Nov 252011
 

Thanksgiving has passed as Thanksgiving usually does with football, films, or should I say movies, and turkey with all the trimmings slotted somewhere in between.

With an American wife born in Texas, the turkey takes on a Southern style with a peach glaze and an accompaniment of corn dressing, spicy green beans, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce made with fresh cranberries. The addition of a dash of port to the latter is an English modification.

The centrepiece of the desserts was homemade pumpkin turtle pie, topped with Cool Whip to gain Weightwatchers approval and a drizzle of caramel, pronounced “carmel” in America for some strange reason.

We watched most of the Green Bay Packers win, which saw off the challenge of the rejuvenated Detroit Lions. The turkey dinner was served before the game ended and finished in time for the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins. Not the best of games but it ended with the right result as far as our household was concerned, a 20-19 victory for the Cowboys.

The choice of film was provided by my stepdaughter – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. The film concluded the Harry Potter journey. Some of the films were seen at the cinema, of late the concluding episodes have been watched on Blue-Ray.

I have enjoyed the Harry Potter films. For a start, I like the idea of witches and wizards; goblins and pixies. I also enjoyed seeing favourite British actors of mine taking the leading roles in a British production, as well as the British locations. You can take the boy out of Britain but you cannot take Britain out of the boy. The use of “boy” is of course poetic license.

But mostly, it is English being spoken with English/British accents that endears the film to me. I have a thing about voices. For some unknown reason they stick in my memory. When I lived in the UK, my ability to recognize the actors doing voiceovers in British television adverts was uncanny. If I was unable to give the actor’s name, I could always give the TV drama or comedy they regularly appeared in.

The Harry Potter films have featured one of my favourite English voices, namely the one belonging to Alan Rickman. His diction and cadence is such that his voice immediately commands respect; the mellow tone exudes authority. His voice is the epitome of an Englishman, ranking alongside the voices of Jack Hawkins and James Mason in that respect.

I would love to have a voice similar to any one of those three actors. Unfortunately, my voice has the register of Tony Hancock and the accent of Les Dawson. The fact that they were both comedians probably signifies an awful lot. My voice does not play easy on the ear and I wince every time I hear a recorded version of it. I feel sorry for those who have to listen to me. It may account for why very few people do.

I wonder if other people have favourite voices. Feel free to comment,

I will close with a shot taken on South College Street, Charlotte, North Carolina.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

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Nov 182011
 

My time at the moment is being spent going through countless images I have shot to select suitable one for submission to various photographic contests. It is an arduous task. I have great difficulty in narrowing the selection to just a few photographs and also trying to second guess just what it is the judges are looking for.

A lot of shots have had to be discounted from one of the contests because the rules state that I must have a model release for anyone who is recognizable. I wonder if Henri Cartier-Bresson obtained model releases for all his subjects photographed on the street that have since become classic examples of street photography.

The following shots were taken in Charlotte, North Carolina. I am not saying any of them are worth submitting but they are all disbarred. I have no model releases for any of the persons depicted.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

 

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

I guess the organizers are just covering their backs, probably a wise precaution in the litigious land that is the United States. And maybe I am getting old and forgetting that back in my newspaper days, any photographs used for publication had to have a caption bearing the names of the people appearing in the image, unless it was a generic crowd shot.

Back to selecting images. Having seen some of those already submitted by other photographers, I fear I am probably wasting my time. Their images are so damned good. They are Barcelona to my Stoke City. Still, England did beat world champions Spain, albeit in a friendly match. I get the distinct impression that the competition in these photography contests is unlikely to be friendly.

I shall adopt the Olympic spirit — “The important thing is not to win, but to take part”.

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Nov 102011
 

I spent a couple of days in Charlotte last week. I had better rephrase that. I spent a couple of days visiting Charlotte, North Carolina, last week. The fall colours seemed more striking than those in Florida. Or maybe it was just my imagination.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

 

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

So I was walking along W 4th Street in downtown Charlotte minding my own business. I had my camera bag slung from my shoulder and my Canon 40D hanging from my neck read to be brought up to my eye at a moment’s notice if I happened to see something worth capturing.

The building to my right caught my interest. It was a two-storey building that dated from the late 19th century or early 20th century at a guess. It was one of the few old buildings to have survived Charlotte’s renaissance in the 1970s to become the second largest financial centre in the United States. Many fine old buildings were torn down to make way for the towers of concrete, steel and glass, the cathedrals dedicated to the worship of Mammon.

This surviving old building had a colonnade façade, with large Georgian-style windows in between the rectangular columns. The repeated pattern had obvious photographic possibilities.

I walked on and wondered what the building’s function was. As I approached the gated entrance with a security booth, I noticed a sign that said “US Government Property.”

I had just passed by the security booth when a voice called out, “Excuse me, sir!”

I stopped and turned in the direction of the voice and saw a burly African-American man dressed in a blue blazer, shirt and tie, and grey slacks.

“What are you doing?” the man asked.

“Walking along this street,” I replied.

“What’s with the camera?” he enquired.

With an exasperated look, I said “Has it come to the point where a person with a camera can no longer walk along a street without being stopped.”

“This a federal court building,” he said.

That explanation may have struck a chord with an American but it was lost on me.

“What are you doing?” he said for the second time.

“I am just walking around looking for things to photograph. I was quite taken by this building but when I saw it was US Government Property, I thought it was probably a good idea not to take a photograph.”

“Could I see some photo ID?”

“You know you have no right to ask that. I am on a public street.”

The man smiled benignly but the smile did not mask a look of insistence.

I reached inside my jacket pocket for my wallet and opened it up.

“I tell you what,” I said. “You can have my business card instead. Perhaps you would like to buy a couple of my photographs.”

He studied my card, the one that appears at the top right-hand side of this page.

“Okay, Mr Palmer. Have a nice day.”

“I will try,” I said laconically and walked away. By this time something had caught my eye on the other side of the road and I crossed to take the shot.

Some hours later back at my hotel, I told my wife about the incident. She said that photographing outside federal court buildings was prohibited. At least it was up until October 2010 when, following a lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the federal government recognized the public’s right to take photographs and record videos in public spaces outside federal courthouses throughout the nation.

The ruling also applies to all federal buildings throughout the nation.

Obviously, it takes longer than 12 months for news of legal rulings to get from Brooklyn to Charlotte.

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Oct 272011
 

Saturday sees one of the biggest rivalries in college football when the Georgia Bulldogs travel to the Everbank Stadium in Jacksonville to take on the Florida Gators.

I spotted the emblems of the two teams reflected in windows of the Baywater Square Building on East Bay Street.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

I can never understand the American interest in college football but a lot of people prefer it to the professional NFL games. College football’s popularity is helped by the games being played on a Saturday, while the most of the NFL games are played on Sunday.

I doubt whether people would flock to watch Manchester University’s soccer team on a Saturday afternoon instead of watching either Manchester United or Manchester City.

I also fail to understand how people who are not alumni of a particular  American university can get so enthusiastic about the fortunes of its football team. But it happens. Even people who left school at 18 will have their favourite college team. In Florida, the choice is between the University of Florida, better known as the Gators, and Florida State University, otherwise known as the Seminoles.

From Jacksonville’s point of view, the annual Georgia v Florida game is a big money earner. Downtown Jacksonville will be awash with people instead of its normal ghost-town demeanour and the bars along East Bay Street, pictured below,  will be primed for business.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

British readers may be confused as to why I wrote Georgia v Florida when the game is being played in Jacksonville, Florida. For reasons best known to itself, American football always gives the away side first. Don’t ask me why. I guess it is just another way in which America has to do things different, or should I say the opposite, from the rest of the world.

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Oct 172011
 

Yesterday, for the first time since I acquired my Canon 40D, I experienced the battery running out. Usually, I am meticulous at checking the battery’s status but somehow it got overlooked before I set out. Luckily, I managed to fire off a couple of dozen shots before I reached the point where I pressed the shutter and nothing happened.

Zeiss Planar T* 1,4/50 ZE and Canon 40D. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Why did this oversight occur? Well, my mind has been in a state of flux these past couple of weeks as a result of medical issues, proposed life-changing ventures, which seem somewhat ill-conceived to say the least, as well as the realization that this web site and also the Calvin Palmer Photography web site may cease to exist in a few weeks when the registration and hosting fees become due for renewal.

You may ask why I did not carry a spare battery.  I never do. The battery in the Canon 40D is capable of lasting for a couple of days of shooting. And, like I said, usually I monitor the level of the battery pretty much in the same way I monitor the fuel gauge on my car. It just goes to show how worries and concerns can prove to be a major distraction.

The above shot features what was originally the Lynch Building on E Forsyth Street, Jacksonville. It is now an apartment complex and known as 11 East Forsyth.

The building dates from 1926 and was designed in the Chicago skyscraper style by architects Pringle & Smith. It originally housed commerical offices and was opened by film pioneer Stephen Andrew Lynch. When it opened it was Jacksonville’s second tallest building behind the Barnett National Bank Building.

In 1962, the building was renovated and became the headquarters of the American Heritage Life Insurance Company until it moved away from Jacksonville in the 1980s.

The building opened as an apartment complex in 2003 following a $24 million re-development and financial assistance from the City of Jacksonville.

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Sep 072011
 

I met the law on my last photographic safari, in the shape of an attractive and pleasant female police officer. I had ventured into Mixon Town, an old industrial and business area. Many of the premises are abandoned and consequently the area affords plenty of photographic opportunities.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The site of my car parked in front of one of these vacant buildings naturally aroused the suspicion of the police officer. When I saw the police car parked by my car, I thought it only right to abandon my photography and make my presence known.

Satisfied that everything was as it should be, the police officer and I engaged in a lengthy conversation about Jacksonville and its crime problems. At the end, I asked if I could take a photograph.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Sad to say, after our lengthy chat, I had switched off from photography mode. I should have done better in terms of the composition but my priority was to get the focus spot on and composition went out of the window. Oh well, better luck next time.

In our discussion about crime and the area I was in, I was told that it was not the place to venture into after dark. I was also made aware that as the owner of an Infiniti G35, I made a good target for carjackers. That possibility had never crossed my mind. I felt like the proverbial innocent abroad, which I suppose I am in some respects.

The officer also suggested, seeing as I was a person beyond reproach, I should sign up for the program whereby members of the public can go on patrol with a police officer. Funnily enough, I was aware of the scheme and it had crossed my mind to find out the details just a few days earlier.

I asked the obvious question regarding what would happen if a major and deadly incident occurred. The police officer replied that we would probably stay a little further back than other responding officers. She also said that all police officers carry a second weapon and that she would make that available to me in case she got shot and I needed to defend myself. That was kind of a chilling thought. I guess it really is a jungle out there.

B&W conversions in Silver Efex Pro.

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Sep 012011
 

I seldom get the chance to photograph people. On Saturday afternoon, I was out with my camera and stopped to take a shot of a building with a slogan painted on the walls.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Within a minute, the owner of the building was out, asking what I was doing. After explaining my business, we got talking and boy could he talk. I listened to a 40-minutes diatribe on the subject of corruption among Jacksonville’s police, city government, the FBI and the federal government.

I nodded politely at such assertions that the FBI was withholding a vaccine against AIDS and dealing in drugs. He seemed to know all the inside knowledge on a recent corruption trial regarding the director of Jacksonville Port Authority.

The guy’s name was Stefan. He was originally from Romania but spent some time in Italy before coming to the United States. He was convinced that the spirit of the Lord would protect him from those who wished to do him harm.

Having allowed him to spout forth for such a length of time, I was determined to get something for my trouble. So as I made to get him to wind up his monologue, I asked if I could take his photograph. Stefan agreed.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Although the focus is not tack sharp – an aperture of f/2 was always going to be a stiff challenge to my manual focusing skills – I am quite pleased with the image. And I think you can well understand why I asked to photograph Stefan.

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Aug 232011
 

I set myself an exercise last week and carried it on through Saturday’s shoots. The exercise was to shoot wide open with the Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50 lens. A lot of people with the Leica M9 shoot wide open, with lenses costing $3,500 or more and, as you may expect, the results are pleasing.

The 50mm  Zeiss Planar T* ZE lens however disappoints wide open at f/1.4. It is not as sharp as it could be and people who test lenses in the lab, such as SLRGear.com and Photozone, give the detailed analysis behind that assertion. But at f/2, the sharpness kicks in.

Another downside to shooting at f/1,4 is that the bokeh can be a little harsh, with bokeh fringing, and the lens also suffers from Longitudonal Chromatic Abberattions (LoCa). At f/2 these effects disappear. Bearing those shortcomings in mind, f/2 was as wide open as I intended to shoot with this lens.

With a such a wide aperture, the depth of field is incredibly narrow and focusing has to be spot on. The Canon 40D like a great many DSLRS is devoid of any focusing aids in the viewfinder, so manual focusing can present a challenge at the best of times, let alone at f/2.

The general advice for focusing manual lenses is to bracket the focus. I will bring the object into focus, or as in focus as the 40D’s viewfinder shows, and then gently adjust the focus in small increments and firing off another shot with each focus adjustment. I usually end up with between four and six shots of the same subject and then select the best one in Adobe Bridge, making use of the magnifying loupe.

It is time consuming but the results achieved by a Zeiss lens make it all worthwhile. Zeiss glass has its own signature and one that I prefer to almost any other brand of lens. Those with more technical knowledge than me suggest that the micro-contrast of  Zeiss lenses is what gives the subsequent images their distinctive look. I just know that I like and prefer Zeiss lenses.

I shot at two locations on Saturday — Jacksonville Farmers Market and St Marys, Georgia. Yes, it was time for the cigarette run again.

Farmers markets afford great photographic opportunities in terms of the people who visit and those who work on the stalls. The fresh fruit and vegetables on sale also make good subjects.

Here are two shots at f/2.

Canon 40D & Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50, . ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

 

Canon 40 D & Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

At St Marys, I headed for a boat ramp on the North River. I had seen the signpost pointing to it on several previous visits but never got round to checking it out. The road to the boat ramp runs past the site of the Durango paper mill, formerly the Gillman Mill, which went bankrupt in 2002 and was demolished in 2007. The old industrial site also made a good subject.

Here are two more shots at f/2.

Canon 40D & Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

 

Canon 40D & Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

 

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Aug 162011
 

Getting out and about taking photographs brings me into contact with some interesting characters.

At the weekend I was about to take some shots of a building that used to be an old filling station on U.S. 90, when two guys, who had been parked in a battered red pickup truck, drove up and asked what I was doing.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

They were rough and ready in their appearance and looked like extras from the film Deliverance but my English accent seemed to diffuse any suspicions they may have had and we got talking.

You could have knocked me down with a feather when the driver, who later introduced himself as Tom, started waxing lyrical about the BBC series Doctor Who and said Tom Baker was his favourite Doctor Who of all time. I don’t know whether the shared forename might have influenced his choice. The conversation then turned to the comedy series Coupling. Tom it turned out was a great fan of the BBC and British comedy in the mould of people like Ricky Gervais.

He much prefers the cleverness and dry wit of British humour to its American counterpart, although he conceded that not everybody in America gets the British style of comedy.

I said that American humour places a greater emphasis on visual gags, while British humour’s strength is its subtlety and the clever use of words.

He and Raymond, the other guy in the cab, were originally from Indianapolis and moved to Jacksonville about a year ago. They are engaged in the scrap car business.

The mention of Indianapolis quickly brought the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning into the conversation, a subject more in keeping with a couple of average American Joes. Needless to say both Tom and Raymond were big fans of the Colts.

Tom told me he had bought his wife an Indianapolis blanket that he was going to attach to a frame and hang on the wall. Raymond jokingly said he might spray Jacksonville Jaguars all over it.

I said to Raymond: “You like hospital food then?”

Tom laughed, turned to Raymond and said: “That’s British humour.”

After about an hour we shook hands, parted company and I got down to the business of taking photographs of the building and U.S. 90.

The encounter with Tom and Raymond proved once again that outward appearances can so often be deceptive. You should never judge a book by its cover.

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Jul 282011
 

The past few weeks have seen me glued to the PBS channel watching a rerun of Ken Burns The Civil War to mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the conflict. I remember first watching the documentary back in Britain.

Burns made full use of contemporary photographs to illustrate the carnage of war and of how life was lived in America from 1861 to 1865. And apparently during the conflict, photographers and photography businesses made a good living. However, when the war ended, the bottom dropped out of the market.

Thousands of the glass negatives were never printed but sold off to become the glass panels in conservatories and greenhouses, the images eventually fading from the glass due to the continued exposure to sunlight.

I have had my own problems preserving images this week. On Monday, I was working on processing images shot on a visit to St Marys, Georgia, on Saturday. I had just finished a B&W conversion and hit Save. A dialog box sprang out informing me that the image could not be saved because there was insufficient space on the hard drive.

Sure enough, the drive devoted to photographs was showing just 45MB of free space.

Since then I have been working through my folders in Adobe Bridge culling those images that have never been processed, for obvious reasons, or those that do not quite come up to standard.

Of late, I have gotten into the habit of deleting all superfluous images at the end of processing. It is a great pity I didn’t start that practice back in 2009. It is a chore and imagine many of know exactly what I mean.

Work has ceased on processing the images from St Marys, which featured the town’s Oak Grove Cemetery, which dates from 1778. I have managed to process a few.

Canon 40D. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

In keeping with my interest in The Civil War, I happened across the grave of a Confederate soldier who had served with the 4th Georgia Volunteer Cavalry.

Canon 40D. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

James Wilson was in D Company, also known as the Camden Chasseurs. St Marys is located in Camden County.

A fascinating account of the history of the 4th Georgia Volunteer Cavalry, also known as Clinch’s Regiment and The Wiregrass Fourth, can be found at Amy Hedrick’s Web site GlynnGen.com.

Oak Grove Cemetery also contains the graves of a number of Acadians. Forced to flee in 1755 from their native provinces of Novia Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island in Canada by the British, the French eventually found them a new home on the island of Saint Domingue. But they were forced to flee the island in 1790 when the native Haitians rebelled against the French.

Canon 40D. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Many Acadians found a new home in Lousiana but a few made their way to Georgia and St Marys, which became their final resting place.

More information on the Acadians in St Marys can be found at a Web site called The Crypt, set up Camden County.

Please feel free to comment.

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