Freeze Frame

At photo and video trade shows, it’s not uncommon to find booths set up with elaborate, colorful, sometimes mechanically active displays with which guest can demo cameras and lenses. Sometimes, live action vignettes play out with creatively-clad models, though these are more often for posing demonstrations.

These fantastical displays are something like the creations of Joan Steiner, whose dioramas are filled with eye candy (and sometimes real candy) including every day objects, such as like gloves, toothbrushes, combs, clothespins or mustard bottles and even crackers and other snacks.

My wife, Jen, and I were lucky enough to stumble across 10 or so of Steiner’s 3D creations on a recent visit to the Albany Institute of History and Art for Rock and Roll Legends, (on display through Feb. 12, by they way). Steiner’s work is not currently on display.

Sometimes during a lull I like to flex my photographic muscles with an exercise inspired by those trade show exhibits. I’m too far from Macy’s windows on 34th Street, and it isn’t always Christmas, so I go in search of subject-rich environments that will offer diverse subject matter.

Recently, I combined this pursuit of subject matter with a visit to an annual festival in East Meredith, NY that I’ve mentioned in past writing for the Catskill Mountain Region Guide – but never visited in person.

dscf1559_wmThe Hanford Mills Museum Ice Harvest Festival has got to be one of the most charming “olde-time events” you will ever stumble across. Next year’s date has already been announced. (It’s always the first Saturday in February, apparently)

With on going blacksmiths demonstrations, horse-drawn carriage rides, cooking demonstrations and an interactive actual ice harvest the event is billed as “The Region’s Coolest Tradition.”

That said, even with the time spent waiting in line for my shot at carving a block of ice from the pond (and more time in another line for an aborted try at supporting the soup fundraiser) I think I was there for all of an hour.

I did find some texture, for my collection and a few contrasting displays of chaos

and order. Perhaps a subject for a future post.

Honestly, I may have just been cold! Even dressed for standing around on the snow and ice, my shooting fingers got a tad stiff. Also the barrage of shades of white and grey, and all that reflected sunshine combined with and dark building interiors just tired me out. Still – brought back what I think are some interesting images, and I’m sharing a few of those with you here.


Some of you may be familiar with a website, or type of website offering ‘instructables,’ which tend to be photo-heavy how-to guides.

If you think Youtube is a time sink, try looking at what some folks make and share there! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Being a sort of business fanatic (I love studying how various enterprises work, and breaking down the component parts in the interest of optimization) I’d like to shoot more how-to videos and photo essays. Most instructructables, alas, are shot by their creators. But I have done a bit of low budget commercial video which you can find on the Ment Media Group. YouTube Channel (subscribe, while you’re there!)

Basically, I’m drawn to process – so seeing how the ice was cut, conveyed, and stacked for storage in the Hanford Mills Museum ice house – so that folks in the pre-electric refrigeration era could enjoy “fresh” food during warmer non-winter months was simply put – fun.

There were also several vintage how-to movies that documented past commercial harvests showing inside a frigid barn. This was big business once upon a time. Today, I suppose it’s pure nostalgia.


Side note on Steiner’s Look-Alike work. At the time, we mistakenly thought we looking at I-Spy creations. More on that here:

Steiner’s work has been compared, or cast in the same light as that of I-Spy creator Jean Marzollo, though I prefer Steiner. If this is all somehow meaningless to you, read more about I Spy in Marzollo’s remarks from a symposium on Margaret Wise Brown here or about her photographer Walter Wick here.

BUT what does all this have to do with the price of nutmeg in New Jersey? Nuttin!


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