Self-portrait, abstraction and stairwell: all in a day’s work

Today I went back to the abandoned Geo W. Reed with a three-fold mission in mind:

1. Take a picture of the stairwell which I had forgotten during my first visit

2. Take a self-portrait

3. Take a picture evoking contemporary non-figurative art

I came in with the mindset of doing something quite different from my first visit during which I shot all the images using a single wide angle zoom, except for one picture. I think that the generous proportions of the place made such a strong first impression, keeping me focused solely on that aspect. I knew there had to be more to be seen and discovered through other lenses as they provide a completely different outlook.

Like all self-respecting engineers, I enjoy putting tick marks in boxes comprising a To Do list. I like to start easy to warm up and figured that images of the stairwell must be the easiest and fastest to get. I started with my trusty 16-35mm zoom but I found that it did not fare that well in such a confined space. I pulled out a very specialized piece of equipment: the Canon 8-15mm fisheye zoom. I thought it produced better images and I did not bother defishing them since I find the induced curvature interesting.

Next on the list was the close-up for which I used my 100mm f/2.8 IS macro lens. Actually, graffiti art  reminded me of fractals since as one looks closer, other patterns and textures appear. Of course, mathematicians would argue, with reason, that this does not constitute fractals. No matter, fractals were still the first concept that came to mind while hunting for smaller and smaller patterns. So as I peered closer and closer through the macro lens I found indeed some graphics reminiscent of mid 20th century contemporary art. I have seen recently some works of Mark Rothko, which I enjoyed very much so I wanted this small project to be an homage to the artist. However, I could not find anything through the plethora of wall art that Rothko would have painted. I am sure it is there somewhere to be discovered. This is the close-up I preferred. Notice the bold ”brush” stroke!

I rarely get my picture taken and I had done a self-portrait once to experience how comfortable I would be in front of the lens. This is my second self-portrait exercise. I knew exactly what I wanted to do: colorful background with architectural lines + spray can. I set up the tripod with the 50mm f/1.4 lens, flash and with the trusty remote trigger proceeded to shoot myself. I took 54 shots varying aperture for depth of field control, distance to the camera, my position as well as the position of the spray can. The final picture turned out okay except for the ”simulated” paint spray on the lens, which for sure could be improved. As I am not a Photoshop whiz, I will have to rework it later and spend more time doing it. I added some serious noise and desaturated the picture for a grittier feel.

So when my To Do list was all checked off, I had time to execute another side project: I used only the 50mm f/1.4 lens handheld in the grand old tradition of photojournalism. I took multiple pictures available in the gallery with minimal post-processing, i.e. only B&W conversion, no cropping or any image adjustments. I thought it was an interesting exercise as it made me notice details, textures and patterns that are not apparent through a wide angle lens.

Finally, I took a few wide shots of one room that I did not capture last time as it was occupied by artists busy with redecorating the place. Actually, even one week apart between visits, one can note several murals that were added or modified since the previous tour. It is amazing to observe how fast the walls morph from one mural to the next. This time, the place was much dryer as it had not rained for several days. I prefer the wide shots from the last visit as standing water on the floors create interesting reflections and I have yet to see a reflection I did not like. So if you plan to visit, I recommend that you wait after a solid downpour. The inconvenience presented by a muddier and wetter place is well worth the aesthetics kick.

The place still has lots to explore but I am a little Geo W. Reeded out. I think I will leave it alone for a while, find other places to explore and come back to monitor its evolution through time at a later date. Maybe during winter could be interesting.

The gallery includes different pictures taken today towards trying to complete the mini-projects I set out to accomplish.

Equipment: Canon DSLR 5D MkII, Canon EF 8-15mm fisheye, Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L lens, Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens, Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro, Canon 580EX II flash

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