Return of the Night

Happy Equinox!

It will be six whole months of more darkness than light.  Autumn in Portland seems to have come all at once.  We went from desiccating heat and thick smoke to cool rain and clouds all in a day.  I’m sure that warm weather will return before winter sets in, but storm was welcome relief.

The change of seasons seems like a good time to restart the Photo Of the Day blog.  I’ll also be migrating the ten years of blog entries into this new web site.  Many of the old posts have already been republished by Summer, my wife.  Summer also designed this site.  See more of her work here.

11 September, 2011

world trade center

world tradeSo it’s been ten years since the attack of September 11.  The media has been filled with remembrances of that day, I thought I should write mine. A couple of weeks earlier I had been in New York shooting some panoramic images of Manhattan using a parabolic mirror.  The images above were created this way and were taken on August 29, 2001.  The circular one is a raw image right off of the round mirror, looking straight up.  You can see the whole World Trade Center plaza, complete with a security guard telling me that I could not use a tripod in that area.  I’ve often wondered what happened to him.  On September 11 I was safely back home in Portland, Oregon.  Summer, my then girlfriend and now wife were sleeping in.  The phone kept ringing, and I kept thinking I’d check the machine later.  When I got up the phone was ringing again.  I answered and heard my mother telling me that both towers had collapsed and that the Pentagon had been attacked as well, all by commercial jetliners.  It was hard to believe. Turning on the television Summer and I started watching what seemed like an endless loop of video showing planes crashing, towers falling and smoke billowing.  It seemed so close yet so far away.  The TV had us transfixed and my mind was slipping into a deeper and darker torpor each time the news footage was replayed.  Slowly it seemed that some form was shaping out of the chaos.  The mayor of New York was visibly taking charge of the rescue operation.  The president was in an undisclosed location.

That afternoon I had a Little League photo shoot scheduled for team photos.  I kept expecting to get the call that the appointment had been cancelled.  That call never came.  In retrospect, it was for the best to be pulled from the television and forced out into the world.  Driving out to the shoot, the city of Portland seemed to be in stunned silence and few cars were on the road.

After arriving at the field, I remember walking across the green grass under a placid blue sky.  The coach was standing with the kids as they were arriving.  I said something like “I’m a little surprised that you’re here.” The coach replied “I’m a little surprised you showed up.”

That was all either of us said about what had happened.  As the kids gathered some seemed to be murmuring about the attacks, but most were silent.  After their photos were done, I packed up my gear and wondered about how still and quiet the world seemed.  Then I realized that it was the lack of planes.  No jet rumbles or vapor trails in the sky—it was a quietness that I would never have realized would be so noticeable.  Yet while the planes were grounded, the silence seemed deafening.

In New York, my friend, David Vanadia was living in lower Manhattan.  As soon as he hear what had happened he took to the streets with his video camera.  It was a fancy digital camera he had bought from me after the dot com I was working for went under.  I kept the camera in lieu of back pay.  I sold it to David to help cover bills while I looked for work.  David now took this camera and shot hours of tape capturing the reactions of those most directly effected that morning.  After ten years, he’s finally edited it down to an hour-long documentary.  See out here on his site Vanadia.com.

conquering the on-camera flash

I teach a fair amount at the New Space Center for Photography.  One workshop I usually teach each quarter is Conquering the On-Camera Flash.  The idea is to help students understand how to control compact Speedlights.  This is a beginning class and many people come in with flashes they have just purchased and are learning to use them for the first time.  It’s always fun to watch as people get the concepts of “manual” vs. “Auto” vs. “TTL” I always wished I had had someone to explain those things to me when I was starting out.