The New Manual DSLR Project

Hi, and welcome to my blog. The Manual DSLR Project was started March 30, 2010 with the intent of devoting one year to learning how to use my Nikon D300 in manual mode. I invited you to join me as I took this journey. You celebrated with me as my fingers began to remember which wheel adjusts the shutter speed and which controls the aperture settings. I was brutally honest in sharing my mistakes.

A year passed quickly...and I achieved my goal of demystifying the manual operation of my camera.

While the Manual DSLR Project was intended to be bound by time (one year), I am eager to keep the conversation going. So look for additional posts on anything related to photography. And interact. Let me know if you are reading the blog and find it useful.

All the best...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What You Can Learn From A Mailbox...

Little Italy, New York City
During our June 2010 trip to New York City I realized that you can tell a lot about a neighborhood by looking at its mailboxes--not the residential ones--but the big United States Postal Services collection boxes that are so familiar on many of our city streets. That realization first came when my wife and I were sitting on a bench in front of a store in Little Italy, eating a slice of pizza and watching the world go by. I started to notice the personality of these mailboxes and how they reflected that of the community in which they serve. There were stickers and graffiti on this particular box that let us know that it was part of the community.

Spring & Elizabeth Streets
As we wandered throughout the city, I began to see that personality more and more. The second mailbox shown here was on the corner of Spring Street and Elizabeth Street. In a lot of ways it is my favorite, since it is the most "decorated" of any I saw on this trip. As you can see, it has a personality all its own--likely representative of the community in which it lives. If you would like to see another view of it, go to Google Maps. Search Spring Street and Elizabeth Street, New York, NY and select street view. You will see this same mailbox from almost any angle you choose. As you can see, it has been "tagged" so many times that there is graffiti on top of graffiti, stickers on top of stickers, etc. One of its legs is slightly bent, indicating years of service and a rough life on the streets.

Wall Street, NYC

The next shot is of a group of boxes on Wall Street. Interesting that they are relatively clean and free from graffiti. The stack of mail trays next to them provides evidence that these boxes see a great deal of action and are filled each (working) day with stacks of important mail from the financial capital of the U.S. This set of mailboxes scream out efficiency and order in a fast-paced financial district.

Okay, I admit that before I started studying seriously studying photography I would not have waxed poetic about mailboxes. In fact, I might not have even noticed them as I scurried along "sightseeing" in the city. But now I tend to take more time to enjoy where I am at any given time. I look around more. I notice shapes, and lights, and shadows. Is this a moment worth seeing again through the magic of photography? Would anyone else care to see this scene? Would they appreciate what I saw in the scene or would they see it in an entirely different way? A moment in time frozen for us to reflect upon.

The makers of Lensbaby encourage us to "see in a new way" in their advertising materials. I think that is what photography has allowed me to do. What has it done for you?

All the best...Mike


  1. Interesting observations, but it's totally true - we definitely learn to see things as we've never considered them before. And who knows...a whole series of mailboxes in different neighbourhoods/cities could turn into a very interesting project.

    Great blog - keep it up and I'll be back for more!

  2. It's all right in front of us if we just stop to see it.