everyday objects



Warren, Connecticut. Every morning a different set of things is left out on my work table and every morning the sun makes an ever-changing pattern of shadows as it shines on them. Sometimes I just sit here, watching the patterns change while sipping coffee and listening to Morning Edition, I’m so mesmerized I don’t think to fire up the camera.

I left one of my blowers out to remind me to clean my 5D’s sensor today so it’s the lucky object. Even the most mundane things can be interesting when they cast a shadow and taking pictures is a lot more fun than sensor cleaning.

The most popular blower around is the apt named Rocket Blower.

German Threaded Junk

German Threaded Junk, 1 inch tall

I don’t know about you but I have jars, cans, and boxes of old nuts, bolts, and "junk" like this in my basement that I’ve both inherited from the pack rat we bought our house from and which I’ve collected over many years. I promised my wife that this is going to be the year I clean up and organize this stuff and so, I set up a table and started sorting. Of course, the sorting gets interrupted every time I find a thing like this which I know nothing about yet think is interesting. I now have a bigger collection of interesting crap that has no use than seemingly useful crap that also probably has no use. Nothing has been thrown out and now all I’m doing is looking for cool junk to photograph. Sigh, my poor wife.

Well, I found a use for this totemic piece of junk. Recently my Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens fell apart in my hands: a screw fell out and it sounded like something was loose inside when shook, never a good sign. It was out of warranty but I had Canon fix it and I just got it back. What to shoot to test the lens? Ah, the German threaded totemic figure sitting on my desk.

Hey, the lens works.

Note: This piece of brass is 1″ tall.

Glass objects

Olive Oil

Warren, Connecticut. A rainy day coupled with a yearning to take pictures means still lifes on the kitchen table. While my friend Gary was visiting in June we had such a day and had some fun.

Olive oil is like wine, there’s good stuff and there’s better stuff. We thought this was better stuff until a friend brought some back for us from Italy. Now this is the good stuff and his is the better stuff.

Glass Objects

Everyday objects can make for fun setups. A Matisse painting this is not but it kept Gary and me entertained for a few hours on a rainy day.

Stacked Glasses

If one is good, a stack of them might be better. I liked both the geometry of these and the diffused light through the cut sides.

Compressed ice water

Compressed Ice Water

Warren, Connecticut. Context is everything. Take a round glass, put ice and water into it but take a picture of it in such a way that it looks flat on its background and the context of a glass of ice water is stripped away. In photography the loss of depth or three dimensionality from the use of a telephoto lens is called compression and that’s a fitting word for what seems to be happening here, both in depth and inside the glass.

Tall glass

Tall Glass

Warren, Connecticut. I’m always on the lookout for simple, functional, and indexpensive glassware and it strikes me odd because my background is in ceramics; one would think I’d like stoneware to drink out of and eat off of. The simplicity and cleanliness of glassware coupled with its lightness and stackability easily trumps the baggage of my background. There’s nothing wrong with the individuality of handmade wares but both handmade and machine made can have wabi-sab.

Tall Glass with Ice and Water

I never knew using ice in water and other drinks was a matter of taste, I figured if people didn’t use it it was less that they didn’t like it, more that they forgot to make it. But my wife doesn’t use ice much at all, certainly not in water, and I followed her lead on this for the first ten years of our marriage thinking it was healthier. Call it a mid-life crisis but now I’m striking out on my own and putting ice in my water. Ice is good. Yeah!

Gary’s glass

Favorite Glass

My good friend Gary Sharp has been on a roll lately with new Canon 5D camera, new Canon 135mm f/2 L lens, and now a new ballhead for his tripod. All of this is extremely fine gear but the gear doesn’t take the pictures; Gary is one of the finest photographers I know. Some of it is his ability to make seemingly mundane objects regal (like this glass) but it’s also in his attitude as a photographer: he has the confidence of his vision and isn’t swayed much by others. This is not to say he’s hard headed (like me) but more that he has a direction he enjoys and keeps plugging away at it.

Stacked glass bowls

Stacked glass bowls

In the hierarchy of our collection of inexpensive glassware, these bowls are a bit more “regal” than our cereal bowls and get used for smaller or more specialized things. However, they get used daily, not just when guests come over.

The hierarchy of things and how we value and/or revere them interests me. If I gave my father a new shirt instead of wearing it he’d put it away, wanting to “use up” the shirts he already had first. This is a bit different from plastic slip covers on furniture (they look and feel like hell so change the use of the furniture) and he didn’t go that far.

But, I do notice that some people have everyday dishes and save special ones for guests (this is different from, although not unlike keeping a kosher kitchen). At our house, we like to use the things we like every day as well as when guests come over. I’m not bragging about the worthiness of these cheap bowls, just observing that my father would have used the even cheaper ones himself, saving these to impress you.