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Prof. Boerner's Explorations

Thoughts and Essays that explore the world of Technology, Computers, Photography, History and Family.


Archive for January, 2010
by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 This examination of “Drawing with Light” completes our examination of the settings and cameras that enable us to create images of the external world. The originators of the photographic process, Louis Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot, both saw photography as a way of using light to expose photosensitive materials (film or digital sensor). This process has been refined since that time and now allows us to capture images in even near dark through the use of high ISO in some of the latest professional cameras. Enjoy and try some of these techniques in your own photographyGLB


“A novel is never anything, but a philosophy put into images.”
— John Rohn

“A lot of the images in my work are a kind of visual diary of places I’ve been, what I’ve seen, heard, smelt.”
— Francesca da Rimini

“A number of images put together a certain way become something quite above and beyond what any of them are individually.”
— Francis Ford Coppola

“An artist cannot be responsible for what people make of their art. An audience loathe giving up preconceived images of an artist.”
— Stephen Stills

“And I also see how this body influences external images: it gives back movement to them.”
— Henri Bergson

“All of a sudden, those few pages of script that he had shown me with the weird images I could visualize all of that in my brain, and I knew that there was this mad little genius at work here and I really wanted to do the film.”
— Jack Nance

“A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.”
— Albert Camus

“Although images of perfection in people’s personal lives can cause unhappiness, images of perfect societies – utopian images – can cause monstrous evil. In fact, forcefully changing society to conform to societal images was the greatest cause of evil in the twentieth century.”
— Dennis Prager


Drawing with Light: Film Speed and ISO Settings

exposure-triangle Film speed is the measure of a photographic film’s sensitivity to light, determined by sensitometry and measured on various numerical scales, the most recent being the ISO system. Relatively insensitive film, with a correspondingly lower speed index requires more exposure to light to produce the same image density as a more sensitive film, and is thus commonly termed a slow film. Highly sensitive films are correspondingly termed fast films. A closely related ISO system is used to measure the sensitivity of digital imaging systems. In both digital and film photography, the reduction of exposure corresponding to use of higher sensitivities generally leads to reduced image quality (via coarser film grain or higher image noise of other types). Basically, the higher the film speed, the worse the photo quality.

Film speed systems

understand-different-iso-speed-photography-200X200 There have been many systems of denoting film sensitivity.

The current International Standard for measuring the speed of color negative film is called ISO 5800:1987 from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Related standards ISO 6:1993 and ISO 2240:2003 define scales for speeds of black-and-white negative film and color reversal film. This system defines both an arithmetic and a logarithmic scale, combining the previously separate ASA and DIN systems.

In the ISO arithmetic scale, corresponding to the ASA system, a doubling of the sensitivity of a film requires a doubling of the numerical film speed value. In the ISO logarithmic scale, which corresponds to the DIN scale, adding 3° to the numerical value that designates the film speed constitutes a doubling of that value. For example, a film rated ISO 200/24° is twice as sensitive as a film rated ISO 100/21°.

Commonly, the logarithmic speed is omitted, and only the arithmetic speed is given; for example, “ISO 100”.


Upon exposure, the amount of light energy that reaches the film determines the effect upon the emulsion. If the brightness of the light is multiplied by a factor and the exposure of the film decreased by the same factor by varying the camera’s shutter speed and aperture, so that the energy received is the same, the film will be developed to the same density. This rule is called reciprocity. The systems for determining the sensitivity for an emulsion are possible because reciprocity holds. In practice, reciprocity works reasonably well for normal photographic films for the range of exposures between 1/1000 second to 1/2 second. However, this relationship breaks down outside these limits, a phenomenon known as reciprocity failure.

Film sensitivity and Grain

Korn_HP4_ISO1600 Grainy high speed B/W
film negative

Film speed is roughly related to granularity, the size of the grains of silver halide in the emulsion, since larger grains give film a greater sensitivity to light. Fine-grain stock, such as portrait film or those used for the intermediate stages of copying original camera negatives, is "slow", meaning that the amount of light used to expose it must be high or the shutter must be open longer. Fast films, used for shooting in poor light or for shooting fast motion, produce a grainier image. Each grain of silver halide develops in an all-or-nothing way into dark silver or nothing. Thus, each grain is a threshold detector; in aggregate, their effect can be thought of as a noisy nonlinear analog light detector.

Kodak has defined a "Print Grain Index" (PGI) to characterize film grain (color negative films only), based on perceptual just noticeable difference of graininess in prints. They also define "granularity", a measurement of grain using an RMS measurement of density fluctuations in uniformly-exposed film, measured with a microdensitometer with 48 micrometre aperture. Granularity varies with exposure — underexposed film looks grainier than overexposed film.

Digital Camera ISO Speed and Exposure Index

iso-setting_Full In digital camera systems, an arbitrary relationship between exposure and sensor data values can be achieved by setting the signal gain of the sensor. The relationship between the sensor data values and the lightness of the finished image is also arbitrary, depending on the parameters chosen for the interpretation of the sensor data into an image color space such as sRGB.

For digital photo cameras ("digital still cameras"), an exposure index (EI) rating—commonly called ISO setting—is specified by the manufacturer such that the sRGB image files produced by the camera will have a lightness similar to what would be obtained with film of the same EI rating at the same exposure. The usual design is that the camera’s parameters for interpreting the sensor data values into sRGB values are fixed, and a number of different EI choices are accommodated by varying the sensor’s signal gain in the analog realm, prior to conversion to digital. Some camera designs provide at least some EI choices by adjusting the sensor’s signal gain in the digital realm. A few camera designs also provide EI adjustment through a choice of lightness parameters for the interpretation of sensor data values into sRGB; this variation allows different tradeoffs between the range of highlights that can be captured and the amount of noise introduced into the shadow areas of the photo.

iso-1 ISO 100 (Left) and ISO 3200 (Right) Images

Digital Cameras technology has far surpassed film cameras in terms of sensitivity to light and controlling image noise and film grain. Digital cameras have up achieved ISO’s up to 102,400, a number film speeds never got close to.

How to Understand & Use ISO Speed for Photography

eHow_Logo The article referenced below should help you understand how ISO settings will help you get better photos. We have sachphotography to thank for the following suggestions. Please take a look at the original article and this contributor’s site for more information.

In this article, I would like to help the reader to grasp a better understanding of how to use different film speeds on their digital camera. While my article focuses on DSLR cameras, the basic principles may be used when shooting film.

Step 1:
ISO….ASA…. What does it all mean? What is the difference between 100 and 1000?

The ASA (American Standards Association) scale is an arbitrary rating of film speed. This is not typically used anymore as the mass has merged into a worldwide use of the ISO standard. Derived from the Greek "isos", meaning "equal", The International Organization for Standardization chose this short all-purpose name instead of using its acronym "IOS" so that whatever the country and language, the short form of the organization’s name is always "ISO" (pronounced "eye-so" but typically pronounced as "EYE-S-OH").

To put it simply, the higher the ISO number the faster the speed of the sensor or film. Film speed describes how fast, or sensitive, the sensor or film absorbs the light that falls upon it. I will mainly focus on the digital side as the majority of today’s photographers lean more heavily towards digital.

Step 2:
Most Semi-Pro and Pro digital cameras allow you to adjust the iso sensitivity.

The majority of low to mid-range digital cameras have an ISO range that goes from somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 or 100 up to around 400 to 800. A lower ISO number requires more light to obtain a proper exposure on a given shot.

The majority of people would be inclined to turn the ISO setting all the way up to obtain the most light possible. What is wrong with this? Although a higher ISO setting will absorb more light and capture a good exposure even in low light, there is a problem. The higher you set the ISO, the more "noise" there will be, causing your pictures to come out grainy.

With Technology today there are ways to employ higher ISO setting without developing a fuzzy photo.

Step 3:
These days, many digital cameras utilize some form of noise reduction for their higher ISO settings.

Though at first glance reducing noise may seem like a good route to go, it also has its own downfall. Reducing noise is often accomplished by utilizing small amount of blur. Though you may be able to blur out the noise, you will blur out the fine detail you are trying to capture.
In general, you would typically want to use the lowest ISO setting as possible. The key benefit to using a digital camera is the ability to find the perfect setting instantly. A photographer is able to shoot a photo and see it instantaneously giving him the ability to make corrections and shoot again

Step 4:
For a clean photo a photographer would want to use a lower ISO setting.

When using a lower ISO setting, light is not always readily available. There are two distinct way to compensate for lighting issues when using a low ISO. A photographer will change the shutter speed to allow the shutter to stay open for a longer period of time, allowing more light to pour onto the sensor. If a photographer uses a longer shutter speed, generally the camera will be mounted on a tripod, a mono pod, or some other form of bracing.

Step 5:
One additional option to obtain proper lighting, is to utilize a flash.

A key to using a flash is to not bath the subject being photographed in direct light unless desired. Play around with different flash settings to obtain the desired results.
When shooting with a digital camera, a good starting ground is to set you ISO to 400 and adjust from there. Lower ISO equals less grain and more clarity.

More Suggestions for Using ISO

The article on Digital Photography School on ISO cited below makes these further suggestions. Please look at the full article for more information.

100 ISO is generally accepted as ‘normal’ and will give you lovely crisp shots (little noise/grain).

Most people tend to keep their digital cameras in ‘Auto Mode’ where the camera selects the appropriate ISO setting depending upon the conditions you’re shooting in (it will try to keep it as low as possible) but most cameras also give you the opportunity to select your own ISO also.

When you do override your camera and choose a specific ISO you’ll notice that it impacts the aperture and shutter speed needed for a well exposed shot. For example – if you bumped your ISO up from 100 to 400 you’ll notice that you can shoot at higher shutter speeds and/or smaller apertures.

When choosing the ISO setting I generally ask myself the following four questions:

  1. Light – Is the subject well lit?
  2. Grain – Do I want a grainy shot or one without noise?
  3. Tripod – Am I use a tripod?
  4. Moving Subject – Is my subject moving or stationary?

If there is plenty of light, I want little grain, I’m using a tripod and my subject is stationary I will generally use a pretty low ISO rating.

However if it’s dark, I purposely want grain, I don’t have a tripod and/or my subject is moving I might consider increasing the ISO as it will enable me to shoot with a faster shutter speed and still expose the shot well.

Of course the trade off of this increase in ISO will be noisier shots.

Situations where you might need to push ISO to higher settings include:

  • Indoor Sports Events – where your subject is moving fast yet you may have limited light available.
  • Concerts – also low in light and often ‘no-flash’ zones
  • Art Galleries, Churches etc- many galleries have rules against using a flash and of course being indoors are not well lit.
  • Birthday Parties – blowing out the candles in a dark room can give you a nice moody shot which would be ruined by a bright flash. Increasing the ISO can help capture the scene.

ISO is an important aspect of digital photography to have an understanding of if you want to gain more control of your digital camera. Experiment with different settings and how they impact your images today.



Bryan Peterson. (1996) Exposure. AMPhoto

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Cameras…

Wikipedia: Film Speed…

Other Web Sites: How to Understand & Use ISO Speed for Photography…

Digital Photography School: ISO Settings in Digital Photography… Images…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 This posting is Part 2 of 2 on Harriet Tubman and continues our first entry in the series on Black Women and their contribution to our country in honor of Black History month. This series will appear on each weekend day. We start out this series with one of the women who was involved in the abolitionist movement during the pre-Civil War period. She worked with the Underground Railroad, which provided a series of “safe houses” in which runaway slaves could hide on their journey to Canada.

Tubman was a real pioneer advocate against slavery and for the Union. She was in contact with other Black leaders like Frederick Douglass and worked with the Union army during the Civil War. In later life, she worked with Susan B. Anthony and helped found the AME Zion Church. She was, indeed, a woman of her time who rose up to meet a need: the need of her people to be free.  GLB


“I can’t die but once.”
— Harriet Tubman

“I never lost a passenger.”
— Harriet Tubman

“I never ran my train off the track, and I never lost a passenger.”
— Harriet Tubman

“Never wound a snake; kill it.”
— Harriet Tubman

“You’ll be free or die!”
— Harriet Tubman

“I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”
— Harriet Tubman

“Lord, I’m going to hold steady on to You and You’ve got to see me through.”
— Harriet Tubman

“I grew up like a neglected weed – ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it.
— Harriet Tubman

“I would fight for my liberty so long as my strength lasted, and if the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me.”
— Harriet Tubman

“I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land.”
— Harriet Tubman

“I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.”
— Harriet Tubman

“I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything. The sun came up like gold through the trees, and I felt like I was in heaven.”
— Harriet Tubman


Black Women in History: Harriet Tubman

Harriet_Tubman Harriet Tubman (Born: Araminta Ross; c.1822 – 1913) was an African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy during the American Civil War. After escaping from slavery, into which she was born, she made thirteen missions to rescue over seventy slaves using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. She later helped John Brown recruit men for his raid on Harpers Ferry, and in the post-war era struggled for women’s suffrage.

As a child in Dorchester County, Maryland, Tubman was beaten and whipped by her various masters to whom she had been hired out. Early in her life, she suffered a traumatic head wound when she was hit by a heavy metal weight thrown by an irate overseer, intending to hit another slave. The injury caused disabling seizures, headaches, powerful visionary and dream activity, and spells of hypersomnia which occurred throughout her entire life. A devout Christian, she ascribed her visions and vivid dreams to premonitions from God.

Journeys and methods

For eleven years Tubman returned again and again to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, rescuing some seventy slaves in thirteen expeditions, including her three other brothers, Henry, Ben, and Robert, their wives and some of their children. She also provided specific instructions for about fifty to sixty other fugitives who escaped to the north. Her dangerous work required tremendous ingenuity; she usually worked during winter months, to minimize the likelihood that the group would be seen. One admirer of Tubman said: "She always came in the winter, when the nights are long and dark, and people who have homes stay in them." Once she had made contact with escaping slaves, they left town on Saturday evenings, since newspapers would not print runaway notices until Monday morning.

Her journeys back into the land of slavery put her at tremendous risk, and she used a variety of subterfuges to avoid detection. Tubman once disguised herself with a bonnet and carried two live chickens to give the appearance of running errands. Suddenly finding herself walking toward a former owner in Dorchester County, she yanked the strings holding the birds’ legs, and their agitation allowed her to avoid eye contact. Later she recognized a fellow train passenger as another former master; she snatched a nearby newspaper and pretended to read. Since Tubman was known to be illiterate, the man ignored her.

Her religious faith was another important resource as she ventured again and again into Maryland. The visions from her childhood head injury continued, and she saw them as divine premonitions. She spoke of "consulting with God", and trusted that He would keep her safe. Thomas Garrett once said of her: "I never met with any person of any color who had more confidence in the voice of God, as spoken direct to her soul." Her faith in the divine also provided immediate assistance. She used spirituals as coded messages, warning fellow travelers of danger or to signal a clear path.

She also carried a revolver, and was not afraid to use it. Once a slave agreed to join her expedition, there was no turning back – and she threatened to shoot anyone who tried to return. Tubman told the tale of one voyage with a group of fugitive slaves, when morale sank and one man insisted he was going to go back to the plantation. She pointed the gun at his head and said: "You go on or die." Several days later, he was with the group as they entered Canada. It is more than likely that Tubman carried the handgun as protection from ever-present slave catchers and their vicious dogs.

BE047975 Slaveholders in the region, meanwhile, never knew that "Minty", the petite, five-foot-tall, disabled slave who had run away years before and never come back, was behind so many slave escapes in their community. In fact, by the late 1850s they began to suspect a northern white abolitionist was secretly enticing their slaves away. They even entertained the possibility that John Brown himself had come to the Eastern Shore to lure slaves away before his ill-fated raid on Harper’s Ferry in October 1859. While a popular legend persists about a reward of US$40,000 for Tubman’s capture, this is a manufactured figure. In 1868, in an effort to drum up support for Tubman’s claim for a Civil War military pension, a former abolitionist named Salley Holley wrote an article claiming US$40,000 "was not too great a reward for Maryland slaveholders to offer for her." Despite the best efforts of the slaveholders, Tubman was never captured – and neither were the fugitives she guided. Years later, she told an audience: "I was conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say – I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger."

One of her last missions into Maryland was to retrieve her aging parents. Her father, Ben, had purchased Rit, her mother, in 1855 from Eliza Brodess for twenty dollars. But even when they were both free, the area became hostile to their presence. Two years later, Tubman received word that her father had harbored a group of eight escaped slaves, and was at risk of arrest. She traveled to the Eastern Shore and led them north into the Canadian city of St. Catharines, Ontario, where a community of former slaves (including Tubman’s brothers, other relatives, and many friends) had gathered.

John Brown and Harpers Ferry

In April 1858, Tubman was introduced to the abolitionist John Brown, an insurgent who advocated the use of violence to destroy slavery in the United States. Although she never advocated violence against whites, she agreed with his course of direct action and supported his goals. Like Tubman, he spoke of being called by God, and trusted the divine to protect him from the wrath of slaveholders. She, meanwhile, claimed to have had a prophetic vision of meeting Brown before their encounter.

John_brown_abo Tubman helped John Brown
plan and recruit for his raid
at Harpers Ferry.

Thus, as he began recruiting supporters for an attack on slaveholders, Brown was joined by "General Tubman", as he called her. Her knowledge of support networks and resources in the border states of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware was invaluable to Brown and his planners. Although other abolitionists like Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison did not endorse his tactics, Brown dreamed of fighting to create a new state for freed slaves, and made preparations for military action. After he began the first battle, he believed, slaves would rise up and carry out a rebellion across the south. He asked Tubman to gather former slaves then living in Canada who might be willing to join his fighting force, which she did.

On May 8, 1858, Brown held a meeting in Chatham-Kent, Ontario, where he unveiled his plan for a raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia. When word of the plan was leaked to the government, Brown put the scheme on hold and began raising funds for its eventual resumption. Tubman aided him in this effort, and with more detailed plans for the assault.

The raid failed; Brown was convicted of treason and hanged in December. His actions were seen by abolitionists as a symbol of proud resistance, carried out by a noble martyr. Tubman herself was effusive with praise. She later told a friend: "[H]e done more in dying, than 100 men would in living."

Civil War

David_Hunter Union General David Hunter
worked with Tubman during the
Civil War and shared her
abolitionist views.

When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, Tubman saw a Union victory as a key step toward the abolition of slavery. General Benjamin Butler, for instance, aided escaped slaves flooding into Fort Monroe. Butler had declared these fugitives to be "contraband" – property seized by northern forces – and put them to work without pay in the fort. Tubman hoped to offer her own expertise and skills to the Union cause, too, and soon she joined a group of Boston and Philadelphia abolitionists heading to the Hilton Head District in South Carolina. She became a fixture in the camps, particularly in Port Royal, South Carolina, assisting fugitives.

Tubman soon met with General David Hunter, a strong supporter of abolition. He declared all of the "contrabands" in the Port Royal district free, and began gathering former slaves for a regiment of black soldiers. US President Abraham Lincoln, however, was not prepared to enforce emancipation on the southern states, and reprimanded Hunter for his actions. Tubman condemned Lincoln’s response (and his general unwillingness to consider ending slavery in the US), for both moral and practical reasons. "God won’t let master Lincoln beat the South till he does the right thing," she said.

Master Lincoln, he’s a great man, and I am a poor negro; but the negro can tell master Lincoln how to save the money and the young men. He can do it by setting the negro free. Suppose that was an awful big snake down there, on the floor. He bite you. Folks all scared, because you die. You send for a doctor to cut the bite; but the snake, he rolled up there, and while the doctor doing it, he bite you again. The doctor dug out that bite; but while the doctor doing it, the snake, he spring up and bite you again; so he keep doing it, till you kill him. That’s what master Lincoln ought to know.

Tubman served as a nurse in Port Royal, preparing remedies from local plants and aiding soldiers suffering from dysentery. She rendered assistance to men with smallpox; that she did not contract the disease herself started more rumors that she was blessed by God. At first, she received government rations for her work, but newly freed blacks thought she was getting special treatment. To ease the tension, she gave up her right to these supplies and made money selling pies and root beer, which she made in the evenings.

Scouting and the Combahee River Raid

When Lincoln finally put the Emancipation Proclamation into effect in January 1863, Tubman considered it an important step toward the goal of liberating all black men, women, and children from slavery. She renewed her support for a defeat of the Confederacy, and before long she was leading a band of scouts through the land around Port Royal. The marshes and rivers in South Carolina were similar to those of the Eastern Shore of Maryland; thus her knowledge of covert travel and subterfuge among potential enemies were put to good use. Her group, working under the orders of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, mapped the unfamiliar terrain and reconnoitered its inhabitants. She later worked alongside Colonel James Montgomery, and provided him with key intelligence which aided the capture of Jacksonville, Florida.

Harriet_Tubman_Civil_War_Woodcut A woodcut of Tubman in
her Civil War clothing

Later that year, Tubman became the first woman to lead an armed assault during the Civil War. When Montgomery and his troops conducted an assault on a collection of plantations along the Combahee River, Tubman served as a key adviser and accompanied the raid. On the morning of June 2, 1863, Tubman guided three steamboats around Confederate mines in the waters leading to the shore. Once ashore, the Union troops set fire to the plantations, destroying infrastructure and seizing thousands of dollars worth of food and supplies. When the steamboats sounded their whistles, slaves throughout the area understood that it was being liberated. Tubman watched as slaves stampeded toward the boats. "I never saw such a sight," she said later, describing a scene of chaos with women carrying still-steaming pots of rice, pigs squealing in bags slung over shoulders, and babies hanging around their parents’ necks. Although their owners, armed with handguns and whips, tried to stop the mass escape, their efforts were nearly useless in the tumult. As Confederate troops raced to the scene, steamboats packed full of slaves took off toward Beaufort.

More than seven hundred slaves were rescued in the Combahee River Raid. Newspapers heralded Tubman’s "patriotism, sagacity, energy, [and] ability", and she was praised for her recruiting efforts: most of the newly liberated men went on to join the Union army. Tubman later worked with Colonel Robert Gould Shaw at the assault on Fort Wagner, reportedly serving him his last meal. She described the battle by saying: "And then we saw the lightning, and that was the guns; and then we heard the thunder, and that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain falling, and that was the drops of blood falling; and when we came to get the crops, it was dead men that we reaped."

For two more years, Tubman worked for the Union forces, tending to newly liberated slaves, scouting into Confederate territory, and eventually nursing wounded soldiers in Virginia. She also made periodic visits back to Auburn, to visit her family and care for her parents. The Confederacy surrendered in April 1865; after donating several more months of service, Tubman headed home.

Despite her years of service, she had never received a regular salary and was for years denied compensation. Her unofficial status and the unequal payments offered to black soldiers caused great difficulty in documenting her service, and the US government was slow in recognizing its debt to her. Tubman did not receive a pension for her service in the Civil War until 1899. Her constant humanitarian work for her family and former slaves, meanwhile, kept her in a state of constant poverty, and her difficulties in obtaining a government pension were especially taxing for her.

Tubman returned to Auburn at the end of the war. During a train ride to New York, the conductor told her to move into the smoking car. She refused, explaining her government service. He cursed at her and grabbed her, but she resisted and he summoned two other passengers for help. While she clutched at the railing, they muscled her away, breaking her arm in the process. They threw her into the smoking car, causing more injuries. As these events transpired, other white passengers cursed Tubman and shouted for the conductor to kick her off the train.

Suffragist activism

Susan_B_Anthony_Older_Years Susan B. Anthony worked with
Tubman for women’s suffrage.

Tubman worked in her later years to promote the cause of women’s suffrage. A white woman once asked Tubman whether she believed women ought to have the vote, and received the reply: "I suffered enough to believe it." Tubman began attending meetings of suffragist organizations, and was soon working alongside women such as Susan B. Anthony and Emily Howland.

Tubman traveled to New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. to speak out in favor of women’s voting rights. She described her actions during and after the Civil War, and used the sacrifices of countless women throughout modern history as evidence of women’s equality to men. When the National Federation of Afro-American Women was founded in 1896, Tubman was the keynote speaker at its first meeting.

This wave of activism kindled a new wave of admiration for Tubman among the press in the United States. A publication called The Woman’s Era launched a series of articles on "Eminent Women" with a profile of Tubman. An 1897 suffragist newspaper reported a series of receptions in Boston honoring Tubman and her lifetime of service to the nation. However, her endless contributions to others had left her in poverty, and she had to sell a cow to buy a train ticket to these celebrations.


Harriet Tubman, widely known and well-respected while she was alive, became an American icon in the years after she died. A survey at the end of the twentieth century named her as one of the most famous civilians in American history before the Civil War, third only to Betsy Ross and Paul Revere. She inspired generations of African Americans struggling for equality and civil rights; she was praised by leaders across the political spectrum.

Harriet_Tubman_late_in_life3 Harriet Tubman, 1911

When she died, Tubman was buried with military honors at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn. The city commemorated her life with a plaque on the courthouse. Although it showed pride for her many achievements, its use of dialect ("I nebber run my train off de track") – apparently chosen for its authenticity – has been criticized for undermining her stature as an American patriot and dedicated humanitarian. Still, the dedication ceremony was a powerful tribute to her memory, and Booker T. Washington delivered the keynote address. The Harriet Tubman home was abandoned after 1920, but was later renovated by the AME Zion Church. Today, it welcomes visitors as a museum and education center.

Bradford’s biographies were followed by Earl Conrad’s Harriet Tubman: Negro Soldier and Abolitionist. Conrad had experienced a great difficulty in finding a publisher – the search took four years – and endured disdain and contempt for his efforts to construct a more objective, detailed account of Tubman’s life for adults. Several highly dramatized versions of Tubman’s life had been written for children – and many more came later – but Conrad wrote in an academic style to document the historical importance of her work for scholars and the nation’s memory. The book was finally published by Carter G. Woodson’s Associated Publishers in 1942. Despite her popularity and significance, another Tubman biography for adults did not appear for sixty years, until Jean Humez published a close reading of Tubman’s life stories in 2003, and Larson and Clinton both published their biographies in 2004.

Tubman was celebrated in many other ways throughout the nation in the twentieth century. Dozens of schools were named in her honor, and both the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn and the Harriet Tubman Museum in Cambridge serve as monuments to her life. In 1937 the gravestone for Harriet Tubman Davis was erected by the Empire State Federation of Women’s Clubs; it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. In 1944, the United States Maritime Commission launched the SS Harriet Tubman, its first Liberty ship ever named for a black woman. In 1978, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp in honor of Tubman as the first in a series honoring African Americans. She is commemorated together with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, and Sojourner Truth in the calendar of saints of the Episcopal Church on July 20.

End of Part 2 of 2



Paula J. Giddings. (1996) When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America. Harper

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Harriet Tubman…

Web Sites and Blogs: Harriet Tubman…

Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman Biography…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Today we examine the evolution of the dime since the founding of this country. It has undergone changes, but has remained as the smallest coin in the U.S. monetary system. It is worth 1/10th of a dollar, which made it one of the most used coins; it has changed its composition and image, but continues to reflect the general themes of peace (olive branches) and freedom (Lady Liberty or other figures associated with national independence, like FDR).  GLB


“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”
— Yogi Berra

“I think I coulda landed on a dime. I really do.”
— Evel Knievel

“Good ideas are a dime a dozen, bad ones are free.”
— Douglas Horton

“I don’t have a dime left. I am dependent on my friends for food and a small old-age pension.”
— Bela Lugosi

“I don’t take a dime of their [lobbyist] money, and when I am president, they won’t find a job in my White House.”
— Barack Obama

“Coaches who can outline plays on a black board are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their player and motivate.”
— Vince Lombardi

“Good actors are a dime a dozen, but I want actors that are gonna be part of my team and collaborative.”
— Joe Pantoliano

“I am supposed to owe the government something like $100 million. I couldn’t squeeze out a dime.”
— Dennis Kozlowski

“I don’t believe what the papers are saying They’re just out to capture my dime, Exaggerating this, exaggerating that.”
— Paul Simon

“From Kelsey, I have learned among many other things the value of turning on a dime and how you can have an extremely funny and extremely poignant moment with absolutely no separation in between… and sometimes in the same moment.”
— David Hyde Pierce

The Roosevelt Dime

2005_Dime_Obv_Unc_P The dime is a coin worth ten cents or one tenth of a United States dollar. The dime is the smallest in diameter and the thinnest of all U.S. coins currently minted for circulation. The 32nd President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, is featured on the obverse of the current design, while a torch, oak branch, and olive branch covering the motto E pluribus unum are featured on the reverse. The dime’s value is labeled as “one dime”, since the term ‘dime’ also applies to a unit of currency worth 10 cents or 1/10 of a dollar.

2005_Dime_Rev_Unc_P The dime was commissioned by the Coinage Act of 1792, and production began in 1796. A feminine head representing Liberty was used on the front of the coin, and an eagle was used on the back. The front and back of the dime used these motifs for three different designs through 1837. The composition and diameter of the dime have changed throughout its mintage. Initially the dime was 0.75 inch (19 millimeters) wide, but it was changed to its present size of 0.705 inch (17.91 millimeters) in 1828. The composition (initially 89.24 percent silver and 10.76 percent copper) remained constant until 1837, when it was altered to 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper. Dimes with this composition were minted until 1966, although those minted in 1965 and 1966 bear the date 1964. Beginning in 1965, dimes also began to be minted with a clad composition of cupronickel; this composition is still in use today. The U.S. Mint began producing silver dimes again in 1992 for inclusion in the annual Silver Proof set.

The term dime comes from old French “di(s)me”, meaning “tithe” or “tenth part”, from the Latin decima [pars]. This term appeared on early pattern coins, but was not used on any dimes until 1837.

General history

Draped_Bust_dime The first known proposal for a decimal-based coinage system in the United States was made in 1783 by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and David Rittenhouse. Hamilton, the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, recommended the issuance of six such coins in 1791, in a report to Congress. Among the six was a silver coin, “which shall be, in weight and value, one tenth part of a silver unit or dollar.” His suggested name for the new coin was a “tenth”.

Capped_Bust_dime The Coinage Act of 1792, passed on April 2, 1792, authorized the mintage of a “disme”, one-tenth the silver weight and value of a dollar. The composition of the disme was set at 89.24 percent silver and 10.76 percent copper. In 1792, a limited number of dismes were minted but never circulated. Some of these were struck in copper, indicating that the 1792 dismes were in fact pattern coins. The first dimes minted for circulation did not appear until 1796, due to a lack of demand for the coin and production problems at the United States Mint.

Seated_liberty_dime The original dime, now referred to as the Draped Bust dime, contained no markings to indicate the coin’s value. This continued until the issuance of the Capped Bust dime in 1809. The Capped Bust dime bore a “10 C.” mark on its reverse. The mintage of the dime during the Draped Bust/Capped Bust period was not regular—the Draped Bust was not minted in 1799 or 1806, while in the period from 1809 to 1820, the Capped Bust was minted only in 1809, 1811, 1814, and 1820. The dime has been minted nearly every year since 1827, although some years have seen extremely limited mintage figures.

In 1837, the dime was altered to incorporate the Seated Liberty design, which had debuted the previous year with the dollar coin. In addition, changes to the dime’s diameter and silver content were made. The Seated Liberty dime was minted for 54 years, the longest stretch for any design until the Roosevelt dime reached its 55th year in 2001.

Seateddime In 1892 the Barber dime debuted, and it lasted until 1916. Of the Barber dime series, the 1894-S is particularly notable; only 24 examples are known to have been struck, of which only nine are known to still exist. One such example sold for US$1.3 million at an auction on March 7, 2005, the most ever paid for a dime in auction.

The Barber dime design was replaced in 1916 by the Winged Liberty Head design, more commonly referred to as the Mercury dime. The figure on the coin’s obverse is often thought to be the Roman god Mercury, but is in fact a depiction of Liberty (all other dimes except the Roosevelt dime feature an image of Liberty as well). The Mercury dime is considered to be one of the most visually appealing of all U.S. coins, and is highly sought after by collectors.

Seated_liberty_dime The Mercury dime was replaced in 1946 by the Roosevelt dime, designed in honor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died in April 1945. Although other coins were eligible for an updated design (the design of any coin may be changed without Congressional approval after 25 years), the dime was chosen due to Roosevelt’s work in founding the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, even then unofficially known as the March of Dimes, a name it later officially adopted. Although the dime has not undergone any major design changes since its introduction, its composition changed significantly in 1965. The Coinage Act of 1965 removed the silver content from the dime (as well as the quarter and, in 1971, the half dollar), and replaced it with a clad composition of 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel. Dimes with the silver composition were minted in 1965 and 1966 but bore the date 1964 to increase mintage figures and prevent hoarding of it. The clad Roosevelt dime is currently in circulation, and no major design changes are planned. An attempt was made by Congressional Republicans in 2003 to replace Roosevelt’s image with that of President Ronald Reagan, but this was short-lived.

BarberDimeObvRev The reeded edge on the modern dime is a holdover from earlier designs. The reeding was placed on gold and silver coins to discourage counterfeiting and fraudulent use, such as filing down the edges to collect the dust for profit. Currently, none of the coins produced for circulation contain precious metals. However, the continued use of reeded edges on current circulating coinage of larger denominations is useful to the visually impaired. The edge of a modern dime has 118 ridges.

Roosevelt (1946–present)

Roosevelt_plaque The plaque of Roosevelt at the
Recorder of Deeds Building in
Washington D.C.

Soon after the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945, legislation was introduced by Virginia Congressman Ralph H. Daughton that called for the replacement of the Mercury dime with one bearing Roosevelt’s image. The dime was chosen to honor Roosevelt partly due to his efforts in the founding of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (later renamed the March of Dimes), which originally raised money for polio research and to aid victims of the disease and their families. The public had been urged to send in a dime to the Foundation, and by Roosevelt’s death, the Foundation was already popularly known as the “March of Dimes.”

Due to the limited amount of time available to design the new coin, the Roosevelt dime was the first regular-issue U.S. coin designed by a Mint employee in more than 40 years. Chief Engraver John R. Sinnock was chosen, as he had already designed a Mint presidential medal of Roosevelt. Sinnock’s first design, submitted on October 12, 1945, was rejected, but a subsequent one was accepted on January 6, 1946.

The dime was released to the public on January 30, 1946, which would have been Roosevelt’s 64th birthday. Sinnock’s design placed his initials (“JS”) at the base of Roosevelt’s neck, on the coin’s obverse. His reverse design elements of a torch, olive branch, and oak branch symbolized, respectively, liberty, peace, and victory.

Unitedstatesmint1Controversy immediately ensued, as strong anti-Communist sentiment in the United States led to the circulation of rumors that the “JS” engraved on the coin was the initials of Joseph Stalin, placed there by a Soviet agent in the mint. The Mint quickly issued a statement refuting this, confirming that the initials were indeed Sinnock’s.

Another controversy surrounding Sinnock’s design involves his image of Roosevelt. Soon after the coin’s release, it was claimed that Sinnock borrowed his design of Roosevelt from a bas relief created by African American sculptor Selma Burke, unveiled at the Recorder of Deeds Building in Washington D.C. in September 1945. Sinnock denied this, claiming that he simply utilized his earlier design on the Roosevelt medal.

PhillyMint With the passage of the Coinage Act of 1965, the composition of the dime changed from 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper to a clad “sandwich” of copper between two layers of an alloy of 91.67 percent copper and 8.33 percent nickel. This composition was selected because it gave similar mass (now 2.27 grams instead of 2.5 grams) and electrical properties (important in vending machines)—and most importantly, because it contained no precious metal.

Soon after the change of composition, silver dimes (as well as silver quarters and half dollars) began to disappear from circulation, as people receiving them in change hoarded them (see Gresham’s law). Although now rare in circulation, silver dimes may occasionally turn up in customers’ change.

Denver_mintStarting in 1992, the US Mint re-introduced silver coins in its annual collectors sets. This included a 90 percent silver proof Roosevelt Dime, Washington Quarter(s) and Kennedy Half Dollar, a series that continues today.

Since 1946 the Roosevelt dime has been minted every year. Through 1955, all three mints, Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco produced circulating coinage; production at San Francisco ended in 1955, resuming in 1968 with proof coinage only. Through 1964 “D” and “S” mintmarks can be found to the left of the torch. From 1968, the mintmarks have appeared above the date. None were used in 1965–67, and Philadelphia did not show a mintmark until 1980 (in 1982, an error left the “P” off a small number of dimes, which are now valuable). To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the design, the 1996 mint sets included a “W” mintmarked dime made at the West Point Mint. A total of 1,457,000 dimes were issued in the sets.

Ronald Reagan In 2003, a group of conservative Republicans in Congress proposed removing Roosevelt’s image from the dime, and replacing it with that of President Ronald Reagan, although he was still alive. Legislation to this effect was introduced in November 2003 by Indiana Representative Mark Souder. Amongst the more notable opponents of the legislation was Nancy Reagan, who in December 2003 stated that, “When our country chooses to honor a great president such as Franklin Roosevelt by placing his likeness on our currency, it would be wrong to remove him.” After President Reagan’s death in June 2004, the proposed legislation gained additional support. Souder, however, stated that he was not going to pursue the legislation any further.

Other Events on this Day
  • In 1950…
    President Truman announces he has ordered development of the hydrogen bomb.
  • In 1958…
    The United States enters the Space Age with the launch of its first satellite, Explorer I.
  • In 1961…
    Ham the Chimp becomes the first chimpanzee in outer space when he blasts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a Project Mercury rocket.
  • In 1990…
    McDonald’s opens its first fast-food restaurant in Moscow, symbolizing a triumph of capitalism over Communism following the end of the Cold War.



Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Dime (United States coin)…

Web Sites and Blogs: The Dime…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 We continue our series on “Drawing with Light” in which we look at understanding how your camera works and using it more effectively. We do not try to replace your camera’s User Guide, but, instead, we are looking at what the various controls on your camera means and what adjustments can be made. The goal of these postings is to enable you to use your camera better and capture those special moments and places to help you always remember your present experiences. Take care of these images, they will become more precious to you and your family as you matureGLB


“A central point; a point of concentration.”
— Anonymous

“To bring to a focus; to focalize; as, to focus a camera.”
— Anonymous

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs.  When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”
— Ansel Adams

“Every time someone tells me how sharp my photos are, I assume that it isn’t a very interesting photograph.  If it were, they would have more to say.”
— Author Unknown

“I just think it’s important to be direct and honest with people about why you’re photographing them and what you’re doing.  After all, you are taking some of their soul.”
— Mary Ellen Mark

“A point in which the rays of light meet, after being reflected or refrcted, and at which the image is formed; as, the focus of a lens or mirror.”
— Anonymous

“A point so related to a conic section and certain straight line called the directrix that the ratio of the distace between any point of the curve and the focus to the distance of the same point from the directrix is constant.”
— Anonymous

“There will be times when you will be in the field without a camera.  And, you will see the most glorious sunset or the most beautiful scene that you have ever witnessed.  Don’t be bitter because you can’t record it.  Sit down, drink it in, and enjoy it for what it is!”
— DeGriff


Drawing with Light: Focusing your Camera

Cameras A camera is a device that records images, either as a still photograph or as moving images known as videos or movies. The term comes from the camera obscura (Latin for "dark chamber"), an early mechanism of projecting images where an entire room functioned as a real-time imaging system; the modern camera evolved from the camera obscura.

Cameras may work with the light of the visible spectrum or with other portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. A camera generally consists of an enclosed hollow with an opening (aperture) at one end for light to enter, and a recording or viewing surface for capturing the light at the other end. A majority of cameras have a lens positioned in front of the camera’s opening to gather the incoming light and focus all or part of the image on the recording surface. The diameter of the aperture is often controlled by a diaphragm mechanism, but some cameras have a fixed-size aperture.

A typical still camera takes one photo each time the user presses the shutter button. A typical movie camera continuously takes 24 film frames per second as long as the user holds down the shutter button, or until the shutter button is pressed a second time.


Auto-focus systems can capture
a subject a variety of ways; here,
the focus is on the person’s
image in the mirror.

Due to the optical properties of photographic lenses, only objects within a limited range of distances from the camera will be reproduced clearly. The process of adjusting this range is known as changing the camera’s focus. There are various ways of focusing a camera accurately. The simplest cameras have fixed focus and use a small aperture and wide-angle lens to ensure that everything within a certain range of distance from the lens, usually around 3 metres (10 ft) to infinity, is in reasonable focus. Fixed focus cameras are usually inexpensive types, such as single-use cameras. The camera can also have a limited focusing range or scale-focus that is indicated on the camera body. The user will guess or calculate the distance to the subject and adjust the focus accordingly. On some cameras this is indicated by symbols (head-and-shoulders; two people standing upright; one tree; mountains).

Rangefinder cameras allow the distance to objects to be measured by means of a coupled parallax unit on top of the camera, allowing the focus to be set with accuracy. Single-lens reflex cameras allow the photographer to determine the focus and composition visually using the objective lens and a moving mirror to project the image onto a ground glass or plastic micro-prism screen. Twin-lens reflex cameras use an objective lens and a focusing lens unit (usually identical to the objective lens.) in a parallel body for composition and focusing. View cameras use a ground glass screen which is removed and replaced by either a photographic plate or a reusable holder containing sheet film before exposure. Modern cameras often offer autofocus systems to focus the camera automatically by a variety of methods e.g. by fishing.

Automatic Focus

canon-powershot-sd500-digital-elph Autofocus (or AF) is a feature of some optical systems that allows them to obtain (and in some systems to also continuously maintain) correct focus on a subject, instead of requiring the operator to adjust focus manually.

Autofocus systems rely on one or more sensors to determine correct focus. Some AF systems rely on a single sensor, while others use an array of sensors. Most modern SLR cameras use through-the-lens optical AF sensors, with a separate sensor array providing light metering, although the latter can be programmed to prioritise its metering to the same area as one or more of the AF sensors.

Through-the-lens optical autofocusing is now often speedier and more precise than what can be achieved manually with an ordinary viewfinder. (More precise manual focus can, of course, be achieved with special accessories such as focusing magnifiers.) Autofocus accuracy within 1/3 of the depth of field (DOF) at the widest aperture of the lens is not uncommon in professional AF SLR cameras.

Most multi-sensor AF cameras allow manual selection of the active sensor, and many offer automatic selection of the sensor using algorithms which attempt to discern the location of the subject. Some AF cameras are able to detect whether the subject is moving towards or away from the camera, including speed and acceleration data, and keep focus on the subject — a function used mainly in sports and other action photography.

The data collected from AF sensors is used to control an electromechanical system that adjusts the focus of the optical system. A variation of autofocus is called an electronic rangefinder, a system in which focus data are provided to the operator, but adjustment of the optical system is still performed manually. This is similar, in some respects, to the Program Mode on today’s cameras.

The speed of the AF system is highly dependent on the maximum aperture offered by the lens. F-stops of around f/2 to f/2.8 are generally considered optimal in terms of focusing speed and accuracy. Faster lenses than this typically have very low depth of field, meaning that it takes longer to achieve correct focus, despite the increased amount of light. Most consumer camera systems will only autofocus reliably with lenses that have a maximum aperture of at least f/5.6, while professional models can often cope with lenses that have a maximum aperture of f/8, which is particularly useful for lenses used in conjunction with teleconverters.

An Autofocus assist beam is a lamp incorporated into photographic cameras and flash units that projects a regular pattern on to the subject which is then used by the camera’s autofocusing system for better autofocusing in low light situations. Some cameras, for example the Canon EOS 20D, do not incorporate a dedicated AF assist beam but can use its internal flash as a stroboscopic flash which lightens the scene with several continuous flashes. This helps the AF to work more precisely, but can be very irritating to the subjects. In some cases an external flash with AF assist beam can be purchased for better results.

Rangefinder Camera Focus

Leica-M7-p1010675 A rangefinder camera is a camera fitted with a rangefinder: a range-finding focusing mechanism allowing the photographer to measure the subject distance and take photographs that are in sharp focus. Most varieties of rangefinder show two images of the same subject, one of which moves when a calibrated wheel is turned; when the two images coincide and fuse into one, the distance can be read off the wheel. Older, non-coupled rangefinder cameras display the focusing distance and require the photographer to transfer the value to the lens focus ring; cameras without built-in rangefinders could have an external rangefinder fitted into the accessory shoe. Earlier cameras of this type had separate viewfinder and rangefinder windows; later the rangefinder was incorporated into the viewfinder. More modern designs have rangefinders coupled to the focusing mechanism, so that the lens is focused correctly when the rangefinder images fuse.

Almost all digital cameras, and most later film cameras, measure distance using electroacoustic or electronic means and focus automatically (autofocus); however, it is not customary to speak of this functionality as a rangefinder.

Pros and Cons

Rangefinder_window Example of the unfocused and focused image in rangefinder window

The viewfinder of a rangefinder camera is necessarily offset from the taking lens, so that the image shown is not exactly what will be recorded on the film; this parallax error is negligible at large subject distances, but increases as the distance decreases. More advanced rangefinder cameras project into the viewfinder a brightline frame that moves as the lens is focused, correcting parallax error down to the minimum distance at which the rangefinder functions. The angle of view of a given lens also changes with distance, and the brightline frames in the finders of a few cameras automatically adjust for this as well. For extreme close-up photography, the rangefinder camera is awkward to use, as the viewfinder no longer points at the subject.

Focus Examples The rangefinder design does not lend itself to zoom lenses, which have a constantly-variable field of view. The only true zoom lens for rangefinder cameras is the Contax G2 Carl Zeiss 35–70mm Vario-Sonnar T* Lens with built-in zoom viewfinder. Very few lenses, such as the Konica M-Hexanon Dual or Leica Tri-Elmar, let the user select among two or three focal lengths; the viewfinder must be designed to work with all focal lengths of any lens used. On a technical level, the rangefinder may become misaligned, leading to incorrect focusing, a problem absent from SLRs.

Nonetheless rangefinder cameras have advantages over SLRs for certain applications. Since there is no moving mirror, as used in SLRs, there is no momentary blackout of the subject being photographed. The camera is therefore often quieter, particularly with leaf shutters, and usually smaller and less obtrusive. These qualities make rangefinders more attractive for theater photography, some portrait photography, action-grabbing candid shots and street photography, and any demanding application where portability matters. The lack of a mirror allows the rear element of lenses to project deep into the camera body, making high-quality wide-angle lenses easier to design. The Voigtländer 12mm lens was the widest-angle rectilinear lens in general production for a long time, with a 121 degree angle of view; only recently have comparable SLR lenses entered the market.

If filters that absorb much light or change the colour of the image are used, it is difficult to compose, view, and focus on an SLR, but the image through a rangefinder viewfinder is unaffected. On the other hand some filters, such as graduated filters and polarizers, are best used with SLRs as the effects they create need to be viewed directly.

Through the Lens Focusing (SLR)

Nikon f_SLR A single-lens reflex (SLR) camera is a camera that uses a semi-automatic moving mirror system which permits the photographer to sometimes see exactly what will be captured by the film or digital imaging system, as opposed to pre-SLR cameras where the view through the viewfinder could be significantly different from what was captured on film.

Prior to the development of SLR, all cameras with viewfinders had two optical light paths: one path through the lens to the film, and another path positioned above (TLR or twin-lens reflex) or to the side (rangefinder). Because the viewfinder and the film lens cannot share the same optical path, the viewing lens is aimed to intersect with the film lens at a fixed point somewhere in front of the camera. This is not problematic for pictures taken at a middle or longer distance but parallax causes framing errors in close-up shots. Moreover, focusing the lens of a non-reflex camera when it is opened to wider apertures (such as in low light or while using low-speed film) is not easy.

Pros and Cons

Most SLR cameras permit upright and laterally correct viewing through use of a pentaprism situated in the optical path between the reflex mirror and viewfinder. Light is reflected by a movable mirror upwards into the pentaprism where it is reflected several times until it aligns with the viewfinder. When the shutter is released, the mirror moves out of the light path and the light shines directly onto the film, or in the case of a DSLR, the CCD or CMOS imaging sensor.

SLR_cross_section.svg Cross-section view of SLR system:
1 – Front-mount lens (4-element Tessar design)
2 – Reflex mirror at 45-degree angle
3 – Focal plane shutter
4 – Film or sensor
5 – Focusing screen
6 – Condenser lens
7 – Optical glass pentaprism (or pentamirror)
8 – Eyepiece (can have diopter correction ability)

Focus can be adjusted manually by the photographer or automatically by an autofocus system. The viewfinder can include a matte focusing screen located just above the mirror system to diffuse the light. This system permits accurate viewing, composing and focusing, especially useful with interchangeable lenses.

Up until the 1990s, SLR was the most advanced photographic preview system available, but the recent development and refinement of digital imaging technology with an on-camera live LCD preview screen has overshadowed SLR’s popularity. Nearly all inexpensive compact digital cameras now include an LCD preview screen allowing the photographer to see exactly what the CCD is capturing. However, SLR is still popular in high-end and professional cameras because they have interchangeable lenses and far less shutter lag, allowing photographs to be timed more precisely. Also the pixel resolution, contrast ratio, refresh rate, and color gamut of an LCD preview screen cannot compete with the clarity and shadow detail of a direct-viewed optical SLR viewfinder.

In contrast, the viewfinder pathway of an SLR transmits an image directly "through the lens". This eliminates parallax errors at any subject distance, thus allowing for macro photography. It also removes the need to have separate viewfinders for different lens focal lengths. In particular, this allows for extreme telephoto lenses which would otherwise be very hard to focus and compose with a rangefinder. Furthermore, the through-the-lens view allows the viewfinder to directly display the depth of field for a given aperture, which is not possible with a rangefinder design. To compensate for this, rangefinder users often use zone focusing, which is especially applicable to the rapid-fire approach to street photography.

Putting Focus to Work

Pre Focussing

Pre Focussing has pretty much been covered in the examples already given. By being a bit smart and thinking about what you are shooting, pre-focussing can save you a lot of time and missed shots.

It is mainly useful for sports where the action is fast and you need to give your lens’ autofocus as much help as possible.

Try to "Pre-focus" on a fast corner of a Grand Prix track so your lens doesn’t waste time searching for the right focus point. Pre-focus on the point of exit on a snow-boarder or skiers jump. Pre-focus on the point on a playground slide where you wish to photograph your child…I think you get the point!

As an experiment, spend an entire day out and about photographing, using nothing but manual focus and see how you get on. It will hone in your skills and when you get back to autofocus, you may have learned a thing or two.

Many modern lenses allow you to "finely adjust" manually even with the lens on autofocus so you can really work "with" your lens.


Panning is an age-old technique that I am sure many of you already know/use. For any moving subject it is important to "stay with" the subject whilst you are framing the shot before and after you shoot.

With slower shutter speeds, this technique can ensure that the subject stays sharp even if the background is blurred, an effect that is quite striking and effective for sports

A simple way to try this is to stand by the side of a road and pick out a car coming towards you;

  • Set your cameras shutter speed to either 30th/sec or 60th/sec, basically slow enough to cause movement as you swing or pan the camera. The aperture and depth of field are somewhat irrelevant as the background will be blurred anyway.
  • Make sure that you aren’t too close to the road. One, for your own safety and secondly if you are too close, the car will become distorted, especially with wide angle lenses, although this may be the effect you like. A small telephoto like 85 or 100mm is good for this technique.
  • Either, pre-select and manually focus on the point directly in front of you where you want to take the shot, this will "fix" the focus on that point, or set the autofocus to AI servo in order to "track" the moving car.
  • Aim your camera at the car and stay with it with your finger lightly pressing the shutter button to either track the focus (in AI servo mode) or/and to get a constant exposure reading.
  • At the point where it passes your pre-designated shooting area, fire away, whilst "panning" with the car all the time, and even use continuous mode if you have it to ensure one shot comes out well.
Focusing for Depth of Field

Focusing for Depth of Field (DOF) – Depth of field is the term used to describe the amount of your image that is in focus. Landscapes, for example, where everything is in focus have good or deep DOF and a macro shot where only a small part of the image is in focus has poor or shallow DOF.

Depth of field is generally determined by the aperture setting with larger apertures of say F2.8 giving shallow depth (not much in focus) and small apertures of say F16 giving deep or good depth of field (most of the image in focus).

By closing the aperture to its smallest setting of say F32, you won’t actually increase the depth of field. This is because some of the light rays passing through the aperture become diffracted at very small apertures causing poorer quality.

You can read more of this effect at the Michigan Tech website.

The lens that you use also plays a massive part in creating depth of field.

When to Use Manual Focus instead of Autofocus

Darren Rowse writes in the article “When is Manual Focus Better than Autofocus?” (see reference below) about several cases that call for using manual focus. In general, most other cases can use autofocus quite well. Manual focus is needed when:

Modern day Digital Cameras present photographers with an ever increasing array of Automatic and Semi Automatic shooting modes. Most of these center around different ways of exposing your shots – however many cameras also give options for different focusing modes (eg – auto, continuous focusing for moving subjects, single point focusing, multiple point focusing, face recognition focusing and manual).

It’s no wonder then that many photographers never make use of their camera and lens’ ability to focus manually.

In fact this week I spoke with one young DSLR owner recently who hadn’t even noticed the manual/auto focus switch on the side of his lens. He’d grown up with Auto focus on every camera he’d ever owned and hadn’t thought this his camera might have manual focus.

So when is Manual Focus Better than Auto Focus?

Let me start by saying there is no right or wrong time to use either manual or auto focusing – both can produce great results in almost all circumstances – however there are a few times when you might find it easier to switch to manual focusing. These include:

Macro Work

macro-1 Photo by marikp1018

When doing macro photography I almost exclusively switch to manual focusing and find the results much more pleasing.

The narrow depth of field in these shots mean that you need to be incredibly precise with focusing and being just a smidgen out or having your camera choose to focus on the wrong part of your subject can have a significant impact upon your image (for better or for worse).

Manual focusing puts the control completely in your hands and will get your images with the right parts in focus.


portrait-3 Photo by JBrd

When shooting portraits focus needs to be precise.

The majority of your shots of people will need to have their eyes in perfect focus.

Switching to manual focus will give you complete control to enable this rather than having to line up the focusing points on your camera on the eyes prefocussing by pressing halfway down and then having to frame your shot.

Manual focusing keeps this to be a much simpler process.

Shooting Through Glass or Wire Fences

fence-1 Photo by iain rendle

If you’ve ever shot through anything like a window or a mess/wire fence at a zoo or museum you’ll know how cameras will often get confused on where to focus.

Sometimes falsely focusing too closely on the fence or glass instead of your subject.

Manual focusing will avoid this completely and allow you to tell the camera exactly what you want to be in focus and what you want to be blurred.

Action Photography

action-focus Photo by Digital Gurl

Shooting fast moving subjects (like racing cars, planes, running or flying animals etc) can be a frustrating experience when shooting with auto focus.

Even the continuous focusing modes can get left behind or confusing if you’re not panning with your subject smoothly.

One way to overcome this is to switch to manual focusing and prefocus on a point that the subject will move through – and shooting at that point.

Low Light

low-light-focus Photo by Jim Skea

Shooting in dimly lit environments can be difficult for some cameras and lenses when it comes to focusing.

You’ll know when your camera is struggling in Auto mode when every time you go to take a shot the lens will whirl from one end of it’s focusing options to the other and back again before deciding on where to focus.

This can really lengthen your shooting process and make taking quick candid shots quite frustrating.


Shooting in manual focus mode is a skill that you need to learn and practice. While you will have more time to get it right when shooting still objects – it can become more difficult when shooting moving subjects – so practice.

This week set aside an hour or two with your camera to shoot only in manual focus mode. Practice on a variety of subjects including some moving ones. While your practice session might not produce great results the skill that you learn will be useful to have.



Bryan Peterson. (1998) Exposure. AMPhoto

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Camera…

Wikipedia: Autofocus…

Wikipedia: Rangefinder Camera…

Wikipedia: Single-Lens Reflex Camera…

Other Web Sites:

All Things Photography: Autofocus or Manual?

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by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 This is Part 1 of 2 and will be the first of a series of postings in honor of Black Women and their contribution to our country during Black History month. This series will appear on each weekend day. We start out this series with one of the women who was involved in the abolitionist movement during the pre-Civil War period. She worked with the Underground Railroad, which provided a series of “safe houses” in which runaway slaves could hide on their journey to Canada.

Tubman was a real pioneer advocate against slavery and for the Union. She was in contact with other Black leaders like Frederick Douglass and worked with the Union army during the Civil War. In later life, she worked with Susan B. Anthony and helped found the AME Zion Church. She was, indeed, a woman of her time who rose up to meet a need: the need of her people to be free.  GLB


“I never ran my train off the track, and I never lost a passenger.”
— Harriet Tubman

“I grew up like a neglected weed — ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it.”
— Harriet Tubman

“We will be ourselves and free, or die in the attempt. Harriet Tubman was not our great-grandmother for nothing.”
— Alice Walker, You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down

“The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witness of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism.”
— Frederick Douglass

“Quakers almost as good as colored…. They call themselves friends and you can trust them every time.”
— Harriet Tubman

“Much that you have done would seem improbable to those who do not know you as I know you.”
— Frederick Douglass

“I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.”
— Harriet Tubman

“I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land.”
— Harriet Tubman

“Her tales of adventure are beyond anything in fiction and her ingenuity and generalship are extraordinary. I have known her for some time — the slaves call her Moses.”
— Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 1859 Letter

“We saw the lightning and that was the guns; and then we heard the thunder and that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain falling and that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped.”
— Harriet Tubman

“… a more ordinary specimen of humanity could hardly be found among the most unfortunate-looking farm hands of the South. Yet in point of courage, shrewdness, and disinterested exertions to rescue her fellow-man, she was without equal.”
— Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 1859 Letter

“I am where I am because of the bridges that I crossed. Sojourner Truth was a bridge. Harriet Tubman was a bridge. Ida B. Wells was a bridge. Madame C. J. Walker was a bridge. Fannie Lou Hamer was a bridge.”
— Oprah Winfrey


Black Women in History: Harriet Tubman

Harriet_Tubman Harriet Tubman (Born: Araminta Ross; c. 1822 – 1913) was an African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy during the American Civil War. After escaping from slavery, into which she was born, she made thirteen missions to rescue over seventy slaves using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. She later helped John Brown recruit men for his raid on Harpers Ferry, and in the post-war era struggled for women’s suffrage.

As a child in Dorchester County, Maryland, Tubman was beaten and whipped by her various masters to whom she had been hired out. Early in her life, she suffered a traumatic head wound when she was hit by a heavy metal weight thrown by an irate overseer, intending to hit another slave. The injury caused disabling seizures, headaches, powerful visionary and dream activity, and spells of hypersomnia which occurred throughout her entire life. A devout Christian, she ascribed her visions and vivid dreams to premonitions from God.

In 1849, Tubman escaped to Philadelphia, then immediately returned to Maryland to rescue her family. Slowly, one group at a time, she brought relatives with her out of the state, and eventually guided dozens of other slaves to freedom. Traveling by night and in extreme secrecy, Tubman (or "Moses", as she was called) "never lost a passenger," as she later put it at women’s suffrage meetings. Large rewards were offered for the capture and return of many of the people she helped escape, but no one ever knew it was Harriet Tubman who was helping them. When the far-reaching United States Fugitive Slave Law was passed in 1850, she helped guide fugitives farther north into Canada, and helped newly freed slaves find work.

When the American Civil War began, Tubman worked for the Union Army, first as a cook and nurse, and then as an armed scout and spy. The first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, she guided the raid on the Combahee River, which liberated more than seven hundred slaves. After the war, she retired to the family home in Auburn, New York, where she cared for her aging parents. She was active in the women’s suffrage movement until illness overtook her and she had to be admitted to a home for elderly African-Americans she had helped open years earlier.


Modesty, Tubman’s maternal grandmother, arrived in the US on a slave ship from Africa; no information is available about her other ancestors. As a child, Tubman was told that she was of Ashanti lineage (from what is now Ghana), though no evidence exists to confirm or deny this assertion. Her mother Rit (who may have been the child of a white man) was a cook for the Brodess family. Her father Ben was a skilled woodsman who managed the timber work on the plantation. They married around 1808, and according to court records, they had nine children together: Linah, born in 1808, Mariah Ritty in 1811, Soph in 1813, Robert in 1816, Minty (Harriet) in 1822, Ben in 1823, Rachel in 1825, Henry in 1830, and Moses in 1832.

Harriet_Tubman_Locations_Map A map showing key locations
in Tubman’s life

Rit struggled to keep their family together as slavery tried to tear it apart. Edward Brodess sold three of her daughters (Linah, Mariah Ritty, and Soph), separating them from the family forever.[ When a trader from Georgia approached Brodess about buying Rit’s youngest son Moses, she hid him for a month, aided by other slaves and free blacks in the community. At one point she even confronted her owner about the sale. Finally, Brodess and "the Georgia man" came toward the slave quarters to seize the child, where Rit told them: "You are after my son; but the first man that comes into my house, I will split his head open." Brodess backed away and abandoned the sale. Tubman’s biographers agree that tales of this event in the family’s history influenced her belief in the possibilities of resistance.


Because Tubman’s mother was assigned to "the big house" and had scarce time for her own family, as a child Tubman took care of a younger brother and a baby. At the age of five or six, she was hired out to a woman named "Miss Susan" as a nursemaid. Tubman was ordered to keep watch on the baby as it slept; when it woke and cried, Tubman was whipped. She told of a particular day when she was lashed five times before breakfast. She carried these scars for the rest of her life. Threatened later for stealing a lump of sugar, Tubman hid in a neighbor’s pig sty for five days, where she fought with the animals for scraps of food. Starving, she returned to Miss Susan’s house and received a heavy beating. Later, to protect herself from such abuse, she wrapped herself in layers of clothing, but cried out as she might if less protected. Another time, she bit a white man’s knee while receiving a punishment; afterwards, he kept his distance from her.

Tubman also worked as a child at the home of a planter named James Cook, where she was ordered into nearby marshes to check the muskrat traps. Even after contracting the measles, she was sent into waist-high cold water. She became very ill and was sent back home. Her mother nursed her back to health, whereupon she was immediately hired out again to various farms. Tubman spoke later of her acute childhood homesickness, once comparing herself to "the boy on the Swanee River", an allusion to Stephen Foster’s song "Old Folks at Home". As she grew older and stronger, she was assigned to grueling field and forest work: driving oxen, plowing, and hauling logs.

Head injury

One day, when she was an adolescent, Tubman was sent to a dry-goods store for some supplies. There, she encountered a slave owned by a different family, who had left the fields without permission. His overseer, furious, demanded that Tubman help restrain the young man. She refused, and as the slave ran away, the overseer threw a two-pound weight from the store’s counter. It missed and struck Tubman instead, which she said "broke my skull". She later explained her belief that her hair – which "had never been combed and … stood out like a bushel basket" – might have saved her life. Bleeding and unconscious, Tubman was returned to her owner’s house and laid on the seat of a loom, where she remained without medical care for two days.

She was immediately sent back into the fields, "with blood and sweat rolling down my face until I couldn’t see." Her boss said she was "not worth a sixpence" and returned her to Brodess, who tried unsuccessfully to sell her. She began having seizures and would seemingly fall unconscious, although she claimed to be aware of her surroundings even though she appeared to be asleep. These episodes were alarming to her family who were unable to wake her when she fell asleep suddenly and without warning. This condition remained with Tubman for the rest of her life; Larson suggests she may have suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy as a result of the injury.

This severe head wound occurred at a time in her life when Tubman was becoming deeply religious. As an illiterate child, she had been told Bible stories by her mother. The particular variety of her early Christian belief remains unclear, but Tubman acquired a passionate faith in God. She rejected white interpretations of scripture urging slaves to be obedient, finding guidance in the Old Testament tales of deliverance. After her brain trauma, Tubman began experiencing visions and potent dreams, which she considered signs from the divine. This religious perspective instructed her throughout her life.

Escape from slavery

David_Hunter In 1849, Tubman became ill again, and her value as a slave was diminished as a result. Edward Brodess tried to sell her, but could not find a buyer. Angry at this effort (and the unjust hold he kept on her relatives), Tubman began to pray for her owner, asking God to make him change his ways. "I prayed all night long for my master," she said later, "till the first of March; and all the time he was bringing people to look at me, and trying to sell me." When it appeared as though the sale was being finalized, she switched tactics. "I changed my prayer," she said. "First of March I began to pray, ‘Oh Lord, if you ain’t never going to change that man’s heart, kill him, Lord, and take him out of the way." A week later, Brodess died, and Tubman expressed regret for her earlier sentiments. Ironically, Brodess’s death increased the likelihood that Tubman would be sold and the family would be broken apart. His widow Eliza began working to sell the family’s slaves. Tubman refused to wait for the Brodess family to decide her fate, despite her husband’s efforts to dissuade her. "[T]here was one of two things I had a right to," she explained later, "liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other."

Tubman and her brothers Ben and Henry escaped from slavery on September 17, 1849. Tubman had been hired out to Dr. Anthony Thompson, who owned a very large plantation called Poplar Neck in neighboring Caroline County, and it is likely her brothers labored for Thompson there as well. Because the slaves were hired out to another household, Eliza Brodess probably did not recognize their absence as an escape attempt for some time. Two weeks later, however, she posted a runaway notice in the Cambridge Democrat, offering a reward of up to one hundred dollars for each slave returned. Once they had left, however, Tubman’s brothers succumbed to second thoughts. Ben had just become a father, and the two men – fearful of the dangers ahead – went back, forcing Tubman to return with them.

Harriet_Tubman_Reward_Notice_1849 Notice published in the Cambridge
Democrat, offering a three hundred
dollar reward for Araminta (Minty)
and her brothers Harry and Ben

Soon afterwards, Tubman escaped again, this time without her brothers. The night before she left, Tubman tried to send word to her mother of her departure. She located Mary, a trusted fellow slave, and sang a coded song of farewell: "I’ll meet you in the morning," she intoned, "I’m bound for the promised land". While her exact route is unknown, Tubman made use of the extensive network known as the Underground Railroad. This informal but well-organized system was composed of free and enslaved blacks, white abolitionists, and other activists. Most prominent among the latter in Maryland at the time were members of the Religious Society of Friends, often called Quakers. The Preston area near Poplar Neck in Caroline County, Maryland contained a significant Quaker community, and was probably an important first stop during Tubman’s escape, if not the starting point. From there, she probably took a common route for fleeing slaves: northeast along the Choptank River, through Delaware and then north into Pennsylvania. A journey of nearly ninety miles (145 kilometers), traveling by foot would take between five days and three weeks.

Her dangerous journey required Tubman to travel by night (guided by the North Star), avoiding the careful eyes of "slavecatchers", eager to collect rewards for fugitive slaves. The "conductors" in the Underground Railroad used a variety of deceptions to hide and protect her. At one of the earliest stops, the lady of the house ordered Tubman to sweep the yard to make it appear as though she worked for the family. When night fell, the family hid her in a cart and took her to the next friendly house. Given her familiarity with the woods and marshes of the region, it is likely that Tubman hid in these locales during the day. Because the routes she followed were used by other fugitive slaves, Tubman did not speak about them until later in her life.

Particulars of her first journey remain shrouded in secrecy. She crossed into Pennsylvania with a feeling of relief and awe, and recalled the experience years later: "When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven."


Harriet_Tubman_Civil_War_WoodcutImmediately after reaching the city of Philadelphia, Tubman began thinking of her family. "I was a stranger in a strange land," she said later. "[M]y father, my mother, my brothers, and sisters, and friends were [in Maryland]. But I was free, and they should be free." She began to work odd jobs and save money. At the same time, the U.S. Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which forced law enforcement officials (even in states which had outlawed slavery) to aid in the capture of fugitive slaves, and imposed heavy punishments on those who abetted escape. The law increased risks for escaped slaves, many of whom headed north to Canada. Meanwhile, racial tension was increasing in Philadelphia itself, as the city expanded.

In December 1850, Tubman received a warning that her niece Kessiah was going to be sold (along with her two children, six-year-old James Alfred, and baby Araminta) in Cambridge, Maryland. Horrified at the prospect of having her family broken further apart, Tubman did something very few slaves ever did: she voluntarily returned to the land of her enslavement. She went to Baltimore, where her brother-in-law Tom Tubman hid her until the time of the sale. Kessiah’s husband, a free black man named John Bowley, made the winning bid for his wife. Then, while he pretended to make arrangements to pay, Kessiah and her children absconded to a nearby safe house. When night fell, Bowley ferried the family on a log canoe sixty miles (one hundred kilometers) to Baltimore. They met up with Tubman, who brought the family safely to Philadelphia.

The following spring, she headed back into Maryland to help guide away other family members. On this, her second trip, she brought back her brother Moses, and two other unidentified men. It is likely that Tubman was by this time working with abolitionist Thomas Garrett, a Quaker working in Wilmington, Delaware. Word of her exploits had encouraged her family, and biographers agree that she became more confident with each trip to Maryland. As she led more and more individuals out of slavery, she became popularly known as "Moses" – an allusion to the prophet in the Book of Exodus who led the Hebrews to freedom.

BE047975 During an interview with author Wilbur Siebert in 1897, Tubman revealed some of the names of helpers and places she used along the Underground Railroad. She stayed with Sam Green, a free black minister living in East New Market, Maryland; she also hid near her parents’ home at Poplar Neck in Caroline County, MD. From there, she would travel northeast to Sandtown and Willow Grove, Delaware, and onto the Camden area where free black agents William and Nat Brinkley, and Abraham Gibbs guided her north past Dover, Smyrna, and Blackbird, where other agents would take her across the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal to New Castle and Wilmington. In Wilmington, Quaker Thomas Garrett would secure transportation to William Still’s office or the homes of other Underground Railroad operators in the greater Philadelphia area. Still, a famous black agent, is credited with aiding hundreds of freedom seekers escape to safer places farther north in New York, New England, and Canada.

In the fall of 1851, Tubman returned to Dorchester County for the first time since her escape, this time to find her husband John. She once again saved money from various jobs, purchased a suit for him, and made her way south. John, meanwhile, had married another woman named Caroline. Tubman sent word that he should join her, but he insisted that he was happy where he was. Tubman at first prepared to storm their house and make a scene, but then decided he was not worth the trouble. Suppressing her anger, she found some slaves who wanted to escape and led them to Philadelphia. John and Caroline raised a family together, until he was killed sixteen years later in a roadside argument with a white man named Robert Vincent.

Frederick_Douglass_portrait Frederick Douglass, who worked
for slavery’s abolition alongside
Tubman and praised her in print

Because the Fugitive Slave Law had made the northern United States more dangerous for escaped slaves, many began migrating further north to Canada. In December 1851, Tubman guided an unidentified group of eleven fugitives – possibly including the Bowleys and several others she had helped rescue earlier – northward. There is evidence to suggest that Tubman and her group stopped at the home of abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass. In his third autobiography, Douglass wrote: "On one occasion I had eleven fugitives at the same time under my roof, and it was necessary for them to remain with me until I could collect sufficient money to get them on to Canada. It was the largest number I ever had at any one time, and I had some difficulty in providing so many with food and shelter…." The number of travelers and the time of the visit make it likely that this was Tubman’s group.

Douglass and Tubman showed a great admiration for one another as they struggled together against slavery. When an early biography of Tubman was being prepared in 1868, Douglass wrote a letter to honor her. It read in part:

You ask for what you do not need when you call upon me for a word of commendation. I need such words from you far more than you can need them from me, especially where your superior labors and devotion to the cause of the lately enslaved of our land are known as I know them. The difference between us is very marked. Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encouragement at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have labored in a private way. I have wrought in the day—you in the night. … The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism. Excepting John Brown—of sacred memory—I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have.

End of Part 1 of 2



Paula J. Giddings. (1996) When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America. Harper

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Harriet Tubman…

Web Sites and Blogs:… Women’s History: Harriet Tubman…

Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman Biography…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Today we look back, on the birthday of Franklin D. Roosevelt, on another time of challenges to our country and its economy. When  FDR was inaugurated as our 32nd president, we were in the midst of the Great Depression. People were out of work and out of hope. Even the rich and famous were suffering, so one can only imagine the plight of the common man. FDR came to office with great hope for the country, for himself, and all Americans. This hope was not abstract, it was rooted in his long struggle with polio and the upward battle that he fought to overcome its crippling effects. Let us all hold onto such hope in today’s trials and gribulations  GLB


“Remember you are just an extra in everyone else’s play.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Physical strength can never permanently withstand the impact of spiritual force.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

“No group and no government can properly prescribe precisely what should constitute the body of knowledge with which true education is concerned.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Not only our future economic soundness but the very soundness of our democratic institutions depends on the determination of our government to give employment to idle men.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

“One thing is sure. We have to do something. We have to do the best we know how at the moment… If it doesn’t turn out right, we can modify it as we go along.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Our national determination to keep free of foreign wars and foreign entanglements cannot prevent us from feeling deep concern when ideals and principles that we have cherished are challenged.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Prosperous farmers mean more employment, more prosperity for the workers and the business men of every industrial area in the whole country.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

“The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself”

FDR on way to 1st Inauguration The first inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt as the 32nd President of the United States was held on Saturday, March 4, 1933. The inauguration marked the commencement of the first four-year term of Franklin D. Roosevelt as President and John Nance Garner as Vice President. It was the last inauguration to be held on the prescribed date of March 4; under the terms of the Twentieth Amendment, all subsequent inaugurations have taken place on January 20. After being sworn-in, Roosevelt became the thirty-second President of the United States.

The inauguration took place in the wake of Democrat Roosevelt’s landslide victory over Republican incumbent Herbert Hoover in the 1932 presidential election. With the nation in the grips of the Great Depression, the new president’s inaugural speech was awaited with great anticipation. Broadcast nationwide on several radio networks, the speech was heard by tens of millions of Americans, and set the stage for Roosevelt’s urgent efforts to respond to the crisis.


Inauguration day was mostly cloudy with a few peaks of sun, and the estimated temperature at midday was 42 degrees Fahrenheit. That morning, Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor attended a 10:15 a.m. worship service at Washington’s St. John’s Episcopal Church, near the White House.

The swearing-in ceremony took place on the East Portico of the United States Capitol, with Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes administering the oath of office. Roosevelt wore a morning coat and striped trousers for the inauguration, and took the oath with his hand on his family Bible, open to I Corinthians 13. Published in 1686 in Dutch, it remains the oldest Bible ever used in an inaugural ceremony, as well as the only one not in English, and was used by Roosevelt for his 1929 and 1931 inaugurations as Governor of New York as well as for his subsequent presidential inaugurations.

Inaugural address

After taking the oath of office, Roosevelt proceeded to deliver his 1,880-word, 27 minute-long inaugural address, best known for his famously pointed reference to “fear itself” in one of its first lines:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear… is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

Addressing himself to the causes of the economic crisis and its moral dimensions, Roosevelt placed blame squarely on the greed and shortsightedness of bankers and businessmen, as seen in the following excerpts:

…rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.

The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.

Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing.

Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation asks for action, and action now.

Roosevelt then turned, in the following excerpts, to the daunting issue of unemployment, which had reached a staggering 25 per cent when he assumed office:

…the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.

More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.

Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously.

There are many ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped merely by talking about it. We must act and act quickly.

After touching briefly on foreign relations — “the policy of the good neighbor — the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others” — Roosevelt turned again to the economic crisis, assuring his countrymen that he would act swiftly and with determination:

I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken Nation in the midst of a stricken world may require. These measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out of its experience and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional authority, to bring to speedy adoption.

But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses, and in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis — broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.


The day after his inauguration, Roosevelt assembled a special session of Congress to declare a four-day bank holiday, and on March 9 signed the Emergency Banking Act, which provided a mechanism for reopening. He continued on for what became his First Hundred Days of the New Deal.

Thinking about FDR

Notes on FDR:

FDR “entered politics because he was a man of ambition and because he wanted to serve his country. His plans were almost cut short while vacationing at Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada, in 1921 when he came down with what, at first, seemed to be a cold. He lost his appetite, his back began to ache, and his left leg went numb. A few days later, he couldn’t stand. At age thirty-nine Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio. Paralyzed from the waist down, he watched as the muscles of his legs began wasting away.

“Roosevelt was determined to beat the disease. For months he crawled from room to room in his house and dragged himself hand over hand up the stairs, gritting his teeth but never asking for help. Every day, he strapped steel braces onto his legs and tried hobbling on crutches to the end of his long driveway. Through rigorous exercise he developed tremendous upper body strength. ‘Maybe my legs aren’t so good,’ he said, ‘but look at those shoulders.’ Despite his efforts, he never again walked without aid.” — William Bennett and John Cribb

He overcame these obstacles to be elected as the 32nd president of the United States in 1932. So the speech above reflects this same outlook for our country in the middle of the Great Depression as he had viewed his own infirmities. He moved forward with hope and determination.


Other Events on this Day
  • In 1798…
    A brawl eruupts in the U.S. House when Matthew Lyon of Vermont spits on Roger Griswold of Connecticut after an exchange of insults.
  • In 1835…
    In the first presidential assassination attempt, Richard Lawrence, a mentally ill man, tries to shoot Andrew Jackson in the U.S. Capitol.
  • In 1847…
    The California town of Yerba Buena is renamed San Francisco.
  • In 1862…
    The Union ironclad USS Monitor is launched at Greenpoint, New York.
  • In 1882…
    Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the thirty-second president, is born in Hyde Park, New York
  • In 1933…
    The first episode of the Lone Ranger is broadcast on radio station WXYZ in Detroit.



Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: First Inaugural of Franklin D. Roosevelt…

Wikisource: Franklin Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address…

Web Sites and Blogs: Franklin D. Roosevelt…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Today we take a look at one of the Impressionist artists, Claude Monet. He was part of a new generation of artists in the latter part of the 19th century, especially in France, who abandoned the confines of the studio to capture the beauty of people in natural settings DIRECTLY ON CANVAS. Because they no longer controlled the conditions under which they created their masterpieces, they needed to learn to read and use light, just as photographers must do. Therefore, we find them creating studies of the same subject (e.g., Rouen Cathedral) painted at different time of day and under different lighting conditions.  GLB


“Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.”
— Claude Monet

“I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.”
— Claude Monet

“My life has been nothing but a failure.”
— Claude Monet

“I am following Nature without being able to grasp her, I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.”
— Claude Monet

“No one is an artist unless he carries his picture in his head before painting it, and is sure of his method and composition.”
— Claude Monet

“People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it’s simply necessary to love.”
— Claude Monet

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
— Georges Seurat, Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh

“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.”
— Claude Monet

“The older I become the more I realize of that I have to work very hard to reproduce what I search: the instantaneous. The influence of the atmosphere on the things and the light scattered throughout.”
— Claude Monet


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Claude Monet (1840 – 1926)

Claude_Monet_1899_Nadar_crop Claude Monet, also known as Oscar Claude Monet or Claude Oscar Monet, was a founder of French impressionist painting, and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement’s philosophy of expressing one’s perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air landscape painting. The term Impressionism is derived from the title of his painting Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant).

In 1845, his family moved to Le Havre in Normandy. His father wanted him to go into the family grocery business, but Monet wanted to become an artist. His mother was a singer.

On the first of April 1851, Monet entered Le Havre secondary school of the arts. Locals knew him well for his charcoal caricatures, which he would sell for ten to twenty francs. Monet also undertook his first drawing lessons from Jacques-François Ochard, a former student of Jacques-Louis David. On the beaches of Normandy in about 1856/1857 he met fellow artist Eugène Boudin, who became his mentor and taught him to use oil paints. Boudin taught Monet "en plein air" (outdoor) techniques for painting. Both received the influence of Johan Barthold Jongkind.

On 28 January 1857 his mother died. At the age of sixteen, he left school and went to live with his widowed childless aunt, Marie-Jeanne Lecadre.


Claude_Monet_River_Scene_at_Bennecourt,_Seine On the Bank of the Seine,
Bennecourt (1868), an early
example of plein-air impressionism,
in which a gestural and suggestive
use of oil paint was presented as
a finished work of art.

When Monet traveled to Paris to visit the Louvre, he witnessed painters copying from the old masters. Having brought his paints and other tools with him, he would instead go and sit by a window and paint what he saw. Monet was in Paris for several years and met other young painters who would become friends and fellow impressionists; among them was Édouard Manet.

In June 1861, Monet joined the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry in Algeria for a seven-year commitment, but, two years later, after he had contracted typhoid fever, his aunt Marie-Jeanne Lecadre intervened to get him out of the army if he agreed to complete an art course at an art school. It is possible that the Dutch painter Johan Barthold Jongkind, whom Monet knew, may have prompted his aunt on this matter. Disillusioned with the traditional art taught at art schools, in 1862 Monet became a student of Charles Gleyre in Paris, where he met Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frédéric Bazille and Alfred Sisley. Together they shared new approaches to art, painting the effects of light en plein air with broken color and rapid brushstrokes, in what later came to be known as Impressionism.

Monet’s Camille or The Woman in the Green Dress (La femme à la robe verte), painted in 1866, brought him recognition and was one of many works featuring his future wife, Camille Doncieux; she was the model for the figures in The Woman in the Garden of the following year, as well as for On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt, 1868, pictured here. Shortly thereafter, Camille became pregnant and gave birth to their first child, Jean.

Franco-Prussian War, Impressionism, and Argenteuil

Claude_Monet,_Impression,_soleil_levant,_1872 Impression, Sunrise (Impression,
soleil levant) (1872).

After the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War (19 July 1870), Monet took refuge in England in September 1870. While there, he studied the works of John Constable and Joseph Mallord William Turner, both of whose landscapes would serve to inspire Monet’s innovations in the study of color. In the Spring of 1871, Monet’s works were refused authorisation for inclusion in the Royal Academy exhibition.

In May 1871, he left London to live in Zaandam, in the Netherlands, where he made twenty-five paintings (and the police suspected him of revolutionary activities). He also paid a first visit to nearby Amsterdam. In October or November 1871, he returned to France. Monet lived from December 1871 to 1878 at Argenteuil, a village on the right bank of the Seine river near Paris, and a popular Sunday-outing destination for Parisians, where he painted some of his best known works. In 1874, he briefly returned to Holland.

Pierre_August_Renoir,_Claude_Monet_Reading Pierre-Auguste Renoir,
Claude Monet Reading,

In 1872, he painted Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant) depicting a Le Havre landscape. It hung in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874 and is now displayed in the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris. From the painting’s title, art critic Louis Leroy coined the term "Impressionism", which he intended as disparagement but which the Impressionists appropriated for themselves.

Also in this exhibition was a painting titled Boulevard des Capucines, a painting of the boulevard done from the photographer Nadar’s apartment at no. 35. There were, however, two paintings by Monet of the boulevard: one is now in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, the other in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. It has never become clear which painting appeared in the groundbreaking 1874 exhibition, though more recently the Moscow picture has been favoured.

Monet and Camille Doncieux had married just before the war (28 June 1870) and, after their excursion to London and Zaandam, they had moved to Argenteuil, in December 1871. It was during this time that Monet painted various works of modern life. Camille became ill in 1876. They had a second son, Michel, on 17 March 1878, (Jean was born in 1867). This second child weakened her already fading health. In that same year, he moved to the village of Vétheuil. On 5 September 1879, Camille Monet died of tuberculosis at the age of thirty-two; Monet painted her on her death bed.

Later life

Clémentel_monet_in_seinen_gaerten_20008_1 Claude Monet, in his garden,
by Étienne Clémentel,
c. 1917

After several difficult months following the death of Camille, a grief-stricken Monet (resolving never to be mired in poverty again) began in earnest to create some of his best paintings of the 19th century. During the early 1880s, Monet painted several groups of landscapes and seascapes in what he considered to be campaigns to document the French countryside. His extensive campaigns evolved into his series’ paintings.

Camille Monet had become ill with tuberculosis in 1876. Pregnant with her second child she gave birth to Michel Monet in March 1878. In 1878 the Monets temporarily moved into the home of Ernest Hoschedé, (1837-1891), a wealthy department store owner and patron of the arts. Both families then shared a house in Vétheuil during the summer. After her husband (Ernest Hoschedé) became bankrupt, and left in 1878 for Belgium, in September 1879, and while Monet continued to live in the house in Vétheuil; Alice Hoschedé helped Monet to raise his two sons, Jean and Michel, by taking them to Paris to live alongside her own six children. They were Blanche Hoschedé Monet, (She eventually married Jean Monet), Germaine, Suzanne Hoschedé, Marthe, Jean-Pierre, and Jacques.

In the spring of 1880, Alice Hoschedé and all the children left Paris and rejoined Monet still living in the house in Vétheuil. In 1881, all of them moved to Poissy which Monet hated. In April 1883, from the window of the little train between Vernon and Gasny he discovered Giverny. They then moved to Vernon, then to a house in Giverny, Eure, in Upper Normandy, where he planted a large garden where he painted for much of the rest of his life. Following the death of her estranged husband, Alice Hoschedé married Claude Monet in 1892.


488px-'Port-Goulphar,_Belle-Île',_oil_on_canvas_painting_by_Claude_Monet,_1887 Port-Goulphar, Belle Île, 1887,
Art Gallery of New South Wales

At the beginning of May 1883, Monet and his large family rented a house and 2 acres (8,100 m2) from a local landowner. The house was situated near the main road between the towns of Vernon and Gasny at Giverny. There was a barn that doubled as a painting studio, orchards and a small garden. The house was close enough to the local schools for the children to attend and the surrounding landscape offered an endless array of suitable motifs for Monet’s work. The family worked and built up the gardens and Monet’s fortunes began to change for the better as his dealer Paul Durand-Ruel had increasing success in selling his paintings. By November 1890, Monet was prosperous enough to buy the house, the surrounding buildings and the land for his gardens.

During the 1890s, Monet built a greenhouse and a second studio, a spacious building well lit with skylights. Beginning in the 1880s and 1890s through the end of his life in 1926, Monet worked on "series" paintings, in which a subject was depicted in varying light and weather conditions. His first series exhibited as such was of Haystacks, painted from different points of view and at different times of the day. Fifteen of the paintings were exhibited at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in 1891. He later produced several series of paintings including: Rouen Cathedral, Poplars, the Parliament, Mornings on the Seine, and the Water Lilies that were painted on his property at Giverny.

Monet was exceptionally fond of painting controlled nature: his own gardens in Giverny, with its water lilies, pond, and bridge. He also painted up and down the banks of the Seine, producing paintings such as Break-up of the ice on the Seine.

He wrote daily instructions to his gardening staff, precise designs and layouts for plantings, and invoices for his floral purchases and his collection of botany books. As Monet’s wealth grew, his garden evolved. He remained its architect, even after he hired seven gardeners.

Charing_Cross_Bridge,_Monet Charing Cross Bridge, 1899, Collection Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza,
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum,

Between 1883 and 1908, Monet traveled to the Mediterranean, where he painted landmarks, landscapes, and seascapes, such as Bordighera. He painted an important series of paintings in Venice, Italy, and in London he painted two important series—views of Parliament and views of Charing Cross Bridge. His second wife, Alice, died in 1911 and his oldest son Jean, who had married Alice’s daughter Blanche, Monet’s particular favourite, died in 1914. After his wife died, Blanche looked after and cared for him. It was during this time that Monet began to develop the first signs of cataracts.

During World War I, in which his younger son Michel served and his friend and admirer Clemenceau led the French nation, Monet painted a series of Weeping Willow trees as homage to the French fallen soldiers. In 1923, he underwent two operations to remove his cataracts: the paintings done while the cataracts affected his vision have a general reddish tone, which is characteristic of the vision of cataract victims. It may also be that after surgery he was able to see certain ultraviolet wavelengths of light that are normally excluded by the lens of the eye, this may have had an effect on the colors he perceived. After his operations, he even repainted some of these paintings, with bluer water lilies than before the operation.

Monet and the Study of Light

So far we have seen and presented Monet’s painting works. As photography enthusiasts, what does this mean for us? The answer to that question lies in the studies that he made about the effects of light. Painters, before the time of the Impressionists like Monet, brought their subjects into the studio, or sketches of landscapes into the studio. They would then paint during a limited period of the day so they could use the same lighting from one sitting to the next.

The Impressionists broke with that tradition by going into the countryside, en plein aire, to paint their canvases. This allowed them to capture nature in all of its changing glory. This led Monet to paint the same objects repeatedly in different lighting conditions. Monet used the façade of the cathedral in Rouen as one of these objects. He would paint it in morning light, in the bright sun, in hazy sun, at sunset. In this way, he studied the “moods” of the cathedral at the various times of day.

We, as photographers, learn very quickly that the time of day greatly affects the scenes that we photograph. This comes through in the tonality of both black and white photos and color photos; we can capture both the content and the mood of our subjects by attending to the lighting. So let’s continue our examination of Monet.  GLB

Fernandez, on his blog “TheArtWolf”, describes the differences light makes on the Rouen Cathedral. We incorporate some of his observations here:

The representation of a same pictorial object at different moments with the aim of observing the changes caused by the natural light was not new for Monet, who between 1890 and 1891 had already created a series of 15 canvases representing a group of haystacks in the outskirts of Giverny. These haystacks are painted under the summer sun, in the sunset or in the dusk; at the end of the summer, in the heat of winter or in the early spring. The paintings must be seen more like an interest for the dynamic nature that for a pictorial-scientist theory (Monet himself declared that "I have always hated those awful theories"). The series was praised by the critics and was a great commercial success. Wassily Kandinsky had the opportunity of seeing one of these haystacks in an exhibition in Moscow in 1895, and was impressed to the point of suggesting it as the first abstract painting of the Art history: "And suddenly, for the first time, I saw a picture. I read in the catalogue that was a haystack, but I could not recognize it (.) I realized that there the object of the picture was missed (.) What I had perfectly present was the unsuspected -and until then hidden- power of the palette"

Claude_Monet_-_Graystaks_I But with the Cathedral series Monet goes even beyond: Here the aim is not to represent a tangible model -as it happened in the haystacks ones- under different luminance and climatic conditions. In the Rouen Cathedral series, the authentic protagonist is not the architectonic model, in a certain sense "despised" by Monet, who use a point of view extremely nearby, of such form that the architecture, due to the almost complete absence of perspective, loses its grandeur and it’s even sectioned in the towers and pinnacles: so the building is here not more than a background, an "excuse", to show the authentic protagonist of the composition: the power of the painting to represent the dynamic quality of the light and the atmosphere, capable of giving life to something so stony and inanimate as the imposing facade of the Gothic Cathedral. That what Kandinsky was able to decipher in the haystacks is here more than evident.

Evidently, among the 31 canvases of the Cathedral series there are more differences than those caused by the different conditions of light and atmosphere. Monet chose five different points of view – two from the square and three from different rooms in the building opposite to the Cathedral- representing the Cathedral’s portal (frontally or with the point of view slightly displaced to the right), or the portal and the d’Albane tower (to the left of the portal), but always conserving that unusually nearby point of view. 25 of these views are dated 1894, another one is dated 1893, and five are signed but not dated. However, as Monet finished most of views in his workshop, it’s more important the date in which each canvas was started (mostly 1892 and 1893). The election of the palette reflects the different shades in which the daily light was dyeing the Cathedral facade: form the smooth blues of the morning (fig 2 and 3) to the vivid ochre and golden shades in the soleil pictures (fig 4, 5, 6 and 7) and browns and greys in the cloudy days (fig 8 and 9)

rouen_cathedral-1 Figure 1
View of the Rouen Cathedral’s portal nowadays

monet_rouen_1893_matin_orsay 2 Figure 2
Claude Monet: The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in
morning light, harmony in blue. 1894.
Paris, Musée d’Orsay

monet_rouen_1894_west_facade_washington 3 Figure 3
Claude Monet: The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in
morning light, harmony in blue. 1894.
Washington, National Gallery of Art

Claude_Monet_033 Figure 4
Claude Monet: The Portal of Rouen Cathedral (soleil),
harmony in blue and gold. 1894.
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

monet_rouen_1893_orsay 5Figure 5
Claude Monet: The Portal of Rouen Cathedral (soleil),
harmony in blue and gold. 1893.
Paris, Musée d’Orsay

monet_rouen_1894_soleil_washington 6Figure 6
Claude Monet: The Portal of Rouen Cathedral and
the tower d’Albane (soleil), harmony in blue and gold. 1894. Washington, National Gallery of Art

monet_rouen_1892_soleil_marmottan 7Figure 7
Claude Monet: The Portal of Rouen Cathedral
at afternoon. 1892.
Paris, Musée Marmottan

monet_rouen_1892_gris_orsay 8Figure 8
Claude Monet: The Portal of Rouen Cathedral,
the Portal on a grey day. 1892.
Paris, Musée d’Orsay

monet_rouen_1894_brune 9 Figure 9
Claude Monet: The Portal of Rouen Cathedral,
"le Portal vu de face", harmony in brown. 1894.
Paris, Musée d’Orsay



Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Clarence John Laughlin…

Wikipedia: Claude Monet and Rouen Cathedral…

Web Sites and Blogs:

Web Site: Claude Monet… Claude Monet — The Rouen Cathedral… Claude Monet…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 It is not unusual for similar solutions to a problem to emerge from two different research centers/laboratories at about the same time. That is science at its best; it is the role of the Internet in today’s society. It is interesting, then, that the critical technology necessary for ARPANet and the Internet emerged from two researchers at about the same time: Paul Baran in the US and Donald Davies in the UK both developed schemes for “Packet Switching”. While Baran has generally be credited for this development, the name derives from the work of Davies! Today we look at Donald Davies contributions to the development of “Packet Switching” and the Internet as a wholeGLB


“Well, you may have got there first, but I got the name.”
— Donald Davies

“Although shy, Davies’s intellectual powers commanded respect. He was a leader, and also liked.”
— Jack Schofield, Guardian Obituary,

“[Davies] explored packet switching in their laboratory, but Donald could not convince the British to fund a wide area network experiment. His papers, however, did show the importance of packet switching for computer communication.”
Internet Society Obituary

“Davies said he had realized that it was inefficient for a computer to send an entire file to another computer in an uninterrupted stream of data, ‘chiefly because computer traffic is ‘bursty’ with long periods of silence.’ ‘”
Internet Society Obituary

“The idea [Packet Switching] also transformed the economics of communications. You no longer needed to make a long-distance call to send data across the world, only to call the network’s nearest node – which today is usually a local internet service provider.”
— Jack Schofield, Guardian Obituary,

“He was an ideas man, and didn’t follow through. It wasn’t that he couldn’t have, it was just that he chose to move on to the next idea. But one of his key features was that he would pick things up well before other people realised they were going to be important.”
— Brian Oakley, Britain’s Strategic Computer Research Initiative

“So, in November 1965, I conceived the use of a purpose-designed network employing packet switching in which the stream of bits is broken up into short messages, or ‘packets,’ that find their way individually to the destination, where they are reassembled into the original stream.”
Internet Society Obituary


Wizards of the Internet: Donald Davies (UK)

davies_donald Donald Watts Davies, CBE FRS (June 7, 1924 – May 28, 2000) was a Welsh computer scientist who was a co-inventor of packet switching (and originator of the term), along with Paul Baran in the US.

Davies was born in Treorchy in the Rhondda Valley, Wales. His father, a clerk at a coalmine, died a few months later, and his mother took Donald and his twin sister back to her home town of Portsmouth, where he went to school.


At Imperial College, London, he gained BSc degrees in physics in 1943 and mathematics in 1947, both with first class honours; he was awarded the Lubbock Memorial Prize as the leading mathematician of his year at London University in 1947. In between the two degrees he worked at Birmingham University on atomic research as an assistant to Klaus Fuchs, and at ICI Billingham.

He joined the war effort working as an assistant to Klaus Fuchs. on the nuclear weapons Tube Alloys project at Birmingham University. He then returned to Imperial taking a first class degree in mathematics (1947); he was also awarded the Lubbock memorial Prize as the outstanding mathematician of his year.

During his last year at university he attended a lecture by John Womersley, superintendent of the mathematics division of the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), about the ACE digital computer which was being developed there. Excited by the potential of the new technology, he immediately applied to join the group, and in September 1947 he joined the laboratory as a member of the small team, which was led by Alan Turing of Bletchley Park fame.

Working with Turing

The group’s work, based on Turing’s design, eventually led to the Pilot ACE computer, which ran its first program on May 10, 1950; it was one of the first four or five electronic stored-program digital computers in the world, and certainly the first in London. Along with Ted Newman, Jim Wilkinson and others, Davies had played an important part in the detailed design and development of the machine, and its successor, the full-scale ACE.

ace1950 From 1947, he worked at the National Physical Laboratory where Alan Turing was designing the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) computer. It is said that Davies spotted mistakes in Turing’s seminal 1936 paper On Computable Numbers, much to Turing’s annoyance. These were perhaps some of the first "programming" errors in existence, even if they were for a theoretical computer, the universal Turing machine. The ACE project was overambitious and foundered, leading to Turing’s departure. Davies took the project over and concentrated on delivering the less ambitious Pilot ACE computer, which first worked in May 1950. A commercial spin-off, DEUCE was manufactured by English Electric Computers and became one of the best-selling machines of the 1950s.

Packet Switching

Davies then worked for a while on applications such as traffic simulation and machine translation. In the early 1960s, he worked on Government technology initiatives designed to stimulate the British computer industry.

The conceptual breakthrough advantage of packet switching was "enabling more with less" through packet-level multi-tasking — routing multiple communications over the same wire at the same time — enabling the construction of data networks at much lower cost with greater throughput, flexibility, and robustness. The following sections provide more information.

In 1966 he returned to the NPL at Teddington just outside London, where he headed and transformed its computing activity. He became interested in data communications following a visit to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he saw that a significant problem with the new time-sharing computer systems was the cost of keeping a phone connection open for each user[2]. He first presented his ideas on packet switching at a conference in Edinburgh on 5 August 1968.

In 1970, Davies helped build a packet switched network called the Mark I to serve the NPL in the UK. It was replaced with the Mark II in 1973, and remained in operation until 1986, influencing other research in the UK and Europe. Larry Roberts of the Advanced Research Projects Agency in the United States became aware of the idea, and built it into the Arpanet, which evolved into the Internet.

Davies relinquished his management responsibilities in 1979 to return to research. He became particularly interested in computer network security. He retired from the NPL in 1984, becoming a security consultant to the banking industry.

Davies was appointed a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society in 1975, a CBE in 1983 and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1987.


The London Times summarized his career as follows:

Donald Davies Scientist who enabled computers to talk to each other, and so made the Internet possible

After working with Alan Turing, the scientific genius who first conceptualised computer programming, Donald Davies went on to make one of the crucial breakthroughs that made possible modern computer communications. He pioneered packet-switching, which enables the exchange of information between computers, without which the Internet could not function.

When Davies was recommended for a Commonwealth Fund Fellowship in 1954, his senior officer described him as "outstanding not only in intellectual power but also in the range of his scientific, technical and general knowledge. He is equally unusual in his ability to apply this knowledge to mechanical and electrical design and even to the actual construction of complex equipment. He is, for example, one of the very small number of persons who could draw up a complete logical design of an electronic computer, realize this design in actual circuitry, assemble it himself (with a high probability that it would work as designed) and then program it and use it for the solution of computational problems." This breadth of interest and ability was a hallmark of his career.

Davies was author or joint author of four influential books in his areas of expertise, notably Computer Networks and their Protocols published in 1973. His contributions, in particular his work on packet-switching, were recognized by the British Computer Society, which conferred on him the John Player Award in 1974 and a Distinguished Fellowship in 1975; he became its technical vice-president in 1983. He was appointed CBE in 1983 and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1987. He was a visiting professor at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College in 1987.

His versatility and his fascination with intellectual challenges and puzzles are evident in his private interests as well as in his formal computer work. Over the years these interests included the design and construction of noughts-and-crosses machines, which were considerable attractions at the annual NPL children’s parties (the game was the subject of his first published paper, in 1950); historic cryptographic machines, particularly the German machines of the Second World War; and all puzzles and games capable of mathematical analysis.

His last project showed that his technical skills remained undiminished: he developed a simulator of the Pilot ACE for a modern personal computer, which was demonstrated earlier this month at a conference celebrating the machine’s 50th anniversary, although sadly illness prevented Davies from attending.



Katie Hafner & Matthew Lyon. (1998) Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet. Simon & Schuster

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

ARPANet can be found at…

The Internet can be found at…

Donald Davies can be found at…

Other Web Sites:

Charles Babbage Institute Collections: Donald Davies…

History Computing Project: Donald Davies…

Guardian Obituary: Donald Davies – Simple Idea that made the internet possible…

Internet Society: Obituary for Donald Davies…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 For all of us who grew up with our heroes being major league baseball players, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown was Mecca. I know that I aspired to become a major league ball player and achieve that lofty status; alas, I took a road more traveled, but that’s another story. Those whose career achievements were outstanding, whose leadership skills legend, and who served as role models for all of us in the bleachers or in front of the radio or TV. Being inducted into the Hall of Fame was something to be admired and inspired by. As grown men, it still is…  GLB


“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”
— Babe Ruth

“Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.”
— Babe Ruth

“I never said most of the things I said.”
— Yogi Berra

“I just want to thank everyone who made this day necessary.”
— Yogi Berra

“I ain’t ever had a job, I just always played baseball.”
— Satchel Paige

“I am convinced that God wanted me to be a baseball player.”
— Roberto Clemente

“How can you think and hit at the same time?”
— Yogi Berra

“If you’re playing baseball and thinking about managing, you’re crazy. You’d be better off thinking about being an owner.”
— Casey Stengel

“Baseball is like a poker game. Nobody wants to quit when he’s losing; nobody wants you to quit when you’re ahead.”
— Jackie Robinson

“The triple is the most exciting play in baseball. Home runs win a lot of games, but I never understood why fans are so obsessed with them.”
— Hank Aaron

“As far as I’m concerned, Aaron is the best ball player of my era. He is to baseball of the last fifteen years what Joe DiMaggio was before him. He’s never received the credit he’s due.”
— Mickey Mantle

“How to hit home runs: I swing as hard as I can, and I try to swing right through the ball… The harder you grip the bat, the more you can swing it through the ball, and the farther the ball will go. I swing big, with everything I’ve got. I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can.”
— Babe Ruth

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

NB_HOF_logo The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is an American museum and hall of fame, located at 25 Main Street in Cooperstown, New York, operated by private interests serving as the central point for the study of the history of baseball in the United States and beyond, the display of baseball-related artifacts and exhibits, and the honoring of persons who have excelled in playing, managing, and serving the sport. The Hall’s motto is “Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations”.

The word Cooperstown is often used as shorthand (or a metonym) for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, just as the expression “Hall of Fame” is understood to mean the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame was dedicated on June 12, 1939 by Lee Ferrick Andrews, grandson of Edward Clark, who was a founder of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. Stephen C. Clark was owner of a local hotel and sought to bring tourists to Cooperstown, which had been suffering economically when the Great Depression significantly reduced the local tourist trade and the Prohibition devastated the local hops industry. The erroneous claim that U.S. Civil War hero Abner Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown, a claim made by former National League president Abraham G. Mills and his 1905 Mills Commission, was instrumental in the early marketing of the Hall.

Baseball_Hof The Entrance to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

An $8 million library and research facility opened in 1994. Dale Petroskey became the organization’s president in 1999.

In 2002, Baseball As America was launched, a traveling exhibit that toured ten American museums over six years. The Hall of Fame has also sponsored educational programming on the Internet to bring the Hall of Fame to schoolchildren who might not visit. The Hall and Museum completed a series of renovations in spring 2005. The Hall of Fame also presents an annual exhibit at FanFest at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

Jeff Idelson replaced Petroskey as president on April 16, 2008. He had been acting as president since March 25, 2008, when his predecessor was forced to resign for “fail[ing] to exercise proper fiduciary responsibility” while making “judgments that were not in the best interest of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.”


Among baseball fans, “Hall of Fame” means not only the museum and facility in Cooperstown, but the pantheon of players, managers, umpires, executives, and pioneers who have been enshrined in the Hall. The first five men elected were Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson, named in 1936. As of January 2010, 292 individuals had been elected to the Hall of Fame, including 203 former Major League players, 35 Negro Leaguers, 19 managers, 9 umpires, and 26 pioneers, executives, and organizers. The newest members are Joe Gordon, Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson; the induction class of 2010 will consist of player Andre Dawson, umpire Doug Harvey and manager Whitey Herzog. In addition to honoring Hall of Fame inductees, the National Baseball Hall of Fame has presented 30 men with the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting, and 57 with the J. G. Taylor Spink Award for excellence in baseball writing. While Frick and Spink Award honorees are not members of the Hall of Fame, they are recognized in an exhibit in the Hall of Fame’s library.

Selection process

Plaque_first Plaques of the First Class
of Inductees

Players are currently inducted into the Hall of Fame through election by either the Baseball Writers Association of America (or BBWAA), or the Veterans Committee, which is now composed of living Hall of Famers; additional special committees, some including recipients of the two major awards, are also regularly formed to make selections. Five years after retirement, any player with 10 years of major league experience who passes a screening committee (which removes from consideration players of clearly lesser qualification) is eligible to be elected by BBWAA members with 10 years’ membership or more. From a final ballot typically including 25–40 candidates, each writer may vote for up to 10 players; until the late 1950s, voters were advised to cast votes for the maximum 10 candidates. Any player named on 75% or more of all ballots cast is elected. A player who is named on fewer than 5% of ballots is dropped from future elections. In some instances, the screening committee had restored their names to later ballots, but in the mid-1990s, dropped players were made permanently ineligible for Hall of Fame consideration, even by the Veterans Committee. A 2001 change in the election procedures restored the eligibility of these dropped players; while their names will not appear on future BBWAA ballots, they may be considered by the Veterans Committee.

Under special circumstances, certain players may be deemed eligible for induction even though they have not met all requirements. This resulted in the induction of Addie Joss, who was elected in 1978 despite only playing in nine seasons due to his death from meningitis. Additionally, if an otherwise eligible player dies before his fifth year of retirement, then that player may be placed on the ballot at the first election at least six months after his death. Roberto Clemente’s induction in 1973 set the precedent when the writers chose to put him up for consideration after his death on New Year’s Eve, 1972.

family-vacations-cooperstown The Baseball Hall of Fame’s mission is to preserve history,
honor excellence, and connect generations.

The five-year waiting period was established in 1954 after an evolutionary process. In 1936 all players were eligible, including active ones. From the 1937 election until the 1945 election, there was no waiting period, so any retired player was eligible, but writers were discouraged from voting for current major leaguers. Since there was no formal rule preventing a writer from casting a ballot for an active player, the scribes did not always comply with the informal guideline; Joe DiMaggio received a vote in 1945, for example. From the 1946 election until the 1954 election, an official one-year waiting period was in effect. (DiMaggio, for example, retired after the 1951 season and was first eligible in the 1953 election.) The modern rule establishing a wait of five years was passed in 1954, although an exception was made for Joe DiMaggio because of his high level of previous support, thus permitting him to be elected within four years of his retirement.

Contrary to popular belief, no formal exception was made for Lou Gehrig, other than to hold a special one-man election for him. There was no waiting period at that time and Gehrig met all other qualifications, so he would have been eligible for the next regular election after he retired during the 1939 season, but the BBWAA decided to hold a special election at the 1939 Winter Meetings in Cincinnati, specifically to elect Gehrig (most likely because it was known that he was terminally ill, making it uncertain that he would live long enough to see another election). Nobody else was on that ballot, and the numerical results have never been made public. Since no elections were held in 1940 or 1941, the special election permitted Gehrig to enter the Hall while still alive.


Official Dedication, 1939:
Back row: Honus Wagner, Grover Cleveland Alexander,
Tris Speaker, Nap Lajoie, George Sisler, Walter Johnson;
Front row: Eddie Collins, Babe Ruth, Connie Mack, Cy YoungIf a player fails to be elected by the BBWAA within 20 years of his retirement from active play, he may be selected by the Veterans Committee, which now holds elections for players only for induction in odd-numbered years. However, only players whose careers began in 1943 or later will be eligible for election by the main Veterans Committee, in accordance with changes to the voting process for that body instituted in July 2007. These changes also established three separate committees to select other figures:

Players of the Negro Leagues have also been considered at various times, beginning in 1971. In 2005 the Hall completed a study on African American players between the late 19th century and the integration of the major leagues in 1947, and conducted a special election for such players in February 2006; seventeen figures from the Negro Leagues were chosen in that election, in addition to the eighteen previously selected.

Predictably, the selection process catalyzes endless debate among baseball fans over the merits of various candidates. Even players already elected remain for years the subjects of discussions as to whether their elections were deserved or in error. For example, Bill James’ book Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame? goes into detail about who he believes does and does not belong in the Hall of Fame.

Other Events on this Day
  • In 1843…
    William McKinley, the twenty-fifth U.L. president, is born in Niles, Ohio.
  • In 1861…
    Kansas becomes the thirty-fourth state.
  • In 1900…
    The American League is organized in Philadelphia with eight baseball teams.
  • In 1936…
    The first five inductees into baseball’s Hall of Fame, including Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, are named in Cooperstown, New York.
  • In 1944…
    The USS Missouri, the Navy’s last battleship, is launched in New York City.    



Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum can be found at…

Web Sites and Blogs: Baseball Quotes… Hall of Fame History…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Robert Frank was not only a great American photographer, but a photographer of our Great America! He emigrated to this country at a young age and grew to love his adopted land. He photographed the people of America. A collection of these images, The Americas, was published and exhibited in both the 1950s and again in the later years of the first decade of the 21st century. He took some time in midlife to work in the film industry, but returned again to still photography to provide us with yet more treasured photos of our beautiful country. He recorded the people of this Beautiful America!  GLB


“It is always the instantaneous reaction to oneself that produces a photograph.”
— Robert Frank

“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.”
— Robert Frank

“Black and white are the colors of photography. To me they symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected.”
— Robert Frank

“I always say that I don’t want to be sentimental, that the photographs shouldn’t be sentimental, and yet, I am conscious of my sentimentality.”
— Robert Frank

“Black and white are the colors of photography. To me they symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected.”
— Robert Frank

“You do your work as a photographer and everything becomes past. Words are more like thoughts; the photographer’s picture is always surrounded by a kind of romantic glamor – no matter what you do, and how you twist it.”
— Robert Frank

“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment. This kind of photography is realism. But realism is not enough — there has to be vision, and the two together can make a good photograph.”
— Robert Frank

My photographs are not planned or composed in advance, and I do not anticipate that the onlooker will share my viewpoint. However, I feel that if my photograph leaves an image on his mind, something has been accomplished.”
— Robert Frank

“I have been frequently accused of deliberately twisting subject matter to my point of view. Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference. Opinion often consists of a kind of criticism. But criticism can come out of love.”
— Robert Frank


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This posting is intended for the educational use of photographers and photography students and complies with the “educational fair use” provisions of copyright law. For readers who might wish to reuse some of these images should check out their compliance with copyright limitations that might apply to that use.



Robert Frank (Born: 1924)

frank portrait Robert Frank, born in Zürich, Switzerland, is an important figure in American photography and film. His most notable work, the 1958 photographic book titled simply The Americans, was heavily influential in the post-war period, and earned Frank comparisons to a modern-day de Tocqueville for his fresh and skeptical outsider’s view of American society. Frank later expanded into film and video and experimented with compositing and manipulating photographs.

Background and early photography career

Frank was born to a wealthy Jewish family in Switzerland. His mother, Rosa, was Swiss, but his father, Hermann, had become stateless after World War I and had to apply for the Swiss citizenship of Frank and his older brother, Manfred. Though Frank and his family remained safe in Switzerland during World War II, the threat of Nazism nonetheless affected his understanding of oppression. He turned to photography, in part, as a means to escape the confines of his business-oriented family and home, and trained under a few photographers and graphic designers before he created his first hand-made book of photographs, 40 Fotos, in 1946. Frank emigrated to the United States in 1947, and secured a job in New York City as a fashion photographer for Harper’s Bazaar. He soon left to travel in South America and Europe. He created another hand-made book of photographs that he shot in Peru, and returned to the U.S. in 1950. That year was momentous for Frank, who, after meeting Edward Steichen, participated in the group show 51 American Photographers at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA); he also married fellow artist, Mary Lockspeiser, with whom he had two children, Andrea and Pablo.

Mabou Mabou by Robert Frank,
from the 2004-2005 Tate Modern
Storylines exhibition

Though he was initially optimistic about United States society and culture, Frank’s perspective quickly changed as he confronted the fast pace of American life and what he saw as an overemphasis on money. He now saw America as an often bleak and lonely place, a perspective that became evident in his later photography. Frank’s own dissatisfaction with the control that editors exercised over his work also undoubtedly colored his experience. He continued to travel, moving his family briefly to Paris. In 1953, he returned to New York and continued to work as a freelance photojournalist for magazines including McCall’s, Vogue, and Fortune.

The Americans

The_Americans Robert Frank’s noted book,
The Americans (1958)

With the aid of his major artistic influence, the photographer Walker Evans, Frank secured a grant from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 1955 to travel across the United States and photograph its society at all strata. Cities he visited included Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan; Savannah, Georgia; Miami Beach and St. Petersburg, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; Houston, Texas; Los Angeles, California; Reno, Nevada; Salt Lake City, Utah; Butte, Montana; and Chicago, Illinois. He took his family along with him for part of his series of road trips over the next two years, during which time he took 28,000 shots. Only 83 of those were finally selected by him for publication in The Americans. Frank’s journey was not without incident. While driving through Arkansas, Frank was arbitrarily thrown in jail after being stopped by the police; elsewhere in the South, he was told by a sheriff that he had "an hour to leave town."

robert_frank_americans_p37_500px Shortly after returning to New York in 1957, Frank met Beat writer Jack Kerouac on the sidewalk outside a party and showed him the photographs from his travels. Kerouac immediately told Frank "Sure I can write something about these pictures," and he contributed the introduction to the U.S. edition of The Americans. Frank also became lifelong friends with Allen Ginsberg, and was one of the main visual artists to document the Beat subculture, which felt an affinity with Frank’s interest in documenting the tensions between the optimism of the 1950s and the realities of class and racial differences. The irony that Frank found in the gloss of American culture and wealth over this tension gave Frank’s photographs a clear contrast to those of most contemporary American photojournalists, as did his use of unusual focus, low lighting and cropping that deviated from accepted photographic techniques.

Robert_Frank_Movie Premiere 02 This divergence from contemporary photographic standards gave Frank difficulty at first in securing an American publisher. Les Américains was first published in 1958 by Robert Delpire in Paris, and finally in 1959 in the United States by Grove Press, where it initially received substantial criticism. Popular Photography, for one, derided his images as "meaningless blur, grain, muddy exposures, drunken horizons and general sloppiness." Though sales were also poor at first, Kerouac’s introduction helped it reach a larger audience because of the popularity of the Beat phenomenon. Over time and through its inspiration of later artists, The Americans became a seminal work in American photography and art history, and is considered the work with which Frank is most clearly identified. In 1961, Frank received his first individual show, entitled Robert Frank: Photographer, at the Art Institute of Chicago. He also showed at MoMA in New York in 1962.

“Quality doesn’t mean deep blacks and whatever tonal range. That’s not quality, that’s a kind of quality. The pictures of Robert Frank might strike someone as being sloppy – the tone range isn’t right and things like that – but they’re far superior to the pictures of Ansel Adams with regard to quality, because the quality of Ansel Adams, if I may say so, is essentially the quality of a postcard. But the quality of Robert Frank is a quality that has something to do with what he’s doing, what his mind is. It’s not balancing out the sky to the sand and so forth. It’s got to do with intention.”
— Elliott Erwitt

Robert_Frank_Indianapolis IN 03 To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the first publication of The Americans, a new edition was released worldwide on May 30, 2008. Robert Frank discussed with his publisher, Gerhard Steidl, the idea of producing a new edition using modern scanning and the finest tritone printing. The starting point was to bring original prints from New York to Göttingen, Germany, where Steidl is based. In July 2007, Frank visited Göttingen. A new format for the book was worked out and new typography selected. A new cover was designed and Frank chose the book cloth, foil embossing and the endpaper. Most significantly, as he has done for every edition of The Americans, Frank changed the cropping of many of the photographs, usually including more information. Two images were changed completely from the original 1958 and 1959 editions. A celebratory exhibit of The Americans will be displayed in 2009 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The new edition published by Steidl and the National Gallery of Art, Washington is available through the publisher, Steidl.

Robert_Frank_Charleston SC 01 The second section of the four section, 2009, SFMOMA exhibition displays Frank’s original application to the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial (which funded the primary work on The Americans project), along with vintage contact sheets, letters to photographer Walker Evans and author Jack Kerouac, and two early manuscript versions of Kerouac’s introduction to the book. Also exhibited are three collages (made from more than 115 original rough work prints) that were assembled under Frank’s supervision in 2007 and 2008, revealing his intended themes as well as his first rounds of images selection. Assisting him with these collages was Sarah Greenough who co-curated the show with Cory Keller (SFMOMA Associate Curator).

Return to still images

Flamingo_(photography) Flamingo, exhibition catalog
for Frank’s 1996 Hasselblad
Award show

Though Frank continued to be interested in film and video, he returned to still images in the 1970s, publishing his second photographic book, The Lines of My Hand, in 1972. This work has been described as a "visual autobiography", and consists largely of personal photographs. However, he largely gave up "straight" photography to instead create narratives out of constructed images and collages, incorporating words and multiple frames of images that were directly scratched and distorted on the negatives. None of this later work has achieved an impact or notoriety comparable to that which The Americans achieved. As some critics have pointed out, this is perhaps because Frank began playing with constructed images more than a decade after Robert Rauschenberg introduced his silkscreen composites—in contrast to The Americans, Frank’s later images simply were not beyond the pale of accepted technique and practice by that time.

streetcar11 Frank and Mary separated in 1969. He remarried to sculptor June Leaf, and in 1971, moved to the community of Mabou, Nova Scotia in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia in Canada. In 1974, tragedy struck when his daughter, Andrea, was killed in a plane crash in Tikal, Guatemala. Also around this time, his son, Pablo, was first hospitalized and diagnosed with schizophrenia. Much of Frank’s subsequent work has dealt with the impact of the loss of both his daughter and subsequently his son, who died in an Allentown, Pennsylvania hospital in 1994. In 1995, he founded the Andrea Frank Foundation, which provides grants to artists.

Robert_Frank_Blackfoot ID 03 Since his move to Nova Scotia, Canada, Frank has divided his time between his home there in a former fisherman’s shack on the coast, and his Bleecker Street loft in New York. He has acquired a reputation for being a recluse (particularly since the death of Andrea), declining most interviews and public appearances. He has continued to accept eclectic assignments, however, such as photographing the 1984 Democratic National Convention, and directing music videos for artists such as New Order ("Run"), and Patti Smith ("Summer Cannibals"). Frank continues to produce both films and still images, and has helped organize several retrospectives of his art. In 1994, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC presented the most comprehensive retrospective of Frank’s work to date, entitled Moving Out. Frank was awarded the prestigious Hasselblad Award for photography in 1996. His 1997 award exhibition at the Hasselblad Center in Goteborg, Sweden was entitled Flamingo, as was the accompanying published catalog.

“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.” 
— Robert Frank

This Quote is from a man called Robert Frank an important figure in American photography and film. Frank’s most famous work was a photographic book named “The Americans” made in 1958. He liked to experiment with compositing and manipulating photographs  then in his later days Frank  moved on to making films.

A Tribute to Robert Frank

Vanity Fair published an article on Robert Frank highlighting his brilliant career. Please refer to the complete article at (Vanity Fair Article). The following is an excerpt of that article:

Robert Frank is an enigma: hard and empathetic and melancholic all at once. He abhors schmaltziness and syrup. I asked him if he would like to see a photograph of my baby. He answered, “Why should I want to see that?”

It is the same with him about photography. Digital photography destroys memory, he believes, with its ability to erase. Art school is another problem, teaching students to be blind. Editors are worse—they poke the artist’s eyes out. Photography: One minute it’s not art at all. Then perhaps it is. And then again it is not. That’s Robert Frank.

“There are too many images,” he said. “Too many cameras now. We’re all being watched. It gets sillier and sillier. As if all action is meaningful. Nothing is really all that special. It’s just life. If all moments are recorded, then nothing is beautiful and maybe photography isn’t an art anymore. Maybe it never was.”

And maybe it is his fault. Who would believe that a hairy little man could take snapshots of nothing and make millions of dollars? Anyone can take a snapshot. So, maybe, anyone can be famous if he gets lucky once.

Frank watched the dancers for a long spell, until his wife appeared, twirling among them. The old man laughed a real laugh. “I am happy today.”

We smoked a cigarette and said nothing. There was no more to ask, which was good. He had no more to say. Then this occurred to me: “Do you carry any photographs in your wallet?”, I asked.

“One maybe.”

He removed his billfold from his back pocket, flipped through some receipts and a medical-insurance card. There it was. The only picture the master carried was a business-card photograph of Niagara Falls with block lettering underneath it that read, niagara falls, in case its holder should forget what it was he was looking at.

“It must be very beautiful, very romantic,” he said somewhat hopefully. As it turned out, Robert Frank had never been to Niagara Falls. “Is it? Romantic?”

“Yes, quite romantic,” I lied. Let the old man be happy.



Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Robert Frank can be found at…

Web Sites and Blogs:

Masters of Photography: Robert Frank… on Robert Frank…

Art Blart: Exhibition… “Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americas”…

Vanity Fair: Robert Frank’s Unsentimental Journey…