I’ve been seeing crops of mushrooms sprouting up in the city everywhere I go. They look like little fairy worlds to me. Makes me want to reread The Blue Fairy Book. You too? You can download it on Project Gutenburg.
This is the second week that I have been “sheltering in place” with Boris and my spouse (who has been doing the grocery shopping and duly sanitizing household surfaces.) We are probably getting some things wrong, but doing our best.
The stay home order in Philadelphia does allow residents to go outside for, among other things, exercise so long as we observe social distancing rules.
We’ve been having some beautiful weather here, so I’ve been trying to get out when the weather is nice. The streets are nearly deserted. Most of the people we encounter are cheerful and careful to keep the prescribed distance. Perfect for an introvert who just wants to take a walk.
And now for some useful stuff. Press here for information on sites offering longer free trial video streaming. I’ve cut my cable, but I might actually try some of these. I already have tried the live streaming from the Metropolitan Opera. If you think you hate opera, try streaming one of the Met’s operas complete with subtitles. For more information, press here. Or explore some art museums online here.
And finally, a recommendation by my friend Olivia. Even if you are a non-believer, this is sure to lift up your spirits. We are nothing but resilient and need a reminder from time to time.
Look at these incredible rainbows I saw yesterday in South Philadelphia. May they be a harbinger of the year to come.
And I really mean cheap and easy. OK, not free. I did have to buy some plastic place mats on Amazon. But I got 12 for $18.00 which leaves plenty left over to use as place mats and as traveling work surfaces for polymer. That, packing tape and white card stock which I had (you could use printer paper too) and I was all set.
I have one of those cloth photo tents like this one and they are great for taking pictures of vases and bigger items. But it’s big and unwieldy in my studio and I actually had to watch a video on how to fold it and get it back into its storage bag. I wanted a smaller photo cube for jewelry and similarly sized items. I could have bought something, but could not find the size I wanted. It seems like these things come in two sizes: tiny and enormous.
That meant making one. I didn’t want to have to buy special paper. I didn’t want to have to find the right size box and saw the sides out of it. When I was finished taking pictures, I wanted to stow the box in a drawer or on a bookshelf. So here’s what I came up with:
Here’s the photo setup. I cut the place mats to size with scissors and used packing tape to make this triptych-like screen.
Here’s the set up with white paper behind the triptych under it. You can use paper and the other mats to make any kind of configuration you like. Just tape them together. You can put the lights anywhere to get the effect you want. The light I am using here is nothing fancy. It’s an LED desk lamp I bought at Five Below and it uses three AA batteries which means you can move it anywhere and not be fighting with wires. You can get something similar on Amazon here. Don’t pay more than $5.00 per lamp. They’re great for traveling to which is why I originally bought them. And don’t think you need to buy lights if you already have something you can use.
So, how do the pictures look? Let’s see.
Here’s a setup to shoot a pair of bronze clay earrings suspended on a piece of floral wire.
The image on the left is unlit. I used the lamp on the image on the right. I didn’t use any photo editing software.
Here are the same images Gimped. Click on the images a couple of times to view them full size. Gimp is a free open-source image editor that I have used for years. It can do anything you want. Did I mention that it’s free?
This is the photo studio folded up and ready to be put away. It hardly takes up any room at all. If you need something bigger, just tape on another mat or two. If you want something smaller, cut one down.
Here’s another idea. The plastic drawers in this storage unit are also made of translucent plastic. Before I started using the place mats, I got some pretty good shots using empty drawers.
Here’s a tassel I laid on one of the empty drawers. You don’t have use a place mat on the drawer like I did; simply turn it over if the underside is free from markings. You can try putting your small, battery-operated lamps inside or outside the drawer. Experiment.
Here’s a shot of the tassel with some light from the battery-operated lamp. Not too bad. One of the great things about these photo setups is that they are small and cheap enough to take outside into the natural light where you should be able to get some pretty good results. Experiment! And don’t forget to have fun.
I spent today cleaning out old paperwork and files that were taking up precious space in my small home. I work fast. I am not one to get sentimental about old tax returns or even the copy of my marriage license that I found buried in a file. And I didn’t find any pictures to take me back to my (not so) wild youth. No cat pictures either (except a blurry Polaroid of my Bridge Kitty Pooky sitting by our old rowing machine. I don’t know why I kept it.)
I have learned some things about home organization in the past few weeks. Tools, boxes and bags that are supposed to help you stay organized are no good if they have nooks and crannies where things can hide. That’s why I spent three years wondering where my miter vise and the wedge to my ring clamp were hiding. They were under my nose the whole time, secreted in one of these. And some things are so big (I tossed this behemoth after I had emptied it) that it’s easer to store the things they contain in a drawer and have done with it. Enough of that.
My cleaning out trip down memory lane didn’t stall due to sentimentality until I stumbled on my first digital camera hidden on a shelf behind some books. (Fortunately for me, I was almost finished purging, so the discovery didn’t derail my good intentions.)
My first digital camera was a Fuji Fine Pix 2800 It only had 2 megapixels but it also had 6X optical zoom which was unheard of for a budget camera in those days (2002). And it took beautiful pictures although the files were small and not really suitable for print media.
Here are some of the pictures I found on the huge Smart Media cards used with the camera:
I took some new pictures of a project I am working out to see if the camera still functioned:
I would keep the camera for web-based photography, but I like the flexibility that larger files give. So, I will erase all the media cards, find a spare card reader (the big media cards won’t fit into a standard computer slot) and donate the camera to a thrift shop.
Bye old friend!
It was 1989 and my friend Robin Hiteshew asked if I wanted to attend a poetry reading by Seamus Heaney at Swarthmore College. I was familiar enough Heaney’s work to jump at the chance. Later I got to meet him, but was too shy to do anything but mumble and shake his hand.
Thirty years later, at the opening of his show, “Portraits of Irish Writers” Robin compared a photo portrait of Heaney he took during that visit to Swarthmore with one he took almost a decade later in Cambridge where Heaney was teaching at Harvard. In the first photo, a slightly disheveled Heaney struck a casual pose under a tree on the Swarthmore campus. In the second picture, Heaney was wearing a tailored jacket “Look,” said Robin pointing to the first picture, “his trousers are rolled. That’s before he won the Nobel prize and the game got more serious.”
Robin Hiteshew has been photographing Irish writers (and musicians) for more than forty years and it has been a labor of love. His portraits are personal and revealing in a way that is truly beyond the words. And he has a story to go with each one.
Robin’s new show, “Beyond the Words: Portraits of Irish Writers” will run until June 26 at the McNichol Gallery which is located in the Thomas A. Bruder, Jr. Life Center at Neumann University. Admission is free. For directions, press here.
Jeweler’s Row is a Philadelphia treasure the future of which is being threatened by potential unbridled development. Jeweler’s Row, located on the 700 block of Sansom Street, was not always the seat of the Philadelphia jewelry industry, having been home to the printing and engraving trades before morphing into a jewelry district around the 1880’s. Many jewelry store proprietors from the Delaware valley and South Jersey made weekly trips to Jeweler’s Row to drop off and collect repair jobs, replenish their stock and to meet with their fellow jewelers to talk business.
A developer sold a brace of buildings to Toll Brothers Builders in 2017 and Toll Brothers got permission to tear down the buildings to erect a high-rise apartment building. There was plenty of opposition from the neighborhood and community groups but in the end it didn’t matter.
Last week, I got to tour 708 Sansom Street which is one of the buildings slated to be demolished. It is a cavernous four-story building with tin ceilings and ornate hardware. As I walked from floor to floor, I could see that the tenants, the majority of whom were manufacturing jewelers, were in the process of moving their equipment out of the building and finding new space for their businesses and studios.
I imagine that 708 Sansom Street supported many families over the years and that its tenants were a close-knit bunch. Now it is like a ghost town.
Most of the former tenants have found new space but it has not been easy. Many of them have had to relocate away from Sansom Street.
While it’s true that the only constant in life is change, and that the face of the jewelry business is changing, there is still room for places like Jeweler’s Row. These business districts and manufacturing centers still serve a purpose. But then again, you never really miss something until it’s gone.
It happened while I was at Clayathon. Dark chilly days and then POW! I was sneezing and blowing my nose. The allergy fairy took hold of me and fairly rattled my teeth, even though I usually don’t suffer from Hay Fever, the pollen levels were off the charts!
Spring has come to Philadelphia and to my neighbor Bob’s sidewalk garden
Flowers are popping out all over my part of Philadelphia. The tree blossoms are only blooming for a few days before they fall from the tree limbs and collect on the sidewalk. until then, every walk is glorious Spring.
The Some pictures I took in December and January during Philadelphia walkabouts.