Tuesday, July 31, 2012

sunshine girl

we're soaking up as much sunshine (tho' it was a bit cloudy the day we took these photos) as we can while we're here. and we certainly have plenty of it. another week of temperatures in the 100s (that's the 40s for those who use the real world temperatures). today will be another day playing at the river. life is good.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

minimum maintenance: ruin porn, south dakota style (take two)

we found some more abandoned barns and farmhouses today, down the minimum maintenance roads. i cannot express the delight we have had in exploring these. i know they contain the sadness of abandon, but strangely, we have so much affection for them - all three generations of us. it feels like moments of touching bygone days. and if you could just listen closely enough, you'd hear the whispers of those who lived there.

a girl and a horse

we went to an open show yesterday and sabin competed in hunt seat equitation and hunt seat pleasure for the first time. spirit, mom's morgan, isn't an easy horse and she hadn't been ridden since the last time we were here (two years ago), but sabin practiced hard and rode her admirably. she placed fourth in the equitation class but due to missing a lead, missed the ribbons in the pleasure class. we talked to the judge afterwards, which made her feel much better about that. it was a good experience - both for the child and the horse. tho' spirit was happy to get home and roll so she was all dirty again. it's apparently not that much fun being all clean and shiny.

Friday, July 27, 2012

olives may contain pits

ya think? #latergram

when i realized this afternoon that there was a delay in the broadcast of the opening ceremonies of the london olympics, it royally pissed me off. it strikes me as yet another symptom of a society far too focused on the wrong things. a late afternoon live broadcast didn't fit with the needs of the network to capture those advertising dollars, so they delayed it by several hours and completely destroyed the continuity by breaking for ads every 5 minutes. and the play-by-play by the anchors - simplistic, insufficiently-researched and well, moronic. and of course, the first 5 minutes had to be spent speculating as to possible terrorism. shameful.

what has happened to this country?  signs in the grocery store, warning that olives have pits. do people really not know this? are we so far from where our food comes from? i do realize that it's also lawsuit avoidance, but shouldn't we also be worried that it's come to that?

i've been here a week and a half and i'm dumbfounded. i can't stand to watch a news broadcast - they're over-dramatic and under-informed and carry little or no news. the speculations as to the motives of the madman killer in colorado have oddly become "the truth" about him, tho' he hasn't said a word. ordinary people quote glen beck and bill o'reilly and fox "news" as if they tell the truth about everything from school testing to gun control and health care. there's no critical thinking in evidence, apparently no one reasons for themselves (at least not out loud) and worst of all, there's no outrage over this.

where is the outrage?

well, i'm outraged, but at least i get to leave again. and leave again i will. tho' i will express my outrage with my vote in november. it's the least i can do.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

ruin porn: south dakota style

we had a most marvelous afternoon exploring old abandoned houses. we hoped to run into some ghosts (more about that soon), but other than one incidence of sabin hearing a voice, but not seeing anyone, we didn't have that much luck. we'll be doing this again before our trip is over. there are so many abandoned farmhouses in this age of big farms - it's no longer one family per property, so many have stood empty for years. they are both sad and pleasingly photogenic.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

checking in

whoa! where did a whole week go?  i've been flying and visiting (and talking politics) and visiting (and drinking gin) some more and laughing and baking in 107°F/41°C temperatures.

we got to spend a little bit of time at the farm on st. mathias, near brainerd, minnesota. they were holding a celtic festival last saturday. the fabulous lisa of lil fish studios was demonstrating needle felting at the event, which also featured sheep-shearing, spinning, irish music, a guy who was forging swords (the vikings could totally have taken those celts) and wonderful organic, locally-produced food. it was so inspiring. i definitely want to stage a viking version at our place one day.

we also fell in love with a kitten and may have brought her home and are getting the health papers and ticket arranged so we can take her home to denmark. we can't seem to find the right name for her. every name we suggest, she shakes her head and vetoes it. if any names come to mind, please do let me know in the comments.  she's absolutely adorable.

lisa demonstrated how to make her little sheep and you can buy a kit and make your own if you'd like one. i got to help her pack the kits, so i can vouch for how awesome they are! they come with everything you need - wool, beads for eyes and felting needles and all!

and now we're off to go find a cool spot at the river. hope you're all having a fabulous summer.

Monday, July 16, 2012

photographs for the tsar

i've mentioned the amazing early color photography of sergei prokudin-gorskii before, but i recently got a book (photographs for the tsar, edited by robert h. allshouse, 1980) from the library about his pioneering work with color photography.

prokudin-gorskii was a chemist by profession. he studied with mendelev (of periodic table fame). he worked abroad, in germany and france, with early pioneers of the chemistry around color photography. he returned to russia in the 1890s and began teaching the first courses on photography and photographic chemistry. in 1906, he took over editorship of a magazine for amateur photographers. although he thought that photography was profession which demanded a proper scientific background, he could see that it was so exciting that it should not remain something that was just for experts.

he developed a spring-loaded camera which produced three individual negatives, each with its own color filter - blue, green and red - which were then layered to create the final color image. the shot required a three-second exposure, so in some of the large-group shots, it's possible to see the layers because it was impossible to keep a large group still. (you can check out the entire library of the photos here.)

in 1907 he was so excited by an upcoming eclipse of the sun that he encouraged his fellow photographers to prepare for it - even inventing "the things that were necessary" to photograph it if they didn't yet exist. he believed in the power of photography to educate and record things to be preserved for future generations.

in this regard, he began to contemplate an enormous photographic project - photographing all sorts of people and places of importance across the vast russian empire. to undertake such a project, he needed both the permission and the support of tsar nicholas himself. in line with his scientific background, he set out methodically to gain that permission. connections to the grand duke mikhail aleksandrovich and the dowager empress maria fedorovna (the danish princess dagmar, just to drag in a danish connection), the tsar's mother helped him get the presentation of his life.

it was the power point to beat all power points, before power point existed. prokudin-gorskii was invited to tsarskoe selo to pitch his project. he would show the photos he had already done and outline his vision for the project. the tsar sent a special train to fetch him. he spent an entire day setting up the equipment. it would be the first time that the tsar would see images projected in color - oh, what i would have given to be in that room. it must have been an incredible moment. his images were carefully chosen - flowers, landscapes, russian peasants in fetching costume, children.

the presentation was a resounding success and he received what was essentially a blank check to begin the project. a pullman coach was outfitted for his use and all permissions were granted. he began by photographing the recently-completed mariinsky canal system (connecting the volga with the baltic sea) and continued on regular photographic documentation around the empire until the outbreak of world war II and the subsequent russian revolution. out of fear for his safety, he went into exile after the tsar was deposed by the bolsheviks. luckily, he was able to leave with his some 2000 photographic slides mostly intact. there are still ten undiscovered negatives of the romanov family which he claimed to have left behind "hidden in russia." they have not, to our knowledge, been found to this day (i can tell you that makes me want to go look for them).

these remarkable photos are pioneering in technique and an invaluable glimpse at prerevolutionary russia. they are indeed the education he hoped they would be.