Sunday, February 28, 2010

Soaring intentions

Here is a picture I took last summer of the new bell tower at the University of Illinois. This is supposed to become the new symbol of the University. I don't know; something about it bothers me.

The picture was shot at dusk. Three exposures two stops apart were HDR'd using Photomatix Pro. Afterward, color was adjusted and the picture was cropped in Photoshop CS4.

Travel Spot: The Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo's Imperial Palace is the crown jewel of that great vast city. Nestled among the foliage and greenery of the vast Palace grounds, the palace itself is not visible from outside the walls. The complex is the site of the palace of the last Shogun, taken over by the Imperial Household after the Meiji restoration in the 1860s.

The view above is of the Nijubashi Bridge, or Bridge of State. It is the entrance to the Palace that is reserved for the emperor, members of the imperial family and ambassadors and state guests on official visits to the Palace.

The palace itself was destroyed during World War II, and the current palace was completed in the 1970s. It can be seen by applying for permission to take a palace tour, which I did in November of 2006. Here is the palace itself:

My tour of the palace had an unadvertised special feature. It occurred on the day that the emperor was receiving the credentials of new ambassadors to Japan. Part of this ceremony involved using elaborate 18th century carriages, accompanied by cavalry escorts, to transport the ambassadors. These processions passed right by our tour group several times, resulting in the chance to get some close-up photos.

The ceremony of receiving an ambassador at the main palace entrance played out right in front of us on the tour. Here is a shot of an ambassadorial party being dropped off:

There is much more to see around the palace grounds. Pictures from the wonderful East Garden and Wadakura Fountain Park will have to wait for another post. If you go to Tokyo, be sure to stop by the palace grounds. Information on palace tours, including how to apply for permission to take the tour, is available here.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


I live in East Central Illinois, which is very flat and featureless countryside, mostly farmland. When I moved here, my immediate assumption was that I would have to go elsewhere to find subjects for my photography. It took me a couple of years to overcome this assumption, but it's been a good lesson in seeing for photography.

This part of the country has its own beauty. Perhaps not surprisingly, much of that beauty has to do with the sky. It is also an area that renders very well in black and white.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Photo of the day

I've spent the last 18 months scanning in old photos from the pre-digital days of my photographic wanderings, along with family photos and such, and getting them all organized in Adobe Lightroom. It's come to about 45,000 images so far. Now that things are organized by year, I've been able to go back and look at some of my earliest creative efforts, most of which were shot on Kodachrome. The colors have survived beautifully. The shot below is of the Washington Park Gazebo in my home town Dubuque, Iowa, from January 1984. From the original scan I played with the color temperature (the old sodium-vapor lights gave the original a greenish-yellow hue), added some curves to bring down the contrast, and cropped to make it more horizontal.

(Click on the image for a larger view)