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Sunday, December 07, 2014

Westheight Homes Tour

I live in the poor man's Brookside. Same basic mix of architecture, home age, etc., but real estate in my neighborhood commands about a third the price. Our homeowners association is pretty easy going, too (I don't know anyone from Brookside's association, but swank neighborhoods seem to inspire the Carolyn Burnhams of the world to take leadership roles).

This pink bedroom in the Senator Darby mansion, I remember it from a couple years ago on the tour, I want to paint my bedroom this color. The Poet Laureate of Lobsterland says she wouldn't be able to fall asleep in a room painted this color, and since she's my wife, I guess I need to get my pink on elsewhere. I still love the color, though.

There's a vaguely Spanish house designed by Louis Curtis that was on the tour this year. It's probably the home in my neighborhood I covet most. There's lots of swell digs to be had around here, including some much, much larger than this, but this joint is all curb appeal. Inside, it's an unusual layout, though a logical one with the bedrooms in their own wing and the other living areas kind of arrayed in a horseshoe around that.

It also features the largest and most interesting collection of bottle openers I've ever seen. Even one from Alcatraz.

Most of the homes on the tour don't inspire me to want to move around the corner really. They're nice to visit, don't get me wrong, they're splendid. But they represent a lifestyle I don't aspire to, even if I had unlimited means, it just doesn't feel like home to me. But that Louis Curtis joint, if it ever comes on the market at a price I can afford at the time, I'd jump at moving around the corner. The facts that it's on the National Register, was designed by a famous architect, etc., probably translate to what Realtors commonly refer to as Outside My Price Range, but it's a dream house for sure. To my surprise, Corinna seemed to really dig it, too, saying when we emerged that it had a strong sense of peace.

The model train set in one of the houses really slayed me, too. It's a monument to patience, in a finished attic upstairs from a classic Hammond B3 Organ (I'd covet that but an instrument like that should be owned by someone who knows more than the opening riff from Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor BWV 565).

My photography on this tour is a disappointment to me. I put my kit lens on because the 35mm prime lens I shoot 99% of the time just sucks for trying to shoot rooms in a house, not a wide enough angle. The kit lens gets me to 18mm, which isn't as wide as I'd like for this kind of shooting, but it gives me a fighting chance to get a room in frame. It's a sluggish lens, though, wide open it's only an f3.5.

Compounding the challenges of working with that glass, I'm on the steep side of a learning curve with a new piece of equipment, a speedlight. I was in a thrift store Saturday, struck out on Hawaiian shirts, but they had a couple of cameras with speedlights attached for cheap. I mean cheap. These were old 35mm film cameras, and while I didn't expect something like the SB-910, but if it would shake hands with my D7000, I figured it'd be good training wheels for external flash photography.

In the thrift store, I tried switching the speedlights from the two cameras that had them to each other and a third 35mm camera. They were all different makes, none of them Nikon. There was a Pentax, a Ricoh and a Minolta. The speedlights seemed to fit the hotshoes on all three, so I took the Ricoh which had a Simon Pyrotechnics Tsi-124 mounted on it. Seven bucks. The Pentax was two dollars less, but the Ricoh had a 50mm lens labeled 'Rikenon' so I thought maybe I'd picked up a 50mm f1.2 prime lens that fit a Nikon mount.

Well, the Simon does indeed fit the hotshoe on my Nikon, though the lens doesn't seem to. Most everything I know about photography is in the available light area, and I tend to trust the camera's metering, typically shooting in Aperture Priority so I control the depth of field and the camera figures out the exposure. I shoot manual a bit, but still, I'm relying on the camera's meter to tell me I've got the exposure right.

With a speedlight, you're working with light the camera can't meter because it strobes on with the shutter, after all those calculations have been made. What makes it more complicated, if the shutter and the speedlight aren't in sync, the shutter actually casts a shadow over your picture. The shot of the basement bar you can see this a little, there are shots I took that where the bottom two thirds of the shot are basically blacked out.

I experimented some with the sync speed, tilting the angle of the head and so on. Did some online homework, too, found some YouTube videos that were helpful. Found nothing at all about Simon Pyrotechnics or this model of speedlight, which I take it indicates that it was produced briefly in the 1980s, when there was no internet, and exited the market fast enough that there's not a cult following of some sort.

The best results I got still kinda sucked. Most of the better shots I took today were ambient light, no speedlight, crank the ISO and try to have a steady hand. The light looks harsh and artificial, and falls off strangely at the edges. I have more study to do if I'm going to incorporate this as a tool in my arsenal (and yes, I have a diffuser I could have put on it and will probably do so next time).

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