Pictures from the Workshop

720 Poster with Frank RicheyYou’ve heard me talking about the Picturing the Past Workshop in Athens, Ohio, until you are probably tired of it, but here’s a look at what our participants produced that is being exhibited at the Athens Public Library and the Athens County Historical Society Museum.

The first session was held on August 23. About two dozen people listened to me drone on for 2-1/2 hours, then Curator Jessica talked about historical photographs and their importance for about 30 minutes. Participants were asked to go into the community and shoot anything that interested them, with an emphasis on things that people in the future would be curious about.

“Office hours”

We held “office hours” on Tuesday and Thursday evenings so we could see what had been shot and offer suggestions. The goal was for them to come back with 10 shots they liked. We said they would 720 Ordinary People bio Posternarrow those down to two for the final exhibit, and that the audience could nominate a third photo. On the first evening, I suggested to two women that they explore the town after dark and gave them a two-minute demonstration about how they could vary the exposures on their point-and-shoot cameras.

A larger group showed up for the second “office hours” and we had lively discussions about how and why a particular photo was taken. I hardly needed to be there. The participants gave each other great feedback.

On August 30, we had a three-hour slide show of the final selections. You’d have thought we were at a fireworks exhibit with all the audience “ohhhs” and “ahhhs.” The group did a great job of commenting and critiquing the work. It was tough to boil the show down to 48 selections. Here are about half of them (in alphabetical order). I’m going to put up each photographer’s work as a gallery. Click on the photos to make them larger, then use your arrow keys to move around.

We’ll do the other half tomorrow to keep you from being overwhelmed.

Alex Westerfelt

Alex Westerfelt was one of the photographers who made good use of reflections. He thought his hand and camera were a distraction in the mirror, but I liked them. We had an ethical discussion about whether or not to remove some distracting water spots on the mirror. I told him I am a bit of a purist, but that I didn’t have an issue with taking out the spots anymore than I would hesitate to take out dust spots on an old negative.

This artsy reflections photo started out as a horizontal, but we kept creeping in from the sides until it became a much cleaner vertical. For reasons I can’t exactly explain, I liked the moment captured in the picture of the boy in the red shorts. The trees growing inside a building was taken in Shawnee, an old coal town I documented in 1969. It reminds me of Cairo, Illinois.

Angie Faller

I’ve seen a lot of ice bucket challenge photos in the last month, but I give Angie credit for shooting a nice sequence. She has the dump photo (with the cubes nicely stopped by the flash), the boy watching a video and a third picture of the ice on the ground. (I left that out because we had a limit on the number of photos. I didn’t realize that I would turn it into a layout.)

She took a portrait of a vendor at a farmers’ market and was captivated by a scale building at The Ridges, Athens’ former insane asylum. She had some interesting shots of the interior, but we liked the light in this picture.

Brenda Ruth

If I had to pick an overall favorite as an image and a collection of cultural icons, it would be Brenda’s photo of her granddaughter quilting. It’s a super portrait and has a smart phone and a piece of exercise equipment in it.

She had at least three variations of this old building. We liked the wide, long shot because of the purple flowers and the barbed wire and fence wire that may not be around in the future.

I’m particularly happy with her night shots. She’s one of the women who had never taken her point ‘n’ shoot out after dark. She was rightfully proud of how well her experiment turned out.

Carolyn Highland

Carolyn came in at the last minute on Saturday with an addition: a photo of her mother’s roller skates. The picture meant a great deal to her because of the personal connection, and it was also a nice icon. I shot a similar picture of my skates (except that the wheels were wood in the old days.)

The portrait of the old man started out a lot “looser.” We kept cropping in until it became much simpler and a lot more powerful. At one point, we homed in on his face, but decided to back out to include the wording on his shirt. The scenics are just plain nice.

 Marie Barone

One of the questions that kept coming up, particularly because of this photo of the kids playing in Nelsonville, was “do you have to ask permission to take someone’s permission?” My overall contention is that “if I can see them, I can shoot them.” If the situation is fleeting, I shoot first, then engage with the subject later. If your photo is used for advertising, then you DO need a release. You also can’t hold someone up to public scorn or ridicule (unless they really deserve it).

When I was editing Marie’s photos, the guy with a hat jumped out at me because I had seen it in the pictures submitted by another person. Not only was THIS guy in it, but the woman in polka dots and the woman in the dark glasses was there, too. Both shooters said it was a coincidence.

Marilyn Zwayer

I was really happy with the photos Marilyn took in the Ambassador Laundry. For some reason, she found herself doing laundry there instead of at home, so she decided to follow the lesson plan and shoot her surroundings. Some of the pictures aren’t tack-sharp, and she was reluctant to let us use them, but we convinced her that she had captured a slice of life. I was particularly appreciative because I was in the same place the night before when I realized I had reached the critical UW – 0 stage in my suitcase.

Exhibit dates

The print workshop prints and some of mine will be on exhibit at the Athens Public Library until September 27. Additional photos will be at the Athens County Historical Society Museum until about October 1. There will be a reception at the library September 16 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. I hope the photographers will be there to see how their photos are received.


Answers to Photo Questions

Web Miss Miller Double truckI’ve been having a fun week in Athens, Ohio, helping put on a Picturing the Past workshop to help people think about how they can take pictures today that may be helpful to historians in the future. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how this was going to work. I’m used to taking pictures for newspapers and putting together photo exhibits, but I didn’t know what working with a mixed bag of amateurs would be like.

We capped the workshop size at about 20, but Curator Jessica and I didn’t know whether we’d be talking to ourselves or if we’d be turning people away. As it was, we slipped some extra folks into the mix and ended up with a few more than 20. After a three-hour presentation last Saturday, we turned the group loose to take photos. We held evening office hours on Tuesday and Thursday to see how people were coming along.

Some of the photos here are ones I put together for an exhibit for the workshop. Click on the pictures to make them larger.

Participants quick and eager to learn

Web Millfield layoutThey did very well. I hope I can persuade the folks to let me publish their pictures in the blog. What was really cool was that some of the folks who met Tuesday were using point-and-shoot cameras and had never taken them off Automatic. I showed then how to adjust exposures and sent them out to do some night photography. They came back with some nice slice of life photos.

Along the way, I was asked all kinds of questions about equipment, software and what tools I used. I promised them I’d try to answer all the questions in one place at one time. Full disclosure: most of the links I’m posting are for Amazon. If you buy something after clicking on the link (or after clicking on that big Click Here button at the top left of the page), I make about 6% of your purchase without it costing you a penny. It’s one of the ways I keep Wife Lila and me in cat food.

Camera Equipment

Cape ice storm 02-21-2013_2561In film days, I was a Nikon user with a stable of lenses ranging from a 16mm fisheye to a 500mm mirror. After I retired, Son Matt gave me a Nikon D-40 to play with. It was the first digital camera I had used that had the look and feel of my old Nikon Fs. I’ve used three similar models since 2008:

Nikon D40 – The thing I liked about this body is that it’s light enough that I can put it in my bicycle’s handlebar bag. I use it with its stock 18-55mm zoom lens. I’d like something a little wider and a little faster, but I’ve shot probably close to 80,000 pictures with that lens and have learned to live with its limitations.

Nikon D3100 – Son Adam traded me a D3100 he picked up online for my D40 and a little cash. It has a few more features that he didn’t think he’d use. You can get it for less than a D40 now that a newer model has come out. (BTW, avoid the D3000, it has received lots of bad reviews).

Nikon D3300 – The newer replacement for the D3100. I haven’t used it.

Nikon 55-200mm zoom lens – The boys gave me this telephoto zoom for a birthday present. I don’t use it a lot, but it worked out well shooting an ice storm at night.

Nikon D7000 – Having a second lens made me want a second body so I wouldn’t have to change lenses, plus I wanted two bodies in case one of them went oink when I needed it most. The D7000 is a lot heavier than the D40 or the D3100, but it has some features that have made it my prime camera. I bought it without a lens since I already had one. The D7100 came out about the same time, but I didn’t see enough difference to pay about $300 more.

Less expensive cameras

SEMO Fair by Mary Steinhoff 09-08-2011Fuji FinePix JX500 – Not everyone needs a DSLR. I bought Mother this simple point-and-shoot from a local big box store for well under a hundred bucks. Here’s a photo of the district fair she uploaded from her iPad. (By the way, she’ll be 93 in October, so it proves that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.)

Canon PowerShot D10 waterproof digital camera – My grandson Malcolm turned 10 this week. When he was about eight, he got this camera. I couldn’t believe how well it worked, particularly in the pool. They’ve come out with a newer model, the Canon PowerShot D30, which has better specs and is a couple hundred bucks cheaper. I wish I had one of these back in the days when I carried a Nikonos for covering hurricanes.


Matt Steinhoff modeling my Domke Vest 07-16-2009 Domke PhoTOGS Vest – Some of you were curious about the shooting vest I use. After years of using cheap fishing vests to hold my film, lenses and accessories, I bought a vest made specifically for photographers by the photographer who came up with the original Domke camera bag for the Bicentennial year. This is a nicely designed piece of clothing that will last for years and keep your equipment safe. I am fairly rotund, and the large fits me with plenty of room. It’s large enough that you can wear a light jacket under it when the weather turns cold. Here’s a more complete review of the vest and bags. (That’s Son Matt showing it off.)

Domke F-6 Little Bit Smaller Camera Bag – Now that I’m not carrying as many lens and other accessories, I can get by with a smaller camera bag. This one has all the features of my big Domke bag but is a lot less bulky. I carry a strobe, two video cameras, a wireless mike and some small accessories and have room to spare. If you look at the review above, you can see how well the bags hold up under daily hard use.

Circular polarizing filter – I ALWAYS have some kind of filter on my camera to protect the lens from scratches. It’s cheap insurance. In the old days, I’d use a UV filter. Polarizing filters made it hard to calculate exposures, so I avoided them unless absolutely necessary. With modern digital cameras, that’s not a factor, so I’ve gone to using them as my standard filter. The cut down on the light a bit, but it’s amazing how much better they make skies and foliage look. Being able to kill glare and reflections is even helpful indoors. Here’s a post I did showing when to use (and not use) a polarizing filter.

Overnight Prints – Someone asked who printed my business cards. These folks are fast, produce good quality cards and have lots of special deals if you aren’t in a hurry.

Vanguard Alta Pro 264AB tripod – I didn’t use a tripod often as a still photographer, but they are necessary if you are shooting video, particularly interviews. My old Bogen tripods served me well for 30 or 40 years, but they were getting cranky in their old age. After searching around, this was the best tripod I could find for the money. I’m not crazy about the head, but I’m learning to live with it.

Video equipment

Canon FS100 Camcorder – This was my first digital video camera. I was really impressed with how well it worked, I even put video mounts on the front and back of my bike to shoot ride videos. Like everything else, you can buy a newer model Canon FS300 for less money.

Canon VIXIA HF M500 camcorder – After using the FS100 for a couple of years and finding myself doing more and more video work, I decided I wanted a better camera. This one is small, light and produces good images. One thing I like is that it the battery will run for about an hour and 20 minutes, which is just about how long it takes to fill a 32-gig SD memory card. The weak spot is audio, but I solved that with the next item.

Azden WLX-PRO Lavaliere wireless microphone – I learned very quickly that good video without good audio was useless. The built-in camera mike was OK for some things, but I was doing a lot of oral history projects and needed to be able to hear my subject clearly. Professional sound equipment was out of my price range, but this mike has done quite well. For example, if you play the video above, the first and last interviews were done with the camera mike. The interview with the man in the middle was done with the wireless mike clipped to him. The difference is clear.









Iconic Images for Sale

Round Barn on S Sprigg 1966I had a bunch of 12×18 prints made for exhibit consideration. It dawned on me that the extras aren’t doing any good sitting in a rubber bin in Mother’s basement, so I took a few over to Annie Laurie’s Antique Shop on Broadway to see if they would generate any interest (and income). We picked shots that we thought brought back memories of Cape or that were generic enough that it didn’t matter where they were taken.

They sell for $10 each. Similar prints of the same images have been exhibited in museums and galleries, so I can say they are suitable for framing, even though they aren’t printed on photographic paper. You aren’t going to get unique images like this any cheaper.

Folks who have been around for awhile will recognize the round barn that used to be on South Sprigg Street below the cement plant.

Friends on Robinson Road

Friends on Robinson Road exhibit catalog for 07-28-2013 showThe top portrait is the one that’s available. Bill and Jesse are from Ohio, but you could find their counterparts in Southeast Missouri if you poked around.

Give this to your best buddy so he can see what you guys will look like when you get old.

Toilet Paper Wars

Toilet paperIf you know Steve Robert or Mary Wright, this would be a good print to squirrel away for a special gift. A reader sent me a long account of the toilet paper wars in Cape. If you haven’t read it, it’s worth a chuckle.


SEMO Fair Round UpThere are several photos from the days when the district fair was still in black and white. I’ve always liked this shot. Years later, I saw that Robert Frank had a similar photo in his classic 1958 book, The Americans.

This would look good in the kitchen

SEMO Fair Food and drink standHere’s another fair photo. Look at those prices. I can remember scrounging soda bottles for the deposits so I could stay at the fair “just a little bit longer” after my money ran out.

Shop Class

1960s high school shop class2I suspect that OSHA would have problems with this Central High School shop class photo. If you know the guy, though, wouldn’t it be a great birthday present for him or his kids?

If your friends jumped off a bridge …

Castor River 07-31-1964I was a little confused about where I took this photo, but my readers set me straight. If you are in this photo, you might want to snatch it up before giving your grandkids the old “if all your friends jumped off a bridge” speech.

Grosvenor Crossing

Grosvenor Crossing OH during rail strikeThis has always been one of my favorite news shots. The railroads had gone on strike, and I was trying to figure out a different way to tell the story. I went out early on a cold, foggy morning and shot unbroken frost on the tracks at Grosvenor Crossing near Athens, Ohio. To me, that was a better way to show that the trains weren’t running than a bunch of guys holding picket signs.

Closer to Cape, I found that train crews still wave to you around here.

Dancing in the bank parking lot

Teen dance in bank lot 8-21-64I see several familiar faces from the night the TAC club floor was bouncing so much that city officials closed the joint down and the dance moved to the First National Bank parking lot at Broadway and Main. My old debate partner Pat Sommers is in the middle of the shot. Joan Amlingmeyer is to the right of him.

Nellie Vess

Nellie Vess 08-13-1968Nellie Vess and Peggy Sue sit on a porch near Trimble in Southern Ohio. She was one of my favorite people and her story has an interesting twist.

He’s waiting for you

Ohio GravediggerThis gravedigger from Letart Falls, Ohio, could dig a square hole. I’ve used his photo several times, most recently when discussing the skeleton that hung around Central.

This would be good to hang by your alarm clock as a reminder that there are worse things than going to work in the morning.

This isn’t the full selection, and I have more in the rubber bin. Holler if you don’t see one you want and I’ll see if there’s a print already made up. If you are interested in a photo shown here, better grab it before someone else snatches it up.



Palate Cleanser Photos

Capaha Park 04-02-2014I shoot a lot of random stuff that isn’t quite enough for a whole story. When I was working at The Athens Messenger, we’d post pictures like that on The Wall of Desperation, to bail us out when the well was dry and the monster in the pressroom still needed feeding.

I haven’t reached that point yet, since I still have some fresh Cape stories in the bag, but I thought I’d run these random scenics as a palate cleanser.

Random photo gallery

Click on a photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to look at a sunset over Lake Okeechobee; a falling-down building in Capps, Florida; cattle grazing in Cape County, ducks at Capaha Park and springtime in North County Park.