First and last days

May 29th, 2012  |  Tags: ,  |  Leave a comment

…of kindergarten:

First day of kindergarten Last day of kindergarten

  • Andrea once told me of one of our friends from college who was, like her, an English major, and who protested loudly when they studied some William Carlos Williams poem1: “Why are we reading this? I could have written it!” The instructor replied that, yes, perhaps he could have, but he didn’t.

    With that anecdote in mind, enjoy the world’s most expensive photograph.

    1 It was either “The Red Wheelbarrow” or “This is Just To Say;” I can’t recall which.



Some photos from the Iowa Great Lakes

July 14th, 2010  |  Tags: , , ,  |  Leave a comment

Fishing with Barbara

I’ve uploaded some photos from the 4th of July weekend weekend in Spirit Lake and Okoboji, including a few photos of WT fishing, one of my brother-in-law1 catching a lot of air on Big Spirit Lake, and one of my sister-in-law waterskiing bluetooth style.

1 I suppose Ben and I are technically “co-brothers-in-law,” but this nomenclature has always struck me as unnecessarily pedantic.


    I tacked a 15-mile detour onto my 3.5-mile commute home in honor of yesterday’s dailyshoot assignment ("Make a photo that represents your mode of transportation today.") You can tell by looking at the chainrings that my mode of transportation is probably sad that I primarily use it on roads and paved trails.

    Click the photo for the flickr page with more sizes (I recommend the larger ones to see chain detail), metadata, and flash nerd info.


Cars on State

May 8th, 2010  |  Tags: , ,  |  Leave a comment

We went to the annual “Cars on State” event downtown today. There were a lot of great cars there, including quite a bit of classic American muscle, a DeLorean, a wood-paneled Town and Country, and a surprising number of 40-50 year old British sports cars. It was gray and a little wet, but we had a good time and I took a few photos, some of which are below. (Click on any picture for a precise location and to see larger sizes.)


Gray and drizzly

Town and Country

    Train bridge (Madison, WI)

    Monona Bay (Madison, WI).


    Charred jerk chicken, cilantro-lime quinoa, and beans

    I saw yesterday’s assignment as I was making supper. It’s a good thing, because supper — jerk chicken, quinoa with cilantro and lime, and black and white beans — was by far my most photogenic meal yesterday.


    Crystal shot glass

    I took this picture for Daily Shoot #161, which suggested making a photo with side lighting. The etched crystal worked pretty well. (Click on the photo for its flickr page, with links to larger versions.)


    Streetlights in fog, uploaded by willbenton
    Streetlights in fog, originally uploaded by willbenton.

    I’ve had the Lensbaby Pinhole and Zone Plate attachment for a while but just tried it out for the first time tonight, on a foggy street scene. It’s pretty cool if you’re seeking a way to make things that look like Boards of Canada album covers; I suspect it will take me a while to get used to just how much light it devours.



January 10th, 2010  |  Tags: , ,  |  2 Comments


Christmas presence

December 26th, 2009  |  Tags: , ,  |  2 Comments

I bought myself a fast medium-telephoto prime this year, and got it roughly in the “early Christmas present” timeframe. As it turns out, I was able to use this lens to capture an image of Thomas examining a far more exciting gift that our family received on Christmas Day:

Thomas and Maggie

Margrethe Ruth (aka “Maggie”) was born at 12:50 PM on Christmas Day. We are delighted to have another birth to commemorate on this day and thankful for a healthy mother, a healthy child, and a complication-free birth — indeed, one whose apparent effortlessness amazed several trained, impartial observers. (There are some more photos of Maggie on flickr — and yes, I did use a Bogen tabletop tripod as an impromptu hospital-room strobe stand.)

We didn’t expect Maggie to arrive on Christmas, so there were a couple of things we hadn’t planned for surrounding the day. We were glad to hear part of Schütz’s excellent Christmas Vespers on the Sirius classical station on the way to the hospital; a chance to hear early Baroque concert music is always a welcome surprise, and I especially love Schütz. On the other hand, I was rather less enthusiastic about the utter impossibility of finding some place to order a burger after Maggie was born.

Happy Christmas, all.

Too little of a good thing

December 2nd, 2009  |  Tags: , ,  |  Leave a comment

Integrated circuit

I think I may have uncovered the point at which “shallow depth-of-field” becomes “too shallow depth-of-field.” Yow.

Abusing the medium

August 27th, 2009  |  Tags:  |  2 Comments

I haven’t read this Vanity Fair article about Mad Men, since I’m still on the second season and am loathe to have plot points spoiled for me. But it was hard not to notice Annie Leibovitz’s photograph of Jon Hamm and January Jones that heads the article. I was instantly amazed by this image and its aggressive, artless postprocessing. Note in particular the obvious compositing and over-the-top shadow and highlight push and pull — as if the faux-HDR aesthetic were really worth emulating in portraiture.

Leibovitz has apparently either missed or ignored the negative critical reaction to her woefully gauche “Romulus and Remus” photo for Lavazza. In any case, I am truly impressed by a photograph of two people as striking and attractive as Hamm and Jones that renders its subjects so flat, synthetic, and lifeless. Perhaps this was the aesthetic goal — to render the actors as if they were only apparently in the same place and soul-dead automata. But it is possible to make an evocative photograph that depicts a Mad Men actor in a way that both alludes to the events of the show and isn’t ugly.

UPDATE (9/6/2009): David Hobby calls this photograph “subtle and beautiful.” I genuinely regard this as an indictment of my photographic taste. Also, apparently Leibovitz didn’t even take that Lavazza photo herself. Yikes.

Arnolds Park

August 24th, 2009  |  Tags:  |  2 Comments

Arnolds Park
Arnolds Park, originally uploaded by willbenton.

S’mores and strobes

July 8th, 2009  |  Tags: , ,  |  Leave a comment

S’mores, originally uploaded by willbenton.

This is my entry for assignment 2 in Strobist Boot Camp 2. Click on the photo for the flickr page, with links to different sizes and lighting details.


July 7th, 2009  |  Tags: ,  |  2 Comments

Macaw, originally uploaded by willbenton.

This post is a test of flickr’s upload-to-blog feature. The image itself is of a macaw from the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison; it is notable for (probably) being the photo that convinced me not to sell my venerable 135/2.8.

Shooting 2012 style

July 6th, 2009  |  Tags: ,  |  Leave a comment

Here’s a thought I had earlier tonight: consider photo-manipulation novelty software — the kind of programs that make contemporary digital pictures look like they were taken with a Polaroid instant camera or a lomography camera or a 35mm film camera loaded with Velvia, or whatever. (Good examples of this kind of software include Poladroid and CameraBag.)

Now, consider that conventional incandescent light bulbs will be illegal in 2012, and consider also that most people will probably still not have learned to adjust the white balance on their digital cameras by then. Imagine the years of surreal, unnatural snapshots that will accumulate under these conditions. Doesn’t it seem probable that future photo-manipulation novelty software will have a “2012” setting that turns all skin tones pallid before overlaying an unnatural green cast?

Consider this camera-phone snapshot of a young golfer taking a break from throwing his ball in the river. After applying the “2012” filter, we could get this extremely desirable and artistic effect (see before and after side-by-side to fully appreciate the subtle coloration differences). In fact, we are able to apply the 2012 indoor-lighting effect even to photos, like our golfer example, that were taken in inferior natural light, leading to endless creative applications. Do you need to give your office picnic photos that “in the office” feel? Simply use the 2012 filter!

In order to bring you the example above, I have painstakingly reproduced the effect of untamed fluorescent lighting with advanced signal processing techniques and many difficult longhand calculations. Obviously, only the most dedicated hobbyists and professional photographers would be able to devote such effort to enhancing their photos. However, it is hard for me to see how this effect, once automated in software or hardware, could not revolutionize the digital photography of the future.

Two vices

July 4th, 2009  |  Tags: ,  |  Leave a comment

This post combines two vices for your convenience: posting photos, and posting about food. Here are two things I made (and, much to Andrea’s chagrin, shot) today. Click on the pictures for larger versions (and ultra-nerdy lighting details).



The pork has a dry rub and is smoked for two hours with cherry before finishing in the oven for about another two hours. I got the recipe from Best Grilling Recipes: More Than 100 Regional Favorites Tested and Perfected for the Outdoor Cook, a fascinating and rigorous cookbook that covers a spectrum of choices for most of the interesting variables in classic regional recipes, explaining what works and what doesn’t.

I hope all my compatriots have had a a very happy Independence Day.


June 25th, 2009  |  Tags: , , , , ,  |  Leave a comment

One of the finest achievements of western art is Bach’s d minor Partita for solo violin (BWV 1004); in particular, the Chaconne is technically dazzling, emotionally loaded, and sublime. (For a fun middlebrow musicological excursus on the piece and its relation to German chorales, check out the Hilliard Ensemble’s amazing Morimur album — but be sure to get it on a physical disc; the liner notes explain the project and are spectacular.)

Below are a few beats of Antonio Sinopoli’s guitar transcription of the Chaconne. Unlike Segovia’s famous and idiosyncratic arrangement, Sinopoli eschews scordatura and transposes to e minor; he is otherwise far more faithful to the original. The score I have was published by Ricordi Buenos Aires; it identifies the piece as “Chacona” and the author as “Juan S. Bach” (!)


RIYL: Music for the rest of your life.


June 19th, 2009  |  Tags:  |  2 Comments

Andrea and Thomas


June 15th, 2009  |  Tags: , , ,  |  Leave a comment


  • This flickr photo set, which features whimsical macro photos of toys and recreations of famous photos in Lego bricks, is one of the neatest things I’ve seen in a while. (via Chris Bowler)



June 7th, 2009  |  Tags: , ,  |  Leave a comment

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair


April 18th, 2009  |  Tags: , ,  |  2 Comments


Today I had the chance to take another picture of a very small thing. I’m mostly happy with this even in spite of somewhat hazardous conditions. Most notably, WT was always trying to move the bug; you can see evidence of his interloping — little flecks of FieldTurf left over from this morning’s trip to Keva — if you view full-size. (You can also see that I’m front-focused by almost the width of the bug.)

Small parts and small change

March 26th, 2009  |  Tags: , , ,  |  Leave a comment

The latter is cropped; I suppose that’s technically cheating. These were taken with the Canon 50/1.8 and the Canon 250D close-up lens. I diffused my flash through an Omni-Bounce and reflected it off of a paper plate.

small parts

small change


March 24th, 2009  |  Tags: , ,  |  Leave a comment




March 13th, 2009  |  Tags: ,  |  Leave a comment

blurry bear

I just bought a Lensbaby Muse (amazon link); it arrived this evening and I have had a few minutes to play with it. My initial impression is that it’s a lot of fun and not nearly as touchy to use as the product description would lead one to believe. I haven’t done anything particularly interesting with it yet, but it seems quite straightforward to get acceptable results (that is, with the sweet spot fairly sharp).