Sunday, November 20, 2016

A NIGHTHAWKS for the 21st Century

Last week, my wife and I took our daughter, a high school senior, to Chicago to visit a couple of colleges.  We stayed in the historic Blackstone Hotel on Michigan Avenue, putting us within walking distance of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park, and literally hundreds of other attractions.

As our time was limited, we did a quick run-through of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, then crossed the street to head North on Michigan Avenue.  Almost immediately, my daughter pointed to the barber shop inside the old Congress Hotel and said, "That would make a good photo." Sure enough, the Headrest Barbershop was the perfect subject for an early evening photograph. Because of the glass windows and its corner location, you could see the activity of a typical big-city barbershop inside.  I took several images before we moved on.

The Headrest Barbershop is at 520 South Michigan Avenue. (You can click on images in this blog for a larger view.)

Later in the evening, we spent several hours at the Art Institute of Chicago.  One of the many impressive paintings we saw was Edward Hopper's Nighthawks (Click here to view the painting in another window) from 1942.  It's the nighttime scene of a diner at an intersection of two streets, with three patrons at a counter and an employee standing behind it.

Later, as I was looking at my photos on the computer, it occurred to me that my photograph of the barbershop, while very different from Hopper's Nighthawks, has much in common.  We're viewing ordinary people doing ordinary things through the very public glass window of a corner shop.  My photo certainly doesn't portray the loneliness of Hopper's image, but it does capture real people living their lives in 2016.  For me, that's what street photography is all about.

Despite the bright colors of the scene, I also decided to do a black and white image.

We also found time to visit Millennium Park, where my daughter got friendly with the famous "Bean" sculpture.

Cristina and the Bean.
You can view my fine art photography website at:

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Another Exhibition

An exhibition of 18 of my recent fine art photographs is on display through October 1 at the Yellow Moon Cafe in Cobden, Illinois.  If you're in the area, I hope you'll stop by.

My wife María and I celebrate my birthday at the Yellow Moon Cafe on the first night of the exhibition.  My daughter Cristina was there, too, but she took the picture. (You can click on photographs for a larger view.)

The Eyes of Santa Nonia is from my recent trip to Spain.

Patriotic in Makanda is a scene from my home town, just before the 4th of July.
Hours for the Yellow Moon Cafe are:  Wednesday - Friday, Lunch  -- 10:00am - 2:00pm; Friday, Dinner -- 6:00pm - close.  Saturday, Lunch -- 10:00am - 4:00pm; Saturday, Dinner -- 6:00pm - closeCLOSED: SUNDAY, MONDAY AND TUESDAY.  Reservations are recommended for dinner.

You can view my fine art photography website at:

Saturday, July 9, 2016

An Up-Close Photographic Look at the Garden of the Gods

Yesterday, my daughter Cristina and I hiked along the trails of Garden of the Gods in Southern Illinois' Shawnee National Forest.  It's known for spectacular cliffs and rock formations.

My daughter Cristina takes in the sights of Gardens of the Gods. The views behind her are typical of this part of the Shawnee National Forest.  You can click on any photo in this blog for a larger view.

Garden of the Gods is a great places for hikers, nature lovers, and those who love to scramble among the rocks.  For my photography, I didn't concentrate so much on the distant giant rock formations, but rather on the those that were up close to me.  I've seen hundreds of landscapes taken taken at Garden of the Gods, most of them with similar views, and I wanted to do something different. 

The circles and swirls in the rock formation are called liesegang bands.  They are the result of geologic processes that started in a shallow ocean about 320 million years ago.

The red in the liesegang bands comes from iron that mixed with ground water when the stone was forming.  The stone is in multiple layers, some harder and some softer. They have weathered unevenly, leaving the swirls as one of nature's works of art.

More liesegang bands.
You can view my photogaphy website at:

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Updated Website Alert!

Several of you have asked me when my photographs of Holy Week in Spain would appear on my website:  Well, they're now there -- along with new fine art photography in the galleries United States and Other.

Below are a few of the photographs I've added. You can click on any photograph for a larger view.

Early in the morning, Holy Week procession participants head toward the church of Santa Nonia, to discover that the procession has been postponed due to rain.

Elvis serenades a window washer early in the morning. León, Spain.

An old farmstead near Nashville, Illinois
A Ford among the honeysuckles.
Setting up an order of drinks in a tapas bar - León, Spain
There are many more new photographs on my website.  Please feel
free to take a look:

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Photographing American Pride for the Fourth of July

There are many proud Americans who demonstrate patriotism and love-of-country in the days surrounding the 4th of July.  Red, white and blue flags and banners wave off mailboxes, porches, and flower boxes.  People celebrate with barbecue and Budweiser and fireworks.  They remember the sacrifices our ancestors made to forge a new country, and those that every generation since have made to secure liberty and freedom for the most exceptional of nations.

My hometown of Makanda, Illinois is one small village where patriotism is alive and well. Each 4th of July, I'm always impressed by the efforts made by the owner of an old abandoned house at the entrance to  town.  It appears that the roof of the house is caving in and moss covers much of it, but because of its location, an American flag and a window box with flowers and a patriotic theme are on display and highly visible  to everyone leaving the Makanda boardwalk and heading back to the civilization of Carbondale or beyond.

The boardwalk of Makanda is a tourist stop and setting for artists' studios. It has an amazing history which you can view here.  You may click on photographs in this blog for a larger view.

Every year before the 4th of July, an American flag appears on this abandoned house.

Look closely and you'll see an American flag in the flower box. Maybe the frog on the bicycle is that great American hero, Kermit.  If you remember The Muppet Movie, Kermit was quite the cyclist.
I hope you all have a happy 4th of July.

You can view my photography website at:

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Detour to Fine Art Photography Revisited

About 11 months ago, in this blog I presented some photographs I took of an old house near Nashville, Illinois.  I discovered the old house when I took a detour due to major delays on the Interstate.  Yesterday, after dropping  my wife at the airport in St. Louis, I revisited the site of the detour, as it was only about a mile out of my way.  It had been raining heavily for most of my trip back into Illinois until I got close to Nashville.  There were dramatic clouds back to the west, but the rain was holding off.  I was richly rewarded by views of the same old house, this time surrounded by golden cut straw or wheat rather then corn.

You can click on images for a larger view.

You can see the photographs of this old house from last year here.

You can view my photography website at:

Thursday, May 5, 2016

More Artistic Celebrations of Holy Week in León, Spain

In my last entry, I shared some photographs of an amazing window display celebrating Holy Week in León, made with Legos. 

Many businesses in León get into the act with their own window displays around Easter time. 

This display in a drugstore window was popular with passersby.  It used pharmaceuticals to represent some of the Holy Week pasos (floats).  You can click on photos in this blog for a closer view.  Use the Escape button to exit.

A close-up of some of the figures in the drugstore window.

The display in another window uses dolls for some of the figures.

Although this fabric store was closed when I went by, I believe that its Holy Week items were for sale.

While this is probably the last blog entry for the miniature Holy Week displays, in the upcoming days I'll be posting more photos of the real processions, and maybe another entry or two on one of my favorite Spanish subjects:  tapas.

You can view my earlier entries on Spain and Holy Week by viewing the archives from March and April.

My website is at: 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Legos are Real Art in León's Holy Week

In addition to the millions of kids who love Legos, I know there are adults who revel in the imaginary creations they can achieve with small precision-made pieces of plastic.  I've always considered these construction projects a way for the so-called-artist to hold on to a piece of youth, a tribute to childhood and innocence, as these mature Legos artisians use tiny plastic people and props to create scenes from Star Wars or the Indy 500, or a million other possible scenarios. My perception has always been that these are generally good, honest people who have kept open a healthy, semi-artistic escape valve that allows them to deal with the vicissitudes of life by immersing themselves in creating miniature realities.

However, I now know that I've underestimated at least some of those I might have once considered artistic dabblers or creative model-makers.  My apologies to you Legos enthusiasts: Some of you are true, honest-to-goodness, artists. As those of you who have been following me and my blog know, I spent the weeks surrounding Easter (2016) in Leon, Spain, writing about and photographing its unique celebration of Holy Week, including the amazing processions that have been a staple of Easter for centuries. One of the things I reported on briefly was a display of Legos in a embroidery shop window that gave an artistic, but quite realistic impression of a Holy Week (Semana Santa)  procession. It was more than an ambitious Legos project.  In my opinion, it reached a level of creativity that raised it to the level of real art, so I thought I'd share more of the photos. By the way, if you've never seen one of Spain's famous religous processions and don't have a clue as to what one is like, you can get a real feel for the event just by observing this display in an embroidery shop window.

The Legos display in the window of Bordados al Instante is an amazing representation of a Holy Week procession.  You can see my reflection in the upper part of the window as I take the photograph.   (You can click on photos for a larger view.)

This is the view of an actual procession.  Note how similar the Legos representations are to the real scene.

I'm not sure that I saw anyone carrying golf clubs, since in actuality, there's no golf course nearby, but otherwise the scene is very believable.

The religious pasos (floats) are quite detailed.

Another close up of one of the scenes
Even the balcony above the central plaza is detailed with exceptional precision.

At nighttime, the streetlights come on to illuminate the scene.

Passersby constantly stop by the shop window to photograph the scene.

The next time I'm in León during Holy Week, I'll have to see how the display changes over time.  I understand it's here every year, and that it gets better in every new incarnation.

In my next blog entry, I show yo how some of the other shop windows celebrate Easter with their own creations, although without Legos.

If you want to go back and see my other Holy Week entries from Spain, you can view them here:

Part 1: Preparing for Easter Week (Semana Santa) in León, Spain – An Unexpected Surprise of Tradition, Legos, Family, Pharmaceuticals, Food & Drink
Part 2: Holy Week in León -- Family, Tradition & Food
Part 3:  The Holy Week Processions of León -- Faith and Optimism for the Future
Part 4:  Procession of the Pasos: Twenty Photographs to Help You Understand Holy Week in León on This Good Friday
Part 5:  Holy Week in León: The Seven Words of Jesus on the Cross
Part 6:  Easter in León

You can view my website at

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Miracle in León's Cathedral

I don't know if the miracle was designed by man, or by God.  I also don't know if it occurs daily at a certain hour, or if it is a truly rare event. I'm not even sure if it is well-known, or something I discovered by accident through my photography.  I am sure, however, that it is amazing.

It was not mentioned in the pre-recorded audio handset tour of  León's Cathedral, and I can find no source for it on the Internet.  My Mother-in-Law, a native of León, was also not familiar with it.

I'm sure that no one noticed it while on the Cathedral tour, including me, or there would have been "ooohs" and "ahhhs."  It was not until today, when I reviewed the photographs I had taken two days previously that it literally came to light. But there it was on the very last frame I shot while in the interior of the Cathedral.

This is not the photo in question, but it will help you understand what you are seeing later on.  I shot this photograph of the main alter earlier in the self-guided tour. In the Cathedral, there are 737 stained glass windows, covering 1,800 square meters.  They're very difficult to photograph without a tripod and special equipment, which aren't allowed. The Cathedral is sometimes referred to as the "House of Light" because of the unique quality given to it by the stained glass. 
(You can click on the photographs in this blog for a closer view.)

The exterior of the Cathedral as it captures the warmth of the sun at the end of the day.

The rosette or rose windows of the Cathedral are known as some of the most spectacular in the world.  Most of the stained glass throughout the church is original from the 13th through 15th centuries  An exterior photograph gives viewers little idea of what they will see on the inside.

An interior view of one of the rosettes.

When I shot the final photographs before leaving the Cathedral, I purposely made them very dark to ensure that I captured the brilliant colors of the stained glass without washing them out.  While it obscured the interior details of the church, the glass shone brilliantly.  There was also something else I didn't expect.

While it seems impossible, a rosette from all the way across the Cathedral (at the main entrance of the Chruch) is perfectly projected onto the ribbed arches of the vault in the rear of the Cathedral, directly above the main alter.  It maintains its shape, colors and focus as it sits above the stained glass windows, perfectly in the center of the vault.  At first, I thought that I had accidently made a double exposure, which is very difficult to do by accident.  But the camera data shows that this is a single photograph.   It is the last exposure I made before exiting the church.  The rosette is much more visible in the photograph than it would have been to the eyes of those in the church because of its extreme underexposure.  Go back to the first photo in this post to see the same vault several minutes earlier without the projectied rosette.

A close-up of the projected rosette.

Is it possible that Gothic artists from the 13th century had the knowledge of optics, physics, and the engineering skills to purposely make a rose window project onto a distant wall?  Is this an accident of light, construction, and optics that was never planned?  Or is it a testament to the miracles that can happen when you're ready to see them? 

If anyone is familiar with this extreme effect of light in the "House of Light," please send me the details and I will post them.  Otherwise, you can still post your thoughts and opinions below in the comments section.

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Are Tapas Evolving?

If you follow my blog, you know that I'm very fond of tapas. So you can imagine how excited I got when I discovered that tapas may be evolving into something even better. Tapas are those little tastes of Spain you get every time you order a drink, especially in León.  For less than US$2.00 in most cases, you get a glass of wine or beer and a plate of typical Spanish food.

The Camarote Madrid is probably my favorite tapas bar in León.  The drinks are slightly more expensive than in most, but there's tons of atmosphere.

Salmorejo is one of the excellent tapas at the Camarote Madrid. 
Jamón Jamón is still my second-place tapas bar winner, and sometimes I would rate it as the best.

There's no choice of tapas at Jamón Jamón.   It's always a slice of bread with jamón serrano (arguably the best ham in the world), two types of sausage, and a wedge of manchego cheese. A glass of wine with the tapas is about US$1.30.  Despite the lack of variety, it's delicious every time.

Now there's a new kid on one of León's blocks, challenging what it means to be a tapas bar.  During my time in  León I've been surprised by what you can get for under US$2.00.  That being said, I was SHOCKED when I stopped by Las Tapas.

Las Tapas, not being in the main part of the barrio húmedo (drinking district),  lacks a little of the atmosphere of some of the other bars.  It, however, makes up for it with it's selection of tapas.

I saw this plate when I first walked into Las Tapas.  I first thought it was an order of appetizers off a menu.  However, I soon learned that it was the tapas that came with two white wines.  The couple who ordered it was kind enough to let the strange American photograph their food before they tore into it.  The cost for the wine and tapas was less than US$4.00.

I ordered a red wine.  With it I got a fried egg, morcilla (blood sausage) French fries, and bread.

I like the way the trend in tapas is going -- more food -- high quality -- extraordinary prices.   With competition like that provided by Las Tapas, maybe it won't be long before the tapas I get with my glass of red wine are the Spanish equivalent of a 16 oz. aged ribeye steak, a baked potato, grilled asparagus, and a house salad.  If that happens, I'll be there for the grand opening.

I've been blogging from Spain for the past couple of weeks, including Holy Week.  Please take a look at my previous posts.

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