Apr 102014

Many years ago when I did press photography, I always carried a notebook and pen with me on photographic assignments. It was a requisite that the name and address of any person photographed be noted down for the purposes of the photo caption.

I carried this practice over into my photography on vacations abroad. Those notes tended to be about buildings and places rather than people.

I don’t know if it was a function of age or sheer laziness but when I moved to America, the notebook and pen rarely accompanied me on my photographic safaris.

I am fortunate that I have a good memory but with the passage of time precise details of a photograph become a little bit hazy. I do well to recall the location of a particular shot these days.

I was reminiscing on trips made during happier times the other day and leafed through the wallets of prints that recorded visits to Memphis, Vicksburg, Rosedale and Jackson, Mississippi; a trip to San Antonio and New Braunfels in Texas; a Saturday afternoon visit to Hillsboro, Texas; and a trip to New Orleans that featured a visit to a bayou and photos of gators.

Looking at some of the shots, I didn’t have a clue as to the identity of the subject but thanks to the Internet, and Google Maps, I was able to discover I had photographed, in Jackson, Mississippi,  the Lamar Life Building, the Governor’s Mansion, the State Capitol Building and Old State Capitol Building.

Now all of those buildings are landmarks and fairly easy to identify.

But what about a less grand building in the small Texas town of Hillsboro, such as the one below?

Gebhardt Bakery building on E Franklin Street, Hillsboro, Texas.

Minolta XD-7, Tamron 70-210mm f/3.8-4 Adaptall 2, Fujifilm 200 Speed. ©Calvin Palmer 2014. All Rights Reserved.

I readily admit that it is not the best shot ever taken and it did cross my mind as to why I bothered to take it. Looking closer, the building does have a Historic Marker sign and the metal lion heads that form part of the support of the verandah are quite unusual and attractive.

But what was the building?

I went into Google Maps and called up Hillsboro, Texas. I recalled that during the visit, I didn’t wander too far from the Hill County Courthouse. So I zoomed the map in that location and then went into Street View and followed a route around the courthouse.

Nothing similar to the building in the photograph appeared.

I ventured down East Franklin Street and at found what I was looking for. The building at 119 E Franklin Street turned out to be the Gebhardt Bakery, the first bakery in Hillsboro.

According to the Historic Marker:

In 1901 German native Charles Gebhardt (1874 – 1920) established Hillsboro’s first bakery. He moved his business to this building after it was completed in 1905, using the second floor as living quarters. The brick commercial structure exhibits influences of the Romanesque and Italianate styles and features arched second-story windows; decorative brickwork in the cornice, and corner turrets. The bakery building later was used for millinery and barber shops.

The photograph was taken in 2002 and before the days of Google Maps. It was interesting to discover that the tree in my shot no longer exists. I used my Minolta XD-7, known as the XD-11 in the United States, and a Tamron 70-210mm f/3.8-4 Adaptall 2 lens. The film was likely Fujifilm 200 Speed.

I find myself consulting Google Maps a lot these days when filling out the file information for images in Photoshop, often it is to get the street name but sometimes it is to identify buildings.

So yet another activity becomes reliant on the Internet and Google.

Reproducing the print for this blog also proved something of a challenge. I do not possess a scanner. I often rue the fact that I did not switch to digital photography sooner. However, with hindsight, I am glad I waited until I did given the improvements in digital camera technology that have occurred in recent years. I would have spent a lot of money on something that would now be an expensive paperweight. I am not one of those people wealthy enough to keep buying a camera as each upgrade is made. Thankfully, the technology has plateaued these past few years and unless, you absolutely must have the latest bells and whistles, the camera you bought in 2010 will still do the job.

I am still shooting with my Canon 40D, which launched in 2007. I know I am a bit behind the technological curve these days but I accept the camera’s limitations. It still produces the goods as far as I am concerned.

I used the Ricoh GR to produce the photograph above in digital form. It was hard to get the GR to focus when filling the frame with the print but I pulled back a little and the focus locked on. A little tweaking in Photoshop CS6 and the use of the Perspective Crop tool gave me a result I was pleased with.

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Sep 132011

Saturday night was spent at the Florida Theatre, attending the Delbert McClinton concert.

McClinton hails from Lubbock, Texas, and moved to Fort Worth when he was 11. My wife was born and grew up in Fort Worth, so McClinton is something of a local hero.

I have to confess that prior to moving to Texas in 2000, I had never heard of Delbert. I have since learned the error of my ways and have seen him three times.

His mix of blues and country is infectious. It is impossible to walk away from a McClinton concert not feeling that you have had a good time. That was certainly true again on Saturday.

With second row seats, the Ricoh GRD III was not out of its depth for a few stage shots.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

I find in these situations, it is best to set the camera on Program mode and let the camera’s processor figure out the best exposure. That is why some people term the P mode, the professional mode. A camera joke there, I doubt it will be appreciated by “serious” photographers.

Believe me, a lot of people out there take themselves far too seriously when it comes to the business of taking photographs or even talking about photography. An essential ingredient for any photographer, in my opinion, is a well-developed sense of humour.

After the show, 70-year-old Delbert was at the stage door signing autographs. Lighting conditions were not the best but I fired off a couple of shots.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Someone doing a Master’s degree in Photography could probably write a dissertation on the technical flaws contained in the image. For one thing, flash should have been used. But I detest using flash photography and knew that the GRD III, with a little help from Photoshop, would provide an image.

Despite its flaws, after conversion to B&W in Silver Efex Pro, the image has a certain appeal for me. It captures the essence of McClinton. He is something of a rough and ready character, the image is likewise.

Feel free to comment as to whether the Delbert McClinton shot works.

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Jul 082011

I sat through most of How The West Was Won (1962) the other night and the song Home In The Meadow, sung by Debbie Reynolds, struck a chord. It is an adaption of the English folk song Greensleeves that dates back to the 16th century, possibly even earlier.

Whenever I am overcome by a wave of nostalgia for England, I tend to play a CD featuring the Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. As Fantasia on Greensleeves by Ralph Vaughan Williams plays, I close my eyes and instantly conjure up an image of the rolling English countryside – a generic image of fields with cattle grazing or seeking the shade of a majestic oak tree.

Last weekend something approaching that mental image met my gaze when I visited Camp Milton, a historic site within Jacksonville’s city limits. During the U.S. Civil War, the camp at one point was home to 8,000 Confederate troops – a bulwark against possible Union expansion into central Florida.

Heading back to the car, I witnessed across the road a scene reminiscent of the kind I used to see in England – cattle grazing in a lush pasture. A run-of-the-mill shot in England was treated by me as if it were an exclusive shot of Pippa Middleton.

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

Such pastoral scenes have been rare since I moved to the United States. In Texas, I became ensconced in suburban America and remote from fields and streams, farms and country lanes, which had been just a 10-minute walk from my house in England. In Jacksonville, my daily routine is confined to the inner city areas of Riverside and Avondale.

The English tradition of a run out in the car to the countryside does not translate to my part of America because the fields, woods, streams and lakes are not as accessible.

After 11 years living in the United States, I have still to find the equivalent of an Ordnance Survey map showing public rights of way. I fear the concept of public footpaths across private land is an anathema in states where the motto “Don’t Tread On Me” holds good for a great many folks.

Access to the countryside is largely restricted to state parks and historic preserves – no, that is not Robertson’s jam from the 1920s. Grateful as I am for that access, it is a little too organized and regimented for my taste, although better than no access at all.

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Jun 022011

My life would not be worth living if I lived in Denmark. The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration has just banned the sale of Marmite. Apparently, any foodstuff fortified with minerals and/or vitamins has to gain special exemption to be sold in Denmark.

Other foodstuffs facing a similar ban, under legislation passed in 2004, include Rice Krispies, Shreddies, Horlicks and Ovaltine.

Marmite, a bi-product of the brewing industry and first developed in my home county of Staffordshire, England, is fortified with vitamins B6 and B12.

For as long as I care to remember my breakfast has consisted of cereal, orange juice, Marmite on toast, and coffee. When I first moved to the United States in 2000, one of the first things I did was track down a store selling Marmite.  I became a frequent visitor to the British Emporium in Grapevine, Texas.

Moving to Jacksonville, I was not so lucky. Jacksonville being Jacksonville has no store selling British foodstuffs. However, recently the Publix supermarket I visit on a weekly basis has started a small selection of British food items, including Marmite. Publix only stocks the small jars and they are  prohibitively expensive. My supply now comes from British Delights, based in Connecticut. I order the 500 g jars online.

Marmite is one of those strange foodstuffs that you either love or hate.  I love it. Back in Britain, one of my favourite snacks was Marmite on toast made with Hovis bread baked by a local bakery — Marsh’s of London Road, Stoke. A couple of rounds and I was in seventh heaven, at least as far as my tastebuds were concerned.

Marmite was first manufactured in 1902 at Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, and is still made there today. The town has an association with brewing that goes back centuries.

[Based on a report by The Copenhagen Post.]

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