Rain, Rain Go Away – Some road trip thoughts on a soggy Sunday

24 September 2023

On days like today, of which there are many across Ireland, my thoughts tend to wander all over the place. Some days like this one are really tough for me – it’s difficult for me to get out of my own head when I can’t get outside without getting soaked. The desert-loving soul inside my Ireland-dwelling body has not lost this quality and I don’t believe it ever will. On any Sunday, I would much rather be on my bicycle someplace in Arizona (probably where it’s not 110 F in the shade, though) than to be here hiding from the rain.

September is the tourist season finale for Ireland. As the days grow shorter, wetter, and colder, the foreigners start to thin out and businesses start to transition to a leaner mode of operation which lasts approximately until mid-April.

For those who have the opportunity during early autumn, it’s a great time to travel across Ireland because rooms become available, and for much less money than during peak season, and most of the country is still just operational enough for it to be easy to find things they want to see and do still open. Plus, the days are still long enough to actually enjoy them.

This month, I have taken advantage of the end-of-season by doing a couple of road trips which have incorporated overnight stays in the remote reaches of Ireland’s west. It’s been particularly helpful for lifting my mood and easing worries. Just last week, I decided on a whim to book a room up in northwest Co. Mayo and run around on the peninsulas just north of Ballycroy (aka, Wild Nephin) National Park.

Broadhaven Lighthouse north of Belmullet

The plan was a simple one; leave work on time (a rarity most days) and drive north. I already had the cameras and necessities packed and parked in my office, I just had to get up and go after ending business operations for the week. With approximately three-and-a-half hours of daylight remaining at the moment I started my journey, I arrived in Newport with enough time to wander around a bit and find something to eat while it was still twilight. The weather cooperated fully and, although I experienced a couple of mild squalls, the air was mostly dry.

Benwee Head

Northwest Mayo is a wild place. It has fabulous open areas, like the Sheefry and Nephin mountain ranges, that are largely devoid of people. It’s also got a great amount of physical variation, from bogs and beaches to mountains and rocky terrain. Northwest Mayo also has a lot of human history which dates back thousands of years. I find it quite unreal that nearly all of the west of Ireland was once covered in trees because it is so starkly devoid of trees in many areas now.

John-Joe Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Photographically speaking, I did not set out to do any ‘serious’ work while traveling across northwest Mayo, but I brought back some images I really like. Most of the time I was working in the color space, but I did capture a few satisfying monochromes, too. After my last blog entry about the ‘perfect travel setup’, I deviated from that substantially this time due to the availability of space and my own vehicle. I took both my A7 and one of my APS-C bodies and a quintet of lenses plus a real tripod. No film this time, just digital.

Winter will come very quickly to us at 53 degrees north now. Let’s hope it’s not a brutal one.

I Might Have Done It – My quest for the perfect travel system

9 September 2023

I’ve written about travelling with cameras many times and perhaps most pointedly back in 2019 when I went on a rant about taking too much gear and how it ruins travel (see The value of simplicity in travel photography towards the bottom of the page).

In my efforts to increase image quality while also increasing versatility and reducing weight, I have changed approaches many times. Originally, I would have traveled with nothing but a ‘superzoom’, but that often left me wanting plenty that I couldn’t quite get in a one-lens, one-body do-all solution. I have been on a quest to build the ideal do-nearly-everything system for a while and, while I’ve been pretty close most of the time, I’ve always found something that I could improve upon.

Now, I think I finally have the “perfect” travel combo in hand, at least for my needs most of the time. This consists of the Sony a6300 APS-C body, Samyang 12 mm, f/2 prime and the Sony 18-135 mm and Sigma 100-400 mm zooms. Effectively, it gives me a 135-format equivalent range of 18-600 mm. That’s enough for ultra-wide landscapes and interior images all the way out to wildlife capability. The a6300 is my recent upgrade from the NEX-6 that I have used extensively since 2016. The Samyang, while wide and tiny, is also bright enough for astro and creative low-light effects. The Sony zoom can cover 80% of situations. The Sigma gives me killer reach and serious optical stabilization. All of it gives me very good image quality.

Untitled photo

This is it! - Even Ben Franklin approves!

I have had the Sigma and Samyang lenses for some time now, but it was only recently that I decided to try out a Sony 18-135 to replace my typical APS-C travel pairing of a 18-55 kit zoom and a 135 mm, f/2.8 manual prime. The 18-135 turned out to be a much better performer than I would have believed. I’ll write something of a comparative review about that in the near future, but for right now, let’s just say that I have not been disappointed in what I’ve gotten out of the 18-135. For not much more weight than the 18-55 alone, I now have the range I had with two lenses and no gaps in the range and with stabilization at the telephoto end as an added bonus.

Altogether, the body and the three lenses weigh in at a grand total of 2.2 kg or just under 5 lbs. I do have to factor in batteries, a tripod and any other accessories, but this is a very competent camera setup for very little weight. If I know I won’t need the full telephoto range, I can leave the Sigma (1140 g) out and that literally cuts the weight in half and still leaves me with a working range of 18-200 mm equivalent. Most of the time, I don’t even need the full-size tripod since the image stabilization of the two zooms is very good.

Now, I realize I’ve just alienated everyone who thinks zooms suck and that lenses with apertures as dark as f/3.5-5.6 or f/5-6.3 have no business in the bags of anyone serious about photography. Sometimes, they may be right. For example, I have done plenty of trips where I have only taken my Sony A7 and four bright primes (24 f/2.8, 45 f/1.8, 75 f/1.8 and 135 f/2.8) because I didn’t need that much range, but I really I needed more light gathering or more capability for background separation. However, as a general grab-and-go travel combo, I find that the new APS-C system is better for 75% of situations.

Here is a set of images I just brought back from a recent bicycling trip across Inis Mor, one of the Aran Islands here in Galway, using the three-lens, APS-C travel combo.

Inis Mor

We Lost A True Friend Yesterday – Goodbye Dotty

26 August 2023

We live next to the ocean at the back of a lot of low-density apartments and next to a quiet street with big houses on it. Our complex backs up to both the sea and the backyards of the houses on the next street over. There is also a large field outside of the apartment block. All in all, it is truly a great place for a small cat to wander and to find all sorts of adventures.

But, for some reason unknown, Dotty, the small, black-and-white cat in question, wandered too far yesterday morning for her own good. She was found dead at the side of the small road one street over. One of our neighbors alerted everyone that she had been found there. Our world changed forever in that instant.

Dotty did not belong to us; she belonged to our neighbor, Skye, who rescued the abandoned Dotty and her litter mate from under a bush outside of our apartments two years ago almost to the day. They were only tiny kittens and Skye bottle fed them in the beginning. Dotty’s litter mate found a home with someone else, but Skye kept the five-spotted Dotty. She was a gorgeous little thing with terrific ears and round, delicate spots of pure black on an expensive white coat.

Dotty was Skye’s cat, but we loved her like she was our own. We had a bowl of fresh cat food and fresh water for her, some treats, some toys, and even a litter box on hand at all times. We had cushions for her to rest on our window sills and watch ‘cat TV’ and a wool blanket on the couch for her to take naps. She was in our apartment a lot. Sometimes she would spontaneously decide to spend a whole day or two with us just for something different, I suppose. Dotty would show up at the patio door and look in to see if anyone was home.

Two years is a short period of time in human terms, but in a cat’s life it’s the equivalent of all of childhood, adolescence and becoming a young adult. Like many children, Dotty was a handful in the beginning. My wife, who had never had any pets growing up, volunteered to keep Dotty for a couple of weeks when she was four months old (I was away at the time). When Dotty finally went back to Skye after that first stay, my wife was frazzled (and injured!) from the experience. “I didn’t think she would be so difficult,” said my wife. I laughed because I knew better after having a bunch of cats during my lifetime.

In May of 2022, Dotty was about nine months old. An adolescent cat, if you will. We took her in for a couple of weeks once more while her owner was away. Dotty had matured considerably, for sure, but she was still a bit of a handful. I ended up with more than a few scratches and a couple of bite marks during that time. However, we had a really good time together. We developed a bunch of games – most of which consisted of Dotty hiding inside or under something and then attacking me in ambush style.

Dotty began making regular visits to our apartment after that. She became family, really. She stopped by just about every day. Some visits were minutes long, some were hours. She brought us mice. We returned the favor by giving her little bits of cheddar.

Just a month ago, Dotty stayed with us once more while Skye was away. She was a smart cat – she knew from the transfer of her ‘possessions’ to our place that it would be her home for a while. As a young adult cat, she had become much easier to handle in all respects. I looked forward to coming home to her while she was here and that was because she was so happy to see us when we returned. She had a habit of throwing herself onto the floor and rolling around when we saw each other for the first time each day.

We will miss Dotty terribly. Her life was definitely of high quality, but it was much too short.

Lubitel Stories – Giovanni Manisi’s ode to the plastic TLR

22 July 2023

Sometime in 2022, I received a very polite message from Flickr member Giovanni Manisi (https://www.flickr.com/photos/195614339@N06/) asking if he could use a couple of my monochrome 6x6 images in a project he was working on. I was very intrigued by the description of his project and became instantly enthusiastic about it, so of course I said, “Yes, certainly.”

June 2023 arrived and with it the notification from Giovanni that his book had been published. He was kind enough to send me a PDF and I had a good look at what he had produced. I ended up buying a physical copy the same day.

Untitled photo

The book, Lubitel Stories, is a fine collection of information and experiences built around the series of Soviet-manufactured TLRs of yesteryear. Specifically, the book details the lineage of the Lubitel cameras from just after the end of World War II all the way up to today.

Giovanni goes on to introduce the work of a number of photographers who have used, or still use, the Lubitels as serious tools for their craft. “Photographs with the twin lens coming from the land of Sputnik,” just like the subtitle says.

Untitled photo

One of my favorites from Lubitel Stories - image is copyright Matthias Rabiller

The Lubitel family of cameras is an interesting collection of beasts. I have written about my own Lubitel 166B many times in this blog space and I have shared quite a few images made with it on Flickr. I really like the 166B and the images I get out of it – even with all of its quirks and quality issues. I think it helps me be a more ‘mindful’ photographer and it translates to my work with any camera, not just the plastic TLR in question.

Right now, with the tension which has arisen as a result of the ongoing war in Ukraine, I have a bitter-sweet relationship with my own Lubitel. I grew up under the dark cloud of the Cold War. My purchase of the Lubitel marked what I believed was the end of a healing process for me personally – I wanted to experience the forbidden world of the Soviet and to revel in the time of drastically reduced tension between Russia and a sizable portion of the rest of the world. That was a short-lived celebration.

I can rationalize that the current political power that is responsible for effectively bringing back the Cold War is not what I am holding when I have the Lubitel in my hands. But, it’s a shallow consolation. I really find it difficult to take joy from using my Lubitel right now (as well as my collection of USSR-manufactured lenses). I’ll probably get over it. I truly hope I can get over it.

Untitled photo

One of my photos picked by Giovanni Manisi for Lubitel Stories

Back to Giovanni Manisi’s lovely book… He’s put a lot into it. I’m proud to say that he thought my photos were worth including. The work of the other photographers Giovanni has featured is great. He has picked some fine examples produced by Lubitel users.

The book is just over one hundred pages and the text is in Italian. I am not a speaker/reader of Italian, but I know a certain ‘Google’ that is. I translated all of the text into a Cliff’s Notes version of the book so that I could understand every paragraph and caption within Lubitel Stories. It’s a great read and a fine resource for anyone interested in Lubitels, TLRs or exploring analog photography in the 21st century. I recommend picking up a copy.

Giovanni Manisi’s Lubitel Stories can be purchased directly from Amazon here. I have no affiliation with Amazon and I do not earn credit from the sales of the book.

What Are You Looking At? – A summer of casual photography

9 July 2023

The West of Ireland had a great May and June in terms of weather. We had a large amount of sun and warmth - so much so that everyone was up in arms about the heat (75 F).  May is usually the best month of the year - almost invariably - and June can be very nice, too.  However, almost on cue, as July rolled in, so did the rain. It’s back. As far as I am concerned, summer could well be over now because the rest of the month is looking like it will be wet and August certain isn’t a month known for dry weather – at least in the West of Ireland.

Anyway, I’ve been in ‘casual’ photography mode for the past two months. I haven’t done any ‘project’ photography (not entirely true - I did take photos of the University choir in June...), but I’ve taken my camera out and about a fair bit. I bought some new toys, including some bits to help digitize negatives, and I’ve been taking a look at the best ways to finish some of the projects I already have under construction and for which I am not planning on more photos to be added. Everything takes longer than expected when it comes to printed work and I’m not in any rush at this moment.

My ramblings around Ireland in the past couple of months have resulted in some fun observations of subjects new and old. Here’s a couple of examples.

The Deepest Canyon in Galway


For the balance of July, I do have one photography mission, however. It’s now been four full years since I have done any sort of photography in Dublin. My plan is to spend a couple of days in some of the ‘industrial’ zones with my Lubitel and/or my Agfa to see what I can bring home.

Stay tuned for the results of that endeavor.

My Very Portable Panasonic – A (very) long-term review of the DMC-LF1

16 April 2023

Since all the kiddies these days seem to be talking about the compact digital cameras of yesterday being so cool, I thought I might as well bring one of my own compact cameras to the blogosphere on this fine Sunday.

Way back in the summer of 2014, or about half the age of the average TikTok poster ago, I decided to upgrade my carry-everywhere pocket camera from the little Samsung NV3 I had been using since 2007. The Samsung, while convenient and quite unobtrusive due to its tiny proportions, is not a camera that is usable at more than 200 ISO and it has almost no manual exposure controls. It does have a 40-140 equivalent zoom folded into a periscope-type setup, though, and that still beats a phone any day, at least right now.

- The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LF1 -

Anyway, I was immediately separated from my cash by Panasonic’s little Lumix DMC-LF1 (LF1) because it has a 12 MP sensor with good high-ISO performance to 1600, a Leica-branded lens with a 35mm equivalent range of 29-200mm at a starting aperture of f/2, and – the rarest of the rare for a compact – a 100% coverage electronic viewfinder. That last item was a wish item that was pretty much number one on the checklist and was the deal breaker with every other option I looked at, with the exception of the Nikon P7800.

The LF1 is functionally-identical to the Panasonic-manufactured Leica ‘C’ in all details except the paint job (including the de rigueur red dot), menu graphics and, of course, the price (the LF1’s launch price was about half that of its Leica-branded counterpart).

The LF1 is a tiny camera – it is about as thick as a deck of playing cards and only a little bit bigger than that in length and height. The camera has an impressive suite of manual controls. Outside of its small 1/1.7” sensor, the rest of the LF1’s features are decidedly enthusiast-level in nature. It has the full complement of PASM items selectable via a dial on the top plate. There are no index finger/thumb control dials, but there is a clever multi-use dial pad on the back and a multi-use control ring around the base of the lens. To my liking, it doesn’t have a touch screen – the body is simply too small for that, in my opinion. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the control options are only available via menus, but there are some custom button assignments available for select functions.

People often complain about the small EVF. True, it isn’t stellar, but it is present and it is so handy when using the lens racked out to its 200mm-equivalent long end or in bright sunlight. It’s far better than no EVF at all!

Grungy Alley Study – in-camera BW made with the LF1’s lens at about 60mm equivalent

The LF1’s zoom range is impressive, but the lens is a bit of a minefield optically. At the wide end, even from f/2, it’s a fairly solid performer. In the middle of the range, the lens isn’t very consistent; with the optical zoom and the lens’ distortion characteristics, I sometimes end up with an image here and there that looks like the lens is decentered. I don’t think that it is decentered, but I think what I am seeing is the result of the floating elements moving too far past their optimum in their shake compensation. I have never tested this hypothesis, however. I usually just take a couple of pics of the same subject when in doubt. Obviously, that won’t work for moving or one-off subjects, unfortunately.

One nifty trick with this camera is switching off lens corrections when developing RAW files. At the wide end, the LF1’s lens is truly in fisheye territory without digital correction. That can actually be useful in some situations where extra coverage beats linearity. Some might find this annoying, but I think’s a fun bonus.

What don’t I like about the LF1 ? To begin, the controls are tiny and not the most intuitive, but that is mostly because of the compromises made to fit everything into such a small body. I will say that it’s still easy to effectively use the LF1 with a bit of practice even with the tiny controls. However, if I don’t use it for a while, it’s a bit weird for the first few moments, especially after being in Sony MILC land for a long time. The rear LCD is great in terms of resolution, but it is not articulated in any way, which is a bit of a bummer. I use the LF1 almost exclusively in 3:2 aspect ratio mode, at the expense of 2 MP. Raw files, however, will still have this crop, which is not always ideal – I would have preferred a full-sensor RAW file when using the crop mode. Finally, the single thing I dislike most is the power button simply because it is a button. It’s extremely easy to accidentally turn this camera on when removing or replacing the memory card and also while it is in a soft case. Plus, the power standby circuit is power-hungry; if you don’t use the camera for about a month, the batter will drain solely from the standby electronics. I have tested that by leaving the camera sit with and without the battery – leaving the battery in the camera definitely drains it fast, but it does maintain date/time/other settings that way.

A prize-winning photo I made with the LF1 back in 2017

The convenience, handling and optical performance of this little camera make it preferable to my phone in 90+% of situations. I carry this little camera with me every day just because I can. I’ve managed to capture some images I’m very happy with using the LF1, including a prize-winning shot of a bunch of horsetails and iris plants, and even a solar eclipse!

Now that Panasonic has just confirmed they are stopping all production of their compact cameras, it’s a sad day for the enthusiast photographer who doesn’t find a mobile phone a suitable substitute for a dedicated camera. There are still some options left on the market, but they are getting fewer and farther between.

The Case for ‘Dumb’ Lenses - Use ‘em today, use ‘em tomorrow

26 March 2023

Since the weather was decent here in Galway, I spent yesterday out on the hoof with a pair of fully-mechanical Cosina lenses and my mirrorless camera. It was a low-impact afternoon which even included meeting up with a fellow photographer from Co. Mayo over a couple of beers. All in all, a great afternoon.

Leaving Walsh’s – Sony A7 and 50mm, f/2 Cosinon-S

Someplace on the internet I recently saw somebody talking about the ephemeral nature of lenses with electronic controls and how they will likely become expensive paperweights when their particular bodies/mounts are dropped by the companies who produce them. Not a trivial matter when the average price for a lens these days is a grand and sad because of guaranteed obsolescence.

We have a long list of dead lens mounts already, but the difference between the dead mounts of yesterday and those we will see in the future is that much of the control for lenses in the past was mechanical. Mechanical controls, like aperture rings and physically-coupled focus rings, make it possible to readily adapt lenses to just about any camera as long as the lens’ native film/sensor to flange distance can be maintained.

But what’s going to happen when a company like Sony (or Canon, Nikon, Fuji, etc.) decides to eliminate a particular lens mount because tech is moving on? Does that $3k G Master lens, which is entirely controlled by wire, suddenly become unusable? It’s highly probable that it will be.

Sony (not picking on them for any reason, it’s just because it’s fresh in my mind) has just cancelled the legacy A-mount system which it brought forward with the purchase of Konica-Minolta’s consumer camera division back in the 2000s. The A-mount survived for 37 years across ownership by Minolta, Konica-Minolta and, finally, Sony. But, now it’s no more, at least in terms of new products which use it.

The A-mount is a lot like the Pentax KAF system with it having a mix of electronic and mechanical interfaces with the host body. The electronics in many of the lenses can be bypassed leaving the lens to function on a dumb adapter (one without electrical contacts) with modern, short-registration mirrorless cameras. There is some potential for these A-mount lenses to be used with cameras going forward, at least in manual mode.

The Brothers Wilde – Sony A7 and 50mm, f/2 Cosinon-S

We do already have examples of lenses which cannot be used on anything in a practical way. The APS SLR systems briefly marketed by manufacturers in the 1990s have lenses which, by and large, are completely electronic in terms of control mechanisms. These cannot easily be adapted to cameras in production today. There was an attempt by a cottage company to produce a smart adapter for APS lenses in at least the Minolta variety, but that was short-lived and expensive.

Sony has actually produced smart adapters for their mirrorless bodies which allow their A-mount lenses to autofocus and provide EXIF data. But, this is from a company that had some stake in keeping A-mount users in the game as they were forced to switch to E-mount. Canon and Nikon have done similar things with their DSLR lenses in anticipation of the DSLR becoming a thing of the past. It’s entirely possible that these adapters will also become unusable as the bodies and firmware that support them are phased out.

At the other extreme of the dead mount spectrum are the screw mount lenses, like M39 and M42, which have origins dating back to the 1920s. They can be used on nearly any camera body made at this moment because they are purely mechanical and very simple at that. No, there is no information passed from lens to camera (except in terms of the light transmission through the lens), but that’s the beauty of them; they just keep going generation after generation.

Today, I own a bunch of lenses with legacy mounts (some inexpensive, some expensive), most notably K, SR and M42. As long as I don’t damage them, and as long as there are cameras and adapters available, I will be able to use them and (hopefully) pass them on to someone else who can potentially use them. On the other hand, my dedicated autofocus glass will probably cease to be usable at some point in the not-so-distant future. It seems crazy to me that all of these fabulous tools will ultimately be destined for a landfill.

There are still ‘dumb’ lenses being manufactured and sold today. Samyang maintains a line of purely mechanical, manual focus lenses with respectable performance. Meike, 7Artisans, Loawa, and Irix are among the companies (all of which happen to be Chinese) making modern manual focus lenses today. These lenses, some of which are capable of supplying EXIF data, are largely devoid of a need for a specific camera body as long as the focal plane spacing is correct.

We’ll see how long the current batch of lens mounts stay in production. Hopefully it will be a very long time, but I won’t be surprised if it isn’t given the way the camera industry and market are going.

The Artificial World – AI’s rapid creep into the realm of the photographer

17 March 2023

On this rather wet and gray St. Patrick’s Day, I’m going to reflect a bit on the rapidly-changing photographic world I see around me at this moment.

For the first time in my life, I’m questioning the future of photography as an art, a medium of truth (photojournalism), and historic preservation. We have arrived at the dawn of the ‘Artificial Intelligence’ (AI) Generation and the application of AI to just about anything one can think of. Often, such application is really without substantial reason and without any thought of the implications.

My day job is within a major Irish university. AI has crept in to so many elements of university operations that it has begun to create real concerns for maintaining quality on all fronts. Students have figured out that AI can be used to cheat systems. Professors have figured out that they can use AI to circumvent processes (poorly, I might add) which have typically involved the hard work of rational, educated humans. ChatGPT has become topic of daily conversation – and within no greater area of concern than ethics.

At the same time, I’m watching AI creep into photography from all angles. From the assistance of AI in editing (blatant manipulation, more like) to the de novo synthesis of portraits of models who don’t exist at all. AI is now everywhere and promises that anyone can live the dream – even one that they create completely from scratch. I won’t even touch on deepfakes here, because that whole end of AI and digital manipulation demands more attention than I can muster in this space.

I would be lying to you if I said that I haven’t seen some very interesting and moving images produced with the assistance of, or completely by, AI technology. On Flickr and other photo sites, there are a few people using AI generators to produce completely synthesized images of all kinds of subjects which are quite amazing. Dreamy and otherworldly productions of this nature can be art, in my opinion, as long as we call them that with a clear understanding that they are ‘created’ images and not photography.

But, when I see that a company is now offering to effectively ‘model’ products on imaginary people for other companies via AI generated imagery or that influencers will use AI generated images to sell a vision of a world that doesn’t exist, I’m freaked out a bit. It’s not that these activities are so vile on their own (sometimes they can be, in my opinion), but rather because the lines between reality and fantasy have just grown so unrecognizably blurry overnight.

Where I’m most concerned about AI and contrived imagery is with photojournalism and historic preservation. Seeing is believing has been a fairly constant part of my everyday life up until recently. Yes, manipulation of photos is not new, contrived stories and allegations are not new, and blatant fraud has always run rampant to some degree. But, in the vast majority of situations, seeing – even through a photograph taken by a reputable person – has been believing.

Can we trust what we are seeing anymore? Well, in an absolute sense, we cannot when it comes to what we are being fed via the internet and via many media outlets. How can we possibly make on-the-spot determinations that what we are seeing is real and not generated by AI? We simply can’t at this point in time (unless we detect that the model suddenly has seven fingers on one hand…)

Strange days, indeed.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Keys to Immortality? – Photography and the stopping of time

4 February 2023

Where the hell did January go? Wasn’t it just Christmas? It’s obvious that this year is going to be steamroller because I honestly don’t know where the past month has gone.

This first blog entry for 2023 is the result of a bit of protracted thought about a really awful film. On a whim, my wife and I went to see Babylon last week. This entry isn’t intended to be a movie review, but I have to say that I knew the film was going to suck when the first ten minutes included in-your-face explosive elephant defecation, a raucous, orgy-filled party scene and eroticized female urination to get it off the ground. Anyway, I didn’t like the film because it was just too much all the time (3 hours of it) and I thought it was a severe waste of a lot of serious potential. The story line was interesting and I think a more visionary director and more skilled editor could have made it into a truly good film. But, that didn’t happen, did it?

There was at least one interesting moment in the film, however, and it got me thinking about my own feelings regarding how images can at once stop time and also accelerate time. This applies to both moving and still images.

Three quarters of the way through Babylon, Brad Pitt’s aging, movie star character is told by a Hollywood film columnist that he needs to accept that his career is over and that he’s a has-been. While she’s at it, she goes on to say that he needn’t worry; he will effectively become immortal because, at some point in the future, someone will haul his silent films out of a vault and he will live once more on the silver screen. Shortly thereafter, just off screen, Pitt’s character ‘ventilates’ his skull with what appears to be a large-caliber revolver.

I’ve long thought about the impact of photography and cinematography on our perception of time and also our ability to record the aging process of people, places and things. As my wife likes to say to me, time waits for no man. Or does it?

A model immortalized by photographer Toni Frissell back in 1951 - she will remain youthful as long as one can gaze upon her 1951 likeness.  Courtesy the Library of Congress

[The appearance of] Youth is one of the things we humans seem to value most. We spend much of our adult lives attempting to maintain a youthful appearance as if it alone will stop the clock. In an instant, the camera does have the ability to arrest time – or at least it creates that illusion.

For example, any one of Graham Nash’s fabulous 1960s photos of a youthful David Crosby remained a likeness of a man that existed once upon a time even as he continued to age and will remain so even after his recent death. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, both long-dead, are still in their prime each time a network runs Casablanca (1942). Conversely, I can watch a youthful Tom Hanks in Splash (1984) and then immediately afterward watch him in Elvis (2022) and it can be a jarring effect to see him age nearly 40 years in an instant.

Last autumn I was looking up pics of Georgia O’Keeffe – one of my favorite artists. I am repeatedly drawn to images of her at all stages of her life, from those taken by Alfred Stieglitz when they very first met (c1918), to those taken by Ansel Adams toward the end of her life (as well as Adams’, c1980). Through photography, I can observe how she appeared all the stages of her adult life. At will, I can stop at any point along the journey from her youth to elderly stage and observe her and her contemporary surroundings. She effectively becomes immortal at any point I choose her to be immortal.

Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In