I have written before about the treatment of family photos and other artifacts from previous generations. I recently re-encountered the collection of old 16mm home movies made by each of my grandfathers, which span a time range from the 1930s to the 1960s. I had sort of decided that I didn’t want to invest the time and expense of converting them to modern digital media just to look through them maybe once, wondering who these unknown people are, at events and places that have no particular meaning to me.
Still, I couldn’t bring myself to discard them, ending their life in some landfill. So I made a final effort to find someone who might actually be interested in them, perhaps as props for period theater productions, or as some old-timey footage to place in a modern film project. A google search did not find such uses, other than to mention that there is a market for old movies, without really listing many. But one suggestion was to check with local historical societies, who are sometimes interested in them for research and documentary purposes.
Some years ago I was driving home from an afternoon excursion into the beautiful rural areas of Minnesota during the fall harvest. The sun eventually sank below the corn fields and the evening sky took over as the moon rose.
There was a delay in our travel home while I stopped and took pictures of this unusual composition: the moon in a twilight sky behind the steeple of a local church and its cemetery. I don’t believe there was a guiding hand directing me to that place and time, but I recognize a unique moment when I am in it.
In the years since, I have attempted to capture the moon in this magic moment, but it turns out to be a difficult project. I recently learned why at a seminar led by Mike Shaw, one of the pioneers in making modern nightscape photos. His advice and recommendations led me to try this composition on the St Croix River, the optimal timing being one day before the full moon.
The new bridge over the river was a long time in the planning, and long overdue for replacing the old lift bridge that chronically clogged the traffic in Stillwater. The old bridge is now dedicated to pedestrians and bicycles; the new bridge hosts walkways and overlooks, making for a pleasant “loop trail” from Minnesota to Wisconsin and back.
I practiced the photo shoot for several days prior to the key event and witnessed lots of fishing and boating activities on the river. I also watched big river boats taking their passengers out for dinner cruises, returning after sunset. The beautiful fall weather held, and I was able to once again photograph the rising harvest moon dressed in the beautiful colors of twilight.
I assembled a time lapse of the experience. It’s a one-minute sequence. I hope you enjoy it.
It is possible to drive to the floor of Monument Valley and enjoy a 17-mile loop that presents magnificent views of the geology wonders here. At one point along the drive is this view, called the “North Window”, a particularly beautiful scene in the moments before sunset.
A mostly clear night, and a new lens to try out! A lens I was hoping to use to capture wide-angle views of the Milky Way, and of northern lights, should I ever be in a position to do so.
I headed to Baylor Park, which is the home of Eagle Lake Observatory, operated by my astronomy club. I wasn’t there to use its facilities (though others were). I just wanted a clear view of the sky outside the city, somewhere I could practice techniques for making timelapse sequences, preferably alone, where I could make mistakes without an audience.
When given subzero temperatures, freeze soap bubbles.
This is one of those things that I have wanted to do for some years. Living in a place where the temperatures drop to levels well below those in your freezer that solidify water and can preserve slabs of reindeer meat, each year I enjoy a few days of dangerously cold weather. One can throw a pot of hot water up in the air and it turns into a spectacular cloud of steam and snow; no liquid lands on the ground! It is also possible to blow soap bubbles that freeze into gossamer ice globes. They are delicate and beautiful, and I have long wanted to photograph them.
Each year when the outdoor temperatures drop sufficiently, I have tried to do this. Invariably, there is too much wind—any wind is too much—and the bubbles wander away. The ones I can catch, usually burst before I can take their picture.
This year however, I had a new strategy. We recently installed windows on our outdoor screen porch. The temperature remains cold, but the wind is completely blocked. I can now make soap bubbles and they won’t get away!
A half-century ago I was a teenager in high school, fascinated with cameras and photography. I had progressed from my first Kodak Instamatic to a (used) Kodak Retina-II 35mm; both are considered “rangefinder” cameras: you looked through a viewfinder that simulates what the lens sees.
But what I really wanted was a single lens reflex camera, a Nikomat, a camera one step down from the famous flagship product of the Japanese camera maker, Nikon. A “single lens reflex” (SLR) is a high-performance camera, where the view through the eyepiece comes through a complex arrangement of mirrors and prisms from the very lens that will be recording the picture. The key to this magic is a mirror on a spring-loaded hinge that provides the periscope-like view through the lens while aiming and composing the shot. When the shutter release button is pressed, the mirror swings out of the way just in time for the shutter to open and expose the film.
I acquired my first SLR by saving the earnings from my summer job flipping hamburgers at the local drive-in. Except it wasn’t enough. My dad helped out, not by a contribution, but by asking an associate who occasionally made business trips to Japan to make a camera purchase on my behalf, since the local cost was significantly lower than the imported retail price in the U.S. and, crucially, within my savings. At that time such long-distance business trips were rare, and I had to wait several more months for my camera to arrive.