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

My Go-To Equipment in 2017

Understanding what cameras and lenses you use most often provides all sorts of data, and is something that I always think is pretty interesting and can be very helpful. For instance, in the pie chart above (based upon the images I selected for My Best of 2017 posts 1 and 2), I know that I leave the bigger, heavier cameras at home at least 25% of the time (or at the very least, I use the iPhone 7+ to document things that I don’t feel warrant the use of a DSLR- I included documentary images in this metric). What’s more, my second backup body, the D200, makes an appearance because my primary body, the D7200, had to be sent in for repair this year.  Also, knowing my stats from last year, I can see that I am using the D300 less and less often, which means that I greatly prefer the images that the D7200 makes, even though it has been a problem-prone camera for me (if it is worth putting down for posterity, I am going to try to do that with the best quality equipment that I own).



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.


Road Trip!


I am getting ready for a 5-day trip to the Great Smoky Mountains with my wife and first-born son, later this month.  The travel itinerary that I have made will take us to both Louisville and Nashville, up to the second highest peak in the Appalachians, to a pond full of salamanders, into a cave that’s been haunted for two hundred years, behind the curtain of a waterfall, and more.

This will be the first adventure where all three of us will have a camera.  I’m excited, and can’t wait to share the pictures!


On Photography

On Artists


Hitchcock’s Rear Window and the Spectacle in Photography

Posted in art, awareness, film, impressionism, perception, photography, psychology by Jason Gray on March 12, 2012

We live in a world that might best be described as a panoply of gestures. Contemporary culture is so given over to experiencing multiple things at once, that a gesture is merely the limit of what a person in this context can comprehend. Through social media, we are exposed to innumerable status updates, news feeds, and images. The rapidity with which this information comes to us causes the individual receiving it to search for what they think is intrinsic and discard the rest. Regarding the images that people place on their social media profiles, the person reviewing the images instantaneously resolves the questions raised by their viewership; ie. person at a bar, person entertaining friends, person meeting someone famous, person’s new artwork, etc. The quick resolution of this rather large dataset means that the mind is compressing what it receives, or rather, is making assumptions. The effect is two-fold, the image-makers must distill what they want to say into a carefully curated presentation so that the viewers make the right assumptions about the message being relayed. Nothing in this correspondence is experiential in the traditional sense because there is no physical interaction between the message bearers and the message receivers. In fact, the message receivers generally have no direct attachment to the message bearers other than occasionally having met them firsthand. For instance, the person viewing the photo of the people in the bar is usually not one of the people photographed, nor were they in the bar at the time, and oftentimes, they don’t know anyone in the photograph at all. This is the nature of the Spectacle: a detached observation of an event that you have no connection to, which you perceive of through an oddly metaphysical window that subverts the real world onto an imaginary plane.


Flaws of Perception

Posted in art, awareness, black and white, perception, photography, psychology, science, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on March 3, 2012

Some would argue that human beings are essentially social creatures. However, while socialization is undoubtedly intrinsic to human cohabitation, it is an internalized motivation to distinguish oneself from “others” (people, businesses, the environment, etc.) that drives modern civilization and distinguishes humanity from most of the rest of the natural world. As early as six months of age, human beings exhibit a behavior known as the “Other-Race Effect”, or ORE, which can be summarized as the diminished capability of a person to recognize faces from races not one’s own.* Flaws involving facial recognition between humans of different races have been observed and hypothesized about since 1914**; is it possible that humanity’s tendency toward elevating itself above other things is a relatable feature? What about in art, could the misrepresentations of one race/sex by another be an extension of this inherent problem of the mind with perception?

Annie Leibovitz; Pocahontas (from Disney Dream Portrait Series), 2008


Mimetic Imagery

Posted in art, photography, psychology, science by Jason Gray on February 5, 2009


“The results reported here offer empirical support for this general hypothesis and specify three particular processes that can be found in imagery, namely Figural, Symbolic and Mimetic.  In the Figural Process an image descriptively depicts the scene or object referred to by the stimulus word.  In the Symbolic Process an image illustrates (stands for or symbolizes) the concept communicated by the stimulus word.  In the Mimetic Process an image is constituted of the envisioning and/or enacting of a human experience or behavior suggested by the stimulus word.” (17) 

From “Definition and Measurement of Three Processes of Imagery Representation: Exploratory Studies of Verbally Stimulated Imagery” A study by Mary Marks, Desmond Cartwright, and John Durrett, Jr; 1978, for the Institute For the Study of Intellectual Behavior.


The above quote was the general findings observed in the scientific study conducted by Marks, Cartwright and Durrett, Jr. to determine how mental imagery is stimulated by different words and word sets, and how connotation affects the response.  They tested their hypothesis by constructing tests designed to (more…)