Morgan’s Ice House

Summer means ice cream! There’s no more fitting place for a crowd to be during the Dairy Princess Festival than crowded around the local ice cream stand. The contrast is strong and the setting is familiar in that “classic Americana” kind of way. Even the edge of the house next door adds that bit of small-town welcoming spirit. A scene of Norman-Rockwell-esque friendliness.

Morgan's Ice House

Three Scenes from the Dairy Princess Festival

This weekend marked the crowning of a new Dairy Princess in Canton, New York, and with that crowning came a variety of festivities. A location scout for a charming movie about a small-town baseball team with moxie would have been hard-pressed to find a better vision of classic America. While eating an ice cream cone taller than my head and avoiding children running at full tilt, I had a chance to put my 35 mm prime lens to good use. I present three of my shots from the evening.

Ubiquitous food stands offer what you’re craving—as long as that includes sugar, salt, grease, potatoes, and caffeine.

Snack America

There were also, of course, the quiet asides between family members in quasi-privacy. I really liked the way that this side-conversation was also physically away from the lights (and crowds), even if it did push my poor APS-C sensor to its limits.

But Dad!

And what kind of American festivities would be complete without some live music?

Elders with Music

St. Lucia Dub Style

Today is Friday and I couldn’t resist posting another shot—a total contrast (pardon the pun) from the last shot. I wanted something else to take me away from the rainy-day New York. Back in St. Lucia, South Africa, Volkswagens are ubiquitous. Though the look like relics of the 1980s, many of them are models still being produced today. It’s a different world, where the perfectly lightweight hot hatch heyday never ended.

St. Lucia Dub Style

On the Road to Hluhluwe

For all of the anecdotal (and statistical) dangers on the road in South Africa, people spend a lot of time there. (Really, you could say the same of the chief transportation modes in any part of the world.) Whether it’s walking, hitchhiking (lots of hitchhiking), or hanging out in the back of an invincible Toyota, people get to where they have to be.

On the Road to Hluhluwe

Shattuck Rooftops

Looking south, over the rooftops and streetlights of downtown Berkeley, the high-rise buildings of Oakland and Emeryville are luminescent ghosts in the bay fog. I’ve come back to this photograph again and again—the composition isn’t quite right, the quality is just average, but for some reason I find it inescapable. I can forgive all of its sins (and mine in taking it) for the trajectory of those sodium lamps, arcing gently to the south like some fairy worm.

Shattuck Rooftops

Pink Sky at Night…

What is “honesty” in photography? My goal as a photographer is to capture what I saw—the subjective experience of being in a single moment. I want to capture a “truth.” The process of taking a picture is projecting the reality around us onto a sensor and through myriad digital processes to create the photograph you see in front of you now. Every photographer has, in their pursuit of truth in imaging, some lines in terms of image manipulation that they will and won’t cross. HDR, for instance, is viewed as a “cheat” by some, and as a better approach to getting the true dynamic range of the human eye by others.

A less dramatic case, however, is the use of color in an image. Last night, the sky over Canton was this incredible, surreal, and otherworldly pink-orange color that was completely overwhelming and astonishing. When I noticed it out the window, I sprinted outside with my camera and captured the final, fleeting moments. I was in that moment. Nearly the same effect, however, could have been achieved with a simply pink photo filter. To me, this raises two issues:

  1. Trust: You have to trust me, as the photographer, to portray the experience I was having when I captured the image.
  2. Subjective reality: When I process a photo, what techniques are enhancing my ability to convey my subjective experience to you? Which techniques are just “cheating?”

Pink Sky at Night...

Tree Tunnel

Driving into the canopy of trees on the way to Grizzly Peak means relief from all of the stress of work and life, and a moment with the beautiful roads of northern California. Today is my last day in Berkeley, and so I can’t think of a more fitting metaphor for finishing graduate school and moving away. On the Rimway, as in life, adventure is ahead.

Tree Tunnel

Lights in the Canyon

San Francisco features this incredibly rapid transition from enormous, modernist towers to older, mostly wooden structures. This transition seems to be located, at least partially, along the divides between the flat portions of the city and the truly, insanely steep bits. Today’s photograph shows the full gradient between the two zones. I particularly like the two tiny figures, sitting on the steps, in the bottom right corner of the image. This tiny detail provides a little bit of a human element to an otherwise dehumanizing scale. They seem to be silent observers, casually taking in the flow of traffic as the sun’s last photons scatter through the atmosphere.

Lights in the Canyon


San Diego’s Civic Center, as I’ve shown previously, is a pretty surreal place. There’s certainly a feeling that you’re supposed to be in the nexus of the city’s of law and justice, but literally just around the corner, the buildings are plastered with signs for race tracks and the curbs and lined with homeless folks. I liked the way this image showed the broad sidewalks mostly abandoned, with only traces of waking life here and there.

Caliente! (Night)