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

Photography is No Monolith

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Photography, at its root, is two things: 1. the recording of light phenomena (sometimes invisible to the human eye); 2. a means of communication (sometimes for a conversation that we have only with ourselves). In the overlap between these two, we see all of the photographs ever made, which of course, says very little about the purpose of their creation. This distinction, the photograph’s “purpose”, only becomes apparent once the relationship between the photographer and viewer has been established. For instance, a message delivered through a megaphone that never reaches the recipient renders the projection device meaningless, or without purpose. In this way, the purpose of a photograph that sells to an ad agency is commercial, while the purpose of a photograph that sells to a Museum is cultural, but this is also an oversimplification, since photographs that originally sold to ad agencies have wound up in Museums (a photograph’s purpose can change over time or a photograph can have multiple purposes simultaneously).

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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).

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F-Stop Gear Guru

Several years ago, I converted over to using f-stop Gear‘s line of products as a solution to the problem of transporting my camera equipment and accessories.  These packs are expertly designed, and there is  a bag for virtually any purpose desired. I’ve previously outlined the ecosystem of their Mountain Line, so this review will focus on the Guru Version 1 that I use as my primary hiking ruck.

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My Best of 2017 (part two)

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For the first time, I have divided the annual summary of a year in my photo life into two parts.  Check out the first part here.

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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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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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