Random Sights and Diversions

Photography Media Reviews Commentary



(All: Nikon 7100 with Nikon 105 mm Macro lens. ISO 200. 1/60 sec at f/36. Ring flash. Click any image for larger.)

Tulips have become a ubiquitous and glorious sign of spring. There are now over 3,000 varieties cultivated. Tulips grow wild across Asia, but the cultivation on tulips is relatively recent in history. The first cultivated tulips originated in Persia around the 11th Century, and then in what is now Turkey. (The name “tulip” came from the flower’s resemblance to a turban.) One of the greatest works of Persian literature, the poem “Gulistan” from the 13th Century, describes a garden paradise,

The murmur of a cool stream
bird song, ripe fruit in plenty
bright multicoloured tulips and fragrant roses

Tulips came to Europe around the 16th Century. Today the center of the tulip world is the Netherlands where billions of tulips are grown every year. In the late 17th Century, tulips became so prized – and expensive – in Europe that they became the subject of a trading mania. Tulip bulbs actually became a form of currency. The period is known as the “Tulip Mania.”

For me, the greatest attraction of tulips is the incredible range of exotic color combinations and flowers. In these closeup photographs, the petals often look (to me) a bit like wings, courtly and elegant yet at the same time carefree. If spring itself is not enough to lift one’s spirits, the wild abandon with which the tulip flower welcomes in spring year after year is sure to do the job.



New Slide Show of Recent Black-and-White Work

A new slide show of my recent black-and-white work is now available at my gallery site Joanne Mason Photography: Slide Show. The slide show features high-resolution full-screen (click the fullscreen icon in upper right corner) images. (While you’re there, enjoy the rest of Joanne Mason Photography! And leave a comment in the guestbook!)



Guest Artist – Zara Albion-Lawson

I am happy to present another guest contributor to Random Sights & Diversions – Zara Albion-Lawson.

Ruinscapes” is a series of recent images of mostly abandoned buildings and spaces. These urban landscapes have been shot in various locations from Melbourne to Cambodia. In Zara Albion-Lawson’s envisioning, each image not only reflects past activity but captures a presence and vitality in an otherwise abandoned space. I hope you enjoy the gallery. If you enjoy these images, please leave a comment.

Zara Albion-Lawson is a talented professional photographer based in Melbourne Australia. (Visit Zara’s websiteThe 26th Letter.  Zara Albion-Lawson’s Blog.) With a degree in Photomedia and 10 years of experience in professional photography, Albion-Lawson specializes professionally in fine portraiture, as well as fashion, product photography and commercial images for advertising and marketing campaigns, and her personal fine art photography. Zara’s work is marked by a youthful verve and vision combined with excellent composition and command of the craft. Zara is also a friend and a former colleague of mine, and I’m delighted she is contributing this gallery.

(Click on any of the thumbnails to view the gallery.)


A Day at the Getty Center Los Angeles

Today was a transcendentally beautiful day in Southern California – A bit breezy, but crystal clear blue skies, wonderful warm sunshine – A perfect day for hanging out at the →Getty Center in Los Angeles. The Getty Center sits high on a hillside on the edge of the Santa Monica mountains overlooking Los Angeles from mountain to beach. The treasures within are well matched by the environment outside, an extraordinarily designed set of spaces and structures and gardens that lift the spirit.

More about some current exhibitions in upcoming posts.

Notes: All shot with the Fuji X100. All at ISO 200, all at 23 mm. All images were shot in Raw. All images have had some noise reduction (more or less beside the point with the X100) and some sharpening. Besides the usual exposure correction, most images have then had a bit of polarization applied. A couple images have had some increased tonal contrast (noted). Overall, though, very little postprocessing.

  1. 1/90 sec at f/16. Most of the Getty Center is all rectangular geometry, squares and angles, intersected by stairs and ramps. But then various perimeters introduce these seductive curves and the effect is stunning. This looks north to Santa Monica mountains.
  2.  1/80 sec at f/16
  3. 1/90 sec at f/16. Some increased clarity and contrast.
  4. 1/200 sec at f/16. This is a good example of all the rectangular shapes intersected by stairways and ramps. The large sculpture is  Figure for Landscape by British sculptor Barbara Hepworth. It looks out over the gardens.
  5. 1/100 sec at f/5.6. Some extra sharpening and structure.
  6. 1/600 sec at f/5.6
  7. 1/850 sec at f/5.6. The garden at Getty Center was designed by Robert Irwin and it’s all genius, especially these awesome trellis trees. (See →here for more information on the central garden.)
  8. 1/1700 sec at f/5.6
  9. 1/350 sec at f/5.6
  10. 1/1000 sec at f/5.6. Some extra processing to bring out the red and the texture in the leaves. These grapevines in winter are very striking.
  11. 1/1600 sec at f/5.6. Some extra contrast.
  12. 1.250 sec at f/14. Extra tonal contrast. The view is of the Los Angeles West Side including Beverly Hills. At the left edge in the distance, are the buildings of Century City. Santa Monica bay is in the distance.

All images copyright ©Joanne Mason 2011.


Five Views of a Cremone Crysanthemum

The Cremone Chrysanthemum is a queen among queens in the floral world. Similar to spider mums but with somewhat shorter and more substantial petals, the cremone is nevertheless somewhat delicate and fragile. Cremone chrysanthemums have a delicate and very pleasant scent.

Technical: All shot with the Nikon D200 and all at ISO 250. The first two images were made with an older Nikon lens, not available for years, but which is one of my favorites, the manual focus MF Zoom-Nikkor 35-105mm with Macro. This lens can be switched in and out of macro mode. In macro mode one has the full range of focal lengths and macro down to 1:4 at 35mm.

I used this lens for years with the Nikon F3 shooting film. This lens represented a completely new internal design for Nikon which then set the formula for a number of years to come. The lens is not as sharp as modern Nikkors, but it makes up for that in flexibility and handling. These two images were lit with multiple flash (Nikon CLS) at right and above.  Both 1/200 sec at f/16.

The other three images were made with the current AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF VR. Focal length at 105 mm for all three. Images number 3 and 5 were 1/250 sec at f/32. Number 4 was 1/250 sec at f/45.  These three images were lit with a ring flash mounted on the lens.

I consider Chrysanthemums to be special flowers, and they have always had special meaning for me. They originated in Asia and have been cultivated for almost three thousand years. In Asian floral art, the Chrysanthemum is one of the “Four Gentleman” (*) or “Four Noble Ones” (along with the orchid, bamboo, and plum blossom). These flowers were revered for their refinement and beauty and the way they represented the four seasons. In Japan, the imperial throne of the Emperor is known as the “Chrysanthemum Throne.”

Chrysanthemums are an autumn flowering plant. I find it very special the way chrysanthemum flowers seem to simultaneously envelope, as if to hold and protect, and spread out as if to celebrate. I think this is apparent in the above Cremone flowers.

In addition to their extensive use in Asian art, Chrysanthemums were painted prolifically by Van Gogh (for example, Bowl with Chrysanthemums).


Sunday Morning in the Gardens

There’s nothing like an early Sunday morning stroll through the gardens, especially these cool fall mornings. One sees the occasional early-rising bird and a few squirrels. But still there’s a calm in the air, as if the gardens, late in the year and early in the morning this Sunday, are sleeping in a bit.


These images were all shot on my stroll this morning through the Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge, California. Here in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains and the Angeles National Forest, the chilly mornings of fall usually give way to the gloriously sunny days southern California is famous for.

Click on any thumbnail for the slideshow.

Technical information: All shot with the new Fuji X-100 at 23 mm. ISO was 400. In most cases I let the camera set aperture and shutter, modifying that when I wanted to control the field of focus. All images shot raw and then processed in Lightroom and Nik.  I found that virtually all images needed to be brightened, with exposure corrected towards the right significantly. All also benefited from significant sharpening. Interesting camera, this X-100.   Joanne

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