Sunday, September 18, 2011

Summer 2011 in the Sunken Garden

Since 2004, I've tried to make a point of documenting, in photographs, the annual summer floral arrangements in the Sunken Garden at Garfield Park in Indianapolis. The Garden is adjacent to the conservatory on the park grounds, and the conservatory staff normally tries to present spring bulbs outdoors (in addition to the indoor annual bulb show) and on occasion, weather permitting, swap out the summer arrangement in fall with chrysanthemums.

My mission in recent years has been made difficult by enthusiastic park rangers/security staff who improperly enforce the policy that regulates use of the Sunken Garden as a backdrop for professional portraiture work. For those instances, the park wants photographers to purchase a permit, which costs somewhere in the range of $250, figuring that ... if the photographer is going to make money, why not the park? Park staff have told me repeatedly the policy is not aimed at people wanting to take pictures of the flowers. Unfortunately, the security staff has been coached to look for people with "expensive" or sophisticated equipment, and that a tripod is a good tip-off. Unfortunately, a tripod should not be a telltale sign; I've been in the Sunken Garden at night, using a tripod to steady the camera for night scenes -- no portraiture. So, when the security staff sees what they believe is nice camera gear or tripods, they instantly deduce that person is doing professional portraiture work, even if there is no portrait subject with the photographer! I'm not alone in experiencing these frustrations; I've talked to other shooters who've gone through the same thing. So I've not been nearly as enthusiastic to continue my streak of recording the arrangements. 

I tread carefully Saturday when I made my venture to photograph the Garden. There were no security staff when I got there, so I started shooting, fast and furious, hoping to get it done and then get out before it became an issue. Rushing is no way to do a memorable shoot, and I suppose my pictures probably reflect that. As I neared completion of my rush job, I noticed ... barely more than 10 feet away on the overlook ... a gentleman in a security uniform. I held my breath preparing for "the confrontation."

Thankfully, it didn't happen. Could it be -- they know better now? Someone has sat them all down and gone over exactly what entails professional portrait photography? I don't know, and I decided not to ask. Thankful I didn't have to run through the annual "I'm not doing portraiture photography; I'm taking pictures of flowers" defense mantra, I made a quick exit.

Today's post carries some images from the shoot; the final four were taken outside the Garden, during my departure in the park and, in the instance of the sedum and the juliet tomato, in my yard. The two vertical orientations of the trees are high-dynamic range (HDR) treatments, captured hand-held using my Tamron 18-270mm Di II VC PZD lens. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Tragedy of Hamlet,
Prince of Denmark

The Garfield Shakespeare Company in Indianapolis -- after taking a one-play detour from Shakespeare to present George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion" in spring -- on Friday and Saturday had its opening weekend of its fall production, "The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark" (if you're wondering why it isn't being called simply "Hamlet," director Joe Cook explains that he prefers the long titles).

The production is distinguished by three novelties: 1) Only three actors -- Susan M. Gaertner, Denise Rohn and Sha Collier -- had ever appeared in a GSC production previously; 2) There was a whole lot of gender-mixing going on, mostly by women playing male roles (and there was one instance of a male playing a female), and 3) The cast included a lot of teenagers.

In explaining Nos. 2 & 3, Cook said simply that he decided to roll with what he was dealt after the audition calls in July, and after looking in on both shows this weekend (Friday to shoot, Saturday to be member of the audience), I liked what Cook did and accomplished. One of his lead characters -- King Claudius -- was played by a woman, Nan Macy, who turned in a stellar performance. GSC first-timers Pete Lindblom (as Hamlet) and Brad Elliot (as Laertes) also shined, and GSC veteran Susan M. Gaertner, another woman playing a male role, had the audience enjoying her turn as Polonius, Lord Chamberlain and father of Laertes and Ophelia.

Of the teen roles, the meatiest went to Tempiellen Knuteson, who played Ophelia, letting loose with a convincing turn in the fourth act scene where Ophelia turns mentally erratic in the aftermath of her father's stabbing death at the hand of her love interest Hamlet, who had thrust his weapon blindly, through a wall drape, thinking the person he was assailing was an eavesdropping Claudius.

The GSC has one more weekend of performances of "Hamlet." Shows are scheduled for 8 p.m. this Friday and Saturday (Sept. 16 & 17) at the MacAllister Center for the Performing Arts in Garfield Park in Indianapolis. There is no admission charges; the GSC is an all-volunteer organization. You can find the organization on Facebook as well.

This post features images from my Friday shoot of opening night; the photo in the lead position at the top features Tony Van Pelt as a gravedigger, preparing the final resting place for Ophelia, handing the skull of a jester, Yorick, to Hamlet, played by Pete Lindblom. For a full gallery of images from this production, visit my online site at

Above: JD Bonitz (left) as Hamlet's friend Horatio in an early scene exchange with Greg Frisby, playing castle guard Marcellus.

Above: Tempiellen Knuteson, as Ophelia, discussing her relationship with Hamlet with her father Polonius, played by Susan M. Gaertner.

Above: In an early scene, Hamlet, played by Pete Lindblom, listens as a spirit who identifies himself as Hamlet's father tells Hamlet that he was slain by Claudius by pouring poison in his ear.

Claudius (left), king of Denmark, played by Nan Macy, and his wife, Gertrude, queen of Denmark, played by Denise Rohn, are amused as Polonius (below), played by Susan M. Gaertner, recites a litany of tedious maxims.

Above: Lindblom in the early stages of Hamlet's famous "To be, or not to me" soliloquy, with Ophelia within earshot on the other side of the stage. Moments later, Hamlet would thrice admonish Ophelia to "get thee to a nunnery."

Above and below: Maureen O'Leary, another of the cast's teenagers, in two scenes. Above, she participates in one of the lighter scenes with female-role-playing Greg Frisby, who seems to be perplexed by his exaggerated wardrobe dysfunction. Below, she plays the victim of an ear-poisoning in a scene re-enacting Hamlet's father's death as alleged by the ghost. Hamlet deliberately included the scene in a play, "The Murder of Gonzago," performed by a visiting troupe for the king and his court so Hamlet could observe Claudius' reaction. Claudius stormed out of the performance after the scene below, confirming to Hamlet that the ghost was correct.

Above: Nan Macy, as Claudius, during the third-act "Oh, my offense is rank, it smells to heaven" soliloquy. 

Above: Hamlet hears a cry of help come from someone hiding behind a drape in his mother's chamber. Thinking the eavesdropper is Claudius, his mother's husband and the man he believes killed his father, Hamlet stabs into the drape blindly. Moments later, he would learn that the eavesdropper he killed was not Claudius, but Polonius, the father of his love interest, Ophelia. 

Above and below: Tempiellen Knuteson, as Ophelia, in two frames from her erratic reaction to learning of her father's death, a stream about flowers (above) and a brief dance with a large white piece of fabric (below). Not long after, the queen would announce that Ophelia had been found, mysteriously drowned in a brook.

Above: The final scene duel between Laertes (left), played by Brad Elliott, and Hamlet, with Horatio (background, left) Claudius, Gertrude and other court staff observing.

Above: Denise Rohn as Gertrude, slumping to the floor as the poison kicks in from the drink she had consumed to toast her son Hamlet's first "hit" in the duel. She did not know her husband had tampered with the drink or had intended it to be consumed by Hamlet.

Above: Emboldened by the confession of Laertes (below), Hamlet -- who already had pierced Claudius with the poisoned-tip sword -- returns to double-ensure the king's demise by forcing the king to swallow a drink of the poisoned drink the king had intended for Hamlet ... and which Claudius' wife, Gertrude, had drunk from moments earlier.

Above: Mortally wounded Hamlet listens as Laertes, also dying from being pierced by the same poisoned-tip sword as Hamlet, make amends with Hamlet and reveals to Hamlet that Claudius had put him up to conspiring to kill Hamlet in the duel.

Above: After wresting the poisoned drink from his good friend Horatio, the mortally wounded Hamlet consoles his friend, who moments later, when Hamlet expired, would close the lids of his friend's eyes.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A day at the zoo

The week before my oldest granddaughter, Lizzy, started kindergarten, she, her little sister, Addy, and their mom and I went to the Indianapolis Zoo, where -- among all the other animals and exhibits -- we got our first chance to see the newborn elephant that had made local headlines recently.

I brought along only my PowerShot G12, wanting this not to be so much about a photography outing as it was a family outing. The G12 did nicely, but there were times I wish I'd have had more reach with a longer focal length lens than the G12's built-in 5x (140mm).

Still, it was a beautiful day, and we had a great time, even if 2-year-old Addy did manage to lose her prescription glasses at some point while her mom and I weren't looking, and neither of us adults realizing they were gone until we were ready to leave.

Today's post is another in a recent line of "catch-up" entries; our trip to the zoo was Aug. 12, so it's almost been a month. Well, at least it isn't ancient news just yet. Pictures in this post are from that day's trip.

Above: Lizzy (left) and Addy, parked against the wall surrounding the walrus tank.

Above: My one chance to capture the walrus with its head above the waterline.

Above: A visitor was pointing to the oncoming sting ray, pressing against the glass, while discussing the fish with one of her children.

Above: The fish tank was colorful; the key was getting a shutter fast enough to stop action.

Above: Another human juxtaposition, this time at the baby shark pool.

Above: They say penguins sleep standing up ... and at least in the case of two of these guys, turned away from onlookers.
Above: If I were able to make adjustments to the setup, I'd have removed the foliage on the left near the mouth, but ... I'm not sure the tiger would have sat still for that. So ... we left things status quo.

Above: Just hanging out, I guess.

Above: The grizzly stayed a good distance from visitors in the time we were there. This is a radical crop of a frame to better detail the bear.

Above: Not an ideal day for grabbing zebra shots. This was as good as any in my batch.

Above: Mother and fawn antelopes.

Above: Not sure of the species; just know it was photoworthy.

Above: Even the rhinos knew to find shade wherever possible. 

Above: My favorite of the batch I shot of the giraffes in the Plains section.

Above: Lizzy absorbing an answer to one of her many questions of a zoo staffer at the rhino overlook. The staffer assured us several times she didn't mind Lizzy's inquisition. 
Above: One of the cheetahs checking out the visitors. I'd think it would be used to it by now ...

The baby elephant in step with its mother (above) and an extensive crop from another frame to get some detail (below).

Above: Overhead of the lizard and turtle in the Desert Dome.

Above: Another instance in which I knew the species of these birds in the Desert Dome a day or so after the visit, but ... almost a month later, I've forgotten. 
Above: The G12 was able to grab few shots inside the dome where they hold the dolphin shows. I pushed the ISO to 1600 (it can go to 3200, but the noise at that level is unbearable for my taste).

Above: A dolphin show trainer -- with a little help from spectators -- directs this dolphin to lean to its left.