Urban Landscape + Lifestyle Photography

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Fireworks over the Mississippi

Fireworks over the Mississippi - Memphis, Tennessee

Fireworks over the Mississippi – Memphis, Tennessee


Back during this year’s 4th of July weekend, I had just started my four state college tour with my son. We needed to be in Memphis by July 5th for the first college visit, so I did some planning to optimize my photography experience. After all, even though I’m doing my parental duties to look at institutions of higher learning, there’s no reason I can’t combine that with some photographic fun.

Memphis seemed like an interesting place on a number of levels. It’s a city with rich nightlife and there was a fireworks show over the Mississippi river, for the 4th. While I missed the opportunity to take more fireworks photos from the 360 Bridge in Austin this year, I figured a change in venue might be instructional as well as logistically necessary.

I brought my compact tripod, my wide-angle Olympus lens, the 9-18mm, and my Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II as my primary tools. I scouted several possibilities in an alien city without much context. Where do they shoot the fireworks? How far does it go up? I made educated guesses and composed to get a surrounding view of Memphis, while trying to estimate the size and position of the pyrotechnic explosions.

I made multiple exposures with varying shutter speeds and slightly tweaked framing. The result — satisfied. I captured several decent explosions but settled on this one. Though, I do admit this photo has been enhanced, composited and otherwise optimized. I combined 3 images to create this — both to get a better foreground, as well as adding more fireworks for a more impressive showing. All in the name of art, of course, as well as recording a memorable evening in a new city, far away from home.

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Up close and portrait, details of Hot Springs, Arkansas

Quapaw Baths Detail - Hot Springs, Arkansas

Quapaw Baths Detail – Hot Springs, Arkansas


Over the years, as I moved to digital, the orientation of my photographs have shifted. Back in the film days, I had a healthy mix of photos in both the portrait and landscape orientation. But the horizontally oriented computer screens have had an undue pull on my images. Now, a vast majority are oriented in landscape, better filling monitors.

I’m trying to break free from my hardening conventions and with my recent experimentation with my Photo Sketchbook, I’m trying different things. I’m making an effort to shoot vertically again. And for some reason, this portrait orientation seems to have more of an artistic feel, especially for subjects like architecture. Perhaps the atypical orientation introduces a bit more abstractness to the images.

I shot these in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Details from the wonderful 100-year-old restored bathhouses that form the centerpiece of Hot Springs National Park. I zoomed in close, closer than I usually do, to isolate details and simplify the composition.

They are not true abstracts of course, but I think they have a certain artistic feel. Different, for sure, than my typical wide-angles in a landscape orientation. I took all photographs with the Panasonic ZS50 travel zoom.

Fordyce Baths Detail - Hot Springs, Arkansas
Buckstaff Baths Detail - Hot Springs, Arkansas
Fordyce Baths Detail - Hot Springs, Arkansas
Quapaw Baths Detail - Hot Springs, Arkansas

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Photo Sketchbook: Hot Springs Rehabilitation Center

Rehabilitation Center - Hot Springs, Arkansas


The Hot Springs Rehabilitation Center, now called the Arkansas Career Training Institute looms large over bathhouse row. An already large structure, it looks all the more impressive, perched on top of a hill. Built in the early 1930s, it was the first joint Army and Navy general hospital.

I shot all three photos at a 24mm equivalent with the Panasonic ZS50, also known as my Photo Sketchbook. I used the built-in HDR mode which automatically shoots several images and combines them, in-camera, into a single photograph. The resulting image is detailed and with higher dynamic range, but tends to be flat and muted, color-wise. I find black and white conversions work well for these in-camera HDRs.

Rehabilitation Center - Hot Springs, Arkansas
Rehabilitation Center - Hot Springs, Arkansas

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Fordyce Bathhouse, a meticulous throwback to another era

Interior, Fordyce Bathhouse - Hot Springs, Arkansas

Interior, Fordyce Bathhouse – Hot Springs, Arkansas


Fordyce is one of the eight restored bathhouses on bathhouse row in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It serves as the visitor’s information center for Hot Springs National Park. Completed in 1915, its grandeur was meant to match or exceed that of its contemporary European bathhouses.

The free, self guided tour is available for the entire facility and worth a visit. The place was clearly designed to impress with large expanses of marble, stained glass and statues. But the 100-year-old machines look vaguely like torture equipment. The gymnasium looks familiar, though they seem really enamored by rings.

All photos shot with the Panasonic TZ50 travel zoom.

Interior Fordyce Bathhouse - Hot Springs, Arkansas
Interior Fordyce Bathhouse - Hot Springs, Arkansas
Interior Fordyce Bathhouse - Hot Springs, Arkansas
Interior Fordyce Bathhouse - Hot Springs, Arkansas

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Photo Sketchbook: Bathhouses – Hot Springs, Arkansas

Bathhouses - Hot Springs, Arkansas


Elaborate bathhouses were built in Hot Springs, Arkansas during the early 20th century, modeled after ornate structures in Europe. Now, as part of Hot Springs National Park, Bathhouse Row preserves eight historic bathhouses. Fordyce Bathhouse, seen on the right, now serves as the visitor’s center.

I shot this iconic view of bathhouse row with the Panasonic ZS50, my Photo Sketchbook, back during my tour of colleges, a couple of weeks ago.

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