A lensless day

The film is back. After a 10-month hiatus from by pinhole camera, I finally had a look at what I photographed on April 29, the annual Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day.

In the end, I decided to enter the one shown above, a close pick over the one shown below. You can only enter one. And there are no prizes.

I like both of them but they project very different thoughts. The top image follows one of the basic tenets of composition, the line. Specifically, converging diagonal lines. It forces you eye to the center, in this case, the Cleveland skyline. Alternating black and medium gray areas create triangles. It's very direct and simple, a lot like my previous work.

The alternative image, at left (click to view larger) is full of tension, full of crossing lines and angles with a curve thrown in. The skyline is barely visible. It shows at least three bridges, a trademark of the Flats. It's gritty, but to me it's more Cleveland.

I would appreciate your comments. And to see more pinhole photos, go to the gallery for the 2012 Worldwide Pinhole Day.

Back in the saddle again?

It's been almost year since I took my last pinhole photo. And almost that long since I photographed a reconstruction. I'm not sure why it's been that long, but the distractions of last summer certainly were a part, I'm sure.

In the meantime I've been blazing away with my iPhone, posting most of my images to Instagram. It's too bad they were gobbled up by Facebook and it's been interesting watching the "serious" photographers that use the site search for an alternative. But I digress.

Sunday was Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day. I have participated each of the last five years. And to keep the streak going, I forced my self to head out Sunday a.m. to downtown Cleveland to see what I could see. I ended up making nine exposures at several locations. The film is at the lab and will report back when it's done.

It was relaxing and nothing seemed forced. I ended up trying some compositions that were a little more complex than my usual scenes. We'll see.

So while we wait for the film to be processed, here's a reconstruction I made with my iPhone, something I have not tried before. Not thrilled about the results, but it's good to get back on the horse.


There has been an eyesore of a building that must have offended many who approached Cleveland from the west on the interstate system. Just as you head over the I-90 Cuyahoga River bridge was an eight- or nine-story building, on the left, known to me only as the Cold Storage building.

It’s been vacant for at least ten years, and was only used as a billboard that offered drivers immense advertisements. Probably the only reason the building lasted as long as it did, as I’m sure it was vacant.

So progress deemed that it had to come down to make way for the new multi-lane span over the river.

It’s down now, and because of that, offers drivers and passengers and rather nice view of the Cleveland skyline.

I went over there a few weeks ago to see if there was a photo to be made. This image was made with the pinhole camera sitting atop a chain link fence while I stand on a Jersey barrier. Progress, indeed.

Painted in a circle

When I head to the D.C. area, I’m fortunate to have an excellent place to stay, at a friend’s seasonal home located on the ridge just east of the battlefield of Antietam.

Antietam is my favorite Civil War battlefield and I have visited it many times. I’ve also been to most other major battlefields. By far, in the Eastern Theater, Antietam stands alone as the most pristine park, with little or no commercialism encroaching on its borders. A tip of the hat to the National Park Service and for their effort to return the battlefield to it’s original 1862 condition, including replanting entire groves of woods and orchards.

In juxtaposition is Gettysburg, just 35 miles or so northeast of Antietam (as the crow flies). Over the years the city just kept creeping southward, comprised mostly of tourist traps. But again, thanks to the efforts of the NPS, they have made strides in restoring what they can.

The new visitor’s center, opened in 2008, is a true state-of-the-art museum/theater/educational center. The centerpiece is the restored Cyclorama painting, finished in 1884 by French artist Paul Philippoteaux, depicting “Pickett’s Charge.” Four versions were painted, but only two currently exist, one in private hands. This painting’s original home was Boston, and it was exhibited in its own building. It moved to Gettysburg in 1912 and then to a new location in 1961 (where I first saw it in 1962). The painting measures 42 feet high by 359 long and is intended to be presented in a circle. It underwent restoration from 2005 to 2008 before it moved into its new home.

Visitors stand on a raised platform and watch as a soundtrack describes the scene. Dramatic lighting and sound effects highlight different parts of the image. At the bottom is a diorama that perfectly blends into the painting. It is breathtaking. My only complaint is that visitors don’t get a lot of time to just walk around, in full light, to view the image.

So, if you get the chance to visit, don’t miss it. Also, take in the slide show put together by the Center for Civil War Photography. It’s located near the museum store. A bin below the wide-screen TV contains 3D glasses to put on so you can view how most of the images made during the conflict were intended to be seen.

My son and I spent about two hours in the center, and then made a quick tour of the field. Here is the only pinhole photo I made on my trip. It is a view of the “Slaughter Pen,” looking west from Little Round Top.

(Click on images to view larger versions)

The D.C. dilemma

I had a pleasant, long weekend visiting the Washington, D.C. area, on the occasion to pick up my daughter from college. My son and I went down a few days early to say at a friend’s retreat near Antietam. From there it’s just a 30-minute drive to catch the Metro.

It’s always a dilemma for me when I head into D.C. in trying to decide which camera gear to carry.

Since I knew I was going to be walking quite a bit, I didn’t want to be too encumbered with gear. Although my 35mm DSLR outfit (with wide zoom and tele zoom) fits snugly into a comfortable backpack, it’s still pushing 15 pounds.

My pinhole bag is significantly lighter, if I just take my mini-pod.  No big loss because there are many places you can’t set up a tripod on the street (like in front of the White House). But I had made numerous pinhole photos in the past, the process can be a bit time consuming, and I feared it would cut into our tour time.

So I opted for my Canon G9, in addition to snapshots with my daughter and son and other things that struck my fancy, I had the opportunity to pursue some “reconstructions” at various places. I photographed the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the White House and the Museum of Natural History.

I tried to make some at Fords Theater but there were too many school tours going in and out, milling on the sidewalk, crossing the street in front of me, that it just didn’t work. And I think it really needs to be photographed (notice I didn’t say shot) at dusk for the best effect.

Directly across from the theater is the house where Abraham Lincoln passed from this world (now, he is one for the Ages). Unfortunately it was under renovation and had all sorts of scaffolding and workers in front. Next door, well known to any student of history, is Lincoln’s Waffle Shop, where he and Mary polished off a stack of Belgians before heading across the street for the play.

Is nothing sacred in America?