Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Sun Sets On 2011

Downtown sunset 2011-12-30 2

We close the office early on Christmas and New Years Eves. Since the holidays are on Sunday this year, we let everyone run for the exits early on Friday. By 4:45 yesterday afternoon I had long been the last rat on the ship but I was rewarded when I looked up from my desk and saw this.
There was a heavy lid of clouds over the area but it had a sharp edge, leaving just a degree or two of clear sky above the horizon. As the sun was just about to set, it looked like a cosmic-sized red stage light had been trained on downtown. My camera was in my briefcase so I started shooting madly from my office windows.

Thus ends 2011. I'm not sad to see it go. Although we had some good times - Carolyn and I visited Costa Rica and France - it was a very difficult year for our law firm, for a complex combination of reasons but mostly evil federal bureaucrats. A family member faced some serious personal challenges. I've never worked more hours. But Carolyn and I are healthy and still actually like each other after 38 years, I work with the finest group of people you could imagine, and my right index finger and camera shutter still work together in happy harmony. Thanks to all of you who have left comments and encouragements on STL DPB this year and given such interesting images to all of us. This blog will soon reach its fifth anniversary. You keep me going.

Tomorrow is picture of the year day. I'm posting a pair that go together. Not everyone will like them but I really do. (Some may remember that my original nom de blog was Strangetastes.) This evening our town has First Night, a spectacular assortment of in- and outdoor entertainment and I always get some great shots. It's freakishly warm today (forecast high of 63 F / 17 C) so the place should be hopping. Those pictures will start with Tuesday's post.

Downtown sunset 2011-12-30 1

Downtown sunset 2011-12-30 3

Downtown sunset 2011-12-30 4

Friday, December 30, 2011

Sunset, Christmas Eve, Interstate 44

Sunset, Christmas Eve, I 44

The last shot after my Christmas Eve walkabout downtown. The highway I take home runs generally southwest with some twists and turns. At some times of year parts of it look directly into the sunset (and it can be blinding). Here we have the last glow of day. Unlike yesterday's shot, I was not at a stoplight but traveling at the helm of my trusty Honda. Well, the traffic was very light and I was going below the speed limit and I was actually looking at the road, albeit through a viewfinder, and I just couldn't resist the color. Kids, don't try this at home.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thursday Arch Series

Market Street 2011-12-24 1

This was taken a few minutes before a winter sunset from the wheel of my car, stopped at a red light on Market Street. One of my best Arch shots in a while, IMHO. The air was so clear and the light so intense that the sunshine caromed off the stainless steel and made the pavement shine. The pattern of the building at the left, which has a polished granite and glass facade, is inverted by the shadow of a larger building off camera to the right. The picture was unplanned. Be ready, keep your eyes open.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hey, Gang, Here's A Photo Tip!

Citygarden Christmas Eve 1

I get a lot of email photography newsletters. Most of them are deleted because I don't remotely have the time to read them. I would if I were not a photo addict, but then I wouldn't have a reason to subscribe to them, but I am so I can't get around to them. You can see the self-defeating nature of the proposition.

Sometimes the title of a message will get my attention. I saw one a couple of weeks ago about shooting outdoor Christmas decorations, something I have been spectacularly bad at. The problem, it explained, is that if you do this in full darkness (and I usually did) you might expose the glowing lights correctly but the surrounding areas would be pitch black. You have no context. Better to shoot between sunset and complete darkness. If it's clear you get beautiful color on the sky and a good sense of whatever is around the lights. They look great when it's just dark enough for them to stand out.

So I tried it in Citygarden during my Christmas Eve shoot. Works great. The email also recommended use of a tripod but my camera has very little noise at ISO 800 or 1600 so I did without. It also suggested using tungsten white balance but I prefer to adjust the color temperature in Bridge or Lightroom for better fine control. Yesterday's post used the same technique. I think it worked out pretty good.

Citygarden Arch Christmas Eve 1

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas In Gotham City

Happy Holidays Citygarden

I took a lot of pictures downtown on Christmas Eve before and after sunset, something to occupy myself and keep out of the way while others were making dinner. The city center was nearly deserted. The video screen in Citygarden flashed back and forth between green on red and red on green while the AT&T Building loomed above in the gathering darkness.

It looked ominous, like a scene from a Batman movie. Does evil lurk beneath the Arch or on the other side of Busch Stadium? Quick, Bob, to the Batmobile!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Decorations Or Alien Eggs?

Citygarden Christmas Eve 2

Huge and superb dinner at daughter Emily and son-in-law Brian's home last night. He's a professional chef and she might as well be. It wasn't a late night but when we returned home I fell asleep before I got a post up.

Citygarden has unique Christmas decorations. These white glass globes glow and pulse with changing colors, giving them an eerie look. Will something strange hatch by New Year's Eve?

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Tree of Lights

The Crowe family wishes a peaceful and joyous Christmas season to our friends around the world. I am writing this on Christmas Eve in the living room of a prosperous home, MacBooks scattered in every direction, a pile of brightly wrapped boxes under the piano. (No Christmas tree for years. There is a poinsettia on the piano. Good enough for us.) Fabulous dinner, wacky conversation, good company.

It's likely that those of you reading this have similar comforts. It is all too easy in our moment of warm pleasure to forget those who who do not share what we have. There are so many, invisible from our pleasant homes. The photo is the Salvation Army Tree of Lights in Kiener Plaza. It's about fundraising, of course,
and the organization tries hard to manipulate your emotions, but the money goes to important social services (which, heaven knows, the government has largely abandoned in this country). Still, stop and consider. What has each of us done for those in want in this time of celebration? What will we do once the holiday is past?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Cheer

Lunch At The Stable

#1 Son Andy and First Friend Claire rolled into The Lou yesterday for the holiday weekend. My hearings got finished early (that's a switch) so we met for lunch at The Stable, located at Cherokee and Lemp on the South Side. It's a microbrewery-microdistillery-pub-restaurant. Never heard of it before but then I'm not the barfly I once was.

It was very impressive. Interesting, diverse beers (the Dunkel is a killer). House-made bourbon, grappa, light and dark rum and I can't remember what else. Our great waiter brought us a little sample of the dark rum, which was something special. And the pizza you see above was the best I've tasted in a long time (they make their own dough).

The parent company is apparently named Amalgamated Beer, and who wouldn't want their brew stuck together that way? It is obviously made in small batches. The bottom pic contains very good advice: whatever the question, you should always ask your bartender. Like, maybe, what are you getting for Christmas?

Amalgamated Beer

Small Batch Brewery

Ask The Bartender

Friday, December 23, 2011

Delicate Unit

Delicate Unit

Delicate unit indeed. Wonder what's inside? On a couple of occasions I've seen something like this at airports, cases that seemed to contain organs on rush delivery for transplant. Don't think that's the case here.

I found this small pick-up parked downtown. The decals in the back window are a common style in the U.S. but I've never seen any with such overt American-style religiosity. More often the stickers disparage something the driver doesn't like,
such as this (some red meat for my fellow Mac users). Well, chacun à son goût.

That's all I got today. Same old issue, too much work, not enough time to do it, photo-fun gets pushed back. In fact, it's been a particularly overloaded week, one that keeps reminding me of this famous clip:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thursday Arch Series

Arch 2011-12-11 1

Winter sunset; a quiet feeling. Few tourists around the riverfront at this time of year. The river is low. Everything seems to be conserving its strength for spring.

Sorry for few comments yesterday. I had one of those routine medical procedures that afflict the aging. After my wife brought me home I fell sound asleep. When I was vertical again I had to prepare hearings for today. But no sign of colon cancer, if you know what I mean.

FIFTEEN MINUTES OF FAME DEPARTMENT: I had no clue about this, No one notified me. Apparently early in the fall the website of the local CBS radio affiliate named St. Louis Daily Photo as winner of one of their St. Louis' Most Valuable Blogger Awards for 2011. It was spotted by my alert wife when doing a search for something-or-other. Um, they could have at least sent me an email or whatever.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Occupy Somwehere Else


Since they were chased away by the police, the Occupy St. Louis folks come around Kiener Plaza once in a while but not much. The local natural gas utility's offices are in my building and there was a kerfuffle last Saturday when the management thought that Occupy was going to put on a big demonstration at the door. A memo went out to the tenants late Friday that the building would be on lock-down (what a word!) the following day. The morning shift guard said they were expected any time (of course I go to work on Saturday and of course they let me in). The second shift guard said a cop told him the mob would arrive early evening. Nobody showed up.

Maybe the Occupy forces were not informed. My theory is that it was a prank - someone called the gas company or police and left an anonymous bogus tip. The Occupiers have left a couple of mementos in the Plaza but no one knows what comes next.

System Failure (We Will Be Back)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Traffic Relief Route

Traffic Relief Route

Oh oh. In the event of Armageddon, turn right. The scene makes it look like it could occur at any moment. Actually, this sign was just behind me across the street from where I shot yesterday's picture in Forest Park. I drive through this intersection plenty but have never seen it before. Do the authorities know something we don't?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Forest Park, Winter Sunset

Forest Park 2011-12-18 1

I was cruising Forest Park around sunset yesterday, frantic for material. If necessity (or Frank Zappa, your choice) is the mother of invention, desperation is the mother of blog posts.

There is a little pavilion in an artificial lagoon smack in the middle of the park. It's been on the blog before. As I drove by I noticed that the sky was holding its breath and the water was exceptionally still. Well, I'm no fool. It was deliciously peaceful until I realized I'd left my gloves in the car.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Self Portrait In Christmas Ornaments

Self Poartrait In Christmas Tree

'Tis the season and all that. Sad to say, our municipal Christmas decorations in Kiener Plaza are, um, kind of pathetic. Old, worn and small, without any enthusiasm, they are scattered across the grass, unnoticed by most passing drivers. The one below looks like those suspicious packages you are supposed to report to the authorities.

There is a big Christmas tree with some indoor-style lights, so dull outside as to seem embarrassed of itself. Frankly, it's all a little depressing.
The Occupy St. Louis people did add a little extra decoration.

A few planters are filled with pine boughs and some shiny tree ornaments. That's a little better. They can stimulate your imagination.

Municipal Christmas Decorations

Municipal Christmas Tree

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Geometry Lesson

Railroad Trestles

Ho, ho, ho, here's a bit of cheer, railroad trestles and bridges a bit south of the Arch. It makes me feel like I should have a ruler and protractor at hand. That glow on the center horizon seems ominous; it could be the prologue or epilogue to something serious. Just my reaction.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Tomorrows Never Promised

A dumpster across the street from the burned-out factory we saw earlier this week. I wonder if whoever applied the stencil picked this specific target or whether it was random. I'd like to think it was the former, a comment on our collective accumulation of waste.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thursday Arch Series

Arch In Back Window 1

Golden Hour light goes on and on during the winter. The sun slides so gradually under the horizon that you don't need to time your shoot with a digital watch. We had that glow late Saturday afternoon when I was shooting downtown. At some point I noticed the reflection in the coated glass of my car's rear window. This is what I got.

Thanks to our friend Grace at
Perth Daily Photo for her nice comment about the Thursday Arch Series on her post today. Heaven knows it's a labor of love. Ain't making any money off it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Variations On A Theme

Servco 2

Same building as yesterday, slightly different view, sharp B&W. This one is more dramatic. The curve of cement across the top is the railroad line seen in the middle of yesterday's photo.

Some sort of Arch picture for tomorrow, if I can remember the day of the week. I have some supply built up for a change.

Sorry about the lack of comments yesterday. I worked late (I don't know why I call it late anymore - it's become rather normal), dinner out with my wife and daughter and then plop, horizontal and out.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Service Since 1948

Servco 1

After shooting more pictures of the building that burned, seen last Friday and Sunday, I wandered around the area looking for other images. Got a few good ones that will appear in coming days. It's an old industrial area south of the Arch, wedged between I 55 and the Mississippi River.

My eye was drawn to these buildings with a big metal shed on top of one. I had to look up Servco. They manufacture custom commercial kitchen equipment. Their office and main factory are located miles back into the city. No idea what this facility may be. It's odd that the sign faces the river, not the highway and local streets.

I like the picture for its semi-abstract geometry and blocks of color. Tomorrow's post will have a more dramatic B&W of the same building.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Black Flag (Full Moon)

Black Flag (Full Moon)

There was a full moon Saturday night. Moonrise was about 5:50 PM, a reasonable hour, so I went out looking for a place where I could shoot it with the Arch in the picture. Driving back and forth on the overpasses across Interstates 44 and 64, looking for a spot to set up the tripod, nothing seemed to work: no sidewalk, tall fence, bad angle. As I drove slowly on the Mississippi Avenue overpass across I 44, I saw the pale yellow globe, fat as a big potato, rising over downtown. That was where I had to make my stand.

The result was a failure. I couldn't come close to exposing for both the moon and the Arch. My hands shaking in the cold, I could not get my tripod and big telephoto lens locked down tight enough for a 1 second exposure without bad shake. To salvage the shoot I tried to get just the bright disk. The sky was black in contrast to the city light below. After downloading the pictures, the moon looked like the emblem on a simple black flag, laden with much more meaning than the Jolly Roger.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

After the Fire

Grunden Martin Post-Fire 1 BW
This is the building that was on fire in Friday's post in a picture taken Saturday morning. No more smoke, fire trucks all gone. It looks like only the top two stories burned out. I wonder what was up there. It made for quite a spectacle. The photo has nice geometry and a whiff of charcoal.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Winter Night In The Garden

Citygarden - Dine At Night

It gets dark awfully early these days, although I know it's more extreme for those of you farther north. Some things get an entirely new feeling in the dark, like Jim Dine's statue of Pinocchio in Citygarden, Big White Gloves.

By the way, there is an article in the current issue of Forbes, the business magazine, titled St. Louis Doesn't Suck. Finally the press got something right.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Bit Of Excitement

Downtown Fire 12-8-11 2

I have no new material. Nada. Nichts. Rien. Zippo. So it was something of a relief when there was a big fire yesterday in an abandoned factory on the south edge of downtown. I heard there were shots of it on the national TV news. We could see it well from our office windows. I got these two images with my point and shoot.

The damaged building has popped up on this blog a couple of times before. The picture at the bottom is a Arch photo from earlier this year.

Downtown Fire 12-8-11 1

2011-10-15 Arch 5

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thursday Arch Serues

Helicopter Ride 2011-11-19 22

Mrs. C and I were out late last night at the Metropolitan Opera video broadcast so just time for a quick Arch pic. This is another one from the helicopter ride.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Wobbly Skater 2

Koyaanisqatsi is a Hopi Indian word than means life out of balance. It is also the name of my favorite movie of all time, Philip Glass and Godfrey Reggio's meditation about the state of our society and planet. However, the concept doesn't end there. I am familiar with life out of balance.

I haven't the slightest drop of athletic ability, leaning rather to the ungainly and clumsy. For example, I cannot ice skate. There were a few childhood attempts, all unsuccessful. (As an adult I made many attempts to learn to ski, which usually resulted in painful quads and a face full of snow.) Fortunately, I am not alone. This man is one of the couple at the far end of the rink in yesterday's post. He was on my level and I found that comforting.

Speaking of Glass, Mrs. C and I are attending a Metropolitan Opera video broadcast tonight of his Satyagraha at a local theater. It's my favorite 20th Century opera, very much a minority opinion but firmly held. Hey, who wouldn't want to see an opera sung in Sanskrit?

Wobbly Skater 1

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Deserted Rink

Deserted Ice Rink, Downtown

We have a big ice skating rink in Forest Park and more in the suburbs. A few corporations decided to put up one downtown for just December and January. It's sponsored by Monsanto, the seed and farm chemical giant, and the newly-renovated Peabody Opera House across the street. Peabody is one of the world's largest coal companies and is headquartered here.

Well, that's a nice gesture. However, they seem to have forgotten to publicize it. I heard a brief reference to it on the radio. The only information I could find online were small news items on the web sites of two local TV stations. There was only one couple there when I had a look last weekend.

An oddity of the place is that one end is dominated by a huge statue of Friedrich Schiller. He'll watch your shoes while you skate for a small tip, as long as you hum the Ode To Joy while you make the circuit. Seid umschlungen, Millionen! Diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt!


Monday, December 5, 2011

SEEN 2011

SEEN 2011 1

The opening night and awards ceremony of SEEN 2011, STL's year-end photography show and competition was held Saturday might. Above, Studio Altius' owner, David Cerven announces the winners, while studio manager Shawna Ventimiglia reacts to one of David's wisecracks. He hardly needs the step-stool since he's about 6 feet, 7 inches, or about 200 cm tall.

I didn't do very well this year. There were a number of topical categories and some of my best stuff didn't fit any of them, like this and this. It was nice to get first in Fauna with Blackbird, below, since there were a couple of spectacular macros of colorful insects, NatGeo quality stuff. I got third in Action with Night Dancer, at the bottom.

Local photo fans should check out the show. There's some very good work. Studio Altius is located at 2301 S. Big Bend in Maplewood. The show runs until early January.

SEEN 2011 2


Dancing In The Street 15

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Forest Park 2011-12-03 2

The city parks department tried something different on Friday, a small controlled burn in Forest Park. The idea was to get rid of invasive species and enrich the soil (authorities said the wildflowers were particularly beautiful in the spring after a burn). Well, it was kind of a fizzle. (Ow, I know.) The ground was too wet and the air too humid. Guess they don't have a lot of experience with this around here.

There was a little bit of char when I went for a look yesterday. I particularly liked the tops of the cattails, some burned, some not.

Forest Park 2011-12-03 3

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Bye, Kansas

Marysville City Park 1

A last shot from the Thanksgiving weekend trip to Kansas. This is an old one-room schoolhouse, or possibly a reproduction, in the town park. It was typical several decades ago; my mother-in-law taught school in such a building. You can see a number of them abandoned along the back roads. Fortunately, the one my wife went to has been preserved as a museum.

Back out on the streets of St. Louis today. Tonight is the opening and awards ceremony of SEEN 2011, the big year-end photography show. I won first prize last year but I don't expect to place this year. Crazy judges didn't accept my best stuff. Maybe I'll bring back some pix of the event.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Armed And Dangerous

Skeet Shooting 2011-11-25 1 BW

Okay, I forgot that yesterday was Thursday. Sometimes when I work stupid hours like this, I lose track of the day of the week and occasionally the time of day. I just rely on my iPhone calendar to tell me what to do next. So no Arch yesterday. Sometimes it needs a rest. Me, too.

We're still in Kansas until I shoot some new local material. This is son Andy out with the skeet shooters, with his cousin Ryan in the background. He's not actually dangerous. In fact, he's rather kind-hearted and wouldn't shoot anything but a clay pigeon. For example, he's in the midst of a career change from a software engineer for businesses he doesn't care about to a math teacher in the Chicago public schools. Andy does not carry a firearm on the streets of Chicago, although under some circumstances this might be advisable.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

More Of The Same

Sammie and Sydney

My wife's family is just the nicest bunch of people you could meet. Warm, hard-working, clever, honest, funny, and none of the adults object to a little nip (except maybe my 93 year old mother-in-law, who has other priorities at this point in life). And they produce beautiful children. This is niece Sammie, a high school senior, holding great-niece (is there a specific term for that?) Sydney, who I think is five months. She is the only member of the family named for a major city in Australia. Maybe if she has a brother, her parents, Steve and Trisha, will name him Melbourne.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why Not Make It Babies And Toddlers Week?


Well, I may or may not have enough images. However, there were small children all over the place when we saw my wife's family last weekend, so maybe.

This is Cedric, niece Lisa's youngest child. The photo was taken at Elvira, my mother-in-law's, old home, where she lived for 30 years before moving into new seniors' housing, seen here a few days ago. It was just full of stuff. She took all that she wanted to her new apartment. The rest of it was set out at the old house; the family bid on anything of interest, the proceeds going to Elvira.

There were several shelves of 1940s and 50s women's hats. Someone put one on Cedric. I thought it looked like Rembrandt's beret in some of his self-portraits, an impression reinforced by the angle of the head and shoulders. Behold the young artist.

I bought a perfectly good banjo for $10. I do not play the banjo and have no idea what I'm going to do with it. But it was way cool and I couldn't resist.