lost in space

apollo11aThe most iconic photos from the manned exploration of space come from the monumental Apollo project. But if you’re not a camera buff or a space-history enthusiast, you may not know that nearly every single famous photo from that program was taken using Hasselblad cameras. See more (inter) stellar images here, courtesy of Wired, which is presenting a gallery of some of the best shots that astronauts took from the moon and space with Hasselblad cameras in honor of the 44th anniversary of Apollo 11’s historic landing.


new toy, two ways

lytro camera

Happy birthday to me. I just got the new Lytro camera and I can’t wait to start experimenting. It’s the first consumer camera that records the entire light field — all the rays of light traveling in every direction through a scene — instead of a flat 2D image. And that changes everything. By capturing the light field, you can do incredible things: like refocus pictures after you take them. Tap the touchscreen viewfinder on whatever part of the picture you want to bring into focus or, once the picture is imported into a computer, click to refocus. For example, check out the two versions of the same rudimentary photo below. Even on an overcast, light-less morning – and without bothering to read the instructions, natch – the premise behind the Lytro camera is clear: in the first photo the focus is on the foreground; in the second it shifts to the building in the rear. It’s the same digital file but the amount of light the camera absorbs from the field of vision allows me to essentially re-conceptualize the image after I take it. This is going to be fun – especially after I read the manual.

iPhone Lytro4

iPhone Lytro3


hugging the coast

Breathe deep and take it all in. (Oh, and click the image for greater detail, too.)


live blog: air/craft

Standing at the end of a runway, Jeffrey Milstein captures images of aircraft moments before landing. Carefully positioned and using a high-resolution digital camera he photographs them from below as they streak past at speeds up to 175 miles per hour. A professional photographer, graphic designer, and architect, Milstein’s trained eye and steady hand produces images of pristine clarity, 33 of which are currently on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. In this photographic analysis, or typology, the neutral background and precise symmetry focus attention on the design, color and symmetry of each aircraft: razor-sharp lines reveal technological complexity; spread wings evoke the form of birds. The arrayed images bring to mind a scientific study of pinned butterflies. Elegantly distilled, each of Milstein’s super-sized prints seem to pull you into the air, as though you’re going along for the ride.


victoria and albert

The National Portrait Gallery may make for a favored hourlong stroll but for more substantial peregrinations the Victoria and Albert Museum is pretty close to perfection. Less a proper museum than a Kunstkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, the V&A – as it’s commonly called – is an ode to Empire and a monument to the benevolent side of the Industrial Revolution. (The side that believed technology would, if not save us, at least pull us up out of the gutter.) Cherry picked from the furthest reaches of the UK’s sphere of influence, you’ll stumble on everything from medieval French tombstones and Spanish altar carvings to German stylings in wrought iron and English adventures in chased silver and blown glass. There’s an entire chancel and transept installed from a church in Perugia, majestic carpets which once graced the palace of Ottoman Sultans and the whole of the Music Room taken from the 18th century London residence of the Dukes of Norfolk. The Cast Courts, two great halls dedicated to the uniquely Victorian penchant for plaster casts, are unlike anything you’ve ever seen: yes, that’s Giovanni Pisano’s great pulpit from Pisa; yes, that’s Trajan’s Column in striking detail; yes, that’s Michelangelo’s David towering at almost 17-feet tall; and most outstanding of all, yes, that really is the late 12th century Portico de La Gloria from Santiago de Compostela. Before the internet, before photography, this was as far as many a Londoner got to seeing the treasures of antiquity and the Renaissance. Today the plaster casts are rightly viewed as stunning achievements in their own right. Despite the current fad of grave robbing claims and calls for the return of cultural patrimony, so, too, is the endless curiosity on display at the V&A.


dames and divas

London’s National Portrait Gallery is one of the capital’s great free museums. Just off Trafalgar Square, it’s a mecca for Anglophiles and devotees of period drama due in large part to the historic paintings of Tudor and Stuart royalty that fill a handful of galleries. Yet it’s also a museum very much rooted in the present - eclectic and embracing multifarious media: from tempera and photography to LCD monitors utilizing integrated software. It’s one of the best places to wander without a map – you’d be hard pressed to find a room that doesn’t lead you off on a flight of fancy involving both artist and subject. It strikes at the heart of what I love so much about Britain: you can’t turn around without having your curiosity piqued.


experiments in panorama

Without a professional camera it’s well nigh impossible to capture the breadth and scope of Africa’s imposing terrain. So instead I attempted a few experiments in panoramic photography utilizing the Photosynth software for iPhone – free from Microsoft, by the way. Be sure to click each image individually, then click it again for a vastly greater, if somewhat skewed, detail – and enjoy the view.


i spy ifly

iFly is a neat new online travel magazine from Dutch airline KLM.  What sets it apart from its dowdy paper cousin, the in-flight, is more than just a half-finished Sudoku. Namely it’s an almost Ipadian reliance on words and images cleverly integrated with video. The opening spread features German photographers Censi Goepel and Jens Warnecke, who work in situations where most refuse to go because they are either too cold, too dark, or too rainy. During a long Norwegian winter in a VW bus the duo tried to capture a flame with an extremely long shutter time. It became the basis for a career revolving around images with amazing light effects, a handful of which are featured here. There’s also a video profile of Berlin’s quirky Propeller Island City Lodge, a hotel and art installation rolled into one. A 360-degree interactive tour of a single square in Florence merges cleverly with a jaunt across Scotland by car – coupled with a chance to win your own Scottish adventure. And if you’ve ever been curious about the evanescent magic of traveling through the universe, there’s an inquisitive interview with Dutch Astronaut Andre Kuipers, too. Naturally there’s also the requisite arrivals and departures information for the airline; however, if you’ve never flown through Amsterdam Schiphol this section might actually make for the most interesting reading of all: check in for your flight on KLM’s mobile app then speed through customs to a picnic in the sun, replete with butterflies, in the new grass-filled Airport Park. If culture is how you’d rather while away your layover there’s a Library with books in 29 languages and a collection of Old Master paintings awaiting discerning eyes at the Rijksmuseum Schiphol. Leave it to the ever-practical Dutch to turn one of the most stressful aspects of modern life into one of the most relaxing – not to mention re-imagining how we read and think about it, too.



stieglitz, steichen, strand at the metropolitan




photo of the week: pony express

Courtesy of the ever-reliable UK paper, The Guardian: a stampede of wild ponies in Hexigten, Mongolia, is captured by 62-year-old photographer Li Gang, who spends winters trailing the horses in temperatures well below freezing.  Click the image for greater detail.


we are all passengers


Doug Aitken’s photograph, Passenger – currently showing as part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s contemporary photography review – made me wistful and wishful all at once this weekend.

I know I am not the only one who stares out of plane windows at 30,000 feet hoping for some interruption to the endless horizon, some sign that we are not alone.  Aitken makes that connection here, and yet the disconnect is that it’s rendered so antiseptic. We are all passengers, he seems to say, hurtling through the air with seatbelts securely fastened and noses sufficiently pressed to the glass, content in our technology-driven existence.

Recovering from surgery, I won’t be staring out of any plane windows for a while. My wings, so to speak, have been clipped.  Yet the interregnum also gives me an interesting chance to ponder what it means to travel.  And be a passenger.



As if I’m not already drooling over the Ipad – or my lack of an Ipad, I should say – The Guardian’s new photography app, Eyewitness, is yet another astounding reason to shell out the bucks already and just commit to it.  The Guardian is one of the few print newspapers in the world with a serious commitment to photography as a journalistic as well as artistic enterprise.  Every day the paper publishes a single two-page photo to be viewed as both a striking work of art and a complex story to be deciphered by the viewer.  But it’s print after all: the resolution varies, the colors are sometime spotty, the newsprint is occasionally sheer.  On the Ipad, the viewing conditions are ideal:  crisp, clean, sharp, vivid, these photos are alive.  By way of example look at this photo here: the sea breaking on Orange Beach, Alabama, more than 90 miles from the BP oil spill.


great scott (and shackleton, too!)

I came across a fascinating book yesterday that would (hint, hint) make for a great upcoming birthday present:  The Heart of the Great Alone: Scott, Shackleton, and Antarctic Photography.

As a massive fan of Antarctic adventures, the title alone gets my juices going but it’s what’s inside that’s really exciting:  a treasure trove of photos – many never before published – from two of the greatest Antarctic expeditions of the 20th century.  Epic failures (Scott perished during his 1910 expedition, while Shackleton’s epic open sea voyage and subsequent rescue of his entire crew is the stuff of legend) they were both coincidentally well documented by Herbert George Ponting and Frank Hurley, respectively – two photographers whose struggles with bulky cameras and glass plate negatives in one of the most hostile environments on the planet were nothing less than heroic.  How these photographs survived and made it back to England is a miracle.

It’s a bit of a disappointment that the book is not in a larger format.  Nor does it compare to the exhaustive catalog of Hurley’s photographs that was published a few years ago.  Nevertheless, it’s an interesting contrast to see the two expeditions juxtaposed.  I’m hoping I get the chance to peruse it more thoroughly once February rolls around.


new perspectives

I’d love to say I just discovered a new favorite website, but Science Images is in fact a loosey-goosey assemblage of around 29 photographic postings over the course of April 2009.  What’s really impressive however is the quality of the photography, captured by such curiosities as the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite, the Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper, and the addictive hi-res mapping site GeoEye.

Talk about creating altered states of perspective! The flattening of 3-dimensional landscapes into 2-dimensional slides of line drawings, geometry and color fields is an art unto itself.  I’m surprised someone hasn’t already experimented with a kind of mash-up, eschewing traditional photo journalism in favor of artfully cropped and manipulated satellite pix. Plus, is it me or does photo #4 look like a Chuck Close up-close?  (For the record, it’s a square of Kansas crop circles)  Photo #2 isn’t Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty by the way – it’s the Burj al Arab Hotel in Dubai.

Double click on the images for larger hi-res versions.  They deserve to breathe.


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