Monday, April 15, 2013

Ghost Towns

Boom and Bust in the Old West

Ghost towns are strangely fascinating places.  Idolized in stories about the hardships of the Old West, these communities were deserted by their citizens and left to crumble in the wake of financial collapse or other turns of misfortune.

Times change, promises fade, mines close, wells run dry, and business moves on.  Today, only the shells of buildings remain, bare walls and foundations stripped of lumber, copper, and other valuable materials.

a photograph of the rhyolite ghost town in nevada near death valley national park
General Store, Rhyolite Ghost Town, Nevada

Perhaps the ghost town is the architectural equivalent of an obituary page, a volume of cautionary tales foretelling the demise that awaits those who take foolish risks or rely too heavily on the good graces of providence.

The ghost town is bleak, bankrupt, crumbling, and deserted, yet we still feel compelled have a glance or even spend a few hours exploring their mysteries.

The ghost town represents our fears come true.  We want reassurance that this bitter fate won't happen to us, to our homes, to our towns. 

Rough times hit everyone sooner or later.  No one understands this better than those who have seen ruin and devastation up close.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Lenses: Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8L II

Light happens.  Be ready.  Shoot hard.

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Evaluating New Gear

Just Shoot It

When I evaluate new cameras and lenses, I want to go out and do some shooting as soon as possible.  I'll review the manual quickly to ensure that I understand the basic setup, but I really want to get 'out there' and start taking pictures.

I can't get the best out of a piece of gear until I've logged some experience with it.  I want to jump in and get that experience right away - shoot, review, see what happens.

Sure, I'll make some mistakes.  I won't understand how to find some settings, etc.  But that's acceptable as long as I'm not shooting something critical (like someone's wedding).  The struggle to access new features and locate obscure menu items actually helps to burn these details into my memory.

Caveat: This probably isn't the best approach when learning to do something dangerous such as flying an airplane.

I met with good fortune recently when I took a new camera out for its first stroll.  The sky was clear, the light was outstanding, and I ended up with some memorable images.

a photo of Hunter College in Reflected Light in New York City
Hunter College in Reflected Light, New York City

I had photographed this building at Hunter College previously, but I never seemed to capture it in a flattering light.

On the day of my new camera break-in walk, sunlight bounced off of a building across the street and cast interesting reflections toward the subject.  The effect was unique and obvious.  A gentleman passing by noticed what I was doing and said, "Oh, you're taking it with the reflections from the other building.  That's cool!"

The light made a big difference.  I had my first good shot of this building after several tries, and my new camera logged its first keeper.

Later on the same walk, I photographed this statue of Mary in the gardens of a prominent Roman Catholic church.  Once again, it was a subject that I had visited previously with varying degrees of success.  But this time, the pure quality of the light combined with the impressive greenery to create a memorable image.

a photo of a statue of The Virgin Mary with Flowers in New York City
The Virgin Mary with Flowers, New York City

I like the serenity of the image.  The sculpture itself is crafted to project serenity, and I'd like to think that the photo supports and enhances this mood especially with the addition of the flowers and the greenery.
  She seems far removed from the hustle and stress of the big city, and I suppose that that's really the whole point. 

Not all of my shots  that day worked as well.  There were hits and misses, successes and clunkers.  But with every shot I learned more about my gear, lessons that I would be able to apply to future projects.

I'm impatient.  I don't like to read the manual until I've used the camera.  But once I've enjoyed the immediacy of that firsthand shooting experience, I'll go back and read almost every page.  I want to understand the details.  The book makes more sense once I know how the camera responds and feels in my hands.

As a bonus, even a first attempt can yield good photos.  It's all part of the magic and mystique of photography.

Camera: Nikon D800

Lens: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G AF-S

Light happens.  Be ready.  Shoot hard.

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved