Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bug In Peril

A VW Beetle sits in the ice and snow on the levee, the old cobblestone slope down to the Mississippi under the Arch. It looks like it might slide right into the cold water with just a little push. Wonder how far down river a sealed-up Volkswagen could float.

: it was packed! Couldn't get close enough to many of the exhibits to see them clearly. Didn't recognize a soul (almost always true at local arts events - except for immediate family, I'm kind of a lone ranger in these matters). Not only didn't someone buy me a drink, it was so crowded we couldn't even find the bar until we were about to leave. Oh, well. The show is certainly worth going back to on a quiet day. And I bought myself a drink when I got home
(umm, nice chard).

CDPB Monthly Theme Day: Paths and Pathways. It's another weird one.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Day-Late Thursday Arch Series (15 Minutes Of Fame Department)

Sorry about my complete space-out and forgetting that yesterday was Thursday. As it happens, today is a particularly auspicious day for Arch pictures.

Mildred Lane Kemper Museum houses the art collection of Washington University, as well as special exhibits. A biggie opens tonight: Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future. Saarinen was the visionary architect who designed the Gateway Arch, among other notable works. The exhibition traces Saarinen's career and achievements, with special emphasis on the history, design, engineering and construction of my beloved monument.

There is an opening reception tonight and I'll be there. Now here's the 15 minuted of fame bit: the muesum's director of education contacted me awhile back and asked if they could use some of my stuff on the exhibit's web site and printed materials. Why, yes, of course. The educational resources page of the exhibit's web site has links to my Gateway Arch photo blog and my big Flickr set of Arch photos. There's also a link to the American Institute of Achitects' web feature on the Arch; most of the photos in the slide show are mine. Lastly, click the link to the Eero Saarinen Connections guide and, um, scroll down to page 14, making note of the photo credits and the last quotation.

Now, if someone would only buy this stuff.

some photography lover will but me a drink at the reception.

bug in peril.

There is a new Arch photo
today on Gateway.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Winter Looking Down, Part 2

A block away from where I work, there is an old office building that has been converted to apartments. The developers put in a rooftop pool during the renovations. We can see it from my partner's office - something to amuse her during the summer. On a snowy winter day, the lines and colors become simple.

WHAT I DID LAST NIGHT THAT I SHOULD DO MUCH MORE OFTEN: go to the gym. Yes, we all need exercise but it's just a drudge chore to me.

Thursday Arch Series, a day late, and also a new Arch photo on Gateway.

OOPS! I've had such a week at work I forgot that today is Thursday Arch day. I will be up tomorrow. Actually, there is a good reason to do it tomorrow rather than today.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Winter Looking Down, Part 1

This is the first of a short series of photos taken on a cold Sunday from the windows of our office in downtown St. Louis. This garage is immediately beneath my own office. Its simple geometry has been on the blog once before on a warmer day. Click here.

miserable. Sleet and snow, 20 F/-7 C, increasing fog. I sent my staff home early do they could do their driving before dark. But, hey, it's winter and it's worse north of here.

TOMORROW: winter looking down, part 2

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Western Lands

Next to Calvary Cemetery, where Tennessee Williams rests, is Bellefontaine Cemetery. The two of them contain the remains of many people of local note and a few of international stature. Williams and William S. Burroughs top the list.

Burroughs, a native St. Louisan, was a revolutionary writer. His 1959 novel, Naked Lunch, was the last written work prosecuted for obscenity in the U.S. Burroughs won. If you don't know him and are interested, the anthology Word Virus is a perfect introduction. My copy sits by my bedside. It also has a CD of the author reading his work, much of which is hilarious. His satire of Franklin Roosevelt's pre-war administration and battles with the Supreme Court is fall-out-of-your-chair funny and not for the kiddies.

Burroughs is a champion to me but I bet that many people picking up one of his books for the first time would think he's dangerously insane, flagrantly offensive, or both. Well, you pays your money and you takes tour choice.
The Western Lands
is the name of one of his best-known novels (I loved it), the title referring to the ancient Egyptian home of the dead west of the Nile. At least Bill made it west of the Mississippi.

By the way, the object to the right of the stone is a decaying pumpkin with a couple of cigarette butts sticking out of it, probably left by a fan. Burroughs would approve.

I NEED TO FIGURE OUT REAL SOON: where the bleep did I put my remote shutter release?

TOMORROW: winter looking down, part 1.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The End Of The Streetcar Line

Tennessee Williams left St. Louis during his college years. He died in a hotel room in New York. Now he lies here again, in the wandering lanes of Calvary Cemetery. His colorful younger brother, Dakin Williams, stayed in the area, practicing law in the Illinois suburbs. Perhaps that's what brought him back here in the end. Some St. Louisan cares enough about him to bring flowers to his grave.

a hybrid car. About time.

the Western Lands.

There's a new Arch photo
today on Gateway.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tennessee In Missouri

There are a number of prominent figures in the arts who are from St. Louis or had a significant connection to it. Tennessee Williams was born in Mississippi but his family moved here when he was seven. He went to University City High School, the University of Missouri and Washington University in St Louis. Then it was outta here. This intriguing bust-and-more is on the corner of Euclid and McPherson in the Central West End.

some readers have asked for information about the artwork itself. You can find it here.

there are a couple of big, old, ornate cemeteries in a part of town I never have reason to go,
Finally got up there. They have some well known residents.

underground Tennessee and a new Arch photo on Gateway.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Society For the Support Of Penniless Lawyers

More filler from the archives: a trinket I found at a tin soldier shop in London years ago that I keep in my office. I make a contribution to the organization whenever I'm in town. This little thing is just 3 inches / 7.6 cm tall.

go to the office and work on the backlog. Pix after that, if possible.

let's go visit Tennessee.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Buddhas In My Office

From the archives. Well, this is in St. Louis if not exactly about St. Louis. Actually, it's my desk. The little figures remind me of the impermanence of technology and coffee trends, whispering the principle of non-attachment to squeezable rubber toys, however holy. Oh, and what's that hand thing in the background? Click here.

WHAT I CAN'T DECIDE: what to do for theme day next week. I have an idea, though. Don't know if I can find all the props I'd need.

TOMORROW: Society For The Support of Penniless Lawyers

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thursday Arch Series

I had never noticed that perfect line of three trees in front of the south leg before. You wouldn't see the pattern when they are full of foliage. Such a nice, strong rhythm under a vague sky.

WHAT I'M RUNNING OUT OF: new photos. We may have some odds and ends, some nice finds from the archives. Friday, for example.

the presence of Buddha in my office.

There's another new Arch photo
today on Gateway.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pizazz To The 6th Power

Another ice sculpture. I don't remember what business sponsored this. It looks like a frozen version of a mask from a Mexican Dia de los Muertos party. The number 6, the exponent, should technically be to the right but the dead play these games backwards.


TOMORROW: Thursday Arch Series, as well as a new Arch photo on Gateway.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Frozen Stogie

Why shouldn't a frozen lion smoke a cigar? King Of the Beasts, alpha dude, all that Freudian stuff that cigars imply. As is happens, this sculpture at the Ice Carnival was in front of what they call a smoke shop in this country (selling supplies for more things than tabacky, although they got that). The whole ice tablet was shaped like a cigarette lighter and it said "Zippo" across the top.

George H. Bush has 15 more hours in office. Let's hope Cheney doesn't pull a fast one overnight.

TOMORROW: pizazz to the 6th power.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Would You Like A Whack At This?


Two bucks, two swings at a block of ice with a sledgehammer. Would you have gone for it, or just secretly wished to? I got bum shoulders so I was out of the competition. Good thing that the nearest bar was across the street and not right next to this. Still, there were plenty of watering holes to choose from at the Ice Carnival.

WHAT I'M WONDERING: should I have done something to protect my lens while I was shooting these? Too late now.

We freeze vegetables. We freeze burgers. Should we freeze cigars?

There is a new Arch photo
today on

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Loop Ice Festival

The Delmar Loop is a stretch packed with restaurants, entertainment venues and unusual shops. It lies mostly in University City, so named because most of the main campus of Washington University is within it, and is growing into St. Louis proper. It got the name Loop because years ago there used to be a loop of track where the trolley cars turned around to go back to the city. In 2007, the American Planning Association named the Loop as one of the ten best streets in America. Really.

On Saturday, The Loop put on an Ice Carnival. Pretty weenie stuff for you far northern types but fun for us. There were ice sculptures up and down the street. This one showed a lot of imagination.

WHAT I CAN'T GET OUT OF MY HEAD: We Sail the Ocean Blue from Gilbert and Sullivan's H. M. S. Pinafore. What's wrong with me?

TOMORROW: another frozen treat: gee, this looks like fun. Plus a new Arch photo on Gateway.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Dvin is a tiny Eastern European restaurant in Webster Groves, the suburb where I live. A mother-daughter team owns the place, cooks the food and serves it. As one review puts it, in Slavic style the walls and tables are decorated within an inch of their lives. So my wife and I had dinner there recently and I'm sitting around waiting for the food with a point-n-shoot in my pocket looking for action. I kept looking at this salt and pepper set, an association barely under my consciousness radar. Then it hit me: cooling towers, a giant palm - a nuclear power plant in Saudi Arabia.

Locals: if you haven't been there you really should go. The food is delicious and inexpensive. They don't have a liquor license so bring your own wine - they will provide glasses. No need for reservations. We've never seen it full.

WHAT'S ON IN STL TODAY: The Loop Ice Carnival. The Loop is a funky dining, shopping and entertainment strip crossing the border between St. Louis and University City. I think the carnival is an excuse for day-long cold-weather drinking and then taking sledgehammers to giant blocks of ice, just to see what happens to your shoulders.

TOMORROW: with luck, something from this event.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Old Courthouse, Broadway, Winter Night

I was standing at the top of these stairs between the center pillars when I took the photo in yesterday's post. The Old Courthouse, the former home of federal courts in St. Louis for many decades, has been the subject of several posts on this blog. There is some information about the history of the building in my post of June 17, 2007.

turned into weather weenies when we had our coldest day so far this winter. The low was about 1 F./-17 C with a high of 10 F./-12 C. It was bright and sunny. Chicagoans would laugh at us, Minneapolitans look down at us with contempt, and Edmontonians, in the words of John Cleese in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, would fart in out general direction. Except that up there in northern Alberta, such material would instantly freeze and fall to the ground.
Buck up, St. Louis.

I thought it looked like a little model of a nuclear power plant in Saudi Arabia.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thursday Arch Series

Another image from Sunday night's riverfront moonrise shoot. What's that line in the sky? The lights of an airplane heading for St. Louis' Lambert Airport, caught on a two second exposure. If you look closely, you might be able to see the plane's red and green lights flashing at two positions.

too much work to do. WHAT I DON'T HAVE: enough time. WHAT ELSE I HAVE: a photography obsession and a closet full of gear. WHAT'S A FELLA TO DO? Beat's me. Probably more of the same.

night at the Old Courthouse

There is another new Arch photo
today on

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

La Lune Silencieuse

The title is in fancy-pants French because yesterday's was, too. VJ gets it.Tuesday's moon photo was loud and brassy. Today's is quiet.

Siegfried's Death, from the opera of the same character's name. Despair and the lasting memory of triumph all within a few minutes. Wagner was a jerk but his art is transcendent.

TOMORROW: Thursday Arch Series and another new Arch photo on Gateway.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Clare de Lune, Or, Why I Love My New Camera Body

The photo above and this well-known tune by Claude Debussy are the reasons for the horrible attempt at a joke in Monday's "Tomorrow" blurb. However, it was also a technical experiment.

I scored a Canon 5D Mark II last month and I want to tell you, I am smitten. Its highest resolution RAW file gives you an image of astonishing clarity, weighing in at 21 MB a shot. So, on Sunday night, I went down to the riverfront to shoot the rising full moon.

Photographing the moon well isn't easy, so I read up on it. The advice I found was conflicting. This picture was shot at ISO 400, f 16, 1/20th sec. I used spot light metering and
mirror lock-up. Of course, the camera was on a tripod and I used a shutter cable release, all to minimize vibration. My longest lens is Canon's 100-400 mm L series, so I used it at max extension. It's not nearly long enough. The image you see above it perhaps five percent of the original shot, a very tight crop. It's not perfectly sharp but not bad IMHO. Pretty good camera.

WHAT I ORDERED FROM AMAZON: some orchestral excerpts from Wagner operas. The St. Louis Symphony had an opera-oriented program last weekend, ending with four selections from the Ring cycle. It swings from bliss to despair to heart-pounding majesty.

more lunacy, perhaps.

There is a new Arch photo today on Gateway,
also shot on Sunday night.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Next Cruise

Uh, what time? 6:30? June 6? When the thermometer rises? At the wintry deck of the Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, excursion boats on the Mississippi, the clock droops almost like one of Dali's, waiting for the spring.

WHAT HAPPENED LAST NIGHT: holy cow, did I get some good pictures. Do come back on Tuesday and Thursday, at the very least.

I didn't know Clare, but Claude did. Also, a new Arch photo on Gateway, shot Sunday night within minutes of the Tuesday's featured picture here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Trains Across The Mississippi

More HDR. It visual drama seems to fit the subject. I shot this standing near the edge of the river looking back west at the city. No idea how old this bridge is but it carries heavy freight across the Mississippi all day long.

a Christmas gift from my wife, Glass Box, a 10 CD survey of the career of composer Philip Glass. Note the Chuck Close portrait on the link to the set on Amazon. In 1984, my wife and I attended a performance of Glass' first opera, Einstein On the Beach, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It approached six hours long, with the audience invited to wander in and out at will. It was a day that rearranged my neurons and sent me in a new direction. Here's a sample.

next cruise.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Please Return Carts Here

Same shopping center as yesterday's post. It occurred to me to use fill flash on the Whole Foods sign but I can't improve anything on the building behind. (Well, Photoshop can.)

WHAT WE'RE REALLY PUMPED ABOUT: it's done! Booked! We're going to Tibet in September with a couple of days in Kathmandu on each end. Which is why, uncharacteristically, today's post has a theme song.

By the way, if anyone is interested, my wife was in Nepal February - March 2008, in Kathmandu and out in the countryside. She visited the Mitrata school and children's home we support (see the bottom of the left sidebar). Got some fabulous pictures you can see here.

I hear the train a-commin'

Friday, January 9, 2009

That Which Cannot Be Contained

The other day my wife and I stopped at this store in Brentwood Square, a shiny strip center, to buy a basket for newspaper recycling. After I put it in the trunk of the car I looked up, saw this and exclaimed "holy bleep!" Fortunately, my camera bag was in the trunk, too. Just one of those little pleasurable moments life throws our way.

ever see the great old Disney film, Fantasia? There's a sequence in which Mickey Mouse, playing the Sorcerer's Apprentice, animates a broom to do his water-hauling chores. Never seen it? Click here.

TOMORROW: what happens when you use fill flash on the reflective sign on the cart return corral in front of Whole Foods.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Thursday Arch Series

In the note accompanying my post of January 3, I was whining about chore of having to go back to the Arch over and over, trying somehow to make fresh images, avoiding cheesy postcard shots. An anonymous commenter said that some people like the Arch photos, cheesy or not, and please go make more. So I went out last weekend and made a warehouse full of cheese. I'm talking about HDR pictures. Sometimes they can be beautiful and subtle but, more often, they tend toward visual hyperbole. Not that that's necessarily bad. Last weekend I took a bunch of new high resolution HDR pictures of my favorite monument. Cheesy? Up to you.

WHAT I DID FOR THE SAKE OF COMPARISON: today's companion post on Gateway, my all-Arch, all the time blog, is a black and white version of this same picture. I think they have a very different feel. What do you think?

enough of the St. Louis Art Museum for now. Let's go shopping at United Colors of Brentwood Square.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Recursive Function

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines recursive, in a linguistic sense, as "of, relating to, or constituting a procedure that can repeat itself indefinitely ." Computer science often uses the term recursive function, which means "a function that calls itself during its execution. This enables the function to repeat itself several times, outputting the result and the end of each iteration," as U "R" Us, computer scientist par excellence, will verify. So what the heck does that have to do with this post? I'm standing in a gallery at the St. Louis Art Museum taking a picture of the paintings and another guy who is standing in a gallery at the St. Louis Art Museum taking a picture of the paintings. If we were in luck, there would be another person standing behind that panel in the center taking... You get the idea. Wow, I must have had a long day at work. (Well, I did.) Actually, here's a better example of a recursive function. Nice light in this gallery, anyway.

read a book instead of staring at this computer screen. One that's not about photography.

Thursday Arch Series (lurid HDR division) and a new companion post on Gateway.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Nobody Loves Anselm Kiefer

At least not on New Year's Day afternoon in the St. Louis Art Museum. Anselm Kiefer is is a contemporary German artist who for some years has worked from his studio in the comfort of the south of France. His images are large scale, made from mixed media including paint, lead, earth, straw, shellac and other materials. It's hard stuff, often relating to German history and culture. You can see many examples here. The piece in the photo is entitled Burning Rods. His work is a challenge to the viewer. Most of the people in the museum that day must have been off looking at the Monets. Except me and my wife.

Washington University in St. Louis has a newish art gallery, the Kemper Museum. A special exhibit opening on January 30 is about Eero Saarinen, the designer of our own Gateway arch and architect of many other important buildings. One of the curators emailed me, asking if they could use some of the text from my Gateway blog in the exhibit's printed materials and link to my blog in the in its web page once it opens. Uh, yeah, I think that's okay.

To celebrate, there's a new Arch photo on Gateway today.

recursive function.

Monday, January 5, 2009

East Wing

The St. Louis Art Museum is often a quiet place. Although it has an excellent collection for its moderate size, it ain't the Metropolitan or the Louvre and this burg ain't New York or Paris. There are balconies overlooking the great hall connecting the east and west wings of the building. The volumes of space and light around them can be most attractive.

WHAT I WAS JUST WONDERING: is there a 12 step program for photography addiction?

TOMORROW: nobody loves Anselm Kiefer.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Viewing Art, Making Art, Talking About Art

The great hall of the St. Louis Art Museum on New Year's Day. There are at least two people here (besides me) taking photos. So what does this say about St. Louis museum goers? Um, they're white, middle class, of all ages, their children have cell phones and like to take pictures of one another with small cameras. Let's see - how many of those caregories do I fit in?

went to a movie. Mrs. C. and I maybe make two a year. Such a busy life! But we got out to see
Frost - Nixon yesterday afternoon and holy cow was it good. This movie with the wife thing was kind of fun. We ought to do it again.

East Wing

There is a new Arch photo
today on GATEWAY.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

First Photo Of 2009

It's appropriate to start 2009's cavalcade of images with a picture taken on New Year's Day. As I mentioned, my wife and I went to the St. Louis Art Museum (which has the wonderful acronym SLAM) on Thursday. After we saw the Action/Abstraction special exhibit, we wandered around some of the galleries. It was pretty quiet. With no crowds and their policy allowing photography in the general galleries, I got a few good items. The picture in the background is an early work by Chuck Close, an artist I admire. The image is disconcerting, like so much of his work. The man's chin is misshapen, perhaps scarred. He gazes up, avoiding eye contact with the viewer. It looks like he is wearing about 60% of a bad wig. Close's portraits of Philip Glass, another favorite, are easier on the eyes.

More pix from SLAM in the coming days.

every month or so I have to go to the ^#$!)%$!#@ Arch and shoot more material for both of my photoblogs. What on earth to say about it that I haven't done already? Hmmm. Think... think... Hey! How about some left-handed polarized Lensbaby shots squeezed through Photomatix into HDRs while I drag the shutter with slow flash sync? That could be really cool. Come back Thursday for Arch Series day and see if any of these cockamamie ideas worked.

how many photographers can you count? Oh, and a new Arch photo on Gateway.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Last Picture Of 2008

My last usable shot of 2008. We were asleep by 10 o'clock on New Year's Eve, old poops that we have become. The night was perfectly clear and there was an intense crescent moon setting in the early evening. I had to go out in front of my house with my tripod and see what I could get. Well, there is a lot more technique to photographing the moon than I realized, as my results, followed by some on-line research, showed me. Still, this has a certain interest, sort of Hopper-ish, if not much portal appeal.

my wife and I had an nice New Years lunch together, followed by a visit to the St. Louis Art Museum to see the current show, Action - Abstraction. It's about Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and the American painters of that era. Brilliant stuff.

my first picture of 2009.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

CDPB Theme Day: Picture of the Year

Okay, after much consultation with friends and colleagues, I declare that my personal best of the year was this portrait of Novice Sister Kristi Kreams, Abbess, Gateway Sisters of Indulgence, St. Louis, MO, taken at the St. Louis Pridefest and posted on June 30. The group is apparently part of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an organization whose web site describes it as "a leading-edge Order of queer nuns" that made its first appearance in San Francisco on Easter Sunday, 1979. I love the kabuki makeup. All Japanese kabuki roles, male and female, are played by men. Why not also on the streets of St. Louis?

My favorite Arch picture of the year, posted on June 26.

Best St. Louis neighborhood shot, on Manchester Ave. in The Grove.
Very close second-best portrait of the year: Joseph Ades, a locally famous Englishman
who sells vegetable peelers on the streets of New York City.
Posted July 6.

151 City Daily Photobloggers around the world are showing off there very best stuff today. Click here to view thumbnails for all participants

CLICK HERE. One thousand bonus points for anyone who can identify the approximate season and time of day.

: why didn't I do any HDRs of lower Manhatten and the Brooklyn Bridge? The idea never entered my empty head.

the last picture I took in 2008.