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

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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Interlude: PFSTL Top Ten, #2. Forest Park Southeast

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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.

Forest Park Southeast is a neighborhood of contrasts.  The blocks north of Manchester look and feel very different from those south of it.  The area’s central business district, sort of an alternative to South Grand and Cherokee Street, seems perpetually half-revitalized (one of the street’s best known businesses, Sweetie Pie’s, just announced its closure).

To summarize why this is is a difficult thing to do, but I’d wager that the neighborhood will only remain this way for a short time longer.  As Central West End and Midtown to its north continue to attract new start-up investment, and Botanical Heights further matures to its east, FPSE has a good future outlook.

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Interlude: PFSTL Top Ten, #4. The Hill

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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.

There are many things that draw visitors to the city of St. Louis, baseball, Forest Park, The Arch, but probably, the neighborhood most popular with out-of-towners (for what it uniquely offers as a neighborhood) is The Hill.

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Interlude: PFSTL Top Ten, #6. St. Louis Place

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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.

Depending upon your point of view, St. Louis Place is currently either the city’s most threatened neighborhood or the one most likely to save its economy.  Of course, the reason being is that this north side gem was selected as the new home of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (formerly located in the south side’s Kosciusko neighborhood); at issue here is that, although the NGA adds millions of much needed revenue dollars to the city’s coffers, it requires razing close to 75% of St. Louis Place via eminent domain for the space needed.  :0

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Interlude: PFSTL Top Ten, #8. Downtown

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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.

The Downtown neighborhood is every bit the soul of the St. Louis region.  It encapsulates the city’s origins, and includes its best known testaments to culture, business, government, and society.  The world’s first skyscraper, the once longest arch bridge in the world, and the world’s tallest monument live here.  Our relationship to the mighty Mississippi River is embodied here.

With all of that considered, it is no wonder that I began Photo Flood Saint Louis with a visit Downtown, and for the first two anniversaries of the group, we returned there.  These images come from our second venture into the neighborhood; one year after founding.

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Interlude: PFSTL Top Ten, #10. The Patch

Posted in art, awareness, Jason Gray, links, manual focus, Photo Walk, photography, technique, Uncategorized, winter by Jason Gray on July 6, 2016

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In August, Photo Flood Saint Louis will celebrate the completion of its fourth year covering the “Lion of the Valley” and all of its wonderful idiosyncrasies.  For me, it is hard to believe this much time has passed since I originally invited a small group of five photographers out into Downtown for Photo Flood 1.  We’ve now grown into a dynamic organization of more than 300, some of who are regulars, some of who are once-in-a-whiles, some of who have never come out for a Flood but stick around for the networking opportunities, and have been partner to several of the city’s best known annual events, cultural institutions, and civic ceremonies.

Even so, four years in and we are only about halfway done with documenting all of the city’s neighborhoods (we are scheduled through 2021).  To celebrate, I am going to post some of my images from my ten favorite Photo Floods, beginning with number ten, The Patch.  I hope you enjoy!

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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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Dan Zarlenga: Night Visions

Posted in art, Hike, Jason Gray, photography, technique, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on May 30, 2016

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I have been curating the exhibitions at The Dark Room Photo Gallery and Wine Bar for a year and a half, and I am pretty excited about the next exhibit opening on Friday, June 3rd (more info in the link above).  Dan Zarlenga: Night Visions has the ability to appeal to a really wide audience, with some stunning images of landscapes that you are likely to never have seen in exactly this way.

From Dan:

“Under the dark cloak of night, the world becomes an open palate upon which you can play with light in new and creative ways.  When it comes to photography, daylight is merely an option.”

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Shutter Speed

Posted in 35mm, art, family, Jason Gray, learning, links, perception, photography, science, technique, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on May 21, 2016

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A beginner’s guide to shutter speed.

What is shutter speed?

When the photographer aims the camera at something and takes a picture, he or she is making an exposure.  An exposure is the net result of a combination of several mechanical, chemical or electronic factors working together in unison.

An exposure fixes an image in time, and can be considered “proper”, “under-“ (meaning too dark), or “over-“ (meaning too bright).

Aperture, shutter speed and ISO are the three primary adjustments that affect exposure.  In a proper exposure, a change to any single one of these will necessitate an equal and opposite change in at least one of the others.  This truth is known as equivalency.

The simplest definition of shutter speed is that it is the length of time that light is allowed to enter into a light-tight box (known as a camera) in order to produce an exposure.

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