Monthly Archives: September 2013

Santa Cruz: a State of Mind

Santa Cruz is sure that it’s the coolest place in the hemisphere. The denizens run the gamut from racy to flaky, with all expressing pronounced Green tendencies. The bakeries are simply amazingly wonderful

Bacon cheddar biscuit at Companion Bakeshop, Santa Cruz

And a plain croissant, just because

and the grocery stores supply all that the racy/flaky desire
frozen pizzas for all diets


and of course the produce is preposterously fresh and succulent



The strip malls have all sorts of goods and services
one stop shopping
and politico-spatial correctitude abounds
as amended
Sigils are everywhere
bases covered
and cover the ground from arcane to obtuse, with detours through the surreal. Wish I’d had more time to document, but it was just a quick trip this time.

aerial appliance

I’ve been carrying an iPhone for more than two years now, though previously I swore never to have anything to do with such appliances. I rarely use it as a phone, and the several camera apps get the most mileage. While flying from Boston to San Francisco yesterday I tried it out as an aerial camera and was amazed at the results. Try these on for size:

somewhere over Utah

more Utah


another genius

Sometimes you meet an Original, a person whose chosen form of art and expression is not in any way derivative, who uses materials (musical [Daniel Heïkalo] or literary [Georges Perec] or graphic [Luigi Seraphini] or sculptural or culinary or…) in a unique or idiosyncratic way. I’ve known a few, and enjoyed the surprise of encounter when new instances appeared.

Ahmet Gezer, sometimes known as ‘Crazy Ahmet’

Ahmet Gezer
and as ‘Lord of the Roots’,
Ahmet Gezer
uncovers forms hidden in wood, in roots and branches, and carves and prunes to liberate indwelling creatures. There are also less fanciful creations in his repertoire, table and lamp bases, candelabras, walking sticks, picture frames. Some of his source materials also include rocks imprisoned as roots have grown around them. Ahmet’s tools are pretty simple: saw, knife, chisel, file, minimal power tools. His imagination is of virtuoso calibre. His shop is underneath the family farmhouse in Sapanca, and his creations and raw materials overflow the shop.
Ahmet Gezer

Ahmet Gezer

He surely sells some of his creations, but I have the sense that selling has little to do with WHY he makes them. He’s not obsessive or batty, but he does project an air of deep personal contentment, and one can admire and even envy his calmness. He seems to spend a lot of time in nearby forests, hunting for likely material. Here’s a gallery of his creations:

(Jabba the Hutt? or somebody even stranger)
Ahmet Gezer

Ahmet Gezer

(I’d love to have this one)
Ahmet Gezer

(table bases)

Ahmet Gezer

Ahmet Gezer

(hard to say what it IS, just on its way to becoming something)
Ahmet Gezer

(light fixture)
Ahmet Gezer

(rock inclusions)
Ahmet Gezer

(pieces in process)
Ahmet Gezer

(raw materials)
Ahmet Gezer

Ahmet Gezer

(vine-wrapped saplings)
Ahmet Gezer

Ahmet Gezer

Ahmet Gezer

Ahmet Gezer

There’s also an example of neolithic agricultural technology in the yard, two wide boards about 5 feet long, inset with flint blades and I think meant to be used on a threshing floor, pulled around in a circle by animals and weighted down by a squatting farmer (or so I imagine from Ahmet’s demonstration).

threshing appliance

threshing appliance

considering Fundy

I’ve been in thrall to the Bay of Fundy ever since I decided (in about 1970) to do my dissertation research in Nova Scotia. In 1972 we moved into a house at Horton Landing, right on the very shore of an arm of the Bay, where the tides were 35+ feet and the low-tide mud was a distinctive red-brown. The energy of Fundy truly boggles any mind that considers it, and people have been scheming schemes to capture that energy since, well, pretty much forever. The First Nations folks who were the first inhabitants of the landscapes around the Bay told stories about the Beavers who tried to dam Fundy, and the culture hero Glooscap who smashed their dams; and so it is with any later folk who have tried to steal Fundy’s energy: turbines are crumpled, silt is deposited in unpredicted places, and sadder and wiser Beavers retreat to scheme again. Will those tides ever be “harnessed” or will Glooscap return to sort things out?

On the latest trip to Nova Scotia we stopped at the Clarence Gosse Bridge over the Shubenacadie River, a structure with its own tales of Beaver hubris. Built in 1979 and an early example of its type (a pre-stressed concrete box girder bridge, the two sections meeting in the middle, said by some to be “the world’s first cantilever bridge”), by the early 1980s its smooth curve was disrupted by subsidence at the center join –the engineers hadn’t reckoned with the sheer power of the tides and/or the depth of the mud. There’s a thump from every wheel that crosses.

From the observation point on the river bank one sees the power of Fundy in several ways. There’s a tidal bore that attracts rafters and kayakers (though I’ve never seen it there myself), and the old piers of the (now-vanished) railroad bridge are impressively eroded. At low tide you see almost nothing but red mud with a trickle of the Shubenacadie at the very bottom; just before high tide the incoming river is impressively wide. This trip I looked down and saw the swirling of mixed silty and clearer waters, and tried to capture it with the camera:

This view doesn’t do justice to the energies involved, being static and pretty muddy too, so I did a bunch of fiddling with the image, changing it to monochrome, upping the contrast and definition, generally trying to tease out the patterns I saw. This version is a bit more eloquent in revealing the profundity of the flux of energy:
…and incidentally vindicates any amount of post-processing. It’s still a photograph, still tells a story and roils the mind.

Market arrays

Market vendors take great pains to make their wares attractive to potential buyers, and I suspect there are styles of display that could be identified, just as there are vocal come-ons that could be recorded. There’s not much that’s haphazard, and a lot of virtuoso arrangement goes into setup (indeed, photographing the process of setup would be a wonderful challenge). The two markets we visited, one daily (Adapazarı) and the other weekly (Sapanca), were a delicious introduction to vast complexities, and all I managed to do was collect a tiny fragment of the rich variety. It takes me a long time to become comfortable enough to really see what’s around me, and I regret that I hurried through both markets and didn’t do much to communicate with the sellers –most of whom were professionally friendly and entirely willing to talk to even a tongue-tied and clueless foreigner. I could ask the polite question (Fotoğrafınızı çekebilir miyim?) but not much more. It was easier to communicate with piles of cabbages and buckets of olives…

So here are some of the results:





There’s something fascinating about the display of single commodities, even if they’re nominally identical (I mean, a potato is a potato, except when it’s being an Individual, right?):






And bulk goods are carefully arrayed too:







(and more to come)

Townscape in Göynük

We spent a few hours in Göynük, a small town that preserves Ottoman architecture and is built on the steep hillsides of a river valley.

Göynük hillside

Göynük hillside

Göynük architectural details

Göynük architectural details

Göynük architectural details

Many of the houses can only be reached by foot, via precipitous pathways that must be especially challenging in winter.

up and down in Göynük up and down in Göynük up and down in Göynük

Most houses have gardens, even if they’re just some soil in an empty tin or yogurt pail:

Göynük gardens Göynük gardens

Göynük gardens

Göynük architectural details

and some are more elaborate:
Göynük gardens

Göynük gardens Göynük gardens

It’s possible to see construction details in houses that await renovation

Göynük details


Göynük details

…but eventually entropy manifests:
Göynük details

There’s lots more to be said, of course, and quite a few more Göynük images, but I think I’ll get this one launched…

Thinking more about food photography

This last week in Turkey I learned a lot, I mean really a lot. In the area of ostensible purposes of the trip (Turkish cooking, photographing food) I’m just beginning to …erm… digest the learning, but this morning’s feedings are a good place to begin to try to articulate a few of my discoveries. There may be many more posts along these lines, as I process more photos from the trip and begin to construct narratives out of their constituents.

Nobody will be surprised that our first stop, even before going home, was Home Kitchen Cafe (it being 10ish, and we having driven 3+ hours from the park’n’fly hotel we’d flopped in after a day of flying Istanbul-Paris and then Paris-Boston). And Home Kitchen never disappoints:

Lobsterpalooza at Home Kitchen
(The photographer may be forgiven the softness of focus cum camera movement… it was the iPhone, I hadn’t had tea yet, the iPhone is a barely adequate image-maker, etc.). Of course I ordered the lobster migas, I mean who wouldn’t? And when it arrived I did my usual iPhone grab shot:
Migas con langosta
Now, that’s not too bad, even straight out of the phone and up to Flickr with no processing. Not ineptly framed, even some parts (cilantro, mostly) in pretty crisp focus, but not carefully thought out. Quotidian might be a good way to summarize the image. That’s what I ate, and very happy I was to eat it.

I did have the real camera with me, so I did a couple of shots with that and they provide food (so to speak) for thought. First I did Betsy’s lobster stew:

…and I’m reasonably pleased with the result in that the (notably shallow) plane of focus is about where I’d intended it to be, though the overall composition is less than carefully considered, and that reflection in the upper right hand corner is a distraction. A lot sharper than the iPhone effort. And so on to my migas:
Now here the plane of focus is just too shallow –should have stopped down a couple of notches, but that would have meant I couldn’t hand-hold the camera without movement. Or I could have changed the ISO (or fetched the tripod), but I was in too much of a hurry to, well, eat. I did try a top shot:
but that was even less competently executed, focus-wise. Of course it wasn’t until I saw these in Aperture that I found things of which to be critical, or (perhaps more hopefully) to think about constructively. Which is to say that readers of this blog will be hearing more along these lines as I unpack the experiences and the imagery of the week.

On to JFK

Turns out that the Istanbul flight departs from Terminal 2, not the fancy new Terminal 4. Terminal 2 is a relic of oh I dunno maybe the 80s? The amenities are dog-eared and even in the heyday the place was no prize. Wi-fi is pay-as-you-go, but there are places to plug in, and I’m paid-up and in-plugged.

The food question is a bit vexed, with a few of the usual suspects (Starbucks, etc.) and some one-offs. We surveyed the possibilities and were taken in by something called Croque™ Madame, which had at least the possibility of something cooked by human hands.


We opted for the eponymous Croque. You get what you pay for, I suppose, and for lotsa money tis is what we got:

Actually it wasn’t all that bad, but nor was it a gustatory delight to be recommended to future waiters-for-flights in Terminal 2 at JFK. In the glass case there were some other possibilities:


Betsy was good-natured about the experience:

and it ended as all such meals do:

Note the cutlery: because we’re on the Air Side, it’s plastic. The fork flexes and the knife is not a cutter. But that’s how it goes once one is in the maw of the travel gods.

En Route

While considering the matter of just what I want to get out of the Turkish Adventure, and especially out of the photographic part, I started thinking about which photographers I especially admire, and/or which I think of as particularly important influences. My immediate shortlist, without consulting any of the many books in the house, began with Henri Cartier Bresson, Paul Strand, Walker Evans, August Sander and Paul Caponigro. Trying to identify just what common thread is found in those 5 led to the (obvious) observation that they worked in monochrome –in black and white, as we used to say (though greys might deserve mention too). And of course my own photographic aesthetic developed in that medium.

Thinking further, I realized that I’ve never had an intuitive sense for light, and especially for light in color. That’s what I’d like to work on, and it occurred to me that I could shift one of my iPhone camera apps over to B&W, and also set the Coolpix in that mode, and use those resources to explore some of what I encounter in Turkey.
Now, obviously one can post-process digital color as B&W, and I may well resort to that with some images, but I find it much easier to see the play of light in B&W. So I did these two images at home yesterday morning, just as a place to begin:



The day began at the Park’n’Fly hotel in Revere with a 5AM trip to Logan Airport to catch the flight to JFK. The images aren’t distinguished, but I’ll post them anyhow: