May 032014
At the museum, from above…And opinions

I posted this picture (taken from the blog posting that precedes this one) on an online forum — mostly to give the members a look at what a couple of new lenses could to.  More of a semi-technical posting than an art statement.


Click Image to Enlarge

Of course this invites comments on the aesthetics from both the well-intentioned and the clueless alike…Which is why I rarely post photos on forums.

I got this one: “I like the perspective on the 4th indoor shot, but I would tighten it up quite a lot. I’d crop away everything except mom, baby and the girder. I wouldn’t crop much from the bottom, don’t want to lose any of the stroller’s shadow. The round things at the ends of the girder would go though, as would the shadow coming in from the top.”

A follow-up post from the same person was a backtrack that decided not to backtrack:  “I didn’t say you had to tighten up the shot, I said ‘I would tighten up the shot.’ I just don’t see how the extra elements add anything to the sense of time or place. For me, the photograph is all about the baby and the mother. Everything else is a distraction.”  His would look something like this:


Click Image to Enlarge

And from a very superficial point of view he is correct:  It is about the woman and the baby.  But his framing leaves us with little else, and certainly not a hint of context.  To me, it ends up almost as a gimmick shot.

His concerns about not showing a “sense of time or place” should really be about his suggested cropping.  In my wider cropping you get a sense that this is probably a large public space.  His gives you non of that.  The sense of time is not absolute, but subjective or relative.  In the context of that larger public space, the connection between the woman and the child is even more apparent — a personal moment in the larger world.

The girder has an interesting look, but in his cropping it becomes a visual barrier:  There is nothing beyond.  There are some interesting shadows, but nothing that provides any context to the venue.  The girder constrains rather than expands.  Pretty much “Here it is”.  In the tradition of faux photojournalism.


I like the looser cropping of my original post.  For me, it works for two groups of viewers.

  1. For people familiar with the venue (granted, far less than 1% of the viewers), it illustrates the space.  You know what the shadows represent, at least in a general way.  And you also know how precious these moments are at a busy museum…In a minute or two, thirty people can be standing at this very spot.
  2. For those just looking at the photo afresh, there is a little more mystery.  Leaving the angle on the girder (to the left) gives the viewer a “way out”.  With the area left above the girder, the girder is no longer a visual barrier, but begins to define the “beyond”.  All of the area surrounding the woman and the baby becomes potential subject for speculation.


I often come across situations where I want to acknowledge people in my photos, but don’t want the viewer dwelling on the details.  There is room for debate on whether this is an effective approach, but it does reduce the emphasis on individual people — a sort of ephemeral objectification of the humans.

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

The Louvre

The Louvre



But one last note on cropping the original image…Perhaps I could have cropped out a wee bit of the distracting stuff along the right edge…

Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge

Oct 182013
The Courtauld Gallery, Paul McCartney at Covent Garden, the Fourth Plinth, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Courtauld Gallery

The Courtauld Gallery is a smaller museum with collections of Post-Impressionist, Impressionist, 18th Century, Baroque, Renaissance, and Medieval works.  It is located in Somerset House, where the Royal Academy was once located.

Paintings displayed in smaller rooms in what was once the main exhibition area of the Royal Academy.   (Click image to enlarge)

1. Paintings displayed in smaller rooms in what was once the main exhibition area of the Royal Academy.
(Click image to enlarge)

Joshua Reynold's "Cupid and Psyche" overlooks some of the Courtauld's silver.  (Click image to enlarge)

2. Joshua Reynold’s “Cupid and Psyche” over the mantle and some of the Courtauld’s silver.
(Click image to enlarge)

Coutauld staircase.  (Click image to enlarge)

3. Courtauld staircase. (Click image to enlarge)
Paul McCartney at Covent Garden

…So I was walking towards Covent Garden and noticed several news crews heading that direction.  And then, in front of St. Paul’s, the crowd.  I had no idea what was happening.  It turns out he was promoting his new album.

4. The crowd for a short performance by Paul McCartney — from the back of the black truck on the right.
(Click image to enlarge)


5. That tiny little head on the right: Sir Paul.
(Click image to enlarge)

 The Fourth Plinth.

The Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square never got the statue intended for it.  It is now hosts regular temporary installations.

The Fourth Plinth:  This is a BIG blue rooster.  The National Gallery behind, and St. Martin's in the Field to the right (with spire). (Click image to enlarge)

6. The Fourth Plinth: This is a BIG blue rooster. The National Gallery behind, and St. Martin’s in the Fields to the right (with spire).  (Click image to enlarge)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

A brilliant play at the Apollo Theater in the West End.  See it if you visit London.

Brilliant Play.  (Click image to enlarge)

7. Brilliant Play. (Click image to enlarge)

Photo Notes:

Because of the way the blog software downsamples the in-column images, you need to click the images to see them more clearly.

  1. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Zeiss 12mm | ISO 3200 | 1/90 | f/4
  2. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Zeiss 12mm | ISO 1600 | 1/30 | f/5.6
  3. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Zeiss 12mm | ISO 1600 | 1/20 | f/5.6
  4. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Zeiss 12mm | ISO 400 | 1/150 | f/6.4
  5. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 55mm | ISO 400 | 1/40 | f/6.4
  6. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 19.6mm | ISO 400 | 1/340 | f/7.1
  7. Fujifilm X100S | Fuji 23mm | ISO 3200 | 1/50 | f/5.6
Oct 072013
The Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum

The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum
 (Click image to enlarge)

You didn’t get to see messages being pushed out in the Hirshhorn’s entrance lobby.

Meanwhile the battle of messages continues unabated in Washington, DC.  This past weekend more stories on how this shutdown was part of a plan hatched months ago by a small number of one political party.

Sep 012012

A dreary day in Krakow, with clouds and occasional rain — Just like the forecast.  But inside it didn’t matter — especially for a couple of Krakow’s highlights.

A dreary day in Krakow — From the Cloth Hall towards St. Mary’s.

Nowe Sukiennice/National Museum in Krakow, Gallery of 19th Century Polish Art in Sukiennice

For the first time in four visits to Krakow, the improvements in the Market Square are completed.  The renovations to the Sukienice took place between 2006 and 2010, and a whole new museum dedicated to the centuries of Krakowian history, was built under the square in an area roughly covered by the left half of the photo above.

About half of the “Chełmoński Room: Realism, Polish Impressionism, Beginnings of Symbolism.”

Some of the paintings I liked:

Four-In-Hand, Jozef Chelmonski, 1881

Powerful imagery of horses racing across a barren landscape…One of the Museum’s signature pieces, it is a big painting, as you can tell from the objects to each side.


A Meeting on a Bridge, Jozef Brandt, 1886

A Meeting on a Bridge

Christmas Eve in Siberia, Jacek Malczwewski, 1892

Christmas Eve in Siberia

School of Talmudists, Samuel Hirzenberg, 1887

School of Talmudists

Saint Mary’s Basilica, and the Veit Stoss Altar

Occupying a corner of the Market Square from the end of the 13th Century, St. Mary’s shares major landmark duties with the Cloth Hall, as well as being a functioning house of worship.  What draws visitors is the High Altar, carved by Bavarian Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz) between 1477 and 1489.  Opened, it is about 13 meters high and 11 wide.  When the wings are closed, there are 12 scenes of Mary’s suffering.   At the start of WWII it was taken apart by the Poles, crated, and hidden around the country.  The Germans discovered it, and sent the altar to the basement of Nuremberg Castle.  It was repatriated in 1846 and restoration was completed in 1957.

The walls of the presbytery are lined with painted and gilded relief sculptures, and the ceiling is painted blue with golden stars.  Wall paintings by Jan Matejko and windows by Stanislaw Wyspianski and Jozef Mehoffer.


View along the side of the Presbytery towards the High Altar.

The main panels of the Veit Stoss High Altar.

The Presbytery from altar to ceiling.

Feb 262012

A Saturday visit to two centers of art in Washington, DC.

The Phillips Collection

My favorite art museum in DC, this is the place to take visitors from out-of-town.  Located about a block from the DuPont Metro Station (at 21st and Q NW), Duncan Phillips started the collection in the family residence in 1918, and opened it to the public in 1921.

The most famous painting in the collection is Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party”.  People really love this painting, and for good reason.

Luncheon of the Boating Party (Renoir)

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 18mm f/4 lens; ISO 800; 1/25 sec.

A detail of the ceiling and mantlepiece in the Music Room.

In the Music Room

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 lens; ISO 1600; 1/15 sec.

The gallery rooms in the original residence are intimate and calming.  They stress that the furniture in the rooms is intended to be used, and these galleries are nice places to relax.

Gallery room in the original residence.

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 lens; ISO 400; 1/30 sec.

Staircase in the Sant Building, looking out onto the courtyard.  This used to be an apartment building, and a complete interior rebuild was completed in 2006.  It added additional gallery space, an auditorium, a library, classroom, and workshop space.

Staircase in the Sant Building.

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 18mm f/4 lens; ISO 800; 1/500 sec.

National Gallery of Art, East Building

Part of the immense Calder mobile (untitled) completed just before he died.  It weighs about 1,000 pounds but moves subtly in the air light currents inside the building.

Paintings and Calder Mobile

Leica M9 w/Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 lens; ISO 800; 1/90 sec.

On the main floor with Ellsworth Kelly’s “Color Panels for a Large Wall” in the background.

Main Floor of East Building

Leica M9 w/Voigtlander 15mm f/4 lens; ISO 400; 1/30 sec.

Painting, viewed from above.

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 lens; ISO 400; 1/25 sec.

“Multiverse”, by Leo Villareal, is a light sculpture that lives alongside the underground moving walkways between the East Building and the cage/museum shop at the east footing of the West Building.  This shot looked awful in the Leica’s monitor, but it actually “cleans up pretty good” in the computer.  I need to go back and try a few more shots.

Leo Villareal's "Multiverse"

Leica M9 w/Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 lens; ISO 1600; 1/30 sec.

Feb 122012

One from the Northcoast (Redwood Coast) of California

A friend just made a trip through this area, and that gave me an excuse to look around the archives a little…

This picture was taken in December, 2004 along US 101 between Eureka and Crescent City — just south of Wilson Creek.

Near Wilson Creek, along US 101

This was shot on color film with a Voigtlander rangefinder and scanned.  The color image was very flat so I used Nik Software Silver Efex Pro to render the image in B&W simulating Fuji Neopan 1600 film with a green filter.

Dec 302011
Musée d’Orsay, October 2009

One of several big clocks at the Orsay (a former train station), this one is over the entrance.

Clock at Musée d’Orsay

I rediscovered this picture while looking back in my files for images relating to the Orsay’s new photo policy.  This was shot in 2009.  The museum now believes that allowing normal people to produce images like this is too disruptive, probably not dignified, and ultimately harms the museum.

The camera was a Leica M8, and the lens was the incredibly sharp Zeiss 25mm f/2.8.  Shot at ISO 320 and 1/45 second exposure.

Nov 272011

27 November 2011 — Last Day

Cité Metro Station

This is an interesting piece of engineering.  These photos were taken inside what is essentially a big underground steel tank that the tracks pass through.  The station serves Île de la Cité — the island where Notre Dame Cathedral is located.

Cité Metro Station

Another view of the Cité Metro Station, with a train arriving

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral

Looking towards the organ

Around Île de la Cité

"Love Locks" on the Port Archeveche Bridge

An American group performs on the St. Louis Bridge

Looking into the chamber at the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation -- in memory of over 200,000 people deported from France by the Nazis.

A last view of Notre Dame Cathedral and Île de la Cité

[All photos in this posting taken with a Fujifilm X10 camera.]

Nov 262011

26 November 2011 — Musee Rodin

A return to this gem of a museum and grounds.

The Hotel Biron is the centerpiece, housing almost 300 pieces of art from Rodin’s collection — including a trio of Van Goghs.

Hotel Biron and the grounds (Fujifilm X100)

On the grounds (Fujifilm X100)

Detail of "Pierre de Wissant Naked Figure" (Fujifilm X10)

Outside looking in... (Fujifilm X100)

...And inside looking out. "Paolo and Francesca in the Clouds" (Fujifilm X10)

Two busts of "The Man with the Broken Nose" (Fujifilm X10)

Statue merges with visitors (Fujifilm X100)

Self portrait -- lower right corner of the mirror. (Fujifilm X100)

Outside, a tradition of leaving the admission stickers on posts and poles.

The Louvre

Almost too big.

Ascent to the "Winged Victory of Samothrace" (Fujifilm X100)

The mob in front of the Mona Lisa (Fujifilm X10)

Nov 242011
24 November 2011

Actually arrived on the 23rd, but arrival days are recovery days.  Of note from the arriving flight:  (1) The White Cliffs of Dover really are white in the morning sunlight (sorry, but no picture), and (2) that ugly green de-icing stuff (from Toronto) sticks.

Green De-Icing Goop…

First Stop was the Musee d’Orsay.  One of my favorite museums, but recently saddled with a rather unfortunate “No Photography” policy. This is baffling.  I’m not convinced that the museum management is in touch with visitors and the 21st century — and how visitors interact with museums these days.

There are a few places where it seems to be tolerated, most notably behind one of the two big clocks that face the Seine.

Photos at one of the d’Orsay’s clocks

Aug 142011

It’s been a while…

I’ve got a new camera — a Fujifilm X100.  This is a bit of throwback, since it emulates the classic 35mm, fixed lens rangefinder cameras of the 60s, 70s, and 80s.  In practice, I think that the X100 will be both a complement to my Leica digital rangefinder camera, and a good camera to carry as the camera — when I don’t want all the other stuff.

With bad weather threatening today, I decided to take Metro down the the Phillips Collection.  I really haven’t taken the X100 out on enough trips so…

This first shot deals with my fascinations with motion and with mass transit.

West Falls Church Metro Station

Fujifilm X100, ISO 800, 1/6 sec, f/16

The gauze effect of the special shades at the Phillips Collection — looking onto the Hunter Courtyard.

Through a Window at the Phillips Collection

Fujifilm X100, ISO 400, 1/50 sec, f/5.6

And heading home on Metro, during a wait at one of the stations.

Metro Trains Halted in Station

Fujifilm X100, ISO 800, 1/9 sec, f/4.0

Jul 282010

This isn’t my shoe.  It was just sitting there.  Honest.

Tuesday morning — sitting on one of those granite Metro benches as I changed trains at Crystal City.

So I grabbed a shot with my phone in the two minutes before my train came.

I had to rest the camera on the bench because it is dark in there and flash would have been totally inappropriate.  The picture is still pretty cruddy.  So as much as I dislike doing it, I “rescued” the shot with PhotoShop’s Dry Brush — and the result probably says as much as an image more precisely captured and rendered.

I’m sure there is a story behind the shoe, but I don’t know if it would be at all interesting.

Dec 132009

So I wanted to just smack the guy…


…No — not the kid in the picture.  I wanted to smack my “brother” photographer.

I like this picture, but it was a challenge.  It was quite dark.  I was shooting a Leica M6 with a 15mm lens at a very slow shutter speed — ISO 800 film.  This installation was “The Weather Project”, by Olafur Eliasson, in the “Turbine Hall” of London’s Tate Modern Museum from 16 October 2003 until 21 March 2004.  I made several shots, and all the scans take a lot of work.  The best rendering of this image was something I did in a printing class — printing as in ink on paper — but that’s another topic.

I was on the floor, discretely using a monopod and contorting myself as I tried to get the right perspective.  Then this dude comes over near me, sets up his tripod, and the next thing you know the docent is telling us both that we “can’t do that”.  Grrrr.  So I’m going to be doing contortions — combined with slow shutter speeds, that’s asking for problems.

I’m sorry, but do people really think you can plop a tripod down in any museum without permission?  Monopods, on the other hand, seem to be OK in many places.  The Victoria and Albert had no problem.  Most of the Smithsonian museums allow monopods.  And you should always ask when you visit a museum for the first time.

So that’s why I wanted to smack the guy.

The little boy and the woman, on the other hand, hopefully had a wonderful day.  It sure looked like it from where I was crouching.

Oct 252009

Today started across the street from Saturday’s first stop.  The Musee Rodin is a nice place to visit — almost a refuge.  The Hotel Biron, though a little frayed around the edges, has two floors of sculture, some paintings (including some Van Goghs).  Small wonder the floors are creaky and show patches, when you consider the amount of bronze, marble, and plaster.  The free museum guide is well done and concise.

The Gardens of Musee Rodin and the Hotel Biron
The Gardens of Musee Rodin and the Hotel Biron

The grounds are peaceful and well maintained, though I expect that on nice spring and summer weekends it can get crowded.

Rodin:  Jean de Fiennes
Rodin: Jean de Fiennes

Bronze works are distributed around the grounds and there are even free telescopes so you can closely examine the details of his famous doors “The Gates of Hell”.

The next stop was the other part of FIAC 2009, taking place in a temporary building erected in the Cour Carree de Louvre.  For those who have been to the Louvre, that’s the courtyard to the east of the Pyramid.

For FIAC, a temporary building in the Cour Caree du Louvre
For FIAC, a temporary building in the Cour Caree du Louvre

I didn’t find as much to like with this collection of galleries and artists.  One guy was eyeing my Leica, though…At least I think that’s where he was looking.  His wife finally dragged him away.  (He was probably trying to figure out what it was, since I usually cover the “steal me” red dot and model engraving with pieces of black tape.)

My biggest surprise was the Centre Pompidou…The place was crawling with people.  Also surprising was the number of kids — little kids.

Two children and the Christophe Berdaugeur/Marie Pejus installation "7th Continent"
Two children and the Christophe Berdaugeur/Marie Pejus installation “7th Continent”

These two are looking at an installation called “7th Continent” by Christophe Berdauguer and Marie Pejus…That is, until their mother told them to get out of the way of the guy taking pictures.  But we worked that out, and now Mom is expecting a file with the picture. (That will take a little bit of time back home — this is a tricky image.)  It does make you wonder about “children’s art”…It really shouldn’t be just about clowns and bunnies.

There is quite a lot of activity around the Centre (it is much more than just a museum).  The shot below was taken just after sunset, and you can see the glow of the Eiffel Tower at the upper right.

Place Georges Pompidou just after sunset
Place Georges Pompidou just after sunset

Even as I left a little after 7:00 pm, people were still coming in.  Why aren’t those people staying at home on Sunday evening watching TV and training their kids to be couch potatoes?

Footnote:  The Musee Rodin has an excellent guide to the museum’s collections.  “Guide to the Musee Rodin Collections” is a compact and concise 256-page book and provides insights into not only Rodin’s sculptures, but also his painting, drawings, and works of others that he collected.  The price is 15 Euros and you can find a little more information here:

Oct 242009

First stop today was Napoleon’s Tomb.  This is indeed a national shrine…Perhaps the French are more willing to celebrate a leader’s accomplishments, and not focus too much attention on his shortcomings.  The sarcophagus likes in the tomb that was excavated and build under dome of what was once the Royal Chapel.

Napoleon's Tomb

When the dome was regilded in 1989, about 25 pounds of gold was used.  The tomb is part of the Hotel National des Invalides, which also houses the Musee de L’Armee.  I was pleasantly surprised to see an exhibit honoring Poland’s story and contributions in WWII.

Poland:  First to Fight

There is a series of displays down a corridor (shown) with French text, and a series of large photos and text displayed in the museum’s main courtyard (English and French) giving a much more accurate view of events than the history I learned.

One little gem in the Musee de L’Armee is the Musee des Plans-Reliefs.  These are formerly classified relief map models of French fortifications along the Atlantic coast, the Pyrenees, and the Mediterranean.   You have to climb up to the 4th floor, where the 24 models in the collection are kept in a dark, climate-controlled room that runs pretty much the length of the courtyard.

Models of French Fortifications

It is very dark in the museum, but you can manage photos if you have a fairly fast lens, a steady hand, and can manage high ISO digital images.

FIAC 2009 (Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain) is a pretty significant contemporary arts exhibition.  In the booths are the big name galleries, and sitting in the booths or mounted on the wall are some pretty big name artists.

The FIAC in the Grande Palais

This picture is just the part that is set up in Paris’ Grand Palais.  The other half is located in the Cour Carree de Louvre…I guess you could see both in one day.  Contemporary art isn’t for everyone, and I can easily disregard the vast majority of what I saw today.  However, every once in awhile…

Oct 232009

Might as well use some of those miles.*  Flew out on Wednesday — Arrived Thursday morning.  And I admit to dogging it on the arrival day and just crashing for the rest of Thursday.

Friday I hoofed it from my hotel (near UNESCO) to the Musee d’Orsay.  This remains one my favorite art museums mostly because of its content — art from 1848 to 1914.  The building is an old train station saved from the wrecking ball.  As a result, the main hall is spacious and airy.  There are plenty of places in the main hall to sit and relax, a good restaurant with a wonderfully ornate dining room, another restaurant overlooking the Seine, and a snack bar.  (Some snooty architecture critic was praising NYC’s Guggenheim, remarking that it was unique in that it didn’t look like an old palace or a train shed.  Would that more museums looked like the d’Orsay.)

The Main Hall of the Musee d'Orsay.

Along both sides of the main hall (the former train shed) are exhibit rooms.  On the River Seine side (the right side of the picture) are several levels of galleries.  The museum’s impressive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist work is on the 5th level (picture taken from what would be the 6th level), stretching the length of the building and across the end behind the clock.  Additional rooms hold pastels in special controlled lighting.  My only critique is that while the galleries are great, vertical access in the building is a totally bizarre mixture of ramps, stairs, and escalators.

A four day Paris Museum pass gets you access to about 60 museums and attractions, and avoids the longer lines.

For Saturday?  Probably FIAC 2009. (Look it up.)

* Actually, it only took 40,000 Alaska miles to get a flight on American from Washington National (DCA) via Miami — the first time I’ve taken DC’s Metro from home to an airport for a European flight.

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