Hours of Idleness-A Photographer's Journey in St. Louis

Interlude: Alton, Illinois

Alton, Illinois is one of the weirdest cities in the United States (for those friends of mine who live there, that is the highest form of compliment).  Alton is a river town, and its fortunes rise and fall with the river.  See that red line on the white building in the background of the photo above?  That is the mark for the Great Flood of 1993, and the black band below it denotes a 1973 flooding event.

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Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D Lens

Lenses, like cameras, are purchased for a variety of reasons:

1. There are lenses out there that are impeccable, that deliver maximum image quality (loads of sharpness, great contrast, minimum distortion and excellent color reproduction) and are lighting fast (generally f/2.8 is considered fast, though with primes sometimes f/1.8 is considered sluggish), but those lenses tend to come with a few caveats also: they are heavy and expensive.  These lenses are specialists’ tools; their purpose is to be the best in the game for the pros that need them.

2. There are lenses that are the optical equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife, they cut, they saw, they open cans, but they’re often clunky and inefficient when compared to tools dedicated to those tasks.  They are your 18-400’s of the world.  These zoom lenses are generalists’ tools; their purpose is utility and convenience for the enthusiast.

3. There are lenses that you form an emotional attachment to.  These lenses can be zooms or primes, slow or fast, cheap or expensive, but they are always at your side.  These lenses are the ones you pick up when you are going out to take pictures for the day when there is no pressure on you for what you’ll bring back.  They make photography fun. They get out of your way, and let you think about composition and subject.  These lenses are seldom the first ones photographers buy. In fact, they almost always come into the bag after years of shooting, when you realize finally that what is truly missing from your kit isn’t its ability to cover fisheye to super telephoto or to be able to pixel peep every shot at 100%.

The Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D is this third category of lenses for me.

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LOSP in Translation

Lake of the Ozarks State Park (LOSP) is Missouri’s largest state park. With nearly 18,000 acres to explore, the Park is over twice the size of the State’s second biggest park, which makes it sometimes feel more like a National Park than a state one. After all, LOSP even has its own airport; how many state parks out there can claim that?

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My Best of 2016

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1. reveler at St. Louis Mardi Gras for PFSTL (Photo Flood Saint Louis)

Time again for my annual post of my favorite images (24 this time) and personal accomplishments.  To my recollection, very few years of my 36 or so in the world rival 2016 in terms of sheer awfulness.  I mean, the year was literally ushered in with a devastating flood for the record books….

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Interlude: Great Smoky Mountains, Day Three

Posted in art, awareness, family, Jason Gray, learning, links, photography, science, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on October 13, 2016

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By Day Three, my morning ritual of waking up to a rooster distantly crowing (I must say, much more pleasant than an alarm clock) and getting the coffee started was firmly in play.  My cold still lingered, but the medicine that we picked up on our way back from Newfound Gap was working well, and I was looking forward to a relaxing day in the “big” city.

If you’ve never been to Gatlinburg, it is a real treat.  For those of you readers familiar with Branson, Missouri, it is sort of like that, on steroids, in the mountains….  As much as I thought I might scoff at this town (due to its unabashed pandering to the wallets of travelers), I actually really enjoyed it.

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Interlude: PFSTL Top Ten, #5. Ferguson

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Photo Flood Saint Louis turns four this August.  This post is a continuation of a countdown to commemorate this exciting milestone.

Since August 9, 2014, Ferguson has been at the center of national attention.  “Ferguson” the idea/movement is undoubtedly the civil rights struggle of this generation, but for a mostly quaint community, that struggle has a long and complicated history – one that exemplifies what African-Americans have faced throughout the region from the start.

Yet, Ferguson is also a happy place.  A town on the border of St. Louis, where generations of families have lived.  A place which sees itself as worth saving; a place which sees this problem as worth solving.

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Interlude: Happy B-Day, Forest Park!

Posted in art, Jason Gray, learning, links, photography, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on June 24, 2016

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Image 1.

Today, one of St. Louis’ most beloved attractions turns 140 years old.  However, when we celebrate the origin of Forest Park, we should also celebrate the beginnings of O’Fallon Park and Carondelet Park because it was only with a promise to build the other two that St. Louis residents agreed to pass the ballot measure necessary to build the city’s now preeminent greenspace.

I’ve written pretty extensively about all three parks for Photo Flood Saint Louis (click links above), so instead of rehashing the parks’ histories, I thought that it would be more fun to challenge how well my STL readers know each one.  In the comments below, challenge yourself, and identify which park goes with which image (ie. Image 1=xxxx Park).  Now, let’s see how well you know your city parks….

*Answer key in comments.

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Nikon D3200- A Very Capable Guide

Posted in Jason Gray, learning, links, photography, Review, technique, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on June 20, 2016

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Just a few short years ago, I was rocking my Nikon D50 alongside my more expensive bodies for both personal and professional work, and no one was the wiser.  That camera was small, light, and did all the basics reasonably well, without too much fiddling.  Unfortunately, Nikon neutered that line in many ways when it introduced the D40/D60 cameras (predecessors of the modern day D3xxx/D5xxx cams); most important though, they took away the top LCD, they introduced compression to RAW output, and removed the motor needed for AF-D lenses.

Still, this line is most photographers’ introduction to the Nikon brand, and for the most part, these cameras are great bodies to get to know photography on.  Which explains why I recommended the D3200 to my wife as her first DSLR.  If you are on the lookout for a starter cam, no doubt, the D3200 is a great buy and a very capable guide.

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Nikkor 20mm f/2.8 AIS

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A few years ago, my wife arranged for a group of my friends to surprise me for my birthday.  My friend Steve surprised me even more with the very generous gift of a Nikon FM2 and an assortment of AIS lenses.  Among them was this absolute gem, the Nikkor 20mm f/2.8 AIS.

It is small, it is light, it is one of my all-time favorite street photography lenses, and it is still being manufactured by Nikon (since 1984!).  In fact, not only is this lens still sold new, but it is more expensive over the counter than Nikon’s AF-D version.

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Interlude: Toxic Tour STL

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Earlier this year, I created an afternoon itinerary, self-dubbed the “toxic tour”, that would take me by some of St. Louis’ most notorious, nefarious and/or notable sites relating to the city’s long history of chemical manufacturing, toxic waste removal, and dodged bullets.  I picked three sites in order to create a semi-circular route, but it would be easy to add other significant stops (ie. the former Carter Carburetor plant/EPA Superfund Site, the smoldering Bridgeton landfill, the Eastside’s Mound’o’Trash, the old ordinance bunkers of the Mark Twain I-70 Industrial neighborhood, etc.) if you really wanted to make a family weekend of it. :0

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