Saturday, January 28, 2012

Architectural Artifacts, post 2 - Making Sales in the Men's Room

So here's post two on the AA trip. Even as big as this place was, there was no space left unused for salable items.  So, if you're looking for a vintage men's room sign, you can find them... you know, on and in the men's room.

Just in case you weren't sure...
This was the front of the bathroom door.  Most are pretty straight forward.  "Men". "Boys".  "Gentlemen". "Caballeros".  Most obviously "Males" (but really, who labels their restroom males/females?") But who says the WC has to be for men?  Last time I checked women use the water closet too.

Or even more stereotypically speaking, engineers, quartermasters and fire[people] can't be women?
 But the one that I find the funniest is that one next to the doorknob in red text.  "W.C. Hombres".  We'll go with the British "W.C.", but the Spanish "Hombres".  I'm sure that made sense to someone somewhere.

And if you're still confused once you come in.

BTW, this is the back of that same door above.  Which means that unless you're a busybody photographer woman, you may not realize there are more options for your bathroom labeling needs inside the men's room.  Because, really, who'd think to go look at the back of the bathroom door for something you need?

So many ways of telling you where they are, they couldn't even all be contained on one door. If you can't read the one in the frame, it says, "WASH HANDS.  The law requires thorough hand washing for all food handlers before beginning work and after using toilet.  $10.00 FINE FOR VIOLATORS.  Evanston Health Department."  A whole $10, huh?

Also, the little white one at the bottom apparently says something like "Bathroom towels $.20".  I'm really hoping that means something like paper towels and not, you know, toilet paper or something.  Because, really, charging for T.P.?  Just wrong. :)  (If someone has a better understanding of that sign PLEASE let me know!  I googled "tohallas" and the best the computer could do was say, "Do you mean 'toallas'?", which, actually made sense.)

For those who *really* hate changing the roll.

And of course, if you'd like a vintage T.P. holder... no better place to find them than in their natural environment.  (Weirdly, the women's room only had one toilet paper holder... but that's tomorrow's post.)

 This just begs the question of "why?", doesn't it?  I mean, where are the flushings going when the train is moving that they can't go when the train is in the station?  What are people supposed to do if more than one person has to go before the train leaves?  I mean... ew!

It reminds me of this shot I took on an Amtrack a few years ago (and then photoshopped just the *slightest* bit.  (I swear, all I did was turn the edges of the hat up just a tad, the rest of the evil imagery was already there.)

By the way, these bathrooms are about six feet square and *horribly* lit.  So shooting in them is a bit of a nightmare.

But they are entertaining... as bathrooms go.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Architectural Artifacts, Post 1 - Rug Burn - 1.22.12

So I'm trying to get in the habit of shorter posts, more regularly.  I have about 75 shots from this most recent trip that I've divided into posts of 3 to 6 shots each.  Lets see if that helps.

This shoot was a little unusual for me.  I'm not a 'still life' photographer, but this place sounded intriguing.  It's called Architectural Artifacts and it's a fairly unique place in my experience.  It's part store, part museum, part art gallery.

Basically it's an antiques market.  In a warehouse.  A huge, three-floor, multi-building warehouse connected by bridges and staircases and ramps.  But they don't just stop at the furniture and the art work they can recover.  They have sections of old buildings.  They have rooms of stained glass windows still in their frames.  They have a huge section of heavy wooden doors from all over the world.  They have parts of furniture - the carved bits of antique wooden desks and mantle places and such - oh, and a whole room of mantleplaces and fireplace frames.

The one real drawback to this place is that they asked for us not to use tripods.  The lighting here was insanely erratic.  There were a lot of windows providing natural lighting, but many of them had various pieces of stained glass in front of them.  Even the overhead electric lights were a mix of florescent and incandescent.  On one of my posts I'll be talking about white balance again.  It was *ridiculous* trying to set white balance here.  The lighting changed constantly.  A tripod would have been a huge advantage.  Oh well.

Some of this stuff is what I call "stupid expensive".  I know that old things have value.  I'm a history teacher; I love 'old'.  But when I think of these things as being used in private residences, I get a little, "Really, you paid $14,000 for a pair of old mirrors?"  I guess I'm of the opinion that stuff like that is great.  In a museum.  Where you and everyone else can go visit it once in a while, but I don't get having something like that in your house.

But that's just me.  A fair chunk of my furniture comes from Ikea.

And it starts as soon as you walk in and head downstairs.  They display their very fancy-pants carpets on the floor.  And there isn't *one* sign that says "Do not walk on the bath-towel sized rug that costs more than your laptop."  So we were walking on them.  In our snow-covered boots.  Yikes.

Really Expensive Bath Towels?

So, sure, they are rugs.  So I suppose they are meant to be walked on... but it feels weird to me to walk on something like this in my wet boots.  But as you can see, it's not exactly easy to walk around or between then.
Some of these cost more than my laptop.

More rugs.  The little red on that's kind of up above and to the right of the small black table there was still over $100.  I have bath towels bigger than that rug.
$2500 and You're Okay with Us Walking On It?

It's a little hard to read at this size, but the tag says, "Ex. Fine Bukara.  Early 20th.  $2500.  43x63" and then it has an inventory number.  So I Googled Bukara and came back with the spelling Bukhara.  Assuming these are the same thing with variant spelling, this rug is roughly 100 years old, made from vegetable dyes and is from either Pakistan or Afghanistan.  AND WE'RE WALKING ON IT!  This to me is ART.  We shouldn't walk on the art!

But again, this is probably just me.  And a lot of my decor is about $19.95 from the big box store down the street.

Shedd Aquarium - 12.2011 - Last Post - Fishes

So this is my last post for this particular trip to the Shedd.  These are the actual fish.  Like I was saying yesterday, there are ways that shooting the fish can be easier than shooting the air-breathing animals, since you typically don't have to worry about dirty glass.  Scratched glass, however, can be a whole different issue.  It seems to be more visible when against the water.

This little guy is a freshwater goby.  Again, I had problems with scratches in the glass, but he was pretty still (for a fish) in a bright area of his tank.  I really like the way his eye is such a dark, contrasting spot compared to the rest of him which is kind of milky, translucent white.  His coloring is so sparse, you can actually see some of the viscera above his right fin.

 The colors on some of these fish make me think of having an aquarium again some day.  When I was in college I had a fishtank with a few mollies and some African frogs and some salamanders.  They were the only pets were were allowed to have in the dorms.  I kind of miss it.  Though I hesitate to think of what would happen if the ferrets intersected with a fish tank.  But the amazing color displays on these reef fish make me miss having a tank of my own.  I find it amazing that these fish don't just have two colors of stripes like zebras or tigers where you just have the stripe against the background color.  In these fish you get these outlining third colors that make them look more like works of ink art than just a natural adaptation.  I also love how much blue shows up in fish.  You certainly don't see that in mammals.  I particularly like this shot because of the white belly in the shot.  It's kind of "I'll be beautiful on the sides, but I still need that camouflage belly, so that I'm harder to see by any animals swimming under me."

Copperbanded Butterfly
 Butterfly fish are amazing.  Partly because of the same coloring issues - like this one having the black between the bands of white and yellow.  But I also find their lips interesting.  Not too many fish have that long 'muzzle' like a horse or dog.  I also find the false eye on the top of his back a fascinating evolutionary development.
Moving Targets

Dragonets are probably my favorite of all the tropical fish. The layers of color are amazing.  These spots are four concentric circles deep.  There are others with even cooler colors that have been moved to a tank downstairs by the whales with the seadragons, but shooting them is nigh on impossible in that light.

Okay!  Finally finished with this post - it's been languishing in draft phase for, what?  Two weeks?  I had a new shoot yesterday, so I'll start posting those shots in just a bit.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Shedd Aquarium - The Not!Fish post. Or, how I started to get annoyed with my favorite place in the world - 12.28.11

It's not really the Shedd's fault, but the pickier I get about what makes a Good Photograph, the harder it is to actually take a good picture at the Shedd.

Glass Scratch
 There are the obvious problem with what I call "Canned Wildlife" is that it's behind some kind of enclosure.  The upside to glass is that under the right circumstances you can get a good, unobstructed shot, unlike when there are bars or a fence and the bars can get in the way.  The downside to glass is that it's often anything but completely transparent.  This is a shot of a random glass enclosure at the Shedd.  You can see how scratched up it is.  You can also see what appears to be saltwater droplets dried on the inside.  Which means that no matter how apparent your subject is, it's going to be nigh on impossible to get a really brilliant shot.

Redefining 'Like a Lump on a Log Leaf'
 I really wanted to get a good shot of this frog, but that shot above is a piece of his enclosure.  Not very clear.  The other problem I have is that the frog was roughly six feet off the ground up on a leaf.  I am 4 foot 10.  This means I was holding the camera up over my head and hoping a lot.  Not great for composition and lighting adjustments. :(  Anyway, if you're saying 'what frog?', you 're not alone.  Most of the people around me at the aquarium were saying the same thing.  He's that slightly irregular lump in the lower right-ish corner of the photo.  Both his shape and his coloring are an awesome example of camouflage.

Flat Froggy.
 So here's a slightly better shot.  This was an 'overhead and hope' shot, and it's not *too* awful.  Nothing I'd enter into a contest or anything, but you can clearly see the frog now.  I would have loved for his eye/face to have been the focal point instead of that back leg/side.
Close to Coral of the Unidentified Kind

This is an incredibly cool coral down in the Wild Reef section.  Unfortunately the little touch pad info-thingy was broken and I couldn't find the name of the particular type of coral and half an hour of Googling didn't show me anything even remotely like it.  I don't think it's leather coral, and it's clearly not anything easy to identify like a brain coral or a staghorn or something.  I wish this had been under brighter lights.  The tricky thing about shooting this thing was that even though it doesn't move, the fish it lives with do and they would end up swimming into the frame as I was doing some (reasonably) long shutter work.  1/8 of a second doesn't seem like a lot, but when you're talking about fish that just amble in and back out of your frame, it can put a big blue/yellow/orange blur in your shot.  Anyway, I really love the opalescent look inside this coral.  The layers weren't waving like an anemone or anything, so I'm not sure if they were the rigid coral that we expect or if they were some kind of softer tissue.  They certainly looked like they should be soft tissue, but it's coral, so... I'm not really sure.

A Picket Post for Two Seahorses
 Seahorses?  Also incredibly difficult to shoot.  While they often anchor themselves to a branch or piece of coral, or another seahorse, they still sway in the currents.  And again, not overly-well lit exhibits, so getting a good shot is tough because you need a long shutter and long shutters at the Shedd... they just don't work very well, very often.  And apparently the Shedd knows people want awesome shots of these things, because there are huge NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY signs posted all around the seahorse and seadragon exhibits.  Bummer.

Seahorse Stroll

So given how hard seahorses are to shoot, I'm pretty proud of this shot.  He was floating through the most well-lit (and also uncluttered) area of his exhibit and I managed to get off a shot at 1/25th of a second (at f4.5) which meant I got him pretty clearly.  It was extremely convenient of him to be floating by in perfect profile. :)
Rockhopper Hopping Mad?

 Even the penguin glass was bad this time.  I'm used to the glass at Lincoln Park being horrendous.  I don't even try to shoot in there.  Usually at the Shedd the glass is in good shape and I can get some good shots.  I know there's always going to be an issue with condensation on the glass when you need to keep penguins chilly and guests comfortable, but there's a difference between clean glass with water droplets on it and just plain dirty glass.  It makes finding a good spot to shoot through a challenge.  I did get this awesome shot of a rockhopper penguin giving me a look.  Those yellow feathers on their 'eyebrows' always make it look like they're giving people the stink eye.

Monkey Frog - Not Made of Plastic

This is a real frog.  No, really, it is.  Most of us watching him were pretty sure he was a very cheap, badly manufactured plastic frog.  But then he'd twitch or take a deep breath.  But look at those eyes!  They look like a seven-year-old painted them on!  Very freaky!
I really do love the iguana enclosure.  They keep the heated rocks right in the front of their space, it's very well lit and the glass is clean.  About as good a set up as you could ask for when you're a photographer.  I was able to get this shot where you can really see the texture in his skin (check that back leg out) and some nice details of his spikes on his back.

Okay, tomorrow will be the fish and then I'll be done with this trip.  Weirdly the glass issues are less pronounced on the fish... mostly because there's water throughout so the glass can't get dirty.  But that's for tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What a Tangled Web We Weave...

So I missed posting yesterday.  I forgot to toss pictures onto my laptop so I could work on them when I got a chance.  Technically I forgot again today, but I found a folder of pictures I meant to post a long time ago, so I'll post three of those. :)

These are all pictures of spiderwebs from that Sunrise Beach Trip I took last summer.  Once the sun had come up and that particular part of the shoot was over, I walked through the Magic Hedge.  Now it was about 7:00, maybe even 6:30, and there was no one else out there.  The sun had just come up so the place had just opened for the day and it was gorgeous.  The entire park was covered in spiderwebs.  It looked like there was a mist over the grasses and plants, but when you got closer to just about anything, you discovered that, in fact, it was just a crisscrossing of spiderwebs of various kinds.  Funnel webs, fabric-looking webs and good old-fashioned concentric circle webs.  Most of the hosts were no where to be found, but the dew on the strands made them all lovely and interesting.

Waterproof Woven Web
 This was what I meant by fabric-looking webs.  I'm sure it has a different name in the scientific community, but to me it looks like gauze or some kind of chiffon.  I love that it's strong enough to hold up large drops of water without tearing or even sagging.

The construction on this one breaks my brain.  I suspect there has to be a third anchor point off to the right, but I didn't catch it in the shot.  All you see is this amazing web, with strands so close together, yet not touching or tangling, hanging from a stick.
How Dew You Like Me Now?

It looks like this web was made from something about as thick as cotton yarn.  Of course it wasn't, but the dew drops combined with the light shining directly on it to give it so much more dimension. Spiderwebs have kind of been a 'bucketlist' shot for me, because the webs are both amazing and stupidly difficult to shoot well because they're so diaphanous.  Having so much light at such an angle, and hitting the dew collected along the strands made it so much easier, and still just as awesome. 

I'll probably post a few more webs tomorrow before I start on the things I keep meaning to transfer off the hard drive and onto my laptop.  :)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Jellies, part deux (2/2) - Shedd Aquarium

So here is part two of the awesome Jellies exhibit at the Shedd.  Also, go me - posting two days in a row. :)

Flower Hat Jellies
 These were awesome, but stupidly hard to photograph.  Like the Spotted Lagoons, these guys were perfectly content to lay on the floor of the exhibit and... not be interesting.  And they couldn't even lay out where they could be easily photographed.  They tucked themselves up in the corner and were difficult. :(  If you look closely at what I was able to get of them, they have awesome purple jagged stripes and florescent magenta tips on their very short tentacles.  They really are cool to look at - they had a lot more color than any of the other jellies there - they were just uncooperative as all get out.
Heading Down
 And then there were these awesome Pacific Sea Nettles.  Not exactly Portugese Man of War or anything, but very large for the specimens being shown at the exhibit.  They're probably as close to the 'classic example' of a jelly as they had.  Nice mushroom-shaped head, long, thin, flowing, outer tentacles and white ruffled inner ones.  These guys were interested in self-determination, and made an effort to move around with some kind of purpose.


 I love this shot for the way the red tentacles make that nearly perfect crosshatch pattern.  That and the awesome dome shape to the top of the one in the back.
Pacific Collision

I don't know how these things never got irretrievably tangled up in each other.  But for as much as they floated around each other and through each other, they always managed to separate no matter how much of a mess they make of each other.

Jelly... bean

This is what the whole enclosure (for this particular species) looks like.  It's pretty easy to get lost just staring at them as the drift along.
Take THAT!

There's something about this particular shot that makes me think of two jellies fighting.  I know they weren't - I mean, they didn't seem to be doing more than just drifting around, but they way they intersect here just makes me think of some kind of epic jelly brawl.  I don't know why...

Okay, that's it for the jellies.  Tomorrow will be a few of the other notable species from the aquarium! :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Shedd Aquarium Jellies 1/2 - Start of 365 days of posting!

Well, it's January 1st.  Which means my official plan (I don't want to call it a resolution, as that's sure to jinx it) to post at least three pictures - old or new - every day now commences!

So, as I mentioned, I went to the Shedd this week.  I don't think I've ever seen that place so truly, insanely busy.  I fit into a category that gets free admission and, while I still do get in free, they've changed just about every other rule that goes with that, and one of those was that we no longer use the will-call line.  Now, that line was long enough.  I've been through the will-call line on busy days before, but while it may have queued around a few ropes inside, it never spilled out the door. Yesterday it was out the door and all the way down the steps.  And if you've seen the Shedd, you know, those are some serious front steps.

Yesterday I got shuttled into the regular line, which not only queued around inside and spilled out the door and down the stairs; when I got in it, it went about two blocks down the plaza.  By the time I got to the top of the stairs, it wrapped half-way around the Field Museum.

That's a ridiculous line of people!

I'm not sure if they ever had to cut off the line to avoid issues with the fire marshal (unlike places like the zoo, this is one, self-contained building, so it has fire code maximum capacities) but even when I left at 5:00 people were still queued up down the steps and a block or so back.  (They were staying open until 9:00, but still...)

Now, that said, the lines inside weren't completely unbearable.  Once I got in, I be-bopped straight for the Jellies exhibit downstairs.  I hardly had the place on my own, but there were few enough people that if I was patient I was able to set up my tripod in a few different places to get better shots.  Later in the day, there was a long queue through the ropes just to get in, so I totally called that one right on the timing.

So!  The first set of shots?  The Jellies, of course!  Well, half of the jelly shots I pulled.  I still don't like putting more than ten shots in a post, so I'm going to need two to cover this.

Now, I have to say, as someone who has taught grade school science, including the classification and characteristics of animals, it can be really, really hard not to correct adults at a place like this who, to put it delicately, were either never taught their classification and characteristics of animals or who have forgotten what they did learn all those years ago.

More than once I heard some parent say to their child, "Look!  That jellyfish is watching you!"  And I just wanted to go, "Okay, clearly you missed the lesson that explains that jellies, well for one, aren't even fish. If you look around the exhibit, they aren't even once called jellyfish, because places like the Shedd are starting to be more accurate in their public descriptions of things.  And for two, one of the defining characteristics of these very, very simple animals is that they don't have brains, bones or blood.  Without a brain they couldn't process the images from sensory organs like eyes.  Oh, by the way, they don't have eyes either."  But I didn't, I just kept on shooting.

You know what sea jellies do have?


Baby Moon Jellies  (Sounds like either a
candy or a new brand of shoes.)
At the Shedd they're in what looks like a very wet tumble dryer.  A big round tank with a forced water circulation that sends them around in slow circles.  You can see in this shot the very, very tiny ones and the ones that are almost big enough to go in the "big kids" tank.

Long Slender Threads

This one is a Japanese Sea Nettle.  If you look at the top of the shot you can see that there are tentacles that become thread-thin, transparent and stretch out for yards (I know, scale is hard to tell in these shots) behind the more visible body.  It explains how so many people get stung without ever realizing there was a jelly near by.

Moons Floating on Earth

These are Moon Jellies.  One really, really big one and one a little closer to the average size.  Some of the jellies actually propel themselves around their enclosures or rest on the bottom.  These particular jellies seem to just like floating on the currents, not trying very hard to move in a particular direction or caring how many of their neighbors they bump into.

Just Resting on the Bottom

These are the Spotted Lagoon Jellies.  They're my favorites.  Both their shape and the display they Shedd gave them gives them this *very* extra-terrestrial appearance.  Unfortunately they were all pretty lazy while I was there, and they mostly just hung out on the bottom.
Downward Facing Jelly

This guy finally decided to poke around a little.  He was jetting around which made it hard to shoot him, even though the display was all black - the background and the rocks on the bottom - and well lit, because he was moving pretty quickly.
Maintaining Form

I found it interesting that even when they lay on the bottom, they kept their bodies inflated and round.  They don't have bones, so if they were just laying around, they should flatten at least some.  They have to be making a 'conscious' decision to remain round and puffy.

Yolk's on You

These are the sort of abstract shape that you just find yourself making a Rorschach type picture out of.  Personally I see someone in a Spanish dancer's skirt and big, wide brimmed hat.  But it's actually an Egg-yolk Jelly.  For sort of obvious reasons. :)

Okay, the rest of the Jellies tomorrow. :)