Dragonflies Beat Butterflies

Which would you rather shoot?



I choose dragonflies.

Some have eyes

that bulge.

Butterflies, on the other hand…


Closing their wings.

For a long,





A three-part body,

Set in a stub.

The dragonfly sits.


Wings draped at her side.

Body long and sleek.

As eyes

offer a gentle mystique.

Photojournalism Moment–Bird Flu

I’ve been debating over whether or not to post the photo that’s pasted below. While I’ve seen some in the newspapers that are similar, none to my knowledge have expressed the urgency for people to clean up the way birds and other animals are treated.

About a year ago, I traveled to Hanoi, Vietnam, a place that is modernizing quickly and an excellent tourist destination. I really fell in love with the place–the French colonial architecture, the edginess and historical elements of a place that experienced a war where the outcome is still being debated, and the food (it’s marvelous).

There was one particularly disturbing fact about the place (and many others around the world), a fact that the media is reporting that might come down to a life-and-death issue for many around the world–the fact that birds and other animals are kept in a way that diseases can be spread transmitted from animal to man if the conditions are ripe for germs to make the jump.

Photojournalism is a form of art photography in that the images that newspaper and magazine reporters and photographers take and those that the television networks flash on the tube tell a story, and sometimes the story is disturbing.

Tip: If you see something that tells a story of sorrow or of joy or of something you feel someone needs to see, take the picture and post it on a blog or submit it to a newspaper or magazine. (A blog is probably a better fit as most publications won’t have time to look at unsolicited pictures).

Photoshop Miracles

Okay, so I’m not a purist. Anyone who manipulates in Photoshop might be considered by traditional photographers as “unpure.”

Hey, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go both ways–taking some photos on film (or on a sensor) and not manipulating them a bit. I do do this sometimes, actually about half the time. Sometimes I’ll hit a perfect 10 with a photograph, getting the right amount of light, framing to my (and others) likings and capturing what the editor of Popular Photography magazine might look for–a photo that makes you say, “wow!”

TIP: Remember that the “Wow!” is a matter of taste.

What one person thinks is a spectacular photo might just look derivative to another. For example, you may have taken the brightest, clearest and most colorful picture of a flower and the editor of many photography magazines may like it and publish it.

But that same picture may not appeal to someone who’s looking for an offbeat image or an image that no longer can be obtained. This second scenario would more likely be an image that might be accepted by a avant garde gallery or museum.

Take for example the image posted at the bottom of this entry. I submitted it to Popular Photography magazine. No dice here. But that doesn’t mean I tossed it to my computers trash can or recycle bin. I print it out and sell it regularly. The hip modern people love it.

Oh by the way, I transformed (select the part of the image you want with one of Photoshop’s selection tools, then click on Edit>Transform, then pick one of the transform tools) the image and put it inside the old television set I had shot when I saw it in a museum in Paris.

Trip Wrap-Up–Route 66 and Beyond

I’ve decided to rewrite the old Route 66 into a rap song about preservation:

Chicago to L.A. is America’s gateway
Thousands of miles of motorway,
Are what make the country tick.

Well, it winds the Southwest.
Zig-zags of modern’s best
Gallup is lookin’ good.
Cause they’ve done as they should.
Leaving the best be
Setting their town free.

Coffee’s bucking stars can assist.
As can Anymarts power bliss.
Save the arrows with a twist.

Nineteen hundreds El Paso, Gallup, New Mexico,
Gila Bend, Arizona and don’t forget Neon’s Mona,
a place that’s saved the glittering lights west of Pamona.

Taking it to the west
Write an email to make 66 the best.
Give your congress a kick.
They’ve got a challenge to lick.

Would you rap at an speeding clip
Baby take that Southwest trip,
Scream your blips at saving Route 66.

And for the finale of pics from Route 66 (special thanks to the merchants and musuem owners of Wilcox, AZ for letting me take pictures of their historical documents)–

Day 5 Las Cruces to El Paso

Wrapping up my trip with a few good hits and some disappointments in terms of preservation of mid-century modern architecture. I’ve traveled off Route 66 (Chicago to L.A.) to a more southern U.S. highway, Interstate 10 (a road that traverses the country from L.A. to Jacksonville, FL).

First, Las Cruces, N.M., a town that has been in the news lately, along with other U.S.A. college towns, as the best place to retire, has few signs or buildings left (that I could find, anyway) from that era–a big dissapointment as the town makes its way to looking like the rest of rebuilt America full of “W” stores– WalMarts and Walgreens.

Demming, N.M. was a good hit. I arrived in the dark so I shot with flash in auto mode, something I don’t ordinarily do. The photographs of two neon signs and a couple of ghost signs (the old painted-on-brownstone images) came out great with this method (see Trip Wrap-Up entry coming tomorrow).

Last, was El Paso, which, for the life of me, I could have sworn had neon motel signs in the uptown area the last time I visited some five years ago. I couldn’t find them. However, the downtown was a hit, an area that borders Mexico that was filled with old rustic (and rusting) flamboyant fun. I hope someone takes notice and gets there to preserve them as they are beginning to do with a good part of the downtown’s Deco-era architecture.

U.S.A. Neon Nostalgia Tour Day 4

Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Central Ave is the old Route 66. On it are many old motels where the neon has either been replaced completely or partially replaced by plastic backlit fixtures.

At any rate, I ran into a guy who’s bought one of the old motels on the western side of town, near the Old Town area. He gave me a tour showing me how much work the old motels need in terms of remodeling to get them up to the standard of the chains. In the Western world the word chains refers to businesses that are handled by giant corporations.

There used to be a chain called Kress in America, a store that is kind of like today’s Walmart. If found refurbished signs of that chain’s name in downtown Albuquerque and downtown El Paso.

Many of the old motels that remain in American and that are not part of chains have been occupied by destitute people including drug users who leave their works (a term used to describe dangerous materials that drug users leave behind) behind, which can be quite shocking to buyers who purchase property to renovate it. It’s a sad situation.

Only two hotels (out of dozens) that I’ve seen on Route 66 have been designated as National Historic sites. One is the wig wams posted previously and the other is the Rancho Motel in Gallup.

Today, I also took in two great small towns between Albuquerque and Las Cruces. One was named Truth or Consequences (sorry, no sign with that name on it), but there was a great motel that I’ll post later and the other was Socorro. Both are off Interstate 25 in New Mexico’s southern end.

So what to make of all of this? Well, for one is the fact that much of the art photography that is most popular today rests with themes that are a blast from the past. Just as people all over the world love Elvis and Marilyn, they love the old design elements from the 60s.

And another thing to keep in mind is making sure your image has the amount of light you want it to have.

Tip: You can make any kind of light work for you provided you use the exposure compensation on your camera. When I shoot a sign in the shade I up my exposure compensation from a half stop to several half stops depending on just how dark the area is that I’m photographing. (That’s what I did so that the Kress sign wouldn’t be so dark against the bright sky.)

Day 3 Images Gallup, N.M. to Grants, N.M.

Made it to Albuquerque. Got slowed down today and even overwealmed by the number of neon signs still standing (and some new ones and refurbished ones) along Route 66 in Gallup and Grants.

Gallup is one town that looks as if it is frozen in time, a must for international and domestic travelers to photograph.

Learned today that Gallup was named after a guy who was a paymaster, the person who paid the Chinese railroad workers for their hard labor building the railroad tracks that went west.

Here’s the pics:

U.S.A. Neon Nostalgia Tour Day 3 and My Artist Statement

I’m going to begin today with a tip: Write an artist’s statement before you pitch your art to a gallery or any venue that you would like to have sell it.

Not only will it help to sell your work, but it will also give you some focus.

I just reread my statement to see if it jives with what I’m doing on my trip, and I was encouraged that indeed it did (you’ll need lots of ways to give yourself encouragement in this business as there is a lot of rejection when you go to pitch your work).

Oh, by the way, pitch is a publishing term that means you are trying to sell your idea or project to someone.

Pitch or statement, all should be well-written and free of typos. Here’s my artist statement:

USA Neon Nostalgia
by Matthew Bamberg

In the vast expanse of the Western United States where land at one time stretched for miles undeveloped and connected by roads such as Route 66 that ran from Chicago to Los Angeles, huge signs that blasted color during the day and flashed neon at night lured travelers to places of business from motels to bowling alleys. As the years progressed, the signage took on subtle changes seen during the day, a patina, if you will, that left them with streaks, dents, and peeling paint with exposed silver steel and other imperfections and tones and shades that both film and a camera’s sensor turns into art.

At night, the signs transform into glittering attractions (if the lights have been maintained) flashing all or part of letters from multicolored text and images, another form of photographic art within a different context, patina dissappearing and imperfections erased.

It is within these photographs of this U.S.A.-based subject that reveals a comical and colorful history of the U.S.A. during a time of innovation, a time when anything was possible from man on the moon to services performed for citizens through automation and new machines.

At any rate, here I am in Gallup, New Mexico, ready to look for any left-over neon from bygone ages or new neon made to simulate a bygone age, thus supporting my statement.

Then, yes, today I will make it to the big city–Albuquerque.

Long live Route 66!

Day 2 Images Prescott, AZ to Gallup, NM

Stopped just short of New Mexico’s capitol and largest city. Sitting in a motel in Gallup where many old motels have been replaced by chains.

The city to visit, though on Interstate 40 (which runs parallel to the old U.S. Route 66) is Holbrook, AZ, that’s one city east of Winslow, AZ, a town that could be the set for the movie, “Day of the Dead.” Holbrook is the town where you can sleep in a wigwam.

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