I took the Vermeer 6×17 pinhole out for a spin today after work. I tried to do some pre-visualization of what I'm going to get by swinging my iPhone in panorama mode. I'm posting examples of what I anticipate, plus views of the scene with the camera in action. I think I've mentioned this before, but in any case, the Vermeer 6×17 pinhole has a hemispheric film plane, which means no vignetting (light falloff toward the corners), and you can have a physically smaller camera given your frame size. But it does introduce curvilinear distortion- thus swinging the iPhone to mimic the effect.
I was a bit nervous taking the steps shot, as I was standing on private property for TWELVE MINUTES. It really felt like trespassing. Fortunately no residents of either house came in or out during that twelve minutes.
I don't have an "action" shot for this one, as I was in a hurry to wrap up this exposure to try and get over to P Street while the setting sun was still above the tree and roof line. It was casting some beautiful warm sunset light that I just HAD to photograph (I posted a shot to my Instagram feed (@DCPhotoArtist if you're interested in my instagramming. It's very much one end of the spectrum of the work I do- 99% iPhone photography, spur of the moment kind of stuff).
Here are a few architectural details on the Brewmaster’s Castle, just off Dupont Circle. The house is so named because it was built by Christian Heurich, the founder of Heurich Brewing Company, which operated in Washington DC from the 1880s to 1956. Mr. Heurich ran the company until his death at the age of 102 in 1945. The original company and their brewery are no more, although it has been resurrected under the moniker Olde Heurich Brewing by the great grandson of Christian Heurich, and now produces craft beers under the brand Foggy Bottom. Due to a lack of facilities in Washington, the beers are brewed in upstate New York. The original brewery itself was located where the Kennedy Center now sits.
The house is now a museum and retains an extraordinary amount of the original furnishings and decorations from the period of its creation in 1892-94. The house was bleeding-edge technologically at the time – it had electric and gas lighting, central radiator heating, ventilating skylights for cooling, a pneumatic communication system, an elevator, and even a central vacuum for cleaning. The structure is made of steel and reinforced concrete to be fireproof, and although it has 15 fireplaces, due to the central heating systems, none have ever been used.
The house looms large over the neighborhood, as it is one of the last remaining mansions of the era around the circle (some have been converted to embassies, one is now the Scientology headquarters in DC, and the rest have been demolished and replaced by apartment and office buildings) and it stands out as a period piece quite in contrast to its neighboring structures from the 1950s through the 1970s. I’m fascinated by the decorative ornamental detailing on the house, as well as some of the functional bits, like this bootscrape-
It is built into the base of the column supporting the porte cochere over the carriageway in front of the house. It is, of course, on the outside, and not on the house side of the porte cochere.
The bootscrape is out of view to your left in this scene – this is the entrance portico under the porte cochere. I was drawn to this composition by the repeating and converging curves of the stairs, the carriageway, and the arches of the porte cochere.
Looking up, this is one of the gargoyles on the outer edge of the porte cochere, and behind it the ornamental spire on the turret that inspired the house’s nickname, Brewmaster’s Castle.
Turning around and looking down, the service spaces are equally detailed, and the innovative thought behind the construction is in evidence.
The trade entrance has TWO wrought-iron gates, one at the top and another at the bottom of the stairs.
The sidewalk doesn’t pull right up to the foundations, but rather a sinuous cobblestone gutter system surrounds the house, providing adequate drainage so the basement doesn’t flood in a storm.
The house is open for tours several days a week. While I haven’t been inside yet, I’m planning a visit soon.
I often use the Dupont Circle metro station not so much as a part of my commute but for going out on weekends or after work. These images are actually in a bit of a reverse order from how they were taken, going from streetside to platform. Dupont Circle’s escalator is legendary for its length – it is a very steep, very long escalator, but NOT, all legends to the contrary, the longest in the Metro system. The longest is actually at one of the outer suburban stations, Glenmont. Bethesda is also very long and very steep, longer than Dupont. Once I timed it to prove to a friend that Bethesda is longer, and it takes some 30 seconds longer to ride the Bethesda escalator to the top than the Dupont Circle escalator.
The entrance to the Dupont Circle station on the Q Street side is the one that has the long, deep escalators. It also has a relatively unique architecture with a circular aperture. Inscribed in the marble around the entrance shaft is a quote from Walt Whitman about the soldiers he nursed in the Civil War hospitals of Washington DC. The inscription was added in 2006 to honor the caregivers who gave so much of themselves in the fight against AIDS – Dupont Circle was particularly ravaged by that scourge, having been the heart of the gay community in DC. While perhaps no longer the geographic center of the gay community (it has moved to other, cheaper, and more geographically dispersed locations as times and attitudes have changed), Dupont Circle is still the spiritual home.
The quotation reads:
Thus in silence in dreams’ projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals;
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night — some are so young;
Some suffer so much — I recall the experience sweet and sad . . .
The poem in question, first published in 1865 as part of a collection called “Drum-Tips”, was originally titled “The Dresser”, and re-named “The Wound-Dresser” in later publications. In my image, the inscription is not legible, but the escalator tops plunge over the precipice of the entrance like a waterfall into a cavern, taking you down into the unknown.
The view looking up the escalator is equally vertiginous. Exiting at night you emerge from the confined but bright space of the underground into a dark circle of the open night sky. You’re falling UP into a different unknown.
Turning around and looking back down at where you came from, it’s a bit like Orpheus and Eurydice or Lot’s Wife, looking back at whence you came. Fortunately, the only time there’s instant regret is in the depth of winter when it’s 15 degrees F outside and the wind is whipping your face. And you don’t turn into a pillar of salt.
The flow of traffic up the escalator at the Dupont Circle platform:
Boarding the train:
Sorry if I can’t wax poetic for every image. It’s just as the mood strikes and the juices flow. Maybe if I have a show of this work I’ll edit my better bits of commentary out of the blog into quotes on the wall as captions for the images.
The last of the High Heel Race images from this year. Attending is fun, especially to see all the creativity that gets put into the outfits, most especially from the teams who invent a group theme costume. I swear there are some that start planning next years costume the day after this year’s race, like the fast food themed group or the Washington monuments group of a couple years ago.
One of the most enjoyable parts of attending is the joie-de-vivre of the participants AND the attendees. These women were having a grand old time on the patio at Fox and Hounds. They also actively solicited me taking their photo.
This lady also wanted her photo taken, and was directing me to take the picture of the drag queen in the photo above: “ooh, did you get her? You have to get her! She’s beautiful!”. Her boyfriend/husband was actually not so thrilled with the idea of being photographed, but when he heard it was not going to be in the newspaper, he relented. You can tell, though, from his expression here it was very much HER idea 🙂 .
One thing that is getting very frustrating about photographing the race, though, is the organizers. I realize they have a tough job to do, to keep a very large, and by the time the race kicks off, very drunk crowd under control. But for those of us not blessed with traditional media connections to obtain a press pass and for whom one of the primary reasons for attending is photography, they’re becoming killjoys. The organizers seem to be losing sight of the fact that this is a fun, free-spirited, countercultural event and that being control nazis and bullying photographers is just really uncool. You want good press, let us do our thing and we’ll reward you with great photos and great write-ups about the event. Keep stepping on us and we’ll stop coming, stop taking pictures, and stop showing the world what kind of fun event this is. .
Now that I’m in to the thick of posting the HHR photos, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves for the most part, and just indulge in a little occasional snark about the subjects as the spirit moves me. Ergo:
Doesn’t the guy on the right look kind of like a young Val Kilmer in drag? Back when Val Kilmer didn’t look like a liver sausage.
I think you could caption this one, “rescue me”!
I think someone was interpreting the giant christmas tree/butt-plug on display in Paris.
American Horror Story: Freak Show hits the streets.
To indulge in a little more technical info about the photography itself, I’m using a Gary Fong flash modifier which looks a lot like a frosted tupperware container whose lid is suffering from mid-life belly sag. Regardless of the appearance, it’s truly the best flash diffuser I’ve tried. It does a fantastic job of softening cast shadows from the flash and spreading the light more evenly, which is a huge plus when shooting in an environment like the HHR – outdoors, at night, under street lamps.
Miss Bette Davis, in da house! This is my friend Rit Lon, channeling Baby Jane Hudson, perhaps Ms. Davis’ most infamous role.
Church Ladies at the Races!
This poor little tourist lady I don’t think quite realized what she was getting herself into when she asked to have her picture taken with a drag queen.
There are actually a lot of straight men who participate in the High Heel Race. Here’s one who is obviously a first-timer in heels, resting his feet before the big event. He was part of a group of friends participating to raise awareness for a friend of theirs who was competing in an ironman/ironwoman contest to raise money for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.
Who knew Angry Birds did drag and drank their liquor through a straw?
Last night I went to the annual High Heel Race in Dupont Circle. It’s a tradition in DC going back to the mid-80s of taking over several blocks of 17th Street, getting all tarted up in the finest (and I use that term extremely loosely, as you’ll see) drag, sashaying up and down for two hours to see and be seen and get lots of attention, culminating in a thirty-second flurry of activity as men in heels and outrageous costumes RUN three blocks.
I’m going to deviate a bit from my standard protocol in posting these and instead of arranging them in logical or thematic groups, I’m just going to post these as a stream-of-consciousness bit in the order in which they were taken. It gets a little overwhelming to manage so many images. Maybe after they’re all posted, I’ll come back through and do a separate “best of” post edited down to a top ten or so.
I’ve seen Cruella deVille here before at past Races and/or in the Pride parade.
Miss Tina Turner says, “You better be good to me!”
The “husband and wife” were celebrating their Virginia gay shotgun wedding to commemorate the instatement of Marriage Equality in Virginia thanks to the federal courts.
Even one of the Nationals’ bubblehead mascots got in on the fun.
This shoot was a bit of an equipment test, as I had bought an external lithium-ion battery for my flash to test out. The battery is a Bolt brand Cyclone PP-310 battery (I ordered mine from B&H, but you can also get them through Amazon, but I don’t think there’s actually any savings at one over the other). It will provide up to 500 full-power flashes on a single charge. I know when I was shooting the Mummers’ parade in Philly a couple years ago, the combination of the sheer volume of shots (I think I took around 300 pics) plus the cold weather really put a strain on my flash and the batteries were failing partway through. I didn’t want to have that happen again, so I invested in this Bolt external battery pack, which can be clipped to my flash bracket or worn over my shoulder on a strap. Being able to keep the battery in a coat pocket would be really helpful in cold weather.
Anyway, the battery performed flawlessly – I shot over 100 images last night, and it barely put a dent in the battery’s capacity. It was still showing four out of four power levels at the end of the night. Another plus- I was expecting it to be heavy, as I remembered the old Quantum batteries that used lead-acid batteries being noticeably heavy, even the small capacity one, but it almost feels like an empty plastic shell, the battery is so light. It’s quite the contrast to the rest of the rig (Canon 5D with vertical grip, Stroboframe flash bracket, 580EX II flash, off-camera TTL cord, and Canon L 24-105 f4 zoom lens).