Shooting around -- really close up

... getting right down and dirty

by Don Norris

There are times when you get too bored with things that have to be done. That's when I lay back, put my feet up, and just start studying things around me. It's called the post-summer blues.

This room is small, about 8x11 feet. It's where I have access to three computers -- all at once, if I choose. It's also the place to do all my writing, edit the hundreds of digital photos I take, to keep track of our stock portfolio, and maintain a growing genealogy collection.

After 20 years in this room, it is now full. In fact, it is over-flowing. And so I sat here, bored to tears, picked up the Nikon, and started shooting. I shot everything. Artwork. Computer stuff. Stacks of folders containing really vital info on the stock market from 30 years ago. I shot strange shadows, and light cast by various lamps, I did funny forms, and out-of-context pictures that don't look like what they are in close-ups.

I really hate to throw things out, so I have a wonderment of things to shoot.

I put the Nikon on close-up mode and began really looking at things around me. Pencils, notes, stacks, lights, boxes and books, computer parts ... all of which made a funky photo essay.

How can you cram so much into one small room?

I mean now, why does a basket of rubber bands look so, uh, interesting, close-up? Or part of that heavy Bogen tripod, which I bought back when I was using a 4-by-5 Crown Graphic? Fact is, that tripod weighs about ten times as much as the Nikon digital camera, which looks rather dinky sitting atop that Bogen panhead.

Furthermore, how sharp can you get when you want to count dust spores on one's leather briefcase?

Piles of paper in various forms make for an interesting collection, like statistic manuals from three years ago, recycled misprints, and a bunch of folders on a shelf labelled "miscellaneous". I wonder what's in them.

Leaning way back, the view changes radically. At the left is an artist's lamp that I moved from an upstairs studio to the computer lab. There's a poster of the dashboard of a Cessna Turbo 182T, which I would love to fly -- except I don't have my license yet. At the right is the orange light of an incandescent bulb, that douses the scene with artificial warmth.

Lowering one's view to desktop-level, the close-up lens takes in the cover of a manila folder, the contents of which are earthy samples of HTML code. In the middle is my black "mit" (lower case) coffee cup, which serves better to hold pens, markers, scissors, and a flashlight. Then, on the window sill is that oft-pictured model of a Model A, vintage 1931 -- the year I was born. I used to drive one exactly like that one as a student at Tufts.

Back in 1988, Lorry and I closed up the house and spent a year motor-homing about the country. This is the diary of that trip, which covered about 30 of the 300 days we were gone. Back in the days when we printed-out a copy of just about all the digital photos we made, we found that good old 3-ring notebooks worked well -- printing four up. At the right is the Mirror Prize I was awarded back in the late 1990s, for smoothing the digital road for the newly-formed SilverStringers. Those were pleasant times when we spent many visits to the Media Lab at MIT.

At wall level, there are some really vital pieces of memorabilia. First, there's a print of my daughter Nancy to show her how she would look with various hair styles; then there is a cartoon I did to illustrate a story about my motorcycle racing days; and to prove that I did, at least once, go to Disney World, there is a gorgeous plastic back-scratcher in the form of everybody's friend, Mickey Mouse. I bought it because it only cost three bucks.

I don't putter around the computer ALL the time -- I do make a few lists when the action gets hot around publishing time. But just to show how versatile these little digital cameras are, here's a mouse by flashlight. The hand-held available light shot went off at (get this) 1/127.7th of a second. Sensitivity was set at 400, and the auto lens setting was f4.4. At the right are pieces of paintings I did when they didn't turn out the way my mind's eye saw them. They are paperweights now, serving me well.

You get a general view of the Number Two computer under the white light of a fluorescent tube. Look around, see if you can find many of the close-up items that appear on this page. And I had one page of notes left, a shot that was taken in the faint red glow from the television set. I am amazed with light -- natural or artificial. It looks so different to the eye, different from what these digital cameras see. Our minds play tricks. The edifice above, at the right, is the elbow of my counter-sprung artist's lamp.

And finally we get to the bottom of this random essay. It's time to sit back, put my feet up, and stare at what I have wrought this evening. According to my two dollar clock, I've got time left, but other than this shot of my "doe-wa knob," I have no more ammunition. I can say, however, that I've lived in New England for 50 years now, and someday I am going to learn the way these natives speak.

Anyway, now you've seen yet ANOTHER view of Melrose.

November 5, 2004

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