Sunday, May 31, 2009
I didn't fall off the roof, and I did not make this picture up! I was up on top of the roof and took my gloves off to pick up some nails, and one glove rolled down the roof away from me. I reached for it and the other did likewise. They rolled down off the dormer, fell on to the main house roof, then rolled off that on to the back room roof and then fell to the ground, out of my sight. Imagine my surprise when I came down to retrieve them, and found them this way! I couldn't believe it! I swear to you I did not move them! This is exactly how I found them, and I couldn't believe it. There is something kind of spooky about this shot. Not sure what it is - maybe some sense that a person is buried under all this rubbish from tearing off the old roofs. In any case, I think it is one of the coolest photos I have posted in a while.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
This is a beautiful statue in a stunning location. It is in a large atrium lit by daylight coming in through a glass ceiling. What makes it more dramatic is that you approach it from the side, from darker galleries, so you first see it through a darkened archway. I thought that added to the image, but then decided it was distracting, and I cropped it out. I love the silhouettes of the two men looking at the statue. This is "Perseus with the head of Medusa" by Antonio Canova, and it was carved in Rome between 1804-1806. Oh, I was on the roof all day, so didn't have a chance to shoot anything.
Friday, May 29, 2009
This photo is just about color. It was late in the day, in the shadows of the buildings on 33rd street. I was passing by and was taken by the incredibly bright orange, contrasted with the brilliant blue. So I stopped and shot it. The people in the street are blue as well, because they are only lit by the blue light of the sky overhead - there is none of the warmer light of the direct sun. Want to hear a funny story? I was traveling with someone once, and saw a store that said it was a "dollar store." I had never heard of one of those, and I forget what I said exactly, but I think it was something like: "Why do they call it a dollar store?" "Because," the answer came, "everything in there costs a dollar!" Duh!
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Try and guess what this is a picture of. Right. Those are metal dresses that the mannequins are wearing! It was part of an exhibit about the history of fashion, at the museum I went to last week. They never sold these dresses - they were conceptual constructions done by two brothers whose work normally was making avant-garde musical instruments. These were made specifically for a film. It is pretty striking to see these in person - and realize how a metal dress makes no sense at all!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:10 PM
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
How long ago was it that I showed you the sides of a mysterious wooden box, sitting on my table saw? Well, I have finally finished it. It is made from Poplar. I wanted to make it from Philippine Mahogany, also known as Luan. But they told me at the lumber company that Luan is no longer exported from the Philippines. So it is made from Poplar. The corners are all mitered, and so there is no end grain showing. It has three coats of spar varnish on it, carefully sanded between coats, and all brass hardware. But what is it FOR?
It's an eyepiece case! Something to carry and protect my telescope eyepieces for observing. It gets cold each night while observing, and if the eyepieces are not protected from the night air, they become covered in condensation. There is no reason for an eyepiece case to be a beautiful piece of furniture - a plastic 3x5 card file would work as well, which is what I used before I built this. There is something wonderful about having both my telescopes and my eyepiece cases being beautiful to look at as well as being functional. It makes life richer.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
I walked along the parade route yesterday, looking for photographs, both of the people in the parade, and the spectators along the parade route. For some reason I was taken with this young boy, dressed in red, holding an American flag. I am not sure, but it just felt like an interesting picture - I think it has to do with the light in this picture, and his expression has something to do with it. I know I already posted one photograph yesterday - the portrait of the bomber pilot. It felt as if that picture by itself didn't represent the parade itself. It was the story with the portrait that made the picture so interesting. So that's my excuse for posting a second picture from Memorial day.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:39 PM
Monday, May 25, 2009
This is Michael. I met him today at the Sea Cliff Memorial Day parade, just by chance. He was a B-17 bomber pilot in the Second World War, and flew 32 missions, many over Germany, including the Shweinfurt raids. The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a four-engine heavy bomber which was used to attack strategic enemy targets like ports, shipyards, factories, oil facilities, and ball-bearing works in Germany and France. So many of these aircraft never returned from their bombing raids. The crews were so very young - most were only in their late teens or early twenties. Many would be reported missing after only a few missions, while others might survive only to be killed on their final mission. Michael was only 26 when he first became an aircraft commander, and in charge of the 10 man crew. After surviving 32 missions, he was given a "Lucky Bastard Award" and it now hangs on his living room wall. How do we begin to thank him and all the other veterans, in all the wars, so many of whom made the supreme sacrifice for our country.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 7:57 PM
Sunday, May 24, 2009
I went to the Met primarily to see two exhibits, but I was aware of a new sculpture on the roof garden. It is called "Maelstrom" by the artist Roxy Paine. It is welded stainless steel, 145 feet long and 45 feet wide, and it is crazy wonderful! I was not prepared for how amazing this work of art would be! I was pressed for time, so only spent 45 minutes photographing this. The roof was full of people, wandering back and forth, in and around this astounding piece. It was a joy to photograph! It looked like so many different things depending on where I shot it from, that I had to post a series of photographs so you would have a greater understanding of it in its totality.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
These cats are so funny. It is not enough for this one to fall asleep on the nice soft bed. Or on a pillow on the bed. This cat has to sleep on TWO pillows on the soft bed! It cracked me up when I saw this. I just hope she was comfortable enough to get a good nap.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:36 PM
Friday, May 22, 2009
This is the first photograph I took at the Met yesterday. I was looking at these Helen Levitt photographs and then noticed this woman doing close-up photographs of them, and the exhibition captions. It just seemed funny at first, but then I realized I often do the same thing! For the permanent collection at the Met, they allow photographs of the paintings, drawings, and sculptures. I often photograph these things as a reminder to myself or to study later. In fact, yesterday I photographed a number of the postcards I saw. So there's the logic, but it is still a funny photograph, I think.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 6:52 PM
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Wow, what a day I had today! I went to the city to see a couple of shows at the Met. I wanted to see the Walker Evans Postcard exhibit one more time before it closed. And some other things. I took a billion photographs, many of which I will post in the coming days. This is one of the last I took but it is quite different for me, so I am starting with this one. There is a wall on Fifth Avenue that runs along the edge of Central Park. There are park benches every 50 feet. Late in the afternoon, the sunlight bounces off the buildings opposite the benches, and this wonderful, warm light illuminates the people on the benches. So I used my Canon point-and-shoot and held it in one hand with my arm down at my side, pointed to the west, as I headed south on Fifth avenue. I snapped a photo as I passed each of the benches with people on them. I got some interesting ones, but this is a favorite. Just the lost-in-thought look of this barefoot young woman. Naturally the photo was tilted - I wasn't using the viewfinder. There was enough room around the photo, so I cropped the image and tilted it straight to see how I liked it. I decided I liked the tilt better - I guess it gives more of a sense that it's a "street" photo.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:29 PM
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
If I lay the hammer down on its side, it will slide down the roof, but if I balance it on its claw, like I did here, it will stay in place. I didn't pay attention when I set it down - I just put it down. But, when I went to pick it up, I noticed this incredible shadow on my new roof so I grabbed the camera on my belt (yes I even have it on the roof) and shot this. The orange tape is to help me find the hammer when I forget where I put it.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
I ran out of tarpaper today, so after dinner, went to Home Deopt to pick up a couple of rolls. On the way home I drove by this familiar scene that I have photographed so many times before. But I don't remember seeing it quite like this. You are going to love this - I was kind of tired, so I thought "Gee, I should come down here and photograph this scene at sunset some night." WHAT? Then I came to my senses, turned the car around, and went back to where I first saw this. The weather was really clear, so that's why the nice orange sky at the horizon.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:46 PM
Monday, May 18, 2009
On the roof again? Wait, I thought you were done with the roof? Well, not quite - I am in the home stretch. I had hoped to finish before Thanksgiving last year, but the weather did me in. Spring has been a day of sun and a day of rain - I need two clear days in a row, which I finally got today. I need four days to finish, and have used one - I hope to re-roof this section tomorrow - today I stripped the two layers of roofing. Then two more days to finish the main house roof. I have a back room to strip and roof as well, but that's down low, and easier to work on. Notice my nice new chimney on the right of the photo.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:10 PM
Sunday, May 17, 2009
About a month ago, TIME magazine did a story on Detroit, and had a spectacular photo essay of abandoned buildings in the city. I was stunned by the photographs, particularly the Fisher Body Plant 21, which this is, and thought "I have GOT to go there, when I am in Detroit!" Then the insecurities started to set in... Is it in a bad neighborhood? Are there homeless or druggies in there? So I called my friend Kyle who lived there, and he said he had been in there. "Bring a flashlight - you will need it to see, and it makes a good weapon, just in case." Yikes! Just what I didn't need to hear. So I made myself crazy worrying about it. I WANTED into this building so bad, and it was eating away at me. It was getting to me badly enough that I thought, "OK, I will just go to the convention and forget this crazy idea." But that would mean I was a failure. As the time approached, however, I thought I would at least go take a look at it when I landed. I would at least just photograph the outside - I wouldn't have to go inside. It was raining and overcast when I arrived at the plant - perfect weather for this subject! I found two small businesses across the street from the factory, and there were cars parked out front, so I just parked my car with them, and knew it would be safe. I got my camera and umbrella and started shooting from outside the fence. I slowly walked around the building, and found some plywood ripped off a window. A way in! Then I saw a fence I could squeeze through if I needed to... A way out! Then on the back side, I found a whole plywood panel removed - a third exit. So I finally took a chance and went inside. The short version of the story is that there was no one inside. I photographed there for about two hours, inside and out, and finally summoned enough courage to go to the upper floors, one by one, until I got to the fifth floor. I cannot begin to tell you of the joy I felt when I was finally done and knew what great photographs I had. And even more importantly, that I had faced my demons, and gone WAY outside of my comfort zone, but had gotten the photographs. This plant, Fisher Body 21 was the birthplace of countless Cadillacs, and Fisher became the industry standard. The plant closed in the early 1990's. The building was built in 1919 and designed by the architect Albert Kahn, who was the foremost industrial architect in America. He is sometimes called "the Architect of Detroit."
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:51 PM
Saturday, May 16, 2009
I was in this office the other day, and the lights were not very bright in the room. I was taken by the "window treatment." Something about the arrangement of the window shade, and the lamp. Maybe the overall feeling is a bit spooky, but you know I like these kinds of things. So many of my photographs are about the light.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 10:47 PM
Friday, May 15, 2009
This theater has a storied history. It hasn't been an active theater for perhaps ten years. When it was on its last legs, there were stories of the husband and wife who stood by the door and looked for contraband food that theatergoers might be bringing in, hidden in their clothes. They were doing so poorly profit-wise, that they needed every dollar they could earn from the candy counter, as well as the ticket revenue. Very sad. So here it sits in a deteriorating building. Who knows what's next.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:29 PM
Thursday, May 14, 2009
I guess I have to ask for your indulgence for a couple of more days. I am still taken with a lot of the stuff I shot in Detroit. While wandering around an abandoned factory, which I expect to post within a day or two, I saw this. it immediately grabbed my attention - the design of the structure, I guess it was. I just love industrial stuff, and when it is surrounded by cracked pavement with grass growing up through it, well, it just doesn't get any better. I read a wonderful book once about why we love ruins. Unfortunately I forget why that is. Duh! I am beginning to think that this post makes no sense at all... :-)
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:37 PM
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
I have decided to show you two strange rooms today. They are both in observatories. The top photograph is what you see when you come in the front door of the Detroit Observatory. There are four arches, and they lead to the center of the observatory, which is a huge tapered masonry column that fills the center of the entire building. The column begins in the basement and goes all the way to the telescope room on top of the house. It is really important that the telescope be mounted on something that does NOT move. The lower photograph is in a solar observatory. If it looks like you are inside a giant water tank or silo, you would be correct. In 1930 the designers of this observatory started by buying a water tank, and then added floors and support structure. This is a view of the inside wall of the tank, and the opening in the floor leading down to a lower level.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:39 PM
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
If you wonder why I belong to the Antique Telescope Society, and why I go to these conventions, check out this gorgeous telescope. This is a six-inch aperture Pistor & Martins "meridian circle." It points up through that slit in the roof, and determines the positions of stars as they pass through the meridian. It does it with incredibly great accuracy. But it is stunning to look at, having been recently restored. It was one of the original instruments in the observatory when it opened in 1854.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:42 PM
Monday, May 11, 2009
Liz sent me a link the other day to a story in the Times about a new sculpture installation by Maya Lin at Storm King Art Center in upstate New York. I have wanted to go there, but have not as yet. Anyhow, there was mention of a similar sculpture "The Wave Field" installed at the University of Michigan in 1995. "Wait!" I thought - "I am AT the University of Michigan!" How cool is this, to find out about the artwork while I am here. So I took an hour between the end of the lectures and dinner to drive over to another part of the campus and see the work. It is lovely, and calming, and playful. It was also VERY difficult to photograph. This is one view - there is also another which I may post at another time. What I did do was slowly walk around on it and in it - on the tops of waves, and in the troughs of waves, and around the edges. It is a wonderful piece to explore in that way - you really need to be in the sculpture. I spent the whole hour enjoying it, and photographing it, and this is one of my favorite views. I can't wait to get to Storm King for the new installation.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:17 PM
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I had about an hour to spare this afternoon, so went to the University of Michigan Art Gallery. I wish I had more time to spend here. I rounded a corner by a stairway and came face to face with this sculpture! Wow! It stopped me in my tracks! It is called "Apsara Warrior" and is by the Cambodian artist Ouk Chim Vichet. It is made from chopped up pieces of AK-47 rifles! An Apsara is a female divinity, going back to the first century in Cambodia's native history. This sculpture came about as part of Cambodia's ongoing disarmament effort, the Peace of Art Project Cambodia, which raises public awareness of of the need for non-violence in society. I do not remember the last time a piece of sculpture affected me so powerfully. I stood there and just looked at it for ten or fifteen minutes. I could spend an hour just examining all of its incredible details. It is stunning!
Saturday, May 9, 2009
OK, this is a quiz... Pick your favorite photograph. I went downtown early this morning for our convention, and after parking the car had to walk to the building where we were meeting. I drove by this scene on the way to the parking lot, and it grabbed me, so I spent some time trying to find the best view. I first saw the bottom photograph, which is straight on, and lit from the front. Then walking back from the parking lot, I saw the top photograph, lit from the side. When shooting each, I waited for a pedestrian to enter the scene to add interest and scale. But for the life of me, I cannot decide which photograph I like best. Take your pick! Be sure to click on each photograph to see more detail before deciding.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:55 PM
Friday, May 8, 2009
We were at the Detroit Observatory today for part of our convention activities, and we toured the facility to see the building and the two telescopes here. The building was beautifully restored back in 1996-1998 and it is just stunning. It was originally built back in 1854, which to me seems unimaginable, somehow. I will have to show you some of the telescopes later on. But the thing that jumped out at me tonight was these old wooden steps up to the observing floor for the large refractor. The texture, and the years of wear on the tread speak volumes to the work that has been done here. How many nights have astronomers walked these stairs to the cold dark observatory for a long night's work. These stairs are a hundred and fifty-five years old, and they are more beautiful for their old age. This is a large file, so please click on it to see more detail.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:44 PM
Thursday, May 7, 2009
I am in Detroit for a convention this week. I arrived on an early flight today, and then went in search of two abandoned factories that I learned about before coming here. It is a long story and I will talk more about it later on. This is part of the Continental Motors factory, built in 1912, and then shut down in 1965. It originally covered 12 acres, and was one of the world's largest motor factories, building engines for cars and trucks, and even tanks. One version of the history says that the factory made a huge stink, and neighbors sued, but lost the case. Another version claims that worker militancy was the cause of the shutdown. I was extremely lucky today - when I arrived at the first factory it was raining, which was perfect, and it was still overcast when I arrived here. Perfect light for photographing these amazing structures. I posted a really large file of this, so please click on it to see a much larger image. You will enjoy seeing more detail in the larger image.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
This is the view that I see each morning out my bedroom window. I have been watching the dogwoods come into bloom - the trees with white and the pink blossoms, thinking that maybe there was a photograph somewhere there. This morning there were low clouds breaking up, with dark and bright patches in the sky. I realized instantly that was what completed the picture! So here it is. It is one of my more subtle images I think, but I do think that there is something special here. Click on it, of course, to see much better color.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:13 PM
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
"The New bike?" What? This is a picture of a rocking chair! OK, OK, I will explain. Now that I am traveling around town doing errands with my bike instead of my car, I discovered another plus to the process... I went to the Post Office the other day, and on the way home, even though it was raining, I didn't go directly home - I started riding around on some of the narrower streets that I wouldn't drive along with my car. And since this isn't my racing bike, I am riding more leisurely, instead of hammering for my whole ride. The reward is being able to see so much more than I would in the car. This shot is proof of that. The beautiful yellow rocking chair jumped out at me from some distance away. Stay tuned to see if I find other photographs this way, in my bike travels.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:03 PM
Monday, May 4, 2009
It rained again today, so I went into the yard to see what I could find. This is our dying dogwood that has been in our side yard for 39 years, and it has always been a joy to watch come into bloom every spring. Half of it is gone now, and apparently there was no way to save it. Anyhow, I first looked at the blossoms, and did some photographs of them. I moved to the left, and realized that there were some of the dead branches in the foreground that were out of focus. At some point I decided to focus on the branches just to see what it looked like, and I was stunned because there were water drops on the branches. It was a completely different looking photo - just because of a change of focus! Wow! I love that this has a completely different feeling from what I normally recognize as a picture.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:07 PM
Sunday, May 3, 2009
We bought our house back in September of 1970. There is a steep bank in front of the house, and it was covered with brown vegetation after a hot summer. I didn't pay any attention to it at the time. But the next Spring, the bank exploded into brilliant bright green, as the fiddleheads of new ferns pushed their way up through the dead remains of last year's ferns. It was rainy today, and in the rain, colors are more brilliant than in bright sunshine. So I grabbed the camera and went searching in the fern bank for something interesting. I photographed the green ferns against brown, and then found this, with the green against the new green grass. I think the monochromatic version is more striking, so here it is! (And it looks dull green, so please click on it.)
Posted by Ken Spencer at 8:01 PM
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Last month I was tired one afternoon, and did the unusual thing of lying down on the couch to take a short nap. I usually stretch out in my chair. When I woke up, I noticed the moon rising in the East through the window. While I was idly looking at the scene, I thought it might make an interesting shot for the blog. Interesting because I would usually not shoot a scene like this - I would go outside and maybe go down to the beach and look for a traditional scenic. So this is not traditional - it is a different way of seeing for me. Of course it could be that this is not even a complete photograph. But I liked that I was, for a few minutes, thinking of seeing the world in a different way.
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:41 PM
Friday, May 1, 2009
Question: "How many bicycles do you need?" Answer: "Just one more." What I am doing here is helping the economy to recover by supporting my local bike shop! I received a letter in the mail the other day, telling me I would receive my Stimulus check at the end of May. So I decided to do the right thing, and not save the money. About the bike: It is a Specialized Hardrock mountain bike, the least expensive one they make. My plan is to drive less, and use this to buy bagels on the weekend, and to go to the grocery store and Starbucks by riding my bike, instead of using the car. Seriously. The neat thing is, when I ride my racing bikes, I have to get all decked out with my spandex shorts and jersey, and my bike shoes with cleats before riding. With this bike, I just put velcro straps around my jeans, toss on a helmet, and off I go. And don't you just love the yellow!
Posted by Ken Spencer at 9:38 PM