Thursday, October 31, 2013

IMUPC annual photo show on Friday
has historic Indiana churches as theme

This Friday, the Indy Meetup Photo Club will present its third annual November photographic show in Indianapolis. Like the two previous shows, IMUPC will have its exhibit on the same night as a First Friday Art Walk in Indianapolis. Unlike the first two, which were held in the Indiana Landmarks Center (a card-carrying Art Walk venue), Friday's show will be at the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, just a few blocks west of the IL.

The Harrison Site, 1230 N. Delaware St., in the Old Northside Neighborhood of Indianapolis, is not a member of the Indiana Downtown Artists and Dealers Association, so technically, it is not a First Friday Art Walk venue. IMUPC couldn't show at the IL this year because the November Art Walk coincided with the National Trust for Historic Preservation's annual Conference, which is being held in Indianapolis through Nov. 2. Indiana Landmarks is serving as the host and base of operations for the conference and will be a beehive of activity related to the conference. The people at the Benjamin Harrison House enthusiastically invited us to have our show there instead.

IMUPC chose "Historic Churches of Indiana" for its theme in this year's show, and my seven pictures on display there will be from four churches -- the iconic chapel at St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Ind.; St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church and SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral, both in downtown Indianapolis; and Garfield Park Baptist Church on the Southside of Indianapolis (see previous post).

Most of my pictures will be a little different than what you might expect, I'd imagine. Six of them will be interior shots, most of them either using ceilings as the compositional subject or at least integrating ceilings as a significant secondary element. The seventh photo, a night shot of the baptist church, was added to my offerings at the last minute.

Other club members that I know are participating include Brad Brown, Rhonda Clark, Sarah Crail, Karen DeSplinter, Connie Hamm, Tom McFarland, Sundaresh Ramanathan, Don Saxon, Kristi Swift, Carol Thompson and Heather Ziliak. I know they will be showing photos from churches in Hendricks County, St. Meinrad Seminary, the University of Notre Dame and St. Mary's Church in downtown Indianapolis, among other places. 

Of the two pictures you see in this post, only one -- the image leading off the post -- will be in the show. That image was taken last fall, a year ago, at St. John's. The smaller image in the post was one I had considered using, but decided against because it didn't have much of a secondary element to elevate beyond being just a pattern. It was taken at the cathedral, and it, too, was taken last fall.

Admission to the show, which runs from 6 to 9 p.m., is free; we'll have some hors d'oeuvres and non-alcoholic beverages, and visitors will be allowed to tour the house while they are there. So if you've never been to the Benjamin Harrison Home, this would be a good opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Former Indy Star photographer Gary Moore will be on hand selling and signing copies of his new book "Brown County Mornings."

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sunken ... and disappointed

I suppose every photographer has had those shoots in which you are pretty amped when you start out, only to feel great disappointment afterward. That was the case with the shots in today's post.

The disappointment set in the moment I arrived at the Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Garden in Indianapolis. It was a little before 9 p.m. Oct. 15, a Tuesday, and I'd been wanting to get some nighttime shots of the recently revived fountains and colored lights there. I'd walked through the garden a day or two before and noticed a sign outside the gates that said the Sunken Garden supposedly was open until 10 p.m.

It had been raining much of the day Tuesday, and there was a very sporadic drizzle when I arrived. I figured an hour would be plenty of time to shoot ... plus, being so late and rainy, I wouldn't have other visitors to work around. I had myself and my gear protected from the elements, so weather wasn't the disappointment. In fact, I was intrigued with how mist might inject an interesting element to the images.

The disappointment was twofold -- the iron gates were locked (again, it was more than hour away from the alleged closing time), and the colored lights were not being used on the fountains. I decided to shoot through the narrow openings in the fence and gates (thankfully, the openings were large enough to fit a camera lens through) and get what I could ... and maybe come back another night (which hasn't happened yet).

I experimented with settings from the get go. I had the camera on a tripod the whole time and used a cable-release shutter. I started with a pretty open aperture (f/5.6) at ISO-200 and a somewhat fast shutter (1/125 or so), and saw immediately that I was getting unappealing ghosting around all of the globe lights. So I narrowed the aperture gradually until I started getting neat sparkles instead. By the time I got to the slowest preset shutter, exposure still wasn't what I was hoping for, so I switched to the bulb shutter setting (which I had anticipated needing to do anyway).

The bulk of my shots were taken at f/18 or f/20, ISO-400 or 800 and a shutter of anywhere to 8 to 20 seconds. I boosted the ISO because the precipitation started to get more dense, the intensity of the fountain pour varied (frustrating compositions further, requiring one to wait as much as 10 minutes to get the right intensity), and I didn't want to spend a lot of time on each shot in fear that the skies would open up into a driving rain and force me to cut short the shot with so few images. So I wanted to get my shots taken as soon as possible.

As it turned out, the skies did not open up, the precipitation varied throughout the shoot from negligible to a few drops, and I got all the shots I felt I could get from outside the gates looking in. I was not greatly pleased with the results, but ... at least I got some shots. The tradeoff for the longer exposures was getting a neat-colored amber sky on views looking northwest (such as the image leading off the post) ... but also some disturbing flare. In some cases, I left the flare in the image. In others, I fought to diminish or remove it in post-processing to the extent possible.

Afterward, I grabbed a few shots of the conservatory building itself, a few landscapes in the vicinity and some angles of Garfield Park Baptist Church, which stands out at night thanks to a strong beacon of fluorescent light illuminating the front facade. I'd photographed this church front before, but that was several years ago, and I wasn't totally pleased with those shots.

Above: One thing I didn't mention in the narrative above is that while the colored lights remained mostly mute during my visit, there were very quick, unpredictable pulses of them on occasion. So because I was using the bulb setting for long exposures, I'd happen to catch a flash of color at the very bottom of the fountain in a few shots during such bursts, such as the shot above. Late during my visit, I was on the far (west) side of the garden, and I had just folded my tripod legs and covered my camera in preparation to head home when the colored lights actually came out and held solid for about 5 minutes straight. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and if you could have heard me curse ... I started jogging around to the near (east) side of the garden to get a better angle, and ... of course ... the colored lights went away -- for good -- by the time I got there. 

Above, the main entrance to the conservatory, which is adjacent to the Sunken Garden.  Below is a look at the conservatory through the north gate, integrating some of the brick plaza into the composition.

Above: Almost directly behind where I was standing to take the conservatory plaza picture two pictures above was this view of the conservatory light lighting up the tree on the left. There was a good breeze that evening, so a long exposure was not going to freeze the branches. But ... I liked the amber light and its cast onto the plaza on the right.

Above: A view of one parking area and access to Conservatory Drive on the north side of the conservatory. 

Above and below: Color and monochrome versions (although with different crops because I did them at different times) of Conservatory Drive, looking west from in front of the conservatory and Sunken Garden.

Above: A view of a meadow and one of the bridges over Bean Creek at the south end of the park, as seen from 30 to 40 yards south of the Sunken Garden's south gate.

Above and next two below: Views of Garfield Park Baptist Church, just across Southern Avenue at the southeast corner of the park. At the left of the image immediately below, you can see the source of light cast on the church's facade.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Street performer Mike, this one's for you

While I try to stay current with my posts at Photo Potpourri, occasionally I fall behind. Sometimes, very far behind.

Today's post is one of those "very far behind" cases. I won't get into the details of how I suddenly remembered today to compose this post, whose pictures date to Oct. 7, 2011, but I'll quickly add (in a somewhat feeble defense) that I did sort of address this in a post back in June 2012.

That's when, in one of those other "catch up" posts, I presented pictures I'd taken along Mass Ave in downtown Indianapolis eight months previously. In the text of the June 2012 post, I explained how I'd encountered a street musician named Mike during my walk through the First Friday Art Walk that evening. I included one picture of Mike (the first one below). Mike actually had told me his last name when we introduced each other, but I forgot it in the months that passed between the night of the shoot and the June post. As I recall, it was not an uncommon or difficult surname and had two or three syllables.

Mike graciously invited me to take pictures as he performed, and I chatted with him long enough to explain that I would be using some of the pictures I took that night in this blog. Mike told me he was heading to Europe the following day, and I've wondered if he tried to find the blog with the information I gave him. If you did, Mike, and if you see this, I'm sorry it took so long to get the June 2012 post up, and I'm even sorrier it took me this much longer to sprinkle a few more images of my shoot of you here.

Much of Mike's performance was compromised by the din of vehicles driving by and the noise of the First Friday Art Walk atmosphere which, as it turned out, happened to be a key component of the Mass Ave flavor that evening. The noise didn't seem to deter Mike, but a different kind of noise situation proved confounding to me.

I was severely challenged to get quality pictures of Mike because by this time, it was totally dark -- the EXIF data on the picture files put the time at 9:42 p.m. (I had started my walk along Mass Ave about 6:40 p.m., when there was still good ambient light). Even though I had my tripod with me, that tool is of no use when you're hoping to stop action by a performer in such low light and don't want to use flash. (The purpose of the shoot, after all, was to capture the flavor of Mass Ave, and while flash certainly would have illuminated the performer, I'm not sure it would have picked up sufficient background -- the flavor of Mass Ave -- even at 1/60).

I had my former walk-around lens, the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8, on the Canon 7D, so I kept trying different settings, starting with the most favorable for image quality. I wasn't getting much luck until I had pushed the settings to the dreaded hilt -- f/2.8, 1/60 and ISO 6400. Image quality tends to drop off -- and noise (those flecks of grain on an image) conversely increases -- significantly after ISO 3200 on the 7D. So I knew I'd be pushing the images through noise-reduction software during post-processing. The 1/60 shutter didn't freeze the action as well as I had hoped; there were many shots that I had to toss because there was too much blur across the image. But it did allow me to hand-hold the camera to maintain sharpness in most inert things for the few you see here. With a shutter any slower, I'm certain that camera shake would have made the effort moot.

A full gallery of images from that evening (along with some I took on a second visit the following summer) can be found at my site at SmugMug. It's a little interesting that the gallery includes shots of the facade of two Mass Ave eateries that have since closed -- Aesop's Tables (on page 3 of the gallery) and Agio's (on page 10).

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Old Northside Neighborhood of Indy
to present rare tour of homes Oct. 31

Indianapolis residents, surely you've wondered at some point what the inside of those wonderfully transformed homes in the Old Northside Neighborhood of Indianapolis look like as you've driven through there the past five to seven years or so. I got a chance to see some of those on a photography project over the past few months, and at the end of this month, you will have a chance, too.

For the first time in a long while -- one resident estimated that the last tour was sometime in the 1990s -- the neighborhood is staging a one-night-only tour of eight of the beautifully restored homes and two historic icons -- the Indiana Landmarks Center and Morris-Butler House. If you're interested in taking advantage of this rare opportunity, you have to act fast; only a limited number of tickets are being made available to the public for the Candlelight Tour of Homes, and the last I heard -- which was early this week -- two-thirds of those have been sold. Tickets are priced at $45 and can be obtained only online at this link: Candlelight Home Tour tickets.

The tour will be from 7 to 10 p.m. Oct. 31 in tandem with the National Trust for Historic Preservation's annual conference in Indianapolis Oct. 29 to Nov. 2. Indiana Landmarks is serving as the local host and base of operations for the conference.

Two years ago, I was a participant in the Indy Meetup Photo Club's project to photo document the Old Northside Neighborhood, which culminated in two one-day photo exhibits -- one in August at the Propylaeum, the other two months later at the Landmarks Center in conjunction with that facility's monthly participation in the First Friday Art Walk.

Old Northside officials took notice of the club's work in 2011 and contacted IMUPC early this year when they were looking for photography assistance for promotional material to be used in conjunction with this month's tour of homes.

I was among a handful of club photographers who took pictures inside and outside the homes on the tour over the course of several visits, ranging from the first in March to another as recent as last month. Selecting a single image to lead off the post was difficult; there are many that would reflect nicely on the tour homes. The one I ended up with is an interior shot of the living room at 1434 N. Park Ave. from a vantage point looking toward the kitchen, which I chose because of its bright, cheerful nature. Below are other pictures of the homes on the tour.

I was inside to photograph many of the homes; you'll be able to spot the ones I didn't get inside by the lack of interior shots below. In the case of the home at 521 E. 13th St., I was inside that home during the 2011 swing through the neighborhood, and there were some good pictures in that shoot. I was told the interior decorations are significantly different today, however, so I am not including any of the 2011 photographs in this post.

For the Landmarks Center, the former Central Avenue Methodist Episcopal church, I used three photos taken during that 2011 photo documentary project. One of two interior photos is of the former church sanctuary, now a large, multipurpose hall. The hall looks much the same today, other than the decorations on the stage, which were contemporary for the period when I visited in 2011. The other interior picture is of Cook Theater.

In the case of the Morris-Butler House, I also used a 2011 photograph of the exterior, my favorite from the outside shots that year. My interior photos there were superior in 2011 because this year, the home was in a state of functional and decorative transition when I had my appointment to shoot, and much of the furnishings had been removed or placed in temporary storage. The interior picture of the kitchen stove you see here, however, was taken during this year's visit.

Finally, in the case of the home at 1508 Broadway, I need to note that the interior shot of the dining room (the second of three pictures) was illuminated with an artificial light setup arranged by another photographer, not me, even though I did take that picture.

As always with pictures at any post on this blog, click on each photo to enjoy maximum size and sharpness.

1327 Broadway


1422 Broadway

1508 Broadway

1434 N. Park Ave.

1504 N. Park Ave.

1514 N. Park Ave.

521 E. 13th St.

630 E. 13th St.

1204 N. Park Ave., Morris-Butler House

1201 Central Ave., Indiana Landmarks Center