Saturday, October 29, 2011


When Geri and I walked the Boston Freedom Trail on Sunday, October 23rd, we took a tour of the USS Constitution, nicknamed "Old Ironsides."  The ship is basically a component of the Freedom Trail.  It was in active service from 1797 to 1855 and is the oldest warship in the world that is still afloat.  It saw most action in the War of 1812 and has a record of never having lost a battle at sea.  But enough of history.

Tours of the ship are free and very well done, though you may have a wait and should be advised that touring the ship requires going through a security check.

The photos I took of the ship reflect some of the mistakes I seem to keep making.  I should have gotten at least one good shot of the whole ship.  Didn't do it.  Instead, I found myself taking photos of pieces of the ship.  Here is a shot of one of the life boats.

At least in the following shot I included the name of the ship.

The rigging on this sailing ship was truly impressive.  We were informed that it could take as many as 250 men to raise the sail on the main mast.

Here is a closer shot that I liked.

As we began our tour, I found myself taking photos of rope.  I must have thought there was something artistic in these shots, but they seem pretty mundane in retrospect.  The technical quality was pretty good, though.

The ship was in terrific shape, and the tour below decks was quite well done.  When fully manned, the ship had a crew of 450 to 500, which seems incredible considering its modest size, relatively speaking.

I did get a couple of good shots of the cannon.

And here are a couple shots of the sleeping quarters for the crew.

I'm guessing these hammocks are not original equipment.

Here is a shot of stairs between decks.  (They probably have some sort of nautical name.)

These photos were basically interior shots with not a lot of light.  They were taken at ISO levels of 800 to 1600.  I was happy with the overall quality.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


On Sunday Geri and I decided to walk Boston's Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile walk marked by a continuous line of red paint and/or red bricks passing by many of the historical sites in Boston between Boston Commons and Bunker Hill.

To save our legs, we took the MTA to the starting point in Boston Commons and then back to our hotel from a station not far from Bunker Hill.

Here I have chosen to focus on just a few of the places we visited.  The first was the Granary Burying Ground.

I found it difficult to provide a proper perspective for a graveyard, and I wound up taking a number of shots of headstones.  I liked this one the best, primarily because of the interesting light.  It might have been better had I taken the shot from a slightly lower perspective.

It was interesting to learn that bas relief sculptures of skulls were commonplace on gravestones during that time period.

And, yes, my namesake was the first mayor of the city of Boston.

The key in the shot below was the play of light and shadow, so I turned it into a B&W.

Not a travel photo, but I liked it anyway.  The following shot includes an interesting juxtaposition between an old gravestone and a more modern wrought iron fence and building behind it.

The viewer can't identify exactly where this was taken, but it does give a sense of the old and new that the Boston historical area incorporates.  The ivy also helps to make the shot.

Here is another typical street scene along the trail.  I wish the shot did not include the car, but I would have had to come back at a very different time of day with any hopes of getting that shot.

One of the more impressive sites was a group of sculptures depicting the Irish immigrant experience.  There were two sets of sculptures, one featuring a group of self-assured individuals . . .

and a second of a group clearly experiencing anguish and despair.

The young man's face is just too close to the woman's skirt to use depth of field to distinguish the two.

It might have been better to have taken this shot more from the front than from the side.

We did a brief tour of the Paul Revere house, a handsome structure that has been well maintained.

 I liked the architectural detail in the following shot.

Next stop was the iconic Paul Revere statue.  My problem was the play of sunlight and shadow across the statue.  This was not such a big problem for a side shot, but that was not really a very interesting view.

I wanted to capture the statue with the Old North Church in the background, even though as I took the shot I realized that this had to be a very common compostion.

In this first shot, the church steeple is clear, but I wanted it to be larger in the shot, as in the photo below.

Unfortunately, the white steeple is somewhat lost against the white clouds behind it.  And of course there  were those strong shadows running across the Revere statue.

I then turned around and realized that the lighting was much better if the statue was shot from behind, and the handsome St. Stephen's Church with its bell tower provided a very nice backdrop.

I felt the trees on either side helped to focus attention on the statue and church, and it helped that the bell was fully visible.  A minor regret was that it would have been nice if the statue had been a bit larger in the shot.  In addition, resolution of this shot is a bit soft.

The Benjamin Franklin statue is also a Boston icon.  I liked how I captured it in the following two shots.

This second shot, in particular, I felt very good about.  Instead of having the statue fill the image, I included a significant amount of the background building to provide context.  The trees on either side and in front provided depth.  It also helped that the trees were showing their fall colors.  The statue is also in exceptional focus.  Usually, I am trying to learn something from my mistakes.  The above photo was, I felt, a classic travel photo, and hopefully I learned something from its success.

The Freedom Trail ends at the Bunker Hill monument, which is fronted by another interesting statue, this time of Col. William Prescott, who was instrumental in the battle by that name.  By this time the sky had clouded over, and I decided to convert the shots I took of the statue to near-B&Ws.

The first shot, with part of the Bunker Hill obelisk in the background, is probably the best of the three, although I liked the positioning of the Colonel's left arm in the third shot.  The buildings in the background are a bit of a distraction.  Either they should have been excluded by taking the shot from a lower angle or  they should have been given a more prominent role.  I do feel that the conversion to B&W added to these shots.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


On Saturday afternoon, the 22nd, we drove to the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum with Michelle and Tobias.  Tobias's dad, Marty, accompanied us on our visit.

This park, which is located southeast of Concord, Massachusetts, was spectacular.  The gardens are located on a beautiful piece of rolling terrain, and it helped that our visit was very close to the time of peak fall colors for the many trees on the grounds.  The gardens contain dozens of sculptures scattered throughout.  There was also a museum that we visited.  However, although some of the exhibits in the indoor museum were interesting, the real attraction was the sculpture gardens.

Following my brief experience of photographing sculptures in Utah, I was looking forward to trying my hand at some of those in the deCordova collection. As with most of my photographic adventures, I had mixed success.  

The sculptures ranged from the relatively realistic . . .

(I worked to get a dark background for the ball player)

to the surreal . . .

to the purely abstract.

One of the more interesting--but difficult to photograph--pieces was what I called the tree person.  Part of the difficulty was that the sculpture, which appeared to be made out of tree branches, was very tall, perhaps 25 feet in height, requiring that it be shot for the most part against the background sky, which was cloudy during our visit.  That had the effect of turning the sculpture more or less into a silhouette.

I took a tighter shot that was largely silhouetted and with very little color and decided I might as well convert it into a B&W.

I am wondering why I took the following shot from the side rather than from the front. 

Perhaps there was something behind the sculpture that I felt would be a distraction in the shot.

I very much liked the following "head" sculpture, which has a significant surreal quality to it.

I also took a tighter shot that, I think, emphasizes the haunting expression on the face.

The shadowless light nicely brought out the surface texture of this sculpture.  I did brighten up these shots a bit in post-processing.

I liked the following abstract bronze piece, and it was in a beautiful setting, but it is somewhat "lost" in the stand of trees behind it, even though it is taken with the lens aperture wide open.

I tried a close-up, but I am afraid it is just  too abstract to capture the overall effect of the piece.

There was some humor in the following sculpture made from pine cones.  Michelle remarked that some of the figures appeared to be male.

I took this shot at an aperture of f/7.1, but I might have done better to have set the aperture wide open to reduce the distraction of the trees in the background.  I also wished that I could have excluded the electrical conduit running down the large tree on the right.

One of the sculptures consisted of a couple of large heart-shaped pieces set among the trees on the grounds.  When we got closer, however, we found that the surfaces of the hearts were covered by various objects acting as bas reliefs . . .

including faces.

Here is a closer shot that includes Michelle and Tobias.  A face is visible in the heart behind them above and to the right.

I felt that the composition in the following shot worked very well.

I liked how I was able to frame the sculpture by the small tree behind it in full color and to have the sculpture appear to "wrap around" the bench.  I only wish the sculpture itself had been more interesting.

I also liked how I handled the following bronze of a female figure.

I chose to set the aperture at wide open (f/4.0) and to focus on the woman's outstretched hand, which is in very sharp focus.  Even though the woman's face is out of focus, I think the shot is more powerful than if I had tried to get the entire sculpture in focus.  I also liked that the hand covers just a little part of the woman's face.

As I stated, the grounds of the park were spectacular and the museum building was gorgeous, particularly as the ivy was also showing off its fall colors.