pop culture

NOLA’s French Quarter

Earlier this month I attended the Society for Photographic Education (SPE) annual conference in New Orleans…my favorite Southern city! Unfortunately, the weather was a bit uncooperative and rained nearly my entire stay. On Saturday morning I had a two-hour gap between conference sessions and the rain stopped, so I went strolling down Canal Street and eventually into the French Quarter on both Royal and Bourbon Streets. Festivities were cranking up early in the morning, as there were Saint Patrick’s Day and Saint Joseph’s Day parades throughout the neighborhood. Below are a few shots made with my travel camera, a Fujifilm x20 digital rangefinder, complete with the 1960s black and silver retro finish. Last year I had several people in NYC stop me wanting to know if was actually a film camera!

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Journey to Ancient Cyprus

Recently I had the opportunity to speak at the 3rd International Conference of Photography and Theory, which was held in the ancient city of Nicosia (Lefkosia according to the Greeks), Cyprus. Here’s a gallery of some of my favorite shots from the trip, including a very post-modern Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Enjoy!

© 2014 Terry Ownby, All Rights Reserved.

NYC Encounters From a Tourist Perspective

After a number of years without having a “real” vacation, I splurged and took my sweetheart of nearly 30 years to New York City. We definitely did the tourist gig and went to many of the must-see city icons: 9-11 Memorial, Grand Central Station, Empire State Building, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, and Times Square. Of course we also visited China Town and had lunch in neighboring Little Italy. The MTA Subway provided our transportation, but a looming union strike made it a bit worrisome. By the end of the trip, all was well. Our digs for the week was the Grand Hyatt, which sits between Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building. It was great being in the heart of the city!

Since this trip did not include several photo students as in the past, I chose not to carry my large professional camera gear. Instead, I opted for a small, light-weight digital rangefinder-style camera from Fujifilm….it was a silver and black X20. Very 1960s retro look! It took great shots (all those in this blog post) and looked so stylish for my tourist modus operandi.

For those of you who know my food photography, I apologize for not capturing the incredible seafood and lobster paella I had at my favorite Spanish tapas bar in Greenwich Village. I was too excited to dive in to the food to worry about photographs! Sorry!

Road Tripping in the Arco Desert, Moon Craters and Atomic Venues

Last month I had the opportunity to slip away from the university for a day and went on a photo road trip with fellow photographer, John Lowry. Our adventure began well before sunrise as we headed out to the Snake River Plain and headed northwest into the Arco Desert. First stop in the bone-chilling weather was Atomic City, a quasi-ghost town not far from the INL (Idaho National Laboratory). This entire region is an interesting mix of ancient basaltic lava flows, atomic wastelands, and current nuclear testing facilities.

My planned experiments for the day centered on the vast landscape to be photographed through my super wide-angle Rokinon 14mm/f2.8 lens. The objective was to use a 1.2 ND filter attached to the backside of the lens, which would reduce my exposures by 4 f-stops. Ultimately, the plan called for windy conditions that would allow for cloud movement during the slow exposures. Alas, the wind didn’t cooperate and the clouds stood still. Bummer. But regardless of Mother Nature’s lack of support in this endeavor, we did have a great time and created a variety of images. Enjoy!

Light Orbs at Poague Wildlife Conservation Area

So this past Friday three die-hard photographers ventured out for a freezing night of photographing light orb phenomena at the Poague Wildlife Conservation Area, near Clinton, MO.  Although the temps dropped to 33oF (0.5oC), we had nearly a full moon to conduct our research into live performance art as captured with still-digital imaging technology. Wilson brought along several new light emitting devices, such as LED multi-colored light wands that changed colors and pulsated like strobes. Robert gave a great performance spinning burning steel wool, although during my performance the lanyard broke, sending a fiery trail off into the pond’s shoreline. Fortunately there were no uncontrolled fires!

Of course being this far removed from civilization, we were paid a visit by some local-yokels in their rattrap, exhaust leaking van, while they were spotlighting deer and other game in the woods. I think they were rather surprised to find a bunch of “old” guys in their haunt with tripod-mounted cameras and other paraphernalia. As they whispered to us (I suppose as to not frighten their illegal quarry) about our doings in their neck-of-the-woods, we simply replied that stars where our photographic subject. Once satisfied, they left and we resumed our light painting performance!

Despite the cold evening, the howling coyotes, and the curious kinfolk, we managed to stay warm throughout the performance and some of us enjoyed some ice-cold Guinness stout and Blue Moon winter spiced ale!

© 2012 Terry Ownby

© 2012 Terry Ownby

© 2012 Terry Ownby

Independence in Black and White

Earlier this summer I went on a photo shooting trip to Independence, Missouri with Dr. Tom Mitchell’s editorial photo class. Every time I visit the town square, I feel as though I’m in time warp back to the 1950s. And, it always feels like Black and White! Here’s a few B&Ws from that outing that visually express the nostalgia I feel for that locale.

© 2012 Terry Ownby

© 2012 Terry Ownby

© 2012 Terry Ownby

© 2012 Terry Ownby

West Kansas Geology and Astronomical Events

This past week I made my annual photo trek to Kansas with Wilson Hurst and had interesting adventures. Typically, we roam around the Flint Hills and photograph on the prairie, but this summer we decided to explore new terrain further west…as in almost to the Colorado border! Being out on the west side of the state was like being in a completely alien environment when compared to the calming prairie. The western side of the state is raw and harsh. High temperatures, gale-force winds, and limited visibility from blowing sand marked our three-day sojourn.

Home base was Oakley, where we stayed at a local motel run by a pleasant Indian family, complete with their Hindu alter on the check-in desk. Although, I had tried to get us a room at the Annie Oakley Motel, but unfortunately it was booked solid for a family reunion. But, our base of operations worked fine after Wilson figured out I didn’t know how to properly run our air conditioner!

Landmarks photographed during this expedition included Castle Rock Badlands, which is about 30 miles south of Quinter and only accessible by gravel roads. Our favorite place where we shot star-trails two nights in a row was the well-known Monument Rocks, or the Pyramids, as the locals call them. At a distance Monument Rocks gives the impression of Stonehenge, except magnified. The exposed gypsum columns rise 70 feet (21 meters) in the air, making them rather impressive! During the long hours of photographing star-trails, we saw several meteorites, satellites, and a US Air Force KC-10 refueling a C-17 cargo jet. The moonless nights provided an inky backdrop for the stars, which were incredibly bright and the skies remarkably clear, considering the violent winds that would not abate.

Below are a few shots from that trip. Enjoy!

Star trails looking north at Monument Rocks in western Kansas. © 2012 Terry Ownby.

Camera setup for shooting startrails at Monument Rocks, about 25 miles south of Oakley, Kansas. © 2012 Terry Ownby.

Yucca and sage brush dot the landscape near Castle Rocks in west Kansas. © 2012 Terry Ownby.

Panorama of Castle Rock Badlands, located south of Quinter, Kansas. © 2012 Terry Ownby.

Monument Rocks at sunset. © 2012 Terry Ownby.

Entrance to Larry Farmer’s Prairie Dog Town, Oakley, Kansas. © 2012 Terry Ownby.

Queen size beds at the Annie Oakley Motel located in Oakley, Kansas. © 2012 Terry Ownby.

Analog and Digital Technologies

Just a short update to my last posting on the Technology Series. After input and dialogue from my friend, Wilson Hurst (who’s finishing his MFA at the Vermont College of Fine Arts), I revised the overall look and feel of the analog portrait. I’m much happier with this stylistic approach, especially when juxtaposed against the stark white sterility of the digital technology counterpart. Visually, the diptych characterizes Neal Postman‘s notion of Technopoly and America’s surrender of culture to technology. Thus, presented below is the first diptych of the series.

© 2011 Terry Ownby

Technology and Its Ideological Implications

Today I created a test shot for a new photographic series I’ve been wanting to produce. The photographs will address technology from an ideological perspective. Specifically, Neil Postman’s Technopoly plays a significant role in this framework. As one of the 20th century’s more interesting cultural and media critics, Postman warned against technology’s ability to eclipse humankind through what he called the “tyranny of machines”.

This series of images depicting various forms of technology will be paired as diptychs contrasting analog and digital technologies from across various scientific disciplines. As such, I hope to investigate social and institutional ideological stances and influences that creep into our sense of personal self-identity without our awareness. In other words, we assume this aspect of life to be normal.

The image below is my first test-shot in the series and it depicts a 50-year old Paragon Engineer’s Transit, manufactured by the Keuffel & Esser Company. K&E, as it was known, was founded in 1867 in New York and last produced this particular model of transits in 1969.

© 2011 Terry Ownby

Fading Summer and Alice’s Rabbit Hole!

Clear skies and a warm afternoon were a perfect combination for getting off campus Friday and photographing in the nearby state park of Knob Noster. So my colleague and friend, Wilson Hurst, along with one of our dedicated UCM Photo students, Phil Williams (who helped me extensively on my vineyard book project), headed off to visually explore the temporal moments of the waning days of summer. This semester is slipping by incredibly fast, as in just a few days we’ll experience the autumnal equinox, the day my Celtic pagan ancestors celebrated the turning of the seasonal wheel back in east central England and Wales.

Our first encounter was a lovely grove of pine, possibly red pine. As we photographed in this beautiful setting, the drone of vintage propeller-driven fighter planes loomed overhead, as the flight of aircraft practiced aerial maneuvers for an upcoming air show at the nearby Air Force base. Immediately the combination of the vintage aural message from above, the heat and scent of the pine grove below, transported me mentally into the Spanish Civil War scene of Hemingway’s 1940 novel, For Whom The Bell Tolls; one of my favorite reads while attending grad school at Webster University in Saint Louis.

Next, our adventures took the three of us into the deciduous forest and peninsula extending out towards the lake. Here I encountered beautiful mushrooms and fungi on the forest floor hidden in its decomposing organic detritus. Fortunately, due to my thinking ahead, I switched lenses to my Nikkor 55mm Micro 2.8, for some extreme close-up portraits. This fantastic lens allowed me to focus on the fungi within less than 10” (0.25m). As I lay there on the moss and leaves, I expected to see at any moment little gnomes or faeries sitting on the brightly colored woodland thrones. Instead, suddenly my thoughts turned to Jefferson Airplane’s classic hit, White Rabbit with visualizations of Alice going down the rabbit hole into a surreal experience of the psychedelic Other World. This led me to experiment with temporal shifts in my image making by slowing down the shutter speed to around two seconds at f32 and moving the camera in varying directions and speed.

At one point the three of us rendezvoused next to the lake and ended up in a heady discussion on Sartre’s existentialism and Barthessemiological notions of myth and orders of signification. Had any of the rural locals overheard our philosophical discussions, they surely would have thought us all to be a bunch of crazy idiots babbling non-sense! C’est la vie,  such is life for the never ending visual academic!

Pine Toll, © 2010, Terry Ownby

Throne One, © 2010, Terry Ownby

Throne Two, © 2010, Terry Ownby

Alice’s Rabbit Vortex, © 2010, Terry Ownby

Falling Forrest I, © 2010, Terry Ownby

Falling Forest II, © 2010, Terry Ownby

Leaves Falling, © 2010, Terry Ownby

Summer Ice, © 2010, Terry Ownby