Monday, December 14, 2015

Return to Metamora, Ind.

Many communities throughout the country use the holidays to dress up their core commercial districts, which instills a sense of local pride and, if done particularly well, draws visitors and business from outside their boundaries.

One such community is Metamora, Ind., which I visited and photographed for the first time six years ago. Metamora uses its Old World charm to attract tourists year-round; it promotes its grist mill, horse-drawn canal boat and carriage rides, and its distinct aqueduct -- which it claims to be the only wooden one in the country.

There are special events such as Strawberry Days, Canal Days and the Labor Day weekend music festival. But the town cranks up the appeal with the annual Christmas Walk, which begins the Saturday before Thanksgiving with the annual tree lighting ceremony. Each weekend thereafter through Christmas, in addition to the holiday lights and decorations, there is live music and caroling, a Currier and Ives scene, and other festive pageantry. Many of the specialty shops dress up their storefronts and windows and display their best holiday goods and crafts.

I revisited Metamora last Saturday, this time spending much more time visiting the shops and observing the outdoor decor and less time photographing. The weather was much more conducive for touring this time; temperatures were in the mid-60s, compared to the low 30s when I visited in 2009.

The town's decorations reflected some change since I was there last. Most notable are the addition of lighted figures near the core intersection -- Main and Columbia streets -- and the absence of a lot of the luminarias I recalled from 2009, as well as the lack of candy canes that had lined a sidewalk leading to the gazebo in a small park alongside the canal and grist mill.

But the essence of the town in the holiday season is the same. I arrived about 2:30 p.m., hoping to catch the town both in daylight and at night. I did not stay nearly as late as I had hoped; I left around 5:45 p.m., not quite late enough to enjoy the after-dark splendor.

The foot traffic seemed strangely light for a prime weekend day when I got there; I had presumed that free parking at the town core would be filled, so I paid $5 to park in a lot near the main highway (U.S. 52). I was surprised that when I got to the core area, there were open parking spots -- not many, but much more than I remember when I came in 2009.

Foot traffic didn't pick up until late in the afternoon -- after 5 p.m. Right around that time, Margie Stoller and Cindy Thompson of Marginal Cinderellas, a duo based in Eaton, Ohio, which is not far from Richmond, Ind., which hugs the Indiana-Ohio state line, were performing on the porch of Luna's Garden on North Main Street. They are pictured in the photo leading off the post.

A full gallery of shots from this visit to Metamora can be found at my online site at

Photo Geek stuff: I shot the entire Dec. 12 visit using my Canon 6D and Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L lens. I hand-held my shots, which I bracketed for exposure (three shots per scene) to process in high-dynamic range (HDR) software in post-processing. I was able to do that with most of my photos.

Above and next two below: Items for sale in Luna's Garden.

Above: A canvas wrap for sale inside one of the shops.

Above: The facade of one of the larger shop buildings along South Main Street.

Above and next four below: Another "change" I noticed Saturday was the new digs of the Smelly Gourmet, which bills itself as a European coffee bar. The bearded gentlemen in top hats were affable sorts and gave the full lowdown on the shop's hulless popcorn, which I sampled -- and enjoyed. I included the last photo in the Smelly Gourmet series -- the one directing shop customers where to go for complaints -- for its levity.

Above and next two below: the dam and waterfall adjacent to the park and grist mill.

Above: The park gazebo and walkway, along which candy canes were lined in my visit in 2009.

Above: A window scene in a shop that appeared to be closed along South Main Street.

Above and next three below: A sampling of the streetside holiday decorations.

Above and next several below: Shots incorporating the canal, which divides North Main Street from South Main Street. At the far end of the canal in the photo above, one can see the wooden aqueduct.

Above: Three closely connected buildings along South Main Street.

Above: Grannie's Cookie Jars and Ice Cream Parlor, where one can find cookie jars in sundry sizes, shapes and styles, as evidenced in the three photos below, which show jars on display in the two storefront display windows and on an interior shelf featuring Coca-Cola bears. Shop Owner Edith Eva Fuchs, aka "Grannie," has a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for possessing the largest collection of cookie jars -- more than 2,000 of which are for sale on the shop's main floor. Many more are in storage upstairs.

Above: The Cat and the Fiddle is a popular play for live entertainment in Metamora.

Above and next three below: A selection of photos of the carriage rides, beginning (above) with one carriage in an interesting juxtaposition with a hot-colored classic car as they cross paths on Clayborn Street.

The pastorals above and below, taken adjacent to the shopping areas, are reminders of the town's proximity to rural life in Franklin County. These animals were behind a wire fence along the southern border of the Duck Creek shopping area of town. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Senior high school photo shoot: Justin

Lee Ann's grandson Justin is graduating next spring, and he and his mother asked me to shoot his outdoor senior high school shots recently. They pushed the timing of the shoot almost as late into the year as my niece Erin's family did two years ago, but fortunately, we found a day and time on Nov. 3 to squeeze in a late-afternoon session in Garfield Park in Indianapolis.

Unfortunately, Justin, who lives in Fishers, couldn't get to the park until after school that day, a Tuesday, so we started later than I would have liked. Darkness sets in much earlier these days since clocks rolled back for standard time earlier this month, so we tried to work quickly.

We got pictures of Justin and his girlfriend, Rae, in a dozen or so poses while we had good daylight. A few were taken inside the pagoda, others outside the amphitheater to exploit the brick facade, a few along the jagged stone staircase south of the arts center and several leaning against a tree and a light pole. (I did not attempt to get permission from Rae or her parents to use any of the photos with her in them for this post, which is why you don't see any of her here).

When it became too dark to get decent background into the photos, Justin, an artsy guy, asked me to shoot some pictures of him in available light -- without flash. I didn't bring along my tripod, so I boosted the ISO to very high levels (2500 and beyond) so I could continue hand-holding the camera. I figured that if it was an artsy, "different" look he was interested in, he might not mind the noise from high ISO levels. We were near the amphitheater at the time, so all of those photos were near that facility. Justin seemed pleased with those shots, which for the most part were cast against dark backgrounds of minimal natural light and illuminated by the park's tungsten pole lamps. Such lighting brings harsh facial light contrasts that photographers ordinarily wouldn't seek, but Justin wanted that mood, that look.

As it turned out, I took several of those shots using shutter speeds too slow (e.g., 1/25) for hand-holding a camera without a lens equipped with built-in stabilization. Some of those shots had to be discarded, requiring a reshoot with higher ISOs and faster shutter speeds. A few of the picture with slow shutter speeds, however, amazingly, actually turned out OK. A special nod of thanks to Lee Anne, an experienced studio portrait photographer, who gets the credit for posing her grandson.

The photo leading off the post was taken inside the pagoda with camera settings of f/2, 1/180 and ISO 200. Right after that shot, we took another with the same camera settings -- this time with Justin smiling. That shot is the first below.

Photo geek stuff: For the entire shoot, I used my Canon 6D and Sigma 85mm f/1.4 lens, which I've turned to recently for all of my portraiture-related shoots to exploit that fast aperture and bokeh. For the majority of the shoot, I also used an on-camera flash, Canon 580EX II, in manual mode set at 80mm w/light intensities of 1/32 to 1/8, depending on the stage of natural light availability, to highlight the subject. The flash was equipped with a white Graslon Insight (flat) diffuser. I made a point to shoot most of the photos at or around f/2.0 or f/2.4, adjusting my ISO (which usually was in the vicinity of 160) to compensate for any needed light, which wasn't an issue until darkness set in. In the darkness, I boosted ISO levels to in the range of 2500 to 10,000. In post-processing, the subject's facial features were enhanced in Portrait Professional Studio software, version 11.