This site includes my blog about photography. To find my personal blog which deals mostly with the ups and downs of living with Parkinson's Disease, click here.
This gallery contains recent photos of mine that I like or that I think turned out well. They will stay up for a few months at most.
Shambhala Day, 2018
Shambhala Day, 2018
David and Nim dancing tango.
Pictures of leaves, all taken in October, 2015, within a couple blocks of where I live.
I've been dancing Argentine tango since around 2005. Tango is a difficult art form and I have no expectation of mastering it, but nevertheless it has become and remains an important part of my life. Most of the pictures in this gallery were taken at "milonguero encuentros", weekend gatherings of devotees of traditional close-embrace tango.
I am available to photograph your event; contact me here to book a session.
Keneen McNiven with Nancy Moreno. Santa Fe, 2016.
Santa Fe, 2015
Salida, Colorado, 2015.
Olivia Levitt with Shahin Medghalchi, Burlingame, CA, January 2018
Gloria Wright with John Wright, Berkeley, California. February 2016.
Olivia Levitt with Jonathan Yamauchi. Berkeley, California, February 2016.
Naoko Oguchi with Paul Akmajian. Santa Fe, 2016
Willow Bader with Steve Brady, Port Townsend, Washington. May 28, 2016.
Jeannie Warren with Bill White at Salida, CO, 2016
Vivian Konstantakos with Robert Hauk, Seattle, October 23, 2016
Yulia Galper with Steven Smith, Seattle, October 21, 2016
Devorah Kangis with Jonathan Yamauchi, Berkeley, CA, January 29, 2017.
I shoot portraits of friends and family and am also available for commercial assignments. Contact me for private or corporate sessions here.
Sheila Silver at the Portland Japanese Gardens. July, 2016
Sheila Silver at the Portland Japanese Gardens. July, 2016
Deborah Brown at Manzanita, OR. December, 2015.
Deborah Brown at Manzanita, OR December 2015
James Meadows at Cascade Cliffs Winery
Ian Bennett and Celia Arauz
Dessa Bingley, July 2014.
James Lackey, October 2016
Melinda and James Lackey, October 2016
Mary Vander Linden at Portland Sunday afternoon tango practice, January, 2017.
Shambhala Day,, 2018
Shambhala Day 2018
Rebecca Jameson, Shambhala Day, 2018
Pictures of some of Portland's many bridges, and occasional shots of bridges from other places as well.
Ross Island Bridge
Completed in 1926, the Ross Island Bridge currently carries around 70,000 cars per day. This shot was taken from the Springwater Trail on August 30, 2014.
Hawthorne Bridge with Rowers
Taken from the Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park on April 14, 2013.
Taken just before sunrise from the Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park on January 7, 2014. A calm morning, allowing for nice reflections.
Hawthorne Bridge in Snow
Taken around sunrise during a rare Portland snowfall, February 7, 2014.
Hawthorne Bridge at Night
This image was taken from the Morrison Bridge the evening of July 26, 2015. I used a tripod to get a long exposure, which helped although the bridge was still shaking somewhat from the traffic.
St. John's Bridge
Taken June 27, 2015, afternoon.
St. John's Bridge
Taken June 27, 2015, afternoon.
Burnside Bridge Black and White
Taken on January 2, 2015. I like this in black and white better than the color original.
Morrison Bridge with Geese
One of my favorite bridge shots, taken early in the morning of January 7, 2014. Very calm conditions.
Morrison Bridge with Duck
Taken on a foggy winter morning, January 27, 2014.
The Steel Bridge was opened in 1912, making it the second-oldest vertical lift structure in the world after the Hawthorne Bridge. The Steel Bridge was renovated between 1984 and 1986 to add tracks for the MAX light rail trains, today more than 600 MAX trips cross the bridge every day. This shot was taken on September 21, 2015, and shows two MAX trains crossing in opposite directions.
Steel Bridge, Burnside Bridge and Fremont Bridge
Tilikum Crossing Bridge
Opened in 2015, the Tilikum Crossing Bridge is the first new bridge across the Willamette River in Portland in 43 years. It is also the first bridge devoted only to mass transit, bicycles and pedestrians. This shot was taken September 21, 2015, nine days after the bridge opened.
McLoughlin Boulevard Pedestrian Bridge
Located just past Selwood on the Springwater Corridor Trail, this steel arch bridge built in 2007. Photo taken facing west into the afternoon sun, and consequently backlit. Taken March 6, 2017.
McLoughlin Boulevard Pedestrian Bridge
Located just past Selwood on the Springwater Corridor Trail. Photo taken facing east with the afternoon sun behind me. Taken March 6, 2017, raining lightly.
Ronda, Spain, El Puente Nuevo
Ronda, Spain, the Puente Nuevo, or New Bridge, built between 1751 and 1793. No AutoCad, no diesel hoists, no laser levels. I took this picture on November 14, 2011 with a small Canon point and shoot camera; my developing tremor made it difficult to achieve any kind of good focus. This was the best of a dozen or so shots, and none of my pictures of the Puente Viejo, or Old Bridge, were focused enough to keep. When I returned I bought my first DSLR camera, and discovered that the ability to control the shutter speed made it possible to shoot faster than my tremor. A happy day!
My First Bridge Picture
I took this picture in Tianquan County, Sichuan Province, China on September 27, 2005, using my first digital camera, a small Kodak point-and-shoot. In the intervening 10 years I've lost track of the name of the town. I took about 300 pictures during the 2 weeks I spent in western China, of them I still like 3 or 4.
Portland Japanese Garden
The Portland Japanese Garden is one of the most peaceful and moving spots in the city. I try to visit there at least once each month. I doubt whether photographs can capture the spirit of the place, but I keep trying.
The photos in this gallery were taken by my son Ian Bennett. Ian works as a fire fighter for the city of Seattle; these are photos of live fire training, and were taken in late 2014 through early 2015. Photos were taken with a smart phone; I did some adjustment and enhancement using Lightroom.
Stoking the Fire
Loading pallets onto the fire so that it will be ready when the trainees arrive.
Exiting the fire room
Watching the burn
Watching the burn
Burnin Down the House
Recruit class, final house burn. After fires are started and then put out, the house is burned to the ground.
Chief on Scene
The figure in the center is the chief of training, making sure the exercise is going right.
A variety of street scenes, urban landscapes, and art shots. Most are available for sale.
Moon Over Portland - 2
Moon Over Portland - 1
Moon Over Portland - 3
Essay - Tools for Guitar Building
This gallery was inspired by conversations with my friend Kari Hahn, a guitar maker and repair technician in Portland Oregon. Kari observed that the most complex and effective instrument repair work is often done with the simplest and most humble of tools. Her observation led to this attempt to capture something about what seemed to me a complex, if largely unspoken, relationship between serious tool users and their tools. Kari was the first subject; through her I met legendary guitar builder Jeff Elliott; we met at a pub in northeast Portland after a regular monthly meeting of the Portland Guitar Society. I showed Elliott some photos I had taken of Kari’s tools, and he graciously agreed to let me interview him and take some photographs at his shop.
Elliott works mostly with hand tools; only a few machines are in regular use. Favoring hand tools is a deliberate choice: although slower, the use of hand tools rather than machines allows for a degree of customization of each instrument. These small adaptations of the design to the wood are an important part of Elliott’s approach to building.
As far as I could tell, every tool in regular use, whether a hand tool or a machine, has a story. Many were gifts; some dating back to Elliott’s mentor Richard Schneider, some from clients or friends. Some Elliott made himself or had made to his specifications. The long and personal history of Elliott’s tools clearly gives them added meaning, as they are a continuing reminder of the community and the lineage of which Elliott is a part.
Jeff Elliott has been building fine guitars for almost 50 years, and he has clearly thought long and hard about how he wants to pursue his craft. There are important choices at almost every step of the process of designing and building a guitar, and these choices have implications for construction time and thus for the number of instruments that can be made. Construction of each of Elliott’s guitars averages 400 hours, and Elliott and his partner Cyndy Burton, who does the French polish application for all of the instruments, complete from 4 to 5 instruments each year. “It’s kind of Zen-like,” Elliott says. “Kind of a path rather than just a job. I try to make each instrument as good as I can possibly make it, and I try to let the wood tell me what that means. I feel better about this approach. If you rush, then what you learn is how to rush, not how to do your best work.”
This attitude has had an impact on the business side of Elliott’s work. For a long time, Elliott ran a repair shop in Portland. This paid the bills, and repair work helped hone his skills as his instruments gradually achieved greater recognition and could command higher prices. Today, Elliott’s waiting list runs around 12 years, and no additional commissions are being accepted. Occasionally, used instruments become available; often these come back to Elliott for any needed reconditioning. These instruments, along with much additional information about Elliott's work, can be found on his website: www.elliottguitars.com.
"When I use these tools I think of the people who made them for me or gave them to me with great fondness, and this enhances my enjoyment of this activity."
This scribe and 4-inch square were given to Elliott by his mentor Richard Schneider in 1966. These simple but essential tools are still in regular use.
The design for this scribe/binding cutter also came from Richard Schneider; with both a flat and curved side, and a reversible blade. Now available from luthier's supply houses.
It starts with the wood...
For a guitar builder, everything starts with the wood. Elliott has a really impressive stockpile of wood, and he has been working on refining and improving his collection of wood since he started building in 1966. He tells a story from early in his career of a retired logger who offered to trade him wood for a guitar, and who showed up some time later with a truckload of spruce and cedar billets, mostly salvaged from the Tillamook burns of the 1930’s. Elliott had these sawn into tops, eventually yielding around 400 sets. Of these, Elliott kept the 60 or so that he considered the best, and traded or sold the rest. In addition to the 40-ish years it spent curing on the stump, the remaining tops have now spent another 40 years seasoning in Elliott’s wood storage area. Wood of this quality is simply not available from commercial sources.
The amount of wood on hand is certainly more than Elliott can expect to use in his lifetime, but this gives him an important advantage: choice. Elliott interviews his clients extensively about the sound they are looking for, and having this quantity of really excellent wood gives him a much greater chance of attaining that sound.
A set of old-growth red cedar, for the top.
Testing the top
Watching Elliott tap on a top blank and listen with obvious satisfaction to the tone produced, and then comment, “This is going to make a really fine guitar,” one feels the intense pleasure he takes in this work, and also the sense of responsibility he feels, both to his clients and to the materials themselves. The potential is waiting in the wood; it’s his job to bring that potential into existence, and this, of course, is done with his tools, and his intuition.
Testing the bridge wood
Tapping a billet of rosewood that will be the source of the bridge. Even in this form, the wood produces a remarkable tone.
Large thicknessing sander
Elliott built this sander around 1976. The shroud and depth indicator (upper left) were fabricated by a friend around 2009. The sander can be adjusted to make the top slightly thinner at the edges, a design element Elliott prefers.
Small thicknessing sander
A smaller thicknessing sander, used for very thin, more delicate components. Elliott built this machine around 2004.
Handmade scribe for marking the vertical cuts of the sound hole, rosette boundaries, and concentric lines when chip-carving. Designed by Richard Schneider.
A home-made circle cutter made of clear Plexiglas and a Dremel tool, used for the rosette channels. Elliott made this tool around 1980.
The radius is adjustable to within .001".
A test rosette channel
Rosette test sample
Elliott's rosettes often combine elements of spalted wood with a chip carving.
Chip carving tools
Chip carving is done by hand with these Swiss steel knife blanks.
Elliott learned chip carving technique from lute maker Robert Lundberg around 1976, and made his first chip-carved rosette that same year.
A newly braced top.
Elliott notches his transverse braces so that they fit over the longitudinal braces. This method is more time-consuming but Elliott finds that it creates a better sound.
Testing the Top
Elliott continues to check the sound of the top throughout the assembly process.
Small wooden planes
These lovely finger planes were made for Elliott by Stephen Boone. These planes were originally available with rosewood bodies and maple soles; Elliott requested African blackwood bodies and lignum vitae soles, and sent Boone the wood.
These and the planes in the following photos are used for carving braces.
Ivory and brass planes
These gorgeous finger planes were made as a gift from Geza Burghardt, a luthier who emigrated from Hungary to British Columbia, Canada.
A miniature plane made by a Canadian tool company, used for carving braces.
Cast bronze plane
Made by Christopher Laarman, this beautiful cast plane is no longer available.
Small brass plane
This small plane was a gift from a customer in Germany, who had it made by a friend. The design is particularly handy since the blade goes all the way to the edge of the body of the plane, and the depth is adjustable with a screw rather than a wedge.
This set of beautiful curved chisels was also a gift from Richard Schneider, who made them in the early 1980's. The fitted box was made by Martha Collins, Schneider's wife.
These chisels are used for removing excess glue after bracing the top and back of the guitar.
Elliott's version of the Charles Fox side bending jig. The heat source is a side bending heat blanket. Note that the jig can accommodate both Elliott's standard body shape and his cutaway design.
Heated bending iron
This heated bending iron is used for hand-bending, to correct for the spring-back on the sides after bending with the large bending jig.
Bent sides with linings, clamped in side molds.
Clamps are another essential tool.
This tool was improvised many years ago, used to seat the small individually glued corner blocks between the top and sides. Still in regular use.
Small draw knife
Used to carve and shape the neck.
A handmade adjustable scribing tool for maintaining the centerline on the guitar's neck.
This is a repair tool, made for removing the bridge plate from inside the guitar, and was a gift from a former student. When heated, the tip will soften the glue and allow the tool to pry the bridge plate loose.
Another type of repair tool, these glue applicators are made for re-gluing hard-to-reach internal braces which have separated.
Another glue applicator, also handmade for difficult-to-reach spots inside the guitar.
Essay - Tools for Book Binding
Margaret E. Davis took a typography course her senior year at Scripps College, and it changed her life. Setting metal type by hand, making impressions in the page, and then binding those pages went beyond mere publishing. The paper captured the shadow and cut of each letter, creating sculpture that could directly communicate. The binding, too, could hint at and enhance the book's text through choices of the binder, including form and materials.
Through her Ma Nao Books imprint (www.manaobooks.com), Margaret continues to undertake numerous book projects, from custom work to limited editions. In 1996, she won a grant to study traditional Chinese bookbinding in China, where paper, woodblock printing, and bookbinding were invented. She arranged an apprenticeship at the National Library of China in Beijing and learned to craft the five oldest book forms on paper, starting with the scroll. She also traveled the country surveying modern practitioners of the book arts, including a visit to far-western Dunhuang, where the oldest, printed, dated book in the world was discovered in a walled-up cave.
Margaret continues to teach, write, and make presentations about Chinese bookbinding and has completed a manuscript that's a how-to manual to Chinese techniques as well as a travelogue of her time and studies in China (www.chinaunderthecovers.com).
Books are simple, and extraordinary. Almost no other invention has remained so unchanged for centuries. We take them for granted, and yet they are a fantastic vehicle for arousing every emotion, and allow for time travel, and interactive thought control (with willing participants, of course). Every year someone pronounces them dead, and yet every year they keep living. A book's form is body for soul.
A seal or stamp is an essential part of being Chinese. Postal carriers still use them to "sign" over packages and certified letters, as do the recipients. The stone for the seal often is purchased separately, and then a suitable carver found. This one with a sheep on top was selected because the bookbinder was born in the Year of the Sheep.
Every work produced by Ma Nao Books is stamped with this chop carved with the binder's Chinese name, Ma Nao, which means "agate" or "amber."
The "jingzhe zhuang" or accordion style book
Also known in the West as an accordion book, this is the first form of book on paper to take advantage of paper's ability to fold. (The first form of the book on paper was the scroll, or the juanzi zhuang.)
The shutao (or "book clothes") is assembled from pieces of bookboard measured and cut at 1/32nds of an inch to exactly fit and hold the volumes inside. Most traditional Chinese books are softcover; a hard case further protects them.
After assembly, the bookboard case is covered in book cloth, preferably a silk or linen blend.
Actually, the one in the middle is made of Teflon. Bone folders are an essential tool of bookbinding, helping binders score, fold, and burnish, among other tasks. This tool is so frequently used it becomes part of the hand.
Many boobkinders sand and shape their bone folders for particular tasks and preferences. Chinese binders make their own out of bamboo.
Various awls are used to pierce paper sections in assembling them as signatures for a book, or preparing for the xian zhuang (thread-bound) or similar Japanese stab binding.
A cold chisel is used to make slots in bookboard to attach closures such as the biezi bone clasps.
The cold chisel is hit with a rubber-head mallet (not shown) to punch a perfect slot in the cloth-covered book board, through which will be thread straps to hold the biezi (bone clasps).
This press was made by master machinist Andrew Van Luenen, who incorporated salvaged parts to create this wood-inlay beauty that's pressed hundreds if not thousands of projects. Other book presses are made solely of metal, with a screw that clamps the plates together. Homemade presses can be made of pieces of board and vises or clamps.
Bone Clasps, or "biezi"
I buy these in a little shop off Liulichang Street in Beijing when I visit China. They come in all sizes, but must be made of bone. They are used to fasten the shutao bookboard case.
Linen Thread, Needle and Beeswax
For binding single or multiple folios of a book together, binders use thread drawn through bee's wax, then a needle to sew through holes punched by the awl.
Book binders must cut paper, lots of it, all the time. Wear glasses or goggles because sharp tips can break off blades.
Using a box cutter is the only way to cut bookboard if you don't have a board shear. Clamp the mother piece of board to make it easier. Cut long and shallow over multiple passes until pieces cleanly break apart.
Sheep's-Hair Brush "pai bi"
This wide bamboo-based brush is an essential Chinese-bookbinding tool for pasting large sheets of paper.
Paste Brush - Modified
Master bookbinder and book restorer Sam Ellenport uses cheapie hardware brushes cut to 3/4 of an inch for pasting. Brilliant.
A limited-edition title from Ma Nao Books, Two Lives, details a history of two families, and how they came together. The binding includes pockets that fit four CDs' worth of multimedia, including pictures and sound clips.
A gatefold of images in the book presents portraits of the family history's subjects.
Traditional Chinese Book
A common example of a book bound in a traditional binding as published today in China.
Traditional Chinese Book
This book is bound in traditional xian zhuang style, complete with white thread, indigo cover, and title pasted at upper left-hand corner (also note traditional opening of back to front).
Leo and Me
My first photo project.
Leo is a small lion
During the day, Leo usually looks out the window. He can see buildings and trees.
In the Spring, Leo can see flowers.
Leo can see the sky.
The sky is always changing.
Sometimes, Leo can see rainbows.
Sometimes, Leo can watch fireworks.
Leo is not bored. When he's by himself, he doesn't miss his friends. When his friends come to see him, he's glad to see them.
Leo is friends with Hermes.
Leo and Hermes visit each other.
Sometimes, Hermes and Leo look out the window together.
Leo and Hermes like each other.
Sometimes Leo and Hermes travel together.
Sometimes, Leo travels by himself.
When Hermes and Leo are not together, they can still feel each other.
Leo is also friends with beings who are harder to see.