Monthly Archives: August 2005

My cousin, the photographer

Over the weekend I was mistaken for a press photographer by the nice people in Rowley.

Well, my cousin Marianne Mather actually is a press photographer in the Midwest. She’s quite good at what she does and has won a number of awards from the National Press Photographers Association and the Illinois Press Photographers Association.

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“Merit badge?” asked the ag man

Yesterday I left the house far earlier than ever before to photograph at sunrise with some camera club folks on one of the beaches of Plum Island.

I like the ocean, but I’ll confess to being a landlubber (photographically at least). So I headed back up the island, over the bridge, through Newburyport, and down Route 1A (which Gillian called “the slow road to nowhere”) to Rowley. There I drove some backroads and had a decent time photographing, eventually making my way to the town’s common. I wandered around, photographing some rebuilt antique tractors, talking to some locals, and enjoying the beautiful weather.

“Are you from the paper?” I brought my camera down from my eye to see four or five people about my age (or slightly older) looking at me, all wearing “Rowley Agrictultural Commission” badges. This has happened to me before and probably isn’t an unfamiliar experience for anyone who uses two camera bodies and has a camera bag slung over his or her shoulder.

“No. I’m just out working on a project.” Stares. “I’m photographing in all 351 towns and cities of Massachusetts.” This usually gets intriguing smiles and conversation.

“A collector’s set, huh?” asked the main ag guy (who didn’t look like any farmer I’d ever seen in Iowa or elsewhere).

Hmm . . . “Not exactly. It’s more of an art project.”

“Merit badge, eh?” Whatever. “Anyway, welcome to Rowley.” Yeah, thanks.

So now I have an ethics problem to work through before showing pictures from Rowley. If I could only show my favorite photograph from Rowley — supposing it turns out well, a double-exposure that shows the tremendous pressures suburban farmers face, with a farmer’s “going out of business sign” and the subdivision across the street from it — do I help out the dismissive Rowley ag man? Or would I spite him and show an antique tractor, making him seem quaint and out-of-touch?

It’s a moot discussion. Of course, I would show whichever one I liked better.

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Hermione Granger

I’ve just started reading the first Harry Potter book. Lisa is dying to talk to me about the most recent book. Apparently somebody dies? (Don’t tell me who it is, or it could be you!)

Anyway, here’s a little quiz that “scientifically” proves that I’m most like Hermione Granger . . . though I would have prefered to be Alan Rickman (I mean Prof. Snape).

You scored as Hermione Granger. You’re one intelligent witch, but you have a hard time believing it and require constant reassurance. You are a very supportive friend who would do anything and everything to help her friends out.

Hermione Granger
Albus Dumbledore
Harry Potter
Remus Lupin
Ginny Weasley
Ron Weasley
Severus Snape
Lord Voldemort
Sirius Black
Draco Malfoy

Your Harry Potter Alter Ego Is…?
created with

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After getting my haircut, I cruised the DVD section of the Newton Library. From the recently-rented-and-to-be-reshelved cart I found a Hindi film: आँच (Aanch). I’ve had a hankering for Indian films recently, so I checked it out despite the fact that I’d never heard of the movie or any of its stars (Nana Patekar and Paresh Rawal).

Now I don’t usually read the back of the DVD cozy, so it wasn’t until Lisa started reading it aloud that we discovered this gem of prose, faithfully transcribed here:

Set amongst the Gangatic plains of crime infested northern India & based on a true – life incident “Aanch” is story of blooming love between a newly married couple. A story, which is a class apart, a grandiose tale, which has neither been told before on the Indian Silver Screen and would probably never, be told again.

This love-tale criss – crosses across the rural Uttar Pradesh, where egos are larger than life, corruption & nepotism is rampant, where real guns and hand grenades are toys for the infants to play with and where common-man is a pawn in the hands of few politicians riding the elephants of their caste. Amongst this socio-political mayhem, nurtured by languish and strength of characlers, rises the undying love of the couple and is born an original love story “Aanch”.

Aanch is the story of today, modern yet traditionl disgusting yet inspiring. It is a story, which shall make you sit-up in your seats, layer by layer it unfolds the high drama and compels you to think about the many illustrated facts.

In “Aanch” the city plays as big a role as the village. The compelling circumstances push and force the hero and the heroine to come to the town. They are happy to escape the brutal world of rural India and to find their careers. But their happiness is short lived and once again the circumstances compel them to return to the village.

Belonging to the two feuding families the lovers’ virgin ‘love’ instead of cooling the wild passion of hatred gives wind to the burning amber. It flames the fires, scores of people die, hundreds of cattle perish and thousands are left homeless. Hamlet after hamlet, village after village is torched and in the ravines and the great indo-gagatic plains of Uttar Pradesh the modern day Mahabharata is fought.

Do the lovers’ – the husband and the wife, find their nest? Does their dreams come true? Does their hopes find the wide white sky? The Answer to all these questions is “Aanch.”

Aanch is not merely a film but a ‘film with difference’. Based on true – life incident this film illustrates burning desires and passions of two kinds one which is constructive and the other destructive. Yet one more time “Aanch” proves that love wins.

We can hardly wait to watch.

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My Outsourced Life

Today while waiting to get my haircut, I read A.J. Jacobs article in Esquire magazine. Jacobs was inspired by Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat to outsource some of the drudgery of his daily life.

The article is at turns appalling — having someone in Bangalore chat up his parents, really! — and brilliantly funny. Here’s a little excerpt:

My team is good, cheap, and absurdly eager. They will do anything short of violating the Geneva Conventions. And with most of the tasks — online shopping, thank-you notes, research — my crew saves minutes or even hours of my day. . . . To me it seems the future of outsourcing is as limitless as … blah, blah, blah.

You know what? I’m kind of bored writing this piece. I’m going into the other room to enjoy some Entourage on HBO. So I’ve asked Honey [his assistant] to finish up writing this article for me.

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Any color you want as long as it’s black

The folks behind the wildly successful Piezography inksets for black and white photography have finally come out with an inkset for the Epson 2200.

Why is this a good thing? Believe it or not, but B&W is not color. I know, it seems obvious.

But all consumer digital darkroom printers use some combination of colored ink (plus a small number of “black” inks) to represent every tone in the print. That means that for B&W prints, each gray tone is actually a collection of tiny colored dots. Rarely is this done well enough to produce a truly neutral print, and frequently the mixed inks yield an unpleasant color cast when viewed under certain lights (this kind of metamerism is bad).

Continue reading

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CIELab as a colorspace for image editing?

Conventional wisdom holds that editing an image in Photoshop is best done in an RGB (red-green-blue) or CMYK (cyan-yellow-magenta-black) colorspace. About the only thing most people attempt to do in L*a*b* is sharpen the L* (luminosity) channel, which preserves color balance while sharpening.

Digital imaging contrarian Dan Margulis has just written a book showing how to edit in Photoshop’s LAB Color mode. (You can read a couple of chapters in PDF from his site.)

Margulis can be a controversial guy. At one point he said color management is the “worship of certainty.”

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National Geographic Photo Contest

Lisa and I always used to say that you had to travel somewhere very far away and/or very exotic to have a shot at winning the National Geographic Traveler magazine’s annual photo contest.

Well this year we went some place far away and exotic. Wish us luck!

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Minding the Gutter

Officials in India are trying to make much needed sanitation improvements. In one case the minister of rural development is urging chief ministers to prevent village elders without indoor plumbing from running for office. And in Delhi the government has been ordered to pay 2,000 rupees for each stray cow brought off the streets.

Hopefully this all has some positive effect.

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Polaroid “P” Magazine online

The newest issue of P, Polaroid’s international photography magazine, is online. Once again, it contains a nice collection of art photographs made on Polaroid materials.

In the past I’ve really enjoyed receiving the magazine in print, but bankruptcy can hasten the transition of a free journal to an electronic-only form.

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Recent Work

Over the last couple of weeks I went to Wales, Holland, and Peru as part of my on-going Commonwealth project, which will include photographs from all 351 towns and cities in Massachusetts. I started the project last summer and have already been to many out-of-the-way places. Below are a selection of images from the most recent roll of color film.

When I talk to people about this project, their reaction is overwhelmingly positive. I think people are most curious about what I’m photographing. At first I thought I knew: the close relationship of nature and developed land in a place where every square mile of land is incorporated. But to be honest, I rarely go out looking to photograph any particular thing; so now I usually answer with something unintentionally cryptic, like “whatever I see” or “stuff” or “found objects” or “things.”

This endeavor is a process of exploration — of the spirit of the Commonwealth and in search of whatever personal style emerges from a sizable, multi-year undertaking. I feel like I’m growing as a photographer, becoming more comfortable standing out on the corner in the blighted parts of Brockton, accidentally trespassing in the western suburbs, and photographing people in Central Mass. In some especially rural areas, just finding something memorable and interesting can be a challenge, which is leading me to question my relationship to the places, things, and people I photograph.

Image 1

Image 2

Image 3

Image 4

Image 5

Image 6

Image 7

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Holga camera

Film scanIt might seem odd to those who read the entry about the digital camera that I’m saving to buy to find out that I have a $17 plastic medium-format camera that I’ve just started using.

Awhile back I asked Ben over at Newtonville Camera whether anybody bought the completely manual plastic cameras next to the cash register. “Lots of people! You’d be surprised.” Later I saw an exhibit at Gallery Kayafas where the artist used a Holga.

So last Christmas I received one — my request confused Lisa a little, I think — and finally got around to using it last month at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence. Yesterday I got the film back from the lab (some of which is shown above).

The results weren’t spectacular: many were a little underexposed, and some of the experiments looked really bad. But I was very much expecting imperfect pictures.

In many ways using this camera is like starting out all over again with photography. Until I learned how to get consistent exposures with my more technologically advanced cameras, there was a moment of terror when pressing the shutter release. With the Holga, the level of control I have over the exposure is almost nonexistant. So when I trip its shutter, I know the composition might be right, but everything else is up in the air. It’s kind of thrilling to be so out of control and to create images from a simple machine that I don’t thoroughly know yet.

More information:

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Will the Sensex catch the Dow?

A couple of years ago — okay, it was more like six — I told Lisa that “the Dow won’t break 10,000 for years.” A few months later it shattered 10,000 on its way to a peak of 11,908.50 in January 2000. My vindication was bittersweet when it sank back into the low 7,000s back in October 2002. Now that the Dow has recovered back into the 10s, I’m quite relieved. (I still maintain that we have a long time to wait for the Dow to reach 36,000.)

But look at the new guy on the block: The Bombay Stock Exchange, whose “sensitive index” (or Sensex) just surpassed 7,500 a week ago and closed over 7,750 today.

In terms of total market capitalization, the BSE has a very, very long way to go before there’s more money tied up in it than in the securities traded on the NYSE or the Nasdaq. But in terms of growth the value of stocks tracked by the Sensex is phenomenal. Of course, so is the volatility, and prior years weren’t always so good.

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Thanks everyone!

Graph: Up, Up, Up!

Well you’ve really been faithful readers, and I thank you most sincerely. Last month was the busiest ever for this web site: over 6,000 page requests; more than 25,000 text and image files served; and in excess of 625 megabytes of data sent.

I hope you keep coming back!

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