Life evolving behind the lens

Posts tagged “trains

Snapshots of the Audience

A while ago, I got to talking to a friend on, and his comments spurred Identity Crisis. However, these’s one aspect of his comments I didn’t cover there, and I actually forgot about it until a month or so ago when I attended a premiere at a local photo gallery. That aspect is audience expectations.

Kitty Portrait Session

Steve (said friend) said that artistic photography should make some sort of statement about reality. I’ve already stated the reasons I disagree with that idea. In recent weeks, though, I’ve found I might not be the only one. Let me clarify that. I’m not the only one among photography consumers that merits technique and aesthetics over commentary. This is a mindset that can be found even among some (semi) professional photographers. This exhibit was held at Minneapolis Photo Center, a place I didn’t even know existed until last summer. It’s a place that you really only know about if photography is a big deal to you.


The premiere was really crowded, and I had to wait a bit to move from photo to photo. As a result, I had a chance to do some eavesdropping. It was incredibly fascinating. Many people who attended the show focused on the form and technique photographers employed. The nature (heh) of the exhibit certainly encouraged technical remarks. Even so, there were a lot of comments that could apply to most photo exhibits. In particular, I heard one gentleman remark on people downright abusing Photoshop to turn photos into paintings. I totally understand that complaint. Even so, at least these individuals used Photoshop in a plausibly convincing manner.

As Time Floats By

It was a pleasant surprise ti hear so many people focus strictly on what was in front of them. (Pardon the pun. Again.) There wasn’t any speculation about the photographer’s intent or any larger message. It was people simply enjoying the photos at face value. More to the point, it was people who regularly peruse photography taking everything at face value. Seeing and hearing people admire (or criticize) the images themselves proved enlightening. It also made me wonder about other photography audiences.

Decayed Dreams

I admit I haven’t been around non-photography audiences as much as I’ve been around those who are more immersed in the photography world. When I’ve been around the former, the comments are less technical. At the same time, there aren’t many people seeing the exhibited photos as grandiose statements. Some people remarked on how the photos reflected the times. Others noted very general observations about the composition of the photos. You could hear a pin drop when nudity was involved. Hey, I live in the US and am speaking from experience in US museums. What do you expect? In any case, the comments were broad and superficial even in museum settings. I found that to be intriguing. I think I’ll need to make some more observations, though, to see if this holds up.

Full On

And the World Goes Boom

Round Robin

Singing in the  Plains



A very strange thing has been happening. I’ve been talking to people offline about photography. Trust me what I say this is not something that happens very often.

The Future of the 80s

So what have I been discussing with people? Well, just about anything and everything. I did attend a special exhibit for National Camera’s 100th Anniversary. I didn’t talk to people there, but it was an enlightening visit that preceded some interesting conversations I’d have in the following days. I listened to people talk about their past experiences using the equipment on display. The cameras on exhibit covered the gamut from a 1914 model (that still works!) and 617 format cameras to 80s Polaroids and the first iPhone. I was especially amused by the early digital cameras (point and shoot as well as SLR), as I had some memories of them. My mom had a super bulky Kodak model back in 2001, and I found it better suited for makeshift binoculars. I primarily used it to locate my dad in a crowded convention center after he was sworn in as an American citizen. Good times.

Spinning Sun

The next morning was when the conversations began. My husband and I had brunch at Signature Cafe before going to the Minnesota Zoo for a visit. Our server (Dave) was a cordial guy who it turns out was into photography and even served as an assistant for a friend who did extensive professional work. We discussed Canon and Nikon cameras. Dave had worked primarily with Canon models up until this last year when he was gifted a Nikon and some lenses. I will cop to Canon probably having better continuous shooting. I have used continuous shooting on Nikon, and it does take a little bit to process. Your finger needs to be on that shutter button a while if you want to get the maximum benefit of this shooting method. Needless to say, I’ve lost some precious opportunities. Thus, I would be more likely to defer to Canon in these cases. That said, we both agreed that the picture quality from Nikon models was overall superior. It’s always good to have a Team Nikon ally. 🙂 After brunch, my husband and I went to the Minnesota Zoo, where photography was the order of the afternoon. Hooray, flutterbies!

Geometric Utopia

A few days later, I ended up conversing with a guy watching the Torchlight 5K on Hennepin Avenue. I went for the parade that followed the race but went early to get a good spot. I found a railing for newspaper racks, and there wasn’t much room in front of said railing, which gave me pretty decent visibility. Anyway, I realized that like a complete dumbass I left my battery at home and didn’t have another on me. While my husband wonderfully went back home to get one, I chatted with the guy to my left. It turns out he’d been in Minneapolis much of the day to take pictures. He had a Canon compact point-and-shoot model and displayed a decent aptitude for the cameras he was using. His composition struck a cord with me, as it was reminiscent of some of my work throughout the years. He asked a lot of questions, and I shared with him the things I’ve managed to learn over time. As I’ve gotten older, I understand that photography is truly an ongoing learning process. Unlike writing, I feel like I have a lot more I can learn in terms of the craft of photography. In some people’s eyes, I wouldn’t be called a photographer. That doesn’t mean I haven’t made efforts to learn what I can in terms of technique and research equipment. During this conversation, I discussed the rule of thirds and elaborated on a panning technique that focuses on a moving subject in the foreground but blurs the background. I even pulled up Facebook photos to show as examples. The gentleman expressed great interest in learning more about the nuts and bolts of photography, and he even laughed at my (completely unplanned) pun in which I used the phrase “the big picture” when discussing the components of exposure. Talking to him also made me realize just how much I have learned so far in taking photos. Between reading, chatting with picture-taking friends, and just going out there, I’ve done quite a bit of work in the roughly 15 years I’ve been taking pictures. I didn’t even realize that much time had passed. 😛 In all seriousness, being able to teach someone a bit about photography made me realize how much I enjoy this craft and how much I want people to understand what it is that practitioners of this craft go through. It’s not whipping out a cell phone and grabbing something to plug into Instagram. It’s a method to look at what’s around you, one that requires great concentration and alertness to any given environment. Thus, people who state that photography is easy miss an important point. Operating a camera is easy. Capturing a photography is another story.

Bald Spot
The End of an Era
Ruggedness in the Tube
Specificity Matters

Shrinky Dinks, Part 1

I admit I have a problem. Okay, I have lots of problems, but that’s not the point. When it comes to photography, I find that I enjoy shooting miniatures. This feels a bit like a cop out to me since these miniatures are often posed a certain way thus taking away some of the work I have to do to set up a shot. Most of the time, I encounter these miniatures when visiting railroad museums with my husband (who is very much a train enthusiast). While he’s taking snapshots of the actual train cars and reading all the placards, I’m scoping out a part of the miniature displays where I can set up shop and work on focusing. It’s a pretty good routine. Now these pictures were taken with Cameron way back in September of last year. I have photographed other miniatures since that time, and you’ll see them in the next installation. I’m not sure when that will be, but I figure I’ll cover some other aspects oh photography before delving into more photos of miniatures.

Two for a Buck

The thing about miniatures is that I actually don’t encounter them that often. When I do, so far it has been confined to model train sets. The thing is, miniatures aren’t all that easy to find in the United States outside of the model train subculture. There are some exceptions, but anyone looking for variety (me) will have to go to Europe. One miniature collection I’d love to revisit is Madurodam. I visited the Netherlands when I was seven, and one of my favorite events during that visit was going to Madurodam. I have a number of photos from that visit, but I didn’t take them. I’d like to go back and photograph the exhibits myself. I’d especially love to photograph the replicated Schiphol Airport. The planes taxied down the runway but alas did not fly. It was a very captivating sight for a child, and I’d probably have lots of fun photographing it myself. Until then, I’ll seek out nearby miniatures. They’re a nice change of pace photography-wise.

Old Time Graffiti Busters
Go On
A Terrible Rack
Baa Baa Baa
Languishing Livestock
A Rough Night
Bird's Eye Cross View
Bird's Eye Length View
Fill 'Er Up!
Tiny Ads
By the Tracks
Swimming Hole
Laundry Daze
Welcome Home
Waiting for Godot

Unexpected Art: Light Rail Edition 6

Our final leg of this photo tour takes us into northeastern Bloomington, MN. Yes, the Mall of America is in the area, but there’s still plenty to see before you get that far. When you roll out of the Humphrey Terminal station, your first stop is the American Boulevard station. This is actually the newest stop and did not open until December 2009. It’s also unusual in that the platforms are split apart due to the intersection where the station is positioned. I spend a lot of time at the platforms since I work in one of the nearby office buildings. So does my husband. The ironwork that adorns the platforms reflects the area’s mix of business and the nearby wildlife refuge. A variety of styles can be seen in the panels.

not an expected platform color
sounthbound platform sampling
business and nature
another version of business and nature
nature rendered in rust

Next up: Bloomington Central Station. This station has a more nature-centric aesthetic to it, even though it’s actually further from the wildlife refuge than the previous stop. Even so, it’s decor highlights the untouched land not too far away. The binary Fibonacci Sequence numbers on the platform floor also show nature being combined with technology, as other science/business organizations have buildings in the nearby area.

seeking shelter in the suburbs
first tree in the glass
close up of the glass treescape
extreme leaf close up on glass
a string of the binary sequence
details of the zeroes and ones

Not too far away is the 28th Avenue Station. To be honest, I’m still not 100% sure what’s behind the decor at this stop on the line. I really don’t know. It borrows some elements from the Bloomington Central Station but has too many sharp lines to fit a natural aesthetic. The tree renderings are rather abstract, and the floor tiling echoes back to the Indian patterns seen throughout the line. The tiling seems to clash with the other decor on the platform. I will say this, though. It is a great place to find unexpected straight lines. Have a look and decide for yourself.

stark like one of my favorite seasons
abstract tree on glass
now with reflection!
So shiny you could check your nose for boogers!
Can anyone tell me how this fits?
cold and gleaming yet very intriguing
somehow they align just right

So…what about the Mall of America? Let me tell you something about that station. It’s a bit of a dump. The station is on the ground level of a parking ramp and has terrible light. On top of that, dust and dirt particles get stuck on the ceiling. Transit hubs tend to be a little scuzzy, but this one shouldn’t be. It caters to tourist and should have more aesthetic interest than some of the sign frames being painted in primary colors. In my opinion, the lighting situation needs to be addressed before the platform gets a revamp. Really, the whole hub area needs a revamp, but that’s not pertaining to the light rail. As for what to do with the platform itself, I don’t know. I certainly wouldn’t paint all the railings yellow, if only because yellow ages horribly. I’d also get some heat lamps on the platform for the winter months and maybe have the infrastructure for those be made by local artisans. I’d even be okay with the artwork playing up the kitschy tourist angle a little bit. It just needs a facelift and stat. For being the gateway to a hot destination, the Mall of America light rail platform looks terrible.

We have now concluded our tour of the Hiawatha Light Rail Line Station Art. What would you like to see next?

Unexpected Art: Light Rail Edition 5

My, time flies when you’re in the throes of wedding plans! Now that I am married and am not devoting absurd amounts of free time toward that sort of party planning, I can get back to work on my photo blog! Trust me. I’ve missed keeping up with this, especially when there is still a lot to share. We’ll start off with the next installment of light rail station art. This group centers on the stations in what I call the service corridor. Between Minneapolis proper and the first ring suburb of Bloomington, there’s an area that has a St. Paul address but is not really considered part of that city. This area encompasses the VA Medical Center, Fort Snelling and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (or MSP for the locals/airport savvy/lazy folks out there; I fall into all three of those categories). We’ll start off with the VA and Fort Snelling stations. In truth, these stations are rather similar in appearance. The architectural styles have a lot in common, from materials and lines to colors and themes. These places are located near sacred Indian lands and borrow from the aesthetics of the Dakota tribes that inhabited the area prior to the arrival of white settlers in the region.

looking northward on the platform
American Indian patterns rendered in brick
VA Medical Center Station shelter roof shape
Fort Snelling shelter roof shape
American Indian patterns in brick, Part 2
metal and glass work
old meets new

After visiting those stations, it’s time to go underground to the first airpost station: Terminal 1-Lindbergh. While we all debate for whom the terminal was named (most say the aviator; I’ve heard around that it was named for his father), let’s take a look at the station art and design. The Lindbergh terminal leans more toward the technological side of flight, with clean lines and rounded wings dominating the aesthetic.

dragonfly patterns on the floor
inner wings
The wings do face west-ish
from the escalators
flirting with perfect parallels

And on the way to the Lindbergh Terminal? A preview of Minnesota life from all its borders and corners.

sample the collages
development and variations

The Humphrey Terminal is more nature-focused, partly because it’s not underground and does allow for some wildlife to be seen. The real wildlife adventures will be discussed in the final installment of this series. The overall structure of the Humphrey Station is pretty generic, but if you look up you can find some cool mounted sculptures. Have a look!

the dragonfly getting airtime
propeller vision in a rustic hue
because new life must travel before growth
wanna be birdlike

The last leg of this trip will take us to Bloomington, where the stations take on a slightly different character. Like all the stations, though, they contain nods to their surroundings and showcase art where you least expect it.

Unexpected Art: Light Rail Edition 4

We’ve now arrived in what I refer to as the working south. This stretch of MN State Route 55 (Hiawatha Avenue) is mostly residential with some light industrial operations. It’s an area I mostly see from the train during my commute to Bloomington. I had been to the stops at some point, but I never was at any of them long enough to truly see what they offered from an aesthetic standpoint. So I decided to disembark and take a look around. I was surprised.

The 38th Street Station is the quirkiest in terms of not only the artwork but where the artwork is situated. I’ve seen the metalwork on the panels of some of the shelter walls, a nod to the idyllic residential lifestyle much of the modest midwest populace seeks.

shelter metalwork
more metalwork

The real surprise, though, comes when you look up. I admit I hadn’t really paid attention to this station much prior to this particular photography endeavor. So these sculptures really surprised me.

elevated sculpture work
two forms of getting to and from work
the 1950s in a nutshell
homes and roadways
metal house
the 38th Street Station

Next up is the 46th Street Station, another surprising treasure trove of artwork. This wasn’t as big of a surprise, because the shelter panels reveal some of the station’s colorful nature right away.

colorful shelter panels
always good with amplification
all colors welcomed
red, clear and blue

There are a couple unexpected details at this station, though. You’ll find the first one when you look up.

station decor in unexpected places
such elaborate designs in nature

The second one, unfortunately, is now gone. I was fortunate enough to get a couple shots of this unique shelter pane. Wish I could say the same about the next stop.

shelter walls with unexpected details
too delicate for the urban jungle?

A few blocks south is the Minnehaha Park station. This stop integrates a lot of the key elements of this natural gem that’s not too far from a national wildlife refuge. Indeed, the artwork educates you on some of the animals you might find in and around the park of the Mississippi River that flows right alongside the park’s eastern perimeter.

Minnesota reptiles
Minnesota amphibians
But how do pumpkins come into play?

From here, though, the shoot broke my heart. Why? Well, the aesthetic charm to this station decreased tenfold due to a change in the shelter walls. When the station was first erected, there were several panes of glass with tree designs on them. The thing about these panels, though, was that the tree trunks were designed entirely of letters/words and came in a variety of tints. These panels were around for years, I even spotted them on my way home from work the day before I returned with my camera (which was a Saturday). When I arrived at the station, all of those panels were gone, replaced by panels with the MetroTransit motif (which really does not fit the rest of the station’s aesthetic). I was livid. I kicked at the new panels in my anger and found out that either A) those panels are really sturdy or B) I don’t have as much leg strength as I thought. Either way, I was not happy about missing my chance to photograph the panels. When you see the rest of the station, you’ll understand why.

metal meets Mother Nature
a slice of the rustic urbia
the picket fences hide the true dangers
plant life for your commute

The next leg will take us through the military and air service stations along the light rail line. These stations are more subtle but still manage to hold unexpected gems. In the meantime, I hope you’re enjoying the ride. 🙂

Unexpected Art: Light Rail Edition 3

We’ve now arrived at the motley crew section of the light rail stations. Cedar-Riverside, Franklin Ave and Lake Street/Midtown are all quite different from each other. However, they do have some common threads. First, these three stations are all located near heavily non-white populations. Second, in developing the art for the platforms, glass plays a prominent role. Lastly, all of these stations have good views of the Minneapolis skyline. The aesthetic is very urban for all of these stations, but each are very distinctive. With that, let’s visit Cedar-Riverside, where curvature and skyline views help shape the aesthetic of the station.

a general look at the Cedar-Riverside station
stylized Stone Arch Bridge
the city clock tower in primary metals

As you can see, the station decor consists of metal sculpture that may just look like stripes at first glance. I know if took me some time to realize what was really going on with the primary-colored stripes. In case you hadn’t figured it out, those stripes are actually stylized depictions of buildings on the skyline. There’s also a carving of the Stone Arch Bridge, which is visible for the residents living on the mid-to-upper level floors of the Cedar-Riverside housing project right next to the station. I’m usually at this station because walking to it from Cedar Avenue shaves ten minutes off my commute to Bloomington (which I’ll discuss as we progress further down the light rail line). Anyway, so after waiting for the train at this station over many months, I found myself examining the stripes. The discovery of the detail work at this station actually inspired me to start looking at the aesthetic quality of the other stations. Let’s take a look closer, shall we?

all red yellow and blue
the Capella Tower in red
IDS Tower with a side of lens flare

(On a side note, the angle of the sun in that last photo makes me think of lens flare, which in turn makes me think of J.J. Abrahms. Couldn’t resist sharing that random tidbit.) Anyway, there’s more to this station than the striped sculpture. Remember what I said about glass earlier. Well, at Cedar-Riverside, you might want to look up *hinthintnudgenugde*

Cepheus on glassPolaris and Ursa Minor
splintered by force but not broken

As you can see in that last photo, thick glass is a requirement at these stations, but it still is replaced fairly frequently due to objects thrown against it and temperature extremes. Sometimes, though, the splintered glass creates cool effects, which I’ll show in a little bit. Why don’t we move onto the Franklin Avenue station? The important thing to keep in mind with this station is it’s the train depot for the Hiawatha Line. Thus, much of the decor will reflect this niche (along with some of the neighborhood’s quirks).

for conductors only
a whole lot of food near the Light Rail!
Franklin Ave curvature
default glass

The Franklin Avenue station was the first to start using what I call MetroTransit issue glass. These panes take symbols of Metro Transit and create a tapestry which emphasizes public transporation. For the most part, I have no problem with it, but there is an exception to this statement, which will be discussed/ranted about at length in the next entry. Anyway, what are these symbols? Here are closeups of the bus, light rail, and North Star symbols found on these panes of glass.

bus symbol
light rail symbol
commuter rail symbol

The last stop on today’s leg of the tour is the Lake Street/Midtown station. This station is very interesting from a design perspective. While not the only elevated platform (Franklin Avenue being the other one), Lake Street is very open and unprotected from the wind. On top of that, it has the highest elevation of any of the platforms, so if something goes wrong up there it’s a real pain to have to handle. Doors get frozen open in the winter up there, and you can’t have much in the way of elaborate artwork because the temperature shifts warp mounting joints faster than you can say “light rail”. Thus, much of the aesthetic value at this station is design-based.

right angles making all the difference
colored glass at the station
more colors in the blown sand
Broken stuff is cool.

That last frame is an example of when broken glass looks really cool. If it wasn’t so hazardous, I’d be totally down with the MetroTransit staff leaving those panels up along the far sides of the platform. I tend to sit on correct side of the train car to see these panels when I head to work in the morning. Quite frankly, I prefer looking at the crystal-esque glass panes over the street view of jaywalkers, littering and Hi-Lake Liquors. On the upside, though, there is a nice thing to look at on the Lake Street platform. Take a look. 🙂

Minneapolis buildings and attractions

From here, the tour will make its way to the working south. When I say working south, I’m talking about some of the more industrial areas of Minneapolis. You wouldn’t think that art would be given much consideration in a commercial/industrial hubbub, but the Hiawatha Line will turn everything you know about working area aesthetics on its head. Stay tuned.