Wednesday, February 29, 2012

And While In The Park...

Tower Grove Park 2012-02-26 1

Like yesterday's post, a scene in Tower Grove Park. I photograph this oval of manicured evergreens over and over but often wonder what species they are. I'm no naturalist. Where I grew up there wasn't much natural around. Probably need a refresher course from an expert.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I Got Rhythm

Fence Rhythms

There are times when nothing much is going on around town and yet the hungry maw of the blog must be fed. So I go out cruising (driving, of course, because this is the U.S.), looking for anything that catches my eye. Sometimes I think of the old song by St. Louisan Chuck Berry:
Ridin' along in my automobile...
Cruisin' and playin' the radio
With no particular place to go.
This got my attention while driving across quiet Tower Grove Park. Skreech, pull to the curb. So there I was, sitting in a damp culvert, thinking I was the flippin' Piet Mondrian of South St Louis, when someone walking a dog passed by and gave me the strangest look.

Monday, February 27, 2012

STL Weighs In

STL (6th Street Scales)

STL is the standard abbreviation for our town. The letters in just the type and configuration on this building are on the front of the Cardinals' hats. It's the airport code. The local newspaper's website is

This example is at a public truck weigh station a baseball's throw south of Busch Stadium. (Not my throw, mind you. Maybe Matt Holiday's.) Lots of freight yards in that area.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Born To Be WIld

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I think we'll finish with the Mardi Gras parade pictures today, featuring some of the many Harley-Davidson motorcycles in the procession. Do people in other parts of the world understand the Harley mystique? In this country you are simply not a bad-ass biker unless you are astride one of these machines. Riding one is a statement that you were born to be wild, even if you are wearing a pink coat.

There are a whole lot more pix in the parade set on Flickr here. Now it's time to move on.

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cartoons And Cartons

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Still going with pix from last weekend's parade and there's plenty yet to show. No new material, anyway. The town looks dull - hardly a day below freezing this winter, no snow cover for more than a few hours, still-barren trees. I need to go out on a photographic scavenger hunt.

I really like the top picture of a man dressed as the comic book hero Captain America. He's got a cheerful, idealistic swagger, just like the country he represents (except, um, we sometimes seem to forget our ideals). Oh, and an exaggerated idea of his own strength. He'll need it when he invades the Soulard neighborhood just down the road.

There was an odd theme for the floats in the parade, the number 3. The woman below was with a group that had something to do with Three Blind Mice. She must have been their Terminator.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Legal Issues

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Someone had to maintain law and order among the morning drinkers at last weekend's parade. The St. Louis Police Department was up to the job. What do you think the two above were discussing? Maybe crowd control techniques, maybe the latest Harley-Davidson model?

My congressman, Russ Carnahan, below, has a different legal issue. Seats in our House of Representatives are reapportioned every ten years after the census. Missouri lost one seat in Congress due to population shifts. Carnahan is a Democrat. Our state legislature, controlled by the Republicans, drew a map that eliminated Carnahan's seat and favored Republican incumbents. The courts threw out that map. The legislature appears to be unwilling or incapable of revising it so judges may end up doing the job. It's still up in the air.

I like Carnahan. (Well, I'm a Democrat.) I once got to spend some time with him in his office in Washington when I was doing some lobbying for the Arthritis Foundation and I was impressed. For the moment, though, he doesn't know if he has a seat to run for.

Mardi Gras Parade 2012-02-18 71 (Congressman Russ Carnahan)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Primary Colors

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The Thursday Arch Series has the week off while I run through some more Mardi Gras parade images. Need to shoot some new Arch pictures, anyway.

The parade had many enjoyable qualities but subtlety was not one of them. Blocks of intense color were the rule. I have all kinds of loose associations - the woman in the top picture makes me think of Stravinsky's The Firebird (maybe because we'll hear it at the St. Louis Symphony this weekend) and the second of of the Queen Of The Night in The Magic Flute. The woman in the third shot seems to need a break and a headache pill even though it was barely mid-morning.

There are a lot more edited photos of the parade and its participants on Flickr here.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Midday In The Garden Of Good And Evil*

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Mardi Gras is, after all, a morality play. You get to blow out all your libertine inclinations, commit the sins of the flesh until you are drained empty, for tomorrow (actually today, Ash Wednesday) you must repent. Interesting concept: today you are allowed to be bad because tomorrow you are required to be good.

This played out in the parade staging area. I asked His Holiness for a blessing and a photo. He said he could offer me a drink but the cooler was back on his group's float. The picture was okay regardless.

* I'm sorry. Couldn't resist. The devil must have made me do it.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Silly People

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The best place to shoot a parade is in the staging area, not out on the street during the march. People aren't moving around too much and spectators aren't sticking their hands and heads into your shot. As you can see, our participants don't have spectacular costumes like those in New Orleans but we make it up in enthusiasm and goofiness.

A CDP colleague and excellent photographer recently told me in an email that he finds it hard to photograph people. Everyone is anxious about it at first but once you crack out of your shell it's so easy. It can be taught. Engage the subject about something you notice in them. Talk about them, not you. Smile. Ask permission.

It occurs to me that I'm always the observer, never the participant, at such events. Somebody's gotta do it.

Oh, and by the way, there's a big and growing set of Mardi Gras parade photos on Flickr here.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Liberté, Egalité, Debauchery

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The term Mardi Gras is, of course, French. New Orleans, the capital of the festival in the US, was founded by France. The other great center of the carnival is Rio de Janeiro, which speaks Portuguese, but that doesn't fit the narrative so let's move on.

Most of the floats in the parade had really dorky themes, stuff like old TV shows and movies. One entry had a much grander concept, the French Revolution, albeit tempered by alcohol and a little sleaze. So,
Aux armes citoyens!
Formez vos bataillons!
Marchons, marchons,
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons.
Although in St. Louis, when the battalions march down Broadway from downtown to Soulard, there's a better chance of stale Budweiser than impure blood running in our gutters.

By the way, I got my original 1,517 snaps down to 445 in the first cut. More trimming to come. I'll explain my method one of these days.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Samedi Joufflu

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If Tuesday is Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, yesterday in St. Louis was Samedi Jofflu, Chubby Saturday. They (whoever they are) say we have the second biggest Mardi Gras celebration in the U.S. after New Orleans. Not that we could remotely approach the size and spectacle of theirs, but ours gets bigger and bigger, and has a cheery Hey kids! Let's put on a show! feel. The big parade is always the Saturday before the beginning of Lent.

I took about 1,500 shots, which is why I didn't get any comments written. Not nearly through the editing and sorting. More of these scenes to come over the next several days.

BTW, we also attended the basketball game I mentioned a few weeks ago, St. Louis University, where I went to college and law school, versus Fordham University in The Bronx, where I went to high school. Took some crummy iPhone pix - I'll see if any are useable. I hardly follow the team but, hey, Grace, one of our stars is from Perth, a young man named Cody Ellis.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012


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A couple of last woofs from the dog parade. I had a few more of the pet and owner portraits like those seen in recent days. Mrs. C asked why I didn't use the one above - it's her favorite of the set. So that goes up first. And besides, the color will get more attention on the portal.

On the other hand, I made some black and whites that were more somber. The image of a woman and her children below is poignant. They were just sitting on a little rise watching the parade. However, the children looked anxious, even frightened (cynophobia?). Note the little one's face and the way he clings to mom. Observe his brother's stare, with his hands firmly between his mother's. She herself seems a bit stunned. On the other hand, my wife thinks that the kids are just bored and cold, whimpering for mom to take them home. Okay, literary types, now write the back story.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Beatle Bob

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Meet Beatle Bob, a St. Louis institution and our town's Number One rock music fan. He's at every performance that counts. According to the Wikipedia article about him:
He is known for his arrhythmic dance moves and Beatles-inspired "mop top" hairstyle and '60s attire. His constant presence and dancing is welcomed by some concertgoers and an aggravation to others, but even his detractors admit that his presence signals that one is seeing the best music event in town on that particular night. He has allegedly been to at least one live show every night since Christmas Eve 1996, and seen over 10,000 bands over the last decade.
A local musician described the St. Louis path to rock stardom this way:
You lose your virginity, you get your first paying gig, you make your first record and you have your first Beatle Bob appearance.
Bob even showed up at the dog parade. Here he is, on the balcony of a Soulard bar, playing air keyboard with some old guys (though still apparently younger than me). The man is irrepressible and an essential part of the local scene. Really good video about him here.

Soulard Dog Parade 2012-02-12 27 (Beatle Bob 2)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thursday Arch Series

Arch 2012-02-05 2

A variation on last week's view. A reader from France commented that it was good to see the Arch in its urban setting. Well, this shot is so urban that I was kneeling in Broadway.

I think I'll finish up with the dog parade in the next day or two. (Why can't I get this out of my head?) Big shoot on Saturday, the main Mardi Gras parade. It always takes place on the Saturday before the event and it's pretty crazy year after year. Those pix will start coming up on Sunday.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

More Portraits Of Dog Lovers

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What's closest to your heart? The answer was obvious for many people last Saturday. The man in the middle picture is apparently a well-known player for the Rams football team. Someone told me his name but I didn't recognize it. Not something I pay attention to. In any event, he was cuddling some fuzzy little - what? - in a pink blanket. (Jilly, help us out.) I heard him say he had no problem getting in touch with his feminine side. Just don't let the guys in the locker room hear about that.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dogs - On The March!

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I was amused by the reaction of some of our French friends to yesterday's post. The tone was sort of: Un défilé de chien? Incroyable. Il n'est pas possible en France! Perhaps the the difference is that America lacks France's refined sense of irony.

Under the circumstances, I thought I'd show some pics of the parade itself. The bottom photo is First Daughter and blog team member Emily with granddog Killian.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Dog Parade

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St. Louis loves a reason to drink in the streets in broad daylight. Thus, our raucous Mardi Gras season. It doesn't come close to New Orleans, of course, but it's quite a big party. View it with suspicion, though - it's all corporate. What started as a community festival now has dozens of sponsors trying to sell something and the event itself has the ominous web site

The season kicked off yesterday with an enormous dog parade in the Soulard neighborhood. I wish CDP's great dog expert, Jilly of Menton DP, could have been there. I'm sure there were thousands of people and pooches; it was awfully crowded. The day's festivities were sponsored by Purina, the animal food maker headquartered here. It was enough to leave the participants dazed and confused.

I'll be running with these pictures for a few days.

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Night Game

Busch Stadium At Night 1

The tent in yesterday's post was in a parking lot across from Busch Stadium, where the defending baseball champion Cardinals play. The ballpark had a nice glow on the quiet street so I took some snaps in that direction.

Something strange is going on in these pictures. If you look carefully at the right of the first picture and the top of the second, you'll see green dots that are the upside-down mirror image of the bright white lights of the entrance. This must be happening within the elements of the lens, a Canon EF 85mm 1:1.8 prime. If there are any techies out there who can explain it I'd love to know.

Our surprisingly big Mardi Gras season starts today with the dog parade in the Soulard neighborhood. STL DPB will be covering it. Images tomorrow.

Busch Stadium At Night 2

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Horse Is A Horse, Of Course, Of Course

Cavalia 1

Americans of a certain age will recognize those words as the opening line of the theme song from Mr. Ed, a 60s TV show about a talking horse. St. Louis, however, has different horses coming to town. This is the huge four-tower tent of a show called Cavalia, a horses-n-acrobats spectacle opening in a month and a half. I can't imagine why they put up the tent so early unless they have nothing else to do with it and want to attract attention. The theme doesn't appeal to me. When I was a kid about the only horses around were under policemen and the whole package was scary. As for acrobats, I've got as little physical grace as one could have without a diagnosable disorder, so I don't really get it.

Note the billboard in the right background of the bottom picture. The lottery jackpot is up to $325 million this weekend. Maybe that's my ticket to freedom.

Cavalia 2

Cavalia 3

Friday, February 10, 2012



Another building in the same district as the last few days' photos.

I like the ambiguity of the message. Forgive who, and for what? Maybe it's about the Christian and Buddhist principle of compassion. Could be about what we've allowed to happen to this part of our city. Or maybe the graffiti writer is asking for mercy as to his or her own sins.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thursday Arch Series

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I rarely shoot the Arch like this from the north. The light isn't as good and there are few interesting buildings to bring into the frame. This one works in a way. The tall building on the left with green glass curtainwall and brick cockscomb is the Four Seasons Hotel, perhaps the most luxurious in town. (The staff at the Ritz Carlton might disagree.) Below and around it is the Lumiere Place Casino. Hard to believe, but this area has seven major casinos, like we're Little-Las-Vegas-On-Mississippi.

We've never spent a dime in them, but we did stay one night in the Four Seasons after a big holiday party in the Lumiere complex. Pretty swanky and we had a great view of the river and the Arch. Too rich for a regular diet, though.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Power House And Moonrise 2

Powerhouse And Moonrise 1

Same power plant, same moonrise as yesterday's photo but a completely difference approach. The previous pic was taken from some distance away with a 24-105mm lens at 55mm and f 16. (The latter really wasn't necessary.) Today's was shot from closer in with a 100-400mm bazooka at 160mm and f 4.8. Both are HDRs.

You can see this smokestack and flag on the far right of the building in yesterday's photo. By the way, this plant is right on the Mississippi (I think they bring fuel deliveries by water) and within view of the Arch. And, of course, tomorrow being Thursday we've got the Big A itself.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Power House And Moonrise 1

Powerhouse And Moonrise 2

This, ladies and gentlemen, was St. Louis' first major source of electricity, the Ashley Street Power House. It was built between 1902 and 1904 and is still in use today. It provided the juice for the 1904 World's Fair. (Did you know we had the Olympics the same year?) It's a wonderful piece of Edwardian architecture and strange enough that you might expect to see it in a Terry Gilliam movie. The rising moon looks like it was burped out of one of the smokestacks.

Another but very different view of the same objects tomorrow.