Monday, January 29, 2007

City Streets ...

Oh City Streets, the stories that they tell ...

Friday, January 19, 2007

Sign sign, everywhere a sign ...

Very few words this time ...

Oops, I just noticed the date on this. I didn't post it Friday, that was the day I started composing. I posted this Tuesday. :)

Just some signs of the times ...

... and of the Trib. :)

Who? :)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Forbidden Images - polishing The Bean ...

A favorite objet d'art of mine is the sculpture known as Cloud Gate in Chicago's Millenium Park.

For those who don't know of this, Cloud Gate is a very large shiny metallic jelly-bean shaped object. It is known colloquially as "The Bean" or "That Bubble Thing", among other names. From a distance, Cloud Gate appears not unlike a giant blob of mercury.

I don't know why I am fascinated by this thing, but I am.

I first encountered The Bean in the fall of 2004 when I was attending a conference in Chicago. I was playing hooky one afternoon and just wandering around. There it was! I just walked around it for a while, took out my camera, and shot a few frames. NBD, right?

This was shortly after Cloud Gate was first unveiled to the public. It was unfinished, incomplete, particularly in that the seams between the sections of the shiny metal skin were unsealed and unpolished, quite evident. If you enlarge the image directly above, you will see one of my first images of The Bean, showing the seams intact.

Not long after, chit-chat on various photo boards warned of photographing The Bean, using terms as "Prohibited", "Illegal", etc. Of course, that made me want to go back and shoot it some more. :)

A quick conversation with an attorney friend of mine confirmed that it was not illegal, per se, to photograph this, but since the sculptor claimed copyright on the image, there may be some intellectual property rights if I ever tried to sell or commercially publish any images.

The Powers That Be did release a statement that COMMERCIAL photography of Cloud Gate was what was prohibited, but occasional stories of casual amateurs being confronted for shooting The Bean continued.

Fast forward several months. I found myself booked again to Chicago, and I checked but The Bean was apparently obscured from public view while the artist and staff made completion efforts.

I wandered over toward Millenium Park one afternoon, and yes, The Bean was again out of hiding, and workers were busy on scaffolding, polishing the seams to make Cloud Gate a continuous mirror-like surface. Yes, I decided to photograph the bean and the workers' efforts, and yes, I was curious as to whether or not I would be confronted.

One thing about photographing The Bean is that unless you really try, you will get, although usually a surreal one, an involuntary self-portrait. You will also get a fair image of anybody in your vicinity, whether they want it or not.

I really was not trying to provoke it, but I realized that after about 10 minutes or so I had attracted the attention of one of the park's security guards. He did not approach me or confront me, but I had this feeling I was being watched, and I was. I casually moved from the south side of the sculpture to the north side, and yes, he followed me. I was the only person present who was obviously using a camera of any type that time.

You'll notice that in the photo above, the guard (orange vest) is standing immediately to my right (right of me in the reflection) and as shown in the inset, is clearly watching me. The perspective of this shot is distorted. I am standing directly in front of the railing on which the guy who is resting (I guess) is leaning. (He is shown polishing above.) He is about 10 feet or so in front of me to the left. The guard is at a similar distance to my right. This was taken looking north, capturing the south side of The Bean and the reflection of the downtown skyline to the west.

This image is after I moved from the south side of The Bean to the north, and is taken looking southwest. You'll also notice that in this shot, the guard is staring right at me, watching me closely. I was, actually, half way expecting him to walk over to me and say something. He didn't. We remained in a stalemate for maybe 30 seconds or so and I guess I blinked. I just wandered off to the northwest, vanishing into oblivion. Maybe I didn't look "professional" enough for him to take any action. :) The gaze and the expression on the guard's face is obscurred by the backlighting.

The PTB did shortly thereafter clarify what they meant as far as photography of The Bean. They stated that what was prohibited was commercial photography, or photography using "any equipment more than a simple tripod", which was immediately misinterpreted to mean that all tripods were prohibited. They did state that casual tourist-type photos using simple cameras were permitted.

It's been well over a year since I've heard any first-person accounts of anybody being warned about photographing The Bean.

On a couple subsequent trips I took several photos of The Bean, some from unusual angles. Although I would not say that there were cameras all over the place, others were obviously shooting, and even though the guards were around, nobody was bothering anybody.

So what's the purpose of this thing?

It's there to be enjoyed, and for many, enjoyment means to be able to capture images.

Friday, January 12, 2007

People-watching, ala Weegee ...

I am an ensurient people-watcher!

I'm also a fan of the photographer, the late Arthur Fellig, better known as Weegee.

Weegee's claim to fame was a multi-decade history of stark and earthy reportage, often dark and gruesome, showing such things as auto accidents, shooting victims, fires and those out on the street due to them.

However, Weegee was also known for his "society" photos, of the self-appointed glitterati and of the truly rich and famous, often with an incongruous or ironic twist. (Google "weegee the critic" for a good example.)

Weegee's style for both was the same, stark black and white (this was the 1930s to the 1950s), detailed, grain-free, harsh flash, and fixed focus, 6 feet, 10 feet, 20 feet. He would set the focus, then position himself to be at the correct distance, backwards in practice.

His most memorable quote, advice for getting good photographs, was "f/16 and be there." His nickname, Weegee, came from a news agency, referring to the Ouija board and his uncanny ability to anticipate where and when news was going to happen and yes, to be there.

But anyway, if you enjoy people-watching, one great annual event at which to do so is the Nebraska Aids Project's Night Of 1000 Stars gala. This will typically draw several thousand, and although it's a black-tie affair, each year will have a particular twist or theme, this year, Hollywood. It's a lot of fun and for a very good cause!

This year I attempted to capture some of the Stars, just caught in the act of being themselves, in the style of Weegee. No, I didn't carry a huge press camera. I used a small 35mm with a very potent shoe-mount flash. I could easily slip them both into my purse and resume mingling and socializing.

"Charlie" and "Marilyn"

The expression on the video guy's face is priceless!

He realized that I was composing on him just before I clicked. :)

Big sax, huh? :)

One image I wanted to capture, but didn't was one guy whose hair looked so much like that of Dilbert's boss. I kind of slinked around a couple times trying to get a good vantage point, but I really couldn't without being too obvious. :)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Time to turn the page ...

Continuing with the same theme, but moving across the river, Council Bluffs is also very photogenic at night. Downtown Council Bluffs has more of that "small town main street" look and feel, and last Saturday evening about 6:00pm had that "rolled up the sidewalks" feel to it too.

Whatever happened to Saturday Night? City Hall, not a soul in sight.

Union Pacific Museum

For some reason, the windows of this law office caught my eye ...

Friday, January 05, 2007

About Ted ...

Ya know, I've always been curious about who Ted really is, what he's really like, etc. He may even be somebody in an office down the hall. We probably will never know for sure.

My guess is that he is male, and that he is singular. He often refers to himself in the first person plural, but nope, he's one and only one. I'm sure of it. (And no, I really don't know who he actually is.)

One thing for sure, Ted is well-known and well-read in this community. I've lost count of the times I've been in conversation and the subject of TV news comes up and somebody chimes in "... have you seen this blog?"

Some people love him, some people hate him, but one thing is for sure, many many people read what he has to say and do so, or rather did so, regularly and willingly.

>Ted was awesome! That's how I found your blog, in case you
>were wondering.

I have to admit, I enjoyed reading what he had to say. I sometimes cringed at his scathing remarks, but I almost always found him to be entertaining.

>Ted is a jerk. I don't know why your all defending him like
>you are.

Oh, I'm not defending him, and there are many times when I don't agree with him. (Hey, if we all agreed on everything, this world would be a very boring place in which to live!)

The one difference between me and Ted is that I don't have any blatantly scornful dislike of anybody who's currently on the air. (LOL, notice I said "currently".) :) Yes, some are obviously more suited for a role behind the camera, but ...

Sean will never fill Ted's shoes/boots/whatever. Sean is too well known and has too many people to answer to, such as publishers, sponsors, readers. :) :) Ted didn't have to answer to anyone!

Oh well ... :)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

And So It Goes ...

This afternoon while taking a break for blog-surfing, I was shocked, not really surprised, but shocked, if you can understand that, to learn that Ted Brockman has announced that he is hanging up his fangs, so to speak.

(For those of you who have no clue what I speak of, the Omaha TV News blog at

I first started reading Ted's blog well over a year ago. My first impression was that he was incredibly insensitive, and somewhat crude, which he is, and which he will probably admit. However, as if moved by an occult hand, I kept returning, and returning, and returning.

I don't always agree with Ted, but in many cases I do, and I realized that he shared some of the same thoughts and feelings I did, in that the state of Omaha TV news has countless opportunities for improvement which were, and remain to be unfulfilled. Ted had the {guts} to say what others thought, but due to such things as tact, manners, and the lack of a suitable forum, chose to keep to themselves.

Yes, I got hooked. It was one blog on my daily-visit list. Yes, I was really jonesin' when Ted took that two-month two-week vacation last Spring.

I suggested to Ted that he reconsider, or at least consider reconsidering. :) However, I have a hunch this is it. :(

Ted's closing comments were to the effect that he and his blog has made no difference, and the state of Omaha TV news is the same, or worse, than when he started. Unfortunately, I have to agree. Ted was only an annoyance to station managers and news directors, who unfortunately tend think with only their pocketbooks, and only from quarter to quarter, or in this case, sweeps to sweeps. :(

He's sure kept his audience amused! :)

I do hope that Ted will, if he does not consider reconsidering, at least turn over the keys to his weapons to somebody (NO, I AM *NOT* VOLUNTEERING!) who will carry on the tradition.

Oh well, so it goes ...