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UPDATES - Railroad Bridge and Small Stone Church
2/26/2012 2:53:21 PM

On the 19th I posted two pictures of a railroad bridge near Labadie, MO, along with comments about why one of the photos didn't work for me at all and the other, while acceptable, didn't capture my original vision of the bridge.  This morning I was able to go back to Labadie and was much more successful in capturing what I originally wanted - a side view of the bridge that captured many of the details of the bridge, especially the multiple angles.

This was very close to what I originally found appealing in the bridge and today's image uses the road as a leading line which was unexpected.

The second update today is a follow-up from my post on the 24th about preserving history through photographs.  In that post I mentioned a small stone church that may be razed in the near future to make way for commercial development.  I was also able to get some photos of the church early this morning.  One is included here and others are in the St. Louis Architecture section of my Gallery.

For the story of the church, check http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/article_2b775780-a260-11e0-9a8e-001a4bcf6878.html

Preserving Our Past
2/24/2012 7:05:36 PM

A few days ago I posted these three photos (slightly larger) in the St. Louis Architecture section of my Gallery.  At that time, the large World War II era smoke stacks in the left photo were being razed for safety reasons (pieces were falling off and endangering workers on the ground) while the building with the embedded milk bottle art work had been protected by the local preservation subcommittee.


The smoke stacks are now gone and yesterday's headline indicated that the preservation subcommittee's recommendation had been overridden and demotion of the dairy building had been approved.  Demolition of the building along with another large smoke stack on the property is expected to occur early this summer.

While I have mixed feelings about the need to physically preserve all older buildings, particularly where safety or environmental issues are involved, the loss of these structures made me ask, "What role do we have as photographers in creating and preserving a record of our architectural history?"

In the time I have lived in St. Louis, I've seen several historic or semi-historic architectural features pass into oblivion including at least two large drive-in theaters, a "no-tell motel" on old Route 66, and a historic house on the campus of a local high school.  There have probably been others that I am unaware of and there will be more in the future like the dairy complex and an old stone church that may soon be facing the wrecker's ball.

Do we, as photographers, have an obligation to record images of these structures before they are gone?  If we do, should these images be more in the photojournalism, recording exact details, or can they use a more artistic approach highlighting significant portions of the structures and their use while ignoring other parts of the structure?  How can we make these images available to future generations?

I'm not sure I have the answers to these questions, or even strong opinions one way or the other, but weather permitting I'm going to try to get out this weekend to take photos of the little church and the smokestack at the dairy.

UPDATE 2/25/2012 -- After a false start this morning (dead camera batteries), I was able to get out and take some photos of the smokestack at the Dairy complex (posted in the St. Louis Architecture area of my Gallery).  The demolition company already has signs up at the complex -- just two days after demolition was approved.  I'm going to try to get photos of the stone church tomorrow.

Composition: Great Shots
2/22/2012 11:45:29 AM
Composition: From Snapshots to Great Shots/ Laurie Excell. Berkeley: Peachpit Press, c2011, Simon and Schuster, c1991 (251 p.)

For the beginning digital photographer Excell covers the full spectrum of composition from equipment selection to patterns to spatial relationships. Her work is complemented by chapters contributed by four other photographers focusing on specific subjects like black and white photography and sports.
For the more advanced photographer, the book serves as a refresher on skills that are sometimes overlooked in the rush to get that “magic photo”.
The chapters also include practical exercises that can be used to further reinforce the materials included in the book. I would recommend this book to all but the most experienced photographer.
Creative Landscapes
2/22/2012 11:42:59 AM
I finished Davis’ book with mixed feelings. The book contains a great deal of information for all levels of photographers. It also contains examples on almost every page along with lens and exposure information and either a description of the subject, a description of technique, or both.
Unfortunately, because of the wealth of photos I found myself wanting to go back and forth between text and descriptions and photos which made keeping focus difficult.
The first third of the book concentrates more on Davis’ landscape philosophy and the final part of the book focuses more on technique. Probably not the best book for the point-and-shoot or smart phone photographer, I would recommend this book to SLR and medium format photographers with an interest in landscape photography.
Wildlife Photography: Great Shots
2/22/2012 11:38:47 AM
Wildlife Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots/Laurie Excell, Berkeley: Peachpit Press, 2012 (229 p.)

This is the second book in the series “From Snapshots to Great Shots” series by Laurie Excell. I found the information here to be in more detail than her book on Composition and believe that this book will appeal to a wider, although more specialized, audience. This book also serves as a good companion volume to Moose Peterson’s Captured. While Peterson’s book is written in a more folksy manner, Excell’s book is more of a “how-to” volume and, being much shorter, is also a quicker read.

Excell considers Peterson to be one of her mentors so you will see many parallels between their books with regard to equipment, locations, etc., but Excell does not put as much emphasis on using photography as a component of wildlife studies. Instead, she focuses more on photography rather than projects surrounding the photography.
As in her other book, Composition, each chapter contains practical exercises to help photographers develop or fine tune their skills. Excell closes this book with information on two specific wildlife photography excursions, photographing bears in Alaska and photographing birds in Texas. I found these two chapters were easy to read and gave photographers a better idea of what to expect should they decide to take one of these trips.
Peachpit Press rates this book as a “Beginner” level volume which is probably accurate although I believe it offers useful information to the more experienced photographer as well. My only lingering question is whether I would recommend that a photographer read this book before or after Peterson’s Captured.
Captured: Lessons from Behind the Lens
2/22/2012 11:34:45 AM
Captured: Lessons from Behind the Lens of a Legendary Wildlife Photographer/B. Moose Peterson, Berkeley: New Riders, 2010 (396 p.)

Having heard anecdotal stories about Moose Peterson and looking at the title of this book, I approached it with some trepidation. I wasn’t sure whether this was going to be a chest pounding treatise on how “good” Peterson’s photography is or a book so technical that I would put it on the shelf after reading the first chapter. After reading it from cover to cover, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised with the content and would recommend the book to most wildlife photographers.

There are some concerns with the book so let’s get those out of the way first:
1)  If you are looking for a step-by-step instruction book, this is not it. Technical details and “rules” are not the emphasis of this book. Some material also assumes some basic knowledge which may make the book less than optimal for a beginning wildlife photographer.
2)  The book contains lots of photos but is printed on a matte paper which, for some, detracts from the photo quality. Personally I did not find this to be a problem because I purchased the book for content, not to use as a coffee table book
3)  Peterson is a Nikon shooter so if you use equipment from another manufacturer some of the details will need to be translated into what fits your equipment. Again, I did not find this to be problematic since equipment options from Nikon and Canon are similar. At the same time, several pages are devoted to screen shots of Nikon menus which are not useful to people who do not use Nikon equipment.
Having that out of the way, I found about 90% of this book to be highly enjoyable. Peterson is at his best when telling stories of projects he has worked on and describing events and the environment. Interspersed with these folksy tales are bits of technical wisdom that wildlife photographers may find highly useful (I have already made a couple of changes based on ideas he presented). Where the book does not shine is when he attempts to go deep into theory or technology. Luckily, Peterson warns you about this in the text.

While the book is long (396 pages, not the 312 shown on Amazon’s site), there are few, if any, pages without one or more photos. Peterson uses these photos to compare “good” with “better”. While admitting to not deleting “bad” photos, Peterson also says you will never see the “bad”. These photos also make this book one that you can pick up and browse for enjoyment without reading a word of text other than the photo captions.
As I said earlier, I would recommend this book to almost anyone interested in wildlife photography. My only caveat would be that the beginner looking for a “how to” guide may be disappointed.
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