Nothing on my mind, 07 May 2009


Actually, to be fair there are very few times when there is truly nothing on my mind. In the case of today, I was out enjoying the spring weather for most of the afternoon and early evening, and I had some errands to attend to this morning. Hence, the late and relatively short blog post. So, please enjoy the following photograph.


The scene is on Colonial Avenue in the Ghent neighborhood of Norfolk, Virginia. And yes, I’m sure there is a fascinating story about how this neighborhood ended up with a Belgian name, but I don’t know it. The main reason I like this shot is that it combines many different elements, from the tree in the foreground, to the street, to the apartments on the left. The fact that the tree has a rather interesting shape doesn’t hurt, either. An interesting aspect of this particular portion of the street is that it is very similar in scale and “feel” to most of the residential neighborhoods in Chicago.

Photo information:

Camera: Zeiss Ikon Contax IIa
Lens: Zeiss Opton Sonnar 50mm f/2
Film: Kodak TMax ISO 100 (35mm)
Exposure: Minolta Spotmeter F; modified Zone System exposure value calculation

A note on the exposure calculations: when I first started using a spotmeter, I would “spot” light and dark locations that fell within the scene I was planning to shoot, and, generally speaking, this worked – most of the time. What I found in the process is that high contrast scenes, such as this cloudless day, ended up losing some of their lights and darks, e.g. the sky in the background would end up white, even though it was a nice shade of blue. I later started experimenting with metering the brightest and darkest locations I could see at a given time, regardless of whether or not they appeared in the scene I was shooting; my reasoning was that if I did so, I would be able to average the absolute brightest and darkest values together, and get to a more balanced average value. As you can see here, the result is pretty good, at least, it is in my humble opinion. It was only later that a friend mentioned that this methodology is basically the same as that created by Ansel Adams for his Zone System – way, way back in the 1940s. [1] Sure wish I had known that beforehand, instead of having to figure it all out all by my lonesome. On the other hand, there is also value in learning things for oneself, so there’s that.


[1]: See here for a description of the Zone System (Wikipedia article).


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