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The current photo book project I’m working on is a follow-up to the beefcakey Gentlemen of Steampunk:

Aether & Rhyme:

Being a Unique Collection of Morally-Improving Tales, Nursery Rhymes & Fragments from the Great Age of Steam

– with Photography by the Illustrious Mister Luxet Tenebrae, and Instructive Commentaries by Lord Professor Anton R.M. Feldspar

“Aether & Rhyme” is a collection of highly child-inappropriate neo-Victorian steampunkish kidlit. It’s a version of the classic Mother Goose oeuvre that’s simultaneously laden with a sort of faux arch-moralizing suitable to the mid-19th century and a dark and disturbing steam-tech aesthetic, nestled comfortably in the pretense of being a loving backward look at a the culture of a past epoch now subject to analysis and critique (included in amusingly critical academic footnotes by the ridiculously august L.P. Anthony R. M. Feldspar) and of course including the odd and poorly-preserved photographic work of Luxet Tenebrae.

Altogether there will be 18 stories and poems in the collection. Having created all the bits, I’m now in the process of integrating the photos with the stories and poems and assembling the thing.  But because neither self-control nor patience are among my many excellent virtues, I thought I’d offer up a little sneak-peek of a few short snippets from here and there, out of context and still in draft.

So, little ones, here are some stories for you tonight, to lull you gently into a disturbed and nightmarish steamy slumber…

FOREWORD

The title of this collection, as most readers will recognize, comes from the introductory poem in the famous collection of children’s stories and verse,  Old Shellduck’s Tales, which was to be found in any nursery worthy of the name back in the bygone days when the first Victoria was building the foundations of today’s Empire on the great spinning gears and oily pistons of the early Age of Steam:

Come my sweet child, it’s your bed-story time;

For tales of  magic, and aethers, and rhyme.

We’ll summon the plasms that brighten your dream

And drift you away on soft vapours of steam….

The tales and poems collected here—presented both in full and as fragments—are gathered from that original Shellduck’s. …

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD

…It wasn’t long after she’d entered the Deepdark Wood before a Wolf hopped out onto the path before her.

“Hello, little girl,” smiled the Wolf, hungrily. “And where are you going, all by yourself in the dangerous Deepdark Wood?”

(c) EBUTTERFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

“Why, I’m going to visit my Grandmother, who is feeling poorly, in her little cottage down the path,” replied Little Red Riding Hood politely. “However, Mister Wolf, my mother has told me quite particularly not to speak to Wolves here in the Deepdark Wood, for they are more than likely to want to eat me.”

The Wolf smiled broadly. “Why, my dear,” he said in a low and reassuring murmur, “I am no Wolf! I am but a poor fellow-traveler upon the path, and as human as you or your sweet grandmother!”

Little Red Riding Hood was very surprised to hear this.

“Why, sir, please pardon my mistake! For your wolfen fur confused me.”

“The wolfen fur,” smiled the Wolf,  stepping closer to the girl, “is but a coat that keeps me warm against the chill air of the Deep Dark Wood.” And then the Wolf very cleverly stepped out of his fur, as if it were, in fact, only a coat, which you and I know it was not.

(c) EButterfield Photography

… Now, when Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother made the little red cloak of the finest velvet, she included a clever pocket on the inside. And Little Red Riding Hood’s mother, when she gave the girl the basket, knowing as she did the various Dangers that lurked in the Deepdark Wood, had slipped into the cunning little pocket a Drogget’s Demi-Automanual Ventillator Vapour Rifle, equipped with a full clip of 50 milli-meter Percussive Bore Engined-Bullettes.  And Little Red Riding Hood, in addition being a promising seamstress, and whose skills on the pianoforte were quite advanced for her age, was a dab hand with midscale armaments….

(c) EButterfield Photography

 

THE TALE OF THE THREE LITTLE PIGS

One fine day, once upon a time not so very long ago, three little City pigs—having grown tired of the constant tick-tick-tick of the bright brass gears that turned and hummed and clicked all day and night beneath the streets and in the walls; and the gloomy fog of steam and coal smoke that shadowed the city’s sky in twilight even at noon; and the strange-behaving rainbow pools of effluent aethers and plasms that splashed their pants and made them sneeze little feathers.

(c) EBUTTERFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

So they scavenged fallen bricks from Trottingbridge, and wood from the scaffolds around Old Saint Merks, and thatch from behind the gardener’s shed in Gallowspark in front of the Great Court-house. They even crept into unlocked kitchen doors and took a few nice pieces of furniture from a few nice homes—for everyone, they said, has more furniture than they really need.

(c) EBUTTERFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

They gathered all these up in a little cart, and headed out along the Rotinn Road past the wide ring of factaries and ‘works, over the Estuary, and beyond the tiny houses of the Outer Lecturbs where the Carders and Liners Enginers live; through the villages and cultivated lands of the great houses, past the farms with their steam-cows and pneumatic horses, and finally found themselves in the pleasant Countryside.

(c) EBUTTERFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

 Finally, long after the Rotinn Road had dwindled to little more than a path through the Deepdark Wood, they came to tiny sunlit clearing….

Just then the Wolf spied the tiny pipette that secretly connected the pigs’ house to a mainpipe of the Great Trigenerative Empowerment Combine, and a clever thought occurred to him. While the three pigs danced and sang in their parlor, enjoying the warmth of their steam-powered furnace and the unflickering golden light produced by their steam-powered generator, the Wolf crept himself around behind the cottage and followed the pipette back to the connecting spigot in the woods. With a chuckle—for the Wolf knew exactly what he was about—he quickly turned the valve as high, high, high as it would go.

  THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT’S FATHER

 “‘Now, my dears,” said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, “you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor…’” [from The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter]

Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-Tail and Peter were just the tiniest of bunnies on that long-ago morning, when their Father, Mr. Rabbit, said to Mrs. Rabbit, “My dear, this morning I believe I will go out into the world and see what I can find to feed our little family.”

(c) EBUTTERFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

“I shall go down the lane and into the fields, for I may find there all manner of things to eat ready at hand upon the ground.” And so Mr. Rabbit, being just a little vain, put on his best waistcoat and cravat—for rabbits, you know, are always very careful about looking their best whenever they go out into the world—and he kissed Mrs. Rabbit sweetly on the cheek, and patted Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-Tail and Peter on their four little bunny heads, and off he hopped— lippety–lippety, not very fast, and looking all around—out the door and down the lane.

Mr. Rabbit had not gone too far when he came across a pair of old forgotten brass goggles lying in the dust by the side of the road. “Why these,” he said to himself, “will look very fine upon my little pink nose, and perhaps will help me better see the seeds and vegetables that lie upon the ground in the fields.”…

THE FROG-PRINCE

…“Frog-prince, show yourself to me, and I shall release you gladly!” cried the Princess, who thought her days would be much brighter in the Prince’s kingdom.

From the rotting underbrush along the edge of the pond there emerged a truly hideous frog. The Princess could barely contain her disgust, but put out her hand for him to hop up on. She raised the ugly, foul-smelling, slime-covered creature to her lips, and gathering all her courage, kissed it tenderly upon its ghastly mouth.

Instantly there was before her a young man, in a prince’s raiment. He would normally have been considered a handsome young man indeed, except that his skin retained a distinctly greenish tinge, and his eyes bulged alarmingly from his head. Strangest of all, the pupils of his eyes seemed to be made of brassen clockworks, for they ticked and whirred and clicked as he looked around him….

(c) EBUTTERFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

 OLD MOTHER HUBBARD or THE AETHERICALLY-ANIMATED  CORPSE!

(c) EBUTTERFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard
To fetch Doctor Ventris an aether.
But when she got there she’d let in too much air
And the floor disappeared from beneath her. …

 (Thanks to my models, Natalie Campbell, Andrew Diego, Jeremiah Hein, Pynkee, Andre Chambers, Dove Meir, and Scott Russo. “Aethers & Rhyme” will be available on Amazon in Sept. 2014.)

So I’m just fresh off a photoshoot that got a little…dark, both occasionally in subjects and consistently in lighting. Sure, it’s great to be out in nature, photographing birds soaring around in the sunlight, but sometimes you’ve just gotta go inside, close the curtains, and enjoy the shadows. I decided this time to experiment with candlelight, which was fun, and yielded some interesting results. I also did some playing around with low-level artificial lighting for some nude studies, which also worked out extremely well given the blazingly pale physique of my talented model, Joe Filippone, which pops against the flat black backdrop. The lighting was provided either by several (unscented) pillar candles or by a single compact-fluorescent bulb using a white umbrella reflector. All photos were taken with my D7000, using a tripod and a remote (the remote was vital to minimizing vibration in Very Long Exposure shots–some exceeding 0.5, though most averaging around 0.033). Flash was generally suppressed, although sometimes it makes a nice stark lighting effect (see below).

The shoot involved three basic segments: The first involved a steampunked-out Israeli civilian gas mask; the second was a series of classic nude studies; and the third was a fairly creepy take on the god Pan, using horns, furry leggings (which pretty much disappeared in the low light) and bodypaint. The results are below; I’m pretty pleased with them, and with the low-light aesthetic in general. More samples are available on my website, EButterfield Photography (“implied nudes” are in the “Models and Conceptual” gallery; the other kind are locked away behind a password in the “NSFW” gallery, but I’ll probably tell you the password if you’re interested, and ask nicely.

Nude male sitting cross-legged; black and white photo.

Exposure: 0.167 sec (1/6); Aperture: f/2.8; Focal Length: 44 mm;
ISO Speed: 1600
Exposure Bias 0 EV
Flash Off, Did not fire

 

 

 

Horned god Pan with flute and candles

Exposure: 0.033 sec (1/30); Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length : 30 mm; ISO Speed: 1600
Exposure Bias:0 EV; Flash Off, Did not fire

 

Person in a gas mask reaching toward viewer

Exposure: 0.5; Aperture: f/2.8;
Focal Length : 55 mm; ISO Speed: 1600
Exposure Bias: 0 EV; Flash Off, Did not fire

Model in a gas mask

Exposure: 0.017 sec (1/60); Aperture: f/2.8;
Focal Length: 22 mm; ISO Speed: 800;
Exposure Bias: 0 EV; Flash Auto, Fired

 

I am such a geek. I am, totally: I own my geekery, I wallow in it, I embrace by geekitude with all the enthusiasm I can muster from <mumblemumble> years of Trek (TOS, NextGen, DS9 and yes VOY flavors, and if you know what those are then welcome to the club) and Star Wars (original trilogy only, please); the Alien Quadrilogy, Trek reboots, and Galactica (reboot); Doctor Who (ditto rebooted), Torchwood, Futurama, Cowboy Bebop, and Invader Zim. Kim Stanley Robinson and William Gibson, Bruce Sterling and  Iain M. Banks, Ray Bradbury and Frank Herbert, Harlan Ellison and Douglas Adams, China Mieville and Ken MacLeod: just go read ’em. Really. Amazing stuff.

So there, I’m out: Geek. Totally. Deal with it.

So the subculture of periodic sci-fi/fantasy cons, renaissance faires, and anywhere else where people throw off their social constraints to dress up and celebrate a shared geekology are appealing to me. Not as a participant is the often wildly creative cosplay, though, as much as a photographic observer. Some of my fellow geeks lavish astonishing amounts of time and energy and dollars on fabulously detailed, intricately accurate costumery, and the sci-fi drag is often a wonder to behold. My creative energies don’t lie in that direction (and spandex is not everyone’s friend, as I have discovered to my personal chagrin), but Cons offer me the opportunity to release my inner geek and also my outer photographer. And some of the results are pretty fair as portraits, as well as displaying the quality of costumery on display at the events. So let’s go there.

Chimney Sweep

Chimney Sweep at BentCon 2013 in Burbank, CA

Medieval Steampunk

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Steampunk at ComiCon 2010 in San Diego

China Mieville

Not dressed up in costume, but author China Mieville at ComicCon 2010 in San Diego

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Robin posing at BentCon 2013 in Burbank, Ca

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Above and below (right), more photos of the chimney sweep urchins at BentCon 2013 in Burbank, CA

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Another take on Robin at BentCon 2013 in Burbank, CA

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Oh and one brief moment of blatant self-promotion: I’ve redesigned my EButterfield Photography website. Click on the link to go check it out (and see more photos, of course!)

 

 

Today’s low-tech randomizer brought me to a series of photos taken during a business trip to Fukuoka, Japan in March 2012. The three photos here really expressed a lot of “Japan-ness” for me. Let’s see what they are…

First, this is just somebody’s front porch. I was walking around sidestreets in the city and came across this home. With the paper lantern, bicycles, architecture, and umbrella, it dredged up fond (but now disturbingly distant) childhood memories of storybooks and National Geographic articles about Japan. Obviously, Japanese culture cannot be boiled down to a doorway somewhere in Japan’s sixth-largest city, but for me it was a strangely expressive moment.

doorway in Fukuoka Japan with bicycles, umbrellas, and a paper lantern

Next, a detailed view of Jotenji Temple, built in 1242:

Jotenji Temple roof

And finally, sticking with the temple theme, the Tochoji Buddha is the largest seated Buddha statue in Japan (10m, or about 33 feet high) . The title of this photo, “Big Buddha” is absolutely not disrespectful: there is a sign at the foot of the stairway leading to the statue that reads: “Big Buddha is Upstairs.” This photo is also contraband: I was asked (after taking the photo) to please not photograph the Buddha. Given the absence of signage prohibiting photography, and there having been no direct request to actually delete the photos I’d taken, and having made a generous donation to the temple restoration fund, I don’t feel particularly bad about it. (Hm, it appears we have met the Ugly American, and he’s closer to home than we’d care to discuss.)

Big Buddha

(All photos were taken with a Nikon D90)

OK, back for a bit from featuring current work, to the world of the randomized photo (for those who like to know how the sausage is made, today’s methodology was thirty mouseclicks on the advance arrow at the bottom of my Flickr site’s Organize page).

Today’s photo is a macro view of the Calico Telescope Goldfish who lives its (presumably) happy and uneventful life in an aquarium in my condo, which it shares with three more conventionally-eyed freshwater fish. Sadly, it doesn’t have a name, since I’ve found it’s fairly pointless to name my goldfish: they seldom come when called, anyway. I love the clarity of the close-up, especially considering it’s shot through glass, and the bokeh. (Photo taken with a Nikon D90)

Macro view of Globe-eyed Goldfish

Sometimes a dark and disturbing idea for a photo gets lodged in my skull and won’t go away. Fortunately for me, there are some highly professional and amenable models in the world with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working. So when I got a dark and antiquated steampunk idea, coupled with a slightly nightmare-y mask thing, I was lucky to have model Jeremiah Hein around. Here are a couple photos from that shoot. (Both images were taken with my Nikon D7000 in a studio setting.)

The first is steampunk-inspired, and includes a conglomeration of props, jewelry, and costume pieces I’ve collected over some time. There’s also an antique drill (outfitted here with a medical syringe, of course) and some of my own clothing (tweed and wool seemed called for, under the creepy Victorian circumstances). In Photoshop, I processed the photo to look faded and used a warming filter to for an antique sepia tone. I applied a “soft light” overlay of an existing image of a rusty wall to provide the look of an image exposed to a century of damage, and added an image of nineteenth-century script pulled from the Web to complete the look.

antiqued steampunk image

The second includes a mask that Jeremiah brought to the shoot himself, and which worked far better than what I’d planned, so we used it. (One thing I love about working with professional and semi-professional models, by the way, is the unique ideas and perspectives they bring to the shoot.) Here, I wanted an image of the model covering his eyes, holding a mask that was actually looking at the viewer. In this image, I took a separate photo of Jeremiah making “big eyes” and then carefully Photoshopped them into the mask’s eyeholes. (I could have used a photo of Jeremiah wearing the mask, and then cut-and-pasted it into this image, but doing the eyes separately allowed me to make them more visible, without–I think–losing verisimilitude.)

Model holding a mask

 

My plan for this series in LensCaps at the start was twofold: First, to force myself to blog more regularly (I have found that like flossing and New Years’ Resolutions, it is extremely unlikely that I will commit to blog regularly after the initially burst of enthusiasm unless there’s some outside force compelling me: a pricey personal trainer makes me a much more constant gym membership user, and a public statement that I’m embarking on a numbered series of posts makes me feel guilty if I miss a day or two); and B, to feature older photographs that haven’t been featured lately (selected at random via an unscientific method of using the mouse wheel and random clicks in an index).

So what happens right after RPOTD #3? I go on a business trip to Oklahoma City, and posting to the blog becomes difficult, and it falls off the earth. Literally threes of devoted readers are if not mildly disappointed, at least somewhat aware of the break.

And then what do I do? I come back, and immediately violate the Highly Scientific Random Photo Algorithm. Today’s photos are from my recent trip, and I just thought it was cool that a couple of them were inadvertently sort of thematically linked, which is serendipitous, which is kinda like random, so I guess we’re OK.

This is the Devon Energy Center, at 52 stories the tallest building in Oklahoma City and tied for being the 39th tallest in the US. Architects were Pickard Chilton Architects Inc. The building itself is nice (if a little ridiculously out of scale with the rest of Oklahoma City (see the aerial view), but I really loved the morning sun peeking from behind it.

Devon Energy Building

The aforementioned aerial view:

Aerial view of Oklahoma City

The other “sunshine” photo is also an aerial, taken as I flew over California on my way back home (thank you, United, for the upgrade!), I was baffled by these three shiny objects on the ground below, and had to do a little webbly investigation to determine what it was that I’d been looking at. It is, in fact, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS), near Nipton, southwest of Las Vegas. It’s the largest solar plant in the world, generating 377 megawatts by using mirrors to focus the sunlight on solar receivers on top of the central power towers (can we tell I think this is really cool?). The three plants together generate enough power to serve 140,000 homes during peak hours, and reduce CO2 emissions by over 400,000 tons annually. (Source: BrightSource)

Aerial view of Ivanpah Solar array

More non-random randomness. Well, to be specific: the selection of the initial photo is totally random; it just seems that sometimes a couple of photos around it, or that I know are related to it, come to mind and I just can’t help myself with making little photographic statements, because the synergies just amuse me. This little exercise is quickly evolving into something not entirely random, but that’s just me being a control freak. Anyway, let’s look at three kinds of China: ancient, recently modern, and contemporarily futuristic, all of which seem to live together happily in the People’s Republic in a big ol’ chunky melting pot of old and new.

First, the Great Wall. specifically the “Wild Wall” (Simatai-Jinshanling) section in the Shuiguan Mountains, about an hour outside Beijing. (Photo taken September 2012 with a Nikon D90)

Great Wall of China

Next on our itinerary, a vendor selling figs on the side of a road out in the countryside somewhere in the general vicinity of Beijing. The figs were excellent, but there’s a lot of serious history in that face and uniform. (Photo taken September 2012 with a Nikon D90)

Fig seller wearing People's Army uniform

And finally, because the whole point of this Random POTD thing is brevity in the name of maintaining consistency, the fabulous “Bird’s Nest”, formally known as the Beijing National Stadium, Olympic Green (Aolinpike Gongyuan), Beijing. Architects: Herzog & de Meuron,Stefan Marbach, Ai Weiwei, and Li Xinggang (2008). Day view from from Main Lake. (Photo taken September 2012 with a Nikon D90)

Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing

 

Here we go again, although I suppose it’s not quite actually “random” if I’ve applied a theme. Anyway, this time, let’s look up.

First, the rotunda of the Indiana State House in Indianapolis. Built in 1888 and designed by architect Edwin May, (Photo taken with a Nikon D7000 with a Nikon DX 18-105 lens, September 2013)

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Below, the rotunda of the Elks National Veterans Memorial in Chicago, taken in 2006 with a Nikon E880, back in the very early days of me taking pictures of things.  Egerton Swartwout, architect (1926).

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Finally, the next photo is of the central rotunda of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.,  Hornblower & Marshall, architects (1910). Taken in May 2009 with a Nikon D80. And below that, the rotunda of the United States Capitol in Washington, DC. (Charles Bullfinch, Architect, 1824), featuring “The Apotheosis of George Washington” fresco by Constantino Brumidi (1865). Photo taken with a Nikon D80 in May, 2009.

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For a wider selection of randomness, visit my online gallery: EButterfield Photography.

I find, much to my regret and humiliation, that I am fairly consistent in my failure to post regularly. I tell myself this is because I’m selective and perfectionistic, and only post when I have something unique and generally interesting to say. I tell myself that, but the truth is I am both lazy and highly distractable. So I’m going to try an experiment that will compel me to post regularly. I will randomly (really, randomly) select one or two orposibly three photos every day from my whole history of photographing stuff (a number of years that I would prefer not to disclose, in the interest of maintaining the bloggerly illusion that I am both young and sprightly) and say just a few pertinent (or impertinent, as the case may be) things about them: where they were taken, what the circumstances were, what–if anything–about them might be interesting to others.

We’ll see how this works. Here we go…

"Eat Cake" in pink script on the side of a white stucco building with an intense blue sky

I’m starting with a bit of a cheat, since this is a pretty recent photo. It was taken at the Sweet & Saucy Shop, a bakery in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood of Long Beach, I was here for a cake-tasting as part of the traditional process involved in selecting a wedding cake. There is, by the way, nothing at all wrong with a cake-tasting: Regardless of anyone’s personal feelings about my right to be legally married (thank you, United States Supreme Court), I think we can all agree that cake is nice (and the cake at Sweet & Saucy is particularly creative and excellent). Anyway, when we arrived the sun on the white stucco was spectacular, and the sentiment of the sign was too good to pass up. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my Nikon with me, so I took this using my phone. The result is still good, even if the photography snob in me discounts it as not a real photograph. (Photo taken with a Samsung Galaxy Siii 12 megapixel smartphone)

Macro photo of a grasshopper near North Pond in Lincoln Park, Chicago

Now this one was also taken fairly recently. It’s obviously a grasshopper, photographed in a pretty outstanding macro. It helped that the grasshopper was on a fence near Lincoln Park’s North Pond in Chicago, and the weather in early October was coolish–which makes for slightly sluggish and therefore more photogenic grasshoppers. Anyway, I’m very proud of the detail in this.  (Photo taken with a Nikon D7000 with a Nikon DX 18-105 lens)

Aerial view of a rock quarry in upstate New York

Finally, just the opposite of a macro: This aerial photo was taken from a United jet somewhere over upstate New York, en route to Boston last July. I travel a fair amount for business, and always get a window seat for just this purpose, as I believe I’ve written about before. The detail here is good, and I like (or rather, don’t like) the juxtaposition of the huge scar in the earth surrounded by dense forest. (Photo taken with a Nikon D90 and a Sigma 70-300 lens)

So there we have it. Next time I do this, I may just do a very short post with one photo, or a long and rambling post with one photo, or more pictures and fewer words, or the other way around. Sometimes I’ll stick to a specific topic,when I have something to say about it. Otherwise I’ll just put up a photo and say a little something about it. I’ll try to keep me guessing, and see where that leads me, in terms of being a better and more committed blogger.

For a wider selection of randomness, visit my online gallery: EButterfield Photography.

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