would bet they unloaded the property long ago.
If those walls could talk...! I would love to hear the seven year old K. tinkling away on that Steinway! That whole area was my childhood neighborhood until we moved to the suburbs in 1959. Just down Lafayette is Immaculate Conception Church, now closed, where my parents were married and where I was baptized. It is the most gorgeous church you can imagine--huge rose window, giant marble columns. It was the heart of the community at the time, just like in "The Bells of St. Mary's."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Urban Prairie

Same afternoon in Forest Park, same golden light. This area around a pond has been planted with both prairie and marsh grasses. Never leave home without your wide angle lens.

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's The Light

The light towards sunset Saturday afternoon in Forest Park was just gorgeous. To make it even better, the geese flew in right on cue.

On another note, we were relieved to hear that our friend Luis in Santiago, Chile, and his family are well. No electricity at home but it was working at his office so he could use email and charge batteries. He and millions of other Chileans face great challenges in the days to come.